Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nazbo Rap


Just overlook the inconsistencies and inaccuracies and enjoy it as a piece of entertainment.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Do you ever feel like this guy? You know, like you are barely keeping your balance on a taught tight rope. Well, that's how I feel right now.

In my first ministry class, many years ago, I was told that life in ministry is a difficult balancing act. I took notes and nodded, never realizing the depth of such a simple concept.

I feel that so far in my ministerial journey I have done okay at keeping that balance. I haven't fallen off of the tight rope...yet. These days, though, the rope is shaking more than ever before and there are strong, swirling winds, which are all simply a part of this transitional phase we are currently experiencing.

The shaking comes from family transitions. As I have already mentioned on numerous occasions, we are preparing for the arrival of our first child any day now. This is exciting and scary and has added a whole new element to my balancing act.

The winds come from ministerial transitions. I'm moving from the associate pastor role at New Hope Church in Kansas City to take the lead pastor role at New Life Community Church in Oklahoma City. This new step is exciting and scary and has added a whole new element to my balancing act - did I just say that? Hmmm...deja vu.

We are preparing for new life in our family and meanwhile we are attempting to purchase our first home, take up a lead pastor role, move everything to OKC and all while I'm also attempting to finish out my responsibilities at New Hope for at least another month. Right now, I've wrapped my arms and legs around that tight rope and I'm holding on for dear life! You may know how that feels.

All of these transitions are great things for us, but they also introduce new elements that threaten to trow us off balance. Yet, as I cling to that rope I'm strangely comforted. The rope is familiar. The rope is stable and secure. I begin to trust again that the rope will hold me...that I will not fall. I get back up and keep walking. I'm just glad that the rope is there to hold me even in the most turbulent times.

3 I myself taught Israel how to walk,
leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care
that it was I who took care of him.
4 I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love.
I lifted the yoke from his neck,
and I myself stooped to feed him.
Hosea 11:3-4 NLT

Hosea is obviously using the metaphore a little differently than I have here, but I love the idea of these ropes of love and kindness...these ropes that represent the presence of Christ and His loving leadership. That is what I cling to for dear life. Thank you Lord, for Your ropes. I know that we can trust them to hold us up. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:1-13 NIV)

Gifts. That's what God gives. We haven't understood the depth of this reality. I suppose I should say that I haven't understood it - but given our communal life, I think I can say "we".

Rights. That's what we claim. Rights-grasping is a completely different way to live. I must be careful here, in no way do I want to down play oppression or injustice - for those very concepts imply that there is such a thing as right or just, but there is certainly a different attitude and way of life involved in rights-grasping, rather than recognizing and receiving gifts. The former involves striving, struggle, tension, and even violence. The latter requires openness, humility, grace, and peace. I wonder what our lives might look like if we believed that God only gives gifts and not rights.

That is why I tend to gravitate toward the image of the Spirit as the Giving Gift. In other words, the Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving. We have all been given gifts and become gift givers through the work of the Spirit in our lives. As Paul well understands, it is this reality that makes genuine Christian community possible. We are swept up into the live giving, perichoretic penetration of the Trinitarian community in the Spirit, which means that every single person in our community is a part of the Body of Christ and plays an important role in His mission activity in our world.

It can be difficult to recognize the gift of the other. At times we feel that some are life draining to us personally or to the entire community, rather than viewing them as gift. I was struck and convicted when I read that the Amish explicitly acknowledge the poor, the sick, the mentally ill, the elderly, and the infirmed as gifts to the community, because their presence brings forth grace and love in others. Their participation shapes us more and more into the image of Christ...well, only if we view them as gift. This challenges me.

Becoming aware of the gifts we bring to the Body and the gifts of others is part of what we are called to as the church. In his list above, Paul reminds us of two important truths - which move us away from rights-grasping: that all gifts are from the same Spirit and they are all given for the common good. Like breathing, we become a receiving and giving community - which is appropriate since the word for Spirit in both the Old & New Testaments is also the word for wind and breath.

Similar thoughts were covered beautifully in an article by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre in the May/June 08 edition of Weavings. But, I suppose that there are various reasons her words resonated so deeply with me at this time. The pregnancy is progressing so well that the Doctor thinks the baby will be born early and could really come any day now. I can only conceive of our son as gift. He is not a right...we don't deserve him...he is a gift from God and I pray that we always view him that way. Also, we are preparing to lead a unique Christian community and there isn't a healthier way to view the life and mission of the Body.

Lord, help us cultivate a heart of gratitude and praise that comes from viewing all reality as gift. Fill us with your Giving Gift and enable us to humbly receive the other and humbly give out of your resources. In the name of our source and our destination - the Triune God. Amen.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Life

He will be here any day now...our son. I'm still adjusting to those words...our son...my son. I've been preparing, but I'm not ready. Yet, somehow I know deep in my bones that everything will be okay. We used to call that blessed assurance...it's a good thing.

It is amazing how many thoughts can flood the mind when approaching such a transitional threshold. I'm full of awe and wonderment. What will he look like? smell like? feel like? What kind of personality will he have? What will he be passionate about? What kind of life will he live?

New Life is always future oriented and full of hope. We sometimes forget that in this journey with Christ. We sometimes are so focused on the cross - human brokenness and sin - that we forget about the resurrection. During this Easter season we should be reminded that our future is the Kingdom of God...therefore, we live with awe, hope and wonderment.

That is not usually my modus operandi. I tend to focus on suffering and death...I tend to get caught up in meaningless and lifeless activities. Anticipating the advent of new life in our family has reminded me that, yes all of those things are realities of this broken world, but Christ has overcome...He is victorious over sin and death. His Kingdom will come bringing with it real life, resurrection life. In that day God will be all in all. May we live with the hope of new life today. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rock Chalk Jayhawk?

I got myself into a little trouble this week. I thought it was "Rock Shock Jayhawk" - what else do you expect from an Okie. Boomer Sooners! Nonetheless, I really offended some of these Jayhawk fanatics. I should have known better since my wife has a Master's degree from KU.

I find our identification with and celebration of sports teams fascinating from a purely anthropological and sociological point of view. Yes, I'm a nerd. In response to my fous pas, someone sent me this history of the KU tradition:

“The Rock Chalk Chant is perhaps the most distinctive cheer in all of college sports. Some have likened it to a Gregorian chant, but anyone who has been in Allen Fieldhouse and heard the chant start low, then build and roll over the crowd knows that it is much, much more. The "Rock Chalk" chant dates to 1866, when it was adopted by the University Science Club. A chemistry professor, E.H.S. Bailey and some of his associates were returning to Lawrence from Wichita on a train. As the story goes, they passed the time by trying to create a rousing cheer. The sound of the train's wheels on the rails suggested a rhythm and a cadence to them. At first, the cheer was "Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, KU" repeated three times. Even though KU didn't have a football team until four years later, KU students quickly took up the chant. Later, an English professor suggested "Rock Chalk," in place of "Rah, Rah" because it rhymed with Jayhawk and because it was symbolic of the limestone, also known as chalk rock, surrounding Mount Oread, the site of the Lawrence Campus. It became the official cheer of the University in 1897. Teddy Roosevelt pronounced the Rock Chalk Chant the greatest college chant he'd ever heard.”

You learn something new everyday.

KU is on top. Bill Self has been offered a ridiculous amount of money to become head coach of the OSU Cowboys. Hmmm...stay with a National Championship team and just make an insane amount of money or go start over at your alma mater and make a ridiculous amount of money. Tough decision.

Back to our identification with sports teams. We find great joy in their victory. We praise them and celebrate and do all kinds of crazy things because they won a game...a game. A friend went to Allen Fieldhouse to watch the game on Monday. He posted a link to this great video that illustrates my point.

The reality is that a much greater victory is to be found in the coming Kingdom. I can only imagine the celebration that will break out in all creation when the Kingdom fully comes on earth. That is what I live for. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Sunday, April 6, 2008


We all bear the responsibility to "hand on" important traditions to the next generation. In fact, that is literally what the word "tradition" means. It comes from the Latin traditio meaning to hand on or hand over, from which we also derive the words trator and trade.

A friend sent this really great video of a two-year-old singing the Lord's Prayer. I just had to hand it on...and it really got me thinking about how we engage our children in the important traditions that shap us. Enjoy!

Friday, April 4, 2008

In Memory of Scottie Houghton

A great civil rights leader was gunned down and died forty years ago on this day. As our nation collectively memorializes a great man who lived for justice and peace, a man who gave a voice to the voiceless, a man who stood up for the rights of the oppressed, a man named Martin Luther King, as so many are remembering him another man quietly went to be with the Lord.

I got to know Scott Houghton while he was living at the Kansas City Rescue Mission. Over time he became a member of our church...a part of our family. He fell asleep in the Lord this morning. Years of living in brokenness ultimately broke his body and devoured his liver and kidneys. Becoming a follower of Jesus didn't take away this physical decay - at least not in this age, but we look forward to the age to come. I'm officiating his memorial serivce at the Rescue Mission tomorrow. This is in memory of Scottie. [ I have to thank my friend Brian Postlewait because he gave the basic thoughts and structure to this memorial message. ]

Jesus had lots of interesting encounters with lots of interesting people during His earthly journey. And thankfully some of these encounters have been recorded for us in the New Testament. It is in these encounters that we begin to see who this Jesus is and what His mission is really all about. One such rendezvous that has really stuck in my mind recently is the conversation that Jesus had with a man named Nicodemus. Now, Nicodemus was a Pharisee…who was a part of the ruling counsel. In other words, he had money, influence and power. Yet, something about Jesus struck him. He wanted to go talk to Jesus, but there was no way that he was going to go in broad daylight…someone might see him, it could ruin his reputation, it could get him kicked off the counsel…so he decides to go see Jesus at night…in the dark.

Jesus starts talking to him about crazy stuff…like being born again…being born of the Spirit…a Son who has come from heaven to teach us heavenly things. But, Nicodemus just can’t understand what Jesus is talking about because he is still in the dark…and then Jesus says some of the most famous words ever recorded:

John 3:16-21 NIV:

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

Jesus clearly reveals His mission here. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Folks, Death is not our friend. Yet we all know that death will come. For some of us sooner than others. For some in seasons of peace and remembrance after many long years of life, for others unexpectedly, but it is certain it will come for us all. Doctors tell us that the human body begins to turn from the growth process to a process of decay around our mid twenties. We can do things that speed that along or we can try to slow that down, but we cannot stop our bodies from decaying. How easy it is for us brush aside this inevitable reality until one close to us experiences what we will all experience. Death is not our friend.

It is not our friend because God did not intend for it to be this way. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. This is the same God who brought order out of chaos and formed man and woman in His own image. He created us out of dust and then breathe the breath of life into us. He breathed the life of His Spirit into us. We were supposed to live and grow and enjoy the goodness of God’s creation. Yet now we are all in the same boat – stuck with a curse of our own devises.

No, death is no friend of ours. Death and darkness are enemies...our greatest adversaries. Jesus knew this. Remember when Jesus hears that his dear friend Lazarus’s has died. He goes to the tomb, knowing that he will raise him – but John records that Jesus was deeply moved and troubled in spirit…Jesus wept. He is consumed with grief, because this just isn’t the way life is suppose to be. But the light cries into the darkness and says, “Lazarus, come out!” Well, you know the rest of the story.

Scott knew that death is our enemy. We went to visit Scott at the hospital during those last days – he picked up the bible that was ever by his hospital bed and one of the first things he said to me was, I’ve got the sword of truth…I’m doing battle with the enemy. And he was…he was.

Those who have life in Jesus are not condemned; but those who do not have life in him are condemned already. You see what is more tragic than the inescapable reality of our natural death, is the sad but profoundly true reality that many begin dying long before their death. I’m not talking about illness here. I’m talking about the fact that many people, and it is not such a difficult thing to do, many people, like Nicodemous, live in the darkness rather than the light. And if you are living in the darkness, though the signs of physical death are not always evident, a spiritual, mental, social, death is already at work in your life. Let’s be honest. Many of us have walked on the path of darkness for such a long time that even when we find the light, we still have to deal with some of the physical and relational consequences of being in the dark so long.

We can live for wealth or influence or power, like Nicodemous, but if we do…we’re still in the dark. We deceive ourselves if we believe that living is about pursuing success or fame or fortune. We deceive ourselves if we believe that happiness can be found in such things. Unforgiveness, anger, hatred, violence, are not signs that we are still living; they are signs that we may already be dead. More tragic than the inescapable reality of our natural death, is this reality that we risk the possibility of dying long before we ever die. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light.

For all that do evil hate the light and do not come into the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

Here is the good news, folks, because as surely as death may set in for us long before our bodies decay, life, good life, the Godly life, the life of the light rather than the false life of the darkness, eternal life, life everlasting also begins before we die. And that, Brothers and sisters is the testimony of the life of Scottie. Death is our enemy, yet we are given hope for eternal life, and it starts long before our bodies lay still. Scott found that life and light in his Lord and Leader Jesus Christ.

You see, Scottie Houghton was a Saint of God. The world may not have noticed him for any grand achievements, yet after becoming a follower of Jesus - he managed to live a life that many, many people fail to live. He lived a life of loving service, a life of redemption. Where family may have been far away God gave him a family – right here at the Kansas City Rescue Mission and at New Hope Church. He battled many things in his life, but he fought that battle through the Word of God. His was a life of hope for a better world. That is why he willingly went to serve others in Mississippi and longed to return to help those who were hurting and broken.

It was on that trip to Gautier, Mississippi that I really got to know Scott…to know his story. His life tells the story of a savior that he didn’t just know about, but he knew as the light of the world…that he knew as the light of his life. Scott Houghton knew Jesus. He knew Jesus in the same way that I got to know him on that trip. He journeyed with Him…he served with Him…he knew Him. And for that he has lived life as perfectly as any of us can ever hope to live. Through simple trust and faith in God he has become for many of us a window into God’s presence.

I’m so glad that Scott came into the light…that he became a follower of Jesus…if you haven’t found that hope, that life, that peace, that light today…I pray that you take the same step that Scott did...that step of faith, that becomes the first step in a journey…the first step on a mission where we get to know and serve with Jesus.

Scott’s life is the fulfillment of this scripture we have read today: But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God. And all who have life in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.

Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

N.B. Again, Brian is to be credited with a great bulk of this reflection.