"Holy Week is when the s#*! hits the fan," a pastor and friend told me. It was not a gratuitous application of a cuss word. He was strategic in his use of a vulgar reference. From a pastoral perspective, it always seems that Lent and Holy Week come with an increase of funerals, crises, and tragedies.
In our church, Holy Week has come with plenty to hit the fan. My colleagues and I are responding to multiple traumas (on top of 14 services). A man in hospice care is breathing final breathes. A young father died of cancer, leaving a wife and two girls. A member was murdered over the weekend, her family left in shock and misery. A young man is in significant legal trouble. Add to these the list of ongoing issues: divorce, troubled youth, addiction, kids without a dad, unemployment . . .
You should never pray the Lord’s Prayer without considering what you're asking. It’s the most dangerous prayer you can pray.
Consider “Thy will be done.” Jesus prayed this in a dark night of agony in a garden called Gethsemane. Staring down the danger of devil and death, he fell to his knees and pleaded, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
We often pray, “God, I want this . . . Now help me get it.” Jesus’ prayer is the opposite, “Father, not what I want. What do you want? You have your way. That’s what I want.”
“Thy will be done.” It’s a most dangerous prayer because Jesus prayed it and it got him killed.
One year ago I was nearing the end of writing a book. I had invested 500 hours into it, and I was about to scrap the whole thing.
I took out a loan for $12,000 to self-publish. I was afraid of the debt.
I was weary after months of writing in the dark hours of the early morning.
I suffered from self-doubt. "It isn't really that good. No one will read it."
I felt naked with the choice to be transparent in my story-telling.
I had writer's block near the end. I couldn't find an effective conclusion.
It was like standing at the end of a dock on a lake. Should I jump in? The water is so cold. I was about to hit "delete" on the whole project. But first, I went for a walk. And the words on this note card came to me.
With these words, I was possessed. I had to keep going. This line became my prayer for the remainder of the process: "Lord, I'll just keep writing and trust that you will give the words."
So I jumped. Writing became an exercise of faith. To leap without knowing where I'd land. To walk without being certain of the path.
Today, I'm approaching 5,000 copies distributed. For a little self-published book, all expectations have been exceeded.
Every week, I hear from strangers around the country. Loved & Sent is being used in small groups and book clubs. For leadership development, new member classes, and sermon series. See a list of churches and organizations here.
The book has been used to raise thousands of dollars for causes. An immigrant and refugee agency. An urban after-school ministry. Christian Camps.
A pastor in Wisconsin wrote me, “I gave gave the book to a truck driver that kept coming to me with questions. I encouraged him to read it. After the chapter on grace, he asked me about baptism. He was baptized last Saturday night.”
What's your dock? Is it time to leap? Why aren't you jumping?
"Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first."
"Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light; faith's rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her great Guide." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Major props to these people for their love and encouragement.
"The road may be foggy, but trust there is a road."
I've been on numerous boards and committees that have engaged in the strategic planning process. I have enjoyed the analysis and assessment, collaboration and discussion. Personally and professionally, planning is a good thing.
But I have found one problem:
The best things in my life have been unplanned.
The woman I married.
The city I reside in.
The job I have.
The house I live in.
Did you give something up for Lent? Why? Why not?
I find it amusing when people give up things that are entirely trivial. Chocolate. Soda. Snacks. Coffee . . . Now, wait. Caffeine might be more than trivial.
You don't have to give up anything for Lent. There's no biblical command to fast. But if you do, make sure it's significant, and make sure it's for good reason. Below are four reasons to fast.
Is it worth all the work?
How much difference does it make?
He's discouraged as his church continues to decline.
She's frustrated by the people she helped; they returned her generosity with resentment.
He poured his heart out for a friend in need and it seemed to make no difference.
What do you do when you want to quit?
The older I get, the more I’m tempted. Tempted to be:
I have to admit, the more I mature, the harder it is for me to worship. To trust. To pray.
Today I have more control over my life than I’ve ever had. I have more financial security. More independence. More freedom to make my own decisions and choices. But with more control comes more temptation. The temptation of power and pride. The temptation that I can do it on my own. The temptation that I don’t really need God.
The older I get, I sense God calling me to be younger.
Here's my audacious goal: By the end of this post, you will be younger.
There is a beginning and an end for everyone.
May I be faithful in the span between.
Not successful or spectacular.
Not popular or wealthy.
There is not enough time to meet all of the demands.
You wonder if this is what burnout is.
We think that the answer to being overwhelmed is better productivity. Find the best "life-hack" blog. But there's a secret weapon that very few are talking about. Instead of being more productive, be less.
Instead of adding things, subtract some.
There's a spiritual discipline formed around this philosophy. Fasting. And it's not just about food. Here are four "fasts" to use when life is overwhelming.
My 10-year-old daughter surprised me with a simple question. We were driving to church when she asked why we celebrate Easter year after year. It wasn't a rebellious question, rather a curious one. "It's the same story every year. If we know it already, why do we do it again and again?"
It seems a simple and practical inquiry. Why keep doing something if we seem to "get it already?" In our school systems, after you master one lesson, you move on to the next. This could be applied to Christmas as well. Or for that matter, weekly worship.
Why do we keep gathering around the same old story again and again? I've heard: