Dear Graduates

Dear Graduates, 

It is possible to live a life other than your own.
In other words, you have one life. You can choose to do anything you want and study and learn whatever you want. People, places, things and thoughts are all possibilities, but if you do not learn who you are, then you will get to the end of your life and feel the pain of never living your own. You will live the duration of your life but not know the joy of becoming you.
One of life’s most holy discoveries is finding who you are. Not just your talents or quirks, but you. The true, holy, divine you that is made in the image of God.
To make this discovery, though, you have to learn the art of self-actualization.
In other words, learn yourself. Fall in love with the person God made you to be. You are not damaged goods. You are not made with less spark or less energy or less image than others. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and God loves you as much as anything in the world. God instilled in you gifts, so learn them, f…

Awe in the Face of Mystery

Faith is awe in the face of mystery. – Rudolf Otto  We gazed silently alongside an uncountable amount of people. The oddity was not in the differences of those of us present but in the symmetry of what we all felt. We were moved by something awe-some. The Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring, and it moved us by its mystery.

God is the same way — always more than we can comprehend, “holy other” to our imaginations.

Rudolf Otto once said people intersecting with mystery respond in one of two ways: with fear or awe. What he means is that when we bump into what we do not understand, it is both terrifying and awe-inspiring, and we either push it away or lean into it.
The same is true for church.

We all know people who have run away from the institutional church. They believe the church’s packaged answers no longer satisfy their complex context. They want mystery, but the church gave them fear. This fear manifests itself by ensuring a theology of certainty and, sadly, misses out on encountering th…

My Last Sunday as Pastor

Not one person in our church would use the word “perfect” to describe us. We are a broken, wounded, somewhat elderly congregation looking for meaning and love.
We attempt a semi-liturgical worship style with a split chancel, acolytes, and lectionary-based sermons, but the ministers do not wear robes, and we sing old gospel hymns. We have a rotating list of scripture readers who may or may not be present on their day to read. Our choir has fifteen members – we think it’s full if eight show up. Our microphones sometimes screech. Our oldest members cannot sit before the stained-glass window due to the sharp sunlight, and the AC kicks in around the offertory prayer with gusto. 
But we are not dying nor struggling. We are a vibrant community of grace that holds fast to the divine-human encounter.
Our mission statement is Grace Grows Here. Our administrative structure is built around this statement with three teams serving each other, the community, and the facilities (Grace Team, Grows T…

Something Deeper is Lacking in Churches

There is no lack of information in a Christian land; something else is lacking, and this is something which the one man cannot directly communicate to the other.Soren Kierkegaard
Our job as pastors is to create space for people to interact with God.We get paid to help them glimpse the divine. This calling takes seriously the need for transformation, but our church mediums stop short by only transferring information. Here’s what I mean:
We arrive on Sunday sharing pleasantries around the coffee pot. We talk about our week, doctor’s appointments, and last night’s game. We go to Sunday school to read a biblical text and listen to the teacher speak its history. Our worship is dominated by announcements and a 45-minute sermon that is filled with information.
If we come back during the week, it is no different. Ministers gather in staff meetings. Class options are subject-driven. Committees gather to re-write policies on policies. The church Twitter feed is flooded with quotes from last …

"Don't Push the River"

Our guide shouted, “Don’t push the river!” I was white-water rafting (poorly) down the Amazon. With the raft swirling and the water splashing, the guide’s command made about as much sense as choosing what you are supposed to do with your life at eighteen years old.  I remember thinking, “That’s dumb. How can anyone push a river?” A year later, I picked up Richard Rohr’s Everything Belongs.  To my surprise, he has a chapter called "Don't Push the River." Turns out my river guide knew more about life and vocation than my ears could hear. According to Rohr (and my river guide), “don’t push the river” is exactly what it sounds like. If you push against the current, you will lose. In other words, for those of us trying to make something of ourselves, we think we need to go upstream. We think we can stand out by accomplishing tasks and winning awards. We interpret our successes to mean we are worthy, we are important, we belong to God. It is hard to keep this pace, though. We…

Life. Birth. Death.

Two years ago I went on a forestry tour. I hated it. It was cold, damp, and painfully forgettable – until the end. The forester came out of his professorial role and said, “The reason why forests show longevity is because they produce that which is needed to survive. The dying leaves sustain the trees.” He didn’t say it, but it’s as if I heard him say, “Death is a natural a part of the cycle that springs forth life. If your church wants to thrive, it must hold in harmony life, death, and birth. Without this cycle, the ecosystem dies.” Within my church community, we’ve experienced a lot of death. Each funeral changed us, forever. In light of these deaths (and the good word from the forester), we prepare a Blue Christmas Service each year to focus on the fallen trees of our church community, to name and grieve our pain together. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we’re pausing to honor the lives of the people who won’t be joining us for Christmas dinner. We’re …

Here's to a Better Tomorrow!

Be strong and bold . . . for it is God who goes ahead of you. 
– Moses to Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:6

I love Moses’ phrase, “God is gone ahead of you.” Rob Bell talks about it in his latest book, What we Talk about When we Talk about God. Bell (and Moses) is arguing that God is simultaneously in the present and in the future pulling us into a better tomorrow. The Greeks had a word for this: telos. It means God is dragging, enticing, and luring us into the Great Unknown. Ministers must be people who believe God has gone ahead of us. That’s the deep, sacred work of vocational ministry. We listen and discern, hope and hold on, pray and believe that God is in what we’re doing, and we can be not afraid or dismayed for God is gone ahead of us. I’m a NEEDTOBREATHE fan. In their song Keep Your Eyes Open, the chorus says, “If you never leave home, if you never let go, you’ll never make it to the Great Unknown . . . so keep your eyes open . . .” We ministers must be people who keep our eyes open. …