Saturday, December 8, 2012


This past week I was meeting with a friend and sharing ideas I am working on with my staff team at the church.  Several times I must have used the term "we" in the midst of our conversation without even realizing it.  Because of this person's current context he picked up on it and said, "Stephen you have to remember, you keep saying 'we' and where I am, there is no 'we.'"

I must confess, I was taken back by his observation.  The more I have reflected on it, the more thoughts have continued to flood my mind.  So here are some of them, in a spiral thought-flow:

Why don't you have a "we"?  I am not sure it really matters what your context is, it seems like you should be developing "we."  Now I realize that one of the challenges my friend faces in that process is the people around you don't always want to come along and become a part of the team.  But even if you don't have anyone to be on your team right now, start growing them!  Do whatever it takes to develop the "we" around you, even if it has to start with one other person.  This was a part of the power of Jesus.  Certainly there were times when he went away and sought solitude, but that always seemed to be in the context of going back to the team.  In fact, God's entire mission is team critical!  He actually chooses to accomplish His mission with us, and the very nature of his existence as Trinity is "we!"

I am so thankful for my "we."  I am a part of some great teams!  It starts with my family. They are fantastic and I am blessed everyday by their willingness to partner with me in the ongoing creation of life and beauty with God.  It continues with my staff.  Each one of them brings such a powerful voice into the life of our church and in the work God is calling us to accomplish with Him.  It extends to my community.  The breadth and depth of the people I am connected to is astounding, and each of them adds value to my life.  It's powerful to realize that I cannot and would not be the man I am without these teams around me!

I am critical to "we."  While I understand that the teams around me help me to be better, I also recognize that the functioning of those groups is also very dependent on me.  In fact, because of the leadership role God has called me to in each of those teams, I am actually a linchpin (Seth Godin style!) in the ongoing health, creation, and functionality of those teams.  God has privileged me with the honor of being a co-creator with Him in the birth and development of those teams.  The truth is, He wants to continue to use me to grow and strengthen those teams by raising others up and giving even more shared power away to the development of the "we" around me.  And when I do my part, "we" are all strengthened as a result.

"We" is mission critical.  One final thought.  The God I serve has some really big dreams and hopes and visions He is working to accomplish, and He wants me to be a part of them.  But those dreams are big enough there is actually no way I can accomplish them by myself, even if I continue to partner with Him.  It is going to take all of us working together, harnessed with all of His power and resources, to accomplish His mission.  A true "we" effort!

When I first was confronted by the words of my friend I was almost apologetic for having a "we." Now after some significant reflection, I won't ever apologize for being someone who values and cultivates the "we" in life!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Year of Work

Today is my birthday.  44.  That doesn't seem as old as it did when I was 20, or 10!

One year ago I heard my wife make a statement that really resonated with me, "I'm 43 years old and I'm in the best shape of my life."  To put it in context, I had come through a fairly intense season of Lent where God had started connecting some powerful dots for me related to my physical health/body with my spiritual life and the health of my soul.  I had begun to see for the first time ever, that what I do with my body truly impacts what's happening with my soul.

I know, really big realization, right?!  Wonder why it took me 43 years to see it?!?!

Anyway, when Jo made that statement, I thought to myself, a year from now, I might actually be able to say that same thing.

It's been one year, and here is my declaration:

"I'm 44 years old and I'm in the best shape of my life!"

I weighed this morning and I am the lowest I have been since high school.  I also ran the furthest distance I've ever run at one time this morning - 5.25 miles. And at a pretty good pace too!

When I ran back into the driveway this morning I raised both hands in the air and pumped my fists in victory!  I wanted to yell, but it was still very early.

Then I picked up the book my wife recently forced gave me to read (just kidding babe!  I love it!),  The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown, and I read these words:

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to skip over the hard stuff, but it doesn't work.  We don't change, we don't grow, and we don't move forward without the work.  If we really want to live a joyful, connected, and meaningful life, we must talk about things that get in the way.

That's when I was reminded that this morning's moment of victory wasn't about this morning.  It was about a year of pushing.  A year of growing.  A year of struggling.  This morning's celebration wasn't about today, but about everything I have been willing to do with God during this past year.

There were certainly days I wanted to quit (and days when I did quit), but over this past year I haven't skipped over the hard stuff.  I have put in the work, and today I got to live a truly joyful and meaningful moment in my life!

As I have traveled this journey of health and wholeness, it has also been one of great spiritual awakening for me as well.  I have realized that same reality is true of every facet of our lives.  When we want to live joyful, connected, and meaningful lives with Christ, we must be willing to talk about the hard stuff.  We must be willing to put in the work of allowing His Spirit to push and needle us.  In the midst of this process, it's often painful and a deep struggle, but it is the pathway to this beautiful, wholehearted life.

I certainly know I am not at the end of my journey - physically or spiritually - but when I think about where I am today, on my 44th birthday - I am grateful.  I am grateful for the journey.  I am grateful for the struggle.  And I am grateful that both of them will continue!

It's a happy birthday!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Inner Work

“The work that God is doing in us is always as important as the work God is doing through us.”

I read this statement this morning and was challenged by what it said. I completely agree with a point. I certainly understand what the author was working to describe, but I actually think that the work God is doing in us is more important than the work he is doing through us. You see, the work that is happening in me, is the source from which I have to function for the work He is doing through me. Without the inner work, the outer work suffers. Oh it’s possible to carry on for a while, especially if you have a well from which to draw. But at some point, that reservoir will get depleted.

I realize there are times when we are called as leaders, as individuals, as families, to function “at the end of our ropes,” - when we must move out in total faith and lean only on the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. However, if I am not focusing on the inner work the Holy Spirit is attempting to do in my life, then when I have to step out in bold faith I am only stepping out on a thin branch of connection to the vine. But if I spend time focused on the inner work of the Holy Spirit in me, then my connection is thicker and stronger so that I can actually step out in greater confidence.

To put it in the language of the Master, if I abide in Him, then I will have the ability to accomplish even greater productivity for and with Him (John 15).

I am thankful for the way this quote sparked my thoughts. I think I just need to say it a little differently:

“The work God is doing in us is always more important than the work He is doing through us, because the work God is doing in us, fuels the work He is doing through us.”

Friday, January 13, 2012


I have a great friend who is currently working on his Master of Divinity degree. As a result, he is reading tons of great resources, which frequently leads us into long, fantastic discussions of theology and culture, which just happens to be the focus of this blog!

Recently he was studying (and wrote an exceptional paper, btw) the religion of consumerism. Want. How our culture, and consumerism in particular, is actually in the business of creating want in our lives. We always want the latest and greatest. And then when we get it, the next item is right there on the horizon waiting for us to come and get it. It's a system that is never fully satisfied.

Obviously this has caused some great discussions about Christ becoming the only source that can truly supply our want in life. In fact, just last night he shared some thoughts with me related to the Eucharist and how when we come to the Table of Grace we are tangibly consuming the One who will truly fill. Great stuff!

So this morning I turn to today's lectionary reading and I discover these verses:

I said to the LORD, “You are my Master!
Every good thing I have comes from you.”
LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
Psalm 16:2, 5, 11

God has already declared He desires to be the source of our want! His desire is to satisfy the cravings of our souls in a way that goes immeasurably past any temporal want. He invites us to become participants in the fulfillment of eternity - now!

Later today my oldest son is leaving for WinterCamp with our high school ministry, ClockWork (you can follow the weekend on Twitter at #CWWC). My prayer today is they would experience the incredible, eternal presence of the living God in such a powerful way that they can discover He is the true source of their want.

Oh yeah, and I want to continue to live into that Presence today too....

Friday, January 6, 2012


Today is the day of Epiphany. One of the things I love the most about this day is the clear play on words from the title of the day. It is the day God's Church remembers the coming of the Magi to visit the Christ Child. They had an epiphany in their own lives when they followed that star and brought their gifts humbly to their King.

I just finished reading another blog ( by Ruth Haley Barton, about choosing to follow God's star in our own lives and coming to our own sense and place of epiphany.

This is a day when we recognize that we can look for God in the most unusual of places and circumstances, and discover Him in ways we did not expect. It's a day that reminds us that God is still mysterious and will reveal Himself to us in the most unlikely and unique moments of life. It's a reminder that He is still invested in creating ongoing epiphanies in our lives. We just have to keep following His light

Happy Epiphany!