Friday, April 29, 2011

Marathons, Africa, Easter, New People, and Mother's Day


Over 60 of us are running the Lincoln Marathon and Half Marathon this morning. Lots of family and friends are supporting the runners as well. It is the first race ever for many of the runners and is the culmination of six months of training. If you are interested in training and doing a race this fall, we are investigating participating in the Omaha Marathon, which also includes a half-marathon (13.1 miles) and 10K (6.2 miles). Stay tuned.

Part of the Running for Kids in Africa team getting ready to run


The reason we are running is to raise money for children in Africa. All runners have paid their own expenses so that one-hundred percent of all donations can go to help kids in Africa. We set an ambitious goal of raising $20,000. We ended up raising over $25,000! To all those who are running and all those who donated, I am so grateful. $25,000 will provide abundant fresh water, nutritious food, education, medicine, and hope for children in Africa. We will continue to raise money for kids in Africa and support missionaries serving in Africa. In the future, I feel God is leading us to partner with a church in Africa, pray with them, financially support them to transform a village, and send teams of people to serve, learn, and worship alongside them. It’s a big dream, but we have a bigger God.


Last week we had over 1,000 people in worship and in the nursery. This is a new record for us. We have come along way since our worship launch four and a half years ago. Thanks to the dozens of volunteers who served on Easter morning and to all the guests to worshipped with us. Thanks to those at the 10:30 service who stood around for a while until we found chairs for you. We have some innovative ideas how to accommodate our current people better next year and how to welcome additional guests as well.

10:30 Worship on Easter @ The Water's Edge

Are You New?

We have been going through a growth spurt in a last few months and we have a lot of new people. I hope you are experiencing God, connecting to others, and feeling at home. Later this spring and throughout the summer we are going to have some gatherings to meet new people. I hope you will participate in one of these. Joining a serving team is a great way to meet people, serve God, and become an owner of our ministry. We are also going to be starting new small groups and Bible studies in the fall. Check these out in August and September.

Mother’s Day

Next Sunday is Mother’s Day. We have a great worship celebration planned to honor moms. I hope to see next week. And for all the moms out there…thanks for being you.

The best is yet to come…


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Running for His Life

Jason Phipps is running for his life. Literally. He started smoking at age nine. In mid-December, he decided he needed to quit smoking. A few days later, he made another decision: to join up with Running For Kids in Africa and run a marathon. Could he make two drastic changes in less than six months?

Without making any changes, Jason saw his future filled with physical dysfunction and illness. He also dreamed of a new life. A healthier life.

Jason is no longer a smoker. On Sunday he will become a marathoner. 

Jason talks about his first steps. He shared about his biggest challenges and biggest rewards. And he reflects on where God fits in this story.

Monday, April 25, 2011

H2O: Drained - Video

Easter Sunday at The Water’s Edge.

We started off our new sermon series, H20 - A Journey of Faith. 

Drained. It means empty and dry. Just like the zebra mussel has caused Lake Zorinsky to be drained, behaviors like busyness, stress, poor choices, rejection, and lack of appropriate boundaries drain us.

Craig told us that Jesus didn’t die so that our lives would be drained, average, stressful, busy, and broken. He died so that we may have life and all its fullness. The Greek word for baptism means filled or drenched. God’s plan is that we are filled and drenched in His love, grace, and power.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

H2O: Drained - Audio

Listen to this morning's sermon.

Lake Zorinsky - Drained. Courtesy of the zebra mussel.

The story of Easter, somebody trading places with us and doing what we are unable to do ourselves. 

We’ve been there before: rejected. Jesus was rejected too.

Jesus challenged the comfortable and comforted the challenged.

Rejection hurts the most when we are rejected by those we love the most. 

But we feel more than rejected, don’t we? 

1. Busy 
2. Tired 
3. Pretty Good 
4. Stressed 
5. Drained 

Here’s the deal: Jesus didn’t die so that we could feel 

1. Busy 
2. Tired 
3. Pretty Good 
4. Stressed 
5. Drained 

Let’s look at drained…

A zebra mussel cause Lake Zorinsky to be drained. The lake become contaminated.

Poor choices contaminate our life and drain us. God wants us filled and not drained.

Busy becomes purposeful (John 13:34-35) 
Tired becomes rested (Matthew 11:28) 
Pretty good becomes abundant (John 10:10) 
Stressed becomes peaceful (John 14:27)
Drained becomes filled – (Baptized means drenched and immersed) 

Matthew 28:10 

Don’t be afraid! 

Normal = Drained 
Normal isn't working 
Don’t be afraid to be different 

Matthew 28:6 

He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! 

Jesus didn’t die for us to stay in the tomb. 
Escape from your tomb and experience freedom.

Sometimes the God calms the storm. Sometimes God lets the storm rage and calms His child. 

God isn’t small. God is big. 
God doesn't make life a little better. God transforms life totally. 

Death is dead.

Life wins. Grace wins. Love wins. Forgiveness wins. Hope wins.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Technology, Communication, and Intimacy

Craig was joined by Chad Schuchmann. They gave a brief history of technology as we know it today: Cable television, the Internet, email, cell phones, smart phones, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc... They shared a trend they see emerging: People communicate more, but have less intimacy. Our communication has become less focused and more scattered. 

They gave some tips on how to use modern communication tools effectively without becoming enslaved to them. They also looked at ways to experience intimacy in our most important relationships: our family, friends, and God.

We will return to this topic in future episodes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Strategic Matters

Volunteer Drive

Our “mini” volunteer drive the last two weeks was to add volunteers to a few areas we were short and to add some depth in a few other areas during summer. Little did we know this would be our biggest response ever. We have over 40 new volunteers register to serve at least once a month. Many of these people have volunteered to serve in more than one area.

Two Areas To Strengthen and Serve

Because of the explosive growth in the Frog Pond (we are averaging over 100 children which is up 43% from last year), we need more volunteers for our Sunday morning children’s ministry. I want to encourage you to serve once a month in this area. You can worship one hour and serve one hour. You don’t need to be an expert in the Bible and we will never make you serve alone. Email for more information.

Men who aren’t serving, I want to challenge you to serve on our set-up or tear-down team once a month. You will meet some other great guys, become owners of a ministry, and serve everybody who worships. It’s simple and a no-brainer. Email and tell her what Sunday of the month you would like to serve and if you want to set-up (7:45 to 8:45), tear-down (11:30 to 12:30), or both.

Running For Kids in Africa

63 runners have raised over $21,500 so far. Our goal was $20,000. 100% of this money goes to kids in Africa. Last Sunday morning during our special offering this congregation gave thousands of dollars and put us over the $20,000 mark. I am becoming more convinced each day that God can do extraordinary things through ordinary people. Support us at

Serving water to thirsty runners. Father's Day - 2010

Bill Draper 

Bill is a member of our leadership team and is a mentor for Running For Kids in Africa. Two weeks ago he suffered a severe brain injury. We took an informal offering for them two weeks ago. I got to deliver his wife checks, cash, and notes of encouragement the next morning. Jesus says that the world will know we are his disciples if we love one another. You are showing the world what it means to love. Check out Bill’s CaringBridge page at


So many of you have been inviting friends to worship and sharing your faith. I have met so many great new people. Our worship attendance is up 21% over last year! If you are new, we are excited you are here. Feel free to ask questions and join a serving team. We will have new small groups starting in the fall and encourage you to try one of them out. 

I look forward to serving and growing alongside you. -Craig

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Easter. A big bunny carrying around an endless supply of brightly colored eggs filled with candy has taken the day over. Kids canvas their house on Easter morning in the relentless pursuit of sugar. Not that I am adverse to the well-travelled, giant, friendly bunny—but I do wonder if we are missing the point?

The Easter Bunny preparing for Easter

For some people Easter is an unofficial kick-off to spring. Many families gather to eat ham, some sort of potatoes, and lots of salads. Others take a long weekend to go somewhere or get some stuff done around the house. 

To the disciple, Easter is the day death died. 

When Jesus came limping out of the tomb, the dead came to life. That very moment, God planted a seed of life in us that cannot be killed. If we are blessed enough to have figured this out, there is not a whole lot we can’t do: forget fear, move mountains, love our enemies, forgive somebody who has hurt us, forgive ourselves, hope for a better tomorrow, get a good night’s sleep, laugh, experience joy, serve the hurting, grow closer to the One who wants nothing more than for you to grow closer to Him. 

Easter either means everything or it means nothing. 

All of us, with no exception, have areas of our life that need to die and be resurrected into something better. Sometime between our birth and today we climbed into a tomb that holds us captive from a) experiencing the world God has created for us to enjoy and b) living the life God wants us to live. Just like Jesus walked out of the tomb and experienced new life, Easter is the day we can walk out of our tomb and experience new life. 

Jesus walked out of his tomb and invites you to walk out of yours

Here is what I believe about Easter: The hurt become healed, the broken and bitter become better, the resentful become restored, fears become faith, the selfish become a servant, the indifferent is filled with compassion, the addict will experience recovery, doubts don’t get in the way of dreams, jealousy becomes joy for others, and low self-esteem becomes appropriate self-confidence. 

Many of us are drained. Tired. Stressed. Depleted. Sad. Living as if our world and the world depends on us. Jesus says: 

Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. –Matthew 11:28 

God invites you to leave the tomb and embrace and live the one-to-be-lived-and-never-to-be-repeated life He gives you. Easter: Grace prevails over sin, hope overcomes despair, and life defeats death. It either means everything or it means nothing. 

Because of Easter, I believe the best is yet to come… 


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Georgia - Two Thousand Words

A few photos of Georgia. She'll be eleven in June.

Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man without his Vices.
-Lord Byron

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Running for Kids in Africa

Here is a story that run in the Nebraska Messenger about our Running for Kids in Africa ministry. When the story was written, we had raised $15,000 of our $20,000 goal. Yesterday we reached our goal and now have over $21,000 going to kids in Africa. Over 60 runners, many of them first-timers, will be running the Lincoln Marathon and Half Marathon on May 1st. One runner on the team ran the Olathe Marathon last Saturday and three runners ran the Boston Marathon yesterday.

The Rev. Craig Finnestad is an experienced runner, having competed in numerous marathons over the years. He’s seen many of his friends run to raise money for various causes, and one day last year he had an epiphany of sorts.

“I thought, ‘I want to do that, but I want to do it through church,’” he said. “I’ve always had a heart for Africa and its people.”

That is how Running For Kids in Africa came to the Water’s Edge, the United Methodist Church Finnestad serves in Omaha. Though the congregation has many runners amongst its members, Finnestad still wasn’t sure what to expect one Sunday last fall when he presented the idea to form a team to run either the 2011 Lincoln full or half marathon, all in the name of raising money for kids in Africa.

“I was thinking we may have a couple of dozen runners sign up,” said Finnestad. “We ended up having almost 80 say they were on board; that totally exceeded all of my expectations.”

Almost 80 percent of those who are participating have never before run a half marathon (13.1 miles) or marathon (26.2 miles). Most of them are doing the half; Finnestad is among those who will be running the full.

They’re doing their fundraising through Team World Vision, a program of World Vision that enables athletes to raise awareness and funds for communities in need through their athletic events. The program provides each runner with a fundraising page; some runners have raised more than $1,000. The race is May 1; the team has currently raised nearly $15,000 of their $20,000 goal.

“I believe we’re going to meet our goal,” said Finnestad, “I’m very optimistic.”

There will be an opportunity at the Water’s Edge in April for non-participants to donate or sponsor a runner and/or child in Africa.

While raising money for and awareness of hurting kids in Africa is the primary reason for running, Finnestad had additional goals for wanting to implement a running ministry, including to encourage healthy lifestyles, build friendships and help people accomplish a dream. He says it’s worked on all counts.

“The participants have lost hundreds of pounds (combined), are getting to know each other and are chasing down a dream,” he commented.

Husband and wife Justin and Jennie Clements will both be running their first half marathons.

“We went to Lincoln last year to watch the marathon and were inspired to do a half-marathon someday,” Jennie said, “Little did we know that our ‘someday’ would be sooner than later.”

She continued, “When Pastor Craig presented the idea at church about starting a running group, we were ecstatic and jumped on board right away. It’s an added bonus that we get to do this with people from church and raise money for children in Africa in the process!”

The team gathers every Saturday at Lake Zorinsky in Omaha to go on a long run. Team World Vision offers a training schedule for both the half and full marathon. Finnestad also assembled a team of mentors and experts, including a dietician and physical therapist, to help the runners meet their goals.

Renee Eardensohn is one of the participants serving as a mentor to some of the first-time half-marathon runners.

“I was so excited to be asked to be a mentor, because I’ve had people serve as one for me over the years, and I know how much it helped” Eardensohn said. “It’s so fun to see them accomplish their goals and inspiring to see their excitement when they run farther than they ever thought they could.”

While Eardensohn has run many races over the years — this year’s Lincoln Marathon will be her 20th race of that distance — she said running for a cause definitely feels different than just running a “normal” race.

“Running for those kids in Africa gives it a meaning and a purpose beyond just yourself,” she said. “You’re not running for the fun or accomplishment of it, and it’s not just about crossing the finish line, you think about those kids while you’re running, and it strengthens you to know that somebody’s going to benefit.”

Or as it states on the team’s website, “We aren’t running for medals. We are running for hope.”

To find out how you can start a team through World Vision, visit the Team World Vision website, For more information on Team World Vision at the Water’s Edge, or to make a donation, visit

Sunday, April 17, 2011

You Will Be With Me in Paradise - Audio

Listen to this morning's sermon - You Will Be With Me in Paradise. It was Palm Sunday at The Water’s Edge. I concluded our series on the last words of Jesus as we looked at the words Jesus spoke to the second criminal: “You will be with me in paradise.” This passage describes the two thieves who were crucified on both sides of Jesus. One insulted Jesus while the other called out to Jesus and trusted Him. The one who trusted was forgiven by Jesus and was given assurance of a place in heaven. We learned a central theme of Christianity: Good people don’t go to heaven...forgiven people go to heaven.

You have seen the three crosses. One is Jesus. The cross on right and left were criminals. We don’t know who they were, where they were from, how old they were, and what they did to deserve death.

We do know both interacted with Jesus. 

One insulted Jesus - So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!

One honored Jesus. This changed his eternity and could change your eternity as well. He said: This man hasn’t done anything wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.

He realized who he was and who Jesus was. 

And then Jesus spoke words of grace. I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.

When we compare ourselves to others:

1. We feel better about ourselves.
2. We feel worse about ourselves.

Luke 23

32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

Crucifixion was one of many forms of execution used. It was for the worse of the worst.

1. Publically humiliate
2. Excruciating painful

It was a bold statement that Jesus was on a cross. To be on the cross means the criminals were bad.

Luke 23

39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” 40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? , but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” 43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

This story illustrates a central theme of Christianity and corrects a myth of civil religion:

Myth – Good people go to heaven

Gospel - Good people do not necessarily go to heaven, forgiven people go to heaven

The Bible says God alone is good. -Mark 10:18

It’s not about our failings…it’s about God’s faithfulness.

Lessons from the criminals

1. The forgiven one admits wrong

We deserve to die for our crimes. -Luke 23:41

We don’t want to admit to doing anything wrong, but we all have sinned.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. -Romans 3:23

For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. –James 2:10

2. The forgiven person asks for eternal help.

The insulting criminal is only interested in what God can do for him now. 

The forgiven criminal isn’t thinking short-term. He is thinking eternally. Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.

We can leave this place a sinner. Or we can leave as forgiven. We become justified, saved, holy – not because of our righteousness, but because of his righteousness. 

Romans 3:20-22

20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. 21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

Ephesians 2:8-9

8 For we are saved by grace through faith. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done.

Good people don’t go to heaven. Forgiven people go to heaven.

You are not a cheater. You are chosen.
You are not hopeless. You are holy.
You are not a liar. You are loved.
You are not forgotten or forsaken. You are forgiven.

When the criminal could do nothing to make things right, he said, “Jesus, remember me in your Kingdom.”

And Jesus looked at him with love and said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Thanks to Frederick Buechner, Craig Groschel, and Barbara Brown-Taylor for their contributions to this sermon.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 Marriage

Our new episode of WEtv covers healthier marriages and relationships.

My wife Amber, a Marriage and Family Therapist, and I look at five steps to a healthier marriage / relationship. Although we don’t have everything figured out, we share some of the things we have learned and experienced in our careers and through fifteen years of marriage. Things we covered are:

5 Love Languages
4 Things that Will Ruin a Marriage
3 Greek Words for Love
2 Ways to Communicate
1 Thing Every Marriage Needs

Monday, April 11, 2011


It was a chilly Saturday in the fall. Cloudy with a fairly brisk north wind. The leaves were blowing off the trees covering the tired, brown grass which had already proclaimed it was done growing for the year. The dark green and bright yellow playground equipment at the park across the street sat empty. The hints of winter were becoming less subtle each day.

The mom and her two sons were outside working. Cars passed by. A few were preoccupied with a college football game. Some looked and didn’t think twice. Others thought a three year old boy helping a nine year old boy helping their mother is what life is pretty much all about. The mom and the boys planted bulb after bulb after bulb. Hundreds of them.

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. -2 Corinthians 9:6

Winter is harsh in Nebraska. And the winter lived up to its billing. Bitter cold, ice, a frozen north wind, snow, short days, more snow, long nights, and even more snow. Meanwhile the bulbs patiently waited nine inches underground.

The original Greek text reads, επ' ευλογίαις, which in English translates as bountiful, generous, full measure, and blessing. None of these words quite capture the meaning of the Greek word. All of them together don’t quite capture the meaning of the Greek word. The Norwegian translation of επ' ευλογίαις is velsignelser. This word is sacred and holy to the Norwegian. It has nothing to do with being polite or nice or lucky or rich. It has everything to do with God: healing, hope, humility, and holiness; generosity and grace; friendship, faith, forgiveness, and freedom. It’s simple according to God: give some of this stuff away and get a lot of it back. Bless others and get blessed in return. 

The days are getting longer. The rain occasionally falls. The sun feels a little warmer. The tulips break through the dirt and the daffodils grow toward the sky. Winter has suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of spring. The gardens are filled with brilliant colors. Picasso, van Gogh, Warhol never brushed a paint stroke that could even come close to God’s masterpiece. Yellow, purple, orange, red, and blue in all their splendor.

The mom and her two boys go and play in the yard. The dad tags along too. Between going down the slide, rolling down the hill in the backyard, and kicking the soccer ball around, both the kids and the parents can’t help but stop and look at the flowers. The cars, even the distracted drivers, slow down and take a second look.

Plant bulbs and get flowers. But you know, Paul wasn’t talking about flowers. He was talking about people. Give velsignelser and receive velsignelser. Invest in others. Bounty and blessing are the reward.

The best is yet to come…


Sunday, April 10, 2011

It Is Finished - Audio

Here is my sermon from this weekend. Listen.

Creation was abusing their Creator.

Humanity was at its worst and God was at His best.

John 19:28 

Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.

He did what God sent his to do. 

It is finished - tetelestai – tet a les ti - to end, complete, execute, discharge a debt 

Servant returning to his master: I have finished. 
Merchant declaring: The debt is paid in full.
Priest examining a lamb for sacrifice: It is perfect. 

You have unfinished business. God wants to do more in you and through you.

Revelation 3:1-2 

I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.

What is your unfinished business?
What is a dream that hasn’t happened?
What keeps you up at night? 

We live in a culture where many start and few finish.

Philippians 1:6 

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. 

Steps to Finishing

1. Make a Commitment 

2 Corinthians 8:11 

Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. 

Eagerness is not commitment

Commitment = Eagerness + Resolve not to quit 

Cortez burned his boats. So did Jesus.

Luke 22:42 

Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. 

2. Take the Next Step

Psalms 119:105 

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

What is your next step?

My country didn’t send me here to start. They sent me to finish. 

Your God didn’t send you here to start – he sent you here to finish. 

Acts 20:24 

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A New Creation

Here is this week's edition of WEtv.

Our guest is Carl Samuelson. Carl shared about the incredible journey he has been on over the last few years.

Carl’s story starts passed out in car with a drinking problem. It continues being 100 pounds overweight. The path he was on was toward destruction and possibly death. 

μετάνοια - metanoia - repent - to turn 180 degrees

Carl hasn’t had a drink in years. In a few weeks Carl will be running the Lincoln Marathon. The path he is on is toward hope and life.

Carl shares his own thoughts about sobriety, weight loss, parenting, and life change.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Failing Well

The crinkled up, five-page paper had a big red “F” on the front of it. The best I could tell, the words the professor wrote across the front page were: Complete waste of time!

So it wasn’t my best work. My wife just had surgery on her knee. I led a ski trip with over one-hundred high school students and a dozen or so brave adults from Atlanta, Georgia to Sugar Mountain, North Carolina the weekend before the Monday the paper was due. Not to mention the Greek test I had to study for. It’s not like I had a lot of time or energy to write a profound discourse on Paul’s Second Missionary Journey and Its Implications for the Twenty-First Century Church.

I was defined by that “F” word again: Failure. It can shatter self-confidence. It can harden a heart. It can destroy dreams. It can lessen life.

It wasn’t the first time I failed. In high school I lost more wrestling matches than I won. I had seven girlfriends before I got married. I don’t know if all seven included me as their boyfriend, but it’s all good. I even managed to lose a couple thousand dollars on a fundraiser for the student ministry I once led.

And thankfully it wasn’t the last time I failed. I ended up in the hospital during the 2007 Boston Marathon. At my church in Dallas, I led a team who started a Friday night worship service for men and women in recovery. After six unsuccessful weeks, hundreds of hours of labor, and thousands of dollars of resources—we turned off our projectors and closed our doors for the last time.

And thankfully it wasn’t the last time I failed.

J.K. Rowling’s marriage ended in divorce, her parents wouldn’t claim her, and she lost all of her money. At the commencement address at Harvard University in 2008 she said: 

Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free. I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so failure became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. 

Those little Harry Potter books she wrote were possible because of her failures.

Learning to fail well is an essential part of life. Failure is a necessary step to success and significance. Failure teaches courage, wisdom, humility, and perseverance like only failure can. God transforms our failures into things beautiful, profitable, and blessed. Failure should not be looked down on in life because sometimes it’s failure that makes a life. Tomorrow’s dreams are made possible by today’s failures.

The best is yet to come…


Sunday, April 3, 2011

I Am Thirsty - Audio

Listen to this morning's message: I Am Thirsty. Moments before he died, Jesus said he was thirsty. We looked at why Jesus said this and what these words mean for us today. Craig shared about some of the things we are thirsty for today--acceptance, friendship, rest, significance, and a relationship with God--and how our thirst for these things can be quenched.

Thanks to my childhood friend Jennifer for sharing this first-person narrative of the woman at the well in John 4. Check out her blog: Getting Down With Jesus.

You know me as the outcast with parched lips, parched soul. I came thirsty that day, at high noon, with water jugs in hand. Most women fetched water from the well in the morning, returning at dusk. Not me.

I went just once a day, at high noon when the wind would whip the sand into a gritty storm and the sun would lay hot against your back like a heavy sack. I took the well-worn trail to the well in the swelter of day. Because I wanted to be alone.

I mean, everyone in the village knew my reputation. They knew about my five failed marriages and the fact that I was “shacking up” again. I could hear their accusations when they ran ahead of me with their water jugs. They jabbed pointed fingers behind them, like knuckled arrows fixed on my sin. So I came to Jacob’s well every day at noon – exchanging the heat of accusation for the sun’s scorch. An easy trade.

But that all changed when, one day, I found a man at my well. I was walking up the path, with a jug in my hand, and I could see him there. Panic rose up from my ankles, draining the color from my cheeks. I expected to find no one here – certainly not a man. And not just any man, but a Jewish man – right here in Samaria. The Jewish people hate us – they really HATE us. They would travel miles out of their way to avoid us, the half-breeds.

But there he sat, tired and thirsty. I pursued my lips, diverted my eyes. I would fetch my water, and go. Fast.

His words splintered the silence. “Will you give me a drink?”

My mind spun. It was one simple request, but I knew the consequences of conversation. My mind screamed: RUN! My feet disobeyed orders. And so did my mouth. I spoke.

“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan. How can you ask me for a drink?” 

He said if I had any sense at all about who God really is, that I would be asking him for water. It sounded like crazy-talk to me.

So I said, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get water?” And he said words I will never forget. Never.

He stood up, brushing dust from his lap. He pointed to the well and said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.” He said the water He gives will become like a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.

I wanted that kind of magic water. I lifted my fingers to touch my cracked lips. To never thirst? To never have to come to this well again, in the scorch of day?

He interrupted my thoughts. “Go call your husband and come back.”

But you see, I didn’t have a husband, and I told him so. The man looked me straight in the eye and said: “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands. And the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband.”

My knees went weak. Even the Jews knew my sin? I wanted to crawl under the nearest rock. But I couldn’t move. I tried to change the subject, lobbing a few theological questions at him and then one final, bold assertion: “I know the Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

But before I could leave, he threw a bombshell that rocked my world. He told me I didn’t have to wait any longer for the long-expected Messiah. He told me I didn’t have to look any further.

“I who speak to you am he.”

This time, I couldn’t form any retorts or questions. No words. Just ... no words.

I dropped my water jug on the path and ran back to the village. All the way, I felt shame fall, like I was shedding my skin. Then I – the outcast with noonday sweat beading down her back – shouted through the streets: “Come see a man who knew all about the things I ever did, a man who knows me inside and out.”

And they listened to me. To me! They went to see him – Jesus Christ, Savior of the World.

I wasn’t looking for Jesus that day. He was the farthest thing from my mind. But apparently He had come looking for me – sinful, broken me. He knew everything I’d ever done and spoke into my soul: “Come as you are, but I promise to never leave you that way.”

I went for water from a well. I found Living Water instead.