Tag Archives: snow

Blowing Chunks

15 Mar

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Winter has been brutal in the Midwest this year. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE winter… in places that are equipped for it.

I like my snow measured in FEET, not inches, in a town boasting a fleet of ginormous plows and snowbank snowblowers.

Here in the city we have temporary plows fastened to the fronts of pick-up trucks. Winter laughed at them this year!

But now the trucks are emerging from winter’s hold like insects wrapped in a spiderweb losing its stickiness. The Northern hemisphere is tipping toward the sun, reversing the frozen grasp that has seemed so very permanent. Ice is cold, and hard, and unyielding… until sunshine returns.

This week I was driving into the city for a worship service. I was late and unprepared due to a tough, unforeseen situation. As I drove, I tried to pray and keep it under 70. Watching the speedometer was easier. I was so distracted by this issue and frustrated that I wasn’t prepared!

God often uses my environment to speak to me when I’m like this. Behind the truck in front of me what looked like puffs of smoke blowing across the road caught my attention. I sped up to see what was going on, kind of like Moses checking out the bush.

The truck was dropping ice bombs that exploded into snow-puffs when they hit the road.

The mud flaps (or should they be called snow flaps this time of year?) concealed the truck’s underbelly where I suspected the ice chunks were coming from. All I could see were little explosions of celebration every time one fell off. Even the biggest and toughest pieces of ice couldn’t weather a drop onto concrete going 70. Every one was obliterated. I laughed, imagining that the truck’s mileage will get better this week after winter falls off.

When I pulled into the parking lot we share with a liquor store, I sat there for a few minutes to let some chunks fall off me. I was still distracted, but as I looked at the outside of the church my heart grew light knowing that God would work in our hearts that night– he has every night we gather in community, and I knew he would again.

The prep was already underway in the kitchen (we have a meal together before the service), so I went straight to the dining area to run through the night’s songs. I love Jesus, and I love to sing; the combo is often cathartic, but that night I heard God singing back to me as I worshiped him. The day’s chunks melted off my heart and the residue blew away as I worshiped.

The ministry that God did that night was amazing! A woman that is seeking God stayed late, and we talked about freedom in Christ. A couple of weeks ago she made a pact with the devil, but now I could see the enemy’s web losing its grip as her eyes communicated understanding of grace that we’ve been praying for for so long. There are a few ice chunks still clinging to her heart, but many more melted off. For the first time she can see the path leading to Jesus.

What has seemed like an endless winter is powerless when spring sunshine returns. Every piece of ice will melt.

What had all the makings of a fiasco-night developed into a divine worship service that glorified God that began when my rehearsal tipped over into praise and God removed the crusty ice from around my heart.

That would have been enough.

But God also let us watch as years of suffocating bonds fell away from a tender heart.

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READY FOR WORSHIP

As people enter our church buildings tomorrow, many will be carrying junk from a broken world. Some will bring hard issues deep in their underbellies that no one can see. Others will be wound with a sticky web that constrains their worship. Many will be distracted by the pressures and pace of life.

All of them will be entrusted to us.

God works through several aspects that intersect our temporal physical world with the eternal spiritual realm – the primary ones being his word, prayer, and worship. We can plan, lead, and deliver a perfunctory event using all of these.

Or we can invite him into every facet and watch him work. That is my prayer for all and each of us tomorrow.

Spring has come back to the Midwest; all the ice will melt.

Jesus came into the world to break every chain and make all things new.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
.    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
.    and rivers in the desertIsaiah 43:19

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.  Revelation 21:1-7

Replacement Strategy

11 Jan

Last weekend the snow continued to pile up defying the angle of repose until there wasn’t any definition between the chair slats.

chair snow

A perfect demonstration of increasing measure. Just look at the overflowing abundance!

Each chair slat held its own pile of snow, and as snowflakes continued to fall, little bit by little bit was added until the chair held a snowy cushion. If I had tossed a shovelful of snow on an empty chair, very little would have remained on the slats. The secret is the steady adding of little bits to build up strength and continuity and integrity.

In our society integrity is perhaps the cardinal virtue in church leadership. Even the world recognizes a lack of integrity in the church. I don’t always recognize whether or not a worship leader is suffering from a lack of integrity, but I can tell that something is off. We have all been there, too. We’re going through the motions (and thank God he can work in spite of me!) but something isn’t quite right.

There are times when I know what my problem is; those are easy to understand, if not easy to make right. But what about the times when there isn’t any known sin, disobedience, or clarity?

Not 100% of the time, but more often than not, it’s because I’ve stopped pursuing becoming like Christ in increasing measure.

Getting re-started is easy once I’ve figured out the issue. For me it begins with my mind: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind…Romans 12:1-2

Deciding. Deciding to move toward God intentionally.

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READY FOR SUNDAY

As soon as I decide to make a course correction, it’s easy to see what is off. It’s usually an attitude.

My next step is to ask God for a plan– usually something simple that involves replacing a bad attitude with a godly one – and deciding what that is before the next opportunity to go wrong presents itself. For instance, if there is a situation that or someone who pushes my buttons, I ask God for a good response to use the next time to replace the wrong attitude.

Just like the strong man who needed to be bound, and the demon who had been cast out that came back with lots of his friends to reoccupy the soul that was swept clean in Matthew 12 – replacement is the key.

Decide, plan, replace. The strategy of little bits that add up… in increasing measure!

Increasing Measure

4 Jan

snow fall

Winter has arrived in the Midwest. Snow storms and sub-zero temps create a frozen wonderland using tiny crystals of the most common compound on our planet– H2O. Water.

Water frozen in the air is full of artistry built on 60 degree angles. Starry geometric masterpieces-in-miniature, almost undetectable by our eyes, construct massive structures that defy natural laws.

The Angle of Repose combines the properties of material being piled and the force of gravity (and a LOT of geometric equations!) culminating in how high granular substances can be piled before sliding to the ground. When snow is shoveled into a heap for instance, different types of piles can be formed depending on the snow’s moisture content. Heavy, wet snow can be piled almost straight up… or rolled into balls that can be piled to make a snow fort!

But when temps are as cold as they are today and the snow is very dry, snow shoveling turns into snow throwing as the snow’s angle of repose is very shallow. Tossing a shovelful on top of the bank only creates a cascade that flows back into the driveway. Sigh.

On a still night when the wind sleeps, however, the six-pointed flakes slowly pile up as if they’ve never heard of the angle of repose. Like a reverse game of Jenga, the formations grow by micro-inches and macro-wonderment.

Even when the wind is awake, it drives and pushes the snow stars into arching walls that stand tall on their own. Their fine edges sculpted by windy fingers pinching the edge of a hat brim from one side to the other. These artistically detailed drifts belie their strength. They are densely compact and hold their shape even as a shovel removes large sections.

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More than any other time of the year people are looking toward the future– setting goals, making resolutions, wanting this year to be different. And our Western-enculturated mindsets want it now! We want to scoop up the snow and toss it into an instant snow-fort. We want our one hour of shoveling to produce a sparkling sculpture with razor-thin curves.

That’s not how snowdrifts and straight-up piles are created. They take time and one-at-a-time snowflake placement.

Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8

In increasing measure. One-at-a-time snowflake placement. That is how beauty is constructed– not with a shovel tossed beside the driveway. Ever increasing toward becoming like Jesus. One tiny bit, followed by another, and another.

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READY FOR SUNDAY

Tomorrow people walking into our worship services will have already failed at their resolutions. Maybe you are one of them. Becoming like Christ apart from God’s power is impossible.

As we lead others, we must rely on Him for these qualities to increase in our lives in order that what comes out of us when we’re leading, and when we think we’re not, people see God and His deep love for them.

Interestingly, the very people we lead will mostly likely be used by God to transform us into His image. Look for the opportunities – most of them will be small, hardly noticeable, and within the common events of ordinary days. Some days will seem like a blizzard, others a gentle dusting. In both cases the small changes over time will add up to incredible beauty and glory for God.

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