Way back in the day, Chuck Bolte and the Jeremiah People did a hilarious skit called “The Service” about five people sitting on a church pew waiting for the service to start. There was an older couple, a younger couple who had it all together and knew it, and a young wife who in tears admits that her husband has left her and moved into a hotel.
Out come the clichés. In one place, Chuck who played the younger man, said something like, “You see, Julie, as Christians we’re on God’s winning team. We make our baskets, we sink our putts, we cross the goal line!” Then he asks that penetrating question: “Julie, have you made Christ the center of your marriage.”
“Look,” she says. “I don’t know how to make Christ the center of our marriage. I come here for help and all I get are words… words I’ve said to myself a thousand times.”
Ouch. But hey, at least she got some words. Sometimes church people don’t even do that.
In 35 years of some sort of ministry, I’ve been blessed to receive a lot of gritty grace. Sure, some people got it wrong. But I’ve seen enough people get it right to dismiss my own “inner Pharisee” and pay it forward. They taught me how to run to the spiritually wounded, not away from them. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way. [click to continue…]
You may or may not know the name Andrew Mason. But I’ll bet you’ve heard of Groupon, the famous deal-of-the-day website where Mason was CEO.
These have been hard times for the company – nobody is denying that, and if you’re interested in the business and numbers side of it you can find it here.
What interests me is the leadership Mason showed in leaving. In an email he sent to all his employees then posted publicly (“it will leak out anyway”), Mason showed some class, humor, honesty, and most of all accountability. Take a look: [click to continue…]
Did a face plant a couple of weeks ago. On concrete. It was ugly, and so was I for a few days.
The irony of the situation was that I was bolting from one meeting to another, with a cross-town drive in-between. And the place I was in a hurry to?
A radio interview about the mental health of people in the ministry.
I wasn’t exactly expecting to have my own tested in the process. But that’s the price you pay when you’re trying to move at the speed of light on a sidewalk designed for the speed of pedestrians.
For just a minute I thought I was seeing the light of eternity. Turns out I was just seeing stars.
Aside from the wounds to my forehead, knees, hands and pride, I did learn a few things, such as what an “orbital nerve” is. Oh, and that there is more than one kind of black eye.
But the most important thing I was reminded of is that my ability to maintain my rhythm and step in this world of the falling is no comparison to God’s ability to hold me, heal me, and shepherd me home. Regardless of how I may stumble in a temporal world, in the one that matters most, He won’t let me fall. [click to continue…]
Time to let you in on a little secret weakness. Sometimes I hate being reminded. Especially when I’m already doing the thing I am being reminded of, or I’m already aware of it. Now let me hasten to say that when somebody reminds me of something I have totally forgotten, I’m usually very grateful. But the obvious? The no-brainers? The already-doings? That’s another story.
Does this ever happen to you? You’re locking the doors before retiring at night and a voice from the other room hollers, “Don’t forget to lock the doors!”
Or maybe you’re buckled into that airplane seat, starting to get lost in whatever you’re reading, and they start that handy demonstration explaining how to use a seat belt?
I had a little visit with the Lord about this the other day. Not airline safety demonstrations, but this issue of hating to be reminded. Let’s just say it was His idea. [click to continue…]
A cathedral in Europe was famous for the large, magnificent, stained‑glass window that was located behind the altar and high above the sanctuary. One day a violent windstorm shattered that beautiful window into a thousand pieces. The church custodian was hesitant to discard the fragments, so he put them in a box and stored them in the basement of the cathedral.
Shortly after the storm, a man who had heard about the damage asked for and received the broken pieces of glass. About 2 years later, he invited the caretaker to visit him in a nearby village. When the custodian arrived, the man explained that he was an artisan and that he had something to show him. When the craftsman unveiled his work, the visitor was astonished to see a lovely window fashioned from the broken fragments. It was even more beautiful than the original.
You can be, too.
Like the shattered window, sometimes we live in the wake of a painful experience that threatens to leave us broken and scarred – an unrecognizable leftover of what we once imagined ourselves to be.
Joyful? Are you kidding?
I heard a beautiful reflection on that a couple of years ago from a TV show, of all things: [click to continue…]
John Smoltz was famous for getting himself in trouble.
He’ll be in the Baseball Hall of Fame for the ways he could get himself out.
Smoltz didn’t always start well, but he knew what to do when he got himself into trouble. He describes the mental process he would go through in his book, Starting and Closing. At some point he would take his game to an entirely different level. And the mental signal he would give himself: Rally time.
That’s a theme that I’m seeing all over the world these days. In one situation after another, we’ve gotten ourselves into trouble. In baseball language, there’s one run in, the bases are loaded, and nobody out.
It’s rally time in places like Colorado and Pennsylvania, as people are looking to make sense out of the senseless and somehow create a world where kids can be safe. But the rally comes from recognizing that our hope isn’t built on metal detectors and psychobabble, but on the peace of God that passes all understanding.
It’s rally time in places like Washington and state capitals everywhere, as incumbents try to keep their jobs and others try to take them away – all based on promises and politics. But the rally comes from recognizing that our hope isn’t built on Republicans or Democrats, but on the government of the Lord God. [click to continue…]
I spend a lot of time trying to think up new things, or new ways to say the familiar things. I’m a big believer in singing a new song to the Lord and the exquisite beauty that comes from being completely random every once in a while.
That said, our brains were build to learn by repetition, and our hearts were made to be renewed by reminders. That’s why the Bible has four gospels, Kings and Chronicles, and the books of Deuteronomy and 1 John. All built on some form of repetition. That’s why the early church met daily from house to house or had a regular assembly on the first day of the week. To be reminded. To be renewed.
I know I accidentally repeat myself plenty of times, but today I thought it may be time for a little deliberate renewal – some purpose-driven (sorry, Rick) reminders of the big stuff – a harvested collection of some of the good stuff. Not my stuff, but those themes that keep us going and keep going themselves long after we’re gone. So here goes… [click to continue…]
Q – Can you please define righteous anger as opposed to sinful anger? How do I handle it?
What? There’s a such thing as righteous anger?
In my head and my Bible, I knew better. But for years emotionally I dismissed all anger as inherently sinful. After all, when it’s described with words like “bitterness,” “wrath,” “malice,” “evil speaking” and the like, where’s the “righteous” in that?
I also spent many years feeling guilty for feeling or acting angry. Know why? Because I was guilty.
I learned a long time ago that when somebody spews, “I have a right to be angry,” they don’t know much about rights – which Christ-followers surrender completely at the point of salvation. And there’s little chance that they’re describing righteous anger, either. [click to continue…]
Yes, this is me mocking my grandson. Or maybe Cason's mocking me. Hmmm.
Tucked away in the third stanza of a familiar hymn, Fannie Crosby penned these lines that were years ahead of her time:
Down in the human heart, Crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore.
Except for the grace of God, every single one of us will go to our graves feeling guilty about our feelings. Can you relate to any of these?
- “I didn’t love my mother enough.”
- “I hate my father.”
- “I don’t like being a mother.”
- “I will never forgive her as long as I live.”
- “I love one of my children more than the other.”
- “Why can’t he just die?”
One person has said, “Emotions are what we have the most of, and know the least about.” One of the longest, and most frustrating searches that many people have is why do I feel the way I feel, and what can I do about it?
On the other hand, some people (stupidly) dismiss all that and passively allow themselves to be led around by their feelings as if they are helpless to do anything about them. Ever hear something like this? [click to continue…]
It’s a common subject of conversation I’ve had with countless people.
If you’re ever more than toe-deep in Church World, eventually the conversation will make its way to the pastor of whatever church.
He the pastor-wannabe.
And so it goes…
- I don’t like my pastor.
- I love my pastor.
- My pastor’s a jerk.
- I’m not getting fed by my pastor.
- My pastor just resigned.
- I wish my pastor would resign.
- We’re looking for a new pastor.
- We have a new pastor coming.
- My pastor can’t preach.
- My pastor isn’t very organized.
- My pastor left under a cloud of suspicion.
Hey, I get it. I’ve been on both ends of those conversations and have had all of that and more said about me, and often for good reason. People a lot smarter than I am have done quite a bit of research about members of the clergy, and they have made some startling discoveries. Care to guess what the most shocking of them all is? [click to continue…]