Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Count your blessings, Part II

Four weeks ago I penned "Count Your Blessings" on this site shortly after reading The Ten Dollar Blessing and being issued a ten dollar blessing challenge by another writer on the High Calling Blogs network.

I believe the doxology goes something like this: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him all creatures here below; Praise Him above ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen"

That's what I have to report today - praises to the Father, Son and Holy Ghost - for the little Ten Dollar Blessing that became so much more in our little community.

Billy Coffey told the story of a parent and child in a diner and how another patron was so blessed by observing this parent and child that he dropped a $10 bill on their table and told them how blessed he was to have dined in their presence. It was a moving story.

The challenge was then issued to find our own "$10 blessing" opportunity and to report back.

In "Count Your Blessings" I told the story of a young family in our community with five small children. The mother had quit her job a while back to stay home and raise these kids, and the father just lost his job. On top of all of that, the father of these kids is still dealing with the loss of his brother in the war in Iraq some 18 months ago and told me that he still has this gaping wound or hole in his heart.

I am counting my blessings again this morning in several ways, four weeks to the day of writing "Count Your Blessings." My life has been blessed, but more importantly, many families who have little to nothing have been blessed as a result of what God has done with this challenge - working through His people.

Blessing #1: I have been blessed by the individual on the other side of the country who read the original post, emailed me for the address of the people written about, and then put his money where his mouth is and dropped a $10 blessing in the mail to them. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow..."

Blessing #2: After writing Count Your Blessings and being convicted of how much so many of us have and how little others have, I went to my Thursday morning Bible study with the challenge - explaining to them the situation of the family in our community (some were aware, others were not) and how people from across the country were now chipping in to bless them, and that I wanted to challenge the other six or seven guys in our Bible study to a little $10 blessing challenge.

Our challenge looked like this. We set out a hat the following Thursday morning, and guys could come and put whatever God had laid on their hearts to give - the idea being that we would pool our $10 bills and get them a grocery gift card or something like that - something people with no income can really use.

The challenge yielded $305 and three families in desperate need have been blessed as a result. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow..."
Blessing #3: Sunday marked the day of a little Christmas party for the families of The Lighthouse, the second campus ministry of our church, which my family and I are a part. The Lighthouse is a place where the lost, hurting and disenfranchised of the church can come and feel welcome, see and hear the love of Jesus, and enjoy community.

Many of those being served by The Lighthouse are in need: emotionally, spiritually, financially and communally. The Ten Dollar Blessing also touched the lives of The Lighthouse, as the idea was presented to the group who initiated the ministry to throw a little Christmas party and provide gifts to the children who are regular attendees.

After worship on Sunday we played games together, enjoyed a time of fellowship and more food, and then called kids forward to receive their gifts - which came from the hearts of the people of The Lighthouse.

The collective "whoooaaaa - coooool" which was heard in unison was one of the greatest gifts I received this Christmas. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow..."

I pray that 2009 is full of blessings in each of your lives, that we continue to be a people who look to bless others and in return are blessed beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine...and when that happens, I pray you will praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Unexpected gifts

I love the miracle of Christmas.

Jesus, born in a grungy, dirty manger, somewhere out in the back of the Inn, where there was no room for his parents.  Born to a virgin, just as the prophets foretold centuries earlier - and the first to celebrate his birth were the shepherds, the uncouth of the day.

Such a contradiction to the way most would have expected the Savior of the world to come.

I was always a kid who wanted to know what he was getting.  I often spoiled the surprise of Christmas by searching high and low for where my folks stored the Christmas presents they had bought us.  I even used to make my way into wrapped packages to see what I was getting, trying to be careful to retape in such a way as to not give myself away - as if they would somehow be worse for the wear.  

I was the one who lost out on the surpise of the gift.  When I knew what was in the package, it was no longer a surprise, nor was it unexpected.  It was simply what I knew I was going to get.

I find it interesting how often I go about living this way.  I want to know what is around the next corner, where I am headed, what is in store for me and my family, etc. - and so often I miss the gift of the unexpected.

And so, as the Christ in Christmas has become more and more meaniful, I find myself taking great joy in the unexpected - if that makes sense.  The focus of the celebration has become a whole lot more about the giving rather than the getting - I am thankful for that.  And that focus has become incredibly gratifying and entertaining this Christmas as I take my focus off of what I might get and find ways to give.

Something called "The Ten Dollar Blessing," which was blogged about by Billy Coffey at "What I Learned Today" several weeks ago, really opened my eyes, my ears and my heart to what God was up to and the gift he wanted me to receive this Christmas.  And so, this year has been about giving.  My wife and I have "given" before, but the attitude through which the giving is taking place this year is somehow different, more meaningful, more Christ-centered.

And in the process, the gift of giving has been an unbelievable blessing.  There will be more on this in a coming blog, but to say that we have been blessed through this Christmas season would be the understatement of 2008.

One way we have been blessed is through the bounty of cards, pictures and letters we have received...record numbers, it seems.  It is in one of these Christmas cards that arrived today that I have been deeply touched.  An unexptected gift!

I spent my college days ditching classes, playing sports, drinking heavily and making my way into a little trouble on occasion.  I was rarely alone, which means there were others like me. Slowly, God is claiming every last one of us, and creating a new heart within us.  I think maybe each time he "gets" one of us he might feel like I do when I get an unexpected gift.

At any rate, the card that arrived today brought tears to my eyes, warmth to my heart and a sure sense of what Christmas is all about.  The card came from one of my old partying buddies (the first time I have ever gotten a Christmas card from him), thanking me for a little, seemingly insignificant, role I have played in his life in the past two months.  

His card, though, sheds the words "seemingly insignificant" from my mind and it has touched my heart.  All praise, glory and honor be to Christ Jesus for the work that is going on this guy's heart.

Similar to Jesus' birth all those years ago, my favorite gift (other than Jesus' birth) this year has come in an unexpected package, in an envelope of all things.  There was no money in it, just the imprint of Christ in the words of an old friend that fully lay claim to this season of advent - hope, peace, joy and love.  An unexpected gift, that's for sure.

May you be blessed this Christmas and may the greatest gift you receive be in the form of the unexpected gift - the gift of Jesus Christ, our Lord!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


"Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.  And since we've no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let is snow!"


It is winter in Northwest Iowa - I mean winter. Yesterday I think the temperature reached 4 degrees. And we were thankful!  Plus, we got four inches of powdery, white snow.  I know, I guess I could move somewhere else if I truly hated winter as much as I think I do right now, but moving really isn't an option yet, either.

Frigid - that's the first word that comes to mind.  We have saw -13 degrees on Monday morning with 40 below wind chill.  Yesterday got all the way up to 4 degrees and this morning, -4 didn't even feel so bad.


Merriam-Webster defines frigid as:  intensely cold, lacking warmth or ardor.

The prospect of an entire winter of frigid is daunting, particularly when it is mid-December.  Mid-February is another thing - at least then we can say in a couple of weeks it might warm up - but in mid-December it is cause for concern.

As I was blowing my driveway clear early last evening from the snow that had fallen during the day, and the drift that had been built up from Monday's windy day, the word frigid was on my brain and on my heart. I wasn't so terribly cold in completing this task, but the idea of being frigid in my life began to swirl around in my mind - kinda like the snow in the air.

Revelations 3:15-17 reads like this:  "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (NIV)

The same passage from The Message reads this way:  "I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking.  You're not cold, you're not hot--far better to be either cold or hot!  You're stale.  You're stagnant.  You make me want to vomit."

These are Jesus' words in my handy red-letter Bible.

Jesus, obviously, can't stand the thought of us being lukewarm.  If we know the story, His story, and yet seem oblivious or don't really care that He has come and offered Himself as a living sacrifice, then we make Him want to vomit!

I guess He knows where we stand if we are cold or hot, and He prefers it that way, but I also believe that God doesn't have a whole lot of interest in us being frigid.  Am I right?  If He had it His way, I believe he would want us piping hot!

As we continue to Advent, continue our waiting upon the Savior's birth, I pray that we are not frigid this Christmas season--that we are not intensely cold or lacking warmth.  I pray that we are paying attention to those who are in need, those without income and in dire circumstances.  That we are warm to those who need Jesus in their lives, those who are looking for any sign of hope in their lives.

I also pray that the reality of the Season, this Christmas season, may move us from frigid, through lukewarm, to hot, if need be!  I have spent a lot of time since finding Jesus pondering his death and resurrection and what it means for me.  How that amazing gift of grace is life-giving for me.

I haven't spent a lot of time truly "getting" Christmas, it seems.  For many years I hustled as much business as I possibly could before Christmas, and by the time the day occurred, I was simply spent.

It appears to me that it is becoming more clear that Jesus' birth is the most precious gift - an incredible gift to each one of us.  Had He not been born - come into the world the way He did - and lived as He did, His death and resurrection would not mean what they mean to us and for us.

I learned a little Greek word in the past couple of weeks and have spent a little time thinking about this word.  The word is hupotasso - it is the Greek word for subject - and is defined as "voluntarily giving in, cooperating, accepting responsibility or carrying a burden."

My prayer, this Christmas, is that we would all hupotasso, if you will, those in need.  That out of our love for Christ, for the amazing gift that God sent into the world for us, that we might love a little more deeply, that we might give a little more voluntarily.

May Jesus see us inside and out and find a lot to His liking.  May He find us piping hot, even in the midst of a long, hard Iowa winter.  May He find us anything but stale and stagnant, but rather joining Him in His work in this world.  May He find us celebrating His birth, showing His love and sharing it with those around us.  May He be glorified in all that we think, say and do!

So long frigid!  Today is the day you have made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ladies Man

I'm not sure when the switch went on for him, but there are a lot of women in our fair little community who are glad that the switch was clicked on at some point.

There's this 60 year old friend of mine that I really, really appreciate. He is a man's man, he is a sharp business man and farmer. He loves God and he is a ladies man!

But not of the sort of ladies man that gives the term a negative connotation. He loves the ladies, but he loves them as Christ loves each one of us - with a kind, caring, giving heart. A compassionate kind of love that doesn't like the thought of one feeling lonely, particularly during this Christmas season.

This ladies man (and his wife) has a heart for the lonely - those who are widowed, divorced and/or single. He has a heart for those who are alone perhaps due to disability, as well. Many, I suspect, have hearts for the lonely, but this guy actually does something about it.

The second annual "girls night out" took place Wednesday night, with ol' Earl the ladies man, his wife and 17 women who are either widowed, divorced and/or single. They enjoyed a meal at a local restaurant, a small Christmas gathering, and were serenaded by our church youth group with a Christmas carol or two.

So here is the room full of women, some out for the first time in a while, varying greatly in age, all together visiting, laughing and enjoying one another's company.

On a Wednesday night in the dead of winter, I suspect many would have been doing the same ol' Wednesday night routine. Eating alone, cleaning up the dishes and doing whatever else they do. Somehow a night on the town, on someone else, seems more appealing.
It was quite a gift for these gals.

I thank God I am not alone. I thank Him for my wife and kids. I am pretty sure I couldn't function in that environment, so when I think of these women (and men who are alone) and I quantify what my friend, the ladies man, has done for them these past two Christmases, I am forced to stop and look within.

It seems I do that far more than I used to. I know that is true for ol' Earl, too.

This passage from Philippians 4:8-9 seems particularly appropriate during this moment of introspection. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." - Paul

Think about such things!

Earl lost one of his dear friends a year-and-a-half ago - a friend whose wife was left widowed. No doubt this is when and why the "girls night out" began, and since it is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, we ought to think about such things.

What can we do this Christmas for someone in need? Who can we serve? Who can we show the love of Christ to like my friend, the ladies man? May our eyes be open - and our hearts open - to what and who that might be.

And the God of peace be with you!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Brewski Time

There I sat across the table from this friend of mine Sunday. We were enjoying a meal together and I really hadn't given much thought to his attire.

Church has become like that for me. I really don't pay a whole lot of attention to what people are wearing anymore; it just doesn't seem to matter. Where we worship, people come in jeans, t-shirts, dress pants, button-down shirts, sweaters, sleeveless shirts (though not now as it has gotten colder) - you get the drift.

Come as you are, we say.

We have lunch together often on Sunday, this guy, his family and mine. It has become part of our lives - though there was a time when we probably believed we were too good for this family. There was a time when we felt we were somehow superior, smarter, a notch or three above them.

God has changed that about us and we praise him for that.

On most Sundays, some 75-90 people stay after worship and enjoy a meal together. On this particular Sunday, though, two worlds collided as mother church and members from our congregation joined us at The Lighthouse for an annual church function known as the "Agape Feast."

In the Greek, agape means love. Every year for the past several years at our mother church, this agape feast, this feast of love, has taken place. People bring salads and deserts and a meal is shared. A communion service is also part of this annual event and it is a good thing.

But like I said, on this Sunday the agape feast took on a new dimension.

The Lighthouse is 10 months old and people who don't look like most of us, act like most of us and/or live like most of us from mother church have been coming. Christ is beginning to touch the lives of these people who for voluminous reasons haven't been attending a church and worshipping our forgiving, loving, merciful Jesus.

People like the folks we dined with again on Sunday.

So as the room filled with some 200 people, most of whom were dressed in their usual Sunday attire - dress pants, shirts, sweaters, and the like (not that this is bad) - tables began to fill up with friends and families taking up tables toward the back of the room as they joined us after worship.

But there in the front of the room there sits at one table two ex-cons and their family. The ex-cons had to get up early and leave to get back to the half-way house they are staying at on time. At another table is a gal whose life has been full of addictions and legal trouble. She had to get up to leave early, too. At yet another table is a woman and her grandson who has absolutely nothing at all (I wrote about her son in Count Your Blessings last week). And at yet another table sit our friends, who we regularly eat with.

These last two tables were just about empty - as all of the other folks took their seats with people they know and with people who look an awful lot like them. This grandma and her grandson were alone, until a caring couple slid in next to them. And our friends were alone, until we ventured over to sit with them and another couple who are friends of ours.

So as we are sitting there, sharing in this meal, these two worlds having collided, it hits me. The guy sitting across the table from me never went to church before The Lighthouse was started. He comes most every Sunday - wearing jeans (particularly wholly ones this week), a t-shirt and a cap. The cap this weeks reads "Brewski Time" with a mug of beer on it.

I am not sure if others noticed it or not, but I absolutely loved it! I almost spit the juice out of my mouth when I finally saw it. Here's this guy, perfectly comfortable in who he is and comfortable where he is, wearing a hat that saws "Brewski Time" at a church function!

He is a work in progress. I'm not sure he believes in Jesus yet or that he fully grasps "the story." Neither do I know if the ex-cons do. Nor do I know if the addict will stay clean and living the life that Jesus wants her to live.

Neither do I know that the people in the nice clothes and the well-groomed hair really love Jesus and are living for him. I don't know where their hearts are and if they even noticed what was going on around them Sunday - that people who don't look or act or live like them might be meeting Jesus, too.

Those things aren't my concern. What is my concern, is that we love because Christ first loved us...that we love because God sent his son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins...that we love "the least of these" because of the blessing we have in Christ Jesus.

It's not about our appearance - what we wear, how nice our hair and complexion look, what our bank account looks like - it's about our hearts and Christ in them.

Wish you could have seen it. "Brewski Time!"

Friday, December 5, 2008

Three seconds

Many people leave indelible impressions on us, some for the good and some for the bad.  I have been thinking a lot about my JV basketball coach lately.

One of the things my wife, kids and I do is chase after the activities of our family, particularly the activities of our children.  Last night we sat at a Christmas concert at school and were blessed by the singing of the kids, the musical choices and the like.  Tonight we will sit through basketball games.

Since Christ has really invaded my heart and taken up a good share of space there, my heart has changed in a number of areas, including athletics.  They don't matter to me like they once did, but I still have a competitive side and God has yet to show me a referee who is any good or really knows what he was doing (I have friends who officiate these games and I give them a hard time, too).

Before the season began a couple of weeks ago I told my wife that I no longer want to be that fan in the stands who is constantly yelling at the officials and questioning every call (though it is pretty easy to question them all).  I told her I want to go the whole season without "any problems."

I made it through three quarters of my daughters first game before my old high school JV coach came to mind.  It was a nip-and-tuck game against a team our girls had never beaten.  They have a girl who is a force in the paint, which is good for them.  The problem, though, is that she sets up shop in the lane and rarely leaves. 

Now, for those who don't know basketball, this is a violation.  You have to move in and out of the lane, not staying in the painted area for more than three seconds at a crack.

After having a three seconds violation called on our girls a little earlier in the game, and as I see the game starting to slip away, it was time for me to offer the refs a little help.  "FOUR, FIVE, SIX" I counted out for them.  I am a big guy who has a mega-phone voice when I need to use it.  I wasn't too loud, but I was definitely audible. 

Then I looked to my right.  There is my beautiful wife looking at me, smirking almost as she asks, "How is that working out for you?"  

I didn't even make it a full game, but I want to continue to improve in this area.

But more than that, I'd like you to work with me in this a little bit today.  The three second violation exists in an area that is in close proximity to our goal.  It is called when we spend too much time in an area that at most is 15 feet away from the goal.

If a referee was officiating your game today, would he be able to call you for three seconds because you are spending too much time close to God, our goal?  Would the whistle blow because of too much time being spent in the Word, in prayer, in worship or with others who are chasing Christ?

I want to live in the lane!  I want to set up shop in the paint and have whistles blaring all around me while I take the time to heed the words of Psalm 46.  "Be still and know that I am God."

Holding basketball up to life right now is pretty easy.  Our lives are lived in the transition game.  We are busy filling the lanes up and down the floor, trying to hustle back on defense, rebounding from the misses in our lives, and then flying back down the floor hoping for a look at the basket or goal, if you will.

My wife called me for three seconds yesterday.

I spent an hour during the morning with a friend I haven't seen in a while.  Our lives are similar in that we are business owners who are wrestling with what God has in store for us.  We both are part of church ministries that are operating outside of the normal church box and we have a love for the other that is centered in Christ.  It was a great "three seconds" of "being still."  So was the drive to and from.

I got back to town in time to have lunch with another friend whom I dine with every week.  We are walking through the tough stuff of life together and the hour we spend together is a blessing to me each week.  We talk God, farming, business, sports and whatever else comes up, but the "three seconds" is a great part of my week.

An hour later, another friend called and we grabbed a cup of coffee at the local diner.  I know, that's a lot of caffeine, but with the conversation centered around what God is up to in our church, in our lives and where we are headed, it was another great "three second violation" of being still.

How do you take "three seconds?"  Do you take "three seconds?"

Remember the good old days before shot clocks?  When basketball teams ran the four-corners offense to slow the game down, spread the floor and get easier looks at the goal?  My prayer today is that you experience grace and peace as you camp in the lane, that you are intentional in being whistled for three seconds in the scriptures, in worship, in prayer and time with others who believe, and also with those who are hurting and in need of Christ.

Grace and peace,


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Count your blessings

Tears filled my eyes and some rather violent tugs were pulled on my heart strings last night as I checked my email before bed.

I was taken back a year-and-a-half or so to a time when our community paid tribute to a young soldier who died in the war in Iraq.  I never knew him as he wasn't even living in our community anymore. But his mother was, and so was his brother and his wife and kids.  They were kind of lost in the shuffle with some of the more major news outlets at the time as the young soldier's wife was more featured in the grieving process.

Times goes by and we forget.  We live our own lives, go through our own sorrows and joys, and hopefully along the way we touch someones life.  Right?

Billy Coffey shared a touching story of the Ten Dollar Blessing on his blog (What I Learned Today) a short time ago and I was moved.  Another blogger on the High Calling Blogs network was moved too and started a challenge - a Ten Dollar Blessing challenge - to others in the network.

Here goes.

I have said before that we worship on Sunday mornings in a former bowling alley turned banquet hall.  The gospel is preached by both pastors and lay people in a place where we cover the bar in the back of the room with black curtains and provide a setting in which the unchurched or underchurched in our little community can come, feel comfortable, loved and meet Jesus.

A couple of months ago this family began to come to The Lighthouse.  A husband, wife and their five kids.  Oh, and his mother and sister also come along.  We provide a little breakfast-type item prior to church, worship together and then share in a meal together following the service.

They came back and they have continued to come.  Praise God.  One of their first weeks to worship at The Lighthouse was my Sunday to teach it - and towards the end of the service a challenge was issued to those who needed prayer to come and pray.  To get up, right then and there, to come and pray.  

One of the people I got to pray with that morning was the fallen soldier's brother.  "Ever since my brother died I have had a hole in my heart," he told me.  He went on from there to ask prayer about choices and struggles that accompany his pain, but wow, what a blessing to pray with and for him that morning and since.

Some three weeks ago, this young man lost his job.  Remember, he has a wife and five kids at home and now they have no income, but they continue to come to church on Sunday morning.  This past Sunday morning, during a time of prayer requests - when people actually take a moment to write them down and then they are all read in the front of church - one came from this young man.

I was home sick, but was sent this email last night.  Thus the tears:

I thought I should pass this along to you.  It was a prayer request from Sunday at the Lighthouse.  Showing you again that you make a difference:)  I ask for all to pray for my family, and I would also like to thank God for people like Mike and Chris and all the others at the Lighthouse who have been so helpful in my family's time of need.

I have prayed with this young man, emailed him a couple of times and I talk to him on Sunday mornings.  I have spoken to an employer on his behalf, but I haven't given him anything.  I haven't really done anything for him.

Or have I?  

All I have done is a portion of what just about everyone reading this would already do, but I share this with you for a couple of reasons this morning.  A.)  I know full well where my ten dollars is going; and B.)  Blessings so often come in forms other than money.  This young family has seen Jesus afoot in a place we call The Lighthouse and we are blessed to be at work with God in what he is doing there.  It isn't about me, please understand that, but it is about what God is up to in the lives of this young family.

At the time of the funeral procession for the fallen soldier I was dealing with enough of my own junk that no one else really mattered.  It bothered me that a soldier from our community had lost his life, but that's where it stopped.  Today, my heart is so full of compassion and hurt for this guy and his family that I want to sell everything I have and help him and others like him, but I know I can't and am really not even supposed to.  That's part of my experiencing grace and peace in this life.

I continue to fall back on II Corinthians 9 where Paul writes that each man should give as he has decided in his heart to give - not relunctantly or under compulsion - for God loves a cheerful giver.  

I can't save this family, only Jesus can, but I can give them my heart, my love and my prayers.  Perhaps I am even supposed to share ten dollars and ask all of my friends to do the same. 
That's my challenge today, and my challenge to anyone who happens to read this.  I pray you count your blessings; that you open your eyes to see those around you; that you open your ears to hear those around you; and that you open your heart to those around you to love them more and to show them Jesus each and every day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving out of thanks

Sitting in a pew last night during a Thanksgiving Eve service is not a place that I would ordinarily shed a tear.  There are definitely places where I am so moved, but this particular setting has not been one of them.

But things are happening in the body and people are beginning to share, to give back to Christ for what he has given them.

On this particular Wednesday night the them of the service was five ways of giving thanks.  One was in the way of celebrating creation, so the local science teacher got up and spoke of galaxies and cellular adhesion molecules - the things that hold our bodies together.  Boring!!!  Right?  Well, he shows a picture of a black hole in a galaxy that is 300 billion light years from earth that is in the shape of the cross.  Then he shows the molecular structure of these cellular adhesion molecules, the molecules in our bodies that hold us together.  What does they look like?  They are in the shape of a cross!  It was an awesome message, seeing and hearing his passion for us and how God's imprint is on all things.

Moments later, a woman in her 50s gets up and talks about walking with God everyday as a way to give thanks.  Her life has been a little different than she expected it to be with bi-polar disorder and drug addiction having hit her household.  She talked of the struggle, the constant questioning if she would have been a better mother would this or that have occurred.  She talked of living in the pain, and giving thanks in the midst of it for her God being there.

People standing behind the pulpit of this relatively large church in small town USA, sharing what has them excited and what Christ means to them.  Getting real with the rest of the people in the pews, putting all masks and coverings aside so that God might be glorified all the more!

I love it when God shows up like this.  There I sat with my wife and kids, tears streaming down my cheeks, not really caring who would notice because this is the same Christ who has ransomed my life, who has pulled me out of the pit and given his life for mine.

This Thanksgiving morning, I am reflecting on last night's service and on our church's "Test Me Challenge."  Our facility is not big enough to handle all of our kids for Sunday School and catechism at one time, so we are looking at a building project.  The "Test Me Challenge" is an opportunity for people to test God in the challenge of giving of their time, their money and their hearts!

I have been a taker for much of my life.  It is only in the past couple of years that I can say that II Corinthians 9:7 has really meant something to me.  But as I sit here this morning, I pray it is true in my life, as well as yours.  "Each man should give as he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

I contend that when your heart is so full of gratitude and thanks that it is impossible not to give.  Perhaps you money, perhaps it is in a smile, a handshake.  Perhaps you give time to help build a new church, make a meal for a family who needs one - none of it done reluctantly or under compulsion, but rather out of gratitude.

II Corinthians 9 continues, and in verse 11 it says:  "You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God."

Experiencing grace and peace in this world is done, largely through giving.  People giving to us, us then giving to others because of what Christ has done for us!  My prayer this Thanksgiving, and in all the days to follow, is that we will all be made rich in every way so that we can be generous on every occasion - giving all Glory and thanks to God above for blessing us so richly with family, friends, lives we don't deserve and Life we don't deserve. 

Monday, November 24, 2008

When opportunity whispers

Opportunities come and go. Sometimes I am well aware of them, other times they present themselves and I wouldn't know one if it hit me in the mouth.

In my continuing quest for all things Christ, opportunities come and go, too. Sometimes they come at "opportune" times, other times they come when we least expect them. Sometimes they are incredibly visible and come through a bullhorn, other times they come in a whisper.

In recent days I have been challenged in a couple of areas in my walk - both part of the quest. One area in which I have been challenged of late is to be intentional in my pursuit of Christ. To read, pray, worship and commune with Him and others as often as I can.

Additionally, as I near the end of a book called "The Divine Conspiracy" by Dallas Willard, the message of not just hearing or reading the Word, but to also be a "doer" of the Word, has become increasingly clear.

I need to retreat here just a touch. I am a morning person - I love the early morning hours. I used to be able to get more done at work between 6 and 9 a.m. then I would the rest of the day. As my quest for Christ has sped up, I have had some of my most amazing times with Him in the dark, at 5 or 6 a.m. where I used to spend those hours working.

Several months ago I was delivered what felt like a knockout blow. I would get out of bed in the morning more tired than when I climbed in - so I had a sleep apnea test done and now get to sleep with one of them-there masks. For some it is the answer, it cures the sleep problem. It still really hasn't for me, but this weekend I believe I may have an answer as to why.

In this continuing quest, where being intentional and being a hearer and doer become intertwined, I found myself awakened frequently on Friday night - opportunities missed. Saturday morning, though, it was as if a light went on and I decided to seize those opportunities and to simply pray.

Sure enough, opportunity came knocking again Saturday night. On at least four occasions I found myself lying in bed, mask attached and operational, but engaged at times during the night with Jesus in prayer. Two different couples came to mind on two different occasions - so I prayed for two different couples I am acquainted with twice during the night on a leading from the Spirit. It wasn't through the bullhorn that the opportunity presented itself, but rather in a whisper in the dark of the night.

Isaiah 62: 6-7 (The Message) reads this way:
I've posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem. Day and night they keep at it, praying, calling out, reminding God to remember. They are to give him no peace until he does what he said, until he makes Jerusalem famous as the City of Praise.

Apparently, God calls people to pray - day or night, to keep at it - to remind Him not to forget about the lives of people here on earth.

And sometimes, when He really wants to reveal Himself, the blessings are made known immediately. Sunday morning, one of the couples I had prayed for walked into the former bowling alley-turned banquet hall where we hold church. Sitting there visiting with my folks who were visiting, I was drawn to another table where that couple was sitting. They began to share their desire for growth, to dive into the Word and for more interaction with a community of people wanting more and more of God - and the wrestling match they find themselves in. I sat there listening, eventually telling them how God had whispered to me in my sleep and made them visibly clear to me and how I had prayed for them.


I also emailed the other couple to tell them I wasn't sure why, but I had been awakened to pray for them. This morning he replied to that email that they had taken their son who is eight weeks old the ER during the night, only to have him better by the time they saw the doctor!


I convey this piece today for one reason - to spur each of you on in your walk with Christ. To follow his leadings. To stand watch on the wall, day and night, not missing an opportunity to pray. I pray we are people who day and night "keep at it, praying, calling out, reminding God to remember. They are to give him no peace until he does what he said, until he makes (our towns) famous as the City of Praise."

It isn't everyday that God will give instant gratification, but I think He knows that I need it once in a while and that in-so-doing, I will be a lot less likely to miss the next opportunity.

I love to sleep, but I believe my prayer, right now, is that He wakes me again tonight so that I might pray for whoever it is He brings before me. May I be ready again tonight or tomorrow night when opportunity whispers in the wee hours of the morning!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Beyond thankful

Thanksgiving is upon us, and if anyone on the face of this earth has reason to be thankful, it is me. Blessings flow in many forms and many fashions, including my beautiful wife, kids, family and the business ventures in which I am involved. I have been blessed in countless ways in these areas, but to say that I have been blessed by, in and through Christ would be the understatement of the century.

L.L. Barkat at High Calling Blogs has issued an invitation to "bloggers" (which I have a hard time claiming to be - I simply offer some random thoughts now and then) to join in a Thanksgiving Celebration, bringing things for which we are thankful to the table of grace.

Today, I offer thanks for my Savior, Jesus Christ - and for all those who proclaim His name and unashamedly champion him in this dark and cold world. As I read Jennifer's post on Getting Down With Jesus about being thankful for beds, my mind jumped immediately to all that Christ has been up to in my world in the past couple of years.

That amazing piece of scripture penned by the apostle Paul to the Philippians is one of my favorites. Philippians 1:3-11 reads this way: Thanksgiving and Prayer "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."

I am a sinner saved by the grace of God, and God has lavished community upon my wife and I in ways we could have never imagined. We have met people diving deep into what it means to follow Christ, to live as Christ would have lived in this world, and have been blessed beyond all we could have ever asked or imagined in the process.

They are not perfect people - they don't claim to be - but their heart for all things Jesus and who He would have them be is an inspiration. "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy..."

This community has forced me to dive deep, to look into my heart and soul and to see the gaping hole that was there - that had been filled with everything of this world for so long - and to finally decide to begin to let Christ fill that hole. And as others have welcomed us into their worlds with open arms, walking along side as we continue this adventure, it is no wonder that I am thankful. In fact, Paul says "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus."

In the course of several years, the focus of our lives (my wife and I) has turned dramatically. God has called us out of our comfortable Sunday morning position in one of the back pews of our church with our four children, and into the lives of people who are broken, hurting and in need of Christ. It is a feeling we know very well.

Broken, hurting and desperately in need of Christ ourselves, God used community to begin to draw us to Himself. We pray that as our lives are continually shaped and molded by Him, that we can show Christ's love to others as it has been shown to us over and over again.

It is the cry of my heart to follow Christ - to give Him all that I have - that he might open my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my mind to know and my heart to Him and everyone around me, that I might love Him and them more and more.

As we get to be just a little part of what God is doing in this massive universe, I am thankful for every glimpse of Him that I get. And He is showing up everywhere these days. He is showing up in my wife and kids, my framily (friends who are so close they are family), my family and people being served by the ministries we are involved with.

In each of these cases, I echo Paul's prayer at the end of this passage: "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."

Thanksgiving is so often lost, isn't it, in the commercialism of Christmas? Let us give thanks for Christ, for who He is and what He has done for us; for the many ways in which He touches our lives (mostly through those around us); and for the work He has yet to accomplish.

Grace & Peace,


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

High Calling Blogs

A friend has put me onto this fantastic site and tool called I pray that as you continue to walk this walk and increasingly desire to talk this talk, that will become part of your intentional journey into all that Christ has in store for you.
Check out the site, read some of the blogs and be blessed as you spend a little time there.

In His grip,


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Intentional grounding

As a high school quarterback, I spent most of my time on offense running for my life. Defenses were in hot pursuit - all the time it seemed - rarely leaving me with any time to make the proper reads, to deliver the ball where I was supposed to, or to be any good at playing the position.

I found myself running for my life and/or throwing the ball away - something a quarterback is penalized 15 yards for - a penalty called intentional grounding.

All these years later, not much has changed, it seems. I find myself running around with my head cut off a lot of the time - often times it is doing Kingdom stuff, work and family activities - but I am running just the same.

Sometimes I just want to be able to stand tall in the pocket, have the protection I need to find the open man and deliver the ball on time. Does any of this make sense to you women reading this?

Much has been made in recent hours of being intentional. I have been hammered with this theme, in fact, and realize that I have been doing so much running and am so busy with "stuff"
that my time with Jesus and the Word of God hasn't been what I love it to be of late. The frantic pace (again much of it being good stuff) should have drawn a 15 yard penalty.

Wait - it did yesterday noon. Really it began Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of the fall Cursillo weekends, when this notion of being intentional was first thrust my way. It continued yesterday noon, when a phone conversation with my mother questioned where I have been, what I have been up to and if they (my parents) had done something to upset me.


This is one area where I could make a little priority shift. It was with remorse that I issued my apology and heard my mom tell me how they have been intentional with one another of late, taking time to eat together, hold hands and pray! That blew me away. I praise God for his movement in their lives.

In addition to that, I am looking for a little "divine intentional grounding", if you will. Not the kind that draws a flag - where there is a penalty - but rather a getting back to early mornings by the fire - reading and talking with Jesus the way we used to...the way I want to.

Ephesians 3: 14-19 from Eugene Peterson's translation of the Bible, The Message, reads this way: "My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God."

In another version of the Bible the phrase "with both feet planted firmly on love" is translated "being grounded." I want to be intentionally grounded in Christ - and that when I am He will reveal to me the breadth, length, depth and height of His love. It is when I am with Him, intimately and frequently in reading, thought and conversation that I am able to live a full life, full in the fullness of God.

This is being intentionally grounded, friends. This is when I am at my best. This is when we are as He intended us to be. This is when everything is the most clear - when before everything else - "I get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth."

Join me in prayer that this intentional grounding catches on and takes hold - that we might all be grounded, that we might all slow down and that we might all spend intimate time with Jesus each and every day!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


A friend and I sat in the quiet of a large dining room last weekend, chatting until the middle of the night. We just sat there, he and I, talking about life and how it just keeps spinning.

"I'm cold," he said. "It's (life is) kind of like that ceiling fan. 'I know you can shut off that fan God', so why don't you just do it?"

It's as if we ask of God, "Life is spinning out of control, I know you can stop it God, why don't you?"

This circumstance you have put before me is just too hard God, won't you just fix it?

There are people starving all over the world, can't you just feed them, God?

There are people hurting all around me, can't you just make them feel better, God? Can't you just take their pain go away?

Just some of the questions that rattle around in my mind as this notion of the ceiling fan spinning continues to play out in my mind.

My phone rang at 10 p.m. last night with a distraught friend on the other end. The situation he described to me through his tears, and even sobbing, literally made me pose the question, "God, why? Why didn't you stop this, why won't stop the spinning?" It also led me into an attitude of prayer which may not subside soon.

I am no answer man - that is clear to anyone who knows me - but God is teaching me a few things through this life I am living...for Him.

One reason He doesn't just fix everything, I believe, is that Jesus wants us to draw near to come to Him with everything.

In Jeremiah 29 He tells us that "you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." AWESOME! He wants us to bring our petitions to Him - each and every one of them. When there are things we question, He wants us to ask for the answer. He wants us to turn to others and have them do the same. When life is awesome, He wants to hear that, too.

He's also calling into His work.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine this morning, relating this whole ceiling fan conversation. This was his question - rather poignant, at that. "Was there a switch in the room where you could have turned the fan off?"

Of course there was, but that would have required something of us, wouldn't it?

I have very few answers to many questions, but our God is one who is always at work - and He calls us into His work - to join Him in it. That in itself is amazing. That He wants us to help in His redemptive, restorative work in this world, but that's the point of the question about turning the switch off. He has taught us some things and also equips us to work with Him in others.

There are situations, virtually everyday if we are dialed into them, when God poses the same question posed in Isaiah 6:8: And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I, Send me."

Experiencing grace and peace in this life is summed up, in part, in this. It is seeing our resurrected Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, at work. It is having the fan spinning out of control in our lives or in the lives of others around us and Him asking us, "Whom shall I send?"

Call out to Him today - listen to what He is calling you into - and trust that the fan spinning is one way in which you may see Him show up today.

Grace and peace,


Monday, November 10, 2008

Best shot

Here we are a third of the way through the month of November, the temperature is hovering around freezing and there is still some residue in our lawn from a Thursday evening wintry mix that left a light blanket of snow here in Northwest Iowa.

Winter is apparently upon us, and I have golf on the brain - sort of!

I spent the past three and a half days at Cursillo, a weekend devoted to providing a short course in Christian living to those who want to attend. It is always an awesome experience and I leave having been blessed far beyond anything that I could possibly have given to God or anyone else during those three days in the Hills.

I am now home and have a couple of blogs in my mind - the first the result of a conversation I heard between two men who were enjoying a little fellowship and getting to know one another.

I forget who the other gentleman was, but the evangelist who got my attention was this beautiful 71 year old guy named Phillip. He was telling whoever it is that he was talking to about playing golf with his wife.

"We play best shot," he said. "We go out there, each hit our shots, use the best one and in the end, it's our score. If we shoot 85, it's our score."

I was just sitting there in meditation, quietly thinking about a lot of different things - apparently eavesdropping, too - when Phillip's words pierced my heart. A few feet away is this guy talking about how he just loves spending time with his wife - even golfing.

That conversation took me back to times that weren't so wonderful in my life - when my wife and I were on our own paths, doing our own thing, often fighting as if our very lives depended on it. We were often on the offensive, attacking the other and doing our best to win each and every fight. Our goal was rarely oneness and in battle we were anything but loving.

Read these words from Ephesians 5:22-28:
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself."

Genesis 2:24 ends with the words, "and they will become one flesh." When I read the end of Ephesians 5:28 my footnote took me to Genesis 2 saying that for the man to love his wife is to love one who has become part of his flesh.

I could also go to I Corinthians 13 to get the Biblical definition for love: love is patient, love is kind, it keeps no record of wrongs and the like. I love these passages because God gave them to us as the best way to live. He has a full book full of the best way to live - including in marriage.

Until Christ become the most important thing in my life, I certainly wasn't loving my wife as Christ loved the church. Probably don't now, but I want to. I certainly didn't give myself up for her. I was far too selfish for that. May still be some times, but I don't want to be.

As God began to put our lives back together and continues in his restorative work in our lives, I love the idea of playing best ball. I'm no scratch husband (if you can hang with the scratch golfing metaphor here), but I want to be! In order to do that, I need to keep the ball in play and not hit it out of bounds. Finding myself in the rough and behind a tree isn't overly productive, either. I must not care about winning, about being right and being selfish can no longer be an option - that is the rough personified.

The more Jesus Christ matters to each partner in a marriage - the more we stand on earth and desire to grow closer to Him who is seated on the throne high and lifted up, the closer we will grow to one another.

When "my" score doesn't count and "ours" does, this is marriage as God intended it. Thank you, Phillip, for this incredible visual. Thank you, Jesus, for taking his words and piercing my heart in this manner!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


As I sat in the Pizza Ranch yesterday afternoon waiting for my lunch guest to return to the table, something caught my eye in the midst of my miserable state of having over-eaten the Ranch buffet.

"Ever felt a hunger so powerful you couldn't tame it?" reads the piece of Pizza Ranch literature that also includes a menu and the phone numbers of their growing list of stores throughout the midwest. "That's Cowboy Hungry...And when Cowboy Hunger hits, there only one solution. Head straight for your nearest Pizza Ranch."

I have spent my professional life in newspapers - covering meetings; writing stories; photographing people, athletes, etc.; and creating and selling advertising - you name it in newspapers, I have probably done it. I particularly have always enjoyed the creating and selling part, helping businesses promote themselves and to increase their bottom line while increasing my own.

A sort of hunger, I suppose.

That being said, I appreciate a good ad campaign when I see one. But as I glanced out the window at the beautiful sunshiny day, this piece of literature grabbed my attention and I couldn't let go of it.

Over the past few years, my hunger and desire for things has changed immensely. My hunger and desire to exceed expectations, to earn money and provide for my family (which isn't all bad), to have this and that and to not be like others was an all consuming hunger. I suppose there was even a time when I headed straight for my nearest Pizza Ranch (or some equally worldly place) to appease my "cowboy hunger."

That which I hunger for now, though, has become "a hunger so powerful that I can't tame it." In my continuing quest to experience grace and peace, the hunger for all things Christ burns deep in my being.

That hunger helps John 10:10 come to life when John talks about having life and having it to the full. It is an appetite to know God more and more and to see him show up more and more. It is a desire for a daily diet of prayer, praise, scripture and community. It is a hunger for eternity here and now.

God showed up in a worship service on Sunday, a restaurant yesterday, a phone call earlier today and in song a moment ago.

Read these lyrics from Shawn McDonald's "Here I am" as he hungers for more and more of Christ:

"I lay myself at your feet,
won't you meet, won't you meet us
I cannot do it on my own,
I cannot do it all alone
Here I am, tonight,
with my arms open wide
I want you to come inside"

I wonder where he is going to show up next!?!

The beauty of a life of hunger, of being "Cowboy Hungry" as my brothers at Pizza Ranch would put it, is that I know He is going to show up again very, very soon!

My prayer today is that we are starving for Jesus - that suppressing that appetite isn't an option - and that we will look to Him and to each other to be fed...that we will hunger for Him like never before.

Are you hungry?

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Walking around my in-laws house is a treat.  The lawn is perfectly manicured and there are pots of plants everywhere.  Creations that my father-in-law has painstakingly potted and then cared for.  

As I look at these things I am struck by just how amazing it must have been to be God as he began creating this world we live in.  The splendor of it all strikes - as beautiful as the plants and pots that Harold creates are, they are nothing compared to what the Creator of the Universe puts together.

Lately I have thought a lot about pots.  As I prepare a teaching for The Lighthouse, our churches second campus ministry, pots are on my heart.  

"Huh?," you ask.

Growing up going to church, and even into my adult life, I would walk into church and see people who seemed to have it all together, whose lives were seemingly perfect and fruitful and growing.  I liken them to the beautiful pots around my in-laws' house.  Perfectly manicured, well cared for, grown with love and care.  Perfect!

As I spent this time in church and observed some of these people, I really began to compare their pot with mine, if you will.  My pot, I felt, was nothing compared to those whose lives were "so perfect," those people who seemingly "had everything together."  Their lives were so beautifully arranged, crafted so well that it was obvious to me that God loved them far more then he did me.  He had to - otherwise these church-going peoples' live would look more like mine.  I figured that those people with "amazing pots" must have lived perfect lives and been basically sin-free.

That thinking, albeit false, can make "church" pretty intimidating, wouldn't you say?  And if you're like me, your pot never really looked like one of those.  My pot, in my eyes, looked like it had cracks all over it.  Eventually, that pot was so badly marred that it was broken into a million pieces.

The Creator of the Universe, though, is here to put all of us "broken pots" back together again.  He holds us in the palm of his hands; molding us and putting our broken lives back together.

Read these words from Jeremiah 18: 1-6:  This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord.  Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message.  So, I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel.  But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.  Then the word of the Lord came to me:  "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the Lord.  "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel."

In the Hebrew, the word for potter is "yatsar" - it means to form, fashion or frame.  It is also translated as "Creator" or "Maker."  In the text, Jeremiah goes down to watch the potter and sees that while the clay in his hands can sometimes be marred, the potter starts over again and re-forms it - re-fashions it.  And then the Lord asks, "can I not do with you as this potter does?"

I am amazed that a piece of scripture given to Jeremiah around 600B.C. is relevant in my life today.  As this teaching comes together, I find myself right in the middle of this text, as if the Lord is saying to me today - "O, Chris, can I not do with you as this potter does?  Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand."

As I continue to pursue Him with all of my heart, looking for grace and peace along the way, the past (Satan) seems to like to re-appear - as it did today.  And yet, in the middle of the struggle from which I am now incredibly emotionally drained, He speaks to me, for He is molding me and shaping me into who He wants me to be.  

II Corinthians 5:17 says "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come."

The Yatsar - the Creator of the Universe - doesn't care what we have done, how horribly we have sinned, how many terrible decisions we have made.  He comes to us in our brokenness, sweeps up the pieces of our shattered pots and begins to reshape us - if we let him.

He wants to do it for me - He wants to do it for you, too!  My prayer tonight is if you have made mistakes; if your life is less that you think it should be or can be; if you are stuck in patterns that lead you to feelings of despair; if someone has hurt you; if you are at your wits end; if you are broken - that you would listen to the question anew:  "O (your name here), can I not do with you as this potter has done to this clay?  As the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand!"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The parking lot

There are times when God makes himself perfectly clear to me. Times when I can almost see him and touch him...then there are those moments like I experienced in the parking lot last night that leave me dazed and confused, asking if I am really a Christ follower.

Having just left a time of praise and prayer, 45 minutes with Jesus and others who are longing for more of him, it was time to pick up kids from catechism & youth group. Kid #2 was on time, kid #1 not so much.

After running a friend home, running to the store and taking #2 home, there I found myself back in the parking lot for the third time, AT CHURCH, with rage coarsing through my veins. "I am exhausted, I have things to do, things I want to do, it is time for them to be finished. Why can't you be done with youth group on time?" Thoughts like this run through my mind in the parking lot.

As I continue to experience grace & peace in this world, I am dumbfounded at how I can be so in touch one minute and so out of it the next - part of Satan's work I guess. Having read enough John Eldredge books to know that there is a battle going around us all the time, and that I need to judge what is going on around me by its fruit, invariably I find that I have not arrived and that I am not even close yet when "parking lot" moments occur in my life.

The youth group was late because they had surrounded the home of a gentleman from our community who is battling cancer. Some 45 kids and youth sponsors surrounded the home of this couple and turned to Christ in prayer. It was a moving time, I am sure, for two of the kids and their parents, who are part of this youth group. As I learned of this today, tears filled my eyes and shame filled my heart for what I was thinking as they were offering petitions to our Lord.

To experience grace & peace is to come to that point where life isn't about us anymore. It is to come to that point where Jesus Christ and what He is up to is what life is about. It is about not thinking so much about our own timetables. It is about circling someone's house in prayer and loving others above ourselves.

When this occurs John 10:10 becomes available to us. "The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

In this world so driven by schedules and a me-first attitude, I experience grace & peace when Christ shows up - and when he reveals himself to me. He did it at my computer twice within five minutes today - bringing tears to my eyes as he shows me just how present he is if - just if - I take some time, even in the parking lot, to experience the grace & peace he wants for all of our lives!