Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mission Possible: Part V "Big Bellies!"

Let's get candid here. I'm going to tell you the truth.
Do you know you have a big belly?
More than just a 'bit of a pot', but a really large girth, and your ready to burst!

As a follower and a disciple of Jesus Christ, your belly is made to be big. God designed us to be holding tanks and reservoirs of Him. Full to overflowing. Ready to burst and to be spilled out.

John 7:38; "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."

I have been talking about living a missional life in these last few blogs. Living in such a way that the people around you, who don't know Jesus, can come to know Him because they know you! They can have a taste of the living water, and begin to see what they are missing!

Too many Christians I know have few, if any, friends that are not believers. They surround themselves with people who believe and look exactly like them. They are content to keep the living water flowing back and forth within their select group. I'm not saying this is wrong, but I am saying that we are missing the whole purpose of Christ, if all we do is keep the water to ourselves.

This is not what Jesus did. It is not how the Apostle Paul made an impact in every region he journeyed in.

Jesus was known for "being a friend of sinners"; prostitutes, tax collectors, corrupt businessmen, Samaritans, and people discarded from the religious circles of the day like the lame, the lepers, the demonized.
Jesus could of kept his time on earth limited to hanging out the the disciples. Enjoying his teaching time with them every day for three years; teaching, talking, praying, training. But he didn't do that! Instead, He sought people out and entered into their lives.

It's just too easy, safe, and frankly selfish, for us to water ourselves and each other and let those who don't know the Living Water, remain thirsty. That is NOT why we are filled to overflowing! The very idea of "overflow" illustrates water that cannot be contained. It fills us up yes, and then it spills out, and it spreads to those around us.

Look, we've spent enough time on ourselves haven't we? Aren't you full enough yet?

For years, and in many contexts of both traditional and simple church circles, I have heard the phrase; "We aren't ready yet!"
We have been reading book after book, blog after blog, going to conferences year after year, getting prayer, ministry, words of "whatever" for years! Isn't it time for us to stop spending "our riches" on ourselves and spend it upon those who ARE really empty?

Jesus said, to the disciples gathered around him who were amazed that He had been speaking with a Samaritan woman; "Lift up your eyes and LOOK on the fields, that they are white (ready) for harvest." John 4:35. He was demonstrating how to look beyond their little group, and to see "what the Father was doing" in reaching the unreached. Jesus stayed in the village of Samaritans for two days and the bible says that "many more believed". This was a new concept to the disciples, who were content with a message for and the fellowship with, those they were familiar with.

It's time to step out folks. Into the great adventure of missional living.

God has the plan. He knows where He is leading us in touching the lives of people not familiar to us.
God takes what He has placed within us, and empowers it. He takes what is in the natural and makes it super natural. He waits on us to make the first move in faith, and then He adds the impact. The power, the affect.

For example; my husband can really hit a baseball. In fact, at one time he was on the Minnesota Twins farm team being coached to the big leagues. Hitting a baseball over a fence was fairly natural to him, but it was all in his own strength and ability. However, if there was a "rear wind" as he got to the plate, he hit a home run every single time!
That is how it is for us. We step up to the plate, bat in hand, and swing at the pitch, knowing that the Spirit of God is our back wind, empowering our natural ability to supernatural home runs! The good news is that we ALL make the team. No one is benched, unless you bench yourself!

Okay, let's talk practicality. Make the discussion more than just my ramblings. How can you live missionally in the practicality of your daily life with those who don't know Jesus yet?

What ya got?

Are you good with budgets and managing money? Help someone you know who needs to learn and manage their money better.
Are you good at construction, plumbing, electrical, etc.? Do you know how many men and some women, who would love a mentor/teacher to help them with a household project that they are intimated by because they don't know how to do it? You be the one willing to come alongside to teach them.
Cars? Can you fix and teach some basics? Motorcycle rider? Can you invite some neighbor you've seen on a motorcycle to a ride and lunch one day and get to know them?
Are you a good dad or mom? There are so many young men, women, and couples don't have true fathering/mothering and someone helping them be fathers/mother themselves.
Can you cook? How about teaching a young couple some great recipes and doing them together building a relationship? Have a neighborhood cooking party to share recipes.
Like kids? Know any young couples who can't afford a night out and a babysitter? Offer to be the babysitter sometime.
Are you an encourager? An optimistic person with coaching gifts? Find out the dreams and hopes of a neighbor or co-worker and make yourself their greatest encourager and supporter.
Like to BBQ, do campfires, and roast marshmallows? Make it a regular event and fun for all! Make your house the fun house on the block!
Are you good at parties? How about giving a birthday party for a neighbor or their kids. Go all out on the decorations and make them feel special and celebrated! Or a wedding, baby or housewarming shower?
Do you like eating out? How about taking some folks out that can't afford it or even buy them a couple gift certificates as encouragement for their marriage, birthday, life, new job, etc.?
Do you like shopping? How about taking a elderly person or someone without transportation around shopping? You'd be surprised how many older folks live around you and don't have much money for food. Their cupboards are often quite empty.
Do you listen well and like to hear stories? Older folks have great stories, are often isolated in their homes and are quite open to a new relationship.
Do you have a car to drive people without transportation to doctor appointments, job interviews, errands etc.?
Been down to a state job search site recently? It's a place loaded with people to help write resumes, practice job interviews, drive to interviews, and encourage.
Do you like cross cultural venues? Lot's of refugees live in every area of the country. Plenty of folks who are living isolated and lonely lives. Legals and not, does it really matter? Help them learn English, understand papers that come in the mail. Be an advocate for them in a new culture and help them navigate it. Help them set up their households.
Like to vacation? Ever think of taking someone who can't afford it or isn't in your Christian club?
Love Christmas? How about going out and buying the "whole celebration" of a tree, ornaments, food, decorations and gifts for a family you know is struggling this year financially, and you could bring Jesus to them this Christmas?

Look around you. Use what skills, gifts and knowledge you have. Listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Serve. Build relationships. Love authentically. Be there and be accessible.

The people around us are not a project, but are instead are an offer of a relationship. In our culture, we're not so good at relationships. We want the quick, the uncommitted, the 'no strings' and 'no cost' kind of outreach into people's lives. But we can change.

We can touch people in every context of our lives if we choose to do so. We can be to those around us the fragrance of Christ and a light in dark place. In closing, I'll tell you a story from my own life that illustrates this.

I had built a friendship with an Iranian family that came as refugees. They spoke no English, and knew only a few distant relatives living here. I helped them learn English, set up a home, get enrolled in schools and find jobs. We spent time together, eating, shopping, doing a lot of pantomime (which works as a great language bridge) and building a friendship. I had a number of opportunities to pray for them, and share about my faith and the differences with their own (Baha'i). One day, I was invited to a party in the Iranian community and my friends took me around and made introductions. They were speaking Farsi, and I eventually asked them after about the fifth introduction; "How are you introducing me? It sounds different than a regular introduction of my name?" (by this time I was learning basic Farsi). My friend replied that she was introducing me as; "the one who shines like the moon in a dark place".

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mission Possible: Part IV " A Servant First"

Many years ago, I had a dream one night that changed my life in a dramatic way.

In the dream I was on the banks of a river that was flowing fast and deep. I stepped into the river and walked upstream wanting to find its source. After a time, I reached a fork in the river. On the left side of this fork, it was clear that this was the side with the main source of the water. The right side, in contrast, had barely enough water flowing in it to cover my feet. Of course I wanted the deep water, and to follow it to the source!

As I walked upstream in the river on the deep side, I saw in the distance what appeared to be a huge city on a mountain from which the river flowed. The city was all white and illuminated, and yet full of color. It was magnificant and breathtaking and I innately knew the Lord dwelled there, and THAT was where I wanted to be!

As I excitedly made my way up to that city, I hit an invisible barrier that stopped me short. Two men suddenly appeared and stood on each side of me, blocking my way. I was irritated with them, and told them I wanted to be let through so I could go on up to the mountain, to that city to be with the Lord. Why would they stop me from that?

They shook their heads no, and pointed to the other river, the shallow one that I had quickly passed by as I chose the deeper side, and they said; "No, you must learn to be a servant first".

I looked over to that sad trickle of water and saw that it lead to and through a run down and neglected town. The water slowly moved through the center of it, and in some places even appeared to dry up altogether. The people looked horrible! They were poor, shabby, beaten down and seemed to wander aimlessly throughout the broken town.

I died inside.

Go THERE? I gazed back up to the beautiful mountain and couldn't believe it! I could be on the mountain, in the presence of the Lord! I could be in the deepest of all water, filled and satisfied, but instead I had to go where there was barely any water? And to make it worse, with people who looked like they didn't care one way or another about it!

Then I saw the word "RUTH" written over the town. I was sunk, and I knew it.

The meaning of the name Ruth means friend and companion.

I understood what was wanted of me. I was to go and be a friend and companion to those destitute people, living with them in their sad little town.

I would serve them.
I would serve the One who wanted me there.

Jesus comes to us, to serve us in our own little destitute worlds, so we can know Him and the Father.

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says of Himself; "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

He sends us to serve in His likeness.

In Philippians 2:5 - 8 it says; "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on the cross!"

It's easy to serve ourselves and seek the deeper water of fellowship with the Lord. That comes pretty natural to our self centered nature. It's even fairly easy to serve the Body of Christ and those who appreciate and understand the core of what motivates us.

It is not easy to serve those who don't know Him and walk blindly in the dark. To be light, salt and the fragrance of Christ is much more challenging and draining with those who live for the world. The warfare involved adds even more difficulties to overcome.

But it is our calling.

Jesus said in Matthew 4:12-13; "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means; I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners".

We are all called to be missionaries to the world around us. To befriend those in it, as Jesus did, and come alongside them as companions. To live the message of Christ before them and with a credibility that comes as we serve and love them, entering into their lives through relationship.

"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written; "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10: 14-15

Consider yourself sent........

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mission Possible: Part III "Yes We Can!"

When Barak Obama used the phrase "Yes, we can!" in his campaign for President, it touched something within people, and I'm not talking about politics here. We all want to feel we have purpose and a unique contribution to make in life. We are created to be ignited, set apart and set lose for the purposes that God holds in His Heart for us.

It's not for the few, the chosen or the special. It's not for the paid, ordained, and trained.
It is for each and every one of us!
The choice of knowing Him, and these purposes to their fulfillment however, is our choice. And we make these choices on a daily basis.

In the previous blog posting I mentioned how Jesus lived a missional life, and how He is our example.
First, and over all, He lived in continual intimacy and fellowship with the Father. As the result of this fellowship, it is clear that His mission was to bring that same intimacy and restored relationship with God to mankind through salvation. Each day God, the Father, gave Jesus opportunities to reveal this personally to people in a variety of ways and contexts. Jesus received His daily "memos" of what was on the agenda for that day from the Father. The fruit of this is evident. It is incredible how much Jesus accomplished in the short three years of living this missional lifestyle of "only doing that which The Father showed him to do".

What kind of impact could we each see in our own lives if we believed and acted in such a way!

Jesus said in John 14:12; "I tell you the truth, that anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father".

Do you believe Jesus meant these words, or was he being overly enthusiastic about the potential of those who believed in him and acted on it?

Could we see the lives around us transformed like that of Zaccheus, the demoniac, Matthew, Mary, Paul, the Centurion, the Samaritan woman and so many others?

Yes, we can!

In 1 Cor 1:5 - 7 Paul addresses the carnal, immature and weak church of Corinth with these words; " in everything you have been enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you. So that you are not lacking in any gift. "

Just how do you interpret the words; in everything, enriched, in all, not lacking in any?
I'd say that's pretty unambiguous.

Now, do you really live and act like you believe it?

The Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor.13:5; "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test?"

If we have Christ in us we have all that we need! We are rich! We are loaded with supernatural everything!
If we are lacking, it is only in our belief to know this is true.
Just what do you believe if you don't believe this? And if you do believe it, are you acting like it? Remember also the scriptures exhort us to not just be hearers but doers of the Word so it takes root in us and becomes a reality in our lives.

In Luke 24: 45 it says Jesus "opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures" and charged them to go out and preach what they were given. In 24:48; "You are my witnesses of these things".

You have gifts, talents, skills, abilities, and more that God wants to use to touch others that don't know Him. And these are meant to be empowered by His Grace, directed by the Spirit. To be His witnesses. His ambassadors. His message.

Go out and be missional in His power, promise and strength!

Yes, we can!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mission Possible: Part II "Yes to Mission!"

There is a controversy brewing and I just don't get it.

It's all about the word missional. "To be or not to be", borrowing from William Shakespeare.
I've been hearing and reading discussions in the Body of Christ, and in particular the Organic, Simple and Missional movement, about the value, worth and sequence of being missional.
Debates and conversations over things like; "does Christology proceed Missiology" or vise versa ? "Worship, not mission, is the ultimate goal for the church." "Missional is really a covering for the works of our flesh." "There is too much emphasis on being missional, and we need first to have more fellowship with Jesus and with each other in community".

I'm personally frustrated with these conversations.

How can you have intimacy with the Lord and NOT live in a "mission". A mission that others would know Him! Intimacy results in an alignment with the desires and heart of God. His heart is missional! He wants His creation to Know Him!

Worship is the ultimate goal over mission?
Mission is worship. Mission is obedience. Obedience is worship.
Jesus honored the Father by obeying Him in all things, the first being His being willing to come to earth and live among us for awhile and then dying for our sins. His prayers were heard because he was submitted to the Father. My mission is to worship Him with my life and with all that I have been given. Far more than the songs I sing or the money I give. Remember the parable of the talents? I want to multiply it all to honor and worship Him.

We honor the Father, as Jesus did, when He walked in their shared mission to provide redemption and relationship to humanity. Jesus did only that which the Father told Him to do, every day. He had the overall mission, and then the day to day missions. If you study the daily life of Jesus, you see that He was the epitome of living missional. He could of sat on top of the mountain every day, basking in the intimate presence of God, but He didn't. How blessed we are that he instead revealed the mission of the Father each day to people in a multiple of ways.

God Himself is mission and the source of all mission.
Mission is not initiated by the flesh of men, but by the Spirit of God.
He gave His only son, SO THAT others may know and experience the incredible relationship of knowing Him. That's His mission and desire (that all would come to the knowledge of Him.) Without mission, no one would know His great love!

I know Him, and this incredible gift He "missioned" to give me 25 years ago. I want others around me to know and experience what I have! It's too awesome and incredible to keep to myself! It is the Spirit of God within me that initiates and motivates this, not my flesh. It's not our flesh that pursues mission, it is the Holy Spirit working out the desires of the Father and Son.
Jesus told the disciples to wait until they received the Holy Spirit and then they would "go out" and tell others and make more disciples who would be filled with this same Spirit. When they did receive Him at Pentecost, it motivated them into the greatest missional movement the world has experienced.

Jesus is my example in all things. Jesus is the ultimate model of living a missional life that was full of intimacy with the Father, fruitfulness and perfect obedience. He said, if you see Me, you see the Father, and as He sent Me, so I send you.....

That's enough for me.........

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mission Possible: Part I

I love watching movies like the Jason Bourne trilogies and Mission Impossible. These guys are extra-ordinary in every way.
Smart, strong, multi talented (is there anything they don't know how to do?). They have almost super human abilities to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. They have incredible drive and purpose persevering through difficult and injurious events, improvising great feats with whatever is available to them at the time. They make an impact everywhere they go.
They accomplish their mission, every time.

I'd like to be a Jason Bourne; strong, capable, invincible, multi-talented and really smart. He is just good and successful at everything he attempts!
In reality, I'm probably more like Gideon (Judges 6). He was wasn't like Jason Bourne at all! In fact, on the surface he was about as far from Bourne as you could get. He was kind of wimpy and weak, pretty average, fearful, not all that smart and hardly a leader in the community. Not someone you'd think would make any kind of impact and complete any mission of value.

But hey! My (and yours too) lucky day! We don't live in the world of Jason Bourne.
Instead, we live in the Kingdom of oxymoron's; the Kingdom of God. Where our weakness's are not a liability. Instead, they are an asset! A Kingdom where we do have missions to accomplish and lives to impact.

Scripture says; " There are not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble. " (1 Co 1:26.). The Apostle Paul says of himself; " I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling", ( 1 Co 2:3.) He goes on to say that his weakness resulted in a "demonstration of the Spirit and of the power of God" vs. 4. As good as Bourne is, he can't even come close to someone walking in the power of God! Talk about invincible!

Gideon with trumpets and pitchers, defeated an enemy.
A stone in the hand of a young David brought down a giant.
A widow in Zarephath said; "I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl, and a little oil in the jar", (1 Ki 17:12) Yet, it multiplied for many "days" to feed the three in her household. Scripture is loaded with examples like these.

God does not cease in doing impossible missions through weak people. Rather, we falter in our belief that He will do it through us! We are looking at ourselves, instead of an awesome God!

In John 6, Jesus asked Phillip how to feed the multitude of people gathered on the mountain who had gathered to listen to Jesus. Phillip comments that with what they have in their purse, it was not sufficient to buy food for the multitude.
Andrew however, saw the potential of "the small" in the hand of Jesus. He didn't know how the insignificant contribution of 2 fish and 5 barely loaves would help, but he offered it anyway, trusting Jesus would do SOMETHING with it. And Jesus did! Something powerful!

Today, most of us only have a couple fish and maybe, a few loaves. Our trumpets are rusty and dust filled. Maybe our jars and purses are empty. We're feeling pretty wimpy and weak.
We're seeing what we DO NOT HAVE, instead of what we DO HAVE!
Are we thinking like Phillip or Andrew?

We are called to be obedient with what He gives us.
To use it!
That is so simple really.

Whatever you have in gifts, abilities, relationships, venues, and material goods, are opportunities to see the Kingdom of oxymoron's manifest. Watch Him take it, use and multiply it into fruitfulness and acts of His power that you never knew was possible. He will!

Can you imagine your life powerful and impacting?
God wants it to be.
In fact, He waits on you to see Him prove it.

Your weakness's are your assets but only if you see it as so. They are not limitations to Him. Our God is waiting and willing to show you! We have the most powerful Source that ever existed in and through us, wanting to reveal Himself to and through us so that the world may Know Him!

We don't have to be the Jason Bournes of our times to accomplish the mission. We just need to step into the missions available to us every day. Trusting God and the Kingdom of oxymoron's to manifest itself as we step into our 'mission possibles'.

In the words from the old Mission Impossible series of the 1960's and 1970's: "Your mission, should you decide to accept it....."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Live Changes and Become the Model

Most of us would probably view ourselves as teachable and trainable; that we have not become set in our ways, practices, and ideas of interpreting and expressing our faith. That we remain open to the mid course correction opportunities that come our way.

In reality however, making a change is difficult. Remaining teachable throughout life is a challenge. It takes a lot of humility and courage. As we mature, we're supposed to know more right? Or at least have people thinking that about us.

Not everyone wants to take the leap into a mid course change that often feels like free fall from the cliff of status quo.

The simple, organic, and missional Christian walk is filled with opportunities for mid course corrections, and the free fall is real. It can be pretty unnerving and unsettling.
The good news is that God provides not only the parachute but knows exactly where to place our landing. On His target, if we trust Him to do so.

When I teach a motorcycle riding class, I do a "demo" before each lesson. We model for our students what we would like them to learn and then practice it for a while on the riding range. Many people come to our classes with previous riding experience and they have developed some techniques that at best are okay, but hinder them from riding more skillfully and effectively. At worst they are harmful and even dangerous for them. The value of having a demo for these riders is more than just instructional, as it is for the new riding students. For the more experienced riders it means they have to make a conscious, and often dramatic change in how they think, ride and maneuver the motorcycle. For some, they can't make the change and continue on doing as they have always done. For the new students however, no mid course corrections are needed. They have an advantage. They don't have to change, they just learn.

I don't see much of a difference in the paradigm shifting going on within the Body of Christ at this juncture. Doing things "as we have always done them" is being challenged, and the rules for what church is or isn't, are being explored. New "demos" are displayed before us, and we are all in a learning curve of change. Some can make the mid course corrections, and others cannot.

We are in a teachable moment in history. A time where change is in the wind.

The Kingdom is being discussed outside of seminary by folks without theology degrees and they are doing these discussions in their homes, work places, coffee shops, bars and all sorts of unorthodox settings. People are actually reading their own bibles for instruction rather than just listening to an hour of teaching once a week. Those who have not been "full time paid ministers" are finding out they too are called to serve the King in full time, 24/7 obedience and availability, and they are challenging the notion that there is sacred work and then there is secular work. The whole Army is being called into action, rather than the few, and the momentum forward is evident.

Not too unlike when Jesus Himself walked the earth. The ultimate teaching moment! Another time where change was in the wind.

He was after all; "just Joseph's son". Those He called to join Him in this radical change were fishermen, tax collectors, women and nobodies! He had church on mountains, in boats, at wells and in homes. He did such unorthodox things like spit in dirt and smear it in blind eyes, forgive a woman caught in adultery, share the Kingdom with prostitutes and tax collectors, healing on the Sabbath and breaking the sacred rules on a regular basis. It was like He carried a big banner that proclaimed; "I came to bring change and bring it more abundantly"!

Those who watched and learned from the "demos" of Jesus and made the midcourse corrections, prospered in Kingdom terms. Those who didn't, remained stagnant in their institution. White washed tombs, blind leading the blind.

Ivan Illich, was an Austrian philosopher critical of contemporary institutions like education, medicine and economic development. He spoke about something called counterproductivity; which is the concept that describes a phenomenon that when an institution reaches a critical point and forms a monopoly, without knowing it, they begin to impede their own performance.

This is what happened to Israel. They started out with the very Words of God, handwritten on stone tablets with His own Hand. And there was more! A great book written of the love and commitment of a God who desired relationship with those He created.
Remember the Tabernacle? The very Presence of God hanging out with His people! Wow, the first God in a Box! But that was His box of making...not the one we put Him into. There is a big difference. Jesus came to us again in a box of human form.

Pretty quickly in time, the words of love and fatherly instruction became institutionalized rules, formats, and all about performance. Systems, professionalism and elitism replaced intimacy, simplicity, dependency and the value of each life in Kingdom realities. Jesus saw Israel as sheep without a shepherd, harassed and downtrodden.

We have our own form of institutionalized counterproductivity today.

In the book of Matthew, 18:3-4, Jesus says; "Truly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven".

Children are teachable. They accept their dependency. They make the corrections needed when confronted with the instruction.
My motorcycle students that are new to riding, have the openness and humility to take the instruction and learn. Some of my more experienced riders also humble themselves and make the corrections in how they ride and maneuver the motorcycle.

What about us? Are we teachable, trainable and humble enough to make any mid course corrections that the Holy Spirit is leading us into? Can we become and stay as little children and experience all of the Kingdom as we live out this simple, organic and missional life? Can we jump into the unknown, trusting our free fall to the One who knows where to land us?

One of my favorite quotes from Ivan Illich is where he says; "We can only live changes; we cannot think our way to humanity. Every one of us, every group, must become the model of that which we desire to create."

"O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever." Ps 131

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Yesterday the earth lost a great light.

A light that burned brightly in the the love and incredible grace of Christ. A man who exemplified the character of Jesus in every aspect of his life.
Harold received his heavenly reception and the open arms of the Lord he loved and served all these years.

I'm sure it was a party! A reception of joy and honor for a man who spent his life in passionate love and service to The One; the Source of Harold's passion.

I'm sure "His Master said to him, 'well done good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master." Matthew 25:21

Now that is something to look forward to! Running into the welcoming arms of a Father well pleased and excited to hold and affirm you!

The short time I knew Harold was long enough to see the example of a man who exemplified so much of scripture. Harold loved Jesus. Harold loved people. He was a gentle man, familiar with suffering and patient endurance. His character was evident.

Harold leaves a legacy of the realities of what Jesus can do through someone willing to live their life as a servant because they love the Master more than anything else. He was faithful in every context of life. Husband, father, friend, pastor, teacher, counselor, evangelist, and so much more. Many lives have been impacted by this gentle man who saw ministering at Sam's club with his coworkers, as important as pastoring a church of fellow believers in his home country of Brazil.

He was salt, light and the fragrance of Christ wherever that was and in whatever circumstance. He was a witness of the realities of a life lived for Jesus and His Kingdom.

What will be our legacy?

Can we be affirmed as faithful servants, obediently listening and obeying the Lord? Will we be known as bearers of light and hope to those around us lost in darkness?
Do we leave in our daily running through life, a wake of the fragrance of Jesus? Is our saltiness bringing healing to wounds and the questions of life and suffering? Does our character speak of Christ before anyone even hears about Him? Is our love evident and our grace impacting?

I don't know about you, but my goal is to have a reception like Harold had yesterday when he met the Lord face to face in heaven. I want to know my life glorified and honored the One who gave it to me for a purpose.

"Aproveite a festa" Haroldo!

It was a blessing to know you on this side of heaven! Thank you for an example to follow and for being my friend. I will miss you.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Unpleasant Training

Sometimes I long to live in a cabin somewhere up in the mountains of Idaho, Wyoming or Montana. Somewhere beautiful, serene and isolated.
A place of quiet that penetrates your soul.
A place where gazing up at the immense and endless sky, puts life into healthy perspectives.
A place of simple living and restful existence.

Maybe I'm tired. Maybe it's a time in my life where all the forces of nature, age, the experiences of the daily life of urban struggle are all coming together as a crucible. Maybe it's attack and battle fatigue. Maybe character issues that are needing adjustment. Maybe some and all of the above!
I suspect, as always, that God has a plan in it all, even though I only see it in dark glasses these days.
In the end, it doesn't really matter how I got here, or for what great purpose I find myself struggling in these days. What does matter is my response to it.

I watch my new puppy happily bounce through each day, as if today, this moment, is the BEST day yet!
Each article on the floor is a new discovery, and every room is a hidden adventure waiting to be explored. Every person she greets is the most important in her focus and affection. Her excitement over their presence overflows. As cute as she is, she is also undisciplined and untrained. At only 8 weeks old she is a cute, bouncy little bundle of potential, and that potential will take some effort for it to emerge.

Training is the only way for that potential to be fulfilled. The only way for her to mature and learn obedience to our commands. She won't like some of it and will surely try our patience during the process I'm sure! It takes a lot of commitment and effort to patiently teach her. Rewarding the behaviors we want and discouraging those we don't. Dog training is not for the weak and passive. In the end however, we will have a great dog to enjoy!

In the Book of Hebrews, it says of Jesus that; " although He was a son, he learned obedience from the things which He suffered." The definition of suffer is: to undergo or be subjected to pain. To permit, subject or endure oneself to. It is a verb, which means that it is an ongoing action.

It's an amazing thing to think of Jesus, the perfect son of God, pleasing to Him in all his ways, needing to suffer to learn obedience. Just think on that a minute.

Was it in part, the Son learning to identify with all that is human? To forge the path ahead for our training in suffering and obedience? Was it only about the Cross and the cost of that act on our behalf? Somehow, I think it also had to do with ministry that used up his strength, patience and fortitude as he walked in his own humanness and with the realities of relating to the humans around him. Jesus did get tired! He "endured" much of his time on earth. Read about the many times he "went away by himself", or "sent the disciples across" without him. When he proclaimed; "how long do I need to be with you?", it sounded like someone a bit "people weary". He was familiar with rejection, alienation, persecution and all those types of suffering.
Regardless of the reasons why and when Jesus suffered that we can theologize forever over, the bottom line is that he did learn obedience through suffering.

Hebrews continues on to tell us that; " for those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives" and; " it is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons."

"Discipline is not pleasant at the time", but the Word again says, " yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness".

So, my response? (Well, if you want to send me an airline ticket and a cozy mountain cabin to hold up in for a few weeks, I'd love it! Just kind of kidding!)

At the deepest core of my heart, above all else, I want please the Father and Son. I want my life to honor their love and eternal commitment to me. Whatever it takes. What other choice is there for someone who has freely chosen to submit joyfully to the One who is everything good and right?

Although I'd love the cabin in the mountains, and the peace of those surroundings, I will subject myself to God. Begging for more Grace and strength to do what He says I need to do when I find myself in this training session. I will do what the Word says, which is to "strengthen feeble knees" (keep standing), and "hands" (stay involved) and "make level paths for my feet" (stay in Him, His Truth and Word).

In some ways, it may be easier to train my puppy than the Lord training me, but I will submit myself to the Ultimate Trainer and reach my full potential!

May you also.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Learning is Doing

On my last blog post I spoke on the real struggle of organic, simple and missional life. It's not an easy path for those who like knowing where they are going on a tangible daily basis. You just don't get all the information you'll need for this journey as a set up manual when you step into it.
For most people; figuring it out as we go, with the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit as our guide, can be disorienting and uncomfortable. Some of us don't like adventures all that much and want the map! We are used to being told what to do, believe and sign up for!

Like the children of Israel, after leaving years of captivity for the promise of a land of inheritance and fruitfulness we, instead of saying; "give us manna!", proclaim; "give us the manual!"

However, God has a land of inheritance for each of us that is unique, tailored and fruitful. It's imperative that we learn and discover it on our own with Him on that one of a kind journey.

We don't get the manual, instead, we learn by doing it with Him. The Teacher of all teachers.

When my kids were little, I had to make a conscious effort to help them learn to do things for themselves because I knew it was better for them, even if it was not better for me. I wanted my kids to love the learning process, so they'd continue to grow and learn all their lives and in every context. From a selfish and convenient perspective, it was easier, quicker and more efficient if I did things for them. They on their own, usually produced large messes as they figured out to feed themselves, dress, keep up their room, brush teeth, make cookies, do science projects, term papers, etc. I was okay with the messiness of learning because I knew the end resulted in truly acquired skills, learning and confidence. I could of done many things for them. I could of instructed them in every detail, closely monitoring and controlling the process. However, would they of really learned, or just learned to be good at following instructions and a controlling parent?

In the journey of learning a simple, organic and missional life, we want the manual of instruction to study and contemplate over first. We think we learn by gathering all the information we need first, and then do it.
We listen to various speakers, take some notes and contemplate what we learned. We fill our brains with information, examples, models, other people's testimonies and maybe try out some of what we've read or heard about. We wait until we have what we think we need and then try some of it out. Enevitably, we make a mess. We struggle. We hate the process because it has messes and failures. We look like complete wackos to those around us who are watching the whole experiment. We evaluate all the things that went wrong and re-evaluate the whole paradigm. We wonder if we ARE wacko! We want more information and instructions. Then, we'll be successful! NOT!

As humans we learn by certain ways. Auditory (hearing), Visual (seeing), and Kinesthetic (doing). We can learn by any of them, but one will dominate the others as our best learning style.
As a homeschooler, it was important for me to ascertain what learning style worked best with my three kids. Once I determined which one dominated the others, I tried to incorporate as much as I could of that learning style into their learning process.
As we age, we usually become more "balanced" in our learning styles. However, one learning style increases in it's effectiveness as we age, regardless of it's previous dominance or not. That is the Kinesthetic or the "doing" learning style.

As some of you know, Tom and I are instructors for motorcycle safety riding courses for the State of MN.
We go through a long and extremely intense training process to become licensed instructors.
One of the things we learn as instructors is the best way adult learners acquire skills and retain information.

Adults learn quickly and retain the most through using their gross motor skills first.
Then, once that is acquired, the learning moves to fine motor skills and into our thinking process.

In other words, actually using your body in the learning process comes before the thinking and understanding of that skill if you wish to really learn and incorporate it.

Whether your into motorcycles or not, ride along with me a bit as I use them as a good example of what I'm talking about.

Let's say your riding along and you want the motorcycle to lean to the left (as in a curve to the left). In order to do that you must press the left hand grip. Vise versa for the right. No one understands this until they actually get on the motorcycle going about 10 mph, press the hand grip in the direction they want to go and see the bike lean and go in that direction. It makes no sense in our brains until we actually do it and see the affect.

If I'm teaching someone how to find the friction zone (the area where releasing the clutch engages the power of the motorcycle's rear wheel and you begin to move forward), no amount of explanations help until the student actually gets on the motorcycle and feels the friction zone for themselves. Since they are using their hands in new ways, balancing a couple hundred pounds and feeling pretty nervous, they inevitably stall the bike a few times in the process! Who cares? They have felt and thereby learned just what a friction zone is. Now, they can continue to improve their skills until it is a smooth and thoughtless maneuver.

Of course, all our learning is individualistic. Some students learn quick and others need to spend a bit of time to master the process. However, by actually doing the skill first, as opposed to thinking and understanding it, the skill is acquired. Motorcycle riding becomes less stressful and more fun as skills grow and confidence blooms!

It is a similar process in learning the simple organic and missional lifestyle. You must experience it (and in my motorcycle analogy; kill the motor a few times) by doing before it really starts to take shape and make sense. It can look messy, and you may have a lot of starts and stops. (You may feel like a new student on a 250lb motorcycle, a complete klutz and one who will never be a track racing star, but your moving!) Your really living out your faith in new ways, and experiencing God in the ways of Job who said "I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you".

Be encouraged by your learning process. Learn by stepping out and doing some of those ideas you have in your heart. Let the Holy Spirit show Himself faithful to His Words in 1 John 2:27; "As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as his anointing teaches you about all things; and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him."

We have another saying in the motorcycle community; ride your own ride. It means, let those around you ride their machines in the skill and abilities they have, and you ride within yours. We are not in any competition, any striving for the status of "best rider". Rather, we ride the ride the Author and Perfector of our faith has designed for each of us. Unique and exciting, full of the joyful ride of His ongoing faithfulness to us.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Journey of Discovery

I have a lot of conversations with people who are struggling with the blind adventure of the simple, organic and missional church life.
I hear things like; " I don't really know what to do!", "I wish someone could show me how this works!", "I tried that/that, and it didn't work so what's wrong?", "What is this supposed to look like?", "Is there a manual or something I can follow?", "Can you give me a blueprint to work from so I know what I'm supposed to do?"

I empathize with these questions. These are real struggles from hearts that want to "do it right" and have been trained to follow models, leaders, organizations, and manuals so that what they do is "successful" and "correct". I resist the tendency, which is so easy for me, to tell them what to do. Instead, we start talking about what they are learning in the process, what their goals are for living this organic simple life in Christ, what the Scriptures say we should esteem, and that it is okay to try different things and even fail a few times in the process.

God is certainly capable to get us where we need to be, when we need to be there, with all that we need in the process. The bottom line is; He is faithful.
Have you ever heard that saying of on "a need to know basis" ? I think that fits well with His leading of us. He takes us one step at a time. He gives us what we need to know and understand when we need it to lead us forward in faith. He also lets us struggle.

Most of us don't want to hear that we learn best by what we struggle with and figure out on our own. We also don't like to hear that failure is a better teacher than our successes. In fact, I recently read a medical study that concluded that we actually grow more brain cells when we fail! How's that for "organically" rewarding our failures? What incredible Grace!

I believe, God is taking us each on our own wonderful, unique and unmapped "Journey's of Discovery". That is what the journey west, of the explorers Lewis and Clark's into the then unknown, was called.

For those of us who admit to being " a Trekkie", you'll be familiar with the saying; "of boldly going where no man has gone before". I like to use the Star Trek motto to illustrate what the journey in the lifestyle of simple, organic, missional church is like. No manuals, no maps to follow, no clear guidelines and directions (yet,... just give it a few more years and the experts will have the '5 steps to simple church success' available soon at your local bookstore....sorry, my cynicism again).

We do have some great folks out there who are sharing their own journeys of what they are learning and experiencing. Giving us some understanding of what this whole simple lifestyle is all about. Lewis and Clark types who, are on the "Journey of Discovery", just like the rest of us, but are a little further along on their expedition and keeping great journals.

Tom and I have been doing something different this summer. We have been taking short three or four day "mini" vacations on the motorcycle, but we've been doing it in a totally new way from how we have done it before.

In past years we have had a general plan to our vacations. Not completely, but we would have an idea of where we were going, where the scenic spots were, where the camping areas and the places available to us for lodging, eating, getting gas, etc would be. We would, once in a while, drive off the planned course and see what we could discover, but that was the exception. Most of the time we just followed the mapped course we'd laid out together in the kitchen over a couple of nights.
In these vacation expeditions we'd also have a definite goal and agenda of what we wanted to see, experience and accomplish. We don't have the name "driver" for nothing, and some days the only goal seemed to be how many miles we could push through in a day!

This summer however, has been different.

Instead of loading up the car and luggage carrier with all our necessities for camping, our suitcases full of "stuff" that we'd maybe use, coolers packed with food and drink, we packed small bags that fit into the limited spaces on the motorcycle. Usually not more than a change of clothes, our rain gear, a couple bottles of water, basic toiletries, a bible and extra jacket. We'd take along a map, but only for the sake of getting us back on track if we got disoriented and lost out on the back roads of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

We load up and take off in a matter of minutes (verses hours), heading out of the city, in the general direction we wanted to go. We would find some road unknown to us and take it, just to see where it would lead. Often times it would lead to some great and awesome place that we would never of found on our own. Sometimes we would find ourselves at a dead end, where we would have to turn around and go back a bit until we found another road and take that for a while. We found some incredible places and experiences that made us look forward to what new things we'd discover tomorrow! We felt alive and revived. Resulting in thankfulness for all that we saw God bless our journey with each day. A beautiful road, a person to encourage or pray for, finding new friends in towns we'd never of known, creating memories and special times of enjoying life together in the goodness of God. It was simple (unencumbered and portable), organic (let's see what unfolds naturally in the process) and missional (what other lives can we bring some aspect of the nature of Christ to today in our encounters).

When Lewis and Clark made their journey into the western wilderness some two hundred years ago, they went not knowing what they would encounter with each day and decision of direction. Sometimes, the river they travelled just took them along it's natural path and when that was no longer possible, they found their way through mountain passes and vast prairies with sometimes the help of those native to the area. They recorded information, observations and drew pictures of what they were discovering and wrote it in journals for those who would be following in the future. Even though this would be the beginning of the westward movement of settlement, each of the pioneers soon to head west on that journey still had to discover, on their own with just a few journal notes of information and helps, the path to where they would eventually settle.

Tom and I driving along this summer on the unknown back roads of MN and WI, not knowing where we would eventually end up that night was exciting, rewarding, adventurous, fun, a bit unnerving, tiring and stressful at times. All of the above and more! I wouldn't give up one moment of it.

The simple organic and missional church life gives us no GPS, maps and instructional directions. Instead, we have the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in the direction we are to go. We get to learn how to follow Him in a dependent and intimate way. When He says; this is the way, we go that way. We learn to have ears that hear. We learn to discover, on our own with Him, the unique adventure that Jesus has planned for us to experience more of Him and what He has in store of us while we walk this side of heaven. To know Him, and walk daily in an intimacy that is fresh, alive, exciting and dependent. We have the ultimate "journal", the Word, that has all that we need pertaining to life and godliness. We have the journals of others on similar journey's that can encourage and aid us, but in the end, we find our own Journey of Discovery with the Author of it all!

In the vernacular of motorcycle trekking............."enjoy the ride"!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Droppings of Self Promotion

Online recently, I saw a post that said; "check out this article written about me".....and gave the link so you could read all about how important this person had become in their area. I know others who push their writing so they can get "best seller" status and increased marketing and notoriety. They may say it's so that more can be reached with their message, but come on!
Is God incapable of getting anointed messages out and impacting those He wants to? Look at the self published (or practically so) book called The Shack. Whatever your view about it, it was a book of impact that changed and gave people a new perspective on the love of God. Only after it had been read by millions through word of mouth referral, did a larger publisher pick it up and market it. To its author, it was like lighting a fire in a forest of dry tinder! He lit it and watched it explode! God did all the work of promotion.

Okay I admit it, I'm a bit critical of people who need to draw attention to themselves and tell everyone how important and influential they are becoming and drawing attention to everything they are doing. Being an introvert myself, it seems completely egotistical and self absorbed to promote oneself. Not to mention, unbiblical and unwise (look at Jannes and Jambres, Miriam and Absolom.)
Why not let other people herald your virtues, if you have any to herald, that is. Or even better, trust God Himself to spread your influence and fruitfulness in His own way?

I understand we all seem to have a need to feel relevant and valuable in the scheme of life. One of our "Basic Needs" according to the sociologist Abraham Maslow, is to feel our life has meaning. He calls it the need for esteem that is given by others around us. If this theory is a valid observation, and I have no reason to doubt it after seeing the reality of it over many years of life, than what is God's plan in addressing it? He made us, knows us, and He must have the spiritual "filler" for this need we have to be valued and esteemed.

The world fills this need by self promotion and noted elevated status. The filler is notoriety.
In the world being known is equated with success, achievement and validity. Big is better. Being known is "getting big". We have descriptions like; he's a big star, she's made it big, star status, popular, VIP (VERY important person), acclaimed speaker, major leader, and others like; Father of the City, Apostle to the Region, Prophet to the Nations, big ministry, a large pulpit, (oops,.....sorry for my sarcasm)........
The world revolves around these values, especially in the West, and we live in a culture of fixation with this type of success, VIP status, and fame.

However, those who live to honor Christ are exhorted to be different.

According to Jesus, we're supposed to be "in the world, but not of the world". We are supposed to look different, act different and impact differently. Not through VIP status, but through humility, obedience and the power of the Holy Spirit to do what we cannot.

Jesus, like the lowliest servant in a household, washed the smelly, dirty feet of fisherman, tax collectors and unknown nobodies. Nobodies, who through their obedience and power of the Holy Spirit would impact the world in less than 70 years.

Like John the Baptist, we are supposed to decrease that He may increase. Do we really see this in ourselves and each other? Are we seeing more of the nature and life of Jesus in us as a movement and as individuals or just a lukewarm version of the normal human experience?

Let's be real here, wouldn't we rather increase? Don't we enjoy the notice and praises of men?

In every movement of the Spirit of God, there is a wondrously fresh beginning. God surprises us and takes unknown, insignificant and often the least qualified people and releases a powerful effect through them. Those we would never consider as influencers, and Kingdom shakers are, in the Hand of God, useful albeit very human tools for His purposes.

Some Old Testament Biblical examples of this are Gideon, Sampson, David, and Deborah. Often unwilling, seemingly insignificant unlikely choices of influencers for the purposes of God. Some New Testament examples would be Timothy, Peter, the Samaritan woman, Matthew and Zaccheus. Weak, un-esteemed, corrupted, young, female, uncircumcised, abhorred, unknown, blue collar, get the idea.

There seems to be a theme with God and whom He chooses.

He likes our weakness, our insignificance, our obscure and often unlikely raw material. He values our knowing just how really incapable we are without Him. He loves to manifest the BIGness of a God who is the only one who deserves to be called a star and a VIP.

If we fill our need for significance with the accolades of those around us, we're on the way of Balaam who sold his gift for status, money and power. And the Pharisee's who prayed to be noticed, esteemed and admired, whom Jesus called white washed (and inferred empty) tombs.

I admit, I'm becoming a bit cynical, even downright disgusted with the self promotion going on. I know I have my sin issues, and would not want to give anyone the impression in writing this, that I don't struggle with the flesh as much as anyone. Even having this blog and wondering if anyone reads it, indicts me and is an internal conflict of my own. My flesh is ever before me and I too need the grace of God to decrease so that He may increase every day and every year in my life.

We have an opportunity and a choice, at this time in history and in this present move of God to use ordinary, simple and seemingly insignificant folks, to be people of impact for the Kingdom of God.
If we'd choose His notoriety over our own......

"Thus says the Lord, Heaven is My throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where then is a house you could build for me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being, declares the Lord. But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word". Is 66:1-2

May He look our way!

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I'm back to blogging.

I have a lot of stuff swimming around in my head leaving plenty of "droppings" that I need to dialog about. I'll admit to being someone who has strong opinions and ideas about certain things. In fact, I can get pretty downright dogmatic at times. Of course, opinions being such as they are, most of us think that our own are correct.
I am no different.

That said, however, I love to be challenged with some new angles of thought or different perspectives. I like my rough edges sanded off by those around me.

So, sand away in the next few weeks as I share some of my thoughts and perspectives with you. I'm looking forward to it!

Lamentations 3:40 "Let us examine our ways and test them"

Sunday, May 31, 2009


The first year Tom and I were married we decided we go up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness for a canoe trek.  The BWCA  is located in Northeastern Minnesota, and has a million acres of wilderness, with over 1,000 lakes and streams, and more than 1500 miles of canoe routes. Beautiful, rugged and isolated. In our youthful optimism we thought; "no problem"!

We mapped out a trip that would cover close to 100 miles in 10 days, going deep into the more isolated areas of the wilderness.  At the time, 10 miles a day didn't seem like an unrealistic goal, but we based that on what we could easily accomplish on the lakes and rivers we had grown up canoeing. Those usually did not require much, if any, portaging.  However, this trek would require many portages, and some quite a distance. Our canoe which we would be portaging weighed 75 lbs., (heavy but durable against the rocks). Tom's backpack was 75 lbs, and mine was 65 lbs. (Who knew that dehydrated foods and noodles could weigh so much!)  We practiced lifting and carrying it all a few times, finding it heavy, but doable. Our confidence was high!  This was going to be great!

We quickly discovered how much this trip was going to challenge us.  It would challenge us emotionally, physically, spiritually, and as a newly married couple.  We would gain a whole new perspective on the word endurance.

The first day was great and our goals met. Easy portages, great weather, and smooth waters.  We tried fishing for our supper, but with no luck there, we were happy to boil up noodles for a nice dinner.  All in all, our expectations were met.  As Tom would say; "nice!"

 It went steadily and consistently downhill from there. Now the real trek was "game on".

Storms on lakes that came up quickly and powerfully.  Three foot waves causing us using all our strength and skill just to stay afloat, but inhibiting us from making progress to the shoreline and safety.  Portages that were really bogs and sank us up to our hips.  More storms that kept us in our tent for two full days, anxious that the trees blowing down nearby would not land on us!  Mosquitos that were really more like sucking, flying bats, and black flies that were so thick you breathe them.  More portages that were rock cliffs instead of nice level paths and far longer than the rods listed on the map.  Rapids that dumped us and all our gear, causing us to lose time and miles just to dry everything out.  Portages that were supposed to be there (the map said so) but were not, and required us to forge new ones through dense woods. Exhausted and completely spent, some nights we didn't even bother with a fire and cooking (yes, our noodles), but crawled into our tent and sleeping bags wanting sleep more than food.

I remember one night, waking up to the sound of heavy breathing outside our tent, and that unmistakable smell of bear.  Trying to remember if we hung our food packs far enough up and out of reach, I was so exhausted that I couldn't even stay awake to pay attention to the situation.  All I wanted was more sleep, the bear could do what he wanted.

Everyday we talked about quitting.  However, we had reached a point in the trip where going back would of been longer than pushing forward.  Talking often turned into arguments of blame, frustration, and impatience.  We were dependent upon each other in whole new ways.  We could only make it through the trip if both of us endured.  If each of us kept the course and carried their load.

I remember often thinking of the verse where Jesus said to pick up our cross and follow him, as I picked up my pack, hoisted the canoe overhead and slowly trekked forward.  It gave me a whole new perspective on its meaning.  His burden may be light, but often our cross's are heavy.  Sometimes moving forward is difficult.

In the end we accomplished our journey. We did our 10 days and 87 miles of wilderness adventure.  We lost weight, gained muscles, learned about our weakness's and strengths.  We learned to guard our tongues and keep each other focused on the mission for the day with encouraging words and attitudes.We had a new appreciation for each other and that kind of bonding that occurs when you endure some hard and difficult times together.  And, we didn't eat noodles for many years after that trip!

It's been 25 years since this infamous canoe trek.  Yet, I think about it and all the things it taught me often.
I see a similar journey in our lives as followers of Christ.  We start out so confident in our own strength and capabilities and how much "we're going to accomplish" for the King and Kingdom.   We, in our naivety we think we will not have difficulties that test our endurance, challenge our faith, cause us to question, and wear us down.  Yet, the walk of a Christian is one of endurance.  We are destined to persevere through storms, rough portages, unforseen difficulties, and situations that require us to depend up each other and the Lord.  

Paul talks about endurance in 2 Timothy 2, verse 10; "I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory". 
 Paul endured for the goal that by his steadfastness, others would come to know Jesus.  That his endurance had a purpose and affect. 
 Again Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 11 with a list of things he endured; labors, imprisonments, beatings, stoning, lashing, shipwrecks, dangers from rivers, robbers, countrymen, hunger, thirst, cold and exposure.  Then he adds the internal pressures of his concern for all the churches. 

 In the end, he concludes that for the sake of Christ, it is all worth it.  

" Consider it all joy, my brethren,when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing".  James 1:2-4

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Organic Leadership Track

 In my 1/2 acre yard over the last 15 years, I have planted many different varieties of trees, shrubs, flowering bushes, vines, perennial flowers and of course; my annuals of vegetables and flowers.  With the exception of my vegetables, I rarely plant more than one of the same kind.   I purpose every year to find some new addition to my yard that will add something unique, something special. I have plants that flower only in the spring but what beauty they bring during those short weeks!  I have vines that continue to grow and spread wide that produce the most beautiful flowers all summer that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.  Some shrubs that add great wind protection and privacy, giving a great nesting place to birds.  A bush that turns bright red and orange in the fall, rightly called the "burning bush".

I think God does that with us.  Planting us in a large garden, chosen and placed to add something unique and special.  Our purpose is to add whatever it is to the garden that we are created for.  To bear fruit in accordance with "our kind", as the Scriptures say.

Organic Leadership is based on who we are naturally. Not leadership based on business models of leadership gifts, qualifications and charisma.  It is "organic" to who we are and what we have been given to serve with.  
Naturally and uniquely adding what has been given to you for the Kingdom of God.  Growing where you are planted, faithfully and obediently.

In Matthew 21, Jesus is in discussions with the religious leaders of the day who are questioning his authority.  Jesus relates a story of a vineyard that has not produced any fruit, and in fact, have abused those who tried to produce any fruit from it.  He says in rebuke; "therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it", (vs 43).

Organic Leadership is something that produces fruit of the Kingdom.  Fruit in many forms and  with impact.  It has influence and an authority that is not positionally based but in self sacrifice; "whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave", Matthew 20:27-28.

Ezekiel stood by the banks of a great river that flowed out of the city of God.  Everywhere this river flowed, life resulted.  He gives us a description of the trees that grow on the banks of this river in chapter 47:12; " By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food.  Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fall.  They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing."

Organic leadership is based on dependency, humility and intimacy.   As Jesus taught us; "I only do that which I see the Father doing", John 5:19.   Not with great ideas, programs, strategies and steps to success.   Regardless salary, stipend or honorarium, Organic Leadership is serving out of love, privilege and the desire to be a servant at any cost.

Neil Cole will be leading three sessions in the Organic Leadership Track; Pulling the Weeds From the Garden of Leadership,  on Friday night.  On Saturday morning; From Movement to Monument.  And the final session for the conference on Saturday night called; Organic Leadership.  I will be leading a session called Igniting People to Purpose, on Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Living The Mission - The Simple Church Track

According to Wikipedia; "A simple church may meet anywhere; with or without trained leaders, formal liturgy, programs or structures.  They meet to facilitate relationship, discipleship, multiplication, mobility and member ownership.  The term is used interchangeably with the terms like organic church, essential church, bodylife, relational church, micro-church, and the most common being house church."

This track will explore the values and practices  of simple church.  

On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, Tony and Felicity Dale (, will introduce you to what happens in a simple church gathering.  They will share from years of experience in starting and multiplying simple churches and mentoring others in the process.  If you have wondered how to begin a simple church or you have some questions as to how it functions with leadership, children, money, teaching, how often to meet, when and how to multiply, etc., this would be a great opportunity to learn from seasoned leaders.

Friday and Saturday morning, John White ( will be leading 4 sessions from his philosophy on simple church called; The Seven Practices. Beginning with intimacy with Jesus, then growing naturally to spouse, to family, to neighborhood,  to community and finally; a region.  (These practices can be read in detail on the website;
  If you want to hear how Jesus makes planting a simple church a possibility for all of us, this series of workshops will inspire, equip and encourage you!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Living The Mission - The APEST Track

Have you ever wondered about how God has gifted you?  What He put within you specifically to serve and work alongside Him in Kingdom expansion?  What your passions, interests, and personality aspects say about your gifting and purpose?

What made the Apostle Paul successful in his ministry and yet he struggled often with interpersonal relationships? How did Barnabas see the potential in Paul before anyone else and took the time and energy to invest in him?  What made Phillip present the gospel so clearly to the Ethiopian Eunuch and as a result, evangelise a whole nation?

APEST stands for; Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher.  Alan Hirsch and Brian Schubring have developed an assessment test (taken before the conference, and done online in about 10 minutes) that will help you understand how God has equipped you.  This workshop presents the 5 gifts listed in Ephesians 4, from the premise that we all have elements of these gifts within us since God wants us to reproduce ourselves and equip others for the Kingdom.

This is a highly interactive class.  The same session is offered on both Wednesday and Thursday for you to choose from and allow you to take in other workshops.   On Saturday both groups from the Wednesday and Thursday night sessions will gather together and do some "urban trekking" which will be fun, stretching, impacting and full of individual coaching and encouragement.

In order to come prepared for this workshop.  Please take the APEST assessment test online before hand and come to the conference with the results page printed out to discuss in the workshop.  There is an extra $10 charge for the test(online), and another $10 for workbooks that will be given during the session.  
The team from LVC (Leadership Vision Consulting), who works with Alan Hirsch (The Forgotten Ways, The Shaping of Things To Come, REJesus) and developed by Brian Schubring will be leading this exciting workshop.  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Living The Mission - The Missional Track

What is missional?  
 Christian vernacular changes constantly, and definitions change as a result.   The meaning and value of words change with the wind, and because of that, I want to make sure we are using the term in the same way for the purposes of this particular Track in the conference.

Many books have been written and will continue to be written as people grapple with the word and how to define it.  I think personally, that the essence of  'missional'  is described well throughout the book; The Shaping of Things To Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch.  I'm not a smart as those two, nor do I think I have the complete understanding as of yet.  However, I have to attempt to communicate what I believe about the word missional, for the Track's description in today's blog.

Being missional is NOT a new word for the Emergent Church. It is NOT something only a few do "full time" or on special "mission trips" slotted into convenient spaces in our lives.  It is NOT a program to be instituted in a traditional church or house church to be highlighted every once in a while.

The word missional is an adjective.  In grammatical terms, it describes; "what kind of" in reference to a noun.  We are the nouns.  You, me, us, as the Body of Christ.
Simply put: we are the message.
  Jesus calls us salt, light, fragrance, witness's.  All of those have emitting qualities.  All are adjectives describing us.
We are in a working partnership with the Creator.
  He has allowed us to be a part of the Missio Dei; the extension of the Kingdom of God.  As Jesus was the representative of God, so we represent Jesus.  Moment by moment, day by day, year by year, our lives are a constant living epistle to the realities of Jesus and His Kingdom.

If we are part of the Body of Christ we ARE missional.  We are those who represent the King and the Kingdom. 

Whether we do that well, or choose to ignore it, it is part of our identity in Christ.

This Track will be exploring this paradigm and removing the obstacles that have hindered us from living more fruitfully in our missional identities.  

On Thursday night, Neil Cole will be discussing how Jesus makes disciples.   How He empowers us to partnership with Him in this process in the session called; Search and Rescue. 

Ed Waken will be inspiring us to see the simplicity of living as representatives of Jesus and what things have kept us from doing so on Thursday night and all day on Friday in his sessions titled; Discovering What Has Been Stolen.  

Finally, Tony Dale will explore the variety of avenues that are available to us as we live missionally in the business sector on Friday morning in the session called; Kingdom Apostles/Entrepreneurs.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Transitional Track in the Living The Mission Conference

Let's begin these next few blog posts regarding information on the tracks we offer in the conference with the Transitional Track.  What is that?

God is always moving to build His Church and release the knowledge of Himself  through The Kingdom.  How many times did Jesus refer to the phrase; "the Kingdom is upon you" to indicate to his followers just what this Kingdom was like?

 The Kingdom was not in form or structure, but in essence, atmosphere, authority and influence.

Study, books, and conversations are happening today on the various aspects of what particular structure is valid and biblical for the Kingdom to be expressed and lived.  I'll leave all those conversations to those who are far smarter than I am, and those of biblical scholarship.

I'm a pragmatist.  I know that God works with us wherever we are in our present understanding of structures.  He desires obedience and rewards faith.  He wants us all to be transformed and transformers!
We are all on continuous journeys of living out what we know at the given moment in obedience and faith.  All those journeys are unique, even if they do hold aspects of commonality with others on similar journey's.

In the Transitional Track; conversations, experiences, tools, and ideas for what is now referred to as simple, organic and missional will be explored as expressions of the Kingdom within any structure.

The Transitional Track in this conference is for those who like some structural aspects of what we are lately referring to as "traditional", "conventional", or the term I dislike; "institutional" but have become hungry for more influence and essence of The Kingdom in that expression of structure.

This track will especially focus on hearing specifically from the Lord what He is telling YOU about the Kingdom and the structure you worship and serve Him in.  No models, no formulas, no 10 Steps to success, but the encouragement to explore some new paradigms of thinking and possibilities.

This track has sessions on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings from 7-9 PM and facilitators are Brian Williamson, Ed Waken and myself.