What if there really is a purpose to your life?

Imagine that. Purpose. You. Your life. Is it possible? Will you dare to believe it? Explore it? Live it?

Anyone can wander through his daily existence pursuing desires. That’s not what I’m talking about. I mean God’s purpose for you wherein your desires conform to God’s will for his glory. John the Baptizer lived this out first-hand. Before he was born his ministry had been prophesied through the prophets, specifically Isaiah and Malachi. And having fulfilled his purpose, which always was to prepare the way for Jesus, the Christ, John emphasized that he must then decrease while Jesus increased. 

John understood his role, even if he understandably struggled with a measure of self-doubt while imprisoned in the days before his capricious beheading by a spineless dictator, subject to the whims of Herod’s wicked, unlawful wife and her daughter. John always had first in mind to glorify God, to glorify Messiah, to prepare the way for The Lord, to fulfill God’s purpose for his life, especially in the face of personal danger. 

What about you? What’s God’s purpose for your life? What will it cost you? In what ways and to what degree must you decrease so that God may glorify himself through your life, even if in the natural your impact is little known or appreciated?

Imagine that. Purpose. You. Your life. Is it possible? Will you dare to believe it? Explore it? Live it?

Break camp and advance…

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Mission happens on purpose

It’s no accident when a smile blossoms into conversation, later segueing into deepening layers of friendship. It happens on purpose, the way a flower responds to the sun’s attention. We are drawn in by kindness. By sincerity. By an attentive listener.

I often don’t know what to say initially to someone who is confiding in me, but I am learning to listen more deeply. It’s easy to talk; it’s hard to listen. Talking is often a Pavlovian response to our need to control situations. Listening deeply on purpose is the act of giving oneself to the privilege of growing in understanding another person in her context, not our assumptions. It’s intentional. It’s the basis of mission. It lays the groundwork for sharing the gospel on fertile soil.

Make no mistake, talking is important in its appropriate context, but not nearly as often, and definitely not with the typical strident tones displayed in the public religious/political square. 

This is not to say its necessary to become confidants with people before you can share with them the good news of Jesus Christ. I am suggesting taking a long term perspective of relationship building, rather than strictly relying on driveby soundbites which more often come off as cowardly and arrogant, rather than loving. 

It’s not easy. It takes time. It happens purpose. It’s far easier than you may think. Ask yourself, who do you come into contact with on a regular basis, whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly…?

For me, I think about the trains and buses I ride, my walking routes, the grocery stores, gas stations, local businesses I frequent,  parks, hiking trails, my apartment complex, and yes, even my church. You read that correctly, some lost people attend church and need to hear and understand the gospel, too.

So what about you? What’s your list of opportunities to be salt and light in your world? 

Now go, be witnesses for Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit with go before and with you opening up opportunities and giving you wisdom to listen deeply, and when the time is right, to share clearly and persuasively the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’m praying for you. 

Break camp and advance…

mission is where you are

Yesterday I rode the Max blue line through the Hollywood transit station. Two heroic men died defending two young girls, one of them apparently Muslim, yesterday. A third man is in the hospital with a slashed throat. I’m horrified and inspired at the same time. Horrified that a person would inflict such unprovoked hate and carnage on others; inspired that strangers would set aside their own safety to come to the aid of their neighbors.

They put their lives on the line, two of them paying the ultimate price. They responded to the need looking them in the face and did not ignore its desperate plea. 

How can I, as a follower of Jesus, ignore the needs surrounding me right where I live? Hunger. Loneliness. Grief. Poverty. Isolation. Addiction. And so on.

When I arrived home, I conversed for about a half hour with one of my neighbors about what happened, as well as her sick child and life in general. 

Mission is where you are, where you live, those spaces you in inhabit as you go about your day. It’s also where God sends you, whether to distant ports of call or to others parts of your city. 

I must go now. Mission awaits.

Don’t just sit there. Mission awaits you, too. Be bold.

Break camp and advance…

Special needs kids deserve inclusion

He came into the kids church room for the very first time last Sunday, introduced by a long-time friend and colleague. I don’t know much about his story. Slightly built, frail really, he tentatively inched his lanky fourth grade frame into the room, letting her do all the talking. Never once did he speak to me.

But we did connect. I smiled and bent low to make eye contact as he considered the merits of staying for the kids church experience, or playing it safe and sitting next to my friend in adult worship. His eyes were slightly covered by his hoodie. He wanted no one to see or make fun of his cochlear implants, apparently recently installed to help him overcome deafness. 

I said, “We would love to have you stay with us for kids church. We are going to do something really fun. In fact, I’m going to let you in on a secret that none of the other kids will know about until later this morning: each of us gets to choose what kind of fish or water animal we would want to be if we lived in the Red Sea where Moses and his people passed through as God parted the waters for them.”
His eyes slightly dilated. He reads lips like me. I could tell. He gave it some thought…

“None of the other kids know about this yet. It will be our secret. You get to choose what animal you would want to be early and you will be all ready when it is time later!” 

He smiled. Just a little. But I noticed. He ended up leaving with my friend, but just before we were ready to act out the fun story, he returned. I winked at him as I introduced the idea to the kids. They were excited. He smiled again, bigger this time. Not sure what fish he played, but play he did as together we all waved to the Israelites moving on dry ground through the  imaginary Red Sea. 

The boy is a human being just like his peers. Just like you. Like me. We want to be included even if we live with some kind of physical, mental, or emotional issue that sometimes makes it hard, especially if others treat us badly because of it. 

It’s up to us as leaders to help children navigate these difficult waters, even if those who may have taught or led us in our childhood neglected to do so. 

ContentmentĀ 

It wasn’t supposed to be this way based on my dreams from thirty years ago. That life has passed the event horizon. And I am glad; grateful really. In obscurity there is liberty to notice the hidden turnings of the culture and natural environment I inhabit, no longer as an observer, but as an indigenous patron of hope. 

Last Thursday I stopped to look out at Fanno creek just west of Summer Lake. Seven baby ducklings followed their parents in the calm waters. When they started to straggle and then spread out, their guardians squawked and flapped their wings, hurriedly bringing them back into the fold as they collectively paddled under the bridge upon which I stood. Two beavers looked on, grooming themselves upon the south bank and gossiping about the tempting growth of bushes on the opposite shore. Don’t look at me that way. I’m just reporting the facts. I lost sight of them soon after they made landfall in the aforementioned undergrowth.
Courtesy suggested that was my moment to move on. As I began walking again I couldn’t stop thinking about these creatures living their lives, struggling to survive, yet enjoying the blessings given to them by The Lord God.

They dwell, work, and play in their habitat both unpretentiously and enthusiastically. No complaints about their lots in life. No looking wistfully into human homes or businesses, thinking, “I gotta get me some of that.” They are content. 

Question is: am I? 

Are you? 

Give it some thought. 

Meanwhile I am going to move on. It’s the courteous thing to do. Also, I’m going to continue engaging the fellow beautiful but broken, even shattered, people who dwell with me in this obscure corner of our culture. 

poetic tapestries

I’m rereading Emily Dickinson’s complete works. Her poetry speaks to me because she never intended to have a wider audience. She wrote for herself and those closest to her, reclusive thinker that she was. And brilliant, oh so brilliant and incisive. So, once again I have waded into her penned thoughts, more interested in the tapestry of her interwoven ideas, than in archaic turns of phrase.

It further inspires me to write poetry and to withhold any sort of publishing just yet, or more likely ever. Without the constraints of who might be offended, put off, or encouraged to self-righteous bombast, I write from the heart within a tangled menagerie of disparate disciplines within which I perceive synergistic complementarity, including but not limited to philology, text criticism, literature, physics, astronomy, mathematics, ethnography, Christian faith and spirituality, and so on. 

In other words, I write about what interests me, seeking to explore meaning within the mundane, and to find interesting justapositions from widely divergent disciplines. 

It’s the sort of thing that wouldn’t sell on the popular market, or likely even the obscure. Probably for the best. Wouldn’t want to offend the politically correct power brokers of religion, publishing gatekeepers, and state-run media.

So back I go. Into obscurity. It’s okay. I like it this way. I have friends here. Together we are weaving a poetic tapestry in the rhythms of daily living. 

Crafting a kidmin lesson with my kids in mind

I know my kids, those young people whom we gather from the surrounding neighborhood in projects, apartments, and shelters. I’m learning their stories, their needs, their hopes and hurts. I asked my children’s director for permission to begin writing lessons to better engage them at their points of need and that’s what I’ve been doing early this morning, sitting outside the local Starbucks in the cold and rain. I prefer being outside. Fewer distractions while I’m writing. 

There are a few highlights to this lesson which I hope will spark the imaginations of the children. I’m going to do two short interactive  stories which require all the kids to get up from their chairs, and move as characters in the story. It’s the exodus narrative, including the encounters of Moses with Pharoah, and the Red Sea transit with the Egyptian army in pursuit. It’ll be chaotic, but memorable. Kinda the point. 

I want the kids to remember that the same God who went to all that trouble to save the children of Israel from slavery, and then went to even greater trouble to save us all from our sins; the same God who made the extraordinary covenant to all generations with Abraham, later confirming it with Isaac and Jacob, has now made a covenant with us through Jesus Christ. The same God who loved his people throughout time, loves these kids. No matter what they have done or think they have done, or what has been done to them. Even in their humble circumstances seemingly obscure from a much larger, perplexing world, God freely encounters them as they learn to read his Word and pray. And listen to his voice. 

It’s best if I stop here. I’ve got some listening of my own to do as the rain falls on this cold, spring morning.