The Crisis of Choice – The Chaos of Change

coffee-cup-1350307722zz7When I began this series last Monday, I had no idea that it would have the impact on my life that it now has.  What began as a typical Monday morning season of prayer for spiritual orientation before the phone starts to ring, may have now become a life changer?

I am almost nine years into a Word spoken to me on December 28, 2008, “My Church is in Foreclosure.”  Since that time, I have been amazed at the struggle within the Body of Christ, as so many have watched the industry of church (little “c”) undergo enormous change, and in some cases church campuses have actually closed down. Yet, anytime significant change occurs, especially in established institutions, the faithful fight ‘til the end.  I am included in that lot, believe it or not!

Most of my adult life has been given to the Church and unlike many who migrate throughout the institution seeking comfort, I have chosen to suffer through crisis after crisis, serving only two; one rather small rural and one mini-mega.  However, I have consulted with numerous denominations and in several states, the challenges all seem similar, which has implications for the model.

When I first “heard” that Word from the Lord (I believe He still speaks), I recall flinching at the thought that such a harsh word would now be mine to communicate.  That was when the gentle Savior I have come to know, took me immediately to Revelation Chapter 5.  If you have been reading my posts long, you may have already beat me to the punch! Though I knew little more than a title for this post when I started this series last Monday, my devotional read today has me at that same place as in 2008!

“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.  And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”  But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.  I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.  Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”1

“Deeds to property would often have a brief description of the contents on the outside, visible without opening it, and details on the inside. It is not unreasonable to see the scroll as a sort of “title deed to the universe”, as it was written both on the outside and on the inside. This theory explains John’s consternation when no one was found worthy to open the scroll: the contents of the scroll are not a mystery to John, because he has read the brief description on the outside of the scroll and knows that it is the document that proves God’s ownership of the universe. If no one were able to open it, would the world continue as it was without God’s intervention; would there be no relief or justice for the martyrs? Happily, Jesus was worthy to open it, being perfect in justice and in mercy, in authority and in humility.”2


After reading several Theologians’ thoughts on the significance of the scroll, this seemed to make sense to me.   What originally came as a startling statement of rebuke had become a very rational and loving declaration.  It makes sense, when an institution designed to be salt and light gets as far off course as the American Church, why would the rightful owner, “the prince of the kings of the earth”3, not reclaim and transform it for His purposes?

In fact, it appears that every 500 years or so the church is due a reformation; the last occurred in 1517!

Change is not without crisis.  Just Google “Chaos Theory”: “the branch of mathematics that deals with complex systems whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences.

These are exciting times, why not begin to think differently, even ask the Lord, “if we as a congregation were willing to give up everything that we have built over time, even change how we do church, what might that look like?

I was thinking about content for this final post yesterday as I was blowing leaves.  An analogy for the church came to mind.  I love the Church and I love coffee; drinking my second cup as I write.  When I get a bad cup, I don’t decide to quit coffee, I consider new beans!

Maybe you should try an intermittent Latte (for us Pentecostals, a little Pumpkin Spice) and at times a new Barista.  Yet, these are at best temporary fixes, if what you really need is a completely new model of coffee maker!

1 Revelation 5 NIV.


3 Revelations 1:5b KJV.

The Place of Separation – a line in the sand!

Church Refuges

I must say that yesterday’s post was very uncomfortable for me and though not intended personal, may have felt that way for anyone serving with me over the last 40 years!  Why did I write it, perhaps spiritually compelled in this current series?  From a prayerful and precious Manger Moment (see initial post), I was led toward an overwhelming awareness of where we are in the Body of Christ. It would be a difficult moment, if held accountable, to explain the gap between the profession of the Church and the condition of our nation.

For those End Times advocates, I would ask, have we allowed prophesy to become nothing more than justification for our failure, rather than the Divine caution intended, if we fail at delivering the Good News?   Have we truly been salt & light in this nation?

Yesterday’s stinging rant was constructive only if we can now move toward the Crisis of Choice.  I have not yet written that post, yet each day my devotions seems to further this series like trajectory . When I picked up on my annual progressive read through scripture this morning, I found the Lord’s rebuke of the church of Laodicea: “ I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” 1

Last Sunday, I listened as my own pastor (a most difficult task I am sure) masterfully unpacked the language of the Lord’s Prayer, specifically around, “lead us not into temptation.”  Here the lexicon tracts us back to the days of the Exodus, and a place called Massah.  “And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”2   Taking one step further, the prayer can be interpreted, lead us not to a place of suspicion.  They doubted Moses leadership, even after witnessing and walking through walls of water, as the Dead Sea opened up as dry land!

This is uncomfortable for me!

Life and leadership has its pitfalls and perils.  How does one walk the sacred life journey with passion, recognizing their own warts and failures, while sharing responsibility for collective decisions made on their watch?  Still, one must be sensitive and quick to move, so as not to miss moments for strategic corrective action; and yes, while living above cynicism and suspicion!  Quite the task, this leadership (and follow-ship) thing!

As I reflect on the moment, where our nation is politically, socially and economically, the challenges are great.  Yet it is in perilous times that leadership has its greatest opportunity.

As I ended my last post, much too long for a blog, hopefully my readers took the time to glance over the report cited. 3   Putnam’s “scissor graphs” make apparent the existing wealth gap and the growing socio-economic divide, often a consequence of housing.  Unfortunately, many neighborhoods are left blighted as upwardly mobile individuals move out.  Poverty then compounds its misery with issues of family structure, absentee fathering, etc., posing quite the dilemma for children trapped in this population; among which we find one third of our highest performers!

Though it is not the mission of the Church to remedy all social ills, its role is not simply to get people safely into the next world.  Our mission is to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”  Dr. Putnam’s book “Our Kids” and data from others seem to imply that we are at a crucial juncture in America.

Putnam’s recommendation is Universal Early Childhood Education.  He proposes (with optimism) that we were at this same place in the late 1890’s!  The wealthy could provide higher learning opportunities for their children, while the majority of the working class had little or no option. Out of that came the universal high school and an economic boon which followed.  The risk of similar return on investment seems much better odds than business as usual, with an estimated 5 Trillion Dollar load that will follow, if we do nothing more than continue our “toxic charity.”  Bam!

How does this relate to Church?  I recall our own North Carolina Governor, James Hunt sharing with me personally, after being involved in his signature program, Smart Start.  He was excited about the differences we were making in Forsyth County through a church collaborative with a local Family Resource Center.  His thoughts, the best childcare in N.C. can be found in churches…and the worst childcare in NC can be found in churches.  It depends on whether the funding and staffing are the result of a sense of call to missions, or as an income generator to subsidize existing facilities.  Our own center, then serving 1000 indigent families eventually closed after the mild recession of 2001!  Hello!

We can do better than this, for where there is true vision, there is provision!  It will however, require new models, higher levels of community collaboration, perhaps even mergers of small competitive churches.  

More often than not, we compete among ourselves, with church resources drained by the needs of ill-placed pastors or a few aged and often related families living in denial!  Brick and mortar assets in most cases were originally intended for Kingdom Business.   When the culture shifts, and the market changes, as with any business, new models are needed.  Often in the marketplace, facilities are merged or “branches” liquidated for the sake of the greater good!

I dream of such a day for the Church!

To be continued…

1 Rev 3:15

2 Exodus 17:7



Herding that Hurts!


I apologize for the poignant photo above, it seemed unavoidable to my conscience as I searched media files to best capture this post!

This past week has been quite interesting, in that I have consistently felt the need each morning to continue unpacking my 43 years of church hindsights.  My main objective, as noted in my first post,  A Manger Moment, has been an emphasis on being real with each other, while maintaining a personal intimacy with God.  That is no easy road!

I had hoped to cultivate an awareness of how easily reconstructed is the now symbolic “veil of separation” modeled in the Old Testament Holy Place.  That veil symbolized our sin and separation from a Holy God.  It was intentionally “rent in twain” by God at the very moment of crucifixion!  That must have made such a powerful statement to the reigning High Priest the first time he noticed that top to bottom tear!  Perhaps evoking a similar reaction as recorded from one of the guards  responsible for the crucifixion: “Surely, this was the Son of God!” as the rocks split and darkness fell!

Like the book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum, it now seems, that all I needed to avoid I may have learned in the more dysfunctional moments of my years of service in the institutional church.  I know that is harsh, but being real in the Body of Christ is often difficult, given the politics of many of our  little “c” churches. Interesting to the “world” I am sure, given that one of our major tenants is unity and repentance!

Any time a group of people circle their wagons around certain opinions, especially those “Biblically framed” there comes a resistance to any voice not of the same opinion.  Just ask Jan Hus c. 1372 – 6 July 1415, burned at the stake for insisting that both elements of communion be shared with his Czech believers.  I should now be more forgiving of myself and those with whom I have served.  I am sure at the time we were all well-meaning and mostly naïve; but, even subtle agreement to less than full transparency always leads more toward darkness than light!  I trust the reader will allow that of me as we move forward?

Maybe this series is about my own repentance.  Ironically, in my annual read through scriptures, I find myself this week in The Revelation, with John’s stinging record of the Lord’s Word to the seven angels of the then seven churches.

Has this practice of holding dear to our opinions regarding major tenants of the Church been error for all these years?  I doubt it, for many sins are cited by John the Revelator as requiring firm stands!  The thought here might be as simple as reexamining the model, especially the hierarchical structure which we continue to hold fast; a leadership style that now seems to be failing us, even in the market place.  In a nation once majority Christian, many of our community leaders, at least among those boomers still anchoring our society, must have learned much of their leadership practices in church; fortunately for the church, those skills are now being honed by academia and the workplace and questioned by Millennials!

Allow me to reference Fulghum’s  aforementioned reflections on Kindergarten;his first seven being:

  1. Share everything.
  2. Play fair.
  3. Don’t hit people.
  4. Put things back where you found them.
  6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.1

Why do we struggle so hard in the face of long proffered concepts like the priesthood of believers?  I certainly believe in leadership and the diversity of administrative gifts (my own training), but not when used to herd people toward personal agendas, often undisclosed, while many good men and women “fall by the wayside.”  In such a system, churches splinter, new plants proliferate and precious resources are scattered, both human and financial.

Religion apart from a personal intimacy that demands full disclosure and openness to the thoughts of others is flat out dangerous.  Too often I have gritted by teeth in hopes that the heart of those I have served would prove true in the end, while many, who’s hearts I equally trusted were threatened for their disruption of  “unity”; more often from an agenda laden leadership, than an honest attempt at nurturing spiritual health.

I must wonder how a country that encourages religious freedom and worship as a unifying factor can produce the numbers of churches that dot our landscape.  Should not those called to cherish such principles in the name of God, stay at the table until love has had her full work in our hearts?  Would not such devotion to each other allow congregations, as well as individuals, to grow in character by way of the sufferings and the joys of true transparency?

I am convinced that we have missed something strategic about the Thursday night gathering before Christ’s crucifixion.  There at the table, prepared earlier for the Passover feast, a religious custom kept my most since early childhood, Jesus begins to “read their mail.”  Frankly, as he so often does still today in our prayers!  He lovingly unpacked the personal challenges many would face going forward, prophecies of a future to which they were clueless.

The Gospels record a moment where He brings the disciples and perhaps a few others into a crescendo of transparency.  While they are experiencing the deep and painful community, so critical to birthing the Early (suffering) Church, Jesus seizes the moment, in a setting deeply ingrained in them by religion.  Paul also records the moment as Jesus reaches for the cup, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 2

This was not something new he was asking them to do, though certainly adding an additional meaning to this sacred practice.  I think at least in part, his “do this…in remembrance of me” may have been accompanied by an additional action.  I can see him, cup in hand, widening his arms, as he emphasizes this intense moment of deep community, true communion, strategically facilitated on the night before his betrayal.

To the contemporary church, his message might be twofold: first of course, the cup and the now convenient wafer, a sacrifice that absolves of us sin.  However, let me suggest a second, that  the “do this” was a reiteration of focus for both priest and parishioner upon true community, transparency, even confession of sins one to another.

We move too rapidly through our schedule communion, an error now reflected in the fragmentation of our churches, divisions across our greater community; and yes, even a thickening curtain of blindness among congregational leadership, as reflected recently in our national politics.  Please keep reading!

Why would I pursue such a conversation, one that risks airing dirty laundry?   Sin, our falling short of the glory of God, has consequences.  I humbly believe we are seeing that in our nation as we speak.  This most recent election has brought such division across America, a divide that continues to cut across the Body of Christ.  So many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, Protestant, and Catholic, black and white, rich and poor are now troubled by that divide.  I certainly wish our President Elect, his cabinet and congress well, though that is not my point in this series of blogs.  Rather a challenge to the Body of Christ to look again at what happens when we accommodate comfort, isolation in some cases and even blind unity, at the risk of being real with our brokeness!  Does this behavior not serve to reconstruct the religious veil of separation that Calvary “rent in twain from the top to the bottom”?

Love must be vulnerable and Body Life is always at risk, when we allow thin threads of personal preference and doctrinal opinion to separate us. Herding together under the pretense of unity, is often no more than a thinly veiled power play or naïve avoidance of a most necessary hurting together for the sake of the truth.  Left unresolved, this religious fabric thickens, soon qualifying more as a curtain of separation than some thinly veiled opinion.  Left unaddressed, we no longer will have church splits only, but civil unrest, underserved communities, and an opportunity gap that eventually costs more than our national debt can bear!  According to Robert Putnam and others, we are there once more! 3

 To be continued…


2 I Cor. 11:25b, KJV


Philosophy – Alignment and the Rationale for My Distance













The original meaning of the word philosophy comes from the Greek roots philo- meaning “love” and -sophos, or “wisdom.”  Philosophy includes “all learning exclusive of technical precepts and practical arts.”  “How I language what I know,” might be the simplest reduction of the word.

When it comes to religion, much of what we know is derived from the writings of others, our teachers and those with whom we align ourselves.  Alignment is a very risky practice for it emboldens us around the things we think we know.  In Christianity, alignment with Christ alone is the proposal being made, “I am the way the truth and the life.”  All other religions at this point become philosophy, at best an attempt to gain some knowledge of “G-d, or gods.”

If I stay with the logic above, without a personal knowledge of Jesus, a true relationship, which John describes as akin to being “born again”, there is no basis for religion beyond language and philosophy, regardless of how emotionally fortifying it may seem.

Even as I write, I am attempting to escape any philosophical anchoring that I may have picked up along my 43 year journey, apart from my relationship with Christ.  That is a most difficult task, for even my interpretations of the scriptural writings proposed by my faith as the Word of God are viewed through unavoidable filters derived from my alignment with others.  Actually, I would not move further in this conversation had my faith (a very esoteric word) not been anchored in a moment that revolutionized my life.  That unplanned invasion of the Spirit placed within my heart, not only the capacity to change, but a deep desire to know the One that had changed me.  To know God would become the overriding pursuit of my life!

Perhaps the last sentence is what I should focus on as a milestone in this series.  The morning after that January night in 1973, when I was so radically intercepted by the Spirit of God (allow me license for my language, if you are of a different faith), I wept with joy all the way to the classroom (a teacher at the time) given the new found peace in my life.

The more I expressed this new found longing, the more open those of the Christian faith became.  I was invited to a community prayer breakfast, led by a group of Methodists only recently impassioned by a then known group called, The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association.  These brother’s and their spouses seemed all about a lifestyle aligned with Jesus Christ, their direction and profession based upon the Bible.  I began to read the book, one that had always been in my family.  As I did, I began to once more experience life moments akin to what my grandparents had professed, even to the extent of miracles.  My alignment with the faith had begun and my philosophy of life would be greatly altered by those moments and the people around me.

Not the least of these was a Pentecostal pastor, new to the community.  In his attempts to integrate himself within the community, he had wandered outside of his own denominational boundaries to attend what by then, had become quite an interdenominational and community gathering.  As he shared life with us, his first story was about his mother, miraculously healed within that very week, as he prayed with her over the phone!  She was 93 year old; I later met her and they buried her at 103!

You might say, that “cranked my then only 26 year old truck!”  I was honored to lead Rev. Woodrow Oxner’s life celebration and interment some years back, and later that of his wife Norma. (see photo above).

My recently converted, lifelong Lutheran wife joined me as we “tested out his church,” an Assembly of God.  Though she often had reservations about how this man led his flock, I became fascinated with his prayer life and the powerful moments experienced when he prayed with others.  In fact, I began to witness similar moments in my prayer life within the community.  This led to opportunity within the Assemblies, both at the state and national level, as I became more aligned with their Way, assuming it was God’s way!

Let me add that I am not headed toward a challenge with the Assemblies of God, for I have never been in an organization more aligned with scripture, of course I have in place filters from my deep and now lifelong alignment.  The latter may be my point.

That alignment led to a degree in Community & Resource Development, as I aspired to aid in the spread of the Gospel by way of educational institutions sponsored by the denomination.  Meanwhile, my career was developing and I was asked to become the Community Relations Director for a local school district, and after three years encouraged to pursue a degree in Leadership and Administration with Superintendent credentials.  Prior to the completion of the latter, I had begun conversations with a young pastor known at the national level for his leadership, in fact, then serving a pastorate in my former hometown.

The more I spent time with him, due to my state position as Men’s Director for the Assemblies of God, the more I heard a philosophy that was bigger than church and focused predominately on community.  His church, the one I still attend, though four senior pastors later, aligned with my heart.

My career would take a major turn as we began to unpack what it might look like, if a large church that “love built”, gave its primary focus to serving a city, rather than simply a congregation.

I had found the role where my life passions and career preparation aligned; and, my family could be provided for!  The “Sweet Spot” per Stephen Covey or as Jim Collins would call it, the Hedgehog Concept!   Biblically, “Christ in me the hope of glory!”

To be continued.

The Fabric of Religion – Self Justification

First BaptistI am not sure how far this transparency will serve to benefit others, but as I age within the institution of church, while serving numerous roles in the community, alongside of those experiencing similar journeys, my thoughts have changed regarding little “c” church, if not my beliefs!  It has taken some time for me to get here and if returning to my first love (as I read this morning in The Revelation) is what is needed, I trust those who care the most will allow room for rebound.


The first wakeup call came in December of 2008, with a sense of gut, if not an actual voice: “My Church is in Foreclosure.”  Following a year of wrestling with what I had “heard,” a less than scholarly attempt was made to express just what I was sensing.  That book, REPO, The Church in Foreclosure, conveyed the pain I was feeling after 36 years of active service in several little “c” places of “worthship” while witnessing their minimal impact on communities at large.  Whether the scores of churches now closing, merging or struggling is due to the Great Recession of 2009, or some sovereign work by the “Prince of the Kings of the Earth,”1 we may never know.


Just this a.m., I sat in another meeting with one of scores of senior pastors, now out of work, disenchanted or displaced.  A good soul I might add.


A book with much more credibility than my own, in fact supported by data from both theologians and social scientists, entitled Church Refugees, by Josh Packard Ph.D, Ashleigh Hope, implies that something has happened inside the walls of our sanctuaries, religious judicatories and Divinity Schools.  That something is manifesting itself not only in the loss of participation among millennials, who have grown up in a less than Christian America, but as well, stalwarts of the faith.


“The Nones… (is) the name researchers have given to the growing number of people who now claim to have “no religion.” While stories about the Nones have dominated the media in recent years, I’ve been focused on a different group of people. I’m a sociologist who has been studying dechurched people. They’re what I call the Dones.  The Dones are people who are disillusioned with church. Though they were committed to the church for years—often as lay leaders—they no longer attend.  Whether because they’re dissatisfied with the structure, social message, or politics of the institutional church, they’ve decided they are better off without organized religion.”  (See Josh Pollard interview below) 2


How did we get here?  That seems to be the personal question I am wrestling with, as well as the corporate dilemma mentioned above.  Perhaps the further we drift from an intimate walk with Christ, and less we share life with those unfamiliar with our faith, the thicker the Veil becomes that separates us from the revelation of who God was in Christ?  A curtain of religion, not unlike the Veil that separated men from the Holy of Holies, seems easily reconstructed as we move away from intimacy with God, retreating to our religious silos for self justification.  The more we justify that lifestyle simply based our frequency and the numbers of people that join us for church on Sundays, the greater our blindness and the less appealing our beliefs become.


The tragedy is that right before our eyes, both the next generation and the Elders that once supported the numerous worship facilities spotted around our globe are pulling back from the faith.  The fruit of communion we profess (true community) is simply not there, in fact is failing our country.


If this is your first read in this series, you might need to review the previous posts, lest this appear some necessary rant on my part; rather, an attempt to reflect on hindsights from many years of sincere service above self.  At the risk of sounding without hope, I believe that true change (transformation vs reformation) only occurs when a “new” model emerges that makes the old which we often so desperately cling to, seem so obsolete that we move from passionately defending the decline, to a subtle “Uhmm” and then a grand “aHa!”


We are in one of those cusp moment!  May God once more rend the Veil!
To be continued…


1 Revelation 1:5b


The Veil– When the Cares of Life Distract Me

rublevs-the-trinityFor those reading who may not have knowledge of the Old Testament, a veil or a curtain of separation was built into the Jewish Temple as a means of preventing access to the Holy of Holies, other than by the one High Priest.  The Holy of Holies held the Ark, a vessel containing Moses’ Tablets, and representing the very presence of God.


From a New Testament perspective, it would come serve to contrast religion with the relationship that Jesus modeled.  In fact, the day of His crucifixion, Matthew records, “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.”  Jesus became the Ark, bringing the presence of God to every man, thus the concept of the Priesthood of Believers.  Now the Spirit, the Revelation of the Living God would be available to all men and women, all races, all people!


The moment of salvation, at least in my life, produced a deep knowing, a sense that something in the heavens had opened up, liberating my then dark soul.  The hard rock of my heart was split and new life entered.  Yet over the years, there are days even month when it seems that at least a thin fabric of that veil can still be felt.  How does that occur?


Interesting are the thoughts still swirling in my head from a late night Town Hall meeting.  The packed out audience was set off by the politics behind a growing infrastructure need in our small town.  The balance between growth needed for tax purposes, the cost of infrastructure to assure that growth; on the other hand, the desire to remain a quaint village, along with the triple threat of inconvenience and short term loss to the businesses that brought that growth.  These necessary tensions can easily inflame and diminish community.  Last night, politics was heightened in an otherwise predominately Christian community, where folk usually get along.


Why do I bring this up?  Forty years ago I would have never dreamed of being involved in such shenanigans as can occur in small town politics. I was content to share my life with a few students in a classroom, take up tickets at a local football game and otherwise wrap my life around a small and close knit congregation.  Those were good times.  In fact, I am meeting over coffee with one of my first students in the morning, now in his fifties!


Yet the longer I stayed in that tight huddle, while pouring over the scriptures, the more I realized that unlike the comfortable institution of church, which my wife and I had fully bought into, the Apostles were changing their cities!  That became my passion.   Later, a degree in Community Development would open doors to serve in the central office of a school system; then still yet, an offer to participate in a church that had a grand vision for its city.  Eventually, the privilege of mayor would come my way!  We’ll talk more about that later.


My point may be that life can easily distract us from an otherwise meaningful relationship with the Almighty, even when we truly attempt to offer our lives as a sacrifice to God and to others!  By no means am I saying that all the things I am involved with are not of significance to the Lord.  In fact, to me this is what I am called to do.  Yet, I am human, and have my limitations (wait until my wife reads this)!


Would isolation be a better spiritual choice, embedding myself within a few folk who look like me, think like me; willing only to be involved in the lives of those living in other countries?  World missions, even trips to foreign lands of which I remain involved, have their place, but that is not community. An at large engagement locally has been the only place I have found true communion and rest within my calling!


That does not mean that one should not be guarded, more aware than ever, that these well intended integrations of sacred and secular can become distractions, if a prayer life and daily visit with the Holy of Holies is not maintained.  This is not legalism and in fact is little different than when my grandchildren come over.  We have a deep relationship of love and when John Luther or Caroline are in the room, they have my focus.  Yet, as time passes, now over two years since I literally lit up my Facebook account with pictures, I find it much easier to take a phone call, return a text, in their presence.  Yes, this doting grandfather, Poppi, at times risks the deep and fragile relationship of those who most hold my heart in theirs!  God help us among those who hold a lesser place in our hearts.


I think I have made my point.  Even the deepest sense of calling, my passion for community, the desire to make a difference in a city, can become a subtle enemy, when allowed to distract  me from intimacy with the Christ, who was God!


I can easily find myself spouting off options, arm chair quarterbacking, reconstructing that partition between God and man.  The love of Christ was poured out to rent that Veil.  How dare we allow neglect to continue, where bitter divides become canyons within our communities; ultimately the communion of Christ is diminished.


It is in these moments that we become deluded as believers, self-entrenched, choosing to justify our opinion over compromise for the sake of others.  Once this seed of division takes root in our hearts, it can easily enter our theology, adding to the fabric of that reconstructed curtain.  Perhaps this is where silos of faith, denominational divides first occurred, allowing communities to retreat on Sundays,  rather than face the fierce conversations that would otherwise strengthen the brotherhood?


To be continued.

New Life and True Intimacy

Snow CabinI trust this next Manger Moment will be of benefit not only to those inquiring of faith, but those long into their journey, yet still young at heart.   I would encourage reading the previous post for the sake of context.  My objective over these next few days is to process the observations of my journey, now some 44 years.


As my wife and I were discussion just yesterday, everyone has a faith journey and a story needing to be told, but unfortunately few write it down.  Writing is laborious, personal and to some threatening.  Transparency assumes that one has something to say.  The older I become, the deeper into community I participate, the more I realize that.


From early childhood, my life has been surrounded by people with true spiritual expectations.  Literalists in their interpretation of scripture, their “by the Book” lifestyles seemed to afford numerous God Moments.  Apart from the institutional constraints of an early Pentecostal movement, spiritual freedom, miraculous intervention and yes, even prosperity, blessings beyond their skill set was a way of life for these hard working Great Depression survivors!


My personality type limited personal righteousness more than I would now desire, but I have certainly known an abundance of grace.  Paraphrasing the Apostle Paul, “God forbid that one sin knowing that grace abounds, but where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.”


Can I get a witness!


For me this is not just some religious promise, but a reality so profoundly experienced that I can offer a date, Jan 3, 1973.  No preacher was present to bring a heightened emotion, followed by an altar call, though I respect the fact that so many have entered the Kingdom in just such a moment.  For me, church was not a place I frequented.  Rather, it was a late evening visit to my Dad’s house, a Divine appointment that allowed me to walk in on his prayers, my name personally a part of his asks of God!


Sober at the time, as I had so grown to respect this dear man, though still doubtful of his consistent though compassionate religious bent.  In my arrogance I walked up behind his kneeled frame, laid my hand on this shoulder, fully prepared to tell him I was fine and that he needed to “get a life”!  Touching him was a life changer, I can feel it as I write; my body was suddenly overwhelmed by a presence other than his. I stood dumb struck by that living room couch!


“God if you are out there and you can change my life, I will give it to you.”  Words I shall forever remember.  Suddenly, a voice spoke with clarity, one immediately recognized from my childhood: “If you will confess your sins with your mouth and believe in your heart that Christ died for you, you can be saved.”  I had no clue that I would find that exact statement later on, once my now decades romance with a leather bound book began!  My earnest response, “I think that is what I am doing, I must be saved.”


My life changed radically, my friends either scattered or inquired of this new found hope.  My career as an educator took on new meaning.  I now knew a peace that passed understanding.  I knew a power that could bring remedy to the pity of those still trapped in my former life of lust, lies and limitations.  Peace, power and pity generated a humble passion!


Little did I know the marvelous and at times perilous journey that lay before me?  Back “home” at last, with even the errors of my past working for my good!
To be continued.