So now I’m in the middle of my fifth month of a 6-month recovery from reconstructive surgery on my right wrist last Fall. I’m thankful that the invasive repair work and immobilization are in the past, yet I still have a long way to go until I’m fully healed. I’ve been in hard-core physical therapy now for over 2-months, and still have about 2 more to go.  It’s been a learning experience in many ways.  

There are so many things that the Lord teaches us about ourselves and the world He’s placed us in through the circumstances of our lives and bodies, and I have been learning quite a bit over the past few months. I love how He does that…we are never done growing and learning! Every day brings new opportunities to receive from Him what we could never produce for ourselves.

After the cast came off, I could barely move my wrist in any direction. It was very surreal and kind of scary to be honest. My impulse was to panic and push-through whatever pain I had, so that I could hurry-up and recover what was lost and “get back to normal.“ But the doctor and my physical therapist have been my greatest allies.  They’ve been there before with many patients who have gone through the same thing, and have seen stories of success and failure. I committed myself to become a model-patient; not in order to please them, but because I understood that they knew what they were doing much more than I did. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to hold onto that mindset, because things are progressing very well…they’re hopeful because the repair is healing fantastically, and they think I’ll recover the ability to do most things long-term.  But it requires lots of time, repetition, some pain, and p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e….which is an ongoing challenge.

Physical therapy has been really interesting for me, in that the path forward has not been generic or multi-faceted, but instead has been in embracing the minutiae…breaking down every movement into its basic parts so that over time, one movement at a time, I can learn to move again.  This principle is woven into the fabric of how our souls heal as well… but we often get impatient with the process and jettison the cure before it’s finished.  Prideful and stubborn, we often start with the right motivations & directions of Godliness; but get detoured along the way when the timing or result isn’t what we expect.  There’s a guy like that who wrote part of the New Testament, whose journey we can learn from…someone who has been through these things before, complete with failures and successes. 

Introduce Peter, chief of the apostles of Jesus Christ. A blue-collar, roughnecked, brash and prideful fisherman whose life was turned upside down by the Lord along the windswept shores of the lake of Galilee all those years ago. I’ve always identified with Peter, because I find myself in his controlling and willful responses to Jesus in the other apostles, finding comfort in the fact that he was constantly forgiven and invested into by our gracious Lord, in spite of himself. Isn’t it wonderful that the figures we aspire to in scripture had many of the same shortcomings that we do? Anyway, Peter wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, yet he was forgiven (often) and molded over time into a wise and faithful leader…by the Master who never gave up on him.

In Peter’s second letter in the New Testament, we find a little piece of soul therapy that I have been meditating on a lot lately. It highlights a list which has become very important to me:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness… make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ….if you practice these things you will never stumble… (2 Peter 1:3-10, condensed)

What I love most about this passage is the nitty-gritty one-step-at-a-time tactics that Peter lays out. Like when he says “add to your faith virtue; and add to virtue, knowledge”, you have the idea that he isn’t talking about something that you can work-out in one sitting. I look at this more like long-term therapy that takes weeks or months or years. As I look back in my own life, I definitely see that there are seasons when I’m working on one specific thing. For example, there have been times when I’ve had a voracious appetite for more knowledge about the Scriptures. But in the end, it’s not about knowledge of the Scriptures that saves us… it’s Jesus that saves us. In the same way, virtue – also translated as goodness or moral excellence – is something that is only possessed as the byproduct of faith … through habit and commitment and hard work over time. In my opinion, Peter is not talking here about some kind of spiritual recipe so you can make a batch of everything you need at one time, that’s not how life in Christ works.  He’s describing how we need to break-down every broken & aberrant movement of our souls so that we can re-learn to move in the way that God designed us for, as His agents in the world. And this takes a lifetime.

If we write down all of the words in the continuum that Peter puts forth. It looks like this:




Self Control



Brotherly Kindness


Nine character traits that God eagerly desires to form into our souls as a result of our connection to Him. Through all the trials & achievements & circumstances of life, the formation of these character traits is what God is most interested in for us.

So, here I’ve given you a little glimpse into my meditative life. I hope this inspires you in yours. I would challenge you to take these words and ideas to heart, and take them to the Father. Where do you see yourself in the continuum of the 9 principles here? Is there a place where you might be stuck? Is there a specific movement that you need to break down to its most essential part so that you can learn to move again in the way of the Spirit? Is there something you need to release, or some pain you need to allow?

The Spirit of God is the Master Therapist of souls, you can trust Him.


Misguided Effort

So I’ve had a cast now for two months since having reconstructive wrist surgery in early October. I’ve got a month left of immobility, which will be followed by three months of physical therapy with the hope that, if everything goes perfectly, I will end up with 75% mobility in my right, dominant hand… that’s the best-case scenario. It’s been two months of being restricted from moving my wrist up or down, left or right. Completely immobilized. Oh, and they also casted my right thumb, so I’ve had no ability to grasp or hold anything more than some small thing temporarily between my fingers.

Being incapacitated like this is like a cruel, ironic joke for someone like me, whose life has been dominated by an inexorable drive toward movement and effort and adventure. Skateboarding, rock climbing, biking, motocross, watersports, snowboarding, baseball, construction… name it, I’ve probably done it. In fact, seeking out extreme and excessive experiences is part of my core personality type; and it comes with a cost.

Spiritually, I’m learning a lot right now about the rhythms of patience and trust… and even more about what’s underneath them.  I would say that our spiritual lives exhibit parallels to our individual and social tendencies, wouldn’t you?  What I mean is that the impulsive and forceful attitudes of mine that have led to my wrist injuries also manifest themselves in challenges with my relationship with God and others. As I go through life right now with this constant, irritating, confining, limiting object-lesson of my physical excesses; the Father is chiseling-off some of the hard edges of my impatient and overzealous soul simultaneously. Often, our greatest strengths also hold seeds of sin that can be easily activated to work against Him. Some of His most powerful lessons arrive through the ordinary experiences we go through in our daily lives.  

How about you? How are some of your life challenges and liabilities linked to your spiritual journey of understanding and following your Heavenly Father?

I would say that for my entire adult life I have utilized all of the strength and stability my body could offer in order to keep up with the demands my imagination have required from it. I remember being 31-years-old and deciding I wanted to build a natural stone retaining wall in my front yard, including going to the quarry a few times to select and load all the stones by hand. I think I took a week off work to do the whole project; and ended up working 5-6 very long, consecutive days to get it done.  I had a desk job in those days, and had never done anything like this before, so my hands and forearms started throbbing and going numb after about three days… but I didn’t care because I was still invincible. I remember the friend who warned me that I was potentially damaging my hands and wrists, and that I should take a few days off and come back to it after resting. I also remember scoffing at him and thinking he was wimpy.  I was driven to keep going until the job was done.  

I was like a lot of us in my 20s and 30s, overextending myself regularly with no fear of repercussion. Being old enough to have my body start falling apart seemed so far away that I really couldn’t even imagine it; so I didn’t care.  I regularly ignored physical warning signs from my body, as well as the concerns of people around me. I just figured I was stronger than them.  Well, this cast is where that attitude got me… this super-expensive reminder that, apparently, I was not as invincible as I thought I was. Indeed, “pride comes before the fall.”

So, what am I learning spiritually?  I keep coming back to the concept of walking by the spirit, as opposed to trying to achieve my spiritual goals through human effort.  My lesson is that, just as I have become injured because I lacked the ability to live within my own physical limitations; my soul and my connection to God suffer harm when I become so married to my own ambitions that His role in my life becomes secondary to them.  

“Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”  (Galatians 3)

I have had some stunning revelations while reading and praying through Galatians. There’s a part in chapter 6 where it encourages those who are spiritual to restore those who are caught in sin. The NIV uses the phrase “those who walk in the spirit”, as opposed to others who do not, yet are also in Christ. This distinction is incredibly important because it reveals that it’s possible to be a Christian, and be saved for eternity in heaven with him, but to walk through our days on earth as if we were untethered to Him… unenlightened, unconvinced, unempowered, unfulfilled.  

Many of us who have purposed to follow Him, myself included, tend to work too hard on our sides; rather than releasing control so He can draw us into the gravity of His side…. We want the free gift of salvation for when we die, but we are addicted to our own versions of maneuvering through this life on our own terms in the meantime.  I realize as I’m saying this how muddy and gray this distinction can be, and that using black-and-white language to differentiate our efforts and God’s efforts can be an oversimplification; however, I do recognize looking back at my life with Christ, how I often start with the Spirit and end up allowing my own efforts to take the reins.  

Can you relate? Perhaps not, there are many different types of personalities with their own Achilles’ heels… their own versions of pride and independence from God.  What is yours? How is God seeking you right now? What circumstances is He using to get your attention? How are you cooperating with Him, or resisting Him?

So I have a month left of immobility, and then I will start 3-months of physical therapy.  The process won’t be done until April or May.  But first I must heal, and then I will be shown how to break down every movement of my wrist and hand into its basic parts, learning to function again over time.  This is also how the Spirit works in us, in His endless pursuit of forming us into the image of Jesus. His compassion is endless, and His faithfulness is great, as He produces fruit in our lives.  Our job is to do whatever it takes to stay close to Him, trust whatever we believe He is telling us to do or not do, and leave the results up to Him.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  (John 15)

”So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law… the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”  (Galatians 5)


Jesus Does Amazing Things With What We Put In His Hands

None of us really knows exactly what the Lord is doing when He calls us to join His work.  In fact, I think that sometimes we can get so caught-up in trying to figure it out that we can become discouraged in doing what He asks of us…especially when we don’t see the results we think we should.  

Through the projects and people of Catalyst, I’m coming to a much broader understanding of what it means to be a servant of Jesus.  I’m reminded of the time when He looked at a vast mob of thousands of hungry people who gathered to listen to Him teach on a Galilean mountainside, and he told the disciples beside Him to feed them all.  As they scoffed dumbfounded at the impossibility of the situation, one of them brings a young boy to Jesus and says “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Then Jesus proceeds to do the impossible, miraculously breaking the bread and fish into pieces and feeding all the people in groups of hundreds and fifties – until everyone was satisfied and several basketfuls remained.  What we now know as “The Feeding of the 5,000” became a spiritual benchmark in the life-journeys of all those people who were blessed by the Hands of Jesus that day.

A few days ago, Catalyst finished a massive home-restoration project for a low-income single mom; which I know will become a spiritual benchmark for her, her 3 kids, her neighbors, and some of our volunteers as well.  Over the course of 4 days, 60+ volunteers donated their time and energy to replace crumbling siding (about 65% of the home), repaired structural dry-rot, removed and rebuilt the most hazardous deck I’ve ever seen, and painted the whole dang house…for free…with the explanation that the $15k-$20k-valued project was a gift from the Person, and people, of Jesus.  

Volunteers with Ms. Bohna and her 2-yr.-old daughter. Project sponsored by Westside – A Jesus Church

She cried a lot, and gave lots of hugs.  Deep conversations about Church, the Bible, God, and His pursuit of her and her kids, happened throughout the project and are continuing now that all the people are gone and the noise has abated.  As the project was happening, 3 of our volunteers befriended a set of sisters next door who had just lost their mother, ministering and praying for them.  Each day, neighbors walked and drove by asking who the heck we were; and when we told one man what was happening, he cried and said he wanted to volunteer with us.

None of us who worked on the project knows precisely how Jesus will use this experience in His ongoing journey with all the various people touched by it.  Our job is not about strategizing outcomes for the people involved, but about following Jesus into the world, offering the contents of our satchels into His Hands so that He can do amazing things with them…each of us doing our own small part to join Him in His work.

Construction projects might not be your thing, but each one of us has talents and resources that can be of great value in the work of the Kingdom all around us every day.

How about you?  What do you have that can be placed in the Hands of the Master? 


A Call For Unity in a Cultural Intersection

More than ever before in my lifetime, it seems like nobody is on the same page.  Different versions of reality are portrayed by competing news agencies, Scientific & social experts in bitter disagreements, while Christians and their churches continue splintering alongside political and social chasms.  Where is Jesus?

As we read through the Gospels, we find ourselves enveloped in the story of a master intersector.  I’m not even sure that’s a real word, but I’m going with it anyway.  Similar to the words “orchestrator” or “arranger”, but with a sense of taking hold of situations – and the people who find themselves in the midst of them who seem to be traveling in opposite directions – and forcing them into the same space for the kind of crucible-learning that most of us avoid like the plague.  Paradigm-shifting collisions between former enemies, humbling redefinitions of the rich and poor, role reversals between the powerful and the servant.  Jesus approached the socio-political issues of His day by hacking a new path that basically challenged everyone to lay-down their arms and walk in a new way.

Most of Jesus’ teachings and interactions have a distinctly “redirecting” force to them, causing the people involved, and us by extension, to reexamine our inbred beliefs and traditions.  These are our worldviews; the human cultures that we wrap ourselves with, and through which we interact with people who are different than we are.  Some of these cultures are more closely aligned to Jesus’ way than others, but none of them belong to Him…and our Lord simply loves us too much to leave us inside of them.  He’s always shaking us up so that we can learn to see with Kingdom eyes, and abandon whatever grievances we think we’re due.

Like the time when “An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him.  Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” (Luke 9:46-48).  

…Then the disciples looked at each other and said “sorry Jesus, we’re idiots” (my editorial comment).  Just one example of Jesus turning people upside down to make a point.  The problem is, Jesus isn’t here (bodily) with us right now.  All we have is each other, and sometimes it seems like the American Church is just as divided as the world.  It’s like we’re out of control, or we’ve lost ourway, or we’ve suffered a terrible injury in some way that has disabled us from embodying the unified and loving community Jesus desires us to be.

“My prayer is not for them [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  (John 17:20-21)  Just after this, Jesus went to the garden where He was betrayed, arrested and subsequently crucified for your sins and mine….so you might say that “church unity” was His dying wish.”  It’s how the world is going to recognize us as His.  So, how are you doing at prioritizing that in your daily interactions?  Are you part of the solution or the problem?

As we live through this time of upheaval, the world is watching the church and rolling it’s eyes because we don’t seem much different.  Let us remember that breaking fellowship and slandering people with whom we disagree about social and political issues is dishonoring to our Lord Jesus and destructive to our witness as His people.  Let’s take the advice of the Apostle Paul, “Whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God…Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to building each other up.”


Lessons from Sabbatical

For most of 2020, many of us said things like “I can’t wait until this year is over!”  We endured many hardships last year, and have looked ahead to 2021 with hopes for reprieve and “normalcy.”  I don’t know about you, but if my sense of peace & hope & joy are dependent upon what’s going in the world around me, so far 2021 hasn’t cured my ills.  The truth is that the real world, and our individual experiences in it, are always a mixed-bag of beauty & misery, promise & challenge, warm fuzzies & frigid edges.  The key to the “abundant life” with Jesus has little to do with how life treats us, and everything to do with how we’re allowing Him to lead us.

I recently returned from a 3-month sabbatical, and I’m seeing with eyes that are a bit clearer than they were.  I must pass along one of the gems I’ve (re)learned.  Isn’t it ironic how we learn life-changing lessons, only to come back to the same places years later in need of receiving them yet again?  This was my experience.  For many of us, the past 12-months have felt like slogging through a dark valley…and we’d much rather be running free on the mountaintops.  God walks very closely to us in our vulnerable times, inviting us to meet Him in our suffering rather than striving to escape it.  The truth is that suffering is a catalyst for His work in us.

Like all of us, I entered into a period of suffering last March when COVID began to take hold of our nation.  As a consummate busybody and achievement-addict, I had a really hard time emotionally for much of last year; all of my ambitions and goals were either blocked, or required endless “pivoting.”  I usually tend to move through life as if I’m constantly late for a bus, and don’t typically appreciate disappointments or setbacks to my plans.  As 2020 wound-up, I was pleasantly surprised by how productive Catalyst was able to be in spite of the challenges, but it left me feeling anxious and depleted…like I had “white knuckled” my way through the whole year.  As I entered into the crucible of sabbatical, the Spirit whispered this old verse to turn my head: “It’s hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14).  In other words, I hurt myself (and sometimes others) when I struggle against God’s redirecting efforts to steer me through trials & challenges He uses to mold me.

I experienced and learned a lot during sabbatical, but my primary takeaway – the “pearl of great price” – is that living as a beloved son of the Father and apprentice of Jesus is more than enough to keep me fulfilled & joyful, regardless of circumstances.  When this is true of me, I can thrive in His peace & power through any storm; when this is not true, I begin to experience instability “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”  The underlying issue is faith, of course.  Not intellectual faith, like believing that God is real and that Jesus died for my sins 2,000 years ago; but an experiential faith that is actively believing that God is constantly interacting with me, inviting me into His heavenly realities in the midst of my daily life.  Trusting in this, and living in a way that demonstrates alive trust, is the kind of faith required to receive Jesus’ abundance in this life.  “Letting-go” has always been the path of faith for me; and this latest surrender is deeper than the last.

Paster Pete Scazzero, author of “Emotionally Healthy Church”, said in a recent podcast that “Jesus did not come to take away your suffering, sorry.  But he did come to show you that your suffering has meaning and purpose, to use your gifts and talents and brokenness as a gift to those around you; to love them. Suffering, setbacks & disappointments will slow you down, giving you the capacity to be a compassionate and loving person.  In the pit you are stripped of your arrogance.”

These were really timely lessons for me, and the Loving Father is using them still.

How is He trying to get your attention?  What is He desiring to teach you?  You can trust Him.




I’ve been watching the political drama very carefully over the last several months, and I care about where we’re at as a nation right now. But…If the guy I did not vote for wins tomorrow’s election for President of the USA, I will not resort to slander, betrayal, or despair. My primary citizenship as a member of God’s Kingdom will be unaffected, and this will continue regardless of who leads the country I live in. I do have opinions about who I think would best serve the mission of America at this time, but this concern pales in comparison to my dedication to the Mission of Jesus in my own sphere of influence…which is weaving itself through every tribe, tongue, and nation in the world over time.

Regardless of who wins or loses, or what direction America takes from this point on, I will endeavor to…

  • LOVE my neighbor as myself, lay down my life for my friends.
  • LOVE my enemies, and pray for those who persecute me.
  • LOVE the natural family, and church family, that God has entrusted with me.
  • LOVE God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength…to the extent that all other allegiances and desires are secondary.

LOVE, “agápē” in the ancient Greek of the New Testament, is the type that gives itself away for the benefit of others. It is not motivated by personal gain, but by joyfully bearing the fruit of heaven in the midst of the shadowlands we call “life.”

During this season, when so many seem to be losing their minds over the elections, let the followers of Jesus experience and demonstrate the kind of LOVE that surpasses and transforms the world around each of us.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 4-7)

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God…Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:17-21)


Sculptor’s Masterpiece

“In 1497, a young Michelangelo was commissioned by French Cardinal Jean de Bilheres Lagraulas to create ‘the most beautiful work of marble in Rome, one that no living artist could better’, for the cardinal’s future tomb in Old St. Peter’s Basilica. Few will argue that Michelangelo not only rose to the Cardinal’s challenge with the ‘Pieta’ but also managed to surpass it.  Michelangelo sculpted the Pieta from a single block of Carrara marble, which he claimed was the most perfect block of marble he had ever worked with. He also claimed that he could ‘see’ the sculpture within the marble itself and that it was his job to merely remove the excess in order to free the image inside.” (

What a fitting picture of how the Heavenly Father shapes us.  One of the distinct characteristics of living under God’s Hand is that He’s always developing His children, constantly chipping-away at our rough edges as He tirelessly redeems & molds our characters into an image that only He can see.  He doesn’t merely save us and then leave us as we are; He’s freeing us one layer at a time, in a way that uncovers all the features that make us unique and dearly-loved.  If I’m being totally honest, sometimes I wish God would just leave me alone!  Just when I think I’m “finished” dealing with some area, it becomes obvious that more work is needed as He continues to uncover hidden places in my character.  He can seem like a master sculptor who never stops tinkering.  Yet the journey of trusting Him is meant to be exhilarating and life-giving, not exhausting and discouraging.  It all depends upon what I believe.  Whenever I’m not experiencing the life He intends, it means I’m believing something that’s not true; holding on to a chunk that doesn’t belong.

For a variety of reasons, I grew up with the idea that God was unhappy with me and needed to fix me so that I could be worthy of His love.  In my early teen years I interpreted His call to righteousness and holiness in light of this, and resented His unwarranted intrusions into my life.  I was believing the popular kids, the rock stars, and anyone else who disputed God’s right to control their lives.  I didn’t believe that God had my best interest in mind, so I created an alternative reality where I was the center.  I chose self-justification and self-fulfillment, pursuing all kinds of things that never kept me happy.  This was the way of the world, and it still is.

I could always feel the Father pursuing me in spite of my rebellions, resisting Him for fear of what I would lose. Eventually I had the life-changing epiphany that He wasn’t the mean-spirited disciplinarian I thought He was.  I realized that He wasn’t bent on punishing me or making me pay for every bad thing I ever did.  Instead, I was blown-away that the Nail-Scarred Hands of Jesus offered freedom rather than misery.  For the first time, I realized that He paid my debt for me on the cross so that I could inherit His approval without having to work for it.  I understood that His acceptance was free, regardless of my performance; and that my worth to Him was inestimable without me having to prove anything.  Six weeks before my 17th birthday, it was like scales fell from my eyes so I could finally see….or like when the Grinch’s heart grew 3-sizes in Whoville.  I accepted His paternal embrace and embarked on a new path that I’m still (imperfectly) walking today.  

The trajectory of my life-course changed that day because I believed, REALLY BELIEVED.  When you really believe something to be true, your actions follow suit.  When you don’t, they don’t.  The truth is that God loves us just as we are, but His love is so great that He cannot leave us as we are.

I’m basically still that young man learning to believe that God can be trusted and that His way is best.  Though it’s been almost 38-years and the circumstances are all different, there are several areas in me that still need a lot of work.  His redemption of us is once for all, but His sanctification of us never ceases.  Though we may become weary and discouraged at times, He steadfastly cuts beautiful designs in all of His adopted sons and daughters.  He uses all of our successes and failures, and every circumstance we experience, toward the higher purpose of regenerating us into who He imagined each one of us to be when He created us.  

What do you think God had in mind when He made you?

What do you think He sees as He continues to shape you?

Are you working with Him?  …or against Him? 

Are you at a confusing crossroads right now?  Are you discouraged by a steep hill-climb or muddy valley you see coming?  Are you afraid of what’s around the next bend?  Are you following the wrong map, or traveling without a guide?  Just about everyone I know is struggling at some level right now.

There are a lot of struggles and questions we’re dealing with during these trying days of 2020.  As we walk through them, let us remember that the Master is walking alongside us through all of our circumstances with love in His eyes and chisel in Hand, shaping us into the destinies that only He can see in advance.

“We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  (Ephesians 2:10)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

“Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  (James 5:13-16)

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.”  (Ephesians 1:4-7)

“For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.  What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”  (Romans 8:29-31)


Permission & Prescription

If you’re anything like me, the past 6-months has been a struggle.  The pandemic, racial justice issues, political turmoil, wildfires & smoke, have all earned monikers like “unprecedented” and “generational events” in their own right.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say things like “I can’t wait ‘til 2020’s over.”  I’ll be honest, it’s been very overwhelming for me.  The emotional tolls of this season of hardship have kicked my butt.

As a pastor who has studied & taught God’s Word for almost 3 decades, I know the right answers.  I can quote them to others and recite them to myself as I lay in bed at night, but in my heart of hearts it’s often been a daily tug-of-war to hold onto them.  Can you relate?

I want to tell you that it’s ok.  If you find yourself repeatedly losing it and grasping for ways to cope, you’re not crazy or faithless….or alone.

We all need permission to feel what we feel. Remember that your feelings are not you, they’re something that happen to you. There’s no need to pretend; no shame in admitting that you’re not flourishing in the midst of all the chaos.  I feel like I need to say that because it seems like so many people are telling us how to feel these days.  “Don’t be afraid, don’t be anxious, stay positive” and a bunch of other platitudes that don’t address the heart.    

I don’t think any of us heal and grow through trauma by stiffening our lips and denying the existence of our true feelings in times of difficulty.  In fact, I believe that opening-up to let some of that stuff out is part of the cure….depending upon the relief valve chosen.  

I used to believe that it was necessary for a leader or parent or coach (or any “successful” person) to put-on a kind of self-confident swagger in order to deal with trials or to inspire others.  As I’ve grown older & wiser from life’s crucible, I’ve come to believe that the best of us are the ones who discard pretentious masks and live with heart-on-sleeve.  Transcendence requires authenticity; and authenticity, vulnerability.

I suppose that all of us who are parents or who lead people in some capacity feel these kinds of feelings like everyone else; but in order to feel powerful, and to protect those under our care, it’s tempting to minimize our own warning alarms and check engine lights….believing the lie that if we try to project a superhuman and confident persona, we’ll fool everyone into believing we’ve got it together and we’re worth following.

I’ve had some dark days, and some bright days, with lots of in-between this year.  Over time, I’m learning to dis-allow my emotions from ruling my outlook or actions or words. For me, this doesn’t come by faking but by sharing.  Most recently, this was catapulted by opening-up to some people about how much I’ve been struggling….not easy for a man to do.  My running buddy, my wife, my dad, my co-worker, a few trusted ones.  They know my dirt, and something amazing happened in the process of opening the door and shoveling it out….I not only found that they had their own hidden piles, but that it all seemed to lose its terror in the sharing.  I felt lighter.  I felt like I wasn’t alone or backed into a corner.  I don’t know how people get through life’s trials without trusted friends like that.  

I also don’t understand how people do it without knowing God.  I guess they just pour their anxieties & fears & angers into some other alternative coping form…like work, sports, alcohol, sex, movies, whatever it takes to numb pain and stop the noise for awhile; until the next day.  But like Chris Stapleton kroons, “the bottom of a bottle’s always dry.”  I want something real, something that lasts and doesn’t make me hate myself in the morning. The Way Of Jesus has kept me coming back in my times of desolation and fear for the past 37-years, and I’m drinking-in the Living Water by the mouthful right now.  He’s not a quick-fix, and He doesn’t make all my struggles magically melt away; but He carries me, whispers instructions in my ear, and empowers me to see beyond what’s in front of me. He holds everything we need to experience purpose and hope no matter what life throws at us.  Sometimes I lose sight of this, but His love and care for me never changes. That’s why I love Him.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the past 6-months, it’s that I need intimacy with my Heavenly Father and my loved ones more than I ever thought I did because I’m not nearly as big a deal as I thought I was.  Learning the truth that I’m not invincible and self-reliant has been both terrible and wonderful…it’s good for my ego. I’m adding a new layer of depth in my understanding of humility and dependence.  Sometimes it feels painful in the process, but it brings about a desperation for connection that is actually quite a good thing.

The desire to puff oneself up… To appear bigger and stronger and more capable than we are… this is not from the Lord, and it’s not admirable.  Pride only deceives us and those around us into trusting in the wrong source.  Scripture never tells us to look within ourselves for the answers, but to cling to God and others for the support we need in life.  So do that…invest some time reading your Bible and listening to worship music in the woods by yourself, pour your true heart out to God in prayer, seek out a trusted family member or friend who you can be totally honest with, start a journal or a poem about how you’re feeling. When we experience the taste of despair, we almost always need other hands to help us out.

Many of today’s people would sneer at this and say it makes me sound weak and needy of a crutch to walk through life with. To that I would consent and say YES, I do need a crutch…actually I need lots of them, we all do. At least I admit what is incumbent to all of us.

I do not trust people who deny their own struggles and distance themselves from their own weaknesses.  This is PRIDE….the original sin that assigns divinity to humanity.  Instead, I respect those who recognize, accept, and live transparently within their own limitations….. and who throw themselves into the mercy of God and the fellowship of others to keep going.  That’s who I want to become, how about you?

“They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:5-7)

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

“Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4)


An Appeal to America’s Fighting Christians

A few days ago I had a startling epiphany: I was playing right into the enemy’s hand, along with lots of other American Christians.  In today’s polarized climate, it seems that many of us are taking sides and drawing battle-lines as if the Kingdom of God were at stake.  I don’t mean to minimize the complexity and gravity of the current coronavirus crisis, racial & economic challenges, and political season we’re all dealing with; but the accusatory, divisive posture of both ends of the Church spectrum is tearing the fabric of Jesus within all of us!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

“If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

I realized this while I was talking with some friends the other night about the furor that has erupted here in Portland among God’s people about a recent concert that took place at the waterfront where thousands of Christians defied coronavirus-protocols for a night of worship.  The inflammatory condemnation that erupted from many mask-wearing/social-distancing brothers and sisters was quick and blistering.  The contempt that answered from brothers and sisters who supported the event fired back with equal devastation.  This has continued since then, and lines in the ground are appearing.  Indignance and hatred are flowing freely from this fallen world into the Body of Christ, and we need to stop it and find a way to stand together in the midst of our differences of opinion.

“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” (Romans 14:1)


”All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble….Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:5-9)

I would expect division in the world – the kingdoms of men & women – but I’m heartbroken to see the vicious attacks between believers in Jesus Christ…accusing, condemning, and dismissing, and sometimes even going to law against each other….and becoming a laughing-stock to the watching world.


I realized that I needed stop trying to decide which side was right or wrong, and start focusing on what’s more important.  How can each of us, with our myriad perspectives and convictions, value and learn from each other so that we can remain unified in our common purpose?  It’s fine to have opinions, and to be strong in them….but if we break fellowship with each other due to secondary or tertiary issues, then we’re tearing-apart the Body of Christ right in front of the world’s eyes!  

“…One brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?…On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 6:6-7, 9:12)


…Whether Democrat or Republican

…Whether Mask-Wearing or Non-Mask-Wearing

…Whether CNN or Fox

…Whether Black Lives Matter or Blue/All Lives Matter

…Even when we disagree about things that are IMPORTANT

…Because only one thing is ESSENTIAL


and he has one church

“[I ask] on behalf of those who will believe in Me through [my disciples’] message, that all of them may be ONE, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (Jesus, at the Last Supper – John 17:20-21)

Let’s put down our weapons, remember who the real enemy is, and show the world what ”LOVE YOUR ENEMIES, DO GOOD TO THOSE WHO HATE YOU” looks like….Starting with me and you.


Staying Grounded



Well, that might be somewhat of an overstatement to those who have been around long enough to remember World War 2 or Vietnam/The Civil Rights Movement …but for many of us, 2020 takes the cake. We’re all continuing to deal with the global COVID-19 pandemic, race protests have sparked civil unrest across the world (with Portland being the current focal point), and America seems more divided and polarized than ever as we race toward November elections. 


America is in crisis right now, and it’s time for God’s people to step up; but not in the way you might think.  This is not a political commentary promoting solutions to the current economic or social challenges we are facing.  This is about what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the midst of it.  There are selected people who are appointed to get involved in various levels of government and society; but all of Jesus’ people are called to exemplify His values, attitudes, and behaviors in our daily lives.  

God is calling His people – His Church – to know Him intimately, and reflect Him in ways that give Living Hope to all kinds of different people whose ideals and dreams and allegiances are being knocked-around. What I see right now is people posturing and fighting against each other to promote polarized agendas that blame the other side for all of life’s problems; and in many cases the people of Jesus are getting caught up in the fear-frenzy right along with everyone else.


……Let’s pause here for a gut-check…


Go with me, if you will, to 1st Century Jerusalem.  Harassed and accused by an angry mob of detractors who wanted Him dead, Jesus stands before Pontus Pilate and says, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). 


Jesus wasn’t/isn’t merely another soothsayer or commentator on current events.  He was/is the Lord of another Kingdom… a spiritual reality that transcends the world as we know it.  As citizens of that Kingdom living in the current world, we need to check our loyalties!  We can learn a lot by looking at how Jesus and His earliest followers acted in the New Testament.  You don’t see Him/them getting wrapped-up in social/political issues, but always focused on carrying-out God’s work with the people around them.  THE KINGDOM IS ALWAYS ABOUT THE INDIVIDUAL.


Our meaning & hope & joy do not come from the circumstances of our lives, the fulfillment of our social / political ideologies, or even the state of the world we live in. These are not unimportant, but they are not ultimate. We must remain focused on Him, growing in allegiance to His Ways and His Mission so that our hearts don’t get swept away in the currents of the world’s fears and concerns and solutions. God has called us citizens of a different Kingdom, and His desire is that we be one in spirit & purpose as His ambassadors here.


So let me ask you…

  • Is it possible to experience God’s peace in spite of COVID-19 and all of its ramifications
  • Is it possible to have strong opinions while maintaining relationship with those you disagree with?
  • Is it possible to carry/embody God’s love for both Protesters & Police?
  • Is it possible to champion God’s purposes in a way that transcends socio-political differences?
  • Is it possible to be responsible and fruitful in this world without acting like it’s our home?

YES…by offering ourselves as living sacrifices to God; not conforming to the pattern of this world, but allowing Him to transform us so that we can know and carry-out His desires moment by moment. (see Rom. 12)


Personally, I try to avoid getting caught-up in either side of political or social issues generally…not because I don’t care about health or economics or politics, but because when individual followers of Jesus commit to His redemptive purposed in all of our day-to-day endeavors with people, we re-present His Presence in ways that create ripples of true healing, hope, and joy that will last into the next Kingdom. 


Let’s keep our heads during this wacky time…. and remember the real enemy, the real Master, and the real Kingdom. Let’s be about His business.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)

“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.” (1Peter 3:8-9…and you should keep reading to v.18!) 

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) 

“Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God on the day He visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)