Ability

Gazing

Hold.

Such an ordinary, blue-collar word.

Industrial strength, geared for protection and defense, holding commands attention – not by rising to dizzying new heights of adventure or romance, but by remaining ruthlessly still…

Safe…

Steady.

Boring? Only when, in your desperation for a change, any change will do.

Oppressive? Only when you think the grass is greener somewhere else and you can’t get there.

Holding is a sign that somewhere there is someone or something that is stronger than you are – at least for the moment. You may be held back by your fears. Or held safely by that seat belt and airbag. Or held in the arms of someone who can comfort your heart.

But sooner or later fears subside. Belts are unbuckled. And people, however well-meaning, let go.

But there are everlasting arms and an all-powerful Strength that promises to hold you in love and peace long after all other sources are exhausted or used up.  [click to continue…]

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mobbing

Have you ever fantasized about growing wings and flying away to escape the unending stress or tension?

Have you found yourself wishing recently that you could manage to make it through one day without hearing a barrage of angry or critical words or feeling like you must be the only one in the crowd who just doesn’t “get it” (whatever “it” is)?

Have you been avoiding trips to the doctor under the guise that no news is good news, even though you know you’re not as energetic as you used to be?

What’s your latest reminder that the next time the bell tolls – even randomly – your number may be up?

Have you been channel surfing lately for “I Love Lucy” or “Andy Griffith” reruns, just so your TV can remember what it’s like not to hear about another reason to be afraid or another example of urban violence?

Oh, and what’s the latest on the scandal? You know… the same ol’ same ol’ about the latest hero or public figure headed to court or the hall of public shame because they just weren’t who we thought they were?

Are you tired of being lied to by your so-called leaders and oppressed by those in charge?

Are you still reeling from the betrayal of a friend or bitter because someone you trusted and needed abused that trust?

Are you angry enough to hurt somebody yourself?  Do people keep asking you what’s the matter and you keep pretending you’re just tired or something stupid like that?

What if I were to tell you that everything I just described didn’t come from CNN or Fox News, but from an ancient poem – a psalm from the Bible?  (Well, there are no “I Love Lucy” or “Andy Griffith” reruns or TVs in the Bible, but pretty much everything else is there.) [click to continue…]

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Sisyphus

(A Conversation)

You know I didn’t make that up.

Yeah, but you sure nailed me with it.

Only because I know what it feels like.

Yeah, I know you do.

So… back to the metaphor… you feel like you’re pushing a 2,000-pound rock up a hill by yourself.

That about sums it up.

Well give me back my rock!

Dude, you can have it.

Just kidding. You can keep it. It looks really nice rolling over you.

Wow, with friends like you…

Yeah, yeah.  I do have one question about this picture, though.

Okay.

You have the hill, the boulder, and you.

Uh huh. [click to continue…]

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(Fumes, Form and Fashion, Part 1)

Burned Match

Thomas Watson Sr., founder of IBM, often said, “Everybody, from time to time, should take a step back and watch himself go by.”

Good wisdom. But hardly lived.  It’s reminiscent of the often-repeated story of the African (or Incan, depending on what you read) porters who carried the goods of an English (or American) type-A personality through the jungle with increasing pace for three days. Finally, on the fourth day, they matter-of-factly refused to go further, despite the pleas of the Western, time-bound explorers.  When asked for an explanation, they simply said, “We have been traveling so fast, we have to wait for our souls to catch up with us.”

There’s a simple word for that, often reserved for quaint memories of the good old days or emergency sessions of the Jesus Name Disaster Management Club.  It’s called renewal.  [click to continue…]

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Clasped hands on troubled man

It was the revival that almost never was.  It took place in New York City, back in the late 1800s.  By then the Salvation Army, under the leadership of William Booth in England, was becoming a global force.  Two young officers had been dispatched to the U.S. to establish a work in New York, and nothing was working. Frustrated and tired, facing nothing but hostility and opposition, they sent a telegram to “the General,” requesting that he close the mission.

They received a two-word reply:  “TRY TEARS.”

They did. [click to continue…]

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Microfono sala conferenze

I have news.

Big news. News some of you have been waiting four years to hear.  And you can say you read about it first here.

I am pleased to announce that the Spiritual Gifts Commissary (SGC), after lots of coffee, reviews of old church bulletins, and listening to hours of Spurgeon sermons on cassettes, has officially declared a new collection of Ten Spiritual Gifts You Won’t Find in the Bible.

This is exciting.

No longer are you limited to a narrow list of spiritual gifts found in places like Romans 12, Ephesians 4, or 1 Corinthians 12.  The Holy Ghost can manifest Himself in all sorts of ways.  Still skeptical? Consider this:  Past surveys have indicated that more than 20% of American Christians claim to have spiritual gifts never mentioned in scripture.

That many fired and wired believers couldn’t possibly be wrong.

Right?

Anyway, by definition, a spiritual gift is an unusual ability to demonstrate God’s life and power in ways that can’t be explained by talent or random circumstances. And according to the Bible, all believers have some sort of spiritual gifting.

But what? How can you know?

That’s where the SGC comes in.  In addition to the 17 gifts mentioned in scripture, they have explored other ways that people in Church World demonstrate such other-worldly force, it must be a gift.  Possibilities include the gift of condemnation, complication, or word of ignorance.  It would be well worth the time to review the original list here. Or even better, check out the lists here and here.  Who knows? Maybe the pointing towards your anointing can be found tucked away in one of those.

But wait! There’s more!  Here, in alphabetical order, are ten more Church World manifestations that may well explain how you or someone you put up with love are endowed. [click to continue…]

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Seegulls lined up

In his book The Noticer, Andy Andrews offers this riddle:

Five seagulls are sitting on a dock. One of them decides to fly away. How many seagulls are left?

Answer: Five. Deciding to fly away and actually flying away are two very different things.

I don’t know who decided that the road to hell needed paving, but whoever it was picked some pretty good material. There will always be plenty of good intentions for people to talk about, and even satisfy themselves that having the intention is enough work for today. The problem is, they never get around to actually doing anything about the intention.

They were very sincere. But a lack of action made them sincerely wrong. [click to continue…]

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Average Guy

What are you good at? I mean, really good? When people ask you about your strengths, what are your boilerplate answers?

Now, the dreaded weaknesses. What are those things you repeatedly tell people or God or yourself that you need to work on and improve?

Now I’m sure as soon as you read those questions, the ready answers showed up. And at some point you’ve probably had the tug-of-war about which you should work on – do you leverage your strengths or work on your weaknesses?

Uh huh.

Now take both of those mental lists and set them aside for a minute. Let’s boldly go where no one dares to go…

Let’s talk about your mediocre middle.

See, none of us are awesome at everything, and none of us is terrible at everything. A significant part of your life falls somewhere in the middle. And because it isn’t all that remarkable, you just don’t give it that much attention.

Too bad, since that’s where most of us live most of our lives. [click to continue…]

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Repeat icon

For the last several years I have replaced the idea of New Year’s Resolutions with a focus on one single idea – my one word  to help frame the kind of direction I sense the Lord leading me to steer my life toward in the coming year. Previous ideas for My One Word have included Finish, Lean, and One. What’s interesting is that those ideas are still, to one degree or another, relevant and a part of my soul’s DNA.

Last year the theme was Advance! You can read more about that here.  And let me just say, advance I did! On three fronts in particular, 2015 represented major moves forward, mostly in areas of ministry and career development.

One really good thing that arose out of that has been the establishment of LifeVesting International – a mission organization designed to mobilize the church to multiply the Church. We are launching our first series of trips this year to Thailand, and I am thrilled to see where that is going.

May I just say, however, that by the end of the year, I was about advanced out. Frankly, I started the year not nearly as enthusiastic about the One Word idea as I had in previous years. And in terms of what the One Word would actually be, there was nothing really compelling or inspiring.

I thought about the word “READ” because every year at this time I get inspired to read more.

That deafening sound you hear of silence… or crickets… yeah, that’s about how much enthusiasm and passion that idea generated.

But to this point – a few days into January – there was nothing compelling.

And that may actually be the point. [click to continue…]

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Shut-Down“Today I spent Christmas completely alone…”
(from my journal, December 25, 1995)

Quick quiz: What do Bluebell Ice Cream, Tylenol, Rolaids, SMU Football, and ancient Judah (Israel) all have in common?

Answer: They all experienced a drastic, though temporary shutdown.

Shutdown. The word was hardly used prior to 1950. Now it’s a common part of our lexicon. It’s typically used of the government when Congress can’t seem to get together on a budget or debt ceiling limit (which in government terms is about the same as “budget”). A government shutdown, of course, is commonly believed to be a horrible thing.

Other than that, you often hear the term used to describe some sort of drastic action taken by a company. The whole state of Texas declared a state of emergency on April 4 when Blue Bell started closing its creameries – all of them – because of an incident of listeria contamination.

(If you aren’t from Texas or have never observed that state’s love affair with Blue Bell, picture shutting down football in Tuscaloosa, guns in Wyoming, or lobster rolls in Maine.)

I’ve been thinking about shutdowns lately for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was the heartburn I felt last night and the Rolaids I was gratefully chewing on (sorry Tums, you’ll have to go back to being Plan B). I have also been remembering a personal shutdown period I went through myself exactly 20 years ago. I don’t talk about it much anymore, but it still shapes a large part of who I am today. [click to continue…]

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