Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Silent night

Ever strike you odd....that in a season with such great songs of meditative quietness, the pace of our culture can almost go off the charts??

"Silent night, holy night, all is calm"
....are you kidding?!

Perhaps the words should be edited to read...

"Bargain Friday night...all is cued, faces tight."

At Thanksgiving a few days ago, it felt like there were so many "critical games to watch", that frankly, our family gave up on almost all of them - watching only the sacred NU victory. :)

Bought some stuff the other day....50% off, with 20% more off added and 10% more if you use our card....long lines cued to get such deals that almost involve them paying us to come. :)

So, let me not encumber you with a long treatise
....but offer to all of us some brief maxims about all of this.

Not time to be bah, humbug.

My 2011 maxims:
1. Too many good things can reduce greatly your ability to do anything well.
2. Too much haste really does make for a lot of waste.
3. Too much energy spent in trivia, can tend to make all of life appear trivial.
4. Too many relationships on the surface, can lead to no relationships deep and long-lasting.
5. Too many sound bites can knock the stuffings out of long careful meditation.
6. Too much feeding of emotion and fun can reduce the care of body and soul.

So, in this season, I wish for all of us
1. A bunch of "no's" said to stuff that is trivial.
2. A few truly silent nights.
3. Relationships that endure and good deeply to the soul.
4. A bit simpler, some slower and truly happy season.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011


JJ, Carson and I took off in the early morning yesterday to go and see the Sequoias at the Sequoia National Park.

The national forest is some three hours away....six-seven hours by the car for a two-hour look.

Totally worth it.

When we were getting near...high in the mountains (14 miles of it under construction!)...the forest became thicker, and the skin of some trees seemed to etch peculiarly, then become reddish. Young Sequoias.

Finally, we began to encounter the big ones...whose massive red trunks immediately took on the resemblance to the legs of a giant family walking among the otherwise smallish trees...I would have called them "big" before this moment.

Photograph the whole tree? Almost impossible. we took to standing at the bases and appearing ant-like by contrast.

At a lodge we examined some displays explaining the stating that they basically cannot by natural means be killed, but live on and on. Even forest fires cannot reach high enough to "get them." Black charred spots on the trunks bespeaking their vain attempts.

Ancient....In proof...a cross cut trunk...with the earlier date in the center...700.

Walking up to one of the big ones, we felt its trunk and was, soft, stringy, a huge blanket swathing a living center.

Ah Sequoias, how much you have to teach us, about patience, and strength, about majestic stillness, and blooming where you are planted - :0

About God, Who must have leaned over in laughter and delight when He made you!

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for Sequoias.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


We returned several days ago from the time of ministry in North Dakota. Amazingly 230 people were there and the sessions were marked by the presence of God. We returned to Colorado with grateful hearts. North Dakota, you are special indeed!

Today, at Church at BriarGate, the focus was on WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GIVE THANKS.

We discovered that thanksgiving:

1. facilitates a conscious entry into the presence of God - see a wild illustration of this in Acts 27:33ff
2. is a faith-stirring way to change the mind focused on the minuses of the moment - see Jesus Matt.26:26-28
3. postures our hearts humbly - Psalm 92:1-4
4. diminishes the continual lust for more - I Timothy 6:8
5. sanctifies your food - I Timothy 4:3b-5
6. enriches our relationship with God...and others

Colossians 2:6, 3:15-17

So as we come to Thanksgiving Day we were challenged to take some moments before the table is loaded with food, to gather together, silence the TV, share around the table what we are thankful for, and then pray expressing our hearts to God for His provision in our lives.

It takes leadership to see this happen.....why don't you be the one to make this year special?

May the gathering you are involved in this Thanksgiving be marked by the presence of God.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


It was one of those weeks.

The moral debacle at Penn State was in most minds. Anguish for the victims, and outrage at the perpetrators.

Protests in the streets and an overturned van. A team to play in home stadium without JoePa for the first time in decades. A stadium packed with over 100,000 people. Extra security measures being taken. Players giving everything or being dispirited? Speculation was running high as the stadium began to fill and the commentators made their best guesses. Two ranked teams - Penn State and Nebraska - to do "battle" on a playing field before the world.

And before the play would begin, players from both teams began to assemble midfield, and drop to their knees, until there were hundreds on the field with heads bowed. Ron Brown, Nebraska receivers' coach and giant of faith and christian walk, had been asked to pray and he did so out loud....and for a number of minutes. Occasionally words could be heard of his prayer for the victims, and for God's justice and for His presence on the field of play.

And the two head coaches knelt side by side.

The crowd became hushed as the earnest prayers of players and coaches were lifted to God. At the end there was a growing rumble of applause from the crowd. Slaps and hugs of regard among the players. Misty eyes and great good will. Relief.

And the game began.

The outcome....a great game, played with character in a very challenging situation.

A powerful step towards healing.

A witness to the playing field that changes everything.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Humble acts

*Picking up the soiled kleenex that missed the waste basket when I tossed it. Placing it within the container.
*Cleaning around the lid of the toilet...cause I am the one who did that....know what I mean?
*Making the bed in the morning...cause she has a very busy day as well.
*Expressing appreciation for the meal...even if my taste buds were set in another direction.
*Putting my clothes away, not tossing, heaping them...or even stacking them.
*Stepping in and just looking for ways to help when the kitchen is abuzz.
*Letting the stressed shopper go before you at the checkout.
*Being appreciative for the good service received...or kind and forgiving for the ineptness.
*Stopping for a stranded motorist.
*Helping with picking stuff up when an accident happens.
*Calling someone to express appreciation and love to them.
*Slowing down to let the speeder cut in safely....with no expressions of getting back.
*Watching out for the elderly...and helping them practically.
*Giving to the poor and homeless...without calculation.

...and there are dozens of other things that could be listed.

Jesus' thought about all of this?

"Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Luke 14:11.


Saturday, November 5, 2011


Very early in the morning, several days ago, Jackie and I got up and into preset clothing...layers of it. Cold outside and dark. And after injesting nourishment rapidly, we drove south in the city, to the field of action.

There it was, lying serpent-like on the ground, the long silky, multi-colored nylon balloon. It would soon hold 175,000 cubic feet of "hot" least hotter than that of the still-dark morning. A portable fan was started and occasional bursts of ten-foot flame worked together for many minutes, as the balloon was filled and rose slowly from the ground into a vertical. Has this thing ever crashed, or just leaked slowly into a pile of destruction? I began slowly walking around the scene of what seemed like somewhat desperate action.

Didn't help that we were all asked to sign off on no legal action if we crashed or broke bones....or just disappeared into the heavens.

Attached to the bottom of this brightly colored death-trap....a basket...a wicker basket! This travel container, the center of which is reserved for "piloting" and the sides (waist-high) reserved for the passengers...all six of us making it "full." And we were told on landing to crouch, and hold on, because sometimes it "bounced."

Suddenly it came to me that I would soon be in a basket elevated a thousand feet into the air, in a wicker basket, with no seat belt, parachute or secure glass-enclosed position, a thousand feet into the air (and I wondered how high until death is certain), flames leaping over my head, and alternating with a deathlike stillness as the balloon climbed aloft.

And the travel managed in breezes by fierce blasts of flame into a balloon! Hello!

So I alternated between standing up and leaning into the pilot....or getting down to armpits at the wicker edge, and knees on the floor, all the while my wife was leaning over the edge, blissful at the experience of it all. And did I mention that she was sometimes quietly snickering at the sight of me on my knees? I learned not to look down...but to look out at the mountains on the horizon. And not to think about the airline traffic that was taxiing and taking off below. And I hoped that our bouncing landing would come "sooner than I thought."

Oh and I "looked up" frequently in rather urgent prayer.

I found some solace in remembering the days when going up an escalator seemed very daring.

Finally, we landed...very softly and with expressions of "fun, adventure, I'd do it again" punctuating the air.

Some observations:
1. Doing this was really good....even if very challenging. Thanks Jackie for the push! It is what we all need often.
2. Facing my fears instead of running from them, means growth for me personally.
3. And the big serendipity...laughter. It has been fun to talk and write about this and to embrace frailty rather than stiffen and sour with it seems like a key to the journey now.

In everything give thanks.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hard places

Taught from Psalm 34 on Sunday.

It is a Psalm for hard places...with two amazing "bookends."

First one -.the words before the text:"A Psalm of David when he feigned madness before Ahimilech, who drove him away and he departed." See I Samuel 21.

And the second, the closing comment in a great commentary: On the lips of martyrs as they went into the Roman coliseum to face their death. It has been spoken at their baptism and they would speak it at their dying.

A Psalm for hard places indeed.

Two immense life stabilizers are of first note:
1. :1-3 - Our spirit anchored to the presence of God
2. :4-7 - Our hearts assured by the care of God.

We then noted some important points for our lives:
1. :8 - When the test is upon you, take special refuge in the Lord.
2. :9 - Fear the Lord. There are two kinds of fears mentioned in this Psalm - :4 -the kind we face in life and :7 - the fear of the Lord that is gained by knowing Him and reverencing His nature and power.
(And if you want a sign that you do fear the Lord, it can be measured by a guarded tongue, a turning from evil and the pursuit of what bring forth peace. (:11-14))

Steps to stability in the time of storm:
1. Take refuge in the Lord
2. Fear the Lord
3. Seek the Lord...unleash your spirit. Twice in the text the word calls us to cry out.

Following this word, we began to worship the Lord together as the Presence of God became very tangible.

Some went to their knees. Many were deeply moved.

I hope you will open to this Psalm with those amazing bookends....and let it bring focus and strength to your life today.