Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Building One Another - Vol. 10, No. 19
Dear Friend,
My grandfather used to refer to some people as a “look-a-me.”  A “look-a-me” is a person whose bearing, speech, and attitudes all say, “Look at the wonderfulness of me.”

Many years ago, Eddie Cantor sang the song, “I Love Me:”

        I love me, I love me, I'm wild about myself
        I love me, I love me, my picture's on my shelf.

That’s a look-a-me!

Contrast the idea of the look-a-me with words of John the Baptist when he was speaking about Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30*  John was a look-a-him!

He knew life isn’t only about you or partially about you and me and partially about Jesus.

It’s all about Jesus!

The life of Jesus grows in you as you increasingly yield your life to this Lord who loves you.  The visibility of Jesus in you increases.  Your reflection of the grace and spirit of Jesus increases.

He must increase, you must decrease.

As your life moves from look-a-me to look-a-him your life will flourish in ways you never imagine.

The remarkable thing about this is that as you decrease you don’t lose anything.  You increase in your knowing, experiencing, and loving of the Lord who profoundly loves you!  
With joy - E. Stanley Ott
Copyright 2011 E. Stanley Ott
 *Scripture from the NRSV
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Monday, July 25, 2011

No Rest for the Weary

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.  He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it…  -  Mark 7:24

Tyre was a town on the coast of Phoenicia.  It was north-west of Jesus’ normal stomping grounds.  From the context of Mark’s gospel this little excursion up north to the coast of the Mediterranean was a break, a get away, a vacation.  Humans were designed for rest from the very beginning.  God rested from his works of creation not as a result of weariness, but for the purpose of delight in what he had made.  Rest, in the biblical sense is not laziness, it is worship. 

Honestly, my day off (Friday for the most part) is filled with non-stop activity.  Weeds and my golf swing both need attending too.  I’m exhausted when Friday evening rolls around.  Part of learning to rest in the Biblical sense means stopping.  It means being still enough to quietly delight in God’s world, in God’s word, in God’s grace, and in God’s presence.  But we live in a manic culture.  Everything has an immediacy of its own.  Rest, true rest, worshipful rest, goes against our every inclination.  Even when we do take rest, it is often void of stillness.  And stillness is where we experience God.  God is the still point in our manic world.  To know Christ, is to walk away from our nets filled with their hundreds of flopping, writhing, attention grabbing  fish to become consumed with the King who calls us to follow him.

Spending a week at the beach in Florida with my wife’s family was a great reminder to me of how poorly it is that I practice true rest.  I went away, had a good time with family and came back tan, but not rested.  I was not still while I was away. 

You see, intimacy with God will always be a struggle.  Adam and Eve took the fruit, they immediately recognized their sin, covered themselves out of shame and hid.  God expelled them from the garden.  Naturally being in God’s presence in the stillness of that perfect garden would never happen again.  We are out of the garden.  We are in the sweatshop of a fallen world.  It will never be easy to steal away and be still.  God had to command “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”  It is our inclination to forget Sabbath, to neglect rest, and to hustle away the stillness. 

Knowing Christ means following him to Tyre.  It means refusing to let our own inclinations for maniacal living to keep us from that abiding stillness with our savior who is our only access back to the garden.  The passage in Mark 7 ends this way: “… yet he could not keep his presence a secret.  In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet.”  That rings true doesn’t it!  Sounds about like my vacation.  True worshipful rest will never be easy.  But it will always be good. 

In Christ - Scott Castleman                  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Prayer for the Journey

In Esther De Waal’s book The Celtic Vision: Prayers and Blessings from the Outer Hebrides, she tells the story of a man named Dugall MacAulay who always recited a journey prayer to himself.  He recited it under his breath, “whenever he went upon a journey ‘however short the distance, however small the matter of his errand.’”  These kinds of prayers are common in the Celtic tradition, asking for God’s blessing and care for every part of a journey.  

De Waal writes, “When anyone set out on a really long journey family and friends would join the traveler in singing the prayer for traveling and in starting the journey with them”  (pp. 143-144).

The Journey Blessing Prayer goes like this:

Bless to me, O God,
The earth beneath my foot,
Bless to me, O God,
The path whereon I go;
Bless to me, O God,
The thing of my desire;
Thou Evermore of evermore,
Bless Thou to me my rest.

Bless to me the thing
Whereon is set my mind,
Bless to me the thing
Whereon is set my love;
Bless to me the thing
Whereon is set my hope;
O Thou King of kings,
Bless Thou to me mine eye!

May our prayers be answered as we ask for God’s blessing on our journeys, especially as we travel the exciting, challenging and Spirit-driven Acts 16:5 Initiative.

With Joy - Anne Clifton Hébert

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Change theorist Kurt Lewin used to talk about the necessity of “unfreezing” before change could happen. Think of an ice cube whose shape changes only when it is first melted. Whether speaking of an organization or an individual such an unfreezing is the loosening of attitudes and approaches that frees one to be open to new ideas. 

W. Edwards Deming who helped post-World War II Japan’s business community get back on its feet was known to say, “The present system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets!”  In other words, your congregation is perfectly designed right now for its level of actual fruitfulness in transforming lives as it grows disciples and meets human need and the degree to which it is fruitfully engaged in missional endeavor in its community.

A challenge for transformational ministry today is leading such unfreezing moments in congregational activities, which of course presupposes unfreezing moments in the lives of their leaders and their “opinion makers.”

Some practices that may be used to increase the fluidity and flexibility of those you lead include the following.

·      Use common sense when enabling change and winning commitment.  Always communicate that you respect the people you are leading.

·      Repeat the vision (the what, why, and who) constantly – over and over especially in interpersonal conversations.

·      Show enthusiasm! Passion!

·      Explain the "why's" over and over – and over and over and over.

·      Face the anxiety the people have about the change without being threatened by it.  Their anxiety does not mean either you or they are inadequate.

·      Hi-change requires "hi-touch" (personal presence, I hear you, I am with you).

·      Be open to change yourself.

·      Bring in an outside voice to help inspire the vision you want to impart.

·      Supply books and other literature sharing the vision you have.

·      Know when to push ahead and when to draw back.  Be wise.

·      Don't argue.  Change is often viewed as loss.  We don't argue with grieving people.  We show presence and love them neither trivializing their grief nor making light of it.

Some question to consider:

How “fluid” are you – how open to new ideas and approaches?

How have you sought to “unfreeze” people in the past? What has or has not been effective?

What is a situation that you are currently involved in where a new fluidity would make transformation possible? How will you proceed?

With Joy - E. Stanley Ott