Thank You Eugene (Living at Our Best)

No writer has shaped my thinking and helped me on this journey with Jesus more than Eugene Peterson. This cannot come as any surprise to readers of the “ill dil”. Yesterday, Peterson presented, for what many presume to be the last time, at Q Practices. In honor of that, hear some good words from Eugene:

“Exile (being where we don’t want to be with people we don’t want to be with) forces a decision: Will I focus my attention on what is wrong with the world and feel sorry for myself? Or will I focus my energies on how I can live at my best in this place I find myself? It is always easier to complain about problems than to engage in careers of virtue.'”

and this:

“Daily we face decisions on how we will respond to these exile conditions. We can say: ‘I don’t like it; I want to be where I was ten years ago. How can you expect me to throw myself into something I don’t like–that would be sheer hypocrisy. What sense is there in taking risks and tiring myself out among people I don’t even like in a place where I have no future.'”

and finally, this:

“Or we can say: ‘I will do my best with what is here. Far more important than the climate of this place, the neighbors in this place, is the God of this place, God is here with me. What I am experiencing right now is on ground that was created by him and with people whom he loves. It is just as possible to live out the will of God here as any place else.”


Some Things I Learned From My Wife Who Is a Physical Therapist

My amazing wife is a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Her work world is very different from mine in some ways and, yet, eerily similar in others. I learn a lot of things from her. Like this:

Most people, when given the option between a 12 week PT plan of exercises and a surgical procedure, will take the surgical procedure.

Now, I am not anti-surgery…there are wonderful things that can only be done by a surgeon, and certain diseases/situations can only be combated on the surgeon’s table.

What I am talking about here are issues that can be solved either way. And in most cases the PT program actually has higher success rates and is a better predictor of future health. Plus, surgery, even minor surgery, is always risky!

But, PT involves 12 weeks of work. Hard work. And it involves changing some life patterns, like diet, for example. It does not, however, involve anesthesia or having your body cut open.

Again and again, though, people will choose surgery.

A quick fix. Don’t make me give up my dunkin donuts!

There are a million applications to the “spiritual life” here, but I won’t go in to all of them (I’ll save them for an illustration later!).

It’s a fascinating study in human nature…A Long Obedience never seems to be the most compelling option.

Any thoughts?

Nailed It!

We introduced a new award last month to our leadership community: The Golden Hammer. The golden hammer will go, each month, to the team that “nails it” when it comes to living out our values. For January, Northeastern won for the work they have been doing, tutoring kids in turnaround schools with a program through Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI is a great organization that one of our staffers, Nathan, serves with on their board of directors).

For February, the hammer was passed on to our UMASS-Boston team for their work with the Kinect for a Cause event that we did to raise money for our Spring Break Trip to Joplin. So proud of these guys! They continue to embody what it means to be in proximity with all different kinds of people who on their journey back to God. Well done!


This year is flying by and as it does I’m struck by the fact that I (we) am entering new territory. This summer will mark the beginning of our fifth year of marriage, my fifth year in Boston, my fourth year with Sojourn. This will be the longest I’ve lived in one place since I graduated from high school, the longest I’ve been in any ministry assignment, and equally long to any other job I’ve held.

When entering new territory I find it important to go back to some foundational truths. Like this, from one of my old professors:

Your ministry is who you are not what you do.”

In other words: character is the foundation of ministry, not talent, not job description…it’s not the role you play. Always a reminder that character comes first.

And then this…these ancient words, from one pastor to another pastor, resonate still thousands of years later:

“…I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encouragewith great patience and careful instruction3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. – II Timothy 4:1-5 (bold for the especially pertinent bits)

New territory can be scary, but also an opportunity. An opportunity to be reminded of the foundations. I’m excited for this next season, for finding out what it is like to be in the same place for a while. To put down deep roots.

But new territory or not the foundation is the same: character, faithfulness, sacrifice…may it be so!

Stuff You Should Read

  1. An excellent reflection on Jeremy Lin and Asian American Christianity
  2. Speaking of sports, here’s a fun article on Amy’s water polo coach at USC (did I ever tell you the one about Amy’s team winning the national championship?)
  3. A strong argument in favor of celibacy (as opposed to simply abstaining)
  4. Speaking of celibacy, this article shows that most women having children in their 20’s are not married and then explores some of the ramifications
  5. Some thoughts on the cost of not-failing
  6. Finally, a reflection on the ministry of staying

Lent (quotes)

From the New York Times:

“There’s something tricky about the secular notion of Lent. You give up something personally important, so its absence will remind you of your purpose in giving it up, but not so important that it disrupts life much. You give up chocolate, but not refrigeration. Bread, but not the Internet. Coffee, but not Downton Abbey. Americans are not a naturally ascetic people, and it shows. Fasting lies at the heart of Lent, and most of us are not fasters. We choose our Lenten sacrifices from a very short menu.”

I’ve struggled with this idea myself. I’ve given up some good things for lent the last couple of years: coffee, tv, etc. But I still drink coffee, and I still watch tv.

So, this year I’m trying something different. Rather than give up something, I’m going to add something. Time to ramp up the Scripture reading.

The goal: the New Testament in 40 days. The hope: this extra reading will cut in (or cut out) other things like tv, like mindlessly surfing the net. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but this year I like the idea of mixing it up.

Matthew 1, here we go…

On That Which is Right in Front of Us

Yesterday I shared some pictures from Sojourn’s Spring ReadRetreatServe. For the “read” part of the day, students wrestled with three different perspective on the “act justly” clause of Micah 6:8.

One of the readings was from John Perkins’ book With Justice For All where he outlines the basics of his classic 3 “R’s” for Christian Community Development. One line stood out to me and framed my preparation for the day. Perkins says:

How can we claim to be loyal to Christ’s mission when we flee the mission field at our doorstep.

A couple of thoughts about this…One, we always think the grass is greener on the other side. It’s so much easier to be missional “over there.” Sometimes “over there” is the place we go on a “missions trip.” Sometimes it is the place where we volunteer. Sometimes it is even church. Often it is a form of escapism. It’s easier to go somewhere and get loved on by kids for a day than to deal with our cranky co-worker who makes fun of us for going to church on Sundays.

So, part of this is a call to see where we are: our workplace, our neighborhood, our campus, as our mission field. This is where we are, this is where we do life…live the Kingdom there!

Second, though, is this: sometimes we avoid going because we are comfortable where we are, it’s scary “over there”, the wrong people live over there, etc. So we hide out where we are to avoid getting messy. We hide out at church, in our small groups, and in our activities instead of actually getting to know people who are far from God who live next to us, who work with us, who sit in class alongside us.

So, part of this is a call to take a risk and move outside the walls of comfort.

I needed to hear this. Living in East Boston, it can be easy to see my “mission” field as the campus and the neighborhood simply as a place to live. It can be easy to get frustrated with people who just want to hang out with other people who look like them. I make excuses. I justify myself.

But I live in two worlds, the campus and the neighborhood, and I am called to live faithfully in both places. The kingdom is present and active in both places. Do I see it and do I join it? Not as much as I would like.

Saturday was a good reminder: do not flee the mission field at my doorstep.


We took students to Dorchester on Saturday for our Spring ReadRetreatServe (you can read more about RRS here and here). The pics are from all parts of the day: our morning in quiet reading and reflection…our middle of the day conversations…and our afternoon of serving alongside Quincy Street Missional Church. I love these days…the ongoing work that goes on there all through the year and these moments where bridges are built…bridges from campus in to the community. Beautiful…

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I’ve been re-reading some Eugene Peterson stuff on prayer. I tend to stink at praying and yet, for a whole bunch of reasons, I find myself praying more and more these days. Here are couple of thoughts that have been helpful:

“His prayer took him into a world far larger than his immediate experience.”


“Every thing and every person has an interior. Prayer goes beneath the surface and penetrates the heart of the matter. Unlike mere action, prayer is not subject to immediate evaluation or verification. If we are addicted to ‘results’ we will quickly lose interest in prayer. When we pray we willingly participate in what God is doing, without knowing precisely what God is doing, how he is doing it, or when we will know what is going on–if ever.”

From Tell It Slant.