My Life

The Basement Boyz

13 April 2011

This week, a friend of mine asked me about my men’s group and whether or not we had room for another.

I told him yes and then gave this brief description (or warning!) of the atmosphere we co-create with God and with each other so that he could see what he thought of it. I thought I’d throw it out to you, my friends, to see what you think, too.

Our group is sort of unique. There are a core of about 5-6 guys currently that are pretty much gonna show up every time.

There are another 5-6 guys that are going to show up regularly.

There are another 10-12 guys that might show up at anytime.

We’ve probably had about 70-90 guys experience our group over the years, all for varied reasons and amounts of time.

And we have first time guests come and check us out quite regularly. Some stick, some don’t.

The real unique quality about this group is the commitment to be very honest. To dig deep and go beneath the “surfacy” stuff that we present to the rest of the world. To co-create some space where vulnerable confession is regular and loving confrontation is acceptable.

It is all centered around the idea that Christ claims to have the best possible life available to man. So ultimately, we are checking out his life, teachings, mission, and priorities and looking to apply them to our own lives and see if it is true.

Everyone leads in the basement. It is self-leadership. We don’t send out reminder emails and you may or may not get a call if you miss. The basement is always there, 8:30pm every Tuesday, for those who are searching deeply, looking to connect with a few other guys who are too, and have agreed to go through the search together.

Different guys take the hot seat each week and have “the floor”. When you have the floor, there are two rules.

  1. Bring it. -We are not here to talk about the weather or sports or superficial religious subjects…what you bring needs to be raw and real, courageous and probing. As long as it is that, you get to have us do whatever you want.)
  2. No monologuing. – You need to bring it in a way that invites everyone to participate. The sky is the limit when you have the floor…share a relevant topic, ask a probing question, bring up a theological discussion, share a confession, ask for advice, invite group prayer…anything…except monologue. Everyone there is there to participate in what is being created (if not, they can just go sit in another pew at a church).

The only exception to rule #2 is your first time to take the hot seat. This is when you “tell your story.” Yes, the whole, gory, God-honest thing. We always challenge the person about to tell us their story to go all the way with it. To “make us your friends”.

Everyone you’ll meet there has done it. It gives us context for each other’s lives and everyone who does it finds it quite liberating and friendship building.


So, my blog-reading friends. What do you think?

Living in the Moment

23 March 2011

Kids with Hawes 002

Teach me to number my days
And count every moment before it slips away
Taking all the colors before they fade to gray
I don’t want to miss even just a second more of this
It happens in a blink
It happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
The only thing that matters is how we have loved
I don’t want to miss even just a second more of this
— lyrics from the song “Blink” by Revive

I drop my kids off at school every day. It’s a spiritual experience for me, and I’m not joking.

There is something about that 2 minute ride from my garage to the curb of the school that lifts me up out of myself. Seriously, I seem to transcend up and out of my hurriedness or my laziness, depending on which one is assaulting me that morning.

Sometimes they are bickering, sometimes just staring out the window, sometimes they are silly. Sometimes they want to turn on some music, sometimes they tell a joke, and sometimes they tell how much they love me. Sometimes they are stressed about their day, sometimes they are laughing at the day, sometimes they are planning their day after school, and sometimes they are just wondering what day it is.

But whatever attitude, action, or atmosphere they jump into my car with, it doesn’t seem to matter. I ascend to some special place of deep awareness, immense gratitude, and fearful awe.

The deep awareness is of the seconds passing by.

The immense gratitude is for these 3 growing human beings that are occupying those seconds with me.

The fearful awe is from how much I value and enjoy each of these seconds with them and I can’t keep a one.

When my kids mobilize themselves, barely waiting for me to stop the car before their feet hit the ground running, I sit in my car and watch. I watch them run (usually) all the way to the door of the school.

At this point, you probably think it’s because I’m trying to be a good parent. They are my responsibility, after all. They are officially in my care until they disappear into the stewardship of that school.

But that’s not what motivates me. They would be just fine walking the 40 yards without me there. As a matter of fact, I’m more often sitting there feeling some pressure to get going. There are other cars behind me, things to do, places to go, and people to see.

But I don’t. I watch them all…the…way…in. Why, you might ask? What keeps me sitting there?

This thought: “Which second of their life do I want to miss witnessing?”

Not a one.

Kids with Hawes 019Kids with Hawes 023Kids with Hawes 021  

And it isn’t about my kids, really, as important as they are to me. They are just being used by God as powerful props to stir me up, grow me up, and wake me up.

There is something in everyone that really wants to matter. It’s a craving and driving force in every human being I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know. As if we just know we are supposed to.

And when I live fully present with another human being, committing myself to letting them know that they do indeed matter, the need in me is mysteriously satisfied as well. And then a miracle often happens.

We both connect with God. Right there. Right then. Sometimes it’s acknowledged, sometimes not. But believed in or not, noticed or not, there He is.

Which may explain why Christ gives the commission to love the force of a command: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

What second of my life do I not want to be a part of that?

Keep. On. Moving.

23 February 2011

“Integrity is telling myself the truth. Honesty is telling the truth to other people.” – Spencer Johnson

“The man dedicated to integrity finds himself always travelling. And the man dedicated to honesty attracts others who want to go and repels those that like where they are too much. ” – Yours Truly

At my core, I am a traveler.

Is it because I am a traveler that I have made my life about truth and honesty? Or has making my life about truth and honesty made me a traveler? I’m not sure.

At any rate, along the proverbial road of my most recent journey, I have come upon a “town” that has sucked me into liking it so much that it threatens my travels. It could kill my spirit, energy, and gusto. It could threaten my mission, character, and priorities. Liking something too much (anything really: an idea, a possession, a person, a way of doing things, a certain income level, etc) can attach me to it in a way that it could steal my very life!

The temptation to “have things figured out” or “stay within known parameters” is so large and looming with it’s convenience, consistency and perceived safety that, for many, it is worth giving up on both integrity and honesty, which demand constant movement, change, and challenge.

But at my core, I am a traveler.

So…like I say to myself when I am out running a few miles and want to quit, I say it to myself again…

Keep. On. Moving.

And I am completely clear that these words do not come from me.


31 December 2010

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” – Luke 9:51

I have given in to the annual introspective gravity of New Years, and true to form, have looked for guidance from Jesus (it seems more and more that I can do nothing of significance without some sort of connection to him to justify it).

It seems a bit odd to me that this resolve made by Jesus was necessary at all. My view of him is that he had “resolutely set out” for his mission of love in Jerusalem long before this moment.

His resolve showed up countless times…

  • …like when he didn’t give into Satan’s 3 temptations in the desert.
  • …like when he walked away from the people who wanted to make him their earthly king.
  • …like how he persevered with his slow-to-believe-or-understand disciples.
  • …like when he came from heaven to earth in the first place.

He seems like a pretty resolute guy, you know? But here he is…resolving once again to stay on mission. Resolving, perhaps, to take his next appropriate step towards that mission at the appropriate time.

What do I need to resolve to stay on mission?” it makes me ask. “What is my next appropriate step towards my  mission at this time?”

It’s a good question for all of us.

I like to think of myself as a pretty resolved kind of guy. I know my mission and I try to protect it and live it out with zeal and gusto.

Knowing your mission is of paramount importance. It provides you with the luxury of what you need to say “no” to in your life. But there are still plenty of decisions within that mission that must be discerned, decided upon, and then resolutely set out for.

I love Jesus for being a model of this for me.

Do you know your mission? Do you know your next step appropriate step towards it?


Don’t Let Yourself Be Troubled

27 December 2010

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – Jesus

I can’t identify the precise moment when it changed, but I remember life before making a priority of peace.

Back then, I didn’t think twice about sacrificing peace at the alter of busyness. I killed it often at the alter of meeting other people’s “needs”, demands, and expectations. Sometimes, peace got bled by me at the alter of my own insecurity, striving, and image management. Less often, but most painful for me, I killed peace at the alter of worry, control, and worse-case-scenario fantasies.

Those were tiring, soul-starving, non-stop-action days. I was “there” for a lot of people. I was “appreciated” for my hard work. I was “honored” for how well I performed. I was “proud” of all the “accomplishments” I saw in my life.

But I was not at peace. I lacked a deep and abiding, untouchable and transcending peace.

These days, whenever the peace of my heart is compromised, I notice. And reestablishing it’s integrity immediately becomes the priority of all my energy. Why? Because without a peaceful spirit, I stop trusting anything I say or do. Without a peaceful spirit, I know that everything in my thinking is skewed. Everything I do, say, and feel are suspect.

So I basically put everything on hold to explore and resolve what is going on inside of me…and let me be clear about one thing I’ve learned…it most assuredly IS inside of ME that the problem of peacelessness resides, no matter how much I’d like to attribute it to outward circumstances.

Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled.” He implies a certain amount of power available to us here, an inward authority over the troubled heart.

He goes on to suggest that he gives a certain kind of peace (my peace,” he says).

And his kind of peace, evidently, is not available from our outward circumstances in the world (“I do not give as the world gives,” he says).

So why, then, do we work so hard to create or control outward circumstances to try to feel peace? Why do we pretend that if “so and so” would just do things different, or if “such and such” wasn’t happening, that all would then be well?

No, the problem of peacelessness is not in the world. It is in us. There are certain circumstances that are not yours or mine to change. And there are certain people that are present, not to torment you, but to play a provocative role in your ability to develop a self-responsible, eyes-wide-open, invulnerable sense of empowering peace.

Then, and only then, can you trust your outward actions and decisions and words.

The most disorienting of peace challenges to my heart are the ones that I can’t seem to explain to myself. “Why is this bothering me so much?” I ask myself. “Why am I obsessing over this?” “What is that reaction about?”

When this happens, there is usually some unconscious, unresolved history that God is trying to work out in me. A big part of my job, then, is to “let it happen” (or better said, “let Him happen”)…to cooperate with the unsettledness of it all and let it take me where it (or He) needs me to go.

Many people I know (me included), whenever they experience some assault on their peace either get too involved (by controlling, throwing fits, or emotionally blackmailing) or get too passive (by not caring, hiding behind judgments, or denial).

But these strategies for finding peace come from the world. They provide a way too cheap alternative to peace that works like a drug, providing temporary relief that will not be able to withstand the weight of future challenges to a truly peaceful heart.

May Jesus leave us the peace that can. His peace.

And then right before I  hit post, this commercial showed up, reminding me that when peace reigns in my heart, the world looks like a totally different place.

If Jesus Christ Isn’t God…

8 December 2010

If Jesus Christ is man—And only a man—I say That of all mankind I cleave to him, And to him will cleave away. If Jesus Christ is a God—And the only God—I swear I will follow him through heaven and hell, The earth, the sea, the air.” –R.W. Gilder

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…And he will be called Mighty God.” – The prophet Isaiah

How did Isaiah make the leap? How did he make the leap, over the course of one verse, from “look, here’s a baby of ours” to “and by the way, he is God.”

And how about Thomas? Isn’t this Jesus he speaks to the carpenter? Didn’t this guy come from Nazareth (what good comes from there)? And was not Thomas realistic and scientific enough that he was able to look at the convincing testimony of his 10 best friends in the world who claimed they saw Jesus back from the dead and still shake his head in disbelief (Jn 20:24-25)? Yet he looks a grown human being in the eyes and is able to say, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:26)

I’ve made the leap, too. And it is not because I am certain without a doubt. Oh, at times I am. At times I am blindly certain, finding myself believing it with very little evidence or feeling. At other times, I’m almost helplessly certain (my favorite kind) because I have seen such marvels in his teachings, or through actions done in his name, or through personal, mysterious experiences in or around me. But sometimes, I’m “certain with doubts”. That is, I’m certain in spite of some fairly valid doubts that (I hope) come from the integrity of my heart.

How have I made the leap, then? How have I come to look a human baby, a human being in the proverbial eyes and be capable of such a seemingly absurd statement as that of Isaiah? As that of Thomas?

How can I summon the faith to follow Jesus as God?

Well, I think its more complex than I have the ability or energy to completely think through or articulate at this stage of my life. However…

As a pragmatist, I have found the life, teachings, and ways of Jesus to work.

As an idealist (and, ironically, as a realist), I can’t find any high and noble virtue or value introduced by any other philosophy, political system, or religion not already embodied and promoted by him.

As an extremist, I find nothing that boldly calls for and daringly promises so much.

As a romantic, I love that everything he is and does is motivated and explained by love.

As a judgmental skeptic, I can’t find anything wrong with him.

As a sociologist, when I see his character, mission, and priorities imitated, I see unstoppable good flood into and through people.

As a contemplative, I can’t seem to exhaust his depth, but as a simpleton, I find his teachings easy to grasp and easy to discern application

As a scientist, he gives me categories to explore parts of humanity that science can’t.

As a relativist, he gives me a way of being open to new points of view without being afraid.

As an absolutist, he gives me a few strong, hard-to-argue-with bedrocks upon which the rest of life can be interpreted.

As an activist, he gives me something worthwhile to do, not as part of my life, but as my life.

As an ecumenicist, he gives me a basis upon which to call for unity.

As a sinner, he offers the only message that satisfies and heals completely.

As a son, the God he describes as Father is the only God I want.

As a follower, he gives me someone I can trust.

As a leader, he gives me somewhere of worth to take people.

Something in me is saying that I’m just barely skimming the surface of some very deep waters in me. Dark waters that must be plunged into fully in order to find the treasures.

But for now, this is a satisfying post to write. A sort of, “reasons I believe” proclamation.

Ultimately, I think I’ve experienced enough of myself, others, creation, and God in the light of my followership of Christ to have decided that even if Jesus Christ wasn’t God, I’d follow him still.

Interestingly, that may be how Thomas navigated through all of his complexity to arrive at making the leap that Jesus was God.

After all, earlier in the story, he was the follower that said, in spite of any doubt that would suggest it unwise, ill-advised, dangerous, or unnecessary, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (Jn 11:16)

If Jesus isn’t God, well, then among all mere men, I choose to follow and die with him. In my journey, study, and exploration for truth, I have too many reasons not to.

Prayer Time Play by Play

21 September 2010

I went out to the Palo Duro Canyon for some time with God. I felt compelled to give a little play by play about what that is like for me.

Before I tell you, the first thing you should know is that things never go quite as planned. I think God does this on purpose, wanting to have more control over my time with Him than I do. I’m usually cool with going with the flow.

For example, my current routine is to take my bike and ride to the Lighthouse and spend some time The Lighthouse at Palo Duro Canyon with Him there, somewhat exhausted but committed, both recovering and pushing forward (a good mirror to my life, in fact). But that plan was interrupted yesterday by a good friend who wanted to join me. There was a twinge of not wanting to adjust my plan, as there usually is, but then an excited submission to the adjustment, which I usually do.

This morning, bike unloaded, and excited to pick up my friend and enjoy this together, I got a text from him saying he couldn’t get back into town in time. There was (once again) a twinge of not wanting to adjust my plan, then and (again) excited submission to the adjustment. I loaded my bike and was off.

When I went through the park check-in, the thought emerged that I might should ride my bike on a new trail. So I grabbed a map from the Ranger. I drove down the canyon a bit so that I could pull over somewhere beautiful while scouting the map. I lowered my window and took in the postcard-perfect scene. I had the map, but couldn’t take my eyes off the the mist covering the valley, thinking about the temporary beauty I was witnessing, as it was doomed to be burned away by the fast rising sun. Then I noticed just below me a “spot”. It was just hard enough to get to and intriguing enough a place to make me get out, leave my bike behind, and head for it. So I spent my hour there.

As I said, never quite as planned.

As I settled in, I fell into the trap I always do. I’ll call it the “I gotta have an experience” trap. It’s so bogus, but so easy for me start running after. It manifests itself internally, making me strive to do the right, super spiritual thing so as to trigger an “experience with God” of some kind. I face this enemy every week. The phrase that stole it’s power this morning (one always comes, by the way, when I let it) was “Just let the silence do it’s work.”

That work took about 20 minutes. But gratefully, through this vain striving and and into a state of  simply letting go, I began my experience.

Today it came in the form of some thoughts, some triggered by the scene I was sitting in. It sort of cheapens it a bit for me to list them, but I’m gonna list them anyway.

1. I saw a hawk fly in a straight line just below eye level from me. Then I saw two birds way below me flying in circles next to the curved cliff I was on. I noticed how the birds were using the wind swirling in the alcove to catch an updraft and slowly but surely elevate their flight. They did this until they got up to the elevation of the hawk and then they flew off in a straight line as well, at a whole new level. “That’s what I come here for,” I thought. To be elevated, and to fly straight.

2. I don’t want to admit to this one, honestly, because it means more work for me (inward work, not  outward). See, I have had 3 young men ask me directly in the last 6 months to mentor them. They’ve asked politely, knowing that “I’m a busy guy” and not wanting me to feel any sense of pressure. I’ve humbly acknowledged the honor I feel by their request, but secretly, between you and me (and everyone in the world, now), I have not said yes or no because both feel wrong. I just can’t seem to be Helping other up with the request. Don’t get me wrong, I want what I experience in Christ for anyone and everyone. Its too good not to share. I can even acknowledge that there are people who use me as a mentor of sorts, even call me that on occasion. But for someone to ask me formally to do so… shew…it has me frozen in my own values! Humility says I should say no, I have no life worth imitating, but discipleship says I should say yes, it’s in line with who I say I am. So, as God has the habit of doing, he brought this tension to the surface. I felt like God said, “They want to be like you, Brian.” I shuddered. I mean, come on, humility sort of demands that you not agree with that. It’s the super-spiritual thing to do, after all. But here I was, with no one to impress or prove anything to, alone with God and few birds, undeniably dealing with the thought that I need to stop diminishing myself by insisting to the world that I don’t have a life that I think is worth imitating. It sounds arrogant even typing it, and I’m sorry if you can’t see it as anything else, but I do not mean it that way. I’ve always said that my desire is to be so confident of who I am following and how I am living that I could say to others what Paul said to others, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” So…a sort of plan to engage those guys in a mentoring sort of way sort of emerged. So I guess I should sort ask you to sort of pray that I sort of do something about it, please. I’m excited, just shell-shocked. This is new “confidence ground” for me, should I decide to accept it. And I’m not sure I have.

3. My wife came up. She and I have had our plates full (as we all do). And more urgently, she was getting sick last night, and had asked me to pray for her ability to make it through work today. So in addition to just honoring her request, I asked God to show me anywhere at all where I am not being as attentive to her as I am to be. He said not to worry at all, that I am covering every single base there is to cover and that she is just lucky to have a husband like me (and if you believe that, then he also told me that you were supposed to pay off my home mortgage).

4. A question came up. Who was it that Jesus prayed for and who was it that he taught us we should pray for? I could only think of two people groups right off the bat: he told us to pray for more workers in the harvest field of men because the harvest is so plentiful, and he told us to pray for our “enemies” (those who persecute you). There are probably others, and I took note that I should look that up later.

5. A teaching series came to mind that may have applications in my preaching job. “Revolutions” was the word, and the idea was that we are all on the verge of one on any day that we choose. Further, that if we just paid attention and were honest, there is probably “something trying to happen” that  we are either actively resisting, purposefully ignoring, or just playing stupid about. It’s the second time it’s come up, buRevolutionst the first time I connected it to another idea that came up months ago about a series of teachings on fitness – spiritual fitness, physical fitness, financial fitness, emotional fitness, mental fitness, intellectual fitness, relational fitness. Is there a connection? Is this needed by our church family right now? I’m never certain at first. I’ll put it through the filters of my trusted community and the teachings of Jesus in the Bible and we’ll see where that goes. 

6. Finally, starting at about 35 minutes into my time, from way across the canyon, I heard a cow. For the next 15 or 20 minutes, this lone cow’s mooing was slowly and progressively joined by what ended up having to be dozens of cows. It got loud and Cow worshippersistent enough that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I started scanning for them, and finally I saw the tiny black specks spread out all over, but all looking like they were moving towards a common place. I wasn’t expecting anything spiritual out of this at  all, but then a thought surprised me. “There are people on the planet who think  that cows exist only to be worshipped, and others that think that cows exist only hamburger to be eaten.” Now, I happen to be one of the latter, and frequently prove it at local joint called Blue Sky. But beyond that, it made me think about how some people treat God as only something “out of this world” and never practical, and others treat Him only as something to serve or feed them and never as Someone to revolve their lives around. And then that reminded me of this blog by Wade Hodges.

So there it is, for what it is worth. A tour through a somewhat-typical-but-always-unique Brian Mashburn prayer time. There were some other noteworthy things, but how could I ever capture them all? A relationship with God is an amazingly simple and complex thing.

My Ever-Changing Relationship with Church

20 April 2010

Go and make disciples of all nations.” – the commission of Jesus to his church

“The only obstacle that church leadership faces in better organizing itself around Christ’s commission is their love for the church members.” – Yours Truly

“Love never stopped Jesus from progression toward his mission. Love fueled it.” – Yours Truly

I love the church. Always have for as long as I can remember.

Interestingly, as I survey my life, I can identify different stages and expressions of that love. By doing that, I can better see what stage I am in now, and then maybe even predict (or is it imagine?, or is it create?) how I will express it in my old age.

In the beginning, I looked to the church with excitement. By beginning, I really do mean it, because I was born into a church-going family. In my earliest memories, church represented a welcome and fun interruption to my otherwise somewhat ordinary week. There were other excitements in my life, but none as reliable and steadfast as “going to church” regularly as a kid. I remember loving nursery care, fun classes, loud singing, energetic puppet shows, new friends, and along with all of it, a sense of importance behind everything we were doing that went beyond what we were doing.

At some point, I began to look to the church with comfort.  It was what I was used to and could depend on. It became a friend, and I’m not just talking about the people. I could rely and anchor something deep in my soul to the rituals that my church used in their services. Two songs, a prayer, a song, a scripture reading, a song, a sermon, and song with an invitation to walk to the front, and then dismissal. It became a rhythm that was so normal and assumed, like breathing or mealtimes, that any interruption or variation was at a minimum very noticeable, and at a maximum, unacceptable.

It’s a blurry boundary that I can’t pinpoint, but I began to look to the church with satisfaction. It was home. This “home” was not so much with the people there, but with the people who were satisfied with the same things I was. And all of us were satisfied with how we did church and equating how we did it with true Christianity. I guess that our church hit the balance of calling for enough sacrifice, while not calling for so much, that as long as I did what the church called for, I felt like a fully developed Christian. Which made me feel satisfaction.

But slowly and surely, and in pretty dramatic fashion, I started looking to the church with longing. This switch came through a combination of factors that conspired to make me into someone who wanted “more” from church. My own personal study of scripture was one of those factors (the life it called for didn’t seem to match up with what I was experiencing). A traumatic family event was another (my family moved outside the scope of functioning that the church was trained to handle). A third factor was the surfacing of some deep need within me for authentic, real relationships (the church said it was the community where I should find them, but I didn’t). Another was the awakening of a desire to make an actual difference in the world to actual people (the message of Jesus seemed to be the best way to do that, and I thought his message belonged to the church, but it often carried a slight but significant distortion of that message). All of this, and probably more, combined to make me look to the church as if it should deliver all this to me.

Having lost my satisfaction, and thinking the church should meet these longings, I began to look to the church with responsibility. The church is me, after all, and if the church isn’t meeting some of the many valid human longings that Jesus says he meets, then it is at least partially on me to transition the church into doing so. It sounds quite noble, empowering, and self-responsible, I know. But I think I’m currently shedding the last bit of residue of this stage, still feeling some of it, but it is quickly giving way to to something that looks the same outwardly, but is much healthier inwardly.

That is, I now look to the church with opportunity. The church is my opportunity to be a part of the community of people who relate with God and each other and the world in a way that delivers the most abundant life available to people.

All of these stages have been valid, useful, and shaping for me. All of these companions of mine, different expressions of my love for the church, have actually been necessary for the church to do with me what Jesus commissioned it to do… shape me more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. In this beautiful way, the church has fulfilled (and is fulfilling) it’s great commission…to make a disciple of me.

It’s interesting to look back and observe that as I was experiencing each one, each stage seemed to be the pinnacle of love for the church.

And in a way, I guess each one was…for me…at the time.

I hope you can see as clearly as I the thread of God’s activity in and through all of these stages. I’m grateful for and honor each one.

And to do that today is to own and fully engage with and enjoy the stage that I am currently in. So for today, I have been given the opportunity to shape the church (which, no matter what else it includes, means to shape myself) to reflect and offer the commission of Jesus Christ to my world a little bit better than it does right now. In this looking to the church with opportunity, and acting, I honor what it is God is doing to shape me with the church, and to shape the church with me.

Like all the stages, and contrary to what it feels like when in each one, it won’t last long. Way sooner than I may be comfortable with, this opportunity will be handed down to my kids. And they, above all else, help me stay diligent and desirous of not being wasteful of this stage…inasmuch as it has to do with me.

But when this stage passes, what is next? When I’m done looking to the church with opportunity, what will be left?

Love. Just love. I will look to the church with love. My imagination says that the next stage will not be needing any more qualifiers to try to describe how it is I’m showing that love. I should be agile enough, mature enough, and Christ-like enough to need nothing from it, to feel no burdensome or guilt-producing obligation to it, but only love…which produces whatever labor from me that will be demanded in each and every moment, no matter the cost. I will show love for everyone at every stage, and hopefully be useful as a guide for anyone at any stage, personally and relationally, to help anyone (inside or outside the church) take their next step towards the point of it all…intimacy and relationship with God.

This point of the church was the point of Jesus Christ. That is why the church is called Christ’s. And we each members of not just “it”…but “him.”

God help me.

Words I Want to Be Able to Say

11 March 2010

I have a book that was published in 1789, the year George Washington was elected our first President, in Philidelphia. The guys who were responsible for it IMG_0487 (Thomas Coke & Francis Asbury) had interactions with George Washington himself. It’s an old book, published in America only two years after the Constitution was published!

The first article in this book (which is a collection of writings, poetry, essays, hymns, letters, and sermons) is a sketch of the life of James Arminius, taken from an oration that was spoken at his funeral, which was another full 180 years before this book was published…in October of 1609. These are some old words, written and spoken on the same year that Galileo was introducing his first telescope!

Arminius is best known for his stand against what would come to be known as Calvinism (the idea that God’s sovereignty necessarily implies that all men are 200px-Jacobus_Arminius_02_IV_13_2_0026_01_0309_a_Seite_1_Bild_0001 predestined/predetermined by Him to be either “saved” or not). He was so capable of standing opposed to this belief against numerous other great and respected minds that the view he took is now known as Arminianism (the idea that God’s grace is available to all, and each man has the free-will to accept or reject it).

Anyway, that is who he is, but that is not why I’m writing about him.

When I opened it, the last thing I expected to find written in this 221-year-old book were words written by a man 408-years older than me that so perfectly say what I want to be able to say.

They come from his will, upon which he added these words, as he laid on his deathbed…

“Above all, I commend my spirit to God, its faithful Creator and Saviour, before whom I have walked in my profession and calling, with a good conscience, in simplicity and sincerity. I call him to witness, that I have advanced nothing but what, after the most attentive consideration, I have deemed the sense of scripture: and that, in whatsoever I have advanced, I have had in view only to extend the knowledge of the religion of Christ Jesus, the worship of God, and the common holiness and peace of all.”

Arminius died when he was 49-years-old. I have 7 more years until I’m his age.

I hope I will be able to say what he said, with profound confidence, by then.

How about you? Can you say…

  • That you have commended your spirit to God?
  • That you have walked in your calling?
  • That you have done so with a good conscience?
  • That you have lived in simplicity and sincerity?
  • That you have been most attentive to consider the “sense” of scripture?
  • That you have advanced nothing but that?
  • That you have as your goal the life of Christ and the worship of God?
  • That you have as your goal the common holiness and peace of everyone?

I have some serious adjustments to make.

One Year Ago Today…

4 March 2010

…I was a part of an experience that left a mark.

It was an experience with death. But it was much more than that. It was also and experience with love. And with family. It was pain and comfort at the same time. Laughter and tears. Immense, unbearable, and crushing sorrow (for a wife, a daughter, a son, among others), but also powerful, relieving, load-lighting gratitude (for the husband and dad, who was suffering constant pain).

It was the day that my friend Rick Owens took his last breath.

It ended a long journey against life-stealing disease, but it was life-giving disease, too. While his body was dying, his spirit leapt to life with the clarity and love for God and others that only comes to those who have an awareness of how brief life is.Rick Owens

Most of us don’t. But Rick did. And being with him in those last months and weeks and days left a mark. A mark that I hope I don’t soon forget.

I spoke about much of this at his funeral. You can listen to it here.

  (Non-flash audio link)

Rick…I love and miss you. I hugged your wife and son last night, and will pray for them and your beautiful daughter all day today. Thank you for how you handled death. Thank you for how you handled life while it was yours. But thank you especially for how you handled death.

And thank you for knowing and loving Christ. We all look forward to life without end together.

« Previous PageNext Page »