Eagle or Crane?

I 20150101_101110began 2015 with this vision. While riding my bike on the edge of Orange County, I saw this eagle. It is neither easy to sneak up on an eagle while on a bicycle nor capture a picture of the sky king. 20150101_103608
Closer to the city, I found other birds much more complicit in my picture taking. Almost posing, they allowed me to take several.
The contrast in images and in birds was clear asking me, “In 2015 will you soar like an eagle reaching high for all God has to offer or be content like a crane, only flying stretching your wings when absolutely necessary?”
I remembered the promise of Isaiah 40,

Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
I vowed to take the eagle as my example and sang out the words of Steve Miller, dooo dooo dooo dooo, I want to fly like an eagle.


A similar contrast and challenge is in the story of the Magi coming up for Epiphany Sunday presented clearly in the difference between the approach to life and God by Herod and the citizens of the city of Jerusalem and the Magi in Matthew 2,
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Herod and Jerusalem lived in a culture known for their traditions, titles, and luxuries, valuing stability and security over stars and adventure. For them the poverty of some was a prerequisite for the palaces of others. In contrast, for the magi, the world was their home, their life was in the skies where stars shined, God spoke, and Messiahs could be found anywhere. They were not known by their titles but their gifts. They were not characterized by their comforts but their visions and their journeys. Treasures were for sharing, not protecting. They were like eagles, not cranes stuck to the ground, but flying to the skies of God’s heavens.
Two clear images. Which will you choose? Who will be your role model in 2015?

Listening From Tomorrow

I’m not very good at waiting which is why Advent is a difficult season when waiting is a holy activity. Nathan was with me when we picked out his Christmas present, then I hid it. Like son, like father, neither of us is very skilled at waiting. Even now, Carrie, Cayla, and Abbie are about two hours away. Waiting on them to make the trip this week has taken longer than any trip I’ve ever made.
Dawn Neff sent me this devotional which came quite timely I want to share with all and any of you who share my impatience in character.
 Listening from Tomorrow by San Francisco Theological Seminary Professor, Dr. Virstan Choy.
“(I am) the Lord’s servant.  Let it be with me according to your prediction.”
The theme for this year’s Advent devotions is a helpful reminder of the multi-sensory nature of Advent and other journeys of hope:  It is not just about seeing (vision); it’s at least also about hearing (listening). And according to Donald Zimmer, as with Advent journeys, so with leadership:  “To govern effectively within the church, leaders must first be able to listenindividually and together to God.”(Zimmer, Leadership and Listening: Spiritual Foundations for Church Governance).
But in my work with leaders of congregations in search of hope in the midst of uncertain futures, and leaders seeking hope in the midst of seemingly intractable conflicts, the key to listening is what organizational consultant Michael Black calls “listening from tomorrow,” rather than listening from yesterday or even today.  To listen from tomorrow is to engage in what Otto Scharmer calls “generative listening” in his book, Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges — listening in which one intentionally seeks to let go of the perceptions and attachments that inevitably form when what one is hearing is information that arouses one’s feelings.  Such listening requires that we suspend our judgment about how things are or ought to be so that we can be more open to the potential that surrounds us and fills us.  
And in the passage for today, Mary’s listening moves from listening–to to listening-from.  Gabriel lists a number of tomorrows that are about to happen-tomorrows involving God, but tomorrows involving Mary herself, too.  Mary listens to and begins to respond from her place of today–what is true today (“But how can this be?”), but then shifts to listening from tomorrow.
Is not Mary’s movement a movement from listening to/listening from today to listening from tomorrow?   Robert Brawley’s translation above in the recently-published Fortress Commentary on the Bible helps us to hear Mary’s “Let it be with me according to your word about the tomorrow God is bringing into being.”
And Advent is our opportunity to remember tomorrow, the tomorrow that is the destiny of humanity, the destiny which is embodied in Jesus, as Roger Haight tell us: “Jesus is one of us– what occurred in Jesus is the destiny of human existence itself: et homo factus est.” (cited by James Carroll in Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age).
What seeds for our destiny are being planted by God within us and around us this Advent?  How are we seeking such hope–listening as well as seeing from tomorrow?
If this post came up for you like it did on my phone, then today and tomorrow are links which can connect to your calendar to set an appointment, in this case, with God. Advent tells us that whether or not God is on our agenda, we are on God’s. Ready or not, the Christ of Christmas comes – so be ready!  

Where Is Your Treasure?

Through the years as a pastor, I’ve counseled a lot of people about their children, especially their teenagers. Imagine you are Kevin Salwen. He picked up his fourteen year old daughter, Hannah, from a slumber party and was driving her home. At a red light, Hannah looked out their windows and saw a homeless man on the sidewalk holding up a sign asking for money to buy food. On the other side of the car, in the lane next to them, Hannah saw a black Mercedes. She looked from the Mercedes, back to the homeless man, and from the homeless man back again to the Mercedes. Then she said to her father, “If that guy didn’t have such a nice car, then that guy could have a nice meal.” It made sense to her. A less expensive car for one person could keep another off the street. Hannah was moved. She challenged her family.

“What do you want to do?” asked Hannah’s mother. “Sell our house?”

Her mother was joking. Hannah wasn’t. Hannah thought selling the house was a great idea. They could trade their house in for a less expensive one, half the size and half the expense, and donate the difference to charity, and that’s what they did. They contributed half the sale of their house to a non-profit called The Hunger Project where the money has gone to impact the lives of thousands in a positive way.

Hannah and her father teamed up to write a book about the project, The Power of Half. Hannah told The New York Times, “No one expects anyone to sell a house. That’s kind of a ridiculous thing to do. For us, the house was just something we could live without. It was too big for us. Everyone has too much of something, whether it’s time, talent or treasure. Everyone does have their own half; you just have to find it.” Though some accuse the Salwens of grandstanding, Kevin told The Times, “This is the most self-interested thing we have ever done. I’m thrilled that we can help others. I’m blown away by how much it has helped us.” Their charity benefited their family; they gave away wealth and found health; they found addition through subtraction; through the loss of some of their stuff, they gained additional peace of mind; for them, for all of us, that is enough.

Jesus said, Matthew 6: 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

In this passage, Jesus doesn’t dictate how to live as much as ask a simple question, “Where is your treasure?” Said another way, “What do you value most?” Whatever is of most importance to us will define our actions more than our morality for where our treasure is will determine our actions, goals, and not just the quality of our lives, but the quality of our humanity. The Salwen family found their home in the world by leaving their house and claiming a greater treasure. See Kevin and Hannah’s talk at the TED conference by clicking below.

 

 

Raising the Rod

Nathan1The traditional translation of Proverbs 13:24 is, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” This interpretation has been used to support taking a paddle, rod, belt, or ruler to your child when he or she needs to be kept in line. I think the more accurate interpretation is from the shepherd’s perspective as the rod was not a whipping tool but a shepherds standard used to measure the height of a sheep. In this image, we spoil children when we don’t raise a rod of a high standard for them to achieve.

For my son Nathan, the rod has been set by his coaches. Kevin Morriello has worked with Nathan for several years starting when Kevin was in college studying to be a P.E. teacher and coach. Kevin created the Shoten Ninja Academy, or what we called Ninja Training, or simply Ninjas. Though it sounds like a martial arts class, it was class in physical training challenging each student to explore the heights of what he or she can attain physically through games and exercises pushing their own personal limits to a standard higher than they, or their parents, thought them capable of doing toppling their own records and the records of the class participants.

Compared to Nathan, Kevin is a giant of a man. He is huge from Nathan’s perspective, the size of a bear, with a heart as big as one. When Kevin became a coach at Battle Ground Academy, even though Nathan doesn’t attend the school, Kevin let him be a leader with younger children as Kevin’s aid, and he let Nathan be a student training with the high school athletes and sitting on the bench during their matches. Kevin certainly set the bar high as an example for Nathan on so much more than being an athlete, but being a man and a person of character and honor. Even though Nathan’s time of training as a Ninja with Kevin has come to an end, Kevin has set the standard high for Nathan in who he can be and become.

At Nathan’s school, Grassland Middle School, Coach Gil Filbey has the unique distinction of being the only person I know in Nathan’s life who can yell at him like a Marine Sergeant and Nate takes it as a compliment. If I or any other person were to yell at Nate like his wrestling coach, he’d melt, sure he’d done something wrong. I’ve seen Gil bark out at Nate during a match and Nathan turn and simply nod to say, ‘Okay, Coach.’ When Gil shouts out an instruction or a simple, “Come on, Nathan!” my son hears the vision and belief Gil has of Nate’s potential to do and be better. At the beginning of Nate’s first wrestling season last year I heard one of the most challenging lines for both parent and son, “We believe your child can grow up to be president or anything else they want to be. But we also assure you that if he wants to be a wrestler, it won’t just take growing up, but a lot of work.” At the end of the season, Coach Gil disclosed the secret goal of the wrestling program, to help the boys to grow up into men of character. Though the wrestling season is far too short for all Nathan receives from being a member of Gil’s team, the benefit is one he will carry with him as he the rest of our family joins me in Orlando in December.

Years ago, Charles Horton Cooley defined the Psychology of The Looking Glass Self, that our self-image and sense of personal worth comes from what we believe the important people in our lives believe about us. They serve as our mirrors. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel the Priest of Israel went out to the farm of a man named Jesse. Jesse’s youngest son was the runt of the litter, but Samuel saw the boy David through God’s eyes. God had set high the rod, and Samuel anointed the boy giving the message, “You’ll do great things.” David went onto face giants and become one of the most famous leaders in the Bible turning to God through triumph and tragedy. I give thanks for Kevin, Gil, and those who did for them what they are doing for my son, anointing him as Samuel anointed David, seeing him through God’s eyes, raising high the bar for who he can be and become.

When you count your many blessings and name them one by one, give thanks for those who have not spared the rod but raised it high in your life and the lives of other people important to you as Nathan is to me.

Shining Out of The Crowd

I uploaded two sermons to my podcast today which tie together nicely. The first looks at the mass of people Abbie, Nathan, and I experienced at Universal Studios in Florida.
We thought it a wonderful idea to spend their last days of Summer at Universal Studios. The challenge was, lots of other people had the same idea! This experience aided my sermon in Kissimmee, Florida on how we are, as Jesus observed, like sheep without a shepherd.

The companion sermon is from Orlando Presbyterian Church as part of a series on The Sermon on The Mount. During these famous verses, Jesus challenges his hearers then and now, Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

To listen to these two sermons and explore how you can live Out of The Crowd, like a sheep following the shepherd, letting your light shine, click on one of the links below:

You can hear or download these two sermons at my podcast site: http://davidwjones.podomatic.com/
or on ITUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/david-w.-jones-podcast/id597879836?mt=2

J.K. Rowling, Walt Disney, and Mother Teresa

   What do Walt Disney, J.K. Rowling, and Mother Teresa have in common?
   Great imaginations and transforming experiences on trains.

Before moving to Orlando, when I came to interview with Orlando Presbyterian, Abbie, Nathan, and I listened to the first Harry Potter book and then went to Universal Studios to get the theme park experience of the book. I have been amazed by the imagination of J.K. Rowling who envisioned such a wonderful world in her mind and gave us vocabulary of words like quidditch and Hogwarts. I have also been amazed by the imagination and creativity that put her stories into movies and then into rides at Universal.
Looking into her background, I found that she, Walt Disney, and Mother Teresa all had life changing experiences through visions they had on trains.
Continue reading “J.K. Rowling, Walt Disney, and Mother Teresa”

Don’t Be a Dursley

A little over a week ago, I preached my first sermon as Pastor of Orlando Presbyterian Church.
I was a little nervous and worked diligently to choose the best words I could find to begin my time in Orlando and try to communicate with my new congregation. I chose these words…

   Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.

Those are, of course, the first words of the first book in the Harry Potter  series. I thought those words authored by J.K. Rowling had worked well for her, so I thought they would work well for me and mine as well. Continue reading “Don’t Be a Dursley”

The Power of Imagination

From Moses and Mickey Mouse – How to Find Holy Ground in the Magic Kingdom and Other Unusual Places  – recently re-released.download (1)22
As soon as the school calendar paroled my children: Cayla, the eldest, fourteen; Abbie, nine; Nathan, seven; and our nephew, Jared, twelve, we packed ourselves into the van along with a sizeable portion of our belongings and headed to Florida for several days at Disney World. It turned out quite a few other people had the same idea.
As I moved through the masses of the different parks, I was amazed at just how many people were there. I did quite a few genetic observations while people watching, “So, this man and this woman produce these offspring. Fascinating.” Or, “Wow, you picked him for a mate. Was there alcohol involved?”
Then I asked myself, “Why do so many people come to Disney World again and again, bearing the cost, the hot Florida sun, the miles to get here, the congestion?” The answer seemed and still seems obvious – wonder, collective, shared, wonder.
Wonder is the Holy Grail of the Magic Kingdom, draped in a surprise, a thrill, nostalgia, or sweet sentiment. Whatever the form, Disney packages wonder, and our hunger for wonder draws Disney lovers from across the globe, into the parking lots, on the trams, through the gates, in lines, and on ride after ride.
I experienced that wonder on our trip to the Magic Kingdom. The rides and my children showed me the way, especially on my favorite ride, Peter Pan.
Peter Pan called out, “Here we go!” as our pirate ship left the boarding station with the long line of people behind us. Abbie yelled, “We’re flying!”
We sailed into the bedroom of Wendy, John, and Michael Darling
“We’re flying! Dad, how do they do this?” Abbie asked.
I started to answer, my hand pointed up at the rail above our heads, which attached ship to ceiling track, but I resisted, certain she’d figure the mechanics out soon enough. She did. She looked up on her own, saw the rail, but chose to ignore it as we flew like Peter, Wendy, John, and Michael, sprinkled with pixie dust, thinking our happy thoughts, through the bedroom window and into the night sky.
“It’s London!” Abbie squealed as we sailed around Big Ben.
“The cars!” she cried out pointing to pairs of lights moving along dark stripes on the floor.
I looked. I saw. The dark stripes became roads and the pairs of lights became headlamps. My daughter spoke. I heard her voice. And I believed.
She did for me what Peter did in the book, the movie, and the ride. She took this aging child, struggling to find his imagination, and gave me wonder. She took this land-locked, bed-bound child, and helped me fly.
By the end of the ride, with her as my guide, I heard the tick-tock of the pirate-hungry crock, fought with Hook, ran with Smee, danced with Tiger Lilly, and swam with mermaids. I was young again; I was amazed; I was flying.
Like my daughter, I saw the rail but chose to ignore it. We were flying. With her, I was sky high, and it was wonderful. Continue reading “The Power of Imagination”

Through Your Hands

In Nashville, when you’re helping a friend move, it always takes one more person than any other town. Because almost everyone is musical most have a piano, and becauseJon Coleman everyone is musical, while you’re moving this heaviest of instruments, one of the movers is going to stop carrying and start playing as you strain along the sidewalk toward the U-Haul truck.

My favorite keyboardist, perhaps with the exception of when we’re helping someone move, is Jon Coleman. Jon plays with the physical energy of Jerry Lee Lewis but with more talent. He is something to hear and see. The road has taken Jon out through the states this summer, and I haven’t seen him in too long. At his last posting, he was in Fargo.

One of Jon’s friends is John Hiatt. Jon thinks so much of him that he named his son Hiatt. Because of my esteem for Jon, I started listening to and appreciating John Hiatt’s music and lyrics. Hiatt’s writing is meaningful and often mystical touching deep mythic themes of the soul which are too often lacking in Music City. One jewel that I have uncovered recently is Through Your Hands. Here are the lyrics and a link to John Hiatt singing it at the Franklin, TN Theater. It’s a fresh water spring for all of us travelers on life’s journey. Blessings on all you musicians traveling this summer…

Continue reading “Through Your Hands”

Beyond Tulsa Time and Past Being a Burden

Danny Flowers has been an inspiration to me for some time. He shares part of his story in this episode of Songwriter.

Danny holds the prestige of being the only person I know who received a standing ovation in a Presbyterian Church. I think a lot of the congregation understood the story and circumstances behind Danny’s song, I Was a Burden. Here are probably the best 11 minutes you’ll spend today.

 

Music in The Moment

For The Moment, Etta and Bob Britt and I have celebrated Nashville singers and songwriters for what they are – poets! So many of the great writers we’ve come in contact with have not only been great performers but written marvelous prose and poetry that stands alone. To celebrate both their lyrical and musical talent, I put together a youtube playlist of the performances I could find of the songs referenced in the book. At least, that’s the way it started. Then I added songs and artists who sang at The Moment. Then I added songs like Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” which Etta sang. Then I added songs by Paul Thorn because Jeffrey Perkins plays drums with him. Then a few more just because. I hope you cherish their words, music, and the people. To see the playlist on youtube, click on the picture below. For more information on the practices and practices from The Moment, see the link to the book on the left of my homepage.The Moment Music1

Leadership in an Anxious Age

I learned a lot about leadership from coaching my children’s sport’s teams. Recognize these groups?

soccer youngerI’ll give you a hint, they gather regularly in streets, yards, and fields across the world. They can organize themselves or be in a community structured league. This crowd is a frenzied pair of five year old children’s soccer teams (to use the U.S. term for the game).
Perhaps you are familiar with beginners playing soccer and their tendency to swarm around the ball, chasing it around the field, merging into an active, passionate, emotional herd. If not, I hope you can imagine it for those herds show many of the characteristics that groups including families, congregations, and all forms of crowds can exhibit.
Here is another image. These two groups aren’t crowds at all. These are older, more experienced, more mature players who have a better understanding of the game, how it is played, and their personal roles on their teams. soccer mature

If you look at the two diagrams, you can see the difference between the five year olds in their herd and the mature players in their teams. The most obvious difference between the two is spacing. The more mature players understand that space between them is important. Space between players in soccer is as important as space between musical notes in a song. If there is no space between notes in music, there is no distinguishable rhythm, tempo, or song, only a long blurry noise. In the younger, less mature groups, there is a lot of rampant activity, a lot of bumping, and kicking, but little soccer actually happens because they have not yet learned the importance of roles and spacing required in order to function as a team. So, too, is it in your life. If you are going to live out your particular calling, your particular self, your particular identity, you need emotional, intellectual, and social space between your self and others. Without healthy spacing and clear boundaries distinguishing you from others, your music, your song, your life, your role will be smothered, absorbed, blended into the greater group, the crowd. In the fused team, everyone is chasing the ball, there are no roles, and likely the team with one superior athlete will win every game. In the mature team, the roles are clear, they are quick but don’t hurry, and stick to their plan.

 Besides spacing, another difference is in the fused team, everyone is chasing the ball, there are no roles, and likely the team with one superior athlete will win every game while in the mature team, the roles are clear, they are quick but don’t hurry, and stick to their plan. Continue reading “Leadership in an Anxious Age”

USians and Themsians – a Hyponym View of Matthew 25

What would it mean to drive like Jesus?

Jesus sets forth his ‘way’ in the parable of The Sheep and The Goats in Matthew 25. In this moment on the Britt’s farm, I give it my best shot at envisioning a world where people see beyond “us and them” categories to viewing ourselves and others as beloved children of God.

Here is a link to just the audio which is much clearer – click picture below.

The Moment 2014 USians podcast1

 

 

 

Being a Now-ist in The Moment

While working on The Moment, I encountered this Ted Talk by MIT Engineer Joi Ito who suggests that the key to future creativity is to be a Now-ist. Here are some excerpts from Joi Ito: Want to innovate? Become a “now-ist”

I’m a three-time college dropout, so learning over education is very near and dear to my heart, but to me, education is what people do to you and learning is what you do to yourself. And it feels like, and I’m biased, it feels like they’re trying to make you memorize the whole encyclopedia before they let you go out and play, and to me, I’ve got Wikipedia on my cell phone, and it feels like they assume you’re going to be on top of some mountain all by yourself with a number 2 pencil trying to figure out what to do when in fact you’re always going to be connected, you’re always going to have friends, and you can pull Wikipedia up whenever you need it, and what you need to learn is how to learn…

So I think the good news is that even though the world is extremely complex, what you need to do is very simple. I think it’s about stopping this notion that you need to plan everything, you need to stock everything, and you need to be so prepared, and focus on being connected, always learning, fully aware, and super present.

So I don’t like the word “futurist.” I think we should be now-ists, like we are right now.

Here is the whole Ted Talk Continue reading “Being a Now-ist in The Moment”

Now Church

What time is church?

The best answer is, “Now.”

When we first started meeting for worship in The Moment, we took up an offering. Instead of passing a plate, we asked people to come forward. The physical movement was to help take us out of the spectator role of an audience and into the place of participants. It also served as an example of what we are called to do as followers of Jesus, step out into the world.

While getting up and coming forward to give an offering is the norm in some traditions, it was not in ours. Whether in a sanctuary or a bar, whether the person was six or sixty, if called to come forward for the offering, everyone would look around and wait for one thing to happen before they would move. Someone had to go first. In a crowd of five or five hundred, if something new is started, people will look for someone to go first before they move. For our offerings, usually a mother would push her child into the aisle. As soon as the child would venture out, then everyone would follow. It always took the one. Continue reading “Now Church”

Seek Don’t Get Stuck

I grew up in a textile mill neighborhood in South Carolina where the language we spoke was far from prose, yet it had a poetic cadence and was often quite colorful. Returning to my roots, here is my retelling of Saul’s conversion in Acts chapter nine.

There once a fellow named Saul. He was going about, hounding all of Jesus’ followers in the early church, throwing them in jail as the lawbreakers he thought they were. He’d even promote a lynching or stoning if there wasn’t a prison close by. Saul believed in God, and in a way that the confident often are, he was certain he was carrying out God’s will by preserving the right, the true, the holy tradition.

The risen Jesus was getting tired of Saul’s shenanigans. While on the road to a place called Damascus, Jesus caught up with Saul and smacked him to the ground. Jesus appeared in a blinding light, the kind of light you go toward when you’re dying but don’t want to see until then. Then Jesus spoke, “Saul, what the hell are you doing? Why are you being such a pain in my backside?”

Saul didn’t have any idea who would smack him down in such a way and then accuse him of doing wrong when he was so sure he had been in the right persecuting all of the followers of Jesus and shutting that movement down before it could get going good.

Saul asked, “Who is this?” Continue reading “Seek Don’t Get Stuck”

Pray to Your Audience of One

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I have a vague memory from my childhood when I prayed in a family or other group gathering. Someone, perhaps a sibling, snickered at the words I chose in my prayer. My mother, the ever protector, responded quickly, “He wasn’t talking to you.”
Jesus taught that prayer was never a public performance but a private one. Here are his words again from The Message and Matthew 6,

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

Instead of doing a dance for the world, you do your dance for God, your audience of one, The One. Instead of proclaiming your righteousness, you seek alignment with the heart and desires of God. Paul Thorn offers a great image for when God is your target audience and simple prayer in a phrase in, I Hope I’m Doing This Right, Continue reading “Pray to Your Audience of One”

Make God Your Target Audience

I’ve spent a good bit of time with songwriters in Nashville. Like writers of books, a question they are commonly asked is, “Who is your target audience?” The question presents a challenge to any artist seeking the approval of others for a work that contains their personality and soul. However, the question does present a wonderful opportunity for reflection. Consider this image of a theater.

In the theater to the right, where would you place the following?
sanctuary
Preacher
Choir or Singers and Musicians
Congregation
God

The common response is to place the preacher, choir, and musicians on stage, the congregation in the audience, and God everywhere. We discuss worship as in any theater. My favorite complaint about a preacher came from my aunt, who is a Methodist, after they had just had their first Sunday with their ‘new preacher’ appointed to their church by the Bishop. She was very frustrated because he preached past 12:00 committed an even greater transgression, he started talking about food. “Now David,” she said to me, “you don’t preach about fried chicken after 12:00 when everybody is hungry and thinking about lunch.” She complained to me as if pastors were all part of a Union, and I might be able to take care of their long-winded preacher problem for her.
Soren Kierkegaard challenged our thinking of worship and said that we have the audience wrong. The congregation is not the audience. God is the audience. Those who gather for worship is on stage. The preacher, singers, and musicians are all backstage prompting the congregation. It is not our pleasure which is the final judge but God’s. It is not whether or not we consider a service meaningful but whether God finds meaning in our service, in church and out, on holy days and every days. Continue reading “Make God Your Target Audience”

Let it Go

My body breathes naturally, inhaling and exhaling, taking in air and letting it go to make receiving the next breath possible. What my body does naturally, I find quite challenging. I take in life, counting my many blessings, naming them one by one, then grasping tightly for all I’m worth. When I need a little help remembering how important it is to release in order to receive, I look to two of my favorite and most encouraging songs both which have the same title, Let it Go.

Two of my favorite and most encouraging songs have the same title, Let it Go.

Continue reading “Let it Go”

There You Are!

A common classification for the world’s population is that there are two types of people in the world: people who enter a room and say, “Here I am!” and people who enter a room and say, “There you are!”

In John 21, the risen Jesus comes to Peter and asks three times, “Do you love me?”

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

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