A Letter To My Son

When we look at you now, tall and strong, we don’t just see an eighteen-year-old man, we see you in all of your life’s stages at once. We remember the day we brought you home from Owosso Memorial Hospital and you barely let us sleep for the first month! Dad remembers you screaming for hours in our house on Missionary Ridge while your Mom was out with friends. We remember the way you welcomed your twin sisters into the world after we moved to Tennessee. We remember the day we tried to enroll you in Kindergarten but the headmaster thought you were too rambunctious to sit still in class. We remember watching you receive your Blackbelt in TaeKwonDo after years of training. We remember the video tape we submitted to Crosspointe where you informed the parishioners that you like play with knives and sticks. We remember bringing you to Timbercreek Elementary School for the first time but also sending you off to junior high prom in the back of a limo. We remember picking you up from Flower Mound High School everyday in the parking lot of the Presbyterian Church across the street. We remember the excitement of your first day at iSchool High. So many memories flash through our mind as you walk across that stage tonight.

As much as we have tried to teach you as our son, you have taught us as parents. From you we have learned the power of a tender heart as we’ve witnessed your quiet kindness to others all of your life.  Your teachers throughout grade school always remarked about your concern for the feelings of other children. You attract friends wherever you go, and you are loyal to them.

You taught us how to find humor in the moment. You see subtext and comic irony in the world around you. Your wry humor is a constant source of delight that lightens our days.  It reminds us to relax and not take everything so seriously.

And you taught us about courage.  Our family life has been marked by several transitions not the least of which was your father becoming a minister. You have endured the scrutiny that comes with being a PK with dignity. In your 18 years you have had five homes and attended five schools.  Change has been constant.  Anyone who has moved knows that it is never without trial.   You have navigated these changes with courage, acceptance, and with humor, when all else failed.  It has been remarkable to watch.

You have an uncanny ability to accept life as it unfolds.  This is a skill that will serve you well in the years to come. Life is about transformation, a decades long process of becoming the man God intends for you. There are many chapters in life’s journey and you are completing a monumental one today. Each chapter has a specific lesson that God, in His all knowing wisdom, sees that you must learn. Painful chapters draw us near to Him and joyful chapters illuminate the glory and wonder of our world. Both are important. Our prayer is that you will always recognize God’s plan for you as He chooses to reveal it. His plan is rarely the same one that we envision for ourselves.

Remember also that your faith journey is a daily one.  Your choices will lead you closer to God or further from Him.  They will lead you down a path toward a peaceful heart or a troubled one.  No choice is made in secret as God is always with you.  Choose wisely and you will live without regret. Remember that real and lasting happiness has nothing to do with material possessions, it is a result of living out your faith, even when it is difficult. His plan is rarely the same one that we envision for ourselves.

Travis, we love you. You are the son that every parent dreams of having. We could not be more thankful for you and proud of the man you have become.  We pray God’s covenant blessings upon you as move forward into the next stage of your journey.

Break the Law

I was so challenged by a concept I encountered in the Creative Collective that I just had to share it. It’s not a theological musing but rather one on productivity. Everyone is familiar with Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. We prepare for a potential Murphy visit in one of two ways: hoping and praying nothing happens or by creating redundancy. But there is another Law I was reminded of in the Collective and that’s Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law is not as widely known but it states that, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the concept: if you give yourself a week to complete a two-hour task then the pressure, stress and tension – if not the actual task – will increase so as to fill that week. I’m a creative. By default, I want more time believing more time equals a better outcome. In some cases that is true but as a ministry manager I don’t always have that luxury. Each week I have lessons to prepare, counseling to undertake and Gatherings to design. Sometimes more time just means more time for other things which eventually means a last minute push to get a needed task done. That’s exactly what Parkinson’s Law suggests.

Though working with the constraints of a reasonable timeline is not always fun, it does make me more productive. Creating a time constraint by assigning the right amount of time actually allows us to gain back more time and thereby break Parkinson’s Law. As I was reminded in the Collective, “Constraints provide the resistance we need to build creative mass. An environment devoid of this resistance would cause creative atrophy.” Time to go break the law. Anyone with me?

Wonder and Reverence in Eastertide

The famous Jewish rabbi Abraham Heschel said that there are two possible ways of knowing and responding to the world: the way of reason and the way of wonder. The way of reason, he argues, seeks to eliminate mystery and bring the world under our control. The way of wonder, on the other hand, accepts the mysteries of life and responds with something we learned as children but forgot as adults: awe.

It would be easy to think of reason and wonder as mutually exclusive but they’re not. They are, however, distinct. Professor David Brenner suggests that we must use both faculties to encounter the world. In fact, by doing so we know in ways that neither alone makes possible. When we approach from the foundation of reason we attempt to tame the world and thereby control it. If, before we approach from reason, we retain our ability to be amazed, we can avoid the impulse to control what we encounter. As Brenner says, “Theories and explanations separate us from astonishment and close the doorway to mystery and the sacred. Only wonder allows us to be truly open to the world.”

When it comes to the Eastertide and the reality of the resurrection, knowing by the way of wonder get US instead of us simply getting IT. Reverence for life is what allows for openness and awe. It gives us room to encounter life in all its uniqueness. When all of life is treated as sacred, wonder can burst upon us as it did for Mary and the disciples that first Easter morning.

Project Launched

These words by Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, are worth reflecting on this Holy Week: “Don’t be fooled by the idea that modern science has disproved the resurrection of Jesus.  Modern science has done no such thing. Everybody in the ancient world, just like everybody in the modern world, knew perfectly well that dead people don’t get resurrected.  It didn’t take Copernicus or Newton or Einstein to prove that—just universal observation of universal facts.  Th e Christian belief is not that some people sometimes get raised from the dead, and Jesus happens to be one of them.  It is precisely that people don’t ever get raised from the dead, and that something new has happened in and through Jesus, which has blown a hole through previous observations.  The Christian thus agrees with scientists ancient and modern: yes, dead people don’t rise. But the Christian goes on to say that something new and something different has no occurred in the case of Jesus.  This isn’t because there was a glitch in the cosmos, or something peculiar about Jesus’ biochemistry, but because the God who made the world, and who called Israel to be the bearer of his rescue-operation for the world, was at work in and through Jesus to remake the world. The resurrection was the dramatic launching of his project.”

The Power of Stop

Stop is not my favorite word. Go is much more positive, more economical and generally just more fun! Who wants to be delayed to their destination by a stop sign or stop light? Who wants to be limited in their shopping by business hours when you can shop online around the clock? Who wants to stop and wait for a dial-up connection when “always on” internet connections are available? Nothing really requires us to stop. We have lights when darkness falls, caffeine when we’re tired and medication when physical pain threatens to stop us. We can do just about anything at just about any time. Life can be non-stop.

But 24/7 – 365 life is exhausting. It’s as if we’re mice on a treadmill that never stops. Spiking gasoline prices, slumping wages and our ever-expanding consumer lifestyle requires more and more income just to survive. Stopping just isn’t an option. But it all takes it’s toll. Our lives can end up like Marcia Hornok’s poem  entitled “Psalm 23 Antithesis:”

The clock is my dictator, I shall not rest; it makes me lie down only when exhausted; it leads me to deep depression and hounds my soul. It leads me in circles of frenzy for activity’s sake. Even though I run frantically from task to task, I will never get done, for my “ideal” is with me, deadlines and my need for approval, they drive me. They demand performance from me, beyond the limits of my schedule. They anoint my head with migraines. My in-box overflows. Surely fatigue and time pressure shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the bonds of frustration forever.

Maybe we’re overlooking the power of stop.



Free of God

The further I travel on my spiritual journey, the more I recognize my tendency – and the tendency of most others I encounter on the journey – to make God into who I want or need him to be. By extension then, I break the first of the ten commandments of God on a regular basis – make no images of God. As has been said, God created man in his image and we’ve been returning the favor ever since. Do we take the first commandment seriously? Upon first reading, the first commandment deals only with carved or hand-made likenesses of God. But symbolically doesn’t it also refer to the images of God that we hold in our heads? Let me suggest an example of how our image of God is shaped by

In Western Christianity we prefer to see God as a man. And yet the first verses of the Scriptures clearly state: “God created humankind in God’s own image; male and female God created them.” (Genesis 1:27). It seems clear that God cannot be strictly masculine and yet we seem to need more proof. Enter Jesus. Many of the parables, metaphors and teachings of Jesus use father-God images we would call feminine. Consider reading the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) free of a male-centric view of God. Or the image of God as a mother hen in Matthew 23.

Here’s what I am discovering about myself. Sometimes I need God to come to me as a friend; other times as a lover. At some times it is good for God to come to me as a father; other times in feminine form. In all cases, I need not be afraid to let go of an image of God that is too small. I need God to teach me to let go. In fact, the journey of faith demands that we not only let go of our image of God but our image of self. Neither of those things are things I can do on my own; it has to be done to me by God. That happens when I live openly and honestly, letting the truth of God and Scripture speak into my life. What about you?

God the Great Dodger

My recent studies in the book of Job with Richard Rohr has reminded me once again of the importance of otherness on the journey of faith. The first 37 chapters contain a roll-call of friends advising Job of his shortcomings and Job’s insistence that he has done nothing to deserve the ill that has befallen him. Woven throughout are questions of God asked by Job yet God remains silent. Until, that is, chapter 38 where Yahweh gives Job his answer.

Many confess to being upset or at least disappointed with this God who speaks from “a whirlwind” and does not really answer any of Job’s rightful questions. Missing in this response is an objective response to Job’s legitimate even painful questions. The modern world struggles with a hidden God desiring instead some objective response from God. One answer to this dilemma is to simply throw out all hope of any objective answers and be content as readers with an authoritarian God who owes us no answers. As true as that statement may be, it leaves me wanting more. Until I began to understand this truth: the opposite of subjectivity is not objectivity but otherness.

I know that sounds abstract and philosophical, but it is a crucial piece in appreciating what God is doing for Job in his narrative response. God makes no attempt to respond to each point by point concern because it will not really satisfy anyway. Every attempt to respond to feelings of resentment usually only deepens the resentment. People actually seem disappointed when a logical responses is given to their hurt and resentment. Why? Because logical answers don’t always satisfy our heart and soul.

God seems to be the great dodger of most human questions. More from me to follow. What say you?