Change

change

Today’s Word: ‘Change’ as in… there’s no spare amount of change in our lives.

Okay, so we’re near the end of the month of September. Let’s just take stock of the changes: A season has come and is going; summer—as we know it, is winding down and Autumn is emerging. August (as in the month) schedules have been mostly replaced by September rhythms. Teachers have gone back to the classrooms, students have followed, parents have relaxed – just a bit. Some have moved out of town, others have moved in. Jobs have been changed, engagements announced, weddings celebrated, babies born, hockey and basketball are cranking up, football is in full swing, and the leaves on the trees are changing color… just to name a few.

Changes. Physical changes. We all encounter changes. Half of us say “we’re good with change.” Half say, “I detest change.” But all of us deal with it.

What does your list look like? How many changes have you made in the past month? How do you deal with change? There’s a big difference between change and transition.

We’ll get to that, but for now, just take stock of the changes. And as we head into a bit of sabbath tomorrow, perhaps it’s a day to just ponder those changes and nothing more.

No fixing, no stressing. Just let them be.

#100days50words

Spaghetti

SpaghettiToday’s Word: ‘spaghetti’ as in… some thoughts like “spaghetti on the fridge door” after listening to an amazing interview featuring Pastor Lydia Sohn from St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in San Diego, California.

Some reflections…

For many, living into our spirit(ual)ed call can seem burdensome, heavy. That often comes from framing God as ‘extrinsic.’ When we begin with an extrinsic view of God, life is a constant test for acceptance and approval. We’re always trying to measure up, make the grade, hit the mark, arrive. When we turn relationships into tasks and projects, it’s not long before we’re making life a job where we need to do the best we can to ‘save’ others because that’s the task that will produce gold stars in our cosmic performance reviews.

Sheeeesh. How’s that working for you? That never goes well. That was never the point. That’s even a bit narcissistic.

The healthy, thriving, life-giving invitation to each of us is to understand that God is ‘intrinsic’ and intimately connected with us. Something very liberating happens when we live from the perspective that our worth as a human being is intrinsic and infinite and non-negotiable! We’re loved for love’s sake. When we begin each day with “I am loved and treasured by the Creator of the Universe,” we discover that our calling to live into life-and-more-life each day is no longer a test but rather a profound gift of grace.

That brings a completely different orientation to our work, to our play, to our relationships, to our perspective on life in general! We no longer engage others because we have to be somebody’s savior because we already have one of those! And we’d be terrible at it anyway! And so now we get to do our work and live our lives out of pure joy, giving from the gifts that we’ve received because that’s when we’re happiest – when we’re living in alignment with the talents that God has given to us!

That’s a really great story. I’m sticking to that. Like spaghetti on the fridge.

#100days50words

Together

Together OrchestraToday’s Word: ‘Together’ as in… let’s play together today. You bring your music, I’ll bring mine and we’ll create something beyond all of us, together.

John Birge is one of my closest friends that I’ve never hung out with. I met him once, but it was a crowded room during a Q&A right before a concert at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, so we didn’t have time to chat. We do email, however. John is the morning host for Minnesota Public Radio’s Classical MPR and I frequently shoot him a note to give him props for his terrific playlists and his super-witty segues like going from Lucas King’s original fugue called “Tick Tock” into a classical version of the Beatles’ Norwegian Wood.

C’mon, say it with me now… “parsley, sage, rosemary and…thyme.”

Nancy Lee and I begin every day with John. We especially appreciate how, at 6:00 AM on the button, John begins by playing some version of Bach’s “Sleepers Awake.” (My favorite is by Jacques Loussier).

On my way in this morning John played Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No.4 in F major. As I let the music surround me, I began to notice the individual musical instruments. First, among the winds and strings, the oboe sailed along on top. After that, as the brass played, the violin carried the theme. And then the French horns took the lead. Then the timpani. Then the flute. Then the oboe again. All of these individual players taking turns with the one recurring musical thought. Remarkable. Moving. Inspiring. Like these musicians, we’re better together. Each of us connected to one another creates more than we can often imagine.

After the Slavonic Dance it was Edward Elgar’s Ninth Variation of the Enigma… Nimrod.

Oh my. I had to pull over and just park the truck. Tears began to flow at about 3:12 to the end of the piece. It does that every single time.

Go ahead and listen. I’ll wait for you to come back.

See what I mean?

So let’s play together today. You bring your music, I’ll bring mine and we’ll create something really quite beyond all of us, together.

#100days50words

Prayer (walk)

Prayer (Walk)Today’s Word: ‘Prayer” as in… breathing Spirit as prayer while walking.

Our staff was invited to a prayer walk around our reimagined campus. So off I went to pray while walking around our crazy cool new digs.

Full transparency… almost immediately I wondered what to say.

I didn’t have words for this. I was walking, sure, but on a prayer, walking is only about 50% of the deal. Not knowing what to say felt like way more than half of the issue. I’m a guy who loves words. I can turn of phrase almost without trying. Yet, there I was, wondering what to say.

You know how it is with lovers when they’re together and the silence around them embraces them and they don’t need to say anything to understand each other? I felt like this moment of walking should be like that. I felt the power of the moment and yet I was trying to fill it with phrases that started with “Be with so and so…“ Watch over those people…” “Please give me…” or “Can you…”

It all felt really inadequate.

I know that speaking our prayers can be powerful. prayers reveal our hearts and minds. But there are moments when I’d much rather be silent and just let the silence speak.

This was one of those moments. So I walked in silence.

That’s when I began to notice something I usually take for granted, something I often overlook, something I miss a good deal of the time.

I noticed my breathing. I noticed my breathing. A breath in. A breath out. A breath in. A breath out. I noticed a couple things: almost without thinking about it, I began to sync up my breathing pattern with my steps! Then two things happened in that moment: first, I discovered the rhythm of four steps while breathing in, then four steps while breathing out, then four steps while breathing in again, then four steps while breathing out.

And second, I began to connect my breathing—the breathing of breath in general, and then the gift of each breath in particular. That’s when I settled into how each breath—without a word spoken was becoming my prayer.

My breath, a gift from the Divine, the Spirit within me that had set in all breath in motion to begin with, became the way of communication with the one who gave it to me.

Breath. Spirit. Prayer. Walk … Breathing Spirit as prayer while walking.

#100days50words

Space

Today’s Word: ‘Space’ as in… dear God, let there be some space for something to happen.

I understand that sabbath means rest, it means ceasing, it means stepping out of the ordinary and familiar rhythms of daily life in order to see differently, hear more clearly, taste more robustly, touch with more awareness, smell the aroma of a fuller life. For some, sabbath includes setting things aside: unplugging from technology, abandoning schedules, disconnecting from routines. For others it’s about emptying in order to be eventually filled. It’s about leaving room in order to return to some room, it’s about losing in order to find, about emptying in order to have some filling, about letting the ordinary be overwhelmed with the extraordinary. It’s about walking away from excess and stepping into the essential.

Ted Loder, in his remarkable book, Guerillas of Grace, give us a good word today:

“O God, let something essential happen to me, something more than interesting or entertaining, or thoughtful. O God, let something essential happen to me, something awesome, something real. Speak to my condition, Lord, and change me somewhere inside where it matters, a change that will burn and tremble and heal and explode me into tears or laughter or love that throbs or screams or keeps a terrible, cleansing silence and dares the dangerous deeds. Let something happen in me which is my real self, God. O God, let something essential and joyful happen in me now, something like the blooming of hope and faith, like a grateful heart, like a surge of awareness of how precious each moment is, that now, not next time, now is the occasion to take off my shoes to see every bush afire, to leap and whirl with neighbor, to gulp the air as sweet wine until I’ve drunk enough to dare to speak the tender word: “Thank you” “I love you” “You’re beautiful” “Let’s live forever beginning now” and “I’m a fool for Christ’s sake.”

#100days50words

Hovering

HoveringToday’s Word: ‘Hovering’ as in… because the Spirit is hovering over the face of the deep, we can be at peace “under the hover.”

In the very first three verses of the Hebrew scriptures we find a little disorder, a little darkness, a little chaos, a little emptiness, and then a little Breath of fresh air. In 52 words we find more than enough to relate to in our own lives!

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth didn’t have any shape. And it was empty. Darkness was over the surface of the ocean. At that time, the ocean covered the earth. A wind from God was hovering over the waters.

Ever had one of those days where you just couldn’t get any traction? Sure, you had some things on your To-Do list, but you just couldn’t get the pieces in the right order and everything felt disordered?

Ever have one of those days where you didn’t feel like you could or even wanted to get out of bed in the morning; you just wanted to crawl back into the darkness and away from everything?

Ever have one of those days where you felt like the poster child for chaos? By mid-morning your schedule was no longer yours and people were telling you what to do, when to do it, and perhaps even how to do it, and any semblance of order you’d hoped would emerge in the morning wasn’t even emerging by noon?

Ever have one of those days when you got to the end of the day and people were still expecting things from you and you were as empty as a bowl of Coconut Explosion ice cream without the Coconut Explosion ice cream in it?

I know, right? I do to.

But here’s the thing: that’s not the end of the story, or even the end of the verse! Here’s the rest of it: A wind from God was hovering over all of it–over the waters; that pool we’re swimming in!

I don’t know about you… well, maybe I sort of do, but when I’m experiencing a little disorder, a little darkness, a little chaos, a little emptiness, it’s more than just a little reminder, it’s a powerful bit of goodness to remember that the Spirit,

the Life,

the Breath,

the Breeze,

the Wind,

the Presence of God is always hovering over me–always, always hovering over us.

Always.

Today, be at peace under the Hover.

#100days50words

Oxygen

OxygenToday’s Word: ‘Oxygen’ as in… God is the oxygen that we breathe.

Just this past week, a friend of mine used the phrase, “God is the one in whom we live, move and have our being.”

That sounded familiar. It turns out that Paul (the Apostle) uses that phrase in the book of Acts. There is no disconnection, there is no disengagement, or disinterest on God’s part because God is in us we are in God. God is all in all.

Another way to understand this is to say that God is the oxygen that we breathe, or God is the water in which we swim.

Some call this spirituality. Some call this religion. But again, such finite words to describe such infinite things. Those words are freighted with meaning and shades of meaning.

For some, religion carries a sense of “Doing.” It leans toward protocol. There’s a list of particular steps to follow. There’s no judgement in that. For some that is very helpful method of dwelling in this larger mystery. We might think of the original faith community, the early disciples, and then the early Christ-followers in the decades following the Jesus event; and then the followers of The Way who, through the centuries practiced religious disciplines and discovered comfort in the regimented, formulaic ways of doing certain things which led those who practiced them to deeper expressions of being spirited people.

For others, spirituality is way of “Being.” They experience this “spirited-ness” in a way that moves beyond structure. For instance, some talk about singing as a spiritual practice which leads to a certain kind of transcendence. Whatever the method, whatever the practice, whatever the discipline, that we do it with the sense of “already being in the presence of the Divine, the Spirit, our Source” seems to be the key. We’re already in the one in whom we live, move and have our being. There is no disconnection, there is no disengagement, or disinterest on God’s part because God is in us we are in God. God is all in all.

Let’s breathe that oxygen!

#100days50words

Steps

StepsToday’s Word: ‘Steps’ as in… taking small steps toward big shifts.

I never really quite know when the Today’s Word is going to show up. It could be anywhere at just about any time: Children’s Theatre, a coffee shop, a cemetery, in a far off country, at a soccer game, in the yard. I just never know. The point is, really, to just be open and ready. It takes a bit of training to get ourselves into the mode of anticipating the gift of the Today’s Word showing up. So imagine my all-out joy as I step around the corner and discover these remarkable steps! These remarkable steps leading to more remarkable life together! Really! Just pick one and step into it!

#100days50words

Death

Death

Today’s Word: ‘Death’ as in… NOT the last word; the final word is always Life!

Catherine McNiel continues in her book, All Shall Be Well:

“It is hard, so hard, during the winter seasons of life and of our souls. I tremble with fear at the thought of putting this truth to paper, of saying it out loud, but here is the truth, and with God’s help, I summon the courage to say it: We can rejoice in all circumstances. With God’s help, we shall strengthen the muscles of endurance and rejoice, even in the dark. With God as our helper, we will stand in the day of trouble, and we will dance. We will turn the corner, finally, and discover the first whispers of hope. About 400 years ago, the poet John Donne pinned a sonnet in titled “Death, Be Not Proud.” Here’s what he wrote:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

 

So, death, we will contemplate you, we will face you, courageously coming forward toe-to-toe, for you are indeed our destiny. But do not let this go to your head. Yours will not be the final word.”

Life always has the final word. Every time I gather with a family at First Snelling, or any other cemetery for that matter, I always go early. I go early enough to spend time walking the grounds. Every marker is a reminder of a life, a story, some love. And with every marker comes the opportunity to pause and contemplate death as a reality, yes, but to come courageously forward and face it, toe-to-toe saying, “Don’t let this go to your head. Yours is not the final word. Life always has the final word.”

Once again, today, for just a few moments, with your hands open, hold those for whom this is more than theory. And again, let’s hold them together.

#100days50words

Suffering

Suffering

Today’s Word: ‘Suffering’ as in… we all have, we all do, we all will, we all can. It’s part of the deal.

Nancy Lee and I have some friends who are navigating through some very challenging health issues. This morning while thinking about and praying for them, Nancy Lee ran into this piece from Catherine McNiel’s book All Shall Be Well. We’ll dwell in this for a couple of days. Don’t rush it.

McNiel writes this:

“This is reality: Existence is beauty and pain in equal and astonishing measure. We must acknowledge that joy and suffering coexist as one and not two, that God has not promised a life free from pain but a life lived within pain—and that worship and healing happen only in this place. That God remains with us through the darkest night, present in our most desperate questions. That with this knowledge in our body and soul, we can and will stand, lift our faces and arms, and be fully alive. We must rise and move forward, again and again each day, not in spite of the pain, not with false naïve trust, but with the pain, and in perfect trust. There is no trick or gimmick, no way to escape. There is only God. And as we endure, as we choose life again and again, we grow stronger. We learn to see him even in the dark. Friends, this is the truth. This reality is where God lives, and where we find him, where we worship him. This is the only place where life can be truly and fully embraced. This request, to live abundantly in a world of pain and beauty, is an invitation to life.”

Whew!

One of the greatest challenges of suffering is finding meaning in it without assigning blame on either ourselves. Or God. We suffer because we’re human. But it’s precisely because we are human that we are able to discern meaning in suffering.

For a few moments today, sit quietly with your hands open and hold those for whom this is more than theory.

Let’s hold them together.

#100days50words

Podcast

Podcast1

Today’s Word: ‘podcast’ as in… a fresh episode of the Rhythms Podcast is now ready for you!

Navigate to www.paulgauche.com/podcasts for some thoughts about thriving as missional human beings!

I’m sharing some thoughts on a Pep Talk to end all Pep Talks from the book of Acts; I’ll tell you a story about a 21st century community that’s still remarkably rooted in the 1st century understanding of a Spirited, Creative, Connected, Present, Grateful, Generous and Missional community.

There’s a bit there about an orphanage for dozens of children who have lost parents to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and a high school filled with highly motivated young leaders.

There’s a bit more there about a remote—and I mean remote village that’s got hospitality down to an art form; and there’s the reminder that it’s possible to experience joy for no particular reason! Whew!

Please don’t miss this. Listen to Episode 14: “Missional” It’s good stuff! It’s right here:

www.paulgauche.com/podcasts

#100days50words

Spirited

SpiritedToday’s Word: ‘SPIRITED’ as in… we thrive as spirited people by affirming that we are inspired, animated and enthused by the Source of all life, and that every breath is a gift.

What does it mean to be spirited, you ask? Well, when we talk about spirit, spiritual, spirituality, we’re really talking about things that are often beyond our capacity to explain, and in many cases understand fully.

And perhaps we don’t need to. After all, isn’t it always the case that we’re using finite words to describe or, at least, find some expression for the Infinite? Our language is limited. The meanings of words we use change over time; the nuances shift, the definitions fade, new ways of understanding old words come and go. This is true for spirituality.

So when we talk about spiritual lives – or as I prefer to say, our “spirited lives” and what that means, we’re really walking into mystery. We’re walking into one big, beautiful, funky, ancient, poetic, delicious, complicated, gnarly, expansive, wonder-filled mystery.

And that’s a good thing.

When we talk about spirituality, at some point we’re talking about breath, which is in its very essence, Spirit.

How does the Spirit animate you?

#100days50words

 

Emerging

EmergingToday’s Word: ‘emerging’ as in… knowing what’s inside of us that’s emerging is significant.

It seems to me that a significant part of the wonder of creativity is just that: knowing what’s inside; knowing whatever it is that’s trying to emerge from whatever creative moment we might be having at any given creative moment! What’s inside the piano? What’s inside the palette of paints, the word processor? What’s inside the grocery bag, the refrigerator, the spreadsheet, the graph?

These are important questions.

But knowing what’s inside of us that’s emerging is equally – if not more significant.

Michelangelo certainly had a good idea of what was inside the chunk of marble. As he stood on the scaffolding and starred up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he certainly had a good idea of what would emerge through the array of paints and colors, and whatever other collection of materials he had at his beck and call.

(By the way, I much prefer the version of him painting the ceiling while lying on his back. But those who know, know that he was standing. Dang.)

But Michelangelo also knew what was inside of him. It’s up for debate as to whether he actually said this or not, but one legend contends that when asked about his sculpting and how he accomplished such magnificence, he replied, “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”

Another version of that same legend is that he would just chip away at everything that didn’t look like what he was creating. That’s fodder for a great discussion in an art class or even a theology or philosophy class.

A few questions for you. Who are you? What are you doing here? What’s inside that’s emerging? What colors, shapes, textures, sounds, tastes, reside within you that are waiting to be birthed, waiting to bless the world? How are you emerging?

#100days50words

Inside

InsideToday’s Word: ‘inside’ as in… it’s all about knowing what’s inside.

In the fall of 2017, Nancy Lee and I traveled to the beautiful, creative city of Florence, Italy. As we walked through the streets of this ancient, mythically powerful city, I recalled the story of a little boy who lived in this city known for musicians, poets, painters and stonecutters.

On his way to school each morning he would wander past the studio of a young painter and sculptor whom the world would eventually come to know simply as Michelangelo. On an early spring morning, the little boy stood at the studio doorway and peered into the cluttered workspace. There, to his great wonder and curiosity, on the floor in the middle of the room was an enormous block of marble. Fascinated, he slowly pushed the door open and quietly eased himself into the room. From his vantage point he watched the artist walking slowly around the tons of raw stone, touching the ridges and edges, eyeing the indistinct shapes, making notes and drawing small charcoal images on a tablet of paper. Over the next several weeks, the little boy visited from time to time, wondering what the artist was up to as he stood thoughtful and brooding before this massive stone.

Summer arrived, and the little boy was away on holiday with his family. Months passed. Finally, one autumn afternoon back in Florence, the little boy was on his way home from school when he walked down a familiar side street to the artist’s studio. Standing in the doorway of the studio, he could hardly believe his own eyes. There, on the floor in the middle of the room, where the once massive block of marble rested without any distinct shape, was a magnificently carved lion. Overcome with wonder and awe, he burst into the studio, ran to the artist standing nearby, and asked, “How did you know the lion was inside that stone?”

It seems to me that a significant part of the wonder of creativity is just that: “Knowing what’s inside…”

But how? How do we know what’s inside?

#100days50words

Pep

PepToday’s Word: ‘PEP’ as in… I’ve got a pep talk for you today!

If we’re going to keep at it, if we’re going to just keep going, keep making things, keep drawing, playing, writing, practicing and risking, we’re going to need a pep talk. So here’s one of the best creative pep talks I’ve ever heard from Ira Glass:

“Keep at it, just keep going” pep talks I’ve ever heard, comes from Ira Glass on the topic of Creativity. Here’s what Ira said: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

So that’s your pep talk for today!

What are you going to make? What are you going to draw, paint, sing, play? What are you going to create?

Good questions, all of which remind me of a story about Michelangelo.

#100days50words

Keep

KeepToday’s Word: ‘Keep’ as in… just keep at it because the more you keep at it, the more you’ll have to give away.

We’ve been exploring creativity for several days, now. There’s something important about keeping at it. Take a moment and consider three things: the ways in which you already know you are creative, the ways in which others see you as creative, and the ways in which you would like to see yourself as a creative person.

Let’s think about the ways you’re already creative.

What seems to get you going, what energizes you? What stirs your heart when you think of creative expression? Is it art, or music, or dance? If music stirs you, you might think about writing a song. If you like to write, make a commitment to keeping a journal. If you like to draw, take a few moments and step outside and look around and notice your surroundings. What are you seeing for the first time? What do you smell, what do you hear? Do you hear traffic? Do you hear birds, or someone mowing a lawn, or shoveling a driveway? Is someone talking with a neighbor? Is someone crying? Is someone laughing?

If you were guaranteed that no one would have the chance to comment or pass judgement on your creative response, what would you draw to convey what you are hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting? Commit to doing this just once a week. Then build some accountability into the process by asking a friend to come alongside to hold you accountable. Get together once a month and create a list of questions to talk through each time you meet together.

Acknowledging that we are already creative then puts us in a mindset to be thankful. When we express gratitude, all kinds of things begin to shake loose! But the important thing is to just keep at it.

Keep making things.

Keep drawing.

Keep playing.

Keep writing.

Keep practicing.

Keep at it. Keep risking. Keep keeping at it.

The more you keep at it, the more you’ll have to give away.

#100days50words

 

Generative

GenerativeToday’s Word: ‘GENERATIVE’ as in… we are filled with a creative agency and generative impulse that goes all the way back to the first moments of creation!

In Psalm 139 the writer uses the language of creation to connect us with the Source of all things:

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; you know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.”

Let’s go back to my conviction that creativity is breathed into us by the Creator! The book of Genesis provides us with the image of a Creator bringing all things together elemental particles of the creation together and weaving and holding it all together—holding us all together, cradling us, shaping us, molding us, and then breathing into us! Just imagine! The Creator of all things breathing the oxygen of life into us! And once the Creator breathes life and aliveness into us, we became animated by, enthused and inspired with the breath and creativity of God. With the breath of the Creator in us, we are filled with a creative agency and generative impulse that goes all the way back to the first moments of creation! The One who shaped us first inside, then out, the One who formed us in our mother’s womb now receives our gratitude, receives our exclamation of joy when we say,

We thank you, High God—you’re both breath-giving and breathtaking at the same time! Body and soul, we are marvelously made! We worship in adoration—what a creation! You know us inside and out, you know every bone in our bodies; you know exactly how we were made, bit by bit, how we were sculpted from nothing into something!”

Once again, where something wasn’t…is!

All of this, of course, raises yet another great question: What can we do with all of this?

#100days50words

Reclaim

ReclaimToday’s Word: ‘RECLAIM’ as in… there comes a time when we must reclaim our creative impulse. Might as well be today.

Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, theologian and prolific author of nearly 40 books, once wrote about the why people don’t write:

“One of the arguments we often use for not writing is this: “I have nothing original to say. Whatever I might say, someone else has already said it, and better than I will ever be able to.” This, however, is not a good argument for not writing. Each human person is unique and original, and nobody has lived what we have lived. Furthermore, what we have lived, we have lived not just for ourselves but for others as well. Writing can be a very creative and invigorating way to make our lives available to ourselves and to others. We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them.”

Henri was writing about barriers to writing. But what he wrote about writing in particular, could just as easily be said of the creative process in general. Here’s my paraphrase of Henri Nouwen’s sentiment:

“One of the arguments we often use for not creating something is this: “I have nothing original to create. Whatever I might draw, paint, photograph, or make, someone else has already drawn it, painted it, photographed it, made it, said it, and better than I will ever be able to. This, however, is not a good argument for not being creative. Each human person is unique and original, and nobody has lived what we have lived. Furthermore, what we have lived, we have lived not just for ourselves but for others as well. Making something can be a very creative and invigorating way to make our lives available to ourselves and to others. We have to trust that what we have to offer deserves to be shared. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to believe them.”

There comes a time when we must reclaim our creative impulse. And that begins with acknowledging that we’ve been created in order to be creative. Might as well be today.

#100days50words

Colors

ColorsToday’s Word: ‘COLORS’ as in… keep your crayons close, you’ll need them.

Something happened somewhere between “wasn’t…” and “is…” and everything changed.

But what happened?

At some point, someone, a teacher perhaps, handed us a large piece of paper and invited us to draw whatever we wanted to draw. So we drew clouds. And as we sat back and looked at what we’d created, we saw things in those clouds. We saw high chairs and sky scrapers, we saw boats and fish, we saw antelopes and automobiles. The longer we stared at those clouds on our canvas, the more we were certain that we were seeing our friends and family members; brothers, sisters, grandparents, dads, moms. We were seeing fish chasing rabbits and dogs covered with spaghetti noodles. It was a wonderful, mystical, revealing, enlightening, freeing, exhilarating experience.

But that’s not what others saw.

As people looked over our shoulders they asked us, “What is that?” and “What are those?”

(You know how it is when people ask those questions – they sort of emphasize the “this” and the “that.”)

And when we told them what that is and what those are, they couldn’t see it. When what we had “made in our image of what we were making,” and they didn’t understand, and they questioned it, then we began to question it. We began to hold back, a little at first, and then a lot. And soon our generative impulse was less an impulse and more of something that had to be coaxed out of us.

When we were five years old most of us were brimming with confidence. We knew intuitively that we could draw a shape, paint a picture, sing a song, do some kind of dance. It came so naturally and we were brimming with confidence. But within only a few years that would change. Confidence began to wane and our imaginations, once clear and fertile, became clouded and calloused with self-doubt. And we quietly put our crayons down. We put our colored pencils away. We stopped singing out loud.

And we decided to just …

skip …

the …

dance…

But something way down deep inside of us reminded us this was not the end of this story.

#100days50words

 

Origin

OriginToday’s Word: ‘ORIGIN’ as in… where does creativity come from?

I’m working on a couple of beliefs…

First, each of us has been created to be creative. Moment by moment we’re being created for the purpose of being creative. There is intention, movement and trajectory in both our creation and creativity.

Second, this creativity was breathed into us from the beginning. Our creativity has a Source.

In the beginning we had little if any trouble expressing this gift of creativity. Inside, we sat in our high chairs and made boats, fish and other creatures with our spaghetti noodles. We made rivers, lakes and streams with the sauce. Outside, we imagined new opportunities during rain showers which turned dirt into a remarkably useful artistic medium: mud. With that mud we made forts, houses, neighborhoods. We took handfuls of the dust of the ground and created old family members and even imagined new ones. And with a strange Impulse coming from who-knows-where-at-that-age, we took those lumps of earth and dirt and breathed life into pets and parents, buffalos and brothers, snakes and sisters, fish and friends. Then continuing to follow that strange but Generative Impulse, we gave each of them names. And as we looked at those creations that we had made in our image of them—made in the image we had in our creative minds, we declared out loud, right then and there: “It is good, it is very good.”

When we got a little older and went off to school, we explored new shapes and patterns with finger paint. As many of us moved through elementary and middle school into high school, we used our hands to create things with wood, fabrics, metals, glass. Beyond the classroom and on into young adulthood, our creativity continued with computers and words and phrases and music and songs and on and on it went. Indeed!

Where something wasn’t… is!

Think about that for another moment: Where something wasn’t… is!

But something happened somewhere in between “wasn’t” and “is” and everything changed.

What happened?
#100days50words

Creativity

Creativity

Today’s Word: ‘Creativity’ as in… what is it?

Go ahead, try to define it. I’ll give you a minute.

When we try to define creativity we often do so by referencing something that someone else has done, something that someone else has made, something that someone else painted, something that someone else formed, brought together, something that someone else created. There’s a hesitancy for many of us, I believe, to actually include ourselves in the definition. Rare is the occasion that someone asks us to define creativity and we respond,

“Well, hey, how about this IKEA bookshelf I just put together!”

Why is that so rare? Why is it so rare that we point to ourselves as an integral part of the creative definition (Sorry IKEA). Why are we so quick to point away from the creativity within us?

If we’ve been created to be creative (and I believe we have), and if we bear the image of the Creator (and I believe we do), why wouldn’t we point to the Creator’s on-going creative work in us? Most of us have probably had some experience of watching someone else “be creative” and thinking: “How on earth do they do that?” Or maybe we’ve wondered out loud: “Where does that come from?” or… “I could never do that, I’m just not that creative!” Or worse, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body. I could never do something like that!” Notice that the harsher the statement the more it’s connected to our view of ourselves as creative people. So what is the “that” that we refer to? Our small group was wrestling with this question of creativity.

We were trying to define it when one of our friends shared the experience of having asked this question in another setting. The conversation went back and forth for a while until one of them said this in response to “What is creativity: “Where something wasn’t, is…” (go ahead, read that again and just let it sit for a moment.)

“Where something wasn’t, is…” That’s really good, actually.

That’s really creative!

#100days50words

Sensitivity

SensitivityToday’s Word: ‘sensitivity’ … as in it takes a bit of spirited (spiritual) sensitivity to become aware of these “Surely-the-Lord-is-in-this-place-and-I-did-not-know-it!” moments.

Just like our eyes adjusting to the light or the darkness, there is a process of training ourselves to be aware of how and where Spirit/God/the Divine is moving – in both the light and dark places.

And in the places in between.

We’ve explored moments like these in the context of ‘thin places’ – as our Celtic sisters and brothers have taught us. But again, there is a caveat: “God sightings” or “God moments” leaves the door open to the idea that if we don’t see God, or don’t know how to talk about “God showing up” it’s easy to think that God is not at work, or didn’t show up.

God is always at work and always present and always in and always with and always for us.

Always.

That’s what Jacob gave language to when he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!”

What language do you have to describe the ongoing Presence of God among us?

#100days50words

Surely

SurelyToday’s Word: ‘Surely’ … as in “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!”

There’s a fascinating story in the Hebrew scriptures about a man name Jacob. He’s on the run. Jacob is avoiding his brother Esau who hates him because Jacob tricked his father, Isaac, into agreeing that Jacob could be in charge of the land of Canaan when Isaac died. It should have been Esau’s job. He was born first. So when Esau realized he’d been duped, he goes ballistic, then goes after Jacob. So Jacob takes the back road to Haran. He stops for the night and uses a rock for a pillow. He falls asleep and has a dream. Of course he has a dream. That’s the way these things work. In his dream, Jacob receives a powerful promise from God:

“Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

When Jacob wakes up he says, “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!”

Let’s just stop right there. Let me ask you: Could there possibly be a place where God is not? Go ahead. I’ll wait…

The temptation is to only connect God’s presence and activity with “the big things.” You know, like big rescues, big happenings, big super-sized unexplainable events that are so big only God could be in them. But when we do that, we miss out on God’s presence in all of the little things as well.

I’ll say it plainly: there is no place where God is not. So in this story when we’re told that “Jacob wakes up from his sleep” that just might point to the truth that Jacob “woke up” to the fact that God was always with him. We often ask, “Where did you see God show up?”

Maybe the real question is whether or not we are showing up to what God is already doing.

#100days50words

Summer (part 4)

Summer 4.4Today’s Word: ‘Summer’ … as in where did it go?

So that’s the letter from the parents to their child. A poignant reminder of what I’ve always referred to as “the high cost of loving so deeply.”

Our summer has fled. Perhaps there is a sense of growing-pain for some. For others, a summer fled along with the change in tree colors and temperatures means new directions, new opportunities, new hope. But whatever the depth of feeling, whatever the range of emotion, perhaps as the writer of the letter put it, and perhaps as the parents whose hands I squeezed would hope to believe, the good news of the Gospel touches us precisely at these moments; moments upon which we shall one day look back and say, “Wow, it seems like only yesterday! So much has happened since then!”

#100days50words

Summer (part 3)

Summer 1.3Today’s Word: ‘Summer’ … as in where did it go?

“My heart aches for you. I miss not having you close at this time of year when so much seems to be changing. Yet, in the midst of all of this there is a certain kind of … well, growing pain, I feel that isn’t so terribly unbearable. In fact, I’m learning to cherish that growth. And I hope you will learn to cherish that growing pain too, because it’s as much a part of you as all of the good times have been and always will be. Cherish those feelings NOW, explore them, before your roommate comes back and rustles around a bit before settling in for the night. And then after you’ve had that moment with the thoughts of a summer fled, then turn your thoughts ahead, to the busy, brighter, people-filled days you’ll soon be slipping through, and remember, it is to those moments that in time you’ll return and say, “Wow, it seems like only yesterday! So much has happened since then!”

I love you. I love you to the moon and back. Twice. P.S. Don’t forget to lay out your clothes for the first day of classes. And remember to say your prayers before you go to sleep.”

#100days50words

Summer (part 2)

Summer 2.4Today’s Word: ‘Summer’ … as in where did it go?

I ran across an old letter from some parents to their child who had somehow grown out of diapers and into adolescence, out of rebellion and into responsibility, out the house and into life as a self-sustaining individual heading into the first semester of college. The letter was written at about this time of year on one of those days when paying close attention to the seemingly insignificant paid off. Today, and for the next couple of days, we’ll spend a little time in this letter:

“Hey Kiddo, I passed a school bus full of kids on my walk today. It’s the first day of classes for these sad, excited, tired, anxious and forlorn faces. Summer dreams turned to memories must be packed away, put on the shelf in a closet as the seriousness of school becomes the talk around kitchen tables all over town. No matter how much these kids anticipate the little thrills that await them—from new books and pencils, lunch boxes, new shoes, and multi-pocketed backpacks to checking out the cute little girls or boys in the next row of seats—while they’re on that big, rumbling, clumsy yellow bus, the sadness of a summer fled is all that matters to them. You, there in the dorm won’t have that same drowsy, rattled trip over railroad tracks and through neighborhoods to get to your classes. But I’m sure that during the first week there, at school, in the evening, when you’re still not settled in, or quite comfortable with the way the carpet squares and lofted bunk beds fit the room you’ve been given—and your roommate is out of the room for a while and the halls are beginning to quiet for the evening, you too will have that same sad feeling of a summer fled. My heart aches for you…”

[to be continued…]

#100days50words

Summer (part 1)

Summer 1.4Today’s Word: ‘Summer’ … as in where did it go?

There’s been a change; we’ve had a shift in the rhythms of life over these past weeks. Most families have shifted from summer mode to Back-to-School mode and the summer days we were just recently floating through have taken on a new kind of urgency. We’re just now getting ourselves wrapped around new rhythms for a new season.

I embraced a family last Sunday morning. They, like moms and dads all over the community were feeling the ache of “letting go.” Their ‘baby’ had grown up, had become educated – to some degree, had matured, had fallen in and out of love a couple of times, had grown into and out of countless styles of clothing – and winter coats. Their ‘baby’ had laughed and cried with a handful of really good friends through the years, had finally graduated from High School and decided to follow some dreams that had been encouraged and nurtured along the way. It was only for a moment, but as I stopped to say hello and looked into their eyes I could tell that these parents had been wondering how graduation from High School last spring had become such a distant memory so quickly; how quickly the month of September, that was once months in the future, was now finally upon them.

As I slowly walked away, wishing them peace in that moment, I couldn’t help think of my own granddaughters’ relatively recent entrance into the world of Elementary School. All I could think of was how fast these days go! How fast these years go! Who might it be who takes my hand a dozen years from now and says “Wow, it seems like only yesterday! So much has happened since then!”

[To Be continued…]

#100days50words

Exit

ExitToday’s Word: ‘Exit’ … as in the one option usually chosen way too soon.

It happened again. An issue has divided us. The little details aren’t important because the little details are a little different each time. But the response is the same, again: Exit. Stage Right, or Stage Left. (Really, honestly, no pun intended there. At all.)

On any given day there are any given number of issues about which we all have opinions, perspectives and deeply held convictions. It’s the positivity in me, I know, but what a wonderful moment for learning and growing! What a wonderful opportunity to discover how to thrive in the midst of a veritable color palate of opinions, perspectives and deeply held convictions!

Yet, I do wonder if part of the reason we have stopped coming together and started moving apart is because we no longer feel safe sharing our perspectives with each other.

We’re afraid. So we exit.

This becomes our thinking:

“I don’t how you will receive me, my opinions, perspectives and deeply held convictions and because from the beginning of time I’ve tended to fear what I can’t see or don’t know, my default is to just exit.”

I feel like I’m going out on a limb here, but we can do better than that. We can do much better.

So when we disagree about the color of the carpeting, let’s at least have a conversation about it. I could probably learn some things from you.

The next time we have differing shades of perspectives on the weightier issues or just flat out disagree about something, let’s just talk. Coffee? Beer? Both? Neither?

If, after we’ve sat together and done the difficult work of both hearing and listening to each other; if after we’ve heard the nuances of passion in our voices and seen each other’s facial expressions and our body language together; if after we’ve been able to ask questions and get clarification—if after all of that we just agree to disagree, then sure, we can do what we feel compelled to do at that point.

But let’s not just exit. That’s an option chosen way too soon. And we’ve got way too much to learn.

#100days50words

Spirit

SpiritToday’s Word: ‘Spirit’ … as in breath; as in a few thoughts from “Episode 6: Spirited.”

When we talk about spirit, spiritual, spirituality—that which is spirited, we are really talking about things that are often beyond our capacity to fully explain, and in many cases understand fully.

And perhaps we don’t need to. After all, we’re using finite words to describe the Infinite.

Our language is limited. The meanings of words we use change over time; the nuances shift, the definitions fade, new ways of understanding old words come and go. This is true for spirituality. So when we talk about spiritual lives – or as I prefer to say, our ‘spirited’ lives, and what it means to thrive as spirited people, we’re really walking into mystery.

We’re walking into one big, beautiful, funky, ancient, poetic, complicated, expansive, wonder-filled, mystery. And that’s a good thing.

When we talk about spirituality, at some point we’re talking about breath, which, in its very essence is spirit. The ancient words of the Hebrew scriptures—when they speak of spirit, they’re really talking about breath.

Belden Lane, in his remarkable book, Backpacking with the Saints, writes about breath and where it comes from. Check this out:

“Our first intense experience of the world comes through breathing—gasping for air. For the rest of our lives this happens automatically, without conscious effort, handled by a respiratory control center at the base of the brain. We breathe an average of 28,000 times a day. But breath is more than a physiological function. It represents an interior, spiritual dimension of a life that is more than us. According to the Torah, God’s breathing brought the first humans into existence, filling them with the “breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). Called by various names—[including the Greek word, pneuma, and the Hebrew word ruach], breath is a divine energy recognized across every religious tradition.” (Belden’s new book, page 48, “Air: The Child).

With that in mind, let’s just call our next breath the gift that it is.

#100days50words

Moving

Moving

Today’s Word: ‘Moving’ … as in what happens when volunteers show up!

The day began with shouts of glad rejoicing! The volunteers arrived and with them the long anticipated migration across the parking lot into the new space for the staff at Prince of Peace!

With plans in place well in advance, everything is ready: four days of volunteering, each day with multiple 3-hour daily shifts, the consideration of kinds of abilities, the accommodation of all kinds of schedules, the anticipation of several different weather scenarios, and the offering of on-going child care. Start time for moving: 9:00 AM.

Fantastic!

Volunteers!

Moving!

And what is most moving is the fact that the entire move took place in just five hours.

How on earth this something like that happen? I’ll just ask again, how on earth does something like this happen? Volunteers: people who give! People who sacrifice and show up! People who know the joy of serving, people who are willing to set aside their own schedules. People who love. People who are moved by love. That, my friends, is very moving.

And so, as the day ends, let it end with glad thanksgiving! Huge thanks to all of the volunteers who gave us this one very moving day!

#100days50words

Rhythm

RhythmToday’s Word: ‘Rhythm’ … as in there is a good Rhythm at work in the universe. It’s a hum, a divine frequency, a holy vibration, a sacred resonance, a spirited a pattern of thriving life.

I’m convinced that we’ve all got certain rhythms that move us through each day into deeper, wider, broader, more expansive ways of living generative, thriving lives.

But we should ask again, and again: What does it mean to thrive?

We’re exploring a good bit of that here in the Today’s Word Project. We can agree that thriving is a basic human desire. Certainly, the right of every human being is to thrive in his and her context. The basic trajectory of every human life is to grow, to move beyond the present moment and move into something even more. An important part of all of that is acknowledging where this all comes from.

As the Spirit breathes life into us, we are ‘inspired’ to breathe life into life all around us. (Go ahead and re-read that last sentence. I’ll wait… I know, right?)

One more thought on this before we head into Sabbath: Thriving is what you feel, what you know, what you’re convinced of when you look around the room at the people you love and care about and know that you are more fully alive and fully yourself in that moment than before.

That’s a good Rhythm in the universe.

#100days50words

 

Moment

MomentToday’s Word: ‘moment’ … as in “be in the moment and enjoy it too.” So said the bride’s mom.

You know how it is when you’ve got some big project looming and you’re still minutes out, but it seems like you’ve got miles to go and you’re laser-focused on what’s next? Maybe it’s a goal or performance or commitment or a responsibility that necessitates attention, and you’re really focused on it; locked in on all of the details.

You know how that is? I do. (No pun intended.)

I’m officiating at a wedding, it’s a spectacular setting: right on the Mississippi River, in a grove of old growth old trees, beautiful landscaping, fresh mown grass, and not a bug in sight. Not one mosquito. The afternoon is perfect; I mean absolutely stunning. I’m making sure all of my details are covered; met with the bride and groom, talked with the parents, kibitzed with the photographers, and connected with the three wedding coordinators, all of whom are wired with walkie-talkies and wearing ear buds. (Nothing was getting by them!) It occurs to me how many details are pending at this very moment.

We’re only minutes out, but it seems like we’ve got miles to go. A few moments later I’m asked to walk the bride’s mom from the staging area to the back of the long walkway to the altar, which is just feet from the Mississippi. As the bride’s mom takes my arm, I ask how she is doing. That’s when she offers me this:

“I’m really doing well. I’m not one for getting overwhelmed by a lot of details, and that helps be in the moment and enjoy it too.”

Wow. What a great reminder … being in the moment and enjoying it too.

You know how it is when you’re looking so far ahead that you’re also running the risk of missing what’s right here, right now? I know you do.

So what do you need to do in order to make sure that you don’t miss this moment, right here, right now?

#100days50words

Astonishment

AstonishingToday’s Word: ‘astonishment’ … as in those moments when you’re full of it; full of astonishment, that is.

Annie Dillard once wrote about being filled with astonishment and our responsibility to that. Here’s what she wrote:

“Why do you never find anything written about that idiosyncratic thought you advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands? Because it is up to you. There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin. You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.”

I find astonishing things around me all of the time; it’s just the way I’m wired. It could be because I’m a 7 on the Enneagram. It could be because Positivity, Ideation and Adaptability are three of my top five (Clifton/Gallup) strengths. It could be because I’m naturally curious and believe it’s always better to ask questions than make statements. It could be that my parents taught me to see the world through all kinds of lenses.

How about you? What are you astonished by today?

Here’s my partial list: Suddenly there’s chalk art on our driveway, Nancy Lee and I had dinner with Sarah and Travis and our three granddaughters last night, I’ve been at Prince of Peace for nearly 24 years and still -to -this -day I can’t call it work, Nancy Lee and I are still dating, I was able to help someone out of a crisis this afternoon, I heard a robin this morning, I received a note of encouragement yesterday about all of this from a dear friend from long ago, I was just asked (in the middle of writing this!) to officiate a wedding of some sweet young friends, I’m headed to a local caffeine palace just because.

I’m astonished. See, it doesn’t take too much effort to celebrate a little astonishment!

#100days50words

Belong

BelongToday’s Word: ‘Belong’ … as in we really all do belong to one another.

Several years ago, during a visit with my late friend, Eugene Peterson, we talked about the book I was publishing at the time; about the normal tensions in all relationships. Eugene reminded me of his translation of part of Matthew 5.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”

We all belong to some relational network of friends, lovers, spouses, family members, sons, daughters, in-laws, coworkers; people we know well, as well as people we may not know well, or even at all.

Because we share the same air, because we share the same space, the same sunlight, the same rain, the same everything, it’s important for all of us to lean into ways of living together that make it possible for all of us to thrive together. The issue isn’t “how do we become more and more like one another?” Rather, the issue is “how do we come together more intentionally to celebrate the many ways we bring life and aliveness to one another?

Think about the relationships you have. What’s working and what isn’t? Bring to mind your more primary relationships and ask yourself: “How can I bring less of ‘me and you’ and more of ‘we and us’?” What would it look like if you made a concerted effort to focus less on your partner’s shortcomings and your needs and more on your own shortcomings and your partner’s needs?

What kind of transformation would that bring about?

#100days50words

Toes

Toes

Today’s Word: ‘Toes’ … as in let’s be on them!

Near the end of the book of Galatians, Paul bids farewell to his friends in Ephesus. As he leaves he reminds them, “Now it’s up to you, be on your toes.”

This idea of being on our toes, alert and awake for Christ’s sake always takes me back to Mike Copeland, the son of Mary Jo Copeland, Mary Jo Copeland, the founder and director of Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis. When Mike was in high school he was a very well-known and popular kid. Growing up, Mike had a heart for the underdog, the outcast. With Mary Jo for a mom, how could he not? Some years ago Mike shared this story with me:

It was the lunch hour and Mike was sitting in a crowded cafeteria at table with his friends. Mike looked across the lunchroom and spotted another student sitting all alone, clearly on the edge of the social structure of the student body, clearly alone, clearly lonely. What Mike did next stunned and inspired everyone who was there. Mike got up from his table where he was surrounded by dozens of other students and walked over to the table where the other kid was sitting alone. Mike just sat down. He didn’t have to say a word. But in that moment the entire student body in that cafeteria was aware of the unspoken message from Mike Copeland:

“This other kid was important.”

Over the next several days, Mike befriended the young man, “gathered him in” to the community. Over the next several weeks, many of the students who had been sitting with Mike at the “popular table” had now joined Mike and his new friend at the “other table.”

A change took place in the school. Because Mike Copeland was “on his toes,” watchful, alert, and awake for the sake of the Gospel in a way that showed others how to physically be the presence of Christ for someone in need, a young man’s life was changed.

How will you be on your toes, watchful and alert today?

#100days50words

Build

BuildToday’s Word: ‘Build” … as in “Let us build a house” out of Marty’s music.

Marty Haugen is one of my musician heroes. Long ago he wrote a hymn entitled “All Are Welcome.” It’s the kind of hymn tune and lyric that stays right with you; it’s always lingering in the back of the mind. Out of nowhere last week, I found myself singing this tune out loud. Over and over again. Sometimes it’s just really good to dwell in the lyrics of a song like this and let the words sink in. Maybe make them a prayer.

Here goes:

“Let us build a house / where love can dwell / And all can safely live, / A place where saints and children tell / How hearts learn to forgive. / Built of hopes and dreams and visions, / Rock of faith and vault of grace; / Here the love of Christ shall end divisions, / All are welcome, All are welcome, All are welcome in this place.” “Let us build a house where prophets speak, / And words are strong and true, / Where all God’s children dare to seek / To dream God’s reign anew. / Here the cross shall stand as witness / And a symbol of God’s grace; / Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus: / All are welcome, All are welcome, All are welcome in this place.” “Let us build a house where love is found / In water, wine and wheat: / A banquet hall on holy ground, / Where peace and justice meet. / Here the love of God, through Jesus, / Is revealed in time and space; / As we share in Christ the feast that frees us: / All are welcome, All are welcome, All are welcome in this place.”

Amen. Let it be so. Thanks Marty…

#100days50words

Welcome

WelcomeToday’s Word: ‘Welcome’ … as in all are welcome. No exceptions.

Five years ago the faith community I serve affirmed (once again) that God’s grace and love continues to be wide and pervasive in its scope, and unconditional enough for all people.

Either it’s unconditional or it isn’t.

Arriving (once again) at that same proverbial ‘fork in the road’ that Robert Frost writes of in his famous poem, “Two Roads,” we took the other one (once again) and, if you know that poem, you know the result. We also acknowledged that, among other things, in the midst of different points of view and divergent perspectives, people struggle to know how to talk well together. As per human nature, when people disagree, one or both parties raise their voice as if to force one viewpoint over the other with sheer volume. It’s like the default setting when faced with fear, threat, and danger.

At present, (once again) people seem to be yelling.

In her letter, “Immigration and Hospitality of the Heart” Patricia Lull, Bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod of the ELCA writes:

“We are living in a time when vitriolic words and hate speech have found their way into ordinary life. Tragically, such speech causes many to simply stop talking and has caused a few to act with deadly violence toward immigrants. Instead of engaging in a civil debate, it seems easier to react with broad generalities about others, their intentions, and the very dignity of their lives.”

I believe we can do better. I believe we can move beyond our default settings. Learning to listen well, is the first step in learning to speak well. And when we speak we speak well we converse well. And that, I am convinced, leads to living well with one another.

#100days50words

Sanctuary

SanctuaryToday’s Word: ‘Sanctuary’ … as in an open and safe place where all are welcome.

I grew up in an era where the church, the physical building itself was never locked. Whether it was 3 o’clock in the morning or 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the place was open; anyone could go in, everyone was welcome to be there: it was a safe place. It was as if the church itself had a ‘hospitable heart’ so that anyone walking by, driving by, even running by could hear the church say, “Hey, come in here and find rest.”

The only thing that would have prevented access was a lock on the door.

Over time, of course, that changed. But then, and since, I couldn’t imagine someone from within saying to someone from without, “Hey, you can’t be here. This place is off-limits to you and others like you.”

All of this came into sharper focus as I read the letter from Patricia Lull, Bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA):

“We are living in a time when vitriolic words and hate speech have found their way into ordinary life. Tragically, such speech causes many to simply stop talking and has caused a few to act with deadly violence toward immigrants. Instead of engaging in a civil debate, it seems easier to react with broad generalities about others, their intentions, and the very dignity of their lives. In the Christian community we are called to do better than that. In fact, the very nature of congregational life, where we are called together by the power of the Spirit, gives us an opportunity to listen carefully and to speak respectfully with and about contemporary issues with those with whom we disagree.”

You can read the letter in its entirety here

#100days50words

Speech

SpeechToday’s Word: ‘Speech’ … as in what’s the best love, advice, encouragement, wisdom you’re going to pass along?

I’m always taken just a bit off guard when I walk into stores and see “Back To School” signs and displays – in the middle of July. There’s something unsettling about opening mail just after the Fourth of July only and finding the circular advertising school supplies, lunch boxes, and even – wait for it…winter coats and boots when it’s 82 degrees in the shade and we haven’t heard a thing about the State Fair yet.

But while that may be annoying, there’s an upside.

From a parent’s perspective, the “Back To School” displays are reminders of what’s coming and that we’ve got to get “The Speech” ready. You know what “The Speech” is, don’t you? It’s the “Evening-Before-the-First-Day-of-School Speech.”

Parents, you know how it goes: “Make sure you’ve got your lunch. Don’t forget your backpack, sit up straight, listen to your teachers, be nice, remember to share.” Nancy Lee and I did this every year with our kids. The litany of dos and don’ts was epic:

“Make sure you do this, don’t forget that, remember those things.”

And as our kids got older, the messages became more urgent: “Be careful when you’re driving! Make sure you call us when you get there! Wear your seat belt. Don’t text and drive.”

My mom was spectacular at this – and then some: “Make sure your socks match. Wear clean underwear. Don’t forget to comb your hair. Make sure your zipper is up.”

Really, mom! Are you kidding me?

Sometimes I think this probably says more about the anxiety of parents than anything related to kids.

But it does raise the question: What’s most important to you that you want to pass on to your kids and grandkids? As these days begin to lean toward September and the ubiquitous yellow busses begin to rumble once again, you’re forming your speech. I know you are.

What’s the best love, the best advice, the best encouragement, the best wisdom you’re going to pass along?

#100days50words

Sharing

SharingToday’s Word: ‘Sharing’ … as in who really fed all those people and was there are more powerful miracle that we usually miss?

Smack-dab in the middle of Matthew’s account of Jesus’s life and ministry, he writes a story about a large group of very hungry people, some fish and some bread. It’s also a story about a small group of followers; Jesus’s disciples who are about to have their mental furniture rearranged.

“You give them something to eat!” Jesus says.

“What?” they respond. “Too many! Too late! Not enough of this! Too little of that!”

Sheeeesh.

I grew up hearing the story of the feeding of the 5000 a couple times each year when it came around in the schedule of readings and preaching from both Matthew and Luke. Each time the conclusion was the same: there was a big need, the disciples were thinking too small, and Jesus does the miracle himself. He snaps his fingers, wiggles his nose, recites a couple lines from a communion service, and boom! Food for everyone. With left overs.

It seemed like all we were doing was cheering Jesus on! “He did it again! That rabbi, I’m telling you, man, he’s just crushin’ it!”

At some point I began to wonder, though, if maybe I had the miracle all wrong. Maybe the real miracle was having all of those hungry people seeing the need all around them and digging into their backpacks, bags and pockets they shared everything they had with others until all “ate and were filled.” It seemed like that was the thing Jesus was teaching all along. Not “here, let me do it for you!” but rather, “Here, you’ve got what you need to do this!” And when they did that, they actually had a lot left over. Twelve baskets full of left overs. Hmmm. 12… a poignant and powerful number. But not as poignant and powerful as the number of people fed and satisfied by a bigger miracle taking place that day: sharing.

Maybe the real miracle is when people discover and respond to the needs of someone sitting right next to them.

#100days50words

Transformation

TransformationToday’s Word: ‘Transformation’ … as in … this:

“True encounter with Christ liberates something in us, a power we did not know we had, a hope, a capacity for life, a resilience, an ability to bounce back when we thought we were completely defeated, a capacity to grow and change, a power of creative transformation.”

So said one of my favorite Trappist monk, Thomas Merton.

We tend to relegate transformation to the category of “really big, life-altering and extraordinary.” My hesitation with always defining transformation as extraordinary is that we miss out on the much more ordinary ways the Spirit is bringing life and more life.

So just for today, be aware today of the moments when you sense transformation. Pay attention to those moments when you feel liberated and hopeful, when you catch yourself breathing deeper and with more capacity. Let those moments when you sense a surge of inner peace remind you that things are not as they were – and they don’t have to be – and that’s okay.

Let those much more ordinary moments transform you.

#100days50words

Mysterious

MysteriousToday’s Word: ‘mysterious’ … as in it’s okay to let the mystery be mysterious.

I’ve been having some terrific conversations about the Spirit, and the questions that are emerging about the nature and character of the Spirit are revealing mostly about the where our ideas of all of this come from.

“Who is the Spirit?” “What is the Spirit?” “How does the Spirit interact with us?” “How can I be sure that the Spirit is in me?” “When does the Spirit show up?” “Do I have to ask first?” … because someone always wants to know if we’re filled with the Sprit, right?

Our Western culture has taught us to ask these questions. These are questions of “containment” and “measurement.” If we can answer these questions then we can contain the Spirit, we can measure the Spirit’s activity in us. We want to capture the Spirit, study it, slice, dice and then define the Spirit. We want to find a metric by which the Spirit can be measured so that when someone asks us if we are filled with the Spirit we’ve got something to say.

But at some point, isn’t it just okay to let the mystery be mysterious?

When we try to capture, study, slice, dice, define and measure, we run the risk of leaving out…

the Beauty of the Breath,

the Wind of the Spirit,

the Breeze of the Divine.

We run the risk of missing the Power of the Mysterious.

People describe this mystery in all kinds of ways: through conversations with God, through stirring music, even discomfort and vulnerability. Other’s describe the Spirit’s presence and movement as a nudge, a prompting, in laughter or tears, being speechless or even not being able to keep quiet about it.

I’ve found the Spirit to be deeply comforting; like having someone remind me that I’m loved, lovely, worthy, valuable; that I’m a treasure, a gift from God to the world.

At the end of the day, this just takes me back to my bottom line again. And that is this:

If we’re breathing, the Spirit is within us. What a treasure!

#100days50words

Spirit

Spirit - Coffee SteamToday’s Word(s): ‘SPIRIT’ … as in we are never, ever without the Spirit. Ever.

The gift of the Spirit was given to every one of us when God breathed life into humankind at the very beginning. It was, is and always will be a gift. The ‘wind of the Spirit,’ the ‘breeze of the Divine’ blows over, in, and around us, filling, animating, moving, sustaining us.

But when does God do that? When is the Spirit present? At birth? During gestation? 22 days after conception? At the moment of conception? Before that? I’m convinced that the only answer: “Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes, and Yes.”

However, many of us were taught early on that we had something to do with this; that we had to give God permission to go ahead and reside in us. But that’s like saying to God, “Hey, keep your distance until I tell you I’m ready. I’ll let you when.”

Wow, really? As Richard Rohr writes, “We have always made it hard for God to give away God—for free. Our fragile ego always wants to set a boundary, a price, an entrance requirement of some sort.”

Here’s my bottom line: If we’re breathing, the Spirit is within us. In the Creation Story, the writer tells us that the Holy Spirit moves, is active and breathing life into the emerging creation. Spirit, ruach, pneuma is breathed into us, animating us, bringing us to life!

There’s a beautiful picture of this in Genesis 2.7: God is gathering up the “dust of the ground,” forming humankind and breathing life-breath-Spirit into it. From that very moment, all the way up to and through this very moment, humankind is Spirit-filled, Spirit-animated, Spirit-moved, Spirit-sustained. The Spirit is gift. And we are never, ever without the Spirit.

Ever.

#100days50words

Treasure

Treasure

Today’s Word(s): ‘TREASURE’ … as in you are a treasure and there’s no one exactly like you. So let’s just party to THAT!

I’ll bet there’s someone you know right now who needs to be reminded that they’re loved just the way they are – loved, as is. No hoops to jump through, no metrics to meet, no expectations to live up to, no love to earn. Loved fully and without condition. Just the way they are.

Our staff is getting ready to vacate one building and move to another. That’s given all of us the opportunity to get rid of a lot of stuff that we don’t use, need, or even know we have. In a box labeled “treasures” that I haven’t looked at in quite some time I found a bundle of old music tapes. On one of the tapes was a collection of lullabies that we played every night at bedtime when our kids were little. The one song that got the most plays was “There’s No One Like You.” It’s a sweet little tune that lingers long after you’ve put it in a box labeled “Treasures” and stowed it away in storage.

Here are the words…

“I like your eyes, I like your nose, I like your mouth, your ears, your hands, your toes. I like your face, it’s really you, and I like the things you say and do! In all the world, in every town, you can look both up and down. But you will never find, it’s true, another one like You. There’s not a soul, that sees the skies, the way you see them through your eyes. And if you search for miles and miles, You’d know that no one thinks or smiles or sings or feels or acts or walks the very special way you do! And aren’t you glad, you should be glad, there’s no one, there’s no one, exactly like you.”

I didn’t have a cassette player to play it on, but that didn’t matter. I could still hear the melody somewhere deep inside. It was a great reminder!

#100days50words

Prayer

PrayerToday’s Word(s): ‘prayer’ … as in sometimes I even think I hear cheering.

It has become a daily rhythm for me: on my way out of the house, through the shadowy garage and into sun-drenched day, I stop for “the prayer.” It just takes a moment. The prayer is written on a 4×6 piece of cardstock and taped to the wall just to the right of the door track. I have to pause anyway to let the door fully open, so I put my hand on the card and pray the prayer.

Sometimes out loud.

This daily practice reminds me of the tradition that some football players observe as they run through the shadowy tunnel under the stadium on their way to the sun-drenched field. Maybe you’ve seen it: just before they run out into the stadium to the cheers of thousands, there, just above the doorway is a sign. On the sign is a motto, a mantra, a quote that inspires them. They touch it, tap it, slap it with their hands. It’s like they’re taking hold of something. Or something is taking hold of them. This prayer is like that for me; could be for you, too.

Let’s pray it:

“God, this is a new day. I freshly commit myself to the role you have invited me to play as you are building your church in this world. I am awestruck again today that you include me in this grand life-giving, world-transforming endeavor. So today I joyfully offer you my love, my heart, my talents, my energy, my creativity, my faithfulness, my resources and my gratitude. I commit all of myself to the role you have assigned me in the building of your church so that it may thrive in this world. And I will “bring it” today. I will bring my best. You deserve it. Your church deserves it. It is the hope of the world.”

For all the times I’ve prayed this prayer, I still don’t have it memorized. I’m lousy at memorizing. That’s probably good. It makes me slow down and think about what I’m praying and how to live into it. That’s a good rhythm.

And sometimes I even think I hear cheering.

#100days50words

Inspiration

InspirationToday’s Word(s): ‘Inspiration’… as in as in someone recently asked me about the inspiration for “Today’s Word.”

“Where do you get your word?” “How long does it take to write it?” “How does the inspiration work?” “Why do you do this?” These are great questions.

It’s a fascinating process. I don’t go looking for a word; the word comes looking for me. And I can usually tell when the word finds me; I’ll be in a conversation and all of a sudden, there it is! ‘Today’s Word’ just reaches out and says, “Here I am!” (Hebrew: Hineini!) Then the content just rolls out. I don’t spend a lot of time “getting it just right” because, as Draymond Green would say, “At the end of the day it is what it is.” Sometimes it takes ten minutes to write. And there have been times when it’s taken a whole morning. I also try not to use a bunch of “God talk” because there’s a good bit of that language that no one speaks anymore. As a speaker and writer, and even as a song writer, I’ve always loved the challenge of writing about what God is up to – without actually referring to God. That takes us deeper into the wonder of it all and engages our imagination on a deeper level. The Divine is in it, for sure. There’s always a word, a phrase, a thought that connects to what the Spirit is up to in each moment. This raises another good question: What’s your word today? What’s the ‘Today’s Word’ for you?

Think of a conversation you’ve had, a thought that’s stuck with you; something you’ve read or heard. What word comes out of that and how could that word inspire you and others to thrive today?

#100days50words

Repentance

RepentanceToday’s Word: ‘REPENTANCE’ as in … changing one’s mind, one’s hearts; going in a new direction.

There’s a good chance that many of us have some baggage connected to this beautiful ancient word. That may be true because someone else may have told us that we had to do it. Honestly, repentance is neither easy nor popular. But then, neither is broccoli. But to repent is to turn toward some new point, it’s a change of mind and heart.

In the faith community, to say ‘we repent of our sin’ is really nothing more than acknowledging the brokenness in our relationships with others, one another and our relationship with the One who desires to be in relationship with us.

It’s acknowledging that we’ve all had a hand in that cookie jar.

I first learned to practice repentance in a way that actually breathed new life into me at Holden Village. Holden is an ecumenical retreat community in the Cascade Mountains of the Wenatchee National Forest in Washington State. It was while I was living there with a very small community of about sixty people during a winter some years ago that I connected repentance to the words and melody of a beautiful song.

The World Peace Prayer is a song of hope and change, a song of new direction; of tuning our hearts to different, thriving rhythms. These words have been swirling inside me for the past three days. What I appreciate most about this prayer is that I’m not just tossing the responsibility for peace-making into some Cosmic Lap, passively hoping that peace will just happen. Rather, this prayer places the responsibility for creating peace in my own lap; in our laps. Together we co-create peace in the world along with the Creator who call us into it. So let’s make this our prayer together:

“Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth, from despair to hope, from fear to trust, lead us from hate to love, from war to peace; let peace fill our hearts, let peace fill our world, let peace fill our universe.”

#100days50words

Insanity

Insanity 2Today’s Word: ‘INSANITY’ as in … we’ve been here before. Isn’t it insane?

A working definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.” The jury is out as to who first coined the phrase, and it certainly doesn’t matter whether or not it’s “the most over used cliché ever.” That’s just missing the point. Completely. Tied to this is the reality that whether local or global, individuals and communities that fail to do the hard work of self-reflection are doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again.

Let me be succinct: the inability to self-reflect leads the ability to self-destruct.

Self-reflection is the only way to disrupt the rhythms that continue to sabotage our life together. The communities of Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, would want every one of us in the global community to do some deep, self-reflection.

Hearts are broken, again. Lives are shattered, again.

If even a few moments of self-reflection on our part could yield some comfort and healing for those who have lost parents, children, family members and friends, again, then every second would be worth it. I understand that this is complicated; none of the victims’ families would be comforted at all by someone saying, “Hey, let’s do some real soul searching here.” They would want movement. We must continue to press back on the insanity of doing nothing.

So friends, let’s use the thriving rhythms and do this: ask the Spirit to enliven the creativity in each of us to leverage our connections to bring sanity to the conversation. Let’s be very present to the fears that are expressed by those we know—especially the kiddos we know. Let’s be grateful for community members who generously rush into harm’s way, often putting their own lives at risk for the sake of others. And let’s make it our mission to do everything we can to bring an end to every kind of violence toward every human being. No exceptions.

To do anything other would simply be insane.

#100days50words

Attention

AttentionToday’s Word: ‘ATTENTION’ as in … a pause, a stop, then looking back to see if something is in the way of you moving forward.

Lately, the speed of life has been ratcheted up. Way up. Lots to do. We all have these days where the calendar and the to-do list(s) gang up on us and we realize that we’ve either been out of breath or we’ve forgotten to breathe all together. I was somewhere between those to breathless moments when I sat down, put my hands in my lap and exhaled. It was one of those big, measured “Wow, I needed to just sit down, put my hands in my lap and exhale!”

And it was only 8:30 in the morning! That’s when my good, good friend looked across the table at me and asked, “So…what is that about?” Instead of just rushing past all of that or ignoring what needed attention, he gave me the opportunity to first pause, then stop, then turn in a different direction.

The gift I received was some space for some new perspective, and then some more oxygen.

Try this: If someone in your life seems preoccupied, overloaded, frazzled and otherwise out of breath, just help them pause, then stop, then look back to see if something is in the way of them moving forward.

#100days50words

Storm

StormToday’s Word: ‘STORM’ as in … there will always be one brewing.

So here’s a way to frame it: Just because you can see the storm, hear the storm, even feel the storm doesn’t mean you’re actually in the storm. Trust yourself. Trust that you’ve been given what you need to endure the storm.

And know this: storms pass.

And then this happened…

Storm 1

#100days50words

Prayer

praying-with-open-hands

Today’s Word: ‘prayer’ as in … Mary Oliver who knows a thing or two about prayer and leads her remarkable poem by the same name with this terrific line:

“May I never not be frisky, / May I never not be risqué. / May my ashes, when you have them, friend, / and give them to the ocean / leap in the froth of the waves, / still loving the moment, / still ready, beyond all else, / to dance for the world.”

With thanks to Mary Oliver who reminds us that this is a perfect way to begin the month of August. Let’s use this prayer/poem every morning for a month and see how our lives and the lives of others are enriched.

(By the way: thank you all for such love yesterday. My word! What a remarkable bunch we all are together… better together.)

#100days50words

 

Dance (of Marriage)

DanceToday’s Word(s): The Dance of Marriageas in… 37 years; still dancing!

Her cheek was warm and soft on mine. My eyes were closed, and I didn’t want to move. But we were dancing, so I was more or less obligated. People would have talked if we’d just stood there, still as fence posts, awkward as junior high students in the middle of the gym floor, mesmerized by Bryan Adams belting out “Heaven.” But I didn’t much care at that point. It was “heavenly” at that moment. I didn’t want it to stop.

A few summers ago, Nancy Lee and I had the opportunity to co-officiate the wedding of some dear friends. At the reception a profound sense of wonder and gratitude rolled over me. After a really lively set, the band slowed things way down. Nancy Lee and I, already warm from the cardio workout, recognized the melody of the slow tune and paused. I stood in the middle of the dance floor, took Nancy Lee’s hands in mine, looked into her sweet face, and asked, rather playfully (if not a little suggestively),

“Hey you, wanna dance?” With a smile and a subtle bit of flirtation that has come to define how we’ve often interacted together she replied teasingly, “We already are.”

As I held her close, closed my eyes, and felt her warm cheek on mine, I was flooded with gratitude for the music between us that had kept us dancing together all those years.

We had danced to music that played when we had no idea what lay ahead, when we didn’t know what joys would overwhelm us, what challenges would undermine us, when we didn’t know what laughter would loosen us or tears would toughen us.

We had danced to music that played even as headaches pounded away on us, heartbreaks galvanized us, blessings were multiplied, and sadness was divided.

Today we’re still dancing to the music that always reminded us that even in the face of all we do not know, three things remain: we know that we have each other, we know that God has us, and we know that is enough.

37 years! Still dancing! xoxo

#100days50words

Crickets

Crickets.jpgToday’s Word: ‘Crickets’ as in… that sound that you hear when you’re expecting to hear something else.

We were in the midst of a memorial service. Some family members had just shared some poignant recollections of their loved one and a sanctuary full of family and friends considered how the greatest test of a person’s character is what people say about that person when he or she is no longer around. The word for that is “legacy.”

So imagine this: a room full of people are quietly considering the powerful legacy of their loved one’s impact on family and friends from the context of faith. My two musician friends are set to seal that moment with some remarkable music. And then just before they begin: crickets. Actually just one cricket. A ring tone! A cell phone was announcing a call with the sound of a cricket. There was a brief moment of comedy as the otherwise silent sanctuary was filled with this delicate sound. And while no one moved – mostly out of solidarity – everyone could imagine the horror the owner must be feeling trying to silence the cricket.

But in that very moment I caught myself asking an important question that perhaps we could all ask: “When people ponder the legacy we’ll all eventually leave, what will they hear in spacious moment? Silence? Will they hear crickets?

Or will they hear the loud roar of love and laughter? Will they hear crickets, or will they hear the humming of the thriving rhythms of spirited, creative, connected lives that knew how to dwell in the present with grateful hearts that were bent toward mission?

Now and forever after whenever we hear crickets—digital or otherwise, we’ll have a reminder to lean toward the latter! What’s one legacy you’re working today?

#100days50words

Confrontation

Confrontation 2Today’s Word: ‘Confrontation’ as in… no one really likes it, but we all find ourselves in it from time to time. So what’s the best way to move through it?

After noodling on a couple of stories of confrontation, I decided to make a list of helpful things to practice in the midst of all of that. Here we go:

First, practice listening more than speaking. Most of the time, tense moments of confrontation happen when everyone is talking all over each other. Add to that, most of us are formulating our next brilliant statement instead of actually listening to and hearing the person with whom we’re talking. We have one mouth and two ears. It helps to use them in proportion.

Second, breathe deeply and count to 10 before speaking. The universe is a bit better off when we just put some space between our phrases.

Third, create a longer list of questions than personal opinions. The Hebrew method of debate centered around questions. Whenever someone asked Jesus a question (especially if they were trying to trap him) he’d reply by asking a question. When you’re in a tense conversation, ask for clarification. Or just ask the person to repeat what they just said. If nothing else, that buys some time.

Fourth, speak with measured kindness. Just be kind. Be really kind. We’ve got way too much unkindness in the world and we don’t need to add to it by showing our lesser selves.

Fifth, remember that when you’re in a confrontational conversation, the breath you’re breathing is a gift from the One who is giving you that breath right then and there.

You’re not alone. Ever. Ever. Give it a try.

#100days50words

21 Seconds

21 SecondsToday’s Word: ’21 Seconds’ as in… short, sweet, to the point, transformational.

Right after the bumper music and before the content, the episode’s funders, supporters and sponsors are acknowledged. The 21 second announcement goes something like this:

“Support for this program comes from this foundation, these families, those organizations, that couple.”

My default behavior is to skip the commercials, using the time to adjust the volume, brew another cup, or even use the fast-forward to get to the actual content. But not this morning. This morning I replayed the 21 seconds of acknowledgements. I replayed it four more times. And then I transcribed it for Today’s Word. Here’s what I got:

“Support for this program comes from the Fetzer Institute; helping build the spiritual foundation for a loving world. Fetzer envisions a world that embraces love as a guiding principle and animating force for our lives. A powerful love that helps us live in sacred relationship with our selves, others, and the natural world. Learn more by visiting fetzer.org.”

21 seconds.

In 21 seconds the mission statement of the Fetzer Institute touched every thriving rhythm we’ve been working through here! We’re not alone, we’re really in this together and there are connections and partnerships at every turn! In the Rhythms collective we affirm that we thrive as missional people who embrace a vision of life and aliveness by creating a momentum of healing and unity by pursuing movements of hope and wholeness. Together we’re learning to live into the rhythms that bring all kinds of life and aliveness to the world. I’m convinced that the more we understand our interrelatedness with all of this, the better the world will be, wherever we are, today.

Got 21 seconds? You are spirited, creative, connected, present, grateful, generous , and missional human being. Pick just one today and make it hum.

#100days50words

Manifesto

ManifestoToday’s Word: ‘Manifesto’ as in… the Magnolia Manifesto.

By now you know that I’m committed to helping all of us move deeper into the thriving rhythms of living spirited, creative, connected lives by dwelling in the present with grateful hearts that create momentum for mission. In each “Today’s Word” we explore how the rhythms already “humming” in our lives continue to redefine, reinvent, and reinvigorate us in ways that clarify identity, illuminate purpose and sustain thriving lives.

With that in mind, I picked up Issue 11 of the Magnolia Journal from the good people who bring us all things Chip and Joanna Gaines. I was fascinated; I wound up reading most of the journal! I rarely – if ever do something like that. And then I got to the last page. That’s when I found the Magnolia Manifesto. And seriously, every single thriving rhythm leaped off the page at me.

So, please enjoy this…

“We believe that newer isn’t always better and that there is something inherently good in hard work. We believe that friends who feel like family are the best kind of friends and that nothing matters more than family. We believe that today is a gift and that every day miracles are scattered about if only we have the eyes to see them. We believe in seeking the balance between hustle and rest and striving to be passionate about both: a leisurely first cup of coffee to start the day mindfully and then at day’s end not clocking out from a job ’til you’re proud. We believe failure needn’t be a negative thing; rather, we learn from our mistakes and fail smarter next time. We believe in doing work that we love and, in choosing that, nudging others toward doing what they love. We believe in courage, in cartwheeling past our comfort zones and trying something a little bit scary every day. We believe in subtle beauty, the kind that doesn’t deteriorate with age or wear. And of all heroic pursuits large or small, we believe there may be none greater than a life well-loved.”

Let’s manifest some of this in our lives!

#100days50words

Hope

HopeToday’s Word: ‘Hope’ as in… “Hope is definitely not the same as thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well. But the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.” So said Václav Havel. Oh, my…

Hey friends, if I could encourage you to do one thing today, it would be to listen to Krista Tippett’s interview with Jonathan Rowson. It will make your day, quite possibly your weekend. Along the way, it’ll just blow your mind. In the interview, Krista and Jonathan talk about (among other things) hope and the frequent distance between what we believe to be of value and our behavior; how we move between sometimes practicing what we preach and not doing that.

Near the end of the interview, Krista references a nearly transcendent thought from Václav Havel, who put that thought into words like this:

“Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success. But rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more propitious this situation in which we demonstrate hope the deeper the hope is. Hope is definitely not the same as thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well. But the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.

That took me right back to yesterday’s thought: “We’ve learned to experience joy for no apparent reason.” It seems to me that the kids in this picture have both hope and joy. That blows my mind.

Here’s the interview:

https://www.iheart.com/podcast/563-on-being-with-krista-tippe-28288089/episode/jonathan-rowson-integrating-our-souls-47009959/

#100days50words

Joy

JoyToday’s Word: ‘Joy’ as in… having it for no apparent reason.

While visiting with the staff of the Iringa Diocese in Iringa, Tanzania, the director shared with us the marvelous story of the Lutheran Church’s presence in the country. He was describing how they support and encourage pastors to lead congregations in the cities, in the remote villages, and every place in between.

At one point the director looked at us and said,

“We’ve learned to experience joy for no apparent reason.”

It was at that point that I realized I wasn’t in “Kansas” anymore. So often, for me—I’ll just speak for myself, joy is connected to something I receive; a gift, a touch, a taste, an aroma, a bed to sleep in, something sensory.

I didn’t have it. I have it now. I’m joyful. My, oh my. How limiting. How very small of me.

“We’ve learned to experience joy for no apparent reason” he said.

At the orphanage we played with the kids, so many of whom have lost their families to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Kids. Little kids. Kids the age of my grandkids. And we played and we sang and laughed and danced and held hands and played some more.

Joy in the midst of… well, everything. Joy for no apparent reason. Can you think of the last time you experienced that?

#100days50words

Different

Different 2Today’s Word: ‘Different’ as in… the ‘third option’ in a binary world. We tend to default to binary distinctions: right or wrong, black or white, this or that, for or against, us or them. It’s human nature; we do this because it’s easy. However, when we operate in a binary environment we run the risk of missing out so much: the movement of the Spirit, healthy creativity, and the benefit of being connected to others in life-giving ways. We also tend to miss out on the gift of the present (you saw what I did right there, didn’t you?), the physiological benefits of expressing gratitude, and the power of generosity in a world that (rather desperately) could use a strong dose. And when we live in a strictly binary perspective we miss out on the wider mission of being fully human – partnering with God and one another in the ongoing work of creation.

Adaptability is my top Strenghtsfinder/Gallup strength. I can roll with anything, at anytime, anywhere. Honest. But that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the tendency to a “go binary.”

So I often practice saying, “Well, that’s certainly different.”

Try it with me: in the next 24 hours when you experience something that’s just a bit out of your comfort zone, when someone voices a sentiment or offers an opinion that’s not in line with yours, when someone behaves in a way that rankles you a bit, just make this your mantra: “Well, that’s certainly different.” When it suddenly feels like you’re in a different country all together, just let it be different.

Who knows, that very moment could open the door to a whole new way of looking at things.

#100days50words

Mission

MissionToday’s Word: ‘mission’ as in… sometimes the mission work happens closer to home — like, right inside of our own hearts and lives.

During my second year at Luther Seminary I was working with my advisor on a dream I had to spend a year of pastoral internship in Arusha, Tanzania.

Then I met a girl.

At about the same time Nancy Lee was working on a dream of her own; planning to spend some time in India with one of her closest friends from college working together with the Sisters of Charity and Mother Teresa in Calcutta.

Then she met a boy.

So that girl and that boy made some decisions: first, to postpone their travel plans, and second, to be married. Best decisions they ever made.

Fast-forward thirty-seven years, and Tanzania is now in me, and of course, something happened along the way. With the (hopefully) now familiar series of thriving rhythms humming inside me, there’s a broader awareness of the Spirit’s movement; there is joy over creative inspirations that happen as a result of making connections with new friends, building new partnerships, establishing new goals; there’s a heightened sense of new ways of being present in each moment and learning what the Tanzanians mean when they say “You’ve got the watches, we’ve got the time!”

There are ample reasons to express gratitude not the least of which was the generous hospitality of the 10 year old kid who ran the entire last mile of the dirt road leading into the remote village. Next to the jeep. In ankle-deep dust and dirt. Barefoot. Singing. Smiling. Laughing. Shouting. And then there’s the mission aspect. Ironic, isn’t it, that the real mission work that was done was the mission work done in my heart.

Who knew that the internship I’d planned 37 years ago would happen over a two week period of time in July 2019.

Who knew?

#100days50words

Pause

Pause Red

Today’s Word: ‘Pause’ as in… a bit of a break, a breath, an extended sabbath.

I’ll be putting Today’s Word on hold while I’m in Tanzania. I’ll still be practicing the rhythm of living into a daily word, but because of the remoteness of where we’re traveling, the “iffy’ connections we’ll have, I won’t be posting. But hey, a mid-summer pause makes sense, right?

So thanks for being part of the momentum for the past half year, 157 entries. I’ll resume all of this hoopla when I return and together we’ll see where this goes after the pause.

Peace… pg

#100days50words

Routine

Routine TanzaniaToday’s Word: ‘ROUTINE’ as in… when the edge is off our experience, we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting.

There are both upsides as well as downsides to routine. The downside includes things like becoming resistant to change, missing out on creativity, and susceptibility to boredom. The upside of routine includes getting tasks done more efficiently, being less likely to forget important details, the ability to break bad habits and create good habits, and an increase in self-confidence.

When Kent Nerburn challenges the possibility of passing our days in routines that are both comfortable and limiting, there’s an equal, if not greater challenge to break out of old routines into new and thriving ways of life.

Our son-in-law Travis added this terrific maxim to the Gauche Family Collection of Words and Phrases: “If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space.” Originally coined by British author Stephen Hunt, it’s a phrase used to refer to “living dangerously” or taking risks. To say “you’re taking up too much space” has something to do with squandering time, being too cautious, and not tapping one’s full potential. While it’s probably true when contemplating big life decisions, we usually use the phrase when deciding between small or medium Blizzards at “that place” or splurging for the gigantic scoop of guacamole at that “other place.” (You know that place, right?)

Far from blizzards and guacamole, I’m about to step out of one set of routines and into another far different set of routines. In 24 hours I’ll be heading to Africa with fifteen traveling companions. And after “some time on airplanes” we’ll arrive in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Over the next 15 days we’ll live on some far edge and create some healthy, thriving routines by spending time in such places as Illambo, Iringa, Ruaha, Tan Swiss and Milumi. These places in general and the people we meet there in particular will challenge our every sense of the word routine.

So let me challenge you: what are the routines that bring you comfort and tend to limit you? What one thing could you do to move closer to the edge?

#100days50words

Experience

ExperienceToday’s Word: ‘experience’ as in… the edge is off our experience if we our eyes don’t lift to the horizon and our ears don’t hear the sounds around us.

I just had a remarkable conversation about ‘thin places’ with a good friend of mine. We were sitting on the outdoor patio of a local Caffeine Palace trying to put into words what what’s happening when we have an inkling of heaven and earth nearly touching; heaven and earth coming together in some beautifully mysterious way. And no kidding, all of a sudden I was aware of some sounds: a red winged blackbird let out it’s beautiful trill. I looked around but couldn’t see it. I heard it, but couldn’t find it. Then I heard a wind chime. I heard it. I actually heard a wind chime. And as I looked around I realized that the wind chime I heard wasn’t there on that patio.

It was at my home on the deck.

The bird, the wind chime: tangible, common, ordinary ways of experiencing something intangible, uncommon and extraordinary. I know that for some this is so “out there” or something along the lines of ‘woo-woo’ whatever they mean by that. But I also know that there are some ancient words in the Gospel of John (3:8) that remind us that “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” So today, just for today, let’s practice lifting our eyes to the horizon and listen to the sounds around us. What an experience that will be!

#100days50words

Wonder

WonderToday’s Word: ‘wonder’ as in… lost in the sheer wonder of new life!

Because I’m about 103 days (give or take a few minutes) from becoming a grandfather for the fourth time, (Soren and Bethany, October 12!), I’ve been dwelling in the sheer wonder of new life in general as well as the amount of information we have related to this particular growing work of art.

Early on we were introduced to an app that helps answer the question “How Big Is My Baby?” Week by week we’ve been introduced to a new seed, fruit or vegetable. We’ve imagined what it takes to grow from the size of a grain of salt to the size of a kidney bean by passing through the stages of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, lentils and blueberries. That’s just the beginning! There was great rejoicing growing from the size of a grape to a kumquat.

This child, growing in wisdom and stature went from the size of a fig to a lime, from a peapod to a lemon, from an apple to an avocado, from a pear to a bell pepper and on to an heirloom tomato then a banana, and then a carrot! Next up: spaghetti squash and then a mango, which was like growing from the size of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to two Pop-Tarts.

Now we’re talking!

But it doesn’t stop there: this beautiful child will develop from the size of a rutabaga, a red cabbage (popcorn ball), and then a cauliflower (Big Mac meal! Seriously?!)! From there it grows from a butternut squash (Kraft Mac & Cheese box) to an eggplant. On and on this progresses toward cantaloupe and honey dew, some romaine lettuce, a bunch of leeks, some Swiss chard and finally a pumpkin before the “Big Finish:” a watermelon.

It’s just a wonder.

There’s this great moment in the ancient Genesis poem where The Divine sits back and looks at what’s just been created. And in a moment of sheer wonder declares, “This is good… this is very, very good.”

#100days50words

Senses

Senses Bread

Today’s Word: ‘senses’ as in… we have five of them: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.

Someone recently asked me about my earliest experience with smell. Honestly, this goes way back. I was born in Pensacola, Florida on April 22. Seven months later my dad, a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, received orders to Morocco, Africa where we would live for three years. When we arrived, our temporary home for the first few weeks was the Hotel Mamora. Early each morning the hotel staff would prepare breakfast carts with a dizzying selection of breads. Along with deeply aromatic coffee with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon, the “stewards” as they were called, would roll the breakfast carts up and down the hallways of the hotel providing in-room service to the guests.

This was the place where my senses began to really develop. How could they not?

There were warm cinnamon rolls, fresh coffee cakes and date loaves. There were baskets of krachel, a type of sweet roll made with green anise seeds, sesame seeds, and orange flower water; Harcha, a semolina based pan-fried bread; and kesra, a flatbread similar to focaccia, made from a mix of barley and semolina flour and anise seeds.

And then there were the cardamom croissants.

To this day, to this very moment I can go into my kitchen, stick my nose in the cardamom or catch a waft of bread fresh from the oven and be transported back to the Hotel Mamora.

In the ancient book of Psalms we’re invited to “taste and see” God’s goodness, to have a rich, flavorful moment with God’s grace and mercy. A bit later in the same book we’re reminded that these same words of grace are sweet; even sweeter than honey in our mouths.

Senses: we’ve got five of them. When we pay attention to just one of them, all kinds of amazing things happen. Just think what happens when we’re paying attention to the other four!

#100days50words

Unknown

Unknown Tomorrow RoadToday’s Word: ‘unknown’ as in… stepping into the unknown is something we’re all doing together.

I’m often reminded that we’re all right on the edge of something challenging, spectacular, risky, marvelous, dangerous, thrilling, hopeful, costly, and wonderful all at the same time. And yet, we have no idea what it is. Actually we do, but we don’t.

Hang tight. I can explain.

The “it” of course, is tomorrow. That much we do know. But the “it” of tomorrow is always unknown. And it’s unknown because not one person on the planet has been to tomorrow yet. What about time zones? You ask?

I know, right?

Nancy Lee and I got on a plane in Minneapolis on a Thursday night, flew a long, long distance and finally arrived in Sydney, Australia, many, many hours later… yesterday.

Huh?

What?

I digress.

Aside from clock and time hoopla, the entire human family is traveling together on a floating ball of beautiful dust, dirt, rocks and mostly water, hurtling through space at 67,000 miles an hour in a Milky Way Galaxy that’s 100,000 light years across in the same direction: into the unknown. We could be afraid, but we’re not. We’re not afraid because we’re all in this together; you’re going there with me and I’m going there with you.

But even more than that, the ancient scriptures remind us often that the Creator of all that is seen and unseen has already cut a groove, cleared a path, forged a way forward into the unknown of tomorrow and invites us to step into tomorrow with confidence.

So let me ask you: how can we move ahead in ways that make life more generative for everyone? How can we move into the unknown together in ways that help people thrive in their daily lives? What are the thriving rhythms that you practice that help others dance into the unknown? How can we help one another experience life, and more life as we move into tomorrow?

Let’s not make how we respond to these questions part of the unknown.

#100days50words

Travel

Travel~image courtesy of Michael Tompsett

Today’s Word: ‘Travel’ as in… I’ll be traveling to Africa in eight days.

It will be an epic journey … just getting there—physically getting there, to say nothing of making our way home again will be the journey part. The epic part will be meeting new people and connecting with familiar friends. The kids, parents, pastors, teachers, drivers, cooks, interpreters, coaches, doctors, nurses, and friends… all of them brothers from other mothers and sisters from different misters. And through the process of meeting and listening, connecting and learning, sharing and celebrating, this beautiful globe that we all share together will somehow mysteriously become just a tad bit smaller.

All of this brings me back once again to Kent Nerburn’s poignant challenge to get out there, to go beyond, to explore, stretch, wonder and risk. Here’s what Kent writes:

“This is why we need to travel. If we don’t offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes don’t lift to the horizon; our ears don’t hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting. We wake up one day and find that we have lost our dreams in order to protect our days.”

So for the next few days of preparing for all that is about to unfold, let’s think together about what it means to thrive as we travel into the unknown with our senses tuned and sharpened for wonder, and let’s anticipate at least one new experience every day so that we can truly break out of our familiar routine. Maybe then we can experience life beyond our wildest dreams.

#100days50words

Podcast

PodcastToday’s Word: ‘podcast’ as in… a fresh episode of the Rhythms Podcast is posted and ready for you!

Navigate to www.paulgauche.com/podcasts for one more trip through “Generosity.”

I went back into the studio and cranked out some thoughts from last weekend’s gathering: “Change For Change… Impact of a Generous Community.”

I’ll share four stories about wild generosity and how $45 dollars of gas in the tank cost me $2.95; why a gift of $40 million dollars to erase student loans for 400 graduates is NOT about the money; how a local fast food chain with a commitment to doing things without hamburger modeled what it looks like to be a generous community; and how a little girl’s “I love you” rendered a word guy absolutely speechless.

It’s about how generosity ultimately leads to being grateful.

It’s all there in Episode 13, “Grateful” and it’ll kick all kinds of things loose for you!

#100days50words

Death

GusToday’s Word: ‘death’ as in… I was 12 years old when I had my first near-death experience.

I was with my dad in a school gymnasium. Bleachers. Metal chairs. Basketball hoops. My dad leans over and says,

“Someday every in here will die.”

Did not see that one coming. He didn’t mean it as a gloomy thought; wasn’t trying to scare me or shock me. He just wanted me to have some inkling of what the ancient text from Ecclesiastes might have meant: “There is a season and a time for everything under the sun.”

So as a 12 year old I was introduced to the issue of death in a direct way. I had questions about my own death.

How and when would it happen? Where would I go? What would that be like? Would people miss me?

There weren’t many answers and still aren’t, and that’s okay. There’s a bit of mystery that’s actually good to dwell in. What wasn’t a mystery was the good news that come what may, I was always in God’s embrace.

My mom helped me connect the dots in a different way.

We’re standing next to Gus’s casket. She leans over and says, “Gus’s body was like a house.”

Did not see that one coming either.

She explained that for some time a man named Gus lived in that house and made it his home. The lights were on, there was movement, music, laughter, tears, joys, and sorrows. There were challenges and celebrations. Stuff broke, stuff got fixed. There were messes to clean up, disagreements to heal, forgiveness to be shared. And then the time came to move out of the house. The house was no longer useful, and Gus moved out. It was quiet. It was still. The house was empty. Everything that had made the house a home was no longer there. Just memories; wonderful, lovely, memories of life in the house. But Gus had moved out.

I asked my mom, “Where did Gus go?” She thought for a moment, smiled at me and said, “He found a new home. We all get a new home.”

#100days50words

 

Gap

GapToday’s Word: ‘gap’ as in… an in between place to breathe.

When the day takes off at the speed life (yes, you read that right, the ‘speed of life’) we tend to miss some things. We can miss a lot of things. And when we start missing things we cease to thrive.

There’s a need for some gap.

Between the larger moments of each day there is a gap.

Between appointments on our calendars there is a gap.

Between this presentation and that meeting there is a gap.

Between our conversations with coworkers and our to-do lists with our loved ones there is a gap.

And more times than we’d like to admit, we miss the gaps because we’re in such a hurry to get to that next thing.

In the words of Lewis Carroll, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” Arrrgh!

Note to self: Slow down. Stop. Take a moment and just dwell in the gap for a moment. It’s okay right there.

Relax.

The gap is actually where we’re going to recoup what we’ve lost being in such a hurry to get where we think we need to go.

But when we enter the gap and we let ourselves breathe, we discover life, and more life.

Be in the gap.

#100days50words

2497.43

2497Today’s Word: ‘2497.43′ as in… the extravagantly generous outpouring of “Change for Change” this past weekend at Prince of Peace!

My goodness… responding with so much generosity, hundreds of you “dug deep” and pulled change out of your pockets, wallets, and purses, and then went to your vehicles and scoured the cubbies, nooks and crannies for more change to bring change to the lives of others!

How inspiring!

And then that all got multiplied three more times! You all went so bananas, so bonkers!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The total gathered for the express purpose of living into the possible reality of “there was not a needy one among them…” was $2,497.43.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Now here’s the deal: If you know someone in need, please call us. We’re ready for you.

If you are in need, please call us – and I know it will be tough to call, but please call. We’re ready for you.

We’ve been blessed not merely to be blessed. That’s not blessing.

We’re blessed in order to be a blessing to others. That’s the blessing.

Well done, good and generous servants! Outstanding!

Say it with me now:

#100days50words

Spirit

Spirit FMSCToday’s Word: ‘SPIRIT’ as in… a generous spirit creates a generous community.

Just a couple of years ago near the end of a long week of partnering with Feed My Starving Children and packing meals for hungry kids around the world, an extravagantly generous spirit created a generous community. The last shift had ended, the goal had been met, and the volunteers were tired. All that remained was the work of cleaning up and resetting the sanctuary so that life could go on as usual in that packing space.

But something very unusual was about to take place.

A local business – you could call it a fast food chain with a heart and a flare for doing things without hamburger showed up with a couple thousand sandwiches for those very thankful and hungry volunteers. Because this certain business has a commitment to the communities they serve as well as a commitment to giving their employees Sunday’s off, they decided to illustrate what it looks like to be a generous community. So they just showed up and handed out food to those who had taken part in the meal pack.

It was a powerful moment of generosity.

This raises a few good questions.

How can we continue to partner with the communities around us to bring hope and wholeness to the lives of those in need?

What would it take for others to recall such ancient words as these about the communities we represent:

The whole [faith community] was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything.”

Maybe this is the best and most pressing question:

“How on earth can we share everything?”

Just one more way that the power of a generous act creates something deeply transformational in people’s lives.

#100days50words

 

Solstice

Solstice Deception Pass

Today’s Word: ‘Solstice’ as in… a few extra moments of light.

The June Solstice is upon us, and with comes a great gift! The solstice happens twice each year, respectively at midsummer and midwinter, when the sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky at noon. When we refer to these days as “longest” and “shortest” we are, of course, referring to the amount of light. While our friends in New Zealand are celebrating the shortest day of the year, here in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re going bonkers with a few extra moments of daylight.

That raises a couple of great questions: how much is “a few extra moments” and what do we do with them? Today we’ll have somewhere between 15.5 and 16 hours of daylight; a tad more light than yesterday. But then it changes; tomorrow is a different story. How much of a different story?

Today we’ll have +0:06 seconds more daylight than yesterday and tomorrow we’ll have -0:02 seconds less daylight than today. The difference is negligible. But the impact is not!

So what can we do with a few more moments of light? We can speak a little more light into someone’s day. We can pour just a little more love into someone’s life. We can offer more affirmation, another word of hope, a few more moments of grace, some words of forgiveness. With just a few more moments of light we can lean into the thriving rhythms of living spirited, creative, connected lives by dwelling in the present with grateful hearts that are bent toward mission with one another. And then, even when the day comes to an end and shadows lengthen and night falls, there is still Light and more Light; life and more life to celebrate.

To borrow a phrase, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in God there is no darkness at all.”

So we’ve got a few more moments of light today. Let’s make the most of them.

~Thanks to Gary Skiff Photography for the remarkable image of Deception Pass Bridge.

#100days50words

Minds

Minds

Today’s Word: ‘Minds’ as in… generous minds create generous communities.

With all due respect to all of the Bob Smith’s in the world, Bob Smith is a pretty unremarkable name. But what Robert F. Smith did for 400 graduating seniors from Morehouse College in Atlanta Georgia just one month ago was anything but unremarkable.

Robert Smith was invited to come to Morehouse College to deliver a commencement address and receive an honorary degree. That’s a standard part of any college graduation ceremony. But there was nothing standard about what Robert F. Smith did.

In his commencement address, Smith who is the founder and CEO of the private equity firm challenged his fellow classmates to use what they had earned to create change and opportunity in the lives of others, to encourage and inspire others for service and outreach. In one way it was like dozens of other commencement speeches given to graduating classes of 2019. But in the final three minutes of his speech Smith surprised everyone with an announcement that he and his family would set up a grant to pay off the nearly 400 graduating seniors’ student loans. The total gift was estimated to be about $40 million.

The place went nuts.

Dwight Lewis, a graduate, formerly a homeless young man from Compton California, said afterward that having the weight of his student loans wiped away is motivating him to charge into the future unhindered in order to pay it forward.

Smith is a wealthy man, a very wealthy man. But here’s the deal: this story isn’t about the money. This story is about the heart. This story isn’t about the wealth of a family. It’s about the wealth of a family’s heart. And what moves the heart? Generous acts of love.

Generosity creates generosity. Generous minds create generous communities.

The question for us is this: because we’ve been blessed with enough, how will be pay that forward? How will we bless the lives of others?

The details may vary. But one thing is always the same: the power of a generous act creates something deeply shifting in people’s lives.

#100days50words

 

 

Loosely

looselyToday’s Word: ‘loosely’ as in… set free from the accumulation, the stuff, our excess, we begin to live more open heartedly, more open handedly, more generously.

There’s a fabulous snapshot of the early church in Luke 4:32-37 which provides a powerful example of what happens when people become part of a generous community. Generous communities nurture generous lives and generous lives nurture a more generous lives. The early followers of Jesus were leaning deeply into the thriving rhythms of living spirited, creative, connected lives by dwelling in the present with grateful hearts that were bent toward mission. Out of those thriving rhythms flowed a transformational understanding of generosity that we’re still talking about today! They had a vision of open-heartedness which led to open-handedness that we’re still practicing today. And the outcome was that there wasn’t a needy person among them.

Imagine! Not a needy person among them!

Something transformational happens when people create generous communities. When we take on the challenging work of being set free from the things in our lives – our accumulations, our collections of stuff, our attics full of boxes we’ve not looked at in years, we’re freed up to live more open handedly, more generously.

You know that feeling, don’t you?

It’s what you experience just after you’ve dropped off a car load of stuff at Mission Outpost, Good Will or the Salvation Army and you’re on your way home.

It’s that feeling of freedom and release and even joy of being able to bless someone else’s life with what they need.

Generosity creates joy and happiness. Generosity creates more generosity. Jesus knew that. The disciples knew that. The early church knew that.

And nothing about that has changed in the 2000 years since.

#100days50words

Seeds

Seeds

Today’s Word: ‘SEEDS’ as in… transformation begins with seeds of generosity.

I needed two things at the gas station: a bag of sunflower seeds for me and some gas for the car. So when I got to the pump, I pressed “Pay Inside” and began filling my tank. When I finished pumping the gas I walked into the store, got some seeds and went to the counter to pay. “Gas on pump 4,” I said, “and these seeds too, thanks.” The guy behind the counter rang up the seeds and said, “That will be $2.95.” I hesitated for a moment, and thought that he hadn’t heard me. So I said again, “Uhhh, I also had gas on pump 4.” That’s when the guy looked at me and said, “You’re all good. Someone already paid for your gas.”

Do you ever have a moment when none of the sentences someone is speaking to you make any sense? This was one of those moments.

“Someone paid for my gas? That was, like $45 dollars!” I said. “Yea, I know. A guy was just in here and said he knew you and he wanted to pay for it.”

I was absolutely overwhelmed by this act of generosity. That must have been obvious because after a couple of moments of just staring in disbelief, the guy behind the counter said, “You still want the seeds? That will be $2.95.”

Powerful things happen when generosity gets loose. Chances are most of us have been on either end of this story: giving or receiving. Either way, you know what that does in your heart. However the details may vary, one thing is always the same: the power of a generous act creates something deeply shifting in people’s lives.

Our mission as the Body of Christ is to be a generous community. Our mission has always been to live differently, to live generously and to model generous rhythms of life wherever we live, work and play.

Seeds of generosity!

#100days50words

Speak

Speak

Today’s Word: ‘Speak’ as in… speak your mind, say what you need to say.

You know how it is when someone speaks a word, a thought, a phrase and it resonates so deeply within you that you just can’t shake it? It just seems to stick.

A thought that’s been sticking with me for years comes from Father William DuBay, a catholic priest who’s been speaking his mind for decades. Way back in the 1960’s, DuBay got himself into some hot water for doing just that: speaking his mind on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized. Imagine that! Here’s what DuBay said about speaking one’s mind:

“The most human thing we have to do in life is to learn to speak our honest convictions and feelings and live with the consequences. This is the first requirement of love, and it makes us vulnerable to other people who may ridicule us. But our vulnerability is the only thing we can give to other people.”

The 21st century version of DuBay’s insight could be found in John Mayer’s song, “Say What you Need to Say” made popular in the 2007 movie “The Bucket List.” Posting “Today’s Word” on Social Media takes me back to DuBay. Every time I sit down to write a post I have to make myself push through the temptation to skip it, to actually not write it, to say nothing of posting it! I struggle with questions like these:

“Do I really have an honest conviction about this?” “Are my feelings really worthy of some public space?” “Am I willing to risk transparency and vulnerability by sharing thoughts, convictions, challenges, doubts, wonderings in the public forum?”

I suppose that’s what DuBay was getting at when he called all of this “the first requirement of love.”

If what I share here is ultimately rooted in love, honesty, conviction and vulnerability, then hopefully something will stick. And if something sticks, maybe that might help what’s really stuck get un-stuck.

So go ahead, speak your mind, say what you need to say.

#100days50words

 

 

 

 

Contemplation

contemplationToday’s Word: ‘Contemplation’ as in… one day out of every seven days we have an opportunity to dial it way back; to rest, renew, recharge, restore; to contemplate different rhythms of life and aliveness.

But we generally don’t.

There’s something intoxicating about always going, running, doing. So practicing the rhythm of sabbath is a continual challenge. Even the ‘work’ of ‘practicing’ sabbath seems a bit counterintuitive. Yet, we continue to lean into the rhythm at least one day a week with the hope that the rhythm will eventually lean into us.

Time set aside each week to ‘be’ rather than to ‘do’ is a different kind of time than we observe the other six days. “Deep Time” as Richard Rohr calls it, invites us into a kind of timelessness that creates space to rethink, reimagine and reemerge at some point. Here’s a gem from Richard:

“To be a contemplative is to learn to trust deep time and to learn how to rest there and not be wrapped up in chronological time. Because what you’ve learned, especially by my age, is that all of it passes away. The things that you’re so impassioned about when you’re 22 or 42 don’t even mean anything anymore, and yet you got so angry about it or so invested in it. So, this word contemplation — it’s a different form of consciousness. It’s a different form of time.”

Enjoy some of this different time tomorrow. Give yourself a rest. Can you do without your watch? Can you do without your phone? Can you do without your computer? Perhaps freeing up that space will create some ‘breathing room’ for you. Contemplate that for a while. Back on Monday.

#100days50words

Poem

Poem Mary Oliver I Wake Close To MorningToday’s Word: ‘Poem’ as in… one a day will loosen you up.

In a conversation about daily rhythms, Eugene Peterson once told me that reading poetry often was a healthy, spirited, practice for him. No wonder his translation of the book of Psalms in The Message Bible is so engagingly beautiful.

So Nancy Lee and I took his advice and have read some of our favorite poets. Of course, Mary Oliver often finds a way into our day. There really is something to reading poetry often. I find that it “warms up” my creative process. To dwell in someone’s poem for a while—not just reading through it, but really entering into it loosens up both sides of my brain and stirs my heart.

Mary Oliver’s poem, “I Wake Close To Morning” does that for me. I want to invite you to read this poem. Read it twice, or even three times, and let the words settle over you, wrap around you and find a way into you. Let them hold you.

“I Wake Close To Morning”

Why do people keep asking to see

God’s identity papers

when the darkness opening into morning is more than enough?

Certainly any god might turn away in disgust.

Think of Sheba approaching

the kingdom of Solomon.

Do you think she had to ask,

“Is this the place?”

~ Mary Oliver

#100days50words

Together

Together VBSToday’s Word: ‘together’ as in… we’re all in this together, and we’re certainly never alone; the Spirit is always breathing new life into us.

We’re concluding another fabulous week of VBS with a few hundred of our closest kiddo-friends. These are energetic, fun-loving, curious, and beautifully spunky if not somewhat sweaty-by-11:00-o’clock-in-the-morning creatures! Works of art, every one!

We explored the emotion of sadness this morning. I asked each of my five groups of about 45 kids to make a list of the things that made them sad. The room buzzed, and after two minutes and thirty-seven seconds, three things emerged: moving, the loss of a pet, and the death of a family member. In one group, a little girl began to cry, revealing that her grandma had recently died. I watched as the powers of presence, touch, and silence began to embrace her and pick her up. This sweet little girl was actually dealing with at least two emotions at once: loss, and feeling alone in that loss. “How many others of you in this room have lost either a pet or a family loved one?” I asked. Stunningly, nearly every one of the almost 45 kids had experienced that depth of loss. (By the way, these are all kids under 12.) It was a powerful moment as a room full of young people looked around and realized that grief, loss, death and sadness are things we all share in common. We all carry the weight together. And in that tender moment the weight of the load got a little lighter just knowing that someone else – and in this case nearly everyone else in the room had experienced some sadness.

We’re all in this together, and we’re certainly never alone. I’ll carry you when I can. You carry me when you can.

And the Spirit carries us all, always breathing new life into us.

#100days50words

Community

Community Mireia's BaptismToday’s Word: ‘community’ as in… the power of a God-breathed community that gathers together to love, support, encourage, mentor, and guide.

To be a community that promises to live lives of following Christ as we live UP with God, IN through community and OUT for the world; to be part of the Body of Christ in a worshipping community where we are encountered by the Word of God and strengthened with communion; to read the Holy Scriptures; basically to get into the Word of God so that the Word of God can get into us; to be nurtured in faith and prayer so that we’re able to trust God to equip us to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world in order to serve and care for others; to work for peace and justice in all places for all people – absolutely no exceptions, and to grow in the Christian faith and life…together.

That’s community.

#100days50words

Remember

Cake candlesToday’s Word(s): ‘I Made it” as in… what you say on the morning of your 90th birthday.

Gene Gauche would have been 95 years old today. Five years ago on the morning of his 90th, I called him to wish him a happy birthday. He answered the phone after the third ring and the first words out of his mouth were simply, “I made it!” I knew what he meant by that. But I always sort of wondered what he really meant by that. Know what I mean?

I wondered if he meant that 90 had been the goal to reach after such a remarkable life and that everything after that is just grace. I wondered if “I made it” meant that in life he experienced far more than he ever dreamed. I wondered if “I made it” meant that he’d survived the years of the Great Depression in a small house with his four siblings and his mom and dad and went on the thrive. I wondered if “I made it” meant being active in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict and flying 14 different aircraft including the Hercules C-130 as an instructor. I wondered if “I made it” meant being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism in action, and the Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters. I wondered if “I made it” meant moving over 40 times in 62 years of marriage to his childhood sweetheart. I wondered if “I made it” meant reveling in every role in life as a husband, father, pilot, hunter, musician, real estate broker, commercial fisherman, golfer (with a hole-in-one to his credit), painter, grandfather, and most recently a great-grandfather. I wondered if “I made it” meant finally realizing that he’d fulfilled his personal mission statement: “There’s a big world out there—don’t miss it.”

I wondered.

So I paused for a moment after he said “I made it!” and then I said, “You certainly did, Dad, you certainly did. Happy birthday.”

#100days50words

Playtime

PlaytimeToday’s Word: ‘Playtime’ as in… what do you do when you’re daughter is in labor? You play piano, you write a song … like this https://youtu.be/5rJQ0Uj5duA.

Six years ago on a Friday evening, February 8, 2013, my phone lit up with a text message from our son in law, Travis: “Sarah is having contractions 8 minutes apart. This could be it!!!”

My first instinct was to move toward the piano. I’d have run to the hospital, but Charlottesville is a long way from Burnsville. The only way for me to “be there” was to gather up some strength, courage and love, then play it into the universe toward Sarah and the new life that was emerging. Two hours later, sweet Ruby Grace was born, and her song, “Playtime” was well on its way. It was a powerful ‘moment’ filled with the thriving rhythms of Spirit, creativity, connection, gratitude, mindfulness, generosity, and even mission as the music came off the keys, the measures morphed into progressions, the vibrations moved through the soundboard, and the love combined with the music to create life, and more life.

Consider this: on most standard pianos there are only 12 different notes. Basically, 12 keys in each of the 7 octaves (give or take a minor third). And with just those 12 notes, an infinite number of combinations creates endless beautiful music. The magic, the mojo, the mystic sauce, the music comes from arranging and rearranging unlimited combinations of just those 12 notes.

As Ruby Grace was being birthed, her own particular and unique combination of thriving rhythms was already inspiring a new song. While making her way into the world, there were all kinds of rhythms and progressions of lovely, wonder-filled, Spirit-breathed music being played.

A little over 6 years later, ‘Playtime’ continues.

And here’s the really good news: now we’ll only be 20 minutes apart. The ‘Hoonies’ are moving to Saint Paul, Minnesota. Music to my ears!

#100days50words

 

Grace

Grace Coffee DrippingToday’s Word: ‘GRACE’ as in… What do you like, dark roast? You want cream or sugar with that?”

I’d been visiting my dad in Arizona. Each morning I’d get up early, drive across town to a coffee shop, spend some time writing before heading back to meet my dad about mid-morning. It was a great rhythm.

On the third morning, though, I’d forgotten my wallet. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal except that it was a big deal. Lots of rigmarole: packing my backpack, tip-toeing out of the house, cursing the loud garage door, driving across town, unpacking my gear and settling in. But this time without a wallet. Such first world problems. What to do? Should I stay or should I go?

That’s when something marvelous happened. Grace happened. Actually, Debbie happens.

Debbie is the barista. She is cheerful, hospitable. Like a song, she plays the room with a tray of caramel happiness pouring from a thermal carafe into tasting cups. Debbie approaches me and offers me a sample. “Thanks,” I say, admitting that I’d probably buy a whole cup of coffee had I not forgotten my wallet. I tell her I am sorry to be taking up space and using the Wi-Fi without supporting her or her coworkers, but simply can’t pay for a single drop of dark roast. Without missing a beat and with a catchy rhythm of both grace and hospitality, Debbie looks at me and asks, “What do you like, dark roast? You want cream or sugar with that?” I hesitate briefly, then say the dark roast will be fine. You know this moment, don’t you, the humility of receiving grace; of being given a gift that your certainly don’t deserve and could never earn? A minute later, Debbie is back with the dark roast. It occurs to me that even in the midst of negligence on my part that there’s an opportunity for someone else. In this case, Debbie has the opportunity to provide a bright, shining moment of grace and hospitality in the place where she works.

The moment is redeemed, the morning is restored and the catchy rhythm of grace fills this Arabica-soaked writing venue like a symphony fills a concert hall.

Grace. Hospitality. Such a catchy, thriving rhythm.

#100days50words

Tomatoes

Tomatoes RatatouilleToday’s Word: ‘tomatoes’ as in… this is going to make your mouth water.

I’m a foodie—my kitchen is a chapel and everything in it is spiritual. My mom was my inspiration. Joyce was the one who turned our kitchen into a playground where I learned to love crazy stuff like tomato aspic, vichyssoise, and oyster stew. She taught me how to steam artichokes in an old-school pressure cooker, and how to correctly pronounce cardamom. Her recipe for pasta sauce is epic—hot Italian sausage, onions, a lot of tomatoes, fennel seeds, and an entire bulb of garlic.

Recently, on a long drive north, I was listening to an episode of The Splendid Table. Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s guest was Francis Lam and they were talking about “Weapons Grade Ratatouille.” In the interview Lam described the long process of preparing this dish with an entire bulb of garlic, shallots, onions, peppers and a lot of olive oil. And then, of course, the magic: pounds of tomatoes, summer squash, eggplant, zucchini, thyme and basil. It was awesome.

Sure, it was just a radio broadcast, but the car seemed filled with the aroma of garlic, the perfume of peppers, and of course, the bouquet of tomatoes. But the moment that nearly took my breath away was when Lam, describing the tomato jam which becomes the base for the ratatouille, said, in a measured, warm, slow, relaxed, yet expectant voice:

“The flavor is so deep your voice drops an octave… Oh, yes, hello… welcome to the end of summer!”

It’s only the beginning of summer, but I can already taste it!

Lynne then told the story of about the guy who had delivered nearly two dozen different strains of tomatoes asking her to choose her favorite. Botanist Joseph Tychonievich had bred a tomato that he wanted to name in Lynne’s honor and he needed her help in choosing the right. The rest of the radio program was devoted to Lynne tasting all 23 varieties! So, there I was, driving, and listening to Lynne tasting tomato after tomato after tomato and describing the shape, the texture, the aroma, the taste.

And for just a very brief moment there, I was sure my voice had dropped an octave.

#100days50words

SuperHeroes

Superhero-kidsToday’s Word: ‘SuperHeroes’ as in… remarkable beings with three things in common.

I’m speaking at a graduation ceremony tomorrow for a group of 5th graders who attend a Community Montessori School in Minneapolis. It’s an exciting experience in an awesome place full of amazing people. I should know. This isn’t my first time doing this. I’ve done this for the past 15 years in early June.

Today I’m talking about Super Heroes. Kid’s get that. Kids know that super heroes are remarkable beings with three things in common: they’re willing to sacrifice for others, they use their abilities for a greater good, and they understanding that they are created with unique powers.

What I’m reminding the kids of is that they’ve been surrounded by Super Heroes the whole way: When I step back and look at the whole scene, I see Super Heroes and I’m so grateful.

I’m so grateful for families who have sacrificed for one another, who have encouraged their kids at every turn, and when the going gets really tedious they love until it hurt.

I’m so grateful for teachers who use every ounce of their spirited abilities to inspire creativity, foster connectedness, become fully present, practice gratitude, and model generosity, and see this as their mission.

I’m so grateful for the students who are filled with pride when they discover the connections between their passions and the world around them, beginning with their classmates.

It’s pretty remarkable. It’s going to be an auditorium full of Super Heroes.

Who’s your Super Hero?

#100days50words

Groove

Franklin PlannerToday’s Word: ‘Groove’ as in… cutting a groove, setting a habit; as in how the Franklin Day Planner saved my life.

I’ll never forget sitting in the ballroom of a downtown Minneapolis hotel with my brand new Franklin Day Planner sitting in front of me. It was June 11, 1987, but it felt like December 25 every year. The daily pages, the teal/green Classic Original One-Page Monthly Calendar, the plastic Page Finder, the Roles and Goals Planning pages, the Forms, the Prioritized Daily Task List – all of it neatly organized in one beautiful leather binder.

Oh my. I got my life back.

But the real magic, of course, was in the Daily Planning and Solitude: 10 to 15 minutes at the end of each day to reflect back and look forward. A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, C1, etc. The trainer made a bold statement: “It takes 21 days to create a habit. If you stick with this for the next 21 days and practice the habits we’ve taught you, you’ll find a freedom that you’ve never known before; your life will change!”

He was right. 21 days later I was a new man with a new habit and a new life. Whew! So good!

The 5th thriving rhythm reminds us that we thrive as grateful people who practice gratitude as a spirited discipline, remembering with joy and thanksgiving that all we have is a gift of grace. It’s that “practicing gratitude as a spirited discipline” that I want you to think about.

Consider this: ideas lead to movements which lead to momentums which lead to practices which lead to habits which lead to transformation which creates thriving lives. 21 days! A groove. A habit. Think about your practices of gratitude that are actually leading to transformation in your life.

Let’s be intentional about practicing gratitude for the next 21 days and see what kind of groove we can get into!

#100days50words

8,576

Isthmus 2Today’s Word: ‘8,576’ as in… you don’t have to travel 8,576 miles to learn the difference between gratitude and thanksgiving.

In the next podcast I’ll be digging way down deep into gratitude. To get ready, I’ve been noodling on this question: “Is there a difference between gratitude and thanksgiving?” Yes. It’s subtle, but there is a difference. Come with me.

You and I are hiking the trail to the summit of Isthmus Peak on South Island, New Zealand. It’s one of the most dazzling and amazing experiences we’ve ever had. As the switchbacks carry us into the clear blue sky, we pause often to catch our breath. This isn’t an easy hike. At least one traveler describes it this way: “The hike is approximately 5 miles each way with a leg-obliterating, lung-burning 4000′ of elevation gain.” Yes. I know. But let’s keep going. When we finally arrive at the top, we have two distinct moments. First, looking out over the vast and beautiful expanse of Lake Wanaka to the left and Lake Hawea to the right, we completely lose ourselves in the moment. As the vista spreads out in every direction, it’s as if our eyes can’t fully take it all in. There are no words; thoughts seem to evaporate into thin air. The beauty we’re experiencing is beyond vocabulary. It’s right there, in that one moment, when we close our eyes and take in a big deep breath that it happens. For one timeless moment we’re aware of Something Far Greater than ourselves.

We call that moment Gratitude.

But then, the second moment arrives. From somewhere down deep, and without any rehearsal whatsoever, we express out loud what was nearly impossible just a moment ago: “Thank you! Thank you! Oh, my, thank you!” And then we say it again because these are the only words we have.

We call that moment Thanksgiving.

When we make ourselves available to the mystical, transformational wonder of gratitude, we’re more fully available to express thanksgiving.

And here’s the really good news: we don’t have to travel 8,576 miles to experience either one.

#100days50words

Grateful

casketToday’s Word: ‘Grateful’ as in… don’t wait for death to express it.

I’ve officiating at a number of memorial services lately. Each time the sanctuary became a kind of “living room” into which people brought their grief and sadness, their pain and loss, and their honest questions about life and death rooted in various layers of belief and disbelief and mingled with all manner of doubt and assurance. Death always stirs up holy ground.

But in each of these experiences there’s been a golden thread that was somehow able to weave through an entire community of broken-hearted people, gather them together and carry them along. That golden thread is gratitude.

We’ve thought a lot about gratitude in the “Today’s Word” series; but you can never have too much gratitude, right? When my dad died in 2016 I received a hand-written note from someone who encouraged me to “Let the remarkable memories of your dad fill you with gratitude, and let that be part of your healing.” Recalling countless moments of life with my dad with gratitude has been profoundly healing.

At a recent memorial service I reminded a sanctuary full of family and friends that their loved one, in life, knew the power of gratitude for family, friends, and faith. I went on to remind them that their loved one, in death, was reminding us of the power of gratitude to God for providing the gift of life itself. To sit for a few intentional moments and express gratitude for the good news that Christ walks deeply into our grief and sadness, our pain and loss, and meets us in our honest questions about life and death which seem always to be rooted in various layers of belief and disbelief and mingled with all manner of doubt and assurance is always the gift.

I’m convinced that we will experience a deeper thriving when, instead of waiting for someone’s death, we breathe the oxygen of the Spirit of life into one another by expressing gratitude.

I’m so thankful for you today.

#100days50words

Renew

IMG_0438Today’s Word: ‘Renew’ as in… rest, as in margin, as in Sabbath.

Our Jewish brothers and sisters traditionally observed the sabbath from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Most Christians communities observe this on Sunday. Either way, it’s a day to step out of the usual rhythms of work into a generative space to breathe, slow down, perhaps even stop. It’s a day for rest, renewal, restoration, and re-imagination.

There’s a powerful model for sabbath woven into the Genesis poem.

There the writer uses finite words to describe something infinite: “God rested on the seventh day from all the work that had been done…” It goes on to say that God “blessed the seventh day and hallowed it…”

The word ‘hallowed’ means to remove something from common usage. It’s like God removed that one day from common usage, perhaps to discover something uncommon.

We need days like this, don’t we?

We need days that are uncommon. We need days that give us a break from the common, ordinary rhythms that knock the stuffing out of us. We need a day, a sabbath to empty out so that we have room for something new.

All of this, of course, raises some important questions. If sabbath is a day just for being and not for doing, how do we do that? If the question isn’t “What will we ‘do’ with our sabbath rest?” but rather, “How will we ‘be’ with the sabbath?” how do we move in that direction? Maybe instead of trying to figure out how to manage the day, maybe the day just gets to manage us. But what does that mean? What does that look like?

Those are good questions. We probably need just one whole day to dwell in that. I know this for sure: the sabbath is upon us. So just chill out a bit, would you? Dial it back, just a bit. Take some time – or rather, just be in the time. Receive the day that’s given to you and rest in it. Create a little margin. Just be.

#100days50words

Whatever

whatever

Today’s Word: ‘Whatever’ as in… do whatever creates thriving lives!

I shared a sweet hour this morning with a dear friend who is dying. She’s living out her last weeks in a beautiful home in a quiet neighborhood surrounded by her husband and some fiercely loyal friends. When I walked into her sun-drenched room, over 20 years of friendship drew us to each other, and after a long embrace, some tears, some laughter, some reflections on life and death, some conversation about a memorial service, we talked about “Whatever.”

In the Christian scriptures, in the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul writes to a community of people with some powerful words about how to live well together, how to thrive together. If these were the last words he’d share with them, they would be enough. If these were the last words any one of us spoke to our loved ones, they would be enough. Paul challenges them to live differently; to live every day, every relationship, every decision, indeed, every waking moment in ways that create thriving lives. Paul urges them to pursue a list of ‘whatevers‘:

He writes,

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is reputable, whatever is authentic, whatever is compelling, whatever is commendable, whatever is excellent, whatever is praise-worthy – go after those things with all you’ve got!”

If we were to live by making these ‘whatevers’ central in our lives, a lot would be different. We would be different. The world around us would be different. If we were to weave into our lives whatever is true, honorable, reputable, authentic, compelling, commendable, excellent and praise-worthy, we’d have a whole new context for living in thriving community.

Before I left, I told my friend that we’d be reading these words at her memorial service, that I’d be inviting people to hear them “in her voice” as if she was saying them in that very moment.

When that moment comes, it will be as if these are the last words all of her friends hear her speak.

Whatever they hear will be enough.

#100days50words

Available

AvailableToday’s Word: ‘available’ as in… keep making your creative work available. The world needs it.

Henri Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian whose work was rooted mostly in psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. In the Today’s Word for April 5, I shared some of Nouwen’s wisdom that speaks deeply to me: “Sometimes you have to go far in order to come near.” While that is true, the “going far” sometimes doesn’t take us much further than our own front doors. Take, for instance, going far into the art and science of creativity in our lives. Many of us wrestle with the idea of creativity. We wonder where it comes from, how we express it, with whom do we share it? Nouwen has some great insight on this: “One of the arguments we often use for not creating something is this: “I have nothing original to create. Whatever I might draw, paint, or make, someone else has already drawn it, painted it, made it, said it, and better than I will ever be able to. This, however, is not a good argument for not being creative. Each human person is unique and original, and nobody has lived what we have lived. Furthermore, what we have lived, we have lived not just for ourselves but for others as well. Making something can be a very creative and invigorating way to make our lives available to ourselves and to others. We have to trust that what we have to offer deserves to be shared. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to believe them.” I’ve been writing Today’s Word since December of last year. I do this every day except Sunday (my way of practicing rest, sabbath). While just about every day I hear a voice inside saying, “I have nothing to create, it’s all been done before,” there’s a stronger voice that encourages me to keep making myself available, trusting that what I have to offer here deserves to be shared. My hope is that there’s a voice speaking in you today urging you to keep making yourself available. That’s the voice you’re hearing today!

#100days50words

Perspective

Perspective DandelionToday’s Word: ‘perspective’ as in… there are always several different ways to look at things.

I walked toward a field of ripe Taraxacum officinale yesterday. Most of the time we just call them dandelions. As I came up out of a low spot and up into the field, there was a moment when I was nearly eye level with – not just a few here and there, but nearly eye level with thousands of round white puffballs, often called “blowballs” or “clocks” that disperse their parachute-shaped seeds into the wind.

When I was a kid I would pick the yellow flowers and bring them home to my mom, much to her delight. Days later when the yellow flowers had ripened, I’d pick them and blow the seeds into the wind, much to my dad’s disgust. I remember him chiding me about spreading this weed all over our yard, not to mention the whole neighborhood. While it wasn’t necessarily a noxious weed, my dad certainly thought it was an obnoxious weed.

Well, that’s one way to look at it. But there’s also another way to look at it, because there’s always a few ways to look at things, right?

Who knew that dandelions could be used to make infused oil and salves for massages or that dandelions can be used in vinegars, syrups, soaps, lotions and lotion bars (seriously, I’m not making this up). And did you know that dandelions can also be used in tea, honey and cupcakes! Did I mention also bath bombs?

So here’s the deal: when I walked into the field of a thousand ripe dandelions, a whisper that sounded just like my dad’s voice began challenging the scene. But in the next moment another voice, a sweet voice that sounded just like my mom’s kind voice invited me to see this field from a thousand different perspectives that led me to a moment of thriving wonder.

There are always several different ways to look at things. You’ll no doubt see things today that will make you wonder. Maybe that’s the gift in all of this.

#100days50words

Desire

DesireToday’s Word: ‘desire’ as in… we can desire a lot of things, but to desire that which allows us to truly thrive brings the deepest joy.

Here’s a story that won’t let me go:

A wise woman was on a pilgrimage, making her way from one village to the next. At one point she stopped by a stream for a drink of water. As she rested she found a precious stone in the stream and retrieved it. It was beautiful to look at and brought her a remarkable sense of joy. She put it in her bag and continued her journey. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry. As they sat together, the wise woman opened her bag to share some of her food with her new friend. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman if she would be willing to part with it. “Of course!” she said. And without hesitation, the woman gladly handed the precious stone to him. As they parted company, the man rejoiced in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a very long time. But only a few days later he went looking for the woman who had given him the stone. When he finally found her he asked her to sit with him for a moment. “I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I’m giving it back to you in the hope that you can give me something even more precious.” The wise woman looked at him and asked, “What would that be?” Her fellow traveler said, “Can you give me what it is that you have within you that enabled you to give me something so very precious?

That’s what my heart desires – to have within me what you have within you that allowed you to give me this stone.”

#100days50words

Podcast

Podcast

Today’s Word: ‘podcast’ as in… a fresh episode of the Rhythms Podcast is posted and ready for you! Navigate to www.paulgauche.com/podcasts for some thoughts on what it means to ‘Immerse’ in the ‘Present’.

I want you to meet my good friend Trevor and hear about what it meant for him to be immersed in what the death of his father had to teach him. I’ll connect the dots between the power of immersing in the present moment with C. S. Lewis’ remarkable story, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. We’ll open the wardrobe, push aside the things that stand between us and the doorway into a new place. I’ll encourage you to go ahead and push it open, step into it, walk through it, listen to it, see it, touch it, taste it, even smell your way to the heart of this one precious, vibrant, thick, juicy, full, wide, deep and boundlessly life-giving moment! Don’t miss this.

Listen to Episode 12, “Present” Part 4. As always, it’s good stuff!

#100days50words

Remember

IMG_4253Today’s Word: ‘REMEMBER’ as in… Memorial Day Weekend, a time to remember with gratitude.

From beginning of time, the faith community has been a remembering people. The rich story of God’s work among people has depended on people remembering. Before a word of scripture was ever written down, it was first remembered. The stories of God’s faithfulness were remembered around campfires in the desserts, in villages in the mountains and at eh edge of lakes. People have remembered the ancient stories of faith through traditions, celebrations, activities.

In our lives together today, stories of God’s faithfulness continue. We remember that God’s work of rescuing the ancient people of Israel from oppression in Egypt is a reminder that God still rescues us from the things that oppress us. We remember God as provider of bread for the journey by sharing the meal Jesus shared with his followers; a reminder that all people are always welcome at The Table. We remember our baptism as a reminder that God has chosen us in love, named and claimed us and made us a community together in Christ. And we remember every time we gather to worship that it’s a little Easter and that the power of the first resurrection is still at work in our lives right here, right now. Remembering is reminds us who we are and whose we are.

To remember where God has led us is to trust where God is leading us. Remembering is powerful in our lives. It leads to gratitude which leads to life and more life.

#100days50words

Learner

LearnerToday’s Word: ‘Learner’ as in… I’m learning to rewrite the narrative.

I’m heading to Tanzania in July with a group from the Prince of Peace community. At a recent pre-trip gathering we caught up with each other and made some new connections with those who were there for the first time. Because of the sabbatical, this was my first meeting with the group, and it was a learning moment for sure! I learned some new names, I learned that at least three people in the group identify themselves as ‘learners’, I learned that zip lock bags are no longer approved for travelers heading to Tanzania because of the waste hazard in that country and I learned about the relationship between our congregation and the local African congregations we’ll be visiting. I also learned that the Lutheran Church in Tanzania is one of the largest and fastest growing churches on the planet. Yes, the planet. Wow!

I also learned that I am, more or less—mostly more, prone to a bias that limits just about everything.

There’s a narrative going in my mind that I wasn’t even aware of until we all talked about it. My narrative needs some rewriting. Again, let me be very transparent. Here’s a line of thinking that comes way too easily: “I have something that others don’t have. And so I’m going to fly halfway around the planet (because I can) and I’m going to bring my ‘something’ with me and give it to them because they are, you know, lacking, so very lacking. And when I give them what I’ve got, they’re going to be a little better off and even a little more like me. And because of that I’m going to be a lot better off and feel a lot better about myself.”

Wow. Seriously?

I’ve got some learning to do.

Could it be, could it possibly be that I might be the one lacking? Could it be that I’m the one more likely to benefit? Could it be that by giving, we all receive?

Man, that sounds familiar. What a learning moment.

#100days50words

Million

Million

Today’s Word: ‘Million’ as in… James Holzhauer.

You might know that he’s been a contestant on America’s Favorite Quiz Show, Jeopardy. And lately he’s been, shall we say, on a bit of a run. In just over one month, Holzhauer has been running the board, collecting large amounts of cash, and chasing history. Apparently the role of his opponents has been to stand and watch. While some have called him a “machine” it’s obvious that he’s got a heart as well, sharing his earnings with children’s charities, Ronald McDonald Houses, museums and public libraries.

This, of course, raises a good question: What would you do with a million dollars?

Well, with a million dollars just about anyone could find a way to create the hope, cancel the debt, unleash the present, empower the weak, fulfill the dreams, sustain the weary, enjoy the moment, secure the future, honor the past or delight in the young. With a million dollars just about anyone could find a way to inspire the old, release the bound, feed the hungry, articulate the beauty, express the simple, paint the profound, welcome the prodigal, overwhelm the hate, multiply the love, or enjoy the moment. With a million dollars, just about anyone could find a way to soften the heart, heal the sick, welcome the stranger, invite the lonely, involve the periphery, lead the followers, follow the leaders, see the possibilities, believe the unbelievable, or bring order to the chaos. With a million dollars, just about anyone could find a way to renew the used, use the renewed, chart new waters, see the sights, help the helpless, fix the broken, make the grade, set the course, act on a hunch, or lighten the load. With a million dollars, just about anyone could find a way to brighten the darkness, return the favor, launch the idea, find the cure, settle the difference, spark the interest, ignite the fire, begin the momentum not only make a difference in the world, but make a different world altogether.

That said, if we can do all of this without a million, then we’re all winners.

#100days50words

Generous

Today’s Word: ‘Generous’ as in… generous love creates generous love; as in… that brief moment in time when love pours over everything and time briefly stands still; as in… those timeless (kairos) moments that happen within measurable (chronos) time when the generous action of a child reminds us that generous love creates generous love.

Here’s how that looks:

It was a mystically generous moment when Ruby Grace looked right at me in a way that caught my attention, slowed me way down, then stopped me all together. As I was looking at her and she was looking right into me, she simply said, “I love you…” There was a brief pause. And then, just to make sure that I understood her completely, she smiled, pointed to herself, made a heart shape with her two sweet little hands and then pointed back to me.

Generous. Generous. Generous.

Nothing prepares you for that moment. And nothing more could have been said in that thick, juicy, full, wide, deep and boundlessly generous moment. Generous love creates generous love.

Try some of that today!

And be generous.

#100days50words

Jenga

jenga1

Today’s Word: ‘Jenga’ as in… the derivative from ’kujenga’, a Swahili word which means “to build.”

Not long ago I shared a very vulnerable moment with some friends, talking through some challenging life experiences that were both deeply painful as well as redemptive. Suddenly I felt deep emotion welling up inside of me and in the next moment I was bent over with my face in my hands. Tears of both brokenness and gratitude were spilling out, flowing down, not stopping anytime soon. My friends gathered around me, held me close, and prayed. A couple days later while reflecting on that experience with another friend who had been with me, I casually referred to “the other morning when I ‘fell apart’ with the group.” He stopped me and then challenged me to think again about the phrase I’d used: “fell apart” and wondered if that was actually an experience of being very much “put together.”

It is interesting how we characterize those times negatively: “I lost it!” I fell apart!” “I came apart at the seams!” “I broke down.”

It’s like we’re playing what I call emotional Jenga.

We’ve got ourselves built up just right; we’re solid, square with the world around us; very neatly put-together. Over time though, we lose a piece here, we misplace a piece there, we have a few chunks knocked off along the way until that point where we begin to wobble. All it takes is one little bump and over we go. My friend asked me to think differently: maybe when we “lose it”, “fall apart”, “come apart at the seams” and “break down” we’re really describing what it’s like to be in touch with the deeper, healthier places within our hearts, souls, our guts—wherever those deep places are within us that we work so hard to protect.

When we’re able to share that kind of vulnerability with one another, that level of honesty, maybe that’s a profound sign of being built strong.

#100days50words

Confession

forgiveToday’s Word: ‘CONFESSION’ as in… go ahead and say it, spill it, get it out there! It’s already taken care of.

I feel it every time I lead confession.

Whether it’s one person or a thousand people, there’s an uneasy feeling in the room. There’s a kind of ‘dis-ease’ about coming clean with our shortcomings and how often we spectacularly miss the mark. There’s a measurable hesitation to really being honest because, after all, isn’t the Divine just waiting to punish us for the mess we’ve made of things? Forgiveness is sweet, but oh my, there’s such a price to pay. And what’s worse, there’s a part of us that just loves to pay a price.

Here’s the good news: it just doesn’t work that way.

When it comes to confessing that we’ve blown it, missed the mark and made a mess of things, forgiveness is not dependent upon our confession. Make no mistake, confession is essential, but forgiveness isn’t part one of some two-part transaction that says, “If I bring my confession, then you give me your forgiveness.”

Actually, forgiveness is first. That’s what frees us up to be honest with ourselves, one another and with the Divine. Grace has already been given! Forgiveness has already been spoken! So it’s into that that we speak our confession with boldness and confidence knowing that it’s already been covered. What we’re doing is getting the gunk out. We speak it out of ourselves, we bring it up from the deep places where we’ve stuffed it way down and we just say it, spill it and get it out there; we let it fly into the universe where it no longer has power over us, in us, or through us because it’s already been covered, taken care of.

Forgiveness is the first word and grace is the last word.

#100days50words

Disciplines

Paul and Rob

Today’s Word: ‘disciplines’ as in… spiritual disciplines and practices that breathe new life and aliveness into us and connect us to the Spirit, the Divine, our Source.

I love this… someone from the crowd asks Rob if he has any specific spiritual disciplines that he practices. And of course we’re thinking about his riveting journey through Leviticus and his love for Hebrew words, the parables and all of that.

Rob pauses, and says,

“Oh sure…” and then launches into his litany of spiritual disciplines: making breakfast for his kids, taking his daughter to school, spending a couple hours surfing in the ocean; in water that has the same salt content as a mother’s womb, then back home to focus on creative work (podcasts, writing) then onward into the afternoon.

The point he is making is about rhythms and how important the discipline of thriving rhythms are to living into what it means to be fully human.

So good! Raise your glasses!

#100days50words

Up

Well

Today’s Word: ‘UP’ as in… look up, help is on the way!

I’m leading a conversation with a couple dozen remarkable parents at a Family Recharge retreat. One of the layers we’ll be exploring together is what it means to trust God when we feel alone. There’s a connection here to an ancient story of a kid (let’s just call him Joseph) who is known for his dreams, a colorful coat, and a bunch of jealous hooligans for brothers who are known for their hooliganism.

Very much unlike Steph and Seth (yup, I just did that…), there’s no love lost at all.

The big hooligan brothers want to throw their little dreamer brother into eternity, but because they don’t want to have blood on their hands they throw him into a deep hole, a pit, a well.

So Joseph, the young dreamer brother, is down there in the pit and life looks really hopeless from that perspective. He feels like his life is closing in on him, his focus has narrowed, his perspective becomes very limited. He would describe his life by saying he was in a deep, dark place. He’d talk about what felt like a pit in his stomach, he’d say his current situation was like standing in a well with the water rising up around him.

Life gets like that at times, right? It’s deep and dark and it’s hard to see two feet in front of us. It feels like a hole, a pit, a well. But things didn’t stay like that way. As long as Joseph was looking down he couldn’t see any way out. But as soon as he looked up, everything changed. When he was finally able to look up just beyond where he was, up into the bright light of the new day, perspective changed and life took a thriving turn.

So look up, look in a new direction, get a new perspective, or, as my late friend Eugene Peterson translated Matthew’s words,

“Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!”

#100days50words

Mantra

mantra-meditation-1Today’s Word: ‘Mantra’ as in… a sound, a word, a phrase that the more you repeat it – the more you speak it out of you, the further into you it goes.

I have a friend who struggles with panic attacks. They arrive unannounced and uninvited and take her right off the ranch, out of her peace and comfort and right into the parking lot. Literally. She tells me about the time she was in a grocery store with a cart full of groceries when out of the blue, right there in front of the yogurt, a panic overwhelmed her. For a moment she didn’t know what to do; her focus became narrow, her breath became shallow and she was unable to move. What to do? Stay? Run? Yell? She left her groceries in the cart and made her way to the exit. Along the way she remembered what she had done the last time this happened.

Trust the mantra.

She repeated the phrase that she had come to trust. And the more she spoke it, the more it spoke to her. In this case, the phrase she used was from the ancient book of Isaiah. Halfway to her car she reached into her purse and pulled out a tiny slip of paper on which was written these words:

“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear. I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

She repeated the first five words over and over again:

“Don’t panic. I am with you.”

Isaiah delivered these God-breathed words centuries ago. They breathed new life back into my friend in the parking lot of the grocery store. Today they can breathe into us.

When you find a word or phrase that speaks to you, take it with you into the day and repeat it slowly. While you’re doing other things, speak them, listen to them, and even chew on them and let them breathe life back into you when you’re in a panic.

#100days50words

Decision

DecisionsToday’s Word: ‘decision’ as in… Go ahead and make it!

I’ve often said that three of the most strategic and important words in the Hebrew Scriptures are “So Abram went…” Genesis 12:3 provides a way of looking at the art of making strategic and important decisions every day.

God challenges Abram with a road trip. Abram will leave everything safe, secure and known and head into the dangerous, risky and unknown. Hearts are pounding, right? God says leave your country, your family, and your home. What’s not secure about that? Well, everything! But along with the challenge, God provides something else: a promise. God says “I will…” provide a new place. This is about a place to both be and to become. God says “I will…” make of you a great nation. This is about bringing our Spirited influence into wherever we are in order to bring new life to others. God says “I will…” make you a blessing to others. This is about bringing impact not just to make a difference in the world but to make a different world altogether. God says “I will…” multiply blessing through you. This is about creating a momentum for peace and justice in the world.

Abram must have sensed that this would be a tall order. But we know two things for sure: Abram went and God made good on the promises. The best way to make difficult decisions is to ask ourselves four strategic and important questions:

  • Will my response to God’s call bring a deepening sense of being and becoming in and through my life?
  • Will my response to God’s call allow me to bring my own unique influence into the lives of others?
  • Will my response to God’s call create a positive impact on the lives of the people involved in this decision?
  • Will my response to God’s call bring the blessing of life and aliveness to everyone?

If so, then may it also be said of us that we went headlong into the decisions we make today with God’s promise.

#100days50words

X

X Marks The Spot

Today’s Word: ‘X’ as in… ‘X’ marks the spot.

A friend of mine has been navigating labyrinth of streets, buildings, corridors and hallways which make up a vast medical community in the heart of Minneapolis. Caring for her husband has meant long stays in the heart of this medical city. The walkways and passages, like arteries, weave through and around hundreds of buildings covering hundreds of acres. In the midst of all of this, however, are quiet excursions away from the buzz and hum of medical technology. Several times each week she walks from of the ICU, down several floors to the lobby and through large revolving doors that never seem to stop spinning. A moment later she steps into the bright sunshine of the afternoon. She knows where she’s going. She’s walking toward “Grace.”

My friend has a map of this medical city. In the middle of the map, in the middle of the campus is a red ‘X’ on a tiny, unassuming building smack-dab in the center of this vast medical campus. The building, in the shape of a cross, is Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. She crosses the street and walks to the corner of Harvard and Delaware, slips into the tiny sanctuary and sits down. It’s restful and quiet. She is at peace in this sacred place that has been serving the community for over a century.

As she sits in the sanctuary, a volunteer slips into the row next to her and asks if there are any particular needs. A meal? A place to sleep? A cup of cold water? Would she appreciate someone praying with her and for her family? Does she need someone to talk to? Would she just like to sit in the quiet? It is a remarkable moment of divine hospitality in this cross-shaped building on the corner of Harvard and Delaware. ‘X’ marks the spot in the midst of a loud and busy city. ‘X’ marks the spot for such profound hospitality. ‘X’ marks the spot for this peaceful and quiet space—literally, a place, a destination, a point on a map. ‘X’ marks the spot in this vast campus where, at just the right moment, at just the right place, at just the right time someone shares the gift of engaging, transformational, life-giving hospitality and grace.

X’ marks the spot.

#100days50words

Pull

Pull Clay PigeonToday’s Word: ‘PULL’ as in… make a decision, get going on it!

Trapshooting is for many an exciting outdoor activity which involves a great deal of skill in focus, aim and determination. Shooting trap, or as others call it: shooting skeet, clay pigeons, or sporting clays is, for the uninitiated, an activity where in trap shooting, the targets are launched from a single “house” or machine, generally away from the shooter, in skeet shooting, targets are launched from two “houses” in somewhat “sideways” paths that intersect in front of the shooter, and Sporting clays includes a more complex course, with many launch points. Simply put, someone tosses a target in the air and someone else, with a shotgun, shoots and tries to hit it.

I am very mediocre at this. But my sweet bride is, in a word, spectacular. Last time we did this, Nancy Lee was able to consistently hit far more clay targets than I did. There is a very dynamic moment in all of this when the trap-shooter, the trap-thrower and the crowd of spectators all, more or less, hold their breath and wait for the trap-shooter to signal for the release of the clay target. When the trap-shooter is ready, he or she yells “Pull!” At that very instant all kinds of things happen all at once: the trap-thrower launches the clay target. The trap-shooter focuses on and takes aim at the clay target now sailing into the air, determined to hit it. And the crowd, for their part, intently follows all of this waiting for the shooter to finally pull the trigger and hit the clay target. “Pull!” This sets a lot of things in very dynamic motion.

Today, you’ve got some very important things to do. “Pull!”

Today, focus on those important decisions that you’ve been putting off. “Pull!”

Today, take aim at the things that are most necessary to move you forward. “Pull!”

Today, you’re very determined to hit your target. “Pull!”

How long can you hold your breath?

Pull!”

#100days50words

Kiss

KissToday’s Word: ‘KISS’ as in… kiss like you really mean it!

There’s a story about a Japanese couple who were married shortly after they moved to the United States. In spite of their limited familiarity with Western traditions, everything went well until the pastor invited them to kiss as he introduced them to the gathering. Nothing happened. The pastor, somewhat taken off guard and thinking they hadn’t heard him, looked at the bride and simply said, “How about a little kiss?” Not wanting to offend him, the young bride tentatively leaned forward and kissed the pastor!

Les and Leslie Parrott, co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University remind us that she is not the first bride to be confused by kissing.

“A kiss can mean different things at different times. A kiss can mean good morning, see you later, I’ve missed you, I’m sorry, I love you, I’m in the mood—all of that and more. But perhaps the sweetest of all kisses is the good night kiss that says I’m going to be missing you even while I sleep!”

Remember when you were dating and how difficult it was to say good night? You’d say goodnight countless times with just as many kisses. Musicians, poets, philosophers, writers, lovers, bloggers have all done their best to embrace the mystery and magic of a kiss.

Maybe Proverbs 24:26 sums it up best: “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.”

King Solomon, in all his wisdom, compares a kiss to an honest answer. So think of it this way: when you’re kissing your lover on the lips, especially as a way to say good night, you’re communicating some very deep and honest feelings. A kiss goodnight is a lover’s short hand to the deeper questions we rarely articulate but deeply feel: Do you still love me, in spite of all the mistakes I make? Do you still want to be with me when I burn the toast, leave my clothes on the floor, make a mess of things? A kiss on the lips is a way of saying “Yes!” to all of these unspoken questions.

So go ahead and kiss like you really mean it!

#100days50words

Words

Toothpaste

Today’s Word: ‘Words’ as in… the 58 words that can change your life.

For over four decades I’ve kept a little piece of paper handy on which are written seven lines. These 58 words, written in the handwriting of a junior high school sweetheart and probably passed to me during Study Hall have remained A Short Course in Human Relations all these years.

  • The six most important words: “I admit that I was wrong.”
  • The five most important words: “You did a great job!”
  • The four most important words: “What do you think?”
  • The three most important words: “Could you please . . .”
  • The two most important words: “Thank you.”
  • The most important word: “We.”
  • The least important word: “I.”

The wisdom written on that well-worn piece of paper has provided a way of living that breathes new life into every relationship every day. Words are powerful. They carry immense weight. They can inform and they can also hurt. They can direct and guide as well as damage and kill. Words can bring life and alter life. But words, once spoken—like toothpaste squeezed from a tube, cannot be put back. Choosing our words wisely can breathe life and more life into every relationship. And kind and gentle words while short and easy to speak can echo endlessly.

So what is it about these 58 words that make their wisdom so enduring? Most likely because the word “you” is used far more often than the word “I” is used. When I continue to make me the center of attention, my relationship with you will struggle to survive. But when my words continue to support, encourage and lift you up, our relationship will continue to thrive.

Consider the power of these seven lines. Take one line each day for the next several days and use it as many times as you can each day. Reflect on how the words impact how you live, speak, think, and treat others. Reflect on how you thrive by using words that give life.

#100days50words

United

Greek Text for UnityToday’s Word: ‘UNITED’ as in… one heart, one mind (not the airline).

I’ve been teasing some life lessons out of an ancient story; just a few lines from an account of the community of early followers of Jesus. Luke, a doctor and an historian who, in his spare time, managed to crank out a couple of lengthy accounts of the life and ministry of a rabbi named Jesus. The passage I’m reading reveals some details about this early community of followers including this little tidbit: they were “united as one.” Luke goes on to refine that point by saying that they were of “one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions.” My dear friend, the late Eugene Peterson in his Message Bible put it this way:

“No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. They talked about the resurrection and how that brought all kinds of things back to life in each of their lives—mostly their generosity. Imagine! A sense of grace flowed through them like electricity through a power line. And the outcome was that “not a person among them was needy.”

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to live in that kind of community? We’re not that far off, really. We learn to share at a young age and we continue to share. We learn to spot those around us who seem to struggle with things and we reach out and help. Peoples’ need will always outlast our ability to respond, of course, but we keep at it. That’s the point. The point of the resurrection is unity. And the point of unity is that we have opportunities every day to bring life and more life into others’ lives.

While dwelling in this ancient story I ran into one of those quotes that make you wish you’d coined it. Here it is:

“People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved and people are being used.”

Boom.

Let’s aim at some unity. How can you do that today?

#100days50words

Curious

Lonardo Da Vinci's To-Do ListToday’s Word: ‘CURIOUS’ as in… The power of curiosity is rooted in the ability to ask questions.

Curiosity always leads to learning, knowing, wisdom, and enlightenment. The journals of Leonardo da Vinci are known to “sparkle with curiosity” and his To-Do Lists are no exception. On just one list for one particular day in 1490, Leonardo wants to learn “The measurement of Milan and its suburbs.” Not bad for a morning’s work. After lunch he’ll go on to “Draw Milan.” On other lists he’ll pick the brains of some people we’ve never heard of who know things we never knew we needed to know: “Ask Giannino the Bombardier about how the tower of Ferrara is walled … Ask Benedetto Portinari by what means they walk on ice in Flanders Italy.” But wait, there’s more: ‘Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle, the master of hydraulics to tell you how to repair a lock, canal and mill … Get the measurement of the sun promised by Maestro Giovanni Francese.’ (The measurement of the sun? Really?!)

“Draw Milan.”

Day after day Leonardo creates lists of things he wants to learn about things we never think about: “Observe the goose’s foot: if it were always open or always closed the creature would not be able to make any kind of movement.” And then this: ‘Describe the tongue of the woodpecker.’ Who on earth puts that on their To Do List? Leonardo does. Why? Because he’s Leonardo and he’s curious.

In our western culture we are driven to know. Google reports that searches beginning with the words “Who, What, Where, When, Why and How” followed by the word “Is” numbers in the millions, if not more. Cultivating curiosity will, I am convinced, bring a deeper sense of thriving to our lives. So, what’s on your To-Do List today? Add this one: Notice how many questions you ask today. Is that number greater than or less than the number of demands or statements you make?

The key is to ask more questions. In the words of a famous person, “Stay curious my friends.”

#100days50words

Natalie

Natialie High HeelToday’s Word: ‘Natalie’ as in… our amazing friend Natalie who shares her beautiful story:

“Tonight I stopped by Target to quickly pick up an adult beverage that nobody else stocks. As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed an elderly woman gingerly shuffling out of her car. I parked my minivan about halfway down the row and caught up to her as she, cane in hand, painstakingly stepped away from her parking spot. “Tell me what it’s like to walk in heels,” she said. “It’s been a very long time since I walked in them. Actually, a very long time since I walked normally.” I joked that they hurt my feet, and we laughed about it. She said some very flattering things to me, and I offered to walk with her inside. We learned we both have three boys (she also has two daughters). She told me her name, Annie, and I told her mine. “You’re probably too young to remember Natalie Wood,” she commented. “That’s actually who I was named after,” I said. “Well you certainly could pass for her,” Annie said. “She was just beautiful.” My new friend then said she needed to give me a hug — right inside the entrance vestibule — because talking to me made her day. I think the sentiment behind the hug was mutual. We chatted for a while longer, about life and getting older and memories and how things change and how we have so much do to. She wants to get an Apple Watch and an iPhone “to go big before I croak.” I want to get the courage to be as bold as Annie, for the same reasons. We made our way to a motorized courtesy cart that we were delighted to have found charged up, and shot the breeze a little more. But as she went off in her direction and I went off in mine, I couldn’t help but take note of how small moments in ordinary places can have such a profound impact when two people slow down to turn a walk into a journey.”

[Thank you Natalie! pg]

#100days50words

Playtime (for Ruby Grace)

Today’s Word: ‘Playtime’ as in… what do you do when you’re daughter is in labor? You play piano. You write a song.

Just like this…

Six years ago on a Friday evening, February 8, 2013, my phone lights up with a text message from Travis: “Sarah is having contractions 8 minutes apart. This could be it!!!” My first instinct was to sit at the piano. Charlottesville, VA is a long way from Burnsville, MN. The only way for me to “be there” was to play some strength and love into the universe and toward Sarah and the new life that was emerging. Two hours later, sweet Ruby Grace was born, and her song, “Playtime’, was well on its way. It was a moment in time filled with thriving rhythms of Spirit, creativity, connection, gratitude, mindfulness, generosity, and even mission as the notes, progressions, tones, measures, keys, sound and love combined to create life, and more life.

On most standard pianos there are only 12 different notes, 12 keys in each of the 7 octaves (give or take a minor third). But with just those 12 notes, an infinite number of combinations creates endless beautiful music. The magic, the mojo, the mystic sauce, the music comes from arranging and rearranging endless combinations of those 12 notes. As Ruby Grace was being birthed, her own particular and unique combination of thriving rhythms was already inspiring a song. While making her way into the world, there were all kinds of rhythms and progressions of sound, and lovely, wonder-filled music making it all happen.

A little over 6 years later, ‘Playtime’ continues. The really good news is that now we’ll only be 20 minutes apart. The Hoonies are moving to Saint Paul! Music to my ears!

#100days50words

Zoom

Rooster Zoom

Today’s Word: ‘Zoom’ as in… living a life in motion today.

Several years ago, a good friend of mine gave me a gift that I’ve been opening ever since. As I carefully pulled away the layers of bright wrapping paper, I held in my hands the beautifully illustrated book entitled Zoom.

Zoom is the first of several wordless children’s books created by the commercial illustrator and animator Istvan Banyai. Published in 1995, Zoom was honored as one of the best children’s books of the year by the New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly. Mr. Banyai’s picture book was further honored as Zoom went on to be published in 18 languages.

Does anyone else find that ironically funny?

Zoom is a picture book; there are no words; there are only pictures. And it’s most intriguing feature is in the way it communicates. As each page gives way to the next, you realize that each picture is a smaller part of the illustration on the next page.

For instance, on the first page you see what looks like points of a red star.  But when you turn the page you see that the star that you thought you saw on the precious page is not a star at all, but rather, the ‘comb’ on a rooster’s head. Now all of a sudden you see the whole rooster, presumably on a farm. Turning the page, though, you discover the rooster being watched by two small children looking through a window in their small cottage. But turning the page, it becomes clear that the children are in a larger farm house among other farm buildings which are rather haphazardly placed with no apparent rhyme or reason. Yet, there is a reason for this. Once again you find, after turning the page, that these buildings, animals and characters are pieces from a collection of children’s toys. Only two pages later you find the child arranging and rearranging these pieces in, of all places, a toy store! But there is more: turning the page once again, the toy store is an advertisement on the back page of a magazine being held by a woman as she sleeps in a lounge chair. Turning the page again, you find the woman lounging by the pool. One page later, she is still by the pool, but on the deck of a ship! And just when you think you’ve got Mr. Banyai all figured out, you turn one more page where it is revealed that this entire scene is an advertisement on a large poster on the side of a bus in traffic in a city.

Zoom!

Okay, so, what’s this all about?  Well, when you get right down to it, it’s all about not getting stuck in one place; it’s about taking risks and making decisions and following through. Zooming is about a life in motion. From beginning to end, from A to Z, it’s the adventure of zooming, moving, going, changing, morphing, growing, learning wisdom, seeing beauty, hearing your name, tasting goodness, breathing in the aroma of life. Zooming is all about turning the page on this day and leaning into tomorrow.

If we had stayed on the first page, we would not have seen the rooster.

If we had been content to stay in the cottage we would have missed the farm.

If we had stayed on the farm, we would not have seen the toy store.

If we had gotten stuck in the toy store, we would not have been to the pool!

If we had stayed in the chair by the pool—if we’d stayed asleep in the chair, we’d have missed the cruise!

If we had missed the cruise, we would not have seen the city!

If we had missed the city, we might have missed the bigger picture!

And if we had missed the bigger picture, we’d still be staring out that little window of that little cottage at the chicken!

But we didn’t miss it; we didn’t miss anything! Oh, the adventure of it all!

Today we zoom; today is about zooming! And zoom we must! And the really good news in all of this is that today is all we have, and today is all we need. And if, by some chance, we don’t get all our zooming done today, well, we’ll just re-zoom tomorrow.

#100days50words

Detail

IMG_0892Today’s Word: ‘Detail’ as in… Leviticus, the punching bag of the bible, as in… the third book of the collection of ancient letters, poems, and stories where, not more than four verses into chapter one the reader hits the “Levitical Wall.”

I know, right? Leviticus? I’ve been in this amazing book for four months and while it’s no picnic, it certainly lays out how to have a party.

It’s all there: how to practice gratitude, why it’s essential to make sure everyone has enough to eat, a place to sleep, meaningful work, how to manage broken relationships, Who it is that calls us into life and more life.

But why all of the detail? Why all of the absolutely mind-numbing minutiae about where this goes and where those things belong and why we do this when that happens? It’s because the ancient Hebrew people had been living for generations under the oppression of rulers who had forced them to measure their worth by how many bricks they could make in a day, a week, a month, a year. So when they were finally free, they headed off into the Wilderness to learn about who they were and what it means to be human because that’s where we go when we need to relearn and reimagine our lives! They had no idea how to live with each other in this new freedom, no idea how to manage relationships and seek fulfilment.

Enter Leviticus…

Some detail about how to love and care for each other, how to manage what we’ve been given so that everyone has enough, how to make changes when a few people have most of the resources, how to honor the earth and care for it, how to live more fully and freely, how to say thank you to the Creator. The only way to learn that is to begin with detail. A lot of detail. Sort of like how one of the first things you learned to do as a kid was make your bed.

You did make your bed this morning, right?

#100days50words

Forward

Highway forwardToday’s Word: ‘FORWARD’ as in… direction, movement, possibility, as in… onward toward all of the opportunities that await us this day.

I never want to coast, I never want to arrive at the end of the day and look back and wonder how I got there. I want to navigate it, drive it, direct it, bring something to it, invest something in it, pull something out of it in order to create some blessing in someone else’s life.

It seems to me that part of experiencing lives that thrive means being purposeful about greeting the beginning of the day, appreciating the gift that it is, and then making the most of it.

Someone once said that the reason why your windshield is bigger than your rearview mirror is that where you’re headed is much more important than what you left behind. So let’s move on, let’s move forward.

Rascal Flatts who once reminded us that life is a highway, but long before a guy named Rascal sang that, a guy named Paul, an early follower of Jesus said, ‘Let’s be well on our way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for us. Let’s keep our eyes on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. Let’s be off and running; let’s not turn back.’

And then, not so long ago, a singer, songwriter named Matt Redman took that idea and gave us this remarkable lyric: “The sun comes up / It’s a new day dawning / It’s time to sing your song again / Whatever may pass / And whatever lies before me / Let me be singing / When the evening comes.

However we look at it, this day is full of potential. Let’s move forward!
#100days50words

 

Seventh

Tahiti FeetToday’s Word: ‘seventh’ as in… a break, a gap, some margin, resting, and emptying.

Someone asked me yesterday (Sunday) if I’d forgotten to post Today’s Word.

I hadn’t.

Posting on weekdays and Saturdays while making a conscious decision not to post on Sundays is part of the rhythm of “six and one” that I’m trying to practice in my life: six days on, one day off. It’s a challenge.

This “six and one” rhythm goes back to last December when I began paring an image with a few thoughts about healthy rhythms in our lives. Since then I’ve posted over one hundred Today’s Word(s) every day except Sundays.

Actually, this “six and one” rhythm goes all the way back to the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures in the book of Genesis. You may recall that God gets God’s creative groove “on” for six days and then there is the seventh, as in the seventh day, a day for rest and re-creation. The intention of this “six and one” rhythm has always been for our benefit.

The seventh day in our lives could use some attention.

I’ll speak for myself, but you’re welcome to join me in this.

The seventh is a day not to hunch over and look into a screen for all of the reasons that we usually do that, but rather a day to look up and into the beautiful faces of the people around us giving time and attention to the nuances of their words and ideas, their challenges and celebrations.

The seventh is a day not to work our fingers to the bone, but rather a day to rest our brains and move from the tyranny of schedules, deadlines, and agendas toward filling our hearts with the rhythms of relationships, experiences and opportunities.

The seventh is a sabbath; a day of rest, of margin, a gap day, a deep and wide-space-for-breathing kind of day. It’s a day to do other things.

Or maybe a day to do nothing at all.

#100days50words

Dip

BaptismToday’s Word: ‘Dip’ as in… dipping, as in sprinkle, plunge, immerse, cover, as in… baptism.

Each month I meet with parents to talk about and plan for the baptism of their children. The conversation covers a wide range of topics – from the Crossing of the Red Sea and how it relates to parenting, to the meaning of names and the power of identity. We also wade (no pun intended) into every imaginable question relative to baptism:

“Why do we still do this? Wasn’t it part of an ancient culture a long time ago in a land far away?” “Where do I stand, what do I say, how do I hold my baby over the font without dropping her in it?”

Parents love to get together and talk about what it’s like to go through this stage of life. Some of them just love to get out of the house for a while!

At some point I have the parents consider who’s in the room. I ask them to think about the potential for their children.

“Who’s in the room?”

Is there a musician in the room? Is there an athlete in the room? Is there a doctor, a nurse, a writer, a mechanic, a pastor, a retail sales person in the room? Is there a mentor, a singer, a painter, a road worker, a poet, a pilot, an Uber driver, a magazine editor, a listener, a speaker, a diplomat, a president, a day-care provider, a teacher in the room?

Is there someone in the room who will one day discover a cure for cancer? Imagine that! Just imagine God’s Dream unfolding in and through our kids! Imagine God’s Dream and how God calls us to partner in ways we can only imagine! Who’s in the room? What a great question!

In the midst of all of that, we know this for sure: God is in the room, the Spirit is always present. Our kids and grandkids are learning about the Creator, the creation and how we’ve been created to be creative! It’s a great conversation, for sure! So let’s have it!

As an aside, I have the privilege of doing most of these baptisms. They don’t call me the ‘Big Dipper’ for nothing.

#100days50words

Swing

Piano Christchurch SwingToday’s Word: ‘Swing’ as in… full swing, as in the swing of things, as in movement, as in rhythm… because all of this in one form or another is about my ongoing adventure with Thriving Rhythms.

There’s a bit of swing to our days; some rhythms that move us, keep us going. There’s a kind of rhythm that pulls us in and holds us down. The rhythms of daily work do this, the rhythms of schedule and responsibilities do this. These rhythms are often connected to what’s urgent which also carries a kind of tyranny with it. This is the rhythm of things that needs doing, the rhythm of expectations, the rhythm of deadlines. Things that actually have a way of keeping us alive.

Piano SwingAll well and good. Until they’re not. Until they don’t.

Sure, things keep moving, but at what cost? But there are other kinds of rhythms. These are the rhythms that we get to set, the rhythms that we get to create, that we get to decide if they bring life or not. These are the rhythms that set us loose, these are the playful rhythms that don’t carry a sense of urgency; there is no tyranny in them. These are the rhythms that remind us that we are not “human doings” but quite on the other hand, “human beings.”

The only expectation of these rhythms is that we play along, sing along; that we learn the art of lovely, lively, enlivening art of swing.

It’s all well and good because it is.

#100days50words

Wind

KiteToday’s Word: ‘wind’ as in… breath, Spirit, as in movement, as in power.

You get the idea. You can’t see it, but there’s a power at work keeping things going. The ancient Greeks had a word it; it was like the wind. They called it ‘pneuma’ which also translates into breath, Spirit… as in the Spirit that powers everything. And I mean everything! In the ancient Hebrew consciousness the word for wind was ‘ruach’. When you say that word you get to activate the back of your throat a bit. Kind of like you’re getting ready to launch something. I think you know what I mean. Anyway, the wind, the breath of the Spirit is always about to launch something.

I like to think that the Spirit is always about to launch you and me.

#100days50words

Still

Williston ChurchToday’s Word: ‘still’ as in… still, in one peace.

I have a friend who always signs emails with the phrase, “I am still, in one peace.” It’s one of those phrases that’s so good, so clever, so poignant that it makes you wonder how that could possibly be true for each one of us. The invitation to be still in one peace is tied to the good news that in spite of whatever is pressing in on us, whatever is going on around us right now, if we can just sit for a moment and be still… if only for a few moments, we can probably find some peace right there.

In the ancient Hebrew scriptures there’s a Psalm that announces that God is a refuge, a place of strength and a constant help in the midst of trouble. And then there is this marvelous line: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Make this the mantra you take with you through this day and into this night:

“I am still, in one peace.”

#100days50words

Process

Purple FlowersToday’s Word: ‘process’ as in… the creative process.

Emphasis on the word ‘process’ because the art of creativity is such a process. It takes time and practice and more time and tenacity and failing, and succeeding, and pressing on that is all part of the doing of it.

In one of Susan Howatch’s novels, there is a sculptor by the name of Harriet March. She’s in a conversation with the Bishop talking about God, suffering, and life and how she sees all of that woven through her own creative work. Harriet says this about the long creative process:

“But no matter how much the mess and distortion make you want to despair, you can’t abandon the work because you’re chained to the bloody thing, it’s absolutely woven into your soul and you know you can never rest until you’ve brought truth out of all the distortion and beauty out of all the mess—but it’s agony, agony, agony—while simultaneously being the most powerful, wonderful and rewarding experience in the world—and that’s the creative process which so few people understand.”

Then she goes on to say this,

“So in the end every major disaster, every tiny error, every wrong turning, every fragment of discarded clay, all the blood, sweat and tears—everything has meaning. I give it meaning. I reuse, reshape, recast all that goes wrong so that in the end nothing is wasted and nothing is without significance and nothing ceases to be precious to me.”

I hope I’m not the only one who is asking this question: Is she talking about sculpture or life itself?

#100days50words

Mandate

Mandate NailToday’s Word: ‘mandate’ as in… love like your lives depend on it. Because they do.

It’s Friday, a good, good Friday. And if your journey through this week has been rooted in the spirited passion of Christ then you know where all of this is going.

It’s not going to be easy. It never is, is it?

During Holy Week we see Jesus welcomed then rejected, surrounded then abandoned, embraced then betrayed, loved then hated, worshipped then killed. In the midst of all of the fickleness, Jesus gathers his disciples together to share a meal. We remember this ‘Meal of Love and Service’ on what we call Maundy Thursday; “Maundy” being Latin for “Commandment Mandate.” We remember that on that night Jesus called his followers of every age and in every time to love one another. He called his followers to show love, to be love, to live love, to simply love without exception and maybe with just a little abandon.

Or a lot.

And just so there wouldn’t be any question about what that meant or what that looked like, Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer garment and wrapped a towel around his waist and assumed the role of a servant. He began washing the feet of his disciples saying:

I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

And yes, it was Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends who protested, saying: “What on earth are you doing? Stop!” But Jesus pressed on saying, ‘This is what it means to follow me.’

Then came Friday. Good Friday. And just so there wouldn’t be any question about what that love looks like or to what extent that love goes, Jesus made it abundantly clear. Perfectly clear. The new commandment is to love like Jesus loved, to love like our lives depend upon it. Because our lives do depend upon it.

#100days50words

Horizon

Horizon WingToday’s Word: ‘Horizon’ as in… “How far can you see?” This is a very different question than “How far can you imagine?”

Recently, Nancy Lee and I were on a flight somewhere between here and there. I looked out the window and was pleasantly surprised to see what I’ll call the curvature of the earth. Yup, way up there. Without going into all of the complicated math and the equally complicated verbiage about the curvature of the earth, suffice it to say that I had an unobstructed view of the earth’s horizon.

And it had a little curve to it.

I wondered how far I could see. Well, at least one source indicated that from 35,000 feet (in the air) the horizon is about 230 nautical miles away. However you measure or calculate, that’s a long way out there. Yet, it’s finite, it’s limited, and it’s measurable. So when we ask, “How far can you see?” we can respond with some accuracy. But when we ask “How far can you imagine?” the response can be fascinating, if not inspiring. When we begin to see beyond what we can see, all kinds of possibilities open up. Imagine the possibilities!

Today is Maundy Thursday which has Latin roots meaning something like “Day of the new commandment.” And of course the new commandment is to love and serve one another as Christ has loved and served us. When we love and serve others, all people, no exceptions, people begin to thrive in new ways. And when people thrive in deeply rich and healthy relationships, we can only imagine how the earth will change.

All of that is, as they say, just over the horizon. Let’s just keep moving in that direction, shall we?

#100days50words

Wonder

Boots on LakeToday’s Word: ‘WONDER’ as in… the feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.

I love inexplicable. Let’s go with that!

There’s a subtle difference between the kind of wonder that leaves us asking questions, and the kind of wonder that leaves us speechless. When we wonder about something, when we have wonderings, we ask questions: “I wonder how so-and-so did in the marathon?” “I wonder if it’s going to rain all day?” “I wonder if it’s going to be a boy or a girl?” “I wonder if it’s too soon to start talking about the trip to Israel?” Wonder like this seeks information, data, details about someone or something.

But there is another kind of wonder that leads to a deeper, more expansive life, the kind of living that pushes us toward a deeper awareness of what it means to be human, what it means to be filled with the Spirit, what it means to bear the image of the Divine.

This is that marvelous wonder that captures us, wraps itself around us, fills us. Moves us ahead.

Instead of having wonder about something, this kind of wonder has us. Instead of seeking information and asking questions about details and data, this kind of wonder simply leaves us in that beautiful and expansive place where we don’t say anything at all. It’s all just too beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar. And inexplicable.

#100days50words

Senses

SensesToday’s Word: ‘SENSES as in… revisiting Frederick Buechner’s challenge to live at just a bit deeper level:

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

This takes a bit of intentionality because we’re usually moving way to quickly to allow for such extravagances. Yet, our senses were given to us for a reason. In fact, they’ve sort of kept us alive in some instances. Listen. Look. Touch. Taste. Smell. Five windows into deeper, thriving lives. You may want to thank the One who gave them to you.

So try this: Taste your food. You can’t taste it if you don’t chew it. And sit down when you eat. And for crying out loud, don’t eat in your car.

Or this: When the garage door opens don’t hurry to your car, stand still and watch the curtain on the morning rise as the door opens and just look at the day. What do you see? Close your eyes for a moment and listen. What do you hear? Birds? Breeze? Cars? Take a deep breath. What do you smell? What do you taste? Be aware of where you are standing; think about where you are right now.

When we do these kinds of things we open ourselves up to thriving at a little bit deeper level. I’m pretty sure you didn’t do this yesterday, and today you did. See how great it is?

#100days50words

Unknown

Unknown Zip Line

Today’s Word: ‘unknown’ as in… what we can’t see and what we don’t know usually gives us the creeps.

I’d never ziplined in my life. Just on the off chance you don’t know what ziplining is, here’s a good working definition: “A zip-line (or zip line, zip wire, aerial runway, aerial rope slide, death slide, or flying fox) consists of a pulley suspended on a cable, usually made of stainless steel, mounted on a slope. It is designed to enable a user propelled by gravity to travel from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable by holding on to, or attaching to, the freely moving pulley.” You get the idea.

Wait. Death slide?

I wasn’t completely sure what I was getting into, but when I got into the harness I wanted to be absolutely sure that there was no way I was going to fall out of it. When our guide, Chris, “cinched-it-up-real-tight” believe me, there wasn’t a doubt remaining in my mind that it was going to hold. Snug. Super snug.

Then Chris said “On this section of the course we’re going to challenge you to step backwards off the platform and without holding on to the harness let your body weight turn you upside down.”

Sure. Let’s do that.

Suffice it to say, there were a lot of unknowns that afternoon. But at some point I made up my mind that I was going to both figuratively and literally step into the unknown. And because of that willingness to step into the unknown and the risk that came along with it, I experienced a deeper level of thriving.

When we move into the unknown and we trust our guides along the way, we experience what it means to thrive at a deeper level. But we won’t know until we take that first step.

What unknown are you facing today? Who can you trust to help you go there? What are the risks and benefits? How will you step into that unknown place today?

#100days50words

Travel

Warning SignToday’s Word: ‘travel’ as in… going and then coming home again.

After an epic experience that took Nancy Lee and me halfway around the globe, we’ve faced two recurring questions: “Did you have a time?” and “Is it a little weird being back?” Yes, to both!

To be honest, part of my heart is still on a snowy slope in Charlottesville, on a mystical island in the Salish Sea, and somewhere (anywhere) in the land of LOTR. Yet here’s what I know for sure: It’s always good to go and it’s always good to come back. I am refreshed, renewed, restored, for sure!

So today and as we move into next week with Today’s Words, I’ll be revisiting Kent Nerburn’s thoughts on why it’s important to travel. Whether we use our passports or not, we travel every day: I travel into your life and you travel into mine, we travel into the joys and sorrows, the pain and celebration of everyone we encounter. Or at least we can! For some though, traveling stirs up fear. But isn’t it really the case that we usually fear what we don’t know? When Rick Steve’s visited Israel and Palestine he acknowledged that he had some fear about traveling in that part of the world. But he said that when he got to know the people of the country and ‘travel into their lives’ he discovered that there was really nothing to fear. Rick learned firsthand that “Fear is for people who don’t get out very much.”

So I’m wondering how we’re going to get out with one another. When you think of travel, what fears do you have? What hold you back? What sets you free? Take these words from Kent Nerburn into today:

“This is why we need to travel. If we don’t offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull…”

Let’s not be dull today, okay?

#100days50words

One Day Here (a third stanza)

One Day Here 3Today’s Word: ‘One Day Here’ as in… a third stanza:

One day here in this place is what I imagine (if I am willing) what God imagines for all things everywhere. In moments of sheer gift I look at what God creates and I say “It is very good!” It is so very good: this little island of wonder and grace where the rhythm of time is measured not in days, hours, minutes or seconds, but rather in moments. Moments filled with sounds, aromas, tastes, touch, and sights of delight: the wind among the western cedars, ponderosa pines and the pacific madrones, the tiny prints that the birds leave in the new fallen snow, the powerful waves crashing on the large dark boulders where the sea otters play along the coastlines; moments measured in rhythms of heartbeat and sighs too deep for words, each one a reminder that even the breath we breathe is a gift given to measure this one day. It good, it is so very good.

#100days50words

One Day Here (a second stanza)

SeagullToday’s Word: ‘One Day Here’ as in… a second stanza:

One day here in this place is what I imagine (if I may) what God imagines for everything … in this moment now. In moments of sheer wonder, God sits back and marvels and delights and revels in the ebb and flow of tides, in the waves’ rising and falling, in the waters of the Sound, the Straits, the sea, this sea. This Salish Sea, alive – fully alive with rhythms of thriving life: harbor seals, seagulls, eagles, herons and robins in holly bushes, everything moving together in the dance – the dance of ongoing creation, bringing joy and beauty and wonder.

#100days50words

One Day Here (a first stanza)

untitledToday’s Word: ‘One Day Here’ as in… a first stanza:

One day here in this place is what I imagine (if I can) what God imagined for the whole thing… back then. Moments of sheer beauty, when God sat back and just looked at the mist on the water and the hillsides of evergreen, alive – really alive with birds and scent and color and sound, and rhythm… rhythms – the rhythms of breeze and wind in those trees – the breeze and wind making the whole hillside come alive and dance.

#100days50words

Stepping Forward

IMG_0442Today’s Word: ‘STEPPING FORWARD’ as in… “Sometimes you have to go far in order to come near.”

For two months Henri Nouwen’s insight was constantly resonating in my heart. But on March 4th an alert I’d set reminded me: “It’s March 4th so get out there and March Forth, young man!” The March Forth Challenge is to make March 4th the day that we refuse to be deterred by the little voice that says, “We can’t, so we shouldn’t, so let’s not.” March is for Stepping Forward with “vim, vigor and vitality.” For some this is anything but easy. For others, though, there’s just not enough adrenaline to go around.

Queenstown is known as the adrenaline capital of the world. Seriously. Look it up. Adrenaline, Capital, World. Three words in one sentence. When I designed my sabbatical I wanted the final weeks to be challenging, inspiring, adventurous with adrenaline.

That’s why when we hiked to Devil’s Punchbowl Falls in Arthur’s Pass I raised my hands into the air and said “God, thank you for creating this, I’m stepping forward into it!”

That’s why when exploring the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and hiking Robert’s Point Track to the Franz Joseph Glacier, and standing on Isthmus Peak, and kayaking into an impossibly beautiful fjord and drinking water running off the mountainside filtered through live moss, I raised my hands into the air and said “God, thank you for creating this! I’m stepping forward into it!”

And that’s why I made a point to let people in Christchurch, Wanaka, Te Anau and Queenstown know that others whom they’ll never meet, with names they’ll never know, and whose stories they’ll never hear are with them standing against all manner of violence, hate, fear and injustice, and who continue to step forward into love with them.

Stepping Forward is a robust image for what’s ahead as we seek thriving rhythms of life together! How do you hear that call in your life today? Sometimes you do have to go far in order to come near. But that doesn’t always involve mileage. Sometimes stepping forward begins right where you are. I’m so deeply grateful we get to do this together! Aren’t you? What’s your next step forward?

#100days50words

Stepping Back

Today’s Word: ‘Stepping Back’ as in… don’t just do something, sit there.

Orcas

Every day we have an invitation to reconsider the ancient wisdom from the Hebrew scriptures that reveals a remarkable “six-and-one” rhythm for thriving life: Six days on, one day off. This is so important that it’s been intricately woven into the fabric of our lives as human beings since The Beginning: six days of creating, making and doing things, one day of resting, partying and celebrating.

In February Nancy Lee and I traveled to the Pacific Northwest and made our home-away-from- home on Orcas Island in the middle of the Salish Sea. With the gift of unhindered time, renewal took place by stepping back into the rhythms of restoration and embracing the things I love to do but because of the mandates of ministry have had limited time to do them. Hiking and walking beaches, exploring hidden lakes and tidal waters in this beautiful setting without the persistence of schedules, deadlines and agendas breathed a new spirited oxygen into me. Along with daily reading, writing, journaling, and tending to a project known as #100days50words, restoration took place by simply reveling in this gift of extended and expanded time to focus on what it means to be a human being instead of a human doing. What I discovered was that this time was preparing me not simply to brace myself for a future but more importantly, this time was preparing me to more fully embrace the future I was meant to live into. Stepping back and embracing the rhythms of renewal, restoration, and reinvigoration is preparing me for a spirited reintegration with the community at and beyond Prince of Peace. With that kind of reinvention going on, I am better prepared and more equipped than ever to know how to step forward.

But enough about me already. Let me ask you this: What is it that you’re doing that makes you feel more like a human doing and less like a human being? How challenging would it be to welcome one day to unplug, to turn it off, to set it aside and do something different. How could you practice a healthier thriving rhythm of “six-and-one”? Let’s get there together! Let’s step back!

#100days50words

Stepping In

617A9060-C1C7-45A4-ADEC-4657BB03FE3BToday’s Word: ‘stepping in’ as in… every day we have a sacred invitation to continue stepping in to life, and more life.

By stepping in to life we enter other’s lives bearing witness to the grace that we’ve been given and shed more light on what it means to be human. A little more life and aliveness – we could all use some of that!

Nancy Lee and I spent January stepping in to the rhythms of life with our daughter Sarah, Travis and our three granddaughters. We continued to affirm the essential roles that family – especially grandparents – play in the lives of children. Deeper life and aliveness took place daily with countless trips to schools, libraries, grocery stores, restaurants, parks, pools, health clubs, bike trails, coffee shops, museums, historical sites, and yes, even a skating rink. That’s right: an old school, indoor, wood floor, roller skating rink. With loud music. And that musty aroma of sweat and popcorn. It’s earthy. And it’s lovely. Also, by stepping in to the thriving rhythms of their faith community, Nancy Lee and I had the rare opportunity to worship together, to sit together and sing and pray and read and think and laugh and cry, rinse and repeat, hand in hand all while stepping in to the lives of so many new friends and extended family. As we did that we gained fresh perspectives on worship, discipleship, faith formation and spirited growth – healthy rhythms of life, and more life! By stepping in to that kind of spaciousness and that kind of sabbath, I’m now better prepared and more equipped than ever to know when to step back and how to step forward.

But enough about me already. Let me ask you this: What is it that you’re stepping into that because of your willingness to do that enriches the lives of others? Get in there! Step in!

#100days50words

Reflection

Reflection Peter's PondToday’s Word: ‘REFLECTION’ as in… using the next handful of days to do some reflection on the sabbatical: the past 100 days of Stepping In to a more sustained encounter with our family, Stepping Back from external demands and responsibilities, and Stepping Forward into the adventure of reimagining the next vibrant season of life.

As the dust settles, I can only lean on Kent Nerburn’s poignant thoughts moments like this…

“This is why we need to travel. If we don’t offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes don’t lift to the horizon; our ears don’t hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting. We wake up one day and find that we have lost our dreams in order to protect our days.”

#100days50words

Wholeness

Wholeness CrayonsToday’s Word: ‘wholeness’ as in… having a deep sense of being put together even when you’re falling apart.

We thrive as missional people who embrace a vision of life and aliveness by creating a momentum of healing and unity by pursuing movements of hope and wholeness.

When we gather around those who feel as if they’re falling apart and create a community that puts love into action, we acknowledge some assembly will always be required. When we do that for others and others do that for us, that’s a big step into wholeness.

#100days50words

Hope

Hope 2Today’s Word: ‘hope’ as in… this – from Frederick Buechner:

“Then at last we see what hope is and where it comes from, hope as the driving power and outermost edge of faith. Hope stands up to its knees in the past and keeps its eyes on the future. There has never been a time past when God wasn’t with us as the strength beyond our strength, the wisdom beyond our wisdom, as whatever it is in our hearts–whether we believe in God or not–that keeps us human enough at least to get by despite everything in our lives that tends to wither the heart and make us less than human. To remember the past is to see that we are here today by grace, that we have survived as a gift.”

#100days50words

 

Movements

MovementsToday’s Word: ‘movements’ as in… lasting movements all begin with the same thing: invitation. An invitation into The Movement to pursue hope and wholeness begins with an invitation.

If we’re reading this, then we’ve probably already gotten the invitation. And if we’ve gotten the invitation then we’re free to pass that along to others. Jesus made countless invitations to The Movement and it wasn’t even the Junior Varsity that got invited… it was the ragtag and fringe that were invited. The Movement is still going because there have been a lot if invitations (not coercions!) And actions always speak louder than words.

So … The Movement is at hand (to borrow a phrase). Who will we invite to The Movement today?

#100days50words

Unity

UnityToday’s Word: ‘unity’ as in… oneness isn’t sameness.

Through the years Nancy Lee and I have led a lot of couples through a lot (how many?!?!?!?) of marriage retreats. Remember Naniboujou?

I recall one evening after the last session of the day, a guy I knew pretty well came up to me and somewhat jokingly (from his perspective) asked me a question: “How can I be happy when my partner drives me nuts?” We chuckled (awkwardly) for a moment and then I replied, “That’s funny … your partner just asked the same question about you!” Oneness isn’t sameness.

Or as Tony Jones has said, “Unity is oneness of purpose, not sameness of persons.”

That works. We thrive as missional people who embrace a vision of life and aliveness by creating a momentum of healing and unity.

#100days50words

Healing

HealingToday’s Word: ‘HEALING’ as in… we thrive as missional people who create a momentum of healing wherever we live, work, and play.

It takes time to do this. It also takes effort, hard work, and energy.

If it helps, think of a flywheel. A dictionary definition of this is a heavy revolving wheel in a machine which is used to increase momentum and thereby provide greater stability or a reserve of available power.

Or this: think of the movement of a parent in the life of a child, slowly moving that child to learn to live well with others. Think of the movement of teachers helping students understand the complexities of learning communities. Think of the movement of responsible leaders in faith communities, city leaders, national leaders, international leaders working to not only bring people together but helping them learn what it means to live together in healing ways that bring life and aliveness to everyone.

Healing – we could all use some. We could all create some. Jacinda Ardern has, and will, no doubt, continue to show us how this is done on both a local and a global scale.
#100days50words

 

Momentum

Queenstown NoteToday’s Word: ‘momentum’ as in… we thrive as missional people who embrace a vision of life and aliveness by creating a momentum of healing.

On our last evening in Queenstown we are surrounded by a country full of people who are kind, helpful, and loving. A momentum of healing is all around us. From the servers at Yonder to the dude selling tee-shirts and caps at the All Blacks retails store, people are genuinely kind and generous. A momentum of life is beginning to take hold again.

Momentum… as in a thriving kind of note left anonymously on a park bench on the waterfront of this amazing city.

#100days50words

Aliveness

Wanaka Tree AlivenessToday’s Word: ‘aliveness’ as in… one more trip through Buechner’s remarkable reminder to…

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

#100days50words

Life

LifeToday’s Word: ‘life’ as in… we have it so what will we do with it today? How will we nurture it, how can we most generatively share life with others?

Our server asked me, “How’s your day going?” to which I responded, “best day of my life…” to which the server responded, “Really? Why’s that?” to which I responded, “Because I have it… this is the best day of our lives because we have our lives!” Our server paused, looked right at me and said, “That’s amazing; that’s about right.”

This is not a flippant response to “How’s your day going?” At some deeper level to acknowledge that this is the best day, our best moment, is to acknowledge that this day has all kinds of potential for life and aliveness in us and in the lives of others with whom we live, move and have our being. When we begin to frame each day this way, whatever we create with each day takes on new purpose.

I often think back to the Mary Oliver poem I’m referenced on January 5 in which Mary asks,

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life…” today?

#100days50words

Vision

Vision WanakaToday’s Word: ‘vision’ as in… seeing something that needs to become a reality before it has yet to arrive and harnessing the strength of a community to work together to make that happen. Deleting hatred and harnessing love is a good start.

#100days50words

Mission

Isthmus 2Today’s Word: ‘mission’ as in… purposeful, intentional movement toward the goal or destination.

Not to simplify, because it’s never simple, this has to be done just one day at a time, one step at a time, one relationship at a time, one interaction at a time.

Our sisters and brothers here in New Zealand are already moving with deeper purpose and intention toward making their communities safer. As they embrace this mission and we right along with them, we’ll all experience the wonder, beauty and joy of thriving lives. The only way to get where you’re going is to do it just one day at a time, one step at a time, one relationship at a time, one interaction at a time.

#100days50words