Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Prayer as Truth-Telling

Posted: July 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

Such a great blog on Beautiful Prayer from my friend Joe Chambers

Field Notes On The Jesus Way

“We must lay before him what is in us; not what ought to be in us.” ~ C.S. Lewis

“Into your hand I commit my spirit.” ~ Jesus and David

One of the truths I grip with all my strength is the fact that without suffering in this life we will never know a deep aspect of the character of God—His presence. Jesus promised us that we would feel the comfort of our heavenly Father when we mourn, and he said we would experience the blessing of God because of it.

Comfort from our heavenly Father and on top of that “blessing” or “favor” —when we mourn.

When we tell our story of pain, we gain authority over that story. Our painful experience transforms in the telling. I believe that is why there are more Psalms of Lament in the old Jewish hymnbook than any other genre.

The late Dawson…

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The Jail

Posted: April 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

“There is no desert that God won’t cause to bloom.”

Field Notes On The Jesus Way

I sat down on a cold plastic chair in a narrow beige room; a thick barrier of Plexiglas spanned the table to the ceiling. Tender names of lovers and vulgar epithets were etched on the walls. Loud voices and the bang of heavy metallic doors echoed in this cramped space as I waited for my friend to step through the door on the other side of the plastic barrier.

In the two minutes that passed before he arrived, I replayed the high points of our friendship. I remembered the grace with which he received my story. I flashed on the image of working beside him in a little church on Saturday Work Days. I smiled at the deep laughter we enjoyed telling stories with our families. I remembered the Bible study he led. The prayers he prayed. The acts of service for the community—all of these memories tumbled together in…

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Calling a Mulligan

Posted: October 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

I am not looking for any verbal hand-outs. As I write this I know that several of you who love me, as you read this, will start loading up the shopping cart with a healthy dose of encouragement, looking for a way to deliver it to me.

I appreciate that so very much, but it’s not necessary this time.


I don’t play Golf, but when I do, I need a lot of mulligans.

If you don’t know, a mulligan is a do-over.

So, say you step up to the first tee and you set the golf ball down on that little piece of wood that will hold your small white dimpled ball off the grass far enough so your shot will scoop as little turf as possible when sending the ball sailing through the air towards the flag in the distance, but, upon swinging your club, you lean into the swing and end up slicing the edge of the ball and digging twelve inches of dirt and sod up, sending the ball careening off into the nearby duck pond, possibly killing a feathered friend.

At that point, I like to say, “I’m calling a mulligan!”

When one calls for a mulligan, one hopes no one saw the horrible hack one previously took at the ball.  If the game is going to be played, the mulligan is taken and the game is continued, not ended.

This past Sunday’s sermon left me calling a mulligan. It was horrible. No, seriously.  Honestly, it happens, once in a while. I have been trying to figure out what happened. Why had my brain frozen up halfway through the message, followed by a core melt-down?  I think I said something, someone got up, a baby cried, a siren went off, I felt the hole in my sock, I wondered if I said something that offended or was theologically incorrect and as I continued talking with my mouth, my mind went into its own slightly psychotic conversation with itself and a guy named Burt, trying to assess if I was speaking any sense or theological truth and whether or not Dietrich Bonhoeffer would agree or if Joe Chambers would tell me in his sultry voice, “Soul Care.” And the words that came out of my mouth echoed around in the hollow space somewhere inside my head. Was I still speaking and if so, why wasn’t I stopping? Someone, press “Pause.”

For those of you who don’t preach every week, I’ll let you into the inner circle. It’s not really that easy.  I remember my thoughts as a young man in my twenties, sitting in church listening to my pastor and in my ignorant arrogance saying to myself, “I could do that, and probably better.”  And, then I would get a chance to preach, once a year. And every time I would knock it out of the park with a great message that would encourage, exhort and equip people. Afterwards, people would come up telling me how much they were moved and encouraged to live life for God in a new way. I was the man, and preaching was the plan! I was going to change the world one sermon at a time.

Then I grew up. And reality slapped me in the face.

When a person becomes a speaking pastor, he preaches every week, not once a year. I no longer have eleven months to prepare a sermon. I have to be inspired by the Word, lead by the Spirit, write thoughts and ideas in an orderly manner and deliver it to people who want and need God’s words, not mine, all the while remaining theologically sound.  Every time I approach Sunday, James 3:1 swims through my mind like a deep sea viper fish; “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

My pastor friends and I are humans and we have fights with our spouses and parenting problems, we are wrecked with sin issues that plague us like multiple thorns in our flesh, we engage with people of the Church who like or dislike us or are just disgruntled, we have highs and lows and bounce between caffeine shakiness, sugar highs and food-induced comas. We have body and soul identity issues, addictions that haunt us in the night like monsters under the bed and loneliness that tears at our flesh. We often feel an overwhelming amount of guilt over our own sin as we abundantly stack grace on the heads of others. We are burdened by our income, the money we make off the backs of others and question whether or not our time is really that valuable.

The enemy fights hard against those whom God has called to lead his Church, especially those who are standing at the gates of hell trying to get in to rescue one more soul. We know salvation is God’s alone, but he has given that as our burden as well and Satan hates that. A Sunday morning is a conglomeration of a week, a month or year, of a burden, of a sensitive spirit following the Spirit. And frankly, it isn’t always going to go well.

And sometimes we need the grace to be able to call a mulligan.

But…thank God that it is His responsibility to build His Church. If people come and go because of my human-ness, I can’t really keep that from happening. My hope would be, that Epic Life Church would be a church that sees me as a man. Just a man, messed up, but redeemed. Saved by the blood of the Lamb, Justified and being Sanctified, every Sunday. And that we would be the Church together, as we all commit to speaking and sharing the Gospel well.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The Waterproof Bible

Posted: September 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

I have had this Waterproof Bible for several years now. When I saw it for sale, I loved the concept and picked it up to travel with.  I envisioned camping by an alpine lake in the wilderness in the pouring rain, reading my Bible. Or visiting Malaysia on a trip with students to share the Gospel on campuses, standing in the courtyard reading the Scriptures to a young person who is hungrily receiving the Word when an equatorial monsoon starts pouring rain down on us, but I continue to read. Or consider the many opportunities I would have to read the Bible while resting in a hot tub or swimming pool.

I envisioned the uses of a waterproof Bible to be endless and priceless.  

So, I ordered the Waterproof Bible in my support of Mr. Bezos at Amazon and waited in anticipation for it to arrive.  I ordered the camouflaged copy as I envisioned reading the Word while on hunting trip, as I wouldn’t want to scare the deer away with the cover of a typical brown or blue cover.

When it did finally arrive, I tore into the package to inspect my new purchase and there it was in its full camouflaged glory ready to be consumed on a rainy day.


I have come to realize, there aren’t too many applications for a waterproof Bible in my current life journey. Come to find out, if I am outside and there is a hint of rain, I won’t be reading my Bible, I’ll go inside. I don’t own a hot tub and bringing my waterproof Bible to the public pool, didn’t really seem like something I would be doing, especially given my feelings on public hot tubs and their close resemblance to human stew.  Come to find out, when the equatorial monsoons hit Malaysia, everyone goes inside. And to seal the deal, I haven’t got to hunt for 35 years.

I finally journeyed the long road to tested the Bible in the kitchen sink, filled it with water, immersed the Bible to the bottom and read the pages under water, it worked great and dried out in a little over a day.  But, I couldn’t find a reason that was substantial enough, that would lead me to stand at a filled kitchen sink reading my Bible under the water.

In my mind, I see a huge list of reason to have the Waterproof Bible, mostly organized around some kind of adventure that has me stranded on South Pacific Island alone.  But, in reality…I really haven’t used the waterproofness of the waterproof Bible to its full capacity.

But, the concept is terrific, isn’t it?  The Bible we can take everywhere. It isn’t limited to nice weather, clean surroundings, safe places. The pages are durable and waterproof. This can literally go anywhere. I can take this to the highest mountain and lowest valley, to the widest plains and most rugged wilderness, to the brightest city and darkest forest, to the every place the English language is spoken and to the even greater places the languages of the world are uttered.

These pages won’t crinkle up and distort and smear and smudge when water hits them. These pages won’t tear or fall out. The words on these pages can go anywhere.

But this Bible had a predecessor. The original Waterproof Bible was a few men in the first century who considered it their responsibility to take the Word to every corner of the known and unknown world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they hid the Word in their hearts and put their feet down on the first century dry desert soil and began to beat pathways vaster than the Roman Empire’s expansive roadways, for they wouldn’t just travel along the paved and stone roads, they would cut through the fields and cross rivers, and traverse great desserts and sail lakes and seas.

And their numbers would grow, as they would become more than a few scared disciples who fled out of abject fear when Jesus was seized, finding themselves, all but one, hiding in Jerusalem when Jesus was nailed to the Cross. They would encounter the risen Savior, an encounter that would so change their lives, that the very trajectory of their existence would be forever transformed. Every one of them would be transformed!

Evidence that demands a verdict, unbelievable if only ten followed through. But all of them?

The waterproof Bible they would begin to carry changed the way they viewed people. At once they would claim the Jewish race was above all others, slavery was just because class systems demanded some to be viewed as dirt, women seen as worthless and legal righteousness only attained by keeping oneself stain free in a system of the religious structure.  The change would bring about seeing humanity differently through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, realizing humans are loved and desired by God, not because of what they can offer him but because of what he did for us.

They now understood that The Way they would follow would stand out apart from all other religions past, present, and future. This Way, this Faith, would be about New Life. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  So they stopped evaluating others from a human point of view.  And began evaluating others from a Spiritual point of view.

Now even the least and the outcast had value, because of Jesus!

Now even women gave value and influence and were cherished, because of the reconciling strength of Jesus.

Now every race and creed needed the Word to be spoken to them so they might also hear, for how will they hear if no one speaks? In those days the greatest event in history took place in such a way that it transformed men to become the very first waterproof Bible. And they would go where the Spirit lead them to go for…

              God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; we are his waterproof Bible, God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

And they would find themselves tired, afraid, alone, beaten, bloodied, hungry, shipwrecked, isolated, imprisoned and yes, wet. But the Word was waterproof, it was life-proof, it was fear-proof, lonely-proof, hunger-proof, blood-proof, even death-proof.

They would bring this Bible to the ends of the earth and present the love, grace, and salvation to every person, regardless of color, race, sex, age or creed.  Even those who brutalized and put to death the messengers were not safe from the message they presented.

Now, they have passed the baton in the great relay race of life to you and me.

As God’s partners, they are begging you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it.  You, indeed you, sitting here this morning, if you are received the gracious gift of eternal life, you are now his waterproof Bible, his ambassadors.

Every generation is presented with the world at its fingertips and we are asked, “what will you do?” What will you leave behind? What will you change? Where will you bring life?  There are a plethora of organizations and slogans calling us to be involved, but only one worth our time. There are millions of good ideas and worthy occupations but only one worth our lives.

We are Ambassadors. We are the Waterproof Bible.

God has entrusted to bring reconciliation to the world by going into the world, and preaching reconciliation through Jesus.

Paul points out that he no longer viewed humans as he once did, through the lens of selfish humanity, but now views them through the holy spirit. He looked at the world, not as parts of human constructs built up by greed, prosperity, power and abuse, but through the eyes of Jesus, that says all men are being called to Christ’s salvation. That’s why he got in trouble for not denouncing slavery. He wasn’t concerned with slavery, because some form of slavery would always exist…even now…even you…he was more concerned about all men knowing Jesus as lord, slave or free, servant or master, knowing the strength of the Blood of Jesus that sets the captives free, whether they are slaves on earth or not, but would also drive kindness to one another.

Go daily whatever the “weather” and be the waterproof Bible to whomever you come into contact with. This alone will heal the chaos of our world.


Posted: September 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

In my last blog post, Returning, I ended with a word – Sustain. (You might want to go read that first.)

Here I will attempt to put into words what God is showing me.  This, of course, will be infused with thoughts I have been having about Church Planting, but will resonate with pretty much any discipline or life situation.

For the past eight years, I have been carrying the label, Church Planter, which I have worn with pride – the kind of pride you would have when you have done something that has contributed life to many people around you. I feel that we have done something good, real good. It has been the toughest and most grueling thing we have ever done, but worth every step.  But throughout this process I have not been able to resolve a few things in my mind – well, let’s be honest, there is much more than a few things my mind can’t reconcile, but let’s just focus on the one at hand.

When does a church plant cease being a church plant and become a church? There are many answers for this. Some say it’s all about the size, financial giving, leadership, discipleship, frequency of meetings, property owned, ownership of attendees, or if it still needs outside help or not.  I believe that many of those definitions of “Church” are making the sustainability of church fail.

Over the past eight years, with the sticky name tag of Church Planter on my left chest, just above my heart, we have seen several churches open and close. I am not sure what the number is, but it isn’t good. The reasons are many: not enough money or people, burn-out, sin, pride, loneliness, homesickness, leadership problems, loss of passion, etc.  And, these churches take a step into the history books of “what was” not “what remains.”

The problem. They never got to a place of Sustaining.

Let’s Pause here for a moment.


Thanks to the Wiki world you can click there and read about Sustain in Music.

“In music, sustain is a parameter of musical sound over time. As its name implies, it denotes the period of time during which the sound remains before it becomes inaudible, or silent.”

As a child I would pound on our 100 year old piano in the corner of the dining room, with my right foot firmly planted on the sustain pedal. Try it, it feels good. The notes last and it made me seem like a better piano player, kind of mushing the notes together. (I never understood the “soft” pedal, who would want that?)     A piano makes it’s sound by a hammer striking a string with a sudden loud pounding note, that will then fade out over time as the string ceases to vibrate. But if you hold the sustain pedal, it allows the note to be strung out a bit longer. It’s referred to as Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release.

Then I discovered the organ.

My great-grandmother’s pump organ traveled across the early American landscape in a covered wagon and found its way into the Oregan territory and now sits quietly in my parents living room. Quietly, that is, until I discovered the wonderful sustaining sounds I could create with it. An organ doesn’t work like a piano does, in fact, an organ is not a stringed instrument, it’s a wind instrument (kind of). Sounds, in the form of musical notes, are created using wind through pipes or reeds. When a key is pressed there isn’t a sudden loud pounding hammer hitting a string, there is an opening of a pipe, with wind, rushing through creating a sound. When the key is released the pipe is closed causing the sound to abruptly end.  The cool thing about an organ is the note you play will sustain into infinity as long as it is being pressed and the wind continues. There isn’t a need for the sustain pedal the piano requires.

Two very different instruments that, from the outside look very similar.

I loved to play the organ. I would carry notes out with epic gestures of the grand concert hall musical wonders. I could be a musical maestro and serenade my family with amazingly orchestrated numbers.  I actually only know four musical chords, but when played on an organ they become full of life and lasting resonance. Although I am not sure why everyone left the house when I played. It was probably because they wanted to give my musical genius space to create.

So, back to Church Planting and Sustaining.

I wonder if a church plant ever planted if it never sustains.  Our newer church needs to be a church that sustains in Seattle.  And, we must be a church that not only sustains its own presence but helps other churches become sustainable. The church needs to act like the organ, not the piano. We have way too many new churches that start out with a bang on the strings of marketing, launching, metrics and systems and not enough that start with the opening of a pipeline of discipleship that carries on into a sustained future.  If Epic Life Church can figure out how to sustain this year we can share this with others and start more churches that sustain. So instead of churches going through the piano sequence, Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, (Launch, Subside, Short Sustain, Close), they can open as a church and remain as a church. The resonance of such churches in Seattle and every American city will be heard in every household, business, and street. The influence Sustained Churches can have on the society changes dramatically.

This is the year of sustainability. Sustaining a note on the organ requires a commitment from the organ master to hold that note down. Sustaining as a church require the commitment of the Church (the people) to hold that note down.

In a city like Seattle, commitment has several different facets and a list of ways to go about it. I’ll just list all of them here in no particular order.

  • Discipleship



Oh, did you expect a longer list?

It has been almost two weeks.

On Tuesday the 5th of July, I was sent on sabbatical. I say, “sent,” because I probably wouldn’t have chosen to do so if I wasn’t encouraged to do so by my elders and staff. In my mind, I always pictured the pastor who goes on sabbatical is a pastor who is spent, tired and worn out. He is the pastor who is at the edge of falling apart and can’t see straight because the burden of ministry is straining his spiritual life, his family life, and his personal life. He is a pastor who can’t stand seeing another “sheep” unless it has been prepared in the kitchen and served on a plate. He is the pastor who can’t come up with anything good to preach and only opens his Bible on Saturday night when he is cramming for “yet another sermon.”  He is the pastor who is romantically involved with his secretary and hasn’t been intimate with his wife for years. He is the pastor who is going bald from stress and doesn’t sleep a full night without pills or alcohol.

I am not that pastor.

In truth, I feel like I am in the middle of a most beautiful time in our church, Epic Life. My relationship with our church family is great, I still feel creative, I love preaching and encouraging and leading. I am not worn out or not getting enough sleep, or stressed and balding, and my wife and I are enjoying a very sweet season in our marriage, this 25th year. I enjoy a good beer but believe in the beauty of one at a time. The truth be told, I don’t think I “need” a sabbatical.

But…here I am. I am finishing my second week of a two and a half month sabbatical. I have mowed the lawn two times, made two yard games, made a apple cider press, repaired my windblown fence, made a compose barrel, made a swing, cleaned my garage, split some firewood, pruned the trees in the back yard, shared meals with friends, welcomed guests in our home for a couple nights sleep, hiked Mt Rainier, paid bills, helped the neighbor and played many games and took many walks with my boys and wife. Now what?

What am I suppose to be doing?… I am studying the book of Isaiah, reading a book on discipleship, a book on creativity, a book on church planting and a healthy dose of Calvin and Hobbes, and keeping a pretty cool list of creative ideas.

Tomorrow I will be mowing my lawn for the third time.

The third time.

My first job was mowing lawns around the small town of Grangeville, ID; a town nestled in the foothills of Mount Idaho. My dad gave me the truck when I turned 15 and taught me how to take care of the equipment so I would actually make some money. I really enjoyed mowing lawns. I think I enjoy mowing laws for the same reason I am a knoller, I like things to look symmetrical or creatively unsymmetrically symmetrical.  As I mowed eight yards a week it didn’t take long for a phenomenon known only to the mowing world to take place – the dull blade.

Phenomenon – because the blade is sharpened hardened steel and it is being dulled by grass. Grass. How is this possible? I don’t know the answer to this deeply philosophical and deeply spiritual question, but I certainly can draw a life lesson on sabbaticals from it.

A lawn mower blade starts out sharp and cuts grass like a hot knife cutting warm butter, but over time and many, many, many blades of grass dulls the sharp edge. It happens slowly and isn’t really noticeable for a long time, until you look closely, and realize the grass is being thrashed and whipped not cut. A little look under that mower brings a realization the blade is so dull it probably couldn’t even cut soft butter.

What does it need? Sharpened.

How does it get sharpened? It has to be removed from the mower set on the work bench and pressed into the grinder. The grinder literally takes some of the steel off the blade as it sharpens.

There are four things I want to focus on, although I could write a book on this analogy.

Realize – A dull blade isn’t a statement on the quality or function of the lawn mower, it is but a statement about the blade – it needs to be sharpened. Often the blade is not sharpened because it is out of sight and since it is not readily seen or accessible it is left as is, which means it will only get worse. The mower itself often works just fine, but if the blade is left to get more and more dull the nicely mowed lawn will look worse and worse and the entire mower will be to blame. It would be silly to throw the mower away and buy a new one just because the blade needs a bit of sharpening.

A sabbatical allows for a bit of sharpening to happen, even though things seem great and may even be great, sharpening is still such an important part of ministry life and is very hard to do while going full throttle.  Ministry is unlike mowing lawns in that when I was finished mowing a lawn I wouldn’t think about the lawn for at least a week. Can you imagine mowing a lawn for 24-7-365? The mower will die pretty fast. Ministry is like that. There isn’t a break from the work to be done, and even though I love it so much, I am pretty sure I won’t be able to keep the pace going forever. The mower will wear out.

Pastors and the churches they minister with need to Realize a sabbatical needs to happen when the blade needs to be sharpened, not when the mower needs to be replaced.  Sharpening a blade is pretty worthless if the mower has gone on to the great yard in the sky.

Separate – Pretty simple here. To sharpen a blade, it needs to be separated from the mower.


“Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.”

Jesus (Mark 6:31)

Jesus “often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.”  (Luke 5:16)

Separate means to keep apart and divided. Honestly, I have to force myself to do this. I love the church community I get to minister with. But I also am being reminded by scripture that being separated is overwhelmingly important. Jesus never once told people he was tired of them and needed to get away from them, but he did separate himself from the life of ministry.

I must withdraw to the wilderness. Which means, I will not be answering emails, texts, messages, phone calls or posts. I might not even answer the door. I am forcing myself to be separate. Unless you are dying, and even then tell Averi first and she will decide if I need to know.

Jesus went to the wilderness while the people he ministered to and his friends he loved continued to live, suffer, hurt, work, worship, celebrate and die.

Sharpen – The blade needs to be pressed into the grinding stone to remove the dullness bringing a newly sharpened edge.

20160716_140143  I need to be sharpened as well. I don’t know what this looks like yet, but part of it has been being home and working on projects I have put off for years. I will be sharpened by learning from mentors, books, the Word, etc.  This sharpening will be a blessing to the church community I love, just as the sharp blade will now “minister” to the lawn, creating a beautifully manicured lawn.

Return – The “sabbatical” of the blade is only good if it returns to the mower and the lawn. And, if the separation and sharpening have been effective, the return will cut a beautiful lawn.    I am forced to assume that Jesus’ Sabbatical exits were just what he needed to continue to do what he was called to. For if we are living a life of the called we are living a different life than one we would have chosen for ourselves; that life requires Sabbatical.


I am trying my best to faithfully steward Sabbatical by not continuing to cut the grass with a dull blade. In this sabbatical season, I will be forcing myself to be separate, not because I want to, but because I need to. If I don’t respond to requests and communications, it’s because I have been separated.  I will continue to post a few Instagram and Twitter thoughts, which get shared with FB, but I won’t be checking in to see who “Like” those posts. I will separate, be sharpened and then may I return fully sharpened and equipped to mow the lawn of life well.

This is…

Posted: May 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

A short poem in response to Romans 7:14-25

Oh what lurks in the

Shadows of my heart,

Waiting for the moment

To tear me apart.

My spirit looks up

My flesh looks down,

I’ll raise my cup

But, to sin I’m bound.

I long to drink

The cup of righteousness,

But my flesh takes hold

The drug of darkness.

A new creation I have become

So why to wrong do I succumb?

Living well and right is

What I desire,

But my flesh calls out

And sets me afire.

Jekyll and Hyde

Are warring inside,

And rending the fabric of my soul.

Kill the one, Kill the other

My fighting, Twin brother.

And rending my fabric in the cold.

But I have been set free

And the powers that be

Have no control over me.

Letting the Spirit guide

Eliminates the pride

No power to cyanide

No condemnation

      for those who are called,

His power has freed me

      from the enemy of the fall.