Archive for August, 2008


Catch up #2 – the surgery blues.

Surgery is never fun… even when it is something as minor as a right shoulder decompression such as the one I had last Friday. Our skin is not meant to be pierced by stainless steel. Our muscles are not intended to be shoved around rudely. Our bones (and the spurs they sometimes grow as we age) are not meant to be sawed off. But in the long run the piercing and shoving and sawing all works together to produce a long-term good. But in the meantime, all of that precise brutality has to heal up. I think one of the results is going to be that I will have a newfound ability to empathize with those who have much more serious surgeries than I did.

The really interesting thing about it all is that I had the exact same surgery seven years ago on the left shoulder. From that one I have a four-inch long scar where the whole shoulder aparatus was laid open. For this one, I will just have three little holes, evenly spaced around my shoulder. And although it has only been three days, the recovery will be much shorter and pain-free than the last one. I am totally in awe of the way medicine has advanced, even in that short amount of time! Praise the Lord!!


catch up #1 – Celebrate Recovery

I had the amazing privilege during the week of August 12 to 16 to be at Saddleback Church in Orange County, California attending the 10th Annual “Celebrate Recovery” Summit gathering. Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-focused 12 step recovery program started at Saddleback 17 years ago. The program has been an astonishing success in helping hundreds of thousands of people recover from any number of hurts, habits and hang-ups that have held them prisoner. The 12 steps of Celebrate Recovery are related to the Beatitudes Jesus articulated during the Sermon on the Mount and pull no punches about naming Jesus Christ as the “higher power” in whom the recovering person can put their trust and hope.

We will start Celebrate Recovery at Church of the Resurrection next year and invite people who today are in denial about the chains that bind them to step forward and receive Christ-focused healing. There will be fellowship, food, worship, small sharing groups, and (because we are Methodists) more food at the weekly meetings. It is a volunteer directed effort with only minimal input provided from staff members.

The Summit was an amazing event on many levels. What excitged me most about it was seeing and hearing the testimonies of person after person who stood up and said, “This saved my life!” Will it work at Church of the Resurrection? Will people participate? Will the necessary leaders step forward and do everything necessary to help it succeed? Stay tuned and find out!


how is it with your soul?

“How is it with your soul today?”
I love that question. It is the accountability question that typically led off most of the class meetings in John Wesley’s day. What gets me is just how much is actually involved in trying to formulate an answer. First of all, how many of us really have a handle on how we might try to guage the condition of our soul at any given moment? I can tell you pretty clearly how my body is feeling at any given moment, and I am pretty sure I can give you a reading on the state of my mind and my emotions. Not quite as confident in that whole soul realm though.
And why not? What keeps me (or you, for that matter) from being able to accurately judge the state of our souls? Perhaps it starts with the frequency with which we actually tune in to our souls to see how they are doing. We hear stories in the Bible about people who obviously were much more adept at it than we are. They talk to their souls: “My soul, why are you downcast within me?” Or “my soul rejoices in the Lord,” (Isaiah 61:10) or “My soul thirsts for you, O God” (Psalm 63:1) or other similar sayings. These days I do not sense that the language and terrain of the soul is something many of us are very comfortable traveling. Mention the word in many circles – including church circles – and you might get associations like, “soul music,” or something that roughly translates to enthusiasm or vigor.
We had a discussion at my small group meeting last night about just what the soul is anyway and how we might pay better attention to its state. One of our group members said that the understanding he developed from an early age is that the soul is perfect, is in fact the “divine spark” that lies within each of us. And as such, the soul cannot be anything other than perfect in all impulses and activities. The trouble arises, he went on to say, when you and I distort the soul’s overtures and impulses by our flawed minds and wills and then live lives in direct opposition to the soul’s directives. Our study resource, Dallas Willard, contended that the soul can in fact be warped and broken by our sin and self-centered orientation to life. He goes on to say that we cannot act directly on our souls to repair them (the way we can directly act on our minds or feelings), but that through the application of the spiritual disciplines can bring God’s gracious healing to them.

What do you think? And while we are at it, how IS it with your soul today?



What an amazing event the opening ceremonies of the Olympics were! It is completely impossible to put into words the sheer majesty, magic, and visual power of the spectacle of more than 15,000 costumed performers, dazzling fireworks, high tech video production and incredible contraptions involved. The massiveness and precision of it all was at once awe-inspiring and just a little bit scary. As one of my fellow spectators commented, “I’m not sure I would want them mad at me.” Every movement was precise. Every moment stunned you just a little bit more than the last. Everything was just as surprising as it was beautiful. It was a great way for a country that is basically shrouded in mystery to stride onto the world stage and make its grand entrance. I could watch that video again and again.

In a very real way I thought of this ceremony and the games that will follow as one form of worship. When we take the gifts that God has given us and use them in ways that fulfill and then go far beyond our understanding of their capabilities, we are actually paying a great homage to the Source of those gifts. It is as if we say, “In gratitude for the gift of my artist’s eye, or my athletically endowed body, I pledge to use them to their utmost, and then to dare to go beyond my vision of ‘the possible’ into previously uncharted realms of possibility.” What better way to glorify God than by honoring God’s handiwork?


grace on long’s

I hope it is O.K. to backtrack a bit and add one more story from our Colorado vacation. I had forgotten all

Long's Peak - Colorado

Long's Peak - Colorado

about it until I just saw the principal character at church yesterday. It is such a good story we have to rewind the clock 10 days to capture it.

Long’s Peak is one of what are known as the “14ers” in Colorado mountain lore. That is, mountains that are more than 14,000 feet tall. Long’s Peak is right there near the YMCA camp and sort of beckons to you every day. Long’s is also one of the most difficult of the 14ers to climb. To do it in one day, you basically have to start out on the trail at 2:00 a.m., hit the summit by noon, and then start back down before the afternoon storms arrive. It is about 17 miles round trip, with a 4800 foot total elevation gain from the trailhead and takes all of 16 or 17 hours to complete. So far a total of 54 people have died trying to climb Long’s Peak, two of them this year. Some have been struck by lightning because they did not get down before the afternoon storms. But most of them slipped and fell to their deaths.

I had talked about doing Long’s on this trip, but after hearing many of the horror stories about it, decided to settle for something a little more sedate. The Twin Sisters peak was my solution (written about in an earlier blog post). Two of our group – a man a little younger than me and his 14-year old son – decided they were up for it and planned to climb Long’s on Friday. We told them they should go with someone who had been before, but they said, “Naaahh! We’re O.K. We can do it.” Many of us right at that moment began praying for them.

They set off at about 1:45 from the Y camp and arrived at the Long’s Peak trailhead at about 2:15. At about 9:00 a.m., just as they were at the edge of the boulder field, Trevor, the son, (not his real name) started to complain about cramping. He had not really been drinking enough water and was really cramping badly. The weather report they heard for the day said that storms were expected on Long’s Peak at about 11:00 a.m. so Trevor’s father John (also not his real name) began to be worried. He gave Trevor a lot of water and told him to just sit down until the cramping went away. They waited for over an hour, with the clock ticking on the deadly summit storms.

Just as John was about to throw in the towel and say, “Let’s head back down,” another group caught up to them. This group was led by an experienced mountain guide who had climbed Long’s many, many times before. Trevor was feeling better and was anxious to resume the climb. The guide invited John and Trevor to join their group of scouts to complete the climb.

As it turned out, this guide showed them ways to reach the top that John and Trevor would never have discovered on their own. He helped them get across the very treacherous “Keyhole” piece and ultimately reach the summit. John said that when they got to the summit, they saw storm clouds ringed completely around Long’s Peak, but none actually on the peak itself.

They stayed for a bit and admired the view, then headed down, arriving safely at the base at about 6:00 that evening. We all greeted them like conquering heroes (which they were) at the Italian restaurant in town that night.

So tell me… would John and Trevor have succeeded in their attempt without the help of that guide? Would they have even met the guide if Trevor hadn’t cramped up and stopped on the trail? And what about those storm clouds ringing the peak, but not actually ON the peak?

Luck? Coincidence? The power of prayer at work? I know my answer, but I will let you figure out your own…



Big can be good

There are many times when the sheer size of the church I serve seems more like an impediment than an aid to ministry and community. The sheer mass of 12,000+ people claiming some level of association with the church can make things take twice as long and half as intimate as you might find in a church that is simply “large.” But then the other day, there was an event that showed me the other, the beneficent side of bigness.

We got a call in the Congregational Care area from a woman about her son Justin (naturally, not his real name). Justin was in the hospital with pneumonia and a collapsed lung, according to the report. Could we sent a pastor over to pray with him? Sure. I went and prayed with Justin and found out he was doing fine, but was really tired of being in the hospital. Justin is a healthy-looking guy in his late 20s (I’m guessing) with lots of tatoos on his arms and a pretty cool post in his ear. 

That evening, Jen, our lady that handles many of the prayer concerns, was out for a birthday dinner with a bunch of family at her favorite local hang-out. As they were about to commence praying over the dinner, the waitress – who was still in the room – stopped them and said, “as long as you are about to pray, would you mind praying for my son?” They said, “Sure, what’s his name and what can we pray for specifically?” The waitress said, “His name is Justin and he is in the hospital with pneumonia. We just found out earlier today that there is an infection that is causing fluid to build up and they don’t know what is causing it.”

At that point, Jen asked the woman if by any chance she had called Church of the Resurrection earlier that day to ask a pastor to visit Justin in the hospital. Turns out she had! And when she called earlier, she talked to JEN! Is that crazy or what?

Call it just a nutty coincidence, but I really think there is something much more significant going on. See, several kinds of things can happen when you are big. You can get “lost in the shuffle,” or overwhelmed by the sheer size and scope of the church. The other thing that can happen is that your circle of care and influence can spread out in a much wider swath than otherwise might be possible. That is what happened in Justin’s case and it was just so cool to witness!

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