How The New York Times Fixed My Sin Problem

First of all, some of you will read this and it won’t make sense. That’s ok. Whisper a quiet, ‘thank you’ and continue on about your business. But some of us understand. Some of us know all too well what it is like to hear every issue labeled a ‘sin’ – and no helpful remedy be offered other than pray harder and read your Bible more. In fact, in most of those sermons we’re rarely even advised as to how we should pray – or given prayers to pray; or told what scriptures we should read. Forget someone sitting down to just read a Psalm of comfort with us.

Back to my sin.

Apparently it was one of the most egregious ones available. And as someone who does my own public speaking and preaching I have to admit to being irritated by this behavior at times myself. I slept. In church. Never mind that from 2000 – 2004 when this sin was so egregious that I was working 60 plus hours a week and raising a family with small children.

I would fall asleep in church. Just. About. Every. Time. I moved to the middle, I sat on the edge and over the years I have heard countless speakers and preachers denounce my behavior as sin. Surely it is right? I mean, who falls asleep when the ‘man of God’ is ‘proclaiming the Word of God’?

It had to be my hardened heart. Maybe I wasn’t saved. It’s quite possible that I was living in rebellion. Maybe I was afraid to ‘truly’ follow God. The short list here is just a few of the possibilities that I heard through the years – many of them during a particular time in my early 20’s.

Then we moved. And I still fell asleep at a different church. And we had new friends and one time after watching me doze off in the middle of a conversation she encouraged me to check my sugar. It was normal, but it started me down a path of discovery. A path of wondering why exactly this thing that was causing me to ‘sin’ was something that a medical professional thought might point to something else.

It was several years later that I stumbled across an article in the New York Times. In this article it talked about the latent effects of sugary drinks and heave-carbohydrate diets and how they could lead to drowsiness in certain people for up to several days after their consumption.

Well now. From 1996 – 2004 I existed upon a certain substance called Mountain Dew. I love to consume foods that are carb-centric. So I started learning and changing my diet and experimenting and lo and behold this awful sin problem that I had seemed to only appear in the days after I ate heavy carbs or drank a drink that had sugar.

From 2007 to 2017 my sin problem began to go away as my diet and consumption of PHYSICAL foods changed. Now it is rare that I drink anything that has a significant amount of sugar and if I know that I am going to be sitting for any period of time you won’t see me eating potatoes, or rice or anything else that puts me into sin sleep.  

And now I wonder. Why out of all those people that lambasted my falling asleep did no one ever care enough to ask about my physical health? And as a pastor who has watched people show up exhausted to church – and promptly fall asleep in the pew – why didn’t they care enough to be thankful that I was there?

Well I found the answer, and it wasn’t pretty. You see, I found the answer in my own behavior. How I respond when someone tells me I’m wrong. When someone refuses to see things my way. Yes, it was my ego – and it’s theirs as well.

So if you grew up in or live in a culture of religiosity that labels everything a sin and yet offers no solutions, just remember me. A kid who grew up in the church. Who read his Bible. Who knew every Bible story backwards and forwards. Remember that I wondered if I was truly saved and that I wondered if I was running from God simply because I was falling asleep in church and I was told I had a sin problem.

Then remember that one day someone told me to check my sugar. And then years later I read an article about how certain body types process food and over a decade or so I changed my food consumption. And now I don’t ‘sin’ in that way.

Don’t go there

In our foster care journey we have been blessed and supported by so many people. This post isn’t a huzzah for us, but rather an attempt to speak to an issue that has become heavy for Christy and I. It is also carried by our children who have been beyond loving and compassionate with us in their care for others, and is a reality for so many who love those who are hurting or discarded.

Since I do occasionally get a chance to preach I had considered holding this until then, but there is truly an inherent danger which I have experienced in preaching with a personal agenda. Certainly there is a danger in writing that way as well but in our culture there is so much cache that goes into someone preaching that it’s better that I put these words and thoughts here.

When we have opened our hearts and homes to these children we have inevitably found that we are opening our hearts and homes to their extended families and realities. For us this has always begun with the mother and for each child that has come into our home Christy has carried a tremendous amount of love and concern for their mothers. While the rest of us have not experienced the level of care that Christy has her concern has greatly impacted each one of our family members.

  • ‘They’re just scum’
  • ‘Using the system’
  • ‘Lock them up and throw the key away’
  • ‘Stupid druggies’
  • ‘Losers/Criminals/Thugs’

You get the idea.

Folks, I struggle with this disease as well; Inability to Keep Mouth Shut.

This disease is further complicated by the fact that we live in the Bible Belt among well-meaning Christians who act as if we have to make a moral condemnation upon each and every person and every situation. It’s self-serving but it is our cultural pastime and appears to be more enjoyable than a game of baseball.

You don’t. You don’t have to comment on the assumed ‘badness’ of the mom or the family of the foster children that you see. We actually don’t have to do it about anyone, but for our family this has been a good place to start. Yes, these folks are obviously in need of help, direction, correction, and possibly much more – but they’re a child of God.

I know that we have attached a certain level of morality to that phrase – ‘child of God’ – but you can throw that away because that’s a construct of culture and not of God. But if there is a problem in seeing someone as a child of God a good place to begin is by recognizing them as a mother, daughter, niece, and just as a human being. If we can get to the point that we recognize someone as a human, we are very close to recognizing them as a child of God.

There is a story in Scripture that actually corresponds very well with this reality. It is the story of Hagar. Abused by Sarah and Abraham. Exploited for what she could provide; she finds herself in a situation in which there was no hope. A boy, his mom, and a desert. Death was certain. Out of fear for the great chieftain, Abraham, no one was going to come to her aid. She and the boy would die. Because of spite. Because of jealousy. Because some people were wealthy enough in their pursuit of their life that she could be used and discarded.

I can almost hear the tsking from here; 5000 years later. She probably led them on (scum). She really thought she could force them to bend to her demands (using the system). She’s lucky that Sarah let her leave (throw the key away).  We’ll stop there.

But that’s not the end of the story. The story is that in her despair she is met by a messenger from God, an angel. The angel tells Hagar that she is not to weep for God has seen the child and he promised her that he would make Ishmael into a great nation. This is the same God that sees each child in care. Sees their condition and their families from where they came. Sees them wholly, and not in the ways that we have constructed that allow us to separate ourselves from them.

So the next time you feel the urge to make some moral condemnation on the condition of the children that are in care, or condemn their parents in a way that dehumanizes them, don’t do it with us. I would bet you facelifts to french fries that within five minutes you could find someone that would share your perspective and you all can happily commiserate.

But in the words of Bob Dylan;

it ain’t me, babe
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for

Photo by Charl Durand from Pexels

Don’t Save the World | Save the Moment

To some degree we probably all think about saving the world. Its seems clear that most people spend time thinking about what is wrong in the world – and subsequently complaining about those problems. So while you may not have woken up this morning thinking about how you would save the world it’s probably not a stretch to imagine that most of us did take a little time out to gripe about what’s wrong.

We listen to prognosticators claim that they will save the world. Of course, they need our dollar, our vote, and our promises to keep them alive. We often think that the fixes must come from these who seem to have the ideas, the energy, and certainly the funding. They convince us to join drives, make pledges, listen to politicians promote their agendas, tote banners, and post inane remarks and links on our social media pages

We know the world’s broken. We even sometimes attempt to fix this brokenness. And we get tired. Really quickly, although we often get bitter before we get tired and that may be even worse. The bitterness makes us feel like we’re at odds with the world and then our mission of salvation of the world begins to take second place to our mission of destroying all that’s wrong in our version of the world.

Here’s the challenge. Today, I do not have to save the world, but I can create some peace, and in so doing will save the world. Contentment in the moment may not feel like saving the world but listening to a 17yo share with you the stats of OBJ may absolutely bless and enrich their lives in a way that we will never fully understand. It might be taking the day off work and sitting in a courtroom full of brokenness as a friend did this week and simply saying out loud for everyone to hear; ‘this is not right.’

The moments you had today belong to you and only you today, in the moment in which they were experienced and acted upon. Pick a problem; hunger, shelter, abuse, shameless exploitation, and whatever you may see as so glaring. Now, pick a moment – here’s a guarantee; that moment will include a person – and bring some peace. Feed them. Clothe them. Embrace them. Appreciate them.

It’s what Christ has called us to do. You can’t force peace, you must offer it, and in so doing you’re going to find out you’re offering a piece of yourself. Piece for peace. In those moments you will have true thankfulness.

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

to some degree there are no easy writes. this one definitely ranks up there. sometimes it’s easier to think we’re saving the world and ignore the moments. added on 11.17.21

All Things New

 ‘He makes all things new’

Perhaps you’ve heard those lyrics sung. Or maybe you have even sang them yourselves. Words like that can – and should – evoke a lot of emotions. It’s a large claim. In fact, depending on what you are experiencing at the time it feels a like a really big ask.

And then it doesn’t. I mean, who has ever experienced all things new. You drive your brand new car home and park it in the garage. Open the door and have to make sure that you don’t trip over the threshold that is loose – because it’s old. Paint your bedroom – and then notice the dinginess of your bed cover. Buy a cup of coffee, and with small children running around, you only enjoy about a quarter of that $5.75 charge.

Sound cynical? Or relatable? Maybe both.

But this is supposed to be a post about thankfulness and so let’s go back to those words; ’He makes all things new.’

As John wraps up the vision that he has seen and recorded for us in the book of Revelation he gives us this statement from Jesus, ‘He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

The original word that is translated ‘making’ essentially has to do with forming a path. It is something. It is happening. Progress is being made. There is a way.

Too often the focus is on the things wrong; the broken threshold, the dingy spread, or the last sip of cold bitter coffee. We forget how the car smells when we step in the house and see the threshold. Then we reverse the order and ignore the smell of fresh paint to look at the spread. The coffee, well the coffee would be insulted by how quickly we forgot how we responded when that perfect mix of sweet, dairy, and a beat up berry first touched our lips.

But there is new and we can fully experience this new when we allow ourselves to sit and rest in each and every moment that we experience. New music. New friends. New opportunities. New insights. New surrounds us and it will absolutely wash over us if we step into each moment.

For some perspective here’s some ‘new’ from this past week.

Those who care for others are those who dwell in God’s presence – Psalm 15

Listening to Vince Gill and Patty Loveless sing at George Jones memorial – Go Rest High On That Mountain

Listening to Sara Bareilles sing with the symphony at The Kennedy Center – Once Upon Another Time

An excellent cup of coffee; Cold brew, black, light ice – Sheffield’s

And this ace never gets old – Kevin Jones 530’ Ace

You’ve had some new, celebrate it, share it.

And if you have click any of those you might encounter some new being built ahead of you.

Celebrating Like No Tomorrow | When the World is Right

Only three days in on the commitment to post about thankfulness and already the cynicism is having to be escorted from the arena by armed security. That’s ok, because todays security experts are young and quite accomplished. With their foam fingers and their #5, #10, #1, and a myriad of other jersey numbers they are reminding us of what it is like when everything is right in the world.

In case you didn’t know the Braves won the World Series last night. Having resided in Georgia for the past 23 years I confess to sharing much of the skepticism that every Georgia fan shares. Remember, folks, I know Herschel is getting run in the news right now but he hasn’t been relevant – except for memories – for more than 4 (FOUR!) decades. Like Tyler Matzek who pitched lights out in the World Series we have a case of the yips.

But last night; grown men wept, ladies screamed, and pearls were clutched all across this great state. In the end the Braves were victorious and there is a feeling in the air that you can’t quite define. It’s not cockiness but there is certainly a feeling of invincibility.

Don’t skip over it. Don’t let your skepticism rule. This feeling. This aura. This hope has roots in our being made in the image of God. Is God a Braves fan? Well, that’s not really the question but the answer is certainly ‘yes.’

God is a God of hope. God is a God of new beginnings. God is a God of glorious redemption from untold suffering. So when the long-suffering franchise wins, those glorious realities – given to us by God – come spouting to the surface. Enjoy them. Revel in them. Use them to provoke yourself forward in an area in which you are struggling.

Here’s how the great poet David said it;

Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

Photo by from Pexels

The People We’re Stuck With | Community

It’s early November and while my fall schedule is like many of you all’s I am committing myself to at least three posts a week. Thankfulness will be my theme and since I sometimes find myself of a cynical nature we may have to be fairly inventive in exactly ‘what’ I’m thankful for. Today’s post is easy. It happened today.

The people we are stuck with is the community that surrounds us. God’s plan is community. Throughout Scripture when we read about God being present and doing miraculous works we often find this happening in and around community. Specifically, today, I think of Moses.

In the wilderness, due to his inability to fully grasp God’s plan along with any source of humility, he is met by God. Now there is often a good bit of noise made about how God came to Moses when he was alone. True, but the aloneness was just in that moment, that was not Moses’ reality.

Moses’ reality is that he was married, had children, and had an extended family. In fact, other than his relationship with his somewhat psychotic and jealous sister, and his brother who thought he made a better leader, Moses is one of the few characters in the Old Testament who seems to have a firm grasp on solid, healthy relationships. He loved his wife to the extent that he didn’t give a rip about his sister’s selfish opinions. He did not promote his sons into positions that they either did not want or were unprepared to inhabit. And, one of the biggest, he listened and took advice from his father-in-law when he very easily could have told him to get lost. As Mark Driscoll so famously told one of his former staff members; “I can’t submit to John Piper, I have a bigger church than he does.” (by the way, the word submit when used by the very religious folks is about the same word for advice. Don’t worry, it’s code religious stuff that gives an air of superiority)

Moses fled and yet was surrounded by community. Good community it turns out, and that allowed him to lead and bless others in his life. There, in that community, God made himself known to him in a remarkable way.

Today I am thankful for the community that surrounds my family and I. Those who love and care in a myriad of ways. From our coffee shops (went to two just today) to our grocery stores, our schools, and everywhere in between; I am thankful for our community. I challenge you today to think about the community where you are and think of a few specific things for which you are thankful. You may be surprised at how many of them are due to the people that are in and a part of those places and things.

Photo by Albin Berlin from Pexels

Secret Shoppers and Christianity

So I know that what I’m about to say is going to date me, but I’ll just deal with those ramifications. A few weeks ago I was listening to my Pandora station when an ad came on that really caused me to think. Yes, Pandora, and, double yes; the free version – with ads. While my children have found the wherewithal to pay for their own Spotify subscriptions, all of the other subscriptions that they find necessary, are being paid for by myself – and I have a problem paying to listen to music.

Back to the ad. It caught my attention because it mentioned two things that I encounter on a very regular basis; Kroger, and very specifically, Kroger’s produce section. In the ad Kroger touted their solution to ensuring that their produce section stayed fully stocked with fresh produce – secret shoppers.

Now, we certainly all have opinions on Kroger and produce, but let’s just set that to the side for a few minutes because I want to talk about secret shoppers. Secret shoppers are hired by companies to covertly shop the companies they are hired by to determine whether or not employees are following the procedures that they have been presumably instructed to follow. As someone with a background in retail I know that there is definitely some value in utilizing secret shoppers. The responsibility of a secret shopper is to give the company they have purchased from feedback on the encounters they have been instructed to check in the store they are shopping. Presumably this is to keep employees on their toes and always following procedures because there are usually harsh ramifications for employees if a secret shopper ‘catches’ certain violations or lapses.

But let’s think about this for a minute. A major grocery retailer advertised that they knew that their produce was fresh because they were using secret shoppers to check their stores. Now you might think that’s a great idea but let’s think of some alternatives for a moment. They didn’t advertise that they had their employees performing regular checks. They didn’t advertise that their coolers were kept at appropriate temperatures. They didn’t advertise how they might ship or package their product. They advertised that they were employing people to go behind their employees to make sure standards are being followed.

The implication in the ad was clear – if our employees are not fulfilling their standards; we’ll catch them. For someone who has worked in retail there is also a secondary implication – those bad employees are going to pay! What a way to encourage people to shop in their store!?

I’m afraid that Kroger has learned something from our evangelical churches. There is some idea of value in assuring people that we’ll catch and expose your faults. The goal of the secret shopper is to make sure that your employees are always on their toes. For a company that advertises that their items are kept fresh by employing secret shoppers I can only imagine the pressure that those employees feel.

In the church this is an enterprise with which we are intimately familiar. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that we are the great secret shoppers which will determine whether or not those who attend church with us, profess some love for Jesus, or in some way are identified with the church as a whole, or are even just folks we pass in the street; are true Christians.

We have forgotten the purpose of encouraging others, of bearing others burdens. Instead, we spend our time peeking into their grocery carts, tsking over their Instagram, and wondering what’s in their glass at the restaurant table. We judge each other for the videos we’ve seen, the amount of church services we’ve missed, the podcasts they do or do not listen to, and whether or not we use the right ‘religious lingo’ in conversations. And all of this is before we even begin talk about politics.

We should be affirming others. Blessing others. Seeking others out to simply bring hope and encouragement to them – not to make them feel shamed and exploited.

A few days after hearing Kroger’s ad I was confronted with the by-product of this type of manipulation and the type of damage it brings about. In another retail establishment in our town I came across a cashier hopelessly overworked. By herself, she was working a line that had almost 15 customers with various amounts of items standing frustrated in queue.

When I reached her I was hoping that I could relieve her of some stress but I was struck by how robotic she had become. She gave me the company approved greeting, asked the appropriate question about signing up for rewards programs and all the way through until I left the store. This cashier, this hopelessly overworked lady; dealing with frustrated and angry customers was so locked in that it seemed she had lost all feeling. Had there been a secret shopper in her line – she would have passed with flying colors. But she was losing herself and the store as a whole would have been considered a failure in my book for even putting her in that position.

Some of us have been there. We’ve made sure that we’ve checked every box to ensure our Christianity and we’ve lost our joy. We lose our hope in Jesus. We begin to depend upon our ability to perform and forget that our hope is in the person of Jesus. We forget that our ability to perform the tasks that consume us become secondary as we focus on Jesus.

Yes, we have responsibilities, but our primary responsibility is knowing and participating in the life of God’s kingdom. When his kingdom becomes our focus, our ‘secret-shopping’ of others will fade and we will find ourselves looking for opportunities to bless and encourage and forget about the temporary thrill of ‘catching’ someone not performing up to our expectations and limitations.

We should want our grocery stores to rely on training and promotion from within to ensure that we have fresh produce. We should rely on the person of Jesus and the transformative work of the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of ourselves and others. Let’s guard against becoming robotic in our performance as a Christian by simply following reciting the phrases given to us by others. Discover Jesus. Read the Gospels. Allow his mercy to find root in our hearts and continue to transform us into his image.

Late Night Mowing – and realities

Swinging the world by the tail, bouncing

Sometimes in the thinking of life you find some solace. Not necessarily because you satisfy yourselves but rather you may just realize and come to rest on those things that are ‘actuals’; the things that matter now – and always will.

The yard needed to be mowed. Badly. After refusing to grow grass since early spring, in a weird twist of timing the yard was demanding to be mowed – and the last thing I wanted or needed to do was mow the yard.

I usually don’t mind mowing the yard and it allows time to think but on that night I didn’t really want to think. It really was a perfect storm of emotions that were swirling in my mind that night; our oldest child being married, ongoing vehicle issues, the priceless wonder of seeing a nephew adopted from foster care, our own foster frustrations, and the daily reality of being a human, spouse, and parent.

Oh, and it was 8:40PM before I could start. And then came the praying, the thinking, and the praying.

The first reminder that came that night is that our hopes and dreams for our kids are always bound up in who they are. Whether or not they are a kind person, a compassionate person, or a giving person is the sum total of what matters. Everything else is fluff. This can be helpful when we begin to give consideration to where our kids may or may not live, and the pursuits of their lives. We’ve always known this, but the finality of a wedding helps drive this point home.

The second reminder and reality that came that night is that we should never forget that more is caught than taught. Both of my boys are old enough and certainly capable of mowing our yard. They also have been working full-time jobs and have other things that occupy their time. As I attempted to not miss any spots in the growing darkness I thought about how much easier it would have been to ‘tell’ one of the boys to cut the grass. However, if there is anything Christy and I have learned it is that our kids learn so much more from what they observe in us, than they do from the instructions they receive. And sometimes life insists that we mow our grass when we can’t hardly see.

The third reality came from what I was blessed to observe that morning. When Christy and I started our foster journey a little over three years ago we found out that my youngest sister and her husband had started their own journey at almost the exact same time. This past month, they adopted one of their former placements. The reality is this; let your heart be broken over what matters. Every day and twice on Sunday. As our very large and very extended family joined in that zoom call to watch and listen to the proceedings I realized that the joy and happiness would not be happening had my sister and brother in law not freely given up their hearts to love and potentially be crushed. Always be willing to have your heart be broken for that which always matters.

It was dark, and almost 9:30. I had started the task feeling frustrated and discouraged and yet as I pushed the mower back across the yard the last few times I was encouraged. I knew that in the morning I would see some patches that I missed but I felt the joy of completing a necessary task and the strength and hope that comes from knowing the presence of God. And then Allison Kraus and Robert Pratt came across Pandora with this iconic lyric:

Somebody said they saw me
Swinging the world by the tail
Bouncing over a white cloud
Killing the blues

My 45 minutes of mowing had come to an end but those three realities were resonating within my spirit in a way that they had not been when I had started. Truly, for just a few minutes I had been swinging the world by the tail. If you’re so inclined, click the movie below for more Alison Krauss’ as she joins Andrea Bocelli in singing Amazing Grace.

How Far is the Past

How Far is the Past?

This morning I saw a church sign that got me to thinking. I don’t have the exact wording because I was completing an illegal u-turn at the moment but the gist of the sign was this;



I’ve always asked questions. In fact, the reason some folks don’t know how many questions I ask it is because I keep many of them to myself, because there is just too.many. questions. This particular sign, coupled with the teaching that I had just done this weekend for Youth Camp, led me to ask this question; how far is the past.

You see, I have been in church my entire life. Outside of a period of about 6 months when I was 19 I have attended church on a weekly basis – multiple times a week. I have heard a lot of sermons. I won’t call myself on expert on anything, but I do have strong opinions on my ability to ascertain to which group a pastor is seeking to appeal or what group they are trying to convince their audience that they belong to. This being said, I have some observations about what we might mean when we say ‘past’.

Does our past mean what we did yesterday, last month, last year, a few decades back? What does this mean? Now I know that past means it is something that we’re not currently doing, but even then this is murky at best. I’m not currently procrastinating, but I’ve got to tell you that there is a tendency to slip back into habits that I would describe as being selfish and self-promoting at best. I wrote that final phrase in italics as a reminder that this is really one of the simplest definitions of sin: selfish and self-promoting.

Does our past mean something that others are not currently affected by? How do we define how long someone was/is affected? Does it rely on the offenders viewpoint or the one who was mistreated or harmed? There are realities that are quickly forgotten or absorbed and then there are realities in which the offense seems to grow as time continues.

Does this mean we have to agree on exactly what was damaging or the amount of damage caused in the past? Solomon tells us that longing for ‘good ole days’ is ridiculous because they never actually happened in the way that we remember them. Certainly this would apply to almost everything in the past. This is not to minimize harm or hurt that has been caused in the past but rather to realize that as we pass through time the way we view and acknowledge realities changes. It’s not just agreeing on what happened but also how it affected everyone going forward and their responses to other moments.

When he was writing Ephesians Paul wrote down the way that God views us. It’s not the way we view others and even on the best of days it is rarely the way we view ourselves, but it is the way that God views us.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

For we are his creative work, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we can do them

There are four different translations there for you to read. In every one of these translations it becomes clear that this is present tense. Yes, the scripture goes on to describe what will be but never miss what we are; God’s masterpiece, His workmanship, God’s handiwork, his creative work.

Regardless of how you’ve ever been led to feel about your past I can assure you of one thing. You are God’s masterpiece. He is at work in your life. He is at work around you. He completely values you.

And yes, the church sign is correct;



Psalm 1

Praying the Psalms | Letting the Psalms Pray You

In my adult life I’ve been advised on more than one occasion to ‘Pray the Psalms’. Usually there was no further instruction, and as I usually have quite a few questions I found myself flummoxed by this. Some of these same folks would also advise that I read a Proverb chapter a day as a way to ward off the possibility of temptation or sin, and I had some difficulty matching the two realities; Psalms, often laments, with Proverbs, often declarations of behavior.

Then I came to know the writings of Eugene Peterson. The humility which dominates Petersons’ writings began to reveal the Psalms to me in a completely unexpected way. No longer were the weapons for me to add to my arsenal in my attempt to keep God on my side, but rather they were revelations of myself through the cry of those who have gone before. The communion of saints if you will.

So, I’m starting out here to pray the Psalms. However, I will warn you that if you attempt this you will often find that the Psalms are really praying for you, around you, and over you. They reveal so much of our desires, hopes, fears, and obstacles and allow us to focus on God and his steadfast faithfulness.

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of the mockers, but whose delights is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields it’s fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.

God I need a better understanding of what it means to be blessed. I think in terms of money, power, and prestige, and this confuses me when I read this because things don’t look the way I expect. Full confession; I often act selfish in that I choose what I want and my wife over others, even you; and this is sin for I miss the opportunity to live the way you have created me to live. And, I really struggle with not sitting in the seat of the mockers – it seems like when I focus on myself that I know so much more than anyone else.

I need your help to focus on your law; to love God and to love others. I forget this and go about looking for ways to make myself greater. I find myself often unwilling to slowly grow and I go back to defining fruit as those tangible things that appear for a moment to make me happy.

I confess a need to learn to wait and trust in you. To allow your truth; your love for all of us, to water and shape my life. Help me give birth to fruit that looks like care for people. Help me understand prosperity as you understand prosperity. To know that Jesus’ forgiveness of others is something that I too can extend to others is what I can look forward to as a reward for serving you.

Not so the wicked! They are like the chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

I see this. I know this. And yet I struggle. At times I could care less about the fact that those who are selfish expend all of their energy chasing one whim after another. Rather I want to see them struggle as I struggle. Your assurance that what we do from your law; love of you and love of others, will last. I pledge myself to that. You remind me that those things I do in and for myself will not allow me entrance to where you hold your eternal court. I commit myself to knowing and searching you. Keep me from the path of destruction which is fueled by selfishness and fear. Lead me in the path of righteousness which is found in service and in love.

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