Pushing a Rock Up a Hill


Most of the time I feel like I am pushing a rock up a hill.

I am never not aware of the rock. I feel its weight. I cannot let go of the rock. I am responsible to make sure it keeps moving up the hill; I can’t let it roll back down. Every other activity must be done while holding the rock. I eat with the rock on my back. I sleep wedged beneath the rock, with rock-moving strategies and hopes for progress squeezing my dreams. Don’t get me wrong; almost all the time I love the rock, and even more I love making the rock move forward. I just know that I have to push the rock. I don’t feel like I have a choice. I just have to push the rock.

Sometimes I leave the rock with capable hands while I go encourage other rock-pushers, and maybe help them push their rocks through a tough spot.

I do have people with me pushing the rock. I love it when people push on the rock. I can use all the help I can get!

Some people help better than others.

Some people come and help me push the rock like it was their own rock. It really feels like it’s “our rock” and “we” are pushing. This really makes rock-pushing fun. Some people have worn grooves in the rock from pushing so well, for so long. I love rock-pushers, because no matter what, I have to push the rock.

Some people who come to help push the rock like to talk about how maybe the rock should be a different color, or maybe the rock could use some sanding here and there, or maybe they don’t like calling it a rock. “Is it possible to change rocks?” Whatever, just push the rock.

Some people will walk beside me, getting really close to me, and almost touching the rock. They’ll quietly tell me how I might make some changes in how I am pushing the rock. They may regale me with tales of rocks they’ve moved (well, at least they touched some cool rocks). They don’t break a sweat, but they occasionally have to take breaks from not pushing the rock. Often, they wander off, shaking their heads over how poorly I seem to pushing the rock. Regardless, I keep pushing the rock.

Some people come and ask to help push the rock. Sure! Push! But they’d prefer a certain spot to push…no, not there. Maybe there…well, not really there. “I’m not really being used very well at pushing the rock.” Really? Just push the rock.

Every once in a while someone will be upset that I am pushing the rock. Yes. That I am pushing the rock. I mean that I don’t know why they’re upset, because I am just pushing this rock. But somehow I’ve let them down, haven’t pushed well enough, or even that I am pushing too much. Maybe I haven’t let them have control of the rock? Control the rock? I don’t own the rock. I am just pushing this rock up a hill. But in response to my rock-pushing, they stop helping push the rock. Sometimes others stop with them.  I pause to catch a breath after they stop pushing, get a fresh footing, and then I keep pushing the rock. It’s a little heavier than before. But I keep pushing the rock.

I keep studying rock-pushing. I keep learning. I am inspired by the rock-pushers who have moved rocks before me. I can see the trails left by their rock-pushing. Many have made my way easier. Their example compels me. I want to leave a trail for other rock-pushers to follow.  I keep pushing the rock.

I sometimes wonder if I will ever push my rock as well as others. It seems like some rock-pushers sail past me. Others, too many others, I have seen lose traction, focus, or grip and roll back down the hill with their rocks. Rock-pushing can be dangerous. But I just keep pushing the rock.

Because at the end of the day, and at the beginning of the day, and in fact all day long every day, I am pushing a rock up a hill.

Keep a Wet Edge




We decided the old church building needed a paint job. For whatever reason, I can’t remember, I found myself up on a ladder “helping” the veteran painters tackle the street-facing portion of the church. It was, of course, where the cross hung pristinely in view for passers-by. It was my duty-by-default to repaint the cross.

Up on the ladder I climbed, bucket and brush in hand(s), and began to give a fresh look to an old cross (fascinating, ironic, meditative… but not the point of this article).  Not an experienced painter, not even a painter, I dipped the brush in the bucket and sought to impress my more-experienced-observers with my focus, skill and stewardship of the paint. I brushed further and further, spreading the paint as well and as far as I could (clearly it was more economical to spread it out, really get all the paint out of the brush, good stewardship, maximize potential… look how much territory I was covering!) When I noticed there was nearly no paint left on the brush, I (begrudgingly) went back for more paint. And then started painting… somewhere where I’d left off… not exactly sure where… but started covering more territory.

The patient painter behind me could bear no more. He quietly said to me, “you have to keep a wet edge. Don’t dry your brush out or you’ll just have to repaint it.” He went on to explain how and why what I was doing was wrong. But I gently said, “Stop. You just said something that probably I should never forget. Keep a wet edge.” I am not sure how long I continued painting, I’d like to think I finished re-presenting the cross… I’d like to think that one day I will truly finish re-presenting the cross. But for today, what I need to remember is this: Keep a wet edge.

Leaders need to keep a wet edge. Parents do. Pastors do. Anyone whose hope or duty it is to spread the influence of good, of grace, of wisdom, of counsel, of kindness upon the canvas of this world – needs to keep a wet edge.

Never let your brush run dry. Don’t deceive yourself into believing that you are just working harder or maximizing your potential. You’re just painting like a novice. You may be covering more ground, but your impact will be thin and influence short.

Never let your brush run dry. Stay close to the Source. Immerse yourself often. Stay conscious of “why” you are doing and “Who” are you doing it for. Don’t get too far away from the bucket. Read the bible for pleasure and reflection. Often. Take a moment of private devotion and worship and gratitude – without it being part of a formality or corporate responsibility. Pray in the Spirit. Spend a little extra time with people who make you laugh and who encourage you. Spend a little more time alone.  It may look a little different for you than for me, but neither of us can afford too much time away from the bucket. Keep a wet edge.

The alternative is, without exception, that you will find yourself leaning over a ladder, arms stretched as far as possible, with maximum exertion, but spreading the least amount of paint. Then you, or someone else, will just have to paint again. Dry brushes make for wasted energy. Stay close to the bucket. Never let your brush run dry. Keep a wet edge.

God is an Optimist


God is an optimist. He is resolutely hopeful. Fear is absent from His gaze. God loves the future, but He does not need to resent or reject the former to do so.

In Haggai 2:6-9, the prophet, speaking for God, declares that although the former temple was glorious, the glory of the future temple would be greater. That is a bold and fascinating claim. The former temple was exceedingly magnificent, part of a glorious dynasty and lineage that the world has seldom (if ever) seen equaled. It was the center of national pride, robust with rich beauty and intricate design. The former temple shook with the visible presence of God. God lived in it. Whoa. The testimonies, the life-changing and nation-shaping events that transpired there are sacred. And now, in the midst of a barely reborn and hardly rebuilt nation, God’s mouthpiece claims that the new will be better than the old.

I am fascinated by that moment. The prevailing mood must have been at best doubtful, if not outright pessimistic. No evidence for a grand future existed. The scales of greatness were tipped by the weight of yesteryears long gone.  But hear the heart of God; listen for the pounding resonance of hope. The prophet’s words paint possibility on the canvass of his audience’s imagination. God says, “It can, and it will, be better than before.” It strikes me that this is how God sees the future, regardless of current situations. It doesn’t have to be bad for God to say things are going to be good. Things can be pretty good, and God still has designs for them to be even better. In fact, no matter how glorious the past was, it never, absolutely never, should be considered a high-water mark. God’s tide is always rising. God’s beautiful brilliance always sees the future as better and brighter, not because He’s necessarily displeased with how things are or were, but because beauty and excellence and growth and ever-increasing-glory are fundamental expressions of God’s very self.

For God to say the new temple was going to better was not a rejection of the former temple. The former wasn’t insufficient. It wasn’t a model to avoid or reject. This is not a proof-text for us to be condescending to our past. It is simply an invitation to believe that regardless how great (or not so great) our past was, God always has a more glorious future for us. The reason we don’t “live in the past” is precisely because the laws of physics do not allow us to. We cannot live anywhere other than “now” nor can we plan for anywhere other than “next.”

For our future to be better, we don’t need to reject or forget the past. Rather, we should cherish and celebrate testimonies and experiences as fuel for faith in future glory. What God has done before, in and through people who were willing, should inform our expectations that God will continue to express His brilliance, power and love through people who are grateful for what He has done, and willing to be part of what He’s still doing.

Cheers to the glorious future, and happy new year

~ Dav

Going Rogue

prayer hands

The story of Daniel and the lions’ den is not unfamiliar. As wonderful and promising it is that the Lord protected and honored Daniel even in the midst of ferocious animals, I am intrigued by the back story, the reason Danny found himself in the company of carnivorous kitties. He went rogue.

King Darius appointed Daniel (with two other administrators) to supervise the 120 overseers of the kingdom. Daniel soon “proved himself more capable than all the other administrators”, and because of his “great ability, the king made plans to place [Daniel] over the entire empire” (Daniel 6:1-3). Jealousy filled the other administrators, who sought to accuse Daniel to the king. However, in addition to being highly capable, Daniel was “faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy.” So, as the story goes, the bad guys decided that the only way to get Daniel in trouble was to somehow make his faith a problem to the king (6:4-5). They convinced the king to make it temporarily illegal to pray unless it was to the king (6:6-9).

This is the part that grabs me. Keep in mind the depiction of Daniel’s leadership – how much he was responsible for and how well he fulfilled those responsibilities. He was the leader of leaders. He was on the cover of leadership magazines. He had a dozen best-selling works on “leadership that transcends empires.” But it was his prayer life that got him in trouble. His comrades made it illegal for him to pray. I have to ask – I wonder how many contemporary leaders would be much affected by such a prohibition? Could they, could I, just continue with my current calendar agenda and comply with the law against praying? Would anything change much?

For Daniel there was no option. He went rogue in prayer. He prayed three times a day just as he had always done (v. 10). And that’s what got him busted. But God honored him and all worked out well – “the end.” Okay, now let’s take another look at Daniel’s prayer life.

Daniel prayed three times a day, giving thanks to God. That’s the first descriptive phrase attached to Daniel’s prayers. His prayer life is first characterized by giving thanks. When he was caught grateful-handed, the narrator says Daniel was praying and “asking for God’s help.” So we’re told three things: Daniel set aside three periods of time a day to pray. His prayers were characterized by thanksgiving. When he prayed, he asked for God’s help.

I love this! First, notice that Daniel was NOT praying in order to appease an angry god, nor to keep his god in a good mood so that things would go well for Daniel. [I chose not to capitalize the former references to divinity as they did not accurately represent one.] Daniel prayed in order to give thanks and ask for help. How sublimely simple! How similar to Paul’s admonition: with thanksgiving, pray about everything (Phil. 4:6).

Did God prosper Daniel in response to and because of his prayers? Did Daniel “pray enough” for God to notice and respond? I don’t think so. Rather, it seems to me that Daniel created a climate in his own heart and mind that tapped into the free flow of wisdom and grace from heaven by regularly practicing genuine gratitude and humbly asking for help. Consider how giving thanks and asking for help would have developed deep awareness of God’s abiding presence, and a calm confidence in God’s ready hand to help Daniel face whatever opportunity or obstacle.

I have responsibilities: to serve, to lead, to advise, to solve, even to “perform.” We all do. We all bear the responsibility to lead and serve in various arenas. Daniel’s example should inspire and instruct us. We would do well to set aside time, regularly, to give thanks to God and ask for His help. I don’t mean the panic-prayers in response to the latest crisis. I mean, like Daniel, the proactive prayer life that gives thanks and asks for help as a normal part (or several parts) of our day.

I deeply believe that we can create a climate of confidence, calm, and a deep awareness of God ready-to-help presence, and it is no harder than giving thanks and asking for His help. And here’s a bonus – it’s quite unlikely we’ll be fed to the lions for doing it.

If this or any post on this site encourages you, please feel free to share with others. And, as always, thanks for reading.






Spiritual Spontaneity in a Worship Gathering

living in the box

Every Thursday morning I meet the same friend for breakfast. We meet at the same time, and we meet for approximately the same length of time each week. I know pretty well what range of subject matter we’ll talk about. I am nearly certain what each of us will eat for breakfast. And yet, each morning we meet, our conversation is fresh, it is robust, it is encouraging, open and honest. We have cried (well, we’re dudes so we only got a little choked up); we laugh (without fail, every week). We don’t have a specific agenda to cover, though we may likely have thoughtfully prepared a thought or question or story for the other. Our meetings are the result of schedule, planning, and preparation. But when we actually sit down, no matter how much of our routine is…routine, our conversation and interaction is living. It is spontaneous. It is guided by good manners but stirred by great passion.

I reflect on this breakfast dynamic as I consider current (though ancient) discussion about the structure and flow of worship gatherings – of “church” – in terms of the freedom and movement of the Holy Spirit.  I read blog posts and articles and have heard posited from pulpitis cautioning against spontaneity or sensationalism, reminding the reader or auditor that The Holy Spirit can anoint thorough preparation and bless tidy presentation.  I have observed, too, the hazards and chaos and boundary-less worship gatherings that are blamed on the Holy Spirit (who evidently struggles with Tourette’s Syndrome or ADHD).

I would argue, not so much for one or the other, but for an alternative. Of course the Holy Spirit is planner and a preparer. It was He who hovered over the face of deep (Genesis 1) at creation before any creative word was released. It was He who stirred Samson (Judges 13:25) before any lion or Philistine tasted death-by-fist. It was He who filled and “flipped” John the Baptist in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 44) before any locust shared a plate with wild honey or anyone got wet with repentance. I deeply believe and depend upon His infilling and influence each week as I prepare to lead our worship gatherings and study for messages to share with the church. In fact, I believe that the Spirit prompts “previews” of needs that can be met, themes to emphasize, and specific actions to take to engage the congregation. I am glad and grateful for the partnership of the Spirit with regard to planning and preparation.

However, I do not leave the Holy Spirit in my study. I bring Him, or rather follow Him, into the auditorium. Much like my breakfast meeting, this occasion is planned for, prepared for, and even allotted a certain time-frame for completion. But also like my breakfast meeting, I anticipate a living atmosphere, a dynamic environment. Real people have gathered in this room. People with needs and opportunities, people with gifts and graces. Moreover, a Real Person is present to preside over and permeate this gathering. The Holy Spirit is fully, actively present with us. It more than just stands to reason that I should be ready for spontaneity, I should expect and accommodate it. Whenever you combine man’s passion and God’s Presence, you’d better leave some white-space in the margins.

Consider with me the role of some of the unplanned events in the NT narratives. Most of the individual miracle stories of Jesus, the ones where we have most specific details and the same ones that have inspired the hope and faith of countless generations, are the result of Jesus being interrupted. If Jesus had refused to accommodate spontaneity (as a result of man’s passion connecting with divine presence), consider the consequences. He would have never made water into wine (John 2). He wouldn’t have freed the grave-living demoniac (Mark 5:1-2). He’d have never told the lame man to take up his bed and walk (Matthew 9:2). He wouldn’t have raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Matthew 9:18). The blind men shouting for mercy would have remained “shushed.” In fact, the tendency to shush people and keep them from interrupting didn’t start with seeker-sensitive services. The disciples of Jesus tried to keep a tidy ministry from the get-go (Mark 10:13-14, Mark 10:42, Matthew 15:21-23). The list of things that Jesus would not have done gets very long if we don’t let him get interrupted.

Along those lines, I don’t believe that wind and fire and glossolalia were on the prayer meeting agenda in the upper room (Acts 2). Peter and John went to pray, and met a lame man on the way….(Acts 3). Things got real crazy during offering (Acts 5).

A living, dynamic gathering need not be characterized by and certainly not limited to specific manifestations or expressions. The Holy Spirit speaks to and through us in various and creative ways. People often see pictures, or feel an impression, or are made aware of specific needs in the room—the goal of which is all to minister grace to the gathered.

Nor is there any need for or benefit from rudeness or overt silly-ness. It seems reasonable to welcome people who have some established level of relationship in the community to share with the gathered what they feel the Spirit is saying to / through them for the benefit of the body. It also seems reasonable that they do so at a time that makes sense in the flow of the service (especially if white space is deliberately provided). Spontaneity need not be urgent; “when” we hear from or share something the Spirit has said is not nearly as important as how we respond. Furthermore, there should be a reasonable means for people to share – like having a microphone available for people to come to. There’s no rationale for hollering-at-will from around the room—no one needs to reach from the back seat of the car and grab the steering wheel. Great passion can function in the context of good manners.

But the largest issue is simply to remember, to celebrate and surrender to the reality that God, very God, the Holy Spirit is present with us. He is living; He is active; He is speaking and acting—through people, the community gathered for worship. The presence and activity of the Spirit in the life and functions of the church is important to heaven. His coming and activity are actually the final intention and plan of God for the planet (Acts 2:17-18). There is no replacement for His presence, no substitute for His activity. He should fill and flood our plan, our preparation, and our presentation. Ultimately, we, the church, are being built together in Christ for the singularly sublime purpose of being a dwelling where God lives by His Spirit (Eph. 2:22). I’m planning on it.

Three Reasons for a Blended Worship Experience



Hey – I like new songs. I like fast songs. I like happy-clappy songs. I like songs that make me wanna move-what-momma-gave-me. I love the contemplative and prophetic songs that rise from fresh experience and heart-rending revelation. I also thoroughly enjoy songs that are older than I am, birthed from the passions of my predecessors.

I thoroughly believe that worship lists should be designed to include songs that are fresh and songs that are familiar. Specifically, I suggest that worship leaders include older songs in their worship sets. Here are three reasons why:

1.)    To awaken great faith.  

When you include a song that connects meaningfully with someone who has walked with Jesus for many seasons, even for a life-time, you provide an outlet for that person’s faith and love to be awakened and expressed. People generally are fond of certain songs because they sang them as a result of or in the midst of powerful moments or special seasons in their lives. And when they sing those songs, the testimony that song stirs, and the grace that has been deposited in their lives is stirred. Hot coals are fanned into bright flame. Deep waters spring up from the wells that landscape their journey of faith. This, by the way, is a terrific reason to include songs like this early – so that great faith might be awakened and carried into the rest of the meeting

2.)    To Honor Generations

And on that note, if you introduce an older song at the early (even at first) part of a worship gathering, you send a message to older generations that they are welcome here, that they matter, that their faith is important and their testimony is valuable. You present a stepping stone or a bridge (whatever metaphor you like) to them that enables them to join the room, to participate, to share. Hey – they might not even mind the dark room, loud subwoofers, wrinkled shirts and bonus-body-paint. They may feel like they belong– if someone would just honor them at the outset.

3.)    To Benefit from Testimony

Many of the tried-and-true classic songs (be they public domain hymns or choruses from the Jesus Movement) were forged in the fire of deep personal experience, or devout theological reflection. Their words carry boldness, glory, and often an intimacy that are rare and wonderful. The content – the actual lyrics – of these songs are too valuable to set aside simply because they were introduced in an era long gone, or by someone wearing an outfit we’d only see at a costume party.


Jack Hayford has said that the songs we sing build the constitution of our congregations. They make us strong; they make us grateful; they make us yielded; they make us joyful. They fill our minds with noble, pure, and powerful thoughts of God. They fire our souls with melodies of His grace and love. These songs come from the wealth of Christian experience and testimony through the ages. Our worship experience can – and should – include treasures old and new.