Monday, February 29, 2016

Sermon on Despair

Yesterday's message based on Luke 27:46 

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?").

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Eleven Steps to Forgiveness

A few weeks ago I talked about forgiveness. The next week I talked about salvation, which is another way of talking about forgiveness. A guy emailed me a few days later. He agreed forgiveness is a good thing. And, his question was a good one: How do I accept God’s forgiveness and live as a forgiven person? 

So I created a eleven-step path. They aren’t really eleven sequential steps. No two people are the same. We all come to the journey with different histories. Some of the steps will be easy and other will be difficult. Some won’t be as important and others will be essential. Some will have already been taken. Others seem miles away.

1. Confess your sins. Become self-aware. Be thorough. Write it down, if necessary. Don’t blame others. The goal is not to beat yourself up. The goal is to be more fully aware of who you are, who God is, and who you can become.

2. Ask for forgiveness from people you have hurt along the way. Take full responsibility. The other person may or may not forgive you. That is up to them. Your part is to ask. This will produce empathy and compassion for people you have hurt. Those are good things.

3. Guilt has a positive function. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t go away entirely. Guilt is a reminder of pain we have caused others and ourselves and prevents us from doing it again.

4. Don’t take the journey alone. Invite a few others to be your travelling companions. Listen to their words of approval. Know you are not alone.

5. Dream about who you can become. Ask the question: What would my life look like if I lived as a forgiven person? That is your destination.

6. Embrace the journey. Accepting God’s forgiveness / forgiveness of self doesn’t happen in a day. It happens daily. Don’t get frustrated you are not at the destination. Focus on your next few steps and celebrate progress.

7. Practice gratitude. You have lots to be thankful for, including your mistakes and failures. Think about how these experiences have made you stronger and better and helped you experience growth. 

8. Love yourself. You are more than your mistakes. You are more than your failures. God loves you. Forgiveness will not happen until you practice self-compassion and appropriate love of self.

9. Keep on praying. Jesus tells us to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. Praying is about discovering God’s will.

10. Engage God’s words daily. You will regularly encounter God loving and forgiving. 

11. Keep forgiving yourself. Forgiving self is not a single transaction. It’s a journey. A difficult one but one worth taking.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


We play pretty much every day after school.
Is so fun because he loves playing so much.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

College Letter

Benjamin has been getting a lot of these. This is my favorite so far.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

Moments and Seconds

I found myself looking at photographs of the boys last night. Their sparkly blue eyes. Their smiles as big as the moon. They loved exploring, playing jokes on people, and laughing.

And then I thought about time. Both kinds of time. I thought about what the Greeks call chronos. Like the clock on your wall or your wrist or your phone. It is relentless. It stops for nothing or nobody. I was in some of those photographs. The boys aren’t the only one who look younger in the photos. My legs don’t work as well as they once did and neither do my eyes. Time is relentless. It marches on one second at a time and there is nothing anybody can do about it.

I sometimes wonder where the time has gone. I wish I could hit the rewind button or at least the pause button. Things I want to do over. Things I desire to do again. But I can’t. Time just keeps ticking. 

The Greeks have another word for time. It’s not the kind of time measured in seconds, but moments. The word is kairos. It has nothing to do with a clock. It can’t be measured quantitatively. It’s a qualitative thing. 

Kierkegaard wrote: “Many of us pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we hurry past it.” He was saying our lives consist of minutes and hours and days and weeks. Things like schedules and calendars tell us where and when and what and who. Persistent attention on seconds causes us to miss sacred moments. 

God teaches about kairos in Ephesians 5:16: “Make the most of your time, because these days are evil.” The days, they are evil. They will wear you down and wear you out, if you let them. Anxiety about agendas and assignments will lead us to the question we all dread: “I wonder where the time has gone?”

Kierkegaard and Paul are pretty much saying the same thing and it goes something like this: Live in the moment. Live. Don’t exist. Live. Obligations occur. I get that. You have responsibilities. I get that too. But make the most of your time. Enjoy. Explore. Laugh. Listen. Love. Slow down a little bit. Things like joy and happiness aren’t going to be experienced running from place to place with a mind that is constantly preoccupied and distracted.

Vicki Corona, in her book, Tahitian Choreographies, wrote phrase we agree with but seldom apply: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away!” 

Intentionally seek those kairos moments in our chronos world. 

The best is yet to come…


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sabbatical Update

Our church leadership, Pat Mueller, the chairperson of our personnel team, and Jon Ehly, the chairperson of our leadership team, announced two weeks ago that I would be taking a sabbatical this summer. The United Methodist Church encourages pastors who have served in an appointment for seven years to take a time of renewal leave. This July is our eleventh year in West Omaha.

Copenhagen at Night

I’m grateful to the church leadership for encouraging me to enter this time of renewal, rest, and retooling. My prayer is that I return a more balanced and focused leader who has grown closer to God. I want to be a better pastor!

I’m excited for this summer at The Water’s Edge. WE have two sermon series planned: Trending Now and Words to Live By. Our summer preaching team has been working hard putting these messages together. All four of them are great communicators. It will be a good thing for our congregation to hear the Gospel from various voices. Invite your friends to worship with you!

WE have three mission trips planned this summer: Belize, Minnesota, and West Virginia. These trips will include well over 100 servant leaders. Our Vacation Bible School will include hundreds of children, students, and adults. Our kids have an opportunity to go to camp together at Camp Fontanelle. WE will keep discovering this summer that The Water’s Edge is comprised of hundreds of incredible people who are banded together to worship and serve an incredible God!

I have a few goals this summer. The first is to grow in my relationship with God. I am looking forward to times of study and prayer and journaling. I want to grow in this area so that I can be effective as a leader during the next seasons of ministry at The Water’s Edge.

Another goal is finish two books I’ve been writing. One is a collection of prayers I have written over the years. I have around ninety completed and want to write a few more on subjects not covered yet. The other is a book on Søren Kierkeggard in today’s world. He wrote about things that Americans deal with: comparison, anxiety, risk, faith, love, etc… This won’t be a philosophical book, rather a practical book on how to faithfully live in today’s world. We are hoping to create a DVD and small group curriculum based on this book.

My sabbatical starts on May 1st and ends on August 15th. We are excited. During that time we will visit lots of churches and research best practices. The family will travel to Europe. The boys will get to meet some of their family for the first time. 

I know I will be excited to return as well. You all are family. I’ve celebrated some of life’s greatest moments with you. We have been through some tough times together. As far as churches go, I couldn’t imagine a better one. Join me in praying this summer makes us even closer, stronger, more focused, and more connected to God!

The best is yet to come…


Friday, February 12, 2016

The Forgiveness Project

It was a really cool afternoon yesterday. Cold too. David and I went to the Missouri River. We took the rocks from last Sunday's worship experiences and threw them into the giant mass of water.

A few people stopped and asked us what we were doing. The runners looked over at our big pile of rocks and tried to be quiet when we were filming. 

We prayed over all the rocks. Envy and anger were probably the most common sins. Some said "God knows". Which He does. Names were on some rocks. I sensed some serious hurts were attached to these stones. 

We also experienced some serious forgiveness. The sore arms and cold cheeks were worth it. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Prayer for Lent

The season of Lent starts on Wednesday. I encourage you to pray this prayer in the days leading up to Easter. It’s a long prayer. Maybe focus on a few lines per day. I pray Lent is a time of development and growth for all of us.

Dear God,

It is Lent. A season of renewal. 
Days of reflection. Nights of replenishment. 
Weeks of repairing and refocusing. Ending in a day of resurrection and rebirth.

Grant me discipline. 
Discipline to be faithful. 
Discipline to hunger for Your Word.
Discipline to thirst for conversation and quiet time with You.
Discipline to love what You love and to love like You love.
Teach me again that discipline yields a rich harvest of grace and peace.
Remove any obstacles between us and move me closer to You. 

Bless me with repentance.
To turn away from anything that distances me from You.
To turn from lust to love.
To turn from fear to freedom.
To turn from jealousy to justice.
To turn from selfishness to service.
To turn from haughtiness to humility.
To turn from gluttony and greed to goodness and grace.
To turn from doubting and depression to depending fully on You.
To turn from worshipping counterfeit gods to worshipping You.
Help me repent of my sins and turn to You, so that my sins are wiped away.

Remind me of my mortality.
I was created from dust and to dust I shall return.
My time in the world You have created is limited.
Help me make the most of it.
Let Your dreams for me by my dreams for me.
Make my purposes clear. Give me a passion for my purposes. 
And let me know that this world is not my permanent home.
Your Kingdom and Your heart is my true and eternal dwelling place.

You are faithful to me. 
Recreate me in Your image so I am faithful to You and others.
Do something in me during this season.
Do something small and do something big.
And as You do something in me; do something through me.
Bless me and a make me a blessing to others and to the world.
Let me experience the resurrection of Christ.
Resurrect me. Give me a rebirth. Raise me to new levels of life.