PainToday’s Word: ‘Pain’ as in… entering our own pain allows us to enter into other’s pain.

The next time you’re playing Trivial Pursuit and you get the question, “What’s the shortest verse in the bible?” You’ll know the answer, right?

In most English versions it’s “Jesus wept.” But this is certainly anything but trivial. There’s far more going on here than simply a rabbi weeping over the death of a dear friend. This is a profound teaching moment about what it means to be honest about pain and suffering, about brokenness.

The story that gives us this poignant look into the heartache which drove Jesus to tears, and probably to his knees, was the death of his friend Lazarus (in John 11). What does it mean to be a community of faith that weeps? As long as most of the human race is dealing with at least one heartache a day, we might want to understand this.

One of the core insights is that to be a community that’s able to weep with others, we need to be able to weep ourselves. If I’m not able to be in touch with, or express my own grief, I’m not going to be any help to you. I can’t enter into the honesty of the brokenness of in your life if I’m not honest with my own brokenness.

In the midst of all that breaks our hearts and causes us to weep, we say the darnedest things, don’t we? When trying to console someone whose lost a loved one, why would we say, “Well, they’re better off now!” or “God needed another ‘fisherman, grandparent, or baseball fan in heaven!”

Really? Does God look around and think, “You know, we could sure use someone who loves dogs ‘up here’ because all dogs go to heaven!”

If God could create the Grand Canyon, then certainly God is more creative than that.

The truth is, we say these things because we’re uncomfortable with weeping and grief.

How about you? What keeps you from walking deeply into another’s pain? Why is grief difficult to share?



ProcessToday’s Word: ‘Promises’ as in… we speak our promises to out loud and then, however high and lofty they may be, we walk into them with our whole selves.

“I take you to be my wife/husband/spouse/partner in life, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to care for, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn promise.”

Over the past 35 years I’ve stood with over 400 couples who have made these, or sometimes similar, or sometimes even wildly different promises. It’s always a profound moment: the couple turns toward each other, takes each other’s often times trembling hands, and having either flipped a coin, or rock-paper-scissored themselves into deciding who’s going first, launches in:

“In the midst of our families and friends, and in the presence of God, I commit myself to you as your spouse. I promise to love you and to be supportive of you as we both continue to grow and change. I promise to help you achieve the goals that you set for yourself and for our marriage, and I promise to give you the freedom to be all that you were intended to be. I promise to be faithful to you, to join with you in both sorrow and celebration, sharing all that is to come until death parts us.”

And every time I’m astounded at how remarkable daring these promises really are! And that’s the point!

Making promises isn’t a static endeavor.

Making and keeping daring promises is a dynamic and daily adventure!

We make promises and then live into them with our whole selves every day. We speak them, then we walk into them. We say them out loud, then give our whole selves to making them a reality. We speak our promises to out loud, we state our plans, we articulate our purposes, we craft our goals, we say our vows and then, however bold and daring they may be, we walk into them every day with our whole selves!



Yi'rahToday’s Word: ‘Yir’ah’ as in… the Hebrew word for fear. And awe, respect, and admiration!

Okay, so I have an equation for you: R÷T+F÷C×A+C=D.

That’s not fair. I admit it. You simply do not have enough information.

Let me help you: Risk ÷ Trust + Fear ÷ Courage × Adventure + Confidence = Discovery.

Now we’re getting someplace!

I know a guy who spent a year preparing to hike the Superior Hiking Trail from Canada to Duluth. He collected all of the best and most essential gear: boots, clothing, trekking poles, first aid, compass, maps, tent, food, sleeping gear, bug juice, waterproof matches. He had considered and planned for everything except what would happen if he slipped off the trail, fell down an embankment and had to lay there for hours until someone happened to hear him yelling—in one of the most remote sections of the trail. On Day #2.

Talk about fear of the unknown!

The Hebrew word for fear is the is the same word for awe, respect, and admiration! The Hebrew language has far fewer words than the English language, so when we encounter a word in Hebrew, there’s naturally room for imagination, creativity, wonder, and amazement. The English language has too many words for the same thing.

I don’t have many fears, but I have great amounts of awe, respect, and wonder. I don’t fear bears, snakes, or squirrels, but I do have a healthy respect for being careful.

In an ancient Genesis story, God told Abraham and Sarah to leave everything safe, secure, and known and head toward a completely new and unknown place. Embracing God’s promise of provision, they took off. They must have had great fear for what lay ahead. But they went. They must have been in awe of what was to come. They went anyway!

Risk divided by Trust plus Fear divided by Courage multiplied by Adventure plus Confidence equals Discovery.

They discovered that God was with them leading them into Risk, trust, fear, courage. So, what Discovery will you make by taking some calculated Risk?

What risks will you say “yes” to this next week? What Risk ÷ Trust + Fear ÷ Courage × Adventure + Confidence will equal Discovery for you?



BeethovenToday’s Word: ‘Beethoven’ as in… Ludwig van.

“Nailed it!” I said it out loud, driving home after my workout this morning. It was Ludwig van Beethoven. The piece was Piano Sonata No. 21, “Waldstein.” Because Beethoven is one of my favorite classical composers, I can usually identify his music. I was 6 years old when I first heard “The Moonlight Sonata” and I was hooked.

“Nailed it!” I said again.

Full disclosure: I only knew that I was listening to Beethoven. Identifying the name of the piece is a whole other deal.

I listen to Classical MPR every morning and, as I’ve indicated here before, the host is John Birge, one of my closest friends that I’ve never hung out with. I did meet him once, but the room was crowded just before a concert at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, so we didn’t have time to chat. We do email, though, and John always gets back.

Anyway, I was playing “Name That Composer.” I listen to the piece and attempt to identify the composer without looking at the radio display. It’s great when I can identify the composer as well as the name of the piece, but the real joy comes from simply listening. I feel positively affected when I listen to Beethoven. Or Brahms, or Shubert, or Rossini, or Mendelsohn, or Chopin, or Haydn, or Bach, or even John Williams. I also feel that way when I listen to Snarky Puppy, or Erik Mongrain, or Jay Stocker, or Jeff Lorber. But that’s another story.

The phrase “The Mozart Effect” comes from the fascinating studies that suggest that listening to Mozart’s music in general, and the Sonata in D for Two Pianos in particular, has a positive effect on the brain.

There’s a ton of research behind all of that, but all I know is that when I listen to any of these composers, all is well.

I feel more spirited, creative, connected, present, grateful, generous, even missional.

I feel more in rhythm with who I am and what I’m doing here.

So, who fills your heart with healthy rhythms?



CollaborationToday’s Word: ‘Collaboration’ as in… when everyone gives a little, big changes happen.

The plane backed away from the gate, taxied to the far corner of the airfield, and then stopped. If you’ve ever been on a flight that taxied to a far corner and then stopped, you know disappointment. The pilot then made this announcement:

“Well folks, I have bad news and some really bad news. There’s a storm coming and Denver is shut down. We’ve looked for alternatives, but there aren’t any. So we’ll be sitting tight until things open up. That’s the bad news. The really bad news is that we don’t have any food on board and we can’t return to the gate. We’ll see what we can do. I’m so sorry!”

Everyone groaned. Some passengers started to complain, some became angry.

But then, one of the flight attendants made this announcement:

“Hey everyone, we’re so sorry about this. For many of you this is a big deal. There are those on board who haven’t eaten in a while, others may have a medical condition and food would help. Some may not care one way or the other. So here’s what we can do together. We’re going to pass some baskets through the cabin and ask everybody to offer something. Perhaps you’ve brought some cookies, crackers, chips, or some fruit. If you don’t have anything edible, you may have something that might cheer someone else up a bit: a good book, a small toy, a collection of paper clips—something that you wouldn’t mind parting with. We’ll then we’ll pass the baskets around again and everybody can take out what they need.”

What happened next was amazing. The griping stopped. People dug in their pockets, opened backpacks and suitcases and produced all kinds of surprises. People were laughing and talking.

Everything changed!

The flight attendant transformed a group of people who were focused on need and deprivation into a community of sharing and celebration. Everything changes when people consider the health and wellbeing of the whole community.

When everyone gives a little, big changes happen.



ImpactToday’s Word: ‘Impact’ as in… that person who has deeply impacted you.

You know who it is, right? A coach, a piano teacher, a counselor, your best friend’s mom, a barber. For me, it was my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Helen Bean. Broadview Elementary School.

I’ll come back to her in a moment.

Let’s go back to those seven questions from yesterday (scroll down, you’ll find them). Seven important questions to dwell in when thinking about the connections that impact you most; seven questions that we’d probably do well to ask each day.

But it’s the last question that I’d like to linger on a moment further: “Who best modeled “connection” for you?

There’s a good chance that the person who modeled connection well for you made a huge impact on your life. I was talking with my seven senior high school “Thrivers” about the important connections in their lives—those who had impacted them most. And each one of them named a parent.


In fact, each one of them named their moms. Now, they also gave props to their dads, but I was amazed at the powerful impact that their moms have had in their lives.

Okay, back to Helen Bean. Mrs. Bean was like a mom to me. Long ago and far away, I entered the 4th grade having essentially missed out on half of my third grade year. I went every day, but for only half a day. The student body of the school I attended was so huge that they had to cut the day in half to accommodate two shifts of students. So when I got to the 4th grade, I was half a year behind. That’s when Helen Bean, like a mom, scooped me up and poured all kinds of time, effort, and love into my life. By the end of the year I was caught up. I’ll never forget her impact. Years later I called her to thank her for impacting my life.

What kind of impact would you make if you made a call like that today? Make some impact!



Connected3Today’s Word: ‘Connected’ as in… we are, all of us, after all, connected to one another.

Since the Fall of 2018 I’ve been leading a group of seven couples through the Thriving Rhythms Project.

I call it “Thrivers 1.0.”

At our first meeting I was clear: healthy small groups have a beginning and an ending. We began in October of 2018, and agreed to end in June, 2019. We had a party to introduce the series, a party to end the series, and from November to May we met seven times to talk about what it means to be ‘Thrivers;’ spirited, creative, connected, present, grateful, generous and missional people.

At that June meeting the group told me—and this is the quote, “You can do what you want to do, but we’re still going to get together!”

Two years later we’re still thriving together!

So I thought to myself, “If one group is fabulous, then two groups, of course, would be spectacular!”

So since October 2019, I’ve been meeting with a spectacular group of seven High School students.

I call it “Thrivers 2.0.”

We’ve studied what it means to thrive as connected, relational young people who bear the image of the Creator; who find deep satisfaction in practicing intentional acts of kindness with all people; who explore the kind of hospitality that creates trust and builds mutual respect; and who know the level of connectedness that sustains the community that we all share together.

We then wrestled with seven questions:

  • What makes a good friend?
  • Why would your best friend say that you’re their best friend?
  • What “key ingredients” are necessary in healthy connections?
  • How does being connected to people we don’t know and may never meet impact the way we live?
  • How does one’s connection to the Divine impact connections with others?
  • How does practicing intentional acts of kindness and showing hospitality strengthen relationships.
  • Who modeled all of this for you?

Engaging in this level of reflection always leads to more thriving ways of being connected.

Because we are, all of us, after all, connected to one another!