Friday, November 7, 2014

"There is no god."

We were standing on the subway platform at the 88th Street station just off Lexington Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side. We were vacationing; spending just a few days of the fall enjoying the sights and sounds of the city, but this sound was anything but welcoming.
"Somebody help me!" "I'm blind!" "Somebody help me!"
The voice that rose above the din was that of a large, middle-aged, African-American woman. As people backed away from her in the crowded station, we could make out that she was wearing a black sweatsuit and dark glasses.
"Help me, please!" "I am homeless, and don't have nobody!" "I am a diabetic, and I haven't eaten all day!""I need to get to 59th Street, but I am blind." "Will someone help me get to 59th Street? It's only three stops."
The woman was rapidly becoming hysterical. Mom handed her some Lance-brand peanut butter and crackers, but the woman didn't seem to notice.
"Oh, God!" "Oh, God!" "Oh, God!"
The more upset the woman became the more people began to fear her. No one looked directly at her, and though blind, she seemed to notice our aversion. To be honest, she looked seconds away from violence. She wailed and pushed her way through the crowd now begging for any sort of assistance.
Since this scene had begun to unfold, more and more people were filling the station. 
It seemed as if the train would never come.
"Oh, God!" "Oh, God, help me!" "Oh, God!"
"There is no god."
The voice that spoke up from the back of the crowd was that of a small Pakistani man in a jacket and tie carrying a backpack. He moved forward as people parted to let him pass. He took the woman by the shoulders and said in a voice that was both kind and firm,
"There is no god. God doesn't exist. All you have is yourself."
Strangely, this theological revelation seemed to comfort the woman. She became quieter as the man continued to talk to her in a calming voice.
Obviously, it was not the moment for a religious debate, and, honestly, everyone was just glad she was starting to calm down. This whole episode unfolded in the three or four minutes between the trains. The woman perhaps was comforted more by the man's paying attention to her than by his statement. The woman, of course, wasn't exactly calling on God as much as she was decrying the hopelessness of her situation. In times of great distress, great delight, or great excitement, people often evoke the name of God. What amazed me then, and amazes me still, is the fact that not one person on that platform (myself included) managed to speak to that woman any words of comfort taken from faith. For some reason all those church bulletin slogans seemed hollow.
"Bad things happen to good people."
"Remember Job!"
"Everything will be ok. It's all a part of God's plan."
"You're too blessed to be depressed."
Not one Jew, not one Muslim, not one Catholic, not one Mormon, not one Protestant, not one otherwise religious voice in that crowd provided comfort to that woman. That woman was in a terrible circumstance; a frightening circumstance, but she didn't need a sound byte or a proverb. She needed someone willing to touch her, to speak directly to her, to comfort her - but we were all afraid. We were all more focused on what would happen to us if we dared to intervene than what would happen to the woman if we did not help. Only the voice of unbelief spoke. The only comfort came from the humanist - the secular. Any believer gathered there could have just as easily said, 
"God loves you. He sent me to help you. Let me take you to 59th Street." 
I think the woman would have been just as comforted if not more so by that statement. 
People in the world are looking for interaction, for stability, for comfort. If we as Christians are too timid or out of touch to provide it, there are plenty of other faiths (and non-faiths) that will attempt to. We should never be afraid to speak up for God, but what we actually need is to be willing to act up for Him. Until we couple our faith with action, all those platitudes ring empty.
I don't know what happened to that woman or to the gentleman who helped her or to anyone else gathered in that station that day, but I do know that the atheist denied God with his voice, but served God with his actions while the believers present stood silent and passive. Providence gives each of us countless opportunities to speak up, to act up, and to make a difference. We have good news for the world, but they will never hear it unless our words confess and our actions speak. May God help us to do a better job of being for Him and may we see in every situation an opportunity to proclaim His love.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Thank you

I want to thank everyone for your continued support of my ministry and of me personally. I have not written much in this space over the last few months, but I hope the few things I have posted have been meaningful.
After the busyness of the holidays, I hope to update the look and feel of this blog and get back to posting on a much more regular basis.
Again, thanks for all your care and concern and for letting me know that you still want to hear from me.
See you soon.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Everyone struggles

Everyone you know is struggling with something.
The young barista who serves your coffee is working two jobs to support her handicapped toddler.
The guy who acts like a jerk at the company party is filled with guilt about how his prescription drug habit is costing him his home, his family, and maybe eventually his life.
The older woman who sits on the bench at the mall is still besotted by grief 10 years after her husband's  death.
The strong and confident politician is fighting a private battle against the pornography addiction that has taken over his life.
The nurse at your clinic is contemplating whether or not to commit Medicare fraud in order to send her three kids to college.
Your preacher or pastor is fighting against burnout and frustration because the congregation may not be doing enough to spiritually support he and his family.
Your newly-minted adult children are grappling with trying to understand all the pressures that come with being an adult.

And what about you?
What are you struggling with today?
Greed. Hatred. Divorce. Lust. Anger. Apathy. Depression. Doubt. Addiction. Health problems.

Remember as you go out into the world this week:
Everyone is struggling with something.

With that realization, may we live with grace towards the people we meet. Whether they are our closest family members or strangers in line at the grocery store, let's resolve to smile, to speak kindness, to truly care about the concerns and needs of others.

I struggle so much everyday, and many of you who read this blog have been a great source of encouragement to me. I appreciate that, and I want to pay that kindness forward to the people in my life that need an extra blessing this week.

Let's keep being positive and looking forward and we will make it - together.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering 9/11


This ad ran in the weeks after September 11, 2001 celebrating the undying spirit of New York City.

Our enemies can destroy our buildings, but they only win if they cause us to compromise our values and turn our backs on the principles that have made our country great.
They can take our very lives, but our culture, our strength, our belief in freedom and justice still stand.
May we always be a society that strives to value diversity, celebrates tolerance, and seeks peace and goodwill among all people. We realize that we have not yet fully reached our ideals, but we reach for them nonetheless.
We must never forget that we live in a dangerous world, but we must also remember that there are good and decent people in every nation, race, and faith.
One of the lessons of 9/11 is that we are strongest when we are united. It should not take tragedy to bring us together but rather the simple realization of our common humanity. Let's resolve to love and serve freely, and in doing so, we will play some small part in overcoming the darkness in the world.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Robin Williams's Death Tells Us about Life

Yesterday, many of us walked in and sat down to watch or scroll through the news of the day. In the midst of the chaos in Iraq and the shooting death of Michael Brown, the press revealed the fact that beloved comedic actor Robin Williams had taken his own life at his Northern California home at the age 63. Commentators were quick to laud Williams's professional achievements and also to mention his issues with substance abuse and depression. Robin Williams possessed a unique blend of physical humor and biting wit - always quick to laugh at you, but also at ease enough to laugh at himself. We remember Williams as a funny man, but some of his best performances occurred in films such as Good Will Hunting (for which he won an Academy Award), Dead Poets Society, and What Dreams May Come in all of which he played serious characters. Williams's canon is diverse and deep just as Williams the man was. There is more to most people than what meets the eye, and Robin Williams was no exception.
So what, if anything, can we learn from the untimely death of this talented man?
I believe that anytime a person, regardless of his/her level of fame or notoriety, takes his/her own life, it should cause the rest of us to stop and reflect on our own existence. This is perhaps even more the case when a person that appears to have boundless success and incredible talent dies by suicide. If we are honest, we must admit that no one else can know the depths of pain and hardship that another human being experiences. For a person battling life-threatening depression, all the praise and honor bestowed on him/her by others rings hollow. A person who seems buoyant and positive on the outside may still grappling with demons and darkness beyond description. The voice of a loved one or professional saying, "I understand" or "I care" can still fail to penetrate the layers of self-hatred and sadness that have entombed the sufferer's mind. I don't pretend to understand the series of events and emotions that led Robin Williams to take his own life, but can say that having experienced a similar darkness, I empathize with him deeply.
1 in 4 Americans is living with a diagnosable mental illness at any given time. Millions of our neighbors, our coworkers, our fellow church members, our children, and strangers we encounter every day are suffering in silence. It is not a question of if you know someone living with mental illness; it is a question of who you know that is living with mental illness. Mental illness knows no race, no class, no creed, no level of celebrity. It damages and sometimes destroys lives indiscriminately. All the money or fame or power in the world cannot protect a person from its reach. While access to better care can make a lifesaving difference, sometimes even the best care is not enough.
If I had spent a few minutes with Robin Williams in recent days, I would have done what any fan would have. I would have talked about how he inspired me to pursue a degree in English from his performance in Dead Poets Society, how he made me laugh in Mrs. Doubtfire, how he made me think about love in a different way with his performance in What Dreams May Come. And perhaps Williams would have smiled or laughed or told an off-color joke, but I don't think he would have said much. His thoughts were elsewhere. No doubt his wife and the other people close to him reached out to him, but in the end, it was not enough to prevent his death. We should not blame Williams or criticize what we do not understand. Everyone is battling something, and sometimes, sadly, the shadows win. As fans, we grieve. His family and friends will have an emptiness and sorrow that will never be completely filled, but I pray today that Williams's turbulent life has now found some measure of peace. Williams left us with a lifetime of memories and hours and hours of laughs. We did not know him away from the screen, but in every performance he gave us a part of himself and for that I am grateful.
Every single solitary life is precious. Let's love each person in our lives a little more, let's reach out a little further, let's embrace a little tighter. Sometimes seizing the day is about seizing the moment. Take a moment today to tell those you love that you care and that you are open to hearing their challenges without judgment and without giving advice. Be truly present in the lives you touch and, as I am sure Robin would remind us, be sure to laugh a little too.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Remember...

"The sadness of the past is with me always."
~F. Scott Fitzgerald in a letter to his wife, Zelda, who was chronically hospitalized for mental illness

One of the many blessings/curses of living with a mood disorder is the ability to experience intense emotional states. Sometimes those states are the roller coaster heights of pleasure, desire, anger, agitation, sensuality, and joy. Even for those that experience these highs, the fall always comes and the sufferer endures loneliness, emptiness, sadness, regret, and an overwhelming desire to isolate.
As many as 1 in 4 Americans lives with a diagnosable mental illness at any given time. The people that you meet everyday in line at the grocery store, at your office, in your classroom, that wait on you in restaurants, and even the people sitting across the dinner table may be dealing with a burden far beyond what shows on the surface. 
It doesn't take much effort to be kind.
To say, "Thank you."
To hold open the door.
To call or text that friend who may be struggling.
To pray for those around you who are hurting.
To offer a hand, a hug, a listening ear.
We can never truly know what another person is experiencing, but we can all resolve to make an effort to be present in the lives of other people. Helping others, rather than burdening us, actually serves to help lift our own load.
May we be a blessing in the lives of other people and may we also allow them into our lives so that they might bless us.

Have a great week!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Growth Chart

In the very first post I made this year, I revealed that my focus for 2014 was going to be growth.
I realize I haven't been posting as often as I have in the last four years, but I think the silence has been helpful for me in achieving my goal of growth. I have come to realize that there are some things that are very special to me, and, for the most part, I want to keep these new interests and experiences to myself. In the interest of updating you at the halfway point of the year, I wanted to share a few ways in which I have embraced growth this year in the hope that it will encourage you to do the same.
  • Starting in December 2013, I began scheduling my sermon topics several months in advance. I was skeptical of this practice at first, but I have found that it has been extremely helpful in allowing me to have more variety in my lessons and in helping me have a seed to start with each week.
  • In January, I stepped out of my comfort zone and took an acting class in Memphis. The class was taught by a professional director and was very challenging in multiple ways. I was glad that I had the courage to take the class, and also that I had the courage to admit it wasn't something I wanted to pursue any further.
  • Beginning on my birthday, I started a scheduled plan to read through the Bible in one year. I hope to complete this project by May 25, 2015.
  • I have worked to expand my social interactions both in person and online. I am developing some new friendships and renewing several others.

All and all, the year of growth has been mixed. Some areas of life have improved while others have stayed the same or regressed. Still, on the whole, it has been a good first half to the year.  I am looking forward to what's to come and to growing even more in the months and years ahead.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Old and New

Today is the first day of something new.
I spent the last decade concentrating on the things I thought were missing from my life. My 20s were a long string of unmet expectations.  Always wanting something more, something bigger, something real. I realize now that I had those things all along I just didn't realize it.  
It is something more to be able to spend time with your aging grandparents and to be able to be a help to them. 
 It is something big to find light and stability in the midst of darkness and madness.  
It is something real to serve one church for a whole decade and to grow along with them in grace. To learn to love them for who they are and not for who you want them to be. To realize that you are in this together and that you grow stronger by leaning on one another.
I don't know what my 30s will hold, but I am looking forward to finding out. I honestly thought for a long time that I would never make it to 30.  Well now here it is, brimming with possibility. I am still not satisfied with where I am and I know my life still has room to improve, but for today I am content to celebrate the good and work to remedy the bad. I still battle unruly passions, and I think I always will, but I am not overwhelmed by the struggle. I have experience I want to take with me into this new decade, but I also have parts of me I want to leave behind. I want to carry my passion and my knowledge forward, and I want to leave my fear and cynicism in the past.

Three decades down and an eternity to go. 
Here I come.

"There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, everyone of them sufficient."

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Stuff of Life

This past weekend was one of great celebration in our family. My younger sister, Sarah Beth, got married in a small, family ceremony at a little venue near her home in Memphis. Saturday was the culmination of months of planning and prayer and thankfully everything went smoothly. 
What amazed me most about the whole event was the amount of planning that went into every detail. I performed the service and worked on the ceremony for months in advance. My mom took charge of the decorating and had a boxes of decorations for each room and then further divided boxes for each table in each room. Flowers had to be arranged. Food was ordered weeks in advance. The wedding party's suits and dresses were all custom ordered for each individual person. Invitations had to be sent - not only for the wedding but for all the showers, dinners, and parties that celebrated their engagement. Nothing was left to chance. The only variable was the weather, and thankfully we were blessed with a warm, sun-filled spring day. Everything rehearsed, everything planned. My family and my sister's new husband's family spent months making sure everything would be just right.
What kind of planning are you doing in your life? Are you planning tonight's meal? Are you planning to take a vacation? Are you planning to get married? Are you planning to have a baby? Are you planning to retire? Are you planning for what comes next?
The great thing about the wedding is we knew when it was coming. I knew I had to have the ceremony ready by April 26. The caterers knew what time to arrive at the venue. The family knew what time photographs were going to be taken. We knew it was coming, so we prepared.
We all have an appointment to keep with death, but we don't know when it will come. Many of us will live for many more years and grow old and grey, but some of us will be taken sooner by disease or accident. No matter when death comes, we need to be prepared. We need to make the most of our relationships with family and friends. We need to say the things that need saying, and we need to do those things which need doing. We need to stop being afraid to live so that we can embrace all that life has to offer. Make that call. Send that card. Meet that person for dinner. Ask her out. Tell him, "I love you."
Ultimately, the best way to prepare for death is by committing to a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is only when we are prepared to die that we can fully begin to live. Explore the pages of Scripture. Look for God in nature's beauty, in the laughter of a child, in the embrace of a friend. 
Live. 
Soak up all the glory that is in the world which is made all the more wonderful because it is fleeting. You will never have this moment again. Don't live looking back with regret. Live looking forward with hope. Life is beautiful, but we need to take the time to appreciate its splendor. Resolve to look for the good in every situation and then watch as love and life and light are manifested before your eyes. 
Embrace wonder. 
Dare to hope. 
Dare to dream. 
Dare to fall in love. 
Live.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He is risen; He is risen indeed!

May God bless you with the assurance of His promise in the resurrection.  Through Jesus, we have the promise of new life. I pray that your Easter is filled with joy and that you would come to know the peace that comes from a relationship with Christ.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Joy Upon Joy

I truly believe that one of the signs of maturity in a person's life experience is the development of the ability to take joy in the successes of others.  Too many times in life we see our lives as a competition with those around us. 
If I only had that house, I would be happy. 
If I only had that relationship, I would be satisfied. 
If only I reached that level of spirituality, I would be content. 
The truth is that until we are satisfied with ourselves internally the external blessings and trials will not give us peace or clarity. 
Many years ago, I had a strong bond with a young woman. I hoped for years that the relationship would develop into something more. After several failed attempts at dating, she, at last, confronted me with the fact that she didn't share my feelings. I took the news very hard. In all honesty, I had turned her into an idol in my heart. I based a lot of how I felt about myself on how she treated me. When she was enthusiastic about our relationship, I felt wonderful and alive. When her feelings changed and cooled, I felt devalued and humiliated. I let her have all the power in the relationship, and I believe she felt burdened by that responsibility. My response to this disappointment was to seek affirmation in other relationships. Some of the relationships I found were healthy and some were not, but I was still seeking validation from other people. Eventually, I found myself single, living alone, and without many strong friendships.
In the last few years, I have come to realize that you cannot put the burden of your happiness on other people. Happiness and contentment must overflow from within from a deepening relationship with self and with God. I am, at last, learning to accept myself based on who I am and not based on who other people expect me to be. My joy, as well as my pain, comes from my own experiences and not from another's expectations.
The young woman I mentioned has been happily married for several years and has a beautiful little girl. I believe that she is at very happy place in her life. I take joy in her happiness. Since she is someone that I still care for deeply, I can rejoice that she has found so much joy in her experience. Where once I might have been tempted to bitterness or envy, I now see that an experience that was painful for me has led to joy for many other people.  As Scripture teaches, we should rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. If my past weeping has led to someone else's joy, I take comfort in knowing that God knows the number of my tears and that not one was shed in vain.
Life cannot be scripted; it has to be lived. I, for one, am thankful to be on this journey. I may not be where I planned to be at this stage of my life, but I trust that, by the grace of God, I have not yet gone as far as I will go. I take the joy and the sorrow of the journey, and I pray that my experiences give me new insights into myself and the world around me.  God is not finished with me, and I can promise that He is not finished with you either. Let's continue to grow up in faith and celebrate with those who join us on this kingdom journey.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Big Love


Today I was reading on a Christian blog about a young couple that had showed tremendous amounts of faithfulness and love in their relationship. The article was accompanied by a link to a video of the young couple overcoming great adversity in order to finally become engaged. When I linked to YouTube to watch the video, the sidebar contained numerous videos with titles like, "Coolest Proposal Ever," and "Ultimate Wedding Proposal Video." Honestly, I was intrigued and spent several minutes watching a few of the videos. Some of the proposals were cute, some were classy, and some were outrageous. One involved a celebrity appearance and another involved dogs dressed in wedding garb. The young men who had planned these proposals had obviously gone to a lot of trouble to prepare, execute, and document their efforts at wooing their girlfriends. The amount of thought was impressive, but something about these social media-friendly proposals struck me the wrong way. Romantic love is a wonderful feeling and one that needs to be celebrated, but romantic love is also a deeply personal emotion. Regardless of their intent, these young men had chosen to share that intimate emotion with the world and a part of me wonders, "Where does it end?" Many of us remember elementary school on Valentine's Day when parents (and sometimes students) attempted to one-up each other with the size and cost of their gifts. In a world where we share more of ourselves than ever before, I think we have mistaken exposure for intimacy. In your online life, I would encourage you to think before you share. Does what I am about to share send out positive energy into the world? Would my spouse/parents/children mind me sharing this with millions of other people? Will sharing this event/photo/experience cheapen its value in the eyes of the people it directly affects?
I can't pretend the romantic in me didn't enjoy some of those videos, but I also know that those events should have been just as special to those couples even if I had never known about them. Be careful with your heart, and be sure that when you are sharing it you know the true reason why.

Have a great weekend! 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Snow Days and Jesus

This past week, school was out all week due to the ice, snow, and severe weather.  Kids (and probably teachers too) love getting that call or seeing that announcement roll across the TV screen.  Snow days are like an unexpected vacation and a welcome break from the classroom.  After two or three days, however, parents begin to hear the cries of, “I’m bored!” and “There is nothing to do!”  The excitement of the break has worn off and now kids are ready to see their friends and be back in routine.  Life is like that.  We spend a lot of time hoping something will happen and when it finally does we are happy for a moment.  Then, of course, we wish something else would happen and we are dissatisfied until we get our way again.  
This phenomena is nothing new.  Many people are always looking for the "next thing."  In contrast to that mentality, Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, 
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The secret to contentment is not our circumstances, but instead it is found by fully placing our trust in Christ.  As long as we are focused solely on our own passing desires, we will never find true happiness.  We must look to Jesus to be the source of contentment for our daily lives.  When we trust Christ with our past, our present, and our future, we have the opportunity to find satisfaction in living for Him. 
I hope as you live your life in the days to come you will seek to find your satisfaction in a relationship with Jesus Christ.  If you do not know Christ as Lord in your life, reach out and ask questions that will help you make a decision about letting Him reign in you.  Family, friends, and church support can only do so much.  You must be willing to seek Jesus for yourself and be willing to trust Him for all that He is.  Jesus is more than the "next thing" in your life - when He has His proper place, He influences everything in your life.  People who have been affected by Jesus know that they are different now than they were before the encounter.  When Jesus is truly present in your life, your thankfulness is richer, your peace is more complete, and your passions are more focused than ever before.  People change when Jesus and His teachings come into their lives.  May we always seek to be changed by our encounters with Christ and may we seek to share those experiences with others.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Real persecution, real hope

I have a poster taped to the wall in my office that says in large, bold letters, "Pray." 
In smaller writing on the poster, it explains that the poster itself is to serve as a reminder to pray for the persecuted church throughout the world. In tiny print, the poster lists nations where it is illegal to be a Christian. A second list on the poster recounts nations that are hostile areas for the spread of Christianity. Although I wish the need for it didn't exist, I like this poster and I have had it so long that it has begun to yellow at the edges. Every time I go in my office to work on a lesson or to look up something in a commentary or to sit in my big chair and pray, I am reminded that other people throughout the world do not have those privileges and opportunities. At this very moment, Christians are meeting in secret throughout the world and their prayer is that someday they might share their faith openly.
I am disturbed by the number of Christians in our country who seem to feel that respecting other people is the equivalent of persecution. While we should always be watchful, we should also remember that our civil rights are finite and guaranteed not by God but by the state. If it became illegal to be a Christian tomorrow in the United States, how many people would simply fade away from our churches?  If the government suddenly declared that all Christians must worship in certain places and use certain names and must abandon God-given practices in our worship, how many would go along, how many would fall away, how many would continue to worship in secret? My Christian friends who currently feel persecuted in America are misguided. Christians in the United States do not have it too hard; we have it too easy. Anyone can become bitter and angry and rail against society and gripe about the government. It takes a true Christian spirit to live with patience and with hope - someone who looks ahead realizing that this is not the end. We are the richest nation on earth, and yet spiritually many live in poverty. We have unlimited access to Scripture and spiritual resources and we leave our Bibles in the pews at the church building to mark our empty seats throughout the week. We have dust on our Bibles, and as consequence, we have souls that are soiled with greed and anger, pride and lust. 
I believe our only hope is to go back to our roots. Not the judgmental self-righteousness of the Puritans or the American belief in self-reliance, but further back to the start of the church itself. To the Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, people-focused love of the early church. Congregations that had great problems, but also had great faith. Congregations that were contemporary to their times, but also living for eternity. Congregations that did not judge those in the world, but righteously judged those within their midst. If the church wants to be great, it will cease trying to be American, and start trying to be authentic. Christians in America don't need to win the culture wars in order to be pleasing to God; instead, we need to be a people that love peace and treat all people with respect and dignity. We must not compromise the truth, but we must acknowledge that not everyone sees life in the same way we do. Even in the midst of our current cultural chaos, I still feel the future of the church has never been brighter. If we stay true to Christ and live for His glory and not our own, no passing storm can endanger us. We are a forever kingdom, and when the nations of this world change and are forgotten, the church will stand. If we are going to be known for something, let's be known not for all the things we wouldn't do, but as a loving, celebrating people. It's only when people see our joy that their hearts can be changed. I want people to change, but not so they are more like me. I want to change, and I want others to change and for us all to be transformed into the image of Christ.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lately

Over the past few weeks, I have started almost a dozen posts to put in this space. None of these posts has seen your screen, however, because I am unsure of what direction to take the content on this blog.  Part of me wants to share my personal journey, both spiritual and secular, and another part of me feels that most of that journey needs to stay internal for the sake of those that I love and that love me. Much of me wants to post my thoughts about my study of Scripture, but I fear sounding preachy or proud. Part of me wants to go back to sharing other people's words with you, but I know you can find their thoughts in various places online and you don't need me to point out what you need to be reading. I would love to share book and film reviews, but I know that is not what you expect in this space. I am still searching to find my voice, but when I find it, you will be the first to know.

Have a great end to the week!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Wanted to share this...

My friend, Jennifer, wrote this blog post on Monday following the Super Bowl.

Jennifer is a loser.

So is Peyton Manning.

So am I.

So are you.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

Do you know what you were doing on Thursday, January 12, 2012?

Sometimes this journal keeping thing comes in handy.

The mail arrived and I received a copy of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars which I (along with thousands of others) had pre-ordered. Green signed every pre-ordered copy of the book (over 150,000 books). I spent the afternoon reading through the novel at one sitting. Now, I fully understand that John Green's niche market is generally considered to be high school females, but regardless of your age or gender, Green's ability to tell a story is impressive. The Fault in Our Stars relates the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a bookish teenager who is facing Stage 4 thyroid cancer which has spread to her lungs. When Hazel meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group for teenagers, both their lives change forever. The novel is a great story about living life in the face of challenges and the notion that each person's life has at least a momentary impact. The book deals with mature themes and shows people living with illness as human beings. Whether cancer (as in the novel) or with mental illness (in my own life), people who are dealing with the realities of long-term illness want to be seen as whole persons and to not be solely defined by their diagnosis. Gus helps Hazel see the world in a new way and their relationship becomes a genuine expression of friendship as well as romantic love.
The book has been a bestseller for the past two years and was Time's Book of the Year in 2012. Due to its success, the novel has been turned into a major motion picture to be released in June. The trailer is below and also links to purchase the book for Kindle and in print.
Expecting cold and freezing rain? A book might be just the best way to spend the weekend.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

9 drafts...

Hang with me, folks.
My inner critic is alive and well while my inner voice continues to struggle.
I look forward to posting soon.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Coming up...

Thanks for your patience as I get the blog up and running for the year.
I look forward to sharing some more new thoughts with you soon.
Have a great week!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Guilty by Association


This week, professional baseball announced its yearly inductees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The announcement was special because several deserving players were eligible to be on the ballot for the first time. Among them was Greg Maddux, undoubtedly one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. Maddux won 355 career games and four Cy Young Awards, the honor given to the top pitcher in each league. He played 23 seasons and many people believed he might be the first living player to receive 100% of the vote to enter the Hall of Fame. When the Wednesday announcement came, Maddux did not receive the unanimous vote. Six voters of the 200 baseball writers and journalists that are allowed to vote did not vote for Maddux. While the writers in question may have had different reasons for their refusing to vote for Maddux, one of them gave this reason.  He said he refused to vote for Maddux because he would not vote for anyone who played from primarily from 1990-2010 when steroids were prevalent in baseball. This writer wants to make a statement and effectively eliminate a whole generation from the Hall of Fame. The result is that, although Maddux was never suspected of any wrongdoing, he was punished just for playing at the same time as those who may have cheated.

Sometimes in life we are declared “guilty by association.” Because of the people we choose to be around or because of the family into which we are born, people form an impression of us that may be far from the truth. While we should always be careful to not engage in wrongdoing, we must also remember that Jesus was often “guilty by association.” Jesus had relationships with the very people that His society shunned. He went to weddings and feasts with undesirable characters. He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes and called working class men to be His disciples. He allowed a sinful woman to embrace Him while He sat eating in the house of a religious leader. His choice of friends didn’t make sense to the religious leaders of His day. Jesus told them (Mark 2:17),

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

 Many of the people in Jesus' day thought they were doing fine. They thought they had no need of a Savior or even a moral Teacher. They saw Jesus as a rebel and an danger to the established order. Many other people, however, knew that they needed to find peace and forgiveness, and Jesus became a symbol of hope to them.  As we look to live for Jesus, let us seek out those people around us who are lost and hurting. Let us not be afraid of criticism when we choose to live among the lowly and the outcasts. Let us be a comfort and a support to them and to one another. When we do this, we are becoming more and more like Jesus.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New year, new word


One Christian author that I greatly respect is Ann Voskamp. Her blog contains powerful writing about the daily struggles about living the life of faith. One spiritual practice that Ann promotes is choosing a word to guide the coming year. In 2013, I tried to focus on the word "quietness." I tried to spend more time alone. I tried to keep my opinions to myself; especially my opinions about things that could distract from my primary purpose of living for Christ. I still wanted to have an impact on others, but I wanted my impact to come more from my example than the words I spoke. I tried to be more open and less dogmatic and attempted to listen to smaller amounts of the shock-style spirituality so present in our culture. I watched less news and I incorporated more spiritual literature into my reading diet. While I don't think I attained "quietness" in 2013, being conscious of a desire for it and spending time in prayer concerning it helped me focus my spiritual energy in 2013. My prayer life was stronger in 2012 - mid-2013 than at any point in the last 10 years. I think the desire to be still and to be more focused on quietness greatly helped in this area. As far as I can remember, I didn't reveal this focus to anyone else until now, but I think the practice was beneficial.

For 2014, I have chosen the word - growth.  2014 promises to be a year of changes in many aspects of my life. New family situations, new living circumstances, entering a new decade of life, entering a second decade in my work at Lebanon - all promise to be big changes for me - a person who is fairly resistant to change. I also am actively seeking out opportunities to try new things and to move beyond my comfort zone. While spiritual growth will be an important part of 2014, I also want to grow socially, emotionally, intellectually, and in wellness in the coming year. I look forward to sharing this year of growth with you here on the blog. One reason I decided to change the format of the blog from the daily quotes to less frequent, more thoughtful posts is that I wanted to encourage myself to stretch and grow as a writer in this space.  I hope you will check back here throughout the course of 2014 and maybe we can grow a little bit together this year.