Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fierce in Seattle

I drove from Portland to Seattle late Sunday afternoon. I wished for just one more travel day, for the opportunity to take a detour and spend at least a couple of hours with friends in a little town where I lived for nine years, but stayed on the freeway heading north. Even so, I enjoyed just driving by signs with names of towns that sounded so normal when I was a kid simply because they were familiar, but now sound delightfully different, like Tukwila, Tenino, Pe Ell, Yelm, Steilacoom, Puyallup.

Monday was beautiful. Not cozy warm, of course, but sunny and beautiful, with just enough clouds to add visual interest to the blue sky. I stayed at a place near the Space Needle, and spent the two days at a wonderfully friendly, hospitable conference center right next to the water. The weather shifted to a cold, windy snow on Tuesday morning before returning to mere cloudiness by afternoon. It was fascinating.

Why Seattle? For Fierce Conversations.

I read the book about a year ago, and it's one of those which has planted itself firmly in my soul. The target audience is business leadership, but the applicability is far beyond that audience. In fact, I see the applicability to all levels of spiritual leadership -- families, care groups, Sunday School, pastors, board members, team leaders, etc. -- even greater than that in business. If you're thinking I'd recommend the book for you, you're probably right. Read it, and let's talk. I would love to hear what you think!

More on the book later. For now, here is a quote to chew on, from a really smart guy named Albert Einstein:

"We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality. It cannot lead; it can only serve."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Some decisions just don't require a lot of seeking-God's-will kind of prayer. Hold that thought; we'll come back to it, probably tomorrow.

I finished reading/re-reading Hybels' book Axiom last night. It's good stuff, all the way through. He spoke some about the concept and a few of the axioms at the 2008 Leadership Summit. He talked about the process of making good decisions, and said Christian leaders have typically pushed their decisions through a series of four questions:
  1. Does the Bible say anything about this?
  2. What would smart advisers advise me to do?
  3. What have we learned from the pain, gain, and experience of past decisions?
  4. Is the Spirit prompting in a particular direction?
The concept of the book is that good leaders, over time, become able to make better decisions and make them faster, essentially condensing their learning in all four questions into brief sayings that capture great truths. And that's not just true in "leadership." Consider conflict, work schedules, strengthening marriage, disciplining children, end of life, and so on. The issues may be complex, and situations different each time, but there are truths to discover throughout our lives that should guide us more clearly through the future.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Like Tweets?

I looked at Twitter a bit today. Can't say I'd be likely to use it, but at least it is a bit more familiar. So... here's a post inspired by Twitter...

Do I actually know anyone on Twitter? Who?

To the dentist. The folks there are some of the nicest people I never want to see.

Out and about, the whole town was creepy quiet. Everyone but me and the dentist watching the inauguration?

CNN described a scene at the inauguration this way: "...amid an affable crowd that tried to let shorter onlookers and children to the front for better views." As it should be.

Mark wants a photo looking across the Valley. Primary Children's has good lookout spot. See downtown beyond the trees? Nasty inversion. Ick.
Visited a young friend and her mom in hospital today. She's looking good, and has a great spirit. Made me smile. Great med staff there, too.

Mark called, just to say hello and ask if I'd survived the dentist. He is a good man.

Blogging through the lectionary again. The next passage is 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Any of y'all want to take a stab at this one?

Monday, January 19, 2009

The God Who Knows Me

Epiphany is the season of the liturgical year when Christians for many centuries have celebrated God being revealed, particularly through the person of Jesus. Psalm 139 is an Old Testament passage -- that is, written before Jesus came to earth as a baby -- which reveals God in a particularly interesting sort of meta-way; that is, it reveals God as one who reveals us.

O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord...
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalm 139:1-4, 23-24)

God knows each one of us, and wants to be known by each one of us. It's individual, and interpersonal. The God of the universe is not satisfied simply to be respected; He seeks genuine relationship.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Entrusted Revelation

When he was a very young boy, Samuel's parents dedicated him to the Lord. This meant something different than when we do baby dedications at church; they actually left him under the care of Eli the priest, allowing him to be raised in the temple, to serve there. One night after bedtime, Samuel responded when called, and went to Eli: "Here I am." But it was not Eli who had called him. This was repeated twice more, and Eli realized what was happening. It was actually God calling to Samuel, and Samuel did not recognize God. Eli gave Samuel brief instruction in this new experience: "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening'" (I Samuel 3).

God had been there the whole time, but Samuel had not yet learned to recognize Him, and did not know how to respond. This young boy had been entrusted to the care and instruction of Eli. What a privilege, and what a responsibility! Young Samuel grew up to be a tremendously influential figure in the story of Israel. I wonder what may have been different if Eli had not taken hold of such teachable moments with him.

Parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, neighbors, friends, and others -- which potential conversations does God entrust to you, and how will you respond, this week, and beyond?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Goodnight, Brother

Rev. Louis Z. Enriquez passed away on Tuesday. Today I joined hundreds of others in honoring his life, mourning our loss, and celebrating his home-going. He was a man who loved God, loved his family, loved his congregation, loved his community. He loved being a pastor, and kept at it until the very end.

During the funeral, one of the pastors (I don't remember which one -- there were many!) referred to II Timothy 4, in which the apostle Paul addressed young Timothy, to whom he had been a mentor. In those moments, verses 7-8 nearly leaped off the page at me:

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day -- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

Amazingly, the tremendous crowd in the sanctuary today represents only a relatively small portion of those Brother Louie impacted throughout his life and fifty years of ministry. He served Christ with faithful persistence and great love. He fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith. He served with the joy of knowing that, by the grace of God, a crown of righteousness would be his.

As one pastor said at the end of the graveside service, we did not come to say goodbye, but goodnight, and Brother Louie, we'll see you in the morning.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Space In Between

My flight today was scheduled to leave at 10:50am, and we were
actually on track to take off a little bit early. The plane pulled back from the gate and turned toward the runway, then stopped. They needed to de-ice the runway first, and found a mechanical issue on the plane in the process. We returned to the gate, filed off the aircraft, and waited a couple of hours until they could get another plane for us. Quite a few were inconvenienced, particularly due to missing connections, but it was a good group of folks. The airline employees remained friendly and professional while working efficiently to address the problems, and the demeanor of the passengers generally ranged from mere quiet sighs of some due to the delay, to happy laughter of others they filled the time with conversation. It was nice to have that time together with such people.

In our hurry-driven culture, such events are too seldom so relaxed. Too often we fret, as if that were capable simply by worrying of changing the situation for the better. I like Heather Ryan's perspective at such times, in Why I Love Traffic Jams. She references an article which says peak-time travelers spend an extra 38 hours per year in traffic jams, then re-frames that "wasted" time. "Too often traveling is just the quickest route between two points. We forget the vast spaces in-between." I want to look more often and more deeply into those vast spaces.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Warrior God

I listened tonight to a sermon preached by Pastor Craig Groeschel at He speaks of a God bigger than the safe, super-sweet, excessively gentle, non-challenging one that we too often have grabbed hold of in our culture. He proclaims that the God who is love is also a warrior. This is a God worth following.

It's certainly not a new idea. Check out Psalm 29:3-5:
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

This is the God who calls us to something far beyond our silly little false conceptions.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What Will I Do?

I had some errands to run today. Nothing complicated, just a series of little stops here and there for simple little things. I wrote them all down before I left so I wouldn't forget any, and so I could travel in an efficient order. Once the list was written, I was nearly ready to tackle it. The only thing left to do was make sure I had everything I would need along the way. That was easy, too.

But then came the question in my head: What will I bring to do if I have to wait somewhere? After all, I was going to have ten minutes of not-driving while my car's oil was changed. Heaven forbid I wind up in such a situation without activity.

Where does this come from? There are some deadlines looming, and there is much to accomplish. It would be easy to pretend that I'm only trying to be efficient with my time, but that's not my deepest motivation. Perhaps I've become so accustomed to consistent activity that full stillness has somehow become uncomfortable.

I think this is a significant part of why God commanded us to honor Sabbath. When I set aside a day each week to step away from the constant activity and conflicting expectations of typical daily life, I test out and gain confidence in what I already know in my head to be true -- that God really is in control, that the world will continue spinning just fine without me watching its every move. It is good to rest in the presence and goodness of God.

I am thankful for the gift of Sabbath.