Category Archives: Spiritual Growth

Failure Isn’t the End of the Story

I’m working with a group of great folks to bring a different kind of leadership conference to Denver called the Epic Fail Pastor’s Roundtable.

It’s a different kind of conference for pastors and leaders. It will be honest, raw and even uncomfortable.

But it’s essential for pastors and leaders.

We need to be better at talking about our own failures, idols and addictions.

Watch this video of one pastor’s Epic Fail and how God rescued him to something much greater.

Find out more about the Epic Fail Pastor’s Roundtable here. Pass it on to other pastors and leaders you know.

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Developing a Personal Growth Plan

Once we stop formal schooling, our personal development still needs to continue. In some ways, if we are intentional about our personal development, we can grow more outside of the classroom than we can within. We learn more by doing, especially when we document and reflect on what we are doing.

During my time at Denver Seminary, we all went through a Training and Mentoring program where we developed learning contracts to guide our personal growth. Each student developed learning contract for character development and skill development.

In my role at Mountair Christian Church, my lead pastor and I decided to develop learning contacts for the spring. Without intentional personal growth plans we wouldn’t be purposeful in our development.

So we each wrote a learning contract for skill development and character development. It is amazing how just developing a plan keeps me focused on what I need to learn.

Here is my skill contract for the spring.

Here are links to templates for developing your own skill development and character development contracts in Word and Pages format.

Let me know if this tool helps you.

God’s Kingdom and the American Dream

Illustration by J Fowler

If I’m honest with myself, I struggle with the desire to pursue the American Dream. I want a house of my own, two cars and a good stock portfolio. I want to be able to provide what my kids want so that they can live a comfortable life. I want a job that pays well enough that we can save money each month and have enough to give away. I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck. I want to be successful.

What is wrong with desiring success and wealth? Read the rest of this entry

Man of Steel and Discipleship

The first time I watched the Man of Steel trailer with Russell Crowe narrating, I listened intently to what he said. After watching it a couple of times, I was struck by the correlation to discipleship and following Christ.

Watch it below and read the narration.

“You will give the people an ideal to strive towards,” he says. “They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”

What do you think? Is there a correlation?

Scary Dreams and God the Comforter

Last night I woke up in a fog to a silent house. What woke me up? Then I heard my daughter Anna’s tearful scream from the next room. “Daddy!” she yelled. There is a difference between that annoying yell when we are trying to watch a movie and the girls need to go to bed and the terror filled cry in the middle of the night. I would be afraid for a person who gets in between me and my girls when I am rushing in to see what is wrong with them. I am fueled by pure adrenaline when I run to help my girls.

I immediately jumped out of bed, threw on my shorts and rushed into my girls’ room to see what was bothering Anna. There she was tears streaming down her cheeks and sweat covering her forehead as she was huddling under her blankets. I snuggled next to Anna and held her tight as her crying stopped and her heart beat slowed. She had just woken up from a scary dream about the caverns we had seen earlier in the day.

Being a father has opened my eyes to how God the Father must view us as his children. As I laid there with Anna, I thought of how God must feel when we are in pain and crying out for help. Does the God of the universe rush to us when we are crying out in fear and pain? Does his heart break when he sees us struggling and living in fear?

There are definitely times in my life where I feel like I am an annoyance to God. Like he has better things to do than to listen to my selfish requests. But last night as I lay there wrapping my arms around my daughter, I knew that God is there with us in our fear and unbelief. Like a father rushing to the aid of his child, God is present in our trials and moments of need. He doesn’t let us suffer alone.

Finding Rest on a City Bus

Today I found rest for my soul on a city bus. I had thirty minutes to just sit without checking my email, reading the news or listening to music. It was beautiful.

I struggle with a restless soul especially during this season of my life. I am quick to become anxious and worry. I quickly leap for my phone and the endless checking of email, news and social media. This restlessness affects my relationship with God and my family. Read the rest of this entry

Experiencing God Aesthetically: Loneliness, Monks and Gungor

Latte art at Intelligentsia Coffee

This week was an interesting week for me emotionally and spiritually. Hillary and the girls spent some time with her parents in Roswell, New Mexico while I took part of the week to experience life at a monastery. My motto for the week was, “Expect Nothing.” Everything I had heard about spending time at a monastery warned against expecting a major spiritual experience. As I now look back on this week, while drinking some amazing coffee at Intelligentsia Coffee, I can describe it in four chapters.

Loneliness

With two young girls who are very expressive, our home is never quiet. But Monday night it was quiet. I actually went to the public library because I didn’t like being in my quiet house. That night as I lay in bed it was almost impossible to go to sleep in the quiet house. Again Tuesday night, I had a hard time sleeping. I felt lonely. Ronald Rolheiser talks frequently about loneliness and the danger if it is not worked through correctly. Laying in my bed alone did not feel good. My emotional state was not in a healthy place. Read the rest of this entry

Listening to the Spirit through Transition

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

Since the start of 2012, I have been going through a 14 Days on the Holy Spirit reading plan from Examen.me. Growing up in non-charismatic churches, I heard about the Holy Spirit on occasion but it was never really emphasized. Then in my first ministry position at a dispensational church, experiential manifestations of the Holy Spirit were for a different era in church history and not for our times.

As I met with a counselor/spiritual director this fall, he helped me realize that I needed to desire God with my whole being. It wasn’t just a mental pursuit but a holistic, experiential pursuit of God. The more I thought and prayed I realized that part of what I might be missing was experiencing and listening to the Holy Spirit. As of yet, I don’t know what this means exactly but I am pursuing the Holy Spirit and what the writers of Scripture tell about him. Most of all I am asking the Spirit to show himself to me and speak his truth into my heart and soul. Read the rest of this entry

Youthful Faith

Each Advent season my hope is that I will encounter the story of Jesus’ birth in a different way. Having grown up in the church it is far too easy to take the story at face value and go through the motions. This season I have been trying to go through the Pray As You Go podcasts from the Jesuits. The music, Scripture readings and reflections follow the church calendar so today’s reading was about Zechariah.

Zechariah is doing is his priestly duty and entering the temple when the angel Gabriel appears to him. Gabriel proclaims that Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth will have a baby. Zechariah and Elizabeth are beyond the normal parenting ages and had given up on having a child. Zechariah is so surprised by this announcement that he probably doesn’t even hear what Gabriel says about his soon to be son.

Luke describes Zechariah’s response this way, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Zechariah asks the “how” question, but the thrust of it is that he can’t trust Gabriel’s pronouncement. In his old age, Zechariah’s relationship with God has become routine and exists mostly in duty. He probably had a fervent faith at one time but in his old age he has given up on the miraculous. His faith is cold. As a result of his unbelief, Zechariah cannot speak until the birth of his child.

Then Gabriel appears to a woman who is much younger. Mary, a young girl, has never slept with a man. Gabriel appears to her and proclaims that she will have a son, Jesus, who will reign on David’s throne.

Luke describes Mary’s response, “‘How will this be,'” Mary asked the angel, “‘since I am a virgin?'”

Like Zechariah, Mary asks the “how” question, but with a different intent. She believes Gabriel’s pronouncement, she just doesn’t understand the practicality of how she will become pregnant. She knows she is a virgin so how could she be pregnant? Her faith in God is strong and real. Mary believes what Gabriel says unlike Zechariah.

What is correlation between faith and a person’s age? Later in his gospel Luke records Jesus as saying, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” As we age, how do we keep a simple faith like that of a child? How do we guard ourselves from a “faith” that is routine and driven by duty like Zechariah’s?

Maybe it’s that over time we stop listening to God’s still, small voice to step out in faith. We get so busy that we don’t take the time to listen. We stay in our comfort zone and don’t give God the chance to show himself to us. Our once vibrant, youthful faith becomes dry and routine like Zechariah’s.

What has God been calling you to do but you haven’t taken the step of faith?

This Advent season, may we have the youthful faith of Mary.

Prayer of Examen

I now recall the past day. I replay it back in my head like a video tape and examen my actions looking for all the areas where I lived out the life of Christ. I also look for areas where God is teaching me. (Step 4 in the Prayer of Examen)

Last night I tried a new spiritual discipline and it turned out to be very instructive in my relationship with the Lord. For years I have attempted to get back into journaling but it never seems to stick. Maybe it’s because my handwriting is so bad or I’m so used to thinking as I type on a computer, but I can’t seem to get into the habit of journaling.

I found a great website, Examen.me, that leads you through a series of questions that cause us to reflect on our day as if Jesus was sitting right in front of us. The folks at Examen.me explain it this way, “The Prayer of Examen allows you to reflect and recall your day while examining how you live life in the presence of the Lord. By slowing down and examining your day, the Lord has the opportunity to reveal to you specific areas where you are and are not living in His presence.”

For me this prayer was a great way for me to look back on my day and see where God was working. It is hard to take the time to reflect like this but it is very valuable. It’s online which means I can do it from anywhere and I don’t have to endure my bad handwriting. Last night, through the instruction of the Holy Spirit, I was able to see things that I would have never noticed had I not slowed down to reflect.

If you are looking for a new way to reflect on your day and examine where God was working, check out the Prayer of Examen.