Thursday, December 30, 2010

Humility 2

Had lunch with my son Brad, yesterday. We talked about the last blog's focus - humility - and he shared with me a story about a man he knows in North Carolina.

Steve was for all appearances, Mr. Average - intelligence? average. Appearance? Average. Training? Average. He was in fact, trained as a computer engineer at a no-name school. He finally graduated, and landed a job at Hewlitt Packard.
Before he began, he had a very strong sense that the Lord was telling him this: "Do not seek your own advancement. Put others before yourself and help them succeed. Give others credit for success. Walk in humility."

He did that and rose higher and higher within the company until he was in a very prominent position.

And then it came time for him to step away.

A final interview with his chief was arranged. When they met, the boss said: "Before you leave us, I have a few projects that need attention. Could you pick one and give it focus before you are gone?"

Steve's response: "Yes, I will do anything that I can to help, but will you pick the project most needful?

His chief's response: "Well, I want you to know that whatever you might choose,I am comfortable with you working on anything. You see, I have watched you all along and I have learned that anything you touch here turns to gold."

Two roads: one of me,myself and I, and the other of h-you-mility.

And a reminder from scripture:"God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble." James 4:7 really is a great key to success and partnership with God.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Just got back from an appointment that never happened.

The person I was to meet with never showed up.
25-mile drive. :40 minutes waiting "just in case."
Confusion on their end about the schedule.
Profuse apologies.
Morning -possible accomplishments- shredded.

Then it hit me on the homeward drive that I just had a lab...a humility lab.
Thankfully, I can report, I am doing fine.

If I had been in a streak of pride...I probably would have returned home, fuming, ready to bark at my wife, elevated blood pressure, short-tempered, narrow-eyed.

Pride does that to you.

Humility does the opposite.

Humility lets you serve, trust the Lord with the timing of everything, and enjoy the day a whole lot more. Humility lets you replace the roll of toilet paper, pick up the scrap of paper, and make the bed even if it isn't your turn.

Humility lets you lose the argument, though in the corners of your mind there lingers one final point that could clinch it all your way.

Humility lets you be the friend of people who have been run over by life, and who really to be lifted and loved.

Humility lets you fulfill the will of God. His choice for us is that we be servants of others - loving them as we (so much more easily) love ourselves.

Humility gets so much accomplished that matters...everything necessary.

Just my thoughts? Nope:

"Don't push your way to the front.don't sweet talk your way to the top.
Put yourself aside and help others get ahead.
Think of yourself the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
He set aside the privileges..
and took on the status of a slave, became human.
And having become human, he stayed human.

It was an incredibly humbling process.

He lived a selfless, obedient life, and then died a selfless, obedient death.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him.
(And so now) we bow in worship before this Jesus Christ and call out in praise that he is the Master of all."

Philippians 2 - The Message.

The popular christmas song wishes this: "May your days be merry and bright"

I wish for us all: "May our days be humble and right"

On the journey, together...

Friday, December 24, 2010

"And all through the house..." some updates on family

It's the day before Christmas and an ideal time to give you updates on our family. It is a great way to do it...quick and easy, catches those with interest, can be interactive, and is really efficient.

It has been a most unusual year...especially with the change of jobs that left us searching and trusting, flexible, and more focused on family and personal life issues than we had been able to be. It has been a strong, joyful year, not an anxious one.

With the closing of my department, I moved my office to the home and began more focus on writing. The book SPIRIT LIFE was published this year, and hundreds of copies were sold at Chi Alpha's national leadership conference in Phoenix. I moved more strongly on writing this blog and now have done so over 250 times with a total of over 11,000 hits. It has been a great encouragement to me to be able to feel I am contributing to the lives of interested people like you. Thank you!!!

Interim pastoring (6 months) and coaching church planting pastors has also been an avenue of meaning and blessing.

Jackie and I have ministered together at marriage conferences, and church gatherings. We have been spending more time together than we ever have before...and with great joy and profit. I can't say enough how I love and appreciate this special best friend.

I think I have learned a lot more about family this year. The loss of baby Grace Abigail (Micah and Sarah's second child), the coming of Preslie (Jess and JJ's second child), and the soon arrival of Kendall (Brad and Amy's fifth) along with much more time to gather, has really made this an incredibly focused and strengthening family year.

Speaking of family....
*Cami and Paul, Rachel and Evan are in Salt Lake City...core team of a thriving church and impacting people's lives greatly. Visits with them...a short Frontier hop to SLC...have been wonderful.
*Brad and Amy, Michela, Susanna, Bennett, Jamin (and Kendall) live just 20 minutes we get to see them for food, football, sports, recitals, and more. Fun indeed! Did I mention Wi?
*Shayla (living in Minneapolis) came our way for a great visit this year. A Masters graduate, and focused on active pursuits, she is a great lady with a strong future.
*Micah and Sarah, Ella and Baby #3 are in Monterey, California...where Micah (Army) is in language training for Farsi. We marvel at his ability to read and speak the language in such a short time.
*Jess, JJ, Carson, close, and we see them often. Preslie is a doll..and I get Grampy time with her often. Jess is an RN now...and JJ an administrative pastor..busy lives.

We give God thanks for His grace to us this year. And we pray His love will surround you in this season.

Thanks for being our friends.

We love you.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Reflections 3 - Wisdom

Reading: Matthew 2:1-12 - The story of the visit of the wisemen.

Irony - the outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been expected.

Has the irony embedded in this passage hit you?

1. Irony: A sign is given pertaining to an event so cosmic that from unlimited distance, people can see the sign, and interpret it accurately....while in the spaces all around the actual occurrence of the event, the sign is hardly even noticed.

2. Irony: A journey is taken, some 1500 miles, to witness what has happened in the event, while people "next door," seem completely unaware of what is actually going on...totally taken up by "life as usual."

3. Irony: Gifts of gold and other extremely valuable, kingly stuff, are given to sustain baby and parents, because they are so dependent and unhelped by their social setting or families.

Lots of irony...and in the face of this momentous event, great wisdom too.

People so wise, they get identified by that word in every reference to them.

The wise men were bright, and trained, but that alone did not make them wise.

Their real wisdom, I think, is measured by this:

1. They were watching for the sign, cued by wisdom writings, signifying where the event was happening. That put them on the cutting edge.

2. They were able to sort out the implictions of the sign and event AND determined to do something about it. They were activists.

3. They gave prophetically and generously, even if they were the only ones doing so.

They were wise indeed
...and their actions call us to a deeper wisdom than facts and logic.


May we be wise in these ways and more....this Christmas.

Lord, in Your coming you have shown us what wisdom really is. Would you help us to be truly wise, seeing deeply, understanding the significance of the times, and being abandoned actually to obedience and generosity.
Your word promises: "if anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all" - James 1:5.
And in this Christmas week, that is what I ask.
In Jesus name, Amen.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Reflections 2 - Angels

Angels are all over the place.

A chief one - Gabriel - appears by standing right by the altar of incense and encounters Zacharias with the news that his elderly wife, Elizabeth, is going to get pregnant....and they are going to have a wild and happy time. (Loose translation of Luke 1:14-17!!)

Six months into that, God dispatches Gabriel again to tell unmarried Mary that she is going to bear a child that will radically change the world. Gabriel speaks faith to her and then leaves.

In it all there is a great release of the Holy Spirit that goes "bless you's" and cries of excitement and worship begin to punctuate the air.

Not everyone got excited.

Joseph, Mary's promised one, found the excitement and angel stuff a bit too hard to bear, and seeking a more controlled life, decided to make a clean sweep of it all. (Matthew 1:19-21)

Time for another angelic appearance, this time to Joseph in a dream, assuring him that all was really under divine control and even giving him the name of the child: Jesus.

When the baby was angel appeared to shepherds telling them of the birth and its meaning. And that annoncement was simply too much...suddenly the curtains of heaven rolled back and the first Hallelujah Chorus in a public place occurred. It filled the shepherds with such abandoned joy that their normal amble became a scramble as they ran in a dark night to find the child.

There is a lot of excitement still in God's presence....Hebrews 12:22.

Angels...are simply servants, messengers, worshippers...people helpers (Hebrews 1:14). And there are lots of them. And they are still at work (I wonder if some of them joined in with songsters at Macy's and in the malls this Christmas. Wouldn't surprise me at all.) They like to celebrate, can talk and sing, and always focus us on the purposes and nature of God.

Angels keep appearing all through the New Testament...and wow, look at what they are doing at the end of all things. (See Revelation)

So, this Christmas...keep your heart open to a God who has infinite ways of invading our space, and lifting our hearts. Remember, that when you are following the prompts of the Spirit of God, you just might stumble into "entertaining angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2)

Hark...the angels are still singing.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas reflections: 1 - People God Chooses

Today, I begin a short series of reflections on Christmas, probing for fresh meaning behind the way God sent Jesus. I will write each day until that wondrous day arrives, of celebrating His birth.

The event was His well-orchestrated plan, as to the people, and situations and challenges of those days. But it was not robotic. The responses of the people were uniquely theirs. Or not.

How incredible to think that Jesus was born rather close in proximity to lots of people who never even knew it had happened...or what this planetary invasion was all about.

Christmas is a profound, timeless revelation of God: how He works, and what our responses to His innitiatives can be. So join me in reflection and response, and may it be for each of us in this final week of Christmas...Immanuel...God with us. (Matthew 1:23)


Background readings: Luke 1, Matthew 1

I am struck from the start by the primary people that God chooses to use in bringing Himself onto this earth. Not the proven, protected, attractive, wealthy, bright, networked kind of people, but the young, the risk-takers, the strugglers, the internal processors, the dependent, the awkward, but, the "yes" speakers, with not a clear understanding of what that "yes" might fully mean.

Mary, a teenager, lots of questions, unmarried and yet pregnant, called to bear a once-only-in-the-history-of mankind child, uncertain of almost everything. But focused on God, interactive when she senses His presence, and willing for whatever is clearly His doing and will. Available, with no "ifs."

Joseph, unfit for the ministry, quiet, a worker with hands, rather than ideas and words and people....ready "to get married to a nice young woman, settle down, raise a family, and live a good life"...and then God, seeing that his match with Mary is perfect - they are both "yes" people - calls him to a costly, risky, sexually suspending, life-threatening obedience, (and an early death).

Against all odds of person, their "yes" hearts brought them to the front of the line in God's choosing. Your "yes" heart will do that for you too.

May their lives and responses be to us a strong reminder. It is that response that God values very highly.

And so a prayer:
My Father in heaven, I want to be continually one who brings forth Your plan and purpose. I easily say "later - well, I'll pray about that - well, I just don't know, I think someone else could do it - don't think I qualify too well."
But in these days may the deepest place of my soul be echoing with "yes." "Yes" to whatever you call me to do. No holding back...just "yes." And may You come - Immanuel - on the breezes of "yes" inside of me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tomorrow: reflection 2 - Angels.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Up on one of the Palmer Park lookout places take some pics for Christmas. A brisk but beautiful morning with light diffusing well...perfect for taking pictures.

One hundred or so yards away, a barking two. The hillside is covered with scrub oak and desert like vegetation. Squatty coverage all browned out in the impending wintery weather. All quiet and still till then..lifeless.

Suddenly...out of the scrub a doe jumps...and then her mate sporting a fine rack. They bound because of the bark and within seconds they are gone and all is quiet again.

There are lots of suddenlies in life. Perhaps you too will face one today.

The bark, the suprise appearance. The sudden arrest of attention.

And perhaps it will be a menacing not beauty that appears.

And we did not know it was even near...until the moment of surprise.

Today...remember that "Satan himself it is not surprising if his servants masquerade." II Corinthians 11:13-15

And the moment of true revelation can come as a great surprise.

If you are near or in such a moment...stand firm, don't let the surprise divert you from the call you have from the Lord...and don't be discouraged. This kind of surprise, has been a part of life on the plant since the first pages of record - see Genesis 3.

May we be strong in the time of surprise.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Jesus Style

We arrived at 5:30...minutes before the doors were to open. We got in because we were workers, passing a long line cued up for the opening.

The opening? The evening of Restoration Church's weekly food pantry distribution.

Inside, the volunteers (all of them) were scurring over last minute preparations for the distribution....registration table, counseling prep, box pick up and weighing. All very focused...and no one cranky.

Soon the doors were opened and the space on the west side of the church suddenly became way too small...crowded with people coming to get assistance. Parents and children, people with walkers and canes, some on arm, some in uniforms.

There was no impatience, no akwardness. Instead, many of the longer term volunteers were calling the people coming to get food by name and joking with them.

A tall,handsome man stood at one of the tables and recited a portion of scripture while his daughter gazed on him in joyful expectation. His wife helped when he got stalled and he finished to the cheers of most in the room, as a worker disappeared and then reappeared with a quart of fancy ice cream - his reward for his memory work.

Before moving on he asked: "And what is the verse for next time?"

I sat with several counselors as they ministered to a woman, troubled by her home situation. Their wisdom, love and prayer, led to a visible transformation of her countenance. Seemed to me like Jesus had begun a work in her.

And so this continued, a literal beehive of energy and love...until everyone was fed and the parking lot was mostly empty in the darkness of the night. Close to 80 families ministered the three hours of distribution.

And now the building looked and smelled like it had been well used. And the workers remaining were already focusing on next week's distribution..."probably biggest of the year," with over 300 families coming and in need.

"Now the day began to wear away (and the crowd was in great need). "You give them something to eat...Have them sit down in groups of about 50 each...and Jesus looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them...and they all ate and were satisfied." Luke 9:12-17

Monday, December 6, 2010

Doing good

One of the things that I love about this season is that there is a lot of public focus on showing kindness to others....Scrooges have to duck for cover and wise men are the people who give gifts.

It seems that what is often a push in our culture to the romantic, is replaced for a time by the actions that make a difference in the lives of others. I like that shift. Super.

I love the summation that Luke gives of Jesus life and ministry: "He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed..." Acts 10:38

His doing good involved lots of things...visiting people at length and listeing to their stories, taking long hikes with others, speaking wisdom into people's lives or asking them questions to cause deep thought, making sure they had something to eat, speaking forgiveness into their lives, warning them of things that destroy life, and healing them both of physical ailment and spiritual.

In each case, those looking on could say: "Wow, that was good!"

Sometimes, with our limited resources and energy, we get stuck trying to figure out what to do in situations of need. Well, this thought suggests a simple approach: at least do something, and make sure that that something is "good."

Just go around in this very busy season, doing good.

Or, to stretch a carol a bit..."so do good, for goodness sake."

Yours, for a meaning-full is the Jesus way.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Seems to me that in our exchanges with one another, being able to say "I'm really busy" is more important than describing what you are even doing. Being "busy" is a sign of success, importance, demand. Ever had a conversation with someone who said - "I really am not doing much of anything lately?" Not me. Got to be "busy"...even if that busy is seeming non-essential stuff.

So, we just finished a rather endless series of commitments and projects and now the calendar is rather empty...December and January, not the season for traveling and guest appearances...and who knows what comes after that? So, I am going through a process of assessing this all and reaching out for a better sense of my own self worth.

Here's where I am landing so far.

1. If I am committed from the inside to a journey of ministry and involvement with God and others, then I am in gear. Paul knew what it was to sit for months waiting for a boat, waiting for others to arrive, waiting for the courts to act. Waiting. I wonder if the "those who wait on the Lord" verse doesn't apply a bit more to this demension than just purely praying? Paul, was just as integrated into ministry at those moments as when he was teaching, writing, or discipling. In fact it was the "out of touch" times that led to the stuff we are still getting in touch with today...all those New Testament letters.

2. If I am taking care of the essentials of life: home, family, physical person, then I am integrated into ministry. Jesus is our model here, who lived a very hidden, and quiet life for about 90% of it. This morning I learned to set aside what I had planned to do to do something to serve someone else, and I recon that service is precious to the Lord as well...and will actually go on in its impact for a generation. Really.

3. I have been impressed that as I am giving energy to grow spiritually, to read and soak in the word, to pray, to meditate, to listen, to grow inside, I am preparing for the future, and that is a grand prospect indeed, oh not just whatever God might give us to do next in some church setting, but to "rule and reign with Him" in heaven forever.

4. The little things, done in His name, produce the crop, the abundance, the rich reward at His hand. Seems like a lot of the big stuff just might have gotten it's reward down here.

So I am pretty busy really, but in a new and deeper way.

Journeying with you....