REPLAY of the LIVE class (on Periscope)! with notes!

I was a sweaty, nervous wreck on my first periscope.

It’s comical…did anyone ever see Broadcast News (the movie)?
I needed two tissues for my sympathetic nervous system.

(Some technical difficulties threw me just before broadcast and I talked SO VERY fast.)

If you didn’t get to see it here you go!
(Twitter pulled the plug on this feature – sorry everyone)




THE #1 Myth about the SOUL…

is that we have one.

But first….we should get on the same page…


(what are we talking about?)

This is how I’m describing it:


In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for soul is nephesh. We might use it this way, “1,517 souls were lost in the Titanic disaster.”

SOUL ≠ dead BUGS BUNNY …like a floating ghost and that sort of stuff.

Not a faint rendering of bugs bunny leaving his body to play a harp on a cloud with Porky Pig. Not something that is ghosty and haunting a house or helping Demi Moore on a Pottery Wheel. (Patrick it, young people.)


Ancients thought of the mind and heart differently (the will and the emotions)…

Maybe these verses come to mind…but you’ve been thinking about them in your own context instead of the ancient context from which they were written.


Remember this one?

The heart is deceitful and wicked above all things JER 17:9

(Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life)

or Proverbs 4:23 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

….The writers of these scriptures were not talking about emotions and feelings when they said “heart” (like we associate the heart today…they were talking about the HEART as one’s will and control center of a person…(the thing we now associate with the mind.)

For them, the emotions (the heart for us in our context) were associated, instead, with the bowels. Perhaps a bit gross..but there is some

MEDICAL TRUTH/correlation : anxiety and stress are closely associated with disease and problem that happen in the intestines…like….ulcerated colon, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (bloating, constipation, gas, and other fun things), digestion issues, food sensitivities and problems in that part of the body. These are extremely related to one’s emotions and levels of stress.

The GEM MODEL of the Soul (my version)


Think of the SOUL as a gem and the facets are ways to see the soul.

You can go as far as saying other things beyond these are facets:

family of origin, social economic situation, skin color (if that has been a defining factor in your life)

education, the country you live in,

Even Christianity is a facet. A worldview is a facet that we can gain a kind of look at who we are.

Grace is central to Christianity, for instance. We can look at our soul through the facet of grace.

When light is added to a stone you can see its flaws and imperfections and you can see its quality (color, cut, clarity, caret)

UGLY soul? Is that possible? what do you think?

In his book Care of Souls, David Benner writes, “We can define soul care as the support and restoration of the well-being of persons in their depth and totality, with particular concern for their inner life. Soul care is done in the context of community.”

The vantage point of Soul Care views struggle or failings not as fatal flaws or illness to be “cured”. Not therapy or self-help. 

It’s a sustaining endeavor for our interior lives and our relationships, like water and food is for the body. Incidentally, caring for the body falls within the bounds of Soul Care.

Ten Signs that You Need the Renewal of Soul Care 

1. Fruitlessness. Are there observable deficits in the enacted your Fruit of the Spirit? That means, is there any lack or slack in the


areas of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control? (If not, I think E.T. went home without you. Phone again. You might want to text, and retweet as well.)

2. You find yourself perceiving things others say as personally offensive, or as direct attacks. 

3. You are “venting” more in person or online.
4. You feel unloved.
5.You feel increased frustration, restlessness, or desolation.

6.Your fears and anxiety are more prevalent.

7.You have increased tension in relationships.

8. You struggle with one or more of the “seven deadly 

sins”: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. 


9. You have problems sleeping or bad dreams.

10. You’re in a creative slump. 


THE #1 myth about the soul is that…. you have one. You don’t have a soul you are a Soul. You have a body. George MacDonald, in 1892 (C.S. Lewis quotes him and the quote is mistakenly attributed to him sometimes)

Think of the Soul as “the real you” the essence of you. contained in a body, yes, but made up of everything about you in a pure sense.

Some might say the soul gets extinguished or goes to paradise or gets absorbed into the great Life Force (God) …but in terms of what you need…you always need Soul Care, because you are a soul and that include both the visible and the invisible.

All this more and much more is available in my book. Shame-filled plug.

on Waiting…

This Sunday marks the start of the season of Advent 2015.

The predominant theme of Advent is WAITING in expectation.
It’s a timeless theme.

(Before mobile phones, if a bus broke down you had to find a pay phone and wait your turn to call for rescue. These folks don’t seem too upset by it.)


Waiting makes up a big portion of our lives, doesn’t it?

Whether it’s waiting in line or in traffic or waiting for an occasion or certain situation–we do a lot of waiting.

For me, a focus on waiting pulls me out of the present moment to a moment that exists in theory. It involves hope or anxiety. Or both.

The prisoners I minister to have a life centered on waiting for their freedom. They routinely tell me that keeping busy is the best way to conquer the burden and stress of waiting.


But a closer interaction with the experience of waiting can unearth and reveal deeper spiritual longings that can both call us into a richer walk of faith and engender the growth needed to more fully surrender to God.


If we just stay busy we can miss the gifts that come only through waiting.

Because waiting is such a huge part of the human experience, it’s no wonder that Christianity has long interacted with this theme as a entry point into bigger spiritual conversations and concepts. It is through this struggle we gain growth and maturity in our walk of faith.

Patience is rarely, if ever, attained by any other means than practice.

Waiting is that practice.

Waiting on the Lord is a vibrant theme in Scriptures too, right?

Most of the stories in the Bible include the aspect of waiting. Abraham and Sarah (and many others) wait for offspring, David waits on the Lord for deliverance, the prophets wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled, Paul and the other apostles do a lot of waiting in prison, and in the season of Advent we acutely encounter Mary’s waiting for the Savior, Jesus. She is the vehicle God has chosen to birth the Prince of Peace. It’s a nine month process–on the heels of thousands of years of waiting for the Messiah.

This delivery involves a lot of anticipation and waiting.

And so too does most anything else of worth. These many stories echo our own pain and struggle.

I appreciate Mary’s expression of gratitude during her wait (a.k.a. The Magnificat-see the video below to hear “Mary’s Song” sung my John Michael Talbot). We can use her example to help us along.

Gratitude produces joy that makes waiting easier.

Waiting aptly exposes our traits of impatience, also. It works to refine us.

Henri Nouwen once wrote, “Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. ”

Rev Adele Ahlberg Calhoun recently wrote,

Waiting is how God gets at the idols of our heart. Waiting addresses the things we think we need besides God to be content: money, comfort, expedience, success or control.


It’s a powerful lesson we find in Advent. Meditate on the longings of your heart and cultivate the seeds of advent there. Expectantly wait for God to fulfill his promises with a heart of trust and gratitude.

Heaven is For Real, but is it as silly as they say?

On the recent topic of Heaven (and soon, Hell) here at the old blog, I must bring up the baffling and sappy rendering of the heaven that we hear about quite a bit in conservative North American Protestantism.

If a boy nearly dies, and then tells you details about heaven exactly as you have taught him, what’s next? I’ll tell you what, a best seller (for people who need a spiritual vitamin B12 shot for their excruciatingly literal translations of biblical passages, and who pay no mind to historical context, linguistic idioms, let alone Hebrew and Greek).

Now, I realize young children tell silly stories. That’s part of their job. The trouble comes when the stories get massaged and coupled with a near-death tragedy to elicit a faith response from the more gullible among us. I do want to think the Burpos are on the up-and-up, but something stinks.

I heard Pastor Burpo and his little boy on a television program. What a cute kid. Some of the story seemed amazing, if not miraculous, but I got a bad whiff of something when Colton (really his dad) detailed heaven as, well, super lame.

People get around on their huge wings. Okay, I hope that’s not how it works. Boobs have been bad enough. The proverbial pearly gates make an appearance. The word “wicked trite” comes to mind, but maybe I’m just too cynical. A blue-eyed Jesus wears a purple sash over his white robe, and rides a giantic rainbow colored horse. Okay, bad wardrobe, and how could the genuine biblical Jesus from the ancient Semitic region possibly possess a double recessive gene for blue eyes? (And don’t say, because both Mary and the Holy Spirit had blue eyes, ’cause I’m not buying it.)

I don’t think Jesus rolls like that. But, I give the kid credit: An elephantine rainbow horse is pretty cool. Of course, I would have to know if it pooped rainbow too. That’s awfully critical info. God (the Father) has a body and sits on the throne, with Gabriel serving as a kind of right hand angel man on his left side, in a smaller throne…as we might expect, right? It all sounds like a bad Star Trek episode. Well, sort of.

Reader reviews often complain that only 3 pages of the book speaks of heaven in any details. But the book has done well. Very well. It spent 52 weeks on the bestseller list, and the family has since produced a children’s picture book, and you guessed it, and movie rights have been purchased by Sony. Pretty sweet deal!

Possible movie title: “Heaven is for Reel: One Boy’s Near-death experience as re-told by his literalistic dad”

When the parents are asked about authenticity, their answers center on referring to the hope the story brings. This begs the question, is the point of the book to create hope in a plenty of people already know what they want heaven to be, instead of a faithful depiction of God (who, by the way, is non corporeal) and the Bible? (Which would be far more confusing.) Both can’t be true.

If you want to read a copy for yourself, and decide, here it is.

But, I offer you some thoughtful reflection on the the topic from arguably the foremost New Testament scholar alive today.

Advent Reflection 11/28/11


“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79, NRSV)

May you meditate on the meaning of this scripture, and pray it.

Consider sharing your Advent reflections below.

Welcome to Advent

The season before Christmas is a special one, and not because of great shopping deals. It’s not because we make gifts, or sing carols, or decorate, or bake special things, visit with family or light candles at the Christmas Eve service. It’s not even about giving more to others. Well, that’s just the tip of the Christmas iceberg.

Advent is about anticipation and hope. As Christians, we celebrate the things God has done and is doing in various seasons of the year. Creating a special time of year for focus on particular spiritual truths allows those truths to gain more weight and more meaning in our everyday lives. Advent lasts four weeks, and it’s a holiday season full of introspection, reflection, hope, and divine mysteries.

Rituals and traditions often cement social and relational bonds, ready our hearts for worship, and create the vital space and time for better adoring our Creator. Not only does memory solidify our perceptions of reality now, but it prepares us for future love, service, and devotion, to God and others.

In these four weeks of Advent I’ll feature meditations, reflections, art, and more (from me and others) interspersed among typical posts to focus our spirits on the good things of God, and the time we celebrate the most amazing gift of grace from our Living God, Jesus, the Incarnation. Our Redeemer, Savior, and King.

To participate in a richer way, view the Artists Advent Project page.

Blessings this season.