Christians Should Throw More Rocks.

Out my back door and down the hill, three ponds lay tucked in the woods. A small creek filled with the cleanest water you’ve ever seen has faithfully slipped over red rocks and dead leaves day after day, and now all three ponds are brimming. The only regular visitors to this spot are Sam’s four bull calves and me.

I go there to hear directly from God.

You can believe what you want to, but four years ago, when I was dangling from the end of my rope, I found places in the Bible where Jesus himself said:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

Since no one was around to tell me otherwise, I believed him, and today, I hear him best on the bank of the biggest pond. His voice is like a low whisper, almost like a distant train you can feel more than hear. If the voice in my head is a fiddle, then God’s is an upright bass.

“Get a rock and throw it in.”

Photo Credit: Richard Freeman

Photo Credit: Richard Freeman

I’d heard this before. Last week in fact and I did it, even though I was thinking, “I get where you’re going Jesus, but the ripple metaphor is a little tired.” Then I recalled something I always say when explaining the work of the LA Dream Center:

“The Dream Center,” I tell people, “is like ground zero, the epicenter. It’s like a love bomb went off in a rough part of LA and the shock waves rolled through the hood, leaving gardens, tidy lawns, freshly painted houses and families for miles in every direction.”

That’s what the love of God does. It spreads restoration, wholeness and order in all directions – like ripples.

But here’s why I had to toss a second rock in today: The ripples eventually dissipate, so somebody’s got to throw another rock. Somebody has to scribble their phone number on the church bulletin and hand it to the bleary-eyed dude on the back row, whose hung over presence is a miracle in itself.

Places like the LA Dream Center and Mercy Ships have armies of people with strong thighs and backs from years of grabbing hands and hoisting boulders together, chunking them into the water. But people like you and me can gather stones too. We can keep little ones in our pockets, not to throw at each other and at gay people and Muslims, but into the water of people’s lives, spreading shock waves of grace – no matter who they are.

“What are you waiting for?” I heard him say. “Throw more rocks! This is how we win. This is how the kingdom is built.”

It’s a fact that every rock makes ripples. So what kind of rocks are you throwing? And if they’re good ones, how often do you throw them?

Love Dinner #5 is on the books. I can’t wait to tell you what kind of rocks the girls have been throwing. To join us click here.

Can You Name Five Life Goals?

St. Andre - French Alps

St. Andre – French Alps.

I’m reading a fantastic book on prayer called The Circle Maker. Wendy Lawton of Books and Such Literary Agency recommended it, saying when she finished it, she bought 35 copies.

Praying to an unseen God can be really hard – especially if nobody’s ever taught you how or why it matters. This book does both.

Written by Mark Batterson who pastors National Community Church in Washington DC, this book is an anthology of miracles. Batterson tells every story backward, starting with a successful $3 million bid the church made on a rare piece of Capitol Hill real estate. Then he backs up a few years and explains the prayer that started it, which grew into many prayers, relentless prayers, boring daily prayers and an army of on-foot prayers circling the property until the deal closed.

It’s a book of evidence, but one that’s smart enough to tackle “unanswered” prayers or those where God says no. You should pick it up. It’s good.

Reading Batterson’s thoughts on goal setting, I noticed how neglected and mushy my own goals had become. How can you pray circles around things when you don’t even know what you want? He talked about a guy named John Goddard who at age 15 wrote down 127 life goals, ranging from milking a poisonous snake to learning Arabic. By the time he turned 50, he’d accomplished 108 of them.

Batterson writes:

The brain is a goal-seeking organism. Setting a goal creates structural tension…which will seek to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be, who you are and who you want to become…Goal setting is good stewardship of your right-brain imagination. It’s also great for your prayer life.

So, I began writing 100 life goals today – so I can circle them in prayer. Here are five:

  • Learn to fly a plane.
  • Live in France.
  • Build a Dream Center in Santa Cruz, California – (Whoa. Did I just said that out loud?)
  • Learn to play guitar well enough to play around a campfire.
  • Write bestselling books.
IMG_0573

Nice would be nice.

At least two of those goals are impossible without God, it’s just a fact. The trick, Batterson says, is to work like it’s on me, but pray like it’s on God.

And so my friends, today is audience participation day at Going to the Sea.

  • Who are you?
  • What are you dreaming up?

In the comment section please inspire us:

Link up your blog if you like and post five of your own life goals. Be bold.

Roll your works upon the Lord (commit and trust them to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will and) so shall your plans be established and succeed. Proverbs 16:3

Some Thoughts on Love

IMG_2042At the Angelus Temple last fall, Pastor Matthew made a remark that lodged in my brain.

“Turn off your tv, it’s prophesying doom over your life,” he said.

It’s true. Facebook does it too and here’s how you can tell: As you watch or read news feeds, consider the imaginary arguments you’re having with someone over something they said. Feel the churning in your gut, the shaking of your head and the pejoratives you attach to that person. Doom!

Here’s how it’s supposed to be:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

That’s why I pray and read The Bible every day now. It is one thing to dump the cold, nasty stuff out of yesterday’s cup, it’s another to scrub it clean and refill it with fresh Dunkin’ Donuts dark roast with vanilla cream and sugar. Thank God Lent is nearly over.

Sailing

(Photo credit: possumgirl2)

Often, goosebumps rise on my arms as I praise God for the sunrise and pray for people I love. Joy swells in my chest and blows away negative thought loops, sending me on a different heading. This is the present-tense value of following Jesus Christ – you learn to quit seeing things like the world does and begin seeing them like God does. Go ahead and try it, your life and circumstances can’t resist.

“Well, what about all the __________ I am doing? What about all the _______I have done? What about the scriptures on __________I disagree with? What about all the __________Christians on tv?”

For a moment, please set it aside and listen to the gospel: God is holy and we’re not, so we’re separate. Jesus was tortured and died to bridge that separation. It’s a gift.

So it doesn’t really matter what you are doing right now or what you think, if you bring it to Jesus and hand it over, he will teach what love really is and then drown you in it. Out of that love you become a new creature, utilizing the purest, most creative parts of yourself – often in service of other people.

I’m hardly breaking theological ground here, people have been saying this for centuries. But when you strip away the acrimony that’s built up around the gospel, and try it for yourself, it proves to be awfully good news.

How?

As the sun comes up, grab a cup of coffee and read the Gospel of John. It was written by a man who understood, perhaps better than the rest, how much Jesus loved him.

Then let Jesus love you like that.