Saturday, November 23, 2013

Can It Be That Simple?

"The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them."  Mark 10:13-15, The Message

After over a year with C.S. Lewis (Screwtape and Mere Christianity) my brain was pretty much overwhelmed.  In addition, my pastor has been bringing us some great stuff as the walked us through the Lord's Prayer and several other topics.  But it was in my small home group that the thought struck me last week.  Have we over-complicated things to such a degree that we miss the simplicity of who God is, what he does and how he reveals himself to us?  In our quest to build theologies and codify answers and such ... is it really far more simple than any of us could (or perhaps want to) believe?  I had to answer myself with a resounding "yes".  And that drove me back to this simple recording of how Jesus viewed children.  

It's found in three Gospel accounts, but the one here in Mark really stood out.  Across multiple translations, the tone of Jesus' response comes out clearly.  He is not pleased at the bums' rush his crew is giving the children these mothers have brought for a blessing.  And he uses this moment to offer what ought to be some of the most profound doctrine any of us should ever consider.  Yet it's so simple that we gloss over it and leave it for the children's Sunday School class instead.  And in doing so, I think we miss the true heart of God.

The Creator of everything is rebuking his disciples for their failure to understand the inherent worth of children and their approach to life.  They aren't living in the past and they aren't fretting over the future.  They are content with the "now" and that particular now meant seeing Rabbi Jesus and, perhaps, sitting on his lap.  If I envision God this way, I have to wonder how impressed he really is with all my knowledge and posturing as opposed to me coming to him with the wonder of a child.  How much does God really want me to "vision cast" instead of resting secure in the knowledge that he provides my daily bread?  I'm thinking he longs for us to come as children - and that's exactly what this passage means.

As I travel the Crooked Path, I need to open my eyes, mind and heart to the wonder of "now" and embrace freely the God who gives it.  I need to trust in the present (Peter has something to say about that) and stop trying to figure it all out.  I need to come and jump into the lap of the Almighty - knowing full well that it will make him laugh and he will embrace me with his massive, redemptive arms of love.  I need to quit worrying about the complex and get back to the simple.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Storms and the Peace

They come in all shapes and sizes.  It seems they come at the most inopportune moments of our life.  But we all agree the do come ... and how we perceive them an react to them makes all the difference.  Yes, storms are as much a part of life as breathing.

A few weeks back, my pastor Sam gave a message about storms.  He talked to us about that familiar story where Jesus was sleeping in the stern of the fishing boat during a pretty violent blow on the Sea of Galilee.  It's a tale we've heard ever since we first saw the old flannel-graph board.  But I learned something new as I listened.

Storms come at us primarily from four perspectives.  The Enemy certainly sends them as part of the work he seems to enjoy so much.  He intends to do us great harm, mainly because he knows he can't win us back.  His goal is disruption - plain and simple.  He's out to steal our joy and make us focus on the storm.

Storms also come from choices made.  Sometimes those were the choices of others and sometimes I made the choice.  Either way, I'm left to work through the reality of the storm and all it brings with it.  These kinds of storms are often very difficult to deal with because our pride gets in the way and the blame starts flying around.

Storms are also a part of this fallen world.  It's broken, folks ... and it won't be completely fixed just yet no matter how hard we try.  Those kinds of storms can leave us in doubt about God himself - and that's tough to deal with and work through.  But in all these storms, especially the ones coming because the world is a mess, I need to remember that I still have Jesus "in my boat".  And that's where today's message from Dan came shining through.

I had intended to write just about the storms a few weeks ago.  For whatever reason (I now see God's hand in it), I didn't do it before now.  And today, I get to incorporate not just the message on storms, but the thoughts of Peace.  The words Jesus spoke to his troupe asking, "Why  did you doubt?" come back into play again.  This time, Jesus is in the Upper Room giving what amounts to his own eulogy and last will and testament.  And among the gifts he gives, the greatest one is Peace.

The way he frames it is beyond what I usually think about.  John records for us (14:27, NLT) these words, "I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid."  Other translations say it's "not like the world's peace" which I interpret to mean the Master is offering something far different than what they've ever experienced.  It's the kind of Peace he had when he was napping in that storm-tossed boat.

Life on the Crooked Path means storms.  That's a fact I can't turn away from or ignore.  But my Divine Brother has promised me two things that I can count on during those storms, no matter what their source.  He says he'll be with me through them.  He may not stop them all like he did in that Gospel story, but he's not going to leave the boat.  And he gives me Peace - not some temporary fix, mind you - a lasting, deep Peace that reaches to the depth of my soul.  I just need to bring my storm to his feet and lay it there.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


I'm reading a lot of C.S. Lewis lately as the Sunday School class I teach is working through Mere Christianity.  This week's portion is the essay he titled "Good Infection" (Book 4, chapter 4) and he's continuing his efforts to try and convey the Three-Personal-God to us.  He's striking up images and analogies that make me think (and make my brain hurt at times), and he's exciting the senses with many of them.  Lewis talks about Eternal Love being the pre-existing basis for the Father begetting (not making, mind you) the Son and that Love being the perfect expression as well.  And it's all in some sort of perpetual motion that he likens to "a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama.  Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance."

No, I don't think that's irreverent at all.  I think it rather captures things in a unique way that perhaps we can see from our human perspective.  We see "the dance" in the way our solar system rotates and moves through time and the seasons.  We see it in the way our own Earth prepares in the coming weeks to "sleep" for a season so it can awaken to new life.  And we see it in children dancing perhaps demonstrating the purest reflection of all.

Now, here's the great part.  This "Triune Dance" Lewis eludes to has been going on since before there even was time.  It's the communion between Father, Son and Spirit that not only gives life and motion but is life and motion!  It is the heart of the Story where God the Author writes us a part and then enters the story himself to win us back.  And it all comes because he wants to show us who he is and to invite us to come back and join in the dance like we were designed to in the first place.  When we do that, we'll dance with the reckless abandon that only children know.  We'll return to that place of innocence that looked so foreign but now feels like home.

The Crooked Path provides many opportunities to see life and motion and dance.  If I stop to take them in, I can see the image of what is yet to come.  My steps should grow a little lighter when that happens ... and I might just do a little dance myself.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

God - Raised to the Third Power

"God created human beings;
he created them godlike,

Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female"

Genesis 1:27, The Message

I learned some new perspective on things these past couple of weeks.  First, I learned that God provides in his timing and it is what we need.  Think of the concepts of daily bread or manna and you'll get the picture.  I have some work again after a bit of a drought.  I have no idea if it will be permanent or if I want it to be.  But I know it is provision from a loving Father and that's what's important.  But bigger than that, I've learned something new by the way of my C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity study.  And it isn't so much the concept that is new as it is the perspective I've been given.

We've had it drilled into our heads that God is a Trinity since we first saw our names on a Sunday School role.  I was in parochial school since the 4th grade and had it hammered home more than many.  But the concept seemed a bit "out there" and this past week, I believe I understand why.  It's because it is "out there" and that's the way it will stay.  And a simple geometry lesson brought home the concept for me in a fresh way.

If life is a one-dimensional world, then all we see are simple lines.  There is no shape defined and that's what the world is.  But add a second dimension and we get shapes - shapes made up of lines.  It is possible then, to draw a square and see it as it's own thing.  But we overlook that it actually is four perfectly equal lines arranged in a certain way.  Move to the next level of complexity, and you can take four squares and assemble a cube.  That three-dimensional world takes on all kinds of possibilities that were never conceivable in the one-dimensional existence, yet even the cube retains the traces - the image if you will - of the simple lines that make it up.

God, all three persons or personalities of him, exists in a far more complex dimension than we do.  Yet, when he created us, he said among himself (yes, you read that right), "Let's put the image of us in what we create.  Let's put traces of our divine dimension and existence inside this man so he will have the opportunity, at some point, to see he is a reflection of us."  And so we have what we read in Genesis 1 about God breathing his life into a lower, less complex dimension and it forever having the shadow of God inside it.

Now, to make it even more bizarre - and I say that in a good way - God doesn't stop at that.  Knowing full well this creatures choice will be his undoing, God's second person reduces himself to the dimension of the created world, proves who is king once and for all, and provides a redemption.  He invites us to live out our current existence in his grace so that we can one day transcend this feeble dimensional existence and go on to live forever in his dimension, seeing him face-to-face.  And that, is one of the "mere" points of Christianity.

My Crooked Path is so far beneath where God dwells.  And yet he chooses to enter my world and invite me into relationship.  He offers me the gift of a different life now and the promise of something beyond my imagination to come.  It's as if a cube could somehow tell a line, "I know you can't see it at the moment, but you will escape your limited dimension and know exactly who and what I am.  Just trust me on that."  OK, God, I think I can handle that much.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


(Matthew 6:9-13, NLT) Pray like this:

"Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one."

It's quite a thought on any day, let alone the day that marks what would have been my Dad's 85th birthday.  Jesus has just brought a whole new dimension to the way his rag-tag band of disciples are to think ... and pray.  They are to approach the Almighty, Sovereign God of the Universe as they would their own fathers.  I'm quite sure they are dumbstruck at the mere thought, let alone carrying out simple but elegant prayer.

And we're not talking some distant, hard-hearted patriarch here.  We're talking an intimate, present, active person ... the one they could call "Abba" or "Daddy".  He isn't angry or judging (like a friend of mine who is struggling with a pastor that seems to represent that point of view).  He's welcoming and accepting.  Sure he is holy, but he makes that holiness accessible to us in a wonderfully simple way.  And he calls us his children, allowing us to address him in this very personal way ... "Our Father ..."

I've lived more of my life without my Dad than I did with him.  It has softened a bit over the nearly 27 years, but it still embodies a rather deep ache - a longing for something lost.  If I let the concept Jesus is offering sink in - really take over my soul - I will find some level of relief for that ache.  I will look ahead on my Crooked Path and know that my Father is very real, very accessible, and very interested in me.  He loves to hear me pray a simple prayer like this one.  I can trust him as I would my own Dad because that's who he is.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Life Lesson from an Impressive Nineteen-Year-Old

"So Christ has truly set us free.
Now make sure that you stay free
 and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law."
(Galatians 5:1, NLT)

The Galatians had a pretty significant problem.  If you have access to an audio version of the book, it only takes about 20 minutes to listen to the whole thing and, if you do, I think you'll see the same thing I do.  There problem was a focus on external stuff rather than on their own hearts and the redemptive freedom offered in Christ.  They were so hung up on "lists" that Paul has to lay down to opposing lists, one of which we commonly call the Fruit of the Spirit.  They were missing the best and biggest thing - complete freedom from who they were.

Today, in the space of about 15 minutes, this lesson was hammered home to me (and others at church with me) by a 19-year-old college girl.  She spoke of things happening on her campus (a state school, mind you) and then she played a video she made about her past.  I won't go into the details, but the phrase that stuck out was this:

"What am I trying NOT to feel?"

I'm still chewing on this.  When I run toward some empty "stuff" instead of engage, why don't I ask myself this same question?  If this young lady can learn in the space of a few years that Jesus offers freedom from who we were and invites us to abandon ourselves to him, why do any of us keep stuffing hollow garbage into our souls?  By searching for "something else" we are looking to capture a feeling and it won't happen.  It is all anti-feeling.

The Crooked Path promises one thing.  God walks with me in the person of my Divine Older Brother and stands ahead of me calling as my Father.  Embracing that and giving up all my externals is the only way to find freedom in its fullest.  I think I finally saw that clearly today ... and it took a wise 19-year-old to point it out.  I guess an old dog can learn after all.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Knowing for Certain

Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about his Son.  All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true. Those who don’t believe this are actually calling God a liar because they don’t believe what God has testified about his Son.  And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.  I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.  (1 John 5:9-13, NLT)

It was a thought that really never crossed my mind.  But as it was laid before me, I saw it for what it is.  The simple, passionate message brought by one of my pastors (Dan) cut through all the "theory" about eternal life and made it real - perhaps for the first time.  I realized this isn't some vague, theological concept that we will experience at some future point.  No, John is telling people that they have eternal life now.  Peterson even amplifies this further by rendering part of the passage this way:  "[That you] will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion."  What a concept!

This set my mind thinking about the exchange between Jesus and Martha in John 11 (perhaps John was thinking about it as well when he wrote the passage above).  In the middle of what seems to be death and certainly is human despair, we see Life speaking life into Death and Death melts away so far that Lazarus walks out of the grave.  Martha thought "eternal life" was something that comes later.  Jesus told her, and then demonstrated, that was far from true.  Life, the real and eternal life that endures, was right there all the time.

So it is with me as I travel my Crooked Path.  Eternal life isn't some future concept.  It isn't an illusion at all.  It is very, very real and present right now.  Certainly this mortal shell will pass away.  I was reminded of that this week when the mother of a friend lost her temporal battle with cancer.  But she didn't gain eternal life when she died.  She just moved on to the next stage of experiencing it.  And that happens because we have eternal life right here and now.  I know it's true because Jesus said it - which was kind of John's point in the first place.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Radically Offsensive

“When he was still a long way off, his father saw him.
His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him.”
(Luke 15:20, The Message)

If you understand the historical context, you begin to realize that the story was intended to be radically offensive to the listeners.  A well-to-do Middle Eastern man of that era would NEVER hike up his robes and run, much less to go out and meet a son who had asked him, quite literally, to act like he was dead and give said son his ⅓ of the estate.  It just wasn’t done.  Besides, if that son had any sense of pride at all, he either would have died in that far-off country or at least never come back to his home town and risk disgracing anyone involved.  No, it was definitely offensive - and that’s what Jesus had in mind when he told it.

But there is another concept that comes into play, and it’s one that isn’t in the text.  I hadn’t considered it until I picked up Tim Keller’s “The Prodigal God” and read it.  Keller introduces a chapter about the true elder brother.  And that’s where the story really shows the heart of God our Father.

The elder brother in the parable was disdainful, both of his brother’s actions and his father’s grief.  He wanted little more than to forget it all and move on.  He was now lord of the manor - all that was belonged to him legally.  And we all know what Jesus had to say about that attitude.

But consider the concept of the true elder brother.  Consider one who, upon seeing the grief of his father, took it upon himself to seek out the younger brother and bring him back home.  Acting at his own expense, he sets off to that far country and risks everything to show the father’s love (and his own) in attempting to win his estranged brother back.  

And, as Keller points out, that’s exactly what Christ did for us.  At his own great expense, he carried out the plan to rescue us.  He does it because the Father’s heart is broken.  The True Elder Brother of us all, comes to us in our darkest hour and offers redemption.  What a beautiful story - and what a radically offensive picture of a love we can barely comprehend.

As I travel the Crooked Path, I do so as a redeemed younger brother of Jesus.  The price he paid to give me the opportunity to reconnect with the Father was beyond measure.  Yet he did it willingly … and that’s quite a radical thought for my journey.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Redeemed ... What a Thought

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
(Isaiah 43:1-3, ESV)

While on a business trip and staying with friends, I've taken the opportunity a couple of times to walk on the "rail-to-trail" park that runs right by their house.  On one trip I had my MP3 player going and was listening to Isaiah being read.  The first track happened to be Isaiah 43 and it put a smile on my face to here the words I posted above.  The very thought of being redeemed, rescued, and protected is just so awe inspiring I knew I had to write about it. And then I checked the time as I made my turn.

I use my phone and, hitting the display button, I saw I had missed a call.  It was from my wife and I quickly began to return it.  While it was ringing, the tone went off to let me know I had a voice mail ... which is not at all like my wife.  As she answered, my curiosity was at a bit of a peak and I soon found out what prompted her to leave a message.

My wife and girls (and the two dogs) were in the process of huddling in a closet to wait out a tornado warning.  Given what we could find out, a funnel cloud had touched down just a couple miles from our house.  It appeared to be headed away, but caution dictated they play it safe.  We hung up for the moment, her in our house under a tornado watch and me 800+ miles away feeling helpless.

It turned out just fine (we didn't even lose power though it was out down the road from us closer to where the action was).  But I still had a bit of a helpless feeling inside.  What possibly could I have done even if the tornado was in my neighborhood or on my street?  Just how much was I willing to place my faith in the God who says he will keep me from harm and redeem me?  Thing happen every day where people are not "kept from harm" at least from the human perspective.  Was this the reason Isaiah 43 had played on my walk tonight?  I'm thinking, as I write about it, that is exactly the case.

The Crooked Path offers only one promise - God will not abandon us.  Isaiah 43 is evidence of that truth, not some misapplied blather about us never experiencing anything bad.  No, it just reinforces the idea that God is still God and my job is to trust him and follow, knowing all the while I will walk through the river and the fire and the tornado while still coming out whole in him.  And that is quite a thought when you are this far away from a family huddled in the closet under a severe weather warning.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Being a Father

I don't think anything in this world gives me more joy than being a father and a husband to the wife who gave my girls to me.  I remember the first time I saw each of them.  I remember the videos we shot and the pictures we took.  I remember teaching them to ride a bike, taking the to the park, and trying to comfort them when they were sick or hurt.  I have keepsakes of all kinds, both those I can touch and those I can remember.  They are my pride and joy ... and they always will be.

This year, I'm away from them for the "big day" which is fine.  I'm a typical guy when it comes to the sentimentality of a Hallmark holiday.  But I still have them with me.  We've talked on the phone and via video.  One e-card has shown up and another (a fantastic one) will be on its way in the morning.  So even if we're apart, we're still together.  That's how connected we are and how much I love them.

Our heavenly father sees this same joy in us.  He has the same kind of memories and "videos" of us.  He would hang the pictures we make for him on his fridge if he had one.  He loves us that much.  So on this Fathers' Day, when the Crooked Path has me in a different location from my wife and girls, I want to take the time to tell my heavenly father that I love him more than ever and thank him for the girls he has entrusted to me.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Waiting ...

“And they (Job’s friends) sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”  (Job 2:13, ESV)

Oh the waiting game ... often played, rarely appreciated.  I'm playing it now and I hope that I can take a lesson from Job.  Those seven days where nobody spoke a word were essential to what unfolded.  Too often, we (and by that I mean I) want to rush to the solution or the end or at least something other than the waiting.  And, when we do that, we miss the opportunity to appreciate so many things.  So, while I'm still waiting on what comes next for me, here are some thoughts that should make me appreciate this silent period.

I had the most wonderful time away with the family.  We really needed it and despite not having a job to come back to, it was a great experience where lasting memories were made.  That can get lost in the waiting impatience if I let it and it really shouldn't.

I have had the chance to see just how big my network is over the past few weeks.  No, nothing firm has turned up for employment, but there have been some great conversations and we have not gone hungry or begun living outside yet.  The breadth of people I know at many levels can get lost when I'm focused on busy and not in a waiting stage.

Serving others is a valuable thing that rarely gets done when we are so focused on what is next.  This past week, I had the opportunity to serve my sister by ripping out and replacing her porch.  The job ended up bigger than we planned, but it also ended up as a much nicer porch.  She will have many pleasant mornings, afternoons, and evenings sitting on that porch and just enjoying what life brings in front of her.  Had I not been waiting, it would have taken a month or more of weekends to do the job.

God doesn't promise a precisely running clock on the Crooked Path.  He only promises to be with us - and that extends to the waiting period.  The waiting is a chance to listen a little more closely, reflect a little more deeply, and take time for opportunities that otherwise might have been missed.  And, as Isaiah stated, it can be a time to renew that which sustains me as I travel.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

So Many Thoughts

So many thoughts swirling around in my head today. Too many to just focus on a single post, and yet there is a single idea that does make me pause to consider that magnitude of it.  It is a very comforting thought in difficult times and an encouraging thing on which to base my faith day to day.

First, John Eldridge's daily post today was from his book Desire.  The first part of the e-mail said this:

"This may come as a surprise to you: Christianity is not an invitation to become a moral person. It is not a program for getting us in line or for reforming society. It has a powerful effect upon our lives, but when transformation comes, it is always the aftereffect of something else, something at the level of our hearts. And so at its core, Christianity begins with an invitation to desire."

I carried that thought into the Sunday School class I'm co-teaching on C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.  But it was one of the verses attached to the e-mail that really struck home with me and a few of my friends.  Jesus ends his discussion with the Samaritan woman with this, "The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life" (John 4:14 The Message).  What a way to capture that thought.  And how encouraging when we face so many difficulties in our lives.  We have a well spring within us, gushing LIFE!!

In my current search for the next career situation God has for me, through the loss of a dear family friend rather suddenly, to all those little aches and pains that accompany nearly half a century on this Earth ... I have a connection to LIFE that gushes refreshment and renewal right inside me.  God's Spirit will not fail to provide what I need in absolute abundance.  The emotional comfort, the physical needs ... all of it is taken care of by a God I can trust completely.

Now I realize I've rambled a bit, but I think I gave fair warning about that.  The Crooked Path of life often comes at us in what seems like hyper-speed.  But God's provision - the LIFE in Christ he provides - will always be what we need, when we need it, and in overwhelming abundance.  I may not be able to focus my thoughts all that clearly, but God knows them and knows me completely.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Little Perspective

About two years ago, I had one of "those" meetings with HR and my manager.  It wasn't a big surprise as there were many changes going on.  Still, it was a change that we had to accept and it meant a more aggressive search for a new job and all that comes with that.  It took about four months to get into something stable and even now, I've not held a "permanent" job since I left that company.

Today is the first day of another journey.  My current contract was not renewed (again, not a big surprise) and we're in that search mode once again.  I've had some bouts of feeling sorry for myself, but they have been tempered by the overwhelming knowledge that I belong to a God for whom nothing comes as a surprise.  And this same God promises to be with me no matter what.  He tells me that instead of worrying, I should bundle up my worry and give it over to him.  It's not an easy thing to do, but I am trying to practice it day by day, hour by hour.

All this puts things in perspective for me.  I have yet to find myself without more than just the bare necessities of life.  In fact, through all of this I have been more than blessed.  Perspective also bids me to look around and see that others suffer in far greater ways.  Once again this week, the headlines are full of truly evil acts.  Phone calls, e-mails, and social media posts tell of others who have greater cause for concern about things that matter far more than my job.

Perspective ... it can be a difficult thing to interpret at times.  I've said before that the Crooked Path makes some rather tight turns and seeing very far ahead just isn't going to happen.  Especially in those times, I need to trust the one who has a far greater perspective of my life and know he loves me deeply and will make his best happen in his own way.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Work In Progress

I've spent more than a few years in multiple industries over the course of my career.  In nearly every one of my situations, there is a concept called WIP or work-in-progress.  It's that intermediate stage that has taken raw "stuff" and begun to make something tangible and planned out of it.  Sometimes there is a little work, sometimes there is a lot.  Either way, it's necessary and it is very intentional.  It isn't the finished state, but it has value as it progresses toward that end.

Paul understood this when he wrote to the Philippians (1:3-6, The Message), "Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears."

It is the same with me today.  God is performing good work in me (not just through me) with a purpose he has in mind.  He's doing it so that I will continually be transformed and conformed to the image of Jesus.  It leads to perfection in his divine timing and in the way he defines "perfect".  It means he is going to mold me through the good and bad, redeeming even the most evil things that I encounter.  Even the most terrible is not beyond his ability to bring about his glory in his way.  I don't have to understand it (I rarely do anyway); my job is to trust God and believe he is ultimately good.

The Crooked Path is filled with this work in progress.  As I move through it all, I can take refuge in the knowledge that I do not travel alone.  The work in progress has purpose and the one guiding it does not leave me alone.  He has a specific purpose and the work in me is good always.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


I read a post from a former teacher this week that gave me cause to stop and think about things that are going on all around me.  Bonnie had received notice about her high school graduating class and remarked how several of them were listed as "deceased".  She added, sadly, that only a couple of those she knew of were believers.

I thought about that post and then about how events in Boston played out ... and it brought me back to the verse in James where we are told out life is as brief as a vapor - as momentary as the mist that hangs in a grove of trees on a Spring morning.  In the perspective of eternity, no matter how long you live or how old you think this Earth might be, what we know and see are mere blips on the radar.  I don't know about you, but this stuff gives me at least the opportunity to re-evaluate my life and, if I let it touch my heart, I take that chance like I did this week.

The thoughts of brevity lead me to other thoughts as well - and these are of great hope in difficult times.  In the Upper Room Discourse, our Master and Friend told his disciples that he would be going away, but that he would not leave them as mere orphans.  They were still in the orphanage with all its trappings, but they were children of God.  Paul emphasized that hope with his writing on our troubles being temporary as well.  He saw through the mist and knew it would lift.  The brevity of our time should be of great comfort if we take that perspective.

It is just that - perspective - that we need to keep as we travel this Crooked Path.  Life is hard at times, but when weighed against the scale that is eternity, the difficulty is brief.  While this gives us hope, it also brings the same perspective my friend Bonnie had when reading that list.  Brevity should go hand in hand with urgency - we want to bring others with us into our Hope.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Open and Clear - Forever!!

"The crucified Christ reminds us that despair and disillusionment are not terminal but signs of impending resurrection.  What lives beyond the cross is the liberating power of love, freeing us from the ego centerdness that says, 'All I am is what I think I am and nothing more.'"  - Brennan Manning

Nothing quite captures the essence of Easter as much as Christians saying to each other, "Christ is risen!" with the echoed reply, "He is risen indeed!"  All that despair and disillusionment Manning mentions does indeed become temporal rather than terminal.  The death we so wept and despaired over was necessary, but it was not the end.  It was only a necessary second hinge on which the Door must be hung so it could open once and for all.

The Crooked Path only paused at the Cross - it now marches boldly and confidently through the open, empty tomb and embraces a Savior who has conquered Death and left it to languish in its own misery.  Our Divine Brother did this for us, his mortal brothers and sisters, so that our Father could give us his heart all over again - because redemption has been on his mind from the start.

So rejoice, my friends!  Take heart in the message the angel spoke (recorded for us in Luke 24 as presented in The Message):

Then, out of nowhere, it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there.  The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship.  The mean said, "Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery?  He is not here, but raised up."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Two Hinges and a Door

I've often viewed the Story of Jesus' life on earth as two hinges and a door.  The hinges are his birth and death - both distinct hallmarks of his humanity.  The birth hinge is a glorious and humble event.  He came, subject to the same nine-month gestation that we all went through, and was born in the lowliest of circumstances to a peasant couple from a back-water town.  Quite the dubious beginning.

He likely apprenticed to his own father, I'm sure banging his thumb more than a couple times, and didn't seek out fame.  When he was "ready", he set out teaching as one of a continuous parade of itinerant rabbis.  Nothing of great note here, except that his followers, especially those closest to him, noticed something different.  They noticed a kind of authority lacking anywhere else they had looked.  And this was a pretty down-trodden people.  They had seen these teachers come and go and none of them even came close to what Jesus said and did.

So it really should surprise us that we see him coming into Jerusalem that day in a way that directly brought Zechariah 9:9 to the crowds' minds.  They had seen enough to believe this King had the staying power they sought to break the tyranny of Roman rule.  This was a people who hadn't been "free" in over a millenia and they were ripe for a coup.  The songs and praises rang out that Palm Sunday ... right up until the coup never happened.

That's where the second hinge of our story comes in.  After a sham trial that didn't even meet the legal standard for witnesses agreeing, the Rabbi was sentenced to death.  And the same crowds that were ready to welcome him as the king, cheered on the Roman soldiers as they administered the punishment.  There would be no coup - and the door, now set on those two hinges appeared closed for all time, just like every other human who lived.  He was born, lived a brief life, and died like a common criminal.  Case - and door - closed.

What nobody saw - and I'm thinking even his disciples were in this group - was that this was all part of a much bigger plan.  The Story of God's redemption required Jesus to go through all aspects of humanity the same way we did.  And, while his body lie in that borrowed tomb, the rescue effort was in full swing.  But that, my friends, is  story for next week.  For now, I'm encouraging you to see the door, on its two hinges, shut and dark.  Just like I didn't want to hurry past the Manger, I don't want to rush past the Cross.  The birth is necessary because it makes the death possible.

As I travel the Crooked Path this year, I want Holy Week to bring a special focus for me.  I want this last week of the Lenten season to ring home the grandeur of The Story in a way that only the darkest of climaxes can.  I want to prepare, once again, for the death of a close family member - my Divine Brother - who did so just for me.  I want to pause and grieve so that my relief next Sunday will be all that more genuine.  Pause with me and look at the door on its hinges - the door seemingly closed as seen by those who walked with Jesus over 2,000 years ago.  Don't rush through it - it will open soon enough.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Puzzle Pieces

I've always enjoyed a good jigsaw puzzle, even the thousand piece ones.  There is just something about them.  One place I worked even had them set up in the aisles.  It was a great way to take a mental break and I think that's an awesome motivator to provide your employees (not to mention the conversation that happens over the puzzles).  But, not to go all "Forrest Gump" on you - life is a lot like a puzzle.  I had this thought while at a church governance seminar yesterday, married it with my current theme about re-engaging with my story, and the rest is just the rambling of my blog post.

God sees the full picture.  That much I know for certain.  We get a glimpse of parts of it at times, but I don't believe we see the whole thing.  We do see enough from him to work on what he has given us.  And, we see enough to sort through the "pieces" that are in front of us to make some sense of them (or at least to trust God when we don't see it completely).  But we do have a task before us - we're supposed to find the right fit for the puzzle.

We bring a unique perspective to this as well, kind of like the family who keeps the puzzle in a room, assigns general sections to family members, but lets anybody work on any area where they find a matching piece.  Just walking away from our own "focus" and seeing something else sometimes lets your mind see a different perspective.  In doing that, we exercise our God-given creativity in filling out the puzzle all within his master creative plan.  We are given the chance to trust his vision and participate in it.  In doing so, we help those around us who are "stuck" or who seem bent on "forcing" a piece in to stop, reflect, and regain perspective of God's vision.  Together, we join forces and make something beautiful as part of God's Great Story.  And doing it together brings the joy only found in community.

The Crooked Path was never meant for complete, continual solitude.  Sure, we may toil in loneliness for a season, but we aren't alone.  We have others who are working through the same challenges and we all have the "Master Puzzle Visionary" who we can trust.  As we travel, we pick up our pieces, try to find the spot for some of them, scratch our heads at times, and maybe even trade with fellow travelers.  But we know, deep within us, that we can trust God.  He sees the whole picture in its finished state and finds it beautiful.  He sees us as beautiful.  That's a comforting thought on a cloudy day.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

If Only ...

Dreaming is a good thing. Our hearts and minds were made by a Creator who has embedded curiosity and creativity in us.  We were born to forge ahead, to take risks, to explore ... but if that's all we ever do on this Crooked Path, then we will find ourselves hollow, jaded, and left at the mercy of "if only ..." thinking.

There are no wasted days in our lives.  Everything, no matter how grand, bland, ridiculous, or despicable is accounted for by One who knows and loves us.  For a wonderful example, we need turn no further than the story of Joseph (unpacked in this MP3 by Donald Miller in quite a fresh way) to see that God will work all things toward an ultimate good purpose.  He will redeem it all, and he will do it because he loves us.

So let me repeat myself; there are no wasted days in our lives.  And when we try to do just that by focusing on the "if only" we ignore the opportunity set before us.  We trade it (or try to) for some imaginary "greater and better" future that focuses on what I can do or become and ignores what God is doing in and around me right now. We squander one of God's greatest resources - ourselves - in a feeble effort to do our own thing our own way.  And again, our dreams and creativity are important to God - but they are not above him.

God invites me and you to walk with him.  He invites us into his work right now, wherever we may be along the Crooked Path, so that his glory can be revealed.  He gives us the opportunity to create what he wants and reflect him.  But to do so, we've got to give up our "if only" and false sense of self-identity.  I'm thinking Lent is the perfect time to do just that.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Father Brother Partner Friend

It dawned on me this week that God presents himself to me in different ways during different stages along my Crooked Path journey.  He does this to all of us and the Word he gave us points it out over and over again.  I could write for days on all the ways we experience God, but my thoughts for this post have settled on four: God as Father, Brother, Partner and Friend.  Here goes nothing ...

God as Father is the easy one.  Most of us have been taught this concept from the time we could be handed crayons and sit at a Sunday School table.  The Father is the one up ahead on the path.  He is the one who is our leader and guide.  He calls to us, beckoning from somewhere down the way and urges us to follow where he goes.  He may be far enough ahead that we don't see him, but we know he is there and we want to believe he is true to his word.

God as my Brother is, essentially, an offshoot of him being my Father.  If I believe in the Trinity, I call Jesus the Son of God.  My Bible tells me that I am also a son of God so, by direct relationship, I have a Divine Older Brother who quite literally loved me and the Father enough to die for me.  My Brother has walked the same Path as I walk and comes to me directly offering encouragement.  He has a unique connection to our Father and shares his heart with me as we journey.

Matthew also recorded Jesus saying he would be our Partner.  This comes with the exhortation to "take my yoke" which is a partnership if ever I've seen one.  Draft horses who will work as a team are often raised together from foals so they can develop an innate sense of each other and be more effective partners.  Sharing the load with Jesus as my Partner is an awesome way to travel the Path and it reminds me that I am never alone.

On the night before he died, Jesus told his closest men that he wasn't going to call them servants anymore.  Instead, he was renaming them as his Friends.  Now, having the Father, Brother, and Partner are great ... but having God call me his Friend?  WOW!!  That is an incredible opportunity.  Friends know each other better than anyone else.  Friends laugh and run and play together.  Friends are comfortable just hanging out because they know in their hearts that the relationship they have is worth more than anything else.

This Lenten season, my story reminds me that God is my Father, Brother, Partner and Friend.  If that isn't a great way to dive into The Story, I don't know what is.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Because of Them ...

The one on the left is 13 now.  The one on the right is staring down the barrel of 16 in just a few more months.  It's an understatement to say that time has flown by ...

But they are really at the heart of why I'm feeling this longing to renew my connection with my part in God's Story.  You see, I have a duty to pass on the best view of that Story to them so they can make the best choices for their own stories.  It reflects the relational heart of God for all of us.

I know I make mistakes - far too often to even count.  But I am beginning to realize that my mistakes grieve God not because I broke "some code" but because I have chosen to walk away from the greatest gift I've ever been offered.  I make my choice to tell God, "Hey!  What you offer is great and all, but I think I'll try it my way for a while.  You'll still be there when I'm done, right?"  And God is still there, but he's sadder because I chose to turn away, even if for a little while.  And that brings me back to my girls.

As my pastor said today, I am part of the I AM.  That needs to sink in and have an effect on how I view my world.  When I choose to write my own definitions for everything, I choose a weaker, darker story.  And, by extension, I pass that along to those who matter the most to me - my wife and daughters.  I make it harder for them and others I encounter to choose a better part in God's Better Story.

So, as a part of this Lenten reawakening, I want to offer the best choices to my wife and especially to my girls.  I want to claim the best part of God's Story consistently.  I know I will miss it (and do so often), but I want to continue coming back to God's Story, erasing what I've written without his guidance, and joining with him to continue creating the best part possible for me and my girls.  I owe it to them as their father and as one who wants them to love God with all their hearts.  I have a unique opportunity and a duty ... because of them.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Re-Entering The Story

I haven’t written regularly for some time.  I put myself on a pretty rigid schedule for a little over 2 years and managed to post near weekly blogs and even have them in a position to end up as books (that’s a different project).  All this time, even while I have written a few posts on special themes, God has been encouraging me about how my own story fits within His bigger story.  I’ve read books, seen little bits of writing, heard people talk - and all of it seems to point back to a singular theme.  So, as I begin this next leg of travel on the Crooked Path, I want it to be more about how God invites me - and all of us - to enter His story, claim it for our own, and explore the wonderful opportunity to create as He inspires us.  If I’ve learned one thing in the past few years, I’ve learned that God quite literally died to have a relationship with me.  He did so to have a relationship with you.  He stands, open armed, without condemning us and asks us to join and follow Him as He leads.

This is my Lenten offering for 2013.  Not so much what I give up, though I am giving up my own tendency to despair and pull back.  My Lent is more about what I am taking on.  I want more than ever to explore in a fresh way my part in God’s story.

Just this week, the e-mail I get from John Eldridge’s organization offered me this thought:

“God gave us a remarkable choice. He did not make Adam and Eve obey him. He took a risk. A staggering risk, with staggering consequences. He let others into his story, and he lets their choices shape it profoundly.”

I want to choose the best story possible and see where God takes me.  I want to reflect that story and those choices to my wife, my daughters, my friends, and everybody I meet.  I want my journey on this Crooked Path to be one of ultimate joy and freedom - not because of who I am, but because of the One who gives me the choice to shape my part in The Story.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Rhythms of Grace

Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You've concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that's the way you like to work." Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. "The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen. "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew 11:25-30, The Message)

Sometime back, I was listening to a CD while I was driving. It happened to be a compilation of old Don Francisco tunes, and one in particular caught my attention. The song “Give Your Heart a Home” speaks of our struggle to do things for ourselves and the empty failure that brings. It uses the passage quoted above as Jesus’ voice beckoning us to lay down our own burdens, yoke with Him, and let Him give us true rest and a home. I had been thinking about that song and how Scripture (especially the passage in Matthew) called out to us in our deepest need and want, but I hadn’t been able to bring it all together to the point where I felt like I could write about it … until my pastor, Sam, spoke on it in his sermon.

The call of Jesus in Matthew 11 is not a simple “greeting card” wish for us to come away and find a quick respite in the midst of some momentary difficulty. In fact, the call here is a direct extension of what Jesus taught in the Beatitudes about who heaven was meant for … the lowest of the low among creation. God beckons us to leave behind life spent living without Him and trying to bear a burden we cannot possibly bear. As Francisco’s song said, we spend what we don’t have to buy an emptiness that cannot fulfill. We are lost souls faced with continual disappointment and disillusionment. Our empty hearts cry out for something … anything … that will stave off the pain we feel in the very depths of our being. And in the midst of this, God calls.

Jesus invites us to join with Him and promises a rest from our struggle that we so desperately need. He doesn’t want our religious efforts, hollow as they are. He wants our hearts. He has already paid the price and offers the promise that His burden is light and His yoke is easy. His path is intentionally crooked, as I’ve discussed before, but He offers us something we cannot get elsewhere.

And, taking Him up on his offer, we travel the crooked path not without a companion or a plan. Rather, we travel it yoked to a Divine Brother who leads us and guides us and bears far more of our burden than we can possibly imagine. And as we walk forward, linked with our Master and Savior, we move to the unforced rhythms of Grace.

Our Friend Jesus offers a kind of rest that truly brings new life, a recovered life. We lay our head against His shoulder, and lean on Him, accepting His strength as the substitute for what we cannot do ourselves. And resting on the Rabbi’s shoulder, we hear in the rhythm of grace, His heartbeat keeping time. It isn’t a simple vacation or refreshing getaway, it is the rest of a lifetime. No longer lost souls, our heart has found a permanent home, and our travel along the crooked path lifts and lightens in His presence.