Archive for March, 2010

tap tap

March 4, 2010 1 comment

Luke 11:1 One day he (Jesus) was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Master, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” 2 So he said, “When you pray, say, Father, Reveal who you are. Set the world right. 3 Keep us alive with three square meals. 4 Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” 5 Then he said, “Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. 6 An old friend traveling through just showed up, and I don’t have a thing on hand.’ 7 “The friend answers from his bed, ‘Don’t bother me. The door’s locked; my children are all down for the night; I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 “But let me tell you, even if he won’t get up because he’s a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he’ll finally get up and get you whatever you need. 9 “Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open. 10 “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. 11 If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? 12 If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? 13 As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing – you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?  -The Message-

“The sound could be mind numbing!  Bessie’s Store was just across the street from the Elementary School that I grew up going to.  If you were lucky enough to have received permission to eat lunch at the store, the smell of griddle-cooked hamburgers (not a frozen patty) would reach you before you crossed the street.  Fifty cents would get you a burger and a Delaware Punch soft drink.  It was noontime bliss!  But, after the eating, the real line of attack began.

Bessie had a closed-in glass display that was only accessible from the backside of the counter.  Inside were all kinds of treasures that you could purchase for a nickel.  You know…valuables like wax lips, gum, baseball cards, Green Hornet decoder rings, and whistles.  What in the fat was that woman thinking?  Anyway, one nickel was the price, but having a nickel was only half the battle.  Thirty kids trying to get their loot and exit to the playground with time to spare required strategy and positioning!  To get Bessie’s attention each kid would take their nickel and tap the big glass that showcased the valuable merchandise.  One or two taps wasn’t too bad, but 15 to 20 tapping nickels would wrack your brain!  Between grilling the burgers and answering the beckon call of that deafening racket, poor Bessie always looked real tired, undone and major stressed!  I was also amazed at how fast she moved behind the counter.  She answered each tapping nickel with precision and efficiency.  Surely it was more out of self-preservation and sanity!

Even though the text today points to persistence, it’s important that we understand that the persistence is about coming to the right source of our help…to Him.  The mindless-ceaseless tapping may not be totally necessary.  More on this tomorrow, but here is today’s truth.  God is behind the case and He does answer taps.  We are all invited to tap!

Father too often, I come to the case without my nickel, but you answer out of Your abundance.  Thank you for keeping the store open


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March 3, 2010 4 comments

(This is a blog I wrote a couple months after doing the funeral of a family member in Texas back in the summer of 2008.  Our brushing up against  man’s mortality are some of the most sobering moments for all of us.  Life really is a vapor!)  – MDP-

It happened to me again last Sunday. Another person, who I did not personally know, came up to me to tell me that they were at the funeral a couple months ago and heard what I said concerning “church attendance”. About the only thing she repeated correctly in what I said, was the usage of the word “screwed”. But, she was very sweet and was trying to encourage and compliment me that I had taken such a risk and said such a thing in that particular setting.  (Let me warn you straight up…I’m going to tell you exactly what I said later in this blog…but in PROPER context!)

As I have already mentioned, this isn’t the first time I’ve been approached about this. I received all kinds of feedback within hours of the funeral. The only thing I really care about when I do a wedding or a funeral is whether or not the family got what I was saying and that they were blessed or not. That is the bottomline for me and I usually don’t give a rip about what the crowd hears or feels in either one of those situations. In this very difficult situation the family overwhelmed me with their words of acceptance to my ministry that day. But, in all fairness, I need to point out that this family is not what we might call “church people”…by that I mean, people grafted deeply into regular church attendance. I render no thought about their relationship to the Lord. To me, the two are not relevant and MAYBE that is the deeper point of what I’m writing about. Standing in the pulpit at that funeral was a very significant sight. It felt almost biblical…if I may use that word? Before the service ever started I believed that the large majority of the attendees would be young adults, friends of the deceased and unchurched people. I don’t think I was wrong in that assumption. Of course there were “church people” sprinkled throughout the place, but I felt like I was in a foreign land…bringing the “good news” to ears that were hearing it for the very first time. I was very honored to be involved, but I knew the task was touchy and holy at the same time. So, I actually made a distinction in my spirit about who I was going to talk too. I chose to talk to the family, the lost, the unchurched. Take a wild guess who the people were that got offended and most disturbed by my “church attendance” comments?  I’m smiling right now, because you already know who was offended! I told you this felt like a scene right out of the gospels. I don’t have to hit this too hard, but very little truth that Jesus verbalized was received or accepted by the religious police and “system people” of his time. About 100% of the time, the pharisees, saducees and scribes were totally put off by the words of our Lord. How can it be, that the most significant man to ever walk the face of our planet could offend so many people who supposedly loved and served God? But, it happened over and over again…so much so that they finally took him out permanently…or so they thought. I’m sure the same kind of emotions and feelings could be generated within a few seconds if someone like myself or any other preacher in McGregor was seen eating breakfast in the Coffee Shop with a known prostitute or drug dealer. That would be a scene way too juicy for a normal “church person” not to judge and then gossip about! It’s an old drum that I beat on a regular basis, but I can’t help myself. Sorry!

So, here is how it went down. I was finishing the message making the last of five points taken from my favorite author Franciscan Richard Rohr. I had massaged them to fit my message, but the last point was (and this is verbatim out of my notes): IT IS TRUE THAT EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US WILL DIE AT SOME POINT IN THE FUTURE…BUT, DEATH IS NOT THE END…IT IS A NEW BEGINNING. Then I read this passage of scripture:

John 14:1-61 “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, {there} you may be also.4 “And you know the way where I am going.”5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. (NAS)

Then I made the comment in question (verbatim): “Too often we picture the long-bony finger of God stuck in our face and He’s making a “last second determination” concerning our prospects of heaven, based on whether we go to church or not! Looking across this room…if that is true…WE ARE SCREWED!”

“Mike…do you have any regrets about saying this?” Honestly, I have zero regrets about it. Why? Because I believe it’s true. Because I don’t really care that some “church person” or “religious person” was offended by it. I do care about them as an individual and I’m always available to anyone who might have a need. Also, I do care that people heard this in a way that totally missed the point, but I don’t have any control over that. That just comes with the public proclamation of preaching. Some people only hear what they want to hear…and rarely is anything repeated in the right context. I can’t worry about it and definitely can’t fix it with everyone. Yes, the Apostle Paul did say this “Let your speech be with grace, seasoned as with salt…” But, let me ask you a question. For those of you who heard the talk, was the speech seasoned with grace? Is there “grace” in the thought that a relationship with the Lord is not determined by God on whether or not a person goes to church or not? Have you ever read Matthew chapter 23? Does that sound like grace to you? Be sure to notice that every verse in that chapter is in red letters except one! After close to 32 years of studying scripture I believe that Chapter 23 of Matthew is one of the most grace-filled books in the gospel! How can I possibly think that? Because, Jesus was having a truth encounter with people who thought they had cornered the God Market! God with skin was standing in front of them confronting their religious ideals and reminded them…“you know most of the scripture but you don’t have a clue who I am!” Honestly, that kind of brutal truth feels harsh, but it is a real “gift” / “grace” to someone who cares more about what God wants than what he or she wants! Sometimes I think we have goofy ideals about the definition of “grace”. I actually did say, that I went to church, liked church, believed in church and thought church was a good ideal for everyone! No way did I say or imply that “church” is a bad thing! No way! But again…that isn’t the point! GOD DOESN’T DETERMINE HIS LOVE, FORGIVENESS AND ACCEPTANCE TOWARDS US BASED ON OUR CHURCH ATTENDANCE!!!! That was the whole purpose in what I said that dreadful and teary day.

I’ll end this with a memory. I had just gone out of the church in front of the casket. A young hispanic kid, prolly early 20’s, came up to me and grabbed my hand. He had multiple tattoos, more than one piercing on his face, but he was neatly dressed. A very good looking kid! Anyway, as a few tears dropped from his chin I heard his chilling words that still press my spirit: “Thank you for saying what you said. It touched my heart deeply. I think I can follow the Jesus you talked about.” That was enough for me!


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treading on the trauma of transition

March 2, 2010 2 comments

(My family suggested I go back and gather some of my old blogs from the ECF website.  I’ll do that every now and then when the urge hits me)

You’ve seen it haven’t you?  I’ve watched it countless times.  Having grown up in a small community that was fortunate to have a public swimming pool, lots of kids spend their summer days hanging out at the pool.  It seemed daily that there was another 5, 6 or 7 year old kid who climbed the 3 meter diving board to make that inaugural leap of faith into the sparkling bed of liquid blue diamonds.  It always played out the same…the slow climb to the top, a parent, a brother or sister on the side of the pool chattering away encouragement or rebuke, the shuffle towards the end of the handrail and ultimately that last couple of steps to the end of the diving board.  It was at the end of that sandpaper textured plank where a decision had to be made.   What didn’t look so high from the side of the pool, now appears to be a sure free-fall into nothing larger than a toilet bowl.  Fear sets in.  The mind squeals that death is probably certain.  Knees knock, a war with the will ensues and some actually back away, grab the rail and shimmy back down the ladder.  The pool I grew up at wouldn’t allow the back-track to the ground.  Jumping off was the only exit.  Tears would show up and many a lifeguard actually had to climb up the ladder and enforce the poor kid’s plight.   Plenty of fingernail has been gnawed up there, but ultimately the leap of faith, leap of terror, leap of freedom and conquest of the goal ensued.  It was rare for a kid not the march straight back to the line and “do it again”.  But the first time to pursue the unknown is sobering and can be quite life changing.

We’ve been talking a lot about “transition” around ECF.  It does seem that the whole world is in movement with some kind of divine orchestration for change.  Hindes brought a great message when he was here.  Most sermons for the past few months are saturated with the ingredients of transition and change.  We are in “it” and we know it.  Wished that made it easier!

Jesus went thru something very similar with his disciples.  For three years he hung out with his boys.  They saw first-hand what only the rest of the world has read about.  They knew him, how he smelled, what he liked to eat, knew that he had a different way of looking at people.  You couldn’t guess in a million years how he was going to respond to anything.  He had changed their world and every one had an opinion about Jesus.  The buzz of living around Him was like a drug.  Like him, love him, hate him…you knew when He was around or engaged in a moment…anything could happen.   Life was good.  Life was crazy.  People everywhere were clamoring for something from him.  It was intoxicating and draining at the same time.  Quiet with Jesus was so precious.  His undivided attention to a question or issue had to be like liquid gold.  What a ride for a bunch of goobers He called to follow him!

The most familiar text in His transition speech is found in John 14. It’s emotional enough, but Peterson’s way puts a little sugar in the medicine.  It goes down pretty smooth.  “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me.  There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you?  And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live.  And you already know the road I’m taking.”  Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”  Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”  Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”  “You’ve been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don’t understand? To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, ‘Where is the Father?’  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren’t mere words. I don’t just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.  “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see – these works.  The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it.  From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it.  Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.  “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you.  I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you.  This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!  I will not leave you orphaned.  I’m coming back.  In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive.  At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.”

I have to believe that Jesus knew exactly what the boys needed to hear!  I also have to believe that he had total confidence in their ability to transition into their destiny without becoming emotional mush in ladder climbs and shuffles across narrow and shaky planks.  Without saying it, He tells them that they need to grow up in their faith, assume some responsibility for the plan and to become “effectual doers” of the Word!  Not easy words for them to process back then.  Not easy words for us now considering our fragile narcissistic culture.  BUT, He knows.  He knows everything.  Everyone one of us has to let go of a rail that directs us back down a trail to our past and what appears to be the illusion of safety.  The leap requires faith and a stomach for a little free falling!  Yippers, we’ve never been here before.  But, we had never been to the last place we just came from either.  IT IS time to go.  It is time to jump.  It is time to put it all out there on the edge.  It really is time to allow Father God to be OUR Father.  I say we jump!  I say we find out.  I say we obey the passion inside of us for what He has promised.  Up we go..toes to the end…lean into it…launch yourself…enjoy the ride!

Oh yeah…it helps to scream…”CANNONBALL!”


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