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Saturday, March 28

Today’s Readings: Psalm 24; Lamentations 3:1-18; John 12:9-19; Hebrews 5:1-6; Psalm 88

Featured Readings:
John 12:9-19

I’ve always found something interesting about politics. That something is how political parties react to the events of the day. When times are tough, for instance, the political party in power spends a good deal of time explaining why the bad times aren’t their fault while the political party out of power expends a good deal of energy explaining why all of the problems should be blamed on the political party in power. When times are good, however, the political party in power spends a good deal of time explaining why they should get all the credit for the good times while the political party out of power expends a good deal of energy explaining why the political party in power had nothing to do with the good times. What strikes me about all of the rhetoric is how both parties – in the process of obsessing about their own self-interest – completely overlook the most important thing of all: the continued well being of the people. In many ways, I see a similar dynamic at work with the religious leaders of Jesus’ day in today’s reading from the Gospel of John. They were so worried about who will get credited for the amazing work that had recently been done in God’s name that they found themselves totally missing the point (not to mention the parade). Today, I would invite you to take some time and examine your own life. Are there similar ways in which you have gotten so caught up in matters of personal ego and/or agendas that you have missed the point? If so, give thanks that it’s not too late to re-focus your attention and get back on track. Til next time…

Friday, March 27

Today’s Readings: Psalm 62; Lamentations 2:17-22; John 11:55-12:8; Hebrews 2:10-18; Psalm 42

Featured Reading:
Psalm 42

One of the most challenging aspects of being a pastor is that you occasionally run across folks who get more than their fair share of hardships in life - people whose lives seem to consist of a seemingly endless string of hardships, one after the other. While most of these folks I’ve run into in this situation do an amazing job of handling their string of challenges, their situations often take me into a place of complete frustration as I find myself crying out to God about the terrible injustice on their behalf. Today’s second psalm is a helpful psalm for me to read at such times of frustration because it quiets my cry by reminding me of a simple – yet essential – truth of our faith: God never promised that challenging things wouldn’t happen to us as people of faith; instead, God promised that God’s love would be with us each step of the way. I was reminded of this as I read the psalmist’s words: “The God promises to love me all day, sing songs all through the night! My life is God’s prayer” (Psalm 42:8 from The Message). Perhaps today you are living in a period of gut-wrenching challenge. In the midst of that challenge, I would encourage you to slow down and listen for the strains of God’s life-sustaining melody that will carry you through the night into the dawn of a new day. I would also encourage you to draw strength from the psalmist’s assurance that your life is more than a string of difficult events – your life is nothing less than God’s prayer! Til next time…

Thursday, March 26

Today’s Readings: Psalm 3; Lamentations 2:7-16; John 10:1-6; 1 Peter 4:1-6; Psalm 50

Featured Reading: 1 Peter 4:1-6

In talking with friends over the years about their experiences of high school reunions, I heard the same comment made time after time. That comment? Ten-year high school reunions are the worst of all reunions to attend. Compared to the 10-year reunion, the rest are pieces of cake. I heard that comment made so much that it made me wonder, “Just what’s so bad about 10 year reunions?” Then I had the experience of living through my own several years ago and discovering the answer for myself. I found that the 10-year high school reunion is a challenge because folks still cling to the belief that life is suppose to unfold exactly the way you expected it to when you were back in high school. The guys, for instance, feel pressured to show they have been wildly successful in their professional lives. In addition to professional success, women at the 10-year reunion are expected to prove they have found personal happiness through the establishment of a family. Virtually everyone in attendance at the 10-year class reunion is miserable because they are held hostage to the perceptions and expectations of others. It isn’t until you reach your 20-year reunion that people start letting their guard down and being open to how life unfolds on its own terms. While the notion of high school reunions would have been totally foreign to the author of today’s passage from 1 Peter, the importance of letting go of one’s expectations and accepting life on other terms would be a familiar theme to its author. In the passage, the author used the occasion of one’s suffering to note: “Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want” (1 Peter 4:1-2 from The Message). The passage challenges us to think about those things that drive us – OUR wants and OUR desires – not as our friends, but as tyrants that can threaten to overtake our lives. In that spirit of awareness, I would invite you to spend some time considering whose wants you are pursuing. Til next time…

Wednesday, March 25

One of the most profound moments of my spiritual journey occurred the morning of the day before classes were supposed to begin at the start of my final year of seminary. I was on campus that morning because I was part of a group being trained to facilitate a small group of first year students. The date was September 11, 2001. The planes had hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon shortly before our training occurred. Needless to say, when our facilitator walked in, our minds were anywhere but in that room. As the facilitator walked in and took her seat, she said: “I know it’s hard for you to think right now, but I have a question to help us regain a bit of our focus. In the midst of the tragedy and horror of this morning, where is God?” It took a while for the first person to speak, but eventually someone spoke. Then another person spoke. And then another. In the course of the next 30 minutes, each of us began to find glimpses of hope in the midst of what had been a paralyzing sense of fear and doubt. That simple question our facilitator raised helped me realize how often I had put the emphasis in the wrong place. When things went wrong in my life, my tendency before that morning had been to ask, “Why did this happen, God?” In other words, my natural response was much like the response of Jesus’ disciples to the blind man. When they encountered the blind man on the street, the only thing they could do was to try to figure out why the man was blind - as if arriving at "an answer" would make the situation less heart wrenching. Over the years, my life experiences have taught me that “why” questions asked within the context of a tragedy rarely – if ever - turn out well since they raise questions our finite minds cannot fully absorb (much less answer). Even in those rare instances when we are able to piece together answers that make some degree of sense to our heads, often our hearts continue to ache with lingering issues that remained unresolved. It’s at just such moments that the “where” question (i.e. “Where is God in all of this?) can be so much more helpful – for the “where” question can take us beyond the confines of our cause-effect way of thinking that Jesus challenged in today’s Gospel reading. If you are wrestling with gut wrenching issues in your own life, today I would invite you to take some of the energy you’ve invested in asking “why” questions and invest some of it in asking the “where” question. See if anything happens for you spiritually as you make this important shift in semantics. Til next time…

Tuesday, March 24

Today’s Readings: Psalm 137; Lamentations 1:14-22; John 8:31-38; 1 Peter 3:8-12; Psalm 4

Featured Reading:
1 Peter 3:8-12

I have spent virtually my entire career as an adult doing the same thing: helping people get along with each other. When I worked in the juvenile corrections system as a teacher, for instance, I spent a good portion of my time helping my students learn to get along with each other and not take their frustrations at being locked up out on each other. When I worked in the public health system as a community educator/outreach worker, I spent lots of time helping those in high risk populations develop a trusting relationship with service providers so they could battle the spread of communicable diseases together. When I worked in politics, I helped individuals work across party lines to talk with each other in order to address the important issues of the day. And when I’ve worked in the local church, I’ve helped individuals overcome personality issues and egos and realize that we’re on a spiritual journey that is much larger than ourselves. In constantly working in situations of human conflict, it would have been nice to have a concise statement that would have helped me summarize the key to successfully living together. Luckily today’s reading from 1 Peter provides just such a statement – for it gives us 5 instructions for healthy ways of being as we live in relationship with one another: (1) be agreeable, (2) be sympathetic, (3) be loving, (4) be compassionate, and (5) be humble (1 Peter 3:8 from The Message). What beautiful words of guidance! Today, as you head out into a world full of complex relationships, carry those five principles with you in your heart. See how if affects your relationships once you start putting those principles into practice. Til next time…

Monday, March 23

Today’s Readings: Psalm 83; Lamentations 1:1-13; John 8:21-30; Colossians 2:8-15; Psalm 77

Featured Reading:
John 8:21-30

If you look at the surface of many of our lives, they might seem mundane by some people’s standards. We get up. Grab a bite to eat. Head off for work. Find time to eat lunch. Get back to work. Finish work and drive home. Spend time with our loved ones. Eat dinner. Relax. Go to bed. And then repeat the entire cycle the next day. If we’re not careful, our lives can become so dominated by the routines we face that we can lose our sense of perspective on what really matters. This is the point that Jesus was trying to make in speaking with his peers. In challenging them to open themselves to new ways of experiencing things, Jesus said: “You’re tied down to the mundane; I’m in touch with what is beyond your horizons. You live in terms of what you see and touch. I’m living on other terms” (John 8:23 from The Message). My question for you to consider today is this: do you find yourself tied to the mundane – to what you can see and touch; or do you open yourself to living life on other terms? Til next time…

Sunday, March 22

Featured Reading: Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22


Lots of people have amazingly romantic stories about the moment when they proposed to their beloved. Some folks tell stories of walking along fragrant, flower-filled parks when their beloved suddenly dropped to a knee and popped the question. Others tell of a story set in a fancy restaurant where tuxedo clad violists arrived at their table and brought a container of champagne filled with ice - with a beautiful engagement ring tucked inside. Still others tell stories of being in a vacation resort like Las Vegas and having one of the card dealers slide out a ring in place of the gambling chips. You name the scenario, and I’ve heard it over the years.

Well, the day I popped the question was a scenario unlike most others. Let me take a moment and set the scene for you.

The day I popped the question to Mike was a day in October of 2002. I had been serving Mountain View for about six months by that time. And like most new pastors, I had worked my fingers to the bone. So by the beginning of the month, I had started to feel tired and run down. Of course I did what I always do in those circumstances: I kept going – until by the third Tuesday of the month (October 15) - I was completely out of gas. Whenever that happens, I get sick. So guess what condition I was in. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

Now as someone who had lived as a single person for my entire adult life – I was not use to having someone in my life that could take care of me. Most folks were far more used to having me take care of them. So whenever I got sick, I did the same thing. I disappearred from the world for a few days, nursed my illness, and then re-emerged once I felt good enough to take care of others again.

Mike and I had been together for nearly a year by the time the day had rolled around, and I had never been sick before. So this whole notion that there would be someone in my life to actually take care of ME was totally new. In the first few days of my illness, he did all the right things. He picked up the Tylenol on his way home from work; he made sure I had chicken soup; and he turned the ringer on the phone off - all without me asking.

But that Tuesday afternoon, there was a turning point when – as my temperature continued to rise – I became as fidgety and fussy as a colicky baby. As Mike was preparing to get his things together and head out the door for work, he said: “You look pretty awful. I feel bad about leaving you here like this. If you want me to take today off work and stay with you, I will. All you have to do is ask.”

In that single moment, Mike said something that challenged me to the core of my being.

I realize for some of you, the notion of asking for help might not sound like a big deal; but for me it was HUGE. For you see to that point, I had lived my life with the illusion that I could completely take care of myself. Sure, I struggled with things from time to time, but often folks around me - familiar with my ego and control issues - would quietly come along side and offer help before I ask. By doing so they saved me from the indignity of asking for help. But in this one moment, Mike unintentionally forced me to face the fact that I couldn’t do it all alone: I needed help.

Mike’s offer opened my eyes to a new way of living. He opened my eyes to the fact that for the first time in my life I had found a relationship with someone where I didn’t have to pretend that I had it all together. I found a place where I could be vulnerable. In other words, I found home.

“Oh, don’t worry about sticking around today,” I said as I turned all shades of green. “But there is something else I would like to ask you. What are you doing for the rest of your life?”

And with that, the bed-ridden, semi-delirious pastor set out on a new course in life. One in which he was no longer alone.

Friends, many of us find ourselves in a similar predicament when it comes to our spiritual lives. We find ourselves clinging to the illusion that we can do all of it on our own. As a result, the last thing we would consider is asking someone for help – even if that someone is God.

And yet there God is. Lovingly lurking in the background with an unlimited supply of love, mercy, and grace – not wanting to intrude or force Godself into our lives. Simply waiting for that one moment when we do the unthinkable: ask for help.

[Long Pause]

In looking back on my first encounters with this morning’s psalm, I realize that I used to get pretty worked up by the psalm. I would rage to others, crying out, “What kind of a God would sit back and let things deteriorate to the point that we find ourselves in desperate situations?”

Now, I’ve turned that question around; I’ve asked myself, “What kind of a person am I that I would wait until things got to a desperate situation before I ask for help?” That shift in perspective has made all the difference in the world.

Friends, I know each of us has arrived here from a different point in life. For some of us, things are going pretty well. For others, not so well. For still others, things are downright desperate.

Regardless of where you are coming from this morning, take it from me –someone who spent years satisfied by living in proximity to God’s love and grace, yet never willing to take the risk and dive in. Take that risk. Dive in. Ask for help.

Once you do that, I guarantee you’ll find the thing you least expected: a true soul mate - for this lifetime and beyond.