Archive for April, 2010

Shane Hipps, in his book, Flickering Pixels, deals with the role of the heart in spirituality.  He explains that it is the heart – emotions – that drives desire and without desire our spirituality dries up.

. . . the most damaging effect of suppressing the heart is that it deadens desire.  That deep longing for life, love, and God fades.  Instead, we come to expect less from life.  We acquire the bland taste of a domesticated god who resides somewhere in our head.  But our head is not home for the divine.  The head helps us understand the divine from a safe distance.  This is a powerful and valuable enterprise to be sure, but there is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God.

I don’t know about you but I do not care to serve a “domesticated god.”  The God I choose to serve is full of mystery and strength, love and grace, justice and mercy.  There is no domestication of the one true God – and we should rejoice in that fact!

How faded is your desire?  How badly do you want to move beyond knowing about God to a point of truly knowing God?  Do not seek knowledge – seek a relationship.

Father, may you fill us with desire to truly know you today and to grow in our relationship with you!

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Portal to the Heart

Whatever is in your heart comes out in your actions and your words.  Matthew 12:34-37 speaks to this – you can read it here.

This is a powerful passage.  Our words are a reflection of who we really are inside.  We can say, “I didn’t mean that,” after we have said something we regret.  But the reality is that the words coming from our mouths are an overflow from our hearts.  Our mouths give the world direct access to our being – scary isn’t it?

I don’t know about you, but some days I need a check valve in the line from my heart to my mouth.

We can work on keeping our words in check but the point for us to wrestle with today is this:  the key to this dilemma is to constantly work on what is in our hearts.  If our hearts are filled with hate, jealousy or selfishness, then the words coming from our mouths will reflect that reality.  My prayer for us today is Psalm 51:10 – “Create in me a pure heart, oh God.”

What is filling your heart today?

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The Reading Bus

Miss Kooki (Rosemary Peterson) is a 63 year old school bus driver in Florida who was about to turn in her keys.  The kids were unruly and she had reached her limit of putting up with the chaos.  She began to pray about what to do.  She was at the end of your patience.

She says God revealed an answer to her.  The next day, once she had all her kids on the bus, she presented them with her plan.  The following day they were to bring a book onto the bus.  After completing a book, each child would write a book report and submit it to Miss Kooki.  The students who wrote the most book reports would get prizes.

The plan took off!  Now the bus ride that used to be chaotic, loud and distracting is more like the serenity of a library.  The ripple effect has been the kids are doing better in their classes as well.  What a turn around – what a plan!  (You can watch more of her story at NBC Nightly News online)

Miss Kooki took a hopeless situation and filled it with a renewed sense of purpose.

Are you facing any hopeless situations in your life?  If so:

1) Take a step back

2) Pray about it

3) Look for something you can do to make things better (and don’t be afraid to think outside the box)

4) Then get busy doing it!

God created you for a time like this!

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Make Today Count

Yesterday I attended two different funerals, both of which reminded me that life is too short.  One was the funeral of a 41 year old mother of two and the other, a 26 year old mother of one.  I went to bed last night thinking about the frailty and brevity of our existence here on this planet.

The way I see it, we can approach the reality of death from two angles.  We can come to grips with the startling reality that we are going to die and there is nothing we can do so why try.  Or we can come to grips with this reality and determine within our hearts to make the most of what we have been given.

As  followers of Jesus, we have an added element of hope in knowing that this life is not all there is but rather just the beginning of our true existence.

So given the reality that you are going to die, maybe not today but soon enough, how will you live for the next hour?  The rest of today?  The rest of the week?  The rest of your life?

I have a two-fold prayer for each of us today and it is this:  1) that we choose to make today count for something, and 2) that we continue to make that choice everyday for the remainder of our time on Earth.

Be blessed today and make it count!

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If you read my post last Thursday, you know that Kristi and I got away to celebrate 2o years of marriage.  In my planning for our time together, I wanted to have at least one romantic meal.  I did my research and even emailed the San Antonio Visitors center to get some ideas.  After all that, I decided on a restaurant that would be the perfect choice.  I even made reservations to ensure that our evening would be memorable.

We took a cab to the area and arrived early to make sure that we could find the site of our candle light experience.  Promptly at 7:30, we walked up to the hostess and I said rather smugly, “We are the Hill’s and we have a reservation for 2.”

The hostess picked up two menus and asked us to follow her to our special table.  It did not take too long, as we strolled through a restaurant of empty tables, to figure out that we were the only ones in the joint.  As I looked around, I could see a sheer curtain separating our fine dining from the breakfast buffet line.  Come to find out, we were in a hotel restaurant in downtown San Antonio – and yes, we were the only ones there!

What I thought was going to be a fine dining experience in an eclectic, romantic atmosphere, turned out to be something similar to a trip to Denny’s with candles and linen napkins.  Not what I had envisioned at all!  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Denny’s as much as the next guy, but not for a romantic dinner to celebrate 20 years of wedded bliss!

Kristi was a great sport – I think she could see my embarrassment and disappointment.  But the one good thing about being married for 20 years, when it was all said and done, we had a great time and now we have a humorous memory of our romantic evening in San Antonio.

Have you ever had a “date” with your spouse that didn’t turn out as you planned?

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A Day Away

Today, Kristi and I are taking a couple of days to get away.  We will be celebrating 20 years of marriage next month, but this was the only 2 days we could get away together for the next 3 months – so here we are.

I am so blessed to have such a wonderful partner for life.  I have mentioned before that she is a perfect pastor’s wife.  It has been a great 20 years!  I am excited about the next 20, 40 or whatever God gives us!

Thank you Lord for your giving us each other!

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I have been reminded this week of the joys of getting back into the swing of exercising on a regular basis.  Today marks day three.  I am still in the phase of not being able to walk normally nor straighten my arms.  I told myself I would “ease” back into it slowly.  But as has been my pattern in the past, I worked up the desire to get back into the gym and once there, over did it – now I am paying the price.

However, I know from experience that the answer to my pain is consistency.  Eventually, the pain will subside and over time, the sacrifice of a little sleep will result in more energy and better flexibility.

I have found that my spiritual walk shares many of the same characteristics.  The key to any spiritual practice is consistency.  So often we allow ourselves to relax in our commitment to pray and read the Bible and before we are fully aware of it, we have gone weeks without spending time with God.  So we resolve to jump in and often overdo it – overcommitting ourselves and soon we are burned out and even worse, feeling guilty about it.

But if we can ease into a routine of spending time with God, carving out 20 minutes or so, 3 or 4 times per week and remain consistent, then in a matter of days we will begin to feel more energy, peace and joy in our lives than we have ever experienced.

Spiritual progression comes from God, but we have to persistently do our part.  Commit today to stay consistent in your routine of spiritual practices – your walk in following the Way and then stick with it – don’t let up.

You will never regret time spent with the Creator of the Universe!

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A Thirst for God

I have mentioned before that I regularly listen to the Jesuit podcast, Pray as You Go.  It is a 10 minute daily devotional done in a guided Lectio Divina format (spiritual reading).  I encourage you to check it out.  You can do that here.

At any rate, the opening question in yesterday’s podcast was this, “Can you feel that thirst within you that only God can quench?”

I had to wrestle with this question.  I am not sure that I can, at least not on a regular basis.  Sure, there are times when I am sensitive to God’s leading in my life and to the desire that I have to be guided.  But on a daily basis, I have to admit that I get wrapped up in doing what I think “has” to be done and neglect the fact that I should be more focused on what God wants me to do.  I should thirst for God as if my life depended on it because it does.

Do you ever find yourself in this situation?  Perhaps you are there today.

If so, here is my prayer for us today:

Father, you know that we love you – that we desire to be loved by you.  But so often we get busy in our routine and neglect to truly seek after you.  Fill each of us today with an insatiable desire and thirst for you – for more of you!  May we not be able to truly rest unless it is in you!


May you be satisfied today by the Living Water!

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Pray for the Border

I spent Tuesday and most of Wednesday last week in El Paso, finalizing plans for a mission trip for our local college students.  My request today

is for your prayer for the people in that area.  I am sure that you have heard of the violence in the Juarez, Mexico area that has been going on for the last couple of years.  Until the last few months this violence has been centered in Juarez and has been going on primarily between two drug cartel’s fighting over territory.

But recently, the violence has been turned toward the local town folks as far out as 60 miles from Juarez.  The need for prayer is obvious, but specifically, we need to pray for the innocent people caught in a no win situation.  Their homes have been taken or destroyed.  They have no place to go and little hope to survive short of scavenging and stealing.  Pray for God’s provision and protection.

The local pastors are in even more of a dilemma because they are being threatened as well, but they feel the need to stay and minister to the hurting people in the area.  What little support these pastors have received in years past from church partners state-side, has been cut off due to the violence.  Mission groups are making other plans this year and going other places that are not so dangerous.

I ask that you take 5 minutes today to stop and pray for these people.  Pray that God will break into this situation and be glorified.  Pray for protection, courage and strength for the pastors and their families who choose to stay and minister in this horrible situation.  We already know the outcome of the war – God will prevail.  But pray that God will sustain these people until that day!

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As a young man, he felt the call of God to the ministry.  He studied theology and began preaching.  He had a passion for teaching and so in 1910, shortly after his marriage to a young woman he met on a ship to America, the newly weds found a house and opened a school in London.  He taught and his wife took shorthand of his lectures.  She had been blessed with the ability to take shorthand at the amazing rate of 250 words per minute.

Egypt Study Hut advert

When World War I broke out, they sensed that God was calling them to serve their country some how.  And so he enlisted as a chaplain in the British military and was stationed in Egypt.  His wife and young daughter joined him there.

He continued his teaching in a small hut in the desert of Egypt and his wife continued to take his teachings down in shorthand.  The soldiers were skeptical at first but eventually, he earned the respect of the men.  His ministry would not have been recognized by the world as “successful.”  He had a meager attendance at most of his meetings.  But he inspired the men and he served God faithfully doing what he believed God had called him to do.

In 1917, he died in Egypt due to complications with a routine appendectomy and the soldiers gave him a full military service with all the honors.  He was laid to rest in the sands of Egypt.  His wife and child returned to London.

After settling in London, his wife began the laborious task of  transcribing her notes from the years of lectures and teaching.  Over time, family and friends began to ask to read some of the work.  Different lectures began to be pulled together into pamphlets and then later, the pamphlets were pulled together into a book.  Many books have followed, but one stands out.

The man was Oswald Chambers and his wife was Gertrude (or Biddy, as he called her) and the book – My Utmost for His Highest, published first in 1927.

What would have been seen at the time  by most to have been a simple, ordinary, uneventful ministry has been used by God to touch people all over the world and continues to do so today.  Thanks to Oswald’s faithfulness and Biddy’s hard work, the world has been moved.

What has God called you to do today?  It does not matter how mundane it may seem, if God has called you to the task, God will bless it.  God never calls us to be “successful” – simply faithful.

Be faithful today!

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