16 December 2006

by Martin Bell (The Way Of The Wolf | 1970 | published by Ballantine Books, New York, NY)
It is reproduced here with written permission from the author | www.barringtonbunny.com

Once upon a time, in a large forest, there lived a very furry bunny. He had one lop ear, a tiny black nose, and unusually shiny eyes. His name was Barrington. Barrington was not really a very handsome bunny. He was brown and speckled, and his ears didn’t stand up right. But he could hop, and he was, as I have said, very furry.

In a way, winter is fun for bunnies. After all, it gives them an opportunity to hop in the snow and then turn around to see where they have hopped. So, in a way, winter was fun for Barrington.

But in another way, winter made Barrington sad. For, you see, winter marked the time when all of the animal families got together in their cozy homes to celebrate Christmas. He could hop, and he was very furry. But as far as Barrington knew, he was the only bunny in the forest. When Christmas Eve finally came, Barrington did not feel like going home all by himself. So he decided he would hop for a while in the clearing in the center of the forest.

Hop. Hop. Hippity-hop. Barrington made tracks in the fresh snow. Hop. Hop. Hippity-hop. Then he cocked his head and looked back at the wonderful designs he had made.

“Bunnies,” he thought to himself, “can hop. And they are very warm, too, because of how furry they are.” (But Barrington didn’t really know whether or not this was true of all bunnies, since he had never met another bunny.)

When it got too dark to see the tracks he was making, Barrington made up his mind to go home. On his way, however, he passed a large oak tree. High in the branches, there was a great deal of excited chattering going on. Barrington looked up. It was a squirrel family! What a marvelous time they seemed to be having.

“Hello, up there,” called Barrington.

“Hello, down there,” came the reply.

“Having a Christmas party?” asked Barrington.

“Oh, yes!” answered the squirrels. “It’s Christmas Eve. Everybody is having a Christmas party!”

“May I come to your party?” said Barrington softly.

“Are you a squirrel?”


“What are you, then?”

“A bunny.”

“A bunny?”


“Well, how can you come to the party if you’re a bunny? Bunnies can’t climb trees.”

“That’s true,” said Barrington thoughtfully. “But I can hop, and I’m very furry and warm.”

“We’re sorry,” called the squirrels. “We don’t know anything about hopping and being furry, but we do know that in order to come to our house, you have to be able to climb trees.”

“Oh, well,” said Barrington. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” chattered the squirrels.

And the unfortunate bunny hopped off toward his tiny house. It was beginning to snow when Barrington reached the river. Near the river-bank was a wonderfully constructed house of sticks and mud. Inside there was singing.

“It’s the beavers,” thought Barrington. “Maybe they will let me come to their party.” And so he knocked on the door.

“Who’s out there?” called a voice.

“Barrington Bunny,” he replied. There was a long pause and then a shiny beaver head broke the water.

“Hello, Barrington,” said the beaver.

“May I come to your Christmas Party?” asked Barrington.

The beaver thought for a while, and then he said, “I suppose so. Do you know how to swim?”

“No,” said Barrington, “but I can hop, and I am very furry and warm.”

“Sorry,” said the beaver. “I don’t know anything about hopping and being furry, but I do know that in order to come to our house, you have to be able to swim.”

“Oh, well,” Barrington muttered, his eyes filling with tears. “I suppose that’s true … Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” called the beaver. And he disappeared beneath the surface of the water.

Even being as furry as he was, Barrington was beginning to get cold. And the snow was falling so hard that his tiny, bunny eyes could scarcely see what was ahead of him. He was almost home, however, when he heard the excited squeaking of field mice beneath the ground. “It’s a party,” thought Barrington. And suddenly he blurted out through his tears, “Hello, field mice. This is Barrington Bunny. May I come to your party?”

But the wind was howling so loudly and Barrington was sobbing so much that no one heard him. And when there was no response at all, Barrington just sat down in the snow and began to cry with all his might.

“Bunnies,” he thought, “aren’t any good to anyone. What good is it to be furry and to be able to hop if you don’t have any family on Christmas Eve?” Barrington cried and cried. When he stopped crying, he began to bite on his bunny’s foot, but he did not move from where he was sitting in the snow.

Suddenly, Barrington was aware that he was not alone. He looked up and strained his shiny eyes to see who was there. To his surprise, he saw a great silver wolf. The wolf was large and strong, and his eyes flashed fire. He was the most beautiful animal Barrington had ever seen.

For a long time, the silver wolf didn’t say anything at all. He just stood there and looked at Barrington with those terrible eyes.

Then slowly and deliberately the wolf spoke. Barrington,” he asked in a gentle voice, “why are you sitting in the snow?”

“Because it’s Christmas Eve,” said Barrington, “and I don’t have any family, and bunnies aren’t any good to anyone.”

“Bunnies are, too, good,” said the wolf. “Bunnies can hop, and they are very warm.”

“What good is that?” Barrington sniffed.

“It is very good indeed,” the wolf went on, “because it is a gift that bunnies are given, a free gift with no strings attached. And every gift that is given to anyone is given for a reason. Someday you will see why it is good to hop and to be warm and furry.”

“But it’s Christmas,” moaned Barrington, “and I’m all alone. I don’t have any family at all.”

“Of course you do,” replied the great silver wolf. “All of the animals in the forest are your family.” And then the wolf disappeared. He simply wasn’t there. Barrington had only blinked his eyes, and when he looked — the wolf was gone.

“All of the animals in the forest are my family,” thought Barrington. ” It’t good to be a bunny. Bunnies can hop. That’s a gift.” And then he said it again. “A gift. A free gift.”

On into the night, Barrington worked. First he found the best stick that he could. (And that was difficult because of the snow.) Then hop. Hop. Hippity-hop. To beaver’s house. He left the stick just outside the door. With a note on it that read: “Here is a good stick for your house. It is a gift. A free gift. No strings attached. Signed, a member of your family.”

“It is a good thing that I can hop,” he thought, “because the snow is very deep.” Then Barrington dug and dug. Soon he had gathered together enough dead leaves and grass to make the squirrels’ nest warmer. Hop. Hop. Hippity-hop. He laid the grass and leaves just under the large oak tree and attached this message: “A gift. A free gift. From a member of your family.”

It was late when Barrington finally started home. And what make things worse was that he knew a blizzard was beginning. Hop. Hop. Hippity-hop. Soon poor Barrington was lost. The wind howled furiously, and it was very, very cold. “It certainly is cold,” he said out loud. “It’s a good thing I’m so furry. But if I don’t find my way home pretty soon, even I might freeze!”

“Squeak. Squeak….”

And then he saw it … a baby field mouse lost in the snow. And the little mouse was crying. “Hello, little mouse,” Barrington called. “Don’t cry. I’ll be right there.” Hippity-hop, and Barrington was beside the tiny mouse.

“I’m lost,” sobbed the little fellow. “I’ll never find my way home, and I know I’m going to freeze.”

“You won’t freeze,” said Barrington. “I’m a bunny, and bunnies are very furry and warm. You stay right where you are, and I’ll cover you up.”

Barrington lay on top of the little mouse and hugged him tight. The tiny fellow felt himself surrounded by warm fur. He cried for a while, but soon, snug and warm, he fell asleep.

Barrington had only two thoughts that long, cold night. First he thought, “It’s good to be a bunny. Bunnies are very furry and warm.” And then, when he felt the heart of the tiny mouse beneath him beating regularly, he thought, “All of the animals in the forest are my family.”

Next morning, the field mice found their little boy, asleep in the snow, warm and snug beneath the furry carcass of a dead bunny. Their relief and excitement were so great that they didn’t even think to question where the bunny had come from.

And as for the beavers and the squirrels, they still wonder which member of their family left the little gifts for them that Christmas Eve.

After the field mice had left, Barrington’s frozen body simply lay in the snow. There was no sound except that of the howling wind. And no one anywhere in the forest noticed the great silver wolf who came to stand beside that brown, lop-eared carcass.

But the wolf did come. And he stood there. Without moving or saying a word. All Christmas Day. Until it was night.

And then he disappeared into the forest.


Godspeed to all of us who are finding our way in the snow this Christmas season.


Gregg Lamm

09 December 2006


Read SECOND PETER 1:12-13-3:1 ...

God’s WORD is full of reminders. Through it, God wants to “refresh our memories” and “stimulate us to wholesome thinking”. And if there was ever anyone who knew the importance of being reminded of the simple truths over again, it was Peter.

HEBREWS 4:12 says, “The WORD of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Through His WORD, God wants to prune us (see JOHN 15) and refine us and “conform us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.”
You know what? The world needs to see Christians who are willing to live out their faith and their beliefs in ways that are uncompromising, consistent and rooted in faithfulness.

The world wants to see, no, needs to see followers of Jesus Christ who are equipped to show what it means to “take up their cross and follow Jesus”.

The world wants to see, no, needs to see who are equipped to show the world what it means to “die to self and be alive in Christ”.

The world wants to see, no, needs to see who are equipped to show the world what it means to “not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” because they believe with everything they’ve got that “it is the power of God unto salvation."

The world wants to see, no, needs to see the world is dying to see men and women and young people who are ready, willing and able to show the world what it means to “stand for Truth — and for the One who is Truth — in an age of compromise.

The world needs to see, no, needs to see the witness of people who understand and make it their goal to follow Paul’s admonition to Timothy when he wrote:

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (SECOND TIMOTHY 2:15 | NIV) “Work hard so God can say to you, ‘Well done.’ Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means ... and do it.” (SECOND TIMOTHY 2:15 | THE LIVING BIBLE)

The world needs to see folks who know God and the power of His WORD. People who are letting the WORD wash them (EPHESIANS 5:25-26) and people who are letting the WORD of God sanctify them ... who are letting the WORD of God mature them and bring them into a place of holiness ... people who are willing, above all other choices available to them, to set themselves apart for God’s exclusive use (JOHN 17:17).


Which brings me to what I'm wanting to focus on in my next few blog postings ... from PSALM 1 ...

The book of PSALMS is an ancient Hebrew hymn-book. A nd it’s filled with all kinds of music. Duets, choir anthems and solos ... and it’s music that’s written for all kinds of occasions — in thanksgiving, in confession, in depression, in joy, in pain.

116 out of the 150 of the Psalms have superscriptions. These are little sub-titles that tell us something about the occasion of their writing ... or about who wrote them, or who they were written for, or other interesting facts. PSALM 1 doesn’t have one a superscription, but that’s okay, because it’s kind of like the front door or the main entrance to the entire book of PSALMS.

PSALM 1 is a message about the results to two choices: choosing righteousness and faithfulness OR choosing unrighteousness and compromise. In this world, for every action, there’s an equal and positive reaction — I won’t take credit for that deep, profound, statement ... because actually a fuzzy haired mathematician from the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies, named Albert Einstein said it a long time ago — but what’s true in the natural is also true in the spiritual — and as GALATIANS 6:7-8 puts it this way ...

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (see also PROVERBS 11:18; 22:8).

So on the one hand we have righteousness and faithfulness and on the other hand we have unrighteousness and compromise. The choice is up to us. As we get into this study we’ll see about what it means to be righteous ... about how to make that your goal and then what the results of that choice will be.

But what about compromise? Since this PSALM is warning us to stay away from it, what does compromise mean?

Compromise here doesn’t mean the kind of “give and take” needed for negotiation to take place. Rather, it’s “actively choosing unrighteousness.” It’s allowing ourselves, in small ways, to lose ground with God and gain ground with the world. It’s like decay. And especially, for Christ-followers, it’s putting on an outward air of spirituality when inwardly we’re dying and eroding because of sin we’re allowing to have a foothold in our lives.

Compromise is a form of blasphemy — because usually when people are doing it, they’re in denial that they’re doing it ... they’re just going along like everything’s great between them and God ... but it isn’t. Scott Peck has this definition for blasphemy ... “Blasphemy is using the name of God, when you aren’t in relationship with God, for the purpose of pretending you are.”

When I was a kid my family rented a very old house in SE Portland ... in 1962 it was 107 years old ... it a couple blocks north of 34th and Hawthorne. When we moved in my mom and dad loved the house because of the way it looked — three stories, Victorian trimmings, tall ceilings, ornate lighting fixtures, etc ... But it didn’t take long before we noticed that everything wasn’t what it seemed to be.

When we’d spill milk in the kitchen it would all run into one corner ... a tilting floor. When we tried to open the windows in the Spring, they’d stick half-way up ... uneven walls. One day when my mom was out on the front porch ... she went through the front porch ... dry rot.

I’m here to tell you ... this house wasn’t even in the category of “fixer-upper” ... it was more like a “tearer-downer”. If Bob Villas saw this house he’d say “This old house gotta go.”

And the reason was that the foundation was made of wood and for years it had been eaten away by termites to the point that the whole house was shifting and sagging. Basically the foundation was gone — and the termites were now in the walls, clear up to the second story.

And you know what? That’s the way it is with compromise. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, one rationalization leads to another, which triggers a series of equally damaging alterations in a life that was once stable, strong and reliable. And that’s what David is writing to here in PSALM 1 ... as he’s urging you and me to resist even the slightest temptation to compromise our convictions.

08 November 2006

In the 1999 book In The Name Of Jesus, Henri Nouwen writes some words that have been stirring my heart and mind for several days now. I'd read them before in the various times I've gone through this deceptively simple little Nouwen volume ... but with the recent downfall of Ted Haggard in Colorado Springs, the Spirit of Christ had brought Nouwen's words back to mind for reasons that have more to do with own proclivity to sin than as a convenient way to pick up stones and throw them Ted's way.

Nouwen writes in his Conclusion (pages 71-73) ...

My movement from Harvard to L'Arche made me aware
in a new way how much
of my own thinking about Christian
leadership had been affected by the desire to be relevant,
the desire for popularity,
and the desire for power.

Too often I looked at being relevant, popular, and powerful
as ingredients of
an effective ministry. The truth, however, is
that these are not
vocations but temptations.

Jesus asks
me, "Do you love me?" Jesus sends us out to be
shepherds, and Jesus promises a
life in which we increasingly
have to
stretch out our hands and be led to places where we
would rather not go.

He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life
of prayer
, from worries
about popularity to communal
mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on
power to a leadership in which
we critically discern
where God is leading
us and people.

The people of L'Arche are showing me new ways.
I am a slow learner. Old
patterns that have proved
quite effective
are not easy to give up.

But as I think
about the Christian leader for the next century,
I do believe that those from
whom I least expected to learn
showing me the way. I hope and pray that what I am
in my new life is something that is not just good for me
to learn, but something that helps you as well, to catch a
glimpse of the Christian leader of the future.

What I have said is, obviously, nothing new, but I hope and pray that
you have
seen that the oldest, most traditional vision of Christian
leadership is still a
vision that awaits realization in the future.

I leave you with the image of the leader with outstretched hands,
who chooses
a life of downward mobility. It is an image of
the praying leader, the
vulnerable leader, and the trusting leader.
May that image fill your hearts
with hope, courage, and
confidence as
you anticipate the next century.

May we all learn from Nouwen's words ... and from Ted Haggard's choices. We are feeble, weak, stumbling people. Every last one of us. And without a keen, God-Light-discerned witness to this reality that is discovered and lived out in the twin realms of community and accountability, any desire to stay in step with Jesus Christ will be short-lived at best. Godspeed.



05 November 2006



I've also been thinking a lot about Ted Haggard and his flock at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Last night I was on their church website (www.newlifechurch.org), downloading the latest letter from his overseers.

Please join me in praying for the New Life Church flock, for Ted, his wife Gayle, and their five children, for the other staff and volunteers at New Life Church, and for Mike Jones, the Denver man who brought this story out into the open.

God can take any circumstance -- especially those connected with confession and repentence -- and, in His time, turn them around for His good. I know that this situation is a mess right now, but I've seen God turn ashes into beauty too many times (in my life and in the lives of others) to believe otherwise.

Today, I'm especially led to pray for the new followers of Jesus Christ who are part of the New Life Church ... as well as for those folks who've been attending New Life Church for a while, and who, even this very week, were on the verge of making the choice to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Let's pray a prayer of protection, wisdom, and strength over these vulnerable lambs of the flock.

This morning I listened to the last teaching Pastor Ted brought to the New Life Church flock. He'd been teaching through FIRST SAMUEL and began the Sunday, 29 October worship service with a prayer that included the words (connected to the upcoming elections and all the things in the news surrounding them) that "lies and deception would be exposed."

The Scripture passage Ted was teaching from last Sunday was
FIRST SAMUEL 16:1-13 where God rejected Saul as the leader of Israel because of the disobedience He saw in his life -- choosing instead, David to be the king of Israel. The main thing Ted was focusing on were Samuel's words ... that "while people look at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart." He talked about how easy it is for us to think that this verse was just saying something important about David -- mainly that David had a clean heart and clean hands before God.

But Ted emphasized that with these words God and Samuel were also saying some important things about Saul -- mainly that Saul had a unrighteous, disobedient, deceitful heart. And that while Saul may have "looked good" to the people who were following him, God saw his heart ... who he really was ... and because of this, His judgment against Saul needed to came down.


Oh God, watch over my steps ... may I keep clean hands and
a clean heart before You and before others. Help me to
focus on who I am on the inside, not just on who I am on
the outside. Help me to live a life of accountability, of
partnership with others, and of honesty. God, help me to be
a man who hates nothing but sin, and who ultimately loves no
one above You. God, teach me the power and confidence of
living a humble, confessional life before You and others.



19 October 2006

The reality that Jesus Christ is present to teach and lead people does two things for me as a pastor-teacher. It reminds me that I am not alone in this life of ministry God has called me to, and it reinforces the absolute reality that I am not in control of anything and that God is in control of everything.


First, the reality that Jesus Christ is present to teach and lead reminds me of the Truth that I'm not shepherding the flock at 2nd Street by myself. I'm partnered with elders, as well as paid and volunteer staff members -- but being completely convinced that Jesus Christ is actually teaching and leading me as 2nd Street's pastor-teacher, and that together He and I are yoked with others in teaching and leading the rest of the flock.

This perspective
only changes everything. It soothes me and builds me up. It gives me confidence and courage. It sharpens my discernment, and it subdues my proclivity to lead by ego instead of by the Holy Spirit. It only changes everything. I am not alone.


Second, the reality that Jesus Christ is present to teach and lead comforts me each week when I'm standing in front of the flock teaching through God's WORD verse-by-verse. And in that place of consolation I'm reminded that my job is to study , prepare and teach His WORD ... and that it is Jesus Christ's job to apply His WORD.

In seminary I was told by my homiletics professor (a Nazarene evangelist) that each sermon needed to methodically move toward making one main point, and that if I didn't pound home that one main point from several different directions, I wasn't fulfilling my calling as a pastor. But the problem with this methodology was that it assumed apathy on the part of those in the flock, and disengagement on the part of God, neither of which is all that great.

But what joy became mine when I started living into the Truth that
God loves to apply the Truth of His WORD more than I love to study, prepare and teach it. And so now I don't have to wait until the last 5-minutes each Sunday to "wrap things up" and "get everybody to think one more time about the 'one main point' I've been trying to focus on." Instead, I can teach God's WORD verse-by-verse and invite Jesus Christ, our present teacher to apply Truth along the way, to each person gathered, each at their exact point of need. I am not in control.

I am not alone and I am not in control. I need to learn and keep learning these two key lessons. And being reminded of the reality that Jesus Christ is present to teach and lead brings both of these lessons front and center. Godspeed.



24 September 2006

Folks who believe God whispers to them and nobody else have always been spiritually dangerous because this belief-system accomplishes two truth-distortions at once -- it attempts to make God small (read ... manageable, malleable, and tamable) and it attempts to make them big (read ... to be feared, revered, and stood in awe of).

Of course, God can't be tamed anymore than any of us can sit on our own laps. And none of us deserve to be revered any more than we deserve the taste of strawberries and cream. And yet how easily we lust for both these lies to be true. We lust with envy that God would be smaller. And we lust with pride that we would be bigger.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:22-23 ...

22 that, in reference to you former manner of life,
you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted
in accordance with the lusts of deceit.

23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind

I like the phrase Paul uses here ... "lusts of deceit" because there's perhaps no greater deceit than lust. And lust isn't just sexual. It's wanting what we don't have, even if we know it will kill us. Like Frederick Buechner writes in his book "Wishful Thinking", "Lust is the craving for salt of a person who is dying of thirst."

I'm no expert, and I'm certainly not a professional theologian, but I think that much of our mis-steps as Christ's followers would take care of themselves if we gave more time and thought to listening to, understanding and obeying God ... and less time and thought trying to figure out how to be God's mouthpiece.

Uttering the phrase "thus sayeth the LORD" should scare the begeebers out of us. Even the most confident of prophets had inferiority complexes. Misunderstood. Seldom listened to. Chased out of town with regularity. Hardly ever invited over for dinner more than once. Being God's mouthpiece is one misunderstood gig -- and it's all too often taken up by people who are more ego-driven rather than Spirit-led, and more fear-based than Christ-centered.

And yet, you can't get around the fact that God does indeed ask us to speak for Him. I guess that one of the litmus tests for whether God has really asked us to speak for Him, should be that while speaking we should be quaking in our boots because our reverence for being God's mouthpiece demands it, more than because we're afraid somebody will misunderstand us or read something into what we've said that God never intended.

God asks pastor-teachers to speak on His behalf weekly, and even sometimes more often! This makes me think of the words of Reinhold Niebuhr in his book "Leaves From The Notebook Of A Tamed Cynic" (which is a collection of Niebuhr's journal entries as a young pastor in Chicago).

From Niebuhr's journal in 1915 ...

"They say a young preacher must catch
his second wind before he can really preach.
I'd better catch it pretty soon, or the weekly
sermon will become a terrible chore.

"You are supposed to stand before a
congregation, brimming over with a great
message. Here I am trying to find a new little
message each Sunday.

"If I really had great convictions, I suppose
they would struggle for birth each week.
As the matter stands, I struggle to find an
idea worth presenting, and I dread the approach
of each Sabbath.

"I don't know if I can ever accustom myself
to the task of bringing light and inspiration
in regular, weekly installments.

"How in the world can you reconcile the
inevitability of Sunday and its task with the
moods and caprices of the soul? The prophet
only speaks when he is inspired. The parish
preacher must speak whether he is inspired
or not. I wonder if it is possible to live on a
high enough plane to do that without sinning
against the Holy Spirit?" (p. 12)

Niebuhr speaks my mind ... living in a cautious balance between "willingness to be God's mouthpiece" and a severe case of the "yikes!" God, give me the discernment I need to obey you without being afraid. And give me the courage I need to follow through on what You ask me to -- regardless of whether it's opening my mouth or keeping it shut. Godspeed.


Gregg Lamm

09 September 2006

I've been thinking a bit more lately about the course my life has taken these past many months -- and acknowledging with humility and thanksgiving the way God has used His WORD, so many different people, circumstances, books, letters, articles, and the spiritual discipline of solitude in my life.

This has been a season of transformational nouns ... people, places, and things given, handled and experienced. Some of them have connected with me in ways nearly hidden in the moment, and only now are their meanings beginning to emerge from hiding. While others have been in my face -- as evident and obtrusive as a fat man on a rush-hour bus. But all of them have, in their beginnings, middles, and ends, been life giving.

It's Saturday afternoon and
life and ministry are co-existing versus being on a collision course. Tomorrow's teaching has been studied through and prepared -- it feels like it's part of my heart, not just my mind -- ready to jump out of my mouth at both services tomorrow morning in ways Spirit directed, not just man-made.

For two months now I've been settled into life and ministry here in Newberg. As most of you reading this know, after flying back and forth between Portland and Michigan for eight months (serving as the interim pastor-teacher at Ogden Church | www.ogdenchurch.org), on 16 July, I became the lead pastor-teacher at 2nd Street Community Church in my hometown of Newberg, OR (www.2ndstreet.org). Now that I'm finding my rhythm, I'm finding that ...
  • I AM SERVING GOD HERE IN WAYS ORGANIC ... Once again life and ministry are rooted, sprouting, and moving forward with a visible harvest ... and ...
  • I AM SERVING GOD HERE IN WAYS RELATIONAL ... I'm not trying to do it all on my own -- my brothers and sisters at 2nd Street are with me and I'm with them -- we're on the same page -- using our spiritual gifts based on our callings, and not from a posture of duty, tradition or ego-centric-expectation ... and ...
  • I AM SERVING GOD HERE IN WAYS RESTORATIVE ... I'm at peace about the eighteen-month journey God has taken me on. He taught, I tried to listen. He instructed, I decided to learn. He pruned, I bitched and moaned. He pruned some more, and I conceded and found His mercy. He healed, and I sighed. He mended and encouraged, and I began to sense the beauty of restoration. He corrected, and I was brought back into alignment with His will. He loved, and I pressed deeper into the character of Jesus Christ.
And through all the potholes of this journey, through all the pebbles in my sandals while on this quest, and through all the dips and climbs in the road, I am now simply living out His will with a passion I have never known.

I pass on this note to you, to encourage you of the INDISPUTABLE FACT that God is alive and well and desperately wants to use us in one another's lives. So let's listen and follow this God who seems (in spite of His sometime ridiculous requests and weird leadings) to know what He's doing. He is worthy of our trust, our allegiance, and our hearts. Godspeed.



03 September 2006

I love the writing of Wendell Berry ... a farmer, a poet and an essayist living in Henry County, Kentucky.

Berry writes often of farming [which I know nothing about], but I've found that when I swap out the word farmer with the word pastor and when I swap out Berry's imagery of fields or crops, replacing them instead with the imagery of a local church or flock, his words seldom fail to give me lasting images of what I've been called to do as a pastor-teacher ... images that take me deeper into what it means to be a preacher-man. Here are three of Wendell's poems. The final one is a "farmer poem" ... but the first two aren't.

A Warning to My Readers
from A Part | 1980

Do not think me gentle
because I speak in praise
of gentleness, or elegant
because I honor the grace
that keeps this world. I am
a man crude as any,
gross of speech, intolerant,
stubborn, angry, full
of fits and furies. That I
may have spoken well
at times, is not natural.
A wonder is what it is.

from The Country of Marriage | 1973

Did I believe I had a clear mind?
It was like the water of a river
flowing shallow over the ice. And now
that the rising water has broken
the ice, I see that what I thought
was the light is part of the dark.

The Farmer, Speaking of Monuments
from Farming: A Handbook | 1970

Always, on their generation's breaking wave,
men think to be immortal in the world,
as though to leap from water and stand
in air were simple for a man. But the farmer
knows no work or act of his can keep him
here. He remains in what he serves
by in it, becoming what he never was.
He will not be immortal in words.
All his sentences serve an art of the commonplace,
to open the body of a woman or a field
to take him in. His words all turn
to leaves, answering the sun with mute
quick reflections. Leaving their seed, his hands
have had a million graves, from which wonders
rose, bearing him no likeness. At summer's
height he is surrounded by green, his
doing, standing for him, awake and orderly.
In autumn, all his monuments fall.

Godspeed to each of you tonight.



30 August 2006

Of all the difficult issues we encounter while navigating our way through the oftentimes-rough-terrain of “relationship dynamics”, allowing ourselves to become part of triangle relationships is one of the most common.

A triangle relationship exists when three people begin to act with behavior that for the purposes of this note can roughly be labeled as PERSECUTOR, VICTIM and RESCUER. The magic of triangulated relationships is that as soon as all three people are within hearing distance of the other, it only takes the action of one to bring all three into their separate and specialized roles.

And this dynamic is especially true in the relationships addicts have with the “important people” in their lives – and by “important people” I’m referring to the people whose words and actions (whether they realize it or don’t realize it, admit it or deny it) enable and support the addicts addiction and/or their addictive behavior.

Triangles exist within nearly all relationship structures and they almost always replace clarity with confusion, peace with chaos, unity with division, and building-up with tearing-down. So while triangles might make a “sweet, bell-like sound” when they’re part of a 3rd grade rhythm band … when triangles are part of our relationships, the “sound” they make is usually anything but “sweet.”
  • Parents can have triangles with children … parent 1 + child + parent 2.
  • Spouses can have triangles with in-laws … husband + in-law + wife.
  • Teachers can have triangles with students … parent + teacher-child + student.
  • Friends can have triangles with one another … friend 1 + friend 2 + friend 3.
  • And addicts nearly always have triangles with the non-drug/non-alcohol-using “important people” in their lives … family-friend 1 + addict + family-friend 2.
For the purpose of this note, I’m offering you a common triangle relationship scenario. And while you may not see yourself “exactly” in this case study, I guarantee you that because you’re part of an Intervention Team, and part of an addict’s “important people” short-list, you will learn much about yourself if you’ll read through and think through the case study below with patience and thought.

Here’s who occupies the three corners of the made-up case study triangle relationship …

NAME ...
RELATIONSHIP ... Step-Father

NAME ... Stacy
RELATIONSHIP ... Daughter and Addict

NAME ... Jessica
RELATIONSHIP ... Biological

And here are some of the details of the triangle relationship that exist between Jessica, Stacy and Bill …
  • Since Bill began dating Jessica, he notices a pattern of rude behavior from Stacy to Jessica. Jessica seems to hardly notice how often she is put-down, lied to and marginalized by Stacy’s words and behavior.
  • Bill also notices how Stacy bends all the rules to suit her wants, desires, and addiction needs.
  • Bill decides that once he and Jessica are married and he becomes Stacy’s step-father, that things will change.
And things do change but not as Bill had intended. And by the time they sought out an Intervention for Stacy’s increased drug use, Jessica was being torn apart by her feelings and wanted to divorce both Bill AND Stacy. And yet, interestingly, Bill and Stacy seem to get along with tolerable respect when Jessica isn’t around.

Sound familiar? And I’m not just talking about “does it sound like a recent episode of As The World Turns?” This is what happens in “real life relationships”. So what’s happening in this all-too-common scenario?

When Bill married Jessica, things changed in their home in ways no one had really anticipated. For instance …
  • Stacy can no longer run through the house in her underwear.
  • Bill works a split shift – arriving home at about 2:00 A.M. Because of this, Stacy can no longer use Jessica’s car late at night to sneak out with friends because when Bill comes home he’ll know whether Stacy is at home or out “running around”.
  • When Jessica closes the bedroom door, Stacy can no longer barge in when she wants to talk, ask a question, or when she wants to borrow Jessica’s clothes.
After Jessica’s divorce from Stacy’s father, Stacy had very happily occupied the central role in Jessica’s primary circle of intimacy. But now that Jessica has married Bill, Stacy feels outside Jessica and Bill’s new inner circle of intimacy – leaving her feeling distant and disenfranchised.

And so with this plethora of new-found feelings firmly in tow, Stacy easily moves into one corner of this new triangle relationship and takes on the role of VICTIM, Bill moves into a second corner of this new triangle relationship and takes on the role of PERSECUTOR, and Jessica moves into the final corner of this new triangle relationship and takes on the role of RESCUER.

Now when Stacy says or does something that isn’t in line with the new rules that have been established, Bill corrects her with a firmness that Stacy calls “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Stacy then runs to Jessica with a cry for help and tells her story with some embellishment (you know, “creative American fiction writing”) to frame Bill as the “bad guy”, as the “reason her life is miserable” and as the source of her hurt feelings about no longer being at the center-of-mother's-attention, as the PERSECUTOR.

Now Jessica steps in and saves Stacy by telling her that “everything will be okay, and that Bill is a scoundrel,” but “what can she do because she loves him?” And while this makes Stacy and Jessica feel closer to each other and “on the same team”, it makes Bill feel like his authority has been under-cut and leaves him feeling embarrassed, frustrated, and angry – which of course, Stacy loves because his protesting defense makes him look even more guilty.

And so the triangle relationship cycle is born and continues as Stacy enjoys a false sense of finally being back in Jessica’s inner circle and Bill becomes relegated to a less important role.

Initially Stacy probably doesn’t have any idea how much pressure this triangle relationship puts on Jessica, but eventually her use of this new power becomes a weapon to drive out Bill and restore the old equilibrium of her “pre-Bill” relationship with Jessica.

Under her “pre-Bill” relationship, Jessica was particularly at risk for being manipulated by guilt. Already feeling exceedingly sad for being at least partly responsible for the pain that Stacy experienced through the divorce, Jessica compensates and becomes a target for guilt manipulation. All Stacy has to do is win one argument using this triangle relationship strategy, and she will use it for years and years … trying to win again and again. This is not unlike a person winning at gambling once and then finding it hard to stop gambling.

So what are some the detrimental results when addicts are in the role of the VICTIM?
  1. They develop a skill at manipulation – in fact, it can become a fine art.
  2. They develop a habit of drawing in other people who seem to have power in a relationship to solve their problems for them and will do the same on the job, OR in a marriage.
  3. They fail to develop the interpersonal skills needed to facilitate one-on-one negotiation and/or conflict resolution.
  4. They develop a victim mentality – and this mentality becomes the lens they use to look at all of life through. Once this fear is set in place, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that keeps producing more "evidence" that the “important people” in their life are only there to abuse them and take advantage of them.
  5. They reduce optional responses to conflict to one of two choices … persecute or be persecuted … justifying their responses and the addictive cycles they kick-start by saying to themselves, "It's them or me. So I’ll just do unto others before they do unto me."
  6. They teach triangle relationships in the next generation by modeling it well, and by passing on another string of broken relationships.
  7. They seek counseling from a therapist, pastor, priest, rabbi or friend, and tell their story in such a way that whoever is in this “counselor” role feels like affirming all the bad feelings of the VICTIM or rescuing the poor VICTIM – often doing for the person the very things they should be doing for themselves.
What are some the detrimental results when the “important people” in the life of addicts are in the role of the PERSECUTOR?
  1. They easily get into a vicious circle of defending themselves – allowing their emotional exhibitions (which usually arise out of their frustrations and sense of failure) to confirm all the false accusations made against them.
  2. They begin to view others in their triangle relationships as "the problem" and end up making “power moves” – trying to change them or remove them through manipulation.
  3. They often fall into an "all or nothing" way of communicating, leading, or tending to others (i.e. offering ultimatums like “If you do that one more time I’ll call the police!” but then not following through), and at the same time they easily feel under-empowered within their own sphere of influence.
What are some the detrimental results when the “important people” in the life of addicts are in the role of the RESCUER?
  1. They feel besieged by all sides.
  2. They don’t feel intimate, honest or trusted with any side.
  3. They fail to see the one really helpful role/s … which is the role/s they can play as coach, teacher, mentor or friend.
The best way to move out of the ruts and traps of triangle relationships is to find your center, or place-of-peace in relationships through meditation, prayer or fasting. For out of learning to live into this place-of-peace will come a clarity, a discernment and a poise that will help you stop assuming either roles of PERSECUTOR and/or RESCUER.

Healthy people aren’t frightened by the exploration of new ways to “do relationships”. Of course, the “one size fits all” idea is as mythical in the relationship realm as it is in the clothing market. So will all the ideas I’ve shared with you in this email be “a fit” for you and the road you are walking? Of course not. But some of them will. And so I invite you to try them on.

Let me close this note with an insightful piece by Portia Nelson entitled, An Autobiography in Five Short Paragraphs

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes
forever to find a way out.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it. I fall in. I can't believe I'm in the
same place, but it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to
get out.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there. I still fall in. It's a habit. My eyes are open.
I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down a different street.

God bless you as you continue on the journey of learning to walk down different streets. Godspeed.



16 August 2006

To fill a personal blog with the writing of other people is kind of like inviting people over for dinner and then ordering take-out. It works, but it's kind of weird. I mean, why not just meet at the restaurant? But by the time a person hits the 48th year of their life, chances are pretty good that they've run across pieces of writing that mean a lot to them.

Pieces that have offered wisdom in a crisis, a kick in the butt during a funk, or spoken with elegant grace during a chapter marked more by discouragement than discernment. God has used the following piece to do all that and more since I ran across it about ten years ago now.

I have come back to it often during the past decade, and I've read it over and over during this past year of prayer, assessment, doubt, honesty-seeking, and waiting. And so today I pass it onto you.

This "back-door" article was written by Mike Yaconelli, co-founder of Youth Specialities and a magazine originally called The Wittenburg Door and now just called The Door. After Mike's words speak to you, then I'd encourage you to read more about him at www.wittenburgdoor.com/archies/yaconelli/htm ... or pick up one or the other or both of my two favorite books by him, Dangerous Wonder and Messy Spirituality.

Proving once again that truth ages well, I believe that Yac's words really connect with "who I am," "how I think," and "what I wrestle with" as a man, a husband, a father, and as the lead pastor-teacher at 2nd Street Community Church in Newberg, OR.

"Reader's Digest" Selves
by Mike Yaconelli
1996, The Door (formerly The Wittenburg Door)

"When people look at us, what do they see? Not us. We are all secrets to ourselves. Mysteries to each other. "We are all perceptions," said William James – conclusions based on partial knowledge, reflections, pieces, impressions, opinions, but not ourselves.

The me who is reflected in this column is not me. The you who is reflected in your response to this column is not you. We are all edited selves – "Reader's Digest" versions of our real selves.

These huge gaps in our knowing one another allow us to form opinions, which are always incomplete, and always inaccurate. These fabrications of our selves became the matrix of our relationships with others that leave only impressions of our real selves, and paralyze our ability to fully know each other. And by the time we weave our way through the tangle of others' misconceptions, we are so exhausted that we surrender to the self others think we are – which is, of course, the self we are not.

We are a mystery to ourselves, but we are not lost in the dark. We know where to look to unravel this mystery, except for the great obstacle – pain. Because the pain of knowing who we are is so great, we spend a lifetime running from ourselves. We have become experts in dodging, avoiding, hiding, pretending, covering, running, protecting, eluding, escaping, averting, evading the real us. The "Great Escape" from ourselves is the way most of us have chosen to live our lives, Christian or not, because it is the way of less pain.

That is why the "Good News" of the Gospel is so painful. Jesus wants to do much more than forgive our sins; He wants to capture our real self – and for us to face who we are. For not only is our real self … full of sin, flaws and brokenness – but it is also full of hope.

To see who we are meant to be, who we are capable of being if we will stop running and start looking, is what conversion is all about. Knowing ourselves is not a warm fuzzy; it is a frightening encounter with the tension of ourselves – who we are and who we are meant to be.

When we are truly "by ourselves" and "with our self" – we begin to see what we have kept out of sight … what we have worked so hard to hide. We see our hopes and our fears. We see the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. We see the unedited, the unretouched, the unfixed – the "genuine self." And when we have seen our "genuine self", when we have really seen ourselves, that we then begin to see Jesus Christ for who He really is – our Savior.

The daily battleground of our lives and the struggle of our faith, is the facing of self and the knowing of self that results in surrender of our self to Jesus. Surrender is not a mindless recognition of the truth, a wrestling of our will with His, or a humiliating admission of reality. Instead, surrender is embracing the truth of ourselves which allows us to find help and hope in the person of Jesus Christ.

Surrender is the battle of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 when he said that "many of the things he didn't want to do he kept finding himself doing, and the very things he wanted to do, he never seemed to pull off." And surrender is the battle of Mike Yaconelli each and every day. Am I willing, each day, to come face-to-face with a self who wants to keep playing hide-and-seek, acknowledge my reluctance to admit who my hiding self is, and bring that shy, rebellious self into the light of Jesus, who patiently shows me the self I was meant to be?

Do you see battles in the Church today? Ultimately, it is not abortion, it is not pornography, and it is not homosexuality. It is reality. It is honesty.

We are afraid to be ourselves, to let ourselves be known, to come out of hiding. What the world is longing to see in the Church is not moral purity, as much as moral reality. The world wants [and needs] to see a Church that is made up of people who are not afraid of their blemishes, because they believe that their blemishes only point to the unblemished character of Jesus Christ.

What we don't understand is that when people look at the Church and see only impostors, they conclude that Jesus is an impostor. But when they see followers of Jesus Christ who are real, they can then begin to see a Jesus who is real. The Church does not need to fabricate holiness. It needs to seek holiness. And holiness is not so much a place where we arrive, as it is a place to where we are going.

The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of the whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for them. The Church points to Christ – not to us."

The Yac has spoken.



15 August 2006


Besides being the lead pastor-teacher at 2nd Street Community Church in Newberg, OR, I also do some writing for the AfterCare work of Intervention Specialists, based out of Manhattan, NY. Today and for the next few postings I will be sharing some edited versions of these writings in my blog ... with the prayer that God can use them to move the readers who connect with them toward greater healing and restoration.

From the time we're little kids we start learning that trust has to be built. And as we follow the unwritten rules of our families, and honor the sometimes-fuzzy-boundaries of our relationships, day-by-day, through our one-at-a-time choices, trust is “banked” into the different trust accounts of our lives.

And just like the balances of actual savings accounts, our trust account balances increase and decrease based on the deposits and withdrawals made by the various people we're in relationships with.
  • When people keep their word, a trust deposit is made.
  • When people lie to us, a trust withdrawal is made.
  • When people use words to build us up, a trust deposit is made.
  • When people use their words to wound or manipulate us, a trust withdrawal is made.
  • When people honor confidences, a trust deposit is made.
  • When people take us for granted, a trust withdrawal is made.
Healthy people check the trust account balances of the significant relationships in their lives during the significant chapters of their lives because keeping a finger on the pulse of relationships, and caring about and tending to that which is “important” is normal, sane behavior.

But when brokenness leads us to be driven by pain instead of by conscience or reason, we easily become unaware of how overdrawn our trust accounts with have become.

When this reality is brought to our attention, it's one thing to admit what's going on and become aware of these trust account deficits ... and yet doing the next-step-work of fighting through the anger and betrayal, and the deceit and hurt of our lives and through surrender make the conscious choice to stay in the light of truth ... that's a whole 'nother story all together. And yet as these steps are taken, we graciously move toward having the pieces of our lives put back together again.

Think with me for a minute back to the story The Wizard Of Oz. After the flying monkeys attack the Scarecrow, Dorothy finds him all torn apart and asks him in a panic, "Oh, my Mr. Scarecrow, what in the world happened to you?!"

And the Scarecrow, desperate but not without hope replies while pointing to big clumps of straw scattered out in every direction in front of him, "Oh Dorothy, part of me is over there, and part of me is over there, and part of me is over there." And what does Dorothy do? She lovingly gathers up the straw and begins stuffing it back into her friend.

God's love for us is both compassionate and honest -- and it reveals to us how brokenness has torn our lives apart. And “gathering up the pieces of our lives" while speaking to us words measured equally with grace and truth, God's equipping and encouragement helps us begin taking steps into wholeness.

Learning to keep our trust account balances high, visible, and dependable is key to you and I being "put back together". And not allowing others to make more "trust withdrawls" than "trust deposits" is a good way to learn to live.

Sometimes when we begin making and maintaining these new boundaries for our lives, people who've become used to making frequent and hefty "trust withdrawls" from us freak out. If they want to follow our lead and learn new ways of living
there's often a desire on the part part to make quick amends, and swiftly rebuild bridges. New promises are made. New oaths are sworn. New behavior is guaranteed. But you will know if these new goals are sincere as you begin to see [both in your life and in their's] …
  • Consistency in behavior ... and
  • Accountable for choices.
Consistency shows that what is changing are not just habits or will power -- but that what is changing is the heart, the mind and the soul. For consistency will bring to the surface the real us, the us that's been covered up, squashed down, and almost annihilated by our brokenness.

Consistency means “actions that are visible over a lengthy period of time”. And the greatest re-builder of the deficit in our trust accounts in the days, weeks, months and years ahead will be consistency. And the right hand of "consistency" is "accountability", for without it, "consistency" is nothing more than will-power on steriods.

Becoming accountable for one's choices isn't just a part of sane behavior; it's part of adult behavior. Accountability means, “Honestly owning our own stuff … the good, the bad and the ugly. It's the surrender of deceit so that the beauty and freedom of truth-speaking can begin to grow.”
And with increased consistency usually comes a willingness to embrace increased accountability.

Is it hard to move from brokenness to wholeness ... to see trust, consistency and accountability become, not peripheral realities in our lives, but core realities? Sure it is. Of course it will take time. But as we begin seeing the choices in our lives and in those close to us reflect a desire to become consistent, and a willingness to be accountable, the trust accounts of our lives will begin to have more deposits given than withdrawals taken. And of course, that will be a very, very good thing.

Let me close this note with the words of JRR Tolkien's Gandalf The Grey from his famed book The Lord Of The Rings

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.




05 August 2006

"But you need to stick it out, staying with
God's plan so you'll be there for the promised
completion." (

It's really easy for the destination to become more important than the journey.

In The Old Testament a priest named Samuel anointed David to become the next King of Israel – but it took ten years for what God had planned and announced to come to pass. If the destination was all that was important, then those ten years could easily be labeled as "wasted."

But God doesn't waste anything, and so in His economy those ten years were full of redemption, change, transformation and healing – and through them He proved to David, to the nation of Israel, and to you and me that the journey is nearly always more important than the destination.

For even though that decade was no bed of roses for David and his companions, in the end, David became the exact kind of King God wanted and needed for His people – a man described by Samuel in FIRST SAMUEL 13:14 as "a man after God's own heart."

In other words with all of David's ups-and-downs, and with all of David's flagrant sinning and rambunctious holiness, he raised the "with-God" bar for all the kings to follow – so much so in fact, that for the next 400 years every Jewish King was described in his epitaph as either "following after the way of David" or "not following after the way of David."

Or look at another chap from The Old Testament. On the outside, Elisha earned his living as a farmer, but on the inside he was an on-purpose follower of God. So when God needed to let the prophet Elijah retire, He scoped out potential replacements and cast Elisha. And while God's calling came one day while Elisha was out in the field plowing, like the journey David took, it was about ten years before Elisha wrapped up his full-time internship with Elijah and got the complete promotion.

All this to say, that God is looking for people who aren't afraid of the journey – because they know in their hears that it's in the journey where we cultivate patience, discover purpose, and begin to live into commitment.

God wants to shape the character of His Son Jesus Christ into each one of us. But for us to arrive at that destination, we must learn to value the journey.

I don't know what destinations God is preparing for me down the road, but I'm grateful and excited about taking the journey – and along the way discovering the beauty, the power and the perspective that The Old Testament prophet Isaiah described when he said that as we "wait for God, we will gain new strength; mounting up with eagle-like wings, running and not becoming tired, walking and not growing weary." (ISAIAH 40:31). Godspeed.


Gregg Lamm