I Can Change…Maybe Not

I have totally lost count of the number of times I figured that I need to make a change in my life, you know, fix a bad habit or give some sin the boot. I have also lost count of the number of times I have failed. So my friends, I am done trying. I am me. I am a screwed up mess. I’m okay with that.

Do understand that I am not done desiring to change, nor am I no longer willing to change. Far from it. I really do hope that by this time next millennium that I have made some progress. For that matter, it would be cool if I made some progress by this time next year.

Regrettably, I said that wrong. It’s not about me having made some progress, it’s about me having progressed. The first one is like me building a house, pounding in nails and re-cutting the studs I measured wrong twice. Sorry folks, but contrary to the plethora of self help gurus, we are not the carpenter – we are the house. We are the ones who need to progress.

Fortunately, there is a carpenter. Okay, that was just a temporary job for Jesus. It was He who started the work in us by the life changing work of the Holy Spirit. We need to let Him complete it. Put down the self help “I can fix myself with a dull saw and kinked tape measure,” and let the master builder change you. Let Him do it in His time. Hear His voice, that nudging of the Spirit. Listen. Let it wash over and through you.

To switch metaphors, let Jesus change you like the wind in the sails of sailing boat. Quit standing on the deck huffing and puffing. All you need to do is to set the sails to catch the wind and let the wind do the work.


“ And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Do Something

I recently posted this on facebook. I’ll let you read it as posted and then re-cast it in terms of involvement in the ministry of the local church.

The person who makes that first tentative brush stroke on the canvas, writes that first word, throws that first lump of clay on the wheel, plays those first notes on an instrument, sings those first words…whatever their artistic curiosity, no matter how naive, primitive or mediocre the results, that person has already achieved infinitely more than the one that lets fear of failure keep them from trying.

A corollary to this may appeal to the perfectionists among us. The one who tries nothing, perfectly succeeds at nothing.

I believe that to be true. It is also true that not every artistic attempt will win accolades beyond a few family members and a hand full of friends who don’t quite know how to tell you what they really think with out discouraging you. Yes, there are some who seem to have the golden touch of some natural profound talent. For the rest of us, a significant investment of time in instruction and practice will improve our craft, perhaps to a remarkable level of mastery, but face it, most of us will be average. That’s not so bad. if you are perfectly average you are already better than nearly half the people who pursue the same art…if that is even what matters.

Now let’s shift this to ministry. I have worked in the church in both volunteer and vocational capacities. I have seen a lot of remarkably average people accomplish the majority of the work in the church. For that matter, I have been humbled by the dedicated and effective service of people who some would consider far from qualified. Occasionally you meet an incredibly talented individual who accomplish much, but unless they are also deeply humble servants, they can discourage the less talented from participating. Please don’t confuse apparent excellence with effective ministry in the messy community we call the Church.

Even the most fumbling, bumbling, untrained person will accomplish more than the person who is either afraid to try or worse, indifferent to need to serve in the church. Sorry folks, but the work is not done by perfect pastors – they don’t exist. Nor is the work done by perfect elders – they don’t exist. Nor is it done by perfect community group leaders, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, ushers, greeters, techies, secretaries, coffee makers…you name it – because they don’t exist. Sorry, but the only way the work gets done is if everyone takes what ever talent, gifts and energy they have and uses it for the mutual benefit of the church and world we are called to minister in. If you don’t try, you will not succeed at all. At least the naive novice who dares to try will accomplish something.

If you think these are just clever words consider what Jesus said in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. I dare say it best to give your self permission, toss fear out the window, or what ever is necessary to use what abilities you have in the service of others. Do something.

Redeeming Grace

Redeeming grace peers through the mist down the twisting root tangled path to see not what we are, but what we can be. It makes away for us through the murky forest of our lives with less concern with were we are than with where we are going. Redeeming grace chooses to look beyond the mere moment to see more than just tomorrow, but all the tomorrows after that, each one a step on the path toward that which we could not become alone.



“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  (The Apostle Paul to Titus,Titus 3:3-7) 

A Prolonged Absence Explained

Yes it has been awhile since I posted anything here. Events transpired that left me in the curious position of having lots to say and the wisdom to keep quiet until I the rawness of emotion gave way to careful meaningful consideration. What happened you ask? The short story is that the church I was pastoring closed its doors.

Helping the people I cared for and lead for nearly seven years to grieve the loss of their community and move on to new ones took a deep emotional toll on me, far deeper than I imagined at the outset. Along with my wife, we have been grieving. Today I can say that time of throbbing grief is over, though the scars remain, barely covering half healed wounds. I suspect many who were part of that wonderful community are still feeling the throbbing ache more acutely than I, each in their own way. The loss of community hurts. Finding a new one isn’t easy.

To be sure, I have no intention of using this blog to assign blame or malign the faithful. Not at all. If nothing else, I share in the blame. We were all in it together. We tried. We worked hard. It wasn’t to be. That’s that. Would have, could have, should haves are cruel task masters. Are there lessons to be learned? Of course. Those are worth talking about when the time is right in thoughtful love.

On April 19th, 2015, we celebrated the years we had together, the rich fellowship and meaningful ministry. Ending with a celebration was the right thing to do. It was a time of tears and smiles, that’s how it is with grief. There is that part of me that wishes we could have found a way to carry on serving one another and the community around us. There is  another part of me that is excited about the future, not only for myself, but for each one who was part of the church. New beginnings are rarely easy. A seed must fall to the ground for a new plant to grow. The seed has fallen.

Saint Patrick’s Day

Good old Saint Patrick’s day. Ah, the irony of shamrocks to the copious consumption of pints of brew. Not that the irony is in those things, rather that I suspect that most people who celebrate with liberal libations are probably unaware or at least unconcerned about the reason for the feast.

The short story is that it is the celebration of a life. The man we know as Saint Patrick lived from 385 to 461. He became a devote Christian priest who gave his life to convert Irish pagans into Christians. Legend has it that he used the green three leaf shamrock as a picture of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (although as all analogies if fall short). 

Saint Patrick’s Day is nothing less than the celebration of a successful and effectual Christian missionary. The chief symbol of the day, an icon of sorts of the Holy Trinity – God as Christians know Him.

The feasting and drinking so often associated with Saint Patrick’s day is a day off from lent to celebrate one of God’s servants. Call it a mulligan in the season of sacrificial devotion. 

So if you choose to lift a glass to Saint Patrick, remember the man you are drinking to and have a look at yourself in the mirror. Are you really celebrating Saint Patrick? Maybe you should.

Kilbennan St. Benin's Church Window St. Patrick Detail 2010 09 16.jpg