Spirit of Self-Control

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Many of you know that I spent some time this spring focusing on my health. I joined a gym, worked out five times a week, and kept to a limited food plan focused on building lean muscle and burning fat. For the six weeks of the challenge, I practiced incredible self-control.

And the week after, I gave myself a break. I stopped worrying about what I ate.

If I’m honest, I haven’t ever found my focus again.

About two months ago, I started back up at the gym. I missed the workouts and the community. My goal is not to fit into some unrealistic ideal of how society thinks I should look, but to be strong and healthy and have the energy I need to do this work.

One thing I didn’t change however, is that I haven’t turned my attention to how I was eating again.

So this past week, while thinking about this sermon on self-control, I thought that perhaps I should at least look at how I was doing in that department.

And I planned really healthy breakfasts, with veggies fresh from my garden.

I packed lunches each day, instead of running out to buy something.

But by dinner time, I lost all semblance of self-control.

Wednesday night, we got Chinese takeout. I ate all my food, PLUS two crab rangoons and potstickers.

Thursday night, we ordered pizza. I had four pieces of taco pizza, a couple of breadsticks, AND a cookie!

And in each case, we were having a lazy night, eating in front of the television, and I didn’t even realize how much I had consumed until I started counting it all up the next morning.

If you aren’t focusing on the task at hand, you will lose sight of your goal. Self-control is all about not allowing yourself to be distracted away from your purpose.

This morning we heard the familiar story of Samson and Delilah – of a man who was tempted into giving up his secret strength.

But to understand this story we need a little bit of background.

There was a man named Manoah whose wife was barren. Try as they might, they could not have a child.

But one day, an angel appeared to the woman and promised her that a child would be born to them – a child that would be holy – a child that would save Israel from their enemies. But in order for this to come to pass, the child must be set apart as holy and must live a certain way.

This vow – this promise was called the Nazarite vow.

And so even before this child was born, the mother lived according to the Nazarite vow and then when the child Samson came into the world, he was declared a nazarite.

Now, being an infant – he couldn’t choose this himself – but according to the tradition – a father can declare his son a nazirite. Samson had the right to refuse this status and to end his promises, but nowhere in the scriptures does it say that he does this.

To be a nazarite meant that he had to follow three rules.

First, he had to abstain from any fruit of the vine. He couldn’t eat grapes or drink wine or even use wine vinegar with his food.

Second, he had to refrain from cutting his hair. As time went on, the long hair on his head would have been a sign of his vow.

Third, he couldn’t touch dead bodies.

So Samson took on these vows for himself and God blessed him with strength as a result of his faithfulness.

However, Samson had a weakness.
He had a distraction in his life.
And that distraction was women.

It’s not so much that his love for women was a bad thing. But time and time again, his weakness for the members of the opposite sex put him in terrible situations.

And eventually, as we heard this morning, Samson was tempted away from his Nazarite pledge because he lost sight of what was most important.

He put this woman, Delilah, before the pledge that he and his parents had made to God.

As soon as he let Delilah cut his hair, his strength vanished, he lost his control over the situation, and was captured.

So, Samson because our poster child for what NOT to do in practicing self-control.

Where do we turn to understand what it means to allow God’s spirit to fill us with self-control? What is this fruit of the spirit that Paul commends us to embrace?

When we look to the gospels of Jesus Christ, one of the places I think we can see this fruit is in the command to stop worrying.

As the gospel of Luke tells us – “don’t worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. There is more to life than food and more to the body than clothing.”

I could personally take that as a license to never diet again! To just take a deep breath and not focus on how much food I eat at all.

But when we look at the full context of this passage, Jesus is really trying to tell us not to be distracted.

This command to stop worrying is not about trying to save us from anxieties and troubles by promising everything will be okay.

No, Jesus is trying to tell us to stay focused on what is most important.

This advice not to worry about food and clothing and tomorrow end with the powerful statement:

Seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness…. And everything else will take care of itself.

In other words, focus on God and what God asks of you.

That really is all that Samson had to do. Focus on God and what God asks of you.

The key to self-control is to let God to have the central place in your life.

The key to self-control is to allow the purpose God has given you guide your actions.

In my scripture study around the sermon today, I learned that the word for demons in the New Testament – daemonia – means “to be controlled by another.”

And in a real sense, every time we let food or worry, power or desire, or anything else to become the focus of our lives instead of God, those things begin to control us.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “the devil made me do it.”

In his sermon on “Self-Control and Freedom,” Charles Rush reminds us that people used to assume that there were spirits that caused us to indulge in pleasure, so anytime someone succumbed to a temptation – they saw it as a demonic possession.

“We no longer believe that,” he says, “but their insight was right about the [spiritual fact that] cravings… become compulsions. At some point… they begin to control us. At some point, our character becomes misshaped and misaligned in order [to] adjust itself to increasing demands our compulsions put on us. We are no longer free, but are driven by our compulsions.” (http://archive.christchurchsummit.org/Sermons-2006/060716-SelfControlAndFreedom.html)

It’s not that things like eating and drinking and sex are evil… but they can spiral out of control if we allow them to be the central objects of our lives.

Self-control is a barrier that prevents other things from distracting us from God’s purpose in our lives: to seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness.

And discipline or a rule of life allow us to set boundaries that will help us to keep focused on what actually matters the most.

For the Nazarite, discipline and self-control was found in three simple rules – avoiding grapes and wine, not cutting their hair, and avoiding the dead. The purpose of the rules was to constantly remind them that they had been set apart by God for a purpose.

Many disciples of Jesus Christ today also have a discipline that helps them to focus first on God.

Some of you set aside time every morning to pray.
Some of you use the Upper Room daily devotional.
Some of you have made intentional choices about what you will eat or wear or drink because it is a witness to your faith in Jesus Christ.

Whatever it is, it is part of how you are creating space for God’s purpose to be prioritized in your life.

One of the things that I hope for this morning is that this might be a moment to reflect on whether or not self-control is a part of your spiritual life.

What are the temptations that try to sneak their way before God in your life?

Do you have… or do you need… a discipline or a practice that helps you to focus first on God?

As J. Hampton Keathley writes that Samson was a raised up by God to be a judge, a ruler, and was meant to lead Israel. “Samson strangled a lion; yet he could not strangle his own love. He burst the fetters of his foes; but not the cords of his own lusts. He burned the crops of others, and lost the fruit of his own virtue when burning with the flame kindled by a single woman.” (https://bible.org/series/1-2-3-john-comfort-and-counsel-church-crisis/bible.org/ttpstudents.com/sessions/node/5399?page=42)

We should be honest about the things that threaten to distract us from our faith and keep us from being in control of our actions. And then we should pray about how we can turn them back over to God.

I want to invite you to a simple prayer practice right now that helps us to do so.

Close your eyes and clench your hands up tight.
Picture the distractions and worries you have in your life that you have brought with you… even into this very place of worship.
Then in your own time turn your hands, still gripping, over so that they are facing down.
Imagine God’s hands underneath yours and slowly open your hands so that the things you are carrying fall into God’s hands.
If you do this at home or in your own time, you can repeat this several times.
Then turn your hands face up, but this time with the palms open and ask God’s Spirit to fill you afresh.
Let go of your desires.
Turn your heart over to God.
And seek first the Kingdom.


These are the jobs we are assigned to do as the Church Council, according to the Book of Discipline:

  1. Plan and implement all the programs of nurture, outreach, witness and resources.
  2. Administer the church organization
  3. Envision, Plan, Implement and Evaluate the mission and ministry of the church.
  4. Act as the administrative agency of the charge conference.

That is a lot to accomplish for a group that meets for 90 minutes once a month. Yet, according to the Discipline, all of this is our job to provide for.

So, how is it possible?


Exodus 18 (MSG)

13-14  Moses took his place to judge the people. People were standing before him all day long… When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What’s going on here? Why are you doing all this, and all by yourself…?”

15-16 Moses said, “Because the people come to me with questions about God. When something comes up, they come to me. I judge between [them] and teach them God’s laws and instructions.”

17-23 Moses’ father-in-law said, “This is no way to go about it. You’ll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you—you can’t do this alone. Now listen to me. Let me tell you how to do this so that God will be in this with you… Your job is to teach them the rules and instructions, to show them how to live, what to do. And then you need [to appoint competent people as leaders over smaller groups]… They’ll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They’ll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they’ll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.”

24-27 Moses listened to the counsel of his father-in-law and did everything he said.


The advice Jethro offered Moses was to delegate.

He didn’t have to shoulder all of the responsibility himself. He didn’t have to do it all on his own. And by delegating responsibility and sharing authority, both Moses and the people would flourish.

First, he had to train those additional leaders and equip them… you can’t be responsible for something if you don’t know what the expectations are.

But then Moses had to get out of their way. He didn’t have time to micro-manage. They didn’t have time to continually come back and ask if they were doing it right.

They all needed to trust one another.

As a result, Moses could periodically check-in and evaluate his leaders. And, he was available when there were big issues to discuss.


As the Ad Council, we could look at our purpose statement as defined by the Book of Discipline and try to shoulder it all ourselves, as Moses did at first.

Or, we can delegate.

When we delegate, we make clear the expectations by setting goals and strategy and communicating our vision and mission. Then, we need to empower our committees to do the work of ministry.

We give them a budget, we make sure they understand our vision as a church, and then they have the responsibility and authority to do whatever they need to do, within those parameters, as their work.

This means the council is freed up to truly handle the big picture and major decisions. We are freed to hold the church and committees accountable for living into our mission and vision.

“If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.”

Everything but… #NaBloPoMo

Yesterday I posted about this article I read on the ENFP personality and one characteristic absolutely jumped out at me:

9. Being a HUGE, UNSTOPPABLE FORCE of creativity and productivity… an hour before the deadline.

I am such a last minute person. I always have been.  I can set aside all the time in the world to work on a project, but somehow in the moment of carefully carved time, my mind wanders.  It flits about. I get stuck.

In the past year I have probably done more professional writing than I ever have before.  I worked on two manuscripts and have re-engaged with preaching on a weekly basis.

That first manuscript experience was another one of those crazy, down to the wire, I’ve got it all in my head somewhere but haven’t actually put it into the computer yet, situation. Once I did get it roughed out, I had a couple of all nighters finalizing and editing and moving the pieces around.  It is just the way I work. And it gave everyone, including myself, a big old fat headache.

708452_62978186So when the second opportunity to write came along, I was determined to do it differently. For my own sanity, for my relationship with my husband, for the quality of the work.  I went away for a whole week to a cabin in the middle of nowhere.  I made a plan to study and write a chapter a day, every day during my time.  And you know what, I actually did.  I got all of that hard work done on that trip.  But I think for the most part it was because I treated every section of work (each chapter was in four parts) as if I only had three hours to complete it. In order to stick to the schedule, that’s how it had to be. I would have breakfast and study for three hours.  I’d take a walk and bang out the introduction.  I’d have lunch and then work on the next section.  I’d take a walk and then write some more.  I made dinner and then before I could go to sleep, the final words had to be done and I did a preliminary read-through.  I was able to merge that procrastination and last-minute productive energy with an intentional plan to get work done.

In my return to preaching, I’m working towards doing so as well.  Thursdays are carved out as sermon writing days and I’m trying so very hard to instill that same deadline for 5pm that afternoon.  I like to believe that if my sermon isn’t finished, I’m not going home.

When I actually sit down to write on Thursdays, I tend to get the worst writer’s block ever.  I rearrange books.  I listen to quiet music. I get another cup of coffee.  I read the texts again. I check out facebook.  I stare at the computer screen.  I check in with my staff.  I do everything BUT actually type out the words.

And truth be told, it’s because I’m struggling with creating the same sense of urgency that my creativity demands. I’m allowing myself to make excuses. I keep thinking I’ll find time on some morning before my husband gets up (you know, on my days off).  I tell myself that if all else fails I always have 6am on Sunday morning (a time some of my best sermons have emerged).

I think for my personality, for my style of working, what I need is to hold myself deeply accountable to that 5pm deadline.  I need to create consequences for not getting there.  I need to remind my administrative assistant that I can’t go home until it’s done (she’s good about things like that). I need to ramp up the pressure for a firm Thursday deadline. And if I’m able to do that, I think writer’s block will be a thing of the past.  At least in my life.


Written for today’s prompt from BlogHer: Have you ever had extended writer’s block? How long did it last? What did you do to break out of it, and do you have tips for other bloggers?

Rules for a Global Church

For the past five weeks, we have used the visual reminder of small rocks like this one to help us live into our scriptures.

We have seen them lined up as a dividing line between us and them, and as a recreation of the body of Christ.

We felt their weight as they added up one by one in the way we keep track of wrongs.

We wrestled with what is fair and unfair.

We have talked about family and forgiveness.


Today, our rocks are piled up here on the communion railing. All together, they have created a sort of barrier or fence in the space.

If they were larger, the rocks piled up in this way would remind me of the ocean walls that break up the waves in front of the beach, or the stone fences that keep sheep and cattle from wondering off the property in some idyllic pasture.


As I began thinking about the ten commandments this week, I remembered that one of my favorite authors, Wayne Mueller, once described them as a fence, just like this.

He had learned the hard way the benefits of a fence when he was gardening. He could plant lots of good things, but the rabbits kept getting in and eating all that would grow. It was only when the fence was erected that the tulips and daffodils he had planted finally bloomed.

Mueller writes, “The fence was a simple prohibition against harmful activity.”   Instead of thinking about all the shall nots contained in the 10 commandments from exodus, what if we saw them as a garden fence? What if we came to see them as “a useful boundary that keeps out those things that would bring us harm?” What if the 10 commandments actually create a safe space in our lives, a holy space, that allows us to live together with one another in love?


In our final week of this series on difficult relationships and our need for forgiveness, we back up just a step and remember who we are.

As Genesis 1:27 reminds us, “God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them.”

And as the first people of God built relationships and multiplied and moved, they found themselves living in new places and among people who no longer looked or thought like them.

And so as God worked to cultivate God’s people, to create space for them to grow and flourish and mature, God put a kind of fence around their lives.

God gave them, and us, these commandments to help us live the best and most fruitful lives possible.


When God commands us not to steal, God is setting us free to live generous lives.

When God commands us to honor our parents, God is caring for the aging.

When God commands us not to lie, God is helping us live lives of honesty.

Each command helps us turn our energy and our love toward one another and toward God. Each command creates the conditions for our best possible life, not as individuals, but as a community and as a world.

I believe that if each of us truly lived within the protective fence of these commands, there might be no need for forgiveness at all.

Can you imagine a world without slander and murder? A world where people worshipped only God and not their borders or their pocketbooks?

Can you picture how our planet might be different if we were not constantly striving for what someone else possesses, or hoarding our own belongings, but made sure that each of our brothers and sisters had enough?


Today, we celebrate World Communion Sunday. On this day, Christians across the world break bread in remembrance of Jesus Christ. We celebrate the entire body of Christ on this day, gathered in countries near and far. The gifts that we offer in the special envelopes in your bulletin help to train students from many backgrounds and cultures so that we can discover unity even in the midst of our diversity.

And I think the primary thing that unites us is the love of Jesus Christ.

The love of Christ reminds us we are all sinners in need of God’s grace.

The love of Christ shows us what grace and mercy are all about.

The love of Christ is sacrificial and bends down in service to others.

The love of Christ gives life to others.

Love seeks the good of others, no matter who they are, even if it is at our own expense.


We are not all the same. Across this great wide world we worship in different languages and eat different types of bread. We sing different types of music. We live in various political and social and economic realities. But as the people of God and followers of Jesus Christ, we are all have the same calling: to love.

When Jesus summarized all of the law and the prophets, he basically took the ten commandments and boiled them down to five words:

Love God. Love your neighbor.

That’s it.

These laws are all about the relationships we have been talking about these past few weeks.

Love is the fence that guards us from harmful activity. Love is the standard for how we are to behave. Love defines who we are.


Does that mean that we will always perfectly follow these commands? Does it mean that we will always be safe from others who would seek to harm us?

No, of course not.

This world is full of broken promises and imperfect people. We will make mistakes. We will sometimes forget the imperative to love. And we are surrounded by people who simply don’t care about our laws and our faith.

But our response to those who have harmed us or who challenge us should always and everywhere come from the same love that defines us as people of faith. Our response should always be love.

And loving our enemies and strangers means forgiving them and seeking peace and reconciliation.


During these past few weeks, one of the songs we have heard in both services is called “Forgiveness” by Matthew West. West wrote this song based on the story of a woman whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver. The young man who killed her was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his crime, but the mother wrote that she felt like the one who was a prisoner because of the anger and hatred she had towards the young man.

So she decided to forgive him. She built a relationship with this young man and asked God to help her show him love and grace and mercy. And today, they are both free because she chose to love.


This fence of God’s love frees us to be in relationships with other people, no matter how different we are, how broken we might seem, how challenging that might be.

Today, as we celebrate our unity, may we also celebrate the love that guides us every step of the way, the love that surrounds us and frees us to love others in return.

Exercise and Practice

This thought was waiting for me in my email inbox this morning, as I finished day one of working out again:


Here is a traveler. He has launched out on a long journey. He comes to the first inn, and there he remains forever. His reason? He has been told that many travelers have come this way and have stayed at this very inn; even the master of the house once dwelt here…. Oh soul! All that is wished for you is that you press toward the end…. Only remember this: Do not stop at the first stage.

Jeanne Guyon
Source: Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ

So many times, I have started on this journey and I stop far beyond the journeys end. I give up when weather, a cold, and busyness get in my way. I settle for where I am rather than pressing on.

I think when it comes to fitness and weightloss there is a fine line between loving who you are, as you are, and pushing yourself to take another step. I can accept myself and love myself right now. I just bought a pair of jeans that fit perfectly.  I can embrace my curves and size. At the same time, I climbed a hill this weekend and found myself out of breath.  I know that while this me is okay, that I can also do better.  I need to push myself to the next place without hating myself in the process. 

I wonder if we treat our spiritual lives the same way? Where we are in our life of prayer or service or the eay we love others… it is good and fine and acceptable. And we can stay here for as long as we want. Until one day we notice that we cant find the words to pray or a difficult situation challenges our ability to love someone.  And then we realize that while we might be okay with where we are, that doesn’t mean we can’t grow more healthy and push farther in our spiritual lives. We discover that climb that challenges us and we find the incentive to push on and grow as a disciple of God.

This morning,  I started my journey with some weight lifting and tomorrow I will do some cardio. You can find a thousand ways to get physically healthy.

In our spiritual lives,  there are many exercises we can try, too:
A new form of prayer, journaling, reading the scripture,  serving once a week, worshipping intentionally with others, finding a spiritual buddy to talk with.
All of these flex our soul and strengthen us for what comes next. They challenge us to keep moving forward on the journey.  One step at a time.

What I am learning as I give up social media for Lent…


#1 – I seek praise, sympathy, solidarity through social media.  The smallest, most insignificant thing could happen and my first instinct is to post it so that other people will comment and respond.  It is attention-seeking behavior that often slips into a self-centered focus.  Having to constantly fight the urge to post has led me to wonder what I’m getting out of those posts… and what others are as well.  Sometimes, it is an authentic search for community and others to share the journey with.  Sometimes it is  race to see who has the biggest sob story or frustration of the day.  These past weeks have reminded me of my insignificance.  No one  really cares what I had for breakfast or about a stubbed toe or that I shared an article.  I’m just not that important.  And I shouldn’t be.

#2 – Most of my news comes from social media. When I hear of breaking news, I search for the topic on twitter instead of turning on the television.  The variety of sources, the mix of images, video, stories, personal reflections, global perspectives is amazing.  I just don’t get the same depth of information watching one news channel go on for hours at a time about a single event, and when you flip stations between the networks, the information is often similiar with only slight colors of perspective.  As Ukraine and Russian and the Malaysian flight disappearance have made headlines, I have largely been out of the loop of what is happening in the world.

#3 – Many of my conversations with close, personal friends, happen on Facebook.  While texting is part of my communications toolbox, I rarely call or email these individuals.  I never realized how much I rely upon Facebook groups for keeping in touch with a circle of friends – whether they are colleagues or my girlfriends.  I had to write a clause into my lenten discipline that allowed me to continue using the Messenger part of Facebook (which meant I had to download the app), because I realized I would be completely out of the loop on conversations about health, upcoming events, and personal struggles.  Not being on facebook and able to follow posts on group pages has left me feeling fairly isolated from those I am most connected with.

#4 – I pray a lot through Facebook.  Whether they are shared prayer concerns among colleagues or simply reading the everyday struggle and hopes of friends, family, and colleagues, I am frequently moved to pray as I interact with posts and snoop on people’s lives.  Not having that source of prayer material at my fingertips, however, has led me to pay attention a bit more to the people around me… the guy sitting on the park bench, the people in line.  I find myself wondering what their story is, what they hope for…  I haven’t worked up the courage to ask yet, however.  I’m not sure if I’ve always been an “overhearer” of people’s lives or if this is something that a social media culture has developed in me and others around me.  And sometimes I wonder if that extension of ourselves into the public space is good or not.  I hesitate to lift up a prayer out loud on the bus, but I don’t when I’m commenting on a friend of an acquaintances post.  It’s something to ponder.

#5 – I enjoy watching sports with social media.  I enjoy the quick stats and the commentary that is often far better than what is on the television.  I like the sense of solidarity in amazing plays and in bad calls.  Yet, with the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team being told to stay off of twitter because of the criticisms, I also recognize how brutal it gets out there.  The things we yell at the television in the quiet of our own homes now are the things we post online in public in the heat of the moment, without tempering our emotions and remembering it is, after all, just a game. 

#6 – I’m following the practice of celebrating Sundays as “little Easters” and not fasting from social media on those days.  In the past two weeks, I’ve largely used those days to dump pictures and a quick narrative of the highlights of my week, as well as to quickly skim my group pages, catch up where I can with friends, and have left very few comments.  I might have spent a total of 2 hours on facebook between those two days.  The time I spend in my typical week on social media must be astounding.  I’m sure there is an app somewhere to monitor it, but I’m afraid to look. 

#7 – I use Facebook and social media equally for work and for personal matters.  Conversations with friends and co-workers happen simultaneously.  I’m more aware of that fact as I try to occasionally use it for work-related items (like updating our facebook page for Imagine No Malaria), but the distinction is so blurred that I have tried to avoid it or batch post.  I think it would be worth it to do some hard work of creating new lists on facebook to better discriminate what I post and to whom so I could use it for both in a better way. 

#8 – this is NOT going to be a permanent fast.

Your Race, Your Game

When I was in middle school, my mom and dad invited me to try out as many different sports as I could.  In 7th grade I ran track.  In 8th grade I played volleyball and tennis.  I worked on my soccer skills with the rec leagues.  I played softball in the summer.

Instead of focusing on one single activity, their thought was I should find out what I was actually good at and enjoyed doing.  How would I know if I didn’t try them out?

What I quickly learned was that I didn’t have the hand-eye coordination for tennis.  I didn’t have the stamina for long-distance running or a fast game like basketball.  But I was great at sacrificing my body.  I didn’t care if I got hurt… I was good at hustling and diving if need be in order to get to a ball and make a play.

On the volleyball court, I was a scrappy setter – not only able to get into position, but also able to recover those bumps that went off kilter.

In softball, I found myself playing catcher – diving to the sides if need be to trap those wild pitches and save a stolen base.

And in soccer, my skills found their natural home as a goalie.  I threw my body in front of kicks and was not afraid to close the distance with a forward to prevent a shot.

I earned bumps and bruises, but I also found my game… I found my place… that connection point between my skills and the needs of a team and I found myself as the starting varsity goalie for the high school soccer team my sophomore year.

As I think about my experiences with sports, I think about what Paul said to the Corinthian people.  I don’t run without purpose, he writes… but I punish my body – I’m staying in top condition – I am working hard to accomplish my goals.  I am going to have the discipline and the focus to actually run this race and win it.

He is comparing the Christian faith to an athletic competition… as we follow Jesus Christ, we need to practice our discipleship.  We need to give it our all in order that we might one day cross the finish line and enjoy life eternal with our Lord.

Something that I have realized, however, is that we are not all running the same race.  This is not a competition between you and me.

No, each of us has a race to run, a game to play, a course to chart.  Each of us has been called to use the best of what we have got to serve the Lord.

Just as I would never survive a marathon… you might not last long in the goalie box.  We have been blessed with different gifts – different skills and abilities – and we need to discover those gifts and use them to the best of our ability as we love and serve the Lord.

So what is your race?  What is your game?  Where does God want you focus your energy?

Today, I want to invite us to discover those gifts by taking a simple inventory.  I am going to read off  a number of statements and for each one, you will be invited to respond with a number on your sheet.  There is a scale from 1-7… with a 7 meaning that the statement ALWAYS describes you and a 1 meaning that it NEVER describes you.

I want you to hear very plainly… there are no wrong answers.  Think about what your first gut response answer would be and record in on the sheet.

Each one of us has been blessed in different ways – we each have a race to run, a game to play.  And this tool will help us to narrow our focus and find those places where we can truly soar.

(take spiritual gifts inventories)


May God grant us grace to claim and celebrate these gifts… and may we not be afraid to use them.  May we run with a clear goal ahead of us, may we play with a purpose.  Amen and Amen.



Invitation to respond and give these gifts sheets to the Lord – a symbol that we will let God use us to reflect the light of Christ to those we meet.

spring is just around the corner

This evening I placed my order for seeds from Burpee.

I could almost feel the dirt between my fingers as I poured over images and reviews and mapped out the different parts of the garden.  There may be a chill in the air tonight and snow might be in the forecast, but all I can think about is spring and color and the taste of a ripe tomato.

Gardening has really been a spiritual experience for me these past couple of years.  It is hard work, down on your hands and knees, working with the earth.  Watching the miracle of life come from a tiny seed reminds me of the gifts we recieve every day from our Creator.  Nurturing the plants… but mostly pulling the weeds… has reminded me that our faith life needs to be tended as well in order for growth to happen.  I have experienced joy from sharing the fruits with others and simply looking out over that bounty with thankfulness.

This year, my vegetable garden will expand a bit, but I’m still going to use the same basic “bag-gardening” design I started with.

What is new will be flowers.  I have done flowers in the past in the beds leading along the front steps.  But between the tulips and other assorted bulbs I planted last fall and the seeds that I just ordered, there should be color everywhere!

My first big project will be to start the seeds inside.  I have had terrible luck with this in the past.  We dedicate our guest room for the planting – mostly because we can control the temp (nice and warm) and because we can close the door and the cats won’t bother the seedlings that way.  But unfortunately, I tend to forget about things I don’t see.  And forget water and things like that.  Bad for growth.

So I’m mentally wrapping my head around the idea that in two weeks, my gardening year starts.  Those tiny seeds being tended inside will be my babies. And while it’s not as backbreaking work as tending the plants outside, they require dedication and attention and I am going to give it to them!