"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Dear Readers,

Six months ago, I took the advice of a great friend and stuck my toes in the water of blogspot.com for the first time. My first impressions felt a bit like sending messages in bottles out on the seas of the internet. Largely, it remains that way.

There is not a lot of feedback, really, in terms of comments, given the number of readers. Friends, old and new, chime in from time to time with “amen’s,” supporting scriptures and anecdotes. A few readers have taken a minute to write a private note about how the posts have helped them through a rough or lonely patch (these are the most motivating). Nor are there tons of “followers.” 22 of you have hit the “follow” button and entered an identity to publicly follow. Granted, some of the followers are couples, but still there are not hundreds of people signed up to show their allegiance, at this stage of the game. I really get this. Most people do not have the time to commit to follow a blog systematically. Truthfully, you honor me in that you read it at all, or on an occasional basis.

What have blown me out of the water, however, are the statistics for people stopping by. Hundreds of people from many countries check in on a monthly basis. The stats program only keeps the top 10, and I failed to keep records from the beginning, but a close count is 36 countries. These are visible on my facebook account, where I have an album of maps (I am learning a lot about geography as well).

When I stop to think about this, I am amazed. Just how or why this happens is a mystery to me. And that’s the fun of it. Jesus taught, the Spirit, like the wind, blows where it will, accomplishing his work in us, wherever we are. David posed the question, “Where can I go from your Spirit?” Indeed, Spirit will have his gentle and mighty way with us. Mother Teresa once said that when people read a letter, they are not thinking about the pen. This is so true! Yet, it is the thrill of my lifetime to feel that for brief, shining moments, I might have been the pen in the hand of Spirit.

So this has become a long-winded thank you note. I am honored beyond words that you have come by, once, occasionally, or regularly. Without readers, this is just a public diary, a random collection of thoughts and observations posted for no particular purpose of benefit. By reading and considering these posts, you give them life.

Thank you. I literally thank God for you whenever I think of you. And I think of you every day.



"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:3-4

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Point

As Christmas approaches, I hear a lot of discussion about the way things should be done. Traditions become sacred with repetition, especially when emotions attach to them. Memories of loved ones mingle with the things we do. Eventually, the actions take on such importance that we have a hard time separating our devotion to the actions, from our devotion to those we love. Many people feel grief when their traditions are broken. Styles of music, people not present at holidays, even a change of menu or venue can elicit unexpected sadness from people.

Pavlov is best known for his experiments. He rang a bell just before introducing meat to dogs. Soon, the dogs salivated at the sound of a bell, even when no meat was present. He called this phenomenon “conditioning.” More recently, we have learned that as we go through life, we are linking our emotions to our experiences, millions of them. This is why we feel certain emotions at the smell of evergreen, or pie. An old song on the radio may elicit emotions from us, even if we are unaware of any particular memories related to it. We have linked these inanimate experiences to our emotional life. They take on a life of their own in our hearts, for good or bad. We develop an allegiance to method, which like the response of Pavlov's dogs, loses sight of the original source.

When I attended college, I frequently worked holidays and birthdays. The family gatherings I grew up with were displaced by hectic days at the local convenience store, as people rushed in and waited in long lines for that extra carton of imitation whipped cream. Consequently, over the years, holidays became “just another day” in my emotional world. Worse, I began to dread the day as a time of stress and fatigue. My experiences of holidays over several years linked my emotions and expectations to themselves. Days, events, and methods eventually take on the meaning our lives give them. Unless we pause and reconsider.

The father who takes his boys camping and runs them down verbally the entire time (because they are not doing things his way), has forgotten the goal (bonding with his sons),and has missed the mark. His sons will probably never complain. However, they have now linked camping and time with Dad to painful emotions. Presumably, this is the virtual opposite of what the father had in mind. By focusing on method to the exclusion of relationship, he has lost track of the point. Losing track of the original point is a common human experience, even in the church.

Missionaries will tell you that much about the way we worship is cultural. Most of the methods we use in the church are adapted from the way people are used to doing things in the surrounding community. Arguments about the way things are done miss the point. In fact, some of Jesus’ harshest words were not for sinners, but for those who loved traditions (the way things are done), more than the God the traditions were designed to honor. When we worship traditions (old or new), they become idols, obscuring our view of God. And He is not happy when we put other gods before Him.

When we leave the church because of arguments about the tempo of music or the arrangement of furniture in the auditorium, people are right to question: how is this different than any secular club on earth? Those looking to us for an example, including children, see through our sanctimonious rationalizations. When we act selfishly, people question our faith, or worse yet, THE faith!

So, what is the point we have forgotten? At Christmas, it is that God came near. God so loved the world that He sent his only Son that whoever believes in Him may inherit eternal life. Our appropriate response? Jesus said the entire law and prophets hang on the commands to love God with our entire being, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We do not walk away from those we love over unimportant (non-scriptural) issues. God has characterized his love with his promise to never leave us or forsake us. Let us learn to love one another in the same manner. It pleases Him so. And isn’t that really the point?

“…You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Jesus) Matthew 15:6-9

"Then he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.'" Mark 2:27

Monday, November 15, 2010

Contemplating Loss

Next Spring, I have an opportunity to deliver a message about loss. Naturally, I am thinking about a broad outline for the talk, and asking the Holy Spirit to guide the pen, and eventually the tongue. Loss is potentially a “glass half empty” subject, as it can easily focus on what was and no longer is.

Loss comes in many shapes and sizes. Loss of a loved one (through death or end of relationship), loss of career, loss of hopes and dreams, loss of health and independence…all these kinds of loss commonly intrude our existence on planet Earth. The extent to which we find ourselves affected by the loss comes in direct proportion to the degree of attachment we had to the object of our loss. Reading obituaries of those we did not know rarely engenders gut-wrenching grief, because we had no attachment to them. But the loss of a significant person can feel like a slow amputation, without anesthesia. And it can last for years.

The subject is huge and potentially overwhelming. Preparing a message will involve a process of elimination, I think. The other challenge I face is to present the subject of loss without depressing people. It is like a message about grief, really. We know it is an unpleasant part of life. Mostly, we choose not to think about it. Until we have to. Then we are poorly prepared. We rarely contemplate loss, or its origins.

When God created the world, and put man in the center of Eden, He called it “very good.” What was not good was for man to be alone there. So Eve emerges from Adam’s rib, and the first human relationship is born. Adam and Eve were meant to walk hand in hand in fellowship with God forever. There was only one thing God asked of them, that they not eat from the fruit of one particular tree in the garden. He warned that if they did, death (a foreign concept at the time) would enter their world. The outcome of their fateful decision continues to produce consequences to this day. When they were driven from Eden (the first loss) we were driven from the garden with them. Since that day, nothing on earth has remained the same. Nothing is permanent. All is subject to loss. As I wrote in a previous post about seasons, a silent river of sadness runs through the Eden we have lost.

Strangely, this is not all bad news. In a reality where nothing remains the same, we long for Someone unchanging. And there He is. Arms stretched out, tears of compassion and love brimming his eyes. Jesus loves us. Leaning into Him provides our comfort and strength until the day his promise to make all things new is ultimately fulfilled. And he provides others along the way, to be his hands, his feet, his comforting tongue. We all eventually walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but not necessarily alone.

In his mercy and love, God provided a plan to redeem all that we have lost. One day we will awake in a golden place, in bodies untouched by the effects of sin and decay. He even has a plan to redeem fallen creation by way of a new heaven and a new earth. All our loved ones in Christ will meet us there and we will do what we were meant to do from eternity past. Hand in hand, we will walk in fellowship with our Creator. All mysteries solved, every tear wiped from our eyes by His own hand.

This is what the scriptures describe as our “blessed hope.” In the meantime, we grieve for certain, but not as those without hope. It was man who brought the consequences of sin into the world, and that is why we need a Redeemer. Bless his holy Name.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, enters on our behalf.” Hebrews 6:19

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Discerning God's Will

Recently, I stayed in a hotel in Hayes Kansas on my return trip from Aunt Sallie’s funeral. I opened facebook and a couple of ads in the margin of the wall caught my eye. These had to do with getting published.

Some of you have encouraged me to consider organizing the content of this blog into a book. I have to admit, my introverted personality likes the idea of writing a great deal. What a way for a naturally retiring guy to contribute to the Kingdom!

So I did some minor revisions, rearranged the order, and sent about 15 of the posts off to a couple of publishers who do not require a literary agent to look at your work. Recently, I heard back from one of them, and they offered me a contract on the manuscript, working title “On the Road Home.” This is the very moment for which aspiring writers pray!

The thing is, these writings do not belong to me. They are God’s first, and the reader’s second. So I ran this by some people I trust, soliciting prayer for guidance and discernment. Each one was encouraging, and most understood the dilemma.

A rookie author is lucky if his published book actually hits a bookstore shelf. It may be available on Amazon and other internet cyber-stores, but the exposure of the book is generally pretty limited. This blog on the other hand is read by about to 1,000 of you per month and in over 30 countries. While it would be neat to have a book to hand to people as another tool, there are the readers of the blog to be concerned about. And the publisher owns the material, so the blog would have to be overhauled (at least), or removed (at most).

A particular man I respect greatly summarized it kindly, “You are on solid ground spiritually no matter what you do here. You are contributing to the Kingdom.”

I talked with some local bookstore managers, and they were encouraging about stocking the book, and were willing to consider signings. I went through my photographs of Colorado scenery and selected 15 of them, editing them for possible use in the book. Late last week, I asked the publisher for a contract to review and sign.

I actually tried to open the signature page to the contract and had some difficulty. So, I started looking at the blog and doing some revisions. I really hoped to keep the same number of blog posts, making revisions on the posts used in the book, so that the blog would remain intact. I revised several of them. However, they seemed lifeless and flat. I began to feel a sense of grief.

It was as if I were deciding to malnourish this flourishing newborn blog. A closer look at the publishing contract revealed that it is prohibited to publish the book, or revisions thereof, in any media for the duration of the contract. It was just not going to be possible to keep the blog alive and publish the book.

Then a peace settled in. I knew beyond a doubt what would please the Father most. I will wait for a time and nourish the blog as I have been. Possibly, in a year or so, when there are 50+ posts, and these are old and neglected, it will have minimal impact on the blog to cut some from the deck. If the opportunity is not there in a year, I will have no regrets.

If I am not writing for my own profit, benefit or ego, it comes down to this: “Which path will take more territory for the King?” Decision made. Peace comes. Now, on to the next opportunity!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding, but in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5

"Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1-2

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Night Visions

Extraordinary blessings manifest themselves here in "the middle of nowhere" Colorado. Of course, we can see God's fingerprints everywhere in creation, and our towns, still communities where people care about one another. The blessing I am most aware of at the moment? NightVision. NightVision brings together dozens of musical artists and speakers under the Colorado sky, and with no admission charged. The vision and generosity of Praise Him Ministries headed by Victoria Hearst has realized itself in nearby Olathe Colorado for the last several years. The last 2 days saw the crowd swell to fill the park.

People come for a number of reasons, for sure. Social, epicurian (funnel cake, kettle corn, barbecue, pizza by the slice), to hear this famous group or that remarkable speaker. I attend for all those reasons, and more. Somewhere in the midst of the noise, the blessed ones rise above the noise and hear the voice of Another.

Certain acts and speakers stand out as particularly remarkable. Some, due to experience and the confidence of a certain fame, command the stage from beginning to end. Some, by the sincerity of their desire to please the King, touch and take the heart by surprise. Others, by the sheer force of their testimony, penetrate the darkness of the things we call important, and set us on our heels before the very Master of the Universe to hear Him shout the height and depth and width and breadth of his love for us! A few times this weekend, my face buried in my hands, I caught a glimpse of his love, his power, his truth.

God has not died. He has not abandoned us to our own pitiful devices. His love endures forever. His church will not die. In fact, the gates of Hell will not stand against it. He has not given up on me. He has not given up on you.

"In all my prayers for you all, I always pray with joy...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:4

Thursday, July 8, 2010

First Blog

I know- bad form to disclose your lack of experience when undertaking a new endeavor! I don't care. I have reached a place in life where authenticity has become my goal. So, take it or leave it, I am stepping out to write down and share some thoughts from time to time. Thanks for visiting and reading this!

An ordinary man from humble beginnings, I grew up (mostly) on a farm in northeastern Kansas, the son of a factory worker. I worked my way through college, married, went back to school, and made ends meet by doing custodial work at health clubs, and cleaning pools in Dallas Texas. I worked for many years in community clinics as a counselor, and in 2003 went into private practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor with a specialty in Christian counseling.

I share an interest of music with my wife, Mary. We play various instruments at one of the larger churches here in beautiful Montrose Colorado. We have a zoo of, let's just say, several animals.

Why a blog? Because so many of life's exchanges skim the surface of our existence without ever asking the hard questions. Brief encounters and exchanges of "How are you guys?" pass for relationships these days. Sadly, many people live and die without seeking, or finding, deeper meaning. Sadder yet, some die for the lack of it without ever realizing they needed it.

I realize a level of responsibility that comes with blogging that I fear most bloggers don't acknowledge. We don't share "just our opinions" without influencing people, one way or the other. It should humble us to be told that a shared opinion or thought rises to the level of "wisdom" in the ears of the listener, in the mind of the reader.

This blog will attempt to raise some hard questions, and to offer some answers. All respectfully submitted points of view are welcome and will, no doubt, contribute to the depth of the search.

Come along, let's start the excavation and see what we can uncover.