Yesterday, Costco was beautiful…

Yesterday, Costco was beautiful.

I went shopping at Costco yesterday. It’s something that I find myself doing on a regular basis. Not because I enjoy it so much, but out of necessity. In a perfect world, theBean would be doing the Costco (& other grocery) shopping… because she LOVES it. However, due to our current work/life situation & the fact that her job is much less time-flexible than mine is, I ‘get’ to be the shopper.  TheBean gets to live vicariously through me & my glorious shopping experiences because we use an app called “Wunderlist,” which allows us to create, save, & share shopping lists with each other. And with every item I check off the list & put in my cart, she gets a notification of what I’m doing… as well as a visual of where I am in the store.

What she doesn’t get, however, are the joys that come from people-interactions & people-watching. No. Those are all for me, the fearless “Costco-shopping-in-December-5-days-before-Christmas” guy. Sometimes those experiences are cringe-worthy & painful. Sometimes they are beautiful. Yesterday’s was beautiful.


I raced to the checkout line before theBean could remotely add yet-another item to the shopping list, & rejoiced that there were ONLY 2 carts in front of me. The first belonged to a couple of Hispanic ladies; one of the ladies translated for the other, & then communicated with the checker in broken yet very understandable English. The second belonged to a 30-ish dad wrangling his 2 sons… probably 3 & 5 years of age. It’s not like I was trying to pay extra special attention, or that I sensed that somehow, something incredible was happening. Nope. Just checking out at Costco on a Wednesday, overjoyed at the fact that I’d survived yet another trip into the belly of the beast.

In due time, my trusty cashier took his hand-held scanner & painted every item in & below my cart with flair. I put my Costco card on the scanner & “BOOM!” I’m done, receipts in hand, heading for the car & the Promised Land of the parking lot.

Thing is, I had another line to stand in… the dreaded “after you check out at Costco you have to get your receipt double-checked to make sure you paid for everything &/or got charged wrong” line. And yesterday, the second “double-checker” was helping a woman get her motorized Costco chair/cart up to speed & adjusted to fit her frame. Which left 1 double-checker to do the work of 2. Which meant a long, slow line to get to the Promised Land.

So I waited.

A younger, less-refined, more impatient version of Louie would have been fuming. Places to go. Things to do. Crowds to navigate/avoid. That Louie isn’t around much anymore. He’s not much fun & I’ve learned (painfully) to put him in his place (mostly) before he emerges & makes life more challenging for all who get the privilege of experiencing him. (Hopefully I’m becoming more like Christ, one step at a time…)

And then I heard the older boy that had been in the cart in front of me asking his dad questions.

NOTE: As a rule, I pay attention to little kids when I see them out in the real world. Part of it is all the fun & joy they bring in to the world, fun & joy I see (just about) every day at theBean’s preschool. Part of it is that kids get marginalized & ignored a lot of the time, & I believe it makes a difference if you acknowledge them as miniature humans when you encounter them. Sometimes they’ll surprise you.

The questions flowed rapid-fire in true 5-year old fashion:

  • KID 1 – “Daddy why did that lady speak a funny language?”
    • DAD – “Probably because she learned her language first & hasn’t gotten a chance to learn ours yet.  It’s called ‘Spanish.'” (KID 1 repeats it to himself, “Spanish.”)
    • DAD – “God made all sorts of people in all sorts of shapes & colors & sizes that speak all sorts of languages. Our language, English, is just one of them.”
  • KID 1 – “But the other girl could kinda speak our language. Better than him,” (pointing at KID 2, little brother).
    • DAD – “She probably has worked really hard to be able to do that… & I bet the more she does it, the better she will get at it. Wasn’t it sweet that she was helping the other woman so she could shop at Costco today?”
  • KID 1 – “Yes. But it makes me sad that the other lady couldn’t talk. What if she didn’t have the other woman to help her?”
    • DAD – “That would be sad. Sometimes God will put people in places to be able to help, & I bet He might even put someone at Costco who could help that lady if her friend wasn’t there.”
  • KID 1 – “I wish we could help next time.”
    • DAD – “I could… I can speak some Spanish.” KID 1 is over the moon, blown away by the fact that HIS DAD could have helped. 
  • KID 1 – “Daddy I WANT to learn Spanish too. So I can help. Can I learn Spanish too!”
    • DAD – “Yes you can – it might be hard, but you can do it.”
  • KID 1 – “I don’t care if it’s hard. God will help me, because I KNOW He wants me to be one of His helpers.”
    • DAD – “That’s great, buddy! He will help you. And you CAN be a helper.”

At this point, we’d reached the double-checkers, & his cart was summarily reviewed & released. Then mine was. I pushed my cart to the car, while tears ran down my face, making it a little more difficult than normal to navigate the brisk & bright parking lot. Turns out I was parked next to the Dad & his 2 kids. We both loaded our goods into our respective cars & then I took my cart back to the cart return. He was (attempting) to get both boys into their carseats & finding it to be a challenge. I asked him, “Hey, can I return your cart for you?” I could tell from his expression & his obvious relief that he hadn’t even considered that yet, & he expressed his appreciation at my small gesture.

When I got back from returning the cart, he was JUST finishing with the boys & had JUST gotten the back doors shut. He said, “Thank you. Shopping with the boys is an adventure. This is our third store of the day already, & I bet if I’d gone alone I could have been finished with everything in 90 minutes. Here we are on Hour 3…”

I smiled & encouraged him, “The time with your boys is worth it. And while you’re doing the shopping, you’re shaping them to be good men who look to help others & trust God will give them what they need to do it. Good job, Dad!”

With a wave & a handshake, we parted ways.

Yesterday, Costco was beautiful.

You have purpose!

This Advent season, I’ve been using a friend’s book, “ADVENT Encounter” as my guide… Each week of Advent is marked by a different theme, with this week’s theme being PURPOSE. I really resonated with the premise that no matter WHO we are, WHAT we do/our job title (or lack thereof,) or HOW mundane, insignificant, or blah our lives seem, we ALL have purpose.

In the story of Jesus’ birth, one of the places this pops up is with the shepherds tasked with caring for their sheep in the open pastures by night. Who were the shepherds? Traditionally, shepherds were the one’s in the family structure that could be spared for the mundane labor of caring for sheep. This included the very young, the old, & others who weren’t needed for more ‘vital’ family jobs… low man/woman on the totem pole got this job.  (For example, the story of David’s being anointed as king, found HERE, comes to mind. When the prophet Samuel asked David’s father, Jesse, to gather ALL his sons for a special meal & celebration, he brought everyone. Everyone, that is, except David, the youngest, the runt. He was left out tending the sheep. He wasn’t thought to be significant enough to invite. You get the picture. David ended up being the very one that Samuel was there to anoint.)

The shepherds in the story of Jesus were in the middle of nowhere outside the sleepy town of Bethlehem when they saw the angelic hosts declaring “A Savior is born here today!” THEY were the ones who God chose to announce His Good News to, & they were the 1st to greet baby Jesus & His parents, & to share that news with others. They had a purpose, a God-given purpose, something that didn’t depend on their social standing, their real/perceived intelligence, or how well they were/were not regarded by others.

My mentor used to say, “There are no unimportant roles or jobs in the kingdom of God.” See, God doesn’t rank our importance the way much of society does – it’s not about our accomplishments, wealth, job title, academics, etc… it’s about our willingness & availability to God. Personalizing this, EVERYTHING I do is significant, because of WHO I’m doing it for. Ephesians 1 references how we live, work, & play for the glory of God –> pointing to Him in & through everything we do. When I’m cleaning the toilets, I’m doing it to the glory of God. When I’m serving in a place of special significance & honor, I’m doing it to the glory of God. The venue might change, but the motivation behind it doesn’t. I have purpose – to bring glory to God.

This ADVENT/Christmas season, I want to encourage you to consider this: BE & DO what Jesus would be BEING & DOING if He was walking in your shoes. Your purpose is clear: BE a blessing; DO good; LEAVE peace in your wake: & SHARE God’s Good News when given the opportunity.

Come on in…

One of the great joys of my life is I get to have 3 of my 4 grandkids in & around our preschool at least 4 days a week. This means Lucs, O, & Mimi get all sorts of special extra attention from Poppy & Gram; it’s not been uncommon to have the boys (4 & 2) come barging into my office on one of their “breaks” from school for playtime with Poppy. This usually means lightsaber/sword battles, playing catch, & more recently, jamming on our guitars. During my playtimes with the boys, Mimi, the smallest of them all at 1 year & 18 pounds, has become a fixture on my office sofa… because she’s so small, she’s not been able to engage in the full-on boy play. Rather, she’s sat on the sidelines & screamed & hollered & laughed. Until today…

Today I was working at my desk on my computer when I heard a big “THUMP” & saw my door begin to slooooowwly swing open, finally crashing to a halt against the door stop. And in came… MIMI! All by herself, with the biggest smile on her face – she toddled around the side of my desk & extended her arms to me in the universal “Pick me up!” posture. And I did. And she gave me the biggest hug & nestled her little head against my shoulder for what seemed like an hour but was probably only about 10 seconds. And then she pointed at the door & made the “Put me down!” motion. She hit the ground running, & headed out of my office into the classroom next door where her mama was.


As I sit here typing this, I’m overcome with love & thankfulness that my granddaughter, Mimi thought to crash through my door to come see me. I was working, but there is NO work in the world too important to keep this Poppy from sweeping up his Mimi for hugs & attention. (You know what I’m talking about?!)

Made me wonder: “How much more does our Heavenly Father love us & long for us to come to Him so He can sweep us up in His arms, to receive us with love & grace?”

 

Laptop drama, memories of GG, & other Thursday musings…

My 2018 ‘intention’ to blog at least 1x/week was blown out of the water by a freak computer accident last Tuesday, 1/9. I was on an especially fun Skype call with a couple of dear friends, & in my excitement, I evidently began waving my arms around (I didn’t know I did that.) The 32 ounce Nalgene bottle I take with me EVERYWHERE happened to be just to the left of my laptop, all prepped & with the top off so I could get hydrated much quicker than if I DIDN’T have the top off… & you know the rest. The spill (about 4 ounces, thanks for asking,) wasn’t so bad, but the screen started displaying crazy pixelations almost immediately, & I feared the worst: A dead laptop – the one laptop I use for writing, for studying, for just about everything… with me not sure if I had done an iCloud backup recently.

Today, the verdict is in: lappy survived with all data intact. And I have purposed to keep my trusty Nalgene bottle (& any other cup/glass containing ANY liquid,) far, far, away from him. And I will do that until I forget to.


Today is 1/18… my Grandma Necie’s (GG) birthday. She would have been 97 years old today; she died 4/16/2001… I found myself reminiscing about her several times today. (I actually reminisce ALL the time. Being a Pop to 4! grandkids has brought new waves of reflection, a desire to look back a bit, & to make the next years really count.)  The memories I have of GG are many – & some of my most favorite ones are disjointed recountings from my first few years of life that don’t really have much context. And yet they still shape me. Here’s a few things I’m thinking on:

  • The Wizard of Oz – I watched it with her multiple times.
  • Chocolate pudding – a required dessert she made with my invaluable help. And then I ate it while watching Wizard of Oz.
  • Pets – Maynard the dog (Granny Dell, GG’s mom, lived with GG until Granny Dell’s death. She called Maynard, “Maynus” in the cutest southern Georgia accent. Now that I think of it, she called me “Little Loodie” & my dad “Loodie.” Just remembered that.) Margaret, the black & white cat who permitted me to pet her 1 or 2 times.
  • Her sense of dignity. She was a Southern belle, through & through.
  • BBQ beef ribs – at the Liberty Belle. Closed in 2006. Boo. Goodness. Best ribs I ever had. The power of nostalgia will always keep the Belle’s ribs #1.
  • GG’s rib sauce – she made her own rib sauce to put on our version of the Liberty Belle’s signature ribs. This is a recipe that our family still uses (with some Louie tweaks to it.) It is a point of comfort to be able to remember her when I make the sauce. I should tell more GG stories to my kids when I make the sauce.

There’s much, much more, but you get the gist. The amalgamation of images, sounds, smells, (imagined) tastes… all conjure up myriad memories. A hint of sadness. And now, shock, at just now discovering that the year I was born, 1969, she was 48 years old.

The same age I am right now.

Makes me think of my own grandkids: Mason, Luca, Owen, & the Littlest Turkey of them all, Mila. And what their memories of me will be.  Makes me want to be the Best, Healthiest version of me I can be.

Happy birthday GG. I think you’d like my version of your rib sauce.


Word on the weather channel says the wind is coming. Joy. 100 mph winds predicted in the mountains. Note to self: stay inside until it subsides.


I’m wrestling through a response to my 1st post of the year, The Gospel & Racism #1.  Trying to formulate something coherent & tangible, without it being patronizing. I know the gospel Good News is good news for EVERYONE, not just for a few. And how can I, a 48 year old white dude, preach a gospel/live a life that not only declares this gospel Good News, but does the hard work of Luke 4Like Jesus said in fulfillment to the promise of the prophet Isaiah

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
    because He has anointed Me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

So say we all.

The Gospel & racism… #1

“The question we have to ask is: Does the Gospel, as we currently preach it, have the power to deal with racism?” – John Perkins, Pastor & Activist.

(I came across this in a book I’m currently reading called, “The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb,” by Jamin Goggin & Kyle Strobel. For more about John Perkins, I’d recommend reading his book, “Dream With Me: Race, Love, & the Struggle We Must Win.” ) In a nutshell, he followed closely in the footsteps of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. beginning in the 1960’s & stood up (continues to stand up) to injustice & racism through a life-pattern of nonviolent resistance, which Dr. King defined as “the courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love of Christ.)


Pastor Perkins experienced unlawful arrests & imprisonments, countless beatings at the hands of mobs & police officers who were professing christians intent on maintaining the status quo of their segregated & stratified society. So his question, “The question we have to ask is: Does the Gospel, as we currently preach it, have the power to deal with racism?” is legitimate & demands an answer. And if the answer is, “No,” then something about how we’re preaching it has to change. Because the Gospel tells how, in Christ, all of the things humanity has used to stratify, to oppress, to create inequity are stripped away. (see Colossians 3:11 & Galatians 3:27,28)


Though I’ve never seen myself as an activist & I definitely am not a fan of (most) all things political, I am greatly disturbed by what continues to happen in our country with racially based inequality, injustice, persecution, murder, violence, & the like. And I want to do something about it. Not in a condescending or tokenistic manner, but something meaningful.

For the last 18 years I’ve served as a pastor to our church. I have tried my best to be faithful to the Gospel Good News, to the message of Christ, to live out the Golden Rule & to encourage others to BE & DO what Jesus would be BEING & DOING if He was walking in their shoes. Looking back, I’ve been Naive. Uninformed. Unaware. So, for the last couple of years, I’ve tried to be more intentional in my informal education & in challenging my own perspectives & points of view. I’m reading books, listening to podcasts, engaging in conversations, & trying to learn, trying to grow, trying to understand more about the continuing troubles flowing from racism & racist attitudes, thoughts, mindsets, & behaviors. I want to try to figure out what I can do to be a part of a solution, to be a help. I believe – anyone can be divisive, anyone can stir up trouble, anyone can tear something/someone down… but it takes intentionality, patience, grace, forgiveness, & more to BUILD & keep building something of worth.


I greatly admire & look up to my dear friend, David, a.k.a Opie for many reasons. One of the most prominent is because over the last 20 years, he has lived out his faith in Christ in practical ways in his job, his community, & his church. And it has led to him being a constructive & helpful voice in his city, as he is leading significant conversations & cultivating understanding between whites & African-Americans in his racially divided city. His grasp of the gospel, in action, gives me hope & an affirmative answer, YES!, to the John Perkins quote/question at the top of this blog.


 

Throughout 2018, I hope to revisit the topic of this blog in meaningful, thoughtful ways – & to find what path I’m supposed to take/keep taking to be able to answer “YES. The Gospel I’m declaring has the power to deal with racism.”

What’s in a NAME? A couple more ThoughtFormative books (pt.2), & other musings…

12 years ago, theBean had a dream – to start a preschool in our church. With the help of a dear friend & a lot of hard work (& through too many twists, turns, & versions to mention,) it is thriving & is functioning far beyond anything I could ever have imagined. She (& her team) rock. About 2 weeks ago, most/all of the Kindergarten-age kids transitioned out of the preschool & into “the Real World;” at the same time, the school has had an influx of kids (babies through age 5) that has not only kept our enrollment up where it was at the end of the last school year, there are actually more kids currently attending than at any other time in our school’s history. Very cool to see.

What’s also cool is that, through the school, we get to reach people from all over the world, right here in our town. Currently,(in addition to the U.S.) we have kids from:

  • China
  • Russia
  • Mexico
  • Syria
  • Nigeria

It stands to reason, we’d have our share of interesting names… & we do…  In that vein, I’ve noticed a baby name-trendSee if you can pick up the pattern – we have:

  • Jackson
  • Jaxon
  • Jaxson
  • Jaxzyn (also pronounced JACK-son)
  • Axton
  • Paxton
  • Daxon
  • (STACK-son)

True story. (Mom of Staqxson said she had invented the name. I believe her.) No judgement from me. It does make me wonder, however, what do people consider, what do they think about, what is the process for picking a name for their baby? In Bible days, kids were given names specifically because of what they meant, because of the significance. Take for instance the name –John it means, “the grace/mercy of the Lord” & “God’s gracious gift.”  I can totally get that (named my own kid that. Makes sense in the case of Zechariah & Elizabeth too. And in the instance of Hosea’s kid, the name given served as an object lesson from God to His people – the boy was named Lo Ammi” which means, “not My people,”  (Sorry kid. God told me to call you this. Nothing personal.) People could end up naming their kid after a favorite movie character like Edward. Jacob. Bella. The Twilight Saga.)  or after a favorite TV channel, like ESPN, (there are estimated to be 93 kids named ESPN in the US.) Made me giggle a little bit to see that there is even a web page dedicated to the topic, “How To Pick A Baby Name” which includes helpful insights like “5 Pitfalls to avoid when choosing a name.”

For me & theBean: we wanted all of our kids names to mean something significant to us & them. We named all of the kids after loved ones. We (mostly I,) also used a couple of tests to screen names. They were:

  • The SCREAM IT FROM THE BACK PORCH test – (patent pending). It’s pretty self-explanatory. You yell the full name, out loud, outside & then listen to what you said. Many things in life can be avoided by simply Saying Them Out Loud before you do it. Think on that.
  • The KINDERGARTEN FRUSTRATION test – I figured when my kids were in Kindergarten, they probably had enough issues to deal with other than trying to spell out a long, unusual, elaborate name (esp. if it was something many adults couldn’t spell.) We avoided this with my daughter because she went by Weezer, Weezie, or theWeez for the 1st 12 or so years of her life.

Anyway – should be an interesting school year.


ThoughtFormative Book List, pt. 2 (pt. 1 can be found HERE.) 

  • The Monday Morning Church: Out of the Sanctuary, & Into the Streets – Jerry Cook – in a nutshell, this book explores what it could look like if every person who follows Christ would pray, think about, & then act as if they were doing what Jesus would be doing, if He were walking in their shoes, in their world. Because, in essence, that is EXACTLY what our mission is. And we are all little pieces of JesusEphesians,, & we all know how much the people of our world need that. It’s also a study through the letter to the & it is a (30 years later) sequel to Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness.
  • A Long Obedience In the Same Direction – Eugene Peterson – this ThoughtFormative gem is a breath of fresh air & a slice of real-life Christianity on the topic of discipleship – the process of becoming like Christ. Life w/Christ is NOT all emotional, “on-fire,” mountain-top experiences where it seems God is SO close, all the time. Many times, it feels like God gives us an encouragement, a direction to head in, & then… nothing (real or perceived.) It details the need for perseverancea never give up, never surrender , a stick-to-itiveness, life outlook (ala, Isaiah 50:7). The clincher for me is the quote Peterson used for the name of the book: The essential thing in heaven & earth is…that there should be a long obedience in the same direction, there thereby results, & has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil. 

Enough for today. Look for opportunities today to BE & DO what Jesus would be BEING & DOING in your shoes. Because He is. And you’re it. #BeTheGood

Offended… by Jesus? & other musings…

Continuing in the vein of my last post, “Who? Me? Offended?” I’m writing about being offended by Jesus. (Yes, you read that last sentence right. Offended. By. Jesus.) “But how,” you might ask, “would it happen that I would be offended by JESUS?” I’m glad you did.

I believe we can be offended by Jesus (God, the Holy Spirit, & God’s Word,) when:

  • We have expectations that aren’t met.
  • Prayers go unanswered.
  • A tragedy strikes us/someone close to us.
  • We’re confronted with the “hard sayings” of Jesus. You know, the passages of Scripture which tick you off. Make you say “no way.” The passages that seem to fly against what we, personally, know & believe to be Right. And Good. And Loving. Sometimes they’re passages about sin. Sometimes they’re about the cost of Christianity. Sometimes we just don’t get it, like the passage where Jesus tells the crowd, “Want eternal life? Eat My flesh, & drink My blood.” Eww. (For the context, look at John 6:22-66 )

In 1Peter 2:4-8Peter compares Jesus to a stone: for some people (those who believe in Him & obey His teachings,) Jesus is the Cornerstone, aka the stone that is used by builders as a reference for every other stone in the structure. For others people, (those who do not believe Him/obey His teachings,) Jesus is called “The Stumbling Stone,” & “The Rock of Offense.” Notice: the thing that determines HOW we experience Christ is what we do/how we respond to His Word. With belief & obedience or with unbelief & disobedience.


There are several passages in Scripture where people get offended with Jesus. Here’s a few examples:

  • Matthew 15:1-20 – The Pharisees: they came to Jesus complaining because His disciples didn’t follow their special tradition of ceremonial hand washing before eating. It really bothered them… And Jesus’ response: “It really bothers Me that you’re NOT concerned with the direct commandment of God to honor your parents. What’s worse, you make up religious reasons to justify it. Bunch of hypocrites!” And they were offended.
  • Matthew 13:53-58 – The people in His hometown: Jesus went home for a visit & continued declaring the gospel Good News, & inviting people to believe & put their trust in Him. You’d think the ample evidence shown by those healed, transformed, etc… coupled with the powerful declaration of God’s truth, with authority, would be convincing. It wasn’t. Their response: “How can this be? We KNOW this guy. We KNOW who His dad was? We KNOW His mom? We KNOW His brothers & sisters (they’re right over there.) No way this guy can be who He says.” And they were OFFENDED at Him, & did not believe. And as a direct result, Jesus didn’t do many mighty works there.
  • Mark 3:1-21 – Jesus’ family: In Mark 3, we hear stories of Jesus healing a bunch of people, bringing deliverance to people oppressed by evil spirits, & calling a group of guys to follow Him, learn from Him, & then DO what He was doing. He went home, the crowds gathered, people followed, & Jesus’ family freaked out. They couldn’t believe what He was doing. And they didn’t see it as good or positive. They said, “We have to take Him & put Him away. He’s out of His mind!

All that to say… It stands to reason – if it hasn’t happened already, there WILL come a time where we will be at a crossroads… where the very edges of commitment to believing in Christ unconditionally are tested, when our own sense of Right & Wrong are challenged by something in Scripture… & how we respond to Jesus (& His Word) in that situation will determine if He will be our Cornerstone or the Rock of Offense we stumble over.

Who? Me? Offended? And other musings…

Ask a person, “Did I offend you?” & you’ll sometimes get an answer like, “What? No. I’m not offended.” Even if they really are. I don’t think its because we’re all liars who sit on a Throne of Lies who smell like beef & cheese; I think it might be because we think being offended is a bad thing, & so, rather than acknowledge, “Yeah, what you said really bothered me,” we go into denial or avoidance mode. And that’s where the trouble starts.


A couple weeks ago, I was almost done with our “Be At Rest” series & needed another one to take us up through September 3rd. (Long story, but the nutshell version is we’re launching our Fall series, “Perseverance: a study in the Psalms of Ascent” on September 10th.) So, after praying about it, I decided to do a series on being offended. And here’s some of what I found.

There’s about 3 different words (2 Hebrew/1 Greek) that are utilized to describe/define offense.  In essence, the 3 say: OFFENDED: to stumble, trip over a stumbling block, to get tripped up. To be wronged/violated/rebelled against. Stumbling blocks, points of offense. A trap/traps.

Something that causes you to stumble. A stumbling block. A trap.

Sounds diabolical.


Offense/being offended is NOT the EMOTIONS that come with the (real/perceived) being wronged, hurt, let down, disappointed, violated, etc… by another person/persons. Taking offense/being offended is the result of our RESPONSE to being wronged or being hurt. It’s putting ourself in a place of judgement upon others. It’s covered with unforgiveness, denial, & pride. Here’s some of what I’ve discovered happens to us when we take offense/stay offended:

  • Offense limits the miraculous/God’s work in our lives
  • Offense breaks up/damages relationships
  • Offense introduces judgement by us, which then brings us under God’s judgement.
  • Offense causes us to be stuck until we thoroughly deal with it
  • Offense cuts off our ability to produce Godly fruit in our lives – NOTE: this doesn’t mean God stops working in/through/around us. It doesn’t – because God doing those things in us etc… are the result of spiritual gifts. Godly fruit in our lives comes from living congruently & faithfully following God & His principles. (Thank you John Bevere for that.) 
  • Offense causes us to focus solely on the person/persons who hurt us & what they did while ignoring/glossing over our own role/responsibility/fault in the matter.
  • Offense can be transmitted to other people completely uninvolved in the situation, causing them to stumble & become trapped too.

So, how do we deal with it? How do we get out of the trap & back on our feet? It’s easy. And it can be the most difficult thing we will ever do.

For starters, WE DIE. (See Galatians 2:20 for more on that.)  We die to ourselves. We lay down our pride. We process our feelings, our emotions, & take stock of the hurts. We repent for holding on to unforgiveness. We ask God to help change our heart, change our thinking, change our ways. We answer the question: “Could you be wrong?” affirmatively, knowing that our perception, no matter how much we think is the RIGHT one, could be off. And so could we. We invite the Holy Spirit into the process, & pray the prayer of Psalm 139:23,24 – 

Search me, O God, & know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, & lead me in the way everlasting

And we stay at it – & refuse to be offended, choosing instead to be a person who takes God’s point of view on our lives, vs. our own. We embrace God’s ways & means, & lay down our own, believing His to be far better. And you know what happens then? This. Peace.

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. Psalm 119:165.

Guess what the root word that’s translated there as “STUMBLE”. Yep. Its one of the words from above, one of the words for OFFENSE. 

Love God & His law, & you will have a great & divine peace. Nothing will be able to make you offended.

Spiritual fathers & mothers… Monday musings…

Not long ago, I had a conversation with a friend about my age (40+ish. The closer I get to 50, the more 40 seems like another lifetime ago. But I digress.)

My friend, (like me) had been in ‘the Church’ for more than 20 years. And after those many years of active, vibrant church-life, he felt like the Church really had nothing else to offer him. After all, “I’ve been there, done that, learned that, heard that, lived that… And I feel like I’m at the spot in my life/maturity where there’s nothing else in it for me. Nothing else really to learn…” That wasn’t the 1st time I’d had the conversation, & most likely, it won’t be the last. While I think I understand, in theory, what my friend was saying, I think he could be missing something incredibly important: the opportunity to be a spiritual father/father in the faith to upcoming generations of Christ-followers. Here’s what I mean.


Looking back on my life inside (& outside) of the Church, I can point to a handful of men & women, some who couldn’t have been more than 5 years older than me, who invested themselves in my life, people who helped shape me into the man I am today. This (non-comprehensive) list includes:

  • my Sunday school teachers
  • a large number people who attended some incarnation of our family’s small group Bible study over the course of 15 years & took the time to include me in their discussions (Bible & other kids), played catch with me, & generally acted like it was totally normal for an adult to have a pre-teen/teen kid hang out
  • sports team coaches/assistants
  • youth leaders & pastors
  • camp cabin leaders
  • small group leaders who hosted a Bible study group (& fed me & my friends)
  • the list goes on…

In real life, we go through transitions… at one point, we were all completely dependent on others for our care, food, shelter, diaper changing, etc… & gradually, we all go (& grow) through various stages of dependence to become, for better or worse, independent. We get married, have our own families, & then repeat the cycle, except this time with us being mostly on the giving vs. receiving of the care. When we’re dealing with our kids, it’s not like we come to a spot where we think, “You know, I am not really getting anything out of this whole parent thing. Shouldn’t there be something more in it for me…? I’m out.” 

In the Church life, we go through transitions as well… hopefully reaching a point in our Christian development where we are able to give back & pour our lives into others who are still in the early stages of growth & maturity. In essence, we get to give back as spiritual fathers/mothers, without regard for exactly what’s in it for us, or knowing HOW we are going to get something out of it. We get to join with the very Body (the Church) that brought us to the point where we were grown/mostly grown up, mature, not ‘needing’ anything from others. This joining with the mission of the Church can be called a lot of things, discipleship, mentoring, etc… To me, the terminology isn’t what’s important. What matters is that we adopt & ascribe to the Kingdom of God values more than we adopt & ascribe to our American culture of consumerism (a ‘what’s in it for me’ faith.)


I’ve had many, many conversations with young people (translation: people younger than me) who say they don’t have a role model, a mentor, a coach, a spiritual father/mother to give input in their lives. And, they don’t really know how to go about getting one. Which, in my opinion, is one of the reasons why we who have been around the block a few times, who have grown & matured in our relationship with God, have the responsibility to take the initiative & get involved in the lives of others. I’m not saying we start out by introducing ourselves as their new spiritual father/mother, (c’mon: that’s weird.) I’m saying we just do it – in a small group, as a coach in rec-league sports, inviting people over for dinner – & not worry about what title we get/don’t get from them. Call it paying it forward or being on the Giver Team, it is an integral part of the lifecycle of the Christian faith, & we have the privilege of being able to play a role in the lives of others.

And the best part, we DO get something out of that.

 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak & remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35 English Standard Version


NOTE: I intentionally avoided (or attempted to) the definition of what the Church could/should look like. To me, those are delivery systems, (not the main thing) & the point I am trying to make is, whatever the Church delivery system you’re a part of, take the time to invest in (disciple) others. Someone. Somewhere. Somehow. It makes an eternal difference.

Mourning with those who mourn…

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something…” So says Westley/the Dread Pirate Roberts to Princess Buttercup in the 1987 classic, “The Princess Bride.” While I don’t totally subscribe to the idea that life is ONLY pain, I can say from my own experiences, life involves a lot of pain… & I believe one of the greatest sources of pain comes from the grief & sadness which accompany the loss of a loved one.


Over the last year, I have walked through this thing called grief with several dear friends as someone dear to them – mother, husband, father, son, friend – died unexpectedly/without warning. These experiences of soul devastation have a way of shaking a person to the foundation of their very being, as life after the loss will never be the same as it was before. Living & loving in connected relationships leaves an indelible mark on us – & when our loved one is gone, life is not ‘ok’. Nothing is normal. Our emotions are all over the place. And anything more than merely gutting it through each day seems to be a pipe dream.

Places. Songs. Special events. Holidays. All things that remind us of our loved one, with a pain that mocks us with the fact that Nothing will ever be the same again. And then there’s the people – mostly well-meaning people that can see we’re in pain, & they’d like to do something about it, but they really don’t know what to say… & yet they say stuff anyways. These words can range from the silly, like, “The Lord just needed another angel in Heaven,” to religious clichés: “The Lord moves in mysterious ways,” or “One day you’ll know the reason God took your loved one.” Then there’s the insensitive, “How long are you going to grieve? Should you be past this already?” only to be topped by the horrifying: “God took your loved one because He knew that later in life they were going to fall away from Him,” or, “If only you had had enough faith, your loved one wouldn’t have died – it’s on you.” (I’ve personally heard each of these in reference to my brother’s death.) In the words of a great man, “If you don’t know what to say, limit your words.” (Thanks for that, Jerry Cook!)


Earlier this year, a dear friend lost her husband – & as part of her grieving, left her home town & went with her daughter to visit a collection of “safe people:” Close, supportive friends, the kind who have your back in any/every situation. TheBean & I count it an honor to be on this friend’s list of “safe” people. I can remember her sitting in our kitchen & matter-of-factly saying, “Tell me everything you know about grieving. Because I want to grieve well.”

Here’s the jist of what I said:

Our grieving, mourning, & hurting from the loss of a loved one can make us want to isolate. To withdraw. Turn inward. Pull away. Attempt to work through our grief solo. I get it. But I think doing that only makes it worse. As Christians, we (hopefully) have the benefit of a community of people that we’re walking through life with – people that we can celebrate life’s joys with… & people that we can mourn life’s great losses with as well.

I personally know how uncomfortable it is to be in a public place (like church) & be so overwhelmed & overcome with grief that the sobs just roll out, along with an endless supply of tears, & even a sense of pain that’s so fresh it feels like the loss just happened. Being around others in a situation like that can be awkward, because we’re totally vulnerable. Totally exposed. Raw. On our last nerve. And we hurt. And in that spot we cry & we pray & we ask God to make the hurt stop.

And then God answers our prayers with people.

  • People who will sit in silence with us, not having to say anything, but rather just offering the gift of their presence in our grief.
  • People who will hold & comfort us, no matter how long the grieving has been going.
  • People who aren’t in a hurry for us to “get past” or “get through” our grief – because they understand that even if its been years since the loss, the grief can still come in fresh & powerful waves.
  • People who will reminisce with us about our loved one. Who will tell stories about what they loved about them, about the things they did that impacted their life.
  • People who recognize that everywhere they go, they are a little piece of Jesus. And as such, when they come across others hurting, in pain, grieving, & broken, they can be a point of life & comfort.

There will always be those who say/do something that makes us wonder if its really a good idea to grieve/work through lives in the company of a community. I say It’s worth it. Maybe I won’t open up to everybody, but with the safe people, yeah, I do. And I will. Because when a friend comes alongside us in our grief, they shoulder some of the hurt & pain & loss… & it makes the situation just a little more bearable.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 NIV