If You Knew You Only Had Sixty Seconds to Live, How Would you Live them?

A few years ago, I started asking myself what I would do If I were about to enter the final minute of my life.

The first time I did so I was sitting in a Starbucks in Vero Beach, Fl. The one that is located on U.S. 1, in the Publix plaza parking lot. Starbucks was a second home when we moved to Vero and planted Pillar Community Church. It, and other local coffee houses, served as my office for the first four to five years of the ministry.

On this particular morning, Starbucks was filled with people. As I observed folks coming in and out, I found myself passing subtle judgments. You know, judgments like,

“That’s not a coffee drink . . . it’s a soft-serve ice cream sundae laced with peppermint-cocoa flavoring,” Or

“Wow, you wore that in public?” Or

“Good grief, do you really need that much space? Can’t you see that people are standing around waiting for a place to sit?”

I was clearly feeling a sense of “I am better-than-you are” as I sat hunched in a small corner, at a small table, sipping on my dark-roast black coffee for the morning.

I the midst of these thoughts, I suddenly wondered, “What would I do If Jesus showed up and said, ‘Okay son, it’s time to go. Pack it up and come with me.’?”

I found myself stumbling to explain my thoughts to Him and wondering what I would say if that did happen!?!?

So, I decided to re-enact those sixty seconds and live as if these would be the last sixty seconds of my life.

A funny thing happened. The thoughts I was having ceased. New thoughts emerged. They were powerful thoughts. I didn’t wonder why people ordered what they were ordering, sat where they were sitting, or wore what they were wearing. Rather, I began to ask myself, “What should I do with the time I have remaining?” or “How should I spend these final moments of my life?”

On that morning I began a new spiritual practice or rhythm that I call “living as if I am in the last sixty seconds of my life.” As one who believes our practices and habits shape our behaviors, this one has been fascinating.

The time constraint of sixty seconds, while challenging, prevents the hysteria of trying to fix all I’ve broken even as it invites me to consider where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, said, and done and challenges me to spend my final seconds well! The time limitation is challenging on so many levels.

So, when I practice “living as if I am in the last sixty seconds of my life,” I find myself going through a quick but meaningful internal catalog of my dearest loves in this life.

After thinking about them, I give thanks for them.

I am humbled every time.

There have been times when I’ve caught myself feeling a need to fix what I’ve broken, unsay what I’ve said, or un-see what I’ve seen. But I don’t have time to do any of that so I offer a simple confession to my Father and invite His son to do for me what I cannot do for myself (again).

Then, with whatever time remains, I usually try to offer a smile or word of encouragement to someone nearby and, in my own way, share some of the light that Christ has so generously shared with me.

Suddenly, my time is up.

My final sixty seconds are over.

And that’s when the real fun begins. The practice itself reminds me of what a precious gift time is and how grateful I should be for this life I live. It serves to remind me of the generous grace of our Father, the Holy love of His Son, and the empowering influence of His Spirit.

In short, the practice generates joy, gratitude, and a renewed sense of sharing the good news Gospel of the With-God-Life that Jesus preached and makes possible. It’s the news that experiencing and enjoying life with God is possible now.!

And, of course, there have been times when the practice has surfaced some things left unsaid and undone that God, in His grace, gives me the chance to address and bring into the light of His Gospel.

Most of all, the practice shines a light on how often I fail to live as if it’s the last sixty seconds of my life. It’s stunning, really. Particularly given the Bible’s thorough and consistent persistence that we take note of the time we are given and take stock of how we are living!

From beginning to end, the Bible is full of encouragement to wake up to the presence of God and the light of Christ and then live as if that matters to everyone on the planet. A favorite of mine is found in Ephesians, where the writer (I believe it’s Paul, for what it’s worth) encourages us to buy back the time we are given and use it well.

In Ephesians 5:15-16 we read, ” Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil.”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+5&version=NRSV

In some small way, this practice of “living as if I am in the final sixty seconds of my life,” rekindles my desire to make the most of every moment. When I am “making the most of every moment,” I discover that my walk with Christ is more robust. and my life with others is more enriching.

You may want to try this one sometime. If you do, let me know what you discover.

Hoping this blog will serve to help you awaken and be attentive to the eternal life now present and possible in Christ!

Grace and peace,

Biz

A Way to Pray Through the Day!

Looking for a new, or at least, deeper faith walk this year?

If you’re like me, then you are just now coming to rest after a busy holiday season.  In the midst of the chaos, I rediscovered a way to pray that aligns perfectly with Paul’s encouragement to:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  I Thessalonians 5

This way of praying is one way I am experiencing the presence of God, who is alive within me and active among us!  It’s another step in our journey at Pillar.

An adventure, really.  An adventure called, “Set Sail with Us as we Explore, Experience, and Enjoy, the With-God-Life Jesus proclaims and makes possible.”

One of the ways I am connecting with the presence of Christ and the with-God-life is through the practice of Fixed-Hour-Prayer, or as I like to say, “praying your way through your day.”

If you’d like to settle into the presence of Christ throughout your day, check out this brief video and then download the prayer page!

Youtube Link: A Way to Pray Through The Day

Prayer Page: [download-attachment id=”5456″ title=”Pillar A Way to Pray Throughout the Day”]

It might be helpful if I define the term Spiritual Rhythms (Disciplines) so that you know exactly what I mean:

Spiritual Rhythms empower us to live fully into the present reality of God.  They are not an ‘end’ in and of themselves.   They are a means to an end.  They don’t earn any favor with God or serve as some arbitrary measure of our spiritual success.  They are practices of grace, to be experienced over and over again (habit), that awaken us to the presence of Christ in our midst.  As we are awakened, we are then invited to abide with Him.  As we abide with Him, we then begin to live a Jesus-way of life.  A way of life that will experience God’s goodness in our world as we receive His goodness within our hearts and bring His goodness to others.

In other words, Spiritual rhythms help cultivate a life around the reality that Jesus is in our midst and that He is inviting us into an interactive and ongoing relationship with Him.

That means that Jesus is inviting our children and youth to experience him in their home, the hallways at school, the lunchroom, neighborhood, bedroom, etc.

It’s a life lived with Him at this very moment, in this very space.

Our emphasis in January and February is on living a Generous life and the impact our generosity can make on our communities!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Y-Axis Reality and The With-God Life!

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why am I here?
  2. Do I serve a purpose in this world? If so, do I know what that purpose is?
  3. What’s the meaning to life?
  4. Who am I?
  5. What are my dreams, hopes, and aspirations?
  6. When do I last remember feeling happy or experiencing a deep sense of contentment?

Did you have trouble coming up with satisfying answers to some of these questions?

If so, you’re like most of us who struggle with coming to grips with answers to life’s most important questions about meaning, purpose, identity, etc.

The loss of meaning and identity is rampant in our culture.

We Barely Notice What We’ve Become

My hunch is that this loss of meaning and purpose is related to our immersion into an x-axis only reality.

The x-axis is, of course, the horizontal (time-bound/natural) plane.

The x-axis represents life on a horizontal playing field. On this flat playing field, all that you see is all that there is.  It’s impossible to find meaning and identity when we are satisfied with life within the horizontal plane.

Immersion into an x-axis only reality has occurred over decades or longer.  As such it’s been invisible to most of us.

Comparing this immersion into an x-axis only reality to our experience with modern-day skydomes, James K.S. Smith observes,

“Like the roof on Toronto’s SkyDome, the heavens are beginning to close. But we barely notice, because our new focus on this plane had already moved the transcendent to our peripheral vision at best. We’re so taken with the play on this field, we don’t lament the loss of the stars overhead.”

The heavens closed.

We barely noticed.

But it’s starting to feel a tad stuffy around here, and a few of us are beginning to look up again.

That’s a good thing.

Why?

Because you cannot answer life’s most perplexing questions without a rich experience of both the x and y axes!

An X-Axis Truth: Always Searching, Never Finding

In mathematics, for example, the x/y axes serve the fundamental role of identification or naming.   And you need both planes for that!

If you depend on the x-axis for things like identity discovery, you never leave that plane.  You are always confined to a one-dimensional reality.  Such a reality would eventually lead to discouragement and despair because you will never be content inside of that one dimension.

You will always suspect, deep within, that there’s more to life and that there is more to you!  But, when you set out on your search again – through the valleys of money, fame, reputation, experiences, possessions, etc. – you will simply be covering ground you have already explored.

Initially, it may look different because it’s the latest fad from the hippest teacher.  But you will discover it’s the same terrain with the same ending.

Eventually, you give up.

When I say give up I don’t mean that you stop living, but you stop looking for something to live for.  You lose your why and settle, too quickly, for the what and how.

You stop dreaming.  You stop hoping.  You begin to believe that this is all there is.

Yes, But What of the “Lucky Ones?”

A few of us – the “lucky” ones – will manage to have enough success to keep moving from one thing to the next.  Finally, with enough status under our belt, we begin to trade on our image and find some meaning within this phony exterior we present to the world.

And, the world applauds.

They “like” every photo and post.

They ooh-and-ah over every glittering moment we provide.

Even fame like this takes its toll.  Usually, it’s during the quiet moments of our life when the numbing effect of that sixth drink begins to wear off just before we drift off to a fitful night’s sleep.

At that moment, darkness creeps in.  Deep, fearful darkness that we will one day be exposed, ignored, or passed over for the new flavor of the month.

We find that the x-axis is insufficient and has exacted a high cost.  We discover a lament that feels like desire.  The lament is calling us to once again look up at the stars.

The question then becomes, “do we even know how to look up or what to look for if we do?”

Remember: the y-axis is the vertical plane.  It’s the “let’s look up and imagine a world shaped by the sacred, saturated with wonder, and soaked in awe” axis.

Humans will always long for more.  We are ever and always in search of meaning, purpose, and identity.

To Empower We First Embrace

If discovering these things requires familiarity and – more importantly – experience with a Y-Axis Frame, then reclaiming the Y-Axis will require empowering others to recognize what we have lost.

Empowerment is more caught than taught.  So, to empower others, we will need to work diligently as ones whose lives are fully framed within a Y-Axis reality.

Many of these posts will be directed toward Christians. We have, I believe, a unique opportunity and responsibility to reimagine life within a Y-Axis Frame. As I do, I will need to awaken us to how what we preach and practice (though unwittingly) has helped establish the dominance of an x-axis only world.

I will highlight how our language contributes to creating an x-axis only world.  I am also going to point out how our us against them posture and antagonistic orientation to our culture only solidifies an x-axis only world.  Both of these are related to how we view and believe the Gospel.

So, we are first going to need to reorient ourselves to an ancient Gospel. The one that’s found in the Scriptures as opposed the one often distorted in the pulpit.

It’s what I’ve come to call (though no doubt not original with me) the Good News Gospel of the With-God-Life.

Explore, Experience, Enjoy the With God-Life

Rediscovering this beautiful Gospel has propelled me into a whole new way of living!  This new way of living, really a new way of being, is one that that Pillar Community Church has and continues to explore, experience, and enjoy!

Hopefully, over time and through practice, we will discover the joy of the with-God-life that Jesus makes possible.

As we do, others will begin to see the dome retract and the heavens reappear!

Disrupting to Renew!

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Redeveloping the “Y” Axis!

If you remember, I finished my last post (here) with the assertion that the church is in position to restore what I call a y-axis reality.  Borrowing the term x-y axis,” we first learned in geometry.

The x-axis is, of course, the horizontal (time-bound/natural) plane.  For our purposes, the x-axis represents a life lived and experienced on a horizontal playing field. On this horizontal playing field, all that you see is all that there is.

No reason to look up or out.

There is nothing, or no one, there.

Sociologists call this an immanent frame.

An immanent frame is, in the words of Charles Taylor, a way we perceive the world that “frames our lives entirely within a natural (rather than supernatural) frame.”

Life within this immanent frame unconsciously denies the reality of the supernatural.

The natural, time-bound, experience of life is all that’s left in life.

Most authorities on the subject agree: ours is an immanent frame!

We now live in an x-axis-only frame.

Our world is pretty much an x-axis world.  By that, I mean that we only look out and rarely, if ever, look up.

And, while I believe in a y-axis reality, I am guilty of getting stuck in an x-axis-only mentality.  Yes, I am often guilty of living like the world.  At least in this way.

Living as if the only solutions available to me are ones I can see that are right in front of me, I look out but do not look up.

In other words, I live on the x-axis.

I want to live on the y-axis.

The y-axis is the vertical plane.  It’s the “let’s look up again and dream a world shaped by the sacred, saturated with wonder, and soaked in awe” axis.

It’s the axis that points me to something, Someone, beyond what my eyes see.

In a world whose resources are limited, it just makes sense to be a y-axis person.

Y-Axis Problems in an X-Axis World

But I find it challenging to live on the Y-axis.  It’s just too easy to get caught up in myself and my problems.  When I do that, I tend to look to myself (and those around me) for solutions.

At times those solutions work out pretty well.  Most often, however, the solutions are short-term solutions, and I find myself back – again – where I once was.  This time around, a little more aggravated and far less patient.

The stress of returning to the problems takes its toll.  Then, in dealing with anxiety, I begin to select options located within an x-axis-only frame.   I ask questions like,

“Who caused this problem, and why is it not resolved yet?” Or,

“Whom can I blame for this?”

These x-axis-only questions deliver x-axis-only solutions.  Again, I look to people, circumstances, and situations for the answers.

I am learning a harsh lesson: my default position, especially when dealing with tough situations or encountering intractable problems, is x-axis-only.

So, I wonder, “if I struggle with being a y-axis person, are there others who do as well?”

If so, then maybe there is a spiritual discipline or rhythm available to us that well help reorient ourselves to a y-axis reality.

Re-developing the Y-Axis Reality

Perhaps, over time and through practice, a y-axis response can be our default orientation!

Being a y-axis person is vital because the y-axis incorporates, and values the x-axis.  The x-axis, conversely, is dismissive of the y-axis and ignorant of its existence!

In other words, when I live on the y-axis (the reality in which I am aware of and attentive to God’s presence), then I become vitally alive in the x-axis (reality in which my life-with-God plays out).

I may have discovered a rhythm for this very purpose.

This spiritual rhythm is nestled within Psalm 105:3-4.  I am just now beginning to practice it, but I will at least give you the gist of it so that you can, if you desire, practice it as well!

Spiritual Rhythms, the With-God-Life, and Y-Axis Reality

First, a word about why I believe spiritual rhythms and disciplines are keys to the With-God-Life and essential to redeveloping a y-axis reality.

  • Spiritual rhythms empower us to live fully into the present reality of God.  They are not an ‘end’ in and of themselves.   They are a means to an end – the highest End of them all – God’s presence within and among us
  • Spiritual rhythms don’t earn any favor with God or serve as some arbitrary measure of our spiritual success. They are simple practices of grace, to be experienced over and over again (habit), that awaken us to the presence of Christ in our midst.  As we are awakened, we are then invited to abide with Him.

As we abide with Him, we then begin to build a Jesus-way of life.

In other words, Spiritual rhythms help cultivate a life around the reality that Jesus is in our midst and that He is inviting us into an interactive and ongoing relationship with Him.

They are tools that help us live into the With-God-Life and experience a Y-axis reality.

Psalm 105:3-4 encourages the spiritual rhythm meditating and reflecting on His word and works:

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered.”

Three Reflections and Meditations Designed to Re-develop the Y-axis Reality

The Psalmist is inviting us to contemplate and meditate on the presence of God in our midst.

His words encourage three specific meditations that encompass all of life and lift us into a Y-axis reality in an X-axis world.

  1. Rejoice in his rule as you meditate on the power of His name.  In this we find contentment.  Hold whatever ails you up to the power of his name and rejoice in his sovereign care.  Yes, He’s got this!
  2. Race after and Rest in His abiding presence.  Assume that God is with you. Look for Him.  Talk to Him. Listen to Him.  When we begin to live as if God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves (Acts 17:27), we learn to rest and trust His love in the anxious moments where fear would like to control us.
  3. Remember the wonderful works he has done.  To remember, in a bible-way, is to focus intently on, reflect, meditate, chew, and digest the thought.  Spend some time recalling the works of God (the rest of Psalm 105 is a great place to start).  Write them down.  Carry these wonderful works with you.  When you feel alone, fearful, abandoned, deserted, take a look at the list.  Carefully hold your situation up to the list.  You may find this will bring some much-needed perspective and hope!

As I said, I am just beginning to practice this meditation.

I know this: without spiritual practices and rhythms, I find myself easily driven by X-axis default patterns.  As I employ spiritual practices and rhythms, I find myself more intently focused on the reality that God is near to me and desires to reveal His will and His way in this very present problem!

Disrupting to Renew!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Transforming Pastoral Leadership: What, Why, and How!

Transforming Pastoral Leadership: What, Why, and How!

As I said in my first post, these reflections on pastoral ministry will be rolling out piecemeal.  With this installment, I am going to hit the pause button.  Really, the rewind button and take you back to 1995.

I married Melissa, my wife of nearly twenty-three years now, on July 29, 1995.  Within two weeks of our wedding day, we were invited to join a church and serve in a position of Associate Pastor of Youth and Children.

The church was Oak Grove Church of God in Tampa, Fl.

I’ve loved everywhere I’ve served.   I’ve even enjoyed the churches that weren’t so loving during the time of my service with them.

But Tampa was special.

Many of the kids who were a part of our first ministry are now grown with families of their own.  Some of the most enjoyable correspondence Melissa and I have is with these grown men and women with whom we began our first ministry assignment.

Just a couple of months before starting at Oak Grove, in May of 1995, I graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  As is the case with most seminary graduates, I left with the confident assurance that I was going to show a church how ministry should be done.

Answering Questions No One Is Asking

Also, of course, I was coming with all the answers in hand.

Continue reading “Transforming Pastoral Leadership: What, Why, and How!”