Sunday, December 28, 2014


A little reflection can be a good thing for anyone.  It helps us remember where we've been and what we've done.  It can be a pleasant thing that conjures up happy thoughts of times we've shared with friends or family.  It can be an instructive thing as we recall incidents where perhaps we didn't put forth our best self.  All of it, the good, bad and other becomes part of our story.  And it is our stories that both define us and provide us with vision as we travel on.

My year has been dull by most standards, though those closest to me might say differently.  I've watched my daughters grow and change, especially the one who is making plans to head off to college next Fall.  Both of them give me great cause for joy as I see the beautiful, intelligent young women they are becoming.  That's a good reflection.

My work is satisfying and I moved from a transient to more permanent state later in the year.  This provides us with a little more stability but still allows me to pursue my passion for corporate learning engagements.  I've become a valued resource both to my employer and the people who contract for my training services.  Both are fulfilling.

My wife and I are fast approaching three decades together.  That's quite a journey in and of itself.  We know each other better after all these years and there is comfort in the consistency of our relationship.  The progression of the girls toward young adulthood just amplifies that.

I'm thankful for friends we've connected with, especially those we sat down with across the table for a meal.  Some we hadn't seen in years, yet those same years melted away like a light frost in the sunrise.  I like those kinds of friendships because actual time and distance isn't really a factor that impacts the richness of the relationship.

I'm no prophet - and I don't pretend to know what the Crooked Path holds in 2015.  But I do know the One who walks beside me and I trust him implicitly to be there just as he has been all along.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Noisy Entrance of Hope

"Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.  The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen.  It turned out exactly like they'd been told!"  (Luke 2:19-20, The Message)

I love the old Christmas songs.  They tell such a wonderful story.  They bring joy to the lips of young and old.  And so many of the favorites are just dead wrong.  The picture they paint about Advent, while melodic, isn't the way it happened.  Take, for example, "Silent Night" ...

Bethlehem probably hadn't seen that much activity in a long time.  It certainly wasn't a mecca for travel or a tourist destination.  Other than being the historical home of the beloved King David, it was that sleepy, dull town we've been told.  And then Rome ordered a census.  The rush was on to get back to wherever home was and check in - and pay up.

You can imagine that room prices doubled or tripled.  Plus, since Bethlehem wasn't really set up for this many people, rooms were scarce to say the least.  So when this lower-class couple with an "illegitimate" child show up, it's just one more guest that cant be accommodated. Amid the noise and bustle of this overcrowded town, a young and very pregnant girl is just another unlucky customer.

Then something happened we really don't quite understand.  The innkeeper, for whatever reason, turns the couple to his cave stable.  It's dark, dank and smells ... well ... like a stable, but it's someplace and that's what Mary and Joseph need.  In the middle of the noise and smell of this place, she goes into labor and delivers her child into a noisy, crowded and probably cranky world (they were all there to pay taxes remember).

The shepherds scene adds to the frantic nature of it all.  They come bursting in with some off-the-wall story about an angelic choir suspended in the air.  Whatever creature was sleeping in that stable is probably wide awake now.  And while our favorite songs have Jesus quietly sleeping, I'd say his human infant side was probably over stimulated to the point of crying.  Then there was that boy with the drum ...

So Hope enters our world with the mission to be human, fulfill the law and do what we couldn't do for ourselves.  The story is set to unfold as it has been planned since the beginning of time, and we have the chance this Advent to remember this entrance once again.  It wasn't silent in any way, but it certainly was holy beyond compare.

Merry Christmas and may the Love, Joy, Peace and Hope of Advent fill your hearts and homes. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Three Simple Words

A little back story on how I came to write this post.  Our annual men's retreat was last week and the Saturday night speaker was baseball great Darryl Strawberry.  I'm a baseball fan and Strawberry's Mets had won the World Series 28 years ago just after my dad died.  So while I expected other speakers to be good, I was attending because of Saturday night.  Then Saturday morning with Bryan Loritts happened.  

The thing is, in his second session, he spoke on a topic he hadn't planned to use.  So in a way, neither of us planned to have that encounter ... but God certainly did.  His topic was forgiveness and, by the end, I was ready to do something I'd been putting off for well over two decades.  It comes as a very personal letter, but I've decided to write it here as part of the Crooked Path.  

I'm still working through my perspective on forgiveness, but Bryan made me think in a way I couldn't just push it aside any longer.  He helped me see that forgiveness doesn't have to mean restoration.  It also doesn't mean we forget evil done against us or stop prosecution or other legal action.  It doesn't mean we grant absolution in every case.  But it does mean that we don't let "it" control us any longer.  Some of you might think what I'm about to write is silly - something I don't really need to do.  But I'm doing it for my own reasons because leaving it unforgiven needs to stop.  Twenty-some years is long enough.  So, just a few weeks after I marked the 28th year without my dad, I'm putting this out there on my blog.  It's just three simple words ... but simple doesn't mean weak and it's time I wrote this letter.

Dear Dad,

I forgive you for leaving us too early.  I was just twenty-three and only married for six months.  The next year was pretty tough on any number of fronts.  No Sunday dinner with you and Mom and Pete.  No visits or laughing or joking.  No chance for my young bride to cement her relationship with you and for me to see you through her eyes in a deeper way.  Nope - all of that gone with a single phone call on a Saturday afternoon.

I forgive you for not taking good enough care of yourself to see seven of your grandchildren ... eight really since Stephen was just a baby when you left us.  They are some pretty terrific kids, especially the two girls (or should I say young women) who live in my house.  I realize you may not have lived this long, but the loss is still very real even if you'd had only a few years with my girls.

I forgive you for not being around when I finally finished my undergrad degree and pressed on to grad school.  I know you'd have been proud of the man I've become, but it rings a little hollow when I can't hear your response.  Just once, I'd have loved for you to sit in on a Sunday School class I taught.  Sure we'd have had our differences, but I know we'd have found common ground in the same God and Savior.  I know you would have challenged my thinking ... yet I can only project that because neither of us had the chance

I forgive you, Dad, not just for dying too soon but for all the years you put ministry first and for the lessons I learned that had to be unlearned.  I spent quite a bit of time with a very skilled counselor who told me to do this decades ago ... but it took a long time and an unexpected encounter at a retreat to finally break that dam.

I love you Dad and I still miss you.  But looking for your affirmation and praise can't happen anymore.  It's time for me to consummate the forgiveness and let it go.  You left a big imprint on my life for the twenty-three years I had you and in the twenty-eight since I said good bye.  Your legacy will continue still ... but my perspective will change because I've finally written those three simple words:

I forgive you.



Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Little Perspective Please?

I'll tell you right now, I'm not quite sure where this is headed.  But the thoughts and images are strong in my mind, so I really feel like this is the topic for this week.  I'll do my best to get where I need to be, but it might be a bumpy ride.  So I'd encourage you to take a little perspective, please and know we are all more than the sum of our parts when we want to work collaboratively.

It's election season, just in case you haven't muted enough commercials, wanted to drive through a sea of vision-polluting signs or been tempted to send back unwanted junk mail with yesterday's coffee grounds.  There are few things more divisive in our country than an election.  In my own state of North Carolina, we've just won the dubious honor of hosting the most expensive US Senate campaign in history.  The two primary candidates and their backers have poured over $100 Million into a race for an office that lasts six years and pays $176K per year.  I know, I know ... it's never about the money, but if anything screams for a little perspective, this obscene and disgusting expenditure does.

The Raleigh Rescue Mission could have served over 3.5 Million meals with that amount of money.  Samaritan's Purse could dig about 250K fresh water wells.  And I could go on and on with organizations such as Compassion International, Doctors Without Borders, and thousands more worthy and dedicated organizations seeking to bring relief and hope to a world so often devoid of it.  Yet the $100MM spent in North Carolina for a temporary political battle is what we get.  And if I look at it in perspective, it makes me angry and sad.

I realize some will tell me I've given over to a "social gospel".  My response would be to say, "What is more social than the True Gospel?"  Perhaps I'd quote James talking about the nature of true worship - giving to the orphans and widows in their hour of need.  Perhaps I'd remind them that a full belly with clean water and sanitary sewers will be far more open to the Gospel than somebody who doesn't know where tonight's meal comes from and never thinks about tomorrow's food.

But to put it all in perspective, I'd say we've become a nation obsessed with power and control - and I don't care where your political, spiritual or ideological lines are drawn.  We think getting "our man/woman" in office is the fix.  We want our agenda to move forward without giving thought for the love we are commanded to have for everybody else.  In other words, we've lost (or vacated) our perspective on the altar of something different.  And I believe we've grieved God greatly in doing so.

I've lived over half a century now and I have many people I call "friend" who don't believe as I do on multiple fronts.  The "better" friends share a common faith, albeit across a wide variety of denominations, that our Hope is only in Jesus.  I don't think I mention that enough to them, so perhaps I'm the one who needs some perspective.

The Crooked Path has room for many, and the call from the Father is to invite people to travel.  We won't always talk or look the same (how boring would that be?) but we should be united in the goal to further the cause of the Cross and our mutual disdain for squandered opportunities to love our fellow man.  I believe that's where it starts.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Who Misses Whom?

28 years since the call.  And there have been other calls in the past three decades as well.  Some were expected (if that really describes it) and a few caught me completely by surprise.  All of them created a hole of some sort ... an empty spot that you really never fill.  Oh, the images in my mind take on a "softer" quality over time, but at the core they remain as mileposts of loss.  But lately, I've begun to wonder if they miss us as well ...

I think the answer, though it may be tough for many to hear (I include myself in this "many") is, "No.  They don't miss us."  Now, don't hear what I'm not saying.  I'm not saying they have no knowledge of us.  I'm merely pointing out that as they stand before the Presence, little else is of tangible consequence.  They have moved beyond what C.S. Lewis called the Shadowlands ... why would they even think to look back with any sort of regret or longing?

No, friends, it is we who are left who do the missing.  And if anybody tries to tell you he or she does not miss a loved one, even one known to be in the Presence, that person is in denial or flat-out lying.  I've got friends with living parents who are suffering from diminished capacities who know the "real person" is still there and they still grieve for what they see.  It's just part of being human and still living on this side of what is yet to come.

When Jesus' good friend Lazarus died, our Brother wept.  He did so out of human grief and also because Mary and Martha were grieving.  He explained the nature of Life and Resurrection (take out the indefinite article "the" in his response from John 11:25 and you'll see what I mean) in terms they couldn't deny yet failed to grasp.  And it's because they missed their brother, not because of any lack of faith.  Frankly, it's Lazarus who got the raw deal - he had to die a second time.

The Crooked Path is a mortal walk, but there is a sunrise over the last hill we can anticipate.  We grieve now and miss those who have left.  28 years later, I still miss Dad and would give most anything for even an hour's chat.  But he doesn't miss me - he's in the Presence and that's far too overwhelming and glorious.  I just take heart to know I'll see him again.  I know he still loves me even now and would be proud of the man I am becoming.  For now, that's enough to get me through another year.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Simple Kindness and a Smile

I had the opportunity to put a smile on somebody's face this week and I took it gladly.  It really doesn't matter what I did, but I can tell you it was unexpected by the recipient and it did cost me something.  But it also put things in perspective for me, and perspective combined with serving kindness to somebody is a very good thing.

As we made the decision to take the action, my wife reminded me we had seen something far more selfless on one of our favorite TV shows.  One of the contestants gave his earned advantage to another to the tune of $20K.  Now, I'll probably never be in that position, but the way it came about had the effect of restoring a little faith in humanity.

Now, ultimately, our humanity is what does us in.  But in the midst of all that, we have a Savior who shows us far more than a simple kindness.  He gave up his all to show us an everlasting kindness that offers true and permanent change.  In embracing what he gives, we have the opportunity to reflect that gift out into a world that needs our Redeemer desperately.

As I walk my Crooked Path, may I often take time to show simple kindness - and also the faith that I reflect in those acts - to many who I encounter.  That is, after all, something we are called to do ... and the smiles we get in return are worth it.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Empty Hands

We offer nothing - keep that in mind at all times.

The thought came to me this week after some conversations with people and a bit of ruminating on the subject.  My past definitely plays a big part in this, so it can get a little complex and perhaps even convoluted at times.  But if I strip away all the noise and back-chatter, I'm left with who I am and what I bring ... and the answer to that is nothing.

What I'm talking about is my relationship with God through Jesus.  It starts with nothing - an absolute soul-wrenching emptiness that can nearly drive a person mad.  Yes, there is that image of the Creator at the core, but I do everything I can at that point to snuff it out of existence.  And yet I can't, because I have no power over it - I am nothing.  It's at that point where the regeneration, the prevenient grace comes in and kindles that image flame.  Like a dreamer awakened from a tormented sleep, I reach out with these completely empty hands and accept the grace freely offered.  That "transaction" starts a process of relationship.

Now I'm in this relationship - however I came to it really doesn't matter - and I still bring ... nothing.  This gives entry to the biggest, most joyless lie in all of Christianity.  Somehow, our own desire (dare I say need) to bring something to the relationship causes us to formulate a bunch of rules, regulations, lists and other impossible standards that we spend more of our relationship time looking for more "transactions" that will bring us some kind of spiritual gain.  And I'm not intimating that holiness or obedience are bad things.  I'm just saying that they are always secondary - a natural offshoot if you will - of the relationship and done in a responsive way.  They don't put stuff in our hands ... those hands remain empty.

Empty hands, my friends, are a good thing.  If we look at two Gospel stories (the woman coming into Simon's home and the woman taken in adultery) we find two people terribly aware of their empty hands.  And in holding out their hands, they hear words of love such as "forgiven the greatest loves the most" and "neither to I condemn you - go and leave your life of sin".  Those are some powerful gifts from the Master - and they leave those women with full hearts and empty hands.  These weren't some emotional call from a preacher to walk an aisle.  They were people who, when presented with that kindling flame from God, knew they were loved beyond all love they had known before.

As I walk my Crooked Path, may I glory in my empty hands.  They are a clear indication that I have a Redeemer who requires nothing tangible of me to keep the relationship pure, giving me the freedom to respond with all I have because of his unending love.  He emptied himself so that I could have his fullness - not my own. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

First Place

"Dear Children, keep away from anything that might take God's place in your hearts."  (1 John 5:21, NLT)

It's a lesson we've heard since the first Sunday School class we attended.  God wants to have first place in our hearts.  Nothing else is more important.  We've sung songs about it, seen flannelgraph (just shows how old I am), and memorized verses like this one.  But somehow, somewhere things changed ...

As I find myself staring at my 2nd half-century, I want to ask the question again.  What, other than God, am I letting have the top spot in my heart; what really is my focus?  I think the truest answer comes with some introspection and that rarely comes easily.  So if I'm going to write about it, perhaps I need to dig just a little deeper.

Sure the multiple translations that render this verse as something about watching out for idols are good.  They are certainly faithful to the original intent, but I think the Beloved Apostle, sitting in exile on Patmos, had something a little more personal in mind.  Once again, I find that richness in the way Eugene Peterson frames the final words of 1 John in his transliteration The Message:

And we know that the Son of God came so we could recognize and understand the truth of God - what a gift! - and we are living in the Truth itself, in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. This Jesus is both True God and Real Life. Dear children, be on guard against all clever facsimiles. (1 John 5:20-21)

That's what John was warning the early church about ... "clever facsimiles".  And that's what I need to look out for as well when I examine my own heart and life.  I'd never overtly put something else in first place - but I might subtly do that.  It might even look like "serving God" when it really is filling my own ego.  And it happens when I forget the awesome nature and love that redeemed me in the first place.

So as my Crooked Path winds through my 2nd decade, I want to keep the my Father in my sight and my Divine Brother closer than ever.  And I want to do it in such a way that it leaves no doubt who holds first place in my heart.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Out of the Desert

“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”  (John 14:15-17, NLT)

It's been a little over 3-1/2 years since I walked into the desert.  I remember the day pretty clearly.  The scheduled meeting ended up including my manager and an HR representative. It concluded with me heading home midday with a "package of paperwork" and a bag full of worries.  Late 40's, mortgage and bills, four mouths to feed, clothe and house ... and unemployed.

Back then, I wrote about teaching a class on Lent and the Christian disciplines.  My wife observed (and rightly so) that I had been required to give up my job for Lent.  Looking back, it was a step into the desert - first the desert of unemployment and then the desert of recurring contract-only employment.

In the desert, the temptation is there to whine and complain and blame.  Just look at the story of the Israelites and their decades of wandering.  The desert actually became a kind if dysfunctional home for them.  They didn't know any better and they flat-out refused to turn to the God who was protecting and providing every day.  Their desert experience could have taught them so much, yet they spurned the lessons and history records the result.

I'd like to think my desert experience has been more productive, that I've learned some lessons.  For one, I've learned to trust more.  We never went without food or shelter during these past 3+ years.  God provided and we even began to "fill in some holes" that had been dug over time.  I started my own company that I use today to provide training and consulting.  We even managed to take a long-overdue vacation which turned out to be the best we've had as family (and the last one in our RV).

So now, as I sit here on the eve of "permanent employment with benefits" once again, I'm thinking about what I've learned and what I still have to learn.  Sure I'm walking out of this particular desert, but the lessons are far from over.  Just as an example, when I opened up BibleGateway, the verse of the day read:

"But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means." (1 Corinthians 2:14 NLT)

Isn't that just like God to show me who he is and that I still have things to learn.  The Crooked Path went through the desert him to teach me.  The journey and the learning continue even as I walk back out of the desert tomorrow morning.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

To Run and Dance Again

To say it's been an interesting week is probably an understatement.  I've been challenged on multiple fronts to think differently about the world around me.  Some of these challenges are recurring, some are new.  One encounter in particular is something I've been waiting for a while (though not nearly as long as those most directly involved).  It's that thing - that encounter - that I've chosen to write about.  And I chose it because it reminds me of my own life and because it is at the center of what I believe.

The man in the chair is Kevin.  I've only known him a few short years, and not deeply at that.  The hitchhiker is is his nephew.  You can tell almost instantly that Kevin has physical challenges.  Yet those troubles and the chair that provides his mobility don't define him.  They may have limited him to a great degree, but define him?  Not a chance!  Kevin would have defined himself as beloved son of God along with being a friend, a man, a very competitive game player, and a loved family member.

You're noticing all the "past tense" use, right?  Well what is past tense for Kevin right now are his infirmities and that chair of his.  Kevin passed through Earth's gates and into the Presence last week.  And he did it a way that so defines him ... visiting family in another city and quietly, in his sleep.  Absent from that limited body, present with a limitless God.

So what should the passing of anybody's life say to us?  Is the death process, even for Christians, just full of platitudes and shallow comfort?  Sure we mourn, but we have to do it differently.  And when we celebrate a life, we need to celebrate the person who trusted in Jesus and is now experiencing LIFE live and in person.  

And, like the song I've chosen to share below, we celebrate our own "next time" still to come.  The Crooked Path has a destination.  Kevin is there, and I'm pretty sure he's dancing right now.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Trust Again - You're Kidding, Right?

To give away her heart before
Had been her first mistake
She knows she shouldn't doubt Him now
But there's just too much at stake

And still He keeps on calling

But she pretends she doesn't hear
He longs to touch and heal her
But she never lets Him near

She's one of the walking wounded
She's been searching for so long
Deep inside, she's hoping
All the fear she feels is wrong

Maybe He can give her 
All the love she's been denied
Maybe it will be alright
If she lets Him come inside

Don Francisco - "Walking Wounded"

I still remember when that song first came out.  Seems it wasn't that long afterward, that my late brother Mike's first wife took her own life at only 32 years old.  Even through my grief and confusion, I somehow understood that Dorothy was "one of the walking wounded" like Don said ... and that's why she did what she did.  Looking back now nearly 30 years, that explanation still rings true.

But today's post isn't about that particular wound.  That one is pretty obvious to anybody who doesn't choose to completely ignore it.  No, I'm thinking of a brief conversation with a friend who has been burned by religion.  It's a familiar theme these days - I've seen it in my own circle far too often.  And it's creating a great divide among us where there was supposed to be unity.  At the heart of it all, is the old trust issue.

For so many of us, trust has been abused and breached so many times, that we just feel like giving up.  The very thought of church brings on such deep-seated internal pain that we've set it aside or skipped it entirely.  Now, while I think there is a vital part to be played by community of believers, I don't think we need to just "do church" to fill that.  But I'm getting ahead of myself here ...

What does it mean for us to trust again when it seems our heart has been so abused?  John Eldridge would go so far as to say we've been told a lie about our heart being evil and worthless.  I tend to think he's right.  God tells us he redeemed  our hearts - he chose to move Heaven and Earth to make that happen.  Yet we have an Enemy who is bent on crushing our hope and keeping us focused on the fractures and broken trust.  It is a very real battle indeed; it's no wonder so many of us are "walking wounded".

Now, the very place that we wounded are supposed to turn for healing and support has also gone very wrong in so many ways.  Sure there are some congregations that embrace love and grace to a great extent.  Yet so very many have turned from being houses of healing to courts of judgement.  They expect everyone to become "just like them" and embrace what they see as "real Christianity".  Instead of being open, they shut themselves off and either create captives of a new kind or drive away the wounded who so desperately need to see Jesus' love in it's fullness.  In the end, that's just very sad considering the wonderful alternative.

The Crooked Path requires us to lift up our broken hearts to God who has offered us his love and protection.  He asks us to trust again, even though we are fearful of doing so.  he asks us to put one foot in front of the other and find community in him and in fellow travelers - other walking wounded - who are ready to embrace him even when the established churches have strayed from their mission.  Fellowship and acceptance are there, we just have to trust God to bring them across our path so we can walk together toward him.  

And remember, we're not alone.  Our Divine Older Brother experienced heartbreak we can't even imagine.  He's promised to walk right beside us as we try to trust again.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

An Odd Place for Poetry

"Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see —
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.
He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So he is first in everything.
For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross." (Colossians 1:15-20, NLT)

It was pointed out that this passage in the letter to Colossi was likely written as poetry.  Looking at my NTL column, that translation definitely renders it that way.  Paul, an unlikely poet from my perspective, is exhorting the church in that city about the wonder and majesty of Jesus Christ.  Rather than just laying out doctrine or instruction, he is waxing poetic about who Christ was, who he is, and who he will be.

Look at the beauty of the language ... "through him God reconciled everything to himself."  And then the idea that Jesus was the vehicle for peace through his selfless act of dying for us.  That's the end state of the whole Gospel.  It starts with a rescue, moves to a redemption, and ends with a reconciliation.  It's so simple, yet missed by so many who seem to want their efforts to play a part in that reconciliation.  Such a pity as all the "heavy lifting" (all the lifting entirely, actually) has been done.

The Crooked Path is one of reconciliation.  I see that daily as I stumble and yet press on.  My Divine Brother - the Prince of Peace - walks beside me as we journey together toward the Father who has reconciled EVERYTHING to himself.  Amen!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Puzzle to be Mastered?

The following came through my e-mail box this week ... and I'll admit it made me more than a little miffed.  I'll explain that in a moment, but first the quote:

“All of our doctrines ultimately come from Genesis. A denial of Genesis is an issue of authority: taking man’s word and undermining the very Word of God. If you accept millions of years of history, then you are saying that there was death before sin—clearly contradicting God’s Word, when the Bible states that the creation was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).  Now if Genesis is myth, then the gospel is also myth, as the first time the gospel is preached is in Genesis 3:15. Not only that, but the foundation of the gospel is in Genesis, where we read about the origin of sin, death, and our need for a Savior.  If we are not all descendants of Adam, then where did we come from, and what does it mean that Jesus is the “last Adam”? Also, it is clearly taught in 1 Corinthians 11 that woman was made from man—just as Genesis 2 details. (Also Jesus refers to man and woman being “one flesh” in Matthew 19.)Jesus and the Bible writers quoted the account of Noah in the New Testament. So if Genesis is myth, then Jesus is a liar and passages like Hebrews 11 can’t be trusted.”  -  Ken Ham

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about wanting more wonder and less dogma.  Since that time I've re-listened to an entire series of messages from Flood Church laying out points of error accepted for so long in so many Christian writings and teachings.  One of the messages talked about the Bible not being a manual for life or containing all the answers.  He talked about the "gas balloon theory" where you try to self-prove things that really don't fit.  I was reminded about my journey and how I've broken free (mostly) of the need to figure things all out, especially where God is concerned.  And then the quote above wanders by.

For the record, I believe the Bible is God's Word - I've said that many times.  It's a representation to us of the redemption story God is telling.  It's living and it speaks to us as the Spirit moves.  It was breathed out by God to men and, in that original action, was completely inspired.  It retains that quality today, not because of translations and research, but because God still speaks through it in very tangible ways.

Also for the record, I don't believe Genesis has to be taken in a dogmatic way where dates and actions are concerned.  Oh, I still believe in an intelligent design and an Almighty Designer at the heart of it.  But as God described it to Moses, I don't think he had to dictate it in a history book fashion to make it real.  Yes, I believe in a literal Adam and Eve, but that's really not the point.  And I think Ken Ham (and others) spend their energy trying to figure out "the code" and fit things into neat little puzzles.  I'm willing to skip that and still trust the integrity of the God who is telling the story.

Friends, the Gospel started far earlier than what we read in Genesis as the beginning of humanity and time.  It existed eternally within the Godhead because he has always had the desire to create, grant free will and then redeem his creation when it exercised that free will to it's own demise.  My doctrines don't come from Genesis - they come from the Living Word.  They are rooted in an act of selfless love that was initiated before anything resembling time existed.

The God I know - and by extension the Bible he provides - is not a puzzle to be worked.  There aren't some secret series of clues we're supposed to thread together so we figure it out and gain some special knowledge.  In fact, that very concept smacks of cultishness.  It emphasized dogma - most of which is man made - over the mystery.  

So while Genesis isn't myth the way the classic Greek tales are, it most certainly is mythical.  The Crooked Path is one to be traveled, not straightened.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Little Less Dogma - A Lot More Wonder

Have we lost our capacity to wonder?
If we have, what can we do to reclaim it?

I think that in our quest for knowledge, we've squeezed out quite a bit of the wonder God intended to have us embrace.  It's not that knowledge is a bad thing, mind you.  Learning and growing are an essential part of the whole Christian maturity process.  But I'm still left thinking that we've let the wonder dim and replaced it with a lot of knowledge that rings far too hollow ... far to pedestrian for the God we claim to pursue.

So what if so much of our dogma is just for the sake of itself?  What if it so many of the things we hold so dear aren't essentials after all?  What would happen if we began to lay that aside and turned our focus to the wonder that is the Gospel instead?

I was chatting this morning with my pastor along these lines.  He and happen to think a lot alike in these areas.  I take comfort in that because I've seen the man he is and what it took to get him there.  I also know my own struggles over the years and the journey my own Crooked Path has taken.  And it make me want to wonder more and spout less dogma.

How about you?  Are you ready to wonder again?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Praying for Blessings in a Different Way

"'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops, what if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights
are what it takes to know You're near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?"

I think Laura Story is on to something in her song "Blessings" with those lyrics I note above.  Feel free to listen to her sing this beautiful song here.

I heard this on the radio on our drive to church this morning.  It set me thinking about some of the errant ways I've thought in the past - much of it learned in churches and camps and evangelistic meetings.  Those those teaching it may never admit to a works theology, yet their "cause and effect" teaching is no less anti-Biblical than the people in the encounter who asked Jesus "Who sinned and caused this man's blindness?"  It's sad to me now, and it causes me to wonder why so many - especially those who should know better - cling to this way of thought.  In doing this, they make God smaller (at least to them) and they minimize the relationship he wishes to have.

As I pulled into the parking lot, still thinking these thoughts, my friend Tom and his wife were leaving the first service and headed to their car.  Tom's about my age, but he's certainly not living life the way he had it planned. As I called out a greeting to them, Tom directed Karen to where the voice originated.  She smiled - still a glowing smile despite her advanced stage of a neurological disorder.  Tom gently held her arm, supporting her as they shuffled to the car.

My humanity asks, "Where's the blessing in that downpour, God?  And while were on the subject, when am I going to get a permanent job with benefits again and exit this 3-year journey in the desert?"  I think my studies of C.S. Lewis and John Eldridge should speak just a little louder to me when those questions strike.

Simply put, God doesn't owe me a direct answer ... none of us get that privilege.  And it isn't because I've done something wrong or haven't lived up to some perfect standard.  It's because he is God and I'm not.  It's because the call is for me to trust him because he is always good.

Yes ... good ... even when Tom helps his wife to the car, my current job situation continues (or changes) and he headlines scream disaster.  I need to adjust my view of blessings and listen to this song a few more times.  Maybe it will sink in and I'll pray for blessings in an entirely different way.  The path is, after all, a crooked one.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


No high-rez pictures of him ... just some grainy scanned images from some three decades ago.  Today is my 27th Fathers Day without my Dad, Tom Moore.  Still, his influence lives on in me and the myriad of lives he touched.  He left this world far too soon and he is missed.

But today, I pause to think of what he did give me - both the good and the bad.  I can say that because Dad was a passionate, loving man with flaws.  In fact, perhaps his biggest flaw was also his biggest strength.  Dad loved people.  He loved them so much that, over the course of his life, he poured himself into them rather than take care of himself to a great degree.  In the end, I have to believe that all played a part in his early departure from this Earth.

If you were to ask my wife, you would get a different perspective on Dad.  She only knew him for 1-1/2 years and saw a far different man than I had known for the previous 20+.  He had mellowed and wasn't quite as stressed as he had been.  Still, his love for people and his willingness to invest in them continues.

As I look back on it all, I know that Dad invested his heart in me as well.  I can imagine the talks we'd have today were he around - far different than we did nearly 30 years ago and yet the same.  Dad showed me the Better Story and I, in turn, can now show that to my daughters.  I've come to believe that is the role of a father.  Story - the Better Story God offers - is what we need and what we need to offer to those who come after us.

I love you Dad ... and I miss you as much today as I did the first Father's Day without you.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

In the Mean Time

Today is June 1st.  It's also Ascension Sunday and it happened to be Communion Sunday as well.  I was given the privilege to serve today, which often sets me thinking about things a little more deeply than I might were I just sitting back with my wife and receiving.

I thought about the change in seasons (I still think June 1st ought to mark the start of Summer) and about the journey I've been on for the past few years.  I thought about a lot of things, but mostly my thoughts ran to the words of our Lord - "Do this until I come back."  What a powerful image he gave his friends that night.

So what about me?  Some 2,000 years later what do I make of his challenge to "do this" in the mean time?  Perhaps that's what I need to think about this week.  I know I have a lot on my plate, but maybe this June 1st is meant to put a stake in the ground for me personally.  Perhaps I need to take a long look at what I'm doing and how I'm approaching and embracing life.

We've come through the Easter season where we were reminded of the redemption once and for all.  We walked through an empty tomb which sealed the whole plan conceived before we even existed.  We've been left in the care of the Comforter so we can prepare of Christ's return.  

So, in the mean time ... 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Et Lux Perpetua

If you aren't familiar with Latin, it means (loosely) "perpetual light".  It's an old liturgical term, most often associated with remembering someone after they have died and asking that their light shine on for eternity.  But today, I had a different thought about the phrase.  It came while we were discussion the John Eldridge Book, Waking the Dead and discussing how C.S. Lewis noted we all bear the image of God in our souls ... and we are eternal beings right here, right now.

So you mean that homeless man I pass on the corner has "perpetual light" burning within him?  Well, to be frank - yes, that's what I mean.  We all bear that original mark, the design imprint of God's original plan and that means we all have this light in our soul.  Some may have buried it deep in the recesses of themselves - but it is still there.  It's still calling out to a lost person, saying that God is seeking, knocking, whatever image you want to use.  It says none of us is beyond redemption.

Jesus told us he came to give life - an abundant kind of life we had never experienced and could never find on our own.  Jesus planted this light within us to point us to himself as Light of the World.  He says we are worth redemption because of who he is, not because of anything we've done.  He says he will fan that light into a flame that will burn brightly for him if only we will ask.

You see, that tiny speck of Lux Perpetual is the prevenient grace of God that constantly calls out to a soul so desperately in need of rescue.  It's the remnant of a God who created us for his own glory and pleasure - it's the eternal soul that will live on somewhere.  The question is, what are you going to do about it both in yourself and the next time you see it in the person next to you?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Love is the Foundation

heart drawn in the sand being washed away by a waveMany of us have been told how all of God's attributes are present equally at all times and in all ways.  Yet if we look way back, the emphasis was always on Love first.  The songs like "Jesus Loves Me" and so many others echoed that theme.  The first verse many of us learned (John 3:16) is built on the idea that God, in his Love, did something miraculous, redemptive and enduring.  Yet as we "matured" we moved on to more emphasis on holiness, omnipotence and the rest.  So I have a question ... when did we lose the wonder we had as children that had us focus on Love first?

I think it's time to come back to Love as the very foundation.  It's time to remember all those songs we sang as children and that verse we all have come to blithely rattle off - the one that says God loved us so much that he laid aside all other aspects and standards he held dear and me his standards by himself on our behalf.  That's what I mean when I say Love is the foundation.

I've come to a point where I think I'm seeing this more clearly again.  Love really is the highest order - the most prevalent of God's attributes.  Everything else flows from it, is built on it.  He does nothing outside of the immense provision of his own Love.  He calls himself Love so we can get a glimmer of why he does what he does.  And that's a marvelous thing to consider.

The Crooked Path will bend and turn, rise and fall, grow smooth and rocky at different times.  Through all of that, the one thing I can rely on over anything else is the Love of God.  It is truly boundless as time itself.