Packing a 13 liter backpack + small messenger for a 3 day trip


For the past several years I have been challenging myself to pack light, so I can go fast. No waiting for checked baggage on arrival when traveling by air, no returns to the car to unload tons of stuff at the hotel when traveling by auto. With less stuff, I’m more mobile, less worried about losing things, and I learn to live with only what I really need.

For my last three-day trip to Georgia, USA, I packed pretty light (almost ultra light) and I thought it’d be worth sharing here. Something I did a bit different this time was to go the two-bag route.

Instead of the traditional large-carry-on+large-personal-item combo, though, I took a small 13 backpack and a super-little satchel.

The packs

My main pack was my trusty Osprey Daylite (link is to the latest updated version). This 13 liter daypack has been with me all over the US, from the trail to the city and has never let me down. Osprey packs are made in the US and are covered by an amazing, almighty guarantee. Lightweight, durable, inexpensive, and smartly designed, I love my Osprey Daylite for carrying just about anything, as long as it's not too wide. It's not going to do well with large binders or laptops, but for everything else it's fantastic. The Daylite was the perfect choice for this trip.

For my secondary pack, I picked up the Victoriatourist V5006 Vertical Messenger Bag from Amazon. I was amazed by the quality of this little pack. Helpful inner pockets, beefy water-resistant exterior fabric, solid and reliable zippers all combine in a pleasantly nondescript bag that was perfect for carrying small items. And it was only $10!

Everything I put in here could have fit in my main pack, but it would have been less accessible. I wanted to be able to throw my main pack in the overhead if necessary and have my tablet, keyboard, wallet, etc. readily available.

What I brought


The internet is full of advice about what to wear while traveling, and lots of it is super anti-cotton and anti-jeans, since cotton doesn’t tend to dry very quickly and can be heavy. That said, I often travel wearing a simple cotton t-shirt because they’re comfortable, and although they don’t dry super quick if you’re doing laundry in the sink, they’re usually ready overnight, so I’m willing to take the hit for comfort and price. Again, conventional jeans are comfortable, look good and don’t need to be washed often anyways.

This was my second trip with some inexpensive cross-trainers, and they did amazingly well. Basic, lightweight sneakers are comfortable and versatile shoes, perfect for running, walking long distances, light hikes, and just hanging out. I was impressed with how quickly my pair dried when I got caught in the rain.

I like to bring a hat when I travel; a lightweight ball cap is my go-to in the summer. I also wear a rosary and a fitness tracker. In my pockets, the usual: wallet and phone.

In the backpack

Osprey Daylite packing layout

In the messenger bag


Home from the hospital


After a rough couple of days I am home from the hospital and feeling much better; that said it will be a while yet before I’m 100%, and a while yet before we understand all the reasons behind some of my chronic issues and this specific set of symptoms. Current possibilities include everything from ordinary illness coupled with psychosomatic reactions (like a panic attack) to Valley Fever (yay) to mold in my lungs. I’m scheduled to follow-up with a gamut of specialists over the next several weeks along with an array of tests and more follow-up tests.

The good news is antibiotics are dealing with the worst symptoms of this flare up of whatever-it-is (or combination of whatevers) ok, and I’m getting better by the hour. I’m hoping to be more or less back to daily life (with some limitations for recovery of course) in a few days.

I am so grateful for the outpouring of love and support from friends and family all over the globe. I know your prayers made a difference and all your help–from visiting me to cooking meals to taking me home from the hospital to watching the kids so Amber could be with me for a few hours–made all the difference in the world.

Speaking of Amber…

Once again I was reminded of what an absolute gift from God she is to me and our family, how selfless, faithful, supportive, and kind she is. When things get tough I know I can always count on her. Best wife ever. Best mom ever. Best friend ever.

Boredom in meditation

I suggest that you received a gift of time, time that did not have to be filled because you were already in God's presence.
- Fr. Carl

Eucharist is the moment

The eucharist is the moment at which the past event comes forward to live again in the present, and the future moment of the Lord’s return comes backwards in time to challenge us in the present.
N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians, p. 150

The simple way to practice centering prayer


Centering prayer is about cultivating an awareness of the presence of God and an attitude of submission to his will. In other words, it is practicing consent to the loving action of God to conform you ever more to the image of Christ.

“For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” –St. Paul (Romans 8:29, NLT)
Here's how you start:
  1. Find a comfortable position, perhaps seated with your back straight. Closing your eyes can be a helpful symbol of turning your attention to God and can keep you from getting distracted.
  2. Choose a single word or phrase that serves as a reminder of the Divine presence. Examples might be “Grace,” “Abba, Father,” “Jesus,” “Christ have mercy,” etc.
  3. Consider setting a timer on your watch or phone for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes and commit to setting aside that time to practice surrender to God via centering prayer.
  4. Turning your attention to the reality of God within you, allow your thoughts to pass by without engaging them, focusing entirely on God. When you find yourself distracted, very gently turn back to your sacred word, letting it go when it is no longer needed.
If you're interested in making centering prayer or other forms of Christian meditation a habit that lasts, consider this 21-day email course.

A Prayer for Father's Day


Heavenly Father, you entrusted your Son Jesus, the child of Mary, to the care of Joseph, an earthly father. Bless all fathers as they care for their families. Remember too all those who have help fill the void when fathers pass early or are absent: grandfathers and uncles, brothers and cousins, teachers, pastors and coaches and the women of our families. Give them strength and wisdom, tenderness and patience; support them in the work they have to do, protecting those who look to them, as we look to you for love and salvation, through Jesus Christ our rock and defender.


Adapted from prayers by Rev. Chuck Currie and others at

What I believe about immigration and giving up the right to bear arms, in brief


I am in favor of Christians treating illegal immigrants humanely, hospitably, and fairly (and advocating for the same) as a witness to the future universal Kingdom, imperfectly present now in the Church, where the gates will never be shut at the end of the day (Rev. 21:25)

I am not in favor of the breaking of reasonable, just civil laws without extreme extenuating circumstances.

I am in favor of Christians voluntarily giving up their right to bear arms (and advocating for the same) as a witness to the future universal Kingdom, imperfectly present now in the Church, where swords will be beaten into plowshares (Is. 2:4)

I am not in favor of a blanket condemnation on all forms of self-defense or any penalty (ecclesiastical or civil) toward those that choose not to voluntarily give up their right to self-defense.

Christians are weak and lawless


Christians are indeed by definition weak and lawless according to worldly standards.

Our weakness is in loving our enemies and caring for the stranger, even though it’s risky.

Our lawlessness is a rejection of any authority that would seek to usurp the Lordship of Christ who commands us to do those things.

But we are not weak, we only appear that way.

Jesus appeared weak on the cross to many, like a lamb led to the slaughter, but he defeated death there once and for all. This is how God works through Christ, and how he works through us–Christ’s Body on earth (2 Cor. 12:9-11).

And we are not lawless.

Only now we live not by laws grounded in lies and worldly commitments. These always result in suffering and death for others. No, we are empowered to live according to a different kind of law that leads us–through death to ourselves–to life. This is the law of love, which comes from the Spirit (Rom. 8, 13:10)

7 observations regarding social media in the present time


Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Social media is both more important and less important than we often give it credit for as communications medium.

I submit the following observations for your consideration.

  1. I have come to realize (along with everyone else by this point) that most platforms are addictive by design, and so some kind of intentional boundaries are necessary.
  2. Scrolling the FB feed is one way to get a snapshot of what’s going on in the lives and minds of people I care about, but it is a woefully incomplete picture at best, and at worst can be an outright misrepresentation of what’s really going on.
  3. Scrolling the FB feed is a great way (if I am self aware enough) to expose some of my own anxieties, insecurities, and emotionally-charged issues. It can also result in a lot of temptation to express those things in unhealthy ways that are harmful to myself and others.
  4. For many (myself included), scrolling the FB feed is spiritually and emotionally draining (even if interesting and enjoyable). This is something that needs to be taken into account since—as an addictive activity—it can quickly drain all or most of your energy.
  5. The experience of social media and Facebook in particular changes dramatically if you look for opportunities to express kindness and gratitude.
  6. The way disagreement is often handled on social media is disappointing. If I find myself too discouraged by this it’s time for me to take a break. The only way to change this culture is to model a better way and refuse to be drawn in by personal attacks and other less than civil ways of communicating. We must insist on real discussion. This, however takes emotional, mental, and spiritual energy, so I have to make sure FB is the appropriate place to spend that energy in the moment.
  7. FB can be fun and worthwhile in small doses, but my greatest vocational impact will not be made there so long as my primary ministry after tending to my family is in a local church. My greatest impact will be made via direct communications and in-person presence with my parishioners, not through a passive broadcast (no matter how well written, provocative, or pastoral) so I have to think about my boundaries, habits, and energy accordingly.

My GTD system, June 2018


Previous tools and techniques



The essential books


This is a “living post” and will be updated over time. You’ll find a curated list of books here that have proven themselves life-changing and helpful over time.

Growing in gratitude


This 5-day, Bible-based devotional ebook is designed to help you:

This is the perfect devotional tool to prepare for and celebrate Thanksgiving!


Meditation made simple


Learn Christian meditation in 15 minutes or less per day for 21 days, and make it a life-giving habit that lasts.

We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship. - C. S. Lewis
Learn to to become silent, to be still, to practice solitude. Learn to become truly self-aware. Learn to listen to God. Experience joy and peace and community that lasts.

Open your entire being to the work of God the Holy Spirit, and be changed by the Truth of God’s Word.

Learn Christian meditation in 15 minutes or less per day for 21 days.

Christian meditation isn’t magic, but it is mysterious. Some of the mystery will never be fully unlocked for us, but what stumps most people are accessible basics…discovering what Christian meditation is, how it can help you grow closer to God, and how to stay consistent over time.

In this email course, I’ll teach you everything you need to know to get started on a journey that can bring you closer to God than ever before.

This e-course is delivered to you via email, one lesson per day for twenty one days.

Each email includes beautiful art, quotes from brilliant spiritual writers, journal prompts/questions for reflection, and solid, practical content from me to learn Christian meditation.

Key topics covered:

You'll also be able to email me at anytime with your questions, thoughts, and concerns, and I'll make sure to respond to you personally...I'm here to support you with advice, prayer, direction the whole way through as best I can.


Zero Risk, 100% Satisfaction Guarantee If for any reason you are not 100% satisfied, I'll issue you a full refund up to 30 days after your purchase. That means you could go through the entire course and if it's not helpful to you, I'll give your money back. That simple.

Super-quick sermon prep


Finish your sermon or Bible study in half the time.

Are you a busy pastor, small-group leader, or Bible-teacher that struggles to get your sermon or Bible studies done in a reasonable amount of time? Do you sit down to study without a clear plan and struggle to find your next step?

I’ve done the bi-vocational thing and I’ve got three kids, so I know firsthand how difficult it can be to create quality messages and talks when you’ve got other ministry commitments, a family, and maybe even a day job taking up a lot of your time.

Over the years, I’ve refined a process for researching and developing Bible-based content that is simple and reproducible. With a little tweaking, it will save you a lot of time and effort on sermon and Bible study prep.

This step-by-step guide will give you a set of tools to make sure you know exactly what to do next as you develop Bible-based content, and will help you get consistent, thorough results–all with less time and way less stress than before.

What people are saying…

Oh, my word, a guide to Trello? That's exactly what I've been needing!...I can see how much this would help me with any kind of workflow.
  • Angie H.
...a great digital tool... clean and straight forward. - Jason H.
What you'll get You'll get a short, 4-page PDF report outlining key principles and detailing the most important tools I use, along with an extensive step-by-step template and checklists for Bible research and sermon writing.


Beginning with the Common English Bible


I started reading through the Common English Bible today.

This is a controversial translation, to be sure (well, two or three verses, anyways). Sponsored by mainline Protestants but taking advice from both evangelicals and Roman Catholics, it aims to be a truly ecumenical translation.

This is part of the attraction for me, even though there are SO MANY English translations out there; all of them good. Nevertheless, I dig the ecumenical vibes and I appreciate the boldness of the translation while simultaneously missing the familiar English idioms that carry over from the KJV to ESV.

God willing I’ll read the whole thing this year.

Skye Jethani's IMMEASURABLE is a book I’d like to give every person just starting out in ministry


I’m very grateful to be part of the launch team for Skye Jethani’s brand new book Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc. As part of the launch team, I got this book for free in exchange for a fair review. I signed up on a whim; but I’m really glad I did.

Immeasurable is a book I’d like to give every person just starting out in ministry.

It is a much-needed antidote to the consumer-driven, success-by-the-numbers approach of a lot (if not most) of what passes as “Church leadership training” these days.

Skye does a great job of distilling and applying some of the best ideas of the “giants” he thanks at the beginning of the book—guys like Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, and Henri Nouwin.

If young pastors and new leaders start here, they’ll be on a virtual launch pad to much of the best literature out there on the essence of pastoral ministry, and they’ll be exposed to ideas and stories and will likely challenge them deeply.

Skye casts a deeply inspiring vision of pastoral ministry that encouraged me think about “church growth” as something much deeper than attendance numbers or even theological education. Instead, Skye urges pastors and leaders to consider growth in terms of communion with Christ and empowerment of the laity to deeply pursue their own spiritual growth.

According to Skye, Christian ministry must never be fully equated with mission, as vital as that is, but rather must retain real relationship with God as the ultimate end. This is so easily lost today when—as he reminds us—so many good things (like people in the pews and a passion for God’s mission in the world) become ultimate things.

This book is nothing less than a guide on how to avoid the ever-present temptations of idolatry for ministers. Above all, Immeasurable reminds us that ministry can never be about control; like all of life, it must be about communion.

A note on format of the book: it’s divided into 24 chapter that can each be read in about 20 minutes or less. Each chapter is more-or-less a self-contained essay on a different topic, ranging from the role of ambition in ministry, to preaching, to simplicity, to building influence and beyond. Each chapter has a few questions for reflection at the end. This format lends itself to serious reading and thought, and would be great to go through slowly with leadership teams. I could also see this being used for training programs for new leaders, with the questions being jump-off points for discussion with mentors.

Highly recommended.

→ Get it on Amazon

Video Review: Premium Value Holy Bible Large Print NLT


Buy on Amazon


5 powerful ways to leverage Trello for church


Trello, the digital Kanban and project management software, is all the rage for personal productivity and collaborative project management. Its simple and intuitive interface combined with clever features and powerful integrations with other services have rightly caused it to ascend to the upper echelon of similar tools. The more I use Trello for church, the more excited I get about the possibilities.

If you've never checked out Trello, now's the time. Before you go on with these tips, you might want to read my brief primer.

Here’s how you can leverage the power the Trello for church:

1) Collaborative task management. I’ve set up a simple shared board  between me (the rector of my church) and my administrative assistant with the following lists:

All of those are pretty self-explanatory. I add stuff to the Todo list and my assistant moves it to the appropriate list. I clear out the done list after reviewing every week or so.

The Resources list has links to some of the other systems we use and attachments for quick reference.

2) Leadership onboarding. I am in the process of working through exactly what this should look like for us, but you can easily put together a Trello board with essential information for new leaders. Possible lists could be:

3) Internal calendar planning/brainstorming. Make a board for the year and list for each month. Add events as cards and drag them around as needed during your brainstorming sessions.

4) Worship set planning. Worship leaders can make a Trello board with a list for each Sunday and card for each song. Drag and drop makes it easy move stuff around as needed in the set, and you can also attach chord sheets, etc to the cards for band members or other leaders.

5) Sermon series planning. Create a board for your series with lists for each week/sermon/talk, and add cards for things like:

You'll have everything in one place and can easily share and collaborate with your team as needed.

The flexibility and power of using Trello for church means that you’re only limited by your own creativity when it comes to streamlining your church’s processes and communication.

The best part about using Trello for church?

You can do everything I’ve outlined above absolutely free. Upgrading will get you a some extra perks when it comes to backgrounds and integrations, but it’s not at all necessary to get started with this amazing tool for ministry.

Did I mention their mobile apps are free and awesome, too? You’ll have all this stuff at your fingertips when on the go.

I hope this post has been helpful in giving you some ideas on how to use Trello to level up your planning, organization, and collaboration in your own church context.

The Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack for travel & every day carry


I like backpacks. It’s a weakness. I can often obsess over finding the perfect pack, and I own way more than I really need. Moreover, I gravitate toward the expensive ones.

A little over a year ago I gave away two other daily carry type backpacks. Short on cash, but needing a way to haul gear around town during the day and around the country on short trips, I reluctantly started looking for something cheap.

I saw the Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack on sale for $35 [edit: correction: $29], so I thought, why not take a chance…it’ll just hold me over until I get a better pack. Then I stashed it away and switched to small messenger bag (too small for my laptop). When I started having to carry around my laptop, I sold my messenger and I got the Rogue out of the closet.

A year later, it’s still my daily driver.

What makes the Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack so great?

[caption id="attachment_5823" align="alignright" width="225"] Interior organization[/caption]

1) Design. Sometimes, simpler is better. This is one of those times.

The Rogue is top-loading pack with one main compartment and 3 additional pockets.

The large main compartment is big enough to pack everything you need for the day with enough room to throw in some library books or a small sack of groceries later; it’s about 25 liters. The top flap is thoughtfully designed to keep water out via sides that tuck under (kind of hard to explain…) and fastens with a combination of velcro and sturdy buckles. This style of opening allows for the bag to expand and contract a bit as needed (like a true rolltop, but less so) and provides a handy way to stow a light jacket under the straps.

Inside the main compartment you’ll find a lightly padded laptop sleeve, a small zippered pocket toward the top along with an admin section for your writing utensils, business cards, etc.

On the exterior of the pack there’s a nice small zippered pocket for quick access to cables, a small tablet or paperback. On one side there’s mesh water bottle holder that can hold most anything up to a liter in volume.

The shoulder straps have the perfect amount of padding: enough to keep you comfortable with loads under 20lbs or so (hopefully you’re not carrying much more than that on the daily) but not so much as to be bulky. There’s fairly useless bottle-opener attached one shoulder strap. I’ve only used it once, but I suppose it could come in handy in a pinch.

A simple webbing grab-handled is sewn to the top above the shoulder straps. Additional understated webbing on the front and side of the pack provide a place to lash on extra cargo, wet shoes, or whatever as needed.

2) Construction. This is my second Timbuk2 bag, and just like my other one it seems flawlessly constructed. There’s not a stitch out of place and all the materials seem high-quality and durable. I’ve had the pack over a year and carried it daily for almost 10 months. It still looks almost new.

3) Price. These are often on sale at Amazon, Newegg, etc for $75 and under. Like me, you could get even get lucky and find one under $50 if you’re not too picky about the color. I think this is probably one of the best values in backpacks out there, to be honest.

4) Other general awesomeness. Because of the way this pack is made, it looks great either full or empty. It collapses down nicely when not packed to the brim, so you won’t feel too weird when you’ve just your laptop and jacket. Even when packed full (and this pack can hold a lot!) it maintains a slim profile.

Speaking of looks, I like that it retains pretty much all the function of most tacticool packs, while still maintaining a more sophisticated style. No, it’s not boardroom ready, but neither does it look like you’re heading out to hike the Grand Canyon. There’s nice velcro strip you can put patches on, if you like. I put an Arizona state flag patch on mine.

It’s also a highly water-resistant pack. Top and front are basically waterproof material. The sides might let a little in if soaked, but if you find yourself caught in the rain your stuff should be fine for while you find shelter.

Possible drawbacks

[caption id="attachment_5825" align="alignright" width="300"] Despite not being super TSA friendly, this pack does fit well under airline seats.[/caption]

1) The velcro opening is a bit noisy. not at all an issue for me, but I could see how it could be annoying for some people. You could get silencers, if you wanted, and just use the buckles to close the pack.

2) It’s narrow pack. Some wider binders might not fit super well. I have one that I carry all the time and it has to go in diagonally. Standard letter size notebooks and file folders are fine.

3) The laptop sleeve is integrated into main compartment. When traveling, you’ll have to open the main section to get your laptop out when going through security.  If you’ve packed it pretty full, it can be tough to get wiggle your laptop back in. For this reason only it’s not my preferred travel pack if I’ve got a laptop, but it’s not horrible or anything.

This pack isn’t quite big enough for trips longer than a couple nights, and it’s not the most TSA friendly design. All that said…After nearly a year carrying this bag every day, I’ve no immediate plans to replace it. If this one got lost I might even get another in a different color. It’s just a great all-around daily pack.

Being forced to work with a less expensive pack has helped me realize that more expensive doesn’t always equal better. More than that, sometimes the best pack is the pack you already have. And even more than that, my life hasn’t change significantly since “downgrading” to less expensive daily carry bag. All good lessons for a gear junkie like me.

Buy on Amazon

How I'm Getting Things Done with Field Notes


Field Notes are the clever, collectible (and thus, a bit addictive), design-focused notebooks that all the bloggers rave about. They really are fun, fairly affordable, and quite useful.

I use my Field Notes as my pocket notebook. It goes where I go to capture thoughts and ideas while out-and-about. I also use them to plan out my day.

When I’m disciplined, it goes like this:

I've used Patrick Rhone's Dash/Plus system (similar to Bullet Journal) as a quick way to indicate meta info on each list item.

I use a Pilot G2 .07 mechanical pencil to write in my FN, which I love, because the metal tip retracts when not in use, making this a pocket-friendly pencil.

If you want, you can get tons of nice covers for your Field Notes, but they’re fine without, as long as you are okay with your notebook developing some character. I like having a bit of extra protection for my notes, so I had a cover custom made from this Etsy shop.

How I'm Getting Things Done with Trello


For context, you’ll want to read Say hello to Trello, a new tool to organize your life and ministry

I have a “team” in Trello called Trusted System. Within that team I have six boards:


My Next board has four lists of cards:

I use Trello color-coded “labels” for contexts. My contexts are:


My Projects board contains anything that that requires more than one physical next action. As I review this board every week, I add physical next actions to my next board. I have two lists on this one:

Reference Lists

This is a pretty flexible board that just contains any lists I need on regular basis for reference. Mostly just packing lists as this point.

Someday Maybe

My Someday Maybe board has six boards, each with stuff I’d like to do eventually, but are not at all pressing. As I review this I move these things to the appropriate places on my Projects or Next boards. My lists are:


This functions as a complement to my physical tickler file and my digital calendar. It is made of four lists:

As I go through the year I drag the current quarter to the left so it’s always the first one I see. I use this to put date-specific reminders, files/confirmation numbers I’ll need etc.  This is for stuff that needs to happen around a certain date/month, but is not set in stone. So “schedule eye exam - January” I’ll just throw in January-March. When I review this board, I’ll move stuff to the appropriate place as needed: Projects, Next, or my calendar.

Horizons & Areas of Focus

This board is made up five lists. The first list is Mission and Core Values. The first card contains my personal mission statement:

“Help others discover and grow in the great love of God.”

Below that I have a card for each of my core values:

In each of those cards I have a list of core habits I try to cultivate. So in the “Stewardship” card I have:

The other lists are “areas of focus” or “spheres of life.”

Each of those lists has four cards:

If you'd like humility, try praying for it.


God gives grace to the humble. Are you developing the virtue of humility?

This old Christian prayer–in a form of repeated petitions called a litanyhas challenged many, including me. I believe if you pray these things honestly, God will grant your request in his time. It is especially appropriate for the Lenten season; it is combined here with a prayer from my own Anglican tradition.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, Jesus, hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being sought, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being considered, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humbled, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being rebuffed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being slandered, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

*  *  *

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may grow in the opinion of the world and I diminish, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be employed and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I forgotten, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred before me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be more holy than I, provided I am as holy as I can be, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

*  *  *

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Why I observe Lent


I had been in an emotional and spiritual struggle for years, processing how the Body of Christ could be so defined, so marked, by division, quarrels, and willful ignorance of each other. My spiritual journey had led me right into the middle of some of those painful internal wars, and I hadn’t escaped without getting hurt.

My wounds weren’t gaping open, but they were profound. I left them largely untreated because they were–at first–easy to ignore. They became infected with a certain amount of bitterness, anger, and cynicism, almost without me being aware of it.

Something happened to me, however, on Ash Wednesday of 2011. Baptists, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Non-Denoms all gathered together. I saw the auditorium filled with Christians with deep disagreements over theology and practice nevertheless admitting to one another their deep need for a savior, their total moral, emotional, intellectual, spiritual bankruptcy apart from the Cross of Christ and the promise of his Resurrection.

For a brief 2 hours, I saw the Church, not in perfect unity, yet nevertheless walking together toward Jesus. For the first time in a long time I thought she looked like the Bride of Christ. Hope sparked.

As we received Communion it was as if that spark turned into a roaring fire, and I found my hardened heart couldn’t stand it. Just like that, the bitterness, anger, and cynicism melted away and–in a word–I was healed of my old injuries.

I had hope once again that Jesus will in the power of the Holy Spirit make his Church what she is meant to be.

To me, this is the power of Ash Wednesday and Lent: making space to remember that at the end of the day, all our hope is in Christ, and we will never hope in vain.

How to win spiritual battles


In Paul’s ending to his letter to the Ephesians, he talks about how to defeat the powers of evil and darkness. We have take up the whole armor of God.

We have to take it up. Surely the armor of God is a gift, and we would have any of it without God, but Paul says we have to take some initiative. We have appropriate it, practice it, put in on. We have to make the choices to accept the gifts of protection that God has given. And it’s no coincidence that the metaphor here is a full set of armor, each piece designed to work with the others. Each item is crucial, and with out even one, the whole solider would be compromised. That’s why he says take up the whole armor.

So what is the whole armor of God? Let’s survey these briefly in the order they appear:

1) The belt of truth.

This is what holds everything together. In the times of Paul the basic garment was a flowing tunic; it was a square piece of fabric with holes for the head and arms that would hang loosely around the body. When preparing for a fight, soldier would put on the belt, which would gather the material between their legs so they had greater freedom of movement and keep it from being so loose as to be a liability.

This is what the the truth of God’s word does for us. Our faith is founded on the truth that Jesus really did live, that he did really did die, that he really did rise from the grave, and that he really is God in the flesh! This is the truth that keeps everything from unraveling around us. If we don’t have a firm foundation in this truth, we are on shaky ground indeed.  

And further, we must people that are about truthfulness, that is we continually seek after the truth, we speak the truth, we believe that truth exists, and we love the truth.

2) The breastplate of righteousness

This is referring the not only to the righteous of Christ that is imputed to us–that is, given to us on his behalf–but also the righteousness of our everyday life. We guard our hearts and innermost being when we live in a way that is holy and pleasing to God. All those little habits of turning your thoughts toward Jesus, of living generously and simply, and so on, will protect you from temptation and subtle lies from Satan.

3) Shoes of the Gospel of Peace.

Without the right footwear for the activity at hand you’re sunk. The right shoes allow to traverse difficult ground quickly and gracefully. A couple years ago I ran a 12 mile obstacle race called the tough mudder. About 6 miles in I realized I had worn the wrong shoes… they were letting rocks in in every mud pit. And there were a lot of mud pits. By the end of the race I could barely walk, let alone run. I didn’t have the right shoes. We sometimes forget that the Gospel is a message of peace and reconciliation, and so we forget the core of our mission. Certainly not everyone will accept or believe the Gospel, but isn’t completely different when we approach people as ambassadors of peace and instead simply trying to assert the fact that we are right and others are wrong? Hateful groups like Westboro Baptist Church show that you can get many facts of the Gospel right, and still miss the core Gospel message.

4) The shield of faith.

Paul says we take up the shield of faith to protect from the fiery darts of the evil one. These darts are actually arrows that were used in the ancient world, dipped in pitch and ignited before launching at enemies. They could be devastating because they would splatter when he hit, lighting all kinds of things and people on fire.

I think of these assaults on our faith as things like inexplicable suffering of loved ones, the stresses of unexpected financial struggles, personal failures, chronic illness. These things have the potential to do us great harm, to shake us to our core. Yet, these are the very moments when we must stand strong in our faith, in our trust that that God that has already won the war by raising Jesus from the dead, thereby conquering death, and will not abandon us in our battle.

5) The helmet of salvation.

This is where it starts getting really good, brothers and sisters. The helmet, the part of the armor that covers the most important part of the body, is called the helmet of salvation. As long as we have put this on by believing in Jesus and confession him as Lord, we know that we will be saved. Not just from our past sin, but from our present struggles, and future failures.

Our ultimate end can’t be anything other than victory. Not because of us, of course, but because Jesus is already victorious. Let me put it another way…the helmet of salvation assures that ultimately, we are invincible to Satan’s attacks. He can’t do anything to snatch us from our Father’s hands.

6) The sword of the Spirit.

Our only offensive weapon here is the sword of the Spirit, which Paul is the word of God. Of course we immediately think of the Bible–“living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” as it says in Hebrews. And this word is animated by the Spirit. So we must be careful to listen for what the Spirit actually saying to us in the text, being careful to not just assume it’s saying what we might like it say. The image here is of a short weapon that required skill and precision to use. So part of arming ourselves with this weapon is knowing when and how to use it. Jesus used it to counter temptation and lies of the devil, but remember the devil tried to use it too! So we’ve got to be careful with one. It is powerful, but we hurt ourselves or others if we don’t treat it very seriously and listen very carefully, and operate in the power of God the Holy Spirit.   You can see how each piece is just absolutely essential. If we don’t have the helmet, we’re in danger of eternal death. No sword and we’re left with no offensive options. No shield and not only are vulnerable but other people as well as the effects of those fiery darts spread. But how do we appropriate it? How to do we put it on?

Through prayer.

Matthew Henry said, “Prayer must buckle on all the other parts of our Christian armour.” So we put on the whole armor by coming to God and asking. All the time. By consciously examining ourselves to see where our weaknesses are and taking action to bring those things to the Father in prayer.

We are to pray at all times in the Spirit which simply means with an open and trusting heart to work of Spirit in our lives.

What would your life be like if–having identified your true enemy–you devoted yourself to fighting with weapons that God has given you? What if in times of crises you saw opportunities to live a holy life marked by prayer and constant witness to the Gospel message?

What could your nation be like if Christians, instead of trying to throw money and worldly influence and guns at problems took up the whole armor of God together and took the fight straight to real sources of evil?

Who are you fighting?


In Paul’s famous passage in Ephesians 6:10-20 on the armor of God, he makes a big deal about letting us know who we’re really fighting when it comes to the battles of the Christian life.

So who are we up against? This is crucial. You’ve got to know your enemy to be able to fight them effectively. Paul tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood (by which he means human beings) but rather “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Spiritual forces of evil, people. In other words, the devil and his demons. In our hyper naturalistic culture this kind of language seems pretty strange, but there’s no way to get around what Paul is saying here. If he’s right (and I believe he is), there are forces at work beyond that which is immediately visible to us. This has important implications.

It means that as we look at the world, the things we perceive as our enemies are not in an ultimate sense what we are fighting.

It means that ISIS is not ultimately our enemy. Politicians and presidents are not ultimately our enemies.

These are pawns only of greater, spiritual powers that desire violence and oppression not only for Christians, but for anyone they bring under their influence.

I say this because we give much attention to to the terrorists and the kings of this world, but if we only ever deal with the pawns, solving earthly problems with earthly means we will not make significant headway against the evil powers and principalities of the spiritual realm.

What Paul is saying here is that you have to take the battle past what you can see…and start fighting even the things you can’t see. 

Stay tuned for more.