Monthly Archives: July 2022

Leap Like a Deer


… then the lame shall leap like a deer … Isaiah 35:6

Isaiah uses the visual of a leaping deer to portray the joy in the kingdom of God when the redeemed return to Zion. It is a picture of heaven.

I have been blessed enough to see a deer leap across a bike path that I ride on. Then in the field across from the building where I work, deer come out of the bushes at dusk, and many coworkers have witnessed little fawns jumping around their mothers. And many people I know have watched many a deer galloping through their own backyards.

There is something very light and delicate and innocent about a leaping deer. It immediately makes you feel peaceful and in touch with nature. No matter how they get before your eyes or why, the fact is that God has put them in front of you to remind you of the joy that leaps within you because God is doing something new in your life.

He is bringing healing, strength, glory, majesty and salvation to the land, to life and to the world through the coming of Jesus. Imagine yourself leaping like a deer each time you hear this good news: “Here is your God. He will come and save you!” (Isaiah 35:4).

Revitalizing faith and reconnecting to church in a post-Covid world

Open church doors

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart. –Joel 2:12

Sadly, we know that for every Christian who’s livestreaming church at home or participating in online faith formation, there are others who, for one reason or another, have walked away from regular worship. In fact, recent studies indicate that nearly one in three practicing Christians hasn’t attended church—online, in person or in a parking lot—in the months since the pandemic began. They’ve essentially dropped out. So, how can we bring them back? Moreover, how do we refresh the faith of those recovering from the pandemic blues?

Here are tips to reinvigorate our faith communities as we return, however tentatively, to “normal.”

1) Connect the old-fashioned way (Pick up the phone)

Remember phone trees? They might feel outdated in the digital age, but many parishes are adapting a form of them during COVID-19 by having staff or volunteers check in with folks over the phone. Callers might ask some simple questions like: “How are you doing? What’s going on in your life? How can we pray for you? Do you need anything from the parish?” This can make a great summer outreach project for families or single people.

2) Refocus each day

With everything going on in the world, folks need hope to refocus their day. You might invite people to ponder “the boundless love of Christ” through the readings from Psalm 23 or from the great spiritual master Henri Nouwen inspired Art of [Christian] Living. Then provide a digital forum for folks to share their own thoughts about the readings. Platforms might include a private Facebook group, What’s App group, text groups or something else. All of these offer opportunities to share quick prayer requests, personal updates and photo sharing in a private setting. 

3) Launch a Service Project

Serving others, and one another, is a great way to get people involved and reconnected. Use a theme like the Love Thy Neighbor Service Set to launch a service project or a service-focused ministry team, any time of year. Plan now for a year of opportunities like college or military care-packages, back-to-school supply drive, fall food-drive, Advent toy donations, leaf-raking or yard clean-up day or come up with your own. Invite a team to brainstorm and use these creative ideas to get you started. 

4) Even smaller small groups (Get smaller)

Get intimate with smaller small groups of people with common interests or issues who connect with each other in prayer. They might be parents whose kids were baptized last year, adults who were baptized recently, or people caring for elderly or ill family members. People feel safe and valued in small groups to share their prayer needs and committed to pray for each other. If you’d like to encourage groups like this at your church, you might remind people to connect each week with a greeting card or other small token, like the “do small things with great love” pocket coin.

5) Don’t forget fellowship

Think about some ministries that could use a little unstructured fellowship time. Perhaps your Bible study groups could benefit from a virtual “Friday Fellowship” that’s purely social. Keep it simple by inviting everyone to BYO (Bring Your Own) snack and drink. Consider using these Trivia Cards as light discussion starters with a faith focus. 

& Invite a familiar guest 

A quick check-in with your parish spiritual leaders—even if it’s only for a few minutes—can be a great spiritual or social pick-me-up. You might invite your pastors to spend ten minutes at the beginning or end of ministry or small group meetings to offer a special blessing or some words of wisdom specific to the ministry. Or, they might simply use the time to listen to volunteers’ concerns and ideas for the congregation.

Personality Traits

personality traits

It is striking to me how the personality traits of Christ’s disciples jump off the pages of the Bible. We have brash and bold Simon Peter who steps out to walk on water toward Jesus, who cuts off a slave’s ear at Jesus’ arrest, who speaks his faith in Jesus, then denies him later. We all know someone like that (or are someone like that), someone who makes big gestures yet is frightened underneath.

Then there is Thomas who has been labelled for all history as “doubting” Thomas. It is not exactly the right adjective for him. He simply wants to see things for himself and not rely only on the word of others. He wants evidence of events and wants to know for sure what trusted friend and Savior Jesus is up to. We can be like Thomas, too, right? We like to dig into the Word and get the true meaning of God’s message out. We also want to experience the love of Christ firsthand in our lives, rather than just hearing about it.

I consider James and John who dropped their fishing nets as soon as Jesus said to them, “Follow me,” and went with him. They were dedicated to Jesus, but the cracks in their armor appeared when they came with their mother to ask Jesus which one of them would sit at the right or left hand of Jesus in his kingdom to come. We, too, can be faithful disciples but then fail to be humble in our work for the Lord.

The disciples were not perfect people, and neither are we as we serve our Lord Jesus in our churches, homes and communities. I think it is important for us to remember that it is the variety of personality types that we called to work alongside in our ministry, and we must never let personality type distract us from our common mission to spread the Gospel that Jesus died for all.



Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. John 15:2

It seems counterintuitive: Why cut parts away from a branch that is bearing fruit? But as any good gardener knows, pruning away extra parts of a branch that are preventing it from growing further and flourishing more is necessary.

Applying this pruning principle to our own lives, we recognize that there are parts of our current situation that should be removed so that we can extend our faith and bloom more fully into the person that God wants us to be. Perhaps we need to cut unhealthy habits that are destructive to us physically, emotionally and spiritually, Maybe there is a person who is not a good influence on us whom we need to cut ties with. There might be a job we need to quit in order to focus more intently on a mission God has given us to do.

Pruning can be painful. It can be hard. It is not at all comfortable. But the end results of a closer relationship with God, a better connection to our faith and an expansion of our capabilities to bring glory to God make it well worth the experience.

Open yourself to God’s pruning and open your life to the greater things that pruning makes possible.

Grafted In


And even those of Israel, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree. —Romans 11:23-24

This concept of being grafted into the family tree of God is fascinating to me. These verses talk about Gentiles being like branches broken off or cut off from a “wild olive tree,” which represents a life free from the one true God, and then grafted into a cultivated olive tree, which represents the family tree of God grounded in God’s promise to Abraham. Any “grafted branches” still have a place amid the other branches and still have the potential for new growth, nourished by the Word of God, the power of the Spirit and the love of Christ, all of which serve like the root and trunk system of the tree that carries nutrients to every little branch and leaf connected to it.

In addition, “original” branches of the family of God that break off because of sin or unbelief can also be grafted back into God’s tree. Those who are children of Abraham who have fallen away are always able to be re-grafted to the tree of God through confession and forgiveness in Christ.

In the end, I envision a solid tree with a network of crisscrossing branches and limbs with clusters of fully formed leaves fluttering back and forth in the breeze.

Grafting is still done in horticulture today and is defined this way: The act of placing a portion of one plant (bud or scion) into or on a stem, root, or branch of another (stock) in such a way that a union will be formed and the partners will continue to grow.

Grafting creates union, union with God, and union with the branches around it. We who have been grafted into God’s family are united together with “fellow believer” branches in such a way that we grow in faith surrounded by each other, just as if we were always part of the family tree.

Look at trees today and at their branches and thank God that he has made you a firm branch of his tree of faith.

Roller Coaster Rides

roller coaster

Now is the time of year when people go to amusement parks. The most popular rides at most parks are the roller coasters. Why? It is probably the excitement and thrill of the cars slowly climbing up the hills and then racing down at a fast rate of speed. We then shout and scream with a mixture of fear and joy as our bodies move around twists and turns and even upside down loops. Then we come to the end, overwhelmed by the rush to our senses. So often the next words that come out of people’s mouths are, “Let’s do it again!”

Life can be a roller coaster ride for sure. Highs and lows, twists and turns, feeling jostled by bumps along the way are simply part of the ride of life, we come to realize, especially as we grow older and no matter how much we try to avoid those things. We as Christians are not immune to the roller coaster moments of life, of course. We ride through them just like everyone else. In fact, we can be enriched by them and learn from them.

But we know that the roller coaster of life, unlike the roller coasters of amusement parks, are going somewhere. Life is not going in circles. It is moving us forward. We ride through life with our God in the seat with us, comforting us, forgiving us in Jesus, warning us, celebrating with us, preparing us and loving us all the way. The ride does not stop at the turnstiles. It takes us to the turning point of our lives where our earthly ride ends and a new adventure in heaven begins, with God as our eternal source of deep and lasting joy. What a thrill ride that will be!

The Dawn’s Early Light

American flag

I was recently reading the story of what inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The story is that during the War of 1812 Key was on a ship in the Chesapeake Bay being guarded by British forces after he had rescued a friend who had been arrested. There he was forced to watch the British launch an attack on Fort McHenry in what is now called the Battle of Baltimore. He went to bed that night thinking the British had won, but in “the dawn’s early light,” he saw the American flag being raised over the fort to announce victory by the Americans. Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the days that followed based on this experience.

I find it interesting that only the night before Key saw the flag, he assumed the Americans were doomed. But in the light of day, the truth of America’s victory was revealed through the flag.

How often do we as citizens of this nation and members of the kingdom of God write something off as a failure or a defeat? And how often does God surprise us? The sight of the American flag was a surprise to Key and that is why the words of his song are so powerful to us today as Americans. The sight of God’s victory in tough times of many kinds in our lives still can take us aback at first and then empower us to rejoice in what he can do for us as his people in this nation, in this land of the free and this home of the brave. Let the glory of his might dawn upon us today and every day.