Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Facing Difficulty Today??

Sarah Young has written a book called Jesus Calling. I honestly can’t tell you how often Jesus has spoken to me through her work. Maybe it’s just because of the circumstances I face in leadership, or perhaps it’s the way that my personality works, but she has tapped into the truth of Scripture in such a personal way…that I sense Jesus’ words through hers.

Today I read this, and it was so refreshing I wanted to share it. These paragraphs are based on Psalm 89:15 and John 16:33, and from them, Young imagines Jesus saying:

“Approach problems with a light touch. When your mind moves toward a problem area, you tend to focus on that situation so intensely that you lose sight of Me. You pit yourself against the difficulty as if you had to conquer it immediately. Your mind gears up for battle, and your body becomes tense, and anxious. Unless you achieve total victory, you feel defeated.
There is a better way. When a problem starts to overshadow your thoughts, bring this matter to Me. Talk with Me about it and look at it in the Light of My Presence. This puts some much-needed space between you and your concern, enabling you to see from My perspective. You will be surprised at the results. Sometimes you may even laugh at yourself for being so serious about something so insignificant.
You will always face trouble in this life. But more importantly, you will always have Me with you, helping you to handle whatever you encounter. Approach problems with a light touch by viewing them in My revealing Light.”

Friday, October 7, 2011

Speaking of Dating...

This weekend at OCC, we are continuing our Crazy Love series, and I'm giving a message on Dating. I wanted to give two head's up:

First, this message will be SLIGHTLY PG-13, with the remainder of the messages in this series being strongly Rated M, for Mature Audiences Only. Parents are welcome to bring their kiddos into the Worship Center, but just be forewarned for the conversations that you'll be having on the ride home. At OCC we seek to speak frankly about all of the issues we face in life from a biblical perspective, without being crass or rude. In other words, if you want Pastor Mike to be the one to inform your kids about sex, by all means, keep bringing them through the series!

Second, when it comes to dating and intimacy, I want to begin with the conclusion: Jesus is the one who meets our deepest needs for love, companionship, and intimacy. End of story. Sarah Young, in her excellent book, Jesus Calling, writes as if from the perspective of Christ:

"Never take for granted my intimate nearness. Marvel at the wonder of my continual Presence with you. Even the most ardent human lover cannot be with you always. Nor can another person know the intimacies of your heart, mind, and spirit. I know everything about you--even to the number of hairs on your head. You don't need to work at revealing yourself to me.
Many people spend a lifetime or small fortune searching for someone who understands them. Yet I am freely available to all who call upon my name, who open their hearts to receive me as Savior. This simple act of faith is the beginning of a lifelong love story. I, the Lover of your soul, understand you perfectly and love you eternally."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Speaking of GRACE

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.
Romans 5:19-21 NLT

CNN has been running a story all week (in four parts) of a preacher’s family, Rev. Robert and Ramona Nichols, which was terrorized for 6 years, endured 10 bombings, multiple shotgun blasts at the house, and cryptic threatening letters. The terror finally culminated when a lone gunman entered their parsonage and shot the preacher and his wife multiple times in front of the seven year old daughter (Rebecca) and their two year old son. The wife died immediately, and the preacher never recovered. He died a few years later, in a psyche ward, at the age of 46. These events happened 30 years ago.

The reason it’s in the news today is because the daughter, Rebecca Nichols, wrote a book about it, called “The Devil in Pew Number Seven.” In her book, she forgives the gunman, and she forgives the men who were responsible for the terror.

Here’s how a CNN reporter concludes the story: “Rebecca's book has cracked open long-buried memories and forced folks to grapple anew with decades-old events they never fully understood. She's stirred emotions of sorrow, guilt, anger, loss. But she's also opened a conversation about faith and forgiveness.

After the shooting, Rebecca moved away from all that was dear -- her church, her friends, her school. Her father never fully recovered physically or emotionally. He died seven years after the shooting. Rebecca was 14; her brother Daniel, 9. They could so easily have been ruined.
Yet Rebecca found strength, in her faith, in her family that remained and in the love instilled by her parents.

"I wasn't going to throw the rest of my life away for anger and bitterness," she told me. "Just because my parents' lives were over, didn't mean that mine was, too."

I ask Rebecca: "Are you crazy to forgive?"

"I'll tell you how I respond to that," she says. "If I had not forgiven, I would be crazy in an institution somewhere. My parents had planted the seeds of forgiveness in me as a little girl: Pray for those who persecute you and bless those who curse you. Sometimes, when people forgive, they feel like they're saying what that person did was OK. That's not what it's doing. When you forgive, you're letting go of the pain and giving it to God."”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Do you "Dine and Dash" your church?

A friend passed this blog on to me, from a Pastor named Troy Jones. It gives a great challenge to one of the major problems in Churchworld…check it out:

Troy writes: “We all know what the phrase “Dine and Dash” means. This describes the action of going into a restaurant, sitting at the table, ordering whatever you want, eating and then leaving quickly without paying.
If you do this at a restaurant you are breaking the law and being a moron. Period. Few people will argue with me about this.
Why do so many people “Dine and Dash” their church?
Let that question sink in. Deeper!
National average is that only 3% of Christ followers tithe (give 10% of their income).
Over 50% percent of the members of any given Christian congregation donate little or nothing toward their church’s upkeep and ministries.
Most Christians don’t ever find a meaningful place to serve their church or community.
Ask me to get involved and serve…Pray for my pastor…Give to missionaries…Feed the hungry…Begin giving in a systematic way…Work the parking lot…Serve my community…Lead a growth group…Stay after to help with chairs…
Are you kidding me, Pastor? I would rather enjoy the music, let someone else take care of my kids and enjoy the message…in effect you are saying “Pastor, I would rather ‘dine and dash’…have a good week.”
The story gets worse in the church…those who dine and dash at church also whine the most…I am not getting fed enough, the music is too loud, my kids are not happy…Christians “Dine, whine and then Dash”…talk about pathetic. But true!
If you are a Christ follower and find yourself caught up in this “Dine, whine and dash” approach to your church…repent of this kind of sloppy attitude towards your church and pastor.
Start serving today!
Begin to give systematically!
Be bold and actually get involved with a discipleship setting!
Find a way to make a difference in your community!
Stop attending church and begin to be the church–everywhere you go be the hands and feet of Jesus to this world.”

What do YOU think? Why do so many Christ followers “dine, whine and dash” their church? (love to hear from you!)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Long, Joyful FAD of Adoption

You see, through our faith in Jesus, God adopts us into His family. He becomes our father, we become brothers and sisters…we’re rescued from sin, from bondage, from isolation…and we’re now in a forever family…free to love ourselves, to love one another, and free to love God…

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 NLT

John Piper says that adoption is bigger than the UNIVERSE. I think he’s right on. Bible is filled with references to care for the orphan and the widow…in other words, to care for those who’ve lost families (parents and spouses) by welcoming them into yours.

This challenge identifies with the very heart of God:
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5 NIV
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the cause of the widow. Isaiah 1:17 NIV

So we KNOW God cares about the fatherless, the orphan, the vulnerable children. But the kicker is that adoption has ALWAYS been on God’s mind…literally.

Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Ephesians 1:2b-4 Message

It was always God’s plan to adopt YOU into His family. It was always His plan to adopt ME.
Before the foundations of time. Before the foundations of the Universe were set. God had a plan, And that plan was adoption.

I can’t even talk about it without getting emotional, because adoption is the road that God has called my wife Jodie and I to walk, and I know that for many at Overlake, for many in my community, God is stirring adoption there as well! This is why we are thrilled to host a FREE Conference on September 24, called Wait No More! Because there are 1000 kids in Washington State who are ready to be adopted into loving homes! And you have one of those homes! Your heart identifies with the heart of God!

Let me give you one last picture of adoption: Pastor Josh and I visited an orphanage called ithemba Letu, in South Africa, and we got a chance to see a little boy get picked up by his forever family, and say goodbye to all his buddies. (He stayed in the rental car, holding hands with his new brother, while all of the other children from the orphanage came out and gave him a hug in the backseat of the car. He didn’t want to get out of the car, because he was afraid he’d be left behind). One of the practices of ithemba Letu is that they’ll ask the adoptive parents to send a photo album over with some pictures of their life that the child is going to be joining. So pictures of family members, pets, car, house, school, etc. are all placed in the photo album, and then it’s given to the child about to be adopted.

The director told us that when this particular little boy received his album, he wouldn’t put it down. He kept walking around with it, he slept with it, he’d keep it with him at playtime, he barely put it aside for bathtime. He just kept holding it tight, then he’d open it again and look at it, showing it to everyone at the orphanage again and again: “I have a brother! I have a dog! I have a bedroom! I have a new last name! I have a family!”

That might be the most powerful picture of adoption I’ve ever seen, with the most powerful connection to our faith. Because of the cross, You have a FATHER! Because of the death, burial and resurrection, You have a HOME! Because of Jesus, You have a new name! You have a family! You have brothers and sisters! You have a clean slate, a future! You have LIFE…abundant and eternal. Hold these truths close to your heart, just like that little boy, excited to walk the road of adoption.

God sent him (Jesus) to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. Galatians 4:5 NLT

God is the one who started this FAD. It's time for those who follow Him to get on board!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Firefighter's Prayer

On 9.11.2011, Overlake Christian Church was honored to host special services focused upon the events of 9.11 and our response one decade later. If you missed it, I highly recommend viewing it at occ.org. As a part of these proceedings, two local firefighters, and members of Overlake, Rob Robertson and Phil Pierson, led the congregation in prayer. After each service we've received dozens of requests for the content of Rob's prayer. Here it is...offered in humility, knowing the heartfelt and heartache that it was written in:


These class A uniforms that my brother Phil Pierson and I are wearing today are a symbol of the shared losses of fellow firefighters, police, military personnel and citizens’ of our country and especially to honor all who lost their life -- on this day - 10 years ago. Please bow, and join us now in prayer.

Father God, Lord Jesus,
on this anniversary of the horrific attacks on innocent men, women and children….

We are profoundly sorrowful…. remembering what we witnessed just one decade ago
We offer you our broken hearts…. and we grieve with all who were touched most brutally.
The orphans and widows, family and friends, that today, ache with fresh grief and loss…. yet to grow less painful.

Please draw each of these who mourn close to Your heart, so that they may intimately know Your unconditional love, comfort and hope. We are sobered by the staggering loss of life and the reality of the ill intentions that caused such travesty.

May we never succumb to reacting out of bitterness or giving way to hatred.

Fill us instead with the love that can only come from you, as you have commanded us to love our enemies.
We beg for your intervention in all that seems, to us, impossible to resolve.
And that your desires would become our desires, that we would trade our will for your will.

You are gracious and forgiving to all who seek You…. fill us with your love.

Open our eyes to any blind spots we may have in the complexities of all that enters into these global sufferings and adversities.
Please help us to have yielded hearts, that you might use us, as you choose, for your ultimate glory in all things.

In Jesus’ powerful name,

Thursday, September 8, 2011


A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of
little minds,
its been said,
with great self confidence and gusto.
But a humble, thoughtful
might be,
like the migration of a Monarch;
Bold, bespeckled, fluttering, fragile,
fraught with danger,
and yet, in
the end,
filled with a quiet,

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wanderlust Tenant #3

After a summer of hitchhiking around Britain and sleeping out under the stars, I felt that I had a grasp of a third element of the appreciation philosophy...a sort of hack-job thought structure that was part "carpe diem" and part "love thy neighbor." Anyway, here is number 3, from the British Isles section of Miles to Cross:

The third pillar of this wanderlust appreciation philosophy is that life itself is a gift. You didn’t ask for your lot in life, and you had no control over your entry stall. Nobody did. So nobody (literally) has the luxury of complaining. Of course, work like hell to better your situation, and to get to the places that you feel called to go. You have dreams for a reason. Complacency has no quarter here. This is simply a recognition that complaining is the root of all evil. Complaining signals weakness. Complaining tips the hat to a selfish frame of mind. Complaints invite anxiety. Gratitude, on the other hand, destroys it. Being thankful for where you are, who you are, what you are experiencing now...this is more than a good idea. It’s a frame of mind that allows you an odd peace in the face of any circumstance. It’s a healthier way to live. Counting your blessings may be hopelessly old wives-ish, but it’s a good idea nonetheless. Notice things, know yourself, and never complain. These three tenants provide the moral fabric for a life on the road, as well as for the person whose travels consist of venturing to the nearest coffee house and back.

“Complaints wither the fragile fruit tree of your soul. Laughter waters it unto life. Abundance, or a sickness unto death? You choose.” –Japhy Tinyspear

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hitching Around

After another recent wander through the Pacific Northwest on my iron horse(you can see the pics on my Miles to Cross Facebook Page…click right), I felt inspired to return again to that great meander of twenty years ago. At the time, I found that with a little chalk sign, a rucksack, and a smile, that hitchhiking through the UK was a treat. Here’s a taste:

“It is deep dusk, and I am in a field on a river in a little town in the Peak district near Leeds. I’m on my way to Glasgow. Today I had a huge discussion with Kelly Rivers about life and truth and belief. I don’t know all the answers. I don’t. Can one person really know? Can there be certainty despite confusion? But I do know God, and because of HIM:
I say life’s for living.
Road’s for traveling.
Eye’s for wondering.
Soul’s for soaring.
Bag’s for sleeping.
Heart’s for loving.
God, please don’t allow me too much success and ease as the devil’s advocate. Please don’t allow my love of ale and travel disqualify me from a role in your delight. Do I really have to become a safe, boring CHRISTIAN in order to love you? Tell me what my heart longs to hear…that following YOU well is the only true adventure left.
It is getting dark and I have no light to write by. I’ll lie down and look up and listen. I’ll fall asleep thinking of those I love.
This field is full of flowers.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Value of Ministry to the species known as GIRL

My friend, Neely, has a blog called More than Gossip, which highlights ministry to girls and female students. She asked me to be a guest blogger for her, so here goes:

First: thanks to Neely for asking me to blog…I love her book: 99 Things Every Girl Should Know. I didn’t read it for me. I read it for my ministry, for my family, and to increase my knowledge. As a lead pastor, and as a father of an incredible, athletic, academic eleven year old girl, and as the husband of an amazingly strong, intelligent woman, I can only describe my take on this new movement known as girls ministry with the word: THRILLED.

Is it really a new movement? You’d think that wouldn’t be the case, since girls have been around, you know, forever. Consider the traditional mindset: “reach the guys and the girls will come.” That’s actual ministry advice that I’ve received over the years. Multiple times. I hear Pastors to Men talk with incredible fervency that ministry to dudes is the only thing that Jesus would really be interested in. Reach the studs, and the doughy eyed chick-lettes will traipse along behind. Can there be any more dismissive view?

But Jesus was an amazing value-giver to women. The cultural appropriateness of males and females traveling together was nil when Jesus was on earth, and so he didn’t choose female travel partners, and his disciples were male. This makes sense. He did exactly the right thing (as if you needed another example of Jesus making a good choice). But Jesus valued women more than any single leader that we have record of up until his arrival on planet Earth. He included women in his ministry: He taught both men and women. He personally ministered to several women. He raised a girl from the dead. He disclosed his role as Messiah first to the woman at the well. He revealed himself post-resurrection to women first, and trusted them to deliver the information to the men, who were, by the way, in hiding.

In all of these ways, Jesus was counter-cultural, and modeled ministry to girls. That’s why I’m thrilled. I get excited when I see the Church (capital C) seeking to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Here’s a quick primer:
To think that only guys have God’s call on their lives for impact or ministry is a tradition that goes back to Genesis 3. It’s the effect of the fall, it’s the curse of sin. But in the church, we’re to go back further, and to see the effects of sin rolled back all the way to Genesis 1. That’s where God created both male and female in His image. That’s where God called both male and female to subdue the earth, to steward its bounty. That’s where God called both male and female to reproduce, to fill the earth and multiply. To hear some preachers talk, you’d think it was Adam’s job to rule, and Eve’s job to reproduce. But God called both, to both.

What this means at my church, (and what it should mean in yours): Speak life into your girls. Speak God’s call over them. Give them opportunities to serve, to share, to speak, and to develop their full potential in the Lord. Invest in your female leaders, just as you invest in male leaders. Try really hard not to use language or jesting that equates femininity with weakness. (There is a whole host of “girlie” language out there that serves as fun-fodder, ie. “You throw like a GIRL.” Why is 'girl' in that context synonymous for LAME? Did you not see the Women’s cup final this year? “You kick like a GIRL” ought to be a mark of strength and skill, and you can help change that context).

In short, I challenge you to believe in your girls.
Because you know Jesus does.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Travel Logs

There is still a month left this summer (am I in denial, or what?); just time enough to grab that summer/travel read you’ve been itching to explore. In hopes of spurring you on to a wander (I’m talking about sitting in your front yard, sipping Iced Tea, and losing yourself in a good read), I wanted to give you my take on some EXCELLENT travel logs…these have been my favorites:

7. Through Painted Deserts, by Donald Miller
6. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig (this one got my juices flowing for an American ride-about, plus I was a philosophy major, so double-bonus)
5. Open Roads, by Larry McMurtry
4. Travels with Charlie, by John Steinbeck
3. Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac (I know that On the Road gets all the press, and maybe it’s because this one gets overlooked that I like it so much more…definite insight into the beat generation)
2. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
1. Miles to Cross, by Mike Howerton (oh come on, you knew it was coming…)

Runners up: Under the Tuscan Sky, and Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes, although I think the details mire her work down a bit, and every year I believe there is a “The Best American Travel Writing” book that gets published, but I haven’t picked one of those up for a few years.

Soak in the Summer! And share your favorites with me! I’d love to explore new territory!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vagabond in Britain

While still a student at Pepperdine, I was able to study abroad two different seasons…once in Heidelberg, Germany, and once in London. My first trip, all of the travel was on trains, but when I stayed in London, I traveled on the cheap, backpacking, hitchhiking, and sleeping under the stars in open fields. I also talked to Van Morrison. Once. Briefly. On the phone. His daughter, Shana, was in my program, and one time I traveled to Bath, England, where she was hanging out at her dad’s house, and I called to speak with her. Van Morrison answered the phone. “Hello?” he said. “Hi, is Shana there?” I asked. “Hold on a sec.” He said. So, I can say from experience, he seems like a great guy. Here’s a nugget…

“Last night as I slept out (this was after a great evening hanging out with Shana, Van Morrison’s daughter) an interesting scene unfolded. I was sleeping in a farmer’s field just outside of Bath when someone blundered through the trees and almost stepped on me. I cried out and the guy ran back to the trees and disappeared, but I could tell that he just stopped in the shadows. There was no answer when I asked who he was, just more rustling. So I packed up my stuff and headed off to find a more secure resting place. I ended up in somebody’s garden, but it was so late the foxes were out, (I saw two) and I didn’t disturb a soul.
I forgot to mention that the night before last I heard witches. It was a full moon, and I was in an isolated field on a hillside (outside of Eastbourne). The field was bordered by trees, and the grass was close to three feet high. At one point, I was suddenly awakened by loud female cackle and laughter at the top of the hill behind the trees. It grew in volume for half a moment or so—then silence. Seconds later cackles loud sound from the bottom of the field, again behind the trees. These continue a moment and cease as abruptly. I suppose it was some sort of broomstick race under the full moon, but perhaps it was just a gaggle of spinsters having fun with a sleeping trespasser.
You never know your luck.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Impatience is the
great laugh.
It is choosing mirage
while stumbling past

Life is what happens in the meantime.


I sense that there is deeper strata of life available: more joy, rich wisdom, wide love. It’s there, down there, beneath this shallow bandwidth of comfortable American suburban maleness that I typically and conveniently dwell in. But in all my writing, in all my preaching…I yearn to be the finger pointing…there, there it is…I’ve glimpsed it, and it’s good. I’ve tasted it, and the tiniest portions of it sentence me to longing for more. And more. More and more life with God.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Bunch of Hot Air

Tonight, after a family dinner, as we were wrapping up a walk together with Scout, the kids spotted a beautiful hot air balloon floating towards our neighborhood. On a whim, we decided to follow it, to watch it land. So a terrific chase ensued. Each of the children were in rare form, cracking each other up, as we galavanted up and down road after road. We finally lost it behind some tall trees, and we headed home, in a car filled with sound effects and third grade jokes.

We totally failed in our quest.
And yet it totally felt like success.

Just wanted to encourage you to fail with your loved ones in a similar fashion...and have a blast doing it.

More American Miles

As a part of my pilgrimage mentality I embraced through spending a year or so on the road (over four travel experiences) in my college days, my brother Mark challenged me to come up with my own philosophy...how do I see life? What is the Tao of How, if you will. So in Miles to Cross, I tried to capture not only the journey, but the weightiness of the quest. Here is the second of four keys:

wanderlust Tenant #2

Know Yourself.

The second tenant of this wanderlust appreciation belief is that whoever you are is a gift. You are beautiful right now, just as you are, incredibly more beautiful than you think you are. If our media culture would just keep its mitts out of our self-consciousness, you would discover this. You are loved, right now, just as you are. You are loved beyond your ability to comprehend. And the great news, the hope that rises as bright as the sun, is that you are a work in progress. Notice things. Know yourself. Unless you spend the time it takes to know yourself, you will continue to project your own issues on the people that surround you, or sometimes even the places that you find yourself. You can change your surroundings...the people and the places. But you can’t travel away from you. In order to know yourself, you have to listen to your emptiness, to your dissatisfaction, to your restlessness. It is telling you something about your heart’s deep longing. Know yourself, and be comfortable with you. When you are comfortable with you, devoid of arrogance but full of confidence, then you can truly appreciate the Life that surrounds you.

“Know thyself, and love what you know. Then not only can your heart breathe, it can soar fueled with unflappable joy!” –Japhy Tinyspear
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” –The Lord of All Things

Monday, August 15, 2011


like a flea
being sought by the wandering scratch of a dog
or a fly
buzzing the ear of a picnic practitioner
to distraction,
the poetry of discontent goads
not to despair
but rather
to annoyed hopefulness
holding out to the end
that true balm does exist:

only not here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Poetry speaks to me deeply. Honestly, I love sketches of something...a verbal picture that points my emotions in a certain direction. I used to write more of it. Here's a poem from the Freedom Tour portion of Miles to Cross:

last twilight
walking on a path deserted,
my eyes dazzled by the contrast
between silhouette
and light faded,
so that when I glanced along the darkened path
the shapes and vague movements ghostlike
were unreal
images cast from older days:
a country lad’s daydreams,
of a more innocent age.
The songs of locust blanketed me
wave after wave; I heard
hoof-clops of a rider returning
from a general store supply run, perhaps,
and I imagined,
giddy, like a school-girl after her love’s kindness,
fireflies, and a soft harmonica playing on
the edge of memory.

it was a helicopter,
not a firefly,
and I realized that the hum of harp
was the toll road speeding cars at breakneck
speeds toward

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More American Soil

When I wrote Miles to Cross, it was originally in the form of super rough journal entries, with pen and leather-bound parchment, and I ended up shoving photos, poetry, and pictures taken en route into these journals. The motorcycle quest for America happened 20 years ago this summer, and we called it the Freedom Tour.

One of the reasons why I’m excited about building the Miles to Cross Facebook page is that I’ll finally be able to include the poetry, the photos, but also interact with folks who are lovers of the journey as well. Meet me there!

Here are a couple of American Soil snapshots:

“I sit in a green valley in God’s country, outside Durango, and I am happy. I am also saturated with fatigue, for the last two days have seen many miles. Toph joined me in Victorville, and we cruised the Las Vegas desert together up to St. George. I hooked a right on Highway 9 to Kanub (Toph was heading north to go through Denver for a visit with his lady, Jen), where I spent one starlit night. Right before I went to sleep I had a cigarette. I recently finished Still Life with a Woodpecker by Robbins, which inspired me to start smoking on this trip. I think its cool to watch people smoke. It’s a James Dean thing. I even like the smell of the Camel hardpack that I purchased to learn with. The problem is this: I can’t do it. I cough and hack like Tuberculosis incarnate. It is ridiculous. Plus, I woke up this morning and my breath tasted like I’d gargled with manure. So I think I’ll cut my losses and call it quits. And spare myself the joy of blacklung.
Today the ride was okay until I hit Cortez. Then, I was amazed. Awestruck. The mountains and the valleys and the green of the hills and trees was symphony and majesty to my tired soul. That breeze of glory carried my horse and I to Durango, where I prepare to bed for the evening. A dog barks, the sun sets, I hear children laughing in the distance. I am, like all my fellow journeymen, a wanderer in this pilgrimage of life.”

A couple of nights later, camping outside of Garden City, Kansas:
“A man named Homer gave me a brochure for the Christian Motorcyclists Association. Their motto is “There’s still time to change the road you’re on,” which is a line from Zepplin’s Stairway. In a live recording of that song, Robert Plant sings the lyric, and then in the pause afterward says, “I hope so.”
You and me both, Rob.”

Friday, August 12, 2011

American Soil

“Cathy, I’m lost” I said, though I knew she was sleeping. “I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.” Counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike, they’ve all gone to look for America.”
Paul Simon, “America”

This is a pic of the HOG that I hit the road with 20 years ago, with my Buddies Christopher “Toph” Wilshire and Mike “Dean” Anderson. It’s not the exact bike that I did over 11,000 miles on, but I’ll try in the next few days to get a bunch of the original pics up on the Miles to Cross Facebook page. Toph drove a Magna, and Dean was on a Yamaha. All the bikes performed well, and yet, after hitting all four corners of the continental US, each of us had a certain soreness in the posterior region. No matter how comfortable Bike seats are, apparently we crossed the threshold.

Life is a Journey.
Enjoy the ride.

God in the Ancients

you citizen of this old town
or pilgrim from far away
looking for some
here you may become silent
at the well of all beauty
and life
no one is a stranger
in this old church
where God as a loving father
is waiting
only for you

onze-lieve vrov wkerk
Bruge, Belgium

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I guess I should have noted in the previous post that I spent a total of a year on the road...traveling and studying abroad and through America.

Europe by train.
America by motorcycle.
Britain via hitchhiking.
Central America by any means possible, including light air and riverboat.

The challenge was to live life well, and to come up with a "philosophy"...the Tao of How, if you will. And since that was a challenge far beyond my capabilities, I had to content myself with 4 Tenants of Wanderlust.

Road-Trip Nostalgia

Since we're taking a road-trip through the Scriptures at my church this summer, I thought it'd be fun to go nostalgic about the glories of the open road. Here's a snapshot from Miles to Cross...hopefully whetting the appetite for your own miles untasted. For additional Miles to Cross love, hit the Miles to Cross facebook page and post your own roadtrip pics and stories!

Function: noun
Etymology: Latin nomad-, nomas member of a wandering pastoral people, from Greek, from nemein
Date: 1579
1 : a member of a people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory
2 : an individual who roams about aimlessly
- nomad adjective
- no·mad·ism noun

Wanderlust Tenant #1
Notice Things.

The very first tenant of belief in the wanderlust theory of Appreciation is that you have to Notice Things. You don’t even have to go anywhere to practice this tenant. Wherever you are is a gift. Beauty surrounds, even in the oddest, most sterile places. If you’re eyes aren’t open, you will never learn to live a life of appreciation, no matter where you go. If you’re eyes are open, you will never stop. Notice things. Butterflies. Streaks of cloud in the skyscape. The breeze as it moves the wooden chimes, or the smell of rain on the warm asphalt. There are a host of things to notice, even on the most familiar pathways. Notice them. And in doing so, you remain open to wonder.

“If you remain open to wonder, your heart can breathe.” –Japhy Tinyspear
“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.” –Holy Writ

It’s been two decades since I first penned the rough on-the-road manuscript of Miles to Cross, and yet I still affirm the idea that our lives are journeys, that we are not people of the destination, but we are in fact travelers, vagabonds, and wanderers in a foreign land. And while we’re here it is absolutely appropriate to appreciate the surroundings. It’s common grace that surrounds us…all of us…if we will but notice God’s goodness and nearness.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Go See Soul Surfer!

Shortest review in history: Loved it. Thumbs up. Wholesome, inspirational family movie.
Qualifying Confession: I’m a Bethany Hamilton fan.

I simply find her story fascinating. I love Kauai, love surfing, and love people putting Jesus first. You add a horror like a shark attack leaving an aspiring surf champion with one arm, and you’ve got all of the elements of a brilliant human interest story.

So, when I have an opinion about this movie, it’s qualified in the fact that I’ve followed her story from the very beginning, when even from the hospital after losing her arm, she was giving God glory.

I bought and read the book, Soul Surfer, when it came out, which chronicles her life and story, and it was excellent, written by my good buddy Rick Bundschuh, who is the pastor of Kauai Christian Fellowship, which is exactly where I’m hoping to serve when I get to heaven.

When the 31 minute documentary came out about Bethany getting back in the water three weeks after the attack, called Heart of a Soul Surfer, we bought and devoured it. It helps that I taught my daughter Alex and my son Caleb to surf at the exact same pier in Hanalei Bay. Watching her come back from a tragic event, filled with joy and faith, and eventually become one of the best female surfers on the planet (number 23 to be precise)…that’s an incredible underdog saga. And yet, you’re sort of amazed at Bethany’s steadfast faith…she never comes across as the underdog. She never views herself as handicapped or disabled. She’s just herself, a vibrant girl loving Jesus and the surf he provides, and she lives Romans 8:28 magnificently.

Trial makes some bitter. Bethany is miraculously better, and millions have been inspired by her faith, and tenacity. Honestly, she’s just a great lover of Jesus. And I want to be like her.

So, the MOVIE: Soul Surfer.
I loved it. Go see it. Twice. My son Duzi said it’s his favorite movie ever (he’s six). He told me after watching it: “Lots of people have two arms. Some people have one. Nobody has four, or twenty.” Needless to say, he was inspired.

What’s great about it: Kauai, surfing, and watching people put family and faith first. It is inspiring to realize what an inspiration Bethany is to all sorts of kids (and grownups) who face unique, tragic circumstances. Most of the acting is great. If anyone ever makes a movie about my life, I pray they cast Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt as MY parents. (my wife stole that line from me, but the truth is that I steal lines all the time and what goes around…) And the actress playing Bethany Hamilton is great (AnnaSophia Robb), emotive, believable as a surfer, and a phenomenal choice.

Here’s what’s typical:
1. Faith dialogue in the movies always sounds like it was written by Hallmark. Jesus is mentioned twice, and there are a couple of verses of Scripture referenced. But it’s pretty safe. In the documentary, you get a much more realistic witness of authentic faith. The movie didn’t do a poor job, it just did a typical job, not stepping into the possibility that even this tragic event might be a showcase for God’s glory and love revealed. I keep waiting for a guy like Aaron Sorkin to become a believer, and then we’ll see some snippy, intelligent conversations about faith while people walk briskly on the big screen. You can watch Bethany’s personal testimony on my wife’s blog (sunbreaksintherainycity.com) or the website called I Am Second. She’s for real.

2. Carrie Underwood. She’s beautiful, cool, and cast here as a draw to 12 year old pre-teens, but honestly, even my daughter’s friends thought she wasn’t a strong actress. I am sure she’s a wonderful person, but her presence and her accent felt out of place on the north shore of Kauai.

3. Editing. I couldn’t help but think that just a bit of a larger budget might have made the editing jump from a B to an A.

None of these things are real deterrents…I still think this is the family movie of the year. I did take Duzi (who is 6) out of the theater when the actual shark attack happens, just because I didn’t want to risk potential nightmares. My 8 and 11 year old surfer kids loved the entire thing. And Jodie and I were emotional multiple times as we watched parents walk the hard road of having a child suffer. We’ll own it when it comes out on DVD, so we have the entire Bethany Hamilton library.

Finally, as a pastor, a believer, and a dad, I’d love for this movie to get a ton of traction. I’d love for people to realize that most of the things that distract, deter or disappoint us are mostly molehills. Come watch a true story about a tragic event as big as a mountain, that a faith-filled surfer girl throws into the depths before she joyfully surfs the glorious waves that she thanks Jesus for creating.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Another Glimpse of Heaven

Last week at OCC, I challenged our congregation to think of three ways that meditating on Heaven impacts our lives today, and to journal about those implications. I was so pleased that hundreds of Overlakers took up the challenge! Here’s the heart of the matter…

CS Lewis observed in Mere Christianity:

“If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

I’d love hear your thoughts on this. And I wonder how specific we can be…the big picture answers are things like: Meditating on Heaven inspires us to work to bring heaven to earth, or to make sure that people know they’re invited, or it eliminates the sting of death…which are all true. What I’m looking for is how these things specifically work themselves out…how our lives are specifically fuelled with joy and significance as we think about eternity. What comes to YOUR mind? How is God stirring in YOU? (incidentally, if you’ve missed our series thus far you can find them at www.occ.org on the media page)

I’d also like to use this opportunity to invite people to come to Overlake this week, as we rap up this series. I’ve received many comments and emails, and had many conversations regarding how God is inspiring people through this topic. I’d love to encourage you to join us on Sunday, where we are talking about eternal rewards and reigning with Christ…just a little heavenly R & R!

We will discover that Heaven fuels and excites our passion to glorify God through Good works, to love others tangibly through meeting needs, and to store up treasures in Heaven which will last for eternity!

Can’t wait to see you Sunday!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Heavenly Musings #2

I'm finding WAY too many of these nuggets of truth and glory to preach them all. But you gotta check this out...
Theologian A.A. Hodge writes:

“Heaven, as the eternal home of the divine Man and all of the redeemed members of the human race, must necessarily be thoroughly human in it’s structure, conditions, and activities. Its joys and activities must all be rational, moral, emotional, voluntary, and active. There must be the exercise of all the faculties, the gratification of all tastes, the development of all talent capacities, the realization of all ideals. The reason, the intellectual curiosity, the imagination, the aesthetic instincts, the holy affections, the social affinities, the inexhaustible resources of strength and power native to the human soul must all find in heaven exercise and satisfaction. There must always be a goal of endeavor before us, ever future…Heaven will prove the consummate flower and fruit of the whole creation and of all the history of the universe.”

Meaning: Heaven will be completely and wholly “human” and “home,” while at the same time being completely glorified and untainted by curse. There will be learning and growth, future and forward looking, while at the same time no possible wistfulness at the brevity of time or the scarcity of resources. Relationships and personal talents will flourish, culture will bloom, all to the glory of our very Present Lord, Savior, and Father.

Heavenly Musings

At our church, we are mid-way through a series on Heaven. It’s the first time in 20 years that I’ve taught through significant portions of biblical thought on Heaven. The more I research and study, the more I realize how incredible God is in revealing snapshots of that goodness in the here and now.

C.S. Lewis writes: “All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.”

And as Randy Alcorn says, “You are made for a person and a place. Jesus is the person. Heaven is the place.”

Personally, the way that God has been firing me up as I’ve meditated on the way He has revealed bits and pieces of His plans for our eternity: I have a renewed passion to make sure that I’m dragging as many with me as possible!! Glorified bodies, Glorified beauty, Glorified desires, No disease, No scarcity, No Sorrow, AND we'll be in the manifest presence of our Loving God. Jesus IS that awesome, and Eternity is THAT amazing!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Peaceful Violence

Unpopular Truths of Leadership through Transition

Change is always hard.
Change always feels a bit violent.
I’ve been blessed to work in church contexts for the last 20 years, and in each context, I’ve become the leader in a ministry that was already in existence. What that means is that there were certain structures already in place, and elements of DNA that were established, and not all structures and not all DNA as I found them, were healthy. So this is a bit of the wisdom God has taught me as I’ve led through transition (as most of my church-world brothers and sisters are doing right now). Since most of the time we mortals tend to be as wise as doves and as gentle as serpents, above all I know that listening to Jesus and following His example will always be the best course…

Lesson 1: Gentleness is more powerful than rage.

Proverbs 16:32 tells us that it’s better to have self control than to take a city.

Gentleness is one of the fruits of a life lived filled with God’s Spirit. It has many inherent advantages. But, one of the best aspects of being gentle is that you never have to apologize.

I know several pastors who employ the rant and the rage, and I know that tends to lead to some difficult places personally. I’ve done it. Most of the time, it also forces us to go to a place of humility, where we end up needing to apologize for the un-gentleness we’ve exhibited. I have a dear friend in ministry who was always having to apologize…to women, to the press, to another ministry that he didn’t really hate but ranted against as if he did…what’s interesting is that as he has grown as a gentle leader, his influence has also grown. While I readily admit there are seasons for strength, and for holding a hard line, it’s always good to be reminded: You’ll never have to apologize for being gentle.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 NIV