Friday, May 15, 2015

Day 36 - 40 The Lazarus Experiment 2015

Day Thirty-Six Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Countdown continues!
When I was about nine years old, my brother and I started a grass fire that threatened to burn our town to the ground.
We had an incinerator--a place where we burned the refuse we produced. Bob and I had a chore: to take the trash out to the incinerator. It was not our job to burn the trash -- that was Dad's deal.
One night we carried it out, and the coals from the day before were still hot, and a little of the trash caught on fire. This happened every once in a while. But being nine and seven, we thought it was pretty cool, and a little of the fire escaped the firebox and caught a little of the dry Southern California grass around the outside. We thought this was pretty cool, so we helped some of the paper trash in our hands to light up. It was all fun until the grass started to catch all around us. We started stamping it out, which we thought was pretty cool, and it looked liked we were dancing, but it soon got beyond us. My brother ran for the house while I continued to stomp. I was panicked. I thought I was going to burn our town to the ground.
My dad came out, got the hose, and put out the fire. It had only spread about a yard around the incinerator, not nearly a threat to the whole town, but it sure felt like it.
Life presents these little fires. Relationships smolder. Ill health sparks and scares. Financial coals glow red hot with the potential to flare up. Family issues cast fiery cinders into the dry tinder of our lives. Addictions flicker and lick at the edges of our endurance. And sometimes it gets a little scary. And sometimes it threatens to burn our town to the ground.
What were the fires that Lazarus would have wanted put out? What hot coals were fanned into inferno because he came back to life?
Don't say none. Any major life change carries the dry grass and hot flame that could create damage. It's part of the territory. And there's probably not much bigger a life change that being dead and returning to life after four days.
It's possible that you have fires threatening. You, like Lazarus, don't want them around now that you've come back to life. New life gives you the eyes to see the fires for what they are. Time to put them out.
Yeah. It's daunting. You stomp and scream and worry you're going to burn your town to the ground. But your Father is waiting to help, and he has the means to put those fires out.
Five fires. Threatening to gain momentum. Name them. Run and ask your Dad for help.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Philippians 4
Suggested Ideas:
1. What fires are threatening? List five of them. Even if they're not blazing, put them on the list. Smoky Bear says that even the coals can create a forest fire.
2. Take some time to talk to your Father about the fires. If you need to, admit your role in not using the incinerator properly. Also spend time running to him for help.
3. You may want to pick one fire and come up with a game plan. Pick the most urgent issue and work with God on some steps. Bring in other people who love you and who you trust to help with the fire.
4. OK. So you're the "Special One" who has no fires. Lucky you. Please understand: this will not last long. You may want to look at some fire prevention possibilities so that, when fires do raise their flickering danger, you'll have a plan. What steps can you take to prevent forest fires in your life? Come up with a prevention plan.
Firefighters unite!

Day Thirty-Seven Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Countdown continues!
Below are some what-ifs about Lazarus' first death experience. None of them are fact; all of them are possibilities. Take a moment to ponder each one. How does it change your perception of the event?
* What if Lazarus died at the hands of another?
* What if Lazarus died on account of someone's negligence?
* What if Lazarus died because he was exposed to someone's illness?
* What if Lazarus died while he was attempting to help someone else?
Unless you live on the moon, you live among injustice. You may even die because of injustice. The world we live in is not right. Its brokenness seeps into everything we do, and rightness is often difficult to find. Unless you live on the moon, you have personal, painful experience with injustice. Some of it has been perpetrated on you directly. Some of it you have been forced to witness with your own eyes. Some of it has happened away from you, but you are painfully aware of its cost and its damage. Not sure about this? Pick up a newspaper or watch the news or listen to the radio. How many stories of injustice do you absorb without even thinking every single day?
Once again, a death-to-life traverse would have provided a fresh and vivid perspective to Lazarus, and he would have come out of the tomb energized and motivated to set things to rights. Our experience with new life in Jesus often has the same effect, and we must be careful to list to its pressure. This is not some new guilt trip. This is action motivated by pure grace. Grace has a way of doing that.
Because we have received what we don't deserve, we are urgent about other people who are experiencing pain that is undeserved.
Some injustices are very close, and in the power of Jesus' new life, you can do something personal, direct, and important to make things right. Some are not as close, and it may be necessary to do the loving work of justice from a distance. Either way, this is new-life activity, and flows from the second chance we've received because of Jesus and his love and grace.
Here are four possible ways to handle injustice:
1. Forgive, if the injustice is personal.
2. Fight, if the injustice needs an warrior.
3. Forge, if the injustice needs a path to rightness.
4. Fly, if the injustice has no solution but to provide a quick way out for anyone involved.
New life. New chances. New energy. A window of opportunity to let God use you to set things to rights.
What four injustices can you see? What can you do in the power of life?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Micah 6:6-8
Suggested Ideas:
1. What is on your list of four injustices? What can you begin to do? Which of the possible suggestions will you pursue? Tell the group about it.
2. If you have nothing on your own list, do some research and find some areas where you can make a difference working with another agency or church.
3. Not all injustice is big stuff. Find one or two little things you can do to set something to rights, even if it's small.
4. Buy some really fresh fruit or vegetables and before you eat half of them, give the other half away.
Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God,

Day Thirty-Eight Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Countdown continues!
Deep, wrenching experiences that push the edges of normal tend to break down our inhibitions and defenses. Such drama can open our hearts to vulnerability, to intimacy, to openness. Or we can choose instead to close up, shut down, and cocoon into ourselves as a means of protection.
Lazarus-living is a response to the life-change that Jesus brings, a change that changes everything. It is the reaction to His action, the call from outside the dark, challenging us to take a step of trust in him. Deep drama, indeed. Living out that change involves a choice between intimacy and protection.
The choice, friend, is yours.
But if Lazarus knew anything after the grave, it was that Jesus had his back. Jesus was watching and helping and protecting. Jesus could be trusted with anything, including his vulnerability.
Madeleine L'Engle wisely writes about the issue: “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. . . To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
To be alive is to be vulnerable. Is the opposite equally true? If we remove vulnerability, are we dead?
Push yourself and trust Jesus with three intimacies. Three friends you could bring closer. Three relatives you could trust more. Three secrets you could tell your spouse. Three pains that someone needs to know about. Three intimacies to break down the walls of fear and exchange them for the power of vulnerability. Do you trust Jesus with your heart? If so, he will take care with it and will guide you to share it with someone else. They may need it as much as you do.
Three intimacies. Share them with us. You may not want to be specific -- that's OK. But intimacy is a breath of fresh air; air that you need.
Suggested Scripture For Today: I John 4:7-21
Suggested Ideas:
1. Write down your three intimacies. Share one of them with someone else. Share your plan with us here.
2. If you're not ready to take the next step with your list, take the list to God. The most important intimacy we have is the one with him. Bare your secrets to him. He loves you. There's no reason to be afraid.
3. Spend some time with a close friend and set an agenda for being vulnerable with them.
4. Dance in the rain, or splash in a puddle, or stop whatever you're doing right now and tell the person standing closest to you that they're good or smart or beautiful or wise or all of the above.
You are all so brave and courageous. You've inspired and encouraged me.

Day Thirty-Nine Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Countdown continues!
Lazarus had a life. We don't know much about it. It was Life A. Like any life, Life A had a story. We know that the story included Jesus; Lazarus had met him, dined with him, became his friend, maybe even a close one. Perhaps, outside of the circle of disciples, Lazarus was Jesus' closest friend. For Lazarus, Life A came with that story.
Lazarus had a second life. We don't know much about it. It was Life B. Unlike any other life, Life B was layered onto Life A. It was extra; a bonus life Lazarus was not counting on. Like any life, Life B had a story.
Two lives. Two stories.
One life - Life A - included Jesus but did not include the power of resurrection. Life A was the old one, the normal one, the average one, the typical one, the one that everyone has. Jesus was a friend. An acquaintance of consequence, and a friendship of great devotion, perhaps. Jesus was someone who came to visit, but not a permanent fixture. Jesus was invited to be entertained and to entertain, but not necessarily worshiped. Jesus was a friend. But as with any friendship, there were boundaries.
Another life - Life B - was completely dependent on Jesus. It was his gift, and it was grace in Lazarus' heart and lungs and brain. Life B was the new one, the abnormal one, the abundant one, the strange and exciting one, the one that is rare and miraculous. And the relationship with Jesus was like nothing Lazarus had ever experienced. You could call it love, but it was on another plane than any love he'd known in Life A. There were no boundaries here, because this love removed fear. This love became energy. That energy gave Lazarus courage and power and confidence, even more than the simple fact that he had been brought back from the dead. Being alive now meant something completely different. This was a new story - a story of Jesus.
Two lives. Two stories. A contrast between what was and what is. A before-and-after picture, with Jesus' gift of new life being the pivot point. Two perspectives. Two conditions of existence. Two ways to approach every day, every week, every year. A choice.
Which story is yours? Which story do you tell? Which story do you live? Which story do people see you live out?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Matthew 16:13-28
Suggested Ideas:
1. Sit a spell and take a long look at which life you're living - Life A or Life B? Discuss the evidence with God.
2. Ask someone close to you, someone who is safe and you can trust, which of the lives they see you living. Do something with the answer.
3. Tell both stories to two people who may need to know. Ask God to show you the two people who will benefit from your telling the stories.
4. Tell us the story - one or both - on TLE. The power of your story can never be underestimated!
You don't need a forty-day experiment to keep you going, you know. You can live this Lazzie life on Friday. And Saturday. And all next week. And for the next year.
You can.

Day Forty Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Happy Ascension Day! You have officially arrived at the finish line.
All the little decisions matter. All the choices to do the right thing, make a difference, smile when you don't have to, dance when you're tired, sing when you're out of tune, run when you're weary - all those choices produce an impact that reverberates across the world, around to eternal places, and then back to you again, landing squarely in your own heart with a powerful thump. And BOOM! The steps you've taken not only have altered heaven and earth, they've changed you at the core of who you are.
All these things Lazarus would have decided to do differently - they're important. But they're not THE importance. They all spring from one source. This single-moment-in-time encounter hatched a thousand decisions. One instance of profound love and power gave birth to the ripples of grace that are still felt today.
Do you get it that because of Jesus love for Lazarus, and his gift of life, we are still reaping the benefits of that one grace-event?! Right here. Right now. The waves that kicked off way-back-when wash over us and cause us to live more fully.
No - THE IMPORTANCE was not the changes, not the decisions, not even the life, as abundant as it was. THE IMPORTANCE was a person. It was Jesus.
Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
After forty days, I hope your life is different. I think it would be wonderful for you to keep this up. Keep journaling. Keep seeing. Keep making provocative, life-living choices. Rock someone's world with life and generosity and love. Be outrageous. Be intentional. (Of course, you see what's happened now - the little Lazarus-trick: after forty days, some of this might be sinking in, and you may have made a wonderful habit of Lazzy living!)
I'd be thrilled to know that tomorrow - or six months from tomorrow - you did something to live like Laz. But only on one condition: that it springs from THE IMPORTANCE. Jesus.
Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
This whole thing right here? This Lazarus-living experiment? This joining of hearts and minds and souls across continents and oceans and time zones? There is only one reason, motivation, and wellspring of love. Jesus. THE IMPORTANCE.
Today, on the last day of The Lazarus Experiment for 2015, only one suggestion. Don't attempt to pull off that one big thing you were planning to do but never got around to. No lists today. No jumping or hollering or singing or leaving big tips or paying for someone's mocha. Just one thing.
One thing.
Ironically, it was Lazarus' sister, Mary, who nailed the reality of THE IMPORTANCE.
Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
One thing is needful. Sit at his feet. Listen to what he says. Pour out your love.
There is no more Lazzie thing you can ever do.
It's been a joy to spend these days with all of you.

Day 29 -35 The Lazarus Experiment 2015

Day Twenty-Nine Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
With a renewed perspective on life, and an altered view of his own time, and a new economy of faith and trust, Lazarus would have become a warrior.
Did he take up martial arts? No. Did he learn to shoot a gun? No. Did he join the Marines? I don't think so. But I do think Lazarus came out of the tomb with a keen and sharpened sense of justice and bravery.
Bravery because the words from Psalms suddenly were real: What can mere man do to me? A raised-up Lazarus was unstoppable in the face of any human resistance.
A sharpened sense of justice because a "death-to-life" perspective softens the heart toward those who are one-down, beaten-up, worn-out, and overwhelmed.
In my years as a pastor I have found this to be true: no one has more tenderness, compassion, and soft-heartedness than people who have teetered on the edge of the Great Chasm of Death and been pulled back from the precipice to live on. And these people, given a heightened sensitivity to injustice, are willing to put their lives, reputations, ego, money, time, energy - whatever - on the line to promote justice and go to battle for those who are helpless and hopeless, but not less.
Which is why it astounds me that Christians, who claim to know Jesus first-hand, and spout off about the change that has happened in their lives, can sometimes be so casual and mindless about justice. I rant about it because I am one of those, far too often.
Listen - If Lazarus added anything to his newly revised and edited bucket list, it was this: I will fight for the dignity of all people, and will place myself in whatever embarrassing, dangerous, costly situation is necessary to defend and provide compassion and justice.
You don't have to look far. It just takes Lazzie eyes. Look around you. Where will you take a stand?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Suggested Ideas:
1. Open a newspaper and read until a story stirs your compassion. Or, watch the TV news and do the same. Then take some kind of action on that compassion. It may be a note, or a Facebook post, or it may involve a bigger sacrifice. Just don't let it just sit there without action.
2. Before your day starts, ask God to give you a Lazarus heart of compassion. Then make sure you are aware of the people and needs around you, and that you are prepared to take some kind of action. Tell us about it.
3. Go into town or city with $100. In one hour, try to find as many ways possible to give it away in creative ways that make a difference.
Be bold! Be very courageous! The Lord is with YOU!

Day Thirty-One Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Ten steps separated Lazarus from Jesus. That space meant life and death. It meant dreams engaged and dreams crashed. It was ten steps that could change everything.
One thing I've wondered about: How did Laz get out? He was wrapped up tight in grave clothes. Did he hop? Did he get his feet free first, then shuffle the ten steps? Did he float? (I think I like that one best).
Does it matter? Does it matter how you get to Jesus?
What matters is that you move -lean - in his direction when you hear your name. After all, you are dead - unable to move. Anything you do at this point is a miracle; any step you take is because he has given you the strength and energized your bones to take it. Movement is what matters. To move is the miracle.
Ten steps to Jesus. Ten obstacles in the route to his embrace. He will give you what you need to get there.
Are you moving yet?
What's stopping you?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 1
Suggested Ideas:
1. List ten steps that seem to separate you from Jesus. What do you need to pray about?
2. Buy or make ten cards to take to the library and stick into books for people to pick up at random. If you've got the cash, put a dollar or a fiver in there.
3. Get ten one dollar bills and put them in places they'll be found.
4. Send ten encouraging emails to someone who would be surprised to find you in their inbox. Make them short, but strongly loving.
Ten days left! Let's finish strong!

Day Thirty-Two Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
What will you do now?
At some point, Lazarus made a list. New life had gotten into his bones quick. He had no way of knowing how long this thing would last. Did he have another week, or another decade? It's possible, since he experienced death and still had the taste in his mouth, that he felt a sense of urgency to start knocking things off his list.
He called his list: The Desires of My Heart. He got the name from Psalm 37, which connects delighting in the Lord with seeing your heart's desires unfold in reality. After being raised from the dead, Lazarus could not think of anything that would keep him from delighting in God! His heart was full of joy and overwhelming gratitude in a measure he'd never known. His new life also gave him hope that some of the things he had not been able to see happen in his life could now manifest.
So he made a list--nine desires of his heart--springing out of his love for Jesus and his lust for new life. And he presented them in conversation with God, not as demands, but as the dreams of a man who had been given a second-chance to see them happen.
Nine desires of the heart. A new heart. A new list.
What's on yours?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 37
Suggested Ideas:
1. Make a list! Nine desires! From a new-life heart!
2. Analyze your list. Which ones are totally out of your control? Which ones demand money? Which ones would God share on his list of things he desires for you? Which things can you do something about today?
3. Make a plan to take action on one of your desires today. Tell us about it. We'll pray with you.
4. Arm wrestle with someone you know you'll lose against.
He is able!

Day Thirty-Three Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
"Perfect love casts out fear."
Yeah, but . . .
Could there be any proof of love that is more durable, more unquestionable, than giving life where there is only death? I don't think so. That's how God himself has exhibited his own love toward us, because while we were still wicked and raging in stubborn rebellion, Jesus died for us and brought us life.
So you'd think that Lazarus, having been one of the prime exhibits in the display of God's love, would never be afraid again. Right?
God's love is always perfect, but what the enemy sets himself up to do is persuade us that it isn't. It's what he did with Eve in the Garden; it's what he attempts everyday with me and you. And we become afraid.
Like the angry poison tentacles of a lunatic octopus, fear has little sucker parts that slurp onto our relationships, our work, our hobbies, our houses, our whole life with Jesus. They grab with an overwhelming force and they're fierce to remove. They can squeeze and jerk and strangle us, taking our breath away and robbing us of the life Jesus came to provide. The only solution? Haul them into the light of his love. Over and over. Until the grip relaxes and the fear subsides.
Eight fears keep you back. Eight fears take your breath away and make you doubt his love for you. Eight fears steal the abundance of his life in you.
Name them. Expose them. Bring them to him and ask for his love to be shed abroad in your heart, releasing the tentacles and bringing freedom.
Suggested Scripture For Today: John 14
Suggested Ideas:
1. Make a list. Draw an octopus. Post it for us to see, if you're daring.
2. Set aside 30 minutes to communicate with God about your fears. Bring your list and/or your art.
3. Record the specific ways God confirms his love to you after you've talked. I believe that he will do this, either immediately or in the hours after you've brought your list to him. You have to watch for it.
4. Spend the day as a "fear hunter." Look for the signs of fear in people around you and fight to remove that fear with specific acts of love, grace, and honor.
Fear not - be not afraid!

Day Thirty-Four Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Getting a second go at life would mean the opportunity to reverse course, do a 180 degree turn-around, reinvent the reality of your existence. Death has a way of wiping the chalkboard completely clean. There's not a mark on it. How could there be? You're dead.
Jesus' call from the mouth of the tomb welcomes you to a clean slate. And he hands you a piece of chalk. In fact, he hands you a whole pack of colored chalk. And he points you to the board. "It's yours. I'll be here if you want my help."
As Lazarus sat looking at the slate of his life, chalk in hand, what did he resolve? He may have considered the things that he would NEVER want to show up on his slate again. So he may have decided on seven resolves, each one filling the blank: "I will NEVER EVER ________________ again!" Or, he may have made seven resolves that filled the blank a different way: "I will ALWAYS _______________ from this point on!"
Either way, he resolved to capitalize on the chance for a reverse, a blank slate, and a box of chalk. Before he put chalk to board, he would have made boundaries about what would and what would not show up on that slate. Maybe he made seven.
Seven resolves. I will - or I will not.
I know the word "resolutions" is a sour memory. As the traditional season rolls around every January 1, we make all kinds of resolutions. And we're resolved to be resolute on keeping those resolutions until our resolutions become irresolute.
Break down that noun - resolution. Re-Solution. It's looking at a solution, a problem, again. Revisiting a persistent issue. You've done it before, but this time you're looking at it differently, with an all-things-new perspective.
Break down that verb - resolve. Re-Solve. It's solving a problem. Again. With a fresh grasp of life, and a vigor that comes from the voice of Jesus.
Don't be embarrassed to revisit a problem. Don't be shy about tackling that same issue that's always seemed to hang around. Re-solve. Come up with a re-solution.
You have new life in Christ, because of his blood, because that blood has wiped the slate clean.
Here's your board; here's your box of chalk. Don't forget the eraser, because you can have all the do-overs you need. What are your seven resolves?
Suggested Scripture For Today: I Samuel 7
Suggested Ideas:
1. Determine a list of seven resolves, either "I will ALWAYS . . ." or "I will NEVER EVER . . ." Keep them in a place you can refer to them. Don't be afraid to alter them. Don't be concerned if you break them. They're not laws. They're not even rules. They're ways to use the chalk well.
2. Get a box of chalk and find some sidewalk. Write your seven resolves on the sidewalk for anyone to see - the more public, the better. Make it art. Or just temporary graffiti. Or both.
3. Get some poster board, or a chalk board, or one of those giant Post-It stick on posters and put it up in a random public place. Provide chalk or large markers or some other medium for people to use. On the top of the poster(s) write, "To the best of my ability, I resolve to . . ." Then offer the pen/chalk/marker to people around to add to the list. Take a picture for us. (Or you could write, "I wish I had never . . . " Basically the same material, but from a confession point of view.
4. DARING: Ask your spouse or someone who knows you very well this question: What is something I need to remove from my life? Or, What is something I need to add to my life?"
One week. Amazing. Only God knows what could happen.

Day Thirty-Five Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬ (This was supposed to be yesterday's post - so we're a little off. Sanity may or may not return tomorrow).
Countdown continues!
If you're anything like me, you feel guilty about it. Ashamed, really.
God invented it. On purpose. For us. It's not supposed to make us feel guilty. It's supposed to feel good. We shouldn't blush when it's mentioned. We should find joy in it. We're wired that way.
And he experiences it. And if you never had it, God would not be God, and he would not be good, and life would not be worth it.
But in spite of all that, I can still feel guilty.
Were we created for pleasure? I don't think that is the sole reason why people exist. I'm not a hedonist. We were created to give God glory.
But you don't give God glory when you're sad, mad, bitter, belligerent, or displeased. If you're discouraged, depressed, pissed off, or in pain, is God glorified in that?
Pleasure seems to be built into creation. In the way we experience things and in the way we would like others to experience things, and even in the way God responds to us. God, according to scripture, finds pleasure in us. He looks at you and smiles. He even dances over you. Can you imagine? God dancing. Because of you. Because of me.
We are intended for pleasure. (Interesting: that's the title of a popular book on sex in marriage!). Pleasure, even seeking it out, should not make us feel ashamed. It should make us feel like children of our Father in heaven.
With a four day grave-cation, Lazarus would have emerged with a sharpened sense that being dead is not what God intended for mankind. He, I think, would have been keenly aware that experiencing pleasure is not a sin, but a blessing and a gift. It's not wrong; it's very very right. Can it lead to sin? Of course. Scripture warns against the love of pleasure. Scripture also says that at God's right hand are forever-pleasures. But if you're avoiding anything that could lead to sin, you may as well be--well--dead.
Celebrating life is experiencing pleasure. Lazarus may have identified six pleasures that would be pursued on the living side of the tomb. You might do the same - six pleasures, simple things that you would be able to make a part of your everyday life. Don't feel guilty. Don't be ashamed.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 16
Suggested Ideas:
1. Make a list of six pleasures that you don't experience now but that you'd like to experience at some point. (I know I don't need to tell you this, but if the pleasure you write down is immoral - I think you know what to do).
2. Pray through your list of six, asking God to lead you and provide for you. This isn't about making you rich, and it isn't at all like the Robin Williams as the Genie in Aladdin. It is you, communicating with the Lord of Heaven and Earth, your Father, Daddy, in heaven. It's about what you enjoy in his vast creation.
3. What could you do today to enjoy and find pleasure in your Father? What could you do today that would bring delight to him?
4. ICE CREAM! Show us the pictures!

Day 15 - 21 The Lazarus Experiment 2015

Day Fifteen Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Space. The final frontier.
I'm not talking about a trek to the stars. I'm talking about the space in your clock; in your calendar; in your day.
It's the final frontier because everybody seems unfamiliar with the territory and afraid to go there. Those who do go there are labeled as lazy or crazy.
Space is all the holes we think we must fill or die trying. The twenty minutes in our day that is not scheduled. The one evening this month where you're Daytimer is blank. The rare minute that may slip by without a detailed agenda for its budget.
You are overbooked. Overstressed. Over-planned. Over-scheduled. Overdone.
And overwhelmed.
Lazarus would have tossed his watch and his calendar in the Dead Sea.
"But," you say, "what about redeeming the time, making most of every opportunity? Doesn't Jesus demand that we stay busy for the Kingdom?"
It never ceases to floor me that Jesus needed space. Sometimes he just dropped everything and took off. He even dropped his closest friends and went alone, because friends take up too much space.
We have been taught that idle time is the devil's playground. What if he claimed it because he knew that we needed the space to connect with God?
In our busy-every-moment-or-we-will-fail-like-a-toothless-bum-in-the-gutter-of-life world, space makes us feel guilty, like we're not doing anything.
We even go to great measures to plan our free time, so that it's not free anymore -- it's planned! Booked! Spent! Expensive! Not Free!
When is the last time you just sat and looked out a window. No book. No computer. No friend. No pet. No music. No TV. No Bible.
Lazarus, to his administrative assistant: "Cancel my appointments. For the rest of the day I'm doing nothing. Not one thing."
Do the same. Boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 131
Suggested Ideas:
1. Carve out 15 minutes a day for a week and do nothing during them.
2. Take off your wrist watch for a week.
3. Go camping alone, or take a long walk without your iPod.
4. Sit in a coffee shop where you can see the door and pray specifically for every person who walks in.
Don't be discouraged, friend. We're getting into the hard part of The Experiment. It would be easy to give up. Don't. The best rewards are yet to come. Hang in there and fight it out to the end. You can make it.

Day Sixteen Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Joyous and happy, Lazarus floated through the first week of his post-death existence with a smile on his face and a dance in his heart. He woke up smiling, and he didn't stop with that silly grin all day long. He would catch himself shaking his head in full-out wonder, and then offer praise to God audibly and in front of anyone who happened to be close. He did not blush to praise Jesus; to tell the story. He must have told that story a thousand times if he told it once. He could not come down off his new-found abundance. Life was full, faith was energized, joy was abounding, and then he sinned.
Then he sinned.
Not a another single person knew. It was Tabitha again, with her cloak pulled back just so and her shoulder bared for just a fraction of a minute. And that look. THAT LOOK! Martha had to poke Laz in the ribs to get his eyes back to his work, but later that day he nursed the glimmering memory, and it became sin.
Do you remember the first time you sinned after you came to Jesus? How did that make you feel? What did it do to your new life?
I think Lazarus may have been blown away.
"All things new" and all that--sounds peachy keen--but this is not new. This is old. This feels as familiar as a stick in the eye. I've been here before. I thought all this was over, that I was a "new man," that Jesus was enough. And now I've spoiled it all. My new life isn't so new after all. It's back to the same-ol', same-ol'. So much for a new and improved Lazarus. Crap.
He may have become physically ill at the thought that he had betrayed everything Jesus had just accomplished. The awareness that sin was still possible and probable and that guilt still smelled just as foul as before crushed him.
"Hey, Jesus and the boys will be coming back from their camping trip today, and I've invited them over for a little get-together tonight," Mary announced. "Hope that's OK."
No. Not OK, Lazarus thought. What will I say? Where will I go? How can I hide?
Visit the scene. Lazarus is lounging, visiting with neighbors as the party gets going. Jesus walks in, surrounded by his disciples. Lazarus moves away a little. He avoids eye-contact. He finds a corner and munches on some grapes, head down.
But Jesus manages to get back there without being noticed. Before Laz can dodge him, Jesus grabs his elbow and pulls him around. The eyes of these two close friends lock, and Lazarus searches there. It is clear that Jesus knows. There is sorrow and pain. But there's more. Jesus' eyes brighten, a smile forms, his face lights. Jesus wraps his arms around Lazarus and pulls him tight and whispers into his ear.
"I've already taken care of that, Lazarus."
Sin lurks around, waiting for a chance to bring death back, to resurrect guilt and shame and fear, to repaint the blackness of our hearts. Jesus' gift of new life powers the battle to fend off sin's advances and deliver them empty. Lazarus had a choice: Believe that Jesus had accomplished what he could not do for himself, or go back to the losing battle and cycle down the familiar path of guilt.
You have that choice. What will you do when you sin?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 51
Suggested Ideas:
1. Creatively express the truth about sin and your new life using words, music, art, or photography. Be sure and share the results with us.
2. Take time out of your day to sit with Jesus and confess what he already knows. Confession is saying "yes" to his appraisal and "yes" to his remedy.
3. Tell a close trusted friend that you need them to sit in for Jesus today. Tell them that you just need to have Jesus present while you tell about some things that are tempting you, tripping you up. Explain that sometimes you long for Jesus to be physically present, but you know that's not really possible yet, so your friend will have to do. Then spend an hour unloading your junk.
4. Cheer and clap all day long for anyone who does anything remotely good and right -- the checker in the grocery store, the McDonald's drive-through worker, your kids, your spouse, the bank teller, the customer. Holler and clap and draw genuine attention. (People will be suspicious - try to do it in a way that is authentic or someone may thing you're being facetious.)
Here's a special note to you - you know who you are:
I know you're still wondering what this crazy thing is all about. You may just feel like you don't have time for this thing. You may feel like you have nothing to offer and nothing to say. You may feel like you're already 15 days behind and you can't catch up. You may be wondering - when will all these posts stop showing up in my Facebook?
I get it. But can I encourage you to just jump in? Maybe just for a day, or the next several days. Just try it, give it a little time, interact a little bit, and see how it goes. I'd love to know your impressions--positive or not.
If you don't try it out, that's OK. There have been participants in TLE who never post at all, but read all of it everyday and tell me later that God used this little band of former zombies to change things in their hearts. So please, lurk on and keep reading. It's OK.

Have a great day Lazzie Peeps!

Day Seventeen Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Ever watched an episode of Hoarders?
Then you'll know where we're going here. You may even decide you can skip this because, a) You already get it that clutter is of the Devil, or b) You don't want to get it at all, and you're just fine with all your devil-worship and stuff.
I know. Sounds extreme. But really, you haven't seen my garage. The devil may live in there. But if he does, he'd be hard to find.
Lazarus would have spent a significant amount of his new-found life the first month or so getting rid of clutter. The stuff in his closets. The junk in his garage. The mountain in his yard. The amazing gathering of seemingly inconsequential crap in that one drawer by the phone that holds keys that don't work, batteries that don't fit, coins that jumped from my pockets, bent paperclips, rubber bands, pens that don't have ink, a grocery list from 1987, the business card of a guy who wanted to interest me in some investments and I thought, Hey, maybe someday! and I stowed the card but I no longer have any money to invest because of all the junk I've bought since then.
Wait, we were talking about Lazarus! When did this get so personal?!
Here is what I surmise: Once you're on the other side of that tombstone, all the junk doesn't add up to much. It may have before -- in fact, it may have been your whole life. But now that your whole life has been spent, and a new one has taken its place, all that clutter just tends to muck things up and make life go slower. And if there's one thing you don't want in your new life, it's for it to be weighed down by a bunch of junk.
The Lazzie thing to do is to start right away and clear it out. Here are some places to start. Pick one. You may need some help. And a counselor who specializes in hoarding:
* Kitchen
* Garage
* Bedroom closet
* Hall closet
* Pantry
* Basement
* Crawl space
* Car trunk
* Attic
* Friends
* Work
* Hobbies
* Habits
* Thoughts
* Heartaches
* Fears
* Miscellany of every sort
OK. Pick one. Show us before and after pictures (unless it's time to get rid of all the pictures!). Time to de-clutter your life. Call the refuse trucks and let's get started.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Hebrews 12:1-2
Suggested Ideas:
1. Pick a drawer and clean it out. You'll be surprised how good it feels.
2. Do a de-clutter of your email inbox.
3. Take a look at your Facebook friend list and make some decisions.
4. Walk through your house on a thanksgiving journey, thanking God for each thing by name. This will help in two ways: it will stimulate your gratitude, and it will clarify your real need for any more stuff.
Grace and peace,

Day Eighteen Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
There may be no surer evidence for grace than friendship.
I love the descriptions, scant as they are, of Jesus' relationship with the Lazarus family. It sounds so easy, so warm. I like the eating and the relaxing and the hanging out. I think it would be great to have dinner with Jesus and just occupy with each other for a couple hours.
But that's probably not going to happen soon unless Jesus decides to return this week or call me home. Until then, it could get lonely - very lonely - and I need the flesh-and-blood evidence of his grace and acceptance. So do you.
That's what friends are for.
It would be a Lazzie thing to do to connect with your friends. To say a random "Hello!" without warning. To send a card or a token of love. To hide a surprise or to plan a trip. To share coffee or tea or a beer. Those connections are grace-fuel, and we dare not go too long without tanking up. We're not made to run on fumes.
If you know me, you realize that I am a devout proponent of Facebook. I think it is amazing, and one of the most innovative and radical technologies in the last decades. It promotes connection and it's been so very good to make friends across all kinds of barriers - spacial, temporal, relational. It's easy.
And that's why I would say that if your relationships - especially those that are grace-rich - are on Facebook only, and if that's the only way you're making the connection work, you need to step it up. Sure, you can pull grace from that. But you need more. You need face-to-face. Somehow, Jesus lives in those moments.
We've already seen that one of the first things Lazarus did when he was up on his feet was to throw a party and be with his friends. He knew they needed to see him, to touch him, to talk. He needed it, too. And I think that, once Jesus was removed from earth and caught up into heaven, Lazarus probably hosted many more gatherings.
Need grace? Jesus is the source, but he often uses other people as his delivery system.
Suggested Scripture For Today: I Corinthians 12:12-26
Suggested Ideas:
1. Connect in a surprising way to a friend. Go out of your way to show grace.
2. Take a loaf of homemade bread to your neighbors.
3. Take a lonely person to a ball game or shopping for groceries.
4. Carry a pack of post-it notes everywhere you go today and write encouraging notes - could be for specific people you know will find them, but could be for anyone who might wander by and see them! Leave them everywhere!
Have a great day, friend.

Day Nineteen Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Do you think Lazarus ever got tired of telling his story?
The first week was probably exciting, and I would assume that Laz told anyone willing to listen all about his real-death experience. Scripture makes it sound like word about Lazarus spread quickly, and there were probably loads of people who were gathering to touch "The Man Brought Back From Death." I'm sure Lazarus was asked hundreds of times, "So, how did it feel when you were dead?" and "Did you know right away that it was Jesus calling your name?" and "What was the first thing you wanted to do when you came back to life?" "What did you see in heaven?" "Do you have an agent?"
(How do I know that people wanted answers to these questions? WE'RE STILL ASKING!)
I wonder if the thrill wore off. After countless questions about the same thing, and press conferences covering the "Amazing Events at Bethany," and the conspiracy theorists hatching plots about zombies and cannibalism and "The Dead Amongst Us" - I think Laz must have tired of the whole thing. At some point, maybe he just answered every question with "Jesus - it was Jesus."
And then, of course, Jesus himself died. What would that have meant to Lazarus and telling his story? Would he hole up at Bethany and pull into the countryside to hide for fear of the Jewish leadership and the Roman cross? They wanted to kill him, too.
We have fair evidence that Lazarus eventually told his story again. He became a prominent advocate of the gospel - the good news - and was responsible for getting that news out to the world. And who better to do that than Lazarus? He knew first-hand - literally first hand - what it meant that Jesus came to save sinners from the devastating consequences of sin. Eventually, Lazarus stopped worrying about the political correctness of new life in Jesus, stopped being afraid of the consequences, and started opening his big mouth.
To live like Laz - we've got to open our big mouths.
If you know Jesus enough to have tasted the same death-to-life experience, you know the gospel first-hand, too. Your story may be tired and old to you. Or you may not think it's especially exciting or germane. Lazarus may have come to the place where he considered his story old and worn. "You don't want me to tell you that whole thing again, do you? Really?" But I think people genuinely wanted to hear it. I want to hear it!
So to, your story needs to be told.
There's a great old gospel song that starts with this phrase: "Sing them over again to me - wonderful words of life."
This story - the one where Jesus makes you all new - this story never gets old. Tell someone. Tell everyone. God did something great with you, and he deserves the credit.
Suggested Scripture For Today: John 9:1-25
Suggested Ideas:
1. In two or three paragraphs, write your story, then mail it to five people who've never heard it before.
2. Ask someone you know as a Christ-follower to tell you their story. We may know several believers, but we may not have ever heard their story.
3. Arrange to take a meal to your neighbor, or mail a treat to a distant friend.
4. Take one hour to spend with Jesus alone, with the express purpose of thanking him specifically for all the things he did to hunt you down and love you into his family.

Day Twenty Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
You're half way through this experiment! How are you doing?
I don't know some of you. I may know your name, but I don't know your life. But I can be certain that right about now some or all of these things are true:
1. You're wondering about what you got into with this whole Lazarus thing.
2. You're feeling guilty because you're not keeping up.
3. You've had some kind of major upheaval or life problem.
4. You've run out of ideas for The Experiment, and you're just looking back on your day and trying to come up with something that seems like something that maybe Lazarus would have done.
5. You're tired and weary and worn out and you don't have any energy left.
6. You wish Lazarus was around so he could try The (insert your name here) Experiment and see how he liked it.
7. If Lazarus was really alive, and you met him in the street, and he started in about how wonderful life is and how everything was just going great and that if your life is with Jesus then you have the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in your heart -- well, you might just have to punch him in the nose.
This will not help, but you may want to know that this happens to me every year. That's why I want you to do one thing.
Don't give up.
Here's what I've noticed: if I keep at this thing and get through to the end of the forty days, something amazing happens. Lazarus gets into my head. The whole idea of looking around me and seeing things through the eyes of a resurrected person takes hold and begins to be a more permanent thing. Each time I do this Experiment, my life gets reoriented a little more, and I get a better hold on what abundant life is engineered by Jesus to be.
So keep at it. Determine that you will hold on to the end. Cut loose of all the guilt and pressure. Sit with Jesus a few minutes. Read John 11 again.
And then tomorrow, set about to do one thing that gives dramatic evidence to your life in Jesus.
You can do this. I'm with you. You'll be happy you stuck with it.
Besides, punching Lazarus in the nose would only hurt your hand.
Suggested Scripture For Today: John 11
Suggested Ideas:
1. Take the day off TLE.
2. Grab a song book or hymnal and sing for 30 minutes to yourself.
3. Write a love letter you didn't intend to write.
4. Call a friend and take them for an ice cream sundae.
May God back up his dump truck of grace and unload it in your front yard,

Day Twenty-one Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Your worst day with Jesus is better than your best day without him, and your worst day alive is better than your best day dead.
Lazarus gained a working heart, a functioning brain, and five or more senses that worked when Jesus re-issued his permission to live. But he also gained one amazing view - the panoramic vista of abundant life.
Do you have a picture in your mind of a scene that changed your life completely?
I have several burned into my memory. The first time I saw the Grand Canyon as an adult. Looking out from the Capital Building in Washington D.C. at the space between there and the Washington Monument filled with hundreds of thousands of men. Holding my daughter, April, in my hands on the day she was born. The breathtaking sight of my wife, Linda, coming around the corner of the doorway on the arm of her father on our wedding day. Holding my grandson and looking into his big eyes for the first time. To say these moments were life-changing reduces them to a cliche. They leveled me, and I have never recuperated.
They also have framed my life and my perspective. Every moment of my life is cast with the color of these scenes, like lights on a stage play.
Now, translate all that to Lazarus and the bandages removed, the eyes open. He would never forget. And everything else is sawdust.
We here at TLE have seen this perspective alive and active in the hearts of our participants. Over the years we have shared breathtaking vistas. And we have come alongside as some traveled the darkest roads imaginable. And there are others, some whose stuff we know, and many whose stuff we will never know, and some along for the journey this year, all hanging on to this central truth - I have today, and I have Jesus, and that is enough.
Debora, whose husband passed away during The Lazarus Experiment, used these words: "living in the now." Shocking words from someone who faced off with death as close as a breath. Now can be brutal. But you have Grand Canyon eyes. You have new baby eyes. You have wedding bliss eyes.
The rest?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 116
Suggested Ideas:
1. When the ebb and flow of your day brings you to the lowest point, stop and be Lazarus in that moment. Don't try to squirm out of it, or convince yourself you feel better than you do. Just face it honestly. Tell us about it.
2. Share some of your life-changing moments with someone who's never heard them before.
3. Write a thank-you note to Jesus for the life-altering Lazarus perspective.
4. Dance with someone you love. Or a stranger.
Do something outrageously loving tomorrow!

Day 22 - 28 The Lazarus Experiment 2015

Day Twenty-Two Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Will you risk losing what he gave to you?
If you lose your cell phone, and you go four days without it, and then your husband finds it in the planter by the front door, you will probably learn your lesson and keep better track of that phone. You won't let it get far from your purse.
If you lose your credit card, and you don't know where it is for four days, and you have to make all the calls, and then the barrista at Starbucks calls you and says you left it on the table, you will make sure you never do that again. You won't take it out of your wallet.
If you lose your kid, and he's missing for four hours, and you're frantic and panicked and about to lose you mind, and then a neighbor finds him walking with a stranger, and brings him home, you will tie a leash around his waist and make sure he's never out of your sight again.
If you lose your life, and you're dead for four days, and then Jesus brings you back to life, you may determine that you will do whatever it takes to protect yourself from disease, from ill health, from danger, and from anything that might threaten to take life away from you again. And you would lock yourself away in your house, in a big antiseptic bubble, and wear gloves.
And you'd be wrong.
I wonder if Lazarus ever thought about these words from Jesus: "Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." I wonder if he thought, What if it's my second life? Does that count?
If you have been handed your life back after it was taken away, would you hoard it and protect it and keep it in a little bottle so that no one could ever take it from you again? Or would you give it up?
We're going to get real serious now. We've been at this thing for over twenty days. We've been celebrating new life. And it's fun, and it should be.
But it's not yours. You've been handed a life, one you didn't deserve, and it belongs to the one who gave it to you. And in order to keep it, to hang onto it, to make sure it's not ripped away from your hands by the Ultimate Enemy, you're going to have to give it up. You're going to have to give it back to the one who gave it to you. It's the only way to make sure you will keep it.
Yeah - it doesn't make sense.
When Lazarus finally got around to asking the question -- What now? -- I think he must have considered the options. Keep it safe, don't take any risks, use a lot - A LOT - of hand sanitizer, and never, ever hang out with those Jesus fanatics who are just looking to get themselves killed. Or . . .
Or lay my life down; surrender it, sacrifice it, call it done, and give it over completely to Jesus.
One way you'll save it. One way you'll lose it. Again.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Matthew 16:21-28
Suggested Ideas:
1. Give something precious away.
2. Make a plan to give time to a stranger or a needy person. Don't make it easy. Pick something to do or someone to help that you don't really like.
3. Do something embarrassingly silly and childish.
4. Express your love for someone in a way that is uncomfortable for you, but is easy to see for them.

Day Twenty-Three Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Lazarus is the poster-boy for do-overs.
Just imagine sitting in a spot on a mountain between two valleys. From this place you can see what has transpired in your life up until this point - the trail, the historical markers along the way, the life and times of you. But now, looking down the other direction, you have an opportunity to reverse course. Because you've been given a second chance, you can take more responsibility for blazing a trail that is new, and because you've hiked the one trail, you know what to avoid this time around. You also have new ideas about what makes the hike really great.
"All things have become new," and a new path is possible. When you started your new life in Christ (and I hope you have*), you were given a clean slate. A do-over.
And there's no reason to think that today is any different. You have a clean slate now, in this moment, on this day. It's never too late to live like Laz.
So what will you do differently? If yesterday is prologue, what will today be like? If yesterday was old-living, what will today's new life bring? How can you determine to intentionally cut a trail that will not revisit the same potholes, the same traffic jams, the same besetting bogs? How can you decide to traipse into new wonders, new vistas?
Jesus Christ, the Bible says, is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I am not. Lazarus was not. You are not.
You are new. Blaze a provocative, thrilling, Jesus-following trail today. It's a do-over, but you don't have to travel the same road.
Suggested Scripture For Today: John 8
Suggested Ideas:
1. Ask God to help you make a list of the roadblocks that keep coming up in your life. If it's sin, you'll need to repent and confess. Pick out one, and pray that he would give you the route today that cuts a detour. What is that detour? What will you do to follow it? Share it with us.
2. It's always better to blaze new territory with a friend. Ask someone to be a trail-blazer with you.
3. Give flowers to someone who has done nothing to earn them.
4. Do something hard, so hard that you've been unwilling to even consider it. But do it with God's strength.
You may have noticed we're ramping up the equation. Hold on, and pray. It's going to get interesting.

Day Twenty-Four Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
"And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors."
You, living-over-one, are on a mission. A mission from God. You are the Reconciled, and your mission is to reconcile.
The big, "now what?" for Lazarus must have been a no-brainer. Really. Once you've tasted death on your cold hard rigor-mortised tongue, and returned to the light of day, is there really a question about your plan for the future? You are not going to hit the recliner and spend your days watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. (Well, maybe Jeopardy. For the learning).
No. There is a buzz in your heart that will not be satisfied unless you can do one thing: share what you've got with somebody else.
I don't think this realization hit Lazarus in the early days. I believe he was reeling--first with excitement, then with great grief due to Jesus' own death. But once Lazarus recognized that Jesus himself had beaten death, and the full weight of the glory and awe of all that hit him over the head and situated itself forever in his heart, I think Lazarus knew. This is the message. This is the truth. Jesus puts death away, forever. And I am the proof. (Go ahead - sing that!)
As participants in that new life ourselves, our mission is clear. We are the Reconciled. And we represent the Possibilities. We are ambassadors of the Life-Giver. And so, like Paul, we can say, "HEY YOU! YES, YOU! BE RECONCILED TO GOD!"
As bearers of the Ministry of Reconciliation, we have our joyous work cut out for us. Reconciliation means bringing persons together. Business partners who are threatening to sue one another are reconciled when they work out their differences and pack up the lawyers. A husband and wife who are pulling farther apart every day are reconciled when they take the courage to get close again. God and Person A who can't possibly carve out a relationship because one is Holy and the other is NOT! are reconciled when Jesus applies permanent stain removal to sin. And we--the living, breathing, examples of that spiritual reality--get to help MAKE IT HAPPEN.
So, what will you do, oh Reconciled One? Where will you apply the special spiritual glue of reconciliation?
Suggested Scripture For Today: 2 Corinthians 5 (You really need to read this. Read it as if you were Lazarus reading it. It makes so much sense!)
Suggested Ideas:
1. "Irreconcilable" is nonsense if God is in the picture. Look for "irreconcilable" situations and begin to pray about them.
2. The most powerful reconciliation is the one where you've been part of the problem. With whom could you reconcile today?
3. Make a list of ten people who need to be reconciled to God. Now pick one of them and do something to push that agenda one step more.
4. Form a "Reconciled Posse" of people who will help pray for each other and the Ministry of Reconciliation God has for you.
The last ten days of The Lazarus Experiment are coming up, and I want to encourage you to invite some friends for the Big Finish. I know it's hard to do forty days (Good on you for doing that, by the way!). But anyone can pull of ten days. Think about who you'll invite.

 Day Twenty-Five Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
Why is it we only connect with some people at funerals?
It would be interesting to surprise the guests at your Bereavement Dinner by showing up between the carrot Jello and the sliced ham and scalloped potatoes.
Which is just what Lazarus did. The period of mourning was still in full swing when Jesus called Lazarus back to life. Lazarus crashed his own death party: "Surprise! Thanks for coming! Who brought the brownies?"
Imagine working the room. There's Aunt Betty, who would not miss the opportunity to get in on all the latest family gossip. You shake hands with your cousin, twice-removed, Bob, who you remember married someone who divorced him, so he technically is not part of the family anymore, but he still enjoys the funereal atmosphere. Your wife is there, of course, and she's happy to see you, but there are people in the room you've never met; at least you don't remember meeting them.
"So, do I know you?" you ask.
"Not really," they say, "I'm just here for the rolls." And you have to admit, the rolls are pretty good.
Would this second-life change the way you look at this room full of people? Close your eyes and do a panoramic shot in your head of the people sitting and noshing at the tables AT YOUR FUNERAL DINNER. Who are they and why are they here? What did life look like the first time on the train? Now that you've been dead and have realized new life because of Jesus, does anything shake down with this group?
It would seem to me that being given a second go-round would motivate a dramatic change. It would prompt me to reconsider shallow connections, too-casual friendships; it would make me ditch the relationship-lite nature of my dealings with other people. No more skimming, no more thin love, no more red-punch-and-cookies fellowship. Cotton-candy relationships are the old way of handling these people. I understand now that life is too short for all that fluff.
Your new life calls you to take on the hurt, the pain, the struggle, the wrestling of deep relationship. Jesus has breathed resurrected life into your once-dead lungs, and part of the package is to engage in the raucous party of people all around you. Finding a tiny house in the middle of the Northern Territories hundreds of miles from another human being is not what Lazarus longed for. (Well, maybe for a week!)
So, look around. It's time to stop breezing through with the people you love. It's time to start going deep. Not snorkel-deep but scuba deep. Submarine deep. What have you got to lose?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Romans 12 (Read it first in your usual translation, then The Message)
Suggested Ideas:
1. List the relationships in your life that demand a deeper, more vital connection because of new life in Jesus.
2. List ten ways to take those relationships deeper. Pick one relationship and do the first thing on your list.
3. Write a note to someone today expressing in clear, solid words why they are precious to you. Don't make it a Hallmark card, make it real and make it yours.
4. Going deeper will be messy. But messy does not need to be permanently damaging. Tell someone you're willing to get messy with them.
Fifteen days left. Time to jump-start your good intentions and finish well.

Day Twenty-Six Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
There are life-altering moments that forever change the way you communicate with another person.
I once learned that an older man I did not like at all, who was arrogant and rude and obstinate and enjoyed it, had lost a child at a very young age. I still didn't particularly like the man, but I talked to him much differently after that revelation.
I remember another older man, who seemed very quiet and stand-offish, came to me with an extraordinary gift that I'd done nothing to earn but needed very much. We had never talked about the situation before, but after that moment, he and I could talk about almost anything.
Think of the month before your honeymoon and the month after. Something changed, and communication would never be the same.
Imagine Lazarus talking to Jesus before the whole resurrection thingy. Would things have changed afterward? I think it was altogether different. Why?
I see it this way: Jesus and Laz knew one another and were even friends. That's a certain basis of relationship, and a certain kind of communication flows from it. But when Jesus got into Lazarus' head from the other side of the tombstone and called his name and urged him out, the relationship was altered; the level of communication was never the same again. There must have been an intimacy there, formed from the life-giving gift of a savior, and the nature--the very core of that relationship--would have been forever altered. That means that the form, style, level, and content of communication would also be profoundly magnified.
How did you talk to Jesus when you first began your relationship with him? Has it changed?
Listening to a new Christian pray is one of the most refreshing things to a dull spirit. The honesty and lack of pretension is daring. The naiveté of non-religious words is thrilling. The intimacy of those prayers is heart-rending and beautiful. That's Lazarus prayer.
But over time, our prayers become saturated with spiritual jargon. We lose the intimacy for the sake of expediency. We stop our dependence on that communication and start considering prayer a chore, an appointment that must be kept because someone told us that this was a "discipline" and that we had to do this to make sure we didn't lose out on all God's blessings. We began to see prayer as good karma: if I do this, he'll give me that.
In reality, it is those blessings--all that is enjoyed as part of the abundant life--that is the engine to joyous, intimate prayer. But we change things around, alter the air waves of communication.
We're learning to live like Lazarus. The way Lazarus communicated with Jesus, (i.e. prayed) would have been dramatically changed on the other side of the grave. How does your prayer-experience reflect new life? What would today look like if resurrected Jesus walked through it with you?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 145
Suggested Ideas:
1. In our country we celebrate "Take your child to work day." Pick one day this week, and invite Jesus along. And then act like he really is there with you, and let your communication with him all through the day be just as real and as pertinent as if he was physically present.
2. If we talked to our friends the way we talk to God, what would our conversations be like? Spend an hour talking to God as if he were a close friend.
3. Ask someone to stand-in for Jesus. Tell them they don't need to say anything, but just to listen to you as if they were Jesus. Then talk to him.
4. Use sticky notes on the mail boxes on your block, and write some words of hope and encouragement. (Make sure it's not too windy!)

Day Twenty-Seven Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
The crowds were gone. All the hoopla and partying was over. Lazarus, having slept soundly for the first time in three days, woke up to Martha's usual breakfast aromas. He stretched and yawned, and every muscle reminded him that he was alive. Again.
He remembered his agenda for the day and bounced out of bed. Now that the crowds had dispersed -- mostly to prepare for Passover -- he had a little better chance of pulling off his plan. Jesus and his disciples had gone out to the wilderness for a few days to cool off the wave of publicity that was beginning to crest in Judea. Mary and Martha had a major clean-up to accomplish after the wake/re-birth celebrations had ended. And Lazarus needed to get back to Bethany business. But first, he just wanted to sneak away and be alone and - well - he knew what needed to be done. It wasn't going to be easy, but he had been formulating his decision for days.
After breakfast Laz kissed his sisters goodbye.
"Are you sure you should be going back to work? Maybe you should take a few more days to rest up."
"Mary, really, I'll be OK. I've been fine ever since I crawled out of the hole." He hugged her with assurance, firm and strong.
"Don't forget your lunch," Martha said, handing him a basket of bread and dates and dried fish. Lazarus lifted the cloth covering the food and smiled. There was enough for ten men.
"You know how hungry you've been!" Martha defended the volume of her preparations. Laz gripped the lunch and walked out of the door into real life.
"Why are you skipping? You look like a child!" Martha called out. "You're going to trip and fall you silly man! You don't want to end up going back to the vault so soon!"
He skipped anyway. He headed down the road the direction of his business, but once he was out of view, he took the detour, around the olive grove, down the hill, and to the graveyard.
At the tomb, he sat down on a stone outcropping near the entrance. It wasn't his plan to go in. It was his plan to visit. Once. Only once more, and then never again.
It was all such a blur, and the memories that were more clear he hadn't confided to anyone. But as he stared down into the darkness of the cave, he choked, the tears coming down his cheeks, his eyes pouring out what his heart had held in since . . .
That hole in the ground--that was the enemy. He knew that now, more than ever. His visit here today was to make a declaration--of war, of victory. He wasn't arrogant, and he didn't raise his voice. But he spoke into the grave. He talked to the nemesis.
"That's it, you know. You can't have me again. See here? I'm living. I'm alive and breathing and running and skipping. My heart beats and my sweat stains my shirt and everything else is working fine. You had me once. And yes, I know I will probably die again. But listen carefully to me now: YOU DO NOT OWN ME.
Laz thought of all the times in his life when death, subtly and imperceptibly, had crept in and soured his life. He envisioned the cloud that used to hang over him; maybe he only really saw it for what it was after he'd heard Jesus call him out. But that cloud was gone, and he was here to vow that it would never return.
"I know this now. Jesus is life. He is everything. He knows no enemy that he cannot vanquish. Because he is life, I have been raised from the dead; Jesus has purchased my freedom from you. Jesus has shown you for what you are, a manipulative, weak, shell of a reality.
"I'm here to tell you this: You lost. Jesus won. You no longer have power over me. This is over."
He stood and faced down the hole. "You do not own me. You do not own me. YOU. DO. NOT. OWN. ME."
He grabbed his lunch, turned his back, and skipped away. He never visited that place again, for the rest of his life.
Suggested Scripture For Today: I Corinthians 15
Suggested Ideas:
1. Skip where people can see you do it.
2. Have a praise gathering of one in a cemetery. Sing loud, but don't disturb the mournful.
3. Offer to babysit for a young mom and dad to give them an evening alone.
4. Bake three loaves of bread. Give one to your neighbor, give one to a family member, give one to a stranger.
Hope in him,

Day Twenty-Eight Devotional ‪#‎tledevo‬
After being dead, and then being alive, everything else is extra.
Sucking in that first breath, Lazarus may have jolted with the awareness that the simple draft of air was a gift. A freebie. Extra. He didn't deserve it. It came out of nowhere, unexpected. Dropped into the middle of a tomb, that one gasp, filling Laz' lungs with oxygen, was grace in gaseous form. He breathed it as wonderful. And he took another.
We grow used to the idea of living, until losing life comes very close. If you've ever been close to death, you may know a little how Lazarus felt about his new life breathing. I lost my older brother when I was about twenty. I remember such anger for losing him to death. But I also remember a determination not take life for granted; to seize the moment and all that. From the grave's edge vantage point, every moment looks like a gift. Each day is extra.
Why is it that it takes a funeral, or a dramatic illness, or a birth, to bring us back around? Why can't we live in the extra every day?
To be a Christ-follower means squaring off with the realities of our situation--we willfully break the relational bond with God, and we become aware that we're doomed. Death is the only option. But Jesus has performed the impossible: he's purchased a means to restore the shattered pieces of our intimacy with God. When we recognize the gift and give ourselves to the truth, all of life becomes extra.
Abundant life is living out of the extra. Your next breath is grace. What will you do with it?
Live in the extra today.
Suggested Scripture For Today: John 10:1-18
Suggested Ideas:
1. Go outside and take purposefully deep breaths with your eyes closed.
2. Set a timer on your phone to go off every 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, ask: Am I using this moment as if it's the most precious moment in my life?
3. Set a time on your phone to go off every hour. When it goes off, do something completely crazy, generous, and spontaneous.
4. Buy a gallon of ice cream and deliver it to a friend without announcement.
Walk through the waters, but with a snorkel.