Eucharistic living—YOU are broken bread and poured out wine

The centerpiece of many Christian traditions is Communion/Eucharist—the bread and the wine, ancient symbols of Christ’s redemptive suffering for the healing and quickening of the world. What we sometimes overlook in our various approaches to the Eucharist; however, is the fact that Jesus is not the only bread and cup—you are too.

In his classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers draws a direct connection between the Eucharist and Christ’s followers, stating that we have been called to follow Jesus’ lead in pouring out our lives for the world.

Broken bread and poured out wine—that’s what we have been called to be in the service of others. Just as the Apostle Paul viewed himself as a drink offering “poured out” on his followers’ faith (Philippians 2:17), so we are to live sacrificial lives that enrich the lives of others.

There is a mandatory rhythm attached to Eucharistic living, however. We cannot pour out indefinitely without being replenished ourselves. If we try to live lives of overextended, unsustainable service we court burnout and disaster. Rather, we must embrace a Eucharistic rhythm wherein we are broken and poured out, but then get replenished and reassembled by the grace of God.

If you have been withholding your service to humanity, it’s time to engage again. But if you’ve been engaged for too long without allowing your soul to heal, it’s time to get restored. No one can give forever or run without stopping—we give then receive; we run then we rest. Eucharistic rhythms ensure that we can do this with great health throughout our entire lifetime.


Resting from work or working from rest?

lion-restingHow would you describe your time off from work (and by work, I don’t just mean your job, but also all of your personal/family projects and demands)? Do you typically rest from your work or do you work from a place of rest?

There is a gigantic difference between the two. It seems to me that most people use their time off to rest from their work, whereas few people actually begin their work from a place of well-rested renewal.

In his book, The Communicator’s Commentary, David L. McKenna described our situation this way: “Modern society has upset the rhythm of life. Work has been devalued and play has been invaded by the purpose of work. With so much leisure and so many options, play has been subjected to a time-clock schedule with its demand for successful production. In many instances, worship has been eliminated from the rhythm of life and rest has become a dreaded experience on a ‘crash pad.’ The result is that work is a necessary evil, play is work, worship is idolatry, and rest is a short course in death.”[1]

Strong words, no doubt, but they certainly ring true. The Bible urges another way. The biblical idea of Sabbath was not so we could mildly recover from our workweek before starting it all over again—it was so we could retreat to our ultimate source of life.

In the creation account in Genesis the Sabbath day—day seven—comes last. However, for Adam (who was created on the sixth day), it came first. God’s seventh-day Sabbath was Adam’s first day. He was created to begin his work from a place of God’s rest.

Don’t get uptight about the Sabbath and legalistically attempt to carve out an entire day of rest. Just understand and embrace the principle: we find ourselves in God’s presence where our souls get renewed, and then from that place of strength and rest we face whatever comes our way.

[1] David L. McKenna, The Communicator’s Commentary: Mark (Waco: Word Books, 1982), p.77.

How to have a spiritual retreat

spiritual retreatJesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray.” (Luke 5:16)

If Jesus did it shouldn’t we?

If the Lord Himself “often” withdrew for prolonged seasons of connecting with God through prayer then shouldn’t those of us who follow Him make time for spiritual retreats too?

If you’ve ever done it—if you’ve ever carved out an afternoon or a day (or longer) for the sole purpose of focused worship, Bible meditation, and prayer—then you know how healing, centering, and inspiring those times can be.

Focused times of spiritual engagement can restore our perspective, clarify our purpose, and reconnect us with the presence of God.

I want you to experience this. At Grace Church this year, we are going to set a goal to have every member of our congregation experience a personal spiritual retreat.

Here are a few practical pointers to get you started:

  1. Start small and build from there. Don’t start with a week-long silent retreat at a monastery—start with an afternoon at the beach or in the desert, and branch out from there.
  2. Choose a setting that you find peaceful, beautiful, and calming.
  3. Don’t fast. Hunger pangs will distract you from what you’re there to do. Fast on a different day.
  4. Start with worship. As you walk along the beach or a mountain path, sing along with some worship songs on your iPod. Worship restores perspective, heals emotions, and invites a closer sense of the Lord’s presence.
  5. Pray the Scriptures. Pick a few psalms and use them as a road map for a time of focused prayer. Slow, thoughtful prayers through a handful of psalms can easily fill an hour of time.
  6. Pray about everything that’s weighing on you. Make sure everything on your various prayer lists gets off loaded onto God.
  7. Get ready to listen. As you pray, prepare to journal the thoughts, impressions, and insights that come your way.
  8. Don’t read spiritual books—stick with the Bible. Skip the latest spiritual bestseller and instead read multiple Bible passages or an entire book of the Bible, recording your major observations or anything that you sense could be a “word” for you from the Lord.
  9. Don’t be disappointed if nothing dramatic happens. Sometimes a spiritual retreat is a simple discipline without a lot of immediate fruit. However…
  10. Don’t be surprised if God changes your life. Your time away with God could quite possible become a holy moment like when Moses saw a fiery bush, turned aside to see, and was forever and completely changed. (Exodus 3:1-6)

Weary Warriors (The End of the Trail)


end-of-the-trail-slideDoes this statue look like you? Are you a weary warrior, fighting to stay atop your equally weary mount?

This sculpture, called The End of the Trail, was created in the late 1800s and it gripped my heart the first time I saw it as a child. I was fascinated by this slumped and swaying warrior, and I wanted to know what had crushed his spirit so badly. Had he been injured in battle or was he merely bowed by exhaustion or grief? How had such a noble soul come to such a defeated, broken end?

I didn’t realize that my life would often resemble that statue.

Yours probably has too.

We’ve all ridden toward the horizon, ready to win the day, only to come to the end of the trail, hurting, lonely, dazed, and confused, and wondering how it all went wrong.

When we come to the end of the trail and droop like this valiant warrior, there’s only one lasting cure for our soul—the presence and nearness of God. Max Lucado calls that place of God’s presence “the sweetest spot in the universe.”[1]

The Gospel story is one of simultaneous expansion and narrowing. It’s expanding toward the furthest reaches of the known world, but it’s also honing in on individuals like a heat-seeking missile.

God wants to draw close to you. His very name, Immanuel (God with us), says so.

In this week’s installment of our summer reading program, Lucado expounds on this idea of God drawing near. That nearness—more than any other place in the universe—is where life becomes sweet and the common life is truly cured. Let’s lean into that space until we sense His presence and His Spirit makes us whole.


Summer Reading Program: The Cure for the Common Life Chapter Seven “Come to the sweetest spot in the universe.”

[1] Max Lucado, The Cure for the Common Life (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN: 2005): 70.


Eating Summer

Have you started yet?kids eating ice cream

My brother, Cheyenne, recently posted a picture of himself swimming up out of a pool with his mouth opened wide for a bite. His caption read: “I’m eating summer.”

I hope you’ve been doing that too. Whether or not you’re fortunate enough to have an official summer vacation, I hope you’ve been able to savor the taste of evening walks, bicycle rides, warm morning devotions, day trips to Newport Beach, and moonlit conversations under the Tiki Torches.

Summer is a complex season. For some, it’s so busy that’s it’s gone before it even begins, while for others it’s a crash pad where they try to recoup from a year of overcrowded schedules and workloads. Some people hang all of their hopes for fun on a measly one or two-week getaway, others expect the whole season to be fun, tropical, and memorable, while somehow remaining affordable.

We sure put a lot of pressure on our summers.

I think our summers might be a little healthier if we approached them with some specific objectives.

Stay on mission even while we take a break. Even while we plan our weekends away and set out to enjoy some well-deserved leisure time, let’s not forget our calling to love and care for our world, and let’s not forget the suffering people who we’re growing attached to through our ministries and our reading of The Hole in our Gospel. Staying on mission won’t diminish our sense of fun it will enhance it and keep it in a healthier perspective.

Don’t let the mission keep you from taking a break. Just as we shouldn’t abandon the mission when we pause for a break, neither should we allow the needs of the mission to cancel our break. Rest—do you remember what “rest” is—was God’s idea, and if we allow ourselves to drink deeply of His Sabbath rest we will be much more likely to stay on mission for the long haul.

Finally, eat a bite of summer every day.