Sunday, November 20, 2011


Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?  In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.  (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14)

As I reflect on the celebration and sorrow this weekend holds, I ask myself, “Am I marking the passage of time, or am I looking to mark the time of my passage?”  There truly is a difference and the two events ever entwined in a single day of my life eleven years ago.  The verse from Ecclesiastes really took hold on that day, the nineteenth of November in 2000.  Many of you know the stories either because I have told them or because you were a part of them.  But this year, based on where the journey has taken me, I’m pulled back through this lens once again.

It was a Sunday afternoon with the celebration only a one-year-old birthday can entail.  And then the phone calls started coming.  In the middle of our joy, we reached out as Mike slipped from this life into the next quietly and in the company of family.  My sister-in-law Bobbie graciously held the memorial service on a Saturday so we could all make our travel arrangements more easily (it was Thanksgiving weekend and I would fly out there on a Friday).  As we hugged and said goodbye when I left her house a couple days later, she told me, “You need to finish Mike’s book.”  I sat on that request for several years until this blog (and the books I’ve drawn from it) were born.

This past week, I’ve taken the challenge of listening multiple times to a message from author Donald Miller that is the primary reason for my revisiting the origins of the Crooked Path.  Miller speaks candidly about the story of Joseph and uses the literary device of a story line to describe the positive and negative turns our life stories take.  In the midst of that, he draws attention to our God who is in the business of redeeming even the most negative of the turns and bringing glory to Himself as a result.  And Joseph’s life is just such a story - it is a beautiful story which is, as Miller puts it, “full of pain”.  

And so, I find myself thinking about my own life and the positive and negative turns.  They don’t always come in such rapid fashion as they did on that day shared with my daughter and my brother, but they do come.  In considering both the positive and negative turns (but especially the negative ones), I ask myself,

“Am I merely marking the passage of time?  Am I just living life from event to event without much thought to how they connect and what God is doing?  Or am I marking the time of my passage, looking to make sure that God is seen and my life is remembered as one that presented a clear view of His story told through me?”

Life on this Crooked Path will be filled with joy and pain.  I want to live the kind of life and walk the path in such a way that people will say, “He died too young” even if it happens when I’m 100.  I want to live well for all the right reasons.  I want to tell a story that people will remember.  And I want to watch God redeem the negative turns because that is exactly what He does.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Spring in My Step

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. (Colossians 3:1-4, The Message)

To say that it was a beautiful wedding would be a vast understatement.  It was simply elegant … and elegantly simple.  Choosing an outdoor venue in early November - even when it the venue is in North Carolina - is a risk.  Then again, the entire concept of marriage is a risk as well.  Yet, on what was a near-perfect November Saturday, my young friends Dru and Emily threw caution to the wind and pledged themselves to one another for the rest of their lives.  They stood there in front of our pastor on a simple platform, accessed by an “aisle” of Fall’s best leaves.  It was just the three of them up there - neither had an entourage of attendants - with all the rest of us sitting or standing and observing.
Oh, and then there was the simple reception complete with dancing.  Our church gymnasium looked equally elegant for that part and you could tell by the laughter and activity that this was a special celebration.  As I hugged each of them, I knew they and everyone else enjoyed the day to the utmost.  And that’s exactly as it should be, for there are few other earthly celebrations that match the picture of God’s tireless love for and pursuit of us.
It came together as my pastor gave his message from Colossians.  As I often do, I looked at the other translations available to me and focused again on Peterson’s rendering of the text.  The words “don’t shuffle along” leapt off the page.  God wants us to put a spring in our step, to walk with a purpose.  I saw that very walk when Dru and his family went up that path of leaves.  I saw it again as Emily and her father took the same path.  And I most definitely saw it as Dru picked up his new bride and carried her … at least for a short distance … back the same way.  They had done all this with a purpose.  They had made those trips because of what had happened in the past, what was happening at that moment, and for the promise of what was to come.
Paul told the Colossian church the same thing.  They needed to walk with a purpose because of what Christ had done for them and the relationship they had embraced with their Savior.  They needed to walk as a people with a living, active connection to their Savior and to those who had gone before them and were already “at the dance”.  They were pressing on toward that future state when they would see a return not only of Christ, but of all that was.
As I travel my own Crooked Path, I need to do the same thing.  I am on the path for a reason – I have a Savior who has made provision for me to be here.  He is actively involved in my life so that I can be His light to those around me as I travel.  And He is most definitely waiting for me at the end … He’s there to usher me into a guaranteed future for which I was designed.  I need to stop shuffling and look up.  I need to set my heart that which is yet before me.  And I need to do it with a spring in my step.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Comfortable with My Nothingness

As a week full of rather unusual things closes and the prospect of a new week dawns, I'm drawn to the following by Brennan Manning (Reflections for Ragamuffins, November 4 entry). In a world where the self-made and self-righteous abound, these thoughts offer me a center, a grounding that reminds me once again of how much God has done for me and how I bring absolutely nothing to the table myself. That, friends, is the pure definition of Grace ...

"The gospel declares that no matter how dutiful or prayerful we are, we can't save ourselves ...

"Maybe this is the heart of our hang-up, the root of our dilemma. we fluctuate between castigating ourselves and congratulating ourselves because we are deluded into thinking we save ourselves. We develop a false sense of security from our good works and scrupulous observance of the law. Our halo gets too tight, and a carefully disguised attitude of moral superiority results. Or, we are appalled by our inconsistency, devastated that we haven't lived up to our lofty expectations of ourselves. The roller-coaster ride of elation and depression continues.

"Why? Because we never lay hold of our nothingness before God, and, consequently, we never enter into the deepest reality of our relationship with him. But when we accept ownership of our powerlessness and helplessness, when we acknowledge that we are paupers at the door of God's mercy, then God can make something beautiful out of us."