You Are Not Broken

I was reminded recently of a fable that I have loved for many years.  It is as close to a parable as I have come across.  This time, however, it spoke to my soul and resonated deeply.  Maybe you need to hear it, too.

A water bearer had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master’s house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you”. The bearer asked, “Why? What are you ashamed of?” The Pot replied, “For these past two years I am able to deliver only half of my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you don’t get full value for your efforts”.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion, he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful
flowers along the path.” As they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it somewhat. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

In a recent lecture, the speaker said, "People are not broken.  People are imperfect, but they are not broken."  It occurred to me how we get intellectually lazy and allow others to put frames around you and title you as "broken" or "useless" or "wounded" or whatever.  This is not truth.

Because of poor word choices, some consider the Church and the Bible hold such a view.  And while we are sinners, while we are imperfect, there is a truth you need to hear not expressed enough about how God views you:

"I praise you [God] because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."  Psalm 139:14

Whatever voices have spoken words that tell you differently, you and whatever the flaws you may have, are only flaws in the eyes of others who do not see you as God does.  You are wonderfully made.  You will find your purpose. 

May God Be With You.

How to Help Move Through Grief: 5 Simple Life Changes That Help
Grief and suffering are hard work. I know, I’ve written about it a lot and it has kept me from writing too. It takes a lot out of you and takes its toll physically as well as mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It can truly be debilitating. Some folks don’t want to talk about it or face it because they are afraid of “catching” it.

Just “getting over it” is not an option. Grief doesn’t work that way. Even so, there are simple things you can do when mired down. They are small steps. Miniscule even to some people BUT can be gargantuan when you are mired in emotions! These five mini habits may not seem like much and you’d be right, that is the point. You need some small steps.

1. Get moving.

Funny that it took me so long to see this one, especially since I love exercising. It really did help to find a local hiking trail and just start putting one foot in front of the other. That was the most consistent thing I needed to do: start my body moving. Getting adrenaline and endorphins flowing is a natural antidepressant.

2. Consider a pet.

A dog would be good. Maybe a cat, but really, anything that you feel you can care for might be good for you. It renews your connection to life. And, if what you need is some attention back? Well, dogs and cats don’t seem to ever pass judgment when a treat or lap is available! And be sure to go visit your local shelter first. The one you save may well return the favor.

3. Try a new hobby.

I wrote a book. Then I co-authored one. Now I am writing another one. I always wanted to do it, but never had. Now, they aren’t bestsellers, but that was never my goal. It was to write my way to help those in my circle and maybe beyond. It was new and different. And the book I co-authored? That was with my late wife actually and it helped bring grief full circle.

4. Leave things behind.

This is very personal. Whether it is a bracelet, a car, a house, or even a town, sometimes you need to cut bait. So you know, I did three of those four. Things do often tie us down or anchor us in unhealthy ways. Giving yourself permission to let go can be tough, but it may be just the thing you need. Start small.

5. Listen to positive messages

The internet is full of awful stuff, but the great thing is you can do an internet search at any time and find positive things just by typing: “Positive Messages” or “Encouragement.” You can find articles, videos, or podcasts. Start each day with someone speaking something positive into your life. Go to sleep listening to another person saying encouraging things to you as well.

Grief is part of life and part of living. You are going to experience along with nearly everyone born on this planet. You don’t get over it, but you do move through it and can learn to live with it. You are not alone on the journey.

If you’d like to read more about my journey and how my faith helped me, check out my book on Amazon: Life Sucks Seek God. Feel free to reach out to me by commenting or sending an email.

Simply Pray: Reflection on Pleasing God

"Loving God, May All I Do Be Pleasing to You."

“For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not Teased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10, NASB) 

When an infant cries, they are communicating to a parent or caregiver or whoever is nearby to come help! When two people begin a dating relationship, they are very aware of every aspect of body language and facial expression as part of communication. In my vocation as a therapist and spiritual director, what takes place is more than just me telling someone what to do. It is often a time of profound active listening and talking. When I have stood in public holding a “Free Listening” sign and the conversation is appropriately imbalanced, it still requires mutual interaction.

The nature of relationships is they are a two-way street.

So is it with you and God. Are you unsure? Consider the stories throughout the Bible starting in Genesis all the way through to Revelations. There is a constant dialogue between God and people. In the Old Testament, it is often through the angel of the Lord God speaks and people respond but there are many occasions where God is on the scene and speaking more directly to people like Noah and Moses. In the New Testament, we see God in human form in Jesus Christ - now that is speaking to God! The letters of the New Testament then tell us God speaks through the Holy Spirit in our day.

God is interested in you! So contrary to opinions, the idea of a faith merely about rules and regulations is far from what God desires. God's acts of love don't require us to do good but inspire us and empower us to a new life. The late bishop, Reuben Job, wrote it is an inspired life where you, “do no harm, do good and stay in love with God!” I like the simplicity of that, don’t you?

As you pray this prayer without ceasing, invite God to be part of all you do. Reflect on your day or each day of the week. Really think about how you lived and how your life has been pleasing to God.

This 1 Thing Has Changed Everything In My Day

How many times do you hit the snooze bar on your alarm or tell Alexa to shut up when the alarm sounds in the morning? Do you fight everyday to catch a little bit more of the dream you were in the middle of when that awful sound jarred you from peaceful slumber? Is your first though, “Oh no, not again?”

I totally get it! I’ve been there (and sometimes on the weekend, I’m right there with you). I can tell you a couple of things that have really helped with making it easier to get moving in the morning:

1. Turn in at a reasonable BEFORE midnight!
2. Don’t eat any heavy snacks after dinner.
3. Definitely don't eat after midnight! (80's joke)

Eating the right breakfast has been a great help too. Getting into a workout plan I like has been good for me as well but when it comes to what really has changed everything, it comes down to something I never expected.

Here is what has made the difference to change everything...prayer. Not just any prayer mind you but one prayer in particular. It is a prayer I use to model all the breath prayers I pray each week and a prayer I’ve been praying for many years and a prayer given to us first by Jesus. It is called the Jesus Prayer.

That’s it! “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

I have prayed it so much through the years I realized it has been the words that come through my mind the moment the alarm goes off and I start waking up! AND THAT HAS CHANGED EVERYTHING IN MY DAY!!!

I’m praying it all through the day too, which is awesome for sure but it set the tone for how I’m viewing life, things like:

1. I’m giving God credit for being God.

2. I’m placing Jesus in charge of my life and my day.

3. It reminds me, Jesus has what I need.

4. It keeps me humble and thankful.

I didn’t even do this on purpose! Sure, I prayed the Jesus Prayer on purpose during the day, but because I made the Jesus Prayer a part of my spiritual habits, it became part of me and part of my life.

So how do you do it?

Start by praying the prayer over and over again: “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Prayer beads or a prayer rope is a help (check out That’s it!

From that starting point, I have been able to face the tragedies, the joys, the changes and the unexpected throughout my life. When I began to pray it at the start of the morning, I realized it had been doing transforming work and made me so much more aware of God. Truly it has been the 1 thing that has changed everything in my day and my life.

From the Valley of Suck to the Plains of Hope

I started hiking again. That may not sound like much but for me, it put me in touch with my soul in such a way that it brought a lot of things together, namely, hope.

These days I am a bi-vocational pastor, working part-time at my church and part-time is a therapist. Because of that second job, the young people I work with got me out on a trail for the first time in a long time. I discovered trails just a ten minute drive from my house and so it got me back up in the mornings, exercising and in touch with nature and it tapped my soul. It touched hope.

I am a huge believer in our lives being holistic: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. I know some folks discount the spiritual but for me, well, I can’t get passed what Jesus did for me, does for me and that transfers to my faith in Jesus’ words of what He will do in the future. Since the journey through the valley of suck began, the spiritual is one thing that has been most consistent even as the other three wavered and collapsed.

With each day, week, month, and year that has passed, I’ve been up and down. Hitting rock bottom mentally, I got on medication and through some therapy, we determined I have a general anxiety disorder that if left unattended, can lead to depression and panic attacks. What I learned was how my emotional, physical and spiritual practices had kept this in check for all these years.

The emotional, is really all tied together. Still, learning to be independent, releasing my young adult children to live their own lives, and reforming my support network was big. I can’t say enough how falling in love again has made a HUGE impact BUT I had to be emotionally ready for that, and I couldn’t expect Lauren to take on my emotional health. I had to own it.

And so then came the physical, an on again, off again struggle, it finally came together three weeks ago on the trail and with it, came hope. The valley of suck began in the fall of 2014, so coming on 5 years, it seems that the journey has led me to something I’d like to call the plains of hope. No analogy is perfect but it seems here, with hope, I am able to have some freedom in the choices I make where the valley of suck is mired in survival. I also say “plains” because I can still the valley of suck around me. It is always possible to step in it and stumble and fall.

Grief remains.  It just doesn't go away.  It is right there in my pack when I hit the trail.  It turns ugly sometimes and the dust and mud from the valley of suck remain.  You've got to do you.  You've got to find the road forward and address the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects that feed you.

Grief has become a new industry now.  I can tell.  My social media has blown up with new books and new coaches.  My readership on my blog has dropped off tremendously since Heather's death.  Granted I haven't written so much and that is precisely because the journey has been hard as "H -E - double hockey sticks."  We don't get over the grief - we walk through it - we walk with it - and we grow with it as part of who we are.  I never wanted my blog or writing to be solely about grief and being widow.  Life is more than that.  It sucks BUT it can be so much worth living!

For me, Paul’s words of tribulation and suffering have come to have much broader understanding than my younger years could have comprehended…

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Judging Just Ain't Your Thing So Give Grace

You ever have one of those moments with your best friend or significant other and say, “I just need some space?” It isn’t always that you have a disagreement or a fight, you just find in yourself that you need some time to “figure stuff out” even if you don’t know what that STUFF is??? When you become an adult, we get the weekend or some vacation to do it, and hopefully we don’t wait and do something stupid.

How do you respond when someone says it to you, though? It might be easy to take offense right? You wonder if you did something wrong if they didn’t give you more information. You might be tempted to say, “What’s your problem?” or worse yet, just blow them off and walk away. Maybe even judge them? (gasp!)

Of course we would. We’re human. It is our nature to be self centered. It isn’t good, its just who we are sometimes. Okay, maybe it is just how I am (when I am at my worst, of course).

I couldn’t help think about it today though, how we look at other people on their spiritual journey, when they are not at a place where we are, spiritually speaking. Our ideas of discipleship seem to prove the idea that we are more gracious for the flaws of those like us and far more quick to demand more from those who are not.

Jesus was always quick with stories and images and one of those favorite images is that of planting. He talked of seeds and shrubs. He condemned a fig tree and talked about harvesting wheat, the struggles with weeds. When it comes to planting, growing, and harvesting, Jesus makes clear, we don’t have as much control as we think. In one of those stories, here is what Jesus said...

“And He was saying, “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil;27and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know.28“The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.29“But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)

I’ve also often heard the adage too, “bloom where you are planted,” directed at pastors. I’ve done enough gardening to know that sometimes, plants don’t grow in one place but take off in another. It could be a combination of soil acidity, sunlight, rain, temperature, or even a neighborhood dog coming by and peeing on our plants in the early morning when we don’t know. I’ve observed enough and pastored long enough to have seen pastors who didn’t “grow” the church they served in one place and in another, the church they were serving took off. I’ve seen it to be the case in my own calling as well. Growing an orchard is going to take longer than growing a field of wildflowers. Be gracious others on the journey.

"Don’t judge" seems to be one of the best reminders we can remember when we speak of the spiritual journey and how people are growing in their faith.  I just don't know WHY some people do what they do.  You don't know why I do what I do.

Moving into judgement is also a movement into shaming another person. There is no life giving justification for shaming others, the journey of life will present enough struggles and pitfalls of its own without offering condemnation or shame on another. Jesus is so quick to encourage us OFF that path: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. (Luke 6:37)

Notice that Jesus gives us the best possible scenario: If you are going to do something then forgive others! Pardon others! Be merciful! Let God handle the judgement part when God determines the right time for it (Isaiah 33:22). See all the people as God does, as you were, and as you are, a person of worth in need of God’s abundant grace.  Judging just ain't your thing.

Hey United Methodist Church, Can We Talk About Jesus Now?

#UMC folks, if you are still under the guise and believe that only the "other side" has a "political machine" that is at work, you are becoming part of the problem. As one who has been in the "conservative" tribe all my ministry, I have been approached by this machine for years. Of course, the "progressives" have a "machine" too.

As the great Clay Ride video of years gone by notes, we chose a more democratic form of church governance in the formation of the Methodist Church. It should be no wonder then that our system mirrors the secular world's struggles and corruption that infiltrates our church.

No one is going to be a victor when we come to the conclusion of the journey. Sadly, the world looks on and sees the church behaving no differently than they do and wonders what need is there for the church? Even as I post this, I struggle with typing these words as an Elder and life long member in the UMC.  If one side "won" or "lost" in the votes at Annual Conference, guess what?  We all lost.

I am no fan of using Jesus as the "tea strainer" of our theology (only listening to what Jesus said, check out more about it here), but ya know what? I can't help but thinking and believing, right now we all need to make more time for Jesus and Jesus' words - not about politics, not about sexuality, not about authority of Scripture, but about...

-where do I see pain?
-who do I see hurting?
-how do I best help one person today?
-when can I make time to pray? worship?
-what need can I give to?
-what is the idol I worship?
-who is the stranger in my midst?
-why am I do nothing for my neighbor in need?
-when will I love my enemy?
-can I turn the other cheek?  When?

Jesus said, we have to "die" in order to live.  I think Jesus was getting at our need to admit our powerlessness to do the work really needed in our souls.  To that end, if we claim to be followers of Jesus, humility, not "rightness" should be far more prominent in our way of life.  Folks, it ain't everyone can see our "emperor," our denomination, has no clothes nor can we be saved through it.

That has always been Jesus.  So yeah, maybe Jesus is the tea strainer we need after all.

Here is that Clay Ride video too, just for fun...

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