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Are all comfort zones created equal?

One of the ways I understand my calling and vocation as pastor is to challenge people to move out off their comfort zones. A better way to say this may be that I want to encourage people to follow Jesus, who inevitably, I believe, leads one out of one comfort zones.

Simply becoming uncomfortable is not necessarily what God would have us do, but I don’t recall Jesus saying to anyone, “stay the same. Don’t change.” (So apparently Jesus never signed a yearbook)

Then, the other day, a conversation with Rachel challenged me on this point. Getting others or of their comfort zones is one thing. But what if I settle into a comfort zone of getting others out of theirs?

Got me to thinking that my ability, even my credibility in this regard is strengthened when I am following Jesus in ways that stretch me and draw me from my own comfort zones.

In other words, Jesus isn’t interested in getting you to a different place or onto another plateau. Following Jesus is opening oneself to a journey that doesn’t end.

So I am, as a pastor, challenged to follow Paul’s example of inviting others to follow my example. But my example ought to be changing, growing, moving – else I am not modeling what it is to follow Jesus.

You are NOT alone!


“I don’t have time for this!” I thought this morning, as I realized the lane I was in was closed just ahead. I sat through a cycle of the traffic light wishing I had gone a different route.

Less than a second after the “I don’t have time for this!” thought, it hit me that I was surrounded by cars with drivers and some with passengers NONE of whom likely had time for this, either.

Which reminded me of the sign you see to the left: “BRIDGE ICES BEFORE ROAD.” On a road trip through Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas last week, I saw probably a few hundred such signs.

Early in my experience of these signs I noticed that I had begun to read them “bridges ice before road” rather than “bridge ices before road.”

The moving of one ‘s’ hardly changes the meaning of the sign.  In fact, I don’t imagine either reading would prove more or less effective than the other.

On the other hand, the moving of that one letter makes a HUGE difference!

“Bridges ice before road” is  a true statement.  That signs are posted for each (or most) particular bridges does nothing to change the fact that icing before the road is a characteristic common to all bridges.

If this is true about all bridges, why does each sign refer only to the bridge it is posted near?

I do not know the answer to that question other than as it relates to my not having time to be stuck in traffic this morning.  I didn’t.  No one else did, either.

One of the great challenges we have living in community is that too many of us seem to live focused entirely on ourselves and our needs.  Too often and too easily we get so caught up in our own stuff that we don’t take the time to notice that most other people share many of the same needs and interests as we have.

If we were bridges, we would all ice before the road.

How might it help you negotiate your world this week if you grow your awareness that other people have many of the same needs, interests, desires, distractions, burdens, anxieties that you have?

My Lent 2014

It feels surreal to think that 2 years ago I gave up blogging for Lent and this year I am taking it up again for Lent.  Since moving, I’ve posted far less often than I used to. For the next several weeks, that will change.

I pondered this first post all day yesterday, Ash Wednesday.  Sadly, I never actually got the time to write it.

“Lent,” I read somewhere, is an archaic word meaning “spring,” as in the season.  It stands to reason, as Lent always overlaps with spring, and certainly at least always occurs during the time of year when the days start getting longer. (I hate to cite wikipedia as a source, but this information is corroborated there)

So, on Ash Wednesday, as I am pondering ashes and burlap and dead branches and crowns of thorns, I realize that I am, that we are, considering all these things, stark, rough, lifeless as they appear, for the sake of life.

Lent is, after all, about preparing for resurrection.  While Jesus did say that death precedes life (John 12;24), and that numerous times called any who would follow him to deny themselves (Luke 9:23, for instance), I believe we have sapping the wisdom from these teachings in the interest of legalism and moralism.

As UnChristian pointed out, many people think of Christians first with words like “judgmental” and “hypocritical.”  We have earned the reputation because too often we have made following Jesus more about a list of things we don’t do (and you shouldn’t either!) than about the quality of life Jesus offers through his death and resurrection.

So, while Lent may include practices of introspection, somber moods, self-denial, etc., we do well to remember that these are not the point.


Whatever you do during Lent – whether you take on something or give up something, may you do it with the goal of resurrection life in sight, not simply to prove to yourself, others, or God, that you can make a change for 40 days.


Why are we so quick to blame?  Yes, I’ve painted that with a broad brush, but as I used the first person, I thought it fair.

Perhaps, actually, the problem as it broke upon me Sunday morning is less about blame than about the way we use our language.  Perhaps you can help me decide.

We have recently developed new, updated nametags for our church. We are int he process of replacing the old ones, as well as trying to keep up with all the new ones we need for new attenders and regular guests.

Twice this past Sunday I was approached with this statement: “You misspelled my name on this nametag!”  I, of course, quickly clarified that I had not personally done any of the nametags, so I had not misspelled anyone’s name.  After this clarification, I asked each of the individuals if they would write a note to our office including their correctly spelled name.

In each case I attempted to make it clear that we do not intentionally misspell anyone’s name, and that we regret the mistake.

It was only later that I realized that the same conversation, reaching the same outcome, could have begun with a declaratory “My name is misspelled” rather than the accusatory, “You misspelled my name.”

I believe I am onto something.  I would guess that much of what becomes difficult, even damaging, in relationships, starts with an accusation where a declaration would be at least as appropriate a characterization, and far less damaging.

Unless you are certain that you want to, even need to seek to blame, would you be willing to change your language from accusatory to declaratory?


Where is God? Where are you?

It must be God! Right?

77 Preachers Can’t be Wrong!

I saw this claim on the bottom of a poster in a shop window.  My immediate response was a chuckling, “Yes, they could.”  If you look back over the last couple hundred years, you’ll notice we get it wrong sometimes.

This post isn’t really about preachers getting it wrong.  Today I am thinking more about the way we try to make numbers work for us.

We like to think and proclaim that success presumes God’s blessing, and we especially like to throw numbers around to support this. For example, who hasn’t heard this kind of claim: “That church has grown from nothing to 10,000 in five years – God must be in it!”

If you are thinking I am on a rant because your church is bigger than my church, give me a couple of paragraphs, please.

I am not negging numbers; I am concerned that a focus merely on numbers never tells the whole story.  Oh, sure, numbers are measureable – and in these MBA days we are all about metrics and measurability.

But can you measure a soul, or the growth thereof?  Is the distance of a person from God something that can be expressed in units?  Tell me, please, precisely, how much closer you are to Jesus today than one year ago today.

There are more Baptists than United Methodists – does that make them better?  There are more Muslims than Baptists…?  One of the fastest growing religious demographics in the US is “none of the above” – Does this mean that God’s blessing is most on those choosing no religion at all?

Numbers are a part of the picture of success, but only a part.


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