Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Blue Like Jazz" and Making Choices

Following Jesus isn't just about life after death or a place called heaven. It's very much about where we are right now.

In Blue Like Jazz, author Donald Miller explains this by introducing readers to his friend, Tony. Tony, a Jesus-follower, thinks Jesus really wants to significantly impact this life, right now. He believes Jesus aims to make this life an off-the-chart better experience for us. Jesus does this by offering a radical, game-changing alternative in how we decide what we'll do moment-by-moment. It's like Tony is suggesting a brand new, mental filter to pour life through.

But first, the old filter.

In Blue Like Jazz, Donald inserts a story, complete with pictures, to depict the predominant filter (me-life) for humans. Life gets poured through this old filter. It only releases those choices consistent with a life lived the way I prefer to live it; a life chasing what I want to have ; and life spent doing what I want to do. Donald's story is called "Sexy Carrot," starring Don Rabbit. Take a couple of minutes to watch it.

Don Rabbit's pursuit came down to this: "I see what I want and go for it, fully expecting the very best results when I get it." But getting the carrot becomes a bum deal!

Donald tells about Tony's take on a game-changing alternative, which restructures how we decide to do what we do:
Ultimately, (now) we do what we love to do (a me-life filter). I (Donald) like to think that I do things for the right reasons, but I don't, I do things because I do or don't love doing them. Because of sin, because I am self-addicted, living in the wreckage of the fall, my body, my heart, and my affections are prone to love things that kill me. Tony says Jesus gives us the ability to love the things we should love (Jesus-life filter). Tony says that when people who follow Jesus love the right things, they help create God's kingdom on earth, and that is something beautiful (Donald Miller. Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality).
To me, this is how the transformation looks:
1. Our human default is to do what we love to do.

2. Jesus offers us the ability to love the things we should love.

3. When humans actually begin to love the right things...

4. They help bring God's quality of life to earth...

5. Which becomes something beautiful.
If all of this were true, would it ramp up your curiosity about Jesus?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Do you think Jesus likes a good bike ride?

I don't know who wrote this story, but I know friends who embody it:


"I used to think of God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there, sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn't really know Him.

But later on, when I met Jesus, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Jesus was in the back helping me pedal. I didn't know just when it was He suggested we change, but life has not been the same since I took the back-seat to Jesus, my Lord. He makes life exciting. When I had control, I thought I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at break-through speeds; it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it often looked like madness, He said, "Pedal!" I was worried and anxious and asked, 'Where are you taking me?' He laughed and didn't answer and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into adventure. And when I'd say, 'I'm scared', He'd lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, my Lord's and mine. And we were off again. He said, 'Give the gifts away; they're extra baggage, too much weight.' So I did, to the people we met, and I found in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He'd wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I'm beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus.

And when I'm sure I just can't do any more, He just smiles and says... 'Pedal!'"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Rethinking Blessings

Songs grab me in stronger ways than written or spoken words. It happens each time I hear Laura Story's song, "Blessings." Her song helps me redefine blessings. She explains her experience this:

"What does it look like when I spend years praying for healing for my husband that never comes? I feel like we’ve gotten to a place of having to make a choice- are we going to judge God based on our circumstances that we don’t understand? Or are we going to choose to judge our circumstances based on what we hold to be true of God? I’m learning that every morning when I wake up, to choose to trust God. And that’s what “blessings” is about. It’s just considering… Maybe the blesing is actually found in the absence of the thing that I'm praying for."--Laura Story
Watch Laura's YouTube HERE.

"Blessings" Lyrics:
We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

Courtesy of

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Help me to see Your blessings differently. Even to see any and all brokenness as a potential pathways for blessings. I trust You.

Help my response to brokenness to always include the trust to look through it and limp to the blessing of being closer to You. --Rusty

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Toughest question ever?

Without hesitation, I think this is it:
"Who do you say I am?”--Jesus
Imagine every possible response from people, including all Christians around the world.

If Jesus actually is who he claimed to be, my answer to it should change everything for me!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Improvisational "Music" With Jesus

Donald Miller writes, “I think the most important thing that happens within a Christian spiritually is when a person falls in love with Jesus” (Blue Like Jazz).

Miller associates Christian spirituality with jazz music, which was invented by the first generation coming out of slavery. Jazz is a genre of musical expression that’s very hard to “put on paper.” Why? Because “it is so much more a language of the soul. It is as if the soul is saying something very difficult to get on paper. But is no less real, no less meaningful, no less beautiful.”

That’s what following Jesus is supposed to be like. A relationship beyond the superficial, where we participate in something too deep and real for words alone to articulate.

Paul prays for his readers to grow into a “knowledge” of God--an indescribable, inexpressible knowledge.

“I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally” (Ephesians 1:17).

I want to know Jesus that way. And I want that for you. Both of us so wrapped up in him, where we share together and with others, as Miller says, an improvisational “music birthed out of freedom.”

Jesus and Wacky Religion

Jesus consistently showed perfect timing in using conflict to expose religion that's gone wacky!

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. 2 Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.

3 Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” 4 Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?”But they wouldn’t answer him.

5 He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! 6 At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus (Mark 3:1-6).

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Thought from Matthew 25-27

In Matthew 25 is the great judgment scene involving everyone. While reading it this morning, it made me recall Richard Stearns and his updated spin on what Jesus said.

Jesus made it very personal. Stearns renders it like this:
For I (Jesus) was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved. RESV — RICHARD E. STEARNS VERSION

Monday, November 07, 2011

Matthew 22-24:

One thought from Matthew 22:

Jesus saw life as the experience of forming human beings into people who love God and who love others like he does.

35One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Matthew 19-21 - Rich Young Ruler

What did Jesus see in the rich man that the rich man could not see in himself?

Jesus saw his potential.

Jesus met all kinds of people--fisherman, children, Samaritans, tax collectors, criminals, prostitutes, the poor, the rich, the demon-possessed, etc. Jesus saw hidden magnificence in every person. He could bring it out of anyone.

Yes, I know the rich man who came to Jesus was too attached to wealth, but Jesus saw the hidden treasure. He saw how the man's whole life could be transformed. The rich man was so close to the life he was meant to live. Jesus knew it. The man just needed to trust Jesus more than his own instincts.

But on the day he heard Jesus say, "Follow me," he could not imagine leaving behind the life he had known for the one Jesus offered.

And that's the rub for us all. Jesus invites us to embrace a story unlike any other plot line we've ever considered.

But it's THE LIFE into which Jesus invites all people. Any person can step into it.

Jesus sees glorious possibilities for all of us, if we're willing to release whatever it is that's keeping us from actually becoming a Jesus-follower.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Monthly Jesus-Reading Schedule

Jesus Readings


1 - Matt. 1-3

2 - Matt. 4-6

3 - Matt. 7-9

4 - Matt. 10-12

5 - Matt. 13-15

6 - Matt. 16-18

7 - Matt. 19-21

8 - Matt. 22-24

9 - Matt. 25-27

10 - Matt. 28-Mk. 2

11 - Mk. 3-5

12 - Mk. 6-8

13 - Mk. 9-11

14 - Mk. 12-14

15 - Mk. 15-Lk. 1

16 - Lk. 2-4

17 - Lk. 5-7

18 - Lk. 8-10

19 - Lk. 11-13

20 - Lk. 14-16

21 - Lk. 17-19

22 - Lk. 20-22

23 - Lk. 23-Jn. 1

24 - Jn. 2-4

25 - Jn. 5-7

26 - Jn. 8-10

27 - Jn. 11-13

28 - Jn. 14-16

29 - Jn. 17-19

30 - Jn. 20-21

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Living Art

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago(Ephesians 2:10).

Michelangelo’s sculptures express his genius, even to my untrained eyes. Shakespeare’s plays point to a master. Beethoven's symphonies suggest incomparable talent.

But, the words above, which are from the Bible say that, in some way, a person who follows the way of Jesus becomes a “masterpiece" crafted by God no less.

It says that in choosing to follow Jesus, something remarkable emerges--Living Art.

Is that true? I know I wore the Christian-tag for years and didn't really follow the ways of Jesus. I was missing the boat. But these past few years, I've been re-thinking what it means to for me be a Jesus-follower. I've been by reading the gospel stories about Jesus over and over. And I've been keeping my eyes on Jesus-followers who seem to be paying attention to the radical ways of Jesus.

And so when I read the verse above about being God's Living Art, I see it in Jesus. He lived art-fully and so do some people that I know.

So the verse seems to say something like this to me: “Look at the Jesus-followers you'v come to admire. Think about the difference God has made and keeps making in their lives. He started with their wrecked, busted, and broken lives. God found people stuck in lesser stories and led them into a better story. In it, God is crafting them. They are becoming something beautiful in God's hands as they choose to re-think Jesus and his ways.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Max Lucado's "Max on Life" video

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."

"I'm not homeless. I'm houseless. I have a home, just not a house."

"It's taken me a long time to figure this out: To not focus on the problem, but on the One bringing me through the problem."--Shared at Open Table

I learn best in conversations with people. So after watching Part One of the "Max on Life" video this morning, I looked around at 9 fascinating people. And boy, did I ever learn from Anthony, Betty, Carrie H., Clint, Judy, Toni, Kathy, Russell, and Carrie M.

It was the Thursday "Open Table" group. These friends know so much about Jesus and life lived his way. The video and the things shared weren't just good. They were off the charts!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jesus defined "missional living."

He didn't think in "summer missions" or "1-week mission trips" or "I'm-going-to-do-some-mission-work" terms.

It never occurred to him to announce, "I'm beginning my mission work." Yes, I know about his message in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4). But his announcement there didn't mark the beginning of his way of going about life. He had 30 years of missional living experience by then. It was love God and love people daily, perfectly, consistently, quietly, tangibly.

Mission was his life. Every step. Every word. Every smile. Every kindness. Every prayer. Every thought. Every tear.

That really came home to me while reading recently in John 7-8. Jesus repeatedly used the word "sent," in reference to the Father, as the "the One who sent Me" (cf. John 7:16, 18, 28, 29, 33; 8:29). Jesus lived the "sent-life." He woke up every morning on-mission. He never knew another way to do life. For Jesus, life was only about missional living.

So following him involves this perspective on life. To follow Jesus means living the "sent-life." It's going out everyday and intentionally staying on-mission.

Jesus summed it up like this for his followers: "Just as the Father sent me, I send you" (John 20:21, The Message).

So what would that look like?

For starters, Jeff Vanderstelt has a short video. It helped me consider how Jesus-followers could step deeper into the "sent-life" of Jesus. HERE.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"When It's All Been Said And Done" Lyrics

When I think about all of my moments, experiences, mess-ups, and failures, I remember the words of this song.*

You can hear Robin Mark sing it HERE. Words and music by Jim Cowan:

When it's all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth
Did I live my life for You
When it's all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I've done for love's reward
Will stand the test of time

Lord Your mercy is so great
That You look beyond our weakness
And find purest gold in miry clay
Making sinners into saints

I will always sing Your praise
Here on earth and ever after
For You've shown me Heaven's my
True home

When it's all been said and done
You're my life when life is gone
Lord I'll live my life for You.
*The lyrics lead me to the toughest question ever.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Following Jesus (1)

"Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. 'Follow me and be my disciple,' Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him" (Mark 2:13-14).
When he offered the invitation to follow and be a disciple, Jesus wasn't looking for people who just wanted him to tinker with their lives or just be forgiven of sins, so they could go to heaven. Jesus wanted followers, who were willing to become like Jesus. They would let Jesus change everything: actions, activities, attitudes, priorities, dreams, habits, focus--everything!

And the deal is, Jesus has not down-sized the initial invite. There's no such thing as "Jesus-LITE", where he gives friendship and forgiveness to all of those who choose to be followers. Instead, the total package of Jesus-Life includes friendship and forgiveness, as well as an entirely new identity plus a radically different, Spirit-empowered way to live. His one and only, total package offer still stands. "Follow me and be my disciple"--Jesus.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Flaws as the New Perfection

Donald Miller makes me laugh frequently. His word also habitually make me think. So he has this blog on flaws here. I've got plenty, so he real me in. I read. And I watch this video that Don includes.

Then Don ends the flaws blog with this note "Feel fee to share your very favorite flaws in the comments below."

Here's what I wrote:

"That’s a new twist… my “very favorite flaw.”
Before now, I would have positioned that
near the top of my “Very Obvious
Oxymoron” list. But you got me to

My very favorite flaw is trying to be a perfectionist in stuff I’m turning out or doing that I know somebody else is going to see. And underneath that is being driven by people-pleasing, people-liking-me, and people-accepting-me mania.

Perfectionism is now my “favorite flaw” because of Jesus. Now this crazy, futile obsession has been redeemed. Father is perfect. Jesus is perfect. Spirit is perfect. I can relax in how they love me, see me, and keep perfecting me, even and especially in how I see me! So when my stubborn flaw ambushes me, I’ve got a better thought to replace it with. Thanks for the reminder!"

So do you want to give this a try?

Read Don's blog, watch the video, and leave a comment--feel fee to share your very favorite flaw.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


"Denial is a favorite method of coping for many Christians. But not with Jesus. He wants truth in the inmost being, and to get it there he's got to take us into our inmost being. One way he'll do this is by bringing up an old memory. You'll be driving down the road and suddenly remember something from your childhood. Or maybe you'll have a dream about a long-forgotten person, event, or place. However he brings it up, go with him there. He has something to say to you.

The lessons that have been laid down in pain can be accessed only in pain. Christ must open the wound, not just bandage it over. Sometimes he'll take us there by having an event repeat itself years later, only with new characters in the current situation. We find ourselves overlooked for a job, just as we were overlooked by our parents. Or we experience fear again, just as we felt those lonely nights in our room upstairs. These are all invitations to go with him into the deep waters of the heart, uncover the lies buried down there, and bring in the truth that will set us free. Don't just bury it quickly; ask God what he is wanting to speak to
."~~John Eldredge, Waking the Dead

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Getting Better

Here's what Paul says about life lived in Christ:

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

When I take what Paul writes, to me it sounds like this:

"I'm growing increasingly mindful of my Jesus-connection, and I no longer live the same way. Jesus lives in me. I now try to live as Jesus would live. Jesus wants to shape my life, down to the smallest details. He is the focus and meaning of all life. He is the one who loved me and gave himself for me."

Because of Jesus, life is getting better.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Miracles and Road Signs

Jesus' miracles are like road signs. You know, like the kind you see when you're driving down the road, which tell you how many miles you have to go to reach a city or that signal the entrance to a national park or tell you to take the next exit for Waffle House or Wendy's or Subway . However, no matter the road sign, the sign is not the point. It points to the point.

So a Jesus miracle isn't the point. It points to the point. Somehow I got the idea that Jesus' miracles were primarly intended for identification. I came to think his miracles proved his identity as the Son of God. And I guess that's true, at least, partially.

So what is the main purpose for the miracles of Jesus? Brian McLaren explains it like this:

"If you get a glimpse of soldiers in camouflage uniforms sneaking through the forest, if you notice planes from an enemy country flying high above you, if key political leaders in your country disappear or are mysteriously assasinated, you might suspect an invasion is coming. If bullets start flying and bomb sirens start going off, your suspicions will be fulfilled. Another nation--let's call it a kingdom--is preparing to invade and conquer your kingdom.

"But what if this kingdom that is invading is a kingdom of a very different sort? What if the invasion is one of kindness and compassion rather than force and aggression? What if sick people start getting well suddenly and inexplicably? What if rumors spread of storms being calmed, insane people becoming sane again, hungry people being fed, and dead people rising? Couldn't this be the sign of a different kind of invasion--the coming of a different kind of kingdom?"
(The Secret Message of Jesus)
Give this a try. Over the next few days read one of the Gospels, like John. As you read miracle stories, think how they signal an invasion of a kingdom from another world. Every miracle--past, present, and future--is a sign that God really is answering a prayer:

"Our Father. May your kingdom come,
and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Friday, August 19, 2011

30 Simple Ways To Be Missional In Your Workplace

Josh Reeves offers some great ideas to bring Jesus into the workplace. No, not with a Bible sitting on your desk or a Christian screensaver on your Mac or PC. His list doesn't include a t-shirt you could wear on casual Fridays or a bumper sticker for your briefcase. It even avoids a cross necklace, bracelet, or ring you could wear.

Instead, Josh lists very simple actions. Intentional, kind moments. They are breaths of fresh air and gentle glimpses of life as it was meant to be, even on the job.

Ponder Josh's ideas and see if they spark other possibilities. I'm guessing the Holy Spirit will help you stir up pleasant, Jesus-like experiences for your co-workers.

Really, do you have some ideas to add to the list Josh started?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Go See "The Help" Movie

Unlike many people, I have not read the book. I only remember Sallye struggling to get through it on our recent vacation. Now I know why. It's a very emotional treatment of a very ugly chapter in American history.

However, Kathryn Stockett's novel translated well to film. It celebrates the courage to inspire change. I enjoyed how it depicted, in a realistic way, how the power of one person with one idea can produce a tipping point for social justice and hope.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Lunch with Sam Gonzalez

I had a great lunch with Sam Gonzalez. Along with their children, Sam and his wife, Ann, live in Morelia, Mexico. For years they have partnered with The Hills Church in sharing the story of Jesus and the kingdom. Over Thai food (his choice, by the way, and a good one) Sam and I swapped stories about our personal journeys with Jesus. And Sam told me about his efforts in Mexico to help people step deeper into what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

It's not easy anywhere--Texas or Mexico or wherever. But, truth is, it never has been. Jesus himself made that quite clear, which got me to thinking about some things I've been reading. One is a book, Apprenticeship With Jesus by Gary Moon. The Gospels and Moon's book are helping me wrestle with a question:

How can I can I step deeper into what it means to be a disciple?

In chapter two of his book, Gary Moon includes an observation by Dallas Willard.
"He (Willard) says it is rare to find anyone who wants so badly to be transformed into the image of Christ that he or she is willing to pay the price for it to happen."

So what am I willing to give up to be transformed to be more like Jesus? My time? Re-thinking my focus? My habits? It's all on the table!

"Show me, Jesus."

Enjoyed lunch, Sam, and especially our conversation about becoming disciples and making disciples! Keep your eyes fixed. Keep following!!!

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Steep Yourself"

I've never told anyone to go "steep yourself." But that's how Eugene Peterson paraphrazes instructions from Jesus:

"What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don't be afraid of missing out. You're my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself (Luke 12:29-32).

The only steeping I've ever known involves a tea bag and hot water.

So I looked up "steep," in the dictionary, with these results:

1. To soak in liquid in order to cleanse, soften, or extract a given property from.
2. To infuse or subject thoroughly to.
3. To make thoroughly wet; saturate.

Jesus calls his followers to subject themselves thoroughly to God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions. That's how he lived: God-saturated.

Followers of Jesus follow Jesus.