Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Responsibility of Christmas

This morning was crisp and white. I stepped out of the house at 6:40am to a virtual winter wonderland. The snow gently fell as I walked to the car started it up and began to scrape the ice and brush the snow.

This morning was a good morning. I am blessed. Speaking from a global perspective, I have immense resources to be thankful for.

I am not often uncomfortable. I am rarely hungry. I am seldom alone. I almost always have more money in the bank than bills waiting to be paid. I have my health and a beautiful family who loves me. I have clean water and plenty of food. I have a house that is heated in the winter and refrigerated in the summer.  I have a job, an education and friends and family who would take me in and care for me should I loose all that I have.

I am thankful. While I do not deserve all of the gifts which God has bestowed upon me, I am really glad that I have them. I would rather be healthy than sick and if I get sick I would rather have great healthcare rather than poor or no health care.

The point which the Lord drove home to me on this beautiful snowy December day is that while I have certainly been blessed I have not been blessed simply to be comfortable. You see, as a follower of Jesus I am not the owner of any but the steward of all that I have. How then am I stewarding that which has been entrusted to me?

Consider the following verses with me today…

“That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. 

Creator God, wake us up…wake me up.  Give me eyes to see those in need and creativity to utilize my resources to meet those needs. Forgive me for spending my time, energy, and money on things for people who need nothing while I ignore the plight of those whose needs are truly great. God give me the courage to follow your example and to do what you have asked. Empower me to follow Jesus and the courage to lead others to Him as well. Amen

[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (Lk 12:47–48). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Slow Walkers

I thought you might like to see the two slow walkers.  This pic was taken last year when Tyler's family visited our house in MI.

Two little boys.  Both whole.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Walking Slowly (part 3)

One of the biggest mistakes that we pastors can tend to make when dealing with people who are experiencing great loss and pain is to try and say too much. I have found that most of the time people don’t want, nor do they need, their theology fixed while they are in the midst of  suffering. What they need is for someone to walk slowly with them through their struggle.

When Caleb was sick, the Lord walked with us by showing up in the form of a believing ER doctor. He walked with us through the kindness of friends and strangers alike who cared for Caleb and us. He walked with us by miraculously forestalled the paralysis before it could affect Caleb’s lungs. With every visit, every phone call, every hug, and every prayer Jesus showed up and reassured us of His love.

God did not give us guarantees that everything would workout just like we wanted it too but He gave us His Spirit and He gave us His people both of whom walked slowly with us though our pain.

The most powerful memory I have of God’s faithful presence during this time actually happened about two months after Caleb left the hospital and started Kindergarten. He was still very weak and was no-where-near as strong, agile or flexible as a normal five-year-old should be.

I can still see Caleb clinging to the handrail as he slowly descended the 4 steps from his Kindergarten room to the playground. While the other kids would spend their recess time running, jumping, and climbing Caleb would just walk slowly around the playground.

That’s when Jesus showed up yet again. This time in the person of a floppy haired bespectacled little boy named Tyler. Tyler was Caleb’s best friend and they were nearly inseparable. While Tyler was perfectly capable of running, jumping, and climbing with the other kids he chose to walk slowly around the playground with his buddy.

I still get chocked up as my mind replays the scene. Two little boys – one whole, the other broken but mending– walking slowing around the playground at East Elementary School in Mount Vernon Ohio. There is something redemptive about that scene isn’t there.

I bet our Father’s heart bursts with joy and thanksgiving when He sees us choosing to walk slowly with those who are in pain. Today take the time to identify with the suffering. Slow down your pace and walk with those who are broken so that they too might experience God’s mending.  You don't have to have all the right answers you just have to be willing to be present and active in someone's life.  It really can make all the difference in the world.

Thanks Tyler. Thanks for walking slowly with Caleb and being such a good friend. His mom and dad will never forget it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Keep the Chi in Christmas

I recently read a buddy's blog (pastor Kris Browning) which talks about the true meaning of Christmas.  I have to be very honest and tell you that Christmas is generally a very depressing time of year for me.  I find (ala Charlie Brown) the commercialism of Christmas very distracting; additionally, the things that Christians choose to get upset about (eg x-mas) get under my skin.  But I, like pastor Kris, have found some encouraging signs of new-life this Christmas season.

Take some time read KB's blog ( and consider how you can keep the Chi (X) in Christmas this year.  After all it is about celebrating the birth of Jesus who is the Christ / Anointed One / Messiah, isn't it?

Have a great weekend and stay tuned for the conclusion of "Walking Slowly" on Monday.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Walking Slowly (part 2)

Last time I ended with the question, “What happens if He (Jesus) walks too slowly toward our point of need and He arrives too late?” This is exactly what happened to Jairus. He came to Jesus with his need– “My little girl is dying. Please come and heal her.” We’re not told what Jesus said, but here we are told that Jesus set off with Jairus toward his home and while they were on the way Jesus was mobbed by the crowd (Luke 8:42).

Can you imagine how anxious this man must have felt? His little girl lay dying while Jesus slowly made His way through this clamoring crowd. We are not told that Jairus had any reaction, but I bet he was on the verge of exasperation with Jesus’ slow and distracted progress. Then–and here is where the horror of Jairus’ situation far exceeds my own–while he was on his way home with Jesus he receives that news that his daughter had died (v. 49).

At this point, I suppose that Jairus must have asked himself a form of the same question everyone who has ever experienced a great loss asks, “Why had Jesus walked so slowly?” The age-old question must have occurred to Jairus, “Lord, if you are good and able to do something, then why did you allow this tragedy to happen?”

It’s at this point in the story that we hear Jesus speak to Jairus for the first time and he simply says, “Don’t be afraid, just believe” (v. 50).

I won’t lie. It was hard to have faith during those dark days in the hospital. It was hard to stay hopeful as I watched my little boy’s body become a fleshy prison. There were times when I thought that my feelings of fear and despair had eclipsed my ability to believe.

What can get a person through a time in life when they have experienced great loss and sorrow? How do you keep believing when your world has fallen apart? Well, for my wife and me belief persisted as God reminded us time and time again that faith is not about getting what we want when we want it, but it is believing that Jesus is with us and that He cares even when all the external evidence of our situation leads us to believe the contrary. The Holy Spirit kept reminding us that our hope in Him is not bound by time and space and that even when we cannot see Him, He is there walking slowly with us through our pain.

And He was there. I’ll tell you how next time, but for now let’s think about how Jesus responded to Jairus and the ramification that might have for us. He did not talk; He did not hurry; He simply walked slowly with him through his pain and toward his point of need.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Walking Slowly

Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. (NIV: Luke 8:41-42)
Although I wish I did not, I know how the Father in Luke 8 must have felt. Several years ago my son Caleb got very sick. It began with his legs hurting him at night. Then he started walking funny and having trouble with the stairs. Next, we noticed him struggling to stand up from a seated position and we knew something was seriously wrong.

I imagine this father probably felt like I did: desperate, terrified, angry, and exhausted. After several hours in the emergency room at Children’s Hospital in Columbus the Doctors gave us the grave news that our little boy had Guillain–BarrĂ© syndrome. This disorder, while generally not fatal in the U.S., affects the nervous system causing temporary paralysis. They explained that the weakness he was experiencing in his legs and arms would get much worse before it started getting better.

While the doctors assured us that they would be able to care for Caleb they gave us the heart wrenching news that the syndrome’s paralysis might render him unable to breath on his own.

In those agonizing hours and days all I wanted was for my little boy to be better but all I could do was wait and watch as he continued to get worse. I prayed like I have never prayed before but the Lord just seemed to be walking too slowly toward Caleb’s point of need.

I don’t know what was wrong with the little girl in Luke 8 but I know the pain her father felt as he came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, come to my house and heal my daughter.” I know the anxiety Jairus must have felt when Jesus’ pace for intervention did not match the urgency Jairus felt in his heart.

Have you ever been there? Do you know someone who has? You know what Jesus can do you just can’t figure out why he was walking so slowly to do it. What happens if he takes so much time that he arrives too late?

Monday, December 6, 2010


How do you tell the difference between an interruption and a divine appointment? What makes one unplanned encounter burdensome and another life-giving?

One might be tempted to say that the divine appointment is ordered by God while the interruption is not but that begs the question, “What is and what is not ordered by God?”

We can all agree that sin is not ordered by God. We can all also agree that just because something happens does not mean that God has actively willed that thing to happen. This being said, how do we account for those unplanned, uncounted on, and unwelcomed instances of life?

In Luke 8:40-55 Jesus gives us a functional paradigm for dealing with life’s not-so-little interruptions by affirming faith, bringing forth hope, and extending love.

In this passage, life happens and Jesus is confronted simultaneously with a father’s heartbreak, a woman’s hopelessness, and a little girl’s death. In the midst of this tsunami of sin, death, and brokenness, Jesus is able to look at each one of these three in turn and say, “Don’t be afraid; just believe,” “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” “My child, get up.”

Have you ever stopped to think that maybe when someone in need interrupts your day that they are doing so because they see you as their only hope? Is it possible that God allows interrupters to cross our path because he knows we can help bring hope to those who have none? What is the difference between an interruption and a divine appointment? Is there a difference or is the difference found in the way we respond?

Friday, December 3, 2010

New Face…New Name

As some of you might have noticed, I have changed the name of the blog and given it a facelift.

Why the facelift? Well…#1) I think this back ground is really cool and if my blog looks cool then maybe people will think that I am cool too. (A fool’s hope I know but a hope none-the-less as long as everyone who knows me will keep their mouths shut about my lack-of-coolness) #2) we live in a visual culture where the presentation and the medium are as much a part of the communicative process as the words used. (Amy says the new background makes it a little hard to read so let me know what you think lest I need to re-lift the face for readability sake)

Why the new name? Bluntly stated, I don’t think that adherence to dogma is ever the end-goal of Spiritual Formation. Nor do I believe that a person is made spiritual simply by virtue of knowledge or cognitive assent. While dogmatics has its necessary place within the formation process, the Christ-life is only lived as you function according to LOVE.

Yes…No…What say you?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Goodbyes are hard, aren’t they? I was reminded of this truth over the weekend as my family and I traveled from our home in Grand Rapids Michigan to my brother’s home in Eleanor West Virginia for the Thanksgiving holidays. We had a great time. My kids and his kids played. I got to eat at my favorite little pizza place. I saw one of my cousins which I had not seen for about 10 years. We celebrated my grandfather’s 88th birthday. All in all it was a really good time, until we had to say goodbye.

The older I get the more I realize what is important. Sitting with brother and listening to bluegrass music, talking with Amber about college, watching my little girl and my nephew play, seeing recognition twinkle in my Popawe’s eyes as after several minutes he remembered who I was.

These experiences helped to hammer home the reality of James 4:14 - whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Can it be over 30 years since I was a little kids playing with my cousins? Has it really been almost 20 years since I was in college? Will this frail old man I am talking to ever again remember my name?
Goodbyes are hard. I suppose they were so hard this time because I really don’t know if I will ever see Popawe again on this side of heaven and even if I do I don’t know if he will recognize me as his grandson.
This weekend reminded me that life is a vapor and is all too quickly gone. I must redeem every minute, take every chance to love and constantly remember that time is a non-renewable resource.