Lenten Devotional

Looking for a Lenten Devotional? My friend Curt and I wrote one. It reflects on the four soils Jesus mentions in Matthew 13. Along with the reflections, there is space for your own thoughts as well as some spiritual practices.

You can find more information and get the Kindle or paperback version at:

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The One Word that will Change Your Life

Unimportant Words

domino-163523_960_720There was a Peanuts’ Cartoon where Charlie Brown was making a sign and Lucy, because the sign was wordy, kept marking out words one after another until all Charlie Brown had was a one word sign. Apparently, some words are unimportant. We can communicate without them.

However, some words are important, such as the word “not” in “Thou Shalt not…” Fun fact: In 1631, a bible was misprinted and the word “not” was left out of Exodus 20:14 making the verse read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Oops (For the full scoop, Wikipedia entry for The Wicked Bible). Some words are very important.

One Word To Rule them All

I don’t know if this is the most important word, but I’m finding it essential for my life. Spiritual formation, relationships, and even leadership are influenced by this one word and I am finding this one word transforms my life.

Are you ready?

The most important word I’ve found is “Intentional.”

Think about what difference the word “intentional” makes. Faith development and intentional faith development are different. Spiritual formation and intentional spiritual formation are different. The addition of “intentional” means we intend something to happen or to take place. Intentional means we enter into the task on purpose, rather than haphazardly. Adding intentionality to anything, kicks it up a notch…or many notches.

Intentionality alters leadership. One definition of leadership is having influence. When we exert influence, we lead. Everyone has some influence. If you are a parent, you have influence over your kids, spouses have influence over each other and customers have influence over businesses.

We are Always Influencing Others

Adrian van Kaam’s Formative Science says that we are always giving and receiving form. What does that mean? It means I have an affect on you and you have an affect on me. If I were to meet you and have a conversation, we would both be different. We might only be slightly different. Since we influenced each other, we leave our one conversation changed. In Transtherapy Counseling, van Kaam writes that the counselor influences the counselee, but the counselee also influences the counselor. Both individuals are different after the session.

Since leadership is influence and we influence each other, The question isn’t whether we are leaders, the question is, will we be intentional leaders? Will we use our influence to make a difference in the world and for God, or will we use our influence for our own agenda? Will we, with Godly intent and purpose, use our influence to pursue the mission of God? If so, we must become intentional leaders, learning, and becoming the leaders God has created us to be.

Following Through

While intentionality begins our journey, we still need to follow through, learning what it means to be an effective leader. I’ll point you to one book that can help you begin that journey, [amazon text=The Leadership Challenge&asin=0470651725] By Kouzes and Posner. It outlines five leadership traits and is a great start toward intentional leadership.

You may not believe you are a leader. You may feel ordinary and not “special” leadership material. You are a leader, you just don’t know it. You lead all the time, but don’t consider what you do leadership. You lead your family, influence your friends, and give new perspectives to others. You may even lead with grace, compassion, and understanding. You might not bark out orders or tell others what to do, but that isn’t leadership. You lead, but perhaps accidentally rather than intentionally. If you ever rise up and decide to be an intentional leader…watch out…the world just might be transformed.

I’m interested in your thoughts about leadership and what it means to lead in your context. Leave a comment!

A Breathing Lesson: Breathing in the Spirit of God; Breathing out in service to the world

This statement brings together the main teachings of the spiritual masters. For them the inner life’s purpose was to empower the outer life. We breathe in God’s Spirit so we can breathe out in service to the world. Their life was not simply about silence and solitude, but also about service.For too long we have disconnected focus on the inner life from focus on social transformation. That is why we have Christians who might know the bible and pray extremely well, but never reach out to a neighbor in need. It is also why we have social agencies who work for the cause of Christ, but leave Christ out of much of their work. To follow Christ we must have both elements in our lives.

Review – Just Like Jesus by Max Lucado

I received an electronic version of this book free in exchange for a honest review.

There’s not too much I can say about this book, other than Max Lucado continues to do an excellent job. Those familiar with Lucado’s writing will find another inspirational and moving work. In the course of twelve chapters and a conclusion, Lucado takes a look at our hearts and how we can become more like Jesus. As a seasoned writer and pastor, Lucado encourages the reader to take a look at their own hearts in light of the heart of Jesus. He reflects on how the reader can cultivate their hearts to be more like Jesus. Lucado shows his heart as a pastor as he attempts to pull his readers into a greater devotion to become more like Jesus.

At times the book encourages while at other times it challenges. Whether encouraging or challenging, Lucado does so with humor and always with love. In the end, he calls the reader to fix their eyes on Jesus and finish the race well.

The book was well written with plenty of illustrations. It is not a difficult book, but it is a pleasure to read. The study guide at the end of the book is helpful for individual or group study. I recommend this book to those individuals or groups who want to strengthen their devotion to Jesus, so that their heart might become more like his.

Review – The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg

[amazon asin=B0031QHHH4&template=wishlist]

At one time in my life I believed that if I wanted to grow spiritually it meant praying for an hour each day. For a while I attempted this practice. Each morning I would arise with my outline and a watch. For a while I was able to successfully pray through the outline for an hour. Some days were all right. Other days I didn’t think the hour would ever end. Overall, I would say the practice was not helpful. It did not create more love, joy, or peace in my life. It did not open me up to God’s spirit in my life. In the end, I was glad I could check it off my to-do list. Even though it looked good (Hey! I prayed an hour!), it was not forming me into the person God had created me to be.
During that season of my life I needed a book like Ortberg’s. If I would have been able to read The Me I Want To Be, I would have discovered that because of my personality, such a practice probably wasn’t helpful for me. I had to discover that for myself, but it took much time, frustration, and guilt.

One of the most important points this book makes is that what we find helpful for spiritual growth is connected to who we are. In other words, there isn’t a one size fits all spirituality program. Some people will find praying through an outline for an hour something that causes the spirit to flow. I did not. What I have find helpful, others will not.

Ortberg does a wonderful job of removing guilt from our formative practices. Just because we can’t pray for an hour, or find other classic spiritual disciplines meaningful, does not mean we are bad Christians. It only means that certain practices are not aligned to our personalities. Once we can remove guilt and the practices that are not helpful, we are free to discover and engage in practices that allow the spirit of God to flow in our lives so we might flourish, or become who God has created us to be.

I feel the title is unfortunate however. To me, the title seems more in line with a self-help book, which this book is not. This book assumes that the “me I want to be” is who God created me to be. Spiritual practices serve to create space in our lives where God’s spirit can move, helping us to move closer to who we really are.

I recommend this book even though I view it more of a “first step” toward something greater. I wish Ortberg would have been able to discuss more spiritual practices and how they line up with various personality temperaments. Hopefully, after you read this book, you will have a greater desire to find practices that open you to God’s presence and love!