Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How to Have a Better 2015

It’s almost a new year. Most of us usually come up with a few things we want to do so that we have a better life: Exercising regularly, spending more time with family, and getting organized. All are noble endeavors. But true transformation happens when we stop doing certain things. Think about the possibilities of what your life would look like if you stopped doing the following:

Stop neglecting your relationship with God. Use God’s wisdom and resources to heal you and become the person God created you to become.

Stop holding on to your past failures and hurts. You have failed before and you have been hurt. Your past will not define or predict your future unless you let it. Stop letting it. Instead of lamenting over past failures and hurts, learn from them, and do your part to make tomorrow better than yesterday. 

Stop running from problems and dysfunctional behaviors. Avoiding real issues that need to be dealt with are not going to move you forward in life. Prioritize and tackle your problems one at a time. 

Stop trying to please people. It is not possible to fully and continually please another person. So stop trying. Do you really want an imperfect person’s perceptions about you to determine your self-worth? Listen to people. Love people. But don’t let others determine your value and happiness. 

Stop being indecisive about what you want. Find your passion and pursue it. Today. There are only so many tomorrows. A year from now, you will wish you had started today. Define and chase your dreams.

Stop being afraid to take a few risks. Your greatest regrets in life will not be times you have fallen or not succeeded. Your greatest regrets in life will be the opportunities you didn’t take. You can get up from a fall. You can’t make a shot you don’t take. 

Stop being ungrateful. Envy and jealousy are cruel criminals. They steal today’s blessings like no other. Every moment you spend practicing envy and jealousy—you miss the beauty of life’s many blessings. And you have many of them! You will not experience contentment and joy if you aren’t intentionally thankful for your current blessings. 

Stop not living in the present. Many of life’s greatest moments are spontaneous and not planned. We can plan and create environments where great moments happen, but we must live in the present to experience the great moment. We were not created to be spectators in this once-to-be-lived-and-never-to-be-repeated life. We are participants. So participate. Today.

Monday, December 29, 2014

WE Minute: Be the Message

We are starting a new series series this Sunday. Here is the preview:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Prayer

Almighty God, 

You have given us your Son. You have given us Yourself. 
Emmanuel. God is with us. 

When we are angry, afraid, alone, and anxious. 
You are with us. 

When we celebrate, are courageous, live in community, and are calm. 
You are with us.

Let this Christmas be our yearly reminder of your grace: 

You give us the Hope of the World. 
Bring hope to the world and to our world.
With a baby, you brought joy into the world on this day so many years ago.
Help us accept this gift and share it with others.
You give us love in the person of Jesus.
Help us to experience your love and to be more loving to others and to ourselves.
You give us the Prince of Peace.
Bring peace to the world and to our world.
You give us the Resurrection and the Life.
Raise us to new levels of life. 

Through the piles of presents – remind us of your presence. 
You are with us.
In our brokenness and busyness – remind us who you are and whose we are.
You are with us. 

Jesus is the Light of the World! 
Thank you for lighting our path.
Help us to be a reflection of his light to the world. 

You have given us your Son. You have given us Yourself. 
Emmanuel. God is with us.
Encourage us to accept and embrace this most wonderful gift.
Teach us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. 

Christmas. This day and because of this day. 
You are with us. 


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Message

The message of Christmas is that God is with us. I talked about the census and how life was busy, stressful, and demanding for people during the time of Mary and Joseph. Fast forward to 2014 - these things still clutter our relationship with God. The encouragement is to accept God's offers of grace and rest. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Birthday Boy

David is 8 today. Couldn't ask for a kid who is more fun than him.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Blue Christmas

This was the message from a different kind of Christmas worship experience: Blue Christmas. It was worship for people who have a tough time at Christmas. We focused on hope and healing. Pastors and worship leaders -- if you want a copy of the liturgy we created -- just let us know and we'll send it to you.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


December 21st is the longest night of the year. At least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. In Norway the day is significant. Darkness covers the land and light is absent in much of the country. Winter is long and can be harsh. But the Norwegians celebrate the day and even have a name for it: sunturn. Early Norse legend has it that the sun would stop, turn 180 degrees, and start heading the other direction.

Science has since proven the Vikings wrong, but sunturn remains a day of hope and healing. The worst is behind them. Tough days will still exist, and the people make no implication otherwise, but the nights get shorter and the days longer. The promise of sun and life are in front of them. Each new day is better than the one before. The people have emerged as stronger.

Sunturn is our story as well. We go through seasons of light and darkness. Darkness has a name. Actually darkness has many names: death, disease, dysfunction, dejection, depression, and distance. God knew this would be the case:

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. –John 16:33

The people of ancient Israel had it pretty tough. Their life was a life of exile. Broken dreams, broken hearts, broken lives. They wanted a place to call their own. And then the prophet spoke on behalf of God. He didn’t promise them a place. He did something better. He promised them a person.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. –Isaiah 9:2

God delivered the promise one dark night in Bethlehem. Mary had a baby and the world would never quite be the same again. It was sunturn. Light replaced darkness once and for all. Things wouldn’t be perfect, but from now on, God would be present. 

I have been a pastor for about twenty years with a few breaks here and there for graduate school. I have observed and experienced that Christmas can be a challenging, if not difficult, time for some. The hurts we carry are as real as the darkness of the night sky. If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. Loss, depression, financial struggles, distance from family, or life being overwhelming can make Christmas a difficult. 

But hope is here. God sent Jesus to serve us and save us. To love us and lead us.

I invite you to Blue Christmas—a Christmas Eve Service of healing and hope at Millard West High School on Sunday, December 21st at 6:00pm. We will remember. We will reflect. We will look at real issues. And we will look at how a really big God floods darkness with Light. If you are looking for hope and healing. If you are longing for the sunturn—these 60 minutes will be for you.

The best is yet to come


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Today's Best Photo

This isn't Benjamin usually school attire, but his show choir is performing
at various elementary schools today.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas at the Movies: Christmas Vacation

Today's message was on how to deal with stress and experience peace.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday in Photos

Took a break from writing Sunday's message on stress. Watched
Coach Riley's press conference. Seems humble and personable.

Lunch at Freddy's Steakburgers. Now open 100 yards from my office.
I'm going to need to start running again. Soon.

Benjamin eating Biscoff Cookies surrounding crunchy Biscoff spread.
Belgium's version of an Oreo.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thoughts on Stress

It’s that time of year. Christmas. Our to-do list is a little longer. Our schedules are a little fuller. Our responsibilities are a little greater. Many of us are busy, tired, and stressed out.

I’m not sure if this is what God had in mind for a day that is supposed to be sacred and set apart. A day we celebrate Jesus entering the world. A day where God’s invitation to enter our lives still stands.

Not much stress happening here

Is it surprising the most stressful time of the year for many of us is Christmas and the weeks leading up to it? Probably not. You even know the reason why—we want everything to be perfect. Or at least close enough. The meals. The cookies. The family pictures. The family relationships. The presents. The house. The schedule.

Consider giving yourself something this Christmas. Something really cool. The gift of self-compassion. Socrates was compelling in that we should know ourselves and understand ourselves. But something even more compelling exists: loving ourselves.

Trying to attain the impossible isn’t showing self-compassion. It is setting us up for a lifetime of failure. Loving ourselves means learning to trust ourselves, being kind to ourselves, and treating ourselves with respect.

A perfectionist is generally trying to earn or win the approval of another. Perfectionists are raised to believe: I am what I accomplish. In sports, academics, or rule-following. Perfectionism is other focused: what will they think? Healthy growth is self-focused: how can I get better? 

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly—I can avoid or minimize the pain in my life. But perfection is unattainable. Perfectionism says: “Ugh. Nothing fits. I’m fat and not attractive. I need to be different than I am right now to be worthy of love and belonging.”

Healthy growth says: “I want this for me. I want to feel better and be healthier. The scale or the measuring tape doesn’t tell me if I am loved or not. I am loved by God and worthy of being loved by others right now.”

A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. If your Christmas card isn’t perfect or you don’t get one out this year—it’s okay. If you don’t get to every party—life will go on. If you don’t get to see all your family or if you see all your family and things aren’t perfect—you are human.

A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life. Replacing perfectionism and its related need for approval with self-compassion and grace will move us from stress and anxiety to peace and abundance. And that is a good move.

The best it yet to come…


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Lunch I Never Ate

A late drive-thru lunch for me followed immediately
by picking David up early from school means no
Chick-fil-A for me.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Prayer for Loneliness

Here is yesterday's prayer:

Dear God,

I feel alone. 
My heart hurts.
Sometimes it seems nobody understands me.
Sometimes it seems nobody really cares about me.

I feel lonely when I am alone. 
I feel lonely when I am with others. 
Sometimes it seems my family and friends don’t get me. 
Sometimes it seems I can’t communicate well with others. 

I am grateful for those who love me. 

Bless me with life-giving relationships. 
Relationships where I am listened to and supported. 
Relationships where I can share and be shared with. 
Relationships where I can love and be loved. 
Relationships where others will tell me that everything will be okay. 

May I build bridges and not walls. 
Remove distrust, selfishness, and stubbornness from my life. 
Help me to trust, serve, and be compassionate. 
Let me do my part in creating healthy relationships. 

Thank You for listening to me. 
Thank You for understanding me. 
Thank You for Your patience. 
Thank You for Your presence. 

Invade my life. 
Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. 
Take away my loneliness. 
Replace my emptiness with the fullness of Your love. 

Fill my heart with hope. 
Make me hungry and thirsty for more of You. 
Help me to draw nearer and closer to You. 
Reveal Yourself more fully to me. 

May I relate to others more and better. 
May I love myself because You loved me first. 
May I find times and spaces to love and be loved by You. 
May I experience the fullness of life through Your grace.