Archive for May, 2016

Psalm 27:8 “My heart says of you “Seek His face! “  Your face, LORD, I will seek”.

Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

Today we begin a 9 day road trip down the West Coast from Seattle to San Francisco.  We actually made it to Tacoma last night.  As with most of our adventures I am anxious to get started. I am ready to rush out and conquer the trip. Too often I slip into the attitude of a “task to be quickly dispatched” rather than “a good meal to be savored.” We head to Seaside, Oregon from Tacoma today. Along the way we will visit Cape Disappointment, Washington. Now if you’re like Lisa you just scrunched up your face and thought “Disappointment? Why do they call it that? And who wants to begin with disappointment? “

It’s funny but I never even considered the odd name until Lisa posed the question last night. I popped out the first logical thing that came to mind. “Because a lot of ship wrecks have happened here which is a very disappointing thing.”  She believed me. I hope I’m correct and we’ll try to find the answer.

As I sit here I realize that a lot of people seem to live in perpetual disappointment. I think of Eeyore, the donkey character from Winnie the Pooh. For Eeyore life is a perpetual grey. Eeyore lives in the same world as the ever optimistic Pooh, but their comprehension of that world couldn’t be more different.

I believe that’s a truth that makes the admonition from today’s scripture so powerful. I could follow through with my first inclination to rush through the day ticking off tasks.  But unmet expectations, detours, and changes could easily cause me to miss the Cape and just end up at disappointment.

When we seek the LORD first and we wait for Him, He meets us and He transforms us. Instead of our goal being a completed task list by days end, it becomes the sacred journey with Him and the people He places in our path.

And that my friend is the journey I want to take.

All of you on this trip with us are special friends and family. We love you and we are so thankful you are in our lives. I hope (and pray) that what we share will make you laugh, smile, think, and perhaps touch your heart.


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I saw a very familiar scripture in an entirely new way the other day.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say I saw it with an entirely new emphasis.  Matthew 11:28-30 is one of my favorites.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Whenever I read this previously my focus had been on gaining rest or help with the challenges and burdens of life.  I had always skimmed over the “take my yoke” part, accepting that this meant to be a believer.

Well, that changed last Friday.  I was worshipping the Lord and seeking His guidance for a word of exhortation I was to give.  As I sensed the Lord calling me to a place of holy listening, I became aware of a song playing that simply repeated this scripture.  Somehow it seemed like the volume increased whenever the yoke was mentioned.  As I prayed and pondered several thoughts came together which I share with you today.

First off, what is a yoke?  For many today the agrarian imagery that Jesus used may not be as familiar as it was to His 1st century listeners.  A yoke is a type of harness used to hitch a beast of burden to a load of some sort.  The burden could be a cart, something with wheels, or it might be a plow or harrow – devices used in breaking up ground.  In addition to connecting to a load the yoke connected a pair or team of oxen or similar to one another so they would pull as a team.  Finally the yoke provided a means for a driver to guide and direct the beast or team of beasts.

This scripture has a progression to it.  It begins with coming to Jesus.  For most of us this occurs when we get to the end of ourselves, a condition usually resulting in being weary and burdened.  When we come to Jesus He immediately gives us a measure of tangible rest and peace.  I remember this well and it was such a wonderful place to be, standing in stark contrast to the turmoil and difficulties of striving to do life in my own strength.  Today, I can look back and say that this was merely an initial deposit.  God has so much more in mind for each of His children if we but dive deeper into Him.  Hence the progression continues.

The next step is a big one – Take My Yoke upon you.  This is an invitation into the deepest, most amazing, most fulfilling journey this life offers.  However Jesus leaves the decision up to us whether to slip ourselves into the yoke.  As the description of a yoke above mentions this yoke will harness us to the work Jesus has planned for us.  In some instances it will connect us with others pulling in the same direction, lifting the same load.  It also provides a means for Jesus to lead and direct us.  All of these things play out in taking Jesus’ yoke upon us.

One of the greatest benefits of wearing Jesus’ yoke is that we become pupils of the Master.  Jesus says, “learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…”  There are many, many things He will teach us and I am convinced that for each one of us He knows us well enough to teach us in exactly the manner we need for exactly the work He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).  But this scripture points to a universal “learning” when Jesus alludes to two of His character traits that we are to emulate – gentle and humble in heart.  Being fitted into Jesus’ harness will cultivate gentleness and humility that blesses those the Lord sends us to and opens doors to being Jesus’ hands and feet.

As we willingly wear the yoke we will find the character of Jesus being created in us.  By His Holy Spirit we are transformed into the faith-filled followers we were created to be.  And the rest we were given when we first came to Him becomes a soul-satisfying, deep and abiding “rest for your souls”.  It is as different in scale as a spring rain is from a raging hurricane.

It is at this point that we realize the Lord has given us work which we have accomplished without fanfare and seemingly without extraordinary effort on our part.  Yet these things are well beyond what we could have envisioned from the outset.  Following the Lord, doing the work He gives us – making disciples, caring for the hurting and sorrowful, meeting the needs of those in want, encouraging the fainthearted, preaching the Word, living a life that rejects sin, but embraces the sinner with Christ’s love – these tasks, these burdens become lightly carried, yet effectively accomplished.

This scripture offers us rest, but it offers so much more.  Life as a Jesus-follower is a life of growth and constant transformation.  Where He will take us is beyond our comprehension, but it is also good beyond comparison.

Be blessed today and allow the Lord to bless through you as you take on His yoke and live.

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The Lord knows what we need.  He always, always does.  The real question is do we respond when He says, “Let Me give you what you need.”

This week marks my 10th straight week of travel for work.  I signed up for it.  Actually I like to see new places, meet new people, tackle new challenges.  But 10 weeks is a long time to be away.  A few weeks ago the Father brought me to one of those – “Let Me give you what you need” moments.  It was a tremendous encouragement to me.  But over the past few days I have realized the message of that moment was given not just for me, but to be shared with others.

It started on a Friday night.  I had traveled all week.  My wife and I sat down together and watched a melodrama we like called “Heartland”.  We watched three episodes and to be quite honest with you, I was upset with the amount of drama going on in the characters lives as I went to sleep.  Now I know it is bit silly to get emotionally invested in fictional characters on a TV show, but what was happening wasn’t totally fiction.  You see I know people who are hurting just like those characters.  I also love people who can’t seem to consistently make wise decisions and that hurts me too.  I cannot unplug from the problems of the people around me and the show that evening touched a resonant chord in me.

After a restless night of waking, praying, dosing off for a few minutes only to wake and begin praying again, I finally fell asleep around 5.  I woke at 7 with a start.  It was like I was shaken awake.  And I immediately sensed the Lord whisper in my spirit, “Come let Me kiss you.”  I have three grandchildren and they know me as Papi.  When they come over, particularly if we have been apart for a while, the homecoming has plenty of hugs and kisses.  It was with that same sense of excitement that I got up and slipped into the front of the house.

I left our dark bedroom, slipped through the lighter kitchen and into the living room.  When I turned toward the east facing front of the house, the brilliant sunshine reflecting off the china cabinet struck me with tangible force.  I was drawn to it.  As I stepped into the warmth of the sunshine I felt the Lord embrace me and I knew the reality of the Father holding his child, me, and giving him a kiss of pure love.  I don’t know how long I stood there just soaking up the Lord’s gracious love.  After some minutes, I started making a circuit back into the darkened kitchen and back into the light.  For six or seven circuits I would just stop and soak in the sunshine and the Father’s assurance of His love for me.

After some time, I found myself just staring out the back of the house to where the sun’s rays were turning the early spring morning into one of golden clarity.  And the Lord spoke one more time.  “I am not through with you.  The best is yet to come!”

That, my friends is a balm for a road-weary soul.  That is a promise I can and will hold on to.  That is a promise for everyone who puts their trust in Jesus and then pursues Him with all their heart.  He wants to be found by us.  He desires to fill us with good things.  He will transform our heart to become more and more like His heart if we diligently seek Him.

And God, my God is new every day.  The creator of the universe is able to do abundantly, amazingly more in and through us than we can possibly imagine.  All He is asking is for us to take our Next Step with Him.

To reach out when He whispers, “Say hello to that person.”

To take the time to listen in love to that hard-to-love person God has put in your life.

To read His Word because you realize it contains the Word and words of life.

To be the spouse you know God is calling you to be.

To live a prayerful life even when busy-ness threatens to overtake you.

To slip out of bed when He says, “Come let Me kiss you.”


Be blessed my friend and realize you are the blessing God wants to bring into someone’s life today.

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Wild flowers from "seeds you planted"

Wild flowers from “seeds you planted”

20160518_193744I enjoy yardening.  That’s 3 parts lawn work, 2 parts gardening, mixed with equal but liberal amounts of dirt, sweat, rain, and sunshine.  The other day my wife was making me proud mowing the grass while I shoveled mulch onto the flower beds.  When she finished she walked over and commented on a group of wispy yellow flowers growing in one of the beds.  I looked and it suddenly struck me, these were flowers that had come back from last year’s wild flower patch.  During the late winter when I made my first weeding round, I had almost pulled them up, but hesitated when I saw how they were bunched in the same place I had planted wildflowers last spring.  This afternoon was the first time I had thoughtfully returned to those plants (9 straight weeks on the road will do that to you).  Obviously I was delighted.

As I pondered the flowers the thought stuck me, “these are from seeds you planted.”    In the wonder of that moment I realized that this was a nudge from the Lord.  I serve on the Care Team at our Church.  Dozens of volunteers meet with and minister to dozens of people every Sunday listening, loving, and caring for persons who need to know someone cares and especially that God cares.  Having been in a number of those conversations, I am intensely aware of how dependent I am on the Lord to provide the wisdom and Godly counsel that people need.  I can comfortably do the ‘listen, empathize, and love on people’ part.  It is how the Father has wired me and trained me.  But I don’t want to speak words that simply parrot clichés or worldly wisdom.  The practice of being quick to listen, quick to love, and slow to speak has proven to be an apt approach in care-giving for me.  For when I listen and love, the Holy Spirit either brings nuggets of wisdom from His Word OR He brings another person into the conversation who has that word.  In some cases the words of guidance I give are few, but the prayer that I am able to confidently offer is 0ften my primary contribution.

As I watched the flowers wave in the afternoon breeze I had a mental picture of the lives that the Lord touches through faithful care-giving.  While our care team has a specific time and place where we join in God’s work each Sunday, the reality is we have these opportunities throughout our week.  On some occasions we get to see the great work God does in a person, marriage, or family.  In other instances our follow up is limited to just a few contacts.  However, when we are faithful we can rest assured God is continuing the work.

The final scene of that mental picture is a truly glorious one.  As we stand there in heaven surrounded by the host of the redeemed, the Lord leans over and says to us, “these are from seeds you planted.”

And our joy knows no bounds.

Be blessed today my friend.  And be a blessing.

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Always be ready.

I was not raised evangelical.  In fact the denomination I was raised in, Episcopal, was referred to as the “Frozen Chosen” by evangelist Billy Sunday.  Talking about faith, particularly speaking from the heart, speaking with passion, was NOT something I witnessed growing up.  That is not a value statement or a condemnation.  In fact I knew many Episcopalians who practiced the faith in very real, very devout ways.  It was just not a normal experience for people in the church I grew up in to speak about the faith… unless they were paid clergy.  And even then it was primarily a cerebral exercise more than a discussion that engaged the emotions.

So when I came to faith at age 23… in an Episcopal retreat called Cursillo, I was on fire for God, overwhelmed by a love and passion for Jesus and others, yet without a natural outlet to tell my story.  I can distinctly remember my Dad laughing good-naturedly and telling me, “Yeah, some people think that new Christians need to be locked up for a few months right after conversion so they don’t scare everybody to death.”  I believe I took that in the right way… that I needed to be sensitive to where others were and approach them in the right manner.  I also realized that was a very “Episcopal” thing to say.

Thirty two years later I’ve made plenty of mistakes both being too bold and being too timid in sharing my faith.  But along the way I’ve learned a few things that I think the Father would have me share with you.  As always we cannot go wrong with looking at Jesus, modeling what He did, and seeking to follow the Holy Spirit in speaking and doing as He leads.

  1. Beginning our day in intimacy with the Father sets the stage for our engagement with others.  When we start with time alone speaking with God, reading the Word, and allowing His Spirit to brood over us and work within us, we are spiritually prepared for the meetings with others we will have through the day.
  2. Keeping an open heart to the Holy Spirit will make us sensitive to the needs of others.  Today I was in a trade show for the consulting firm I work for.  I gave a presentation this morning (which for all intents and purposes was my main reason for being here) and then I manned the booth to meet potential customers as they walked through the exhibits.  On multiple occasions today as I stood at my booth awaiting someone to walk up the Holy Spirit impressed upon me to pray for divine conversations.  I did and sure enough, they happened.  (That is the real reason I was here!)
  3. Divine conversations have a two critical components – a listener who is receptive and a story-teller who is sensitive to the Lord’s leading.  I talked business about 85 – 90% of the day, but the 10 – 15% where the Holy Spirit opened the door were amazing.  This is an area where I have often erred either being too strong or too soft in my delivery, but today it consistently flowed.
  4. Our job is not to convert people.  Our role is to be obedient to the Lord’s leading and faithfully share from the Word in us and the life experiences He has brought us through.  It is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring people to conversion.  Yes, there will be times when we are there at the point someone makes a decision to give their life to Christ.  This is a glorious experience and true blessing to be a part of, however we do not need to take too much responsibility.  Our responsibility is simply to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
  5. This life is a prelude to something greater, something more real.  It is the door through which we pass to get to our ultimate home.  This life is not inconsequential, but it is also not our ultimate destiny.  The relationships we have here are the one thing that appears to have a link on through to eternity.  That belief helps me to hold onto the things of this life lightly, the relationships in this life more firmly, and the faith in Jesus most tightly.

It was a God-day and a great day.  I was able to hear other people’s stories, engage them where they were, and in a number of instances share God’s love through telling God-stories.  I sit here with a light and joyful spirit thinking of how good God is to allow us to participate with Him in His work to reach people wherever they are and draw them closer to Himself.  He is soooo good!

I pray you have a day full of divine conversations.  Be blessed and be a blessing!

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I hit the drive-thru for supper this evening.  At the window I noticed the attendant yawn in boredom as she waited for my order.  A high schooler making a little pocket money perhaps.  Hopefully not a single mom trying to make ends meet.  I meant to slip in, slip out, and quietly eat my gyro in the room while I finished up some work for the plant, but because I had to wait I took the time to notice.

When she turned to hand me my order, I looked her in the eye gave her the most sincere “Thank you, mam” I could.  Behind the thanks was a heartfelt prayer that the Lord bless her and help her to know she is adored by a loving Father in heaven….

I got word a little while ago that a friend’s father passed away suddenly last night.  He had been up and down with illness, but until last night every down was followed by an up.  Actually, I guess last night was the ultimate recovery for one who knows the Lord.  But it is still a time of separation and loss for the family left behind.  Our heart goes out to them in empathy, sharing a small slice of their pain.  We will grieve with them as they offer up their last goodbyes to Big John.

At 55 years old I am most likely past the halfway point in my earthly life – closer to the end than the beginning.  Since I gave Jesus my life almost 33 years ago I have not worried about dying.  With my heart issue, I really haven’t fretted about dying even though I was on the cusp of a potentially fatal heart attack.  But I have pondered becoming irrelevant.

I want my life to count.  Not in a famous or noteworthy way, but in accomplishing those things that God wants me to accomplish.  Ephesians 2:10 says: “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  I know God is at work, but I also understand he has not made me a puppet.  I am given choices.  I can choose to take the easier way, the popular path.  I can go with the flow if I decide to.  But that is not what I sense in my spirit is God’s best.  Simply sliding through life does not line up with where I hear God calling me.  I don’t think it is where God is calling you either, dear reader.

The call is becoming clearer.  It is birthed in intimacy with God, our Father, in blessed union with Jesus our Lord and Savior, and confirmed by His Holy Spirit in our inner being as we willingly submit to His direction in our life.  It is a life of supreme relevance to those the Lord brings into our lives, regardless of how long or how brief that contact may be.

Tonight as I come to the end of the day, I ask for guidance on how to make these final moments count.  “Lord, please pray through me.”  “Father, show me who needs a word of encouragement.”  “Jesus, please prepare me for a day of relevance in your kingdom work and the lives you touch through me tomorrow.”

You are loved and you are relevant my friend.  God has called you into the deepest intimacy with Him.  It is beyond our reckoning.  But that’s okay because He will initiate it, He will draw us deeper, and He will accomplish His purpose as we simply seek Him with all that we are.  From out of that intimacy He makes us relevant.  It is tied first to the fact that we are His adopted children (Romans 8:15), but it is made manifest in the people we meet and get to love on every single day.

Be blessed today and be a blessing!

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I went for a run in the woods today.  I like to be outdoors.  I like to run…  Actually, we better make that “I like to jog.”

I went to a state park near where I am working this week, picked up a trail map and selected a Moderate trail, 3.9 miles in length.  I was feeling pretty perky.

Since there where no topographical lines on the map, I made my best guess which way would provide the best grade.  OK, for those not familiar with running, er jogging for the middle-aged and somewhat conditionally challenged, the best grade means as little uphill running as possible.

I guessed right, or at least the first 3 miles seemed so.  A fairly long, but gradual downhill was followed by a few slight rises.  All in all the first three miles were sufficient to have me pondering the goodness of God.  I began to see how trail running can be a good metaphor of life with it’s up and downs, periodic ruts, times of running in the brilliant early evening sunshine followed by the dusky shadows of the deep woods.

I came to a rather long flat section about three miles in and that perkiness really kicked in.  I picked up my pace.  Turtles and snails were no longer my trail companions.  Seventy five yards or so later I was beginning to congratulate myself on being slight less winded than I thought I should be when the trail turned… and went up…really up.  Like somebody forgot this was a trail around the base of Morrow Mountain and not over the mountain.

I lowered my vision to the trail in front of me and plodded purposefully up the ever steeper slope.  The biggest problem I had though was that I had looked at the dauntingly steep slope and it was in my head as well as being a real physical challenge.  As I slowed my pace to get my heart rate back off the edge I had to laugh as several obvious realizations came to mind.

First that long downhill to start my run was followed by a number of approximately equal rises and falls.  Logical conclusion #1, I still had the height of the long gradual downhill to climb to get back to my car.

That height difference had to be made up.  Since I didn’t have a clue of the topography in this area, it appeared that the route I took was the gradual side and this was definitely the steep side.  Logical conclusion #2, it is okay to walk if it is too steep to run.

Logical conclusion #3 was related, to #2, it is better to walk, laugh about it, write a blog about it, and survive than to die of a heart attack trying to run up a hill in the woods where I hadn’t and didn’t see another soul the entire time I was out there.

Logical conclusion #4.  The trail was a combination horse trail and jogging trail.  The designation of the trail being Moderate was probably for those riding a horse.  Where I was did NOT feel the least bit moderate… even when I slowed to a walk.

Logical conclusion #5 (perhaps the most important learning from my run), trail running is a lot like life.  (I know I had already started down this trail earlier, but I think the Father was just getting me ready for the real lesson.)  Sometimes we do have downhill runs where it is great and we are seemingly carried along.  Sometimes there are slight rises that correspond to the challenges that periodically come our way.  We press on through and are made stronger because of them.

And then there are the steep slopes that rise up and challenge us to our limits.  I was about halfway up the steep slope when I had to slow to a very slow walk to bring my heart rate down.  (When you can hear your heartbeat approaching three beats a second you know it is time to take it easy.)

Life will bring us to times that press us to our limits.  I believe in God’s sovereignty.  Nothing that we come up against is outside of God’s knowledge and allowance.  There are three sources of challenge we will routinely encounter.  1) Some we bring on ourselves.  In those situations the best approach is to quickly acknowledge our error/mistake/sin, turn around, and ask God’s forgiveness and help.

2) Some are attacks of the enemy of God and His children.  If we ask for discernment, God will provide it.  When this is the source we are to stand firm in faith, resist the devil, and call upon our mighty Warrior & Savior to intervene on our behalf.

3) Finally many are due to the fallen world we live in and God’s desire to live through us in a manner that strengthens us and provides a consistent witness of His Grace to others.  Again standing firm in faith is called for, but additionally praying for the opportunity to shine brightly for God through the time of testing is appropriate.  We do not know all the good God wants to bring through our patient perseverance, but we can cooperate with Him by praying and resting in Him.

Before I knew it I was at the top of the steep hill.  I looked back down and realized I had made a significant elevation gain in a short period.  I almost prayed, “Lord make that the end of the uphill”, but I didn’t.  Instead I started jogging again, a little slower perhaps to conserve a little more energy, thinking about how good God is to provide life lessons in such a beautiful classroom.

Have a most blessed day my friend.  May God make the trail rise up to meet you and give you peace.


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