HOME #14 – laying down our lives

I grew up in a pastor’s home. I had a front row seat in watching what it means to lay down your life for your friends.  My dad & mom pastored an urban church of 100-200 people while my dad also taught school full time. Though he loved his life, it never really seemed “fair” to me! Although there was something about my dad that drove him, from my perspective as his son I never felt any bitterness or resentment in him.

What I do remember was a resolve… something lived with him that held him, animated him, brought him to life. It was a life of ministry. Somewhere along the way in his life he had given himself over to friendship with Jesus to a place where it consumed him. I don’t know if he ever directly invited that to happen. I assume he did but I never really knew. But, regardless his way of life vibrated with service to others and it was always because Jesus had loved him first.

There are people you would lay down your life for. I have them too. But it is rare to find someone who has been so consumed in friendship with Jesus that they have laid down their life for him. How can you tell? One of Jesus best friends, John (kind of fitting to me that my dad had the same name as one of Jesus best friends) wrote “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” I John 3:16. It is also poetic that the reference is “3:16” as John 3:16 references the sacrifice God the Father & Son gave so that we can have eternal life!

You know that someone is being consumed in friendship with Jesus because they express it by laying down their life in whatever they do just like Him. But it is never a bitter or resentful sacrifice. It is one that honors Jesus & brings others to life!

HOME #13 – Dare to be a ___________

Yes it’s true! I actually found the song “Dare to Be a Daniel” on youtube! Can you believe it? Whenever we would sing it in “Children’s Church” in that musty lower level of our granite church on White Street in Springfield, Ma I would feel a little funny. Even though my proper name was “Dana”, my family & my church friends called me “Danny” and once in a while “Daniel”. So, in my active boy imagination I would dream & pretend that I was named “Daniel” and I dreamed that it was because I had the courage  of this Hebrew hero prophet and would some day earn the honor.

“Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone

Dare to have a purpose firm, dare to make it known.”

I also remember those “tween-ager” years from 10-12 years old when I began to feel the heat of a community outside of my church and even in some close friendships who didn’t share my faith in Jesus, the Bible or heroes like “Daniel”. It was during those years that the sea of my secure little world started to get a little rough and I felt for the first time what it was like to fold under the pressure of fear. “Standing alone” or “Making anything known” that might cause somebody to disagree with me definitely wasn’t on my agenda.

I can see now that I was being dared to be myself. There are very few people who lay down their lives for their God designed mission. I missed something in those foundational years that I have been rediscovering: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And so are you! Our creator God is also the One who has made a promise… who has put a His own name on the line through a covenant that if I will trust Him, I will become His artwork, His poetry.

To be honest I can’t remember a time in my life that I wasn’t being taught about this. But, what I missed was that I would have to be brave because the odds were stacked against me and I would have to learn to fight along with God’s Spirit in order to have the life of my dreams. I guess it was actually God who was daring me. I am glad to say that these days I am not as surprised when I have to fight for who God has called me to be in Jesus Christ. More and more I find myself praying that our eyes would be opened to actually see each other and be willing once again to surrender to Jesus & dare to be ourselves in Him.

HOME #12 (My Story)

In the past several days I have been revisiting a conversation with God that I haven’t had for while. It involves asking Him to come and make His Presence known in and around my life. It has taken me back to read Exodus 32 & 33. I love the sense about Moses that success or failure weren’t the most important issues to him… He loved God’s Presence and would not budge until God promised to go with him and the tribes of Israel.

In the midst of this conversation I came across a video and a poem that I want to share with you. I shared a link below to the vid; “Lost Generation” and “The Vision” by Wendell Berry. Hope they stir you up!

There is a hunger rising in many hearts to cry out to God with the same heart… “More than anything, God show us your glory and don’t send us any where unless your Presence goes with us.” If there is a fire in you for God’s presence, fan it into a blaze! You are needed in this time!! There is hope!

Lost Generation by Jonathan Reed http://youtu.be/42E2fAWM6rA

“A Vision”

If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow-growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it,
if we will make our seasons welcome here,
asking not too much of earth or heaven,
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
there, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides, fields and gardens
rich in the windows. The river will run
clear, as we will never know it,
and over it, birdsong like a canopy.
On the levels of the hills will be
green meadows, stock bells in noon shade.
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.
The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields.
In their voices they will hear a music
risen out of the ground. They will take
nothing from the ground they will not return,
whatever the grief at parting. Memory,
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its possibility

HOME #11 (My Story)

This morning I found myself tweeting this message, “Friendship with Jesus Christ is the key  to unlock every prison”.  Then I went back to the task in front of me which was getting dressed and ready for the day.

I began to think that if friendship with Jesus is the key that unlocks all of my prison doors then friendship with me is the key to do the same for people who connect with me today and every day.

When I look at the story of my life, I can see that living as a person who can’t be held under lock and key anymore has been quite a learning process.  I can’t remember a time in my life that I didn’t believe in God and all that my church taught about Jesus.

My struggle has always been with the pressure to behave in certain ways and to say or not say certain things in the course of relating to my world and my Christian community. And it wasn’t just about my conversation. There were things that a Christian shouldn’t and/or couldn’t do or places I couldn’t go because I was a Christian.

From an early age I took on a ton of guilt and shame because my heart and the real me didn’t match up with the behaviour that was expected of me by my church. So, like most of the kids in our church youth group I learned to hide who I really was in religious situations.  Tragically I had no real grasp on the reality that I had an original voice that God had woven into the fabric of who I was… even as a child.

I had an incredibly supportive family and a great school system to explore and make the most of… but I hated myself because I couldn’t seem to find whatever it took on the inside of myself to measure up to my religion.  The saddest part of those years is that I pretty much completely missed the amazing life I could have been enjoying.  What if I could have found my real voice and been activated into a life of reflecting His image into my world by just being myself before my Creator?

So, I lived a lie. My high school experience was lived as two different people. One of them was a well behaved church (religious) kid and the other was what I understood to be the real me.

It wasn’t until I landed at a Christian college that I got real with God and myself. There are two things that I remember saying to God as I left home as a 17 year old to enroll in Bible College. The first was “God, I know this might just land me in hell, but if I can’t discover something real for me in following Jesus during this school year, then I am done with the Church and Christianity for good. I’m sure hell will be awful. But, if all there is to being a Christian is what I have been part of so far, forget it!”

And, the second conversation came about half way through that school year as I cried out to God through tears and from my heart, “God, whether you are glad about this or not, you are stuck with me, failures and everything, because of how much you have loved me and set me from through Jesus, you are gonna have to reject me to get rid of me!” And, he hasn’t sent me away yet 🙂

He has set me free from prisons in my emotions, my sense of self and my life purpose. I want to offer up this prayer:

Jesus, knowing you is the key to unlocking the door to every prison I might find myself in whether it’s one of my own making or imposed by someone else. Words can never express how grateful I am for what you have done by setting me free to actually live. But, I pray that you will fill me and express your heart through me so that people will find that knowing your Spirit through me is the key that unlocks the chains and the bars that hold them captive. Use me to help them find the key for themselves.  Amen

“Home” (formerly ‘My Story’)

I have decided to change the name of the series I have been posting called “My Story” to “Home”. It will continue to be dedicated to telling of my journey of living as a Jesus follower. My desire in sharing it is to inspire you to “really” live & to be activated in the purpose God has for your life.

One of Jesus followers named Luke describes a story Jesus told in Luke 15. Most people refer to the story is as “The Prodigal Son”. You likely know the story & could tell it yourself. I love that story especially because it reveals a picture of our eternal Father & his love for each of us. He is the father who runs to us, hugs us, kisses us & knows how to throw a party to celebrate His sons & daughters whether or not we think we deserve it!

A few months ago I was praying and listening for God’s heart in this story when the most intriguing thought landed… I felt the Lord saying to me; “I want you to love my home more than you love being worthy!”. It occurred to me that both sons in the story were focused on their worthiness… what they deserved. The younger son felt outside the family because he was “unworthy to be a son” and the older son was bitter because he deserved (was worthy of) a party but never had one. In his anger he left his Father’s house and refused to go in and party with the family.

As I continue to share my story in hopes that you will start telling yours, I am going to call it “Home”. Maybe you will join me as I learn to love God’s home more than I love being worthy!

My Story #10

I believe that God has woven an original “voice” in me. By voice I don’t only mean a speaking or singing voice. I am talking about a unique way of introducing life into the world.

From my earliest memories I have been part of a family and a community of people who know God exists and more than anything else they want to be at peace with how they are supposed to relate to their Creator.

The biggest gift of my life was being born into a family who introduced me to Jesus Christ. Now, wait a second before you figure you already know where I am going with this…

In some pretty fundamental ways I feel like I am just really beginning to get what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

I didn’t realize until recently that one of the most important treasures that I can find and share with God is my voice, my way of expressing my heart. For me, it happens when I listen to music, play an instrument or sing. When I find and express my voice, especially when I am focused on my heart and not distracted, I come to the moment with a genuineness that washes over me with the understanding that life is real and I am alive. There is something else that happens… God meets me there. Many times I plan on the meeting. But, most of the time I am surprised as I become aware of the the presence of God’s Spirit just being in the moment with me.

Often I wonder what He wants from me. But, with the eyes of my heart I peak over at my Creator and He just seems to be enjoying the music… weird, eh?

But, frankly it’s nobody else’s business because this is my voice and I am expressing it with the One who made me and still has a purpose for me. That purpose starts in our enjoyment of each other’s voice.

You see, I am coming to see that when I worship God with my real voice, He is able to come and begin to bring His voice to me and it is there that I can be set on fire and be a bright refection of His image in my world.

More than anything, I would love to see in my lifetime a movement of people young and old who have found their voice and discovered God there.

I believe that is what Jesus Christ showed us in his birth, life, death and victory over death.

To be honest, all of creation is waiting for you and me to raise our voices and make it our business to shine the image of God once again.


My Story #9

Some people seem to have this sense of self confidence that says to rest of us, “I have my opinion but I do respect your right to be wrong”!

I am not one of those people. In fact, for my own good I could have used a little more of that attitude in my younger years.

We are all complex people with our own reasons why we act in our unique ways. But, there are many moments that I look back on in regret that I didn’t fight more for myself.

I do happen to be a Jesus follower. He has welcomed me into His family and His restored way of life… “real freedom”.

As I have journeyed through my life as a Christian, I must admit that God has done lots of tearing down and rebuilding in me.

Much of the rebuilding has been in teaching me to understand myself and what my original design was to be.

There are people all around me worth fighting for, sacrificing for and even laying down my life for… beginning with myself.

There is a revolution you and I have been summoned to join. It is laying all “falseness” and “fakeness” aside and jumping over the edge into the creative fire of God’s design for us as individuals. Our hope of survival in life is only found in Jesus Christ. The Bible calls it the “mystery hidden for ages… Christ in us the hope of glory”!

I am worth fighting for and so are you!!

My story #8

The Loft Sessions – Walk in the Promise

I grew up at 82 White Street. I was given beautiful gifts by my dad and mom. One was their determination to take me into consideration in the late ’70s as I approached my high school graduation in 1980. My dad had received many opportunities to pastor churches in “better” places but we stayed there on White Street allowing me to finish high school years in the school system where I was at home. What a huge benefit that was to me. Thank you!!

Another gift was showing me the world of art. This is the dimension… the reality where I am at home and at peace. My mom was in love with music. It was most definitely her happy place. She meshed that into the way she raised me and nurtured the same love in me.

As I sit here this morning and write while listening to beautiful music by Jeremy Riddle of Bethel Music   I am being swept away into the realm where it all comes alive and the grave clothes unravel and fall off of me… music… art… creating with The Creator.

Will you come with me into this place? Will you let yourself go and free fall to soar on the breath of the Spirit on the wings of the art woven in to your very being?

Our Creator has knit creativity into us. At our response to His invitation it sparks to life and lights the world in a million expressions.

There is a growing congregation of us who have gathered around the world unknown to each other and yet we are waiting for you to express your art as you fall in love with the Son and His kingdom again.

I can’t wait!!


My story #7 “Awesomeness”

I know that God the Creator has been having a private conversation with me my whole life. I didn’t always know it. But, I understand now that I have never been alone.

I have been misunderstood many times. I have felt disappointed, bruised, broken, guilty, sad, angry, rejected, etc…

In my life I have also been celebrated, loved, hugged, kissed, thrilled out of my mind, accepted, promoted, honoured and respected as well.

But, I have never been alone.

If I take the most honest look at myself, I have to admit that I have even been more ready to condemn and reject myself than my Father God has been willing to walk away from me. It has been His patience and kindness toward me that has given me the strength to always try again.

Many of us are waking up to God’s appointment of us through a burning love

for  Jesus and His way of living (His kingdom).

He has designed us and given us life so that we will be walking signs of His awesomeness. 

But, the way of entering that awesomeness is not what I expected. Much of the journey that I have taken would probably have been labeled a “waste” by many people. The question the “friends” of Jesus asked on that day when the woman broke open her treasure and poured it out on Jesus was “Why this waste…?”

I used to care about that question. But, I don’t anymore. In order for a plant to grow, the seed must die

In order for me to live in the awesomeness of my 

destiny, I must smash my treasure (dreams, hopes, agenda, ambitions, etc…)

and pour it out in love on Jesus.

That is “why this waste…” 🙂  

Do you honestly think that your Creator and lover will abandon you? You are his artistry.

My Story #6 – Grade 5 Sunday School and Weapons of War

I had a memorable dream several years ago. I was part of a group being led on a tour of a historic battleground. As we made our way along the smooth paved pathway, there were carefully placed stacks of weapons all along our route. I saw piles of rifles, automatic weapons, along with swords, shields, maces, axes, etc.

It seemed to me like there were weapons from the different ages of world history.

As our tour guide was in the midst of her rehearsed speech, she made a special announcement. She explained to us that this was a special day at the battlefield exhibit and on this day we would each be allowed to take one of the weapons of war home with us. It wasn’t going to be the weapon of our choice. But, she and the staff would give each of us their choice of weapon for us.

I was handed a leather bound book, it looked like a journal. I was immediately disappointed! A book?? Out of all of epic weapons stacked all around us, all they could manage to send home with me was a book? In my bitterness, I decided to untie the case and look at the book.

As I looked inside the leather cover, I discovered that it was a bible. But, it wasn’t just any bible. It was a gift edition I had received from my Grade Five Sunday School Teacher, Mrs. Sears. It was a reward for memorizing and reciting the books of the Bible. I knew that’s what it was because the inscription inside the cover had the words she had written there in her own hand writing:

“Sin will keep you from this book, but this book will keep you from sin.”

I have discovered that book several times throughout my life and fondly remembered Mrs. Sears. She was a tough cookie and you didn’t mess around in her class. But, she poured out her love on us and into our lives. I have often read these words she wrote more than thirty five years ago. I can still smell that musty classroom and the wooden folding table and I can remember her distinct voice. I had no idea at the time that she was spending her time with us every Sunday morning because she loved us and wanted us to never fear this world knowing that the Lord would never leave us or forsake us. She volunteered her time and energy and endless patience in order to open our eyes to the best thing in life… “Because of Jesus and all He had done, we could be friends with God.”

I’m still not sure exactly what she meant by the words on the inside cover of my gift Bible. But, I do know about sin and the hundreds of times I have failed and how much darkness has made me feel separate from my Creator.  And I have learned that my only hope for survival in life is knowing what God has stored up in His word for me.

Yeah, I do believe that the Bible is God’s word. But, I don’t want to ever forget that it  would have no power or authority unless it had come from God and unless it leads us to know Him in a deeper way.

So, I guess the moral of my dream is that the best weapon of war I can ever take into my life and my home and be skilled in using is God’s word.

This life is war and we can’t be surprised when we have to fight for our lives against ruthless enemies. We never know when hardship will strike and try to take us out. But, our God does something crazy for us along the way if we will open our eyes to it. David talked about it when he penned the words in Psalm 23:

 “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

Thanks King David and thanks Mrs Sears. You both helped to change my life!