“I Believe”… in One Holy Christian Church

Audio sermon series
The Apostles’ Creed @ Pine Lake Covenant Church,
Sammamish, WA
May 2011

Ephesians 4:1-6

I believe in One Holy Christian Church, the communion of the Saints.

Listen now: One Holy Christian Church

Alaska Mission 2011

30 students/adults continue to lead well and serve the Kingdom of God in Alaska.

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They are concentrating on a small transitional housing unity called the Merrit Inn. Children of the local families are invited to sing bible songs, listen to stories of faith and participate together in learning about Jesus.

While ministry is occurring with kids, the students on the team have broken into work groups. They are taking on challenges of clearing an area for a new playground play set.

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A local equipment rental shop heard about our group’s participation from another state, and offered to donate the use of their bobcat dozer for the day, free of charge.

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One of the students in the group has dozer operating experience and has taken the challenge of clearing the entire area for the playground set. He’s a high school kid who feels that he doesn’t measure up to other kids because of low grades and social exclusion sometimes. But a situation like needing a bobcat operator brought his skill to perfect use and he’s now the champion of the group. He cleared the area and leveled the ground for the other kids to add the playground equipment. The lesson we’ve learned this week is that different people with various gifts are all needed for the purpose and mission of God. No one kid needs to be the all-star, but together, the entire group brings glory to God.

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In the grand scheme of things, God is being glorified for His perfect orchestration of gifting, timing and meeting needs as they come up. We enjoyed an hour at the beach of Kenai after the work day, and though the sun was shining, the cool air reminded us that we are truly alive when we work together and depend on God’s leading.

In the middle of all the “giving and serving”, word has gotten out to the Mayor of Kenai that these kids are doing something different for the community. He offered to come to the work site on Thursday to bring us all pizza and, with news cameras rolling, he’ll offering his thanks to the group.

Let’s always remember that we are the body of Christ when we work together.

Mission trip to Alaska

This is going to be an amazing week.

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I was asked to be the speaker for the mission trip with Redeemer Covenant Church, Orangevale, CA this week. They are a group of 29 kids and leaders who chose to forego their trip to Mexico this year, in light of the violence, and come to Soldotna, AK for a week.

Their goal is to minister to children through a VBS program all week. They are also connecting with young moms who are living in transitional housing and providing ministry connection points for them.

I have the privilege of hanging out with these 29 kids, learning their stories and speaking from the heart of God each evening. God is challenging me and my heart this week as a speaker. I usually come to camp, or mission totally prepared to share from God’s Word that which God has given me a couple months before a trip. This one is unique.

Matt, the youth pastor, asked me to come and hang out with kids, learn their stories and share from “whatever God is leading” in their lives. It’s a new adventure for me… and I like it.

This morning God lead us to Psalm 16:7-8 “I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

I will give praise to the Lord for he is good, delightful, forgiving, merciful, bountiful, able, abiding, redeeming, larger than our plans…

The LORD counsels me, even at night… God will lead us and guide us through our week as we venture into this “unknown” together. Even at night God will guide us and lead us into thoughts that bless him and bless one another.

I have set the LORD always before me… God is the one who leads me, and he is before me. I must follow God and listen to his voice as he leads our group to something that will glorify him.

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken… there is nothing that can happen this week that will shake us to the core, because God’s right hand will guide and comfort us.

I am going to enjoy this challenge of seeking the voice of God for Redeemer Covenant this week. God is already giving me ears to listen and a heart to seek His voice as I speak. Join me this week in praying for God’s clear leading in our lives together.

We are blessed to be a blessing.

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W.W.J.D.? (what would Justin Bieber do)?

My family has been enamored by the show Secret Millionaire recently. http://abc.go.com/shows/secret-millionaire

It’s a fantastic show for so many reasons. They find men and women who have been successful in business, own significant property and generally classify themselves as well-to-do.

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The show re-locates a secret millionaire into one of the poorest, disenfranchised cities in the U.S., removes all funding, except for the equivalent of a weeks wages for a person on welfare in that city. They have to drive a beater car and survive on groceries that they buy with the $6/day provided for the week. One of the tasks of the week is for the millionaire to hide their identity and look for ways to volunteer and serve the community. It’s a touching show because after 4 days in that location, the millionaire has to be honest with the volunteer locations he/she has been serving and admit wealth. Then, with a stunning twist, they reveal a gift in the form of a check to each of the 3 or 4 volunteer non-profit centers in which they’ve been working.

Some of the millionaires will donate $10,000 to one group, then turn and give $50,000 to another. Each show, the millionaire tends to give away a total of $100,000 to unsuspecting community centers who are voluntarily making every effort to change their community from the inside out. I love this show, because I find myself so touched by the generosity and surprise element that the community volunteer hosts have to face in “receiving” such a gift. One of the last shows revealed that a married couple as the millionaires on the show, gave $400,000 away to various groups. I was in tears… and my kids are like, “Geez, dad, pull yourself together. It’s just a show.” It just grabs my heart every time, maybe because I can feel the heart of God wanting to fulfill His Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven… and this is a small picture of that.

But wait… something is completely wrong here.

Nothing’s wrong with someone who’s so wealthy learning a little something about what poverty feels like again, and learning that giving things away like time, housing, nice cars and money is actually one of the most fulfilling acts of humanity on this planet. Nothing is wrong with that wealthy person returning home to their luxury and getting the sense that owning “things” isn’t the GOAL OF LIFE anymore. It’s even a little bit exhilarating to see how some millionaires must finally go ‘home’ and begin to think… “Why in the world do I live like THIS, when the majority of the world has no idea what this feels like?” Maybe it will bring about real life change and then again, maybe it won’t.

My big issue with the show, that’s really only made itself real to me in the past week, is…

Why the heck is it ALWAYS the “rich, white male (or female in some cases)” that gets all the attention (a show in ABC) for taking a break from his/her lifestyle, only to dip into the lower regions of how people in poverty live, and then they get to “rescue” the poor by giving them money? Where is the ethnic diversity in helping one another? Why is it “us” and “them”?

Oh, it’s philanthropy Reid, who else is supposed to help “those” people?

(Digression) I fully realize my own setting. I’m typing this post on a wireless keyboard bluetooth linked to my iPad, while sitting at my 10 year old daughter’s lyrical dance practice with Justin Bieber blaring on the speakers… my iPhone on the table near me, ready to receive texts or FB messages as I type… and I’m talking about millionaires. It’s hypocritical, I know.

What makes the millionaire (or me, for that matter) the savior for the poor?

Money?!

A little time away from the mansion?!

Getting our hands dirty as we volunteer on skid row in L.A.?!

Leaving our smart phone at home in a drawer for a week?!

We get to go home again. We get to leave the ‘uncomfortable’ temporary situation and return home to luxury, in which few, if any, get to experience.

The bigger problem with the show, and it’s not only a show in my mind now, it’s how the world works, especially in missions is … how do Christians really serve in mission to God’s Kingdom when we have the mentality of “us” and “them”, temporary “trips” vs. “a lifestyle of serving”?

If we ever have the opportunity to serve on a mission to another location in the world, what’s the general attitude we bring with us?

“I’m going on a vacation, I mean mission trip, to serve “those” poor people who need my help.”

“At least this is temporary and I get to return home after a week of getting dirty for Jesus.”

“God, please help me get through this week, don’t make it too hard, I just want to be safe.”

What’s the point of traveling to serve another community when we don’t serve like it at home?

Remember those silly rubber bracelets that had “WWJD” printed on them years ago? The fad sure faded quickly when people challenged “Jesus’ response” to every possible situation known to our culture today and we just didn’t know how to answer. Then we changed the J to other things, rather than what would Jesus do, it became anything other than Jesus and then began losing impact. What would Justin do?

What are YOU doing with your life as you serve God’s people?

You may be a millionaire (I secretly dream of it), or maybe you’re not. Maybe you think of others more than yourself, and maybe… you don’t.

Maybe you’re going on a mission soon, like the kids from Sacramento, CA who invited me to speak for their youth group in Soldotna, AK as they serve a native Alaskan community housing development of single moms and children. Or maybe you’re part of our mission to Guatemala this summer who are going down to carry bricks and mortar to construct a local church.

What are you going there for?
Why did you choose to serve?
Why did God choose you to serve?
What are you SPECIFICALLY going to contribute to God’s kingdom mission while away from home? While back home?
What kind of attitude are you going to maintain while serving others unlike you?
Are the people you’re going to serve really that much un-like you?
What kind of similarities do you share with people with whom you’re going to serve?

What is your specific purpose… seriously, what is God going to do THROUGH YOU while you’re there?

Esther began her life as an impoverished Jewish girl, drawn into (maybe forced into) a beauty pageant for the King Xerxes of the fortress of Susa including 127 other provinces in the area of Persia. After a year of beautification and being selected as the next reigning Queen, young Esther is confronted with the choice of how to serve her community. Her cousin Mordecai was exiled after his parents were killed, he adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter…

He revealed the impending peril of the Jews to Esther saying, “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. What’s more, who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14). Mordecai called her out. She became the wealthiest female in the entire country, maybe even in her entire world, yet she couldn’t deny a calling from God to serve others.

Esther found a very specific purpose for her existence. Most biblical characters found their exact purpose for existence too. Noah – build a boat, saved the world. Moses – a baby in a basket in a river, sees a tree on fire, saves 2 million Jews from death in Egypt, speaks to God and receives the 10 commandments. Joshua – led those people into God’s promised land. King David – wanted a temple for God’s Spirit to reign on the earth, his son King Solomon built that temple. Mary – gave birth to the Messiah and savior of the world. Apostle Paul – wrote the letters which made up most of the New Testament teaching God’s people how to serve in this world.

Do you have a specific purpose in this world for God’s Kingdom? YES, you do.

Short-term missions is not a bad thing. Whether you serve as a lifestyle, or for a short time on a trip… your serving builds the Kingdom of God.

ABC’s show “Secret Millionaire” is not really a bad show… I’d like to see some ethnic diversity in the millionaires picked for the show, but it’s amazing really because it ultimately teaches those who participate, and those of us who watch it that “you were made for such a time as this”, like Esther.

Do you know who the real heroes of the show are? The real genuine heroes are the men and women who live and serve in community centers in the poor communities in which the millionaires come to visit. I think I’m brought to tears watching this show, not because of the money given, but because I see the true heart of Jesus lived out in the men and women dedicated to a life of service for those impoverished around them… while living there with them.

The man who gave up his dream of becoming a college basketball coach only to remain in the ghetto and volunteer to teach 8th grade girls how to play basketball so they might one day go to college. He’s amazing.

The woman who opens her home to special needs families that need housing, but can’t afford to pay. The guys on skit row who are committed to the street-league of 3-on-3 basketball for homeless to keep people clean and sober. The crew of men who drive their own vehicles to pick up trash in downtown Detroit so that the neighborhoods look cleaner.

These people have a specific purpose in this life… they have the heart of Jesus to serve and love their community enough that they bring “God’s Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”

After the filming of the last show, ABC talked to Gary & Diane Heavin (owners of Curves) about their experience:

What surprised you most about your experience as a “Secret Millionaire”?
We realize that what we experienced for a week was just a very small sample of the difficult life so many people live day after day, with no end in sight. We didn’t think that living one week in rough conditions on a miniscule budget would transform us or even give us a better understanding of this life, however, it WAS a life changing experience and one that we feel blessed to have been a part of.

Has your life changed since this experience? In what ways?
We were so moved by the people we met and the courage they show, every day, that after the lights and cameras were gone, we slipped back into Houston over the holidays, with our daughter, to deliver Christmas presents and spend time celebrating the holidays with our new friends.

We saw firsthand, community in action. It takes everyone, using each of their gifts-resources, talent, time, support, love and good old fashioned kindness–to build a strong, healthy community. Everyone has something they can give, and the neat thing is, when you use your gift, giving is easy.

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May you find yourself being more than a secret millionaire in your context as you serve people whom God loves. As you go on mission as a short-term or lifestyle, you are sharing the very heart of God, and that is your specific purpose in this life… and the next.

Hold Life Loosely

My pastor said on Sunday, “Autonomous. The Greek word is ‘auto-nomos’ meaning self-law, or “law unto oneself”. It’s appropriate for adolescents to begin to face developmental changes and grow independently from their parents, but when we resist the leading of God in our lives, we act autonomously and may miss what God intended for us.”

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The other night I had a little moment of “kairos” with my wife and kids. We were home together and talking about ‘the future’. My daughter asked me, “dad, what kind of school will I get to attend for high school?” I didn’t know how to respond. My son asked me if he’ll have the same friends all through high school that he has today in 7th grade. I couldn’t give him a false sense of hope, or lie to him, so I said, “I don’t know what God has in store for you.”

“What does that mean, dad?”

I jumped up off the couch and found 10 clear marbles in our kitchen junk drawer, and brought them back to the living room. I knelt down in front of the kids and held 5 marbles in each hand and said, “There are two ways to hold these marbles. One way is to clinch them tightly like this.” I made a fist with each hand and had the kids try to pry my fingers open to take the marbles away. We laughed for a while together.

“There’s another way to hold these marbles.”

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I opened my hands up and showed the 5 marbles in each hand, but kept my palms open. I told them that each one of the marbles represents one fantastic thing of value in my life. One is my son, one is my daughter, my wife, my house, my job, my call as a pastor, my health, my cars, my vacation plans, my parents, family, friends… I made the point pretty clear.

“God has the final call on our lives, and He has the right to take the marbles if He wants to.” I can’t control anything in my life, other than my own choices to do what is right or good, and my responses to what happens to me (good or bad).

My father has often told me, “Reid, you either react to, or respond to what happens in life.” The difference is that when you react it’s often out of anger or emotion which you can’t seem to control, but when you respond you consciously make a decision to do the right thing based on your level of understanding consequences for actions.

How do you hold onto the things of value in your life?

Do you hold onto them tightly, with a clenched fist, hoping against all hope that God or someone else doesn’t wrestle you to the ground prying your fingers open to grab them out of your hand?

Or, are you able to release valuable people, jobs, hopes and even fears up to God’s will in your life by holding your hands loosely, so that God might have His will be done in your life? What would it look like for us to really “let God’s will be done” in our life and in this world, by holding loosely, the things we think we have control over?

Are you really ‘autonomous’?

Do you really have that much control over your path in life, your job, your kids, your spouse, your health? Sure, we need to protect our family, guard against the enemy gaining a ‘foothold’ in our life, battle against people taking advantage of us… but trying to control aspects of our life “autonomously” is not what God intended.

The first expression of ‘autonomy’ in the Bible is found on page 3. Before humanity can even get off the starting line, we find Adam and Eve “hiding” in the bushes because of their expression of “auto-nomos”, taking the law into their own hands, thinking they could outwit, outlast, and outplay God. They’re hiding because they found out what ‘shame’ feels like. They began thinking they had more control over situations than God would allow. This sense of hoarding control is what is opposed to God’s intention of life for humankind.

When we control our lives, our future, our family, our health… we are acting in a way that is ‘auto-nomos’, or law unto ourself, and it’s not God’s intention. Ephesians 5:1-2 reads, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” I love the Apostle Paul’s wording in this. “Imitate God, or follow God’s example.” Act like God, not because you have to keep the law he demands, but because you are dearly loved children of God. Jesus, because of his love for you, gave up his auto-nomos, and gave himself up for us. Wait, he opened his hands loosely and let go of the life he could have tried to control, and became a fragrant offering to God.

The bookend of Ephesians 5 speaks against “auto-nomos” in vs. 21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The opposite of ‘autonomous’ is submission to one another and submission to God. When I hold the valuable things in my life loosely, with an open hand, God is honored by my reverence for Christ.

“Dad, do I get to go to our local High School in 9th grade?” my daughter asked.

“I don’t know, honey. But I do know that God’s plan for us is far greater than anything we can imagine. Let’s let God lead us to that when the time comes. We can either hold onto things tightly or… “, I paused before kissing her forehead while tucking her into bed.

“Loosely.” She said.

And I clicked off the light and closed her bedroom door. “Good night, sweet girl. I love you.”

“Good night, daddy.”

Do You Feel Needed?

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Lots of students are completing their first years of college and moving back home at the end of May. Many of those students are faced with having to find gainful employment for the summer. The word on the street is though, that most places aren’t hiring and work is impossible to come by.

One of the common responses of students, and adults who struggle to find work today, is to take rejection personally.
“Not finding work says something about me as a person”, they say.
“I must be a loser. I can’t land a job. This rejection must mean that I’m not a good person.
See I told you I can’t do anything with my life. I’m just not going to amount to anything.”

Who you are is not what you do.
No matter how many times I think about the value of who I am based on my accomplishment or title, I hear my mom’s voice in the background reminding me since 12 years old, “you are a human being son, not a human doing.” What you do is important, but it’s not the most important thing in life. Work does not define you. When you can’t find work, it does not mean you can’t find your purpose in life, or your value or purpose is diminished.

What you do is not who you are.
We are trained from infancy in the U.S. that our accomplishments and successes give us value. One of the intention ways of raising our children when they were small, was to intentionally avoid making their achievements ‘about’ them as children. We intentionally worked at not saying, “good boy” or “good girl” as a reward for them as they would accomplish task. The reason for this probably comes from my parents again, who said worth is not achieved, you cannot credit personal value in a person for the things they do because when they fail, and we all fail, it will mean that their value is diminished. This is simply not true in relationship to Christ Jesus.

Jesus Christ transforms everything.
It’s so easy to think that who we are is based on what we do… except the Bible doesn’t agree. I read through the gospels and find how easily Jesus declares how impressed he is with the faith expressions of so many people. He invites people into relationship with God in so many different ways, by agreeing with them in their faith expressions. Jesus looks at the heart of his beloved creation and declares their incredible amount of faith.

Then we move to Epistles and letters where the Apostles like Paul declare that we are “in Christ” more than Christ is “in our heart”. It’s a concept that has been intriguing to me for years. The book of Ephesians is a classic example of our identity found in the person of Christ, not in some work that we find ourself doing.

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2). This invitation does not give us value by what we do, rather it declares that our identity is in Christ as dearly loved children of God… our doing is based on our being in Christ. Be imitators of God… as Christ gave himself up for the church, give yourself away. Don’t find yourself giving yourself away as an earning of God’s love, or accomplishing your value system based on your behavior.

Do you feel needed?
What is your identity and value based in?
Finding meaningful employment?
Finding any kind of part time job to get a little cash to make it through the summer?

If you don’t find work, what does that do to your ‘personhood’? Don’t find yourself giving into the lie of the enemy who declares that you are what you do… no!!!

You are one for whom Jesus Christ died and sacrificed his life that you might be declared free from the bondage of sin thinking that your identity is formed by what you do. It is not. You are who you are because of the sacrifice of Jesus and this transforms everything and everyone.

You are needed, not for what you can do, but for who you are. Jesus has redeemed you. Live in the freedom of new identity and let this transform your thinking that you are not what you do.

“Jesus, thank you for transforming my identity in the work you’ve done, so that who I am bring glory to God. Then, let the work I do, be something that imitates God in this world. Amen”

Kairos Moments

I don’t like car accidents. I mean, who would?

There’s always damage done, often physical pain, definitely emotional confusion and chaos, and without question, car accidents leave victims wondering how in the world things could end up like this.

I drove back to the church, where my office is, after a long lunch on Monday. Mondays are the day in the week for me, as a pastor, where I’m not always paying the most attention to thing around me. I call it my low day of the week because of the amount of teaching I do on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights with youth group. It’s kind of an emotional recovery day for me. So, I drove back to the office, and saw the carnage. Not bodies, but vehicular carnage. One of the two cars was the small SUV driven by one of our church members who was coming to church to attend a women’s Bible study. She was making a left u-turn on the green arrow, was fully in the middle of the intersection, when an approaching vehicle must have run the red light and broadsided her on the right rear panel.

I drove up on the scene and maneuvered my little car through the two fire trucks, ambulance and police cars so that I could park and offer emotional assistance to our church member. She was standing on the sidewalk, visibly stable and even able to joke about the situation. She seems fine. I pray that she is resting and able to recover from the shock quickly. The other driver was taken to the hospital by ambulance, so we are praying for them as well.

What happened in that moment when life got distracting?

I don’t know if you’ve been involved in a vehicular accident, but experiencing 4 of them myself, brings me right back to that moment of shock like it were live in my life again. I am the third of four kids, so accidents happened.

I’ve been off the grid for a while, and have felt as though my life has been in a car accident. Maybe not that extreme. Nothing has happened. I haven’t experienced shock, or damage, or sirens, but I sense a bit of the numbness one feels after the shock wears off. I’m trying to figure out why my life feels like this.

One idea is “kairos” time. Chronos time is linear like chronology, but kairos time is “moment” time, or awareness of events kind of time; a sharp alert to something ‘different’ happening kind of time. I haven’t been paying attention to kairos time lately and it’s wearing on me like numbness, or like being in a dark room where your eyes adjust after a while. I’m “getting used to” things and I’m not paying attention to kairos.

One of my spiritual directors is helping me see this clearly through a practice from 3dministries where they take a simple image to explain moments of discipleship growing opportunities with Christ.

One of their images involves a dotted line above a circle with an x at the top of the circle intersecting the line. As you encounter a kairos moment, or some crisis of faith, you move around the circle in a direction of repentance toward the bottom of the circle. Along the way you observe, reflect, and discuss your event with others who might bring things to light. At the bottom of the circle you take a turn toward believing something new for your life. You do this by making a plan, being accountable and acting on new insight. This brings you to the dotted line where you journey forward in faith until you recognize another kairos moment.

I don’t live my life by these life shapes, and seldom think of my life as an image on a blank page, but I am learning that life is filled with kairos along this path of chronos time. Life isn’t linear, isn’t static, isn’t just filled with predictability and stability. Who am I to think that I should expect life to be normal, accident free, pain free… and free from the awareness of God’s activity in my life or in those around me?

I don’t like car accidents… I don’t want my kids to ever drive.

Sometimes the shock of an accident is the very thing that reminds us of the God-time, kairos moments in life to wake us up from the malaise chronology of linear safety and security, which for me was turning into comfort and a slow distracting removal of the gracious, caring voice of God in my ear.

“Thank you, Father God, for the wake up call, the shock and awe of screeching tires, sirens and wrinkled metal as a reminder that I need to pay attention to you and not be distracted in the chronological any longer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen”

“I Believe”… Jesus ascended into Heaven

Audio sermon series
The Apostles’ Creed@ Pine Lake Covenant Church,
Sammamish, WA
March 2011
Acts 1:6-11

He (Jesus) ascended into Heaven, he is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Listen now: Jesus ascended into Heaven

No Record of Wrongs

I have a confession to make.

It’s not the kind of confession that would merit the Confession App. http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/110834/20110210/confession-application-apple-father-federico-lombardi-not-substitute-sacrament-iphone.htm

Maybe you’re like me… but I don’t like Valentine’s Day very much. St. Valentine could have been a nice guy, he must have been worthy of something nice to be canonized. Maybe someday you’ll be canonized for the way you wrote greeting cards… who knows.

Since I don’t like V-day so much, I have to work at it a little. I’ve done some strange things over the years for my wife, like filling the living room with hanging cut out hearts from the ceiling one year, or visiting my wife’s classroom with balloons and flowers interrupting her teaching day, or bringing a rose with baby’s breath to my daughter in 5th grade class (per her request… “Dad, could you do something for me?”). Each year I go to some effort to show the women in my life (wife & daughter) how much they mean to me.

It’s not easy… but I feel compelled. Here’s why. My wife chooses to “keep no record of wrongs” (I Corinthians 13). We made a deal 18 years ago (gosh that looks like a long time in print) to forgive one another’s wrongs.

It started out as a joke together. In the middle of my “5 o’clock news” of the day, where I get home from a day at the office and report on some of the tasks I have completed, she busted into my filibuster with, “I forgive you”. She stopped me in mid-sentence. “what?” I said. “I forgive you,” she repeated with a laugh, because it had nothing to do with anything I was saying.

Since that moment, we’ve tried to interrupt one another’s confession, ranting, mistakes, scoldings, or rebukes with a hearty “I forgive you” just to break up the tension in the conversation sometimes. We still have our moments, our major blow-outs, our fits of barking and scolding the kids as if we’re on different teams once in a while. We’re not perfect.

No Record of Wrongs…

I’m just saying, forgiveness is compelling. It’s a drawing in of the other by allowing grace to be the standard. Romans 2:4 “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” The kindness of God leads to our repentance. The kindness of my wife and the grace shown in our relationship leads to clear communication, honor, and more peace at home… compelling me to serve her on V-Day. I just want to love her.

What does love look like in your relationships? Are you a student seeking attention from others, but you can’t forgive your friends for hurting you? Are you a parent who isn’t able to trust others because of broken promises and deal breakers? Are you a youth worker, or pastor who holds a grudge on those in your flock because “they” just don’t see things the way you do (as if you’re right and “they” are wrong)?

Maybe there is something to that confession app, and the Catholic Church should reconsider letting it be useful for honoring St. Valentine’s ambition to lead lives of grace.

This year I took a picture of the wedding ring my wife gave me, on our family Bible, at the verse dedicating our wedding day (above) with my iPhone and made her a card. She said, “I forgive you” and we smiled.

Why would you even say something like that…?


“If I had a nickle for every time a students has used that excuse with me… ‘my brother died, and I had to leave your class today’, I’d be a wealthy man. Prove it!” barked the professor at a local university.

Maybe a little context might help.

Over a year ago, as a pastor, I had the honor of performing a funeral for a local family whose son passed away over Christmas break. The funeral was attended by nearly 600 of this 23 year old kids’ friends and family. It blew the capacity of our sanctuary out and people were standing in the narthex outside the doors of the church to listen and grieve with the family.

The little brother of the man who had passed away was composed and poised as he came forward during the service to pay honor to his big brother and say a few words. He sauntered up to the stage, taking his deliberate time to soak in each moment ascending the steps to the pulpit, slowly turn around and gaze into almost every set of eyes that were welling with tears throughout the entire sanctuary. Honestly, I thought he would never speak because he was so riveted in focus on every face in the house. It was a 3 minute pause, and with unforgettable grace, he cleared his throat, began nodding his head with lips persed… and said, “Well, I guess I win the (insert brother’s name) look-alike contest.”

The congregation breathed a sigh, even laughed a little because the tension in the room was so heavy, and enjoyed his 3 minutes of memories of his brother. With a blown kiss to his mother, followed by the slow, deliberate saunter back down the stage steps to his chair by his father, he sat down. It’s a moment I will not soon forget. As far as funeral settings go, it’s one of the top “Made to Stick” memories that slipped into a moment in time as effortlessly as anything I’ve witnessed.

A month later, this little brother decided to go back to school and begin his freshman year at a local university. He was sitting in his class, when a panic attack hit him concerning the recent loss of his brother. He picked up his things, stood up in the middle of the professor’s lecture, and walked out of the room. The professor witnessed this, what he thought was a defiant act of rejection to his lecture (small, insecure professor that he must be) and decided to give the class a pop-quiz on the spot, so that little brother would lose points for the year.

The next class session, insecure professor spoke to little brother by saying the quote above… “Do you know how many times I’ve heard that excuse, ‘my brother died’? Prove it!” So little brother, without saying another word, returned home to his grieving mother, asked for a copy of the recent death certificate, and returned to insecure professor with the proven draft … sauntered into class with confidence, handed the document to his professor and took his seat.

Kudos to you little brother. My hat’s off to your second act of “Made to Stick” public response.

Reader: I don’t know about your style of leadership, but as a leader, teacher, professor, parent or pastor, how do you react to what seems like public rejection of your teaching or leading? Do you lead like this insecure professor did?

Granted, I don’t know what sort of things were going on in the professor’s life that day, that week, or month. I don’t know if professor was dealing with the emotional tide of potential job loss, or impending performance reviews, or personal rejection. I am not trying to do the same thing to this unknown professor by rejecting him along with his actions, like he did to little brother. I’m just wondering if he couldn’t have shown a little more grace in the situation.

Jesus Christ’s little step-brother, James tells us in his letter (James 1:19-20) “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

What is the kind of righteousness that God desires? Really… I read this as righteousness that is slow to become angry, that’s the kind of righteousness that God desires. Is it wrong to become angry? Certainly not, Jesus became angry at the denigration of the temple in his ministry. God expects Christian leaders to be righteously angry at the injustices in the world regarding sin. But to become humanly angry enough to throw a pop-quiz in class when a kid leaves your lecture, so that he might do poorly on a grade… that’s inappropriate anger.

“Quick to listen, slow to speak.”

You know what the redeeming factor is in this account of the little brother? He didn’t blow up at the professor. He didn’t get emotionally tied into his mother’s feelings when she questioned this professor’s actions. He didn’t respond, like I would have, in writing a letter to the dean of students trying to get Mr. Insecure Professor slapped on the wrist for treating a student like this, or even getting him fired. Nope. Mr. Little Brother just took it in stride, along with his grieving process, and did what the professor asked of him.

Little brother showed more grace, more honor, more deliberate “slow to become angry” (if at all) than I could have in this situation.

My perspective of leadership has grown by hearing about what not to do when feeling personal rejection… “prove it!”, and what TO DO when questioned (fairly or unfairly) about my actions.

What kind of leadership have you seen that reminds you to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry? How are you learning in this journey of “the kind of righteousness God desires”?

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