The Arrival

My family and I live about an hour northeast of Philadelphia.  In case you’ve been under a rock recently, the Pope is coming to the city for the World Meeting of Families next week.  The news is filled with all things Pope Francis.

In preparation for this visit, they are:

-Closing major highways.

-Closing businesses.

-Selling tickets.

-Stationing EMS and portable toilets next to the roads leading to Philly in anticipation of the gridlock.

-Declaring states of emergency.

-Anticipating cell phone service disruptions.

Local leaders and believers are jumping at the chance to see this man in action.


There is another arrival coming, one from a leader with a larger following.  We’ve closed things for him too.  We’ve closed:

Our schools. Our jobs.  Our friends. Our families. Our past. Our heart.

Some churches have closed him out a long time ago.

Yet, he is coming. He is coming to shine light to the dark places, to unleash a movement of inspired creativity. He’s coming to show the real meaning of truth, love, compassion and grace. He’s coming to destroy pretenses and demolish every box we’ve attempted to build around him.

He is changing lives, breaking chains, setting captives free and spreading hope in sacrifice. His message is clear for those ready to listen. His words will never pass away. His grace is new each morning. He works for the good of those called according to his purposes and he will make your paths straight.

You don’t even need to buy a ticket, sit in traffic, or fight the crowd. You don’t need to attend a conference.

All you need is a space to drop to your knees and listen to that voice calling inside. Take the moment and open your heart.

Someone out there is waiting for these words.  I pray they find their way home.



Dead Inside

Muse is probably my favorite band.  The trio, consisting of Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard, formed in 1994.  Their first song I remember hearing was “Time Is Running Out”.  I picked up the album with that single in high school and played it to death in my first car.

They recently released Drones, their first record to hit number 1. Val got it for me for my birthday and I’m loving the entire thing. Bellamy has been interviewed saying the album is autobiographical. The first big track from it is titled, “Dead Inside.” You can see the video here:

At first listen, the meaning is clear.  Bellamy had dated actress Kate Hudson for a few years, ending the relationship during the making of the album.  The lyrics are the story of a toxic relationship.  He sings of giving everything and being unable to give anymore, of a love seeming ablaze and alive, but being dead inside.

The dance in the music video is symbolic.  The female dancer plays the dark half of the relationship that, after struggle and pain, takes over.  Innocence dies.

How many of us live like this?

We chase passions and pursuits. We find targets that seem necessary. Our views of success shift. Our influences change.   We read, in Ecclesiastes, of Solomon saying that everything is meaningless.  He had every need met a thousand times over, but it didn’t matter.

Jesus tells us to switch the equation. To be Dead Outside.  To die to ourselves on a daily basis.

What matters now is the inside, where we stand in the grace of salvation found in Jesus. The passion we have is for others.  Our giving and service is what makes us ablaze and alive.

This week ask yourself what you can do to switch the equation and make a difference in your marriage, family, and community.



I keyed up my phone navigation just in time as I had passed the correct road. It took me over two more hills before turning left and back towards the woods surrounding Blue Marsh Lake.

Snow flurries whipped past the car, the landscape white and barren.  I was gradually nearing the grounds of Berks County Prison.

I found a parking spot and made my way to the lobby.  A guard sat inside a secure box of bulletproof glass.  I started to speak and he looked up.

“Shift change.  It’ll be twenty minutes before I can help you.  Have a seat.” With that, I took a spot in the empty lobby and waited.

6203361785_b0d7ca591cPhoto Credit: fakelvis via Compfight cc

Ten minutes later I sat in the office of Stephanie Smith, Deputy Warden of Treatment.  The prison was high on my list of research locations as poverty often connected itself with crime and addiction.

Smith, her clinical specialty in addiction, has a drive to help the men and women who cross through her doors.

We spoke for more than an hour.

“They all go back,” Smith said, “I think people forget that. These people are their neighbors, the ones they see at the grocery store.”

She talked about working with prisoners on the start of the Continuum of Change, the balance of pre-contemplation and contemplation. If she can help them spark that moment of thought, it can make a huge difference.

As with each interview I’ve had working through this book, I’ve learned about poverty, faith, and the nature of the human condition.

Compassion- The prison has an extensive reentry program, working to get inmates the skills they need to not arrested again. A stigma rides on the concept of prison, one that must shift.  It is the connection point and catalyst to change lives.

“Do you want them better when they return?” Smith asks. “It’s our job to get them there.”

Consideration- Her point about change is true for everyone. What’s holding you back? What would it take to actually consider it? We’re not talking building your schedule in the midst of the change, we’re looking at the start. Just seeing your plans and dreams is the first step on the move towards success.

Freedom- “I love it when I realize that I haven’t seen a certain person for months, or even years.  It means they made it out,” Smith said. One of the most prevalent misunderstandings with our lives of faith is that they will be easy, that we will not struggle too much.

Grace frees us from the eternal consequences of our actions. Does that mean the addictions will stop?

Not for everyone. Not without help.

If you are under the weight of something tonight, think about your life without it. Addictions can be broken. Find the root, recognize it, and do what you can to make a change.

Some of us will keep going back to the prison of our own creation.  Only one person has the key.

It waits on the cross for those searching for a way home.


What Guardians of the Galaxy Teaches About Faith

I apologize for being late to this show but, Friday night, I rented Guardians of the Galaxy and watched for the first time. I’m a fan of the comic-based movies out there and this one lived up to the hype.

It isn’t the normal superhero movie, in more ways than one, but Chris Pratt and his crew put together a fun ride.  In the midst of the movie, we can learn some important lessons about the nature of faith.


We All Lose Something- In the scene where the Guardians are seated in the ship preparing for the final battle, Pratt’s character Star-Lord says, “We’re all losers.” He clarifies the joke by saying, “We all lost something.”

This is a fact that we can too quickly forget. We’re a world of broken people searching for an answer.  The search can lead us down glorious, and dangerous, paths.

We Are All Valuable- Rocket, the raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, spends the movie defending his identity.  As they walk through the prison, he says, “I’m the only me.”

You can see this fact two ways. Rocket is a torn character.  He says he didn’t ask to be the way he was.  In the end, he turns from a cynical outlaw to a hero fighting to protect those he looked down on in the beginning of the movie.  He embraced his uniqueness and what it offered.

We Need to Know Our True Father- Spoiler alert, though I doubt anyone hasn’t seen this film yet.  In the climactic scene, Star-Lord grabs the infinity stone.  The stone is an object of great power. He is able to hold onto it when everyone else who attempted the same had died.

We find out that Star-Lord isn’t totally human.  His father, not from this world, gave him an extra-terrestrial bloodline that enabled him to do great things and save the day.

We can forget our lineage as we face our struggles.  We are called to better things, to a world of living out our divine purpose.  We must never forget our creator and that we are only visitors here.

Groot, the living tree voiced by Vin Diesel, only has one line of dialogue.  He says, “I am Groot,” though this shifts slightly in the climactic scene.

This week, you can borrow Groot’s line and fill in the blank.

I am saved. I am free.  I am a new creation. I am beautiful. I am called to greater things.

I am a child of God.