Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Celebration of the Disciplines

I stand and applaud Foster's great work on the spiritual disciplines.  He made a weighty subject light, a profound idea simple, and a difficult task easy.  Foster did what we all should do when we write: he shared the information in a manner in which the subject was the subject and the point was the point.  He did not tell us a story of his great accomplishments (which much of Christian writing today has become) or flex his own spiritual muscles to impress the crowd.  He shared with me some of the most important truths I have ever learned.

I have wondered for 13 weeks if I could or would actually make it through this process.  I admit there were times when I had to catch up in order to stay on track, but I did.  There were times when I didn't think I had anything worth saying, but I said it.  There were times when I wondered why I was attempting such a project, but I completed it.  And now I am finished, and I am glad I did it.

If you recall, the movie, "Julie & Julia," was the inspiration for Following Foster.  Last week that movie made it to our little town's discount theater.  I thought it ironic that it finished playing in my town at the same time I finished this blog.  I am grateful for that movie and this journey.  I am thankful for the wonderful book and the man who wrote it. 

In the movie, Julie wondered if Julia knew about her blog and then discovered that she hated it.  I must admit that I have wondered if by any strange means that Mr. Foster noticed as I walked in his footsteps.  Perhaps not, but I am forever grateful for his fine work.

Thank you for following me follow Foster down the path to spiritual growth.  God bless on your continued journey.  See you in heaven some day. 

His servant,


Monday, December 14, 2009

The Joy of Celebration

At a ministers meeting today, I was reminded of how cynical I have become.  I tend to be critical or cynical about most everything.  I am not negative although I would understand how someone might feel that way.  I just remain pretty realistic most of the time.

As we were sharing our woes, I thought about celebration.  This group has not celebrated together in years.  Granted, we usually have more to gripe about than cebrate, but that should not keep us from celebrating what God is doing in our churches, families, and lives. 

Next month, I think I am going to celebrate with them, for them, or at them.  Perhaps my cynicism can be turned to joy.  At least I hope so.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Service

Today was a good day to celebrate.  Our worship with our church family was joyous and . . .  As I try to find other words, I am stuck with little else to say.  The day was not great by any standard, but it was a good day to celebrate.

My son just brought home his first high school report card.  The grades were better than expected.  We are going to celebrate.  That is a big deal.  We are going to throw a party.  Why?  Because we have a reason to celebrate.

May we all find a reason to throw a party this week.  We need to lighten our load and focus on joy.  I hope you enjoy your celebration; I know I will.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Celebration and Service

Last week I preached a sermon about how Christmas was a time of celebration.  With too much on my mind and too many heavy objects on my heart, I found the sermon difficult and laborious.  I made it through it, but it felt like a marathon as I tried to just make it to the end. 

Celebration, like any of the other disciplines, must have our full attention.  The danger of practicing any discipline without our full attention is that we may do the actions but never practice the discipline.  On this occasion, I was guilty of going through the motions.

Last weeks discipline was guidance, and I struggled with celebration as I worked through guidance.  My prayer this week is that I can actually celebrate our loving God while still seeking guidance.

God guide me into celebration.

Celebrate, Jesus, Celebrate

Friday night was our annual Living Nativity at Kenwood Church.  We have stations that depict portions of the Christmas story.  We have Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, the angels, shepherds, and even animals.  We have a good time and the community seems to enjoy the presentation.

My favorite part  of our event every year is the closing.  We all join together, have a prayer of thanks, and sing Silent Night.  I don't know if it was a silent night or not, but I do know that throughout our entire Living Nativity including the final song that Jesus is celebrated.  We may miss the baby because of the activity of the jolly old man in the red suit at other times but not on this night.  This may be my favorite night of the time leading up to Christmas.  Jesus is our reason for the season.

The joy felt by all is amazing.  We certainly love to be together in this endeavor, but the truth is that we feel such joy because we are practicing what we preach.  We are celebrating the Christ child.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Family Celebrations

How often does your family celebrate?  We celebrate birthdays, major holidays, anniverseries, but that's about it.

When my son was small, we celebrated everything.  I mean everything-the first step, the first word, the day we stopped buying diapers, Kindergarten graduation, you name it.  We liked to party.  We used to look for reasons to go to Chucky Cheese.

My son is now in high school, and we don't celebrate as often any more.  I seem to be on his case more than lifting up his spirits.  I spend more energy on arguing than congratulating.  I yell more at him than for him.  I need to celebrate the kid who means more to me than any other kid.  We need to celebrate.

Celebrate good times, come on.

Why Don't We Celebrate More Often?

Israel was commanded to celebrate 3 times a year.  I am sure they could have celebrated more, but they were required to celebrate at least 3 times a year.  How often do we, Christians, celebrate?

One of the most common uses of the word "celebrate" in the church is in reference to the Lord's Supper.  Do we really celebrate communion?  When I think about celebrating, I think of wedding receptions, birthday parties, New Years Eve, etc.  We use the term celebrate so often in the church that I think we have robbed the term of its meaning.

I think the sentiment is right.  We should celebrate the Lord's Supper.  In my tradition, we take the Lord's body and blood each week.  Is that too often to celebrate?  Can we really pull that off?

I think I am going to make celebration a New Year's resolution this year.  I want to celebrate more in 2010.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chapter 13-The Discipline of Celebration

I have recently read "The Purpose of Christmas" by Rick Warren, and I am using it as the outline for my Christmas messages this season.  I was shocked when I contemplated Warren's first "purpose."  He states that Christmas is a time of celebration.  Don't get me wrong I know that Christmas is the time where we "celebrate" the birth of Christ, but do we really?

My congregation will host a living nativity this Friday where we reinact much of the birth narrative of Jesus.  We have a bunch of animals including my favorite-the little known Christmas llama.  We have gifts and goodies. Activities for the kids, wassail for us all, snow if God blesses, and carols galore.  But do we celebrate?

When I was a kid I can remember celebrating Washington and Lincoln's birthdays in February.  Once President's Day replaced those holidays, I rarely remember a commotion about the births of the men that day is set to honor.  Don't get me wrong.  I don't remember grand celebrations about their births, but I do remember that we celebrated them.

When was the last time you celebrated with your church family?  I can think of weddings, funerals, mortgage burnings, new building openings, but they are all connected with a specific event.  When was the last time that celebration broke out during worship? 

Where Do You Go From Here?

Guidance gives direction, but that does not always mean movement in that direction.  Guidance helps us to see the paths in front of us, but there is much more involved in following guidance.

In our everyday lives we need all of God's graces in order to transform guidance into action.  How many times have you felt led by God only to go nowhere?  How many times have allowed the guiding hand of God to become stalled by my lack of faith or willingness?  How many times have I tried to follow the direction of the Spirit under my own power?  How many times . . . ?

As I conclude this installment on the discipline of guidance, I am reminded of the times that God has graciously given me (us) direction that has led to His will.  I am grateful and humbled by His attention and care.  I am thankful.

Group Guidance

It is an amazing thing to watch as God works through a group of people.  My experience this weekend has reaffirmed my faith in God's ability to lead and our ability to follow.  I have a specific issue in mind where no answers have been determined, but I know God is involved. 

When was the last time you remember God being involved?  What made that fact so clear?  What tangible evidence do you have that He was involved in the process?

I know God was involved primarily because of the peace I have.  There is no other good answer for why I should have peace about that issue right now, but I do.  Secondarily, the group's perspective seemed  to shift during the discussion.  I don't mean there was a drastic shift; it was definite and deepened.  The thought and tenor of the discussion reflected the Father's concern over this issue.  It was wonderful participating in this event.

Guidance and the Community of Faith

Why are we so afraid of corporate guidance?  What makes us seek answers in dark board rooms behind closed doors?  Is it a fear of not having the answers?  Is it the need for control?  Is it an uncomfortable feeling to let others know we don't have all the answers?

My tradition puts the decsion making within the hands of a few men.  Would our decisions be different if the whole congregation were involved?  Would answers be easier or more difficult to come by?  Would differing perspectives become prominent if a different demographic were involved?

As you can see I have more questions than answers.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Leading as a Follower

As a minister, I am often expected to have answers to difficult questions about direction and decisions.  The early church seemed to look for answers as a group with God as leader.  Today we seem to want someone to tell us what to do.

Are we limited today because of our reliance upon human wisdom?  Do we lack power and victory because our source is not The source?  Do we look to our own ways rather than God's?

How is the guidance of God different than the godly wisdom of Christian leaders?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Corporate Guidance

I certainly need guidance.  If you could see all the stuff rattling around in my head, you would understand that I am in dire need of guidance. 

The idea of corporate guidance seems fanciful and utopian.  The notion that people can be guided together almost seems impossible to me right now, but I know it is no fantasy.  It is reality.  It is the community of faith.

I have been blessed  to have experienced the guiding hand of God leading a group of people.  From my D group in college to several congregations I have been privileged to serve, I have known the amazing grace of a divine leading for a group.

Often corporate guidance seems far fetched because my sense of personal guidance is lacking.  As I said before, I am awash in sensitive issues right now.  Work, family life, personal decisions, all seem overwhelming and too much right now.  This sense makes the concept of corporate guidance too distant and too . . .  I can't even think of a good word.  I guess I even need some guidance for that.

Are you in touch with the guiding hand of the Master today?  Or are you struggling along with me?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I am still in the midst of needing a great deal of guidance. 

Ever since I started this project, I have noticed that the disciplince of the week has played a role in the activities of my week.  Now I don't know if that is because I am focused on this particular issue or God is helping me learn.

I am very glad that I have the hope of guidance because these situations are well beyond me.  Help me Lord.  Guide me where you would have me go.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chapter 12-The Discipline of Guidance

It is no wonder the direction of so many churches is confusing.  The discipline of guidance is very much lacking in the Kingdom today. 

I ran into a situation today that called for divine guidance.  Actually there were two.  I strategized, considered, pondered, complained, vented, but I can't say that I looked for guidance.  Guidance as a discipline often gets forgotten.

I am going to spend some time tomorrow searching and seeking for precious guidance.