Our time at Potter’s Inn ends today.  Tomorrow we pick up our RV and head toward Wyoming to experience Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  

Over the last week, we’ve explored 11 Mile Canyon, the Garden of the Gods, and some ancient Cliff Dwellings. Michelle and I went on a date, hiking one of our all-time-favorite, most-beautiful-trails-ever, The Crags. 

Michelle was the most beautiful sight I saw that day. 

The other night, Belle and I sat on the porch watching a massive storm move into the valley between the mountain peaks.  The sky was a swirl of clouds, colors, lightening, and water. Amazing.

Storm Rolls In

The beauty here has been like a blanket of His grandeur and love, wrapped around our souls.  This sums it up…

The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.     Psalm 118:23

During one our times with Steve and Gwen this week, we had one of those moments where God marked our souls.  Here’s the essence of what they said to us.

In the late 1800’s Katherine Lee Bates hiked to the top of Pike’s Peak. She was so moved by the “purple mountain’s majesty” the lyrics for America the Beautiful just erupted out of her.  As amazing as the beauty of creation is, God has not choose to sing over the grandeur of the mountains.  He has chosen to sing over the grandeur of you.  

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph 3:17

His song is not “America the Beautiful.”  He sings “Maddie the Beautiful.” He sings “Whitney the Beautiful.”  He sings “Belle the Beautiful.” He can’t contain it.  His heart explodes with delight and joy when He looks at you. The most important thing I can tell you is that you are the Beloved. In other words, let yourself BE LOVED by Him.  If you do, it changes everything. 

The next day, they gave each of our girls hand-carved rings with the word Beloved engraved in it.  

Beloved Whit

Only His song can set us free.  Praying that as you read this you will hear His song over you, with clarity and receptivity. Only His song can fill our hunger.  Only His song can bring rest to our weary souls.  

I continue to be amazed at the amount of moralism, religious pride, and striving that is buried inside of me.  I am definitely the Elder brother from the Prodigal Son, but I’m learning how to come in from the fields and join the party.

I hope you can sit and soak in grace today.  Once again, we are so grateful to our amazing church family who has made this sabbatical possible. We’re overwhelmed by His goodness in you and through you.

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Whit conquered the rock at 11 Mile Lake Breathe Ride up to Pike's Peak My beauty Michelle and Maddie at 11 Mile Lake Bird feeder = Deer feeder The shenanigans on the ride up to Pike's Peak were non-stop. We laughed the whole way up. Maddie is an amazing photographer! Her photos are filled with joy. Pike's Peak The top of pike's peak

We’re entering the third week of sabbatical, beginning our great adventure exploring the West.  The Potter’s Inn, a spiritual retreat center, in Divide Colorado is our base camp the first couple weeks.  Every other day we meet with our friends Steve and Gwen Smith for time of conversation, prayer, and spiritual direction.  The retreat center is nestled in 35 acres filled with trails and prayer stations.  Today they led us in a time of Lectio Divina as a family that was amazing.  Lectio Divina means “divine reading” in latin. It’s less about Bible study, more about conversation with Jesus.  It’s less about information gathering, more about communion and meditation.  LD is about sliding down into a few verses like a tub of warm water.  We each heard Jesus speak to us in very specific ways.  If you’d like to learn more, I wrote a post about LD a few years ago. 

The other days are our Expedition days to head out and have adventure.  So far, we spent time at 11 Mile Lake and rode the Cog Rail up to the top of Pike’s Peak.

Amazing.  

Here’s a few photos.  Check out Michelle’s Facebook page where you can catch some of her and Maddie’s photos, both of whom are better photographers than me!   We so appreciate your prayers that we’ll be open to whatever Jesus has for us. Whit’s been sick with a summer cold, so please pray for her healing.  

Hey @gsmlive praying this verse over you on your way to #gsmcamp this morning.

My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and make melody. Wake up, my spirit; I myself will awaken the dawn.

Be wide awake this week and ready for all God has for you! He loves you and so do we! High-res

Hey @gsmlive praying this verse over you on your way to #gsmcamp this morning.

My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and make melody. Wake up, my spirit; I myself will awaken the dawn.

Be wide awake this week and ready for all God has for you! He loves you and so do we!

Why spend the first week of the sabbatical alone at the monastery?

I hear the ringing of the bell, calling the monks to pray. I’ve felt the sweep of their shadows as they put down the work in front of them and moved silently to their seats in a dimly lit chapel. And I am always moved and confronted by the way they change their daily rhythm to conform to the movement of God.” Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr

Seven Sacred Pauses is Macrina’s way of describing the practice of Praying the Hours. This is the conscious practice of pausing at specific times of the day. Every hour is sacred but seven special times have been hallowed by centuries of prayer by God’s people: midnight, dawn, midmorning, noon, midafternoon, evening, and night. (I won’t bore you with the encoded names.)

Seven times a day I praise you… Psalm 119:164

Michelle and I have been stumbling our way in the practice of the hours for a few years. We don’t keep all the offices. I struggle to keep 3-4 a day. Some days not so much. ”I have learned that way down underneath all the busyness, something (or is it Someone?) waits for us to come home to who we truly are. All it takes is a simple pause to get us in touch with the One who keeps vigil with us.”

So, this week was set aside to just be alone with Jesus and live in the sacred pauses each day. Before I left Michelle said, “Be free. Don’t worry about us. Find God’s better version of you.” Her kindness and generosity moved me to tears considering I’ve had a lot of away trips since the beginning of the year. She overwhelms me with grace.

A few highlights, observations, etc.:

  • Monks are human beings. I heard one mumbling under his breath in a frustrating tone as he left the chapel after one of the offices. On the way out the door, he said a naughty word. I busted up laughing. Another time the monks where out four wheeling on some gnarly trails in the woods. No, they weren’t wearing robes. Yes, their waist-length beards were flapping in the wind. I took my jeep out on the trail later. Good times. They value prayer, work, and leisure. In that order.
  • A flood of exhaustion hit after I got here. Pretty sure it’s repressed fatigue.
  • I find myself tempted to try to make this sabbatical EPIC AND AWESOME. I need to let that go to enter into His rest.
  • Jesus is showing me how incredibly wicked I am. The stuff down in the basement of my heart is ugly.
  • Jesus is showing me how incredibly loved I am. He delights in me just because I am me. I don’t have to do anything.
  • The weather has been amazing. Long walks and taking photos are good medicine for the soul.
  • For some reason, I can’t sleep right now. I’ve woken up multiple times each night. He’s digging something up in me.
  • If you haven’t read The Book Thief or The Lost World of Genesis One, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you check them out.
  • When I don’t rest, really rest, it reveals a fundamental lack of trust in God. It’s not a sin to wink at. It’s one of the most offensive sins.

    And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. Isaiah 32:17 (ESV)

  • I am bent toward inward introspection that becomes narcissistic paralysis of analysis. What I am learning now instead is an upward, outward, Christ-centered contemplation.

    “For one look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. ” Robert McCheyne.

    I miss my ladies. I’m headed home tomorrow. Next week the older girls are at GSM Camp (Oh yeah!) and Belle is headed to Chicago to spend time with our family. Which means, Michelle and I will have the week together. Yes! So grateful to have the sabbatical season.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; 
Make known His deeds among the peoples. 
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders. Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face continually. 
Psalm 105:1-4 High-res

Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders. Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
Psalm 105:1-4

Aircraft Carrier? Cruise Ship? In the Indianapolis Area? We’re coming your way!

As one of the pastors on the lead team at an attractional church that’s on a transformational journey into missional, let me share a metaphor that scares me, sobers me, and keeps me asking hard questions.

Is my local church a cruise ship or an aircraft carrier?

My friend Todd Wilson use to serve in the nuclear navy and he was the first one to pose that question to me.  When the navy deploys for battle, they deploy in a carrier battle group. A carrier battle group is made up of all kinds of vessels: fast frigates, supply ships, guided missile cruisers, fast attack submarines.  At the very center of the carrier battle group is something called the aircraft carrier, a 390,000-ton war machine that is arguable the most potent war machine in the entire history of mankind.

The mission of that massive aircraft carrier is one thing: To launch the pilots and help them fulfill their mission.

We need to think of our local churches as an aircraft carrier.  Our goals is to arm and equip the pilots, so they can launch out and fulfill the mission God has given them at work, in their neighborhood and their community. 

The temptation pressing down on us as church leaders is to allow our local churches to operate like a cruise ship. If you were a kid in the 70’s like me, I know you can hear this song in your head right now, “The LOVE BOAT soon will be making another run. The LOVE BOAT promises something for everyone…”

What do you do on a cruise ship? You go to be entertained.  You eat a lot.  No worries about accountability or equipping for mission. A cruise ship always comes back to the same port it left from. Cruise ships are fun, but they don’t advance the mission.

If the enemy can disarm the carrier, confuse the pilots on their mission, and shut down the catapult system, we’ll end up simply being the LOVE BOAT.

No pastor or church leader I know wants to lay down their life to be Captain Stubbing or Gopher.  But, if we don’t have a strategy to get the pilots launched and in the air, I know that’s where I’ll end up. 

If we can cooperate with the Spirit of God and reboot our systems to equip and launch people on mission, we will unleash the most powerful, effective, indigenous discipleship and evangelism force on the face of the earth.

That’s the church Jesus was talking about when he said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against.”

This calling toward the “aircraft” and away from the “cruise ship” will require some earth-shaking shifts – ‘Missional Moves’ – that fundamentally alter our understanding of the church and how its mission is lived out.  That’s the kind of transformation we’re in the middle of at Granger Community Church. 

Our book Missional Moves is our attempt to share some of the blood, sweat, tears, mistakes, and breakthroughs we’ve experienced in the process.  It’s a resource by practitioners for practitioners.  We want to help keep moving the missional conversation from conceptual to practical. 

If you’re wrestling with the same questions and you live in the Indianapolis area, we’d love for you to join the conversation, April 11, at Maggiano’s (free lunch!). This event is sponsored by the generous folks at the Aspen Group.  You can register for the event here.  The team at Aspen just want to add value to church leaders pursuing mission, no strings attached.   Hope to see you there!

My Mom was placing flowers on Grandma’s gravestone two nights ago. A car stops nearby. Mom figures its the groundskeeper, who has had to kick her out at “closing time” before.  A man gets out of the car holding this silver package and approaches Mom, whose quit frightened by this. He says, “This is our blessing for you. It is our tradition to share a homemade pie with those who are facing the loss of a loved one, so they know they aren’t alone. Would you take this pie?” At this point his wife and daughter had approached and were standing next to him. His wife assured her, “Fresh-baked. It’s still warm.” Mom could feel the warmth of the pie in her hands.  Grandma Warmelink was an incredible baker, know in particular for her pies. As mom shared the story tears welled up in her eyes. 
God’s love comes to us in such a personal, customized and intimate way. 
I told Mom, “Reminds me of another woman who stood at the graveside, heart-broken. She was also interrupted by someone who she thought was the groundskeeper, but it ended up being Jesus who met her.” John 20:15

By the way, the pie was amazing…almost as good as grandma’s! High-res

My Mom was placing flowers on Grandma’s gravestone two nights ago. A car stops nearby. Mom figures its the groundskeeper, who has had to kick her out at “closing time” before. A man gets out of the car holding this silver package and approaches Mom, whose quit frightened by this. He says, “This is our blessing for you. It is our tradition to share a homemade pie with those who are facing the loss of a loved one, so they know they aren’t alone. Would you take this pie?” At this point his wife and daughter had approached and were standing next to him. His wife assured her, “Fresh-baked. It’s still warm.” Mom could feel the warmth of the pie in her hands. Grandma Warmelink was an incredible baker, know in particular for her pies. As mom shared the story tears welled up in her eyes.
God’s love comes to us in such a personal, customized and intimate way.
I told Mom, “Reminds me of another woman who stood at the graveside, heart-broken. She was also interrupted by someone who she thought was the groundskeeper, but it ended up being Jesus who met her.” John 20:15

By the way, the pie was amazing…almost as good as grandma’s!

Take a minute to rest and receive the grace present in this gift. My amazing wife created this work of beauty (the photos are hers, song by Nicole Nordeman).