“Not Burdensome”…. musings on the ease of obedience and self-denial

 

Is self denial a burden?

In the coming days, I offer some thoughts from my devotions in Jeremiah.  It’s been too long since I’ve written, as life’s been full of house sales and meetings, travel and teaching.  Jeremiah, though, has been a good friend during these days, and I want to write some things I hope will help you navigate both your own personal waters, and the waters of a culture in upheaval as shootings, racism, and political posture seem to continue unchecked.  I write in hopes of helping you become a person of hope in the midst of  it all… cheers!

Tucked away at the end of Jeremiah 23, there are two verses that give me pause.  In v33,34 God says to Jeremiah, “When one of these people, or a prophet, or a priests asks you, ‘What burdensome message do you have from the Lord?’ tell them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you away.  I, the Lord, affirm it!  I will punish any prophet, priest, or other person who says, ‘The Lord’s message is burdensome…”

God is mad that people think God’s message to humanity is a burden.   This is a point worth pondering, because with just a little bit of reflection, if the truth be told, all of us at times consider God’s commands to be burdensome.   Self denial is burdensome when I want to sit on the train, rather than surrender my seat, or when I want the larger piece of salmon, or the job that pays the most money.  Generosity is a burden when I write a check to help.   Compassion is a burden when I work hard to shut off my narcissism and enter into the suffering of another.   In fact, encouragement can even be a burden when the default would be to jump on the bandwagon of negativity that’s in a room, or a meeting, or a culture.

Not burdensome?  Oscar Wilde speaks for many when he disagrees with God as seen here:

What is God thinking about when God says the commands and way are not burdensome?

What God’s thinking about is the big picture.   When Jesus utters little sayings about crosses and self denial, and also says his yoke is easy and his burden is light, he’s not contradicting himself.   Rather, Jesus is opening the door to two important truths

There’s usually a lag time between action and reward/punishment.  This is one of the most important truths in the universe.  You can eat trans-fats for years and not know the difference, but eventually they’ll kill your heart.  You can enjoy a one night stand, or two of them maybe, but each time you do that, you’re diminishing your capacity for genuine intimacy, and enslaving yourself to appetites.

Conversely, giving, service, obedience, and self-denial will likely all be challenging in the moment, but in the end, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 

The best meals are eaten when we’re hungry because we haven’t snacked our way through the day.  The best sex with our spouse comes on the far side of conversation, service, waiting, and foreplay, rather than shallow “intimacy on demand” that does nothing more than feed our lusts.  The best learning comes through slow reading, and practice and conversation.  The best fitness comes through little imperceptible gains that are made simply because we denied our desire to stay in bed and went walking instead, or denied our desire for ice cream and ate a carrot instead.

You do these hard things, and you don’t necessarily enjoy the results immediately, which is what makes them feel like a burden.  But in the end?  The real burden is born by those with sexual addictions, or health problems, or a greedy narcissism that has destroyed their capacity for joy and intimacy.  They chose that which seemed easy in the moment, but paid the price over the long haul.

God calls this the law of sowing and reaping in the Bible, and we’d do well to take our cues from farmers.  They do tons of work without seeing any rewards on the day they do the work, because their eye is on the harvest.   In a culture of instant gratification, learning the law of the harvest is vital because we suddenly see that the self denial of the moment isn’t some sort of vast burden.  To the contrary, what we’re denying in our self denial is that very part of our nature that needs to be denied anyway.  Our self denial feeds and strengthens the spirit, and the more we do it, the greater our joy.  Our self indulgence feeds the flesh and the more we do it, the greater our enslavement.

Christ’s motivator was joy!

He taught and exemplified loving enemies, going the extra mile, service, generosity, and sacrifice.  In the end he was betrayed, arrested, beaten, executed.  And yet he said his commands were not burdensome!  Is this some sort of Buddhist koan, some Jedi nonsense?

Not at all.  We’re told that he did it all for the joy that was set before him.  Paul took this and ran with it, when he speak of the “light aflliction” which produces in us the “weight of glory”.  We’ve switched that in our culture, making any affliction a weighty burden.  I’m convinced part of the reason is because we’ve never really tasted raw glory.  One taste though, and we’re hooked.  When that happens, the suffering is endured, yes… but even the endurance, when we’re at our best, comes to contain some joy.

A trillion choices of indulgence over self-denial, scattered throughout history has created a world awash in oppression, addiction, destruction, environmental degradation, and loneliness.

And we think God’s commands are burdensome?  Maybe we should reconsider.   After all, it was the suffering one who said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly!”

To suffering.  To self-denial.  To service.  To life!

I welcome your thoughts….

 

 

20 Years Our Home… and a time for everything

It was just over a year ago that my mom-in-law came to visit, and some health matters made it clear it would be best for her to stay with us.  This set in motion a series of events that led to my wife and I moving east of Seattle a bit, up into the mountains, where we’d planned to move eventually anyway.  The self contained apartment has become my mom-in-law’s home, and she’s pure delight to have with us.  We’ve rented a tiny place next to the church in the city so I can skip horrific commutes and be “down” (as we say at the pass) on a regular basis,  but selling our “big house” was the obvious next step.  My lovely wife’s been preparing it for market with paint and care this past week.  Of course, each brush stroke brought memories.  Here are her thoughts….

Little HouseYes, these walls can talk.  As I find myself sitting on the hardwood floor with mahogany inlay, painting the baseboards of my Greenlake house in Seattle, I’m hearing the sounds of Legos being spilled out, the vacuum cleaner chasing dust bunnies, tap dancing on the indestructible 1920’s kitchen flooring, violins and piano echoing off the lathe & plaster walls, drums pulsing from the basement, thumps from the climbing wall in the attic.  As we prepare to sell our home of the past twenty years, the flood of memories is at times overwhelming.  I always said that this little house had “good bones” but my family have been the ones who have fleshed it out and given it life for these past two decades, coming and going, filling it with laughter and joy and questions and tears and decisions and major life events of every kind, mostly documented in photos at the front door before heading out on another adventure.

We found the house on a Sunday in December 1995, the FOR SALE sign having been put out the night before.  Richard turned one street too early for the café he was headed that morning but that “wrong turn” led him past the house that was to become our home later that day.  We made an offer an hour after seeing it and moved in within a month.  It was a house like no other we had lived in; hard wood floors, white plaster walls, tiny kitchen, treeless back yard, neighbors within hearing distance on all sides.  Over time, we learned to lower our indoor voices and wash dishes by hand.  We planted trees in the yard that grew into our own forest retreat and discovered many, many special friends in the surrounding houses.

Around year five, I ventured into adding color to the walls and have since painted every room and hallway in the house.  And they’re not neutral colors.  Most are bold and bright.  They’re not of the same color palette so they may be puzzling to potential buyers or new owners.  But for me, the matriarch of this home, they are telling me story after story of the inhabitants of each room.  I know, that under this freshly painted “guest room” in the basement, there are lovely blue walls with fluffy white clouds near the ceiling, carefully sponged on by our oldest daughter in her room where she filled journals with creative stories.  The bright yellow room on the main floor has always been bright yellow, just like our bouncy youngest daughter who covered most of the walls with drama production posters and pictures with friends (hence needing to be repainted once we peeled the paint with each removal.)  The dark forest green room belonged to our equally artistic son who choose to glue his excellent black and white photography masterpieces to the walls (in addition to a pastel mural drawn on one wall that never quite washed off as expected) but fresh paint repaired all that.

The Paprika red basement family room housed many late night slumber parties and “Basement Club” meals and movie events as well as hundreds of college students who found their way to our house for the Final Four Basketball Championships for several years.  The bright green living room-turned dining room hosted our oldest daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner, hearing stories of how this group of thirty people happened to gather from all around the world to celebrate this special event.  Birthday parties, holiday meals, ordinary meals, small group gatherings, meetings of many sorts, fill the dining room with stories.  I’ll always remember my mother-in-law sitting for hours at the front window, reporting on all the comings and goings of the neighbors or my dad who was the last one to bring order to my workbench in the garage, many years ago.

The attic was what sold us on the house twenty years ago.  The top floor became our master bedroom, our place of intimacy and “retreat” after long days.  The same friend who built our indoor climbing wall also paneled the ceiling in knotty pine to match our log bed that was clamored upon every Christmas morning by our three children, no matter how old they became.  We hung an Austrian cow bell on the front door to alert us when the kids came home and I’ll never forget the sound of the door opening to the stairwell while waiting for them to come up and check in.  Sometimes there were long conversations, perched at the foot of the bed, about the event from which they had just returned and sometimes it was just a kiss goodnight, but always, a feeling of relief that they were home, safe and sound.

photo(2)And then there is the kitchen.  It was a difficult adjustment when we moved in, being about one third the size of my former kitchen.  It has a smaller than average refrigerator and no automatic dishwasher and yet I’m proud to say that I managed to raise three very responsible adults from this kitchen.  I’m fairly confident that potential buyers will see my woefully ill-equipped kitchen as a liability, but they will be mistaken.  I think our step-saver kitchen has been our greatest asset.  It taught us all to be creative.  It taught me contentment.  It always became the gathering place for conversation while chopping vegetables or stirring at the stove or scooting someone aside to open the oven door.  And I’ve also discovered that there is something magical about soapy dishwater, lending itself to camaraderie and honest conversation.  Yes, it’s an old-fashioned kitchen with old-fashioned values but the cabinets have a fresh coat of paint and shiny new knobs that may very well get pulled out by new owners, but they served our family well and the many guests whom we were privileged to host.

I know it’s silly to get sentimental about a house, but I’m going to just let the tears flow and pray that the next family is blessed by the stories imbedded in these walls.  Thank you, sturdy little house, for protecting us from storms, within and without, for rooting us deeply in this neighborhood and in this city, and for filling our lives with tremendous memories.  May the next occupants be sheltered well by your walls, making our sturdy little house a home once again.  

 

How the West was Lost – One Reason the church is Dying in America and why a “mixed drink” will help

The first few minutes of this video (or the print version of the article) reveals a trend in the United States whereby a larger and larger percentage of the populace move toward the “religiously unaffiliated” category.  The trend is happening across every age demographic, but is particularly pointed among millennials.

In the wake of the survey results, there’s been no shortage of diagnostics offered, and further dicing of the data.  Words have spent explaining why:  Homosexuality.  Science.  The creeping effects of secularism.  Theological compromise.   Bad music.  Justice.  Bad coffee.

It’s the same song, different verse, that we’ve been hearing now for forty years.  It’s mostly finger pointing, and “speck in your brother’s eye” stuff that we’re talking about.  Emergent types are looking for a bigger tent as they read Richard Rohr and drink Scotch.  The new religious right quote folks fighting for the all important doctrines of election and inerrancy as they gather for coffee and sound their battle cry.

Blah blah blah.  About three years ago I grew weary of taking part in these conversations, fearing that I was just another voice in the midst of the myriad of sound and fury.  It became clear by talking with close friends who’d quit the church that only those on the inside care about these arguments anyway, that our internal arguments just reinforce the outsider’s view of our irrelevance.

I still feel that way now, only now it’s hard to even listen.  The whole thing appears, on the surface anyway, to be an exercise in rearranging the chairs after the boat’s hit the iceberg.  “How shall we set the chairs so people will come?  Circle?  Rows?  Small groups of four?  Three?  Stacked in the corner?”   Nobody cares.  The dramatic shift toward unaffiliated is because people are moving on.  Any plan that claims to offer a ‘way back’ is, in my opinion, misguided.

What is needed though, is for we church leaders to do some serious introspecting about our own hearts.  The truth is that it is we leaders of the past two generations, with our priorities and world view, that allowed the ship to hit the iceberg.  We should ask about our own health, not in hopes of getting people back into their fold, but in hopes of fixing the leak in the hull, for the good news is that the church isn’t the Titanic—by virtue of Christ’s life, the ship can be healed!

I’m slowly coming to see that a big reason there’s a hole in the hull is because we’ve failed, often catastrophically, to let Jesus be Jesus.  Instead we’ve used some sort of fabricated replica of Jesus, some plastic mass-produced thing, that highlights some elements of Jesus that we think will play well in our time and place.

The real Jesus can’t be fabricated by religious efforts.  The real Jesus can only grow in us and express life through us to the extent that we are yielded to his rule and reign in our lives.  What grows out of that yieldedness won’t be easily brand-able, marketable, or reducible to sound bytes and Twitter posts.  But this requires the hard slow work of spiritual formation, and trusting God with results; hardly the stuff of our upwardly mobile, market share, and metrics driven world.

The way of recovery is to realize that, ironically, the pure Jesus is a mixed drink almost every time, usually of two seemingly incompatible ingredients.  The cup that is Christ’s life is filled with apparent contradictions, and the only way the real Jesus shows up is if both sides of the contradiction are present.  Here are two examples of what I mean:

Leadership as a Servant – The testosterone saturated view of leadership that’s prevailed for the past many decades has not only marginalized and disempowered half the church; it’s created a situation where, behind the veil, domestic violence and spouse abuse occur unchecked.  This is because we have a hard time seeing “servant” and “leader” in the same sentence.  And yet the reality is that this is the mixture that is the real Jesus.  He led by taking a towel and wrapping himself about, serving his followers the way a slave serves.  Though he’s a bridegroom and longed for intimacy with his people, and yet refused to force himself on them in the name of headship, so wept at the gates of Jerusalem because they wouldn’t let him in.  Every element of his leadership was saturated with submission and servanthood.  Wow!

What if marriages worked that way?  What if pastors led that way?  What if we prayed and confessed that we don’t really understand how to lead and serve at the same time because  the hierarchy embedded in our culture is so strong that we can’t see how to do this, apart from divine revelation?

I’d suggest that we leaders start there, and then take next steps by finding some ways to serve our spouses meaningfully, if we’re married, and our team at work too.  Do you think this would make marriages in the church healthier?  Might churches becomes more joy filled, less fearful?  This has been a profound revelation for me lately, both at work and home.  I’ll have more to say, perhaps, when I’ve walked the road a bit further.  For now, it’s enough to say that I’m tired of the plastic Jesus I’ve fabricated who leads like a tank.  We need to find ways to lead by serving.

Grace and Truth – There are churches that take holiness and transformation seriously, so much so that people are afraid to present their real selves to the community for fear of being viewed as immature, weak, ‘fleshly’, or whatever other derogatory adjective you’d like to choose as the descriptor.  The disconnect in these places is between what people present themselves to be, and who they actually are, and it’s this way because there’s no grace.

There are grace churches that essentially have jettisoned truth by saying, “Come as you are.  Stay as you are.  You’re forgiven; heaven bound.  It’s enough.”  These places too, are conspicuous in their lack of transformation; still drinking too, or too greedy, or too self-absorbed, after 30 years of participation.

What happens though, when grace and truth are brought together, filling the cup that is our life?  For starters, we’ll be free to be authentic with each other and God, knowing that our depths of failure can never diminish the God’s infinite love and acceptance of us.  However, we’ll not feel free to stay where we are.  We’ll embrace the reality that because God loves us infinitely, he is infinitely committed to our transformation.

These mixtures don’t happen with humans at the helm of the ship.  When we’re in control we always drift.  Leadership at the cost of servanthood, truth at the cost of grace.  You get the picture.  And then, boom!  There’s a hole in the hull.

It won’t be fixed by fair trade coffee in the foyer, or better lighting.  For the church to be the church requires letting the real Jesus show up in all his mysterious contradictions.  I can only pray we’ll have courage to move in that direction.

 

 

Finding Hope in the midst of Setbacks

IMG_8258One of the reasons I love living in the mountains is because the weather changes dramatically, almost all the time.  Waking up in the morning is a bit like unwrapping a fresh present each day whose content is utterly unknown.  Will it be like a warm cup of coffee enhanced with the light of a thousand candles and the fragrance of fresh blossoms, or ice, wind, and darkness, stark in its beauty, but hard to handle nonetheless, especially in April.

It turned dark late this past Friday afternoon, and the mixed snow and rain turned to just snow, pure and white, cold in her beauty, relentless in her covering of every fresh blossom of spring.  We watched with a bit of anxiety as the fresh blossoms in the hanging baskets were blanketed in signs of winter, and sat by the window with our relatives from California, watching winter fall from the sky on April 24th.

Saturday morning when we woke everything was under a white blanket as we gathered with our neighbors for our morning walk.  Halfway through the walk, I left them for a run, and by the time I returned, heading east toward my street, there was a blazing sunrise, back lighting the trees like we were in a studio somewhere, only better.

I stopped, overwhelmed by the beauty of it, but not for long, as I finished my run, got my camera and returned, shooting a dozen pictures before the bacon was even in the pan.  Why?  Two reasons:

1. Snow in spring is reminder of how the story ends, and this gives me hope.

There’s enough news of brokenness these days to make our heads spin.  Yemen.  Isis.  Baltimore.  Nepal.  Syria and poisonous gas.  Maybe some can just shut it all out by turning up the baseball game or chatting about their latest investments or a vacation plans to Europe, but I can’t.  Day after day, the avalanche of suffering and death, most of it inflicted on humanity by humanity, leaves me reeling, wondering if these storms won’t in the end, carry the day, the way snow around here usually wins by Thanksgiving, covering everything and hiding all signs of life until sometime around high school graduations.  I wonder if peace will ever happen, if oppression will ever end.

The same thing happens personally sometimes.  There are setbacks.  We break promises made to ourselves, or are suddenly wallowing in the deep freeze of broken relationships, when only a few days earlier we were basking the warmth of the Holy Spirit’s gentle turning of our hearts toward God in some area.  We feel as divided as fresh blossoms blanketed in ice and we wonder.  “Who are we really?  And who are we becoming?”

The good news of the Gospel is that we, along with the whole cosmos, are heading toward an end when everything will be shot through with the glory of God.  All wars will be over.  All relationships will be reconciled.  All diseases will be healed.  Every tear will be dried up.

We know this because Easter is like a fresh blossom in spring, “the first fruits of the resurrection” we’re told.  That means the snows of suffering we see these days whether in Yemen or in our own hearts, are winter’s last gasp.  New Life is inexorably growing and will continue its miraculous and healing work until all things are made new.

If I didn’t believe that, I’d quit my job, never watch the news again, and confine myself to the pure pursuit of pleasure.  Why not, if winter wins in the end?  But of course, winter doesn’t win… so Paul, with promise of eternal spring in mind, reminds us to get on with making springtime visible:  “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…”   This is what gives me hope, what gets me up in the morning, what gives me a love for my calling.

2.  Snow in spring is a reminder that there’ll be storms until the sun reigns completely.

When we walk with our neighbors during these crazy spring snow storms, nobody’s afraid that we’re going to miss summer.  In spite of the thick white everywhere, there’s a quiet confidence in the inevitability of the sun’s power, and this confidence sucks all power out of the storm.  The fear is gone.

You’ve had faith setbacks, relationship setbacks, financial hardships, health challenges.  We all have, in varying measure.  And yet, the reality is that these things aren’t the biggest challenge most of the time.  Most of the time the big challenge is our reaction to these things, and all the drama we bring to the situation.  It’s as if we’re worried that April snow is going to kill God’s love for us, or that this setback will spell the end of our marriage, or this unimaginable loss means there is no God at all.

The truth of the matter, though, is that these are April snow storms.  In spite of the thorough victory acheived at the cross and resurrection, we’re told explicitly that “we do not yet see all things subject to him” which is God’s way of saying that it snows in April, May, even in July and August if you live in the high country of vibrant faith.

You’ll be cold alright.  The ice will inflame your heart with a longing for God’s divine fire.  As a result, precisely because of the storm, you’ll know facets of God’s character you’d never have otherwise seen, and grow in confidence that God’s trajectory is assured, that we are, indeed, moving “from glory to glory”.

Is it snowing in your life just now?  Know that underneath it all, the strong juice of Christ’s resurrection life is working its relentless purposes toward peace, beauty, hope, and joy.

O Lord of all seasons

We thank you for the inevitability of spring, for the hope found in the cycles of renewal that reminds us of where history is heading.  Grant that we might be people of hope in spite of the storms that blast us, knowing that through it all, your life is filling us, changing us, and making us fruitful.

 

 

 

Steps to Peace, Jesus Style (part 2)

IMG_5912When Jesus stood at the outskirts of Jerusalem just before his crucifixion he wept and said regarding the people he loved, “if you knew the things which make for peace…”  but they didn’t.  And we don’t either much of the time.

We know the Bible, the words on scroll, know it like the back of our hands.  But the Bible doesn’t bring peace.  Neither does institutional religion, your 401(k), a great alarm system, life insurance, or enough guns in your house or your government to obliterate every enemy.  Have these things or don’t have them; that’s your call—but know that they’re not what brings peace.

Peace, we saw last time, is a person.  But there’s a bit more to it than that, because we can sit around and read or argue about Jesus all day without enjoying peace.  Some of the most religious people I know, in fact, are some of the most anxious, fearful, argumentative people anywhere.

This is because we all have the need to move beyond some disembodied concept of Jesus into the reality of a mind, heart, and body progressively renewed, liberated, healed, and transformed by the actual presence of the living Christ.  This is what happened to peace people in the Bible, like the woman at the well, and the other one caught in adultery and then freed from the religious talking heads who were ready to kill her.  I don’t need a religious system; I need Christ, the Prince of Peace, changing both the way I view the world and changing me.

Here are more steps forward for those wrestling with anxiety, body image issues, fear of rejection, fear of the future, debilitating anger towards some ‘other’, or a sense of shame with its attendant fear of being discovered:

IMG_6638Believe by faith that Christ is with you.   We’re not talking about trying to conjure up mystical feelings here.  We’re talking about affirming in prayer (whether written or spoken) your belief, by faith, that Christ is with you, living in you, filling you with all he is, so that you might become all you’re created to be.   “Thank you that you live in me” is a great place to start.  This gratitude doesn’t answer every question about evolution, sexual morality, or the causes of human suffering in the world, but the good news is that it doesn’t need to.  If you think waiting ’til you have the world figured out is a precondition for faith or peace, you’ll wait forever to start living outside your head, and doubts, and questions.  If you need help with this, you might consider 02: Breathing New Life into Faith as a resource.

Take comfort in Christ’s presence.  When we were climbing a klettersteig in Austria last summer, a good friend became frightened, then she froze up, afraid to take the next move.  Not only is fear unpleasant; it consumes energy, and quickly her muscles were weakening, further contributing to anxiety, further weakening her body in a downward spiral.  That’s when my mountain guide friend moved to be with her, gave her some encouraging words, and roped her in, tying her directly to himself and assuring her that, even if she fell, she’d be safe.

That, apparently, was all she needed, and soon she was back on the move, confidently climbing the rest of the way to the top.  The assurance of someone who knew the ropes and knew the way was enough.  It was a beautiful picture of Christ who promised to be “with us always, even to the end of the age”.  To the extent that we believe this, the comfort and strength of it become realities.  This isn’t magic; it’s the reality that we find comfort in the strength of the other; parent, mountain guide, protector.  My hope is that you’d be able to discover this aspect of Christ as real, for without it we live as if we’re on our own, like sheep without a shepherd.

Take comfort in the end of the story – We’re in the middle of the story right now, and there are traffic jams and bad medical news, breakups and our own moral failings.  We’re a thick soup of faith and doubt, glory and loss.  Bad news breaks in and our fragile peace evaporates.  This push and shove of doubt and faith, success and failure, horrific evil presenting itself in the world, with infinite love in the midst; all of it can be a bit much at times.  We see both sides, perhaps, but grow tired of evil triumphing o so much of the time.  How can we know peace in a world where hell seems to win so often?

Jesus took comfort in the end of story.  He spoke of the sufferings of this world as birth pains which would eventually give way to full healing.  There are powerful moments in film that capture this well, like reunion scenes in the Lord of the Rings and the Pianist.

God pulls the curtain back on history and shows us a future banquet where there’s great food, peace, and “death swallowed up for all time”.   Every disease is healed, both emotional and physical.  Every war over.  Good food and wine speak of matchless beauty and abundance.

The audacious claim of God is that this is where history is heading.  Believe it or don’t, but without a hope along these lines, I’d be finished.  My world would shrink into the pursuit of trivial pleasures which I’m sure would eventually become addictions and destroy me.  That’s not how everyone would cope, but its how I would.   Bold faith in a better story—that’s what keeps me going.

Thank God there’s a different ending saturated with hope and healing, and a companion whose presence brings wisdom, strength, comfort, a new start in the wake of every failure, and bursts of joy and gratitude that seem to come out of nowhere.  This whole package, I believe, is called peace—and it’s available for those who are willing to learn the reality of Christ’s presence.

Religion is over-rated.  Peace that blossoms out of intimacy with Christ, though, is a different story entirely. 

 

Steps to Peace – Jesus’ style (part 1)

Spoiler alert.  If you don’t know what happens to Jesus after his crucifixion, I’m going to share the punchline in this blog. 

“Peace be to you” says Jesus, standing in the midst of the disciples, in a room with a locked door where he’s suddenly appeared without it opening!  Their stunned silence is understandable.  After all, Jesus, the one upon whom they’d pinned their hopes, the one for whom they’d left everything, the one who they’d betrayed and denied, the one from whom they’d just fled as he hung on a cross, was dead.  Not, “as good as dead”—actually dead, and with that death, so died their hopes and dreams.

All this makes Jesus’ next line even funnier to me, when he responds to their stunned silence with “why are you troubled?” as if they should have seen this whole narrative coming from day one, since he’d talked about his death and resurrection explicitly a few times and implicitly dozens of times.  Still, somehow they missed it, and so Jesus’ words are much needed in the moment there in that room where it was slowly dawning on them that the whole course of history, not to mention their own lives, was about to change.

“Peace” and “Don’t be troubled” are his words to these anxious, troubled people, and they are just as significantly, words for us too, here and now in our troubles and anxieties.

Iran?  Isis?  Nigeria?  Syria?  Yemen?  Black lives that matter?   Policemen that are dead?  Denominations that are in turmoil?

State rights?  Individual rights?  Health care?  Your rights?  Wall Street’s rights?  Workers rights?  Your relationships with children, parents, spouse?

“My God, what are we doing to each other?” is the only prayer some people know how to pray these days, and it’s really nothing more than a prayer for peace, because underneath it is the profound realization that things are broken and breaking, falling faster and harder than we’ve seen before.

Jesus, though, doesn’t bust out of tomb riding a white horse, raising hell, killing his enemies, and setting up shop as the newest savior, like Alexander the Great would, or V. Lenin, or Mao, or Pol Pot, or even George Washington, or some power hungry pope, or Luther or Calvin.  Instead he appears in a room with his closest friends, folk who’ve doubted, denied him, and functioned as largely clueless, fickle devotees, and offers his peace to them.

This revolution, unlike all others in history, unfolds from the inside out, beginning with the transformation of human hearts from anxious, fearful, and angry—to this state of peace.  Wow!  Are you interested in that offer?  Me too.

I’m not able to fix this broken world, but I can become a person of peace in the midst of it all, and that will make a difference, not only in me, but in those I touch.  Thankfully there are steps we can take to become people of peace, right here and now.  I share the first step here, and next steps this coming weekend:

Step One: Peace is, first of all, a person.  “He himself is our peace” is what Paul says, and he goes on to talk about how the reality of Christ in one’s life will lead to the breaking down of dividing walls, because by his very nature, Christ’s heart is for reconciliation and shalom (peace) among people.  If Christ lives in me, the tidal movement of my life will be toward unifying not dividing.

“Really?” says the thoughtful person who knows a bit of church history.  “What about Rwanda, or the Christian settler’s treatment of American Indians, or slavery, or culture wars that push people to the margins of society, or doctrinal wars that so fracture the church and fill it with hurtful words that people on the outside want nothing to do with her?  What about the 30 year war in Europe, or the Protestant’s treatment of the radical reformers, or… I could go on for a thousand words, but you get the point.

To say that God’s people are people of peace is absurd.

Ah, but Jesus knew that there was a profound difference between being religious and being people of peace.  The former draw lines and rely heavily on exclusionary and dualistic language: in/out, saved/lost, right/wrong, civilized/savage, black/white and the way this plays out often gets ugly and violent.  This was the way the disciples had been brought up.  It’s the usual way for most of us, religious or not.  That’s why Jesus’ disciples wanted to reign fire down on that village where people weren’t believing.  It’s why they were so excited on Palm Sunday, as they believed that finally Jesus was going to exercise his divine right to bear arms, destroy the Roman violence machine by violence, and finally win this simmering war.

It’s also why Jesus wept over Jerusalem, saying “if only you’d known the things that make for peace” —but they didn’t.  They knew dualistic thinking.  They knew how to win by making the other guy lose.  They knew about the peace of Rome, which was a peace rooted in fear and violence.  They wanted the peace of Rome to become the peace of Israel, still rooted in fear, but with the shoe on the other foot.

Jesus would have none of it.  He’s into breaking down dividing walls and bringing people together.  He’s into serving, even his enemies.  He’s into going the second mile, and truth telling, but truth telling  bathed in love and a commitment as far as possible, to redeeming the relationship.  He’s so into peace, that when his disciple Peter cut a soldier’s ear off, rather than teaching Peter better swordsmanship, he tells him to put the sword away, and heals the guy’s ear.  He even makes it clear that overcoming violence with violence is not a great idea. 

He wins the peace, breaks down the walls, defeats the forces of evil with the most revolutionary weapon known to humanity—infinite love.  “While we were still enemies… Christ died.” 

You want peace?  It starts by yoking yourself with the Prince of Peace.  But be careful,  You’ll find yourself going to parties with people you didn’t think you’d like, visiting seniors who are lonely, and sharing a drink with someone whose theology is, by your standards at least, “off”.  You’ll find yourself looking for ways to bless those around with little thought of whether they’re ‘worthy’, agree with you, or even like you.  Your fear will be melting away like a spring thaw.  Love will blossom.  And the tomb that held your bitterness, rancor, and pride, especially your religious pride—well you’ll wake up one Sunday spring morning and find it:  empty.

Peace.  Don’t let your hearts be troubled.

Happy Easter…

Revival Story… My Loss and Recovery of Love

IMG_6668I didn’t even know I’d lost anything.  This is a hazard of business maybe.  We handle “God stuff” all the time, planning weddings, funerals, details, staffing issues, budgets, parking hassles with neighbors, potentially divisive theological issues bubbling under the surface, meetings, more meetings, and a few more meetings after that.  In the midst of all that there are sermons to prepare, preaching to do, young pastors to equip through one-on-one and group meetings.  It’s all there, but for any of these elements to have real meaning, they need to be infused with the grace and peace of Christ, as if Christ himself is in the midst of the decision, encounter, transaction, meeting.

Truth be told though, the ocean of details can conspire with my own Type A personality and propensity to get anxious about stuff, and “Poof!”—I’m still doing all the stuff, but Christ and his peace are no longer in my sense of reality, having been displaced by that worst of all things: religious professionalism.  The slide into this territory is so subtle you don’t even notice it, because the words don’t change a bit—you still sound as holy as ever to onlookers, and so you actually begin to believe it, approval addict that you are.

Until somebody notices, and calls you out on it.

The Sunday I arrived home from Sabbatical last October, someone in our church approached me and told me I looked “ten years younger” and I hugged her, of course believing that she had the gift of discernment and truth telling!  I felt it too, rested, at peace, in love with Christ.

FAST FORWARD to last Sunday. 

The same woman approached me and said, “Can I pray for you?  You look absolutely spent, and exhausted.”  I told her I was fine, but underneath the surface of propriety, the truth was that her words were as accurate then as they were last October, and I knew it; knew that something wasn’t working right; knew that I was running on fumes.  In her few pointed but accurate words, she’d ripped the veil off that I’d been wearing so skillfully—that of a religious pro who knows the words, but is, in the moment, experiencing nothing of the reality, knowing instead the companionship of anxiety and hurry, restlessness and frustration.  I’d known it, but as long as I could keep all the balls in play in this pinball machine that had become my life, nobody would know how hollow I was.  Thank God someone saw, and said, and prayed.

STEPS BACK

Meditation:  After preaching for the 4th time that Sunday, I went home and pulled a book off my shelf I’d not looked at since about 1997.  I’d first picked it up when I’d visited a convent for a personal retreat, and poured my heart out to a nun, also the librarian of the convent.  She’d recommended it, and I’d read it there, and later bought it.  It’s a book about meditation, and I hesitate to share it because so many Christ followers will be afraid of it, in spite of the fact that we’re invited to “pray without ceasing” and “meditate” on God’s word so that it saturates our being.

Anyway, this book recommends sitting quietly and praying The Lord’s Prayer, or the 23rd Psalm,  or the Prayer of St. Francis, slowly, over and over again, for a period of time each morning and evening.  I started doing that, immediately that night, and then again  in the morning and evening ever since.

I can’t even begin to describe the renewed sense of peace, and awareness of the reality that Christ lives in me, with me, loves me, is for me, has called me to shine as light and given me all I need to do that, will never leave me, and (o so marvelous) has called me to peace.

I’ve known these truths in reality, but lately they’d become words for others more than a central reality in my daily experience.  Now, once again, having made a high priority of taking time to prayerfully mediate on God’s truth each morning and evening, I’ve begun to enjoy the reality of Christ’s presence in my actual living.

There’s a greater sense of peace, by the way, when driving, speaking, leading meetings.  I’m far from ‘at rest’, but utterly confident I’m on the right road, and can only pray and hope for the same for all who suffer from anxiety, fear, emptiness, boredom—in spite of being full of ‘God words’.

Gratitude:  In the wake of this new habit, a sense of profound gratitude and appreciation began growing in my moment by moment living.  I’ll be listening to some music and it will remind me of days in the past when I wrote books in a log cabin—simpler days, when I led a smaller church.  Rather than looking back wistfully though, my heart these days is filled with profound joy for the memories and privileges of the past.  Today is today—and God will give us what we need for it; but one of the things we need is a sense of gratitude for the good gifts in our past.

The other peace of gratitude has to do with a fresh sense of seeing creation and being overwhelmed with joy simply by watching the rain fall from the sky, or seeing the clouds change color in the sunset.  Yesterday I spent the day splitting and stacking wood with my wife, and we both commented on how delightful it is that we find joy anytime we can be in the midst of God’s beautiful creation.  The cathedral of God’s stunning creation is better than anything for both of us, and we like it that way!

Presence:  I’m preaching a bit about this tomorrow, but looking back, I can see how easily I slipped into losing the present moment to either past regrets or (especially) future worries.  Somehow, renewal brings with it the capacity to live more in this actual moment.   One of the highest forms of generosity you can offer another is the gift of your absolute attention.  I’m often terrible at this, but am aware that, to the extent that Christ is given freedom to express life through us, it will present, not in scattered attention, listening with one ear, while our other senses are watching our phones, or our brains are elsewhere in the future, or the other room.  Rather, we’ll be all there.

Contentment:  Finally, as ridiculous as it sounds, this little film of a skier and his dog reminded me that we’re made for fellowship:  with God, with God’s creation, with others.  People and creation itself aren’t commodities to be used for our pleasure or purposes—rather, they’re gifts to be cherished, loved, and enjoyed.

If you’re in need of renewal, I hope these principles help you forward.  May you know the peace of Christ, not as a theory, but as a reality—before this very day is over.

Good Leadership: “Reserve Capacity” and 3 ways to develop it

Leadership, which is code for parenting, teaching, working with anyone as a catalyst to get things accomplished, requires the development and nurture of several key qualities which I hope to look at in the coming few weeks.  This, the first in a series, is about developing “reserve capacity”, because without it, our leadership will crash in a crisis every time!  The exhausted parent will lash at the kids, or totally withdraw.  The “at wits end” boss will throw a tantrum creating a loss of trust that might take months to recover.  The overwhelmed teacher, will turn to something unhealthy to keep going, over caffeinating, over drinking, over eating, over something.  Then, in two years, they’re gone, having lost sight of their calling because of a failure to have reserve capacity.

What is reserve capacity and how is it developed?  Read on:

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5)  The imagery is obvious.  Here’s a guy running with other men, which represents you and I living our lives on normal days, when there’s no significant or memorable challenges.  These days, like good officiating in football, are memorable for their forgetfulness.  A round of meetings, or taxi service for the kids.  Cooking, cleaning, jogging, maybe some ethnic food at home.  All in all though, nothing special.  We all have these days, but don’t all pull these days off with the same amount of peace and grace. 

Jeremiah’s saying that when the normal days wear you out, that’s a sign of trouble; a way of saying that if you don’t change the way you think, or live, or cope, there’ll be trouble further down the road.  If you’re exhausted by normal, says Jeremiah, “What are you going to do when all hell breaks loose?”  It’s a good question but rhetorical, because Jeremiah doesn’t want you to stroke your chin and think for a moment before saying, “Who knows?  We’ll just have to wait and see won’t we!”  No.  Jeremiah’s saying that if “normal” is hard, hard will mean meltdown.

So now, while things are normal, you need to live differently.  You need to develop “reserve capacity”.  The term comes from a health guy I like who posits that it’s loss of ‘organ reserve’ that inevitably leads to death, even for the healthiest of us.  When we’re young we have reserves.  We can eat 2 large pizzas, climb a mountain on Saturday night, and preach Sunday, not thinking a thing of it.  Aging though, diminishes lung, liver, muscle, joint, heart, capacity and with less reserve—less capacity to absorb the stresses means less reserve.  With less reserve, the extra challenges lead to breakdown.

In other words, when it’s time to race the horses, how do you think you’ll do, if the everyday “normal” of your life is exhausting?  You need to develop reserve capacity.  How do you do that?

1. Kill the energy suckers.  We live inside our heads a lot, and when things are going smoothly, the brain is prone to welcome some toxic ghosts who’ll settle in and ruin your day, not with what is, but with what might be and what was.  Your worry and fear about tomorrow is sucking you dry.  All those ‘what ifs’ can steal your reserve at every level; body, soul, spirit.  You’ll feel it in your pulse, blood pressure, sleep habits, sense of well being and joy; all of these will be compromised when you let the ghosts settle in and poison your mind with worries.

I find that breathing deeply and praying while doing so, receiving the peace of Christ in faithful gratitude, is terribly effective in evicting the ghosts.  Try it sometime!

2. Manage the adrenaline – Question: “What’s Jesus doing sleeping in the boat when there’s a big storm happening?”  Answer:  “He’s showing us how to not panic” and this is good because adrenaline is a hormone in your body that’s there to give you extra strength in short bursts.  It’s for that time when there’s an automobile accident, but not for all the time spent in traffic.  It’s for the moment in rock climbing when you’re making a crux move, but not for the whole approach hike.  It is, in other words, for David when he meets Goliath, but not for your next staff meeting.

We’d do well to de-escalate the stakes in most of our daily experiences so that we don’t send a bunch of adrenaline into our bodies, because the truth is we’ll need that kind of strength, focus, awareness later—best to save it for then.

When I feel the surge of adrenaline coming on, my best response is to breathe deep, look around, practice a little gratitude as I see a tree in bloom, or remember that I even own a car and that’s why I’m stuck in traffic.  The little change of perspective sends adrenaline back to it’s cave, reserved for another more appropriate time.

3.  Remember the end.  The intent of terror is to fill you with fear because fear will paralyze you, draining you of your reserves, and preventing you from fulfilling your calling.  A little perspective, though, can help.  Ecclesiastes 7:10 says, “do not say, ‘why is it that the former days were better than these?’ for it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”  Don’t fret, in other words, about how bad things have become.  It changes nothing with respect to your calling to be light, and salt, and joy, and hope.  Get on with it.

What’s more, it helps me immensely to have a strong faith and belief regarding the trajectory of history.  I believe that the end of the story has all disease healed, all wars ended, all evil vanquished, and everything in the universe saturated with the beauty of Christ.  That’s how our good friend could say:  “All’s well.  All shall be well.  And all manner of things shall be well.”

People who actually believe that live well, serve well, sleep well.  And when the horses show up they’ll say:  “Bring it on! I’m ready.”

 

 

 

Setting Your Sights Higher: Why “Right Intentions” Matter so much

 “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance.  Moses alone, however, shall come near to the Lord, but they shall not come near, nor shall the people come up with him.”  Exodus 24:1,2

When climbers are headed up to Mt. Rainier through the Camp Muir route, they start in the parking lot of a place called “Paradise” which is the highest point to which one can drive in this beautiful national park.  This turns Paradise, at any given moments, into a weird mix of highly skilled mountaineers, beginners who are hoping to make it to the summit, and masses of people who will never leave the paved paths, ever, as long as they live.  They’re decked out in L.L. Bean’s newest and best, or REI tech gear, or whatever, slurping ice cream in the parking lot.  They’re peering through those coin operated telescopes to get a glimpse of the glacier before snapping a selfie with the imposing massif in the background, and calling it their “outdoor challenge for the year”.

The climbers are in the mix with the masses, but not for long.  They get their permit from a little office, use the bathroom, maybe grab one last taste of actual food for a few days, and that’s it, they’re gone, headed up for the summit.  When the paved path ends, the tourists turn around, while the rest step onto actual soil, and eventually snow, pressing onward, upward.  Even among the climbers, not everyone will continue to the top.  Camp Muir, at 10,400’ is the next common drop out point, as the realities of altitude sickness, sunburn, loss of appetite, cold, thirst, nausea, or any other number of factors will lead yet another group to say “far enough”.

Finally, there will be those who leave base camp the next morning with every intention of summiting.  They thought they’d prepared well enough, thought that riding their bicycle to work and doing the “7 minute workout” app on their phone twice a week would adequately prepare them for carrying 40 pounds on their back up one and a half vertical miles of snow, rock, and ice, into the thin air above treeline, where rockfall, avalanches, and crevasses hidden in the glaciers present a large menu of ways to die.  Somewhere before the summit they say, “this is good enough for me!” and either descend or stay put and wait for their group to go up and then join them on their descent.  The herd self selects out of further progress until only the best prepared, most courageous, and most diligent, make it to the top.

When God’s about to give the law to Israel as a centerpiece of establishing the new nation, a similar culling of the herd occurs.  God sets a boundary around the mountain and invites only Moses and his key leaders to ascend beyond the parking lot.  Then, beyond the high base camp, it’s to be only Moses.  Though he takes his successor, named Joshua, with him some distance, there’s no indication that Joshua summits.  At the top it’s Moses.  Alone with God.

In this story God’s the one who sets the boundaries around the mountain and keeps people away.  There are reasons for that, in that time and place, but they don’t apply to us (as I’ll write about in the forthcoming book, of which this post is a part).

We’re living in a time when summiting the pinnacle of intimacy with God is available to everyone because the barriers to the summit were annihilated at the cross.  Still, the same Christ who broke down the barriers said that the road to the summit is narrow (ref) and, like Mt. Rainier, there are few who actually find it.  There’s a parking lot filled with religion.  Jesus stickers and t-shirts are for sale, and lots people looking “a couple dollar’s worth of God”.  The parking lot is the Sunday meeting, and there are folks there for the photo ops and real estate contacts.  If there’s a little entertainment or even a dose of conviction along the way, so be it.  But they’ve not intention of going farther.  Others will hit the trail until the pavement ends.  Some fewer will keep going a bit further, until there’s more hard stuff than joyful stuff, at which point they turn around, in search of safety, predictability, warmth.

If Christ’s blown up the barriers to the summit, then what’s holding anyone back?  The answer can be found by switching metaphors, because a quick glance at Jesus’ parable of the seed and sower explains why “some seeds don’t produce fruit”, which is the same thing, metaphorically, as not reaching the summit.  And what are the reasons?  O you know; the usual suspects: affliction, worry, the lying seductions of wealth.  There are, in other words, lots of reasons to descend to the parking lot of religious carnivals.

“Up” is about the pursuit of intimacy with God, about Christ becoming, in real ways, a friend, companion, lover even, in the daily stuff of living.  Getting there, Jesus is saying, doesn’t happen by accident, any more than you wake up one morning having run a marathon, or summiting Rainier.  It requires intentionality, prioritizing, and pressing on toward the goal when others stop.  It requires shedding stuff, so that by the end, there’s one true pursuit to which all other pursuits give way.

“Right Intentions” is the starting point: the way of fruitful discipleship.  Making intimacy with Christ your summit goal will be simple because you need to travel light if you’re going to travel at all.  It will be hard because it requires letting go of stuff the majority carry with them daily, stuff like self-medicating when disappointed, and being defined by consumerism and what we own, and feeding on a diet of entertainment rather than creativity.  It’s beautiful because the glory of meeting Christ in thin and unpolluted air will ravish you.  It’s ugly because you want to quit due to pain, more than once.

Where on this mountain called discipleship, are you headed?  If it’s the summit of intimacy, know that it takes more than the right gear.  It takes traveling light, endurance, and a hunger for the summit of knowing Christ like a lover.  Who’s in?  The rest of you?  Enjoy the telescopes and ice-cream.  I’ll see you later.

O God of the summit invitation

Thank you for inviting us to ascend utterly.  Stir in our hearts a discontent for the tourist faith that’s commonplace, where signing a card and signing a song, substitute for radical discipleship.  Fill us with a longing for the summit instead, and teach us to travel light, shedding the fears, bitterness, lusts, and attachments that the whole world seems to carry on its collective back this days.  When we tire, give us the grace to take next steps, and rest, and celebrate beauty.  But may we never, ever turn back short of knowing you fully.  

Amen.  

5 Sentences: The Wisest Advice I’ve ever Received

five wordsIn the avalanche of words that constitute our lives, I hope that for each of us there are particular conversations and moments that stand out as especially meaningful.  Such words remain, long after the vast majority have evaporated, and they remain for good reason.  They’re life giving, and wise.  Here are five sentences filled with wisdom that I’ve received over the years, offered in hopes that they’ll be helpful to you as well.  Enjoy!

1. Make knowing God the number one priority in your life. This was the word spoken to me from Jeremiah 9 when I was 20 years old and I realized at the moment that “knowing God” was at best, a peripheral pursuit in my life, far behind vocational aspirations, financial security, and having a little bit of fun.  I was not only convicted by the truth of Jeremiah’s words, but I was drawn by their simplicity.  In a world where I’m constantly being told to readjust my priorities to include P90X, wise investing, taking a cruise, losing weight, getting an advanced degree, finding cheaper insurance, avoiding cancer, finding my calling, protecting my identity from thieves, and about a thousand other things, the notion that the deepest joy in life can come from simply enjoying intimacy with my creator was stunningly beautiful.  I’ve since come to see that truth in many texts, and have experienced the bliss, at my best, of knowing “the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ”.  This is the North Star to which I return over and over again.

2. Everyone knows how rotten they are – they need to know how gifted and loved they are.  My friend Jim said this while I was in architecture school, and he practiced it too.  I was a wreck at the time, body, soul, and spirit—and yet felt encouraged and affirmed by this wild eyed Jesus fanatic who also happened to be a great architecture student.  But what struck me most about him was his real, demonstrable knack for encouraging and loving people.  When I asked him about it one day, he said this;  “People know their own shortcomings, but need to know they’re loved.”  At my best, I seek to remind people of this too.  At my worst, I default, not to hyper criticism, but benign neglect, which might even be worse!

3. When you have too much to do and you’re overwhelmed – remember to let the peace of Christ reign in the moment. Breathe deeply.  Do the next thing.  This word comes from Elisabeth Elliot, wife of martyred missionary Jim Elliot.  She no doubt faced an ocean of suffering and questions after her husband’s untimely death at the hands of the Auca Indians, and yet she managed to keep her wits.  Eventually she would return to minister among the very tribe that killed her husband, and after that, return to Wheaton College with the newly saved man who was the killer.  He stood in chapel at Wheaton and declared himself as a Christ follower because of this woman’s faithfulness.  That faithfulness was micro, step by step, in the wake of loss.  All those little steps built a life.  Nothing’s changed since then.  Books are written a word at a time, churches built a sermon, prayer, visit at a time; children raised, a meal, bedtime story, teachable moment at a time. The good life is neither microwavable nor achievable without a million “next things” being done—step by step.

4. If you have a million dollars, but you don’t have a leader, you don’t have anything. If you have a leader and a nickel… you have a significant future. Ray Harrison, founder of the  International Needs ministry our church supports, told me this in response to my question: “When people give you unrestricted funds, how do you decide what to do with them?”  His answer: “Invest in good leaders, because…” and then he said what I wrote above.  The word has served me well in my own leadership role, and has been confirmed time and again.  A good leader will be exerting influence even without money or a title and so, ironically, will likely gain both.

5. Take care of your whole self. You are body, soul, spirit. In all three areas, rest, exercise, and what you eat, matter.  This comes from my friend who runs a Bible based wilderness program in Austria where I teach, and from I Thessalonians 5, where Paul prays that we’d all prosper in all three areas.  I’ve come to see that my life is an eco-system and that body neglect will affect my spiritual life just as spirit neglect will harm my body.  As a result, I try to get enough sleep and also spend time “letting the peace of Christ” rule in my heart.  I try to eat good food, and ingest healthy reading material for spirit and soul as well.  Whole life discipleship is the only kind of discipleship worth pursuing.

It’s an overwhelming world at times, and this is why the wisdom that’s risen to the top like cream and stayed there, is so very important.  We’re at risk in a world where anchors are disappearing daily, of being tossed around, squandering the precious gift of our daily lives because we just don’t know what to do next.  But these words have anchored me more than once, and so I’ll be forever grateful for those folk who spoke them and lived them.

Moving towards wholeness and hope – step by step