Some ideas that assaulted me with goodness and power… I just returned from an overnight conference with a team of leaders that we affectionately call, "The Body Life Team". It is a long story which I need to choose to be a bit "boundaried" about – it is an intentional act of love and respect because these leaders are involved in a journey where they want to be able to stretch themselves and grow and discover transformation by the Spirit. In some cases, that means that they will have to explore issues, ideas and praxis that is a bit "controversial" in their denomination and local church settings. SO – the boundaried conversation with you, dear reader.

I was writing the other day about how difficult it is to summarize or explain in literary detail an experience of God. I find it humorous at times to think about how Luke attempted to summarize the story of Pentecost (for example). Have you ever thought about that day and tried to picture it in your imagination and THEN tried to think about how you would write about it in a manner that would give it ANY justice at all? I have…and it brings me to laughter everytime. Winds…tongues of fire…languages…power…how do you even begin to write about and capture in finite human language the infinite expanse of the movement of the Spirit in life?

Well, anyway, I experienced a few of those "movements" over the last couple of days. A few things were said that were powerful in my heart. Many of you know that I've landed on some new "ground" in life. Vicky and I have been called out of our Ur and lead by the pillar of cloud and fire to a new town to do life with new people and to live the Kingdom in a new manner in Monroe, Washington. Along with that move, I have been given the honor and privilege of exercising the giftedness, passions and abilities that the Spirit has so graciously given to me in the context of a local faith community (Peace Lutheran Church). If you think about it as I have many times, it still brings a smile to my face – for I get a chance to allow the Spirit of God to incarnate my God-blessed identity in relationship with others who desire to bring God glory and experience His love, power, and presence as well as participate in what HE IS DOING in our community through the relationships and life we share together. Simply an awesome truth to realize when you give it some thought… At the conference a couple of things were shared (well, many things were shared thus the 10 pages of notes I wrote to myself as a means of remembering some of what God shared with me) that assaulted me with goodness and power. I know that is strong language, but I'm a stubborn guy – and I'm stuck so easily on preconceived notions, thought patterns, and actions that I need to be hit hard at times. I must admit that these two statements might not mean much to you – but they were HUGE for me:

"You can lead anyway you want to lead as long as you are equipping and releasing the people of God in a manner that enhances the life of the Body of Christ."

And then a quote from Paul Ford's book, Knocking Over the Leadership Ladder – actually he quotes Ron Heifetz when he writes, "most leaders die with their mouths open."

Now, I'm not going to parse, expound upon, or attempt to explain why these two truths hit me the way they did…all I will say is that sometimes words can change the trajectory of your life. That's why the bible is not only the written Word but it is also the embodiment of the LIVING WORD…God's Word to power in that it exposes us to the VERY POWER of Jesus who is the truth and the life (something I'm sure you've heard before). But sometimes the faith community also embodies the Living Word…and that's what happened to me. You can think about those quotes or you can choose not to…that's your call. What I can say to you as far as encouragement based on my humble experience is that you need to LISTEN…what is God saying to you and your life and your journey as a Christ follower today? What truths are assaulting you with goodness and power? What transformation is occurring in your life today? Friend, do you read me? Over!

Compliment of the day…

6a00d83451e1f069e200e54f22dc548834-800wi Sometimes compliments come to you when you least expect it and they brighten and bless your day…sometimes they come in "packages" that surprise you and make a lasting impact on your life.  Today was one of those days – walking into a new relationship today with a couple of people from our faith community here in Monroe…first words out of one of woman's mouth as she spoke to her husband (who didn't expect to meet me today), "relax honey, he's one of us."  THAT made my day…no image, no role, no positional authority, no religious labeling…just heart to heart and life on life as we journey together in Jesus.  Yes, I have something specific that God wants me to do given His giftedness in my life through His Spirit…but it is all about Jesus…less of me, more of Him and more of simple yet profoundly loving relationships within community.  Yep, that about says it…

Len Sweet and some thoughts on “Evangelism”…

Below is a video that I watched a bit ago – Len Sweet is someone I’ve followed for a long time in my journey not only as a leader but also as a follower of Jesus.  I find his writings extremely exciting…he’s been used by the Spirit to shape many of the aspects of life and discipleship (disciple-making as well) over the past years.  This video gives you a snapshot of Len’s new book on Evangelism…now, I come to that topic with a “rich history” of all sorts of different “techniques” of doing evangelism.  But my heart and mind has been transformed over the years in this regard.  I don’t “do” anything in sharing Jesus with others…I simply try to find out what God is doing and join HIM there…I look for the fact that God is arranging Divine Appointments for me throughout my day…helping me see that there are relationship bridges that can be built…that God is already at work in the world and I attempt to do what Jesus did…join God is HIS mission of love, power and grace in the context of the world and story that He is writing in and through my life.  That’s a different perspective friends…that’s a shifted paradigm…so I would encourage you to take a peek at the video.  Then think about your life as a disciple…you live the mission of God…you join God in what He is already doing through His Holy Spirit in the lives of people you meet. 

By the way, here’s what my SoCal friend Spencer wrote about the video that he produced in this regard…it is a helpful intro to the video as well:

Leonard Sweet calls us to make an impression—a God impression—a nudge, a dent on everyone we meet. But how we do that is to listen to discern what the Spirit is already doing, and to nudge that person toward understanding that God is working in their life. And by doing so, by recognizing and naming those nudges, we are nudged as well. We discover incredible ways that God is working all around us. We observe His creativity and imagination in all our senses—hearing, tasting, seeing, touching, smelling.

The subtitle of Nudge is “Awakening each other to the God who is already there.” Every person you meet is a divine appointment, says Leonard Sweet as he talks about his new book, Nudge, with Spencer Burke, host of ThinkFWD. The overarching premise is that we don’t “take” Jesus anywhere, but that wherever we go, God is already there and our job is to find out what He’s doing and join in.

This thinking takes a different approach to evangelism. Rather than thinking of evangelism and discipleship as two distinct “tasks” of followers of Christ, Sweet suggests that they are bound together. Whereas in the past, evangelism was touted as “go and tell,” Sweet says we need to “shut up and listen.” Our role is not to come into a situation and tell our story, but rather to listen, to hear, to study what is happening in another person’s life, or in the community we are in. By doing this, we are recognizing that God is already there and we are following His lead. Sweet quotes John Wesley’s life-changing words, “Go and see the poor in their hovels, for Jesus is already there and He will be with you.”

Very likely, it was not just one person that helped nudge you in your journey to faith in God, but it was many people’s influence in your life. Many impressions that moved you to faith in God. And this is the part we can play for each other, awakening each other to God who is already at work all around us.

Making me smile…sometimes uncomfortable too…

Yep, I've tripped over a few bibles in my time…the bible causes me to take a look at my life from a different perspective.  The Spirit sometimes use it to whisper, to debate my presumptions, and to crush my preconceived notions and stubborn conclusions.  Just when I think I'm cruising along in life pretty comfortablly, I find myself "stumbling" over the bible.  Darn it – how come it can't always agree with me?  How come I can't fashion the Word of God into my liking?  How come it has to show me a new way of life and living?  Now, I don't propose that we use the bible and stand back and taunt people who "stumble" over its power and ability to teach us, to "reprove", to correct, and to train us in a right life that is founded on a right relationship with God…but isn't it amusing how (and I say this in the most humble posture possible) we can get stuck in self-righteousness only to get tripped up by God's Word?  Yeah, God must sometimes smile…yeah, and sometimes, the truth does hurt!


An old friend once told me…

Listening tour My ministry buddy Jim used to say (fact is, this was his mantra if you can say that in church circles), "people will never care about what you know until they know that you care".  That's proven true in numerous circumstances, situations, places and relationships in my life.  For many of us attempting to live the "missio dei" (mission of God) on a daily basis, that becomes more of our operational "calling" than anything else…loving others as God has loved us…caring for people, asking about their day, looking into the lives with passion and concern no matter who they are and where they intersect with us…for me at least, this is just who I am and what I do.  It isn't even conscious anymore…it is a lifestyle. 

Yet within many church circles, barriers exist in relationships.  I have many theories about how, where and why that occurs most of which I'll choose to ignore in this post.  Let's just say within this context that it is time to give more of an "ear" to people within our faith communities than anything else.  It is past time that we dedicate ourselves to listening to each other instead of being prepared to lecture, exhort, challenge, or state our "God-ordained" position.  One of the comments I hear from people NOT involved in a community of faith (of any brand or flavor) is that the "church is full of condemning people who really don't care about me and my concerns".  I've heard that more times than I can count…but what is JUST AS DISCONCERTING is that I hear that from church people too.  Many church members really don't enter into deeper relationships with other followers of Jesus for the specific reason that they "feel" or perceive that they would be verbally shot at, condemned, judged or ignored.  Remember, one of the greatest gifts you and I can give to anyone we care about is the gift of listening…the old cliche rings true that God gave us only one mouth and two ears for a specific reason – listening is at least twice as important and critical in relationship than talking. 

So, in trying to live this out in my NEW faith community (Peace in Monroe, Washington – sunny Monroe I might add), I am embarking on a Listening Tour (hence the logo above, designed by my FUTURE son-in-law, Kelly Knopp).  Below is what I wrote to the congregation about my intent – now, this is not new in any manner…the idea of visiting members of a church when you arrive in a new ministry setting is a time-honored tradition for many of us clergy types…rather the issue is intent…and listening is my intentional objective.  I'm not going to debate, argue, urge, taunt or prove myself.  Rather, my goal is to listen…to life, to dreams, to giftedness, to passions, to struggles…if I get something that we can apply to our ministry setting @ Peace, fine.  But the main goal is to let people know that someone cares…I'll let the fruit and results of that effort be in the Spirit's capable oversight.  So, the Tour begins today…more to come!

"Beginning in October, Pastor Robin is beginning a LISTENING TOUR of the membership of Peace.  As Robin stated recently, “hey, pastors are known mostly for their talking…most people usually listen to their pastor…how about if we started out our new life as partners in ministry at Peace by having the pastor actually LISTEN to everybody about what they think of life and ministry in Monroe?”  So begins Pastor Robin’s listening tour!  Robin’s hope is to get to every household in our congregation…to listen to people and their perceptions, hopes and dreams of ministry @ Peace…to listen to how God is enabling each person to grow in the Lord…to listen to concerns and opinions…in other words, to listen!  Coming soon to your very own home, the Listening Tour!  Merlaine or Pastor Robin will be contacting you soon!"

Alan Hirsch…one of my heros – one video to take a few minutes to watch!

Alan Hirsch is a smart guy…he's articulate and passionate about the Kingdom of God.  Below is a video that is a summary of some of his thoughts in his book, The Forgotten Ways.  It is worth taking a few moments to watch…fact is, he has made a number of videos that give us a full "taste" or exposure to his writings, thoughts and passions.  Remember, he is NOT about BIG churches…he is about faithfulness, disciple-making and the mission of God.  The power of saying, "Jesus is Lord" is that the Church is Jesus' business…we purely have to be about the business of Jesus and let HIM be the one and only who provides the context of growth and development as HE wills. By the way, click HERE to see all of Alan's videos on his YouTube channel. So, take a peek:

It’s all about the love…

Thing-called-love Sometimes you just have to tell it like it is…you have to put aside the observations, opinions, perceptions, ideas and pressing concerns to say how you really feel.  Yes, at times when you read something like I'm about to write makes you feel like a voyeur…you're peeking into someone's heart in a personal, almost intimate manner.  But my friends, sometimes that's not a bad thing to do.  Sometimes it's actually important to do because amidst all the hecticness and superficiality of what most people call "life", there are those of us who feel deeply, love others personally and want others to know that there is a Source and Spirit in life that gives us not only "eyes to see and ears to hear" but a heart to feel and emotions to enjoy and celebrate.

So…on to the love – yesterday was one of those days that I'll remember and cherish for the rest of my life.  It was really the culmination of over 8 years of seeking God in prayer.  You know, that type of prayer where you feel like you are pulling requests to God out of the fabric of your gut…deep prayer.  The kind that the bible says are, well, you read it yourself.  This is Romans 8:26:

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

That's the type of prayer I'm talking about…well, back to the story.  The day began with our first worship experience at our new faith community (Peace in Monroe, Washington)…I've made some comments before about these people and the miraculous series of events that led to our planting of roots in a new community and embedding ourselves in lives of people who are not only our new friends but comrades in spiritual arms as we bring the presence of the Kingdom of God to bear in and through all we do and are in this part of the country.  The worship was sweet…there was laughter, singing, prayer…the seats were filled with new friends and "old" friends some of who traveled from our old stomping grounds in Meridian to join us.  THAT, was an honor bestowed on us that I will never forget…THAT is a taste of eternity….a window to the soul of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  Then, and I'm skipping alot here, there was an Installation worship experience in the afternoon…installing a pastor is a time-honored tradition in the Lutheran denomination.  In some ways, it is a bit awkward for the one being "installed" because ministry in a local faith community really isn't all about the pastor.  The service would be better if the rubric for the day was more of a "marriage" ceremony because the Reverend (in this case me) and the congregation (in this case my new pals in Monroe) are now "blessed" by the broader Christian community in a new relationship gladdened with expectation, anticipation and, in which, there is hope for new and big things ahead.  It really is a public covenant – a promise to serve, challenge, exhort and share love in Jesus not just for the sake of the relationship but as a witness of something bigger in life…for community is a glimpse (just as marriage is) of the mystery of God's incredible love and desire for relationship with us.  Anyway, there were robbed clergy, dear friends, members of congregations from around our district…made for a glorious time in my life.  My Tracking Buddies (you know who you are!) were there blessing me with their friendship, smiles and amazing affirmation…my Friendship pals were there with their prayer-filled support…without divulging too many specific, big Warren "Shoe" did the sermon for the day and not only stroked one out of the park but left me in tears of peace (it really is all about Jesus, my friend).  There are too many people to acknowledge and thank…too many hugs I feel like I didn't have time to give…too many hands I couldn't get to in order to bless…but that goes with the territory.  Two other highlights – the mystery of the "laying on of hands" – I can't explain it, not too many can, but there is power released in the prayer of those who lay on hands – each pastor present did a blessing over me…I can't even think about it without still feeling moved.  That I'll remember for the rest of my life.  Then there was the reception put together by new pals with love – my favorite cake, good conversation, laughter in the room…it is ALL good! Then, it was back to the house for some hours (few that they may be in this instance) to soak it all in…still doing that for in many respects, yesterday's events were like a soaking rain…it's going to take a while for my soul to fully comprehend and live out all of what drenched my life in one day.

So, that's it – I would say more but you might get bored…I might post a pic or two on Facebook soon…so for those of you who are my FB friends, keep an eye out!  OH, and ONE MORE IMPORTANT THING HAPPENED YESTERDAY – our daughter got engaged.  Yep, the ring was popped and the question was posed (or is it the reverse, I don't know).  The story was shared and mom and dad and we were blessed by that too…

I said it before on this blog and in my life…it was mentioned yesterday in many ways and by different people – it really is all about Jesus and His love and grace and mercy.  It's hard to really say more than that when I think about it.  So, without further ado, I'll stop right there!


New! We’ll see about the “improved” part…

New You usually hear the phrase, "new and improved" when it comes to looking at something familiar that has been spiced up by new circumstances.  Well, for Vicky and me, we'll see soon about the improved part (what does that really mean anyway…life in the Lord is simply blessed with His goodness)…but life is DEFINITELY new!  Many of you know that we have JUST moved to the real pacific northwest…Monroe, Washington.  You can check out previous posts so I won't bore you with the details here…let's just say that God made it perfectly clear that we were supposed to enter into a new journey with the faith community called Peace Lutheran Church in Monroe.  Both Vicky and I are humbled, blessed, happy, excited and overwhelmed to be part of this new community…we've been welcomed, prayed for, hugged, and extended the hand/heart of fellowship quickly.  There are people that are sure to be fast friends…there are those who will be compadres in subversive Kingdom work in short manner…there are those already who promise to join me in making some "trouble" in the community at large, you know, just having good friendly fun!  But for the time being, boxes and unpacking are dominating our life…boxes at home…boxes at work.  We are figuring that it will take about another couple of weeks to get feeling a bit more settled.  In the meantime, we're just jumping in.  Frankly, for those of you who know me, you know I like new things…if not purely for the excitment of the novelty of new relationships, situations, and challenges.  Wasn't it the Lord who promised that He made "all things new" (2 Corinithians 5)?  I guess we just have to continue to get used to the constant call and pull of the Spirit to things that are refreshingly new and trust Him with the "improved" part.