The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

I’m drawn to folks with a strong sense of purpose. Many of the folks I admire are dedicated to their craft, their work, their art. I have been a dabbler all my life, and I’ve got a lot of hobbies but don’t know that I am totally dedicated to any one thing..except Jesus. I can imagine not playing the guitar anymore, though with a great deal of loss, or one of the other instruments I dabble with, but I don’t see life without seeking the Lord.

Luckily, I don’t have to do anything like that. But it doesn’t mean I don’t struggle, don’t worry about being enough, doing enough, being the person I think God wants me to be. I’m alcoholic, and at this writing I’ve been sober for a little more than 33 years. What I’ve learned through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is a straightforward way of seeking God — no pretense, no BS, but a sheer look up from the floor and crying for help. I’ve been a pastor for nearly 18 years, and a churchman for most of my life, and I’ve seen more honest cries for help more regularly in recovery rooms than anywhere else.

There’s a gift in losing all you have, and finding out what you held on to was worthless. Living a life in truth — “practicing these principles in all our affairs” — leads to the abundant life Jesus talks about in John’s Gospel, or so it seems to me.

Here’s a couple of verses I’ve been thinking about in the last few weeks, and I took the blog title from the second one. Both of these quotes are from Eugene Peterson’s The Message:

I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you and have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine”, but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Galatians 2:20

This notion of dying to self, and putting it in these terms that “my ego is no longer central” is so eye-opening, isn’t it? I am not going to be so preoccupied with what you are thinking of me, or if you are thinking of me, and I’m not going to keep trying to prove myself to God. I don’t have to — God loves me, and I don’t have to keep trying to prove that to myself or others.

Here’s the second quote, this one from Matthew 11:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11: 26-30.

I’ve got a lot to learn about writing a blog, and I’ll include some sermons in this as well and perhaps a podcast, but it’s good for all of us to remember that God loves us, and we don’t have to prove it to ourselves, to others, or to God.

We are invited to live into it. Maybe you’d like to walk with me on this journey.

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Already and Not Yet

My grandfather’s office lamp. He died in October, 1960, just before I turned six years old. He taught me John 3:16, which changed my life forever — already and not yet.

Psalm 146

Romans 6: 1-14

(Occasionally I put sermons in this spot. This was preached at Cooks Point Methodist Church in Caldwell, TX, on May 7, 2023, part of a sermon series on Romans.)

FOCUS:  The Kingdom of God has come, and will be here.  


You’ve heard it before:  The kingdom of God is already and not yet.  We can have trouble with hearing something like that, well…because it doesn’t make sense, sounds upside down.  How can something be here already and not here yet?  

That’s what we are going to talk about, and we are going to see how this upside down them resounds throughout the Bible as God’s word surprises us and shocks us out of our ideas to show us a new way of life.   

And throughout the Bible, it is different from what we think it will be, or should be.  The younger son gets the blessing, like Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Rueben and Joseph, Aaron and Moses, Gideon and his brothers, David and his brothers…

Women who had been barren have children, even children in their old age.  Sarah, Abraham’s wife, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist and the virgin Mary giving birth to our Lord.  And other oddities:  Abraham was 75 when the Lord told him to leave his family and his land and go; Moses was 80 when the Lord told him to confront Pharaoh…

there is so much more as we read through the Bible and see the unlikely ways the Lord moves in our lives, and we can be filled with wonder — or as the great Charles Wesley hymn sings:  “lost in wonder, love and praise.”  

And the most unlikely of all — God came for us.  No other religion or faith tradition has such a thing happening.  God came for us, and transforms us in our lives, and through our lives, in our suffering and through our suffering. With Christ, we are not redeemed from our suffering, but transformed through it.  We are saved from our sin by Jesus becoming sin and dying on the cross, and saved for life by His resurrection.  When Jesus rose from the dead he ushered in the beginning of the kingdom of God, so it is already here, but it is also not yet.  

The kingdom of God will be fully realized when Christ comes again, like we see in Revelation 21 and other places in the Bible, with a new heaven and a new earth and a new life forever with God. 

But in the meantime, we can see the kingdom of God making inroads in our lives, like grass growing through concrete, or water dripping on stone…eventually breaking through.  

I want to give an example of what I’m talking about in telling you a little about the Kairos walk last month in the Wallace Pack prison unit in Navasota.  I’m going to read you an email I received from one of the men at my table, but first we’re going to look at Psalm 146, which was read earlier.

Praise the LORD!  Praise the LORD, O my soul! 

I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.  

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.  

When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. 

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.  The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.  

The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.  The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.  The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations.  Praise the LORD!

When I read that Psalm last week, part of praying the Psalms through in a month, it made such an impact on me, just coming from those days spent in the prison.  

I’m in contact with several of the men we’ve ministered to, and here is part of an email I received from one of them: 

E: Hello Frank! What a true blessing you have been in my life, as well as C.J. , Ron, all the wonderful volunteers that shared such a truly beautiful, and wonderful experience called Kairos Walk #5 ! I’m still in awww over that weekend! It definitely left an impression on my life! I’m signing up my sister and niece for Kairos Outside! I need to see about getting in touch with Tucker, find out the closest location to Webberville, Tx. (east of Austin)? I’m waiting on the registration forms from the chaplaincy office right now! I feel such a bond with you brothers from that weekend, will you let others know I’d enjoy it very much, to keep in touch with them! It helps me stay on the right path! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping in touch! You wouldn’t believe just how much this unit has turned around since I arrived here January 6,2012! : o lol You could sense the tension so thick…. unbelievable! Like it had a permanent black cloud over us at all times! PRAISE GOD!!! He turned that all around, especially allowing such strong, special people to come in here and share the word, agape love, all in Kairos (God’s time) Please wish your wife a very Happy Birthday on behalf of us here at Pack! Thank you and God Bless!! Until next time………

The LORD set this prisoner free, but he is still in prison.  Do you see it?  The kingdom of God is already here, and not yet.  Our brother has been set free by the LORD, but he is still in prison. He is still in prison, but free….

Already here, and not yet.  

Now we move to our passage in Romans.  It’s been a few weeks since we’ve been here, but as you remember the apostle Paul wrote this letter to a church he hoped to visit.  He did not start this church, but he hoped to visit it one day, and in the course of writing this letter he wrote one of the most important letters ever written.  He starts the letter by showing us that everyone has sinned — it is the great leveler.  What links me with all of you, with everyone else, with everyone else who ever lived?    We are all sinners, all alike have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  

And Christ died and was resurrected for our sin.  Sin keeps us from God, and there is nothing we can do about it.  Our good works, our rituals, our creeds — these things can be good, but they do not save us from sin.  We are saved only by God’s grace, a gift we do not deserve and have not earned, but we can receive if we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  

There is no sin too great for God’s grace.  

But that doesn’t mean we take God for granted, that we can go on intentionally sinning, knowing that God will forgive us whatever we do.  Here’s where Paul picks up in Romans 6, starting at verse 1:

What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 

By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?  

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his dead?  

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

For sin will have no domination over you, since you are not under law, but under grace.  

So do you see this?  When we are believe what Jesus has done, when we believe that Jesus did this for us — for me, for you, for us! — we die to sin with our baptism.  We are raised to new life with Jesus’ resurrection.  Sin doesn’t have dominion, doesn’t have control over us.  We will still sin, but not because we  have no choice.  

We are freed from the power of sin.  In a few minutes, we’ll sin the powerful Charles Wesley hymn, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, and remember this when we sing, “He breaks the power of cancelled sin, he set the prisoners free; his blood can make the foulest clean, his blood availed for me.”  

It’s already been done, friends.  And we just step into it and believe.  I remember when I was an active alcoholic the first time I realize I didn’t have the compulsion to drink — I could, but I didn’t have to.  I’m still an alcoholic, but I don’t drink.  The kingdom of God is already here, but not yet…

Do you see?  Do you see?  God is working amongst us now.  Prisoners are set free.  The blind can see.  The poor have the good news preached to them.  And the Lord Jesus is among us.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


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Unite My Heart to Fear Your Name

Near where we used to live in southeast Texas

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything save for my work. I’m closing in on 20 years “under appointment” as is termed in my area of ministry. We retired in December, 2020, and were privileged to take a part-time appointment in a wonderful small church with people who want to know more about Jesus. It’s been surprising, and healing, after all the postured silliness of the denomination splitting.

But that’s another story…

And last week our beloved pet Abigayle, 11 years old, ended her journey after a growth formed inside her and kept her body from working. She and I walked thousands of miles together. She was my dog and I was her person. Perhaps there will be more on that, too. Our grandchildren loved playing “Hide ‘N Seek” with me because Abigayle followed me where ever I went, making me pretty easy to find.

Today I came across this in my reading, from Psalm 86:

For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O LORD; that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86: 10-11.

“Unite my heart to fear your name.” Sometimes Scripture can be so revealing. I know my heart has been divided. I want to write, I want to play music, I want to….

In all this it is as if I have been holding something back, some reserve for myself or for what I really want to do or how to make my mark.

But today that seems so foolish, so self-centered, so sinful. Holding something back like a child hiding a dirty rock in a field of diamonds. Unite my heart, O LORD.

In the past week we have had five services, and one wedding. My sister and my brother have both been hospitalized with serious illness. My good friend is battling a recurrence of cancer. My brother-in-law has been hospitalized. I already wrote about my dog…

This weekend, God willing, I’m going into a nearby prison to be part of a Kairos team, offering a type of freedom that most of us cannot imagine. If you’ve read this far, please consider praying for our team and for our “brothers-in-white.” If you like, reply with your first name and last name initial and location, and you’ll be part of a paper chain of prayer that will surround our training room.

For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O LORD; that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86: 10-11.

With my doubts, with my holdouts, with my sin, God has used even me. And God can use you, too.

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35 Years, Clean and Sober

Proverbs 15:33 — The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

This is the cross-over year. I’m 68 years old, and today I have 35 years clean and sober. I’ve lived more than half my life in the new way, and been gifted with so much more than I could imagine. Today I know the love of the Lord, I know the love of my wife, family and friends, and have work that sustains, challenges and uplifts me.

I’ve often received congratulations on these successive years of sobriety, and I appreciate them, but I’ll admit to feeling a little bit awkward. I came in early, still married, still in a home, still having a car, etc. I began in a club where folks had these wild tales of waking up in ditches, of losing everything. God took the desire away from me when I asked. It took me a long time to ask, but when I did He took it away. That’s not true for everyone.

I grew up in an alcoholic home. I saw what alcohol abuse can do to a family, and I didn’t want to live that out again with me being in the center. I think I deserve the same type of congratulations as a man deep underwater in fear of his life who finally surfaces. Should we congratulate him on deciding to breathe when he has been given the chance? Maybe so. At least he didn’t decide to take another underwater plunge right away.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and the “style of living which demands rigorous honesty” has been and continues to be a great gift, and without me being an alcoholic I might never have known. I’ve found more honesty in AA rooms, and in prisons, than in many places. The truly broken who know they are broken yearn to be healed.

I’m grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ, I’m grateful for my wife, family and friends, for my sponsors Jesse and Mike, and for all the folks along the way. I’m grateful for life, and for the gift of humility which makes a true life possible.

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Circumcision of the Heart

Near our home

I’m preaching a sermon series on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans. This letter is dense, and wonderful and powerful; perhaps no other writing better explains the Christian faith than this letter Paul wrote to a church he did not found, but hoped to visit. (He did arrive in Rome, finally, but in a prisoner’s chains.)

John Wesley, the co-founder with his brother Charles of the Methodist Movement, wrote a sermon called “Circumcision of the Heart” based on part of chapter two. Circumcision, an intimate physical cut, was for generations a sign of the covenant between Abraham’s people and God. Gradually, as the family of Abraham became a people, then a nation, they became the only nation bound together chiefly by a common faith — the people of the covenant. After the destruction of their Temple and nation, after the predicted 70-year exile in Babylon, the promised return began, but others were coming too. With the coming of Jesus, the kingdom of heaven drew near, and Gentiles learned of the grace of God.

Paul wrote of the circumcision of the heart in chapter two, and Wesley wrote that there were four attributes to the torn heart: humility, faith, hope, and charity (love).

In the A.A. rooms I’ve attended, we often hear: “there is a God, and it ain’t you.” Several times in Scripture we see “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I think this means the same thing. We need to know there is a God, and we need to know God is bigger than our understanding, bigger than our desires, bigger than anything we can imagine. This is humility.

Humility leads to faith — not a tepid, lukewarm spit out of my mouth faith, but a vibrant, robust faith that grows as we live our lives in God. This is a faith that God will see us through, will be with us no matter what happens, and we will always be in God’s hands. “Where have you seen God?” We ask this all the time in our Inspire gatherings, in the church I’m privileged to pastor, in fellowship band meetings. “Where have you seen God?” Can you not see him? Learn to open your eyes!

When we have learned to exercise our faith we develop a sense of hope, because we see that God has not let us down yet! I don’t mean that everything will turn out like I want it to, but that everything will turn out, and God is in the midst of it. The greater our humility, the more robust the faith, the more optimistic the hope…

The last of these attributes is charity, or love. With humility, faith, hope and charity we will develop gratitude, and gratitude can change everything. Forgiveness is possible with gratitude, and gratitude can be a key to the Gospel — the power of salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek… (Romans 1:16).

While we were sinners, Christ died for us who are called, who feel the yearning toward God. Our defenses fall, our hearts are torn open, and we are ready to step into the life we are offered, with that intimate cut of our heart torn open like the heavens when Jesus came up from the waters of his baptism. (Mark 1:0)

Then maybe we can hear what happens next: And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

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Reflections from a Virtual Prayer Meeting

Witness from the prayer gathering for the Inspire Movement, seeking to make whole-life disciples of Jesus Christ.

We met for the first International Prayer Gathering of 2023, under the able and inspired leadership of the delightful Robin.  I suppose because it is more familiar now than it needs be, but we had folk in  Ireland, England and three in our house here in Texas – different countries, different continents, different times, one God.  It is too easy for the absolutely amazing to be taken for granted.

Robin led us with questions, and divided our time in sections: past, present, possible, prophecy, pledge and then part. How have we had joy in the Inspire Movement in the past year?  What do we lost for now?  What is possible?  

Peter and Liz from Ireland were there, and early on Peter said that the Lord brought to mind the verse when the young Samuel is first hearing the voice of the Lord, and doesn’t yet recognize it.  The priest Eli told the boy to say, “speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)  

Later in the hour, when we came to the “prophecy”, Robin asked if anyone had a prophecy for any of us, or for Inspire. Peter again said the Scripture, and added something:

“I want to pray this over you, Frank, and over Brenda and Jerry Ann (my wife and a member our church attending the prayer meeting) and your congregation.  ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

What Peter did not know is that I had spent the night and morning before the meeting praying and studying, searching for a preaching series or direction for our church for 2023.  This is a time of new beginnings for us, any how am I going to lead?  I’m a retired, “part-time” pastor of a wonderful and dedicated church, with many multi-generational members.  I’m asked to choose the Scriptures,  choose the hymns, preach. What does the Lord want for us?  

I had been praying, and wrestling, and then Peter quoted, “speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”  

I did get some direction, and more than that I was reminded that in my prayers, in my wrestling and in my struggling, I am not alone.  We are not alone.  God is with us.  “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”  

Prayer is a powerful witness.  Amen. 

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Check Point Charlie and Waiting on the LORD

Part of the former Berlin Wall
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We are close to Thanksgiving, and while this is a Christmas story, it is a story of gratitude.

On Christmas morning I was driving early to our home from the parsonage. The rest of our family gathered there already, but I needed to stay for the midnight Christmas Eve candlelight and Communion. I love the service, and as pastor I have to be there, but it can be lonely on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning was bright and clear, and I loaded up Abigayle the Destroyer into her kennel placed in the back of the Chevy HHR and headed home. Somewhere past Millikan on highway 6, headed toward College Station, I saw a man in the grass off the highway. He was carrying some flowers, and kneeling in front of three white crosses near the shoulder of the highway, those temporary crosses marking the tragedy of lost lives.

It was like an awakening, an epiphany. My griping to myself about how much I worked, how little I was appreciated, how much this or how little that, faded into nothing but gratitude as I headed toward our home in College Station on Christmas morning to greet my family, who where there waiting for me to arrive.

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Trust and Trustworthy

Taken outside the Hayes Conference Centre Swanwick Derbyshire, England, 2014

For several years I made a strong but half-hearted attempt at selling insurance and mutual funds; strong because I worked hard, half-hearted because my heart was just not in it.  I tried to trick myself that it was, and I was excited about the money potential, but that latter part so rarely came my way, probably because, yes, my heart was just not in it.  

I had the privilege of working with a man of great integrity and strong faith. He mentored me in some ways, and gave me a distinction which came back to me this week, when I was reading the Psalms.  

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.    (Psalm 90: 1-3)

In one conversation with my friend and boss I said that I trusted God, and he pointed out the difference between trusting God and God being trustworthy.  God is trustworthy, whether or not I trust Him.  God does not become more or less trustworthy dependent on my faith.  

When we were kids (and this is a long time ago now),  there was a wonderful teleplay of Peter Pan, starring Mary Martin in the title role. (It’s available now on YouTube!) My generation became entranced.  At one point in the story, the fairy Tinker Bell, represented by a light on the set, was wounded and near death.  Tink would be strengthened and healed by belief — and Peter Pan looked at us through the TV screen and begged us to say out loud, “I do believe in fairies!  I do believe in fairies!” and Tink’s light, which had dimmed almost out, gradually strengthened and then shone bright.  Our belief had strengthened Tinker Bell, and she would be okay.  Whew!

Well, God’s not like that.  God is trustworthy, regardless of whether we trust God.    In our Core Value of “Sharing Fellowship”, one of the questions is, “Am I confessing my sin?”  I confess that often when I pray I do not conclude by leaving it all in the hands of God, who is faithful and worthy to be praised.   I pray and give it to God, and sometimes I take it right back up again.  Another choice would be to watch and see what will happen.  But that takes patience…and maybe love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  

And I’m not always there.  But God is.

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Who You Kiddin’?

Image by LRus of Pixabay

Run with the Horses 

Who You Kiddin’?  

One of my favorite of Eugene Peterson’s books is Run with the Horses. Petersen gets the title from Jeremiah 12:5 — If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? 

The heading over chapter 12 in Jeremiah in my Bible is “Jeremiah’s complaint.”  It’s tempting to shake my head at Jeremiah, but I get it, I understand.  Over the years of my walk with Jesus I have been tasked with things I thought unfair, and too much for me.  Occasionally a well-meaning friend will quote some Scripture like “God will not give you more than you can bear”, and I’ll laugh if I’m lucky.  (And the well-meaning friend, too!)

In our Inspire Way of Life one of  the Core Values of Discipleship is “Using Disciplines”, and one of the questions hit me today:   Am I  “listening to God through the Bible?”  

Is the Bible informing my life?  Is the Bible revealing my life?  

Once I was pastor of a church and a hurricane destroyed the Sanctuary.  My wife and I were out of town and couldn’t get back for days because of cancelled flights and flood damage through the area.    The Sanctuary had to be leveled and a new one put in its place.  We worshiped outside for three weeks because the air was foul and we needed to make sure the building was safe.  This started an adventure of several years.

I thought I had challenges before that, but I guess i was just running with the footmen before the Lord called us to run with the horses.  

And now we are facing some difficult decisions about our denomination, about our church, about our ministry.  When we dealt with the hurricane, were we running with the footmen or running with the horses?

Either way, God is faithful, and has been and will be with us.  

Am I listening to God through the Bible?  Is the Bible informing my life? 

And what about those other times when I am dead tired of all this “religion” stuff and want to walk away?  Jeremiah tried that, too, and here’s what he wrote in Jeremiah 20:9 — If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

The love of God is deep inside Jeremiah, deep and burning like marrow on fire, and he tries to ignore it, tries to hold it in, and he cannot.  I know about this, too.  Maybe you do, too.  

Is God speaking to me through the Bible?  Is the Bible informing, or even revealing, my life?  I think so.

I think during my times of doubt, despair, anger, uncertainty Jesus is sitting next to me and saying something like:  “Who you kiddin?  You know I’m going to be with you, and you know you can’t give me up, and you know you don’t want to.  And you know that I will get you through wherever I call you to go.”  

This blog is named after a phrase Eugene Peterson uses in his translation of Matthew 11: 28-29:

Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 

And, as long as I’m quoting something, this verse rarely fails to bring me to tears:

When through the deep waters I call thee to go

The rivers of woe will not thee overflow

For I will be with thee, thy troubles  to bless

And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.  

How Firm a Foundation (1787) 

529 in the UMH hymnal

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Lead Me to the Rock

Taken from a helicopter in Hawaii

Am I following the Spirit’s lead?  

What a great question!  How do I know whether is it the Spirit’s lead or my own wishes?  How do I learn to identify the Spirit’s voice?  I saw a poster a few years ago that attributed a quote about friendship to John Lennon.  I’m a lifelong Beatles fan and I’ve read probably way too much about them, and I knew that quote was not John’s voice.    A little research proved my gut reaction.    So then I wondered…

How can I learn God’s voice as well as someone else’s?  I suppose it is by approaching the Lord and His Word with the same intensity, with the same desire to know.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and the Lord will direct your path”.  (Proverbs 3:5-6) I was walking along a bayou and going over my memory verses and this was one of them.  As I walked, I suddenly understood that the Lord would “direct my path”, but that meant I needed to be moving somewhere, and be willing to surrender to the leading. 

Am I engaging mission?  Am I following the Spirit’s lead? 

At least for me, the answers are not readily apparent.  This week I’ve been revisiting Psalm 46:10 — Be still, and know that I am God. 

I’m wrestling with many things, or so it seems to me.  I’m a retired pastor serving a wonderful, small church and our denomination is splitting.  Like every divorce there is rancor and blame on both sides.  If we leave where  we are, we will take a financial penalty but we’ll be free.  If we’re free, do we want to yoke ourselves to another denomination or would we want to be simply Christians, being part of the Church that is the Body of Christ in the world?  Or maybe the denomination is not that important, but the fellowship of our local church, a form of “life together” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about.  Where can we best be obedient to Christ?  

I don’t know what decisions we’ll make.  (It’s “we” because my wife and I are a ministry team and we will make the decisions.)   In my reading this week I came back to Psalm 61.  Here are the first three verses, from the King James Version.  (I’m not a KJV only person, but it tends to be the one I go to most when troubled, probably because it is  the version I read when I fell in love with the Bible as a little boy.)

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.  From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.  

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”  moves me.  Lord, let me see as you see, let me understand from your perspective, lead me to a place of peace beyond my understanding, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  

Am I following the Spirit’s lead?  I hope so;  I am seeking to;  and I am waiting and listening.  

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