Friday, June 30, 2006

Beyond Consumerism

How do we live our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ in the 21st century? There is a constant pressure to create models and programs designed to make local churches bigger. But is that better?

Let's get committed to discipleship. It works in the smallest churches to the largest ones, and it's all about a desire for a deep relationship with God.

I'm tired of "consumer Christianity." I want to be a true follower of Jesus. How about you?

Abundance has brought beautiful things to our lives, but that bevy of material goods has not necessarily made us much happier. The paradox of prosperity is that while living standards have risen steadily decade after decade, personal, family and life satisfaction haven't budged. That's why people — liberated by prosperity but not fulfilled by it — are resolving the paradox by searching for meaning. Dan Pink

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Now That's A Vision!

Bono in Africa

Love cannot remain by itself – it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service. Mother Theresa

James 1:22-25
But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


What are you spending today Imagining? What do you imagine for yourself? For your family? What about for the work of God around and through you?

Monday, June 26, 2006

God @ The Movies: Garden State

Movies are today’s parables. For the next several weeks we’ll look at different genres of movies, scouring them for spiritual insights into the human condition and the whereabouts of faith and God in the daily details of life. Jesus told stories of life, called the parables that enabled his listeners to more clearly become open to God’s love and truth. Stories have a way of opening our hearts before we can choose to close ourselves off from viewpoints that challenge us, especially with the radical love of God.

The four great questions we'll adress over the next several weeks are: "Who are we; where did we come from; what should we do, and where are we going?"

Today we begin with a movie that was one of the bigger hits of ’04-‘05 among the twentysomething crowd: Garden State. A caution with this movie-it’s rated R because of the language & a couple of scenes containing sexuality. Keep that in mind if you haven’t seen it and are thinking of going to the video store tonight to watch it with your kids-don’t do that! Growing up as the youngest of 4 boys in a family in northeast, blue collar Edmonton I heard my share of choice language. My brothers could use the f-word as a noun, adjective, adverb, and pretty much every other figure of speech you could imagine.

This first clip sets the the story in motion.

In the first few 4 minutes of the movie we learn a lot, don’t we? We are introduced to the main character, Andrew Largeman. You and I are invited into his life. But you immediately realize that something is messed up here.

Just look at his bedroom. Is it the kind of decor Marita would be proud of? No! There’s nothing going on in there. Anyone want to volunteer his bedroom for clinical trials? His bedroom is absolutely sterile.

Webster’s defines it as: “free from all live bacteria, all living organisms and especially microorganisms”. Totally mind-numbing.

And then we learn more. Andrew doesn’t return his father’s phone calls. His father is crying on the phone because his mother has died but her death is odd. She drowned in the bathtub. Which only makes sense when later on we find out she’s been a paraplegic since Andrew was 9.

And still, despite this news coming through the speakers of his answering machine, Andrew can’t FEEL a thing. Why? Well, we soon find out. He walks into his bathroom, opens up the cabinet and there we see each shelf lined with prescriptions of antidepressants. That later we find out he’s basically been on since he was 10 years old.

Andrew Largeman is going home for the first time in 9 years but he decides to leave his meds at home—that for the first time since he was 10 years old, he’s going to take a vacation from the medication he’s been on.

The day of his mother’s funeral, he meets up with some old high school friends who have very interesting jobs…Let’s see, there’s Mark who works as a gravedigger and moonlights as a jewelry salesman. And then there’s Jesse who developed a patent for Silent Velcro and sold his patent for millions, bought a manion, and is bored out of his tree. And then there’s Tim who’s a knight at a restaurant called Medieval Times. He happens to be dating Mark’s mother. And the first night Andrew is home, he’s invited to a party with Mark because Largeman is a bit of a Hollywood celebrity: he did an amazing job potraying a mentally-challenged quaterback in a TV movie.

But this party scene feels different than most of the others you’ve seen in movies, doesn't it? At this party you have people smoking pot, ecstasy, coke lines, alcohol being abused, and casual sex being alluded to. So while watching the party scene, someone may well say, “Oh, it’s just like Hollywood to glorify the party scene.” But that’s missing the story!

The difference in this movie is that we’re experiencing this party through the eyes of Andrew Largeman and suddenly, all of it feels SO hollow, SO empty, SO dissatisfying. It’s very likely that you’ve never seen a more un-glorified party scene in the movies than in this one.

And then the next day, Largeman meets someone who revolutionizes his life, Sam, played by Natalie Portman. She is the exact opposite of everything he’s been. If Andrew walks through life numb, practically sterile, and cautious, Sam walks through life greeting every moment with feeling, with color, with vulnerability, throwing caution to the wind.

The two begin spending a lot of time together and you watch Sam model for Andrew the type of life he’s been missing out on.

There’s this old proverb that goes, “Wherever you are, be fully there.” And THIS is what Sam models. Even watching her on the screen, you feel as though you’ve rarely met an individual quite like her. A person with such presence. Who can live in the moment. Who can be in the present moment. Not in the past. And not in the future. In the present.

It’s Sam’s ability to greet every moment with such truthfulness and presence that eventually gives Andrew permission to be truthful and present himself such that over time he reveals to his friends a huge secret that he’s been carrying since he was 9 years old—the very reason his mom has been a paraplegic all her life.

Andrew’s sitting in front of the fireplace at Jesse’s mansion with Sam sitting next to him and Mark and Jesse sitting across from him and Andrew says,

“I was the reason she was in a wheelchair. I pushed her. So there that is. It’s the truth. It’s just a complete freak accident, you know? It’s one of those things you replay a million times in your head and you see how clearly it was a complete freak thing. My whole life she was depressed for no reason. And one day I was a little kid, I was 9 years old and I just hated her for that. And I…pushed her. But it was innocent. I was just completely frustrated…because I couldn’t make her happy. And any other time, any other day, she would’ve just yelled at me and sent me to my room. But this day. On this particular day, the door of the dishwasher had fallen open. The latch on it was broken and it would just randomly fall open. The latch. It’s really amazing how much of my life has been determined by a quarter-inch piece of plastic. …So she fell back over the door and hit her neck on the kitchen counter paralyzing her from the waste down.”

Remember the first time you went home after leaving, be it for University or a job? Although I didn’t move out until I got married, I almost lived out of my car the last few years of living 'at home'. Sure, I slept there, but would often leave in the morning, drive to university, spend all day there & then afterwards most of the evening with my friends only to return home to sleep.

Coming back in I distinctly remember walking through the back door of my house and feeling ambivalence; it’s good to be back home…but at the same time, it’s not. Not all the memories in that house were pleasant, if you know what I mean. It was the place I lived but somehow I was NOT home. And that tug of, “Oh yes it is.” “No it’s not.” “Yes it is.”

And though no one ever verbalized it, I was in a really significant rite of passage. A rite of passage where I’ve left and am in the processing of leaving one home but I’ve not yet made a new home for myself. So what was I to do? What are you to do in that situation?

This conversation here and this theme could be one of the reasons this movie connected with so many people, so many of us. Ronnie Fauss says that it’s this theme of “going home” that is perhaps explored more in this movie than in any other and is the reason so many people in their twenties and thirties connected so much with this movie as the loneliness that so many of us feel in this stage of life is addressed with an unflinching authenticity.

Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave and grow old wanting to get back to. John Ed Pierce

There are many perceived rights of passage to adulthood. Some of the most common misconceptions are that you can drink alcohol, have freedom, make money, not be told what to do, but of course they all lack deep meaning. Finding the ‘new home’ is the key.

Over the course of several heartfelt conversations between Largeman and Sam, Largeman realizes that he does not feel like he has come home at all, because nothing is familiar. Through this processing, he concludes, “Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.”

My goodness but that sounds like what a church is and is supposed to be.

Way back in the Bible in Jeremiah 29 we discover a people without a home, too. Almost 600 years before Jesus was born the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem and took the Israelites captive and took them back to Babylon. They were deported.

Now, consider for a second what things have to change in order for the Israelites to make this place, Babylon, HOME. Well, just about everything! Their symbols for God’s presence—the Temple as well as their religious and political structures. For the Jewish people, land was everything. Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish people and understood as the residence of YHWH God. The temple Solomon built existed in Jerusalem. So they longed to return back home, to the place where God had been revealed to them in the past, the place where God lived and their identity as a people was rooted.

It’s these people who are without a home—these Israelites who are Jeremiah’s audience in chapter 29. “These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”

Here’s the problem, though. While in Babylon, the Israelites wanted desperately to return home to Jerusalem. False prophets were rising up and basically saying, “Now is the time. Rise up against Babylon in holy war.” We don’t know exactly what they were saying, but we know it was the opposite of what Jeremiah called for—a time of peace.

But here's what Jeremiah calls for in verses 4-14 (The Message).

This is the Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel's God, to all the exiles I've taken from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses and make yourselves at home.

"Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country. Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you'll thrive in that country and not waste away. Make yourselves at home there and work for the country's welfare. Pray for Babylon's well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you. Yes.

Believe it or not, this is the Message from GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel's God: "Don't let all those so-called preachers and know-it--alls who are all over the place there take you in with their lies. Don't pay any attention to the fantasies they keep coming up with to please you. They're a bunch of liars preaching lies--and claiming I sent them! I never sent them, believe me." This is GOD's Word on the subject: "As soon as Babylon's seventy years are up and not a day before, I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

"When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. When you come looking for me, you'll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed."

"I'll turn things around for you. I'll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it."

So the Israelites were living in this foreign land, always looking to the future for that day when they could be back home. And the false prophets were egging them on, “Rise up, revolt against the Babylonians, and go back home.” And Jeremiah was saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s not what I’m hearing. Stay put for now. Abandon your plans of escape. And be there. Build houses and live. Build gardens, marry, keep the people strong, and strive for the best life in the place where you are.”

Interestingly, this new set-up here in the auditorium, even though it is more ‘homey’ with couches, tables and coffee tables, has probably taken a few of you aback. It may not yet be 'home'.

The problem with that future focus is that we miss God’s presence, God’s unexpected presence in the here and now…as Henri Nouwen says, “the treasure you are looking for is hidden in the ground on which you stand.” It’s so much easier to think that the answer is in the future, because that takes some of the pressure off what we’re suppose to be doing in the here and now. It also helps us to deny whatever pain is in the here and now, and look instead to a time when our lives will “REALLY” begin, when things will be different. But God is right here, right whatever foreign landscape that lacks meaning, in whatever foreign landscape that leaves us unsettled. God is constantly creating new possibilities in this life, even in the places that we yearn to run from. Melody Porter

At the end of the movie, Largeman has undergone this transformation. For the first time in his life, he’s realized this sense of homesickness that he’s felt for so many years—that he’s been running from. He’s prevented himself from feeling. But what Sam does is that she gives him permission to be himself. To EXPERIENCE the here and now. In a relationship of honesty and vulnerability. In grieving the death of his mom. In the comfort, warmth and messiness of friendship.

And here I think God is saying to each of us, “Abandon your plans of escape. And Be where you are. Plant gardens and live and live well.” I don’t know what your planting gardens may look like, but listen to the words of Kyle Lake as to what it may sound like,

Live. And Live Well.
BREATHE. Breathe in and breathe deeply. Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now.

On a crystal clear, breezy 25-degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun.

If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE.

Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.

If you bike, pedal HARD… and if you crash then crash well.

Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done—a paper well written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well performed.

If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year old’s nose, don’t be disgusted if the Kleenex didn’t catch it all… because soon he’ll be wiping his own.

If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And grieve well.
At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke. And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven. And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life. Because-it-is-most-definitely-a-Gift.

As Ogden Nash once said, “There is one fault that I must find with the twentieth century, and I’ll put it in a couple of words: too adventury. What I’d like would be some nice dull monotony, If anyone’s gotony.”

You find what you look for. Madeline L'Engle

What are you looking for? Escape?

Abandon your plans of escape. And be there. Build houses and live. Build gardens, marry, keep the people strong, and strive for the best life in the place where you are.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Friday, June 23, 2006

Finding Beauty In An Ugly Reality

Psalm 42
1 As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.

Is this a lovely picture? No! The deer is being hunted to death and its lungs are bursting for moisture.

3 Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, "Where is this God of yours?"

I think even the Psalmist asked where is God. The assault on our faith is a root of emotional breakdown.

4 My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration!

Depression is often about loss - of someone, of hope, a dream, etc.

5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!

The Psalmist recognises the condition of his heart (spirit) but knows where his hope for healing lies - in God's presence. It is the presence of God that comforts all difficulties and the absence of God that leaves us broken.

6 Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.

The Psalmist once again chooses the medicine for his heart: remembering God.

7 I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.

Our heart calls to the heart of God even though it feels like God has swamped us.

8 But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.

9 "O God my rock," I cry, "Why have you forgotten me?Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?"

10 Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, "Where is this God of yours?"

11 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!

Despite the feeling that God has forgotten him - the Psalmist knows beyond his pain that God is good and he chooses to worship.

Seek patience for hope: In whatever darkness you are facing, seek God's help and hold to the hope of healing!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I'm Sorry

“A stiff apology is a second insult . . . The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.” G. K. Chesterton

Take some time at the end of today to reflect on recent events, especially instances where you needed to apologize. Did it come readily? Or was it slow to leak out through gritted teeth? Is God saying something to you?

The Toughest Part Of Apologizing Is Realizing And Admitting That You Were Wrong

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Series Of Unfortunate Incidents

It is not what happens to us that determines success or failure in life but rather what we do with what happens to us.

Think of the story of Joseph. Or the story of Job. Or the story of Jesus. Or mine. Or your own story for that matter.

"You'll never find a better sparring partner than adversity." Golda Meir

"Consistent behavior, fueled by your imagination, is what gives direction and movement to your life." Mac Hammond

Valencia Harvey suggests that we don't waste our adversities. Instead, we can change our perspective on the current situation. Embrace every adversity as a training ground for a brighter future.

We can also turn our fears into a choice. This is especially meaningful for those of us who struggle with being indecisive. Play into your fears rather than being controlled by them.

Refuse to remain stuck. Sometimes just taking the extra step to become informed about an area that needs improving can help strengthen our confidence. If we'll allow our challenges to shape us we can make a daily decision to sustain forward movement towards our ultimate calling.

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. Ambrose Redmoon

It is a blessed thing that in every age someone has had enough individuality and courage to stand by his own convictions. Robert G. Ingersoll

Daring ideas are like chess men moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Act boldly and unseen forces will come to your aid. Dorothea Brande

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do. Helen Keller

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other. Mother Teresa

Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes. Maggie Kuhn

Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself. Charlie Chaplin

Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.

Courage is the capacity to confirm what can be imagined. Leo Rosten

Why do you need Courage?

Do the thing you are afraid to do and the death of fear is certain. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, June 19, 2006

Develop A Brave Heart Or You Will Break Hearts

It's been said that men are from Mars and women are from Venus; women are like spaghetti and men are like waffles.

My wife & I have been married almost 14 years, but she still doesn’t quite understand the ‘male’ thing. She is the oldest of three, followed by another very responsible girl, her sister. She was using flashcards to instruct her younger sister when she was 5, & little sis only 3! Both of the girls set records for achievement at various schools along the way, racking up valedictorian awards like Wayne Gretzky accumulated MVP’s trophies. Then along came the first and only boy in her family, her younger brother. He couldn’t be here today, but he’s a cool guy.

Compared to the girls, everyone in the family must have thought he came from Mars. Jamming the bathroom door open & stuffing a toilet roll down the toilet; luring the babysitter outside & then sneaking in locking her out; shaking a can of pop & opening it in the kitchen to see what would happen (the stain is still visible on my mother & father-in-laws ceiling all these years later).

Guys are different than girls. Last month on Mother’s Day we looked at the expression of God’s image in women and church through the lens of motherhood. Today we look at the warrior side of God in the way He’s created men.

James was invited to the birthday party of the younger brother of his good friend. Rachel wanted to pick James up form the party so she could see what it looked like-after all, there were no girls allowed. Why was this party so interesting to Rachel? Because it was a knight party: they had swords, rode dragons, built shields and masks. An all around good guy time. The interest in girls comes later. Just like it all started out in the Bible.

Way back in Genesis 3 we see God creating man, placing him in the world, the garden, and giving him dominion over it all. He gets a helper, Eve, to share it with. Essentially God is giving Adam a most amazing, a most unending adventure to live. And he gets to share it with a beauty-Eve.

God has passed that very same mantle on to men throughout history-the desire to live an adventure & to rescue a beauty.

Those passions were put there by God.

And God wants us to embrace these passions, to connect with them, to develop a Brave Heart so that we should not be breaking hearts, be it our own or of those around us.

Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents, has God giving three servants some money to use to create more wealth. The money is synonymous with the gifts and talents he gives us & his desire that we use them to the fullest. One servant, believing that he can’t trust his master, buries his talents, gives them back, but is harshly treated. He wasn’t expected to replicate what those had done with more talents; no, he was only to have used the talents given to him wisely. He spurned the adventure in fear of his master. How many of us are spurning the adventure of our life because of a similar fear of God.

Today we look at the movie Brave Heart & will ask God to help all of us develop a Brave heart so that we won’t break hearts.

The movie follows the story of William Wallace and the search for Scottish independence from English rule in the 13-14 century. Indeed in our very midst we have one of Scotland’s own- Bob Stenhouse!

Early on, William Wallace is drawn to his boyhood flame, Murron, and seeks to win her heart that they may settle and raise a family in peace.

Chapter 4 28:45- 30:07

Murron is murdered by the harsh English overloads & Wallace takes the battle to them. In this next seen, the future queen of England is discussing the passion & love Wallace had for his now dead wife. Watch & see how it moves her.

Chapter 8 1:06:17- 1:07.21

With the death of his wife, Wallace is thrust into the adventure chosen by God for him: the battle for Scottish freedom. We all have an adventure that we’ve been thrust into. Discovering it and embracing it become the work of a man, & indeed a woman for that matter!

An important lesson to learn is that our adventure is God’s adventure. We don’t make our own up and ask god to sanction it; we look to where God has placed us with the talents given to us and are asked to make the best of it we can, knowing that God will never leave us or forsake us.

I have a good hunch very few of us present here today are being asked to pick up a real sword to fight, but that doesn’t mean the adventure isn’t there. We may just have to look a little closer to find it.

Our adventure is God’s adventure.

Well William Wallace seizes upon his divine moment and oh how it has power to inspire us. Let’s watch him rally others to join in the battle for freedom & independence, and tell me it doesn’t stir your soul to do the same in your own life. The Scots are outnumbered 3-1 & are beginning to flee, in fear of their own lives, when Wallace shows up.

Chapter 10 1:15.01- 1:18.50

“You may die, but not all men truly live”.

Chapter 12 1:34:40- 1:37.02

Do you want to spend your own life squabbling for scraps, or for working, fighting, living the adventure to spread God’s freedom for us wherever you want to go?

Application to our own life? Risk It!

In this next scene, the nobles want Wallace to meet them to forge an alliance against the king. It is a risky move because it could be trap. The nobles have betrayed him before. Here Wallace explains why when you’re living the adventure, there is a built in risk factor. It’s not an adventure if there isn’t any risk involved.

There is hurt in the world, there is hurt in our lives. Many of us have many scars and wounds from attempts to rescue our beauty. Many of the beauties of this world carry deep emotional pain from failed rescues-failed relationships.

For some of you this is a painful season to be living-alone, or alone again. God says to you, “Do not lose heart. See this as a time of developing a brave heart.”

Some of you are struggling with living the adventure. It may not seem like a story line you would have chosen-long on responsibilities and short on romance or excitement. I spoke with someone last week who was realizing that the adventure, having a dream is another way to put it, had been dashed & it was hard to even think along those lines.

This is a continual battle: to be faithful whatever may come. Life’s hurts and wounds, the betrayal of others; the attacks of the enemy of our soul can put us in the story of the talents, where we’re tempted to just bury them like the last steward & to wait for the end.

Perhaps you find yourself in a season of confinement because of illness or aging-you’re not the warrior you once were. There still is an adventure for you. It is more likely the leaving of a legacy & what you do for others. Even that is scary, though.

Feel the fear and do it anyways. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but it is doing what you are afraid to do.

1 John 4:18
Perfect love casts out all fear.

What are you afraid of today?

Chapter 17 2:25-15- 2:26:30

The life of William Wallace is taken after he is betrayed to the king of England. But through the power of death, a life surrendered to god’s purposes, new life comes. Watch what the future king of Scotland, Robert the Bruce does with the inspiration from his now dead friend.

Chapter 21 2:47:30- 2:50:25

It’s never too late to get into the adventure of your life. No mistake you’ve made is too big to disqualify you. We all make mistakes; we have made them & we will continue to make them. But we can learn from them. We can even learn from the mistakes of others!

What will you plug into? Plug into God’s grace and get into the adventure today!

God is in the business of raising the dead! He's a pro at resurrections.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I Will Not Die an Unlived Life

I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear of falling
Or of catching fire
I choose to inhabit my days
To allow my living to open me
Making me less afraid
More accessible
To loosen my heart
So that it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise
I choose to risk my significance.
To live so that that which comes to me as seed
Goes to the next as blossom
And that which comes to me as blossom
Goes on as fruit. Dawna Markova

1 Peter 4:8-11
Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


“What would you do if you had an extra hour in a week? In a day?”

“What brings you great pleasure? When was the last time you were able to do that?"

Ecclesiastes 3:12
"I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and do good while they live."

Friday, June 16, 2006

Thoughts On Marriage

Where is your marriage currently? Could you place it on the following continuum? How do you feel about where you place it?

1. Ecstatic Union
2. Intimate Partnership
3. Cordial Friendship
4. Peaceful coexistence
5. Tense silence
6. Active hostility
7. Full-scale belligerence
Irreconcilable brokenness

The real transforming work of marriage is the twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week commitment. This is the crucible that grinds and shapes us into the character of Jesus Christ… Marriage calls us to an entirely new and selfless life… Any situation that calls me to confront my selfishness has enormous spiritual value. Gary Thomas

You may ask how you can see your spouse as God does. This perspective comes only from prayer. Concern for my wife's spiritual journey leads me to pray regularly for her, asking that I will be able to discern the Spirit's presence and activity in her life and thereby support, never obstruct, the Spirit. The more I pray for her, the more I see her as God sees her—through eyes of love and concern for her spiritual growth. David G. Benner

Becoming married takes time. It doesn't happen on the wedding day. The wedding is only the beginning of a relationship that can be expected to endure and grow. What happens is that over time God's grace becomes visible in the marriage relationship. It becomes visible and real to the married couple, of course, but in a wonderful way it also becomes visible to the people who are touched by the relationship, to family and friends, to neighbors and fellow church members. Douglas J. Brouwer

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mind Altering

Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.

Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.

Study to show yourself approved.

If anything is good or right or pure of just think about such things.

Fix your mind on things above.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Adversity and Conflict

One of life's biggest challenges is to move from the view that adversity and conflict are indicators of sinful behavior to the idea that they could represent the coming of the kingdom of God.

To think that conflict and adversity can indicate the presence of faith, rather than its absence, is simply unbelievable for many of us.

John 9:2-3
"Rabbi," his disciples asked him, "why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents' sins?"

"It was not because of his sins or his parents' sins," Jesus answered. "This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.

There was obviously a greater purpose behind the man's life issues. How true it is for us as well. Rather than seeing the difficulty we face as a sign that God has abandoned us, can we see it as the place God invites us to walk with Him through?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Character or Persona?

We all wear masks at one time or another. One of our problems, though, is that we get so accustomed to our masks that we forget we are wearing one. Thus begins the slide from living out of our character and slipping into a persona.

Our character is the essence of who we are, and our persona is the external personality we have created to cope with our everyday life. In order to live an authentically full life God asks us to to abandon our masks and embrace the character that He wants to develop within us.

If you are living through your character you will be guided by authenticity, while those who live from a persona are guided by image. What you are left to become in this case is a poser, a fake, a wannabe as Brennan Manning puts it.

Often the issue at the heart of the matter is our response to control: living in character is to accept who we are, our limitations, and trust God for the complexities around us. To live life in a created persona is to fear losing control, to work to preserve the self-image, and to react defensively to protect it. It is about life as more style than substance.

James 1:11, 27
“the hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.”

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Reaching Out

The Jesus Habits are all about this idea: “All you need to get started is to know you need to get started.” Also known as ‘the road less traveled’. Most of the Jesus Habits are simple, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy.

Today we conclude the Jesus Habits series with an appropriate message,

Love has arms that reach out-always. We have made evangelism a program rather than a natural point of connection with people. Jesus simply asks us to engage in “ordinary attempts”. An OA is simply what it sounds like: something simple and not necessarily complete, but which puts another brick in the bridge between the “lost” person and Christ. Ordinary attempts inform us that evangelism is a process, and that any one of us may play a small part in the journey of another through a countless variety of creative and natural points of connection. God calls on us to be obedient rather than successful, so our responsibility is to be Christ with others through the questions, encouragement, spiritual conversations, service, attention, covert prayers, overt prayers, listening, or other simple approaches we offer to them.

"What the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world." Unknown author (circa AD 130)

Love doesn’t sound so dangerous until you’ve tried it. Paul Wadell

“God has created a world in which we are the ones who care for one another. To put it another way, God cares for us through one another.” James Bryan Smith

Jesus himself said that he has come to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10)

God has put a need for us; he’s built it right into who we are, to be passionate about something. If you’re not passionate about the right things, though, you’ll be passionate about the wrong things. If you’re not passionate about the main thing, you’ll be passionate about the minor things. When we’re not passionate about right things we slide in to cynicism.

“A cynic can chill and dishearten with a single word” Ralph Waldo Emerson

A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.” Sidney J. Harris

“Cynicism is a buffer against commitment…and leads to despair” Jim Wallis

Damage Control: How to Stop Making Jesus Look Bad

WJDD – “What Jesus Didn’t Do.” He didn’t get cynical, except maybe with religious folks. Usually he was too busy, though, seeking out the lost and trying to keep the main thing the main thing.

In our country, we love to keep score. In evangelism, the only score we keep is “who gets the kill.” We tend to disregard the Lord’s teaching that some plant, some nurture and some harvest. We are a nation of harvester zealots

Evangelism is simply taking a person as far as he/she wants to go with Jesus. Never push. Take people as far as they want to go instead of as far as they need to go.

Phil Yancey story: as a hardheaded, rebellious, crusty, cynical & impenetrable college student (his own words), Phil would go handing out tracts on a local campus. Only he’d separate from the group, go watch TV, then come back and give fake reports of what happened while witnessing. “That’s the kind of person I was. I didn’t give a rip.” Phil Yancey

Then one day while they’re praying before heading out, Yancey is touched by God and prays aloud in the group, “ God, you know that I’m here, and I don’t care if all those university students go to hell. I don’t even care if I go to hell.” The room grew very quiet, as you can well imagine. Yancey’s heart was softened.

If this is dull, then what, in heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? Dorothy Sayers

Indeed, this whole series, focusing on our spiritual formation that we might be more like Jesus in our character, is not for ourselves; it’s for others!

Christian spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others. M. Robert Mulholland

A spiritually formed person loves God and loves others. That’s the reason for reaching out.
You must put feet to your prayers. Same with telling others about our reason for hope.

It all begins with our grasping what God’s grace is. God already loves you and I the way we are. But Jesus keeps putting the ideal, the bar of what’s good, higher and higher, so high that no one can say, “I can meet those ideals.” And then he takes the bar of grace and pushes it so low that nobody can say, “I don’t qualify.” All we have to do is say, “I can’t make it,” and we experience grace. That’s what God wants.

In Mississippi Burning, Gene Hackman makes a racist comment followed by, “everybody’s got to be better than somebody.”

I’m better than nobody. You can’t prove yourself by measuring up-the standards are too high. But you and I can step over the bar of grace when I realize it’s low enough for the likes of us to cross.

Jerry Falwell had a heart attack not that long ago. Falwell is a fundamentalist preacher that often rages against homosexuality. Well Falwell was close to death when a gay paramedic responded to the 911 call and revived him three times! To a lot of gays, Falwell is public enemy number one. That thought probably crossed the paramedics mind. Falwell was later quoted as saying, “I will not anymore use the homosexual as the whipping boy.” He’s still persuaded that homosexuality is a sin, but he’s showing grace to gays because grace was shown to him!

Falwell was evangelized! Only when you’re down and out does grace begin to mean
something to you.

When we’re around Jesus, you think, “I want to be near Him; and I think He wants me to be near Him.” There’s something in Jesus that brings to the surface the buried sense that you’re not as good as you’re projecting you are, but it doesn’t make you feel bad in a way that you want to get away from Him. Somehow you want to get closer to Him. Reaching out is simply helping people see and understand this.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

There was a prostitute in Chicago who was selling her little girl to support her drug habit. The woman was filled with self-hatred. A social worker asked her, “Have you ever thought of going to church?” to which she replied, “Why go there? I already feel bad enough about myself.”

In our reaching out we’re not condoning sinful, destructive human behaviors. Instead we’re sharing God’s grace in a such a way that others are drawn to change, and we’re drawn to change, because we feel less lonely-we’re getting a taste of what we all really want: LOVE!

Do we come to Jesus exposed, honest, with open hands? Broken? That’s all we really have-open hands. We need His love to heal us, transform us, and move us to share that message with others.

Matthew 28:19-20
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Mark 16:15
And then he told them, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.

Luke 24:47
It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: `There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.'

John 20:21
Again he said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you."

Acts 1:8
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

We learn best when we proactively and deliberately observe to learn. If we’re open to learning and expect to learn from Jesus and his Habits, that kind of attitude, that learning posture, will proactively and deliberately change us and God will meet us in that.

Last week we had a pool of water in our sand box because the kids had left the box open in the big rains. Just before supper the kids were out there, and when we called them in to eat, they were covered in mud and sand from head to toe!

We had to eat & then get going to soccer for 2 of them. I had a strong feeling of lambasting them, which was just hovering below the surface, but God whispered, ‘no’. I whisked them upstairs and had a great time getting them all clean for supper and what was to follow. They were genuinely sorry for the mess. We laughed and splashed in the bathtub.

God’s favorite thing to do is to clean us up; not that He likes us to get dirty, but the only time we let Him hold us is when we say, ‘I blew it! I blew it!’ He loves to clean us up.

Isn’t that a great message to share with others?

Many people who would never attach the label "Christian" to themselves are actually in the process of moving through the crowd closer to Jesus"

Wherever God puts you, wherever those people are in relation to Him, all He asks is for us to help enable them to take one step closer to Christ. Sometimes we demolish obstacles, like Kenny, Bryan & Mike & others did at the clothing store awhile back. Other times we engage in spiritually meaningful conversations and at still other times we show God’s love in practical ways, like buying somebody’s drink at Tim Horton’s when they discover they have no money with them.

Jesus didn’t come to preach Christianity, he came to redeem humanity.

A spiritual person is surprised THEY are here.
A religious person is surprised YOU are here.

I know some of you have taken people into your house in reaching out. Some have had countless number of children at their house for years on end, kind of like block parents; the list could go on.

Danny’s statement, “CoHo is small but all about stories. Stories of change.”

Where has God placed you to reach out?

Who is He asking you to put your arms around?

Colossians 4:2-6
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Canadian Gladiators

Through the generosity of a kind aunt named Caroline, my son James & I ventured to our first ever Stanley Cup Finals hockey game. The Oilers won 2-1 on a late goal by Ryan Smyth.

The 16 000+ people singing the American national anthem made me think this is a little of the spirit of heaven, where nationality is still known but it no longer divides. That was cool.

After we got home and having James say to me, "This was the greatest day of my life", I thought I was in the Mastercard commercial, where memories are 'priceless'. Thank you God, for the blessings in my life!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert has recently said that not having to commute to work (he walks to campus) is one of the three best things in his life. He quotes economist Bob Frank who says, "that commuting in traffic is one of the very best ways to lower your overall life satisfaction."

Lest you think that he's just 'blowing smoke', Gilbert is generally considered the world's foremost authority in the field of affective forecasting, the scientific study of predicting our future emotional state. We usually search for happiness or seek to avoid situations that we think will cause us angst and frustration, such as the Oilers losing the Stanley Cup or the Heat losing the NBA championship.

I really haven't had to 'commute' to work for many years, and have had the opportunity to either walk or ride my bike significantly. Traffic has always given me the 'heebie-geebies', and obviously for good reasons.

Heed the words of Sweet Baby James Taylor....

Damn this traffic jam
How I hate to be late
It hurts my motor to go so slow
Damn this traffic jam
Time I get home my supper'll be cold
Damn this traffic jam

Well I left my job about 5 o'clock
It took fifteen minutes go three blocks
Just in time to stand in line
With a freeway looking like a parking lot

Now I almost had a heart attack
Looking in my rear view mirror
I saw myself the next car back
Looking in the rear view mirror
'Bout to have a heart attack I said

Now when I die I don't want no coffin
I thought about it all too often
Just strap me in behind the wheel
And bury me with my automobile

Now I used to think that I was cool
Running around on fossil fuel
Until I saw what I was doing
Was driving down the road to ruin

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Art Of Savoring Life

Hebrews 13:5-6
“For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never forsake you.’ That is why we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”

The book of Hebrews was written to the first-century church when persecution of Christian Jews threatened its very existence. We, like they, are encouraged to hold fast to faith while remembering the ability of God’s love to overcome evil in a violent world, to be an ever-present help, and to transform us into people who love and live rightly. Contentment is possible because of the work of Jesus Christ.

The Hebrews were asked by God to be content with what they had, even if that meant persecution and death. God desires the same for us, whatever our circumstances. When we passionately pursue contentment and savor life, we are saying that God is good, God is the Victor, and God will not leave us or forsake us, even in the midst of chaos and trouble. We have nothing to fear. Our soul is safe. We can welcome a life tapestry woven with threads both painful and joyous, because we are loved and held by a personally present God.

Savoring life is much bigger than me just savoring my life.

The quickest way to make ourselves miserable is to continually focus on ourselves. Bertrand Russell

You and I belong to something much larger than ourselves. Sharing our hope with others is key.

Hope helps us to accept disappointment and suffering, with the knowledge that God is present and will ultimately heal the wounds of a broken and distorted world, fulfilling the desires and longings of wounded and broken people.

Do we need to be uncomfortable at times to grasp what contentment and savoring really means?

What season are you currently in?

Are you in need of hope yourself or are you spreading hope to others?

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Being positive and optimistic is a good thing. Some might say it is even a God thing. There's another form of positiveness that's very valuable to have in your character.

'Pausitiveness', according to Tony Alessandra, means having the discipline and mental toughness to pause and put your personal feelings on hold even when you are tempted to lose it and blow your stack.

Why allow yourself to be pushed over the edge, saying and doing things that you later regret, instead of spreading hope and joy in your emotional wake?

The gap between a stimulus and response is actually our character in action.

Titus 3:1-2
Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Closing The Gap

Consider the following questions throughout the day,

What words do I hope other people, or a particular person, would use to describe me?

What behaviors have I displayed so that this person is likely to use these words?

What words would this person actually use to describe me?

How close are the words I'd hope this person would use to the words he or she would actually use?

What must I do to bring the descriptions closer together? (This deals with the issue of "personal control" or assuming responsibility for our own behaviors.)

Would I want anyone to say or do to me what I have just said or done to this other person?

Whenever I say or do something to another person what do I want to accomplish?

Am I saying or doing it in a way in which this other person feels respected and can truly hear what I have to say and respond in a constructive way? (Many people can articulate what they desire to accomplish, but all-too-often they express themselves in a manner in which other people become defensive, resentful, and angry, thereby losing sight of the key message being conveyed. These self-destructive behaviors are crucial to ongoing character growth.)

Proverbs 12:1
To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Shalom In The Home

Who of us doesn't desire peace in our humble abode?

In the midst of marital clashes it is not uncommon for a spouse to wonder if there isn't somebody with whom they would be more compatible.

Steve May tells of Suleyman Guresci from Turkey who divorced his wife of 21 years after a bitter six-year court battle. In an effort to find the ideal woman, Guresci turned to a computer dating service--the kind that evaluates your written profile and suggests matches for you.

Strangely, from a list of 2000 prospective brides, the computer selected his former wife, who, unbeknownst to Guresci, had signed up for the same service.

Guresci's response? He decided to remarry his wife just nine months after their divorce!

He said, "I did not know that my ex-wife had been the ideal counterpart for a marriage. I decided to give it another try by being more tolerant toward her."

Your ideal mate might just be the one you've already married.

When trouble rears its head, instead of focusing on how to make things work, we often fantasize of finding a better place to be. We look for Shalom in other places.

Just as God gave you your spouse and family, he placed you in your current circumstances.

Maybe your job or your marriage is more than a little challenging, and maybe you'd like to move on. Think before you do. Think before you even allow yourself to daydream about it. More than likely, God's plan is for you to work through this situation. Even if ultimately he sends you elsewhere, he wants you to resolve this issue before you go.

Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave and grow old wanting to get back to. John Ed Pierce

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Prayer

Prayer helps us to continually attend to Jesus & His way of life. To be a disciple is to be one who sits at His feet in the posture of a humble learner living in dependence. In many ways it is a Silent Transformation.

“Sometimes praying is like eating dry lima beans in a dry mouth on a dry day.”

Praying can often be hard. Prayer demands time from our schedules. Prayer can be frustrating. Prayer can be dull and dry. Many great Christ followers have confessed that they have struggled and been perplexed with their prayer lives.

There are times, though, that prayer brings us much joy, peace and satisfaction.

Richard Foster says, “Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life and is the central avenue God uses to transform us.”

Prayer is really quite simple. It is communication with God. All that is required for prayer is a willing, open heart.

You can begin the journey, or continue to become the person God wants you to be by allowing the Lord’s Prayer to channel God’s desires into the chambers of your mind.

Isaiah 26:3
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

We talked a great deal last week about the idea of ‘choosing to trust’. Trust and peace usually accompany each other in character formation and behavior. ‘No peace’ usually means ‘no trust’.

‘Thoughts fixed on you’ is a synonym for prayer. Quite regularly, though, we have this in mind when we go to prayer,
“God, we need to talk” (a.k.a.): I need to talk, you need to listen, and then you need to change everything you are doing, thinking and feeling to what I think you should be doing, thinking and feeling. And you need to do it with a smile and then thank me... because it’s all for your own good as I know better. (Maybe I really am God?)

Matthew 6:9-13
Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

Luke 11:1-2
Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."Jesus said, "This is how you should pray: (this is how you should say it)

There are six Greek words in the New Testament translated as “say”. They can mean anything from breaking a period of silence, speaking on and on and on to where the listener gets weary, or it can mean to simply speak words. The Greek word Jesus used, in this context is a familiar one to all of us, “Lego”, and it means – to lay forth (relate in words) a systematic or set discourse. It literally means, “repeat”.

That’s why it was chosen as the name for one of the worlds’ most popular toys!

In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after him: to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves. Richard Foster

Foster further relates that one of the most liberating experiences of his life was when he learned to pray, “so that my experience conformed to the words of Jesus rather than trying to make his words conform to my impoverished experience.”

O Lord, You know what’s good and bad, what’s better and worse, what’s best and worst-may my prayer be as You wish it to be. Thomas a Kempis

The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer most used and least understood prayer. People think they are asking God for something. They are not-they are offering God something.

…the Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer to God to do something we want done. It is more nearly God’s prayer to us, to help him do what he wants done…He wanted that entire prayer answered before we prayed it…The Lord’s Prayer is not intercession. It is enlistment
. Frank Laubach

In the Lord’s Prayer is comprised an epitome (a summary) of the whole gospel. Tertullian

The Lord’s Prayer is a gift to us to guide our prayers, to nurture our prayers, to rub the Habits of Jesus deep into our being.

The Lord’s Prayer is solid rock; it provides structure; it helps us avoid selfishness; and these simple words quietly create a little miracle of transformation in us.

It begins with, “Abba, Father”. Every recorded prayer of Jesus in the gospels begins with, “Abba, Father,” except the famous “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

What’s the big deal about ‘Abba’, except that they played good music to dance to? All the other ancient names the Jews used for God either invoked mystery, or saw him as a distant authority figure or king. Jesus chooses a name to show us his unconditional, unlimited, unstoppable love as a daddy for his kids. God loves us and we are his children. Abbalove Church!

Now none of us have perfect parents so we often cringe at the thought of God as father, because our own Father, or mother for that matter, was anything but a great memory for us. Some of us have rusted shut heart openings because of the way our parents didn’t love us, or did love us. Those of us with that kind of past need reeducation of our hearts and a new vision of the beauty of God’s love as taught and revealed by Jesus.

In his book, Crying For my Mother: The Intimate Life Of A Minister, Wesley Nelson recalls an experience of being outside of his farmhouse as a child, realizing his mom had left his side, and he started crying and screaming. His father had grown tired of his being a crybaby and said to him, “Mother is gone. She’s tired of your yelling. She’s left for good. She’ll never come back.”

While Nelson realized his mom did come back, he never recalled it as so. In his own words he writes, “I’m sure she must have come back and taken me in her arms, but that was blotted from my memory. What my father had said made such an impression on me that I had to make it come true. I know that she continued to care for me, but for me the emotional ties were broken, and her love and care were no longer even a memory to me…for fifty years I cried for her.” Many years later while reading and meditating on a hill overlooking the Golden gate Bridge, Nelson heard the words, “I love you.”

He was never the same.

"The difference was that I had for once really heard with my own soul the word that God loved me just as I was, with all my anxieties, defeats, frustrations and problems.” Wesley Nelson

The solvent of our Abba, father, our daddy can dissolve any rusty heart. Once we can allow God access to our heart we can learn what He really wants. We know that when we love someone we love what he or she loves. What does the Lord’s Prayer reveal?

First it reveals the love of God, he’s our daddy, he’s holy; second, that we desire His purposes: ‘May your kingdom come’; ‘May your will be done’.

That will is our getting focused on bringing God’s radical upside down kingdom to pass here in Edmonton. Whether as a child, a mother at home with children or a realtor or a framer.

The next thing revealed is the communal orientation: We look to God for all that we need. The ‘us’ is crucial. ‘give us’; forgive us’; ‘who sin against us’; ‘lead us’; and ‘deliver us’. We learn that we pray not as individuals but as a community. We think of others!

It mirrors the Greatest Commandment in Matthew 22 that we call God For Dummies: Love God with everything & love others the same way!

Prayer is changing me from someone who knew a lot about God into someone who's experiencing God in deep, though sometimes difficult, ways.

Mark Palmer's Story:

In August 2003, Mark and his young son (Micah) lost their young wife/mother Jennifer to a swiftly-developing case of stomach cancer. On November 6, 2004, Palmer was remarried to Amy Smith. Two months later, in January 2005, Mark was diagnosed with rectal cancer and was set upon a course of treatment.Then in April 2005, the Palmers discovered that Mark's insurance would not cover his cancer treatment because of a preexisting condition. Thus, the Palmers would haveto bear the cost of Mark's treatment.

After a couple months of chemotherapy, Palmer went into surgery to have the tumor removed. During the operation, doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to his liver. About six weeks later, Mark underwent surgery to remove 75% of his liver, his lymph-nodes and another tumor discovered during the operation. The surgery lasted eleven hours. About 2 weeks after that surgery, Mark went under the knife yet again to try and get his incisions to stay closed and heal properly. So in less than 8 weeks he had 3 surgeries, never really giving his body enough time to heal from the first surgery. And finally, 33 days later, Mark was released from the hospital.

Currently, Mark's medical bills exceed $200,000 US.

I'm a bit disappointed that we haven't seen more results on the prayer end of things, but I say we just keep working it, see what happens.

I guess what I really want to say is just this: be hopeful. Don't stop fighting. On some level this thing is bigger than all of us. It's not about having a wife die of cancer at 26, and then 2 years later getting the same terminal illness. It's not about me and how I fight this disease or how our little family walks through it. The bigger picture is the battle against sickness and death that we all face because we live in a broken world. But it's even more about the Kingdom that has broken in and offers us a chance at relief from that disease. It offers health and victory where before there was none. There is hope in the midst of hopelessness. Death is not where we lose; the onset of hopelessness is the great defeater. So allow hope to rise up within you. And when it seems that hopefulness is the least appropriate response in this situation, let it rise up even more. Whisper your hope when you lie down at night; scream your hope when you wake in the morning. Live your hope as if it is the one and only thing that sustains you in this ravaged world. You will not be disappointed.
Mark Palmer

He wrote that on October 3rd of last year and died about 6 months later (March 27, 2006).

That hope Mark Palmer was speaking of is contained in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘your kingdom come; your will be done.’ It was God’s will that His son Jesus die to bring new life for us. Even today through the death of folks like Mark Palmer God brings new life to others. He did that through a young pastor in Texas named Kyle Lake who died last fall baptizing some people at church. Listen to a quote from Kyle,

"My experience of life outgrew my understanding of God. Pure and simple. At some point, I was overcome by the realization that the God I was raised worshiping could not handle the complexities of real life. He was perfectly fit to deal with lollipops, candy canes, and sugerplums, but avalanches, wildfires, and tsunamis He was not. Literally and metaphorically. What's odd about this realization is not it's ridiculous nature but my response to this realization. The next few years I shifted into a defensive posture. I became protective of God, like an older brother watching out for his diminutive little sister who couldn't hold her weight on the school playground. And this posture eventually seemed odd to me. Why did God need defending? Who was I really protecting?" Kyle Lake

Once again the Lord’s Prayer helps us understand God’s place in an increasingly complex world. It harkens us back to what life is all about, and life is about a few Simple Truths:

His will, not yours.

Building His kingdom, not my own.

The need to find some folks to journey through the ups and downs of life with-to celebrate the victories and to weep together the defeats and passings of loved ones.

The need to know God’s love as daddy.

The need to live a life completely committed to forgiveness.

Do you have a personal vision? Take that & simply apply it to your life. Wonder what the vsion at Community of Hope is? Take that & work out what your unique contribution to it could be. Simple Church.

Let’s close reading the Lord’s Prayer together. Jesus said this is how we should pray…

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
And deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, Now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The World According To Garf

Too often folks who 'go to' church are just like Garfield: filling themselves with endless bits of information but failing to experience & observe any lasting internal character change. Especially failing to see transformation that creates a difference in the people around them.

A friend once told Brennan Manning, "You don't need any more new spiritual insights in your life; you just need to act on the ones you already know."

How are you doing in living the message of Jesus in your own life & in your circle of influence?

"I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day."

To quote that old wise sage, poet, prophet and mystic Paul Seburn, "Church starts when you leave the building."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Habit Forming

Romans 16:19-20
Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Inner Journey

When we look inside, we'll often see pain. We can appear happy on the outside but unhappy inside due to past hurts such as sexual abuse. We need to take a hard look at ourselves. If we're courageous enough to do so we're going to see hurt and pain.

Each of us has a story of pain- a story that needs to be told, listened to, prayed over and cried about. There are men who have a hard time seeing that they were disappointed that their dad never entered their life.

When we look inside, we'll also see some anger. We're self-centered, and we want to use people to make us feel better. We want to use possessions to make us happier. When our will is thwarted we are angrier than ever.

We all want to feel good quickly, because we all have pain. We're all committed to finding ways to avoid inner pain. But if we can explore our pain and give up self-protection, we can know joy. The honesty of others about their struggles and weaknesses along the journey help us avoid the ditches of depression and ruts of confusion. Our honesty revives hope in others.

2 Corinthians 6:10
Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Join The Journey

We often begin the journey of self-discovery by taking a pilgimage to the hidden parts of our existence. Much to our surprise, though, is the discovery that with perseverance the road takes us to the very heart of God.

In the cross of Christ we find God's heart most exposed, and that's also where we find our most true self.

"But Christ's way to self-fulfillment is not like any we could have imagined. His way involves losing our life so that we might find it, dying so that we might live. His way is always the way of the cross. Death always precedes new life." David Benner

Some discover along the journey that they have wounds so deep that the thought of the grief threatens to annihilate them. Walking through past wounds can feel like the very fiber of your existence is being stretched in all directions precariously close to the breaking point. It is here in the midst of the pain that we find Jesus kneeling in the garden of Gethsemane. He calls to us to embrace our path of suffering because it is there that we find His outstretched arms of love as to a child with a wound that needs tending.

The nails in His hands tell us that we are not to suffer alone-that He will stay with us until it is finished. His arms of love hold us as we recall the unjust wounds we have received until we grieve the fact that we have wounded others the same way.

If we will allow ourselves to identify with the suffering of our God, we will begin to feel our wounds bandaged until the healing goes deeper. It is at this point that we sense something dying, though it's not a loss. Here we find true resurrection and the authentic existence that we search for.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.