A Heart for Sacred Spaces

Apr 24th 2009

It’s one of my favorite stories because it grabs my heart no matter how many times I hear it or tell it.  Picture a South African woman standing in an emotionally charged courtroom.  She is listening to white police officers acknowledge the atrocities they had perpetrated in the name of apartheid.  Listen in as Officer Van deBroek acknowledges his  his responsibilty in the death of her son.  He shot her 18-yr-old son at point-blank range.  Your stomach turns as you listen to him tell how he and others partied while they burned his body, turning it over the fire until it was reduced to ashes.

The tears start stream down your face as you learn that eight years later Van deBroek and others arrived to seize her husband.  A few [hours] later, shortly after midnight, Van deBroek came to fetch the woman. He took her to a woodpile where her husband lay bound.  She was forced to watch as they poured gasoline over his body and ignited the flames that consumed his life.

Your tears are turning to anger.  You simply cannot understand how somebody could do something like that to a person.  Then you hear this small woman relate that the last words she heard her husband say were the words, “Forgive them.”

Now, van deBroek stands before her awaiting judgment. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission asks her what she wants to happen.  “I want three things,” she says calmly.   You are waiting for her to exact retribution.  “I want Mr. van de Broek to take me to the place where they burned my husband’s body. I would like to gather up the dust and give him a decent burial.”  You are still waiting for justice.  She goes on, “Secondly, Mr. van deBroek took all my family away from me,” — you are eager to hear her bitter judgement — “and I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month, I would like for
him to come to the ghetto and spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him.”

Your mouth drops open and almost as quickly your eyes start to leak.  “Third, I’d like Mr. van de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God and me. I would like someone to lead me to..(him), so I can embrace him and he can know my forgiveness is real.”

As the elderly woman was led across the courtroom, Mr. Van deBroek fainted. Someone began singing
“Amazing Grace.”  Gradually everyone joined in, as a good heart transformed a courtroom into sacred space.

What is the capacity of our hearts?  What is our capacity to forgive?  What is our capacity to choose joy in tragic circumstances?  What is our capacity to love even those who heart us?  I guess when Jesus comes to live in our hearts, he expands our capacity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Who Has Your Ear?

Apr 01st 2009

Ran into a pretty good thought from blogger Seth Godin.  Made me stop and ask myself, “Who has my  ear?” Often times it is our critics who get our ears right?  If I preach a sermon and 20 people tell me how much God used that message in their life — but 2 people tell me that it was a mediocre sermon — who gets my ear.  Now granted if one of those two critics is my wife — who happens to be my greatest encourager — I better listen.  But the point is we tend to focus on the critics.  Doesn’t it seem like it takes about 10 encouraging comments to balance out 1 negative comment?

Here is where Seth Godin’s insight comes in.  Don’t listen to your critics, he writes, but pay the same level of attention to your fans.  Don’t listen to your fans anymore than you listen to your critics. Critics will never be happy, but fans won’t motivate you to grow.

So who should have our ears?  Godin tells us to listen to the sneezers.  To be honest, I’m not sure why he picked that name…but the sneezers are the people who will tell others about you — he’s coming from a marketing perspective.  Listen to the sneezers.  Make the sneezers happy and your business will grow.

Here is how I would apply it to the church.  Listen to the people who are a part of the team.  Listen to the people who own the vision.  Don’t listen to the customers.  Don’t listen to the critics.  Don’t listen to the fans.  Listen to your teammates.  Give your ear to the “whenever, whatever” people — the “whenever you need me and whatever it takes” people.  One of the reason I love being a part of the Calvary team is because there are so many “whenever, whatever” people.

Thank you, you have my ear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Who Do You Call Hero?

Mar 05th 2009

It is one of my favorite shows, but it’s also a great real-life question.  Who are our heroes?  According to a Harris Poll conducted among 2634 American adults, the top 20 list includes a few of the regulars like Mother Theresa, God, Billy Graham, Jesus Christ, and Martin Luther King.  The list also includes a surprise or two.  For example Oprah Winfrey just made it at #20 and Sarah Palin just missed at #21.  Bill and Hillary Clinton both made it but Hillary is at #12 (just above Billy Graham) and Bill is tied for #16 with George Washington and Collin Powell.  It may be a surprise to you that 12 of the top 20 were politicians…and number 5 was George W. Bush! (No the poll was not taken in Texas).  Two relative newcomers to the hero scene made the list, one was Chelsey Sullenberger, the pilot who landed his plane in the Hudson, and the other — of course — was Barack Obama.

In fact Barack Obama beat out Jesus: Barack #1, Jesus #2.

Now stop.  This is not a political post.  President Obama has not said, nor does he think that he is a step higher than Jesus.  In fact nobody actually chose Barack over Jesus.  The poll did not give a list of potential heroes from which people could choose.  They just spoke who came to their minds.

But some thoughts came to my mind when I read the poll.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1. It is the rare person who truly has Jesus #1.  We follow those we hold up as heroes.  It is easy to say Jesus is our hero, harder to live it.

2. I wonder how many people thought of their mother or father as their hero.  Perhaps general categories were not allowed as heroes, only specific people.  But my father and mother would definitely be in my top 10.

3.  I wonder if the poll indicates a lack of good biographical reading on the part of the American people.  By and large the people chosen are public figures.  My heroes would include people I’ve read about but never known.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Amy Carmichael, and George Mueller.

4.  12 of 20 were politicians, if I remember right, none were athletes?

5.  John Wayne made the list in the last Harris hero poll (2001) but dropped off.  My dad obviously was not a part of this poll.

6. No biblical heroes, but at least three pastoral type people.  Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King.

7. Reminded me of a great website.  I Am Second. You should check it out.

8. Heroes are never born in a moment, but sometimes it takes a moment for them to be recognized — like Chelsey Sullenberger.

9.  We identify our heroes for a variety of reasons, some who made the top 20 list would never make my top 100.  But then again, I probably wouldn’t make theirs either.

10.  There are scores of heroes whose stories we will never know till we get to heaven.  I think that will be one of our greatest privileges…story-time in heaven.

11.  Who are my heroes?  That’s a post for another time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

What Gets You Down?

Jan 16th 2009

I’ve been thinking about this since our trip to Myanmar; what gets us down.  While we were in Myanmar we met Mary.   Mary is the main mom at Agape Orphanage.  In fact she started Agape Orphanage with her husband.  Not long after they started the orphanage — about 10 years ago — he died from malaria.  He got sick on Sunday, was in the hospital by Monday night and Tuesday morning he died.  That was in June.  In July her 11 month old son got pneumonia and within a month he had died.  I’m not saying she didn’t struggle or that she doesn’t grieve.  In fact even today when she talks about it there are tears.  But she didn’t quit following God’s call to serve kids.  In fact, in many ways she is the heart and soul of Agape Orphanage.

Then today somebody sent me a youtube link with a message from a man name Nick.  He has no…  well I’ll let him tell you his story.  Just watch the video below…

So what gets you down?  This isn’t one of those just-look-around-you-because-someone-is-worse-off-than-you kind of challenges.  I’m not a big believer in alleviating my pain by finding someone in worse pain.   What I am is a big believer in the virtue of perseverance.  What I am is a big believer in the freedom we have to choose our attitudes. What I am — above all — is a big believer in God’s ability to work in and through our circumstances to bring about gold in our lives.  See I think that one marker of the current and future capacity of our hearts is how much it takes to get us to quit.

So what gets you down?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

A Call to Prayer

Nov 25th 2008

I came across this very insightful call to prayer for President-elect Obama.  It compares Joseph, Solomon and Daniel to democrats, republicans and the kind of leadership we need in these times.  Then it ends with a call for prayer.  It is written by a friend and fellow Kingdom-worker who has also ministered here in State College.  His name is Ed Silvoso and his passion is revival and city transformation.

Check out his blog article here: Ed Silvoso

There is One Response to : A Call to Prayer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Purple Cows Living the Dream

Nov 14th 2008

A recent blog post by Mark Batterson reminded me of a book I looked at a few years ago.  Didn’t read the whole thing, but have pondered the concept.  The book is Purple Cow by Seth Godin. In the book Seth unpacks this idea: If you have seen one brown cow, you’ve seen them all, but a purple cow, now that would catch your attention. One statement in the book gives a good ponder moment: “If you aren’t remarkable you’re invisible.”

Now here’s the deal…sometimes it’s okay to be invisible.  In fact my dark side leads me to a great desire to be known.  I must constantly remind myself that living the dream comes when I live for an audience of one — not myself, Jesus.  Which means that I want to be invisible so that He (Jesus) can be remarkable.

On the other hand, when it comes to living the dream God has for us…we are remarkable.  We are unique creations shaped by the master-artist.  A church is nothing less than a group of remarkably unique God-shaped masterpieces, which reflect the glory of the artist.  When people live as this kind of church, it should become remarkable in the community.  In other words, the community should take notice and remark.  And the mark of this kind of people is that it is good that we are here.  In other words, we should live in such a way that the Good News is good news for everyone.

How does this happen?  It happens when we live the dream and do the good works that God has planned for us ahead of time.  That’s why I get so excited about the annual experience we call leadership advance.

LEADERSHIP ADVANCE is an opportunity for a group of people — primarily, but by no means limited to those in their late teens through early 30’s — to come together and dig deeper into the discovery of God’s dream for their lives.  It’s taking another step to live the dream, follow our calling.

If you are interested in this experience, go tofor more information.  Or shoot me an e-mail.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

How I Voted

Nov 04th 2008

I had a number of people asking me over the course of the last few weeks… How are you going to vote? And if you have read any of my blog posts, you may have picked up on the fact that I’ve been pondering whether or not I should even vote.  More specifically I’ve been pondering, What is the proper way for a citizen of the Kingdom of God to be involved politically as a citizen of the United States?

So I just wanted to let those who care know… I did vote.  It was about 1pm.  There was no line.  I slipped in and out of 1250 University Drive — our church facility — without even being recognized.  Filled in my circles, put it through the scanner, told the wonderful volunteers thank you and headed out.  Final step still to be completed, getting my free cup of coffee at Starbucks.  I also thought about driving to Altoona for my free Krispy Kreme but decided it was too far.  So let me tell you how I voted.

1) I voted with gratitude. As easy as it is to see the problems in this country — that is not my final destination but is my current home — we are one of the few places on the face of the earth where there is consistently such a people-directed smooth transitioning of power.  I am thankful for that.  In addition I am thankful for all the Jesus-followers who are living out their calling in areas of government.  It is an incredible mission field.

2) I voted with a bit of heaviness on my heart. There are so many issues facing us as a people, as a culture and as a country.  But my heaviness comes less from the issues and more from my conviction that if our nation is in an unhealthy place the responsibility lies first at our feet — the church.   An early Christian author once wrote, As the soul is to the body, so Christians must be to the world. Or I would put it this way — the church is the heart of the city.  As the heart goes, so goes the city.  So if our cities are sick with greed or other diseases, doesn’t it start with the heart?

3) I voted wishing that I could trust that whoever won would tell me what I need to hear and not what I want to hear. Enough said on that one!

4) I voted with a sense of satisfaction that no matter who wins, we take a small step in a healing direction. What do I mean by that?  I mean that we will either vote into office a woman or an African American.  Less than 140 years ago, you had to be a white male just to vote, let alone run for office.  Discrimination has brought so many wounds to the hearts of people and our culture.  To elect a woman to the vice presidency or an African American to the presidency is a small healing step.

5) I voted with a sense of relief. The ads, the debates, the news articles, the ads, switching between CNN and Fox to hear both sides of the story, the ads, the yard signs, the late night jokes, a billion dollars spent on ads… did I mention the ads?  Anyway…it’s all done.  (Unless of course we get a tie. :)

6) I voted with not one bit of anxiety over who wins. The first presidential election I remember was Richard Nixon’s second.  From Nixon to Ford to Carter to Reagan to Bush, Clinton and Bush, I have yet to see one president who is purely evil or one president who is purely righteous.  I have yet to see a president who hasn’t made me glad that Jesus is King.  I think that’s the main reason I’m not very anxious about what tomorrow holds. Proverbs 21:1 says that the King’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs like a watercourse wherever he pleases. I pretty much believe that!  Takes away a lot of the stress.

7)  I voted as a guy with permanent citizenship in the Kingdom of God and guest citizenship in the United States. I’m still trying to figure out everything that means but I know it means this:  I did not vote as though the Kingdom of God depends upon my vote.  The hope of the world is not the United States and the hope of the United States is neither John McCain or Barack Obama.  The hope of the world is Jesus and we get to partner with him in transformational callings every day.  There were issues in this election that I am very passionate about…but I believe that the only way to bring change is by Jesus working through the church.

8)  I voted with a determination that tomorrow, no matter what, tomorrow I will pray for and honor whoever is President. I cannot find a place in the Bible where it says that all committed Jesus-followers should vote.  But I do find in 1 Timothy 2:2 that I am called to pray for all those in authority and I do find in Romans 13:1-7 that I am called to honor, respect and submit to governing authorities because they have been placed there by God.

9)  I voted in anticipation of getting a free Starbucks coffee. Sorry just had to throw that one in there.

10) I voted with these words from Jesus as my foundation. They will know you are my disciples (not by your party affiliation, or by the placard in your yard, or even by the issues you hold dear) by the love you have for each other. Tomorrow (hopefully tomorrow) when the last vote is counted and the last pundit has spun his/her spin.  It is still ultimately about the capacities of our hearts to love God, love each other and love our world.

So that’s how I voted.  Oh, you wanted to know who I voted for?  That’s a whole other blog, which will probably never be written!  :) 

There are 3 Responses to : How I Voted

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Looking for a Few (less) Good People

Oct 27th 2008

We college essays for sale started a new series at Calvary last weekend, Living the Dream. First up…we spent some time pondering the story of Gideon — Judges 6-7.  A lot of thoughts still wandering around in my heart.

What dream are we living? For example why is it that the American Dream has so much power to shape our lives?  I suppose one could argue that somewhere back in time the American Dream was a bit more noble than it is today.  It had to do with things like freedom, servanthood, compassion for the poor and oppressed, liberty, justice, the pursuit of happiness, and stuff like that.  But is that the essence of the current American Dream?  Or has our dream degenerated to low gas prices, a bullish stockmarket, and increasing home values?  There is much being said about the fact that our two presidential candidates offer starkly different perspectives on the best way forward for our country.  But what if they are offering two starkly different perspectives on the best way to live the wrong dream? 

What power are we seeking? I love the journey that God takes with Gideon.  It’s a journey from the many to a few.  The essence of the story is that God calls Gideon to deliver his people from enemy occupation.  Gideon gathers 32,000 men, but the enemy has 135,000.  So Gideon goes back to God because he knows that he needs more people.  He is looking for the power of the majority.  But God isn’t concerned about majorities so God leads Gideon to cull the troops from 32,000 to 10,000 to 300.  And 300 men AND GOD brought home the victory.    Politics inherently seeks the power of the majority.  A few decades ago, Christians began to think that politics was the path to transform society so what was our goal?  A Moral Majority.  It didn’t work.  When it comes to the power God shares, faith is of  far greater value than majorities.  Which means that prayer is probably more important than voting… I’m not saying don’t vote.  Just saying don’t forget to pray.

If  you are interested in listening to the pondering we did… click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Living the Dream

Oct 24th 2008

I love that picture.  It gives me a sense of freedom, potential, opportunity.  I’m not sure if you can tell or not, but it’s a sunrise, not a sunset.  The day is just beginning, full of possibilities.  That’s what our new series is about.  It starts this weekend.  I’m so looking forward to spending the next 5 weeks talking about the dreams God has for our lives.

When I was a kid, my dream was to be a professional football player.  During high school, it changed.  Starting to think I might not be fast enough, big enough or strong enough for professional football, I turned my heart toward coaching.  I was going to teach math and coach football.  But then I got to college and that silly math major was requiring too much — studying.  So I dropped it.  Studying was not what I came to college for to do.  But then I’ll never forget my first theology class in college.  I loved it.  Soon after that my dream was to teach theology and coach football.  I know.  Where was I planning on putting those two things together?  Then I went to seminary; thought I was going for my phd but ended up in a church; thought being a pastor was going to be a short-term gig, but you know how that ended up.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I loved being a pastor and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with so much passion.  That’s when I knew what direction I needed to journey to live my dream.

Over the course of the last decade+ God has refined the dream.  Building a church without walls to serve the Centre Region and beyond…all the way to God.

I believe that during the next five weeks, some of us are going to take huge strides to living the dream.  Invite a friend and come to Calvary.

There are 2 Responses to : Living the Dream

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The List

Oct 22nd 2008

Last weekend I talked at Calvary about being “with God.”  Talked about two steps to being with God; learning to listen and practicing gratitude. Talked about two very practical steps, take a media fast and make a gratitude list. So here is the thought that I’ve been thinking the last couple of days.  It’s somewhat of a combination of the ideas of fasting and lists.

No — I’m not talking about fasting from lists, although that might not be a bad idea for some of us.

I’m talking about making a “Not To-Do List.”

Jim Collins uses this exercise.  He calls it the 20-10 assignment.  It goes like this: Suppose you woke up tomorrow and received two phone calls. The first phone call tells you that you have inherited $20 million, no strings attached. The second tells you that you have an incurable and terminal disease, and you have no more than 10 years to live. What would you do differently, and, in particular, what would you STOP doing?

It’s kind of the opposite of the day-dream question, “If you had a day to do absolutely anything you wanted to do, what would you do?” Instead the question is, if there is anything in your life that you would stop doing if you could stop doing it — what would you stop doing?  I know…about 90% of the people reading this post are filling their list with things like toilet cleaning, cooking for kids that complain about eating, paying the bills, and my job.

I realize there are some things we can’t put on our NOT-To-Do list…at least not at the moment.  Though the reality is that if your job comes to mind as the thing you would quit doing if you could quit doing anything — maybe you should start looking for a different job.  But enter into the assignment with the right heart.  What can I consistently stop doing, that will give me time to do stuff that really matters.

Sure you could stop cleaning the toilet, but how much time will that really open up.  Sure you could stop cooking for the kids, but they would die.  Sure you could stop paying the bills, but then you would have time but not the ability to do what you want — it’s called jail!  But what can you put on your NOT-To-Do list that will truly give you time to do what matters.

Because the reality is that time is one of our most valuable resources.  It is a treasure, that the stockmarket cannot diminish.

So, take some time.  Make a list.  Make a NOT-To-Do list.

I know.  Some of

There is One Response to : The List

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.