My Blogging Journey

Over the past year, several people have asked me about my blogging. They want to know how I got started, what have I learned and why do I keep doing it. Today I want to tell you a little about my blogging journey.

Eighteen years ago, I was starting a new Church, and I was looking for ways to reach people using the internet. One article I read shared information on this new area of possibility called weblogs (now just called “blogs”). Several preachers in large Churches were trying it out, and there seemed to be unlimited possibilities for a guy like me to write useful material. At first, I tried my hand at writing a daily devotional. I would post it on a website and create my own blog without anyone’s help. This was fun, but the work was tedious.

Soon after came places like WordPress that offered professional looking sites with easy to use features. I signed up under my name and started the regular habit of writing. The first attempts were longer more humorous pieces somewhat modeled after Robert Fulghum’s writing. Those contained some decent material but had little practical use. They were also difficult to create five days a week while trying to plant a Church.

Phase three of my blog was really directed at the Church I was serving. It was more of a journal of the events happening in our little community of faith with my commentary added. During those days I would often post six or seven days a week. The popularity of blogs was growing, and most days I had 400 hits or more.

When I left my Church plant, I was exhausted. I took some sabbatical time and spent several months in reflection. I quit blogging and took a break that was only going to last a few months and ended up being two full years. During this time, I gave up my old blog and lost over eighty percent of what I had written. It was a mistake I regret, but I was able to start with a clean slate.

At one point, I was a preacher in Alaska and was learning so much about life there that I wanted to share with people. I was also feeling a tremendous burden for those who were far away from God. I relaunched my new blog with a double emphasis on second chances with God especially for people in Alaska.

One more move in ministry changed my writing again. Going from Alaska to Missouri removed part of my mission, but it opened new opportunities to speak to fun topics. The past few years I try to write four to five days a week. I try to focus on anything that will help people in their walk of faith. Right now, I have about 50 readers every day on email and another 25 who visit my blog page. Several of those people have told me they visit once a week and read everything instead of stopping by daily. I am blessed to have numerous people who read these words I write.

This whole experience has taught me several lessons about life, ministry, and writing. The biggest thrill I get from blogging is the chance I get to help people, quite often from all over the world. I have discovered that something I wrote years ago is still helping people today. Through the years, many things have changed about the way I write, but I find it to be a joy most days to post something.

My encouragement to everyone is for them to find their voice. Who are YOU and what do YOU have to share with the world? Your words may come in teaching, music, poetry, leading children, writing, or numerous other ways. What has God put inside of you that might touch the life of another believer? The internet is full of people typing their thoughts and ideas, but you have the words that only you can provide.

These are my words, and I thank you for stopping and reading.

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Living with Real Friendships

Yesterday I met with an old friend. We have known each other since college, and while we have not seen each other in years, we have managed to stay in touch by phone, email and social media. It was great to talk with him and catch up on some of the significant events in each other’s lives.

My conversation yesterday has me thinking about true friendships that are deeply embedded in the soul. I fear that many people today are walking through life with a shallow substitute for real relationships.

1. Real Friendships Start with General Knowledge. The first step in solid friendships starts with getting to know the other person. This sounds like an easy step, but if you are like me, you like to talk about yourself too much. To develop the connections we desire, we must ask people about themselves. What do they like? What is their background? What are they feeling?

2. Real Friendships Go Past General Information. This second step is the most difficult, and I am afraid that is where many people stall. It is great that I know your name, your spouse, and your kids. It is a good start that I know where you live and where you work. But my knowledge of you is not that same as a friendship. In an age of social media, we can gather all kinds of facts about people, without ever really getting to know them.

3. Real Friendships Know Both Joy and Hurt. I define a true friend with two descriptors. First, they know what makes me laugh. They are in tune with what will bring me joy. They see a movie or comedian and think of me. There is an understanding of what I enjoy in life. Second, they know what makes me cry. They know what makes my soul hurt. They know when words are spoken that will hurt me. There is a clear of idea of topics that make me sad. Real friends have insight into my soul.

4. Real Friendships Endure. This one hit me just yesterday. A real friend is someone you can meet up with years later, and it is almost like no time has passed. There is a connection that exists that is truly beyond explanation. Maybe it comes from common interests and experiences or possibly it is just built on the past. Real friendships are forged over the anvil of time.

The question I find myself asking, “How many real friends do I have in my life?” Have I accepted surface levels of interaction as cheap substitutes for the real thing?

And what about you? We live in a world where there are more ways to stay connected with people, and yet loneliness grows. It is easy to blame society and even shout at other people about how they should include you in their lives. I am finding the best solution to loneliness is taking the initiative to invite other people into my life. We all need friends, but it will take a little work to get them.

A Pastor’s Reflection on Summer Faith

As a Church leader, I have a love and hate relationship with summer.

I enjoy the downtime that summer can provide. For two months I have no youth group, no small groups, few meetings and little expectation. I take the summer to focus on the future through sermon planning, youth group organization, and long-term organization. The summer affords me time to read, dream and pray.

On the flip side, I hate what happens to my Church community in the summer. Worship attendance in summer reaches annual lows. It is a tough time to get people motivated for the next week, let alone the rest of the year. There is an apathetic attitude that prevails over most of the people as they are tired from the long summer days.

Today I am thinking about my perspective on summer.

1. Find a Way to Keep Growing Spiritually.
I want to encourage everyone to make a plan to grow in your faith. One way might be to have a summer only Bible reading plan. Another approach might be to develop a list of books to read and commit to completing them. One more possibility might be to listen to a series of podcasts on some aspect of Christianity. Do something … anything.

2. Remember How You Model Faith.

The way you treat the things of God over the summer clearly communicates something to the people who know you best. Usually, the people the most influenced are your children. They develop a value system based off what they hear you say and what they see you regularly do. If you spend 75% of your summer weekends at the lake with no thought of Church, there is a message that is communicated. If you find a place to worship on Sunday while on vacation, another lesson is being taught.

3. Know that Actions Quickly Become Habits.
This one I see repeated every summer. Someone comes to worship with the Church on Easter and a level of interest in faith grows. That momentum carries them to Mother’s Day and often clear up to summer. Then they miss worship for this and for that and suddenly two months are gone. By now a new habit is formed, and the enthusiasm of belief that existed in the spring is sometimes lost forever. Missing a week or two is something almost everyone does, but those weeks can slip into months and years.

Summer is hard on pastors. We see people stall in their faith, watch their lives move away from God and lose people from our congregations. Personally, many times I slip into survival mode. I try to make it from week to week praying God will do a mighty work that I am not seeing. I wish it were not this way, but every year seems to repeat the same old cycle.

We are over halfway through summer, and I look forward to the fall. I do want to encourage you not to let another summer slip away from you. Better said, don’t allow summer to let you slip away from God.

Of Mustard Seeds, Yeast and You

Jesus is clear that the work of his followers will seem insignificant. He tells a set of back-to-back parables that are so short they only take four verses in the gospel of Luke and three in Matthew. I guess it is fitting that both analogies are tiny since they are about minuscule work of the kingdom of God.

One of Jesus parables is about a mustard seed. It is the smallest of all the seeds they knew at the time. And yet it can grow into a bush and left alone long enough it will make a tree. Then there is the yeast. A woman has sixty pounds of flour and only a tiny amount of yeast. Still, this seemingly insignificant amount will work through the whole dough causing it to rise.

The single point of Jesus double layered stories appears to be the way the kingdom of God starts small and then increases in size. That would explain how a handful of disciples would lead in a movement to create a worldwide religion called Christianity.

While the Church as a whole today is big, the work of the Lord is still small. My efforts for Jesus equate to throwing mustard seeds and grabbing pinches of yeast. The actions seem insignificant at the time because of their size.

I want to see God’s kingdom come to earth. I want truth and justice to work together with compassion and love. I want people to serve God with their whole lives until the day of judgment. I want everyone to know Jesus and live for him. I often think that there is a world full of people and we need to do something big to make good things happen. Believers need a large platform from which they can change this planet into the kingdom of God. Unfortunately, Jesus never told a parable about God’s massive kingdom. He spoke about seeds and yeast and people.

Jesus reminds his followers that they will be engaged in seemly small actions which will probably never make the impact they want. At least they will not change the world today.

My efforts for Jesus today might come in a hundred little ways. Those actions are not to be ignored because of their size; they should be embraced as the way Jesus changes the world.

Vague Generalities of the Future

All of us have hopes and dreams. There are things we want to achieve and improvements we need to make. We want to be a better spouse or parent. Deep down we have a desire to be a better Christian with meaningful relationships. We will do something great one day and in some way.

Most people dream of a better future with vague generalities.

The reason we never accomplish any of these things is that we have no specific steps.

It is like me saying that one day my wife and I hope to visit Hawaii, but we are not making any plans to get there in the future. If we really want to go, then we need to come up with a series of smaller action steps. We need to save money. We need to start researching places to stay. We need to talk to our work about vacation. And on and on it goes. You get the idea.

Whatever it is that you want to achieve in life, the best way to make it happen is to think in small actions steps. Big dreams come in little pieces.

I am not saying these steps will guarantee success in life, but if you do the daily work, then you will be a lot closer to your dreams in a year than you are today.

One of My Greatest Joys in Church

I love music. One of the greatest inventions of the last 25 years has to be the portable electronic music device. When I was young, my dad paid me to mow the yard and every week I went out front with my Walkman and two or three cassette tapes. I would listen to one side and then flip it over. Each week I could push mow the yard and listen to about three full cassettes. Now when I cut the grass, I have thousands of songs to choose from and custom created playlists.

My love of music makes me want to sing. I love to sing, but I cannot do it very well. Keys are hard for me to find and I am a level of tone-deaf. My words often sound more like someone is torturing a cat than trying to soothe the soul.

These thoughts lead me to ponder my time in Church on Sunday morning. Each week we gather to spend time with other believers in fellowship. We also listen to a word explained from the scriptures. And yes, we also sing four or five songs every week. Whenever the music starts, my toes begin to tap, and the song wells up inside of me. My mouth starts out with great joy and enthusiasm; it is only my voice that betrays me. Sometimes while I am singing, I realize how far off key I am, and I stop and try to find the proper notes. In those moments when I quit, I often find a surprising joy.

One of my favorite moments is when I can clearly hear the people behind me singing. Worship leaders are great people, and I enjoy listening to their voices in front of me. I prefer to listen to the sounds behind me. My seat at the front of the auditorium allows me to hear everyone else who raises their voice to God.

There are a couple of reasons I love this time. One, I am blessed every time I hear someone singing about God. The common faith we share in Jesus is what brings us together. Second, I know the stories of many of the people who are singing. Their words come through the filter of life. Some of them are struggling with loss and yet they sing. Others are going through difficult seasons of life, and again they sing. A few of them are turning the page on new chapters in their lives, and they sing. The words of all those wonderful people join together in a chorus of delight. No matter what situation we find ourselves, we have faith in a God that is working in our midst, and so we sing to him.

I love to sing, but there are moments I like to listen. One of the greatest joys in my life is hearing the people of God sing his praises. It connects me with other believers in a powerful way that shows me a picture of heaven. Most of what happens on Sunday morning can be created somewhere else, but when the followers of Jesus join together in song, Church is the best place on earth.

I Hope This Helps

Most Monday mornings I sit down in front of a blank screen and wonder to myself, “Why do I keep writing?” Maybe that is because most Monday’s I start tired and must work to get my brain going full throttle again.

Sunday’s are my big day. I preach and help lead worship in my local Church. I meet with people and pour out my life. The rest of the day I try to do busy work that requires little thought. I spend my time bring closure to the previous week and preparing for the coming one.

Then comes Monday morning. I sit down in front of the computer. My brain feels blank, and I am sure that this is the week I will quit writing. “I’ll take just a little break,” I tell myself.

Finally, I remind myself of a personal commitment I made years ago to keep writing, even when I didn’t feel like it. There is only one reason I made that decision. I keep typing every week in the hopes that I will help somebody. I hope that what I post each day will inspire or encourage someone in their faith. I hope that my words will bring clarity and insight to people searching for answers. I pray that these simple blogs will touch the life of someone in a meaningful way. I write because I want to help people on their spiritual journey.

God gifts certain people in specific ways. Some people can preach and teach while other can write. He gives some people leadership skills and other talents to play music. There is a long list of special abilities that God gives to his people.

We also live in a world full of tools. We have at our disposal things like computers and the internet. We have blogs, Instagram, and social media. There are opportunities all around us to use our lives for good.

I am certainly not the best writer in the world. I don’t have the most significant following by size or influence. My platform is small. Yet, I want to offer something that is helpful to the world. If only one person is influenced for Jesus through my blogs, then I think my time is worth it.

So all this begs the question, “How are you using your life?”

You are gifted and talented, and I pray you are using those things for God’s kingdom. Even if you feel unqualified and inexperienced, there are still opportunities for you to help people in the name of Jesus. It is not about what God has given you; it is about what you are giving back to him. For me, I hope what I write helps someone. What are you doing?