Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Deciding to Believe

My Lenten sermon series for this year is entitled, Never Forsaken. Each week I'm exploring the many ways and times Christians struggle with thoughts and feelings of being forsaken by God. My premise for the series is that a fear of abandonment by God makes it impossible to live the Christian life. Faith, as the Hebrew writer says, is being sure of what we hope for and confident in what we do not yet see. Jesus faced faced the harsh reality of the cross in the full confidence of God's faithfulness. He faced death, believing in resurrection.

How can Christians live in hope, obedience, service, and joy when our world is so messed up, our lives are so broken, and our trials are so many? How can we not lose heart, when outwardly we're wasting away? How? It's a very good question. The answer? -- Our belief in the promises of God, our confidence in the Spirit's comforting power to sustain us, and our expectant hope that Christ will return to set all things right.

One of the dear friends in my church family, Becky, writes a personal blog that chronicles the joys and trials of her family's journey. She writes about their simple pleasures and their heartbreaking struggles. Some days she might post about something funny, and other days she might share a prayer request. Sometimes she will share photos of her kids, and other at times she will generously give you a portrait of her heart.

Today, with Becky's permission, I want to share her post from Monday, February 25. I really appreciated her thoughts about being in worship with our Valley church family the day before. It's filled with good things to think about.

Yesterday, I participated in an incredibly bizarre ritual.

I went to a place where a group of over 100 people stood in a room for a purpose.  I know many of them.  I know some of them very well.

If you were to have looked around the room, whether you knew it or not, you would see the following:

You would see a man standing alone because his wife has been too ill to join him.

You would see a woman standing on one leg because she lost the other in a car accident

You would see a a recovering alcoholic standing next to his wife who stood by him.

You would see a breast cancer survivor.

You would see people battling depression

You would see parents with children in heaven

You would see parents with children who suffer too much on earth.

You would see me.

And do you know what we did?  It's the strangest thing ...

We stood up, and together sang a song

How can I keep from singing your praise?

No, really!  We sing of amazing love and grace from a powerful God.

Isn't that weird?

Seriously, forget the common-ness of that ritual.  Why on earth would a group of people, each bearing unique burdens from a sin-torn and trouble-filled world, why on earth would we gather and sing the praise of a God who ... well ... let's be honest ... He could fix it.  He could have stopped the car accident.  He could have saved the child.  He could have nudged that amino acid at just the right time and stopped the "mutation" in my daughter.

But He didn't.

And we stand and say, "How can I keep from singing your praise..."

I'm sure one would be tempted to suggest that, to participate in such a ritual, we let our mental faculties take a vacation for an hour or so every Sunday.  Let me assure you that we don't.  Yes, the pain in this world and the belief in a good, powerful God who has loving intentions toward me ... I'm not going to deny the cognitive dissonance set up by those two concepts ... and, if you're interested, I'd love a rigorous discussion regarding the theology and philosophy of my faith-based world view.

But that is NOT what struck me on Sunday.

What struck me on Sunday was the faith.  The crowd of witnesses I am blessed to stand with, some having as many reasons as Job to question God, but for some reason, we've decided to trust.  We've decided to believe.  We've decided to lean on God.

We've decided that, whether he removes the pain or not, he is God and he is good and he is worthy of our praise.


I understand that it looks foolish.  I promise you, it's not.

But I'm not sure where I would be without the other people I have in my life who stand next to me, encouraging me by their mere presence to hold to that foolish-looking faith.

Dear friends, let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.  - Hebrews 10

I am so thankful and so encouraged by the witnesses I am blessed to stand next to in faith. 

From "Our Journey," Monday, February 25, 2013. Used by permission.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday Words - Lenten Selections, Week 2

From the Book of Common Prayer:
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

In Praise of Self-Deprecation

The buzzard has nothing to fault himself with.
Scruples are alien to the black panther.
Piranhas do not doubt the rightness of their actions.
The rattlesnake approves of himself without reservations.

The self-critical jackal does not exist.
The locust, alligator, trichina, horsefly
live as they live and are glad of it.

The killer whale's heart weighs one hundred kilos
but in other respects it is light.

There is nothing more animal-like
than a clear conscience
on the third planet of the Sun.

Wislawa Szymborska of Poland won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996. Her poems have been translated (and published in book form) in English, German, Swedish, Italian, Danish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Czech, Slovakian, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, Bulgarian and other languages. They have also been published in many foreign anthologies of Polish poetry.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday Tome - God of Possibilities

I just got a copy of Greg Boyd's book, God of the Possible. It's one of the books I'll be reading in preparation for a theology conference I'm planning to attend in April. The conference is called Open 2013 and is hosted by Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

For more information about the conference, click here. I'll be attending with a friend or two. Let me know if you'd like to join us.

From Publisher's Weekly:
This exceptionally engaging and biblically centered text defends a theological claim that is generating heated controversy among evangelicals: that from God's perspective, the future is partly open, a realm of possibilities as well as certainties. Boyd, professor of theology at Bethel College (St. Paul, Minn.) and author of Letters from a Skeptic and God at War, displays a remarkable ability to make "open theism" accessible to a wide audience.

Open theism usually receives a cool reception among evangelical theologians, whose views of divine foreknowledge often echo Augustine, Aquinas and Calvin, as well as Hellenistic philosophical theology. This classical tradition interprets God's perfection as eternal changelessness, ruling out the possibility that God could learn new information, or that God's intentions could change. Boyd sidesteps the more abstruse theological debates surrounding this issue in favor of a patient, but not pedantic, exposition of a "motif of future openness" in biblical narrative and prophecy. These biblical texts repeatedly portray God as changing plans in response to human decisions, viewing future events as contingent and even being disappointed at how events turn out.

Boyd clearly believes the debate over open theism has gotten off to an unfortunate start, as disagreements about the "settledness" of the future have unnecessarily been interpreted as challenges to God's omniscience or sovereignty. This convincing, clear book promises to raise the caliber of argument in the controversy.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Music - Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Walkin' that narrow road like a beast of burden
Under a load of religiosity;
You're so tired out tryin' to measure up,
Your heart is worn and empty as broken cup.
But I came to fill you up....  fill you.

Come and walk beside me.
We'll live freely and lightly.
You'll find rest inside me
When you learn to match my pace
In the unforced rhythms of grace.

Johnny's bein' good just in case God's keepin' a scorecard;
Richy writes checks cause he thinks ten percent is the price;
Rosey chants a prayer as she counts her beads;
Penni's doin' pennance, crawlin' on her hands and knees;
But I came to break the chains, break the chain.

Come and walk beside me.
We'll live freely and lightly.
You'll find rest inside me
When you learn to match my pace
In the unforced rhythms of grace.

This ain't some mystic school.
It's more that ritual or religion.
It's not some list of rules--
It's reason for livin'.

Come and walk beside me.
We'll live so freely and lightly.
You'll find sweet rest inside me
If you learn to match my pace
In the unforced rhythms...

Come and walk beside me now (in the unforced rhythms).
We'll live so freely and lightly (in the unforced rhythms).
You'll find sweet rest inside me
If you learn to match my pace
In the unforced rhythms of grace.

Words and Music by Dave Burkum. © Copyright 2002 by Dave Burkum (

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Transforming Love

O God, we are so thankful for your mercy.

Please be gracious to us when we go astray from your ways. Bring us back to you. Give us humble hearts and steadfast faith. Teach us to hold fast to the unchangeable truth of your Word. Help us to follow Jesus Christ your Son.

Forgive us our sins. Renew us by your Spirit. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ. And as you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive those who have sinned against us.

Father, renew us and save us from the things that afflict us. Give us the strength to persevere, and give us hope as we cling to your promises. Forgive us our sins and deliver us from evil. Make us vessels of your grace in a weary world. And as we are surrounded by so much suffering and hate, we ask you to make us a testimony of your saving and transforming love.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Family - Marriage Workshop

Saturday morning, Cheri and I will be leading a marriage workshop at the Crowne Plaza in Plymouth, Minnesota. This workshop, The Meaning of Care and Commitment, is part of the Valley Christian Church Couples Retreat, and runs from 9:00-11:30am.

If you live in the Twin Cities area and would like to join us, please let me know. I'm sure we could make arrangements to squeeze in a few more people. You might even want to come early to enjoy the hotel's delicious breakfast buffet (7:00-8:30am). If you're interested in joining us, please be sure to contact me first so I can confirm the details. Thanks.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Guns and Violence

What are the stark statistics and economics of gun ownership? Can any of the political "solutions" regarding gun control actually change the numbers? What's more dangerous, letting your child visit a friend's home where there is a gun, or where there is a swimming pool? What would have a greater impact on reducing gun violence in America, preventives (i.e.- bans, buy-backs, limiting access) or disincentives (i.e. - harsher penalties, longer sentences).

In a recent episode of the Freakonomics podcast, Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt have a straightforward conversation about gun control and gun policy, keeping in mind recent events like the Newtown, Ct., school massacre and long-standing traditions like the American embrace of guns.

Levitt has focused much of his academic career on crime research, including all sorts of gun policies that do and do not prevent violence.  He has also analyzed the relationship between the economy and the crime rate, whether increased police presence affects crime, and whether deterrents like capital punishment and sentence enhancements actually work.

Just for the record, this podcast challenged many of my own knee-jerk reactions, attitudes, and beliefs about guns. My own inclination is toward limiting access and exerting more control, but it's questionable, from a purely statistical point of view, that such policies would actually make much of a difference. This post is not intended to be political or partisan. Just an invitation to think critically and more objectively than most of the rhetoric and emotional response we're subjected to on this important social issue.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday Words - Lenten Selections, Week 1

From the Book of Common Prayer:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer 
Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

"Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" from The Country of Marriage
Copyright ® 1973 by Wendell Berry.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesday Tome - The Divine Conspiracy

Last Saturday, I met with a young man from my church who had just finished reading Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy. I was delighted to learn that he really enjoyed it and gained a lot of insight and inspiration from it. We barely got started in our discussion, so we'll have to meet again and keep the conversation going.

If you have never read the book, I highly recommend it. Let me know when you've finished it and you're ready to have a cup of coffee and talk about it. I'll buy!

Book Description:
In The Divine Conspiracy, Willard gracefully weaves biblical teaching, popular culture, science, scholarship, and spiritual practice into a tour de force that shows the necessity of profound changes in how we view our lives and faith. In an era when many Christians consider Jesus a beloved but remote savior, Willard argues compellingly for the relevance of God to every aspect of our existence. Masterfully capturing the central insights of Christ's teachings in a fresh way for today's seekers, he helps us to explore a revolutionary way to experience God--by knowing Him as an essential part of the here and now, rather than only as a part of the hereafter.

"The most telling thing about the contemporary Christian," Willard writes, "is that he or she has no compelling sense that understanding of and conformity with the clear teachings of Christ is of any vital importance to [their] life, and certainly not that it is in any way essential . . . Such obedience is regarded as just out of the question or impossible." Christians, he says, for the most part consider the primary function of Christianity to be admittance to heaven. But, as Willard clearly shows, a faith that guarantees a satisfactory afterlife, yet has absolutely no impact on life in the here and now, is nothing more than "consumer Christianity" and "bumper-sticker faith."

Willard refutes this "fire escape" mentality by exploring the true nature of the teachings of Jesus, who intended that His followers become His disciples, and taught that we have access now to the life we are only too eager to relegate to the hereafter. The author calls us into a more authentic faith and offers a practical plan by which we can become Christ-like. He challenges us to step aside from the politics and pieties of contemporary Christian practice and inspires us to reject the all too common lukewarm faith of our times by embracing the true meaning of Christian discipleship.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Music - David Wilcox

David Wilcox is one of my favorite singer/songwriters. I used his song, "Show the Way," as the introduction to my Ash Wednesday sermon last week. A number of people have sent me emails asking for the words and a link to a site where they could hear the song. So here you go.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Deliver Us from Evil

Almighty God, we ask you to help us when we face temptation.

We remember that Jesus was tempted by Satan during the forty days he fasted and prayed in the wilderness, and so we know that Jesus understands our weaknesses and temptations. Just as you strengthened Jesus to overcome temptation, we pray that you will strengthen us by your Spirit, that we too might overcome temptation and escape the sins that entangle us.

Thank you for the forgiveness and renewal you have given to us through Christ.  Help us to extend forgiveness to each other in his name. Help us become a redemptive and healing community. Help us to have a saving and healing influence on the world around us.

Father, help us to be in the world as Jesus was in it. Help us to be truly engaged with our world, and yet to be truly different from it. Help us to be instruments of your grace and power. Where there is hatred, let us bring love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is discord, unity. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is darkness light.

Lead us away from temptation and deliver us from evil.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Food - Mustard

I'm a big fan of mustard. I especially like spicy mustards. Trader Joe's Deli Style Spicy Brown Mustard has become my favorite everyday mustard. I always have a bottle on hand. Unbelievably, it's only 99¢ a bottle. For a delicious, satisfying, and low-cal snack, I love slathering this mustard on Trader Joe's pumpernickel pretzels.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Richard Twiss

Last week, the American church lost a treasure, Richard Twiss. He died on February 9 after suffering a heart attack while attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC.

Richard was a member of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate from the Rosebud Lakota Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, and was the Co-Founder and President of Wiconi International (Wee-choe'-nee is Lakota for "life"). Richard's vision was to "serve as a bridge builder and consultant, nationally and internationally, to develop understanding, respect and mutual appreciation for one another, especially among Native American/First Nations people."

I am a pastor who has spent his fifty-six years in the midwest, and I serve a church in Dakota County, Minnesota. And yet, I have somehow been blind to the story of Native Americans. It was not until last year, while reading The American Soul (Jacob Needleman), that I became acutely aware of just how ignorant and oblivious I was to who Native Americans are and what they have been through. Though I live in their native lands, I was suddenly struck with the realization that I knew virtually nothing about their traditions, values, beliefs.

I am trying to change that situation. I'm studying, reading, thinking, watching, and hoping to eventually find ways to connect with Native Americans. While I have been able to find a number of good resources for learning about their history and culture, Richard Twiss was the first and only voice I had, so far, been able to find who was helping me to think about Christianity from a Native American perspective. If you know of other resources I might find helpful, please let me know.

Please join me in praying for Richard's family as they grieve his passing, and pray for those who will be working to continue the important ministry of Wiconi International.

Books by Richard Twiss include:
One Church, Many Tribes : Following Jesus the Way God Made You
Rescuing Theology from the Cowboys
Dancing Our Prayers
Culture, Christ, and Kingdom

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday Words - A Hymn for Ash Wednesday

What Wondrous Love Is This!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.

Words: At­trib­ut­ed to Al­ex­an­der Means.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tuesday Tome - Book Club (Session 3)

Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright is the current selection for my book club at Valley Christian Church. Our third and final session is tonight, Tuesday, February 12, 7:00pm. We'll be discussing Chapters 13 through 15. You can get all the details about this book club HERE.

No registration is required, but I would like to hear from you if you're planning to be there. If you have any questions, click here to send me an email.

From the Book Description:
“Jesus—the Jesus we might discover if we really looked,” explains Wright, “is larger, more disturbing, more urgent than we had ever imagined. We have successfully managed to hide behind other questions and to avoid the huge, world-shaking challenge of Jesus’s central claim and achievement. ...As the church faces the many challenges of the twenty-first century, Wright has presented a vision of Jesus that more than meets them.  

Simply Jesus - Part 1
Simply Jesus - Part 2
Simply Jesus - Part 2b
Simply Jesus - Part 3
Jesus and the Gospels

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Supplication - We Have Seen Your Glory

O God, you have revealed your grace and truth through Jesus your only-begotten Son. We have seen your glory revealed in his birth, his life, his words, his transfiguration, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension.

Give us the faith to truly see Christ, and by his light, help us to see our own lives and our purpose. Strengthen us to take up our own crosses, to walk in his ways, and to be changed into his likeness from glory to glory.

We are thankful for your forgiveness and we ask that, as you have forgiven us our sins, you would help us to be quick to forgive those who have sinned against us.

O Father, we thank you for the grace and comfort you extend to us. We praise you for being a God of comfort and consolation. Help us to always look to you for the strength and hope needed to face our troubles. Give us eyes to see the hurts of those around us. Give us hearts of compassion, and make us instruments of your peace.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen. 

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Friday, February 08, 2013

Friday Family - Leagues

My son Tyler's band, LEAGUES, released their debut full-length album last week, and they've received some really encouraging response so far. You Belong Here has been doing well in the iTunes store and getting good radio rotation in number of important markets around the country.

Just a few days ago (Tuesday, Feb. 5), their song, Spotlight, was featured at MPR The Current's first "Public Music Meeting." The crowd was introduced to 15 new songs from new bands and asked to vote with placards. League's Spotlight was voted #1.

Last night, the same song was also featured on the television show, Grey's Anatomy (ABC). So all in all, it's been a pretty big week. If you haven't checked out Leagues yet, do it now!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Thursday Thinking - Freedom and Fear

Yesterday, Scot McKnight published a very helpful post on the Jesus Creed Blog addressing the problem that results when Christians confuse their zealous opinions with holiness or, worse yet, the Bible. This type of zealotry is often motivated by a fear of freedom and a failure to be open to what might come through trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us in liberty, courage, and love.

I've excerpted and posted the first few paragraphs below as a little nudge to help you get started. I encourage you to click the link and continue to read the whole thing. It's pretty short and won't take a lot of your time. I think Scot's insights are right on target. What do you think? As always, your comments, questions, and perspectives are appreciated.

by Scot McKnight [Posted February 6, 2013]

I hope to generate conversation, some consternation, and (at the end of the day) some light. Here’s my big point: Some evangelicals have been tossing sharp barbs for a long time at “liberals” or “mainliners” for disregarding the Bible. (It would not be hard to give good examples.) Most evangelicals criticize liberals on the basis of a robust commitment to the Bible — and in so criticizing they believe it is they who are being faithful to the Bible.

Where are you experiencing “zealotry” today?

Evangelicals tacitly assume or overtly claim that they believe the whole Bible; they practice the Bible much better; and their theology is based on the Bible and the Bible alone. The contention is simple: liberals deny the Bible; we (evangelicals) don’t; we (evangelicals) are faithful and liberals are unfaithful. Let me suggest that evangelicals, too, do plenty of Bible-denying but they deny in a different way. They question the sufficiency of Scripture at times.

I call this problem Zealotry. Here’s what I mean: Zealotry is conscious zeal to be radically committed, so radically committed that one goes beyond the Bible to defend things that are not in the Bible. Which is the mirror image of the accusation made by many evangelicals against liberals. The “beyond the Bible” stuff is not in the Bible and it means evangelicals get themselves committed to things that are not in the Bible.

What’s the difference, I ask?

Trotting alongside zeal is a friend named immunity: Zealots think their zeal makes them immune to criticism because they are so zealous for God; their zeal never to get close to breaking any commandment makes them better than others. In other words, zeal shows just how deeply committed a person is to God and is therefore immune to criticism. What, they reason to themselves, is wrong with doing more than the Bible? Does not God recognize our zeal?


Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than thirty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Wednesday Words - Winter Sun

How valuable it is in these short days,
threading through empty maple branches,
the lacy-needled sugar pines.

Its glint off sheets of ice tells the story
of Death’s brightness, her bitter cold.

We can make do with so little, just the hint
of warmth, the slanted light.

The way we stand there, soaking in it,
mittened fingers reaching.

And how carefully we gather what we can
to offer later, in darkness, one body to another.

“Winter Sun”by Mally Fisk, from, The More Difficult Beauty, Hip Pocket Press, 2010.
Copyright ©2010 by Molly Fisk.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Tuesday Tome - The Meaning of Marriage

The Valley Married Couples Retreat is coming up on February 22-23. Each couple attending that event will receive a copy of The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller. As an introduction to the book, couples will be given the opportunity to read and discuss several key excerpts. My wife, Cheri, and I will also be leading a workshop on Saturday morning during which we will draw upon several themes from the book.

Book Description:
Timothy Keller with his wife of 36 years, delivers The Meaning of Marriage, an extraordinarily insightful look at the keys to happiness in marriage that will inspire Christians, skeptics, singles, long-time married couples, and those about to be engaged.

Modern culture would make you believe that everyone has a soul-mate; that romance is the most important part of a successful marriage; that your spouse is there to help you realize your potential; that marriage does not mean forever, but merely for now; that starting over after a divorce is the best solution to seemingly intractable marriage issues. All those modern-day assumptions are, in a word, wrong.

Using the Bible as his guide, coupled with insightful commentary from his wife of thirty-six years, Kathy, Timothy Keller shows that God created marriage to bring us closer to him and to bring us more joy in our lives. It is a glorious relationship that is also the most misunderstood and mysterious. With a clear-eyed understanding of the Bible, and meaningful instruction on how to have a successful marriage, The Meaning of Marriage is essential reading for anyone who wants to know God and love more deeply in this life.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Monday Music - Mercy Street

Too long my feet have wandered these winding roads;
But I keep searching through this town.
My back in breaking under this heavy load;
Where can I go to lay it down?
What I would give if you could point me to that place!
I'm lookin' for Mercy.
I want to live on the avenue of grace;
I'm looking for Mercy-
Mercy Street,
Where the weary find rest.
Mercy Street,
Where the guilty are forgiven,
Mercy Street,
Where the weeping are blessed.
Mercy Street.

How I kept walking is a mystery;
My wasted days turned into years.
Until a stranger came along side of me;
He took my hand and dried my tears.
He said I've come from the place you hope to find,
I am from Mercy.
Cast off your burden and leave the past behind;
Leave it on Mercy-
Mercy Street,
Where the weary find rest.
Mercy Street,
Where the guilty are forgiven,
Mercy Street,
Where the weeping are blessed.
Mercy Street.

And now I walk the same old streets I used to roam,
Handin' out Mercy.
Come take my hand, I have been sent to bring you home;
I am from Mercy-
Mercy Street,
Where the weary find rest.
Mercy Street,
Where the guilty are forgiven,
Mercy Street,
Where the weeping are blessed.
Mercy Street.

"Mercy Street" words & music by Dave Burkum.
© Copyright 1993 by Dave Burkum (

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Sunday Supplication - Willing Hearts

O God, you are our strength. We put our trust in you. We come to you in prayer because you are merciful. We come to you in our weakness because you are gracious and faithful and able to help us do what we could never do on our own. Help us to fulfill your purpose for our lives. Help us to walk in your ways. Help us to please you in our attitudes and our actions.

We confess our sins and ask you to forgive us.  We ask that you would change us and strengthen us. Help us overcome temptation and escape the sins that entangle and destroy us. Give us the grace and generosity we need to forgive others, just as you have forgiven us.

Father, you have fearfully and wonderfully made each one of us. You know the purposes you have for us and you have equipped us to accomplish those purposes.

Help us, as we seek you with whole hearts, to discover our gifts and to understand how we can use them to serve you. Give us good things to do and willing heart to do them.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Saturday Smile - Deep Sea Powerchair

Sue Austin has transformed her wheelchair into a powerchair by creating unexpected images and doing very unexpected things. She makes me smile and makes me wonder how with creativity some of my own limitations might possibly be transformed into something freeing and beautiful. I hope her talk and video do the same for you.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Friday Food - Creamy Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

We had some sweet potatoes we needed to use up this week. Here's a simple idea from Clean & Delicious we tried out last night. Very tasty, low-fat, and nutritious. We used them as a side dish along with Mediterranean mushroom wraps and fresh salad.

3 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp., fresh chopped rosemary
1/3 cup Plain Greek nonfat yogurt (I recommend FAGE 0%)
Salt and pepper to taste

Click Here for Video
Cut sweet potatoes into bite sized chunks and steam in a steamer basket for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat 1 tsp. of olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet and sauté your onions and garlic along with a pinch of salt for about 8 minutes or until fragrant and translucent.

In a medium bowl, combine steamed sweet potato chunks, onion and garlic mixture, rosemary, and Greek yogurt and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

Makes 4 servings (3/4 cup each)

Nutritional Analysis
Calories: 150; Total Fat: 1.4g; Saturated Fat: 0.2g; Cholesterol: 1mg; Carbohydrate: 30.7g; Dietary Fiber: 4.8g; Sugars: 12.9; Protein: 4.7g