Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Darkness and Light

All sufficient Grace
When I stand in your Presence
I am blinded by your light
I must close my eyes and
Feel your burning warmth 
On my face 

Lead me out of the present darkness
Into your perfect light
I have journeyed
Into the heart of my darkness

And now, O Glory!
I come into your 
Radiant Light
Give me respite
From the dark journey

That I may come at last
To the side of your manger
And adore with the wise ones
And contemplate 
As the Virgin
And encounter
The Very Light of the World

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


"Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while."—Mark 6.31

Of course, after Jesus tells the disciples this, they go apart.  How long were they apart?  I don’t know.  But the people figure it out and start there on foot and eventually find them.  When they do, it says that Jesus had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  And he begins to teach them.

There’s a rhythm in the gospels of rest and action.  There were even times when Jesus seemed to be slow in responding to people.  (Lazarus dying, Jairus’ daughter).  But Jesus knew the right rhythm.  He knew how to play his part. 

I pray daily to live out that rhythm, the rhythm of God’s piece of jazz.  It’s a difficult tune.  Sometimes the chord progression surprises you.  But, oh, when you catch the melody, it’s heaven!  Sometimes the rhythm is slow and methodical.  Sometimes, the rhythm speeds up in the heat of an improvised section.  And sometimes, you just hold on for dear life. 

How about you?  How is your rhythm?  Are you in tune with God’s rhythm?  Are you taking time to be with Jesus?  Are you doing the work to which you are called?  Are you in sync?  Have you been away with Jesus lately?  Have you responded to those who are in need?  Are you paying attention to the beat that the Heavenly Band Leader is snapping out?

O Lord, it’s so difficult to find that balance, to make those priorities, to play that perfect rhythm.  And you know I’m going to mess up!  You know, I’ll miss a beat now and then.  You know I’ll miss an intro or chord change.  You know I’ll even play the wrong note now and then.  I plead for your grace and patience with me.  I’m still learning to play.  So, help me God.  So, help me, God.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015


         Acts 2.1:  When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.”

         Lately, I’ve been captivated by the story of Rachel Held Evans spiritual journey.  Rachel is a writer who grew up in a conservative, evangelical church.  Although she accepted Christ, she had doubts and questions about some of the beliefs of the church she was a part of.  Eventually, she stopped going to church.  After a time, she was drawn back to church (but not to the same tradition from which she had come).  What brought her back to church?  This is what she says in a recent interview:  “Norah Gallagher once said, “on those days when I have thought of giving up on church entirely, I have tried to figure out what I would do about Communion.” The same is true for me. It was the sacraments that brought me back to church. The sacraments of baptism and communion, confession and anointing reminded me that Christianity isn’t meant to simply be believed; it’s meant to be lived, shared, eaten, spoken, and enacted in the presence of other people. When I’d all but given up on church, the sacraments reminded me that, try as I might, I can’t be a Christian on my own. I need a community. I need the Church.”
         Being together has never been more crucial.  In our world full of individuals staring at 3-10 inch screens almost constantly, being together has become essential.  When I say being together, I mean REALLY being together, being present, being open, being vulnerable with each other as Christian brothers and sisters. 
         The early church needed this as well.  In the wake of Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, they needed each other.  It was in this context that the Holy Spirit came in a mighty way at Pentecost.  They did not receive a supernatural gift for their individual entertainment.  They received the gift of the Spirit in community, for the benefit of the community. 
         How might we gather and really be present with each other, to the sacraments, to open ourselves to the gift of God? 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Can you copy an expereince with God?

So many people seem to think the Christian faith is about arguing, constant, never-ending arguing.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I like to argue and debate and talk theology most of the day.  But then, there comes a time to stop arguing and simply . . . BE.  To be still and know He is God.  That’s the life I really want.  I read recently that the toughest part about being the Church is this:  We have an experience of God that changes our life.  And then, we try to replicate that for other people.  (Is that part of what is behind all our arguing?)  The problem is: you can’t replicate it.  We can only try to help others get in a position where they can be open to the Holy Spirit.  That’s it.  You could say that our job is to put out chairs and tables.  (Or is it to throw out the chairs and tables???!!!) 
            I want Christ for everyone.  I want everyone to know the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that I have found in Christ.  But alas, no matter how good the music is, no matter how many stellar programs we have in the church, no matter how exotic our mission trips are, no matter how many youth lock ins we have, no matter how many visits I make, no matter how hard I preach, no matter how many children and youth workers we have, no matter how many lay witness missions we schedule, you simply cannot replicate that experience.  We can only invite others in, set the table, put out some simple elements, bread and juice, speak the holy words, invoke the Holy Spirit and  . . . . WAIT. 
         Those who will come, will come.  Just yesterday, I read once again the words of Jesus:  “a sower went out to sow.  And some seed fell on the path, some on the rocks, some among thorns, and some on good soil.”  That is my life’s work.  For some reason, I feel called to keep running after those on the path of this world, along the rocks of temptation, and among the thorns of distraction.  For some reason, I keep worrying about that lost sheep more than the 99.  Is there something biblical about that?  Or is it just spiritual ADD?  I’m not sure.  
         But I know this:  the first person that I need to worry about an experience with Jesus is me.  That may sound selfish to some, but really, I can’t help anyone else until I “attend the ordinances of God.”
         So, Lord, help me!  Come and meet me again this morning and use me in your service this day.  For you are the Lord who reigns, One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Reaching out

Peter preached
And people responded
Those who were considered

Who is Jesus calling me
To reach out to?
Those who are considered

There is a thread that
Runs through 
All humanity
And that thread is
The life giving
Breath of God

That is why we are
That is why
Is truly open to all

Friday, April 24, 2015

I am

“I am the Good Shepherd.”  “I am.” 

            Lately, the phrase, “I am” has captured my attention.  In my times of prayer, I keep coming back to that phrase.  It is an assurance that, no matter what else is going on, God is.  No matter what the latest theological controversy happens to be, God is.  No matter what personal struggle I may be going through, God is.  In the times when I feel alone or abandoned or afraid, God is.  When I am confused, hearing so many conflicting voices, God is.  When I am struggling to follow Jesus through the specific twists and turns of my journey, God is. 
            Maybe you need to remember that today too.  Whatever the activities and tasks of your day, God is.  Whatever the dynamics of your friendships and relationship with significant others, God is.  Whatever the times of shadow hold for you, God is.  God is. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Light and darkness

“God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.”

            When I was a boy, I disliked bedtime greatly.  Of course, I wanted to stay up and watch t.v. with the grownups.  But the biggest reason I disliked bedtime was going to the bedroom by myself and being there, in the dark.  Were there monsters in my closet or under my bed?  Who knows?  Anything could be there in the dark!  We all have an aversion to the dark.  After all, it’s so dark!  We can’t see what is there.  Anything or anyone could be lurking in the dark.  Creatures, robbers, monsters. 
            The Apostle John explores the idea of darkness in his gospel and in his letters.  It doesn’t just represent fear of what could be in the dark.  It represents spiritual separation from God.  It represents the forces of evil.  It represents being lost and needing someone to show the way.  
            In contrast, John explores the image of light to represent Jesus Christ, God’s guidance, victory over evil and sin.  So, it’s logical that John would proclaim, “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.”  It’s logical and it is the good news for us, still today.  For there is so much darkness in the world:  sin, suffering, strife, death.  We need a light to light the way.  We need light to overcome the darkness within us.  We need light to conquer the dark forces of evil in our world. 
            In The Lord of the Rings, there’s a scene in which a terrible battle has raged all through the dark night.  The evil forces of Sauron, an evil spirit, have attacked the “good guys” at the fortress, Helms Deep, with rage and unbridled violence.  The forces of good fight all through the night, but they are losing.  The gates are breached and the vast number of terrible goblins attacking them is too much. 
            But then, just at the moment when all seems lost, Gandalf, the good wizard, appears at the crest of a hill just outside of Helms Deep.  He appears in the shining light of dawn, cracking the darkness in two.  He shines with his white horse and white staff of power.  And down the hill he charges, with an army of light beside him, and the victory is won by the forces of good. 
            Whatever darkness you face this day, this week, may Christ shine in it!  May his victorious light shine the way!  May the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, conquer the darkness within us and the darkness without, until all shines in the light of his glory! In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

doubt and belief

“Do not doubt, but believe.”  These are the words Jesus spoke to Thomas, usually known as “Doubting Thomas.”  Doubt is a real struggle in the life of faith.  Along the journey, there are dark times, times when we’re not sure of the next mile, or even the next step.  I’ve been there.  I’ve been on sections of trails hiking and all of the sudden, you’re like, “What’s going on here?  Am I still on the trail?  Is this the right way?”  And you doubt.  When I keep going though, eventually, there is a colored blaze on a tree to remind me that I’m still on the path.  Or if worse comes to worse, I use the clues around me to help me find the way:  the slope of the hill, the location of a creek, pure instinct.    
            Life is kind of like that: we carry on and all of the sudden something  may invite us to doubt that we are still going the right way, that God is still there, that we can make it.  But thank the Lord, we get little reminders, little signs along the path, like those blazes on a hiking trail, or clues around us.  Thank the Lord that the confused, lost, doubting times don’t last forever! 
            At some level, these words that Jesus told Thomas remind us that there is a dimension of choice in this equation of life.  Doubt does assail us.  But what we do with it matters.  Do we wallow in it?  Do we embrace it and become permanent doubters, skeptics?  Do we follow the religion of cynicism?  (That’s what our culture wants us to do!)  Or do we take the next step in faith, choosing to trust and obey in the One who made us? 
            Doubt happens, but we do have a choice.  We don’t have to be paralyzed by doubt.  We can choose to move forward, to keep praying, to keep serving, to trust even when we can’t see the next blaze on the tree yet.  Keep walking the Jesus walk my friends, believe!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday

            What do you do on Holy Saturday?  I mean, seriously, it’s not on anyone’s top ten list of high holy days.  After all, it’s somber.   Death seems to have won.  Jesus Christ’s body lies dead in the tomb, sealed behind all the power of Rome.  So, what do you do to commemorate such a day?
            Well, for one, you read Holy Scripture.  One of the lessons appointed for this day is Job 14.  In this chapter, Job laments his calamity.  He begins with the poignant words, “A mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble.”  Wow!  What a happy beginning!  But one can understand where Job is coming from with all the tragedy that has assailed him.  Children dying, fortunes lost, health gone.  Terrible woe!  But Job makes an interesting turn 13 verses later.  He cries, “If mortals die, will they live again?  All the days of my service I would wait until my release should come.”
            Hmmm.  What an interesting statement coming from one who lived in a time where there was no belief in resurrection.  People believed, in Job’s time, that when you died, that was it.  You “slept” with your ancestors in the grave in a state called Sheol, while your body rotted away as a buffet for worms.   Not a pleasant destiny at all!
            But Job dares ask the un-askable question:  “If mortals die, will they live again?”  And this is the question for Holy Saturday.  It is the question that frames Easter itself.  It is the question that haunts our days, the flash that is our lives. 
            And the answer?  It comes from a strange place!  The reading from Lamentations for today:  “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”
            That’s what we have on a day like today, the day our Lord’s body laid in the tomb:  “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.”  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when we fall down and mess up.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when we face trouble or heartache.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when there is war and violence.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when we face disease and physical decline.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease if we face depression and anxiety.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when our light is fading and our days are few.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when we take our last breath and sister death comes and takes us by the hand to lead us to the other side.  If it never ceases, then it does not cease when we await the resurrection, when we stand for judgment, when we enter the fullness of the Eternal Kingdom of God.  The steadfast love never, never, never ceases!  And that is the Good News for a day like Holy Saturday. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


“then they cried to the Lord in their trouble . . .”—psalm 107.6a
the formulation of tears seems to be a uniquely human act, although, anyone who’s been around animals very long will swear that they too shed tears. i know because i’ve seen them in my dog’s eyes. of course, we could analyze tears scientifically, tears of pain, saline produced by a body (or mind) in distress. but that’s not exactly the simple kind of tears that are described by the psalmist in the verse above. no, the kind of tears he speaks of are the kind that one forms from emotional and spiritual distress. as humans, we always have the option to just unemotionally accept our fate and stoically rise above it. but there are times when even the most sober folks turn to tears.
i’ve shed tears when someone is dying. i’ve shed tears when someone i love was hurting. and yes, i’ve shed tears when i myself was going through some interior battle whether it has been physical sickness or emotional distress. there are many kinds of tears.
but something holy happens when we offer tears to the Lord, when we cry to the Lord, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. it becomes an offering, sweeter than the sweetest incense, more costly than the finest goat of the flock, more sincere than a million dollar check to charity.
your tears can be an offering to the Lord today. would you share them with Him and maybe a close friend too?