Saturday, May 31, 2008

Restoring the Soul

With respect to doing ministry I’ve been “running” pretty hard for several months. I have some vacation coming up in mid-Summer but more than taking a break from work I have needed to tend to my soul. So, I spent a couple of days in Ocean Shores, Washington this past week. I love sitting by the ocean, watching waves, reading or journaling, etc. It connects me with God in ways that my soul can take a deep long drink.

The Psalmist said, “As the deer longs for the water brooks, so my soul longs for You, O God.” (Psalm 42:1)

Whether your soul gets empty by serving God and people, or by squandering life and sinning, an empty soul is an empty soul.

I’ve been reminded about biblical heroes who got to empty, non-faith(full) places in their lives. Noah got drunk. Abraham lied. Jacob deceived. Moses had a temper. Elijah burned out. Jeremiah got depressed and suicidal. Jonah was a racist. Thomas doubted. John Mark deserted Paul. Timothy had ulcers.

How is your soul? Do you understand why it is well (or not) with your soul? Do you know how to engage God and be restored?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

How Does One Say "Thanks" For Giving Your Life?

The last Monday in May is observed in the US as Memorial Day, a day to remember those who have died in our nation’s service. Perhaps because we focus on having a three day weekend and therefore we travel or do house projects or host backyard BBQ’s, we don’t often reflect very well on the sacrifice that has been made by over a million American servicemen and women. Their sacrifices enable our freedom.

Friday the Associated Press released a story about a recent awarding of the Medal of Honor to PFC Ross McGinnis of Pennsylvania. The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military honor.

In 2006 there was much violence on the Northeastern side of Baghdad, Iraq. On December 4 a patrol was dispatched to the area and Private McGinnis was in the gunner’s hatch of a Humvee when a grenade was tossed by insurgents into the vehicle. McGinnis had been trained in such a situation to yell, “Grenade” and then leap from the vehicle to safety. However, the grenade fell to the floor of the Humvee and lodged in a corner. None of the three soldiers in the Humvee below McGinnis could get out of the vehicle. Rather than jump to his own safety McGinnis jumped to the floor of the Humvee and cradled the grenade next to his body. The explosion was mostly absorbed by his body. McGinnis was instantly killed and his three buddies were wounded but saved.

Staff Sergeant Ian Newland was one of the soldiers saved by McGinnis. He was the most severely wounded of the three surviving soldiers. After several surgeries Newland still has over 50 pieces of metal under his skin that cannot be removed.

USA Today reported that in answer to the question, “Why McGinnis did it?” Newland says, “Because we were his brothers. He loved us.” In a YouTube testimony Newland said, “Not a day goes by, not an hour goes by that I don’t think about McGinnis’ sacrifice. Whenever I smell my daughter’s hair or see my son’s smile or feel the soft touch of my wife I am grateful all over again for the sacrifice of my friend.”

Newland said, “How can you really thank someone who gave his life for you? The way that I’ll thank Ross is to live my life to the fullest. If Ross could give his 19-year-old life, then I will live all my life for however many years I live, in order to live it to the fullest.”

First, I want to say thanks for all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice of their life for my freedom. Newland’s comments stirred greater joy in me today as I enjoyed just being in the same house with my wife and son.

Second, I must add that the details and sentiments of these news reports are so closely connected to my faith in Jesus Christ. In a similar way, my sin and rebellion against God in effect dropped a bomb of condemnation in the vehicle of my life that was certain death. Jesus called out to me, fell on the bomb and absorbed all the deadly outcomes that were meant for me. I’m eternally saved and as Newland pointed out, the only way to really say thanks is to live my life to the fullest. The main difference is that McGinnis is gone and won’t be seen in this world again. Jesus however, rose from the dead and I “see” Him and do life with Him everyday. His presence and power enable me to live life to the fullest. Thank you Jesus.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Prince Caspian" Intrigues

Thursday I got to see the latest rendering of C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia”. “Prince Caspian” picks up where “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” ended.

I’ll not summarize or review the plot. There are a lot of reviews one can read. If you like profound and important messages conveyed in story telling then I think you’ll like “Caspian”. I would not recommend it for smaller children because of the amount of warring and sword fighting in the story, though there is no blood or gore.

Lewis has a way of capturing theological truths and insights with pithy sayings. Throughout the day I continued to linger on the line uttered by young Lucy upon her seeing Aslan the Lion (a Christ figure) for the first time in years.

Lucy sees Aslan and with awe and wonder remarks, “You’re much bigger than you used to be.” Aslan kindly replies, “Yes, and as you get older I’ll become bigger and bigger.” (my paraphrase)

The longer I’ve known God through faith in Christ the “bigger” He has seemed to me. I’ve been a Christ follower for 37 years and I’m more impressed with the sovereignty, majesty and benevolence of God than ever before. I’m more awed and moved to humble worship than before. I’m more trusting of His goodness and justice, though I’m more aware of human brokenness, then ever before.

Perhaps you saw the film and were impacted by another thought. Please share.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pray God's Comfort for the Chapman Family

Steven Curtis Chapman has for years been one of my favorite singers and song writers. I’m moved by his lyrics and his authenticity. I have followed his life, ministry and family for over 15 years. He has won 5 Grammy’s and over 50 Dove Awards.

The last time I heard Chapman sing in person was at Key Arena in Seattle at a marriage conference. He told some of the story of a song he wrote along with his wife Mary Beth several years ago. A friend of one of their children had a difficult family life. Her dad had been arrested and was in jail. The song asked the question, “Who’s gonna love Maria?” Ten years after recording that song Steven met a small Chinese girl who had been orphaned and the foster parents named her Maria. When Steven held her and looked into her beautiful eyes the song lyrics began echoing in his head and heart and he knew that he had to adopt that child, even though he and Mary Beth already had five other children!

The Chapmans not only adopted three Chinese children but they also launched a ministry to help others with the expense of adoption. They have provided grants to over 1700 other families to help with adoption expenses.

Wednesday 5 year old Maria was accidentally killed when she was run over by a SUV at her home driven by her older teenage brother. Several family members witnessed the accident. You can read more about it here.

What a precious family and sweet little girl. My heart breaks for them and I pray God’s grace and comfort upon them.

The Chapman’s song expressed their heart about the plight of children who live with too much pain and too little love. Maria became the picture of the need of so many children. The words are below--

Maria -she's too young to understand, but old enough to feel the pain

Of living where no love can grow with no hope for change

Maria - her world is an angry place but she makes sure that scars don't show

And with every hurt her tender heart is growing cold (but)


Who, who's gonna love Maria

Who, who's gonna touch her with the tenderness she longs for

Like a desert longs for rain She's got a hunger deep inside and with every tear she cries

She wonders if there's someone out there somewhere

Who's gonna love Maria (Maria)

She looks in the mirror now and the little girl is gone

But still the search for someone's love goes on and on for Maria

But does anybody care or even notice her at all

Is anyone listening close enough to hear her call (and who)


Maria if you can hear me, please know that you're not forgotten

Somebody's trying to get to you

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Increasing Gas Prices, Like the Heart, Demands an Overhaul

The headline reads, “Thousands of Outdated Gas Station Pumps Can’t Sell Fuel Over $3.99”. It seems that older gas pumps haven’t been replaced with newer pumps in a lot of small town and rural locations. It costs $10,000-$15,000 per pump to replace. The less populated areas don’t do enough business and the profit margins are too slim to afford upgrades.

So, as gas prices are beginning to creep over the $4.00 per gallon mark in many places, the stations with the older pumps are facing a dilemma. How does one charge more for gas when the mechanical meter in the pump literally can’t charge more?

Many are trying to retrofit their meters with rebuilt meters that have higher numbers but the orders are backed up for 2-3 months.

I hate the idea of gas selling for over $4.00 per gallon. However, this story caused me to reflect on the limitations of our “mechanical meter”, our heart. There is a limit on the capacity a human heart can be compassionate, caring, generous, giving, sacrificial, patient, etc. Some people have more capacity than others but everyone one has an internal “meter” that literally can’t go to the next “number”.

Following Jesus Christ and receiving life from Him is the “mechanical overhaul" that gives a man or woman capacities for life that are beyond self.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Be Prepared for This Sunday

Quick, do you remember what the significance is of this Sunday?

Yes, it is also Mother’s Day and an appropriate card or gift is in order. To see my post on the history of Mother’s Day click here. However my reminder is about something much more historic and significant. This Sunday is Pentecost.

The word “Pentecost” means fiftieth day. Originally Pentecost was celebrated by Hebrews fifty days after Passover. It was an agricultural festival that celebrated God’s goodness to provide a harvest. By the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 Jews began focusing their observance of Pentecost on God’s gift of the Torah (Law).

For Christians Pentecost Sunday falls fifty days after Easter and has taken on an entirely different meaning as is described in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit of God powerfully fell upon followers of Jesus Christ, fulfilling the prophecies of Joel 2 and the promise of Jesus in Acts 1:8. Because God’s Spirit has fallen upon Christians we have been empowered to be witnesses to the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus’ saving work upon the cross and in our lives.

When Christians observe/celebrate Pentecost Sunday the focus is upon the hope we have in Christ and the mission He has entrusted to us. Our mission is to share His Good News with others. In my tradition on Pentecost Sunday we pray for a specific people group in the world that has yet to hear about Jesus. This year we’re praying for the people of the Amazon Basin of South America.

Thank God for Moms, for family, enjoy connecting with loved ones but this Sunday don’t forget to worship God and renew your commitment to His purpose and mission among us.

(the art is an 18th century rendition of the Spirit falling at Pentecost by Jean Restout)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

People & Circumstances can be EGR

So I got into my new office one week ago. One of our staff ordered our phone and DSL service. We switched from our current DSL provider to Verizon. We’ve had our phone with Verizon and bundling it with DSL was going to save some money. A new modem was supposed to be shipped and our service was supposed to be operational by last Friday. Good timing for our office. Theoretically.

We didn’t receive the modem or the service so I called. Since that first call I’ve literally spoken to 18 Verizon reps and logged at least three and half hours on the phone. The details of the problems are too boring to write about but if you’ve ever tried to discuss a multifaceted issue with a robot, I mean person, who can only talk with you about one issue, then you begin to understand the dilemma. Once I would introduce an issue that was beyond their programming, sorry, I mean training, then they would thrust you back into the voicemail tunnel so that you could figure out which button to push next.

Both the people and circumstances were EGR (extra grace required).

I’m a busy guy. Most people are today so I don’t feel extraordinary about that. However, I have a relationship with God that works like this: “I’m Your servant. You are Lord over my time. I’ll spend time every day in ways that You want.”

So after the tenth person and a couple of hours I’m questioning, “God, is this how you want me spending my time?” There are leaders to support, sermons and studies to prepare, people in need that require attention……you get the point. Was sitting at my desk on “hold” how God wanted me to spend my time.

Then the “light bulb” came on. How does anyone grow in patience unless one experiences people and circumstances that require patience? Since I didn’t possess enough patience to deal with the mounting frustrations I needed extra grace from God to have and grow into more patience.

As most have discovered, if you need patience (or love, forgiveness, generosity, wisdom, etc.) usually God doesn’t just dump that upon you. Usually God gives grace to you in a circumstance that requires patience (love, forgiveness, etc.). Accepting God’s grace and then moving forward with that person or circumstance that is EGR brings life change and growth.

Today if someone offers the typical American greeting, “How’s it going?” I will honestly reply, “I’m in a season of personal growth.”

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Little Splash of Color Refreshes the Soul

It was a long week. My regular routine also included moving my office across town, launching a major community service project for my Rotary Club, attending two parties to celebrate friends and message prep that was a little extraordinary.

By 1:00 p.m. Sunday I just wanted to go home and take a nap but my wife suggested that we go to Mt. Vernon, Washington and check out the Tulip Festival. Today was the last day for this season and in all our years in Washington we had never seen the tulips.

Wow. I couldn’t get over the brilliance of the colors. I was moved to worship God as a masterful Artist who lavishly yet symmetrically brought together light, shade, shape and delicacy. Photos won’t do it justice but I’ll post a few so that you can get a glimpse of the splendor. I drank deeply of God’s presence and returned home with refreshment.