Deathbed Clarity as a Way of Life

In my opinion, most people would say that life should be about what really matters. As I was reading something Tim Urban wrote I was challenged with something he calls his Epitaph Test. He notes “When he finds himself with an opportunity, I ask myself whether I’d be happy if my epitaph had something to  do  with this project. If the answer is a clear no, it probably means it’s not actually very important to me.” He notes, that while as morbid as it is, it’s a great way to cut through the noise.

He says for his “Social life “yes” list, a similar test could be called the Deathbed Test.” This test focuses on the studies related to what people on their deathbed regretted most with their life.

We all know the one thing that never makes the list is, “I wish I had spent more time in the office.” We can all insert something else other than “office”.

As a minister I have been beside many deathbeds. But the one thing I’ve never heard is, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time in church.” You’ll never regret time spent in church with family and friends.

Life is short. Enjoy it more by getting engaged in your church. Not just on Sunday but in other ways too.

That’s something I don’t think you’ll ever regret.

Something I hope you’ll think about.

Spiritual Formation Part Six – Spiritual Burnout

Whenever we talk about  spiritual formation it’s wise to address spiritual burnout and what to do with it…

I was reminded of this as I read about Cary Nieuwhof’s well known burnout described in  his latest book,  Didn’t See It Coming – Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.

He had some thoughtful insights on how to come back from burnout that I thought I’d share in random soundbite fashion.

  1. “Because God seems silent doesn’t mean he’s absent.”
  2. “I never gave myself permission to  quit my faith.”
  3. “I just kept reading Scripture, praying, and trusting even on bad days.”
  4. “Lean in and lean hard. (on God) Even if you feel nothing.”
  5. “Eventually the feeling of intimacy returned.”
  6. “Just because you can’t feel  God’s love doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you.”
  7. “So don’t give up.

Hopefully this  will help you now  or in the future.

Leave a comment if you’ve ever been spiritually burned out and how you made the comeback.

Spiritual Formation Part Five – Solitude?

Hopefully you’ve already digested the 4 posts  that precede this…  If  not I’d encourage you to  dig into those first then return… Start here.

So let’s dig into the spiritual discipline of solitude.

As I write  this I’m home alone on a holiday, in which I am off work,  but my wife is not. The rain is  creating a mesmerizing melody outside my study where I often write.

So it seemed to me in the stillness of my day, with the rain coming down, while I’m home alone, that I should begin with Solitude.

In these times finding solitude can be quite challenging.  Just finding a space where there are no people can be a challenge and when  we do… cell phones, Email, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest… You get it – right?

So solitude must be intentional.

Years ago I used to lead spiritual retreats in Gatlinburg, Tn. As part of the retreat I would ask the participants to follow me on a short hike up Rainbow Falls trail. Once we hiked a few minutes I’d ask that everyone to put away their phones and watches. We were about to practice solitude.  I would then ask them  to continue up the trial and each peel off wherever they’d like, and practice solitude and silence while never looking at their watches or phones. I would never tell them how long they’d be  sitting in the forest alone.

I would usually go 45 minutes to 1 hour. This is somewhat extreme if you’ve never done it. At the end of our  time we would come back together and discuss everyone’s experiences. Of course they varied…. Some thought it was never going to end while others thought the time had  been much shorter. But all agreed that they benefited from the practice.

But we all know the odds of anyone practicing it once they returned home was slim. That’s the frustration with the disciplines. Life happens. That’s why we must practice them just as one would learning how to play the piano or guitar. The disciplines require training as one would to run a 5k or play any sport. It must be intentional! You must work at them.

Then there is the personality factor. Introvert or extrovert. Oddly enough I think both struggle with silence and solitude but in different ways.  It’s hard….

So, let’s dig into the actual practice.

At its most hard core level I think it’s being alone in silence thinking about God and perhaps other spiritual  things. It’s also about listening. So you’ll want a balance. When we remove many external factors that compete for our time we’ll be surprised how it stills our being and our heart.

At another level, solitude could take on many forms and accomplish the above… Being at home alone. Hiking on a trail. And for the really hard core you can try a silent retreat by yourself at a national park for a day or more.

At a lesser level of solitude you could combine it with just a day alone at your home with your normal cleaning activities, minus Youtube, the computer, your phone,etc…

Remember it’s about solitude and silence.

It’s not a one size fits all. What  works for one person may not work for you. I’d suggest you start slowly – remember it requires discipline, training  and practice with all of the spiritual  disciplines. Maybe try practicing this discipline for 15 minutes a few times a week.  See how  it  goes. See if you don’t feel spiritually refreshed. Mess around with times and locations. Just see if it works for you.

When all is said  and done, we need to remember why we call these disciplines. They aren’t always easy. Also remember that this  one may not be your cup  of tea for your spiritual  formation. But be sure you give it its due before abandoning it, as I have found this  to be one  of my favorites – and I’m an extrovert.

Ultimately you must be intentional if you want to grow spiritually. It doesn’t happen on its own and no one  can do it for you.

If you’d like to know 8 benefits to  solitude and silence click here.

Now go out and be alone, and be silent while you’re at it! You never know what God may do while you’re there!

10 Ways to Become a Happier Person

We all know people who seem to be happy about 99% of the time – right? Surely they can’t be as happy as they seem. Well maybe and maybe not…

But what it they know something you don’t? What if they know that happiness is a choice.  That, within itself doesn’t solve anything. But what if they know it’s not just about  the choice but it’s the execution that matters?

For me it’s all about a morning routine. I try to do things that will set my day and mood up for success.  Here is a sample of my routine…

  1. I begin with prayer before getting out of bed. I give that day to Christ.
  2. I make my bed – just a discipline thing that I teach and practice.
  3. I get my coffee going.
  4. Then I read for about an hour or so – some days a little more, others a little less.
  5. Then I exercise – powerlifting or running.
  6. Morning prayer.
  7. Check my calendar.
  8. Create a  “to do” list of my day.
  9. Head to work.
  10. Try to help someone laugh at least once every day.

You may have never thought about morning routines assisting  in your happiness, but I think it’s uber  important. Just Google “importance  of morning routines” and see what highly successful people have to say about them. You may be surprised at how many list making your bed an important part of their day.

But there are more traditional options as  well. But again, in my opinion it all starts with the morning routine. But for the traditionalists that may have found themselves here…

Here are  some suggestions from Psychology Today…

  1.  Be with others who make you smile.
  2. Hold on to your values.
  3. Accept the good.
  4. Imagine the best.
  5. Do things you love.
  6. Find purpose.
  7. Listen to your heart.
  8. Push yourself, not others.
  9. Be open to change.
  10. Bask in the simple pleasures.

If you’re interested in the specifics of these 10 then click here.

Remember, happiness is a choice, only you can control how you feel.

Share your routine, or the most  important part in the comments.

Hope you have a HAPPY day!

Spiritual Formation Part Four

So you actually made it to part 4! If you’re new to this series, know that there are 3 other posts preceding this! Of course you already know that. But if you haven’t, go read  those short posts now.

Today will be the last post for the “set up” of what will follow. Thus far we’ve been building a foundation for your spiritual formation journey.

So let’s begin with the heart! Heart? Yup! It’s crucial in understanding  spiritual  formation – in my opinion, your mileage may vary.

Today we’ll lean heavily on Henri Nouwen (again, I may not subscribe to all his teachings…). In the book Spiritual Formation – Following the Movements of The Spirit, he says  this:

“Spiritual Formation, I have come to believe, is not  about steps or stages on the way to perfection.  It’s about the movements from the mind to the heart through prayer in it’s many forms that reunite us  with God, each other, and our truest selves.”

So if  you’ve ever wondered why scripture talks so much about the heart – you were spot on in questioning. The heart in scripture played a much different role to early followers than we do today.

I think Nouwen captures this thought well when he states:

“The word heart is used here in its full biblical meaning of that place where body, soul, and spirit come together as one.”

Followed by:

“But the word heart in Jewish-Christian tradition refers to the source of all physical, emotional, intellectual, volitional, and moral energies.”

Perhaps this is why the heart is mentioned so much when God is encouraging us to focus on Him. Maybe that’s why we’re told to guard our heart. It’s important.

So our journey into spiritual formation will be one of head and heart.

If you want to go REALLY deep into a word study on the heart in scripture then check it out here.

As we move along, know that there are no hierarchical steps to take when it comes to spiritual formation. So when we begin to discuss the spiritual disciplines, view them as tools in your spiritual formation toolbox. While all will be helpful, some may work better for you than others. But also understand those that are hard may be the ones you’ll eventually come to love – if you practice it long enough to embrace it. So as we move forward, you may want to reconsider some you’ve tried in the  past but discarded. If you’ve never practiced any, it’s OK! I’ll soon be teaching you!

OK, I know I’ve probably left you in a fog but stay with me as move forward. The road we’re about to travel could become a game changer, one that you’ll embrace for a lifetime – stay tuned!

Spiritual Formation Part Three

So you found your way to part 3 – that’s good! I hope that means you’ve read part one and two. If not I want  to encourage you to  do that now.

As we continue our journey together we’ll explore various ways to grow spiritually through an intentional spiritual formation path.

Years ago I  had the opportunity to hike in the Smoky Mountains, specifically Mt. Laconte. I always chose the Rainbow Falls trail head as my starting point. In reality I could have chosen a multitude of  trails as they all went to the Lodge which as my chosen destination.  The same can be said with spiritual formation. There are many ways to grow spiritually and not all will resonate with you – at first. Some practices will be foreign to you, other will old friends while some will  be those that frustrated you so much in the  past that you’ve written  them off!

Let me insert a bias disclaimer in my writing and approach to spiritual formation… I believe there is  only one way to God the father and that is through his Son, Jesus the Christ. I believe in a triune God – God the  Father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit – three in one.  So to try to read anything else into this series would be in error. Nor do I subscribe to all of any author’s body of work or thoughts that I may quote. I see many authors thoughts and body of work like an old school album or CD. There are usually several excellent songs in between some that you just don’t care for. So as I encourage you to read with this in mind – agree or disagree. Try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

While there are many historical ways to spiritual formation, traditionally it has been approached through spiritual disciplines. That’s the approach I will take for the most part throughout this series.

Those disciplines vary  from person to person.

Henri Nouwen really parked on 5 -Reflection, Lectio Divina, Silence, Community, and Service.

Richard Foster has these:

The Inward Disciplines – Meditation, Prayer, Fasting and Study.

The Outward Disciplines – Simplicity, Solitude, Submission and Service.

The Corporate Disciplines – Confession, Worship, Guidance, and Celebration.

Spiritual formation will become all about habits. It’s about becoming disciplined. As Nathan Foster says, “It’s hard to remember that seeing the results from our habits takes time. Lot’s of time. We don’t gain 50 pounds or learn to  smoke two packs a day overnight. Growing fruit takes time.”

In my next post we’ll explore the importance of the heart in spiritual formation and the importance of the “heart” in the bible. The heart was once viewed in a very different way than it’s viewed today. We’ll then explore the spiritual discipline of prayer and a method of prayer that  many have never heard of.

Until then, here is what you need to do. Try setting a time that you pray each day. You choose when that happens  but stick to that time. Pray about anything, just stick to that time. We’re on our way!

Until  next  time…

Spiritual Formation Part Two

So where are you on your spiritual formation journey? Are you just exploring? Are you in process and interested in knowing more? Have you tried it before and became frustrated? Are you serious? Are you willing to put in the time?

Are you sure what it actually means?

A cursory Google search will render multiple ideas on what spiritual formation is and looks like… So I want to express my biases on how this series will proceed… I will approach this topic with a heavy slant from a Wesleyan tradition, as I am Methodist. In addition to that, I also approach my spirituality from a more conservative slant. So as we proceed, agree or disagree with this series or parts of it, because the Wesleyan tradition is big on tolerance. Take what’s useful and feel free to question and explore further what you believe is not.

In this post I will provide a working definition of spiritual formation so that we can all work from the same blueprint.  I will approach this in a systematic way through scripture, personal experiences, thoughts from John Wesley in the Wesleyan tradition, and  other authors and theologians.

So let’s begin with Wesley’s Quadrilateral…The late, Albert Outler of SMU coined the term” Wesley’s Quadrilateral.” The 4 components of the Quadrilateral consist of, Reason, Experience, Tradition and Scripture. I remember these as “RETS”. In Methodist circles we approach these in this order:

  1. Scripture – we always go to God’s word first to see what it has to say.
  2. Tradition – we value the early church traditions that consisted of many councils throughout history that debated Christian doctrines. So we believe that if something has withstood the test of time through these councils, then they should carry some weight. It’s not  the end all of end all’s but certainly must be considered.
  3. and 4. Reason and Experience – We believe that God gave us a mind that we have the ability to reason – think. So we’re open to, “what do you think about this?” We are also big on, “what has been you experience?” Your live experiences also have value.

With that in mind, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 provides a good foundation for what spiritual formation can be:

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 The Voice

17 By “the Lord” what I mean is the Spirit, and in any heart where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is liberty. 18 Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.

As we progress in our journey we’ll consider spiritual formation as the process of becoming more like Christ – lives transformed into something better than the life we started with.

Richard Rohr, in his book Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the The Two Halves of Life, notes that Scott Peck once told him…”…he felt most Western people were just spiritually lazy. And when we’re lazy, we stay on the path we already are.”  While studying under Roberta Bondi, at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, she once said, “the hardest part of prayer is just showing up.” which she echoed  in her book, To Love as God Loves.

So as we move forward on this journey, know that the hardest part of spiritual formation may be just showing up!

In future posts we’ll be exploring prayer, the spiritual disciplines, monastic asceticism, christian perfection, and so much more! When all is said and done I hope to have  given you the tools to help you transform your life into something more like Christ’s life, no matter what spectrum you may be presently on in your journey. Or as scripture states, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.

Stay tuned…

Spiritual Formation Part One

What have you done lately to grow spiritually in your Christian faith? Seriously, something intentional. Something past  just phoning it in.

It’s my opinion that many protestants don’t seek an intentional Spiritual Formation path. This is based on what I’ve observed as a minister for over 25 years.

So I’ve decided to write a series on Spiritual Formation in hopes of stirring something in your heart. Something that inspires you to seek Jesus in new and proven ways. Spiritual practices that  could have an  incredible impact on your spiritual life.

I believe that many believe Spiritual Formation is something that happens to us verses something  to be  intentionally pursued. Pursued with a passion!  Many leave their Spiritual Formation to others. They seem to limit their spiritual growth to worship and the message given by their favorite minister – online or in person each Sunday, etc…

While one can grow spiritually in worship and through the message on Sunday, this series will be  about other time proven Spiritual Formation practices that have been around a long time but maybe not practiced as much as they once were by early Christians.

So I’ll leave you with a  question: What are you intentionally doing to grow in your spiritual life? Something that is seriously drawing you closer to Jesus? Are you depending just on Worship and the message – which are great, and continue to do so! Corporate worship is uber important – Remember the Sabbath – it’s  one of the 10 Commandments. But in addition to that, are you passionately seeking spiritual practices in addition to Sunday that creates a deep love for Christ?

If you’re not even sure what those Spiritual Practices are for your Spiritual Formation, then this series is  for  you! Stay tuned…

My Walter Mitty Life

I’ve always been amazed at what people have been able to accomplish in their lifetime. I enjoy reading about people that have done a lot of crazy things in search of adventure. I loved the movie the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  So in light of this, I decided to write down all the crazy things that I’ve been able to do – so far in my life. I would encourage you to do the same because you probably have lived an awesome life that others might enjoy reading about!

These may not be in a chronological order but here we go:

Once lived in Cuba – dad was in the Navy

Registered myself for the first grade without my parents knowledge – walked to the school and went to the office to register – who does that?

Owned several motorcycles – Suzuki Trailhopper, Yamaha 100, Honda XL-125, Honda CR-125, Suzuki RM-250, Yamaha FZ-1, Yamaha V Star 1100

Started college at 17

Earned a private Pilot License just after High School

Ran a small sport airport on weekends for free flight time

Flown in homebuilt airplanes, flown in a world war II fighter – T6 and almost crashed

Once started building a homebuilt airplane – EAA Acro Sport II

As a child rode a Trailways bus to my grandparents

Set trot lines in a creek at night

Hunted quail on my grandfathers farm

Fished  in Ray Scott’s personal pond (founder of Bass Masters)

Was a Chimney Sweep apprentice

Held the ribbon for the Flying Mayor to tear while flying inverted – worked several airshows

Once searched for a skydiver whose chute failed to open while attempting a state record high dive

Got lost on my first cross country solo flight

Got to go whale watching in Boston

Visited the John Lennon memorial in Central Park New York

Saw a play on Broadway

Visited the Rocky Mountain national park

Saw Cirque Du Soleil’s – La Nouba

Been on two cruises – Nassau Bahamas,  Cozumel

Visited Key West – saw Hemingway’s House

Have vacationed in Disneyworld

Visited Elvis’s – Tupelo home and Graceland

Visited Beale street in Memphis

Attended a Superbike race at Barber motorsports park

Crashed a motorcycle on the street while skipping school

Was a passenger in a car that was totaled in a crash

Have seen a Gutenberg bible in person

Walked down Wall Street

Walked around Times Square

President Carter lectured in one of my Seminary classes

Attended a Professional Bull Riding event (PBR) with VIP tickets – was in room with Ty Murray

Had my picture made with Evil Kenevil and Roy Clark at a celebrity golf tournament

Was a High School softball and basketball official

Have coached basketball

Have been with rescue team while dragging bottom of a river looking for a body

Have been a Police Department chaplain riding with officers on patrol

Graduated from Candler School of Theology

Served multiple churches

I’ve run a 65 acre ranch for delinquent boys

Worked at an all girls treatment facility

Ultrarunner – Longest race was 50 miler, multiple races of 31 miles, marathons, etc…

Non-christian concerts that I’ve attended – Styx, KISS (in the early days),Commodores with Lionel Richie, Doobie Brothers, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Elvis – yup, Elvis!

Became a PADI(Professional Association of Dive Instructors) scuba diver with multiple certifications – Open, Advanced, Rescue, Nitrox, Divemaster

Lettered in tennis in High school

Set several state records in competitive powerlifting

Was once a personal trainer

Have participated in multiple sports – Jr. High basketball, baseball, softball, football

Taught myself to juggle – 3 and 4 ball, rings, Diablo, various balancing tricks. clubs

Owned several cool cars – 72 Chevy Nova,Datsun  240 Z, 55 Chevy 2 door hardtop, 68 Chevy Camero

Married to the same wonderful lady for 33 years as of this writting

Great kids and son in laws

Had throat cancer but survived – at least as of this day!

I’m sure there is a ton I’ve missed. But I have tried to take John 10:10 seriously when Jesus said I have come so you can live the abundant life.

Accepting Christ was the greatest thing I’ve ever done. Getting married and raising kids has been the second greatest thing I’ve ever done.

Take time at some point and write down all you’ve been able to accomplish, you might be surprised at how good a life God has given you. As a bonus others might be interested in reading it – I know I would.


Time Management Tips You Can Actually Do!

Time management is usually an “on point” topic for everyone. It’s one of those skills that many strive to master. It’s one that those who always joke about being late all the time (BTW, it’s sad if being late is what you’re known for – and it’s rude to others that are waiting on you, and often disruptive to the group function you’re going to), secretly desire, or should be embarrassed if they don’t.

Sure, there are going to be those days that we just get behind. Yes, we will never be “on time” for everything in life. The question is, are we striving to become better at time management? Do we realize the incredible benefits of it?

Here are a few benefits from

1. Less stress

2. Get more done

3. More free time

So if you’re interested in better time management here are 7 tips from

1. Ditch multitasking

2. Take a single view and prioritize

3. Carve out ‘me time’

4. Prepare for delays and downtime

5. Schedule and use a to-do list

6. Leave extra time

7. Practice saying no, in a nice way

Becoming a better time manager is always a skill worth mastering as best as you can.

Now that you’re saving time you can get that workout in you’ve been meaning to do!