Dec 31, 2011

Happy New Year! Don't Worry. Be Happy!

Don't Worry...Be Happy...

Remember that song?

While the song kind of gets annoying after the 13 millionth time, it actually speaks of a profound truth.

Happiness is a choice. Don't worry. Be happy.

You have to choose to not to worry and you have to choose to be happy.

Today is New Year's Eve. Many people will be greeting each other with the New Year's Greeting, "Happy New Year!"

Our society has convinced many that happiness is an inalienable right of all human beings.

But because we are not happy all the time, we are not very happy people.

Truth is, happiness is not a right. Happiness is ultimately a choice.

Happiness is not what happens to us. Happiness is what we choose to do.

So when we are greeting each other with "Happy New Year!", what we are actually saying is not that many happy things happen to you this year but an exhortation to choose happiness in the coming year. That, regardless of what happens, we all do everything we can to pursue happiness and to choose to do those things that lead to happiness.

The song's got it right.

Don't worry.

Be happy!

In the coming year, choose not to worry.

Instead, choose to be happy!

Happy New Year!

Dec 29, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo...Review

I recently read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

While the book deals with some very rough issues - abuse, rape, serial murder, etc. - the story is fast paced. After the initial confusion over the names of people and places in Sweden, the book is a page turner. I finished the book in a couple of sittings.

So when the US version of the movie came out this weekend, I was pretty excited to see it.

One of my biggest curiosities was how the movie would portray the characters I had envisioned while reading the book.

I must say the main character, Lisbeth Salander, played by Rooney Mara looked very much like what I envisioned while reading the book. Rooney Mara's portrayal of Lisbeth Salander was well deserving of the kick butt heroine of the novel.

However, Daniel Craig's portrayal of Mikael Blomkvist was confusing. The thing is I Like Daniel Craig. I think Daniel Craig's portrayal of James Bond is one of my favorites. In the book Mikael Blomkvist is an economic journalist. How exciting is that? And that was my issue with Daniel Craig. He's just too tough, too kick butt, too heroic for what I pictured in my mind when reading the book.

The biggest disappointment for me though was the portrayal of Martin Vanger. Before I give the story away, let me just say he was the least believable of all the characters.

Having said all that, the movie was a pretty decent screenplay of the book. Of course, there is no way to capture all the intricacies of a novel in a 2 1/2 hour movie, but they were fair to the book.

I enjoyed the movie. Wouldn't necessarily want to see it again, but it was worth both my time and money. However, the book is a far better ride than the movie.

One other thing I need to mention about the movie is that I thought they overplayed some of the sex scenes. The story would have been fine without being as graphic and visual as they were with the sex scenes. It's Rated R rating is much deserved.

I am not sure I would watch the next version of the movie even if they were to make it.

I'm going to stick with the book. After the busyness of Christmas and New Year's, I look forward to settling down with my kindle for a day or two to read The Girl Who Played with Fire.

Dec 28, 2011

What Do You Do After You "Get Saved"?

The way some of us we live out our faith, we make it seem as if the only reason Jesus saves us is so God can save us.

We make salvation the ultimate purpose for the church and its ministry. We make salvation the ultimate goal for ourselves. 

As soon as someone "gets saved" some of us think, mission accomplished. Now, to the next one.

As much as we emphasize salvation, we only give lip service to what happens after a person "gets saved."

I think this entirely misses the point.

God's plan for salvation from the beginning of time was never about just saving us. 

God's plan for salvation has always been about relationship. 

When God thought about eternity, he couldn't imagine spending eternity without his children. And in order to ensure that he would have his children with him for ever, he sent his Son so that whosoever should believe in him will live with him forever.

It's always been about relationship.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Philippians 1:6 - "For I am confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ."

This simple verse tells us two profound truths about God's plan for salvation:
1. God does not start anything that he does not bring to completion.
2. God does not save us in order to save us. Salvation has a purpose. We have been created to do good works. 

First, God began a good work in you and me. Part of that work includes God pursuing us with his love in order that we might respond to God's invitation to an everlasting life. And that work is not completed when we respond with an invitation to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. In fact, God's work continues as we begin living the life we were always meant to live. The ministry and the mission of God will continue until Christ comes again to reign and judge.

Secondly, we were created and redeemed for a purpose. And that purpose is to begin living the life we were always meant to live. We were created to carry on the work of God, the ministry of Christ. We were created and redeemed to do God's will. 

Look, good works cannot save us. Only the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can do that.

However, once we are saved, good works is what saved people do. That's the perfecting part. That's the good work that will continue until the day of Christ.

So church, let's show our world some awesome good works!!!

Dec 27, 2011

The Least "Christmasy" Christmas Ever

This is the least "Christmasy" Christmas ever.

I am not even sure what I mean by that.

All I know is that the typical almost giddy happiness of the season was absent this time around. The typical feelings and busyness and Christmasy-ness was absent.

I don't know why.

I am not even sure if that's necessarily a bad thing.

I had lots of meals together with family and friends.

We did all the typical things - exchanging gifts, sponsoring families, Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, etc. - that we typically do at Christmas.

I am still trying to wrap my head around this more mellow, almost melancholy Christmas of this year.

One thing I know is that no matter what I may be feeling, Christ is come and we need what Christ ushers in more than ever.

I want to see the power of God through his church. I want to give and live in the love of Christ. I want to share the peace and joy of Christ with others. I want more of Christ than I have ever before.

Dec 22, 2011

Afraid? Of What?

Afraid? Of what? 

To feel the spirit's glad release?
To pass fro pain to perfect peace, 
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid? - of that? Afraid? Of What?

Afraid? Of what? 

Afraid to see the Savior's face
To hear his welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid - of that? Afraid? Of what?

A flash, a crash, a pierced heart; 
Darkness, light O heaven's art!
A wound of his a counterpart!
Afraid - of that? Afraid? Of what?

To do by death what life could not - 
Baptize with blood a stony plot, 
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid - of that?

This poem was written by E.H. Hamiliton, after hearing of the death of his missionary collegue Jack Vinson. Vinson was martyred in 1931 and showed no fear of death to his Chinese captors telling them, "Kill me, if you wish. I will go straight to God."

Dec 17, 2011

What Great Churches and Great Restaurants Have In Common

A good church is like a good restaurant...the food, the service, the experience makes people want to come back for more.

Most bloggers and emergent types bristle against anything that smells and looks like an attractional church.

But lets face it...the simple truth if the Christian life and our Christian gatherings are not attractive to folks who don't know Christ, Christianity is dead. That's evangelism. That's how you share Christ with others.

If we're going to be about the mission of Jesus Christ, there's got to be something about our lives, our gatherings, our way of living and expressing the love of Christ that is astonishingly attractive to those who don't know Christ.

Our way of being and living out Christ ought to cause people to want to come back for more.

Just the way a great restaurant - through its food, its service, and the experience - causes people to want to come back for more, great churches - through its ministry, its worship, its way of life - have a way of causing people to want more.

So how's your church doing? 

Dec 15, 2011

A Taste of Eternity...Lessons Learned from Momma Maggie

Momma Maggie Speaking at the Leadership Summit (Picture borrowed from Willow Creek Site)
Reviewing my notes from the Leadership Summit from this past summer, I was reminded of the necessity of the reflective life.

Momma Maggie, a Coptic Christian nun who serves the poor of Cairo, Egypt, was the highlight of an incredibly motivating conference.

Here's a portion of what she said.

The hardest task of a leader is to get to know the Almighty and to keep your heart pure. One way to do that is through the practice of silence. There you discover a taste of eternity.

Silence your body to listen to your words.
Silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts.
Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart.
Silence your heart to listen to your spirit.
Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit.

What moved the thousands of leaders gathered at the Summit was the reality in this diminutive woman, there was a person who had a connection with God in ways that none of us there had experienced. And we all wanted what she had with God.

The practice of tasting eternity...

Dec 13, 2011

The Lord is My Shepherd.....And That's All I Need to Know

A Sunday School teacher decided to have her young class memorize one of the most beloved passages in all of Scripture - Psalm 23. She gave the youngsters a month to learn the chapter.
  • Little Ricky was excited about the task - but no matter what he did, he just couldn't remember the Psalm.
  •  After much practice, he could barely get past the first line.
  • On the day that the kids were scheduled to recite Psalm 23 in front of the congregation, Ricky was so nervous.
  • When it was his turn, he stepped up to the microphone and said proudly, "The Lord is my Shepherd, and that's all I need to know."
You know what Ricky, you are absolutely right! 

That's excellent theology!!! 

No matter what life may throw at us, as long as you know that the Lord is your Shepherd, you're going to be alright.

What is true for Ricky is true for all of us.

The Lord is my Shepherd...and that's all I need to know!

Dec 10, 2011

Adventures of Parenting

A couple of mornings ago, I came back from dropping off the girls to school to find little man eating breakfast at the kitchen table.

He's six years old so that's pretty good for a little guy - fixing his own breakfast.

And as I came closer to the kitchen table I noticed empty Gogurt packets all over the table. Not just a couple of Gogurt packets...five empty Gogurt packets and he was working on his sixth!

Do you know how much sugar that is????? That's more than the daily allowance for the entire day in one sitting!!!

So we had a little conversation about how eating Gogurts for a snack is quite appropriate but he shouldn't be eating that many at one time.

Good job dad! Mission accomplished.

Fast forward one morning.

I was dropping off the girls at their school when I received a phone call from my wife. She found the little guy sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast all by himself. As she got closer to the kitchen table, she found empty Gogurt packets all over the table.

When Helen asked the little man how many Gogurts he had eaten that morning, he readily confessed that he had eaten four, but not one more.

Four Gogurts for breakfast!!!

Helen knew Kaleb and I had a conversation about this the morning before so she asked him why he had eaten so many Gogurts for breakfast.

Kaleb readily replied, "Daddy told me that I should not eat five Gogurts so I had four!!!!!"

Well, he's technically right. We did talk about how five Gogurts were not a smart choice for breakfast, and I thought I made it clear that Gogurts were good snacks but they should not be the main course.

It's clear that I was not clear enough.

Oh the joys of parenting a little man!

I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Dec 7, 2011

Meaningful and Meaningless...Yes.

Meaningless...all is meaningless! so writes the writer of Ecclesiastes.

Working hard is meaningless.

Building up your investments is meaningless.

In the end the poor, the rich, everyone dies.

Such is the picture of life the writer of Ecclesiastes paints for us.

But how different the world looks to the writer of Proverbs.

For the author of Proverbs, the world runs like clockwork. Hard work leads to big rewards. Laziness leads to destruction.

Do the right things and good things will happen.

Everything has meaning.

How can these two books be in the Bible? They say such different things?

And the amazing thing about this is that the author of both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes is Solomon. It's no accident that these two books find themselves right next to each other, back to back in the scriptures.

Because they are both true.

There are times when life makes no sense.

There are times when life seems to be going no where.

There are times when we are at wit's end.

And it is true that most of the time, we find ourselves in a world that makes sense. Work hard and things go well. Be lazy and we will reap the consequences of laziness.

This is life.

And I'm glad life is portrayed in an honest real way in scripture.

Dec 6, 2011

Running On Empty No More

Things have been pretty chaotic and stressful lately.

  • We are in the negotiation processes with a candidate for the associate pastor position at LCOP
  • We are finding solutions to possible financial realities facing LCOP
  • I am trying to come to terms with what those financial realities mean for my leadership
  • It's Advent season
  • My health issues are getting worse, not getting better
  • We are preparing to launch a new worship ministry, a young adult ministry, visitor/welcoming ministry
  • We are preparing for the next trimester of the FOCUS small group ministry
There's a lot going on.

As I have been trying to lead through all this, I realize that I have not been leading myself very well lately. I have allowed my business to overtake my spiritual/emotional well being. I have been running more and more on fumes. My spiritual and emotional tanks are empty. And if I don't take some healthy measures to replenish my tanks, I will burn out.

Some signs that I have not been managing my emotional/spiritual tank:
  • I was up most of the night, tossing and turning and worrying. Even after praying and literally handing things over to God, I find myself stressed and unable to sleep
  • I feel stressed during the day
  • The joy and passion of leadership are waning and giving into depression and stress
  • I am more irritable 
None of these things are healthy or Godly.

It's not enough to pray and hand things over to God. I need to do those things through which God feeds me and encourages me. For without those things, I will burn out.

So what are the things/activities/people that God uses to fill me? How will I go about refueling?

Here are the things that fuel my emotional/spiritual tank.

  • Journaling
  • Reading
  • Blogging
  • Family Time
  • Exercise
  • Motorcycle
I haven't been doing much of these things for several weeks now.

That's going to change starting today.

How about you? How are you doing? Do you like who you are becoming these days?

What are your daily spiritual and emotional replenishment strategies? 

Nov 20, 2011

It's Not About Doing My Best; It's About Giving My Best to the Right Things

We've all heard the adage that goes something like, "What matters in life is not necessarily the results but that we gave our best effort."

I've been thinking about the whole concept of giving my best thing because that's what I vowed to give to my church.

After some further reflection, I am not sure if giving my best is good enough.

In the end, I don't think one's life and leadership will be measured by necessarily the effort one gives to something.

In the end, the thing that will matter most is whether one gave their best to the right things, and whether I gave my best to doing those things right.

What would be the point of giving your best to the wrong things?

And what would be the point of giving my best to doing those things in the wrong ways?

So, here's where I am with giving my best to God.

  1. First, identify what the right things are. Not everything is right. Not everything is good. Not everything is worth giving ones best. The first task of leadership is to identify the right things, the best things. I call these the compass headings or the trajectory of leadership.
  2. Second, once the proper compass heading and the trajectory of leadership has been identified, the task of leadership is to determine how best to lead the organization from where we currently are to start moving toward the objective. This is what it means to doing things in the right way.
I plan on doing my best and giving my best to God and to the church as I pray, discern, and listen for the right trajectory and compass heading for the ministry. And once God makes that clear, to listen and discern for best ways to move LCOP from where we are to get us moving toward this trajectory.

That's my game plan.

Now, let's get er' done!

Nov 19, 2011

A Time and Place for Everything...

The writer of Ecclesiastes once wrote, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven."

Not only is there a proper time and season for everything, but there is a proper place for everything.

More and more these days, I am surprised at the lack of sensitivity and social awareness of some people. More and more people are losing the ability to differentiate between things that are appropriate for private spaces and things that are appropriate for public spaces.

We have all had our uncomfortable run ins with people who enthusiastically display way too much PDA, and situations where a person in a confined space (a bus, subway, train, plane) is talking way too loud and for way too long on their cell phones.

Last night I was hanging out at a Starbucks reading and writing. And in comes a guy with his guitar and his music book and he begins practicing his acoustic guitar in Starbucks.


There are people trying to carry on a conversation, people trying to read, people trying to work. 

And the guy is practicing his guitar!!!


What happened to common courtesy?

What ever happened to common sense?

Nov 18, 2011

I Love My Presbytery!!!!!.....When's the Last Time You Heard That?

The Olympia Presbytery met yesterday.

One of the major items of discussion on the docket was the final approval of a gracious dismissal policy. To make this discussion even more difficult and painful was the reality that eight congregations were already in the process of leaving the denomination, and four of the eight have already completed the process and are now ready to move to the financial negotiation part of leaving our denomination.

This presbytery meeting had all the ingredients necessary for things to go ugly.

Unfortunately, far too many of us in the PC(USA) have had too many experiences of things going ugly at denominational meetings.

But it wasn't ugly.

It wasn't easy.

It was still very painful and difficult.

But the presbytery handled this situation in a way that would have totally honored Jesus Christ and his church.

How many times have you ever heard someone say that they love their presbytery?

Well, get ready.

Here it comes.


I love the way my colleagues in ministry handled the potentially volatile and difficult situation with both grace, love, and mutual respect.

Given the difficult circumstances, you couldn't have asked for a better way for people to deal with a terribly difficult and painful situation.

Olympia Presbytery, I am proud to be one of your members. I thank God for the way you modeled a Christ-honoring, mission-prioritizing, mutual-forbearing.

It is a privilege to serve with you and to call you partners in ministry.

Nov 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Baskets for the Neighbors of LCOP

God has blessed us with much. So it is only right that we share what God has given to us with others.

The Little Church on the Prairie will share hundreds of Thanksgiving Boxes filled with turkeys and all the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal for our neighbors who would otherwise not have a Thanksgiving meal.

But more than the meal, we pray that God will use these boxes as a real reminder that God loves us all and that no one is ever alone.

We have prayed and blessed these boxes and now ask for God's blessings on our neighbors.

Yay God! and yay the people of the Little Church on the Prairie!

Look at those boxes!!!

More boxes...
Gotta have bread
Cindy and Esther...gotta have carrots
More bread...

Lucille and Ken making sure all the goodies get in the boxes
Our invitation...praying our friends will read the invitation

Rex and Doug taking a break from the rain from unloading the truck

Getting the turkeys ready. They were frozen solid...the turkeys that is.

Nov 16, 2011

Middle Governing Bodies Commission - The Same Ol', Same Ol'

The Middle Governing Bodies Commission was commissioned by 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to look for creative and new ways for the Presbyterian Church to move into our emerging future.

A commission by its very nature has immense power. Within the charter given to the commission, the commission has the authority to act on behalf of the General Assembly. What this means is that the commission has the authority and power of the General Assembly within the parameters of its charter.

That's a huge and an awesome responsibility.

There was so much that the commission could have done to help the PC(USA) find ways to move forward.

However with the latest action reported by the Presbyterian Outlook, the Middle Governing Bodies Commission is not going to offer creative and new solutions for the church to move forward. Instead, we are going to get pretty much the same ol' denomination.

  • The same ol' denomination that is currently losing 50,000-60,000 members a year.
  • The same ol' denomination that will be mired in the same ol' fights and disagreements.
  • The same ol' denomination that will do business in the same ol' way we've always done business.
There was so much the commission could have done.

For guys like me, it's not that we are looking for ways to leave the denomination. If we wanted to, there are plenty of ways to start doing that right now as many churches have already have, and are in the process of doing.

For evangelical presbyterians like me, we are looking for ways to stay. And this is where the Middle Governing Bodies Commission could have given creative solutions to stay presbyterian and reformed while looking for new ways of staying connected. 

But when the church is unwilling to change and face the reality that the landscape of denominationalism has already changed, and is therefore looking for creative ways to be ecclesiologically connected while coming to terms with not only believing the church of Jesus Christ to be bigger than any one denomination, but actually living into that reality, what's a guy like me to do?

We are living in the emerging and fast-approaching post-denominational world, while still living in the last remnants of denominationalism and institutionalism. 

And unless we seek ways to be different than what we have been, we will die with what we have always been.

Not Only Is He Moving In, He Wants to Take Me Out!

There are times when I bring one or more of my kids to hang out with me in the office while I work.

One of the things my 6 year old son has been doing lately is creating his own business cards where he crosses out my name and replaces it with his.

He's been doing this for a while.

The family has a good laugh because it's cute.

But this past Sunday, I came back from leading worship and what I found on my desk is the lower business card where not only has Kaleb crossed out my name as the pastor, but he has kicked me out!

I'm not sure what to make of that but one thing I am thankful for is that Kaleb thinks being a pastor is a cool thing. And for now, as a six year old, he wouldn't mind being a pastor when he grows up.

My prayer is that, should God also be calling him to the ministry, he will continue to think that becoming a pastor would be a cool thing to do.

Nov 15, 2011

One of the Craziest Darndest Things That's Ever Happened...

My family has been intrigued by the Jenny-O commercials where they challenge America to make the switch to turkey burgers.

We finally decided that yesterday would be the day in which the Kim family would make the switch...or at least try out the turkey burger.

I learned a few things about grilling turkey burgers. 
  • I should have let the meat thaw out before tossing them on the grill
  • Turkey patties don't hold together the same way that a hamburger holds together
  • That could have been because I didn't thaw out the meat...see first bullet point 
When it came time to serve the turkey burgers, they were an absolute hit with everyone in the family. We all loved it!

I wouldn't mind at all switching over to turkey burgers. They tasted great and they're way better for me than hamburgers.

As I was munching on an awesome turkey burger, I felt a sharp pain on the side of my tongue. It felt like a sharp needle piercing the side of my tongue.

Here's what I think happened.

Just before grilling, I cleaned the grill with one of those metal bristle grill cleaning tools. I think one of the bristles became loose when I was cleaning the grill and got lodged in one of the turkey burger patties.

Thank God I was the one who ended up with the metal bristle and not one of my kids.

I tried finding the metal bristle on my tongue but I couldn't visually locate it. But I could certainly feel it. And since the metal bristle piece is probably not the most sanitary thing to keep in my tongue, I went to the ER to see if they could find it. 

The ER people thought it was a hoot! They had never heard of such a thing. When the ER nurse called the radiologist to ask about x-raying my tongue, everyone had a good laugh about how they could accomplish that.

To make a long story short, they couldn't find it and they have referred me to a face/throat/jaw specialist.

I will see the specialist in the next couple of days.

Isn't life just so much fun!

The Apostle Paul had his thorn in his side...well, I guess I'm only fit for a metal bristle in my tongue.

No, no, no. I am not asking for a thorn. Got plenty of issues already. 

Who knew one could get themselves in such interesting problems?

Nov 4, 2011

Daddy's Favorite Drawing in the World...

When Kaleb was five, he drew one of my absolute favorite pictures.

Kaleb wrote at the bottom of the picture, "I wish you didn't have work beecus so you can play with me"

Tell me how a picture like this wouldn't melt a daddy's heart!!!

Nov 2, 2011

Giving God My Best...How Do You Quantify That?

Giving God my best!

Sounds so noble. So admirable. So...well...Godly.

Well, how does one do that?

How does one really go about giving God the best?

I have been saying that I want to give God my best and give my best leadership to the Little Church on the Prairie.

What does that mean practically?

How has my life or daily routines changed as a result of desiring to give God my best.

After all, if nothing quantifiably changes in my daily routines, what difference does my desiring to give God my best make?

Giving my best to God ought to make a difference. Right?

So the million dollar question is how do I go about doing that?

Well, one of the things I have been doing is to ask myself on a regular basis - on an hourly basis - "Is this giving God your best? Is this your best leadership?"

Here's what that's been doing for me on a practical level.

So when I find myself going through Facebook or Twitter or reading the blogs, asking this question has been a good check for me.

Sometimes staying in touch with folks through Facebook and Twitter and reading some Christian blogs is a part of giving my best. But as anyone who has spent anytime on Facebook or Twitter, it can be a royal waste of time. Well, asking this question has cut down on the waste of time portion and helped me to stay focused.

Give it a try.

Who wouldn't want to give God their best efforts?

Who doesn't want to give their family and friends the best effort they deserve?

Every hour or so, ask yourself, "Is this your best? Is this giving God your best?" and watch we just might find ourselves actually giving our best effort.

Nov 1, 2011

Seeing Beyond the Turn

One of my favorite things to do on my motorcycle is to get on a twisty road and lean the bike over the turns. There are a few things in life more pleasant than a nice twisty country road.

As awesome a nice twisty road is, the reality is that the twists on the road can be quite dangerous for a biker. There are only two wheels making contact with the surface of the road at any one time, and when the bike is leaned over for a turn, most of that grip is being used up for making the turn. Should the biker have to make emergency adjustments of speed or the angle of the turn, well, usually gravity wins that battle and both the biker and bike lose.

One of the keys to making the twists of the road a fun is learning to look through the turn - a biker has to look beyond the turn.

The general rule of thumb of motorcycling is that the bike will go where you are looking.

What happens when a rider doesn't look through the turn?

In short, bad stuff happens.

Today, on my ride to work, I was in a turn and instead of looking through the curve, my eyes were focused on a manhole cover in the middle of a turn.

You see, it was right around 36-37 degrees this morning when I started on my ride this morning, and metallic things have a tendency to get iced over on cold mornings. The last thing I wanted to do was to go over that manhole cover on a cold morning to discover that the cover was icy.

I made a quick few adjustments and was able to finish the turn without an incident.

But in the middle of that turn, as I focused on the actual turn instead of looking beyond the curve, a couple of things happened.
1. I began losing my sense of balance
2. I lost the line of curve I wanted in the turn
3. I wasn't prepared for what was ahead.

All these are bad things.

What's true about safely dealing with the turns on a twisty road on the motorcycle, is also true of life.

When we get too focused on the curves and twists life throws at us, we cannot see the way out of them. We get focused on the immediate and constantly find ourselves in a reactionary mode rather than looking ahead to see the best ways forward.

Just as looking through the turn on a bike can make the twisties an absolute blast, so the twists in life can be a source of creativity and ingenuity in life.

The key is being able to see beyond the turn. A general rule of thumb about life is that you will most likely end up where you are looking.

Oct 29, 2011

Judas and Grace

Jesus had his disciples make the preparations for the Passover meal in Jerusalem.

Jesus knew it would be his last meal with his disciples.

Jesus also knew within moments after the meal, one of his disciples would betray him and hand him over to the authorities.

What I find astonishing is that Jesus still broke bread with Judas.

In fact, because Jesus knew what Judas was about to do, Jesus intentionally served him the bread and wine and declared, "This is my body broken for you Judas. Take and eat, and remember me."

After they had finished their passover meal, Jesus looked into Judas' eyes and declared, "This is the blood of the new covenant, given for the forgiveness of sins. Take and drink, and remember me."

It's as if Jesus was saying to Judas, "It's never too late. You can always ask for forgiveness and it will always be given to you. I am going to the cross to forgive you for what you are about to do. Remember me. Remember you are forgiven. Remember you have been redeemed!"

The grace demonstrated here is beyond understanding. It is truly unbelievable.

This is the grace that is offered to all of us.

For how many times do we do things knowing it is hurtful, knowing it is sin? And yet we still do it.

How many times have we said things and done things knowing it to be sin, knowing we will ask for forgiveness, knowing Jesus would forgive?

How many times have we withheld from giving our best, doing what we know to be right and still not doing it?

Thank God his mercy is from everlasting to everlasting!

Thank God his grace is never ending!

For that's our only hope.

Thank God for God!

Oct 28, 2011

I Know It's Only a Game...But Dang!!!!!

I know it's only a game.

But dang! I shouldn't be this disappointed.

It really is only a game.


Just one strike. That's all the Rangers needed. One strike!!!

I didn't think the Rangers could come back after a heartbreaking loss like last night's win. I had some hope that I might be wrong when the Rangers scored two runs in the top of the first inning. But by the time the fifth inning, you could literally feel it slipping away.

It was one the greatest World Series I've ever seen.

You can't get any closer to actually winning the whole thing than the Texas Rangers in game 6. They were one pitch away from uncorking the bubbly.....TWICE for goodness sakes!!!

One pitch.

Less than one second away from jumping for joy and bringing the first World Series to Texas.

Not once, but twice, the Cardinals would get crucial hits. You couldn't duplicate that on the play ground let alone in the World Series with the entire series on the line. Even the pitcher was getting a crucial bunt down to keep the rally going.

You just can't hit clutch like that. If you were to see it in the movies, you'd laugh it off as impossible.

That's how crazy the Saint Louis Cardinal's win is.

Hats off the Cards! One heck of a series.

I do have to say, I hate the way we give home field advantage for something as important as the World Series on a meaningless game as the All Star Game. I think the series could have been very different if the Rangers had home field advantage.

Alas...could of, should of...another year of asking what ifs. And that's the worst part of a loss like this.

There were so many missed opportunities that slipped away.

Things that Matter

Borrowed from AP
One strike away from winning the first world series........twice!!!

Literally moments away from the biggest celebration in Rangers history...only to have those chances be rebuffed.

It was truly unbelievable to see what was actually taking place in the World Series game last night between the Saint Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers.

In fact, no one had ever seen anything like it before because it's never happened before.

It was truly amazing to watch. First as a baseball fan, to see one of the most intense games ever. Whenever the Cardinals would make an error, the Rangers would score. But the Rangers would be sloppy and allow the Cardinals right back in the game.

So it went back and forth.

And who will forget the incredible 9th, 10th, and 11th innings?

It looked like the Rangers had it in the bag with a three run lead going into the final half of the inning with Felix on the mound. But the Cardinals never quit. With one strike away from losing the world series, they would tie it up.

The Rangers would go up again in the 10th, and the Cards would come right back.

When the Rangers didn't score in the 11th, and also used up all their pitchers by then, you knew the Rangers were done. And the Cards hometown boy Freese would deliver the death blow with a home run to the center field grass.


Here's the thing...As terrible as most Rangers fans felt, and as joyous the Cardinal's fans were last night, give it a few years and very few people will even remember who their hometown team played against, let alone the details of the drama.

That's the way it is with games. Because that's what they

As I reflect back on the of the up and down emotions of the game last night, I wonder how I might be that engaged and that into it about life, marriage, my family, the ministry, about God, about the things that actually matter in this life and for all of eternity.

Why is it that I am not as fully engaged in things that matter?

Because the way I want to live my life is to enjoy the games, but to invest myself fully in the things that have eternal ramifications.

Oct 27, 2011

Willing to Do Whatever It Takes...

Jesus declared, "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

This means that the church has been given everything we need to be what God desires for the church to be. God has given to the church everything we need to be a prevailing church.

I am not sure what all prevailing entails, but whatever prevailing is I don't think it is what most American churches are experiencing. I would venture to say that what most churches in America is the opposite of whatever prevailing is.

What's the problem then?

Did Jesus lie?

Was Jesus exaggerating?

Was this hyperbole?

What's the deal?

Perhaps the issue is that while God has given the church everything we need to be what he desires for the church to be, but the church has not been willing to do everything we need to do become the church God wants us to be.

I think that's really the question - Are we willing to do what it takes for the church to be the church?

Oct 26, 2011

Daily Reading of God's Word - Why?

Only God Can Make Colors Like This - Pic I took with my G2x Phone
Most Christians know that they ought to read the Bible on a regular basis.

And most of us who have been doing this Christianity thing have had every good intention to read through the Bible.

But the thing is that once we get going, well....honestly....the Bible can seem pretty boring, and on top of that it can be pretty confusing.

Have you read Leviticus lately?

If you've never read the Bible, my recommendation is that folks start with one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John).

Spend some good time reading through the story of Jesus and familiarizing yourself with Jesus.

After the gospels, spend some time reading through the Psalms and the other New Testament texts before trying to tackle the Old Testament.

Daily reading of the Bible is essential for Christians, not necessarily because of the information it passes to its readers but because reading the Bible daily reorients our lives to what God has been doing throughout history. Daily reading of the Bible helps to remind us of how our lives fit into the story of God.

It is this daily exposure to the word of God that helps us to start seeing this world of ours in the proper perspective.

So I hope that you will get to it and start reading God's story and how your life fits into God's grand narrative.

Oct 14, 2011

The Stupid Things We Do...

The stupid things we do.....

The way things normally work in the doctor to patient relationship is that the patient calls and makes appointments with the doctor.

I have come to experience that there are occasions in which the doctor will call the patient and insist on seeing you as soon as possible.

I have also come to know whenever the doctor's office calls and tells me to come in asap, it's not a good thing.

That happened to me yesterday.

The stupid things we do...

And it's all my fault. I have no one to blame but myself. I know better.

The stupid things we do...

You see, right after Russia at the beginning of September, I ran out of all my prescription meds and I had them ready to pick up at the pharmacy but for one reason or another I never got around to picking it up.

About a week went by and I felt fine and my blood sugar numbers were staying in the normal range so I figured I must be doing fine.

Even with insurance, my meds were costing me about $400 month and I figured I just might have found $400 extra dollars a month!

Woo hoo!

The stupid things we do...

I had my regular blood test done about a week ago.

That's when it all started.

My endocrinologist (internal med/diabetes) doctor got those results and her office called me to inform me that I was to be in the doctor's office asap. The doctor saw some numbers that she was not happy with.

To make a long story short, while my blood sugar numbers were normal, my triglyceride, cholesterol, potassium, blood pressure, etc. numbers were way off the charts. The doc told me that I was fortunate that I had only been "experimenting" with not taking meds for about five weeks. Because had the numbers been any worse, she would have admitted me to the CCU.

I've learned my lesson. I'm back on meds.

Boy, the stupid things I do....

Oct 13, 2011

Pastors...Fulfilled and Depressed

We have all heard that healthy organizations/institutions are the result of healthy leaders. As the leaders go, so will the organization and institution.

What is alarming about the above statement is that while many pastors find themselves in a calling that is very fulfilling, pastors also find themselves incredibly vulnerable to burnout and depression.

Read recently on an email from Willowcreek the following stats:

  • 80% of pastors feel unquilaified and discouraged in their role as a pastor
  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first 5 years.

(The stats were distilled from Barna research, Focus on the Family, and Fuller Seminary). 
More than ever, in the midst of our current realities of immense change and uncertainties, good and Godly leadership is absolutely essential to the future viability and vitality of our congregations.
It is unacceptable that the current way of doing church and leadership is destroying the very leaders that the churches need.
The million dollar question is: what will you do to help change these statistics?

Oct 12, 2011

The Church Jesus Wants Us to Be...

Back in August, I had the privilege of addressing +1900 presbyterians at the Fellowship of Presbyterian Gathering in Minneapolis, MN. I was asked to speak about my understanding of what it was God was calling the PC(USA) to be about.

The Church Christ Wants Us to Be...

Oct 10, 2011

Steve Jobs, Buddhism, Jesus Christ

It's been about a week since the death of Steve Jobs.

Let me start by saying that I am currently blogging on my macbook pro, with my iPad next to me, while listening to music on iTunes.

I have been a Mac fan since the very first Macintosh computers came out back in the 80's.

There is no doubt that Steve Jobs was an amazing innovator and leader of Apple Computers. Contemporary life in America has been impacted by the life and work of Steve Jobs.

Steve Job's early death is a shock to many and his life and innovation will be missed.

That's not why I am writing this blog.

The reason why I am writing is because the first time I saw a cartoon like this after his death, I thought it was funny and a fitting tribute to Steve Job's life.

But I began to see cartoons like this all over the place on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

And the thing was that lots of people were posting such tributes. And increasingly more and more Christians and pastors were putting up cartoons like this on their pages.

I can't help but wonder and ask, what are we saying about the absolute exclusive claims of Jesus Christ when Christians and pastors post cartoons like this?

Do we still believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him?

Many people know that Steve Jobs was a devout Buddhist.

He was a man of great influence. Even a man of great importance. He single handedly changed the way we listen to music and how we use a smartphone.

I'm not debating that.

What I am questioning is the easy way universalism creeps into our world view.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think my Christian friends and pastors are universalists. But, I am stating my discomfort with how easily we participate in perpetuating some of the confusion of our culture.

I pray for Steve Job's and his family. I pray that God will be both merciful and just and loving with Steve Jobs.

But I also know, as hard and difficult and insensitive as this sounds, that Steve Jobs by affirming Buddhism rejected the invitation of Jesus Christ.

If Jesus isn't the only way, then I need to start looking for another calling. It's because Jesus offers the only pathway to eternal life that I do what I do. 

Oct 8, 2011

Giving and Doing our Best

I love sports.

Ever since I was a kid, anything that was outdoors, or anything involving a ball, I was game.

Growing up, I played baseball, basketball, volleyball, football, tennis, wrestled, ran track.

I love sports.

Now that I am a dad, I get to enjoy my children's involvement in sports.

Oct 7, 2011

Wisdom is Hindsight in Advance

I love hindsight. It's always right. It's always so clear.

I love hindsight.

The only problem of course is that hindsight is only available after the fact.

As we go through life, there are occasions when decisions have to be made but the clarity of what decision needs to be made is as clear as mud.

Oct 5, 2011

No Regrets. No What If's. I'm All In!!!

The Little Church on the Prairie Sanctuary. Ain't she pretty!!!
Not one of the churches that the Apostle Paul established are still around.

Jesus promised, "Upon this rock (that Jesus is the Son of God) I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail."

The church of Jesus Christ prevails.

The church of Jesus Christ is eternal.

However, all local churches, like all institutions have a life-cycle.

This is a hard truth for most folks in local churches to swallow. Most in the local church assume that their church will last forever.

Sep 22, 2011

Leadership: The Difference Between Leading People to Life and Leading People to Death

Tom Landry, the late great coach of the Dallas Cowboys said, "Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve."

Look at that phrase. There's a couple of very important things to see.
  • First, leaders get people to do what they don't want to do. That's why leaders are needed. If everyone did only what they wanted to do, we would never change, and we would never corporately change for the better.
  • The second part is even more important. Leaders get people to do what they don't want to do, in order to help them achieve what they want to achieve.
This is what the Bible calls spurring or provoking one another to good deeds.

Notice that the Bible did not say spear each other to death. 

All too often, a leader so bent on vision that he sees people as tools to accomplish his vision can spear and provoke their people to burnout, disillusionment, and eventual death.

What is the primary difference between spurring and provoking others to do and become what they want to become versus spearing people to death?

Sep 16, 2011

A Church That Actually Plans on Having New People Showing Up

Last night I was at a presbytery meeting.

One of the things we always do at presbytery meetings is to worship together. I love worship. The sermon was good and the band was ok.

But the thing that really weirded me out was what happened at the end the service. The choir members rushed into the sanctuary and then stood all over the sanctuary and started singing. Some of the choir members were literally a foot or two away from me. That's a little too close for someone I don't know to be singing and dancing while staring at me.

Now, I think for most church-going folk, they thought this was pretty swell.

I thought it was kind of strange.

Sep 15, 2011

Longing for the Church to be Like Starbucks...

Image borrowed from
I love Starbucks.

I mean it.

I'm not sure what it is about Starbucks but I find that I can think more creatively and clearly there than pretty much anywhere else on planet earth.

When things get hectic and my mind gets cluttered, I long to take my Bible, a journal, and my Kindle and head out to a Starbucks.

Why is that? What is it about Starbucks that makes this happen?

I am intrigued by this longing for Starbucks thing...

Sep 14, 2011

America, We Must Do Better

The latest Census Bureau report released last Tuesday states that 46.2 million Americans are impoverished. The recent recession and its aftermath have left nearly one in six Americans living below the poverty line, defined as an annual income of $22,314 for a family of four.

Friends, listen. It doesn't matter whether you are a democrat, republican, or an independent. If you are American, this is simply unacceptable. 

The economic and tax policies of our country must change. There has to be a better way of being American than what we have seen in recent history.

Sep 6, 2011

Reflections from the Kremlin Museum...Confessions

Had the chance to visit the Kremlin Museum and the Kremlin Armory today in Moscow, Russia. The Kremlin Armory Museum holds Russia's most complete collection of the jewels and the wealth of the Russian monarchs, and one of the world's greatest collection of crown jewels.

The endless array of the opulent display of gold, silver, precious stones, crowns, thrones, etc. is truly dizzying. 

The collection at the Kremlin Armory Museum is only a small display of the luxury and the wealth of the Czars. The Russian monarchs had multiple enormous grand palaces for summer, winter, for the king, for the queen, etc.

Instead of being impressed by all the wealth and luxury of the Czars, I found the display quite disturbing and depressing.