"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