They are called “hunger stones.”
Lying in certain Central European riverbeds, large stones bear messages chiseled upon them hundreds of years ago…
“If you see me, weep.”
“If you will again see this stone, so you will weep, so shallow was the water in the year 1417.”
“We cried – We cry – And you will cry.” Continue reading
She named the dog “Mercedes.”
It’s an unlikely name, given the way he looked and where he was found. But I suppose that the name itself reflects the nature of the gift given. True mercy often runs contrary to the expected, and the greatest acts of grace always smell of scandal.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading
We often miss what we need most because we refuse to see past the surface concerns of our lives. God will orchestrate events and allow pressures to come in order to expose the deeper issues and give us a clearer view of ourselves and our greatest need. Take the Old Testament character Naaman for instance (2 Kings 5:1-14).
Naaman was a great warrior and was held in high esteem, yet he suffered from leprosy. Hearing that a healing by the prophet Elisha might be possible, Naaman made a trip laden with riches to pay for a miracle. Upon arriving, Elisha sent a servant out with the message that Naaman should go wash seven times in the Jordan River, often-muddy and creek-like, for his healing. Continue reading
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds
fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on
rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang
up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched.
And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns,
and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and
produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears,
let him hear.” – Matthew
But another sower watched the annual cycle of sowing and reaping with a sense of disappointment and despair. He saw the patches and stretches of soil where the seed would not grow and concluded that something must be done to ensure growth could take place in every place a seed might land. After gathering a team of other innovation-minded sowers, they began to implement targeted solutions to the perceived problem.
I have hiked miles upon miles over unforgiving terrain, walked knife-edged ridges covered with ice and snow and scaled vertical cliff faces hundreds of feet above valley floors, but the mountain before me made me shudder.
It was only about two feet tall, and it stood on my bed.
As the first stay-at-home mandates spread to our little town, I stood in the living room and looked through the blinds at the neighbor’s lawn across the street. On a pole in the yard a new American flag waved slowly in the spring breeze. Sipping my morning coffee (which mere days earlier would have been enjoyed at the office, but now at home), I stared at that flag and thought about how we were all seeing our nation in that way – through slatted sunlight from our couches as we watched a flattened version of reality on our various screens.
Over the passing weeks, our family did the things that became the norm for many of us…
Sweet Pea, one of my mom’s horses, looked on with a placid stare as I growled, hissed and spat in the moments after a large, mahogany-colored paper wasp rammed its stinger into my lower eyelid. I was cleaning out the horse’s trough so I could feed her when the dive-bomb attack occurred. It was sudden, unprovoked and, all things considered, a dirty, sucker punch orchestrated in a brain the size of a pinhead. Continue reading
I couldn’t help but notice that you are in my seat.
The massive dust cloud billowed across the highway as the eighteen-wheeler a short distance ahead of me left the road, plowed through the dry dirt and withered grass, crossed the ditch and buried itself in a pile of recently-cut pine trees.
This changed the tone of the Saturday drive.
Looking back, I am thankful for lost dogs who aren’t really lost.
I’ll explain what I mean soon, but back to the wreck… Continue reading
By most standards, he blew it.
He seems to have been a bold one — charging ahead, seemingly without concern, the proverbial bull-in-the-china-shop with his own foot firmly in his mouth. Misspeaking was common, his overstepping of bounds was likely expected, and if one knew him, it seems that his generally-brash demeanor would come as no big surprise. Peter was quick to say exactly what was on his mind at any given moment. But then he went too far, even for himself. Continue reading
A very timely article, especially given conversations I have had with other pastors over the last few months.
“The Chick-fil-A Rap,” the latest offering in the video pantheon of Emily Powell, sings the praises of the humble yardbird and elevates the ubiquitous food to a near-divine pedestal of ambrosial satisfaction. Continue reading
A while ago at a conference, I sat in a room with a group of other lead pastors. Some carried the unseen scars of many years of ministry; a few still showed a bit of the shine of idealism. The speaker in the breakout session addressed the things we needed to remember in order to make it in the “marathon, not the sprint, of ministry.”
He spoke warmly, sincerely and wisely. He encouraged, challenged and comforted us. As I looked around the room, I saw what I have seen so many times in gatherings of pastors: that worn-out facial expression. I couldn’t help but wonder if I looked as tired as the rest of them did.
When I got home, lying in bed, I stared at the ceiling in the darkened room and thought about what I have learned about being a lead pastor in the last year.
I had recently read an article that gave a very direct and honest list (and one that is perfectly accurate in every respect to my experience. You can find it here.)
Having held various church-related ministries at different churches for over a dozen years (and being involved with multiple other ministries for a decade more), there have been many lessons, but if I had to summarize things and convey them as concisely as I could to a person stepping into a ministry role, what would I say?
Though I know that the list would grow exponentially if I thought about it for any longer (because I already know many more things I could add), for now, I would give these thoughts as a primer I have gathered from moments in my own life and from watching other leaders in ministry. Some of those examples showed great leadership, deep wisdom and God-centered motives, and others I use as a self-test (when I think about possible actions to take, I think back on some of these leaders’ actions and consider what they might do in a given situation…then I do the opposite).
So, in no particular order, and as they come to mind, I humbly offer these hard-won lessons… Continue reading
We have prayed together for the last 90 days. Though I will continue to write and post, today we will be closing this season of daily directed prayer and devotions. When I started writing these, the plan was for 30 days of devotions and prayers. Looking back, I’m thankful that we stretched that original window to include more time.
A writer once compared God to a judge who is sitting on the bench with a condemned sinner before him. As the illustration goes, God looks at this person before him who is lost and says, “I have no choice but to pass sentence upon you. I wish that I could change my mind, but I am bound to my Word.” The sentence is proclaimed, and God tearfully bangs the gavel. The writer related that in situations such as that, God is torn because justice won’t allow him to do what he wants to do; people perish because God holds himself to a standard that he wishes he could change. The only problem with that illustration? It is not a biblical view. God is not at war with himself. God does not regret his standard. God’s mercy and justice are linked without any contradiction.
Have you noticed how many products you must “shake well” before using? Whether it’s orange juice or stove cleaner, paint or salad dressing, many of our most-common solutions need to be shaken. The reason is simple: the contents settle. When the container is at rest, gravity takes over and the heavier parts of the solution collect on the bottom. A good shaking is needed before use.
One of my high school biology teachers once took a trip to Australia and told us about a visit to the Great Barrier Reef. Her group went snorkeling and diving around some shelves of coral near the beach. When the group gathered at the end of the afternoon, one of the lifeguards asked, “Did any of you get scratched or scraped by the coral?”
God made us in his image. That’s clear from the Bible. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Now because of that special creation, it is understood that we are to live in a way that “images” God himself; we are not God, but we are to represent him as unique image bearers. As one writer put it, “We are more like God than the rest of creation.”
Since God has put his work into your weak hands, look not for long ease here: You must feel the full weight of your calling: a weak man with a strong God.
– Lady Culross to John Livingston
It was a typical, hot, muggy day when my third-grade class held its annual “Olympics.” For an entire week, during the P.E. period, we competed with one another in various events and, for some reason still unclear to me, I signed up for the high jump.
“You know…that vibration isn’t good. When are you going to do something about it?”
I heard that phrase once from someone riding with me in my vehicle. At highway speeds there was a vibration from the right front of my vehicle that annoyed me (and, yes, anyone riding with me), plus the tires were wearing unevenly. I knew that I needed to have the alignment checked and get new tires.