Merry Christmas

I got a lovely Christmas card the other day from Pastor Jack Hayford. In the card he shared a Christmas meditation and I wanted to share it with you.


Transparently, the unveiled God bares His heart, stripping away all man calls 'dignity', stooping with immeasurable humility into time, unto earth, to take up residence within a womb, then incarnate in infancy to be laid in straw on the edge of an obscure town.

Transactionally, the unclothed God bares His face to the spittle, His head to the thorns, His hands and feet to the spikes, His side to a spear, His life unto death, and His body unto a tomb; thus invested in infamy to be paid as the blood-price in exchange for obscured souls.

The light became transparently revealing,
disclosing His heart of love,
and that Love became transactionally releasing,
dispensing His gift of grace.

And this Christmas as at the first, the glory of His light and the wonder of His love abides.

With us... For us... Among us... Within us.

All hail Emmanuel!"

May God's grace and peace rule and reign over you and your family.
May His banner over you be Love.

God bless you. Merry Christmas.


all we need is love

On Sunday morning a little over a week ago I was sitting in an office at the church building reading "Soul Cravings", by Erwin Raphael McManus. The office is just off of the auditorium and as I was reading I could hear the message in the background. The topic of the message was "the power of the tongue". The book I was reading was talking about how our souls crave love. The need to feel loved is central to the human condition. It was saying that when we feel unloved, or unloveable that we turn to cheap imitations of love, or we give up on love entirely. The portion I was reading at the time was talking about those who feel like they are incapable of being loved, they feel too damaged, too ugly, unloveable.

"We all long to belong. We are created to know love and to give love. Without love there is no life. To love is to be fully human.
The farther we move from community, the closer we move to violence.
Over the years we've come to expect urban violence. If we're honest with ourselves we would have to acknowledge that many of us have become desensitized to crime and violence in our inner cities and especially among the urban poor, which is probably why what happened in the quiet community of Jefferson County, Colorado, so affected the American psyche. Two teenage boys planned for over a year to ruthlessly massacre as many students and teachers at Columbine High School as possible.
If I know nothing else about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, I know that they had given up on love. They no longer considered themselves a part of the human community. They cared for no one and cared about no one, not even themselves. Where there is no love, there is no value for life. When hate consumes our hearts, all we can think of, all we desire, is to destroy.
When there is disengagement from human community, there is potential for inhumanity. The human heart was not created to be a container for hate.
When we allow bitterness, jealousy, envy, racism, lust, greed, and arrogance to fuel our souls, we create an environment within us to be agents of violence."

On my drive home after service I was thinking about the young men who brought guns to school in Columbine. And I was thinking about the young man who had, just days ago, brought a gun to a mall in Omaha. I was thinking, "What happens in a person to get them to that point?"
When I got home I opened up the laptop and saw the headline that said "Shooter at Colorado mega church". I opened the article and couldn't believe what I was reading. My heart raced as I reached for the cell phone and texted a friend of mine who is on staff at New Life in Colorado. I was relieved to hear back from him that he was safe. I spent the rest of the day watching the story unfold on the news channel.
Over the past week much has been learned about the young man who took these innocent lives. We've learned that he was at one time hoping to be a missionary. He was raised in a Christian home. He was home schooled. We also learned that he railed against the church after being turned away from the missions organization. He wrote that he never felt good enough. He felt that he could never live up to the expectations. He wrote that he couldn't deal with all the rules and regulations.

I've thought a lot about the way the church presents it's message and I'm concerned that there's an inordinate amount of time spent talking about the do's and dont's, the rules and regulations, and not enough time spent talking about the extravagant love that Jesus came to give.
There's a great story about the religious rulers coming to Jesus to get his input on the raging debate about which rules were the most important. And he turned the conversation towards love. Here's another section from "Soul Cravings":
"When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment is, His response was simple and straightforward: 'You are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.' And then He added, 'And you must love your neighbor as yourself.'
It seems Jesus simply couldn't restrain Himself to one commandment, but gave His inquirers two of them. Maybe it's because He couldn't separate the effect that connecting to God would have on our relationship to people. Really Jesus is saying that the most important thing to God is love. Love, it seems, has two arenas where it's played out-in our relationship with God and in our relationships with people. What's on God's heart is not a list of rules or commands, but the expansion of love.
When we live in an intimate relationship with God, we are able to love ourselves and become passionate about loving others. When we are disconnected from God, we find ourselves increasingly empty of love.
Jesus, it seems, is certain that the more you love God, the more you will love people."

As I've been thinking back on this over the past week I keep thinking about the topic of the message that day, the power of the tongue, and the awesome responsibility that the leaders of the church have in communicating the message that God wants us to. Do we focus the message on love, or do we get caught up in the same old game of which rules were the most important?

If we focus our message on the rules and regulations are we heaping condemnation and guilt on God's children? Are the Colorado shootings the result of a message focused in the wrong direction?


catching up

It's been a while, and I don't really have an excuse but I wanted to catch up a bit and let you know what I've been up to. Writing it all down would take days so I'll just post pictures and descriptions. I hope you enjoy!

kalanianaole highway
The summer has been extremely busy! We got a chance to get away for a bit though. A family in our church "adopted" us and sent us to their time share in Hawaii! It was an amazing, relaxing, refreshing time!

the grove
We went back to the grove. It's been over a year now since my Father in Law passed away and we've been back to his favorite place on earth, and his final resting place, several times to remember him.

I started performing wedding ceremonies! This summer I've officiated 4 wedding ceremonies. I've really enjoyed this. I didn't think I would but it's pretty amazing. Especially if I know the couple well. This picture is Jake and Naiomi. They are a part of our homegroup and they are like family to Katie and I. Their wedding ceremony was on the beach in Troncones, Mexico. Too beautiful for words!

We hosted Thanksgiving for our families in our new home!

We've spent as much time as possible on our back deck. The view is amazing and it reminds us of the beauty of God's creation. Each and every sunset is another chance for God to dazzle us!

We got tee peed!!! Katie and the boys look pissed in this picture but it's an act. We were thrilled because, as my brother Ben pointed out, "this means that somebody loves you enough to get up at three in the morning!"

We got our tree put up! Katie really gets into seasonal decorations and the Christmas season is the pinnacle of the decorative goodness! Bring on Christmas! Bring on the extra services! Bring on the gifts! Bring on the New Year!!!


to dazzle us...

Don Miller, in his book "To Own A Dragon" tells a story of a conversation he and his mentor, John MacMurray had while watching the sun set. Don was asking if John believed that God made the sunset for our benefit. John said something to the effect that God made the sunset "To dazzle us". Don asked John:
"So He did, or didn't do it?"
"He did it, but He did it for us."
"Us? You mean you and me?"
"Us. He did it for His children. That is what beauty is for. All this beauty exists so you and I can see His glory, His artwork. It's like an invitation to worship Him, to know him."
"You think?"
"Absolutely Don. Beauty doesn't make any sense apart from God giving a gift to His children. Think about it. Is there a Darwinian explanation for beauty? Not really. It's a love letter. That's all. It's this massive letter to creation inviting us to enjoy Him. I'm always telling the kids that sunsets are God's final brushstrokes on the beauty of the day."
"But why would He do that?"
"Because that's who He is."

I was reminded of this conversation the other night as Katie and I, and a few friends lay on the deck behind our house, snuggled together, watching a meteor shower. It was an amazing display of beauty, and power. I felt a sense of connectedness. I felt close to God. I felt "dazzled."


eight dollar hot dog

Thanks to Brett for sharing, thanks to TWOTP for the video.


God is fathering us

One of the most comforting ideas to me is that God sees me as a father sees his son. I've always liked the verses that talked about God being the Father but everything really clicked once my sons were born. All those verses became even clearer to me.

My love for my sons is not based on what they do. It is not is not based on how they look. It is not based on how they act. It is not based on what they know.
My love for my sons is based on who they are. They are my sons.

That is why it is comforting to me that God calls me son.

There are many times where a situation, or a conversation with my boys triggers a thought about another aspect of the fatherhood of God and how He relates to us.
The other day Obadiah and Malachi were talking about an event in the recent past and Malachi was having a hard time expressing his thoughts. He doesn't yet understand the concept of "yesterday". To Malachi, yesterday means some point in the past and tomorrow means some point in the future. He doesn't yet understand that yesterday actually means the day before today. Obadiah on the other hand is a recent graduate of Mrs. Hughes Kindergarten class and is looking forward to expanding his academic career in the first grade. He's got it all figured out. This is the conversation I overheard:

Malachi: "Obadiah, you remember yesterday when we were watching the show on dinosaurs?
Obadiah: "Malachi, that was like a week ago."
Malachi: "Yeah, I know... yesterday"
Obadiah: "No, you don't get it."
Malachi: (confused look, shrugging shoulders)
Obadiah: "Let's see, how can I explain this to you?"
Malachi: (listening intently, wanting to learn)
Obadiah: "OK, first of all... There are seven days in a month..."

That's all I heard of the conversation. I had to duck around the corner before I started laughing out loud. Later as I thought about this conversation I thought about how God must think of us sometimes. I can imagine God sitting back listening to us talk to each other. Maybe when we're discussing theology, or the meaning of life, and then one of us who feels like maybe we have it just a little bit more together than our peers offers our opinion. Then God has a little giggle and says to himself, "Oh, that's precious. They think they've got it figured out."

You see, when Obadiah incorrectly taught his little brother how many days were in a month I didn't love him less. I didn't jump in and tell him how wrong he was. I didn't think he was dumb for making that mistake. I just smiled, and I was happy that they were even trying to learn at all.
I think God sees us this way. I don't think He's worried that we'll never figure it out. I don't think He dislikes us as we stumble through life, trying our best. I doubt that He thinks we're stupid when we make mistakes. Kids do that... they make mistakes.

Fathers love them anyway.


full life worship

Ferndale Historical Cemetary

A while back a dear friend of mine asked me several questions in an email. She asked me to define worship, and asked how I maintain a lifestyle of worship in the midst of a busy life. She also asked if worship becomes repetitious (I lead music at 3 services per weekend), and if it’s hard to worship intimately when you’re in the spotlight.

All excellent questions.

To me worship is much more than singing. I was raised in a church going family and when people said worship they meant “praise and worship music”. There’s nothing wrong with praise and worship music but if that is your definition of worship you are missing out on so much. I believe that anything that points to God, anything that draws our attention to God and inspires us to think of God, or to pray to God is causing us to worship. So, if I’m out walking around Spring Lake and I’m in awe of the beauty I am surrounded by I can thank God for His creation and worship Him in that moment. If I’m in a museum or an art gallery and I’m seeing some amazing creative art I can thank God for making us in His image and giving us the ability to be creative as He is. If I’m reading a good book and it is challenging me, and making me think new thoughts I can thank God that He gave us intellect and free will.

I don’t really have a set “devotional time”, but I’m always looking for God’s touch throughout the day. This is a vital part of what I call “full life worship”. Full life worship is all about perspective. It’s all about looking for little glimpses of God in everyday life. For example, I do a lot of driving for my work and the route that I take goes through Sonoma and Marin counties with breathtaking views of mountains and vineyards. It’s an amazing drive. I’ve always known it was beautiful but one day my perspective changed. It went from “wow this is beautiful”, to “thank You God for the beauty of Your creation”. It has transformed my travel time into a worship experience.

In this way I can worship in my everyday life and this helps keep the “musical worship” on the weekend from becoming repetitious and boring. Truth is, sometimes I don’t feel like leading musical worship on the weekend. Sometimes I’ve had a crappy day, or a crappy week and the last thing I want to do is put on a fake smile and lead people (most of whom look like they’ve had a crappy week too) in worship. However, I believe firmly that I am doing what I was made to do, and sometimes it is a sacrifice of praise. Sacrifice means it costs something. Sacrifice means even if I don’t feel like it.

Worship should never be based on our feelings. If we only worship when we feel like it than the object of our worship has become ourselves. The Bible calls this “will worship”.

I really do love musical worship so I love to sing, even if it’s the third time I’ve sang this song in any given weekend, so the spotlight thing isn’t a problem for me. The only time I don’t like being up in front is when I screw something up. Because everyone notices! I still get nervous before I step on stage but as soon as I take that first deep breath and belt out the first note it just all comes into focus. I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. There’s a famous quote in the movie Chariots of Fire that says, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

For me, when I sing, I feel God’s pleasure.


now that's my kind of church

photo by keylime

When you think of an Easter service, you probably don’t picture 30 parishioners gathered around, looking on as a guy named Iggy presses a tattoo gun into a fellow parishioner’s forearm. But if you’re a member of the CrossLink Watershed Church that gathers for worship in the Drexel Theater on Grandview Avenue, you’re counting on it this Sunday.

Nathan Feathers, the young pastor of this new alternachurch, wanted to add a jolt of adrenaline to his Easter service, something edgier than the church’s resident rock band.

Then it hit him: What says Christ and the resurrection more than a big black tattoo of a cross?

CLICK HERE to read the rest of the story


Happy Easter

May you experience God's resurrection power in your life.

grace, peace, and much love, jimmy


good quote from a good book

"In the beginning.

In the first chapter of Genesis, when God creates the first people, He blesses them. This is significant. God’s blessing is the peace of God resting on people. The story begins with humans in right relationship, in healthy, life-giving connection, with their Maker. All of their other relationships flow from the health of this one central relationship, people and God. They’re connected with the earth, with each other. They’re naked and feel no shame.

And then everything goes south.

They choose another way.

And they become disconnected.

God goes looking for them in the garden, asking, “where are you?” The first humans make coverings of fig leaves, and then they’re banished from the garden.

Disconnected from each other.

Disconnected from the earth.

The woman is told that there is going to be conflict between her and the man. The man is told that there is going to be conflict between him and the soil.

And this is where you and I come in. We were born into a world, into a condition, of disconnection. Things were created to be a certain way, and they’re not that way, and we feel it in every fiber of our being.

Is this why the first thing newborns do is cry?

We’re severed and cut off and disconnected in a thousand ways, and we know it, we feel it, we’re aware of it every day. It’s an ache in our bones that won’t go away.

And so from an early age we have this awareness of the state of disconnection we were born into, and we have a longing to reconnect.

Scholars believe that the word sex is related to the Latin word secare, which means “to sever, to amputate, or to disconnect from the whole.” This is where we get words like sect, section, dissect, bisect.

Our sexuality, then, has two dimensions. First, our sexuality is our awareness of how profoundly we’re severed and cut off and disconnected. Second, our sexuality is all the ways we go about trying to reconnect.

Last year I was swimming in the ocean with one of my boys on my back in the midst of a pod of dolphins. They were swimming around us and under us and making their noises, which are incredibly loud and piercing, when one of them shot up into the air above us and did a flip. Right over our heads.

When we describe moments like these, the words we use are rarely about distance. The words are about nearness and connection, sometimes even intimacy.

Your friends just got back from hiking, and they say, “We felt like we could just reach out and touch the mountain.”

I just spent an afternoon with a doctor who donates significant amounts of time working with people who have AIDS and can’t afford proper treatment. He loves it. He talked with great passion about they joy it brings him. He’s a successful, educated, wealthy man who loves to spend his time with the poor, uneducated people who are from a totally different world than he is. He was telling me how his work brings him a sense of connection, an awareness of the simple truth that we aren’t all that different from each other.

These moments move us because they have a sexual dimension. They help us become reconnected. They go against our fallen nature, which is to be cut off.

That’s why music is so powerful. Have you ever noticed that when you ask people why a particular song or concert moved them so much, they often resort to ambiguous explanations?

You get words like emotion and passion and energy and relationship and connection. Music is powerful because it is sexual. It connects us. We generally don’t think of it in those terms but it’s true. The experience of a great concert, with everybody singing together, waving their hands in the air, and a feeling of oneness permeating the room, has a significant sexual dimension to it. We don't know each other, we come from vastly different backgrounds, we disagree on hundreds of issues, but for an evening, we gather around this artist and these songs and we get along. The experience moves us so deeply because it taps into how things were meant to be, and we have so few places where we can experience what God intended on such a large scale.

Whether it's a concert or a church service or a rally for a just cause, certain communal events draw us into something bigger than the event itself. We feel connected with the people we're having the experience with, and not just connected but aware of something bigger than us all that we're brushing up against in the process.

What we’re experiencing in these moments of connection is what God created us to experience all of the time. It’s our natural state. It’s how things are supposed to be."

Sex God
Rob Bell

CLICK HERE to purchase Sex God


good quote from a good book

Will we ever understand the gospel of grace, the furious love of God, the world of grace in which we live? Jesus Christ is the scandal of God. When the Baptizer is imprisoned by Herod, he sends a couple of his followers to ask Jesus: “Are you the One who is to come into the world or should we wait for another?” Jesus says, “Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the poor have the gospel preached to them, the messianic era has erupted into history, and the love of my Father is revealed. Blessed is he who is not scandalized in me.”

We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that He should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at His love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground.

Every parable of mercy in the gospel was addressed by Jesus to His opponents: murmuring scribes, grumbling Pharisees, critical theologians, members of the Sanhedrin. They are enemies of the gospel of grace, indignant because Jesus asserts that God cares about sinners, incensed that He should eat with people they despised. What does He tell them?

These sinners, these people you despise are nearer to God than you. It is not the hookers and thieves who find it most difficult to repent: it is you who are so secure in your piety and pretense that you have no need of conversion. They may have disobeyed God’s call, their professions have debased them, but they have shown sorrow and repentance. But more than any of that, these are people who appreciate His goodness: they are parading into the kingdom before you: for they have what you lack-a deep gratitude for God’s love and deep wonder at His mercy.

Let us ask God for the gift He gave to an unforgettable rabbi, Joshua Abraham Heschel:

“Dear Lord, grant me the grace of wonder. Surprise me, amaze me, awe me in every crevice of Your universe. Delight me to see how Your Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not His, to the Father through the features of men’s faces. Each day enrapture me with Your marvelous things without number. I do not ask to see the reason for it all; I ask only to share the wonder of it all.”

Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel