Saturday, December 29, 2007


In two days we are introduced to 2008. It seems surprising we have made it this far considering all the angst created by Y2K...does anyone remember that?

Gratefully, what many feared would happen didn't happen. And if it did...I may not be writing this to post, unless it was written on paper and nailed to a door ala Martin Luther. This being said, might I share six prayers that we might lift up as we enter into 2008. I suggest we pray one a day. It might help us get the New Year off to an even better start, especially as our well intentioned resolutions begin to wane.

Good Morning, Lord. What are you up to today? I want to be part of it. Amen. (Robert Schuller).

Gracious and holy God, give me wisdom to perceive you, diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, eyes to behold you, a heart to mediate on you, and a life to proclaim you; through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen. (Saint Benedict)

Oh that you wold bless me indeed and enlarge my territory; that your hand would be upon me, and that you would keep me from evil; so that I may not cause pain. (Jabez)

Lord, take me where you want me to go. Let me meet who you want me to meet. Tell me what you want me to say. And keep me out of your way. (Father Mychal Judge)

God, give me your Spirit of wisdom for the decisions of today. Keep my eyes on you to avoid any discouragement that may come my way. Alert me to opportunities you want me involved. In Jesus' name, Amen. (Apostle Paul)

God, keep me in your glorious presence without fault and with great joy. May I keep before me that you are the only God and Savior who I will give glory, majesty, power and authority in my life. (Apostle Paul)

Whatever our prayers this year, may we find the strenght we need, optimism to keep believing and persistence to never quit. HAPPY NEW two days!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

GOD TUBE broke new ground in connecting folks via web displays. People could express themselves in a variety of ways through web postings. People could be their virtual selves, or not!

This exploded and revolutionized connection, stardom, ideas and wierdness. Many folks of the Christian pursuasion utililzed this new medium to touch folks who might not otherwise be touched. This was done with much creativity and in some cases with the typical condemnation assoicated with the evangelistic movement. Regardless, many attempted to enter this ministry field.

Then there came It is the Christian version of the "You." It was to offer an evangelical environment for videos on the Web. It is getting a hearing among believers. But here is my question: WHY?

Why do we, the Christians, need to "Christianize" everything? Why do we have to create our own version? Why can we not simply continue to wade into this ripe for harvest ministry field of YouTube and bring Christ there?

I say we can! I say we refuse to retreat into the fold of GodTube and charge forward connecting via YouTube. It seems those we would want to reach would be more likely to be there.

But it is typical of how we do outreach. Many churches must leverage all they do for the community in their church building. It is about getting people to come in and join them, as opposed of going out and joining them with the reality of Christ. Instead of continuing to move out into YouTube, we create GodTube and invite them "in" to join us. In reality, what is suppose to be used to attract those curious about God becomes a place for those who are really wanting safety to gather and share with one another. We continue to talk to ourselves and wonder why others aren't interested.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


A friend shared this with me and I had to pass it along.

One night I had a wondrous dream,One set of footprints there was seen,The footprints of my precious Lord,But mine were not along the shore.

But then some strange prints appeared,And I asked the Lord, "What have we here?"Those prints are large and round and neat,"But Lord, they are too big for feet."

"My child," He said in somber tones,"For miles I carried you along.I challenged you to walk in faith,But you refused and made me wait."

"You disobeyed, you would not grow,The walk of faith, you would not know,So I got tired, I got fed up,And there I dropped you on your butt."

"Because in life, there comes a time,When one must fight, and one must climb,When one must rise and take a stand,Or leave their butt prints in the sand."

The author is unknown. But I believe she or he was on to something.

How often do I leave my butt prints in the sand? Resting may be more desirable, but we have to get off our butts and move on down the beach.

Friday, December 7, 2007


This past Wednesday we left from Indianapolis for Dallas. It was the day Indy got its first snow of the season. We sat over two hours on the tarmack awaiting our turn for the de-icer. Finally getting off the ground into the air it was nice to view the snow scape turn to a nice warm brown as we made our way south.

Today, in Texas, it is in the 60's moving rapidly toward the 80's. I have to say, as a native Californian who has lived the last two years in Indiana...white Christmas is way over-rated. Nothing like a short sleeved shirt on Christmas day. Warm over white is my preferenc.

I've had many native Hoosiers who have declared they "love" a white Christmas. But these are the same folks who head south for every conceivable reason in the winter months. It is my opinion they this as a method of convincing themselves it is great never having lived outside the state.

Warm, white, rainy or in whatever climes you find yourself on Christmas Day I trust you will find it enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


“…Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next” (I Tim.4:7-8).

This gives insight into both spiritual and physical fitness. First, both are seen as necessary. Paul does indicate that physical exercise has value. But in context of what we know today it may have a higher value then he placed on it.

Second, Paul values spiritual fitness more highly than physical fitness. The primary reason is that spiritual fitness is in two dimensions: Our present reality and our future realization. The physical exercise is limited to our present reality.

Third, Paul would not be balanced in these. Since he places more importance on the spiritual this would seem to indicate that if one was to suffer it should be the physical. I am not sure I can wholeheartedly agree with this.

Yes, I know it is the Bible, but we have information today that Paul did not have. I believe that if Paul were to write to leaders today I think, I think, he would move toward balance. Both physical and spiritual fitness are needed. A leader who can find that balance will be leveraged for the long haul here and prepared for the even longer haul of eternity.

The realistic view is we have anemic leaders in both categories. We have leaders who have little exercise and also have minimal investment in spiritual endeavors. Currently I am lopsided to the physical side: Very diligent there, not so much on the spiritual. My ideal world would have me spending time in spiritual fitness for every minute for physical fitness. If this were my reality I would be investing fifty minutes, five days a week, in some form of spiritual activity. At this point, I would be thrilled if I simply invested five days per week for any amount of time.

Monday, December 3, 2007


Last night my wife and I went to our first Chicago concert. We have friends who are HUGE fans. This was their fifth concert. The core band memebers have been together for forty years. The newer memebers have been with them 10 to 12 years. A great confirmation of long tenured team.

Anyway, it was a great concert! Akin to a religious service, but with much better music they are have ever heard. The music elicited memories. Yet at the same time we were very much in the present. They played for two hours. It went by quickly. It was a good investment of time.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


My wife and I recently returned from a cruise. We were cruise virgins (first timers). It was an incredible time. People on boats tend to wave at others. On our departure from the New Jersey dock most of us lined the railing. Inexplicably, we began to wave at those watching us leave. We didn't know them. They didn't know us. But this did not deter our waving.

Why does being on a boat draw out our waves? I don't wave at people I walk by on the street. Typically, people don't wave to one another as they drive in their cars; at least not with their whole hand.

This "categorized" waving can be applied to church going people. We put on our spiritual faces and "holy" garb to the pleasure of all those we encounter within church walls. Then we get into the everyday stuff and act as if the rules don't apply. We don't make decisions based on biblical guidelines. We may not practice the patience we should. We avoid praying thinking such isn't' really necessary when attempting to do life.

I need to avoid waving only on the "boats of life." Instead, I need to be someone who takes my waving into the nooks and crannies of life. A risk taker!

Monday, October 15, 2007


The God Gap is where our resources stop and God’s must start if we are ever going to succeed. It is in the God Gap a leader and his or her church steps when they commit to being a multiplying congregation. It is both an exhilarating and exasperating place to be.

Peter models life in the God Gap (Matthew 14:22-33). The disciples are in a storm (v24). Looking out across the tumultuous waters they see what appears to be Jesus. He is walking on the water. Peter calls out to Jesus (v28). He asks for confirmation of his identify. Not a verbal one alone, but one of experience. He asks that he, too, might walk on the water. He wanted out of the boat. He wanted into the God Gap.

The very minute Peter swung his leg over the boat’s side he entered the God Gap. His resources would abruptly stop and God’s would have to start. Anything less would be inadequate. His venture demanded faith. He would have to risk it all. He could not “kinda” get out of the boat. He either got out, or he stayed in.

Peter got out. And in the getting out his life was changed. It was scary in the God Gap. He discovered fear full throttle. What must be known is that faith does not overcome fear. Fear is part of the deal. What faith does is get is to step out, move on, and get out of the boat in spite of the fear.

Where is your God Gap? What fear has you in the boat? Where is your faith.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


In a previous blog I chatted about a “settling in” leader. These leaders rest in what they have done at the expense of running toward what they might do. In contrast a “setting out” leader looks ahead. They have the horizon in their sights. They are content, but not complacent. Contentment allows a leader to enjoy the present while moving toward the future.

The following characteristics tend to be indicative of a “setting out” leader.

They shake things up
New frontiers infuse them with energy
They ask tough questions
Future oriented
They regular ask, “What if,” instead of “how come?’
They repurpose the organization to effectively achieve results
If something isn’t broken, they will break it
Position and status are not the issue, progress and effectiveness are
Mission and vision informs the structure
Takes measured risks

If an organization is going to move ahead those in leadership must determine to be “setting out” leaders. If there is resistance from the existing leadership, then new leaders must be employed.

Are you in a leadership position? Are you a “setting out” leader? If not, are you willing to develop those skills?

Monday, October 8, 2007


It seems to me that there are two types of leaders: Those who “Settle” in or those who “Set” out. I will share eleven characteristics of a “settling” in leader. In a future blog I will highlight the characteristics of a “setting” out leader.

Generally, a “settling” in leader, well, settles in. They are complacent. They have lost their edge. They appear effective. They show up for their duties. They do their job. Their inactivity appears to be activity. There is a tendency to define effectiveness as showing up and being busy.

A “settling” in leader is characterized by:

Desire for the status quo
Maintains the organization
Protects turf
Makes decisions of least resistance
Interest is for present generation, not future generations
Lacks innovation
Believes if something isn’t broken, don’t fix it
Never asks, “What if?”
Structure informs mission and vision
Management is valued more than leadership
Consensus dictates direction

Are you a leader? Are you settling in? What might you do to unsettle yourself?

Monday, September 24, 2007


I heard a leader say, “If we change the questions, we’ll change the answers.” It caused me to consider the questions church leaders tend to ask, and suggest some that might be asked.

Questions we tend to ask:
How many did you have last Sunday?
How large is your sanctuary?
How much property do you have?
How many are on your staff?
What is your average Sunday AM attendance? Sunday school?
How many small groups do you have?
How many members?

Questions we ought to ask:
How many came to Christ through your ministry this last year?
How many have you baptized?
How many of your members been received by profession of faith?
How many churches have you helped plant?
What community involvements do you have?
How are you involved in social justice issues?
What is being done to develop leaders?
What are you doing to encourage women in areas of ministry and leadership?

What questions do you find yourself asking?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Questions! They provide insight. They spawn interaction. They can frustrate, deepen relations, and expand knowledge. A book on poetry entitled, “Living the Questions” gives an indication of their power. They are a critical aspect of life. They are something more than dilemmas to be answered and solved; they are to accompany us in our lives. Questions, even the unanswered ones, add vitality to our existence. At some level they contribute to our sense of living.

A questionless life is too predictable. Having no questions fools us into thinking we have it all figured out. We cease to inquire. We negate our curious nature. We lull ourselves into believing that a lack of questioning is an indicator of strength.

We strive too hard to have all the answers. Truth be told, thinking we have all the answers is the height of arrogance. When we think we hold all the answers we miss out on faith. Faith is the willingness and courage to continue in the face of unanswered questions.

Questions, in essence, are an entrance into deeper spirituality. They strengthen our faith, build our hope and deepen our love. It is in the midst of our questions we discover the reality of God. God tends to find a connection point to us through our questions.

Let’s not run from our questions. Instead embrace them. Ask them readily, wrestle with them regularly, answer them carefully and any that remain welcome them as friends.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


In the book, The Future of Competition, the authors state, “Most managers are reluctant to let go of familiar practices and tools—their zones of comfort.” This exemplifies many church leaders. We won’t let go of familiar practices. We continue to cling to our zones of comfort. We continue to see church as one place at one time. We refuse to look beyond the borders of the existing church property. We continue to hold onto our resources rather than invest them in the Kingdom. We continue to minister under the delusion that a non-multiplying paradigm can meet the diverse needs of the 21st Century.

Where are your zones of comfort? What delusion do you labor under? Are you ready for a paradigm shift? If not, why?

Sunday, September 9, 2007


I stated running, again, January 2006. I have worked slowly and diligently to increase distance and endurance. Currently I am running 4-5 miles five times per week. I have a consistent, but not fast pace. I am the tortoise not the hare.

Most of my running happens on the treadmill. I do this as I tend to be a fair weather runner. I could easily talk myself out of running if I was tied to outside. It can be too hot, too cold, too nice, too stormy, too sunny, not sunny enough…you get the idea. What I have discovered is that I find little rationale for not walking upstairs to the room that houses the treadmill. And it is there, mostly to the reporting of ESPN, that I plod away. The result has been a 48 pound loss and much better fitness.

But recently some folks have disrupted my running existence. They have invited me to run a mini-marathon (13.1 miles). What has to be understood is that anything that has marathon in it, associated with running, has held no appeal to me. I have run a 5k (3.1 miles) and a 10k (6.2 miles). Both have been more than satisfying. But my “friends” insist it is a small jump to the mini. I let them know that there is nothing “mini” about 13.1 miles.

I am going to do this! I am preparing to run 13.1 miles. I can’t believe I am even saying (writing) this. It still sounds so ominous. The target date is May 08. This seems far away, but these kinds of events tend to be here before you know it.

This is a big challenge for me. I believe I can achieve this for several reasons: I have friends to encourage me. I have people who will run with me. I have a plan to prepare.

Now that I think of it, it is not that much different that any other challenge we may face in life. When we have encouragement, others willing to join us on our journey and a plan; we can achieve more than we might think. WHAT IS YOU MINI?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Sunday August 19 my wife and I were watching the Today Show as we got ready for church. They were reporting on the progress of Hurricane Dean. It was projected that it would hit the Yucatan Peninsula as a category four storm later that week. NBC Correspondent Kerry Sanders was on the Peninsula reporting on the preparations. He made this interesting statement: “People are putting tape on their windows, which does absolutely nothing, but they do it every time a hurricane is coming.”

Did you catch his observation? People were doing something they had been doing for years although it accomplished absolutely nothing! I am thankful to say that church leaders do not make this same mistake…at least we don’t often admit it.

What is the tape we might find ourselves putting on our windows? I suggest a few.

Unasked questions: Organizationally there is a tendency to either ask the wrong questions, or to not honestly answer the right questions. The wrong questions are the ones that are formulated only to validate what is already being done. The right questions challenge the organization, but people tend to be dishonest in their responses. Dishonesty is evident when people recognize an honest answer would disrupt, so the response is so “politically correct” no clear answer is evident. Either way the result is the same, it becomes easier not to ask questions.

Soft accountability: Bill Hybels, at the 2007 Leadership Summit, stated: “Strong leaders submitted to no one are trouble.” I might add: Leaders with soft accountability creates an illusion of submission. Soft accountability is centered in organizational structure, not relational strength. Soft accountability has no clear expectations of effectiveness. Soft accountability nibbles at the fringe of people’s core. Soft accountability insulates leaders from the tough accountability giving a false sense of security against coming hurricanes.

Visionless leadership: Often the managing of an organizational machine is confused with leading a movement. Management can get misconstrued as leadership to the point that it is no longer expected that organizations be led. Carly Fiorina, former HP CEO, says, “Management produces acceptable results within existing parameters. Leadership is getting people to move in a new direction.” We settle for management and then ponder the lack of progress.

Organizational sacredness: When the organizational structure informs the mission and vision, and not vice versa, the organization has been sanctified. When the primary question is “How might we get to where we need to be within our existing structure?” The organization has become sacred. If there is mission clarity and vision passion nothing ought to hinder its fulfillment, including existing organizational structure.

Shadow mission: John Ortberg defines a shadow mission as that thing, a part from the grace of God, that undermines who we are. For many organizations that “thing” is putting its survival as its ultimate driver.

There is time to negate the taping of the windows. It can be recognized that these do nothing. We can find more effective methods. Are we willing to take that risk?

Saturday, September 1, 2007


1. The gospel informs the doctrine, not the doctrine the gospel.
2. If we don’t multiply as a denomination we will die.
3. If we can simply agree on where we are going, we’ll be able to figure out how to get there…
4. Loyalty does not mean we always agree, but it does mean we will do all we can to get along.
5. A genuine multiplication movement will never happen until it is driven by the local church.
6. Denominational structure must adjust to allow for a movement to be empowered, not
7. Freedom without responsibility is anarchy.
8. I don’t know everything, but this I do know: I don’t know everything.
9. Church planting and church planters can make denominationally leadership uncomfortable,
but I’m not sure “comfortable” is a Kingdom value.
10. God is God, we are not. We need to get use to it!
11. When it comes to church planting we just need to “get er” done!
12. If you haven’t thought about planting a church…you ought to!

What do you think?

Monday, August 20, 2007


He stood on the rocky ledge. Behind him his father lay with a gun wound that was slowly, but surely, pulling the life out of his body. Ahead was the cave entrance that held the hope of healing. This cave contained the Holy Grail… the cup of Christ. It was this scared cup that could restore wholeness to his father’s ebbing life. He had met the two of three challenges that stood between him and the prize. A wide chasm separated him from the entrance.

This was the dilemma of Harrison Ford’s character Indiana Jones in “The Last Crusade.” What had begun as a search for a precious artifact had become a desperation for life. The key was a truth. It would come down to a step of faith. Indiana would have to step into the chasm and believe. It would be a genuine “leap of faith.”

The necessary step and belief were seamlessly interwoven. Without belief the step would never materialize. And the step held no guarantees. It demanded an abandonment of human resources. The only possible method of validating the belief was to risk it all. And with that risk… a possibility all could be lost.

Holding his hand to his chest as if to keep his heart from escaping Indy took the step. With fear and faith colliding he moved off the ledge. He stepped with full knowledge it may not work. But such is the nature of faith: Moving out with no guarantee.

What he discovered was the solid footing he risked would be there. With the discovery came the validation of his faith. The necessary resources to proceed were realized. He was able to attain the desired Grail and therefore restore life to his dad. Neither would have occurred if he had held to the relative security of the ledge.

Indiana Jones’ situation typifies many church leaders. We cling to the ledge of local church ministry. It is the ledge of church as usual. It is the ledge of tradition and “what we are use to.” It is the ledge of protecting our turf. It is the ledge of perceived success. It is a ledge clung to even in the awareness that remaining perched will limit our effectiveness.

There is the desire to bring eternal life to those who have no recognition of its availability. It is a life that must be effectively communicated in new ways. Such communication is enhanced through new churches. New churches are better poised to do ministry in more culturally relevant ways. And these new churches are best started when existing church leaders courageously spearhead their planting. The planting of multiplying churches will necessitate stepping off the ledge. It will be a leap of faith. And in the leap there is the risk that one may lose it all. It may cost them everything.

Stepping off the ledge is the willing investment of resources to start growing, healthy multiplying churches. Stepping off the ledge is the recognition that it is never about just one church, but it is about a multiplication movement. Stepping off the ledge is risking it all to provide the resources necessary to change the world.
Who will be this kind of leader? Who will step off the ledge? Will it be you? Will it be now?

Friday, August 17, 2007


A church multiplication movement is just that…a movement. A movement can never be comfortably controlled, nor should it. Directed, yes! Controlled, no! This movement will never gain momentum unless local church leaders drive it. Will denominational structures allow such a movement? They should! But the rub is that most denominations are structurd for control not guidance.

Denominational leadership seldom releases, instead they create reliance. There seems to be an underlying fear that releasing others will result in their irrelevance. It is this insecurity that causes systems to be implemented that bind more that build, maintain more than motivate and fetter more than free.

It is the local church leaders that must take this leap. It always starts at the grassroots. If we are waiting for an organizational initiative it will be too late. Most denominations respond too slowly. The responsiveness must come from front line leaders who are willing to boldly step out in faith.

Gary McIntosh quotes business consultant Tom Peters as saying, “Revolution? The word is not too strong. And it’s not the same thing as change. Change? Change? Yes, we’ve almost all, finally, embraced the notion that `change is the only constant.’ Well, sorry. Forget change! The word is feeble. Keep saying revolution.”

Revolutionaries! They are needed. It cannot be soft sold. It must be trumpeted loudly. Leaders need to step up, accept change and create revolutions. Waiting for denominational initiatives is skirting our responsibility. It is time to stop pointing fingers and begin to multiply churches.

There needs to be a rebellion against simply planting churches. The notion that churches are to be healthy for health’s sake must be soundly defeated. Growing a church larger as the primary harbinger of success must be overcome.

It is not about planting A church. It is not about getting a church to a point of health. It is beyond church growth. It is beyond church planting. Everything must drive toward the multiplication of churches.

A church is planted so it can help multiply others. A church gains health in order to invest in the starting of more healthy churches. A church grows to multiply from strength. Settling for less is still settling for less.

We must live by the simple rule of the soldier as expressed by General Douglas MacArthur, “There is no substitute for victory.” The victory is a growing healthy church multiplication movement: A movement that can only be the result of all out revolution!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Stacy Dragila was a pioneer of women’s pole vaulting. She won the first Olympic Gold medal in this event. She has achieved three world championships, 17 US titles and has held the world record both indoors and out.

However, Stacy did what few others at a late competitive age would attempt. She overhauled her technique in order to stay at the top of world competition. This is “…a radical move few athletes would attempt so late in their careers” (The Buffalo News, 5.11.04, pg D-1).

Her coach remarked, “To get up at age 30 and change all that is extremely difficult.” Stacy observes, “It was like, I’ve done things for 10 years in certain ways and now you’re asking me to change?” She embarked on the hard work of change, because not to do so would be disastrous.

Leaders need to change. It will be uncomfortable. It will demand unprecedented paradigm shifts. But it has to be done. Leaders cannot afford to stay the same in technique, nor in mindset! Am I leaders change? Absolutely!

We need leaders to push the envelope of territorialism. We need leaders to challenge the status quo. Leaders must stretch beyond their resources to the place where they are desperately dependent on God. Not to do so will leave a leader in the wasteland of mediocrity.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


This past week I attended a video venue for the Leadership Summit. The Leadership Summit is a two and one-half day event of intense leadership lectures and interviews. Some of the presenters were Bill Hybels, Marcus Buckingham, Michael Porter, and John Ortberg; two interviews were conducted with Carly Fiorina and Colin Powell.

There was so much information I just hope that when challenges squeeze me some of what I absorbed will be wrung out. In an attempt to hold onto some of what I learned I will share a few nuggets I wrote down. Take them for what they are worth. Apply them where you might. Enjoy as you can.

A leader’s greatest fear is not what happens to them, but what can happen in them

Courage is not always enough

Strong leaders submitted to no one are trouble

Plans don’t accomplish work, charts don’t accomplish work only people get things done

Reward your best performers, get rid of your poor performers

Be prepared to disappoint people

Trust the element of instinct

Charity is hard. It is difficult to be good, at doing good

People are not our greatest assets; people’s strengths are our greatest assets

As you grow you become more of who you already are

You grow most in your areas of greatest strength

A great team member volunteers his or her strengths for the betterment of the team

Management produces acceptable results within existing parameters

Leadership is getting people to move in a new direction

When we are outside our comfort zone we really learn. If we only work inside our comfort zones we simply are practicing skills.

There is a gift in everything if only we will see it.

Vision is the painting of a picture that produces passion in people.

Vision is the most powerful tool in the arsenal of a leader.

People don’t have to have their way, they just need to have their way considered!

I wrap up with this statement by Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud became greater than the risk it took to blossom.”

Monday, August 6, 2007


I ventured out on a personal retreat for renewal today. It is the first time I have done this since moving to the Indianapolis area twenty-one months ago. I used a Catholic Retreat Center. I have discovered that Catholics understand the power of renewal through reflection. They know how to do retreat centers. They know how to create space that cultivates reflection, inward turning, and honest probing. Contrast that to Protestants who would typically have a “retreat” center full of ropes courses and a variety of other activities to keep ones mind occupied.

Catholic folk seem to understand that a mind freed from external stimuli can stay engaged enough filtering through its own issues. Frankly, I prefer the Protestant version. The more I am externally occupied, the less time I have to turn inward having to wrestle with my inner life. Even with my personal preference for outward noise I have come to appreciate the necessity of “centering down.”

I found Our Lady Fatima Retreat House. It offers “Spirit-Driven Renewal.” I took them up on their offer. What they actually provide is an environment where a person might connect with the Spirit of the Living God. They offer two things, I believe, one needs to achieve this Spirit-Driven Renewal: A place to be and they simply leave you alone.

Upon my arrival I found they had a Labyrinth. Each time I hear this term I think of mythology. What exactly in mythology I don’t know, but it simply smacks of that genre. A Labyrinth’s purpose, however, is to help a person find their way; they have only one path that starts at the outer edge, goes into the center and comes back out again. Labyrinth, I discovered in the Retreat House literature, is also a term for the part of the inner ear that regulates balance.

I determine to wander the Labyrinth. I went hoping to discover a bit of insight into my life, ministry and future. It was not an impressive looking path. I was hoping for high hedges; something that might be more maze-like. Instead, it was a simple stamp pattern on concrete. It was a path that went back and forth. It was a winding journey. It would have been very easy to walk straight to the center of the Labyrinth and my natural bent would have been to do just that. But what I was able to hear from my inner spirit told me that such a straight line would short circuit the very reason I was on the path. I also could have quickly covered the 861 feet of total distance that was compacted into a small area, but that too would have violated the integrity of the journey.

I invested time in this walk. I concentrated on paying attention to the turns in the path. I listened for sounds. I observed the small butterfly that rested on the path. A butterfly that seemed intrigued by my meanderings; at least it hung around and watched. Many thoughts, impressions, spirit promptings wedged their way into my consciousness. But if I was to summarize my discovery it would be this: Every twist and turn in our journey contributes to who we are in our core. And it is from our core that we must navigate the twists and turns of our journey. What is at our core is critical!

Sunday, August 5, 2007


The other day my wife and I were watching the game show Jeopardy. The game is played were an answer is given to which the question is provided by the contestant. On this particular round the answer was: A Dan Brown novel were a murder occurs in the Louvre in Paris. The correct question to that answer: What is the Da Vinci Code? Ironically, none of the contestants knew the question. Once the host gave it there were nods of, “I knew it, I just couldn’t pull it out of the memory banks.”

I commented to my wife how strange this was. After all, it wasn’t too many months ago when the world was caught up with this compelling novel. The Church rallied itself to oppose this individual’s attempt to undermine the very foundations or our faith. It became the church’s opportunity to once again stand against heresy and apostasy. A cottage industry of anti-Code resources was created. Yet that which stirred so much controversy and angst was unable to be dredged up from the memory wells of a game show contestant. When was the last time you thought of the Da Vinci Code?

Christians can be a reactionary bunch. It seems we have to be against something. Our attitude of fighting what we perceive as evil somehow gives us a sense of meaning and mission. We are defending our God! As if God needed us to make a point.

When will we realize people would be more interested in what we are for, than what we are against? Why can’t we just be for Jesus? What happened to the simplicity of the gospel? The reality that God so loved that Jesus was given, and Jesus came into the world not to condemn it, but to save it.

You see when all the rhetoric is over. The last words of “defending” the faith have been spoken. The most current “Da Vinci” foe has been vanquished. When the riot has been quieted and protectors of the faith patrol for another enemy. The cross will still stand!

The cross is a poignant reminder that Jesus did come into this world with a message of hope, love and meaning. We need to be for that cross. We need to be for Jesus. And when people see what we are for we can stop attempting to convince them of what they should not believe, they will simply be compelled toward Jesus.

Monday, July 30, 2007


People have struggled to affirm, confirm, justify their existence for hundreds of years. There is a serach for meaning. A proof of life, or of living. There is a desire to establish that existence is more than illusion, a mental image that is distorted by the invention of time. Theologians, philosophers and psychologists have all wrestled with this. Each has given existence a label.

Rene Descarte defined existence with the expression, "I think, therefore I am." This provided a sense of stability for those in the midst of modernity, but in the world of post-modernity it has fallen short in its ability to provide that sense of "is." In this day many have chosen to express existence in this way, "I feel, therefore I am." This reflects ones abilty to connect, interact and sense at deeper levels.

Yale surgery professor Sherwin Nuland, MD has suggested that "I wrinkle, therefore I am" provides the assurance that life does not lose meaning as sight dims, hair recedes and gravity takes over.

I believe that each of these definitions is inadequate to connect us to genuine existence and meaning. This realization came to me on a recent trip to Southern California. I sat in four lanes of traffic on Interstate 15 headed south at a complete stand still. I have experienced much the same in the Atlanta area, Chicagoland, the San Francisco Bay area, outside of Raleigh, North Carolina and varoius other roadways around the United States. But it was on I-15 that the reality of existence made itself clear. I discovered a tangible way, a means that would concretely anchor humanity to this world. It was a discovery that will release us to existence itself. This serendipity of being? Traffic!

People seated in vehicles of all shapes, sizes, colors and makes must realize this is our existence! We have been created for traffic. Traffic gives us meaning. It can dictate our emotions and daily dispositions. It gives each of us a means to relate to others in our lined asphalt realities.

Traffic has become all consuming. We build our schedules around its ebb and flow. We are drawn to this holy "bumper communion." We seek traffic at sporting events, beaches on sunny week-ends, concerts and other urban and suburban centers. We have realigned our dependence on traffic for our existence. We shun mass transit, car pools and will pay increasingly higher fuel prices merely to be involved, solo, in this needed connection to the essence of life.

It is no longer I think, therefore I am; nor I feel therefore, I am; nor I wrinkle, therefore I am. Instead it is I AM IN TRAFFIC, THEREFORE I AM! It is in traffice we genuinely feel fully alive.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the door and see all the---where are the people? There are a few scattered haphazardly throughout the rows of pews. But they seem lost in an endless sea of boredem.

This was a once alive, thriving community of believers. They responded to God. They easily flowed with the leading of the Spirit. Yet, once progressing wheels had dug a rut of complacency. The status quo had been maintained. They continued to do what they had always done. They were happy.

Alice Smith and Fred "Bingo" Franco had recently died. "Saints" was a freely used adjective in describing them. Tears flowed readily from those in attendance.

Fred had been a deacon...very dependable. They were sure they could find someone to replace him. A young family man. There was sure to be one in the new class they had discussed starting. But it would have to wait until a later time. Where are all the people?

Excitement was building for the upcoming hymn sing. It was sure to bring out the folks who appreciated their dearly held heritage. Where are all the people?

The youth were to be honored. Bibles with the Pastor's signature for those graduating from High School would be the "perfect" token to carry out into the world. Everyone was pleased to see how well dressed the two young folk were. Where are all the people?

Confident of our tradition. Pleased with our history. Protecting against "new" ideas. Uncompromising in our style. Judging others righteously. Where are all the people?

Monday, July 16, 2007


My dad died December 22, 2006. I got the opportunity to spend three days with him prior to his death. He was in a "sleeping coma." I simply sat by his bed read the bible to him and shared three list I made: Things I learned from my dad; Things I Remember; Things I wish.

As a tribute to him, I want to share these lists. He was a wonderful man. He was a self-employed roofing contractor. He worked hard. This may give you a glimpse of him, and therefore of me. I will miss my dad, but I will always have my dad. I will always partially be my dad.

  • Laughter-you always laughed easily and often. It was an infectious laugh. I would hear you laugh watching TV after I had gone to bed. I would begin to giggle because I knew if you were laughing that hard it was funny.
  • Integrity-you did everything with integrity. You ran your business this way. You dealt with people at church in that way.
  • Belief in others-you never seemed to think yourself better than others.
  • Authenticity-you were who you were. You had anger, but dealt with it. Your life was your witness. People knew you were different.
  • Gift of presence-you showed up at my stuff.
  • Time-you took me on the job with you. I got my own nail apron and hammer. I didn’t need it, but you let me wear it just checking leaks, or doing bids. I always got to go on the roof too.
  • Letting God work-you yielded to God your anger, smoking.
  • Work ethic-you modeled it and expected it. The tar pump broke down early in the day on a two story apartment. I was ready to call it a day. You simply broke out the rope and pulley wheel. I hoisted LOTS of tar buckets that day. I was exhausted!
  • Responsibility-say what you mean, mean what you say. I watched this in you, I have tried to make it part of me.
  • Gentle encouragement-when I got my call to ministry you never made me feel bad. I know you had a dream for “Stevenson & Son,” but you released that so I could follow God. You did say, “take some business classes.” I didn’t do this, and I should have. It would have been an immense help in ministry.
  • Taking things in stride-Life is life…things happen…do the best with what you have.
  • Taking care of family-you taught me how to be a good dad.
  • Treat people fairly-all ages, colors, backgrounds.
  • Let all of us kids follow our dreams
  • Handle challenges with dignity-burn on hand, getting glasses, prostate cancer. I never heard you complain or bemoan your situation. You might have, I just never heard it.
  • Self-sufficiency-you taught all of us to make our way and take care of our selves. That is our inheritance
  • Independent spirit-self employed
  • Unconditional acceptance-you told me one time I did not have to do anything to make you proud of me. Freeing statement.
  • Crossword puzzles-I watched you do these for years. In the last few I have caught the bug. I am not, nor ever will be, at your skill level. I told Scott, the time will come when it grabs him. It is part of the “Stevenson rite of passage.”

There was much more, but this is all I will share. If you still have your dad, appreciate him. If your dad is no longer living, be thankful for him.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Crazy Grace

Baseball has a variety of ways for a team to score. One is referred to as the unearned run. An unearned run is typically the result of something the opposing team does. The team at bat benefits from the team in the field. And the unearned run COUNTS! The team at bat gets the run even though it wasn’t earned. The score is theirs! If the unearned run contributes to the win there is no asterisk. It is a win.

This is the craziness of grace: Getting to count that which we did not earn. Jesus did all the work. We get the win. He went to the cross. He earned the victory. We get the benefits of his gift. We get salvation…unearned! We just need to accept and appreciate the gift.

We need grace because we miss. Sin literally means ‘missing the mark.’ It is derived from an archer’s term. It is not hitting the bull’s eye. It doesn’t make any difference how close we might come. A miss is a miss. A swing and a miss is still a miss regardless of hard, powerful and deliberate the swing.

Grace tells us that we don’t have to hit the bull’s eye, ourselves, to win. Grace is accepting the marksmanship of Jesus. Paul reminds is in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.…”

Missing the mark is never the issue. We have, and will. The issue is how we choose to live with our inadequate marksmanship. The good news is that grace doesn’t let people get defined by their mistakes.

Grace breaks all the rules. It provides us what we do not deserve at a price we could never pay. Grace is so against the grain of our self help, independent society we continue to run on the “treadmill” of effort. Regardless of how many miles you put on the treadmill you always end where you began. This is what our effort to gain and maintain a relationship with God: It requires lots of effort that results in little progress.

Brennan Manning tells us in his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, “How long will it be before we discover we cannot dazzle God with our accomplishments? When will we acknowledge that we need not and cannot buy God’s favor? When will we acknowledge that we don’t have it all together and happily accept the gift of grace?”

We are indeed inadequate for the task of salvation. Paul tells us that God “…saved us not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4-5). Salvation is God’s extended gift to us, not our generated deserved reward.

Does this mean we stop engaging in Bible Study, prayer, interaction with fellow believers and leaving it to grace? No! Instead, these needful activities flow out of our love relationship with God, not as a ploy to get on God’s “good side.”

Grace frees us to live out our rebirth and renewal in unbridled enthusiasm. When we realize we live under the canopy of grace we focus on winning, instead of not losing. It is living out the God’s gift so graciously given, instead of attempting to hold onto that which we could never grasp alone.

Holiness people often struggle with grace. We can’t seem to rest in the fact we CANNOT earn the gift of eternal life. Salvation is not to be earned, but enjoyed and accepted.

A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works! You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you have done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”

“That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!”

“Three points?” he says. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”

“Terrific!” says St. Peter, “that’s certainly worth a point.”

“ONE POINT! How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”

“Fantastic, that good for two points,” responds St. Peter.

“TWO POINTS!” The man cries, “At this rate the only way I can get into heaven is by the GRACE of GOD!”

“Come on in!” Said a smiling St. Peter.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

It really is that crazy!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Challenge of Choice

Alan Axelrod in his book, Profiles in Audacity, speaks of the Rubicon River that is located in northern Italy. It is in no way an imposing river, but when Julius Caesar stood on its bank in 49 B.C. it represented a choice. He could cross it, which in all likelihood would result in civil war. But not to cross would sooner or later result in calamity for Rome. “Inaction would perpetuate a peace that had been dictated by a fatally misgoverned Rome.” The Rubicon provided apparent safety on one side, and to cross it would surely result in struggle with no guaranteed outcome.

The Rubicon represents choice. It is the choice between doing life as we have, or crossing over into the realm of change. It is the choice of maintaining structure for our security, or revamping to become a more vibrant individual. The Rubicon may not look ominous, but it is huge in its challenges. The one thing we must recognize is that inactivity is not the safety net it appears.

We all have our Rubicon. We stand on the bank peering to the other side, wondering if it’s worth wading through, or crossing over? I want to say it is. Yet in the same expression is the fear of what truly lies there! It is both scary and exhilarating.

A Rubicon is a choice. It is a willingness to cross over into genuine life-change. It is crossing over the Rubicon of self-indulgence to investing self in life. It is crossing over the Rubicon of pursued success to purposeful significance.

The Rubicon of complacency must be crossed. We need to be audacious. We need to make the difficult choices and take personal responsibility. We need to step into the God Gap...the place where we connected with God.