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Showing posts from June, 2014

Preparing beforehand -- the forgotten step in loving one another (Luminous Friday)

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How prepared are you to engage people this hour in the presence and power of Jesus?
The last two Thursday nights I have had the honor of gathering with a group of men and women, reading aloud part of Luminous, and discussing the material with them. Last night we focused on the last half of chapter 5, Being Present with One Another. Our discussion zeroed in on what it means to come into social interactions spiritually prepared rather than just showing up. One group member said, “I’m a teacher, and it is important for me to come to class prepared. I wonder why we don’t pay the same kind of attention to being prepared before we spend time with people in everyday life.”

There are three ways to prepare yourself before entering social situations.
1. Set your will. “Before you interact, you decide that when you get into social situations, you will act only for the flourishing of others… Want nothing but shalom for other people…” (Luminous, 96-97). This is best done by saying a short prayer j…

It is hard to hate those for whom you pray

One man, who was a believing Christian and a praying man, ended up getting a divorce from his wife. For years he hated her. The mere thought of her soured his day and made him grind his teeth. In his book In Constant Prayer, author Robert Benson describes how a simple form of prayer affected the man’s heart. In my friend’s prayer each day, he had a list of those who were close to him for whom he prayed at the appropriate moments in [his morning prayers]. He would pray, as the words of his [prayers] go, “for those who had been given to him and to whom he had been given.” And it was his custom not to say much about the names he said in his prayer; he would simply say the names and see their faces in his mind’s eye, trusting, as the prayer says, “that you will do for them far more than we can desire or pray for.” His kids were on that list, of course, and so were his brothers and his new wife… He told me that one day he decided to add his ex-wife’s name to the list. He said he never sai…

Choosing prayerfulness over hurry and stress

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At Sanctuary and in my personal life, the battle of prayerfulness over hurry is in full swing. You can't be prayerful and be in a rush at the same time. The two states of mind are mutually exclusive. So what happens when all your hurry-instincts are put to the test? It happened for me a couple days ago.
I was taking Nathaniel for his first day of basketball camp, and we were there for first-day registration and check-in. We were right on time -- 5 minutes early. When we walked into the gym, a few parents were sitting with their kids on the bleachers waiting for things to get started. There was a registration table at the end of the bleachers where several camp staff members were talking. Like the other parents and kids, Nathaniel and I found a seat on the bleachers.
Folks continued to stream in, and the bleachers were filling up. It was nearing 8:40, check-in time. I felt content to sit with Nathaniel and be patient. My inner world was in a good state. And that's when the stre…

How building the perfect social circle can be like building the perfect burger (Luminous Friday)

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[During June, Friday posts will be devoted to the topic of how we relate to one another. This theme draws from chapter 5 of Luminous, Being Present with One Another.]

Chapter 5 of Luminous focuses on our relationships with people, and I zero in on our culture’s most widespread relational sin: bringing our well-trained consumeristic reflexes into our social lives. Without thinking twice, we treat people like they are products, here to cater to our wants and needs. I call it social consumerism.

This morning I will share a story I liked but had to edit out of the final manuscript of Luminous in order to lower my word count. The story is about how building the perfect social circle can be like building the perfect burger…
One day one of my friends took me to lunch at a restaurant he had recently discovered. I had no idea what I was getting into. It was my baptism into a whole new realm of burger design and creation. The restaurant’s name is The Counter, and its specialty is “Custom Built…

What you might not have heard about human trafficking

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Yesterday at a joint East Sac Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club meeting, we heard from Ben Greer, a former member of the California Attorney General's office and a subject matter expert on human trafficking in California. I learned a few eye-opening things about trafficking, including one fact that shows where the glaring need is right now.


Human trafficking defined. To quote the 2012 CA Attorney General's report, "Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery. It involves controlling a person through force, fraud, or coercion to exploit the victim for forced labor, sexual exploitation, or both."

Americans being trafficked. One thing I didn't know is that whereas we tend to associate human trafficking with people coming in from other countries, evidence shows that 72% of trafficking victims in CA are Americans. This means a great number of American citizens are being lured and/or forced into positions of slavery. And as I understand it, the majority of those are …

A house bombing, Jesus, and relational boundaries

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[During June, Friday posts will be devoted to the topic of how we relate to one another. This theme will draw from chapter 5 of Luminous, Being Present with One Another.]
Today I want to talk about the importance of boundaries.
I used to think that as a Christian, I was supposed to absorb mistreatment from others without saying anything. I reasoned that Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. We are to surrender all of our lives to God. That means releasing others from our demands. My reasoning had a hyper-spiritual logic to it. It made sense. If I could be spiritually tough enough, I could take anything anybody wanted to throw at me.
I was right, and I was wrong.
The bombing of Martin Luther King's house Jesus does give us the ability to take anything anybody wants to throw at us. But the idea isn’t simply to be able to absorb mistreatment. Turning the other cheek is about non-retaliation. Shortly after Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, Martin Luther King …

When you pray, don't drive God up the wall

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One Christmas break when I was about ten, I got incredibly bored and drove my parents up the wall. School was out for a couple weeks, and I couldn't find much to do. With impeccable logic, I reasoned that my parents ought to let me open one present before Christmas. It should be something I could play with. Not my biggest present, so as to detract from the singular grandeur of December 25. Just a strategically chosen toy or game that would occupy me for the next week or so leading up to Christmas. I mean, didn't the Velveteen Rabbit -- one of my mom's favorite books to read me when I was little -- teach the valuable lesson that toys and games are meant to be played with?

My plan made sense. My logic was airtight. I made the ask. But somehow, in their undoubtedly limited perspective, my mom and dad said no. I couldn't believe they didn't see things my way, so I asked again. No. And again and again. No. And capital NO. I resorted to whining. My parents resorted to th…