Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It All Started and Ended at Caribou

Caribou is probably my favorite coffee shop right now. Although Panera is still better for breakfast and lunch, Caribou has the best coffee. Consequently Carol and I start every Sunday morning Caribou Coffee. We have a large light roast and a French toast muffin. We share them both, but more importantly she brings in her computer and I bring in my notes so we can review the morning and make any final changes on the power point.

This Sunday morning was going to be different though. I wasn’t going to be speaking. I was going to share communion but we were going to open up the service to let people share their Thanksgiving “stories” instead. I wasn’t sure how many people were going to share their “stories” but I knew there were a lot of people with "stories" that I hoped they would share. As it turned out there were more than a dozen people who spoke. They were all lined up in front of the auditorium and simply shared their "stories" and then passed the mic down to the next person so they could share theirs.

The “stories” were awesome. None of them were stories of thanksgiving for a simple life, instead they were stories of thanksgiving for God being there when life was tough, when they lost a job, when they got sick or when their children or parents got sick. Isn’t that the way it is, we sometimes forget to be thankful when life is “easy.” It’s not until we lose something or at risk of losing something that we stop to be thankful. It was so moving that someone said, "the only thing we need to do next time is hand out Kleenex."

In the beginning I wondered "can you do that?" "Will anyone share?" "Will people feel “cheated” because there wasn’t a “message?" "Would they get bored with people just telling their “stories?” Well I didn’t need to worry, everyone loved it, and so did I. Not because I didn’t to speak, but because God got to be lifted up in “real life.”

That’s what I am thankful for about journey. Not just that there is permission to do things different but that you get to be “real.” And then after being “real” you are still loved. That’s what I think church is. It's not a place or a program but a people, a people who are on a journey together towards loving God and one another.

But as great as that was our day wasn’t over. After church Carol and I went out to dinner with the family. We celebrated our daughter in-law's birthday and the boys being home for Thanksgiving. Then we went home and took a nap. We needed it after a busy weekend that included hosting Carol’s family for Thanksgiving on Saturday. We must have had too much coffee because we couldn’t rest for too long so we went shopping. After shopping we went out to eat again and then stopped by Caribou to finish the day off where we started, only this time we didn’t have to share, we each got our own coffee!

“Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.”
1 Chronicles 16:8

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Count Your Many Blessings. . .

Every year on Thanksgiving Day. . . the average person consumes 4500 calories. America feast on 535 million pounds of turkey and more than 40 million green bean casseroles are served.

Well I don’t know about the green bean casserole but I do know that this year as American faces dark days and severe challenges it is more important than ever to count your blessings. A great idea is to get out a piece of paper and write them down. Be specific. Name individual family members and friends. Think of your health, home, city, country and church. Ask yourself what, exactly, about those people and places are a blessing? How about your skills, talents, education and job? Think about those things that happened this year that seemed like a coincidence. Were they a coincidence or was it really God at work, providentially providing you with just the thing you needed when you needed it? Then don’t forget God’s greatest gift, His Son, Jesus Christ. You will be amazed a how many blessings you truly have.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lessons from Riding the Roller Coaster

More than just keeping your arms and legs inside the car. . . we are called to lean forward and enjoy the ride.

Carol and I went to Kings Island on it's opening weekend. It was Memorial Day weekend 1972. It was probably the last time Carol rode a roller coaster with me, at least willingly. She doesn't like roller coasters but I do, or at least I used to.

It's been a long time since we've been to an amusement park let alone ride a roller coaster, but one of the things I remember them saying was "keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times." That's before they strapped you into your seats with saftey harnesses that make it nearly impossible for you to breath.

I used to think that was the way we should live life, surrended to the one who orders our steps with all of it's ups and downs, and twists and turns, but I'm afriad that is a bit fatalistic. I think instead we should learn to live life leaning forward, enjoying and anticpating whatever comes our way knowing that God can be trusted, after all the cross stands as a constant reminder that we have nothing to fear.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Last weekend I was overwhelmed with the faithfulness of God. It hit me while I was listening to an old album, yes an album. You know those big round plastic things that you play on BOTH sides. Any way the album was Mirror by Evie Tornquist. It’s funny isn’t it how music just like smells can take you back, almost instantly to a very specific place and time in your past. For me, listening to the album, took me back to Allegany, New York. That was the place of our very first ministry. We were only 23 and fresh out of college. Allegany was a really small town, so we used to go to Buffalo almost every week on our day off just to get our big town fix. One time on our “day off” we went to a Christian book store in Buffalo and bought this album. It was one of our favorites. We listened to it until we almost sick of it.

Listening to it again brought back tons of emotion, especially listening to one song. It was the song Jesus Was There All The Time. What overwhelmed me was to think how that same Jesus who was with us 34 years ago in that little town of Allegany New York, has been with us all the time and is still with us today, and will be with us in the future. It reminds me of the verse in Psalm 139 where the Psalmist says, 5 You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Though such knowledge is “too wonderful for me” to understand it does not change or alter the truth one bit. He is faithful and will forever be faithful, faithful to be present and at faithful to be at work both in and around me.


By Joann Albert and Ron Harris

A lifetime ago a young girl alone

Stood quietly thinking of fried she had known,

I know what she felt like, I know of the cause,

The girl I speak of is who I was.

Unable to face what life seemed to be,

There seemed to be nothing important to me,

Nothing to look for and nothing to find,

No one close to ease my mind.

But Jesus was there all the time,

Waiting to open the door.

Forgiveness has always been mine,

A new life and, oh, so much more.

From somewhere I felt what I couldn’t see,

His presence was slowly enveloping me,

Filling me, healing me, making me new,

I felt His message coming through.

That Jesus was there all the time,

Waiting to open the door.

Forgiveness has always been mine.

A new life and, oh, so much more.

And now I can sing with pride in my son,

I’m singing of things that were there all along.

I’m feeling the strength that was give to me,

For Jesus was there all the time.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Hey, Can You Do That?

Well, I sure hope so. At least we are giving it a try. Last week at journey I began team teaching with Andy Stanley. Yes you read it right, Andy Stanley. He's not actually there live, but he is there on video. I try to introduce the message with a few personal comments and then Andy comes up (actually we just turn on the video) and teaches for about 3o minutes. After that I try to wrap it up in with some sort of application.

The first week went pretty good so I am looking forward to doing it again this week. It's a series called "The Best Question Ever: Learning to Foolproof Your Life" It's based on the book and DVD teaching of Andy Stanley by the same name.

The first week we looked at "the Best Question Ever". It's not, "Is it moral?" "Is it legal?", or "Is it right?", but rather, "Is it wise?" Is it wise based on my past, my current circumstances and my future hopes and dreams? That seems to be what the apostle Paul was saying when he wrote to the Ephesians, "Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, as making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

This week we are going look at Proverbs 1 and notice three kinds of fools, the simple (naive), the foolish and the mocker. Hopefully we'll discover what kind of fool we are and how we can move from either the seat of the naive, the foolish or the mocker, into the seat of wisdom.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Independence Day Celebration

Independence is such a revered concept in America that we actually have a holiday named for it. In fact we celebrated it last week. It’s July 4th or Independence Day. At journey we celebrated it with a Patriotic Pig Roast. Instead of meeting in the morning we met in the afternoon and instead of meeting at the usual place we met at the Fisher Farm. It was a great time of food and fun.

Yet there is an independence that we as Christ followers were never intended to have, an independence from God and from one another. Jesus when he was asked by one of the experts in the law “what is the greatest commandment?” said it was to love the Lord your God and to love one another as ourselves, Matthew 22:35,36.

35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[b] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[c] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

How do we love God with all of our heart and love one another as ourselves? That’s the question we asked this past Sunday at journey. We concluded that we love God by following the admonition of Proverbs 3:5,6.

5Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. [a]

Then we live in interdependence with one another by recognizing that we are not complete in and of ourselves but merely one part of “the body” in which no part is more important than the other and everyone sorrows with those who sorrow and rejoices with those who rejoice, 1 Corinthians 12:12,

12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.

While I am grateful for the independence and freedoms I enjoy as an American I am even more grateful for the privilege of being part of a people who are seeking to live in dependence of God and interdependence of one another.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Clarity, is only a song by John Mayer

One of the things I’ve found myself looking for in life is clarity. I don’t think I’m alone. Brennan Manning in his book Ruthless Trust tells a interesting story of the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh who went to work for three months at “the house of dying” in Calcutta. He went there seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life. On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa. She asked, “And what can I do for you?” Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.

“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked. He voiced the request that he had brought thousands of miles from the United States: “pray that I have clarity.”

She said firmly, “No, I will not do that.” when he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God

The truth is I have often prayed for clarity and I have often prayed for clarity for others, yet I agree with Brennan when he says “that clarity is sometimes the biggest obstacle on our journey of trust.” I mean if you have clarity you really don’t need trust and if you have trust you really don’t need clarity. Jesus disciples were obviously concerned with a lack of clarity when Jesus told them he was going away. Consequently they became anxious and worried. Jesus told them not be anxious but rather to trust, John 14:1. A lot of things make us anxious, but the bottom line is to replace our pursuit for clarity with trust, trust in God and trust in Jesus Christ.

1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God[a]; trust also in me.

Clarity by John Mayer (Click the title to hear the song)

I worry, I weigh three times my body
I worry, I throw my fear around
But this morning, there's a calm I can't explain
The rock candy's melted, only diamonds now remain

Ooh ooh ooh ooh

By the time I recognize this moment
This moment will be gone
But I will bend the light, pretend that it somehow lingered on
Well all I got's

Ooh ooh ooh ooh

And I will wait to find
If this will last forever
And I will wait to find
If this will last forever
And I will pay no mind
That it won't and it won't because it can't
Because it just can't
It just can't
It's not supposed to

Was there a second of time that I looked around?
Did I sail through or drop my anchor down
Was anything enough to kiss the ground?
And say I'm here now and she's here now

Ooh ooh ooh ooh
Ooh ooh ooh ooh

So much wasted in the afternoon
So much sacred in the month of June
How bout you

And I will wait to find
If this will last forever
And I will pay no mind
When it won't and it won't
Because it won't
And I will waste no time
Worried 'bout no rainy weather
And I will waste no time
Remaining in our lives together

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"I Quit!"

For most pastors they quit almost every Monday. Maybe it’s the Elijah syndrome, I don’t know but nevertheless the other day I quit, not from the ministry but from trying to charge or in control of “the church.” Funny because the truth is I was never in charge or in control anyhow, but somehow I had come to think I was or at least was supposed to be. Maybe that’s the reason why a segment on the Glenn Beck show the other day resonated so much with me. I’m not a regular listener but I might be after hearing this.

He was doing an interview with a guy named Richard Eyre. He has written a book called “The Three Decievers” He states that these are the thing we all strive for and measure our success by. . .they are control, ownership and independence.

The problem as I see it is that while they are all valued in the world, they are actually all objectives contrary to The Word. For instance we are not in control of anything. God is the only one in control and to try to be in control is to try to be God.

Second ownership. We don’t own anything and the things we think we own will either burn up or be left behind.

Third is independence. Again though it is a particularly highly valued objective in American culture, it is actually “the” major attitude that hinders spiritual growth and community.

What Richard Eyre goes on to do then is propose an alternative objective for each of these. An alternative that I think is much more in line with the Bible even though I do not know whether he is a Christ follower or not. Nevertheless they are worth sharing and maybe talking about more in detail later. They are Serendipity, Stewardship and Synergicity. The last one sounds like a bit of a stretch just to make it alliterative so maybe he is a Christian or at least a pastor. I might blog more about the book later but if you want to read more on your own you can check it out at “The Three Deceivers”