Tuesday, June 29, 2010


June 29, 2010


I'm a mental health practitioner. I've spent a lot of time working to figure out what constitutes it...and doing lots to encourage it. Biblical truth and godly living is mental health described. God wants us to be healthy.

So I am reading a familiar passage just now and begin to be alerted to the signs of mental sickness...and after an encounter with Jesus....mental health.

The passage: Luke 8:28-39 - for most benefit, why not turn there and read the passage carefully.

I'll just let the text speak...and hopefully the Spirit of God to nudge you as you consider what is in the text. (Not just a story about Jesus.)

Signs of mental sickness:
1. being susceptible to being "seized" by evil - "having demons"
2. inappropriate, shameless exposure - "no clothes"
3. homelessness, inability to be with people - "not..in a house, among the tombs"
4. extreme behavior - "crying out, falling down, loudness - hmm..something to think about
5. needing imposed restraints - "bound, chains, shackles, driven
6. unsociable - off in his own world, no relationships, living in a crazy place and manner

And then he encounters Jesus...is set free from the demons who are the source of his mental illness and these signs of mental health appear immediately:
1. clarity mentally - "right mind"
2. composed behavior - "sitting
3. welcoming God's presence and truth - "at the feet of Jesus
4. appropriately attired - "clothed
5. changed - so much so that people looking at him were afraid...(hmm..run that over in your mind...something to think about)
6. sociable - even a leader - back to the whole city - to offer change to them!
7. clear sense of purpose - he went away proclaiming, how much God has done

I pick up a bit of prod myself from some of the cultural stuff - could it be that demonic presence should be given credit for some of what is on TV? Could it be that style can be invaded by evil? Could it be that bodily exposure has demonic tones?

And I am touched again by the power of genuinely encountering Jesus. His words, his presence, his call, his manner can so quickly bring mental health to even the most challenged.

So I want to nurture closeness and live close to Him today.


Saturday, June 26, 2010




Jackie is gone with other family to Nebraska for a wedding today and then she will return tomorrow. So, I'm spending 60 hours alone. Get a feeling like I am counting?

Just broke into this writting right now, with a phone call from her...and she is on a similar track...and having a great time. Nebraska heat in early morning...and I have all the windows and doors open...to welcome and gentle and cool breeze.

Couldn't get to sleep too well last night...and woke up early this morning. Hmm...love the quiet, the time to focus, and miss the friendship, partnership, cooking, normalcy of our life together.....did I tell you we have a king bed?..should have kept my sneakers on.

Made a list of things that needed to be done before I leave at noon to drive to the town in which I will do an assessment of the church...tonight and tomorrow.

So I awoke early...got up and checked off nine things from my list....about that many remain, hey, but not bad for 8:45am.

But I am thinking about partnership....the wonderful rhythm of life that happens as we blend it with a friend...especially a marriage partner.

Can you handle another component?

Read a book this week by Andrew Greely - a Roman Catholic priest - Title: "JESUS a meditation on his stories and his relationships with women" -Forge - 2007.
Both sub statements in the title, caught my eye...and knowing a bit about Greely I got the book. I actually found myself sobbing as I read one section...not too typical for me, but he was so expressing the love of God, that something gave loose in me. Maybe I moved a bit more towards accepting the unconditional and completely irrational love of God....and my need not to perform to be ok. Hopeful.

Also, he wrote to the issue of women in Jesus' life more than I can recall any other. Not as an issue of leadership, or church placement, but as an issue of affection. He dared to say that the women were fond of Jesus and he of them. Travelling with, providing for, lingering at the cross, first at the tomb, first to declare his resurrection. Cited in page after page of the New Testament...mind-boggling for the times.

He dared to say that Jesus would have been an incredible choice for a life partner - if he could have gone that route. Young, muscular, smart, loving, wise (different than smart), good with children, full of surprises, good tradesman, a leader, a truth enactor, an accepter of the broken....and the list could go on and on. Jesus would have been THE incredible partner for married life.

Somehow, the sinlessness of Jesus (which Greely speaks clearly about, and I have always accepted) and the "tempted in all points like us" struggles of life finally came into formation more clearly in my sense of who Jesus is. The artists, Greely maintains, got it all wrong...with the sober, distant, acid-like faces of Jesus and his followers. He recounted many of the parables, explaining the astounding meaning...often lost in the performance orientation of so many of us. My sense of the love of Jesus simply took another wonderful step forward. Heaven got a whole lot more enticing.

(And the first part of the book had some terrific moments in helping me understand freshly how much God is a God of surprises, and lavish celebration...creativity and totally irrational grace. And He actually likes us.

(And there are some pages that made me wince a bit rather than "wow." Greely must be a human.)

So today, I thank God for women, partnership, and surprises.
I thank God for grace, His word, and the revelation of His scandalous love for each of us.
And standing among and above it all
...for Jesus....the Lord and giver of Life.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Just finished writing the blurb for the back of the book jacket...Spirit Life...to come off the press in the next 20 days.

Here it is:
"Ever read about the early church and feel a longing....
a longing to come closer to the way it was?
Weary of predictability and human totality when you gather with other believers?
This book will help you both personally and in group formation to regain the life found in the New Testament.
Spirit Life....explores dynamics proved to work in the early church and recently, in a large and growing church.
You will learn about how to be led by the Spirit and how a group can move with order and freshness into the realm of spiritual gift expression.
A quick read....for personal and group exploration, Spirit Life will move you to a new level of faith and adventure in Christ."

So it comes off the press very soon. And then we present it in Phoenix to Chi Alpha students in a day-long seminar (July 12)...and then, we will respond to whatever God desires to do either in campus settings or churches.

Please pray with us. The opportunity to have an impact for Christ seems so very strategic.

Thanks for being our friends!


Saturday, June 19, 2010


Saturday, June 19, 2010


They began to arrive last night...early evening. First adults with children then children with adults until there were 14 of us in all. The house was hummming and rocking with life...sounded a bit like the world cup soccer matches going on!

Children were hugging and running and trying desperately to invent something to draw attention from peers. At one time there was a chase going on around the whole house on the outside. Neighbors must have wondered what had become of this quiet place.

Part of the family had driven all day to get here...but still had energy to share with us all. What a gift indeed!

We ate peaches and fresh brownies....and lots of ice tea. And talked, and remembered and got caught up on events in our lives. And told some of our favorite stories...just to all remember again.

We straightened out little squabbles and praised good looks and accomplishments. And commented on two expanding tummies and when the big days will come...and our family will grow.


"How good it is to see you"...we said over and over. And it really was.

After 2.5 hours it had to end for the evening...shoes left at the door now replaced. (And carefully guarded smiles as the one who always puts them left on right and right on left did it again.) And "see you in the morning at the park" said with anticipation. And chatter about the "overnight" together that will follow. And how little sleep some of us will probably get.

And sighs when the door closed and the house was boringly quiet again.


I am coming to realize that one of the best things that God ever did, after Jesus' atonement for us, was to give us family. Sometimes it is the family of birth, always it can be the family of re-birth...but it is His intention that we not be alone...without Him or without them.

"Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home..." Psalm 68:5-6

May your settling today include some time with family.

Our day today will include a picnic in the park...and a trip to see the Rockies play the Brewers.

Thank You Lord for family.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Every Day with Jesus


Matthew 3

To get the most out of this, please read Matthew Chapter 3 first - slowly and prayerfully.

I did this just now...trying to in my mind imagine I was there looking on.

What hit me as I did this, was the incredible contrast between John the Baptist and Jesus...both in actions and in words....and the Father's joining in with Jesus to say, in effect, this is the manner I will most honor. (Not entirely fair logic, I admit, but something of value can come by proceeding along this line.)

Let's explore.

John's manner...
harsh, rugged, with trumpeted declarations, and calls to repent and get it right and do it right...and for lunch locusts and wild honey...with bits of sand on the side! Then back to threshing action, and fire, and prove-that-you-really-have-repented action.
Underneath, a clear sense of his own frailty (I need you to baptize me, Jesus - had he ever been baptized?). He was called to be prophetic, but wow what an aggressive role this was for him....had the role consumed him? Food, clothing, living style, words, actions -had it all become a trumpet call? Did it have to be that way...so entirely?

Jesus manner...setting the tone for His ministry...
A purposeful, long walk (from Galilee), a gentle insistent conversation, a public and obedient action, wanting to walk out clear righteousness, humble, submissive (baptism by immersion is especially so :), openly transparent (getting soaked publicly with no change rooms, or towels...willing to put up with crowd reactions (what must some of them have been thinking as they watched this go on..."well, John got another big sinner today! Came all the way from Galilee...must have felt terribly guilty.")

The Father's reaction to His Son's beginning...
1. I'll open heaven on this.
2. I'll send my Spirit onto this kind of scene...(and it is a dove that embodies His way to characterize what is going on. We have two doves in our back yard...what a gentle sight they are...and what a calming coo they sing into our neighborhood.)
3. And the Father's word: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

In other words, I see the Father communicating with such repetition and variety that we can't miss it:
1. My Son has begun perfectly
2. It is this kind of attitude that will summons My presence over and over
3. Watch the Kingdom that comes when this leads.

So, I see two ways of ministry:

John's Way:

1. Mostly preach to "them" & do it loudly
2. Speak threats, and warnings
3. Condemn by word and deed
4. Clothing that says "I'm different"
5. Live apart - don't get too close
6. A "get it right" Kingdom
7. The way of my responsibility
8. Hawk-like

The Jesus' Way:

1. Talk, and do it clearly.
2. Lead in submission and humility
3. Help people move forward by showing then speaking
4. Clothing and style that does not draw attention
5. Living among people..and depend on them.
6. An interactive, Presence-centered, gentle Kingdom.
7. The Kingdom of His kindness and love.
8. Dove-like

Well, those are my thoughts.
Forgive me, for some of them are pretty rough, but perhaps the Lord will stir up your heart like He has mine today.

And now to the living of it.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010


June 15, 2010


Matt...bet some of you thought I was reading Matthew again and had a fresh thought. Well, the reading part is right, but....Matt is actually the name of my mailman.

Yesterday I went out to get the mail...about 2:30pm. Our box is in a community stacker about 30yards north of our house. Probably 30 boxes all together. The postman, with one key opens the entire front of the stacker and puts all the mail in at will. We then retrieve it from individually secured boxes.

Looking up the street to the mail area I saw the postman (don't know him) busy sorting mail in the back of his vehicle...the hatch back lifted (of course). I decided to wait outside for him to finish, so I started pulling weeds from the beds (we have a few :))

After a moment of that, I began to hear "uh"...and "ooh" coming from the direction of the mail station. Not once...but over and over.

Finally, I felt prompted to check it out and, coming up behind him I asked: "you ok?" "Not really" he replied. And with that he began to explain a troubled back condition, two surgeries, pending further medical retirement?...and lots of pain. Thus the "uh"s and "ooh"s.

For a moment I told him about a recent healing experience..Micah's foot healed in our living room. And then asked if we could pray. No hesitation on his part at all and we prayed together for a moment. Ater that, he said his leg felt some better and I said I would keep praying for him.

He thanked me a lot, and with that was gone.

Several times already today I have been reminded to pray for him....and today I met him again at the mail station...in fact I stopped writing this to go and check on him. His leg?...better. He is not in as much pain, and seemed to be very mobile...squatting down easily. He said he was thankful too for lighter mail today. He talked of telling his family about our encounter and their reaction of great interest. He asked me to pray for a family member who is in need of God's intervention. He spoke freely about God...and how all of this had boosted his faith.

I said I would watch for him and sometimes come out so we could stay in touch. He thanked me for it and said he really appreciated it.

Matt...maybe on his way to becoming Matthew. Know what I mean? :)

(To be continued.)


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Growth Ratios

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Came across a piece I wrote after reading a book by Win Arn on significant ratios in healthy growing churches. A great way to measure how we are doing...and figuring out perhaps why we feel stuck.

Growth Ratios...you'll get it as you read.

1. Role/task - there should be a minimum of 60 specific roles and/or tasks for every 100 members of a church. And tasks spread across the whole of the church is critical.

2. Board/new - 1 of every 5 board members should have joined the church in the last 2 years.

3. Staff/attendance - 1 full time staff person in place for every 150 persons attending in worship.

4. Money/outreach - $1 of every $10 given to the church should be invested in evangelism, outreach, church growth.

5. Attendance/full - 87% full on Sunday is full. Expand, add another service or plant another church...or you will plateau because the church is "full" and people will not endlessly crowd in.

6. Membership/small groups - 7 groups per 100 members..all kinds of groups included in this calculation, but groups at least that meet, task, and build life together.

7. New groups/old groups - 1 of every 5 groups in a church should be less than 2 years old.

8. Members/involved - 75% of members (not just attenders) should be involved in a group

9. Visitors/regulars - 5 of every 100 persons in worship should be visitors from the church's ministry area (15-25 minutes driving distance) Remember: a church looses 6-10% of its membership through the back door annually.

So...how are you doing? Part of the answer or part of the problem?

How is your church doing?

Tell me if you gain something important from this focus on the blog.



Monday, June 7, 2010


Monday, June 7, 2010


Mowed my lawn a few hours ago. Looked a bit like a field of tiny bluish green flax...covered with little stalks of seed-developing heads...really covered....looking a bit lush. Front and back lawns. Both seeding out.

My idea...hey, that is great. Self-seeding. Growing richer and stronger. Taking care of itself. So healthy it is able to devote energy to repro. Great lawn!


Real truth is...

Apparently early seeding is the result of a few possibilities...
Lack of soil warmth.
Lack of moisture.
Lack of nitrogen.
What is basically going on is the grass is going "yikes, the end is near. I had better develop some seed and make sure I survive." Hmm.

I have been cutting and watering and fertilizing. But is the fertilizer lost its nitrogen zap...something is not going well deep inside the grass. Better find out and solve this.

Kind of like life.
Some signs we misinterpret as life...when they are really early dying.
Some appearances we regard as health...and all the time it is desperation.

Jesus said..."Consider the grass.." - no, it really was "lillies" wasn't it. (Matthew 6:28) But He told us, great wisdom comes to our lives from considering how He built things to work best. The rhythms of everything created are remarkably parallel.

So today...consider your own field
...a bit going to seed?..the physical looks good..but the spirit is dying?
Low on energy..when you come off to some as wound up tight?
Got a bunch of people fooled...but not your heart?

Take care.


Friday, June 4, 2010


Friday, traveling south on Powers Blvd.

Two birds in aerial display.

One..a Swainsons Hawk. 19-22 inches in wingspan. Sharp tallons and beak. Able to soar on the winds with sharp eyes to spot lunch on the ground.

Two..a Western Kingird. 8" wingspan. Regular feet. Able to soar some and flap a lot and stay close to the ground to chase down seeds and grubs.

Terrible mismatch. World champion takes on kindergarten babyface.

My guess:
that the hawk was dangerously close to spotting a young Kingbird (lunch) nearby and momma had to do something to take on the big monster. She did, flying behind and above and darting down on the hawk to peck his back.

She didn't take him on - that would have been folly indeed - but she pushed him on nasty peck by beligerant peck and so he was distracted and soared away from endangering her young.

Dart, dart, dart. And suddenly the hawk was moving on.

Quickness and strategy and fearlessness had won the day. Brute force had come up short. (Your enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom to devour. (I Peter 5:8f)

"When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities (the big hawks of your life) don't worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, (comparing claws and wingspans, looks and beaks) for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say." Dart, dart, dart. Luke 12:11-12.



Thursday, June 3, 2010


June 3, 2010


Jesus knew it well.


Yes...it was embodied in a man he had chosen...in fact all the men he had chosen. But especially one.

"He has a devil.

"Satan (could) enter into him.

He kept the money and "dipped his hand into the money bag" with frequency.

Under the pretense of "giving to the poor.

But it was for himself.

And then the dipping action gave way to more.

All under the pretense of more money for all of us.

It is a basic principle...little imperfections build to bigger and bigger things...unless dealt with.

He didn't...and ends up throwing the result of it (money)down before people.

And ending his own life...in a way that causes the city to name a "park" the "field of blood."

And Jesus had the up (we think) on us by knowing so much more than we do?

He was the walking gift of knowledge? (Long before it happened he knew that "One of you will betray me.")

The one who dips his hand with me....at communion!

Such impefection.

It is a huge burden for some of us in family...and for others in business or church.

I was a great burden on Jesus - too.

One of the weaknesses we all have to live through and around.

And not give in to. Jesus fulfilled the will of the father - perfectly. (Hebrews 2:10, 7:28)

In the now, He knows knows our battles with imperfection....from the inside track and the other side destiny.

Don't accept imperfection, not "ah wells, but "oh God!....do battle against it.

Press on my friends.

We have a faithful Friend, who has been where you are today, and knows the way through.