Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reading in a rhythm

Full-time church ministry doesn't often lead to long stretches of time to read unless the person carves out that time. I have read numerous books during my time at MVPC but most of the time I read in short, concentrated time periods. I have struggled to finish books (the classic challenge) and I have found myself jumping from book to book based on my energy level.

Currently, I am reading The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson as part of my reading list for my upcoming continuing education trip. I decided to not pick up any other book until I finished this book. I have had many opportunities but I have refused. I call it the discipline of rejecting "double dipping" in terms of books.

In light of this decision, I have experienced a rhythm of reading that I haven't experienced since seminary. I can only describe the rhythm in terms of a sense of familiarity with the style, vocabulary and approach of the author. In many ways, I feel like I have had the privilege of sitting down with Eugene Peterson for a few days to talk about life, faith and The Jesus Way.

I have 50 pages to go and I do not plan on picking up another book until I finish this one.

I am looking for a fresh book list going forward and I have hit a wall in terms of ideas. If you are reading this, then I'd like to know 1-2 books that you would recommend that I read before I die. Ideas?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Practicing What I Preach (Literally)

This morning, I preached on the basic truth that God responds to simple prayers of desperation. The sermon focused on the second half of the Lord's Prayer. I would provide the manuscript for you but I never wrote one.

Last month, I felt constrained by my manuscript in a sermon and I struggled with presenting the material. The largest contributor to my struggle was my feeling that I had to stay with my manuscript or at least the ideas on it. I received numerous feedback that I appeared tense and concerned about my points as I shared them. I realized that I had written over 75 papers in seminary but I had only written 5-6 sermons. I have had more practice writing papers than writing/delivering sermons and it was showing in my preaching. I consulted with my head of staff and he suggested that I should ditch the manuscript and try preaching from an outline.

This week, I decided to go one step further and ditch all of my notes. I was able to spend more time in prayer and reading about my topic as opposed to typing up a 12-15 page sermon manuscript. My prayers ended up matching the controlling theme of my sermon - that God would respond to a simple prayer of desperation or dependence. I needed God's help in sharing. I didn't share from a typed manuscript or even from a set of notes. Instead, I shared from what God had already truly taught me and I was able to communicate with Maple Valley Presbyterian as opposed to talking at them.

I honestly have not felt that comfortable with sharing in public since I shared at an InterVarsity event years ago. During that event, I shared from a 4 point outline that simply listed my main point, a few story references and a concluding Scripture verse.

I don't know if I will be able to consistently preach in this way but I would like to try it again. My preaching today required more dependence on God than any other time and I felt like I practiced what I preached - letting God respond to simple prayers of desperation (dependence).

Sunday, February 03, 2008


This blog is turning into a health report instead of a place for theological and cultural reflections. I put out a "SOS" in my last post and things have turned for the worse since then. Avery added another (4th) vomit to the mix later that evening and yesterday I was struck down with the flu. Thank God (literally) that the girls were in a deep sleep when the flu hit me. I felt like a truck knocked me over (even though I think that I would rather have that happen).

There is some good news though. Today, I called some friends who have servant hearts and asked them to take the girls for the afternoon. The girls went to their friends house and they were able to have fun without hanging around their wasted Daddy. They also were able to go to a birthday party that they otherwise would not have been able to attend with my fever and flu.

I slept for the entire 6 hours when they were gone. I feel a little better but I also feel the sickness creeping back. This battle is almost over but I am fighting away.

In light of all this, I have received new insights into the Hebrew expression "Hosanna" which means "please save" or "save now". I am not going to venture into the different interpretations of the term in the Gospels right now. It is amazing how being dead sick and feeling desperate takes away the complexities of life and boils it down to one word, "HELP!".

Today, the Lord provided help to me from some friends and some much-needed rest. My prayers of "deliver me from this!" and "please save" or "Hosanna" were heard. Praise God.

Take a listen to this song that has encouraged me for weeks now -