Day 2

Day 2The infamous saying tells us that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We typically say this when we are trying to inspire ourselves to start something new, but how do we stay inspired in the middle of the lengthy journey that we have  set out upon?

Yesterday was the first day of the year and my wife and I sat down over coffee and talked about our goals for this year. You probably did something similar. January 1 is the day that most people begin their new habits, quit some bad ones, and sign up for the program to help them accomplish the goal that they have set out to accomplish. Now it’s day 2. Yesterday was that first step, and today we begin to look down the road and realize the length of the journey we’ve just started. It’s like turning on your car’s GPS system only to realize you’re going to be in the car for a very long time. While you’re probably still excited and motivated, the weight of your task is setting in. As you look to what lies before you, I want to take a minute and warn you and encourage you.

First, the warning. Sometimes we get so excited about the first few steps of the journey, that we forget about the thousand miles to follow. The vision to change something in our lives can be very strong and it gets us pumped. So we jump in and make the change, only to realize that we will have to keep making that change everyday.

This is an unpopular opinion among some, but my favorite on screen version of Sherlock Holmes is Johnny Miller’s portrayal on the show Elementary. I do love Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal, as well, but there’s a part of the show Elementary that caused me to really engage Johnny Miller’s version on a deeper level. He’s a recovering addict. This piece of his character and his depiction adds a dose of real life to his character. Watching him work through his addiction really shows the time and effort it takes to grow and change your life. A couple of seasons into the show Sherlock grows frustrated with his situation and describes this process perfectly, “It’s the process of maintaining my sobriety. It’s repetitive. And it’s relentless. And above all, it’s tedious. When I left rehab, I accepted your influence, I committed to my recovery. And now, two years in, I find myself asking, ‘is this it?’ My sobriety is simply a grind.”

This change you’ve committed to or want to commit to, especially if it’s health related or focused on removing something from your life, is a grind. Be warned. It is relentless, repetitive, and tedious. Sherlock compares it to a leaky faucet that constantly requires maintenance. This new habit or change in your life, will require constant maintenance, so prepare yourself for the not so glorious daily grind.

Now, for the encouragement. This is how change happens. You’re on the right path. While your conversion experience, your decision to change, or the first time you gave up the habit make have been a landmark day, it’s the thousands to follow that really add up to change.

Like Jesus told his disciples, you have to die to your self daily. If you want to change, it requires daily sacrifice. Formation happens everyday over the course of a lifetime. Things like discipleship, recovery, and physical or emotional health are lifelong endeavors. While this may not sound too encouraging, please be encouraged. In a few months, you may not feel like your new spiritual practice or workout routine is getting you anywhere. Remember it’s about small improvements over the course of your thousand mile journey and not big leaps. You are changing little by little. When you get two weeks in and are unsure, remember that this takes time. As you look back 6 months, 1 year, or even 3 years into this change then you’ll begin to see that little by little, you have changed and you are growing.

The Eternal Current: A Review

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A few years ago I attended a service called The Practice for the first time. A friend of mine recommended the service to me, so I decided to go and check it out. The first few times I went, it was because of who was speaking that night, someone like Shauna Niequist, Sarah Bessey, or Ruth Haley Barton. After a couple of times, I found myself wanting to attend because I was drawn to the service instead of just the speaker. Now, I look forward to attending every couple of months as a kind of a personal retreat after busy seasons of ministry.

The Practice is a service and a community that embraces the idea that “A Sunday service is not the main event but rather a training ground to help all of us become people who can live the way Jesus would if he were in our place.” Because of that we should engage in practices together that prepare us to walk in this world as followers of Jesus. Every service is centered around liturgy and practice and sends you with a charge to live out what you’ve just learned. It’s this idea of a practice based faith that Aaron Niequist writes about in his book The Eternal Current. Continue reading

Going Deeper

Going Deeper

What does it mean to go deeper in our spiritual lives?

My family has probably logged hundreds of hours watching fish on our TV. This primarily stems from our girls’ love of fish. Both of them have been mesmerized by the brightly colored fish swimming around and since we don’t have an aquarium, we watch one on TV. You might think this is strange that we would use our TV as an aquarium, but many you’ve probably logged a multitude of hours watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Whether it’s the aquarium, shark week, or some other show like Blue Planet or Finding Dory, many of us have viewed the depths of the ocean through our TV, but never swam in the depths or in shark infested waters. Why? Because it’s scary. I for one like air and not being eaten by sharks. 

This translates into our spiritual lives as well. We desire depth in our relationship with God and have hopefully have made some attempts to go deeper, but have yet to truly venture out into the deep waters. Instead, we choose not to travel very far from where we started. We are like beachgoers who only venture only several yards into the ocean instead of several miles. We are exchanging a perceived depth for a truly profound relationship with God.  We read another book about God instead of getting to know God. Instead of letting a passage take us deep into the heart and mind of God, we are simply reading bigger commentaries. Instead of sitting with God in the silence, we are seeking elaborate practices that make us feel like we are going deeper. Instead of truly addressing the emotional and spiritual problems deep within us, we hope that simply changing behaviors will help us be better Christians.  Continue reading

Fixing Our Eyes

Fixing our Eyes

Where are you going? What is your aim? I find myself asking these questions while reading Acts 3.

This is where we find a well known story from Acts. Peter and John go to the temple to worship and meet a beggar. Instead of giving them money, they offer him Jesus. And he went walking, and leaping, and praising God.

If I would have been in the same situation, I’m not sure if I would have reacted the same way as Peter and John. I probably, like I do now, would have tried to scurry along without making eye contact. Continue reading

Walking in light of the Resurrection

Walking in light of theMuch like Christmas, Easter tends to be one of those things that we do and move on with our lives. The only difference is that you don’t find a lot of people walking around wishing that we would live every day like it’s Easter. We love the Christmas spirit, the idea of peace on earth, and exchanging gifts. We want every day to be Christmas. Easter doesn’t get the same kind of sentiments. Maybe because it is seen by many as more a specifically Christian holiday, but still Easter just isn’t as big as Christmas. I’m sure some of you do wish that every day was Easter, but the vast majority of our culture has already moved on from Easter even though it was the beginning of this week. Continue reading

Cease Striving

Cease Striving

Accomplishment.

This word drives our culture in many ways. In some ways, you’re only as good your best accomplishment. I know that in many parts of our world this is not the case, but when you look at the media what we see is a pretty clear testimony that our accomplishments define us.

Championship games, award shows, game shows, and even politics all point to what we have done and can do. It’s not hard to understand why, then, we strive to do. We want to succeed and to be recognized for our accomplishments. We have task managers and attend time management classes. We want to be able to do more and to do it better so that we can be the best. Your value is only in what you have done. Continue reading

Don’t Be a Tourist

Don't be a

“Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Religion is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure.” Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

When I started to work on the Discipleship Pathway at Westbrook, I looked for a metaphor that would do a decent job of describing our life in Christ. What does it look like to be a life long follower of Jesus Christ? After a lot of thinking and searching a landed on the idea of a pilgrim. In America, we tend to think of pilgrims as the people who started thanksgiving, but a pilgrim is a person who has set out on a journey for some sort of religious or spiritual reason. Some pilgrims travel to holy sites, other travel to discover themselves, or, like the pilgrims who came to america, they are traveling to find religious freedom.

For me, this has become one of the best metaphors for being a disciple of Jesus. There are a lot of good ways to describe what it’s like to be a Christian, but I think that this one does a fantastic job of capturing the lifelong journey of becoming more like Jesus. Continue reading

What to Expect in 2016

What to expect in

It’s been a while since I have been regularly posting on my blog. From April to September of Last year, I was posting almost weekly. After September, however, it seemed like the ideas weren’t coming as readily and October is the month where things start to get really busy for me, so I let it slide. Since then, I’ve only had three posts.

Part of me feels like that’s a failure. At the beginning of 2015 I wanted to write weekly. I wanted to be more consistent in my writing and be more intentional about sharing what was on my mind and heart. The great thing about last year is that I seemed to go through a season where I had a lot of ideas and I was able to be really consistent with my writing habits. That is, until I found myself in October with a lot to do without much to write about. What I’m beginning to realize, is that it’s not a failure when I don’t post. I’m not a professional blogger and I don’t have thousands of readers waiting for me to make another post. So this year, I’m changing my expectations for this blog. Continue reading

The Greatest of These…

I’ve taken a few weeks to write about the two “theological virtues” of faith and hope, but now I want to take some time to focus on love.  If you were ask Jesus or the New Testament authors what the most important characteristic of a disciple is, I’m pretty confident that love would be the answer:

IMG_0599“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:43-44

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

“…whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” Romans 13:9-10

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

Continue reading

More than Wishful Thinking

Photo Credit: pol sifter via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: pol sifter via Compfight cc

Hope is a powerful word. When you hear stories of people who made it through terrible trials, you often hear them say that they had hope or that they tried to not lose hope. It’s one of the words that helped propel President Obama to win his election. It’s also a very important word in the pages of scripture. It is a word that is supposed to describe God’s people, but what is it?

Much like faith, we use the word hope frequently and to some extent have missed the deeper meaning of the word. Especially in the case of hope, we often tend to water down the word so that when we see it in scripture it doesn’t have the power that it ought to have. If you’re like me most of the time, most of the time that you hear the word hope it’s wishful thinking, something that you would like to come to pass but it may not happen. Hope in scripture has a different meaning. It’s not wishful thinking. It’s confidence. Continue reading