Untrained For Grace

I got locked out of my account and it some work to remedy that situation, hence the lack of posts. But we’re back.!

Here’s a quote from Bill Hull I used in my teaching yesterday on Psalm 121:

The heart of hell is a soul focused only on itself and its own needs at the expense of others. It’s very unlikely we will experience much joy or abundance if we’re constantly monitoring, evaluating, bemoaning, or pridefully exulting in how poorly or how well we are doing.”

“Grace is so hard: it is an offense to our survival mechanisms and to every system of reward and punishment by which we’ve survived life. We are simply unready and untrained for grace.” Bill Hull


If there is one thing I’ve learned in ministry so far it is this: don’t go into ministry expecting your ego to get pumped up.

Ministry is incredibly humbling.

Sure there are those few who write some books and influence thousands and who make some money who might have an inflated sense of self. But if you want strokes than be a movie star, or a politician, or a lawyer or just about anything besides a pastor.

I am humbled in about a hundred different ways each week, but one of the most humbling aspects of being a pastor/campus minister/teacher/preacher is this:

I can teach someone a truth in a thousand ways (through teaching, modeling, conversations, etc), and then they go to some conference, or listen to a podcast, or go to a different church and all of a sudden the heavens open and everything makes sense.


I get really frustrated by those moments. My frustration probably has something to do with a need to be in control or liked or thought of a certain way.

But, whatever my issues are, it doesn’t change the fact that they got it. Something finally clicked and they are growing, evolving, changing, living differently. It just wasn’t because of me.


Call Me, Maybe and Some Thoughts on Minimalism

There’s a popular pop song at the moment titled “Call Me, Maybe” (if you want to see an incredible version of the song, CLICK HERE). When it comes on the car I don’t change the channel (it is rather catchy), but my curmudgeonly (soon to be a dad) self gets all riled up. I yell at the male character in the song: “Don’t call maybe, DO IT. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no!”

I actually used this very point in my teaching this past Sunday (you can listen here).

We live in a “maybe” culture, and the result is cluttered, careless words. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin says: “We choose our clothes more carefully than we choose our words.”

Which, of course, leads to some thoughts on minimalism. For Amy and I this has become our new obsession. We began to have some talks about simplifying our life when  our good friend Ryan alerted me to this blog, which sent me over the edge.

Now, we are adding a child to our family and with such an addition comes stuff. And yet our goal is to simplify, minimize our stuff, and have a more orderly home. Or at least a less cluttered home.

Talking about words this week at REUNION made me think about the beauty of “yes” and “no”. When Jesus speaks about words, speech, and commitments in Matthew 5, I find many connection to minimalism…this is minimalist speech. Doesn’t mean we don’t talk or that we have nothing to say.

But our speech is simple, careful, uncluttered.

This is a goal for all of life, perhaps Jesus was on to something by beginning with how we use our words.

Weddings and Other Updates

A couple of quick updates:

  • I’ll have more to say about this later in the week, but I got to speak yesterday at REUNION on grief. Fun topic! Amy and I shared part of our story of the last year…it was pretty powerful and I think it opened up a lot of stuff for people in our community.
  • On a totally different note: Friday and Saturday were dedicated to preparations and the actual wedding of Dustin and his new bride, Rachelle. Dustin’s been on staff with Sojourn for two school years now, and he’s been an incredible team member (helped get us started at Northeastern and off the ground at UMB). Love these guys and so happy for their marriage. They chose well!
  • Lots of writing and prepping to do before Friday, which is when week one of vacation starts!

Resurrection (Thoughts on Teaching and 35 Weeks of Luke)

This past Sunday our church partner, [REUNION], wrapped up a 35 week series on the book of Luke. It was long, but fruitful journey. I had the privilege of teaching 5 or 6 of those weeks. Most recently, week 34 to be exact, I got to speak on the resurrection.

Now, in some ways this is a home run for preachers…who doesn’t get excited to teach the resurrection?! On the other hand, there is a good amount of fear and trembling that goes along with the subject matter. What if the skies don’t open up? What if people shrug their shoulders and say “that was nice”? What if no one is moved?

This is not meant to be a critique of sermons or preachers, but as I was preparing I knew we needed a story. As it turned out there was a great story in our community that couldn’t have dovetailed any more perfectly.

Nancy told her story and she told it well, and probably the most important thing I said all day, and the thing people likely remember the most, was “that’s the power of the resurrection” after she had finished.

We need good teaching and people who can sermonize well, but how powerful and effective is a story? Amazing. And humbling from a teaching perspective. But, so important to the life of a community. Thank you Nancy!

*you can listen to it all here.