Wednesday, December 12, 2012


 We are moving back to the States tomorrow  and one of the unique things about moving from here is the length of time it takes to get stuff from point A to point B. Our household goods will be flown in two shipments, one that has already left and one that will leave this month, hopefully this week. From here our goods are flown to Hawaii, put on a boat and make their way to somewhere in California and then up the coast to the Seattle area.
Needless to say this process takes four to six weeks and so we had to pack our stuff out five weeks before we planned on flying out. It is interesting living without the bulk of your household goods for that many weeks. The government warehouse supplies things like beds, couch, desks and a TV. They also have what is known as a “hospitality kit” for the kitchen which has four plates, four cups, 8 glasses and some silverware. It is okay but some have also called it the “hostility kit” since it doesn’t quite cover the needs of cooking and baking.
This leaves a person in an interesting position of having some things that are needed but other things like a vacuum cleaner, ironing board and iron baking dishes etc… are on a boat, or a plane or a truck heading east (we hope). Needless to say we had to borrow a lot of things from our friends here on island. It reminds me a lot of Acts 2:44 “all the believers were together and had everything in common”. Our neighbors are members of our congregation and they have been invaluable in helping us through this time of transition. They have graciously loaned us so many of the basic things we have needed and done with a wonderful sense of grace and kindness. It is another way Jesus grants us “daily bread”.
Learning to borrow has been an interesting journey. I hope you noticed that I wrote “learning to borrow” since I am discovering that borrowing is a learned skill. In the States I rarely borrowed anything. There are times when I might have borrowed something like a car from my parents while mine was in the shop or maybe a coat when I forgot one or a piece of outdoor gear from my brother-in-law. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have borrowed something from someone who wasn’t part of my family.  I can’t remember ever borrowing anything from a neighbor.
In my experience of living in the States borrowing is something that is seldom practiced. I think that part of the issue is ready availability of goods and services. Here are on Kwaj there is a scarcity of goods and services to the point of people hoarding certain things. The latest shortage here on Kwaj has been Diet Coke (actually all diet drinks). We have been out for weeks and when it does come in people will stock up. In some sense it is rare to need a neighbor in the States since the goods are there. On a deeper level I think that needing a neighbor shows weakness and perhaps failure.
As a performance oriented society we don’t have much room for weakness and failure. We are a people who pride ourselves on succeeding and showing it though the homes that we own, our job title, the cars we drive and the clothes we wear,. To need something from a neighbor would mean that we somehow failed at the American Dream and most of don’t want to admit defeat or failure. It is humbling to not be self sufficient in terms of the things we need. I have that to be a wonderful part of my Kwajalein journey. To have to borrow has been good at teaching me humility. It has helped me receive grace since that is what our friends are showing us and it has made me thankful for people who are willing to invest themselves in us for the sake of obeying Christ’s command to love your neighbor.  I hope that is has helped me to rethink what it means to live in regards to my stuff and my neighbor.  I hope that it has opened my eyes to the wonderful possibilities that we who live as part of the body of Christ have in terms of how we share and make our resources available.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Daily Bread

Bikes are an essential part of life here on Kwaj as a car is an essential part of life in the States. With the highly corrosive environment here (think tons of rust) bikes are always breaking and needing repairs. Everybody’s who has been here long enough has a bike with lots of random parts and many have bungee cords holding things together. They say that a new bike will last a year out here with no maintenance. With regular maintenance they last a year and day. Needless to say bikes break down regularly and most folks have a spare bike since it is hard to get parts and make the fixes in a timely fashion.
Kim and I had a spare bike that we “gave/loaned”  to some really good friends of ours since he was waiting for a new fork which is hard to get for the frame he had. Since we are moving soon we figured no big deal. Unfortunately my bike went down (broken bottom bracket) and it was so rusted that a fix was impossible. That left us in a little bit or a lurch since we didn’t want to buy a bike and didn’t want to leave our friends high and dry.
Our other neighbor had wanted to buy his wife a new bike for awhile and when he found out we were in a pinch he bought his wife a new bike and loaned us her old one until we move. As I rode the borrowed bike to work it reminded me of how God has answered my prayer for daily bread. I find that it is easy to take for granted the many and varied ways God moves in response to this simple request for daily bread. This gift of a borrowed bike was a way God opened my eyes to see the vastness of daily bread being given each and every day. It awoke within me praise, thankfulness, contentment and confidence in the future.
There are so many things that need to be put together for an international move and each one of those will be a form of daily bread and God who has provided the bread in the past will be the God who will provide the bread in the future. It also reminded me that we are called to be part of bring daily bread to the world as we share our resources with those who have less than we do. In this way we are used by God as an answer to prayer as my neighbor was used by God for my daily bread.
In what ways has God given you daily bread and how might you be called to be an answer to someone's prayer for daily bread?

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I have had a lot of what I sense to be shifting and deepening in my thinking on Christ, community and life moving around inside my head lately and I feel like I am in a phase of collecting my thoughts and then trying to organize them and then live them. I can see them creeping out in my Sunday messages and in my teaching but they aren't quite clear enough to write. I will as  I can.

Never the less we had an awesome experience a few weeks ago. We went on a boat with some friends of ours who lead our youth program and are truly wonderful people. The don't have any kids yet and are so kind and fun with our kids that Sophie and Gavin really enjoy being with them.

We thought it would be fun to go to one of the other islands for the afternoon named Begee. While we were on our way Mindi thought she saw some dolphins. Matt, her husband drove the boat over there and we found ourselves in the middle of a large (75+) pod of dolphins. They were everywhere, swimming next and in front of the boat, jumping in twos and threes and generally putting on a display. We were laughing from pure joy. It made me think of Psalm 108.

Sophie and Mindi were on the front rail of the boat and two dolphins jumped so close that their splash got Mindi and Sophie wet! It was one of our best experiences as a family to date.

Matt took some video and photos by sticking his camera in the water while the boat was moving. He got some good shots and these are a few of them.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Key Spiritual Concept: Guides

Learning to follow Jesus is a lifelong quest that we can’t do alone. We need others to teach us how to follow the way of Christ. The disciples had Jesus to teach and model what it looks like to live in a dynamic relationship with God and his kingdom. Jesus was a constant role model and guide. After his ascension he sent the Holy Spirit to fill the disciples and give them a dynamic interaction with God and the kingdom. These disciples taught and modeled kingdom living in their generation. If someone wanted to know what it meant to live the gospel they could look to Peter, James or John.
As Paul travelled he not only taught but modeled this same lifestyle. He invested himself in others so they too could model this way of living for the world to see. In his first letter to the Thessalonians he says “you became imitators of us and the Lord” and later he says that they “have become a model to all the believers” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7). The pattern was to verbally teach and preach the good news and to live the good news so that others could see the lifestyle and learn to live it.
Having a role model in the faith and being a role model are central to the New Testament understanding of how the gospel is to flourish. Somewhere along the line I think we have lost the dynamic of being an apprentice in kingdom living. That is, we don’t seem to look as vigorously to being trained in how to live as a follower of Jesus and participant in the kingdom of God as we do to other parts of life. It seems almost everywhere else in our existence we spend time as an apprentice, or learner before we move into doing the thing by ourselves. Teachers student teach. Doctors have fellowships. The trade unions have detailed apprenticeships. Firefighters spend three years on probation as an apprentice. Almost all jobs have some form of on the job training or preparation whether it is weeks or years before a person is certified to fill the position. All of these require the guidance of others along the way. Why do we expect anything different from following Jesus?
Maybe it is because we forget that following Christ is something that we have to learn, it doesn’t come naturally. After all Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, lose our lives and take up our cross (Mark 8:34-39). Seeing as we are born selfish learning to be unselfish and focus on Christ is going to take some work. In fact it takes the work of God through the Holy Spirit to transform us. This is something we learn and desperately need modeled for us. While we can learn a tremendous amount from reading, there is something so powerful about being around a person we know who is living the lifestyle. If our heart is open and we are humble enough to learn then being around someone who knows Christ better than we do and who is also living more fully in the kingdom is the best thing we can do for our spiritual growth.
While some people might bristle at the notion of others knowing Jesus more doesn’t change the fact that some people do know Jesus more intimately and are living more fully in the kingdom. It doesn’t make these people more “saved” or “loved more”, they just have learned more and living more fully. I don’t think anyone would doubt that Paul knew Jesus better than a new convert. Both were loved equally by God, one just knew God better. Frankly if I am going to learn how to live life with Christ I would rather spend my time with Paul than the new convert. This remains true across the generations.
We all have a responsibility to find someone we can learn from and someone we can teach. Also the church is to be a community of disciples who are living in such a way that it helps draw people more fully into a relationship with Christ and kingdom living. The church can be thought of a school perhaps. The church is to be a school of love, where people are taught how to love God with all their heart, mind and strength and then in turn love their neighbor as themselves. We will never do this without people to teach and guide us in the ways of Christ and kingdom living.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

wedding anniversary

Today is my fourteenth wedding anniversary. I feel so thankful to have married such a fantastic woman who has such a wonderful servant's heart and who is so kind and gracious.I know that I wouldn't be in the place I am today without her constant love and support and for that among other things I am so thankful. I consider my marriage to be an answer to pray.

Since today is my anniversary it makes some sense to write about a subject that I have had many conversations about and yet written almost nothing. The subject is marriage as a context for spiritual growth. For whatever reasons it seems odd that we don't talk more about marriage as a vehicle for spiritual growth. Perhaps it is because so many marriages are hurting and for many people it is a place of pain and heartache rather than growth and discovery.

Never the less it is worth looking at a few ways in which marriage can be a way for us to grow spiritually. Before I do that I don't want anyone to infer that abuse in a marriage in any form is okay or that all marriages have to last, I know of some situations where the marriage shouldn't last. With that being said here are a few ideas on how a marriage can be part of our spiritual growth.

Learning to love God and to love our neighbor is at the core of Christian spirituality. God calls us to be a people who can routinely and regularly love; that is we are called to be people who can will, choose and act for the good of another. This is the primary mark of a mature Christian. Maturity in Christ is about love, not how well we know the bible, or how many churches services we attend or the amount of money we give. All of these are good but they are no substitute for love.

Loving is something we learn. Love is something that requires God to inspire, teach and guide us.

A marriage can and should be a place where we learn to love our neighbor. We learn to make choices for the good of our spouse. We learn to give and receive forgiveness. We learn the meaning of covenant and promise. We learn to become more selfless and less selfish.

When viewed this way our marriage can be seen as part of a school of love where our hearts are formed in  Christlikeness. We start learning to love someone whom we have chosen and who has chosen us. The goal is to start with someone who is easier to love (our spouse) so that we can learn to love people who are more difficult to love. Perhaps as we mature in Christ we can learn to love those society has cast off. 

Seeing our marriage as part of school of love can help to give new meaning to the challenges all marriages face. They part of living in community and they can help form us as more mature people who are capable of loving God and loving our neighbor. Interestingly enough research shows that only 1% of couples that regularly pray together get divorced.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


I am blessed to be on vacation and travelling so my blog will lay dormant until the middle of August when I begin my series again on key spiritual concepts.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I am not sure this post is part of my key spiritual concepts series, although maybe it is. Nevertheless it is what I have been learning lately and I think the key insight is worth thinking about.

Working from rest is at the heart of honoring the Sabbath. It means that we rest, work then as we swing back to rest we prune so that we can abide in Christ. This is an essential rhythm on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. Living on Kwaj I have learned the consequences of not being able to fully swing back to rest due to our location and the cost of travel off island. It has been very powerful experience in teaching me the value of this pattern.
One area I am noticing the impact of not working from rest is preaching. It is something I feel deeply called to do and really enjoy doing but by the time I go on vacation I will have preached something like 50 out of 51 Sundays. Frankly I can feel it. I don’t feel like I am at my best the last few weeks and it bothers me. I am thankful God is strengthening me for the task but I feel him teaching me that this isn’t the way to live.  In addition to the creativity needed to preach the Word this past year, I also have had to be creative as I lead over 35 bible studies in that same time frame. This isn’t the pattern we are called to live.
Living in a place with no restaurants and only three fast food places means that the meal preparation and clean up is intense to say the least. My wife has had very few breaks which means by the end cooking for her is largely a chore and burnout is on the horizon.  There are other examples of this pattern but I don’t want to turn this post into whining session. The examples are there to help illustrate the point that God has been teaching me from this experience.
The point is that when we ignore rest we lessen our ability to love God and love our neighbor. We get dull and find ourselves not really wanting to do anything now that they daily stuff has become such a chore. Rest reinvigorates us and gives us the renewal and space that we need to enter more fully into our calling to love God and love our neighbor. Without the time of abiding in Christ and being renewed we will never bear the fruit we are called to bear because we will be too burdened. Without rest loving our neighbor becomes unmanageable because we are simply trying to survive our own lives, let alone enter into neighbor's pain and struggles. Without rest being involved in the ministry of our congregation becomes too difficult because we just don't have the energy to invest. The consequences of not pruning and abiding in Christ are significant. I can see why honoring the Sabbath is in the top ten.
While my location might be unique I don't my struggle to honor the Sabbath is unique. I think many of us are challenged to live the rhythm of: rest-work-prune-abide then start working again.  If I am right that a lack of rest impacts our ability to love God and our neighbor then it becomes imperative for Christians to learn to live this pattern since love is at the heart of who we are.
How is the rhythm of your life?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

First Key Spiritual Concept

A few weeks ago I set forth the idea that perhaps only a few key ideas are necessary for our spiritual growth. I have wanted to write more on those but I have been out of town so it has been hard to sit and have some time to write. I am back at my desk and in a place to give my theory a go.
So often we begin the spiritual journey focused on the self and what God can do for us. We wonder what can a relationship with God add to my life and how does it help me get ahead. That is natural since the American way of life is about getting ahead and gaining more. After all that is the sign of success in our culture. We come to Christ and realize that we now have “gained” forgiveness of sins and we realize that Christ has “given” us salvation; we have added an important element into our life. This isn’t a bad starting place; rather it is a natural part of our spiritual development. However, if we stay at this place of “me + God” then our Christian maturity will stall out and we will miss so much.
God longs for us to move from self focus (me + God), both focus (God + me) to God focus (God). In other words we move into learning that “it’s not about me” and our primary focus moves away from us.  Life becomes about Christ’s will instead of our will. The word for this is surrender.  The heart of all growth in Christian spirituality is an ever deepening surrender to Christ and his will. We can do all the spiritual practices and disciplines but if we don’t do them with an attitude of humility and surrender to Christ then we are simply practicing religion and missing the relationship we have been called into. Jesus is clear when he says that “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34b-35 NIV)
The Apostle Paul calls himself a “slave of Christ” (Phil 1:1) and he also says that he considers everything “a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8). 
I think that most of us if we are honest with ourselves bristle at the idea of surrender. We have been taught to be strong, get more, achieve more, be in control and be the master of your own destiny.  To be asked to give up control (which is really an illusion), go where we may or may not want to go and embrace a servant’s attitude is hard.  It may mean embracing values and practices that aren’t consistent with our culture and frankly may at times be significantly at odds with it.
Practicing surrender forces us to examine if we really want God to answer our prayer “thy will be done and thy kingdom come”. Intuitively we know that sometimes God’s will and our will might not be the same thing and if push came to shove would be like Christ and yield our will to the Lord’s.
Despite the struggles we might have with learning to surrender and yes, it is something we learn little by little over time we shouldn’t fail to see the promise in Christ’s words. He says that those who give their life to Him will save it. Elsewhere he says that we should “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Jesus shows us and teaches us that surrendering our lives to him is the way of life. When the focus of our lives becomes seeking the kingdom those things that we need will added unto us. Right after that Jesus tells us not to worry since he knows that when our lives are yielded to him and focused on the kingdom we grow in our freedom from worry. One of the fruits of surrender is a life marked with less worry, greater peace and deeper contentment.
I find that one of the first steps in surrender to Christ is to just begin to desire surrender. We need to start somewhere and our desires are a good place. We can journal and pray about the areas we feel like we are holding onto and can’t yield to Christ. It makes sense to reflect on what is holding us back and what we are afraid of. At this point meditating on the cross makes sense because there we see so clearly Christ’s love for us, his complete surrender so that we could have life. The God who gave himself so completely on the cross is a God we can trust more than we can trust ourselves or anything else. Christ wants us to live life fully and so has shown us that way through surrender and kingdom living.
Eventually praying a prayer of surrender on a regular basis makes sense, it will help connect our desire to give ourselves with the action necessary. It will shape our heart on change the focus of our spirituality from getting things from God to giving ourselves to God and wanting to follow his way.
Below is one of the classic prayers of surrender also known as a prayer of abandonment. It a beautiful description of what I have haphazardly tried to write about.
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Charles de Foucald

Friday, May 18, 2012

Core Spiritual Items

A few weeks ago I read an article where twelve leading fitness experts were asked what their top five exercises were for overall fitness and health. It was a great article because it sought to get to the core of what one needs to do regularly in order to be in good physical condition. It is relevant since there are seemingly thousands of exercises out there and frankly people send lots of time, money and energy with little or no improvement in their health and wellness. If this principle is true for our physical life I have been wondering if it can be true for our physical life.

I am convinced that most Christians want to grow and want their lives to reflect the reality of their faith and relationship with Jesus. I think we sometimes even envy those who seem to have more peace, contentment and more spiritual passion. We don't really know how they "got it" and wonder if we could "get it". In vain we try the latest books or conferences but seem to come up short since we really don't know the necessary core practices and attitudes.

Threrefore, what I would humbly like to do in the following posts is to explore what I think the core ideas are for growth in our relationship with Christ. They certainly won't be the only ideas or only way to grow but I trust with the right intention and effort that God will use them to help mature us spiritually.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Physical and Spiritual

In a previous post I brought up the idea of the connection between our spiritual life and our physical life. As I’ve been reflecting on it I am getting a deeper understanding of the profound connection between the two. This shouldn’t come as some big revelation and I am a little embarrassed that I hadn’t made much of the connection before. It is so obvious that we are created beings, duh. All of us have a body and worship a God who became human (while maintaining his divinity) in the person of Jesus Christ. If that weren’t clear enough we confess in our creeds “the resurrection of the body”. That means we get to keep our body, only tons better, forever.   Clearly if God created our bodies and plans to redeem and recreate them for all eternity then the body has to be essential to our spiritual life.
Maybe I didn’t see it because in all of my study of the New Testament I don’t really remember the part that lays out the diet and exercise plan for optimal health. I certainly remember the parts about not sinning with my body and wondering what some of the definitions of those words were and how broadly or narrowly they are defined. Part of me hoped that I would never know that what they meant so that I could feign ignorance and therefore not have those as some of the things on my list of sins. Needless to say as I wrestled with whether or not I was sinning I still didn’t see the section that said stay away from Twinkies and run intervals three times a week.
That isn’t to say that bible is totally devoid of dietary advice. Leviticus chapter 11 and Deuteronomy 14 both describe what clean and unclean animals are. The hunter in me is glad that deer, elk, wild goats and wild sheep are clean animals and therefore I have a green light to harvest them. Bacon is a no go (disappointing) as well as some other critters that I am not inclined to eat like the weasel or snake. Most Christians aren’t concerned with the Old Testament dietary laws since the early church deemed those laws not binding for Gentiles.
When it comes to exercise the bible is even more silent. I think this is because people lived such a physical lifestyle during biblical times. When I followed Paul’s journeys throughout Turkey in our air conditioned bus I marveled at the distance and intensity of these journeys he took on foot. It was impressive. Jesus built things with hand tools, no small feat and then walked all over Israel. The disciples fished with nets they threw for hours and then had to have the strength to haul a net full of fish into a boat. Following a good catch someone would then clean them all by hand. The farmers worked with oxen but that is still physical work, people walked to wells for water among other physical tasks we no longer do by hand. While we live longer thanks to modern medicine my guess is the average citizen back then had a much greater physical capacity then the average citizen now. My other hunch is that most of their food was organic and locally grown. Not sure if they had free range chickens or is their cows were happy.
As a result of the previous dietary laws and the physical lifestyle the biblical authors probably didn’t feel the need to be fitness experts. When they did write about the body they were teaching us about the moral implications of using our bodies. They also wanted us to make sure that we were enslaved by our body which is something all of us deal with to some degree or another.
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t dismiss being mindful about what we eat or about our physical exercise as unimportant spiritually. I think to do that would be making a mistake. Our bodies are created by God and gifts from God. Therefore, how we care for them is an issue of stewardship. Our spiritual life happens in the context of a bodily existence. To a large extent we will use our bodies to express our love of God and love of neighbor. I think that there needs to be work done to help Christians develop an appropriate understanding of our bodies and the role that caring for the body plays in our spiritual formation. This work will also help us to deal with spiritual integration and dealing with an overtly sensual use of the body that is dominating the media today.  
As I continue to think through some practical implications of what I am learning I hope to be able to write more in the subject in a way that is helpful, encouraging and gracious.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Two New Messages

I've got two new messages on my account.

One is on the connection between fasting and temptation. While it may start a little slow the core point is essential if one is to accurately understand the connection between fasting and our ability to resist temptation and grow spiritually.

The other is a message about Jesus' transfiguration and how a glimpse of his glory applies to our lives.

I am hopeful to get messages posted more frequently for those who are interested.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Christian Goal Setting

Last week I was teaching on Philippians 3:12 where the Apostle Paul talks about his striving for and not yet having reached his goal. Paul’s talk about goal setting in the Christian life struck us as odd at first. After a little discussion we quickly realized how natural that was for Paul and how it ought to become more natural for us.
The reason it was so natural for Paul to talk about his goal in the Christian life is that his goal in his Christian life is the same as his goal in life. There is no distinction between his life in Christ and his life. There were one and the same. Paul understood himself only in terms of who he was in Christ which resulted in his serving Christ and laboring for the gospel. He didn’t have a work life (although he was a tent maker), home life, church life, financial life, family life, recreational life, and physical life. He had one life in Christ. Therefore, his goal in life was his goal for the spiritual life. Paul was a fully integrated man who sought first the kingdom of God. The result is that he organized his life around his singular goal which he hadn’t fully attained but pressed on towards and urged the Philippians to imitate him in doing.
We too are called to imitate Paul in becoming fully integrated people for whom our life in Christ is the life we live. Our being followers of Jesus should impact and shape who we are in our hearts and therefore how we act. I would say spiritual integration of our life in Christ is one of the most pressing issues facing Christians today. Too often we just don’t see the connections between who are in Christ and how we live. As a result we miss out on our calling as disciples which impacts our ability to live out our vocation and mission in the world. Missing the depth and fullness of our calling means we aren’t the fullest versions of ourselves. Sadly we don’t realize how desperately the world needs us to live into God’s call on our lives.  
One of the outcomes of being Jesus’ disciple is that we are people who are learning to routinely and regularly love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Disciples are people who are growing in their ability to will and to choose the good of their neighbor. I can’t think of anything the world needs more deeply now than people who can will and choose the good of another.
Paul says that he wants to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if I may somehow attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). This is Paul’s goal in life: to know Christ. The path of discipleship is the path to knowing Christ. This is what Paul has called us to imitate him in doing, spending our lives knowing Christ, sharing in his suffering (living a cruciform life) and being filled with resurrection power.
Our lives then become about Christ, his kingdom and his mission. This brings everything else we do intto sharp relief and becomes the compass that guides who we are and what we do.  In light of all the paths we can take this path of giving our lives to Christ is that path that leads to life.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spiritual and Physical

I was on a conference call with some pastors earlier in the week and one of them made an interesting comment about the connection between our spiritual life and physical life.

He asked how is our physical being an expression of our spiritual being?

I have spent time thinking about both my spiritual life and my physical life but not a lot about the connect between the two. I am now thinking on it now but haven't made enough connection to write about it. All I know at this point is that there is a connection, but to what extent and how we live it I am not sure.

In this post I simply want to raise the question: what is the connection between our life in Christ, being created by God and how we care for our bodies?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Water Issues

Sometimes we just aren't aware of the importance of clean water in our world today. Below is a short bit of information that is worth thinking on.

Global water crisis claims more lives per year than war or natural disastersNearly a billion people -- that’s one out of seven people in our world today -- lack access to clean, safe water. Unclean water causes millions of people, especially young children, to die from water-related illnesses each year. Learn how ELCA youth can make a difference through the 100 Wells Challenge at

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spiritual Practice

How we go about our spiritual practice is important. Our world teaches us to make things complicated, hard and something only an expert can fix. We try this with our spiritual life and think that the more complex it is the more we are advancing. Advancement, if there is such an idea has more to do with simply getting to know Christ more and allowing his divine life to move and shape us. This is what Paul means when he says we are to be lead by the Spirit. That is what we are longing for, an ever growing relationship with Christ where His Spirit is at work within and through us. As we grow we come to see more fully what is already here. We see more fully God’s grace, mercy and love. It is such a full reality and one that we are called to live more deeply in. Living more deeply in grace will transform our lives and we will find that we are more gracious and loving. We become like the One who loves us and that we love in return.
Spiritual practice becomes important because to develop any relationship takes time over time. If we want to get to know someone better we need to spend time with them, learn who they are and get to know how they will be with us in various parts of our lives. Christian spiritual practice is ordering our lives around getting to know Christ more fully. We must be intentional if this is to happen. This is the work that we do, growing in the ability to order our lives around knowing Christ and serving Him.  We must keep this simple. The key is not complexity but simplicity, vulnerability and availability. We make ourselves available to Christ through prayer, scripture study, worship and service to name a few. Less is more here. It would be better to do fewer practices with an open heart then to run through a complex maze of spiritual practices with little or no awareness. All that leads to is pride and an inflated ego. No, humility in prayer is much better.
It is helpful to ask questions about our own vulnerability and availability.
How honest with God am I?  Do I want to listen and be lead? Do I share fully what is within me in prayer? In terms of bible study do I approach the text with a sense of availability? Do I want God to meet me there, to perhaps change or shape my ideas? How are my resources and time available to God and my neighbor?
Let the answers to the questions begin to shape how you order your days and time.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Family Photos

Last week I was able to go to one of the islands on the northern portion of our atoll with my family. I lead a worship service up there each week and while my in-laws are here we took them and spent a little time at the beach. Below are a couple of photos from that trip.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The ego and temptation

For the last few weeks I have been preaching a series on temptation and how fasting strengthens us spiritually in order to help us deal with temptation. I spoke on the temptation to be a consumer and not a producer. I spoke last week on the connection between unhealthy competition and selfish ambition. The key is to learn healthy competition and how to work for the greater good and not just our good at the expense of others. This week I'll be looking at the temptation of fame or looking for our affirmation from the wrong place. The key is to have our affirmation come from the Lord and his call on our lives so that we aren't seeking to be affirmed in the wrong ways. All of this has lead me to think a lot about the our egos and how they function within our lives.

We need an ego to help develop a sense of self and provide some basic differentiations like my bike, my car, my gender etc...While the ego isn't bad there are some real dangers associate with the ego and part of our spiritual growth is learning and recognizing those dangers and how to deal with them.

The ego is both very fragile and very powerful.

It is fragile because it always wants to be first, better and have more than everyone else. You can see this in our lives when we are consumed with always wanting to be the best, have the most, achieve the most etc...Watch parents at their child's soccer game when things don't go well for their child or their child's team is losing. More often than not you will find parents who get out of control. The fragile ego is wounded because they are not in the "best position". When we are lead by the ego we will find ourselves constantly out of sorts, discontent and wounded very easily. We will also place too much importance on things that shouldn't have that much importance and not enough importance on things that really do matter. For example we will care more about the latest fashion than the famine in Sudan.

The ego is powerful because it wants to be in control of our lives and when left unchecked it will do just that. We can find ourselves out of control and reacting in ways that just don't seem to make sense. We can become childish, punitive and just plain mean. We can become like a wounded animal who wants to fight all those who come in its way.  The ego is not designed to be the leader in our lives, simply a servant of the heart and will. We must learn to be lead by the Spirit.

The remedy for an ego that is out of control and easily wounded is spiritual practice, most especially simple biblical prayer and prayerful study of the bible. Simple biblical prayer means praying the words of the bible back to God. The psalms are a good place to start. Take a single verse and pray it for ten minutes. One verse, ten minutes, saying it maybe dozens of times. When the timer goes off be done. Get up and move on with your day. Trust God's Spirit to fill in all the blanks and to connect all the dots. Simple, yet profound.

Reading the bible slowly, and meditatively takes us out of using the bible for our purposes. Rather we are putting ourselves in a place to be formed by the words and to live from that encounter with God. This ancient and simple practices are so effective in maturing our hearts so that we are lead by the Spirit. To do this we simply read a handful of verses slowly, multiple times with a notepad next to our bible. If anything comes to mind jot it down. When the time is up, stop where you are, not worrying about how much you read. Simply trust that God is present in that time and that is good enough. These practices if done regularly will shape our hearts and mature us out of egoism and into Spirit lead lives.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Simplicity has been one of the themes that I am spending significant time thinking through. In some ways life is simple here since we don't deal with traffic and the extra things that come from driving cars. In other ways life is complex here due to the interconnectedness of all of our relationships. We work, play and live with all the same people and it is beyond comprehension if one hasn't lived in a culture like that before. Definitely not simple...

Simplicity is not easy. Rooting things down to their basics and doing that well is not an easy task and it takes intentionality to live that way. I think when we are living a complex lifestyle we can miss the essence of life since we are so distracted. As a result our lives have little or no focus. If however we focus in on the essentials of life and learn to live those well then we are going to see a clarity that we haven't before. We also are going to have a totally different rhythm to life.

For example learning to honor the sabbath is a simple concept. As Mike Breen states it we simply learn to work from rest. Then we prune and abide in Christ so that we can work from rest again. There, simple. However, making time to rest, valuing rest, resisting those things that can keep us from rest is challenging. There are other questions that come up about how to rest, what to prune, what does fruitfulness look like in our life. The concept is simple, the execution difficult. I find however as I practice one aspect of following Christ it brings other things into clarity and my life becomes a little more focused and a a little more simple.

The process is similar in the physical training I am doing. I am learning to focus on simple (not easy) functional movements that work many areas of the body. Do them intensely and be done. I am finding that I am working out less but am faster and stronger than I have been in at least 10 years. Plus I have more time available for the family. Simple, integrated and effective.

We should resist the tendency to think that our maturation in Christ means making things more complex. Maturation is just the opposite, it is simplicity and focus. The Christian life is very simple and yet challenging. We need to learn a handful of principles that allow us to connect with the way Christ lived and to connect with him directly. These principles should guide our life and be what we organize ourselves around. We need to make following Christ more simple, more integrated, less complex and more effective.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jean Vanier Quote

I came across this quote in my reading and really appreciated it. I especially like the first line. I hope you find it meaningful as well.

"To love someone is to reveal to them that they are beautiful"

"What meaning can be found in life in the modern world? So many people today are searching, so many seem lost and no longer have any kind of ethical reference points; so many are dissatisfied with a purely materialistic life, with ephemeral pleasures or with a quest for power and success.(...)
Openness does not imply weakness, nor a tolerance which ignores truth and justice. Being open does not mean adhering to others' ideologies. It means being truly sympathetic and welcoming to people, listening to them, and in particular to people who are weak or poor or oppressed, so as to live in communion with them."
Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p 145

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ebeye Children

A few months ago we went over to Ebeye to celebrate Christmas at one of the local churches. It was a wonderful experience and my daughter took some photos of the children I have been meaning to share now for awhile. With her permission here they are.

Monday, February 6, 2012


I have been blessed by having the opportunity to exercise here on a regular basis and after a year of the same routine I got into a rut and was looking for something different.  I came across a website helping hunters get into mountain shape, that is the ability to get into the mountains, carry heavy loads and be successful in their pursuit of game. The website is Following their protocol and also learning about CrossFit  principles has really changed my approach to training and physical well being. It has been a great gift and one I am thankful for. I could post about my thankfulness in discovering this path of fitness but my point is slightly different.
In doing the workouts listed on the TTH website I find myself modifying many of them since I don’t have the strength to complete them as prescribed. I modify the workouts which is fine. However when they asked us (subscribers to the site) to reflect on our 2012 fitness goals I thought growing to the place of being able to perform the workouts unmodified was a good goal. It will take intentionality and focus for me be able to train unmodified by year’s end. When talking with a friend about my goal he suggested that unmodified become my theme word for the year to give me focus. It made me think about following Christ. I asked myself the question about my discipleship. Here is the question:  am I seeking to live as an unmodified disciple of Christ?
It is tempting to want to take only Christ’s invitation and not his challenge. We like being invited to everlasting life, being part of a group of people and a sort of eternal security. However, at times we can shy away from his challenge to learn to live life as he lives life. We can resist altering our use of time and money. We hold back from examining our values and seeing if they are consistent with his values. We know doing all of this will change our lives and we aren’t sure we want the life change, or if we do we want it on our terms. In other words we are living modified. The challenge is to live unmodified.
Unmodified looks something like this prayer by Charles de Foucauld:
Father, I abandon myself into your hands. Do with me what You will, whatever You do, I will thank You, I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only Your will be done in me, as in all your creatures, and I’ll ask nothing else, my Lord.
Into your hands I commend my spirit; I give it to You with all the love of my heart, for I love You, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into Your hands with a trust beyond measure, because You are my Father.
Praying this way takes courage and trust. It takes courage to take the focus off ourselves and onto Christ. Instead of us being the center of our lives Jesus and his kingdom take center stage. It takes trust because we don’t see the future; we simply see the cross and know that we are giving ourselves into the hands of the One who loves us beyond words and our comprehension. The result is that we find life in all its fullest. For it is learning to live as Jesus’ disciple that we both lose all and gain all. It is good and right to surrender ourselves into the hands of the One who made a redeemed us. Let us live unmodified.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Notes on God's Love

From time to time I am asked or get into conversations on the love of God and our experience of that love. It is a hip topic today and lots of books are being written about it. I am glad it is a popular topic and authors are trying their best to help people experience that love. What concerns me though is that we can very easily make experiencing the love of God a work, a badge of honor or way of making ourselves feel in. It becomes a sign that "we've got it". If for some reason we don't "get it" then we feel like less of a Christian.

Christ is the focus of our lives and we should keep him and the truth at the center. How we experience Him, his love and our development is up to him. Remember, Jesus is the Great Shepherd of our souls and he knows what we need. It is important not to be taking our spiritual temperature all the time and figuring out where we are. Rather we build our lives on the truth of his Word and look to him as our teacher and Lord. Many times we live by trust in his Word especially when we are in spiritual valleys or in the desert. It is trust and faithfulness that keeps our lives going in the right direction. Having grounded our thinking in reality and living healthy rhythms will go a long way is keeping us centered.

One day after a while of living this way we will realize that we have deepened our awareness of being loved; specifically of being His beloved. It may come as a tidal wave or as a simple realization of who we are. Here are words to describe it: simple, ordinary and graceful. Over enough time we come to know that we are  loved. This is what it is to experience God's love, knowing our identity as his beloved. We realize that we have built our lives on simple truth (the scriptures) and rooted deeply in Christ's forgiveness on the cross.

Remember, keep Christ as the focus. He says to "seek first the kingdom". We are to be kingdom seekers and workers. In doing so we will realize we are the king's beloved.

Here are two verses to think on:

Romans 8:39b
Jeremiah 31:3

Grace + Peace,


Friday, January 13, 2012


One of the things about living on an island is that you are just there. It may sound odd but if you have ever lived on a small island you know what I mean about just being there. Living in the States people cover miles a day in their car, pass from neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city in just a matter of moments. Very few live, work and play in the same place, with the same people day after day. If you live on a small island however that is the case. Our island is shaped like a horseshoe and is 3.5 miles from tip to tip and a half mile wide. If you are a runner the longest course is a 10k which is sufficient for most needs.

One of the things to learn living on a small island is how to be there, that is content with what you have, who you have and where you are. That isn't to say we all don't love getting mail with new items like magazines and things we can't buy here. However, no matter how much mail one gets it doesn't change the fact that you need to learn a certain degree of contentment or you can go a little crazy. In the States life moves so fast and is so varied that we can evade a lot of those basic issues. If we aren't content we can just go to a new mall or go the movies or go out to dinner. We just move from thing to thing, not really reflecting on why we aren't content. While life is busy here (no joke, really I'm serious) it is all still here. Which brings us back to contentment.

What really makes a person content? That is a question that island living can teach you if you are willing to listen. I am not saying that people here are any more content than in the States, perhaps less so since we have fewer distractions. Being here, living life in one place has a way of revealing things which might not being revealed living another lifestyle. The Benedictines talk about the vow of stability, being committed to one place and one community for life. I am beginning to understand why.

Contentment doesn't come from riding a bike to work, scuba diving regularly, making money or the other reasons people like life here. There are never enough dives, money or whatever...No, contentment comes from learning to live grounded in where you are and being who you are. That level of contentment is a gift from God through Jesus. Living a life following Jesus has a depth to it that nothing else brings. It settles deep into our being and we know that we are being held, helped and guided through life no matter where we are. We know that a life given to following Jesus isn't wasted which brings a deep peace. The more we get to know Jesus the more we encounter the continual gift of forgiveness, mercy and love. We grown to know deeply how loved and cherished we are. This is where we can rest and be content. We can experience this on a little island, in the big city or in the country. It is a gift offered to all, regardless of background or knowledge or mistakes. Jesus invites all to follow him.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


There have been a handful of things over the last few weeks that God has been using to teach me a deeper understanding of rest. I was reading through the Gym Jones website ( and I came upon a quote that while a little crude caught my attention.  It said “if you don’t have the balls to rest don’t train”. They even developed a shirt with the equation: work + rest = training. At the same time my boss who worked as a fitness trainer told me that they days I get stronger are the days that I rest.
Alongside my fitness messages came some from the ministry here. As we all know Christmas and New Year’s were both on a Sunday. Normally we have two services on a Sunday but I felt lead and was encouraged to have only one service on each of those days. The idea was to reduce our work, rest, change the rhythm and give people a chance to rest. It worked great. We had reasonable attendance for both of those days and changing how we worship helped stretch us to think of who we worship and why.
In addition to my fitness and work life I took some time to be with my parents while they were here over the holidays and we had some fun and unique experiences that had I not slowed down, I would have missed out on. Again rest. To top it all off I reread the chapter on the semicircle in Mike Breen’s book Building a Discipleship Culture. The semicircle is all about working from rest and then moving back to a place of abiding in Christ and being renewed.
End result for me: learn to honor the Sabbath and work from rest. Great lesson and one that I am sure many of us can also learn and integrate into our lives. We are so programmed to work and never rest. We are lead to believe that rest is for the weak and therefore we feel guilty when we slow down, recreate and just be. The idea of the Sabbath is to rest in God, to trust that God is at work in our world and our lives. It is sometimes hidden work like when a muscle is rebuilding after being broken down during a workout. This “hidden” work of God is real work and the end result is that we are fruitful, exactly what we are called to be. If I was to make a workout shirt for Christ followers it would say “rest + work = fruitfulness”. Those two need to exist together and in that order.
In our culture of over work and self reliance taking the Sabbath seriously will be somewhat radical and will be met with resistance. The Christian life should be counter culture and the Christian community should be a place of witness to the world that the deeper value is being over doing.  Since God’s kingdom is here and now we are to live in the kingdom and to do that we must learn to rest, abide, prune and then work from the place of grounded living in Christ.