The Church Gathers To…

I’m now in the bonus episodes of The Rise & Fall of Mars Hill. The episode Everything is Still Falling Apart has this quote that had me saying, “Heard.”

The whole purpose of the gathering of the church is to prepare people for their encounters with death…Everything we do runs in the opposite direction. It’s all in the direction of triumphalism. It’s all in the direction of how great life can be if we get our act together or follow this leader.

Mike Cosper is referring to the writings of another leader. It richly resignates with me. It seems like another way to paint the picture of living for the kingdom of heaven, not building treasures here, etc.

In some odd way this thought validates what I’ve often told people. If I had a choice between participating in a wedding or a funeral, hands down I pick a funeral. Whatever you call it, life celebration/memorial service/funeral, everyone comes with a reality check in their minds and souls. So much room exists, so many impactful moments are possible in the days surrounding the passing of a loved one. If we are prepared, we don’t miss them, and they have the potential for even deeper joy in our sorrow than we experience in other expected, highly anticipated, and tremendously prepared for joyful life moments.

How’s your church preparing you for death? Probably not a question you’ve ever asked. Which probably indicates it’s worth answering.

Photo by Antoine J. on Unsplash

Jack’s Purpose

Jack Dietrich passed away a couple of weeks ago. He was 92. His memorial service was held yesterday.

I didn’t know Jack (A friend asked me on behalf of the family to sing his favorite hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”) But the service was one of those that when you left you felt like you knew the person regardless of previous history.

Everyone who spoke weaved the story of Jack’s life which included his influence on their teaching careers, his love of family and really everyone, his witty humor, and his outspoken faith. Apparently, if you walked by his porch on the way to the beach, most likely you got an introduction to sit with Jack.

That was the neighbor’s story who gave the eulogy. His initial introductory conversation with Jack lasted three hours and started an unexpected, life-changing relationship. As he described it, the life change was for both of them.

Although Jack had lived a full and successful life, he asked his neighbor the same question I’m guessing all 92-year-olds do. “Why am I still here?” His neighbor unashamedly told him, “You’re here for me. God knew I needed you. That’s why you’re here.”

Truth is, we don’t have to live 92 years to ask Jack’s question. For a multitude of reasons at any given time, our minds and emotions look at our situation and wonder why we’re in it. We question what’s the point. And as is often the case, the point isn’t about us; it’s about someone else. Someone that needs to be noticed. Someone that needs to be heard. Someone that needs to be touched. Someone that needs something that we have-time on the porch.

We sell ourselves short. Okay, maybe you don’t, but I know I do. There’s plenty God has given me that doesn’t cost me much, if anything, to give away. Occasionally, I’m reminded that’s it’s not as hard to know the why as I make it. Occasionally, all it takes is saying yes to singing a song, to give someone something I can easily give, and the why is clear.

Photo by Ana Essentiels on Unsplash

Bunker Life Lessons

This transpired yesterday during Kramer Hickock‘s 3rd round of the PGA Championship in Tulsa.

So many life lessons can be drawn from Hickock’s situation, response, and result.

Rather than me sharing a list for you, I encourage you to watch it several times and make your own list.

After you watch it once, start your list.

Each time you watch it, add more life lessons to your list until you get at least three.

Then share these lessons with someone soon.

We can learn so much from life’s bunker moments. Keys to making these lessons stick with us include pausing to mark them, making note of them, and sharing them. They have more of a chance to become part of us when we do more than just notice them.

Happy Pausing, Noting, and Sharing!

Photo by Peter Drew on Unsplash

500, working on 1,000

Yesterday morning I had a minor fall while running, so I’m sidelined for a short time. In my world, that means it’s time to hit the pool.

My pool routine is pretty basic-30 minutes of laps in the community pool where I live. Usually no one is there, so I have it to myself.

About 5 minutes into my lap routine, I see a neighbor, who I guess to be around 80 years old, heading up the parking lot to the pool entrance. She casually enters the pool area, but she appears to also have a routine. Like me, she’s here to get to work, not socialize. We’ve never met, but we greet one another and go about our routine.

At the time, I didn’t know what hers was. She did her thing while I did mine, opposite sides of the pool. Twenty minutes later, she was done and heading to the gate to leave.

She wished me a pleasant swim to which I replied, “Five more minutes.”

“I do 500 strokes. I’m working on getting to 1,000, but I’m not there yet,” she expressed peacefully but with a little excitement. Then off she went.

I smiled as she walked away. Several thoughts rushed through my mind. “How sharp…Good for you…Did you really just count to and swim 500 strokes…So that’s your secret.”

Thanks for the life lesson, neighbor.

Have a plan. Have a goal. Be happy where you are. Strive to improve.

Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash

This Life is Just a Dot

Yesterday I posted thoughts from Bruce Wilkinson’s book A Life God Rewards. Before leaving that, here’s one other quote that could impact your day.

Most of our life happens after our physical death.

That’s “chew worthy.”

Of course, he’s referring to the belief of eternal life. Can’t say I’ve heard anyone put it like this. Gives it fresh reflection.

To make it more clear, he gives six main events of forever life: Life, Death, Destination, Resurrection, Repayment, and Eternity. The thought that this life we know is just a dot on an unending line might bring you joy or fear. Wilkinson’s objective of his book is to help you not wonder or worry about what might await you outside the dot. What you believe and how you live now can give you hope for the rest of “most of your life.”

Chew worthy.

Photo credit: Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Known: The Secret to Meaning

(Post #3 in a 4-part series collaboration)

By Shelby Welch (bio below)

Mark Twain is credited with saying, “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you figure out why.”

When I typed in “Meaning of Life” into Google, it gave me 2,350,000,000 results. It gave me results about books, videos, lectures, and numbers-all these different ways that people have tried to find meaning in their lives. Wikipedia even attempted to give possible answers such as to realize one’s potential, to seek wisdom and knowledge, to do good, to love, to have power-even the ultimate nihilistic answer: life has no meaning.

We see it over and over in media. Children dreaming of what they will do one day. Young adults trying to find what they are supposed to do with their lives. Middle-aged people trying to find purpose after a large upset in their lives. And the elderly scrambling to find meaning before their time on this earth runs out.

I am not guiltless in this pursuit. I have sought meaning to my existence in love, in friendships, in academics, and in achievements. Spoiler alert: they all come up empty. Lovers leave you. Friends betray you. Someone will always outsmart you. Someone will always outscore you.

But this year in my reading I think I may have discovered the secret. In C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain, he points out the ultimate meaning behind Man’s existence. “If He who in Himself can lack nothing chooses to need us, it is because we need to be needed.” Our purpose in life is not that which we can give God but that we may be loved because we are His. Oh, how freeing it is to know that the merit of my life is not based on what I can achieve but on what my God has done for me.

Psalm 139:17 reads, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!” Lewis calls it “the Intolerable Compliment.” That the God of all the Universe would choose to love Man, the one creature that is continually rejecting him; that he gives us the opportunity to love him back. That is the purpose of life. That we are known and loved by our Creator.

Thank you, Father God. Thank you for all that You have created and all that You do in our lives. Remind us of our purpose when we become anxious and weary, when we become tired and downtrodden, when we become weak and insecure. Remind us that our purpose is not in being the best parent in the world, not in being the highest-ranking employee, not in achieving all the accomplishments our peers have, and not in the relationships we choose to form. But that our purpose is to be known and loved by You. May we spend the rest of our lives learning to love You more.

Amen.


Blogger Bio: Shelby serves the animals and clients of Bishop Animal Shelter. She and her husband Frank met while studying at Florida Southern College and were married November 12, 2016. Shelby has swam with sharks.

6 Lessons from the Blind Runner


The pic above is a screenshot of the results from the race I ran in PA yesterday. If you know me at all, you know I can analyze the heck out of a list like this. Don’t get me started. Actually, it’s too late anyway…did that hours ago.

Before you focus on my name and placement, let your mind look over the rest of the results. One detail that glares at you is that finishers 2&3 crossed the finish line at the same time. Not unusual in the running world, particularly in smaller, local races. Usually that means family members or running friends ran together, literally-they stayed together, and probably chatted, the entire course length. Not my thing, but it is a lot of people’s.

But without being there yesterday, you wouldn’t know there is more to Adam and Brandon’s story than they ran a race together. And I can’t say I know a whole lot more than that since I didn’t talk to them. But I did watch them. I simply had to. Why? Because one of them wasn’t going to start, let alone finish, without the other one. Brandon was blind, and Adam was his guide.

In a much bigger race I once saw such a team at the start line, but I never saw them on the course after we started. This second opportunity was different. Because of the layout of the course, we passed each other twice. In all, I had four chances to watch them do their thing. And do it they did.

So instead of just analyzing these results yesterday, I thought about what I could learn from these two men. Apparently, quite a bit. Pause and think about them separately. What would it take for you, 17 years old and blind, to attempt to run a half marathon? And if you can see, what would it take for you to guide a blind runner any distance, let alone 13.1 miles? Again, I didn’t talk to them, so I’m guessing what the answers are to these questions.

For the rest of this post, here are the lessons I take away from putting myself in Brandon’s shoes-which seems incredibly assuming.

  • Trust

This has to be the most important thing they both have in their work together. Adam doesn’t have a chance if Brandon doesn’t put his trust in him.

  • Courage

Maybe Brandon’s not seen his entire life and only knows what he knows, but how else can you define his willingness to step up to the start line without declaring courage. I met another runner running his first half yesterday, and he needed some courage. But he could see and was old enough to be Brandon’s dad. Courage was on full display.

  • Joy

Brandon’s face before, during, and after the race exuded joy. Fear, not present. Doubt, defeated. He even ran a recovery mile or so afterwards with that same joyful countenance.

  • Fulfillment

Brandon knew he belonged with everyone else. He experienced the same fulfillment as all finishers do when they cross that line. He did not have to feel or think less than.

  • Exemplify

If I were to ask Brandon what he hopes others learn from seeing him run, I’d put money on his answer being something like, “I hope they see what’s possible. I hope they learn to trust, have courage, pursue joy, and know fulfillment.” (Ok…those are my words, but you get the point.)

  • Normalcy

We are all normal as God created us. Embrace it. Be the normal God made you to be.

To be honest, in life we’re all blind runners. Wouldn’t you agree? So let’s thank God for all the Brandons who show up in our lives to remind us.

3 Values for Your Calling

In some circles, the term calling can make for quite a discussion. People get all wrapped up in what it means and implies or how they feel when asked any questions that include it. You could say it is a trigger word for many people for many reasons.

But not enough for us to avoid using it. For much of this year, again for various reasons by various people, the idea of our lives having a calling has sprinkled conversations in my circles. Regardless of whether it’s used to describe one’s purpose or to indicate how others view God’s unique design for someone else’s vocation, calling is considered by most to be something to be taken seriously.

So, much like choosing to marry or to procreate, how one views one’s calling determines its fulfillment. As a Christian, my values about my calling derive from my belief in the sovereignty of God. He’s in charge of all things. When that belief goes offline, life gets wacky. To keep it in check, here are three values that cannot be dismissed.

True callings are God-given.

Everything I have comes from him-that includes their purposes. My job, my friends, my talents, my time, my possessions, my money-all of it. When I allow him to reign over all areas of my life, I’m living from the value of his calling for me through them.

True callings are God-ended.

Since they come from him, then it only seems to reason that he determines when they are completed. I leave a job when he says. A friendship ends or doesn’t end when he says. My talents are to be used until he says stop. My money goes where he directs until he says, “That’s finished. Now send it here.” All my callings start and end by God. All other’s thoughts, including the enemy’s, take a backseat to his.

True callings are God-empowered.

Any calling from God in any area of life comes with the capacity to do it. When the first two values are in place, I resist the temptation to fulfill my calling in my own power. Without his empowerment, the calling has no chance of fulfilling all he intended. When tempted to doubt their calling can be accomplished, believers must yield to his power.

No matter where you are in your calling-just starting, sailing along, or wishing to be done-hear the words of Joshua:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9

Lincoln: How He Managed His Burden


I picked up this audio book last weekend at the library. It hasn’t disappointed. Here’s one example why:

“I know there is a God, and that he hates the injustice of slavery. I see the storm coming, and I know that his hand is in it. If he has a place and a work for me, and I think he has, I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything. I know I am right because I know that liberty is right; for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God.” -Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois, 1860

Anything you read or watch about Lincoln depicts the burden he carried. What man or woman can imagine it? But when I heard this note read, I heard how he managed the burden.

  • He managed it because he believed the burden came from God.
  • He managed it because he was discerning to see it coming before it arrived.
  • He managed it because he trusted the work, call, and preparation by God for anyone to carry any size burden.
  • He managed it because he knew his place, which he chose to humbly embrace.
  • He managed it because he viewed it as a burden for truth and right.
  • He managed it because he was aligned with God, the life-giver and sustainer of all burden carriers.

What can you learn from Lincoln’s example? How could you better manage your burden with these principles?

More Than A Backscratcher

Could you imagine Jesus saying, “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”?

Yeah, me neither.

Why is that?

Two good thoughts:

  1. Scratching each other’s backs implies equal benefit. Hard to believe any human could match the benefit received from a Jesus back scratch.
  2. The statement also implies conditions. That’s indicated by “if.” Jesus’ if statements weren’t conditions in which he sought a personal need being met. He was all about his Father’s kingdom. Not his. Not ours. (See Matthew 16:24, 19:21; John 8:42, 11:40)


The Kicker:

He offered more than a back scratch. He offered several times to lay down his life (John 10 and 15). Then he did it. And that provided more than a back scratch. It offered abundant life now and eternal life later.

He’s someone worth following. And to start following, maybe we could say, “Since you laid down your life for me, I’ll lay down my life for you.” 

He’s more than a Backscratcher.