Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent Vigil - Week Four

Jesus Promised as our Prince of Peace

In the first week of Advent, we remembered that Jesus comes as our Wonderful Counselor – Pure Wisdom. In the second week of Advent we celebrated that He comes as Mighty God – the omnipotent creator of all. In the third week, we considered that He comes to us as Everlasting Father – the source of all life.

In this last week of Advent, we embrace Him as the Prince of Peace.

Living in a world that is so full of strife, who of us hasn’t longed for peace? The Hebrew word for peace, however, means much more than the absence of conflict or the end of turmoil. Shalom conveys a deep sense of tranquility, wholeness and completion. Cornelius Plantinga Jr. puts it this way…

“We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight…the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”

Bill Risinger says it this way… When the heavenly host said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14), we should have heard in this the news of hope. When peace was announced at Christmas, it was the coming of the transformation of the world from the way it’s not supposed to be into “the way things ought to be.” God was bringing Shalom to the world!

Christmas brought the good news that the Prince of Shalom had come to conquer sin and death and to establish His Kingdom on earth. This gives us real hope in the here and now. We are not waiting for pie-in-the-sky future stuff. While we wait for the return of our King Jesus to bring the final restoration of ultimate Shalom, we must move obediently with His Spirit to bring His Shalom Kingdom into our broken and needy world.

Scripture Reading
As you meditate on these Scriptures this week, remember that these were written by people who were familiar with great hardship and persecution. Some were even murdered for proclaiming this kind of shalom.

Monday – Phil 4:5-7; Tuesday – Jn 14:27; Wednesday – James 3:16-18;
Thursday – Col 3:14-16; Christmas Day – Eph 2:14, 17-18

As you pray this week, ask yourself “what are the broken areas in my world that need His Shalom?” Then invite him to speak His Shalom into those situations. Ask Him to use YOU as an instrument of His Peace.

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, speak Your shalom into our chaos. May Your deep shalom rule in our hearts, bringing wholeness to our brokenness. Teach us to become peacemakers – loving justice, doing right, and leading others along the path of peace.

You may also want to use this prayer, by St. Francis of Assisi, as a part of your daily prayers this week.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent Vigil - Week Three

Jesus Promised as our Everlasting Father
In the first week of Advent, we remembered that Jesus comes as our Wonderful Counselor – Pure Wisdom. In the second week of Advent we celebrated that He comes as Mighty God – the omnipotent creator of all.

In this third week, we consider that He comes to us as Everlasting Father. Everlasting, because He always was and always will be. Father, because He is the Source of all life. How amazing that this infant Jesus was at the same time infinite God. Almost in the same breath, the prophet Isaiah calls him a “child,” and a “counselor,” a “son,” and “the everlasting Father.”

The Apostle Paul, in that great hymn quoted in Colossians reminds us that...

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation;
because by Him everything was created,
in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.

He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.
He is also the head of the body, the church;
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
so that He might come to have first place in everything.

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him,
and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself
by making peace through the blood of His cross —
whether things on earth or things in heaven.

It’s often been said that our impressions of God are largely formed by our fathers. How interesting then that Jesus, the “image of the unseen God” is also called our Everlasting Father, the one who perfectly shows us what God is like – loving, providing, protecting, comforting, present, disciplining, consistent, serving, strong – the list goes on.

Each day this week, meditate on one of these Scriptures that speak to an aspect of the “eternal fathering” of Jesus.

Monday – Jn 1:1-5 (His eternal nature); Tuesday – Lk 12:22-34 (His provision);
Wednesday – 2 Cor 1:3-7 (His comfort); Thursday – Ps 91 (His protection);
Friday – Eph 3:14-21 (His deep love); Saturday – Heb 12:5-11 (His discipline)

Lord Jesus, I acknowledge You today as my Everlasting Father. A Father who loves, protects, guides and disciplines. I acknowledge today that You are good. Whatever my dysfunctional views of “father” may be, I pray that You would reveal Yourself to me today as a good father… the best Father. Draw me closer to the intimate relationship You desire for us to share as Father and child. ~ Amen

Monday, December 07, 2009

Advent Vigil - Week Two

Jesus Promised as our Mighty God
In this second week of Advent we celebrate that He comes as Mighty God. He who spoke the universe into existence and parted the sea, was the One who healed the sick and turned water into wine. He who caused Moses to tremble and take off his shoes, was the One who said “I AM” and caused soldiers in the garden to fall to the ground when they came to arrest him. He who breathed life into the first man, secured everlasting life with His resurrection power that defeated the grave.

When the John the Baptist questioned if Jesus was “…the One who was promised, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus himself replied “Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the Good News.” Read this description from Revelation 12…

I saw the Son of Man, dressed in a long robe, and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest. His head and hair were white like wool—white as snow, His eyes like a fiery flame, His feet like fine bronze fired in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of cascading waters. In His right hand He had seven stars; from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was shining like the sun at midday.

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild? I think not. And who wants that kind of Savior anyway? It may make for a nice greeting card, but it won’t go very far when it comes to defeating evil, healing people, and setting the world right. No, we need a Mighty God to do that kind of work.

As you move through this second week of Advent, we encourage you to meditate on these texts that speak to Jesus’ great power:
(Monday—John 1, Tuesday—Colossians 1:15-20, Wednesday—Mark 4:35-41, Thursday—Matthew 8:5-13, Friday—Mark 1:14-45, Saturday—Acts 3:1-10).

Before you pray, identify a specific area that you especially need to see Jesus’ might and power displayed. As an act of worship, go to Him now with that need and ask for His power to work in that situation.

Lord Jesus, I worship You today as my Mighty God. I acknowledge my weakness, my frailty, my powerlessness to do what most needs doing. I believe that You are able to anything that brings you glory. Believing that this would advance Your Kingdom and Your fame, I ask you now to ________________. I also ask for Your power to be revealed in me today. The power of Mighty God – Jesus to re-create, heal, defend, and fill me with the resurrection power of God. ~ Amen

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent Vigil - Week One

I'll be posting here a collection of guided advent meditations that we are going through at our church. I hope they will be helpful to you as you navigate this holiday season...

\'ad-'vent\ noun (from Latin adventus, “arrival”)
1: The coming of Christ at the incarnation.
2: The period of 4 weeks before Christmas.

Vigil: \'vi-jəl\ noun (from Latin vigilia, “wakefulness”)
1: A period of sleeplessness.
2: An occasion for devotional watching or observance.

At Advent, we celebrate the incarnation of God in Jesus. We sing the verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in a minor key and rehearse the feelings of abandonment and longing felt by those to whom God had become silent. We sing the refrain of the same song and “Rejoice”, for He has come—the WORD has become flesh. We watch with devotion for how He might come anew into our lives today.

In foretelling His coming, the prophet Isaiah declared that He would be known by four names...

Isaiah 9:6
For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Each week in our Advent Vigil (a period of devoted watching for His incarnation) we want to reflect on one of the four names of the Promised One. We want to welcome Him into our lives and remind ourselves of how each of these beautiful names from this ancient prophecy (2,700 years old) perfectly speak to our need today.

Week One - Jesus Promised as our Wonderful Counselor
In our first week of Advent, we remember that Jesus came as our Wonderful Counselor. He is the One who knows and understands. He never needs to be informed, but rather informs every situation of our lives. His wisdom is complete, His counsel incomparable. He is never anything but wise in every thing He does. James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that “if anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.“ (James 1:5)

What are the things in your life right now that need the wisdom of Jesus? Where do you especially need clarity and understanding? Solomon (the wisest human besides Jesus) says that “… the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Pr. 2:6) Ask Him to give you the wisdom, knowledge and understanding you need, and then look for it, listen for it, earnestly seek it—from Him, not from the world.

This week we encourage you to read one chapter from Proverbs each day. We suggest that you read the chapter that corresponds with that days date (Monday—Prov. 30, Tuesday—Prov. 1, Wednesday—Prov. 2, and so on).

Lord Jesus, I thank You and praise You for coming as my Wonderful Counselor. I recognize that you alone, O Lord, are the source of all wisdom. I confess to you my tendency to try to answer my questions with the world’s “wisdom”, which is foolishness to You. Come Lord, I open myself to receive Your wisdom in all areas of my life, especially _________. Amen

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009


After 3 weeks of painful labor, my wife delivered (by surgery) a healthy 5mm kidney stone on Saturday afternoon.

Suggested names were "Rocky", "Crystal", and "Pearl". I think I'm going with "Kevin". Why Kevin? Because I was once on staff with a pastor whose name is Kevin Stone.

Seems fitting.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


My wife and I spent the better part of the day in urgent care and then the ER for severe abdominal pain (the full story later).

While doing her examination, the Physicians Assistant asked her some questions...

PA: Have you ever had any surgery in this area?

Wife: Yes, a hysterectomy.

PA: When?

Wife: 2002

PA: When was your last period?

I laughed (out loud). He was offended, then got defensive.

He musta missed anatomy and physiology in college... scary.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cancer Wins? Not on Your Life!

A year ago, almost to the day. I got a call from my good friend Jeff telling me that the cancer was back... with a vengeance. It was bad - real bad, he said. We made a commitment to each other to walk that journey together; to do it honestly, transparently, and with a tenacious determination to learn from it.

One of the early lessons learned was to enjoy every moment God gives us. To breathe fresh air, enjoy creation, listen to music we loved, make our conversations count, and go fishing. You see, almost all of the important things in life can happen when you go fishing. When Jesus' disciples were at a loss for what to do after the cross, they went fishing. Here are a couple pics from one of our last outings.

The cancer was a reminder that our world is flawed, broken, wrong. Parents are not supposed to bury their children. Middle school kids are not supposed to watch their dad waste away from cancer. Young women are not supposed to be widows. Things are not okay... not "right". In our times together we inevitably came back to the topic of Hope. Hope, capital "H", isn't some kind of wishful thinking. This kind of Hope is one that understands, with certainty, that Jesus' resurrection from the grave was the beginning of our Creator God setting things right. Jesus was/is the "first fruits" of what will someday happen to we who follow Him.

Yesterday, Jeff's body succumbed to the nasty cancer. But, just like the grave that had no victory over Jesus, the cancer didn't win. It couldn't. Because Jeff was/is a part of what Jesus started, today, Jeff is more alive than he has ever been. Today, he is whole.

Sometimes when someone we love dies, we say we lost them. I'm reminded that "losing" something or someone implies that I don't know where they are. In my last coherent conversation with Jeff on Tuesday, we reaffirmed our love and appreciation for each other. When I left, we hugged and said "see you later". It wasn't "good-bye" and we both knew it.

I already miss Jeff a lot. But I'm also filled with a great HOPE. A certainty that one day I'll see him again. Things will all be made "right". And in that place of right-ness, that New Heaven - New Earth, I think we'll go fishing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Just went to see "Up", the movie.

Classic Pixar animation, wonderful story... made me laugh, made me cry. Don't miss it.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Deschutes River

18" of pure fun...

I talked with a guy on the river today who said that these Deschutes Rainbows have "shoulders... an 18 incher here fights you like a 24 incher anywhere else. I don't know for sure if that's true, but this one gave me a wild ride!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Starting Young

My grandmother started me pretty young at the piano. Doin' the same for my grandson.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

True to the Music

Since the mid-seventies, KINK radio has been my music station of choice. For most of those years, Les Sarnoff was the one introducing me to new music. Most of the artists I listen to I discovered through his program... many of them, due to interviews he did with the artist in studio. A lot of pirated albums in Portland were compliments of Les' KINK Album Preview.

Les was responsible for a Thanksgiving tradition in my family. Every Thanksgiving, at 12pm, we listen to "Alice's Restaurant" by Arlo Guthrie. It's 18 minutes and 34 seconds that my kids can recite from memory.

When I think of Les Sarnoff, I think of "how it used to be" on the radio. How KINK used to be more of an indie/underground/folk/rock station... how they used to be before big money made all the decisions.

Les died Friday night after a year-long fight with cancer. It kinda feels like those old days of FM radio are gone with him.

That's kinda sad.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Saying Goodbye

I've had 3 canine companions in my life. Droopy, a wiener dog I had as a very small child (gotta love that name, huh?); Betsy, a german-shorthair pointer I got for my 8th birthday; and Rocky, a beagle that was a gift from my wife 12 years ago.

I was too young to really remember what became of Droopy. Because I was away at college, my dad ended up taking Betsy in her old age and did an incredible job with her "hospice" care. Today, I had to bury Rocky.

We had a tree go down in our back yard which took out part of our fence. Rocky escaped and spent about 12 hours running loose before someone took him to the pound. When we got him back, we noticed he couldn't walk very well. Soon, he couldn't walk at all, wouldn't eat, and was noticeably in a lot of pain. Turns out, his back had gotten "really messed up" on his little outing. Don't know what happened (car? a cruel person?), and probably don't want to know. The vet said that he wouldn't get better. So we had him put down.

When we're young, we never really think about the fact that we will have to say goodbye to pets. We don't really have any concept of lifespan. However, when we get older, we know better. We know that we'll bond to these animals, talk to them, process with them, call them "friend" and then one day - most likely bury them. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we put ourselves through that pain? Why would you ever go out and get another dog - train it, care for it, love it, etc. only to one day have to say goodbye? I'm not sure why... but one day, I'll probably do it again.

For today though, I'll just quietly miss Rocky. The talks, the walks - him just being there... always being there to listen. That's a good friend.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reboot... Ah, That's Better

After one of my most grueling weeks of the year (over 1oo hours), I took a couple days to catch up on some rest. While sleep is good, it doesn't necessarily press the reset button for me. One thing that usually does the trick is a day on the river, flyfishing.

Every once in a while, I'm so wiped out that it's hard for me to even convince myself to go fishing. It's in those times that I can usually count on my wife to force me to go (crazy, I know). Today was one of those days. I was full of excuses why I might not go. Those included less than stellar fishing reports and snow in Maupin yesterday. Anyway, I finally went.

God served up beautiful weather (too warm for anything more than short sleeves) and lots of fish (four about the size of the one pictured below, and a handful of smaller ones.) This one was the first fish of the year - a beautiful Deschutes Redside. Photo quality is a little lacking as I forgot the camera... shot it with the cell phone.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Lenten Fast - Week Six

Suggested Fast – Noise
As we enter into Holy Week, a time when we are especially aware of the price paid for our sin, we thought that would be appropriate for us to fast from noise.

Much of this world’s noise is thrust upon us, but much else is self inflicted. We’d like to suggest that you find time throughout the week for periods of silence, fasting from external noise and from speaking. On Friday, to the degree that your commitments allow, spend the day in silence. Together, we will break that silence as we come together for our Good Friday service.

Lord, I talk too much. It’s Your turn. Speak, for Your servant is listening.

Ecclesiastes 3:7; Psalm 46:10

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lenten Fast - Week Five

Suggested Fast – Food
Food is one of the most basic needs of our lives. It sustains, energizes, and heals us. Not only that, but food brings comfort; it is the centerpiece for much of our fellowship. Jesus used food as the tangible representation of His own life in one of our most important sacraments.

Without food we soon lose strength, begin to wither, and will eventually die. Long before we experience any real physical effects of going without food, our stomachs and our minds will tell us to eat. They will nag at us, complaining louder and louder until we feed the desire – all the while, reminding us of our need, of our mortality.

While our abundance in America can make us prone to gluttony (a very real sin issue), the purpose of this week’s fast is to intentionally deny ourselves of the very thing that sustains us. As the hunger grows, we redirect our appetites to the Bread of Life – Jesus, who is our true sustainer, our source of abundant life – and allow Him to satisfy our deepest pangs of spirit-hunger. It’s a good idea to use this time to confess sins and read Scripture.

As with the other fasts, you need to determine the extent and length of the fast. You may wish to skip a certain meal each day this week, or fast for a whole day, or multiple days. It is very important to make sure that you are physically able to do the fast you are intending. If you choose to fast for several days, you should consult a physician about how to do that safely.

Lord, You have built into us a need for food. You also have created it for our pleasure. Today though, I choose to lay aside this need, this desire, this comfort, in hopes of drawing close to You. As I do this, feed my spirit, nurture my soul, remind me of Your sustaining presence in my life. May each pang of hunger prompt me to pray, feasting on Your very self.

As you break the fast…

Lord, thank-you for the food You have provided to sustain my body. May I never take one bite for granted. May this food strengthen me to do Thy will this day. – Amen.

Suggested Scripture Readings
Nehemiah 9:1-3; Matthew 6:16-18

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lenten Fast - Week Four

Suggested Fast – Work
Most of us are familiar with something the Bible calls “Sabbath”. Most of us probably know that it has something to do with worship on Sunday (actually, it doesn’t… Jewish Sabbath time runs from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.) Most of us probably believe that it is something from Old Testament Law that we are free from. In the end, most of us are clueless when it comes to Sabbath.

In his book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan says this:

The root idea of Sabbath is really quite simple. It’s that all living things thrive only by an ample measure of stillness. God stitched into the nature of things an inviolable need to be left alone now and then. The primary way we receive this aloneness and stillness is, of course through sleep. Sabbath, however, is a form of rest unlike sleep. Sleep is so needed that, defied too long, catches you and has its way with you. Sabbath won’t do that. Resisted, it backs off. Spurned, it flees. It’s easy to spend most your life breaking Sabbath and never figure out that this is part of the reason your work’s unsatisfying, your friendships patchy, your leisure threadbare, and your vacations exhausting. We simply haven’t taken time. We’ve not been still long enough, often enough, to know ourselves, our friends, our family… our God.

Most of us are busy people. And here in America, it’s a badge we wear proudly. It gives us status. The busier we are, the more important we must be. Or maybe people will think we’re really earning our keep. Or maybe they’ll feel sorry for us... probably not. More likely, they’ll feel guilty and create more busyness for themselves.

At the root of our Sabbath breaking lifestyle is the great sin of pride. Pride – because people might think I’m important. Pride – because I think that I’m really responsible for making my life successful. Pride – because I think I can do it just fine without God. All of this makes us fearful of Sabbath, and so we don’t do it. We stay busy, ignoring the rhythms God has placed deep inside us. Perhaps ignoring God Himself. Practicing Sabbath let’s us exercise trust in God. Jewish rabbis have a saying… “we don’t keep the Sabbath, the Sabbath keeps us.”

This week, we’d like to encourage you to enter into the “rest of God”. This is more than just taking a day off. Rather, it is a way of orienting your life toward God – to die to self and your need to be busy, to feel important. It is a time to quiet your spirit and worship the Creator – to stop your busyness and rest in His care, His love, His provision. Perhaps you can go for a long walk, “peditating” on Scripture as you walk. Perhaps you can go to the mountains, or to the ocean, and read through Isaiah 40 – celebrating the greatness of God. Perhaps it is simply sitting in your back yard, intentionally centering your relaxing, or rest, on Him.

O God, You are the Lord of the Sabbath. You planted in me a deep need for Sabbath rest and command me to pay attention to this need. Lord, I confess that I have ignored it, pushed it aside, closed my ears to its call – and have listened too much to the call of the world to be busy, to accomplish, to impress. The tragedy Lord, is that it is now hard for me to hear it at all. I repent Lord, of this sin against Your ways – of the pride that often drives it, and ask that You would help me to stop the busyness, my addiction to it, and to replace it with Your rest. Give me this week, times of refreshing with You. Open my ears to hear Your call to enter Your rest. -Amen

Exodus 20:8-11; Psalm 62; Hebrews 4:1-11; Psalm 23

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lenten Fast - Week Three

Suggested Fast – Fossil Fuel
One of the foundations of our faith is that we worship the Creator-God. We also celebrate that we are created in His image. As image bearers of the Creator, our rule and dominion over the earth is that of a steward or a caretaker, not a reckless exploiter. God intended us to live in harmony with nature, and yet, we have more often than not been at odds with nature.

Throughout Scripture we see God’s high regard for His creation. One of the principles of His kingdom is that creation needs periods of rest. This week, remembering our role as stewards of creation – and honoring this principle of giving creation a rest, consider fasting from fossil fuels. You may want to walk or ride a bike to work. You may consider a day where you deny yourself the comfort of heating your home, or a meal where you don’t cook. As with the other fasts, you decide how extensive and how long your fast will be.

As you are “inconvenienced” by this fast, remember that part of our goal in the fast is to experience death – death to our wants, death to personal comfort at the expense of creation. Direct you worship to the Creator and look for ways to honor His creation. Consider other ways in which you can worship Him by being a good caretaker of our temporary home on this planet.

(begin by reading Psalm 104 out loud, then continue with the prayer)

O God, Creator of all, I praise You for the beauty of Your creation. King of the universe, You have made all this for Your own glory. I am reminded that when I am careless with Your creation, I sin. I confess my complicity in failing to be a good steward of Your Creation. I have not been attentive to Your kingdom principles that require seasons of rest for all creation, and for this I ask Your forgiveness. As Your image bearer, I ask for Your help as I seek to walk gently on Your earth, looking for ways to replenish what I have taken away, and to heal what I have damaged. -Amen

Gen 1:28-31; Leviticus 25:1-7; Ps 104; Romans 8:19-22

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Lenten Fast - Week Two

Week Two
Suggested Fast – Technology

We live in the “Silicon Forest”, surrounded by technology. We may believe that technology makes our lives easier, but in many ways it complicates life too. At times our use of technology can be a replacement for real conversation (blogs, myspace, etc.) or a pipeline to sin (internet porn, gambling, etc.) At the very least, our use of technology can divert our attention away from relational time with people (TV, computers, etc.)

Even worse, our 24/7 availability to everyone else has made us unavailable to God. Finding uninterrupted “alone time” with God is rare.

This week, consider fasting from the use of technology (your work may require this to be a one day fast, or a portion of each day.) Consider how you might simplify your life. Redirect your attention to having real, face to face time with others, and more importantly, with God. If the use of technology has been an area of sin for you, confess it and consider how you can become pure in this area of your life.

Lord, forgive me. The technology that was designed to make my life easier has become my master. I confess to You that I have become too dependent on – even enslaved to – my computer, cell phone, iPod, or PDA. I pretend that these things help me to connect with people, when in reality they have become an escape from authentic relationships. It grieves me Lord, to think that these things have made me unavailable to You, who offer to me the most intimate and satisfying relationship of all.

Lord, help me this week to “unplug” from technology and instead “plug in” to authentic relationships. Relationships with others – and most importantly, with You. As I simplify my life this week, may I discover a new intimacy with You that leaves me longing for more. I welcome you to speak to me, uninterrupted, in Spirit language that my spirit understands. Out of those times with You, may I then look for opportunities to enjoy relationship with others you put in my path.

Help me in those times, full of Your Spirit, to be a minister of Your grace & peace. – Amen

1 Samuel 3:1-10; Psalm 119:9-24; Acts 2:42-46

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Lenten Fast - Week One

The Lenten Journey
Lent is a season where we are reminded of our mortality and our sin. It is a 40 day journey to Good Friday (the Cross), and then to Easter (our Great Hope – The Resurrection.) It is an intentional journey that calls us to repent of sins that we have grown accustomed to and to turn our attentions and affections toward Christ, where they belong.

To aid in this journey, we will be sending out six emails, one each week, that are designed to help you focus on God. Each week we are suggesting a fast that we hope will deepen that experience. Don’t mistake this for some legalistic set of rules that you must keep to please God. It is simply a way for you to discipline your thoughts and prayers during this season as we journey together toward Easter.

Fasting – What & Why
Christian fasting is more than denying ourselves food or something else of the flesh - it's a sacrificial lifestyle before God. In Isaiah 58, we learn what a "true fast" is. It's not just a one-time act of humility and denial before God, it's a lifestyle of servant ministry to others. As Isaiah tells us, fasting encourages humility, loosens the chains of injustice, unties the cords of the yoke, frees the oppressed, feeds the hungry, provides for the poor, and clothes the naked. This concept of fasting underscores that fasting is not simply “going without” but should be accompanied by the twin practices of generosity and solidarity.

Each of the suggested fasts are just that—suggested. What degree you take the fast, and how long you decide to do it are entirely up to you. We hope that this will truly enhance your journey toward the celebration of Easter.

Week One
Suggested Fast – Consumerism
We live in a culture defined by what we can buy next. It feeds our selfishness and tells us we need more, more, more. In this first week of the Lenten journey, consider fasting from consumerism by refraining from buying goods of any kind. You may want to do this for one day, or the entire week.

As you deny yourself of those selfish desires; as you die to power of consumerism, redirect your efforts to selfless giving to others– just as Christ gave of himself.

We live in Your world, O God, and for this, we praise and thank You. Among Your treasures we creatures have fashioned many things to make our lives easier, healthier, and freer.  But we have also created more things than we need, more than we can ever use.  When these things distract us from our purpose in this life, we are misusing the world You have created.  When these things prevent others from having their basic needs met, Your creation is corrupted.  Help us to keep our eyes open to this temptation of consumerism.  Help us to be followers of Jesus who are focused on the important and simple things in life – Christians who care for others and are willing to share our riches with those who have unmet needs.  Give us the courage to go against our culture when it confuses wants and needs.  Remind us that when the journey of life in this world is complete, we take with us only our relationships – with You and with the people You have given to us to love. 

We pray for these things in Jesus' name.  Amen.

Suggested Scripture Readings
Isaiah 58:6-12; Psalm 52; Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Corinthians 13

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Today marks the beginning of the season of Lent, 40 days (minus Sundays) of grieving over our sin. Growing up in a Conservative Baptist tradition, Lent was a foreign "ritual" to me. One that was observed by Lutherans and Catholics and Eastern Orthodox - all who worshiped foreign gods. (I should also note that we baptists were equitable in our disdain for foreign gods - the Pentecostals were included in our list of people to never intermarry with).

Eventually though, I began to understand that these other kinds of Jesus followers were not the enemy, not the anti-Christ, but people who had spiritual insights and practices that I could learn from. Some might even be beneficial to my spiritual growth.

Back to Lent... One of the things I discovered was that Easter, separated from Lent, isn't as big of a celebration. However, when I go through the grieving of Lent - grasping the gravity of my sin and actually grieving over it, Easter becomes a hope-filled celebration that has a deeper and longer lasting impact.

Today, Ash Wednesday, we grieve over sin. Today, in the ancient tradition that displayed grief with sackcloth and ashes, we mark ourselves with ash - a reminder of our mortality (ashes to ashes, dust to dust) that is a direct result of our sin.

For many, the Lenten season includes fasting. Scot McKnight points out in his new book on fasting, that for the people of God, the why of fasting should be a response of grief and not a means to an end. I'll be posting some suggested fasts here through the Lenten season. I invite you to join me and some others in my community of faith as we make the journey towards Holy Week and Easter.

Here is a wonderful prayer to begin the season. It was written by St. Simeon, around 900AD.

A Repentance Prayer

Behold, O Christ, I now kneel before You in the presence of Your holy angels as if I were kneeling before Your fearful judgment seat, awaiting Your sentence and rendering an account of all my evil deeds.

Behold, I bow my head, and lay my sins before You, and I confess them and reveal them. O Lord, look down upon my humble condition and forgive me all my transgressions.

Have I not sinned through pride, vainglory, slander, idle speech, unkind laughter, intemperance, hatred, envy, selfishness, ambition and falsehood?

Now, O most wonderful King, O most loving Lord, show forth your mercies to me a sinner; manifest in me the might of Your goodness and the power of Your loving kindness; receive me as You received the Prodigal Son.

Against You alone I have sinned. O Lord my God, I put my trust in You; be my Savior, and according to your great goodness and mercy, absolve, remit, and forgive all my sins. Where sin has abounded, let your grace abound much more, so that I may give glory to You, and to Your Eternal Father, and to Your all-holy, gracious, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Amen.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Uncle Andy wears size 13 feet. Maybe that's why he took so many shots of these tiny ones...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

More Pictures... 1 Day Old

A Happy Family

Father Abraham

Ari studying daddy's face

Saturday, January 10, 2009

He's Here!

Ari Mathew Abraham was born on January 10, at 3:33pm. I'm so happy.

More pictures to come...