Just A Minute

Do you remember the words and kind acts that encouraged you when you were young? Who was the adult that spoke into your life? Hopefully, they spoke words of love and acceptance that encouraged you to explore an interest or talent that is uniquely yours.

This was the question Wess Stafford, President of Compassion International, posed back in October of 2010. I wrote about just such a moment and was contacted by author Dean Merrill who was working with Wess on his new book, Just a Minute.

After chatting with Dean Merrill, I was informed they would be using my story in Wess Stafford's book. I received my copy in the mail this week. I was tickled to see the story under the heading Surprise in the Drawer. I am re-posting my original piece here:
It brought to mind a pivotal moment in my life. I recall the impact my Aunt Mitzie had on my life. It's something I never actually told her about.

I was 10 years old and had read a Robert Frost poem in school. We were studying the poets and for some reason his poem Fire and Ice just spoke to me. I remember we had to break the poem down and write what it meant to us.

I decided to try my own hand at poetry. My Aunt was staying with us at the time and I showed her my poem. She praised my youthful attempt and encouraged me to keep writing poems. I began writing more and more poems and giving them to my Aunt Mitzie. She would continue to build me up with each poem I gave her.

One day she asked me to put one of the poems I gave her in a drawer for her. When I opened it up, I saw every poem I had given her. She kept them all. I remember how taken aback I was, but also how loved I felt. She never said a word about it but occasionally I would peek into the drawer to see if they were still there. They always were.

My desire to write increased and over the years I moved away from poetry and began writing devotionals, articles and now conducting interviews with others.

It all began with a word spoken in love.

I should call my Aunt.

That's my story. What is yours?
Here is a video of Wess Stafford talking about the power of another such moment:

Why not check out the website for Just a Minute and pick up a copy of the book while you are at it. Wess Stafford has asked that all of the author proceeds be given to Compassion International.

Hey, while you are at it, why not sponsor a child as well.


The Emancipation of Robert Sadler - A Book Review

The Emancipation of Robert Sadler was a book I could not put down. When this book was first offered to me for review, I chose to accept based on the co-author. Marie Chapian wrote a book about a Yugoslavian pastor that my wife and I read more than once and which still holds a position on on our bookshelf. So when I saw she was involved with this book, I decided to give it a spin.

As I read this story, I had to constantly remind myself that it was 1917 that Robert was sold into slavery, not 1863! Fifty four years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Robert's Dad sold he and his 2 sisters to a plantation owner for $85. Over the next 8 years Robert experienced the worst that mankind has to offer. He was beaten and tortured from the age of FIVE until escaping at the age of 12. He saw friends and family beaten, raped and chased by the KKK.

Thankfully the story does not end there. Robert took a long journey over a hard road but he ended up in the arms of a loving Savior. Robert found forgiveness through Jesus Christ and as a result, he was also able to forgive his slave masters and the father who sold him into it.

Written in 1975 and re-released with some changes, this book is not for the faint of heart. However, it is still timely today when you consider how many children and women are trafficked around the world. This is a book that should be read, shared and discussed and hopefully it will also cause you to want to get involved! There are numerous organizations fighting slavery today. Why not pray about contacting one today?

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group".


Markers Along the Way

Looking back over my Christian walk, I see some markers along the way. They are Bible verses that became my "life verse" for a time. Ones that spoke to where I was at in my journey with the Lord. It started off as a new believer. That first Christmas, my Mom purchased me a little desktop plaque that quoted Prov. 3:5-6. This verse says "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."

I was 14 and trying o figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I kept going back to that verse over and over through my teens and 20's.

Gal. 2:20 says "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Around the age of 29 this verse took on fresh meaning for me as I became more aware of my identity in Christ. This marked a time of new beginnings as my faith went deeper and the Lord strengthened and redeemed a struggling marriage.

Psalm 61:1-2 says "Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

I think I found my new favorite verse. As I posted earlier, 2011 was rough and this is the verse I have been meditating on this year. I keep going back to it over and over and over.

What are the mile-marker verses in your life?


5 Questions With Mark Buchanan

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's Guest is Mark Buchanan.

I first discovered Mark's books after a recommendation from a colleague, Pastor Stanley Groothof. I have since had the pleasure of reading and being blessed by a few of Mark's books.

Mark Buchanan is a pastor (New Life Community Baptist Church), award-winning author, and father of three who lives with his wife, Cheryl, on the West Coast of Canada. Educated at the University of British Columbia and Regent College, his work has been published in numerous periodicals. He is the author of six books. You can see the complete list here. In addition you can read Mark's blog on his website.

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hello Mark,

Of the books you have written thus far, which would be your personal favorite?

Ooh, hard to say. It's a bit like asking which of my 3 children I love the most. As with children, so with books: you love them all the same, and all differently. Each book occupies a place close to my heart - both with affection and disappointment. All surpass in some way what I set out to do, and all is some way fall short.

The book, though, that most changed me is Things Unseen.
Until writing that, I never thought about the difference the reality of heaven should make in our earthly existence. A year-long steeping in heavenly-mindedness altered the way I see everything. It gave me a depth and breadth of perspective that frames virtually all my earthly experience. Heavenly-mindedness, far from making us of no earthly good, is about the only thing that makes us of any earthly good.

And my book Spiritual Rhythm has special meaning for me, simply because it's so intensely personal.

2. In your most recent book, Spiritual Rhythm, you talked about spiritual seasons. Can you explain that a bit more?

The seed of the book was a personal crisis. I was grieving the death of a close friend and colleague. During that time I began to realize that my habitual way of measuring spiritual maturity was deeply skewed. My default was to gauge maturity by busyness (though I would have used words like passion, commitment, vitality, focus, etc..). The more you do, I thought, the more you love Jesus. But when I went through my long stretch of sorrow, I was devoid of passion, focus, vitality, and all that. So I had to either admit failure, or rethink my whole model of spiritual formation.

And then there it was, hidden in plain sight: Jesus and Co. measure spiritual maturity, not by how busy we are, but by the fruit we bear. And fruit implies seasons. I have, in my yard, 6 fruit trees. They only bear (harvestable) fruit in one season, but they take all four to produce it. That was the ping! moment. As in the natural, so in the spiritual: we need all the seasons, including winter, to grow fruit.

So the first part of Spiritual Rhythm explores the seasons of our heart. And the second part explores the rhythms for living through and stewarding each season well.

3. How have you grown/what new things have you discovered about spiritual disciplines since writing Your God Is Too Safe?

I’ve discovered that, like any good exercise regimen, you heighten its effectiveness by varying its tasks. I have learned not to read the Bible the same way year-in and year-out. I vary my practice now – I go from, say, an intense season of memorization, to, say, a leisurely season of reading the Bible like a novel, to, say, a focused season of exploring one idea biblically – grace, or stewardship, or repentance. And so on. And this with all the disciplines – I find ways to change them up. This keeps them fresh and actually catalyzes growth, at least for me.

I’ve also discovered how easy it is to fall into legalism with spiritual disciplines – the Pharisee lays in ambush down every path of spiritual formation. I keep having to remind myself not to make the discipline the goal; the goal is a richer life in Christ. When I forget that, I can quickly become prideful when I’m disciplined, shame-filled when I’m not, and judgmental toward whoever is more disciplined (“fanatics”) or less disciplined (“lazybones”) than I am. I have to keep steady vigilance over myself to not fall into this trap.

One last thing. I find helpful the ancient wisdom of developing a rule of life – a concept I was oblivious to when I wrote YGiTS – as long as the first 2 insights/cautions are applied.

4. Which spiritual discipline do you think the church currently needs to (re)emphasize?

I still think we need to take seriously Sabbath-keeping. The modern church is so cranky and weary and novelty-hounding, which are symptoms of endless busyness. The flip side of this is also true: we are rapidly losing the ability to work hard, in season and out. We don’t know how to put our hand to the plow and not look back. There is little perseverance in us, which I also think is a symptom of Sabbath-neglect. Since we rarely deeply renew ourselves in God’s presence, we quickly weary in doing his work. So I’d love to see churches really resting deeply and then working hard, back and forth.

Can I add another? Tithing. I am shocked at many Christian’s lack of discipline in financial stewardship. It is epidemic. It is at crisis proportions.

5. What can you tell us about your new book for 2012, Your Church is Too Safe?

I wanted to write something on the Church’s mission and identity – or, more exactly, the church’s mission as it arises from its identity – that was theologically substantial and hands-on pragmatic. I think I’ve captured that here.

The book is provocative. It’s a theology of risk-taking. It’s a call to arms. It’s manifesto of living dangerously. It’s a deep exploration about how most of our churches are too safe – too comfortable – for those who already are in them, and too unsafe for those who most need them. And it’s a plea that we change that.

I lay a biblical groundwork for missional living, issue a call to it, and offer a practical guide for pursuing it. Mostly, I do this by retelling biblical stories intermingled with contemporary ones. Why was Jonah so angry about God’s compassion for Nineveh, and how might something similar be going on in the western church? How did Abraham resist and then learn to “be a blessing” to all nations, and what does that teach us now? Who are today’s Samaritans? Why is biblical hospitality more about receiving kindness from others than extending it to them, and why is that harder for most of us?

All in all, Your Church is Too Safe is a plea for the church to live in such a way that, like Paul in Thessalonica, we turn the world upside down.

Thanks again Mark. I also want to thank you for writing books that have spoken to me personally and encouraged and challenged me.

So welcome. Thanks for asking.

Ok, there you go. I would encourage you to pick up any of Mark Buchanan's books. My personal favorite right now is Spiritual Rhythm.

To see past 5 Questions guests see 5 questions page under the tab above.


5 Questions With Jamie Arpin-Ricci

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's Guest is Jamie Arpin-Ricci.

I first met Jamie at a YWAM leadership conference. Jamie is a writer, pastor, and missional church-planter living in the inner city of Winnipeg, Canada with his Aussie wife, Kim, and Ethiopian son, Micah. He is the pastor of Little Flowers Community, a Franciscan-Anabaptist faith community in Winnipeg's downtown West End. He is also the director of Chiara House, a new intentional Christian community who share life "on the margins".

Jamie has contributed to several books and is the author of the book,
The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom (IVPress, Nov. 2011) & he writes at a blog by the same name at www.missional.ca. He is a third order Franciscan with The Company of Jesus, an ecumenical order under the Anglican rite.

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hello Jamie,

Can you explain why you felt led to write The Cost of Community?

The book began as a series of studies/sermons that we were going through as a community. Little Flowers Community (the church I planted & pastor) is a Mennonite church in the Franciscan tradition. As odd as that sounds, both share a lot in common, not the least of which is the conviction that we should seek to live out the teachings of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount. So, as a community, we felt it was important for us to explore it.

We spent many, many weeks exploring the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse, considering the implications of what Jesus taught for our lives together as an expression of Christ's Body. It was a powerful and meaningful exploration. As a result, I have pages or research, stories, experiments, etc., which I had been blogging through as well. One of my friends at InterVarsity Press, Adrianna, suggested it would be a good book. And so, "The Cost of Community" was born.

2. What can you tell me about the Little Flowers Community?

My wife & I are the co-directors of Youth With A Mission Urban Ministries Winnipeg, which we planted 10 years ago. Several years ago, we opened a used bookstore in our inner city neighbourhood (where we lived and served), hoping to create a safe place to connect with our neighbours, as well as allow our neighbours to connect more with one another. It was a great success!

Before long, a group of us were connecting once a week to share a meal together, sometimes drawing up to 50 people. We shifted the mid-week meal to Sunday evening, as it was the day that was most convenient for everyone. It wasn't unusual for someone to pull our a guitar to sing some songs- just as likely being a selection from the Arrogant Worms as a worship song. People shared their lives, asked for advice and even prayer. One Sunday evening, a single mom in our group approached me and said: "Jamie, I think we're a church. Will you be our pastor?" After some prayer, we partnered with Mennonite Church Manitoba and Little Flowers Community was born. We've been worshiping & sharing life together for 3 years.

Little Flowers is an eclectic group of Christians who have found genuine community with one another. However, it is not just a community of friends who enjoy each others company. First, outside of the Holy Spirit, the people who come together would be unlikely to ever hang out. Second, we are united by a deep sense of God's love and mission in the world. To that end, we are often a place where people who are not as comfortable in the traditional church setting can feel at home.

3. The Sermon on the Mount seems to intimidates some believers. Why is that?

Any teaching that begins by calling the poor and persecuted blessed is like to be dismissed, diminished or explained away by many. For some, the Sermon on the Mount is intimidating because it demands absolute, selfless and sacrificial service to God. While many like the idea of such devotion, the reality is far more difficult to swallow, especially when it is likely to get you suffering or even death.

However, some people have dismissed, not because it is too demanding, but because they misunderstand it. One of the products of the Reformation is that, at times, Christians can be overly cautious about "works righteousness". In other words, so worried are they that they might be seen trying to earn their salvation that any demanding obedience to Christ becomes almost suspect. The Sermon on the Mount, not properly understood, could seem to be calling people to works righteousness- which is why many theologians suggest that Jesus never intended us to try and follow it at all.

The truth is, though, that Jesus
does call us to a radical obedience to His teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. However, it is critical that we don't see the "sermon" as Jesus's ethic or rule of life. Rather, what Jesus was preaching was Himself. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus. He invites us into Himself, as His Body, united and empowered by the Holy Spirit- thus the righteousness is not ours to take credit for, but it is ours to incarnate. This is exciting to realize! Yet, what often scares people away is that such a place in His Body comes only when we share in His cross.

4. What can we learn from the life of St. Francis of Assisi?

Some people have called St. Francis "the last Christian", others even calling him a "second Christ". Such homage- extreme and inappropriate though it might have been at times- was born because of the amazing and powerful life that Francis led. Few Christians have had (and continue to have) such a formative impact on the Christian world. He is even widely respected in other religious tradition and among many who claim to religious beliefs at all.

And yet, it is not the perceived perfection of St. Francis that makes him appealing to me. Yes, he accomplished amazing things. Yet, when you look at his life you say that, time and again, he made mistakes, took things to extremes and had to repent over and over. He was far from perfect. And it is in his real and broken humanity that his appeal is found. After all, if such an imperfect person can have such an impact for the kingdom, what excuse do I have for not embracing such a life of radical devotion?

A great book to help introduce you to how Francis might be important to the church today, check out "Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale" by my friend, Ian Morgan Cron. This is a must read for those who are new to St. Francis.

5. What do you hope readers will take away from The Cost of Community?

My deepest hope for readers of "The Cost of Community" is that they will be challenged to consider what it means to follow Jesus. My hope is that it will drive them into the lives of other Christians who share this passion for obedience. I want to see communities of Christians embracing the truth that Jesus is be followed as much as worshiped.

I also hope that people will begin to see their own stories through the lens of Scripture. I want them to see that their place in God's kingdom is part of the continuity of His work through history. There is no insignificant time or role in that story- His story.

Finally, I hope they share it with their friends and family. I believe in this book, not because I have brought a new message or deserve any credit, but because it is the product of a community of believers who are genuinely seeking to follow Christ faithfully and fruitfully before a watching world.

Thanks so much Jamie!

Well there you go. Please go and pick up a copy of the Cost of Community today.

To see past 5 Questions guests see 5 questions page under the tab above.


The Cost of Community

The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis and Life in the Kingdom (IVP) is book written by Youth With A Mission's Winnipeg Director, Jamie Arpin-Ricci.

I would not have normally gravitated to a book about St. Francis. To be honest, I just thought the guy was a bit...strange. However, the fact that I knew the author and that he was discussing the Sermon on the Mount as well were big hooks for me.

So I set aside my preconceived ideas about St. Francis of Assisi and decided to pick this book up at a YWAM gathering.

I am very glad I did.

This is more than a book about St. Francis. It is about a way of life. Jamie shares about his own church (The Little Flowers Community) and how they were profoundly impacted by reading, discussing and attempting to live out the Sermon on the Mount. Interwoven throughout this journey, Jamie takes readers deeper into the life of St. Francis and deeper still into the heart of the Sermon on the Mount.

I found myself turning to the message Jesus shared and re-reading the Sermon while contemplating on what His words have meant to me. I saw how often I read this passage of Scripture while overlooking some of the practical implications. I came away challenged to not just read, but also apply what I have learned.

I was also excited to see how God has been working in the heart of Winnipeg via the ministry of the Little Flowers Community.

Some Christians ignore the life of St. Francis, which I think is a shame. Though at times he went to extremes while attempting to live out his faith, his passion for Christ cannot be ignored.

We need to get out of our comfort zones at times and this book is perfect for helping us take the first step.

Jamie will be popping in as my next guest on 5 Questions with...on Jan. 8th.

In the meantime, why not order your own copy of The Cost of Community.


I Am Second - A Book Review

I Am Second by Dave Sterrett and Doug Bender is an amazing collection of stories from individuals in and out of the public eye. I was remotely familiar with the concept of I Am Second as I had once stumbled across the website while looking for some background information on Josh Hamilton.

I decided to pick the book up as I love to read testimonies of the transforming power of Jesus Christ. I Am Second gathers together some of these stories into book format and the end result is just as impacting as any of their videos. Numerous times while reading this book, I had to stop and share with my wife one of the testimonies of how a life was transformed. I was touched by reading the stories of physical healing. I was encouraged that God could transform lives caught up in prostitution and drugs. From the wealthy racist, you will find a bit of everything here. Yet there is one underlying thread through each of these vastly different stories. Each person featured here has come to the end of themselves. They found out that Jesus Christ was first and that they were second!

Each story ends with a recommendation to see the I Am Second films available on their website and references similar stories there as well. You will also find QR codes for those with smart phones.

I would highly recommend this book to any believer struggling with life's cares or those burdened by sin's impact. It is also perfect for a non-believer seeking truth and a seasoned Christian in need of encouragement. Basically, if you can read, this is a book for you!

You can see more about I Am Second here:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review blogg€ers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


5 Questions With Joni Eareckson Tada

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's Guest is Joni Eareckson Tada.

Joni Eareckson Tada is the founder of Joni and Friends, an organization accelerating Christian outreach in the disability community that numbers 610 million people worldwide. This organization operates out of the new Joni and Friends International Disability Center located in Agoura Hills, California. Joni is not only an international disability advocate but an artist and the author of numerous bestselling books.

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hello Joni,

For those not familiar with your organization, what are some of the ministry arms of Joni and Friends?

I started Joni and Friends in 1979 in response to the many people who were reading the Joni book and seeing the Joni movie – when I saw their questions, I wanted to create a response mechanism to address their issues of depression, disability, and understanding the goodness of God. Now, more than 30 years later, Joni and Friends delivers thousands of wheelchairs to needy disabled children and adults in developing nations, holds Family Retreats for special needs families here in the U.S. and in less-developed nations, and designs disability ministry courses of study for undergraduate programs in Christian colleges and seminaries around the world.

2. With your busy schedule of writing, recording and public speaking, how do you balance family, faith and fun?

I once heard someone say that if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. And that’s true for me! I feel so blessed by God (what other quadriplegic enjoys the health I do after 45 years in a wheelchair? What other quadriplegic enjoys the opportunities for Christian service that I do?). I’ve been so blessed, that I feel a strong urgency to simply ‘pass on the blessing’ to others less fortunate – and it’s why I so love not only the work at Joni and Friends, but the opportunities to travel with my husband on behalf of the ministry.

3. Everyone battles discouragement at times. How do you handle the discouragements (physical, spiritual, emotional) in your life?

After so many years living as a quadriplegic, there are still mornings I wake up and think, I can’t go on; I don’t have the strength. But then I pray, “But, Lord, you have strength; please let me borrow your perspective and power on this difficult day!” And He gives just that and more. So waking up needing God desperately and urgently is not such a bad thing. It’s the way the apostle Paul felt in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 when he said, “... We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life...” But then I love the next verse, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” It seems the weaker we are, the harder we must lean on Jesus; and the harder we lean on Him, the stronger we discover Him to be. It’s a great lesson to live by.

4. What book of the Bible has God been speaking to you through the most right now?

Ken and I are just finishing up reading through the Bible in a year, and we are in Revelation. I am astounded that soon and very soon all these things Jesus talks about in that mysterious book will happen – and it’s all about to break on the horizon. I’ve been asking God to drive home to me this heavenly point of view so that I might live with a greater sense of urgency.

5. Are there any specific projects coming up that you would like to mention?

Through the Joni and Friends’ Christian Institute on Disability, Ken and I are spending most of our trips visiting Christian colleges and universities where I speak at chapel services and at the disability ministry classes we help design. Nothing gives me greater joy than to impart my passion to a new generation of believers, striking the match in their hearts to reach the world’s one billion people with disabilities with the practical help and heavenly hope of Jesus!

Thanks so much Joni!

Thanks for inviting me to participate in this interview.

Well there you go. I would encourage you to check out the Joni and Friends website where you can find training opportunities, books, devotionals and a wealth of other resources. Just got to Joni and Friends.

To see past 5 Questions guests see 5 questions page under the tab above.