Tag Archive: perparation & hope

very recently i was drawn into a conversation that, truthfully, ranged all over.  these are good conversations because they have the possibility of opening doors that we may never consider.

part of the conversation touched on thoughts of what “used to be”; that is remembering a very fond time with a specific group of people & a little of mourning the loss of & disconnection to those relationships.

i was a part of that time in history for this person & i remember those times & those days & i have to concur with the sentiment; those WERE good times!  i remember them well.


a phrase i’ve heard before; “you can never go home”

we can physically go back to places we’ve been before, but it always feels a little different, not quite the same.  i remember this walking into my elementary school dropping off or picking up my kids as they attended the same school.  that place feels small now!  it must have shrunk!  it had to have changed, because it doesn’t feel the same.  grant it, it still looks the same, but it’s not the same…at least for me.

obviously we’ve all experienced this, and it’s why that phrase is true; you really can’t go home again.  this is a mental issue much more than a physical issue.  when we remember & recall we’re remembering some very specific things about a specific place in time, many times with some very specific people.  and that moment is calcified in our minds.  so if the memory is good, the calcification is a good thing.  if the memory is bad; well, not as good.

when the memories are good this human condition can also known as nostalgia.  this is when we look back with great fondness on something & little parts of us want to return to that moment.  the trouble with nostalgia is that not only that our memories are built from our specific vantage point, but that they are always in the past.  i know, not a revolutionary thought, and not what you came here for.  no one’s ever said, “i remember tomorrow fondly.


one of the things that God does with us, if we’re willing to pursue Him, He’s always drawing us into the future, creating new paths for us to walk, new understandings of Him & what He has for us.

the trouble with nostalgia is that it can take a strong root in our hearts.  yea, our hearts.  when our hearts get involved there is a great possibility to grow increasingly emotional about an event or moment in time or a way of doing something.  this can become problematic because that nostalgia can keep us from seeing a future God has in mind for us, thus keeping us  in a perpetual state of longing for something that will never return.

community is tricky.  it requires a level of transparency that many of us are uncomfortable with.  community, for it to really work well, needs to have some honest, truth-telling.  even truth-telling about the past; “hey, that thing you remember so fondly…let me tell you about it from my perspective, the people involved, the larger picture of what all was going on then.”  done with grace & love for one another, this can be a beautiful thing.


at the risk of being vague or providing no real handles for us today, i do think it depends on one thing…you.

if, in your remembering, your longing for what once was is greater than your hope for the future…

if you remember yesterday with fondness & angst or frustration or even anger for the future…

if more of your conversation revolves around “the good old days”…

if reasons for not venturing into the new are “we’ve never done it that way before”, or, “i don’t think i’d like that”…

if you’re living out the words of the springsteen song, “i hope i don’t sit around trying to recapture the glory, but i probably will”…

if we are surrounded by a community of people that are very much like us this is a trend that will be harder to break.  because this is a trend that will show up in our lives.

if though, our community is diverse in age, race, economic demographic, taste & even fashion our hearts will be soft toward change, the new, unusual & different.  and it is there that God has great freedom to moves us, change our direction & draw us closer to Him.

to my friends that are struggling to connect with a new group of people, to those that find it hard to experience the new, hoping to not forget the past, to those that fell like part of them dies with the advent of new things, remember;

“He is new every morning, great is His faithfulness” [lam.3:23]

meaning that God is already in tomorrow waiting for you…in the new things He desires to show you.


are we willing to let God do whatever He wants, whenever He wants to, with whomever He chooses?

this is a big question because he may, in fact probably will use some unlikely characters in HIS story.  and that’s an important point!  HIS story.

so much of our culture; 21century, western is built around us as individuals.  what commercials aren’t catering to the idea that the world isn’t about you?  what part of life do you  not  ask “how does this thing that i’m about to buy, do, participate in, go to make my life better?”  that’s the culture/era we live in.  it’s something that’s been handed to us & we’ve just willingly taken it on, as if this is the way it’s supposed to be.

SO, when the story doesn’t go our way & it seems a bit too difficult & weighty [even as Christ-followers] we are tempted to think that God has abandoned us.  or it’s confirmation that God doesn’t exist.

but the story is God’s to tell & His story line is different than ours.

something that i’m going to try & learn in the coming year is the difference between taking responsibility & taking control.  this is something that i recently heard donald miller talk about.  he, in so many words, defined it like this; though the life of joseph [yea, from the bible].

taking responsibility would be living through the circumstances of life, but not in spite of them.  meaning we wouldn’t just grit our teeth & fight through to the end.  we would see this part of the story as a chance for God to do something great.

taking control intimates that we’re going to change the circumstances for our benefit.  the idea being “we don’t have to sit here & take this!”

joseph simply lives thought the story line and allows God to move the characters.  he leaves a gap for God, he’s not passive, he responds to doors that God opens up.

God provides courage though the difficult, negative turns that come in our lives.  we need to be ready to allow God to use unlikely story lines, unusual situations & unlikely heroes in His story.  we must remember, He is the story-teller.

the bigger better ruin

as i continue to work with churches that seem truly interested in a different future, a future that will take them to places they’ve never been, something i keep saying to them is this.

we’re not going to talk about church growth strategies, ways to become attractive to those not connected to the church.  we’re not going to preach about what’s wrong with the world & the sin in their lives anymore than we talk about that problem in our own lives.  we’re not going to have a 5 year plan on growth & new buildings.  we’re simply going to respond to the prompting that God puts in our hearts.

yes, we’re going to do a lot of work & we’re going to look intentionally into the things that God shows us & we will make changes to the things that we’ve held dear…if that’s what God is asking us to do.

i do think there is a great deal of planning/future thought/strategy when it comes to growing God’s church.  but i’m more & more of the thought…maybe the question —- why?  what’s the motivation?  not weather we should or shouldn’t work to grow God’s church, but why are YOU doing it?

is it so you can have the best programming around?  is it so you can have a new building?  is it so you can look good?

in the process of growth there is always death.  when we make something new there are other things that are sacrificed & lost in the process.

this is something that connects to the cross.  Jesus dies so we can live.

so when we build up something new what are the things that die to make way for the new?  and a bigger question, are we ruining of something that didn’t need to die?

certainly, there are things that time has passed by & need to be retired.  worship that is captured by organ & piano alone, the thought of “putting on your sunday best” for church, the big hair of the ’80’s.  but as we strive for the new, the better, the bigger will we run over things that are meaningful & actually minister to people?  and i’m not just talking about the people that go to your local church.

oh that i would not be so obsessed with my own glory, that i would see the ministry happening right in front of me & may i lead [weather holding a title of leadership or simply leading in the circle of my family, friends & co-workers] in ways that bring life…in the same way that Jesus brought life to everything He touched.

may i not be a builder of empty cathedrals & ruined coliseums…


i’m starting to think of this new year as “a year of preparation & hope”.

that sounds poetic & such [maybe it doesn’t], but the reason i’m thinking in these terms is this: God isn’t letting me alone on some things & those things directly affect the church, God’s church.  and in this year i just know that He’s going to prompt some things to happen & we have to decide what to do with that.

i also know that the stuff that He’s asking me to think about not easy & they are messy.

so as i wrestle with the days to come & toss out the ideas @ hand there is a question that i’ve been handed by gary haugen from the international justice mission.

here’s the question:  are we going to be safe or are we going to be brave?

we can’t do both…

either we’re going to step into that thing God is prompting & asking, with lots of unknowns, lack of funding, difficult people to try and lead or help.  or we’re only going to do the things that we can control & manage.  only do what is measurable & profitable.  only do what nets us fame & respectability.

we cannot do both…

will we be safe?  or will we be brave?