Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category



07
Jul
22

“My bad. I’m Sorry.”

Joan told me.

“I’m sorry, honey.”

In fact, more than once.

She made sure I knew it was MY responsibility.

And yet, when we parked our car and got ready to catch the shuttle bus to the Fort Collins City Fourth of July fireworks display, we both saw that I had screwed up.

Royally.

Going to the back of the car and opening the hatchback, we immediately discovered that I had NOT – despite being explicitly asked to do so – packed the portable camp chairs. 

So there we were… staring face-to-face with the prospect of spending the next two hours either standing up or sitting down on the damp grass of City Park.

 What a DOOFUS!

But do you know what the really sad part of the story is? The REALLY sad part was my response.

Instead of bowing my head in shame, apologizing, accepting the scorn being so justifiably heaped on me, and then trying to figure out ways to salvage our evening, I INSTANTLY went into denial, deflection, and defense mode.

  • “Well, we were rushing around so much there at the last minute, and I got sidetracked.”
  • “I thought YOU were getting the chairs!”
  • “Weren’t we concerned about having to lug those chairs around with us for hours and hours?”

It is one thing to screw up. We all do it… in large matters, or small.

It is another thing entirely to accept responsibility for one’s errors. 

But don’t take my word for it. Just look around. National and international news is filled – EVERY DAY – with people contorting themselves into all kinds of outrageous shapes, trying to avoid the blame for their mistakes. They say things like:

  • “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time…”
  • “I didn’t have all the information I needed to make that decision correctly…”

And then there is my all-time favorite…

  • “What are you talking about? I didn’t do that!/That wasn’t me! Who you gonna believe… me, or your lying eyes?”

It is hard. REALLY hard to stand up, raise your hand, and say, “Yes. I did that. I committed that error. I am the one – the ONLY one – responsible for the thing that went wrong.”

Accepting responsibility for a mistake is hard because none of us sets out to screw up. We each believe we are living our lives, making our decisions, taking our actions, and speaking our truths to the very best of our abilities. 

I am pretty certain that even those who have committed the vilest crimes imaginable told themselves, “This is the right thing to do at this moment.”

Confessing and owning up to a mistake is hard because it means accepting a different image of myself. It means dying to the image of myself as the guy who always hits the nail on the head, who always shoots and scores, who always provides the golden key that unlocks the mystery du jour.

It means accepting an image of myself as the guy who absentmindedly forgets to pack camp chairs into the car. 

The good folks at AA and NA know a thing or two about this phenomenon. Step One of the Twelve Steps is all about admitting your abject powerlessness over your propensity to err. From that fertile base of acknowledged powerlessness, then, comes the step of confessing the need of a Greater Power to restore you to sanity.

As much as I love the Friends of Bill W. and their amazing history of success, I think John the Revelator hit the nail a little more squarely on the head when he said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9, NRSVU). 

Every one of us is flawed. Every one of us “steps in it” now and then. Every one of us does damage – intentionally or unintentionally – to the people closest to us. 

Hopefully though we each also readily confess our shortcomings, turn to our Loving Creator for help, and then grow a centimeter or two in our stature as humans in the process…

… and do a better job of packing for the fireworks show.

Abundant blessings;

04
Jul
22

Forward or Backward?

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July.

Celebrating this holiday has rarely ever been a question for me. I mean, who wouldn’t jump at the chance for a day off, a backyard BBQ, a frosty cold adult beverage, all topped off by watching a display of loud, colorful fireworks. 

But something is different this year. 

Something seems psychically, spiritually, and certainly politically out of whack here on July 3, 2022.

My blogger idol Mitch Teemley (find his thoughtful work here) has jarred my consciousness about what it means for anyone… but ESPECIALLY a follower of Christ… to engage in this national festivity. 

We have all witnessed the way this date can easily become a jingoistic bacchanalia of flag-waving excess, raising this nation onto the altar in place of the One God, in the meantime willfully turning a blind eye to the violent and blood-stained chapters of our national story.

Mitch has forced me out of my sleepwalk and invited me to confront this question: What is it exactly that I am celebrating when I celebrate the Fourth of July? 

  • Am I celebrating the publication of the document that declared this nation’s independence from its overbearing British parent? 
  • Am I celebrating the IDEA of a nation “… of the people, by the people, and for the people,” where all are created equal, with preference accorded to none? 
  • Am I celebrating everything this nation is today… warts and all?

And finally, is it even possible to celebrate the IDEA of the nation without acknowledging its shortcomings and monumental moral failures? 

First, as a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ, I must remember that I am called to a Higher Citizenship than the citizenship of any particular nation-state. Jesus reminds me that God’s kingdom – that I pray will come, “… on earth as it is in heaven…” – is the only kingdom worthy of my ultimate allegiance. 

Jesus helped us keep these priorities in order when he said: “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21, NRSVU). 

But what ARE “… the things that are Caesar’s”?

For example, do I owe “Caesar” (i.e., the political power structures of my country) my unquestioning loyalty? Do I owe “Caesar” silence in the light of injustice? Do I owe “Caesar” the benefit of the doubt? Do I owe “Caesar” a joyous birthday celebration that conveniently glosses over damage being done today (in “Caesar’s” name) to women, people of color, disabled people, people living in poverty, people denied access to education, and numerous other disenfranchised groups?

Jesus’ words also remind me that those who aspire to follow him are called to be instruments of justice wherever and whenever they encounter injustice. “And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:40, NRSVU). 

Which, it seems to me, applies even when “Caesar” is the instrument of injustice. 

Frankly, I am torn. I don’t ever remember being this ambivalent about celebrating the Fourth in my life. I have heard some people say, “My country, right or wrong.” I have heard other people say, “Today, I am NOT proud to call myself an American.”

I waver back and forth between those two wildly oppositional poles.

I suppose I could choose to ignore my distress and say, “What the heck. This day is all about the fireworks, beer, and BBQ. Don’t overthink it, bruh.”

Or maybe… just maybe…

I could find a way to COMPLETELY and RADICALLY reframe this holiday. Maybe even give it a new name! 

Hear me out! What if… instead of making this a BACKWARD-LOOKING celebration that forces me to conveniently ignore things like slavery, and the extermination of the First Inhabitants, and similarly ugly chapters, what if I choose to make this a FORWARD-LOOKING celebration? A FORWARD-LOOKING celebration that is about claiming a bold promise for a just and truly compassionate nation?

What if… to cement this FORWARD-LOOKING theme in place a little more solidly… what if instead of calling it the FOURTH of JULY, we call it the FORTH of JULY?? You know… the day when we GO FORTH to work hand-in-hand to create that “shining city on a hill” our Founders envisioned? 

And what if we do that as an expression of our allegiance to Jesus and his vision of God’s kingdom where, “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” enjoys justice, peace, security, and life in equal measure with all other citizens?

What if… 

Now THAT is something I’d shoot off a firework or two about.

Abundant blessings;

30
Jun
22

Short and Sweet

It was a great visit with the granddaughters.

Three of them – two 14-year-olds and one 12-year-old – went back home yesterday after five raucous, fun-filled, tiring days with us here in Fort Collins.

Even though we both waved good-bye and then went IMMEDIATELY to bed and took long naps, Joan and I agreed on one thing: their visit was far too short.  

In fact, each one of the activities that took place while they were here seemed like they were WAY too short. The whitewater rafting trip, the horseback ride, the kayaking, the hiking, and each one of the dinners we had together seemed to end much too quickly, leaving each of us wanting MORE.

As I thought about it, I realized this is a recurring theme in my life. The “good stuff” seems to end much too quickly, while the “bad stuff” seems to linger FOREVER.  

Have you noticed that, too? 

I know, I know… in the realm of “profound insights,” this one ranks very near the bottom of the list. It almost qualifies for, “Well, DUH!”status. 

But thinking about this universal human experience led me to a different place. I started wondering if this is how it will feel at the end of my life… when I am staring the Grim Reaper in the face and looking back on the totality of my years.

Will I stop and say, “Wait! That wasn’t long enough! I need a LITTLE BIT MORE! Please???”

Or will I be standing there, tapping my foot impatiently and then saying to the guy with the sickle, “You’re LATE! What kept you? You should have been here YEARS ago!”

In my life, I have known many people you could call “old.” Some of them have been full of good spirits and energy, with eyes that crinkle with laughter, even as they feel the accumulated effects of age and gravity on their bodies. They are clearly fascinated to see what happens next on life’s great adventure.

I have known others who are tired, sick, pain-filled, and miserable. I often hear them say things like, “I don’t know what I am still doing here. I am ready to go… any time.”

At the ripe, old age of 70, I still feel like I am in the front car of a zany, uncharted carnival ride, making unexpected twists and turns as it zips along, barely under control. My health (knock wood… “For the most part…”) is not an issue. My financial house is in order (again… “for the most part…”), and so the onset of seniority is not a terribly frightening prospect for me. 

But I can certainly understand how old age can be a VERY different experience, filled with fear, grief, pain, remorse, and distress. 

Every one of us, though, faces the same reality. It is the reality spelled out by the psalmist when she/he says, “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSVU). 

We – you and I – are amazingly finite realities. We live under the illusion that our lives and lifespans comprise the entirety of human existence, when the truth is, they are a tiny blip on God’s radar screen. 

Which makes it even more miraculous to consider God’s estimation of us. Even though we are grains of dust on top of the piano, God – Creator of All That Is – considers every one of us his Masterpiece. And God loves each of us blades of grass with a love that knows no bounds, forgiving our transgressions to a thousand generations.

Personally, I think that is pretty cool. And it helps me come to grips with the fact that when I am ready to unfasten my seatbelt and step off this wacky roller-coaster, it is going to feel ENTIRELY too short a trip.

Abundant blessings;

20
Jun
22

Adaptor Anxiety and the Common Good

FAIR WARNING: This is going to sound like a rant. A rant from some ill-tempered old man… the blog post equivalent of me standing on my front porch, waving my arms, and yelling, “You kids! Get off my lawn!!”

But I promise… that’s not what is going on here.

[Well, maybe except for the “ill-tempered old man” part.]

Do you see this picture? The one showing the two wires coming out of my MacBook laptop. One wire goes to the power cord while the other one connects to the charger cable for my FitBit.

This picture clearly illustrates the HUGE gripe I and many others like me have with the Apple Corporation. 

You see, Apple has this infuriating practice of regularly making their own cables and connectors OBSOLETE when they introduce a new product! 

Do you see my FitBit charger cable? The black one? It is meant to plug into a USB port on the side of my laptop. But does this laptop (purchased just last year) actually HAVE a USB port? 

NOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Of COURSE not!

It has something brand new from Apple called a Lightning port. I am sure the super savvy tech people at Apple can give you one hundred great reasons why the Lightning port is a VAST improvement over the USB. But what it means (in effect) is that you must either buy a Lightning-to-USB adaptor (like I did), or just throw out all your old USB connecting stuff and buy NEW!

They call it “product evolution.” I call it “creating an artificial market through manipulated obsolescence so that your already bloated P&L statement can be pumped up even MORE.” 

[See? Doesn’t this sound REMARKABLY like an ill-tempered old guy yelling at the neighborhood kids? But please… hang in with me for another minute or two, would you?]

Well, imagine my JOY when I heard a news report the other day telling me that by the year 2024, the EU will require ALL (yes… that means you too, Apple) electronics manufacturers to use ONE… and ONE only… kind of electronic connector for ANYTHING they make. 

Period. No exceptions.

But of course, since I live in the US, not the EU, this ruling will do NOTHING to ease my Adaptor Anxiety.

It seems to me that the lawmakers in the EU did something quite extraordinary in passing this new law. They paused and asked themselves, “Is there something we can do to promote the common good? Could we make a law that would benefit a LARGE number of people, all at the same time?”

They paused… looked around… slapped their foreheads in unison, and said, I’VE GOT IT! Electronic connectors!”

The point here is not the connector. It is the idea of making decisions while looking out for the COMMON GOOD. 

  • Not just the good of MY district.
  • Not just the good of MY pocket.
  • Not just the good of the high-priced lobbyists who took me to that five-star restaurant last night.
  • Not just the good of MY party.

If you are a citizen of the U.S., I will challenge you to pause for just a moment and ask yourself this question: “What are the chances of ANYTHING like this EVER passing in this country?” 

Here, it is all about ME. ME and my individual freedoms to come and go as I wish… to own whatever kind of deadly firearm I wish… to force people to buy whatever kind of connector I wish… to spew whatever form of hate speech I feel like spewing… and to hell with the consequences for everybody else.

I might be wrong, but I don’t believe this was God’s vision of the world when God created it all in the first place. I believe the entire point of the Ten Commandments was to instruct God’s fledgling people how to live effectively together IN COMMUNITY. To be just as concerned with the well-being of our friends and neighbors as we are about our OWN well-being. 

You know what else? I believe the Original Sin in the book of Genesis was a shining example of the human saying, “I’m going to do what I want to do… no matter who else it hurts in the process.” 

You might say to me, “Well, if you think things are so danged perfect there in the EU, why don’t you just shut up and GO LIVE OVER THERE!!”

Sorry, friend. You’re not going to get rid of me that easily. 

I think we can do better right here… just by making a few, simple, CONNECTIONS.

Abundant blessings;

10
Jun
22

Showing Off

I approach exercising much the same way I approach brushing my teeth.

Now THAT is an important person!

Grudgingly. Unexcitedly. Yet gloomily resigned to the fact that horrible consequences will likely follow if I don’t suck it up and JUST DO IT, as Phil Knight constantly implores us.

And so, I listen to podcasts. 

No, not while I brush my teeth, silly. While I exercise.

You could also listen to music if your goal was to remove your mind as far as possible from the grim monotony of the moment. But podcasts are more my cup of tea. 

And one of my favorites of all time is the podcast called Hidden Brain (found at hiddenbrain.org). HB is hosted and produced by National Public Radio journalist Shankar Vedantam and it almost never fails to present a thoughtful, well-researched 54-57 minutes of content that makes me say, Huh! How fascinating! I had no IDEA!”

It’s the perfect length of time for a torture session at the gym.

The episode I listened to this week talked about a recent study done by a marketing professor at Georgetown University. This professor discovered that for many people today, TIME is their new status symbol.

Or rather, their distinct LACK of time.

In another era, 75 – 100 or so years ago, the status symbol du jour was IDLENESS. Back then, if you looked at someone’s calendar and saw nothing but entries like, “10:30, Wax eyebrows. 11:45, Read chapter six of Lady Chatterly’s Lover1:30, Nap,” and “5:00 – 7:30, Stroll the grounds, breathing deeply,” you knew that person was probably RICH and IMPORTANT.

By contrast, in TODAY’S world, people use their impossibly jam-packed calendars to show the world just how important they are. 

We’ve all heard that refrain. “I am just so BUSY! I don’t know how I could POSSIBLY fit in one more thing!” The implication being, of course, that the reason I am so BUSY is because I am so IMPORTANT. 

My first reaction to the story was to think, “That’s so sad. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go back to the time when the world valued being IDLE and UNSCHEDULED instead of being BUSY?”

But then, on further reflection, I thought, “What’s even sadder is the fact that humans constantly feel the need to come up with a status symbol AT ALL! Why are we so driven to SHOW OTHER PEOPLE how important we are and how much we really MATTER?”

And of course, we don’t just use our calendars to show off our importance and success, do we? We use our cars. We use our job titles. We use our wardrobes. We use our vacations. We use the academic and professional accomplishments of our KIDS. 

Almost anything we can get our hands on can be turned into a giant, blinking, neon arrow, pointing at us saying, “LOOK! LOOK AT ME, everybody! I really am SOMEBODY! I MATTER!”

It is almost as if we are trying more to remind OURSELVES – not necessarily other people – that we are something more than a momentary blip on the radar screen of history. 

Looking back, I see that I just used the following bible verse a couple of blog posts ago. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for this situation, too. Does it?

The psalmist starts by reminding us of just how fragile and fleeting our lives really are: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSVU). 

NOW who’s the big shot, eh?

But then, in another Psalm, she/he reminds us of our true place in the overall scheme of things by saying, “You have made them [meaning US] a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet…” (Psalm 8:5-6, NRSVU). 

So here’s the deal; you… just as you are right here, right now … matter more to the Creator of All Thingsthan you can possibly imagine. And it isn’t because of your jam-packed calendar, your Gucci tennis shoes, or your Chiefs season tickets. 

It is because YOU are YOU – made in the image of God – and nobody else.

Abundant blessings;

07
Jun
22

My Twilight Confessions

I am an early bird.

Always have been. Probably always will be. 

Of course, since retiring from my paying job in July 2019, the word “early” has been redefined somewhat. I no longer have to worry about getting to the gym and back, showering, shaving, devotioning, breakfasting, and commuting somewhere by a certain, set time. 

Nevertheless, the morning remains my favorite daypart. That is when my energy, optimism, and creativity seem to be at their peak(s). It is when I do my best writing, walking, planning, praying, and yard working.

Anything worth doing, I say to myself, is worth doing early. As a result of this orientation, my working faculties all start winding down starting at around noon (1:30 at the latest), as I prepare to hibernate for the night. 

For as long as I can remember, this has been my body’s rhythm. “Early bird” also describes many, many other parts of my life. It is the way I watch movies. It is the way I read books. It is the way I adopt new trends. It is the way I worship.  

So, what happens, I wondered the other day, when Joe Early Bird wakes up one day to discover he has entered a phase of life that can no longer accurately be called “early.” In fact, by many units of measure, I recently realized, my life phase could be described as “late twilight,” or even “deep, dark night.”

So what’s a confirmed early bird to do?

And with that question comes another: Can “late” come to be just as meaningful as “early”? Are there blessings hidden somewhere in those advanced parts of the day (or life) just waiting to be unearthed? 

Is it possible to rejoice just as much over the setting sun as its rising twin?

In the Old Testament, The Teacher offers these good words to live by: “In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” (Ecclesiastes 11:6, NRSVU). 

I suppose I could take this as literal agricultural instruction and say, “Hey, Teacher. Thanks for that! Good call,” and go tend to my tomatoes accordingly. 

Or maybe I could hear it as the metaphor it was no doubt intended to be. Maybe I could choose to hear it as a divinely inspired word telling me that no matter what stage of life I attain, my life’s task is still not completed. Maybe this unknown Bible guy (or gal) is saying that as long as I live, there will still be a measure of uncertainty about what sort of “crop” my life efforts will yield. 

I don’t know. Somehow, I find that advice kind of depressing. I was really hoping I might get to a point in life where I could hit the “Cruise Control” button and just coast blissfully into the Big Dirt Nap. I mean, my two sons – ages 45 and 42 – have turned out to be great sons, great parents, and great human beings. Their kids (eight between them) are fantastic beyond my wildest hopes and dreams. Joan and I are secure and comfortable, and (for now, at least) in good health.

Isn’t that a pretty good “crop”?

Some might say so. But then here comes the voice of Jesus’ brother, James, throwing a big bucket of cold water on my complacency by saying, “Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14, NRSVU). 

Thanks a bunch, James. Really appreciate that.

**Sigh** 

Back to the grindstone, I guess.

Abundant blessings;

01
Jun
22

19 Irises

Check out these absolutely STUNNING Iris flowers we saw on our morning walk.

I’m really not much of a flower guy, but are those INCREDIBLE or what?

I have always loved Irises. They are so soft and dainty, yet explosively extravagant in their colors and textures. They seem to stumble all over themselves in its rush to manifest their magnificence for passersby to see.

I found that the name Iris comes originally from the Greek meaning “rainbow” because apparently, they come in hundreds of different colors and shapes and sizes.

Spring arrives. Temperatures warm. The iris appears…

… and then, just as quickly, it is gone. Dormant until next year.

Despite its beauty, there are people who hold the iris’ fleetingness against it. They say, “Well, yes, of course it is a beautiful flower. The problem is it doesn’t last long. Why go to all that trouble growing them if you only get two weeks of joy from them?”

On one hand, I can see their point. A gardener COULD choose to plant many other flowers that are big, colorful, and showy, but which also hang around for most of the growing season. 

After all, why not choose to HAVE your cake and EAT IT, too?

But let me pose this stumper for you to chew on; could it be that the fleeting nature of the iris’ life is important… even INTEGRAL… to its beauty?

Is it possible that one reason we OOO and AHHH and gush so much over this flower is precisely BECAUSE it won’t be with us very long? Do we see a bed of iris’ like the one above and stop and SAVOR it because we know it is so darned ephemeral?

You know… sort of like human beings are when considered from God’s eternal point of view.

When it comes right down to it, EVERYTHING in this world is temporary. The clock of mortality is ticking for every plant, every flower, every person, every animal, every building, every tree, every everything you see. 

So why bother forging attachments to ANY of them? Why have a pet, for example, when it is almost one hundred percent certain that they will die before you do? Why fall in love? One of you is certainly going to go before the other one. 

As the psalmist reminds us: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSVU). 

Dang! How depressing is that?

But then she/he continues: “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.” (Psalm 103:17, NRSVU). 

Today, I am still struggling with feelings of anguish, anger, terror, and despair. I am haunted by the image of those 19 beautiful irises in Uvalde, Texas, cruelly uprooted and violently stomped into oblivion at the very peak of their glory… and my utter impotence to respond in any way that is appropriate. I have cried my eyes dry and sat in silent contemplation around the unanswerable questions that come. I have not been able to write a single, coherent word about much of anything…

… until those irises spoke to me. 

May their beauty – as fleeting and tragically short as it was – shine and glow throughout eternity. 

Abundant blessings;

18
May
22

People are Not Pavers

No. This is not me.

In yet another one of those “stop the presses” moments I am becoming known for, today’s breaking news headline is: I RESTAINED THE DECK!

This announcement ranks right up there in terms of earth-shatteringness with my last post where you heard me tell you that I MADE THE BED!

Ah, the small victories of retirement.

Our deck was chipped and tacky when we moved here to Fort Collins 2.5 years ago. And it has not miraculously healed itself in the interim. In fact, it has only gotten tackier and chippier.

So Joan and I decided that today was the day. After power-washing, sanding, cleaning, and sweeping, it was ALL HANDS ON DECK for the transformational re-staining.

(See what I did there?)

It all went well. In fact, it was done and dry before a freak afternoon rain shower doused everything with refreshment from on high. 

But wouldn’t you know it; right in the middle of taking a brush to the deck’s exposed edges, a Valuable Life Illustration popped up right in front of me. 

There I was, down on my hands and knees. I had a paintbrush in my hand and was trying to be extra cautious about where the stain ended up, when my hand slipped. A drop and a 1.5-inch stroke of stain ended up on one of the paver stones that form the perimeter of the deck.

Not a big stain, certainly. Noticeable by only a super-meticulous inspector. But a stain, nevertheless. There was now deck stain where there wasn’t supposed to be deck stain. And because the surface on which the stain landed was porous cement, that stain was there to STAY! 

No amount of scrubbing, turpentine, soap, or water will ever change that fact. 

And so, as I knelt there and beheld my boo-boo, I wondered; “Are there people who look at mistakes in their lives the way I am looking at the stain on this paver? Do they look at the pain they’ve caused, the boundaries they’ve violated, the lives they’ve tarnished with a sense of HOPELESSNESS and DESPAIR? Do they gnash their teeth, look to heaven and wail, ‘It’s RUINED! I can never UNDO this damage I’ve done!’”

In one sense, of course, they’re exactly right. A burnt batch of muffins cannot be unburned. A trust betrayed cannot be unbetrayed. And despite what we see in Superman and science fiction movies, mere humans cannot turn the clock backwards to the moment BEFORE our royal screw-up. 

The damage is done. The toothpaste is out of the tube. The stain is on the paver.

And yet, in another, much more important sense, “they” are wrong.

Dead wrong.

King David – one of the Bible’s biggest screwups – believed in God’s power to remove even the stubbornest stain of sin. As he lamented his crimes of lust, adultery, murder, and deceit in Psalm 51 he wailed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7, NRSVU). He knew that God – and ONLY God – could do what no earthly turpentine ever could.

In the divine act of forgiveness, God doesn’t change our past. Instead, God’s forgiveness changes our FUTURE. God knows that without forgiveness, we’d be trapped. There would be no choice for us but to see the die as irreversibly cast… the future as a dead-end alleyway… the paver stone as forever stained.

Jesus understood the life transforming nature of forgiveness and declared it often. One time, in fact, Peter – trying to pose as some kind of super-generous, super-compassionate follower, came up to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother or sister sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”  

He was hoping to hear Jesus say, “WOW! Forgive somebody seven times? That’s amazing! That’s incredible! Unheard of! Peter, you ROCK!”

But instead, Jesus set him straight. He sat Peter down and said, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22, NRSVU). Some translations have Jesus answering, “Seventy times seven.”Which, incidentally, equals 490.


Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus ENACTED forgiveness. But he also COMMANDED forgiveness from his followers. The disciple John put it perfectly when he wrote, “… but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, NRSVU).

I guess what I am trying to say is: people are not pavers. 

They CAN be un-stained.

Abundant blessings; 

12
May
22

A Little Corner of Order

We made the bed this morning.

A well-made bed

Yipppeee!! Skippy!!

And when I say, “…we made the bed,” of course I mean JOAN – on her own – made the bed. 

Sometimes I help with the bedmaking. When I am around, that is. But many times, I am up and out the door before the bedmaking time happens.

And so, Joan cheerfully tucks and straightens the sheets, fluffs the pillows, folds the comforter, and carefully puts those little, purely decorative pillows in their places.

Hold on nowWhy does this silly stuff even matter?” you are no doubt asking me right now. “Who cares about you and your absurd housekeeping practices? Let’s spend this time talking about some REAL stuff… stuff like Ukraine… or COVID… or abortion. You are really testing my patience here, clown boy.”

First of all, that’s a little harsh, don’t you think? And second of all, hang in there, bub. You just might discover there is more here than meets the eye. 

Let me start my defense by asking you a question; when you open your front door and peer outside, what do you see? What kind of world lurks out there? 

Here is what I see: I see a world of pain. And chaos. And brokenness. I see a world desperately seeking redemption. I see a world largely without answers. I see a world that – for the most part – I really don’t have even a microscopic amount of influence over. 

I’m convinced it is also a world that God – because of God’s infinite, unconditional love for this world – spends a LOT of time weeping over. 

Beyond what I see, I also hear something. I hear God’s gentle, urging voice. It is whispering to me, “Russell, GO. Do what you can. Be MY hands and feet and heart. Create a corner – even if it is just a tiny corner – in that broken, pain-filled world that reminds people of what MY kingdom looks like.”

And for me, one of the key characteristics of God’s kingdom (i.e., a kingdom that works according to the blueprint God had BEFORE Adam and Eve messed everything up) is ORDER

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Harmony.

Cohesion.

Connection.

Interrelationship.

And so, I choose to start my day with a regular, tangible picture of what order looks like. 

I choose to make my bed.  

(Rather, as you saw above, JOAN chooses to make my bed. But you know what I mean.)

By my count (rather, by the count of the special feature on my Bible app), Jesus talks about the kingdom of God at least 117 times. It is clearly a topic that matters to him… a LOT! 

And yet we remember that Jesus also lived in the middle of a broken, pain-filled, unjust, chaotic world. He lived in a world that was DESPERATE for redemption, healing, and wholeness. 

And so, when he talked to people, he tried to paint vivid word pictures of what a healed, whole, restored world might look like. He talked about mustard seeds, and grains of wheat, and pearls of great price, and treasures hidden in a field. He tried to help them understand the reality of the Hope Beyond Hope at the center of his earthly ministry. 

In other words, he tried to help people visualize what The World According to God will look like when it comes to be. 

And although I can’t provide you any actual, scriptural warrants for it, I am pretty sure Jesus made his bed every morning.

Don’t worry. In case you are not inclined that way, I am pretty sure God loves non-bedmakers just as much as He loves bedmakers. Be that as it may, He is saying the same thing to you that He says to me every morning. He is saying, “GO. Do what you can. Be MY hands and feet and heart. Create a corner – even if it is just a tiny corner – in that broken, pain-filled world that reminds people of what MY kingdom looks like.”

And then, when you get home at night, sink restfully into that beautiful, orderly, well-made bed and REST!

Abundant blessings;

03
May
22

Holy Unsettledness!

I love to travel.

In fact, Joan and I just returned from a great, nine-day trip to the state of New Mexico. In fact, if you’d like some tips on things to see and do in Taos, or White Sands National Park (Sand. The attraction there is SAND), or Cloudcroft, or at Carlsbad Caverns, drop me a line. (revruss1220@gmail.com).

There are delights and surprises around every corner in New Mexico. We discovered that it is a very EMPTY place, too. Small wonder our government chose it as the perfect place to blow up atomic bombs, test missiles, and hide aliens.

Enchanting, indeed.

Along with the adventure of travel, though, comes no small degree of unsettledness. What I mean is, you spend the whole time driving on strange roads, sleeping in strange beds, seeing strange sights, eating strange food, and meeting all manner of strange people. 

Yes… you are correct to remind me that breaking out of the daily, predictable pattern of life is the whole point of travel. But it is also no surprise that I usually return home from a trip carrying a peculiar mixture of sadness and relief in my heart.

“WHEW!” I said out loud as we finally pulled into our driveway. “Home again AT LAST! Back to predictability. Back to my OWN bed and back to our ‘normal’ lives. Back to settledness.”

Later that day… after the car had been unpacked and the first load of laundry started… I began thinking. As I listened to the gentle “ka-thump ka-thump, ka-thump” of the clothes dryer, I wondered, “As good as it is to be back to the predictable places and patterns of HOME, is it possible to fall too much in love with this kind of ‘settledness’? Could I – or could anyone for that matter – ever make an idol out of ROUTINE and PREDICTABILITY?”

I think we all know the answer to that question, don’t we?

As much as we gasp in horror when our apple carts are unceremoniously upset, we each know the truth. And the truth is this: sometimes apple carts need to be upset. Sometimes routines need to be disrupted. Sometimes sacred cows need to be turned into delicious hamburgers. 

We see plenty of stories of that very thing happening in the Bible. God plucked a very settled, successful man named Abram from the middle of the comfortable life he was living there in Haran and told him to go to “a land which I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1, NRSV).

Later, God set a bush on fire in the middle of the Sinai wilderness, interrupting the quiet afternoon reverie of a shy, stuttering young shepherd, and told him to, “… bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10, NRSV). 

Over and over and over again in the Bible, we see God snatching the TV remote out of people’s hands, tossing them off the couch, and yelling, “Get up! I’ve got a TASK for you… a task that will UPEND the comfortable, SETTLED life you are living right now!”

You might even say that this kind of thing happens SO often we might conclude that it happens ON PURPOSE! God seems to keep pulling people – ordinary people like you and me – OUT of our routines to accomplish God’s purposes. 

Entrance to Carlsbad Caverns

It MAY BE that God is calling you RIGHT NOW to step out of your comfort zone and do something extraordinary to accomplish those purposes.

Then again, it may not be. I think back to the 13th century monk, Brother Lawrence, who spent his life cooking in the monastery kitchen as his act of devotion. He found ways to infuse holiness into every pot he washed, every potato he peeled, and every brick of every floor he scrubbed. 

Whether settled or not. Whether routine or not. Whether predictable or not. I think the point is to be READY to respond completely and unequivocally to God’s call. 

Happy travels!

Abundant blessings;




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