Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Assignments One and Two


Here are some devotinal assigments for the week. It was a joy to be with this week. I am humbled to be in your company.

1. On a piece of paper write why you follow Christ.

He calls you and deep within you said yes.


2. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor. Do we who bear his name bear his mission?

I look forward to our conversation next week on this topic and session six in bridges.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ad Sense

I must say that I hate ads...
Consumerism has invaded so much of life it seems rediculous.

I did however agree to run ads on my blog in exchange for money.

Say what?

Yes, you read it correctly.

I am giving it a go and I can get out at any time.

The money I receive will go directly into our congregation's community assistance fund.

Since this site is a test run I thought I would test this idea....

If it works well we will know, if it sucks, we will know.


This morning I didn't make the sun rise, it rose while I slept.

The clouds parted leaving a rainless sunny day, of which I had no control.

My heart beats and my lungs take in air, all without my control.

The grass grows and flowers bloom, not by my word by the Lord's Word.

2000 years before I was spoken into existence, Christ suffered, died and was raised from the dead.

After Christ spoke me into existence, I was born into a Christian family, of which I had no say.

I was baptized as an infant by a Navy Chaplain without my consent.

The Holy Spirit prays within me, calling me home without my power.

All of my life is grace, the entirety of my being is gift.
It is an ever flowing gift from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise, humility, joy, wonder, awe, gratefulness, love.
These are but a few of the words which are the response to the ceaseless love and grace which flows from God to me.

Meditating on grace brings me to deep joy and gratefulness for all that I am and all that I have.

This state of grace (my existence and being are grace) fills my heart with love than longs to overflow.

To where should it overflow?

Suffering is the place that love flows to. Christian love flows into the places where sin, death and the devil dwell. The only true way that one can enter into suffering is with a full heart of gratefulness and the ability to see beauty.

Beauty is the natural state of the world, for all that Christ creates is beautiful. Just look at the birds of the air, the grass and the creatures of the land and sea.

With a heart full of love and eyes full of beauty we are able to go to those people and situations that have been scarred the ever present reality of sin, death, decay and evil.

What we are to carry is not ultimately solutions but presence, a presence full of love and beauty. We are to see the beauty in those whose lives have been scarred by life and to whom society has left outside. This is what Jesus did when he spent time with prostitutes. Imagine those places where prostitutes live in our society, that is where Jesus would be....

Jesus went to tax collectors who were thieves, he ate in their homes. Where are the thieves of this world, that is where Jesus would be. What did Jesus bring? He brought the good news of the availability of the kingdom of God. This kingdom of love, forgiveness and new life was available to tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, religious leaders, lepers, epileptics, the demon possessed, gentiles and Samaritans.

Jesus' heart contiunally flows with mercy, love and the ability to see beauty in all. Jesus is able to see the beauty in everything and everyone because all of creation came into being through him and each person is spoken into being by his word. He loves what is his own, loves them enough to suffer and die to redeem his children....

This is the mission of all who bear His name...To see the beauty of Christ in all of creation. One of the greatest gifts we can offer is the ability to bring love to where there was only hate, joy to where there was only suffering and mercy to where there was only punishment.

Humanity is crying out for reconciliation and for a loving presence in their pain. As we realize that our existence is only grace it unites us to all of creation and calls us forth into solidarity with all of God's world. For our prayer is not simply our prayer. When we truly pray we are united to the world who is longing for their return to God and to a restoration to the garden of Eden.

Let us push aside the things that keep us from hearing the prayer of Christ in our lives. Let us see grace in all that we are and all that we do. Let move into the world with hearts full of gratefulness and eyes filled with beauty. Let us not be afraid of suffering. Let us enter into suffering for that is where we will find Christ calling to be ministered to...

Amen, Alleluia

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I wear a white wristband that says "one" on it. The One Campaign is movement of over 90 groups both religious and secular to help end extreme poverty. We would like our government to spend 1% of the national budget toward ending extreme poverty.

Personally I have a tendency to forget about the poor. I get caught up in my own issues and forget that how I live affects others, especially the poor. I wear the wristband to help remind myself daily about God's love for the poor. Let's face it; Jesus loves everyone but especially the poor. They hold a tender place in his heart. In fact as I read the gospels it seems that one of the primary ways people will be judged is how they responded to the poor in their midst.

I can't honestly say that I love God and not love His creation. Mother Theresa reminds me in her writings that I must have a passion for Christ so I can see him in the poor and serve him in the poor.

For this reason I have the One Campaign feed on my blog. It is the only movement I know of that Jews, Christians, Muslims and Secular groups are working together in harmony. I believe that this is God inspired and that each of us is called to help the poor in whatever way we can.


Being judgemental is one of the major problems in the Church. Judging another person is forming an opinion on who they are based on appearance, color, other outward issues. Judging looks something like this: two people are at the mall and they see a woman in her late 20's with tattoos, dark clothing and a different hairstyle. She also has a three year old son walking with her. One of the shoppers looks at the other and says "I feel sorry for that kid, he hasn't got a chance. Just look at his mother".

How do you think Christ would look at that young mother? Would he love her? Would he suffer for her? Would he die for her? Would God raise him from the dead so that young woman could participate in the Divine Life for all eternity?

We judge because it makes us feel morally superior. We judge so we can manage people by putting them into boxes and categories. Jesus destroys all categories on the cross. The old saying is that at the foot of the cross the ground is level. That is another way of saying that "all have fallen short of the glory of God". The person being judged never feels loved, only condemned and excluded.

There is a wonderful story of Jesus being confronted with a woman caught in adultery. The men want to stone her and Jesus simply says "let he with no sin throw the first stone". All the men leave and he tells the woman "Is no one here left to condemn you, then neither do I". Jesus is the only one who is given authority to judge and yet here he restores and loves.

When you look at the average church it is rare to see a significant mix of peoples and races. It is interesting to me to walk downtown Seattle or Tacoma and to look at the way the people are dressed, wearing their hair and then to look at our congregations in those same cities. There is a difference.

I am judged by church people since I wear my hair longer. Someone forgot to tell me that is not the right image for a pastor; so people make sure I know that. What I find terribly ironic is that these same people have pictures of a white Jesus with long flowing hair and a beard in their homes. I guess if Jesus were to come again to serve as their pastor he better get a haircut.

If I, as a leader in the church are being judged based on my hairstyle how do you think that people outside the church feel? Do they feel loved, supported and cared for? Do we reflect the unconditional love of God in Christ? People will know whether they are wanted or not and we need to grow in maturity so we can see all people as Christ would.


The band The Bo Deans has a song called "Naked". The song is about being raw and honest in a relationship with another human. One line says "You stand naked, I stand naked before you".

Standing naked before another human is one thing, standing naked before God is another. We have a tendancy to hide before God. In the garden of eden Adam and Eve were afraid before God because of their sin and they hid. After that God gave them clothes to hide their nakedness and they left the garden.

Standing naked before God is freightening because we wonder about what that encounter will be like. Perhaps we hide because we wonder if we will be loved and accepted. Perhaps we hide because in all our human interactions we hold something of our true selves back and so we enter into our relationship with God holding some of ourselves back.

God calls us into ever deepening levels of self disclosure and surrendering all of ourselves. We must risk nakedness and rawness if we are to grow in our intimacy with God.

The desert seasons in our lives have a way of stripping those things we use to hide before God.

What do you use as "clothing" to hide before God? What preconcieved notions about God keep you from the intimacy you long for? What do you need to let go of?

I have found each stripping of these to be very hard and yet they are essential to an ever deepening encounter with God.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I remember one of my Old Testament professors saying in class one day that God cares where we buy things. I wasn't totally sure what he meant by that saying. During my time in seminary a lot of small farmers were going out of business while large corporations bought out their land. The small farmer couldn't compete with the corporation.

My professor said that God cares about where we buy things and that a society would be judeged on how it treated the least among them. He was a scholar primarily in the Psalms and Prophets. The prophets often brought words of judgement against Israel becuase of their disregard for God and their neighbor.

Buying from a corporation at the expense of a small business owner is not loving our neighbor. The way most large corporations work is the top few become rediculously wealthy while the most remain less than wealthy, often their growth is at the expense of small business.

Lately as I have been making purchases I have been thinking about who I am buying from. It has cost me more money to buy from smaller companies and knowing who I am buying from. The American way is to get the cheapest price regardless of the social cost.

A great man, John Wolman considered the source of where he bought things from and vowed not to buy from goods produced by slave labor (he lived before the civil war). He felt it was not loving his neighbor.

I think we are challenged in our buying to think about the impact of how we spend our money. Is it consistent with loving God and loving our neighbor? Is it good stewardship of the Earth and the resources given to us?

I have come to agree with my professor some eight years later, God cares about how we spend our money..

Monday, April 7, 2008


Today I went to see my new primary care physician as a follow up to an ER visit three days prior where I was diagnosed with pneumonia. While we talked about my pneumonia he also listened to me talk about my peripheral neuropathy, a disease that has changed my life and those that I live with.

On the way home I was telling my wife how magnificent it felt to be listened to. When I told my doctor that it changed our lives he understood, no additional comments. When I told him it messes with everything else in my body, he agreed. When I told him that we still don't know what it is from, he told me that the Pacific Northwest is the mecca for strange neurological diseases.

As I laid down for my late evening rest I reflected on how rare listening is. People are heard yet rarely listened to. The tendency is to want to fix, solve or give advice, it seems as though it is never okay simply to hurt or suffer. The other tendency is to avoid the pain, that is, not enter into the suffering of another. Granted we can never truly enter into another's pain but the word "compassion" means literally "to suffer with".

Compassionate listening is to allow the other person simply to be themselves and to have the courage to love them as they are. It is to see Christ in the one who is suffering and to minister to Christ in, as Mother Theresa says, "his most distressing disguise". To be a compassionate listener is to be Christ to another and to be compassionate. Christ is compassionate; for selfless love is compassionate. Does it have a cost on the listener? Yes, but our lives have been bought with a price, ransomed by the blood of Christ and it is our privilege to pay the cost. We have all been called as Jesus says "to take up your cross and follow me".

Is their someone in your life who is suffering and simply needs be listened to? Are you at a place where you can be a compassionate listener? If so take a risk, trust the Holy Spirit and listen with a loving heart, remembering it is Christ you are ministering to and Christ ministering through you.

For those of you looking at the time stamp I took one of my meds a little late and so I am up later than I want to be. Don't worry I can sleep all day if I need to.

BTW: I love you all...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Gift

The other day in a "teaching moment" I was trying to teach our daughter about being thankful for all she has, especially stuffed animals. The girl has 87 (we counted) in one basket plus the ones in the garage. I would love to say that most of them were gifts from outside our family or even from my wife but the fact is the majority are gifts are from me. As a wannabe Franciscan this is certainly not the way to embrace Lady Poverty or simplicity.

However I love to buy her stuffed animals, I give them to her becuase she likes them and it gives me pleasure to be able to give to her. I am not trying to justify my actions, only to make the point that as an earthly father I love to give to my daughter lavishly and beyond what seems good or right. It is my good pleasure to do it.

Jesus says "11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"" (luke 11:12-13 NRSV).

It is our Heavenly Father's good pleasure to give us the Holy Spirit. In other words: divine union.. God loves to give us Himself....This is more generous and lavish than anything we can imagine. God offers us Himself while we are still sinners, it is something my mind cannot comprehend. Praise is the only good and right response to a love this lavish and reckless.

The love of God is reckless in that it is available for all and any. God is willing to be ignored, spit on, made fun off and eventually crucified for this reckless love... Gratitude seems to little...

"Where the whole realm of nature mine, that were a tribute far to small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!" (Isaac Watts LBW 482)

I think such reckless, passionate and generous love of God's own Self given to us in the Holy Spirit is what we should meditate on and let it be a source of tears, joy and praise.

This is why the spiritual life is not a performance event, we already have everything through the Holy Spirit...We just need to grow in our awareness and knowledge of what we already have.

Christ Jesus made this Divine Gift possible......Come, let us adore him....

It is the Father's great and joyus delight to give the Holy Spirit to you....