main cow pic


Am I missing it? On becoming Matthew McConaughey…

Filed under: life — 4:41 pm

I still haven’t recovered from one scene in Intersteller.  (Spoiler alert).  When space pilot Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey, returns to his ship after their first mission, he discovers that a couple hours on that planet actually equalled 27 years on earth.  So while it was the same day to him, his children at home had lived 27 years.

Watching all he had missed

Watching all he had missed

And so he sat down to watch 27 years of video messages from his kids:  first talking about school homework…then sharing a college story…then introducing his newborn grandchild…and on and on….until finally, his middle-aged son whispers “Dad, I know you probably aren’t getting these messages.  We haven’t heard for you in so long.  So this is my last message…”

It was all I could do in that packed movie theater to not lay down on the floor and cry.

Because Cooper missed his kids’ childhoods. While he was off trying to save the world, his kids had to grow up without a father.  It didn’t matter that he loved them…because he wasn’t there to show them.  And by the time he realized his colossal mistake, it was literally too late.


Many of our fathers did this.  And my friends and I are in the season of deciding whether or not we’re going to do the same.  None of us would ever consciously decide to miss our kid’s childhood, of course. Never!  But we are setting the patterns in our 30s that will make the choice for us.

This is especially dangerous for those of us in professional ministry.  As soon as we add “God called me to this work”, we can justify and spiritualize our workaholism.  At least Silicon Valley CEOs can be honest and say they are driven by ambition, success, and power.  We church workers, often driven by the exact same stuff, try to spin it as “humbly paying the price for The Lord’s work.”  No wonder so many pastor’s kids hate the church.  No wonder so many pastor’s wives hate the church.

Friends, we don’t have to do it this way.  There is a better way.  Our kids don’t need us to save the world; they need us to see their world, and join them in it.  They need us to be there.  Not just physically there, exhausted after work, but emotionally present.  WITH them.  Seeing them…hearing them…delighting in them.

This will cost us something.  We may miss out on certain work successes and perks.  We may not reach the peaks of our professional ambitions.  But honestly, are those peaks worth our kid’s childhoods?

There is another way.  And our children desperately need us to find it.  There is still time.


Cynicism, Idealism, and Proximate Justice

Filed under: Discipleship,life,Palestine / Israel — 9:12 am
Proximate Justice

Proximate Justice

In my early 20s, I became a cynic. I gleefully excelled in the twisted art of poking holes and always finding the worst in things. (Oh what a joy I was to be around.) And after a couple years, I assumed that I must be a fundamentally pessimistic, negative person.

But over the last decade or so – through honest friendships, plenty of therapy, and God’s grace – the “thing beneath the thing” has been coming to light. As it turns out, I’m not a cynic at all.  Not even a “glass is half empty” person. But instead…

I’m a hopeless optimist who doesn’t know how to deal with disappointment.

I can see the epic beauty of what’s possible, and this fills me with life, passion, and hope. There’s always a glorious new idea to chase around the upcoming corner.  But when reality doesn’t live up to what’s in my head and heart, I am often crushed by the disappointment.

Are there any frustrated idealists out there? Raise your hand if you’ve been hiding under cynical armor.  I see that hand. Me too.

To be honest, the last two weeks of global events have been overwhelming and depressing.  Especially the devastation in Gaza. And even though I believe that every person on earth has been invited to join God in healing and restoring the world, lately I just want to give up. Things will NEVER be completely fixed, so why keep trying?

Thankfully, one of my heroes in peacemaking shared this stunningly brilliant article called “Making Peace with Proximate Justice” by Stephen Garber.  Here’s his point…

“What keeps us going is the possibility of proximate justice—of something rather than nothing—knowing ahead of time that it will never be everything on this side of the consummation. Francis Schaeffer called this the vision and hope of substantial healing, arguing that it was the antidote to the all-or-nothing syndrome that so afflicts us, whether in the most personal parts of life, as with marriage, or the most public, as with political engagement. I really hoped, I really tried, and it didn’t work—so I’m done. His words have been a great grace to me for a long time. A person can touch and feel something that is substantial; it is real, even if it is not everything—but it is not nothing, either.”

Are you as inflicted by “the all-or-nothing syndrome” as I am?  Either my job is everything I’ve ever dreamed it can be…or I want to quit. Either my marriage is like the movies every second…or I want to bail. Either I am single-handedly bringing peace to the Middle East…or what’s the point of even trying. Right?

Please take a moment to soak in the challenging and healing words from Stephen Garber below. He has given his life to both gut-wrenching honesty AND relentless hope…or as he says “I do not know of any challenge that is more difficult than to really know the world, and still choose to love it.” We can’t give up. Honesty and hope. Leaning in with eyes and hearts wide open…

“Making Peace with Proximate Justice” by Stephen Garber





The Enneagram: hilariously painful

Filed under: life — 3:03 pm

Many of you know how much I hate personality assessment tests…AND yet how transformational the Enneagram has been to me, my marriage, and so many relationships. It has unlocked a number of doors: giving many of us language to name reality, and a set of practices to become more whole. Brilliant.

But all of that aside, these videos are hilarious.  And just for fun, the first video is my type (4), and the second video is Shauna’s type (7). Enjoy!


Four Helpful Perspectives about Syria

Filed under: God's movement,life — 6:25 pm

Our country’s potential involvement in Syria has really been weighing on me…as a Christian, as an American, as a global citizen, and even as a dad.
As with anything this complicated, there are wise, spiritual people on all sides of the conversation, and I’ve been trying to learn from as many as possible. Here are four perspectives that I came across just yesterday. Even though they have different viewpoints, each offers something challenging and helpful…

(1) Jon Huckins. My friend Jon gives a powerful and challenging reminder to keep a human face on Syria…not just detached theories. Such a beautifully prophetic voice.

(2) Nicholas Kristof. “The Right Questions on Syria“. This Pulitzer Prize winning journalist (who has given much of his career to highlighting the plight of the most forgotten people on earth) suggests that the dangers of inaction are greater than the dangers of action.

(3) Shane Claiborne. “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right“. Shane aims to live out Jesus’ teachings as fully and authentically as he can, so this strong call to non-violence is no surprise. It’s a challenging perspective, but as a Christian, we need to take these words very seriously.

(4) Greg Boyd. “What I – a Pacifist – Would Say to President Obama about Syria“. This was the most surprising and interesting perspective I came across yesterday. Wise and helpful.

(I regret that this small sampling is all male. Women often have a much more helpful perspective in these kinds of situations. If you have any great articles written by women about this topic, please sent them my way.)

Hopefully these four perspectives will, along with many others, help you keep wrestling with this complicated, confusing, important conversation.





Filed under: life — 7:04 am




staying present in the moment

Filed under: life,worship — 4:31 pm

I’m starting to think that one of the keys to worship leading is learning how to honestly stay present in the moment. Not go into auto-pilot. Not get distracted by a mistake I made two songs ago that really sounded bad. Not thinking ahead to the Chipotle lunch in an hour. PRESENT. RIGHT HERE AND NOW. Not trying to recreate the worship feelings from last service, or push this service to be something it’s not. Present. In THIS moment. “God, what are you saying to us right now? Where are you guiding us? How can I help us follow?”

Come to think of it, staying present in the moment may also be one of the keys to great parenting. Not thinking about work while looking at his new drawings. Not just checking my iPhone while we’re playing at the park. Present. In this moment. “What does that expression on his face mean? What does he seem to need from me right now and how can I give it with all my heart?”

Come to think of it, staying present in the moment may also be one of the keys to a healthy marriage. Not letting the stress of a work day take over dinner. Not living in past hurts or future fears, especially in those more difficult moments and conversations. Present – physically AND emotionally. Present – to my emotional state AND to hers. Right in this moment.

Come to think of it, staying present in the moment may be a key to all of life.

I’m not very good at it, honestly, but I’m trying to learn. And here have been three great teachers…

(1) The pain of doing it wrong. Pain is a great teacher. Seeing the hurt in Henry’s eyes when he realizes that I’ve been checking twitter instead of listening to his story has a way of punching me in the gut. And bringing me into this very moment.

(2) Spending time with people who actually embody living in the moment. The experience of being deeply seen and really listened to is a holy experience. And a huge gift.

(3) Two brilliant books: The Naked Now by Fr Richard Rohr, and Present Perfect by Greg Boyd. Both of these have really shaped my thoughts and practices in these ways.

I hope you find them helpful also. Peace.


Standing in the Tragic Gap

Filed under: God's movement,life — 9:03 pm

Sunday night, we watched this brilliant video with a small group of friends and had a really honest conversation.  Here were the three questions we wrestled with…

(1) When your life gets out of balance, do you usually swing to corrosive cynicism or irrelevant idealism?
(2) What circumstances or decisions tend to push you in this direction?
(3) What practices help you stay grounded, standing in the tragic gap?

This tragic gap is such a beautifully simple, yet profoundly difficult tension to live in.  But as Palmer says, giving in to either extreme “takes you out of the game”.  Thoughts?


Something I really needed to hear…

Filed under: God's movement,life — 7:43 pm

This Sunday I had the huge joy and honor of joining the Mars Hill worship team for the day. I love serving with these guys (Dustin, Ethan, Jordan, Bob, Marie, and Alan), and it’s always fun to be a part of a Sunday at Mars. But as much as I enjoyed the musical liturgy, the highlight was the message.

Shane Hipps preached the story in Acts of Peter being freed from prison. It was simple, brilliant, and exactly what I needed to hear. Exactly! Here are the movements he guided us through…

(1) Every one of us are in prison. We are all addicts. Whether alcohol or work or money or exercise or approval or greed, we all have something that controls us.
(2) Our prisons are self-made. Every addiction begins with a choice. Our choice.
(3) Once in the prison, we spend much of our time looking out the window and blaming outside forces for keeping us locked in our homemade cell. “If only the economy hadn’t…” “If only she would stop…” “If only he would finally…”

Shane: “But if you are sitting in this jail, waiting for an Angel to rescue you, I have good news:
The angel has already come. Jesus is already here…inviting you to get up and leave the prison.”

We all began building our prison with one small choice, and we can begin following Jesus out of the prison with one small choice. Right now! Shane then finished with an illustration from nature that took my breath away.

Obviously, I’m not doing justice to this sermon, but I HAD to share what was so deeply moving (and challenging) to me. If you want to hear the whole thing, head over to Mars Hill and download the podcast. Also, I highly recommend checking out Shane Hipps books and website HERE.

What about you? Does this idea of building our own prisons and then blaming the outside for keeping us in connect with you? What has helped you join Jesus in walking out of the prison? Certain practices, books, relationships, ideas, etc?


When a 5 year old becomes a Mumford and Sons fan…

Filed under: life,music — 8:13 am

Every time we get into the car, Henry asks if we can listen to “The Cave” by Mumford and Sons.
And then he TURNS INTO Mumford…



A New Liturgy in the New Year

Filed under: A New Liturgy,God's movement,life — 11:30 am

Hello, friends.  I hope you had a great Christmas and New Years!

Our family had the chance to stay at a friend’s house in Florida last week, and we soaked up the warm weather and slow pace.  I was really fried after the Willow Christmas services, and thankful to get to slow down and build sandcastles with my kid.  Here’s a picture of Henry getting launched by his uncle Todd…

Henry in flight

Near the end of the trip, I snuck away one afternoon to journal and dream and pray about 2012.  Although I’m excited about a handful of personal, family, and ministry things, my mind kept coming back to A New Liturgy.  I absolutely can’t wait to see what A New Liturgy becomes in this next year.

As you know, I love creating these 25 minute spiritual journeys, but am pretty clueless about what to do with them when they’re done.  (The business and marketing side is not my strength.)  And so in 2012, I’m going to pour my energy into creating the best Liturgies I can, share them with whoever seems interested, pray like crazy, and see what happens.  Sound okay?  Here are a couple of the next steps…

(1) A New Liturgy No 3.  This morning, I made the first demo of Liturgy No 3: “Lord Have Mercy”.  This one is going to be way more raw, un-produced, sparse, and messy than the first two.  It’ll be a 25 minute journey of confession and repentance…with a handful of organic instruments creating a lot of space to pray.  That’s the intention, anyway!  I’m curious to see how it morphs and comes together…

(2) The New Liturgy Blog Tour.  Beginning this weekend, a number of bloggers will be posting thoughts, reflections, and reactions to “A New Liturgy”…two or three posts per week all January long.  I’ll let you know about each new blog so you can check them out and “join the tour”!

(3) A Remix EP.  While creating Liturgy No 1 and No 2, we stumbled upon a number of alternate arrangements for songs.  Two friends and I are cleaning those up (and adding a few more remixes), and can’t wait to share them with you.

If I haven’t said this recently, THANKS SO MUCH for checking out this blog and being interested in “A New Liturgy”.  Your encouragement and support has been profoundly moving, and I’m humbled to be on the journey with you all.  Can’t wait to see what 2012 brings!



The Evil Russian, Shauna’s Marathon, and Why I’m Still a Mess (part 1)

Filed under: God's movement,life — 11:36 am

The Evil Russian

Last week, almost as a joke, a number of us in the band started “The Evil Russian” push-up plan.  Setting aside the ridiculously un-P.C. name, we all committed to follow the plan and do hundreds of push-ups throughout each day.  We do them in unison when together, and trade emails/texts the rest of the time.

In the first two days, I did more push-ups than in the last decade combined.  And my arms almost fell off.  But each day gets a little easier.

Last year, my wife Shauna decided to run a marathon.  She hates running but decided to join Team World Vision and their training plan.  She followed the running schedule during the week, and then joined the whole team every Saturday morning for that week’s long run.  After months of training, she ran the Chicago Marathon and achieved one of her life dreams.

What is the key to both of these goals?  A plan and a community.

You don’t want to know how many diets, commitments, and goals I’ve given up on in the last couple years.  It’s embarrassing and quite discouraging, actually.  I always begin strongly with great intentions, but lose my way without a clear plan.  Or I mold my intentions into a solid plan, but quickly lose heart without a community on the same journey.

I’m beginning to wonder if this also applies to the deeper parts of life.

There are a number of ways I’m not growing as a Christ-follower or human being, and even a few ways I’m drifting backward.  And in spite of good intentions and noble declarations, I can’t seem to turn the ship.  But instead of getting tangled up in the convoluted theological theories and guilt, what if I simply need to admit that in my spiritual life, I need a Plan and a Community.  I can’t just “try harder” in each moment and hope to get there…and I certainly can’t get there alone.

For example, how do I become a less selfish person?  Really?!?  The Christian path has often been:
Go to church, (2) Hear a message about not being selfish, (3) Feel guilty, (4) Promise to not be selfish anymore, (5) Try really hard, but then (6) Realize that I’m back to my selfish self by Tuesday morning.  (7) Do the same thing next week.

This can’t possibly be what Jesus is inviting us into.

I have a few more thoughts (and a hundred more questions) for a future “Part Two” post, but first, what do you think about all this?  What has your experience been like?

Do you have a plan and a community that helps you become the person God made you to be?  What does it look like?  Or do you take a different path?

How does your faith actually help you to change?  Or doesn’t it?


Life update…

Filed under: A New Liturgy,life,willow,worship — 9:16 pm

Mac's first bath

Hey, I’m so sorry for the ten days since the last post.  It’s been a crazy couple weeks!  Here are a few things that have been going on…

(1) The baby!  Mac’s first 5 weeks on planet earth have been fantastic and exhausting.  We’re so ridiculously thankful and happy…but could use a decent night’s sleep.  But other than 48 scary hours in the hospital when he was only ten days old (which turned out to be nothing more than a cold!), all is well with the little guy.

(2) Shauna and Henry.   I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.

Henry's 5th Birthday

(3) A New Liturgy.  The last few weeks have been really busy in my little home studio –  working on
Liturgy No 2:  “Blessed to Be a Blessing”.  (You can check out pictures and updates at the New Liturgy Facebook Page.)  As of right now, three out of the four movements are finished, and the final movement will be done next week.  I can’t possibly convey how excited I am about all this…and really look forward to sharing it with you!

tracking bass drum in my living room

Ada Bible Church

(4) Leading Worship.  In October, I lead worship five different times, 12 services:  at Willow three times, once at Ada Bible Church, and once at Mars Hill.  And the next couple weeks are equally full.  But honestly, I love it.  It’s such a huge honor to get to serve communities in this way, and I can’t wait for this coming weekend…

[By the way, NT Wright is coming to speak at Willow this Saturday and Sunday.  He’s a genius and I can’t wait to hear what he brings.  His new book is Simply Jesus.]

There’s so much more to share!  Coming soon…


My review of the iPhone 4S

Filed under: life — 7:30 pm

iPhone 4S

Last week, the UPS man rang our doorbell, handed me a small box, and made all my wildest dreams come true.  Well, that might be a slight exaggeration for dramatic effect, but I am loving the iPhone 4S.

Since Shauna had the 3GS and I had the 4, we decided to upgrade my phone line to the 4S…and then give her my 4.  Yes, I have the greatest wife on the planet.  This is not the first time we’ve done this kind of “upgrade”, and it hopefully won’t be the last!

At first, I have to admit that I was a bit underwhelmed.  It looks and feels exactly the same as the 4, and I couldn’t possibly care less about Siri – the iPhone’s built in “assistant”.  (And even after playing with Siri a bit over the last week, I’ve found it to be a clever novelty, but not much more.)

But the more I use the new phone – and especially OS5 – the more I am loving it!  Here a couple of the highlights:

(1) The new notification system is brilliant.  I don’t have it set up perfectly yet, but I’ll keep tweaking over the next few weeks and get it just right.  And I LOVE how it syncs with my iPad, which has already been wildly helpful.
(2) The 4S does feel slightly faster and smoother than the 4.
(3) The camera is a ton better.  Better pics and HD 1080 video.
(4) Double-click on the lock screen to go strait to the camera!  Such a simple but amazing tweak.
(5) Take pictures by clicking the volume up button.  So helpful!
(6) And then a number of small tweaks that make small but helpful improvements (tabs in safari, edits in iphoto, format text in mail, etc.)

The jump from iPhone 3GS to 4 was an enormous leap forward.  The jump from 4 to 4S is a small but very nice improvement on what already is.

Here’s my opinion:  If you have a 3G or 3GS (or any other non-iPhone), go out immediately and buy the iPhone 4S.  It will make all your wildest dreams come true.  But if you already have the 4, it might not be worth the couple hundred bucks.

Anyone strongly agree or disagree?  Thoughts?



Mac has finally arrived!

Filed under: life — 10:43 am

Yesterday at 11:46am, William MacIntyre Niequist joined planet earth.  8lbs 1oz / 21 inches.  Shauna was an absolute rock star, and we couldn’t possibly be more thankful to God for this healthy, strong, already-loved, new member of our family.  Thanks so much for your prayers…

making his presence known

an hour old

Henry meeting his brother

Henry and Mac

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