Monday, November 30, 2009


I believe an old English word for "worship" was "worthship."  This certainly denoted worth or value. 

If our worship demonstrates what God is worth to us, what would the perceived value be by those who watched you worship this week?  How much would you estimate God's value if that were to be determined by your quality of worship?

Worship and Humanity

I was a broken man on Sunday.  I had a fight with my son before church, as we were going to church, and when we arrived at church.  I felt absolutely out of control.  On this day, I felt hopeless and helpless.  I was perfectly prepared for worship.

I came to the Father that morning with a broken heart and shattered spirit.  I usually worship with scattered thoughts and lists of announcements and the task of memorizing visitors names.  I could only look to God for help on this day.  As I stumbled through my pastoral prayer I found myself without words, but I prayed.  As I began to speak, God gave me words beyond my preparation.  When I showed up, God did too.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Tomorrow I am going to try to practice the discipline of worship.  I have a tendency to think about everything that has to go into worship rather than practicing worship.  I am going to prepare for worship tomorrow and see if I find anything different.

Spirit and truth?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

You might have noticed that I just posted my blog for Thursday.  That's because I cooked all day Thursday for our family feast and spent all night searching for Christmas presents on Black Friday.  My wife and I actually tried a new technique for our yearly jaunt into insanity.  We did Walmart and arrived before 11pm to pick up our goodies and wait until 5am to check out.  With this strategy we left Walmart by 5:07am and went to Best Buy.  By 6:04am we were in our car heading home.  Not a bad plan, but am I tired.

The number of people who showed up for the festivities was amazing.  We were the first two in our checkout aisle.  We got in line at 3:30am.  By the time 5am rolled around, the 32 checkouts had lines that stretched to the back of the store.  Hundreds and hundreds of people showed up for the big event.  It was amazing.

Do we have anything like that anymore in the church?  Do Christmas and Easter even come close?  Has materialism so taken over our society that our rituals of worship to that god have surpassed the worship of our God?

Perhaps I am making too much of this, but I did only get 3 hours of sleep today.


Thanks be to God, His love endures forever!

Thanksgiving should be a special time for us, Christians.  We have so much to be thankful for.  It troubles me that more of our worship services aren't filled with references to thankfulness.  Oh, we have the occasional "thanks" song, and perhaps someone will mention being thankful during communion. 

Why do we not mention thanks more in worship?  How grateful are we really?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Lesson on Worship

Many years ago I was taught an important lesson about worship by one of the young people in my youth group.  Laura Keiper had been sick during a great week of Summer in the Son.  SITS is a high school Christian youth camp held every summer at Kentucky Christian University.  When Laura finally joined the group after a couple days of illness, she sat solemnly during one of the most raucous, enjoyable worship services that I have ever experienced.

At the end of every evening, I would lead the kids in a debriefing of the day's events.  I asked the kids what God had done today in their lives and what they had learned.  Some kids said the concert was great.  Some exclaimed the worship was "rockin'."  Others mentioned this and that.  Then it was Laura's turn.

Remember-Laura had just started getting out of the dorm today.  She sat lifeless in worship.  She really didn't seem any better than the last time I saw her.  Then she dropped the bombshell.  Laura said, "Today I really felt like I learned what worship is all about.  It isn't about the good time, the mosh pit, the great sermon.  It isn't about me.  It's about Him."  Now I must confess (last weeks discipline) that those probably are not her exact words, but I will never forget that moment when the student became the teacher.

Our experience of worship is not worship.  Our level of enjoyment of worship is inconsequential.  Our interaction with the faith community is unimportant.  Worship truly is when He becomes everything, and nothing else is important.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chapter 11-The Discipline of Worship

Worship is a discipline.  Showing up is a discipline.  Actively participating in worship is a discipline.  Proper focus while one is worshiping is a discipline.  Offering appropriate service to ones neighbor during worship is a discipline.  Worship is a discipline.

On many Sundays I just show up for worship.  My mind is on my role.  My thoughts are on getting ready for the morning's service.  Rarely do I really worship on Sunday. 

I was told of a staff in Kansas that required each of its ministers to take a Sunday off a month to attend another church for worship.  I thought that sounded a bit extravagant.  After 20 years of ministry, I now understand why they followed this strange practice.  In my experience, ministers often serve but rarely worship.

Join me as we learn more about the discipline of worship.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I Had to Confess

I did make a corporate confession yesterday, and it fit the situation.  I confessed that I owned far too much stuff.  Now there is a back story to this confession.

I have been a faithful yard sale, Salvation Army, Value World (It's a Michigan thing.), and a "good deal" kind of guy.  I have amassed a relative fortune in stuff.  I have camping equipment for 4 families, but we don't camp.  I could outfit an army's kitchen, but there are only 3 in my family.  I have bought my wife a bunch of shoes, but she likes that.  I have a problem.  I have gotten to the point where a possible need equated to a purchase.  The hunt, the find, the deal became more important than the object itself.  I confessed my problem to my congregation during my sermon, Give It Away.

Along with the confession, I am beginning to part with the extra junk in my life.  My wife gave a big Amen in the service and is now waiting to see the fruits of that confession.  God help me and give me the strength.

Confession is freeing when followed by change.  I am on a quest to change, and all those around me know the truth about which I speak.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Practicing Confession

I have thought a lot about the practice of confession and its corporate implications.  I have tried to figure out a way to fulfill my goal of practicing the discipline during this project.  I am challenged at this point.  I cannot seem to come up with a means of confessing without it being contrived or utilized simply for this experiment.  That would be unfair and manipulative.

I am getting the sense that the practice of the disciplines must always be practiced within a community of faith that participates with one another.  Even the previous disciplines that were not earmarked as "corporate" have the need of a faithful community.  If there is one notion I have developed a greater appreciation for durin this exercise, it is that fact.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Could You Be A Confessor?

When people need someone to talk to, are you the one they go to?  When people need someone to listen, are you the one they go to?  When someone needs to get something off their chest, are you the first person who pops into their mind?  When someone needs to confess a sin, are you their "go to" person?

High praise is deserved by the person for whom others can bring their sin.  Indeed, that is a great compliment. 

Why would you be a good confessor?  Why would you be a bad confessor? 

What are the traits of a person who is good at taking other people's confessions?

What would it take for you to serve others in this way?

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Good Confession

Foster point out that a good confession begins with sorrow but ends with joy.  What a blessing it is to know that your sins are forgiven.  To move from devastation to exhilaration in a matter of moments is grace indeed.

Seldom do I seem to have that depth of despair or height of release.  I often stay in the middle where the sadness is rather mellow and the joy is far too sober.  I tend to see my sin as "not that bad" and my forgivenss as "not that big of a deal."  I am caught in the lukewarmness of complacency.

Father, show me the terror of my sin and the blinding amazement of my forgiveness.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Confessional

I would have been a good Catholic.  I like order and requirements and formality.  I need structure that is so often lacking in the modern Protestant tradition of America. 

I am perhaps my own best critic, but it would be nice to be able to cleanse my inner being and share my own self-inflicted wounds to another human and receive absolution and needed penance.  Our notion of personal confession often pushes sin deeper into the interior rather than catheterizing ones soul.  I need a community of faith to hold me accountable and to help me recover from my tendency to beat myself up. 

I need a confessor.  Anybody up for the job?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Confession Is Good for the Soul

Confession may seem to be an act of admission of guilt, but on another level confession is a mementous "shout out" to the God who forgives and loves.  Personally, confession is cathartic; corporately, confession is liberating.  The company of the forgiven must always share in the combined glory of sins forgiven.  We convene not because we've "got it" but because we need it.  We gather not because we are now superior but because we have all fallen.  We join together not because we are high and exalted but because He was lifted up.  We are just as much a community of miserable sinners as we are glorified saints. 

We cannot celebrate our salvation with out dealing with our need for forgiveness.  We cannot revel in the new birth without lamenting our death to sin.  We must not live our lives as if their was no price for our freedom. 

Confession is a constant reminder of the perpetual presence of Jesus' cross in all of our affairs.  Confession keeps us real and keeps our heads out of the clouds.  Confession reminds us that we are all sinners saved by grace, amazing grace.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chapter 10-The Discipline of Confession

Today we venture down a different fork in the pathway to spiritual growth.  Turning to the discipline of confession moves us into the corporate disciplines.  A vast expanse of darkness looms over this discipline for many of us from pedestrian protestant traditions.  I am intrigued, scared, and excited about prospect of studying and practicing confession.

During the next four chapters, I am going to have to figure out how to practice these disciplines due to their corporate nature.  I can certainly comment on them, but unfortunately I don't have a community of faith that practices these on a regular basis.  That fact makes this exercise difficult and somehow sad.

While I have appreciated the comments of my readers, I must admit that the solitary nature of this adventure has exposed the limits of practicing the classic disciplines alone.  The celebration of the disciplines was certainly intended for us to practice them together.  This road was never meant to be walked alone.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Serving and Being a Servant

Foster reminded me today that serving is not the same as being a servant.  I can serve my son, or anyone for that matter, and still retain a high position.  The discipline of service can only be practiced when I live as one of the least of the brothers.

The difficulty in the execution of my goal for this blog is summed up in this thought.  Even in the midst of  practicing the discipline, I may be doing the act but not practicing the discipline.  I have found my task difficult, but I may just now be learning the way of the disciplines.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Service With A Smile

As I was serving my son today, I found myself wondering what it should feel like to serve someone else.  Business values tell us that we should gladly serve our customers.  What does our Christian heritage teach us.?

"As you have done for the least of these my brothers you have done it unto me."  How would I serve my Lord?  Would I wear a smile?  Do it with a frown?  Hate every minute of it.  Wish my mind away to a more pleasant time.

I am going to serve my son tomorrow with a smile.  I really don't know what he will think.  Probably something about me being crazy.  You know he's probably right.  Well, here goes.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Serving My Child

I am struggling with the notion of serving my son.  He is difficult and demanding.  He knows only self.  He is arrogant and rude.  He expects to be treated with the utmost of care whle delivering vile and venom to others.  He is obnoxious and pig-headed.  He pushes my buttons and enjoys my weaknesses. 

He is the perfect person for me to learn service.

I love my son.  I don't like how I struggle with him.  I need to give this aspect of my life over to the Lord.  God, please help me.


I had to go get turkeys for our Thanksgiving outreach at the church.  It was a small task, but I had to take some time out and find them.  White meat or dark meat? 

This year in order to serve our community we chose to allow people to "shop" for their dinners.  We gathered many different items for people to be able to choose what they wanted.  We have given Thanksgiving baskets for years, but we have always just given people what we chose.  We felt this year that we would honor the people by giving them some choices. Allowing others to keep their dignity and honor as we serve them should always be our goal.  If we are to serve, let us serve well.


I spent a good bit of the day going to hospitals on Thursday.  I was in the car for about an hour and a half.  As you can tell I am writing this on Saturday instead of Thursday.  That means that my week sort of exploded on me.  I didn't even realize that I hadn't done my blog in 3 days.

What I realized in the car was that service is not always simple or convenient.  Service simplifies our lives by making our way easier by taking away our need to control or place value on others.  Service is totally for the other.  Time in the car isn't really such a big deal.  I actually like being alone in the car.  I guess it isn't really all that bad.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Servant of All

For almost 9 years I asked an early childhood professional if she would help with our growing children's ministry in our church. For 9 years, she told me that she prayed about it but did not feel like God was calling her to that ministry.  Nine invitations to serve; nine refusals.

How many times have I not served because I didn't feel like I should?  The reason doesn't really matter.  The fact is that I chose not to serve.  In Mark 9:35, Jesus instructs that we should be "servant of all."  Our call to serve trumps our need to feel the calling.  Foster says, "The service disciplines the feelings rather than allowing the feeling to control the service."

The call to serve all frees us from the ups and downs of our internal feelings.  It removes all political and personal motivations for our actions.  It puts everyone on the same plain-one who should be served.  God, I ask you to show me how I can be the servant of all.  Open my eyes that I may see. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chapter 9-The Discipline of Service

When ones job is to serve, how does one further explore the discipline of service?  Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that I have the whole service thing down.  But how do I endeavor to deepen my service?  That is the question.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Submission to the Natural

The past week has been a giant practice of learning to submit to nature.  My wife was diagnosed with H1N1, and the only thing we could do is deal with it.  My son threw up this morning before school, and all we could do was deal with it.  On the day my wife was diagnosed with swine flu, I performed the funeral for a woman who died from it, and all we could do was deal with it.  All we could do was deal with it.

Sometimes we are so deluded into believing that we control everything around us including nature itself.  Rain, snow, hot, cold, tornado, drought, flood are all out of our control.  We can fight against the wind, but we will never win.

I am getting older, and every day I learn that in another way.  I can fight this change of life, or I can submit to it and find freedom.  I think I might try a little freedom on for size.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Submission Training

I have decided that my son has been the perfect trainer for submission practice.  He can be very difficult right now and very demanding.  Everything within me just wants to yell him down over everything.  I find myself examining my own motives more than his. 

Today, I came home from church at about 2:00 pm.  It had been a long day, and he had not dealt with the leaves in the front yard as he had been instructed.  There were lawnmowers, an electrice cord for a leaf blower, a rake, and a lot of leaves sitting in the front yard when I finally got home.  Usually I would have started yelling at this point.  Today I thought I would find out what he needed.  My need was to have the leaves gone; his was a question mark to me. 

I helped him get through his "I've tried" phase, and we moved on to productive discussing to help him get the work done.  More often than not, my confrontation would have led to escalation and little work.  Because I subordinated my need to have it done already, we were able to communicate and see the task completed. 

My son is a pretty good teacher.  If anyone would like to borrow him for some submission lessons, he is available for rent most any day.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mutual Submission

I am performing a wedding today.  One of the topics I discuss with couples in their required premarital sessions is the joy of mutual submission. 

Submission is often seen as negative because our society has taught us that "having it your way" is the only way.  Submission is understood to be the task of the weaker individual in the relationship.  Submission is too passive; they say.

Well, I see submission as very active.  Submission as an act of choice exalts the other person.  It does not demean the submissive.  Submission that is not an act of choice is slavery.  Mutual submission insures that both parties needs and desires are accomodated.  Only with mutual submission can a dominant/submissive dynamic be negated. 

Our two male cats like to play like they are fighting.  Both will stand up on their back haunches and spar until one flops over on their back and plays the defensive cat.  One after the other, the two cats will take turns being the offensive and defensive cat.  Both are happy with their little game.  Both get to play both roles. 

If young couples could learn the joy of their partner getting their way, more marriages would make it past the uncomfortable fight for dominance that many couples get caught in.  Here's to mutual submission!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Limits of Submission

"The limits of the Discipline of submission are at the points at which it becomes destructive."  Foster points out that when the practice violates Jesus' law of love then the discipline has morphed into something very different.

Martyrdom and "playing the martyr" are opposite sides of the same coin.  We must always remember that the act is not the discipline. The act combined with the proper attitude and the will of God sanctifies the action.  The Discipline of submission must always begin with submission to God.  That is the starting place for all of the Christian disciplines.

Oh, that more of us pressed the limits of the Disciplines.  More often than not, the only extremity pressed in my practice of the disciplines is how little time and energy I can actually put into them.  God give me the grace to do as I should.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A New Attitude

The discipline of submission demands a new attitude.  Giving in can be passive-aggressive.  Forgoing our rights may be submissive.  Like many of the disciplines, a simple action cannot be equated to the actual discipline.  Especially with submission, a new attitude is needed.

My wife and I are trying new strategies with our son.  Last night went better.  Perhaps there is hope. 

I tend to lead my son with a constant dose of lordship.  The notion that I need to be submissive (not passive) to him has changed much about the way I look at parenting.  The goal really has never been just to get him to do what I want.  The goal is for him to be able to do what he needs to.  That is an act of choice.  I can force many things, but I cannot force choice.  My new submissive parenting style has some promise.  It's amazing how godly actions bring about good results.

Pray for me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Challenge of This Book

The challenge of Celebration of Discipline lies in the following through with the discipline in order to reach the corresponding freedom.  The freedom connected with submission is freedom from having to have your own way.  The cure for being spoiled is the practice of submission.  Discovering you are not the most important thing in the universe is the key to peace with the universe.  The discipline is not the goal; the discipline is the means to the goal--the corresponding freedom.

I am learning that submission sometimes plays itself out in strange ways.  My son, as I mentioned earlier, is struggling with authority and responsibility.  I am learning that part of my submission is in allowing him to "reap what he sows."  If I break in and take on his responsibility, I am not being submissive.  I am controlling.  I am attempting to change an outcome. 

Today I am trying to be submissive as a parent.  I don't feel free yet, but I do feel like I am doing the right thing.  And that is freeing in itself.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chapter 8-The Discipline of Submission

Submissive, suberviant, subordinate, all sound negative.  What has us so convinced that getting our way, being number one, top dog are all so wonderful?  The truth is that few of us can ever claim to be the best, top, lord of anything.  At best, we appear to be the big fish.  We may have been a contender, but we are mostly just pretenders.  If this is the case, then why do we fight against the submissive life.

My son is fighting against almost everything right now.  He doesn't want to do what we say.  He doesn't want to do what his teachers say.  He doesn't . . .  He doesn't know that fighting is harder than giving in. 

What is it that makes us like that wild stallion that doesn't want to be broken?  What is it that presses us toward autonomy no matter what the price?  What is it that pushes to get what we never really wanted in the first place?  What is it? 

The undisciplined life that's what.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Solitary Confinement

I spent about 90 minutes in my office with no one else around.  The phone rarely rang.  The peace and quiet were nice.  I actually progressed in my mission to prepare my preaching calendar for 2010.  I have 18 weeks left to fill.  That is good work for 90 minutes.

Honestly though, my mind was racing in the silence.  My solitude was sabotaged by the sound of my many thoughts.  Primarily they are focused on my 14 year old son who is struggling with life.  He is at that point where autonomy and authority are vying for their proper places.  I am struggling as much or more than he is.  I would love to "fix" him, but that is a big part of what his struggle is about.  We, his mother and I, can no longer solve his problems.  He wants us to, but he doesn't want us to.  He is too old and too young at the same time.  The ebb and flow of life keeps on while I struggle for silence.

The discipline of solitude is a great challenge in our age.  Complexity breeds noise.  Noise distracts.  Silence lingers just out of reach.  Solitude escapes.  Discipline is lost.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Sound of Silence

I have worked on my yearly sermon calendar since 1996.  The year I started preaching on a weekly basis I started putting my sermons together annually.  I planned on listening this weekend to see what I could hear (Did I really just say that?).  I don't know that I heard a word. 

Now what does that mean?  Does God not want me to preach next year?  Does God not want me to change my method of determining my preaching schedule?  Does God want me to work at it harder?  Am I just really bad at this or what?

Tomorrow I will probably try my old method and see how that works.  I probably should try the solitude thing again before I move on to the next discipline Tuesday.