The Privilege of Doing Weird Stuff for Jesus

On Sunday, April 29, we had Tailgate Sunday with a baseball theme.  Though I know I’m not nearly as young or hip as former Asbury  youth ministers Roger Moscara or Scot McClymont, I took a page out of their book and told the congregation if we had an attendance of over 250 at our combined worship service, Pat Musto could do whatever she wanted with my hair.

We didn’t quite get there but since this blue hair was only temporary I let it happen any way.  I never could have imagined that becoming a follower of Jesus let alone a United Methodist Pastor would one day lead to my having blue hair for a day.  And yet I could never have imagined any number of moments of surprise and craziness and fun and pain and wonder and angst and incredible grace I have experienced on this journey.

I wouldn’t trade a single one of them – including but not limited to a blue hair day.  (Actually, I’m thankful I still have any hair at all.)

Also, considering what he did long ago for me and us all, doing a weird thing or two for Jesus is probably not too much to expect or ask of anyone.

Grace and peace,



Ultimate Synergy

Our weakness/vulnerability/inadequacy


God’s grace, received by faith


What is described in Ephesians 3:21-22

Do you agree, know of any examples in your experience?

Grace and peace,



The other day I snapped back a flip, irritated remark to someone close to me.  Ever do that?  Reflecting on it later I realized how much I still have to learn about practicing Stephen Covey’s fifth habit of seeking first to understand, then to be understood.  I’m still a lot better not only at prescribing before diagnosing, but at listening to reply rather than listening to understand.

Yet I’m not giving up the struggle and am grateful for my resources.  Before there were seven habits there was St. Francis’ prayer, which never gets old:

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

Beyond and before that are James’ words, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.  For the anger of humans does not accomplish the righteousness of God” (1:19-20).  I’m learning that anger is not always a bad thing and I no longer automatically feel guilty when I feel it welling up within me.  In fact, I’m learning to listen to my own anger and sometimes it leads me to decisive action.  Most often it leads me to discover a vulnerability or selfish assumption in myself I didn’t realize was there.  I find carefully verbalizing my anger or irritation to a loved one, friend, or colleague always helpful; spouting off always unhelpful.  Understanding brings the divine heart into view.  Spouting off not only blocks my ability to listen, it shrouds and hampers the righteousness of God.  Every time.

The only good thing about my angry snaps and spout offs are they remind me of how far I have yet to go.  But I am learning.  James 1 has never let me down.  It never gets less true.  I just keep going back to it and clinging to the One who gave us the truth.  Anyone else feel like that?

Please be patient God is not finished with me yet (PBPGINFWMY).  How about you?

Grace and peace,


Why I Have Hope for Future Generations

Why do I have hope for future generations?

Why am I totally confident that the young people of today will face down every challenge that comes their way with a heart full of courage and an ocean full of love?

Read these reflections from three of our youth who went on a mission trip this past June, and you will know why…

Pritt Tyler jul2011

Stoner J Reflection on mission trip jul2011

Wilson B Reflection on mission trip jul2011

Grace and peace,


The Stockdale Paradox

I have recently come across a mental device that seems quite helpful in facing difficult circumstances and finding ultimate meaning in life.  In his book Good to Great [HarperCollins: NY, 2001, pp. 83-87] Jim Collins describes what he calls the “Stockdale Paradox” citing Vice Admiral James Stockdale’s approach to his experience of captivity in the Vietnam War.  Simply stated, it is this:

Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties – AND at the same time – Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

Stockdale also added, “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which in retrospect, I would not trade.”  Some remember Stockdale from his oft-parodied run as Ross Perot’s vice-presidential running mate in 1992.  His comparative depth of experience and accomplishment make his ‘better know in some circles’ SNL impersonators appear the true lightweight fools.

While Stockdale rooted his approach in Stoic philosophy, this attitude can be appropriated in our lives as Christian individuals and communities of faith.  Like those whom God rescued from slavery in Egypt, like those whom God restored from Babylonian captivity, we are defined by a God who is rescuing and will rescue us from sin and death.  We will prevail in the end so we can confront with honesty whatever are the brutal facts of our everyday situation right now.

As a church congregation, for example, we will not allow realities such as deteriorating bricks and mortar and national statistics of decline in church attendance and giving to deter us from our core mission of serving God and our community.  On the contrary, by prayerful, focused action we are seeking to utilize these circumstances to define a legacy that honors God and blesses people for decades to come.   Thanks for being part of this effort.

In the days and weeks to come, how will you apply the Stockdale Paradox in your life?

Grace and peace,


Greater Than These & the Three C’s

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father.”

–John 14:12

This is another amazing example of the leadership of Jesus – God in the flesh not caring that, but instead purposefully working it out so that, his followers would accomplish greater things than he did.

When I ask our church staff to be together “the three C’s”: collegial, cooperative, and committed, I am thinking of these qualities in a Gospel of John kind of way.  This really provides a guiding vision for all our human relationships in the Body of Christ.  We are collegial as children (1:12), servants (12:26), and friends (15:12-15) of God through the person of Jesus.  We have different, often temporary roles, in accomplishing what we are called to accomplish, yet at no time are any of us more valued or more valuable than the other; we never get beyond our core, shared identity as children, servants, and friends of God.  Thus we are collegial.  We are cooperative because it matters not in the least who gets the credit whenever God is glorified and the compassion of Christ becomes tangible in our midst.  We are passionately committed, not first to an institution or set of objectives, but first to ‘the word made flesh’ who then leads us to embrace some specific, shared objectives for a period of time.

“Greater works than these” leaves a lot of room, a lot not yet accomplished as we look to the future.  It seems daunting at times and perhaps grandiose, yet seeing the fulfillment of John 14:12 in our midst is something I find worth getting up for in the morning and throwing myself into with gusto.  Can we be part of Jesus’ “greater than these” works?  Is it possible?   With and only with the collegial, cooperative, and committed people with whom I am privileged to share life, I actually think this is possible.

All I can say is, let’s find out.

Grace and peace,


Show Horse or Plow Horse?

Harry S. Truman once said, “You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit” (David McCullough, Truman [NY: Simon & Schuster, 1992], 564).  Author Jim Collins (Good to Great [NY: HarperCollins, 2001], 21, 33) quotes him while describing what he calls “a Level Five leader – an individual who blends extreme personal humility with intense professional will.”  As an example he cites Alan Wurtzel, CEO of Circuit City, who was once asked what the difference was between himself and his counterpart CEO at a rival company, whose paycheck and publicity were much higher than his own, while Circuit City outperformed the other company by 18.5 times over the period 1982-1997.  Though Wurtzel was more prone to cite other people, or things like luck and being in the right place at the right time and being in a great industry with the wind at our backs, he finally summed up with this telling comment: “The show horse and the plow horse—he was more of a show horse, whereas I was more of a plow horse. “

Plow horse or show horse?  Is my following of Jesus all about me or about someone or something greater than myself?  As leaders and followers in Jesus’ community, what kind of horses are we called to be?

All I can say is I’m glad that if I’m called to be a plow horse, the one driving the plow could not possibly have the best interests of the spiritual soil (people’s hearts including my own) in view in a more beautiful way (Matthew 11:28-30; 13:1-9).

Ask yourself this question.  Last time you saw a beautiful farm field in full bloom, did you find yourself thinking admirably about, and wanting to heap accolades and praise upon a plow blade, or even the horse or tractor who pulled it?  Didn’t make the field any less beautiful, though, did it?

Just so.

O Lord, make me a plow horse leader among a plow horse community, that ever more beautiful things might arise in the hearts of people.

Grace and peace,


Sneakers for God

In a beautiful passage in Romans 10 it says “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” quoting from Isaiah 52.  I’ve never been much of a foot fetish person so this has always sounded a little weird to me.  When someone brings good news I would expect at least to say something like, “What a beautiful smile,” or ”How nice to see your face,” but not something as apparently tacky as “Wow, Dude, you’ve got some great looking feet!”

This thing is, when someone goes out of their way to bring the reality of the Gospel to people, there is an intentionality to it.  Sometimes it seems to happen in a spontaneous random way, but if we all had to rely on random spontaneity to receive the good news, a lot of us would still be waiting around unblessed by the news that we can share resurrection with Jesus.   God and God’s messengers have to be intentional about it.  It is a dispatch sent from the heart of heaven and it gets to you by people who put their shoes on and bring it.  Whether we climb into a pulpit or go across the street to a neighbor or traipse out early on a Sunday morning to teach children, it is our literal or figurative feet that take us to that divine appointment.  Anyone who shares the gospel with people in any form is sort of like God’s sneakers.

A friend of mine named Carol has always taken her work for God seriously but herself not so seriously.  So I know I can get away with this analogy.  We’re not really celebrating her retirement from full-time ministry but we are expressing gratitude this week for her service in our midst – things like the way she’s been a good example of God’s sneakers around here.  Sometimes she’s been God’s sneakers running around to give sermons in three locations on one Sunday in the same church.  Often she’s been the sneakers of God going out of her way to bring the comfort of healing and resurrection to sick or hurting people both within and beyond our congregation.  More than once she’s been the sneakers that walked into a situation where her non-anxious presence helped conflicted, out-of-sorts church members sort things out and find themselves leaning into God’s grace more than before she entered the room.

None of us is called to steal God’s glory or the luster of Jesus’ Gospel.  Maybe its good we are not called God’s smile, or God’s voice, of God’s face.  But it’s always a good and safe thing to consider ourselves God’s sneakers.  Thanks for being a great pair in the time you’ve served with us, Carol.  We’re glad yours aren’t going to be totally hung up in some far away locker room just yet.  In the meantime let me just say to everybody else.  Let’s follow Carol’s example and get more ‘sneakerish’ around here.  There’s a lot more good news to share.

Let’s lace ‘em up and get out there.

Grace and peace,