In trying times I think it is relevant to talk about how people use religious clichés when speaking to hurting people. Some seem to superstitiously cite them at the strangest times. And many clichés, in some weird sense, give us a way to superficially get us past the awkwardness of responding to difficult situations. Here are a few clichés with my thoughts.
Let Go and Let God!
I think that I would like it better if it said "Let Go and Trust God".

But For The Grace Of God, there go I!
What strange theology credits God for helping me but not you?

God hates the sin but loves the sinner!
Seems to communicate the idea that God is all about what we do.

God is still on the Throne!
Sounds like some of the superficial advice that Job heard from his friends.

God helps them that helps themselves!
My thinking is that the gospel is all about God helping those who cannot help themselves.

Don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good!
I suggest the the "heavenly minded" are usually people in denial of earthly reality.

Prayer changes things!
Mostly I think that prayer changes us and the way that we act.
Love the exclamation points! Thinking about these religious clichés reminded me about the word "Christianary" that my friend Jim made up many years ago. We Christians do seem to love to use all sorts of religious words and phrases that many unchurched folks do not understand. Do you have any religious clichés to add to the list?

... originally posted April 3, 2013

Why I Believe That Jesus Rose from the Dead

Pastor John Piper offers "Eight Reasons Why I Believe That Jesus Rose from the Dead".

Here is reason three.
The disciples were almost immediately transformed from men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion into men who were confident and bold witnesses of the resurrection.

Their explanation of this change was that they had seen the risen Christ and had been authorized to be his witnesses. The most popular competing explanation is that their confidence was owing to hallucinations. There are numerous problems with such a notion. The disciples were not gullible, but level-headed skeptics both before and after the resurrection. Moreover, is the deep and noble teaching of those who witnessed the risen Christ the stuff of which hallucinations are made? What about Paul’s great letter to the Romans? I personally find it hard to think of this giant intellect and deeply transparent soul as deluded or deceptive, and he claimed to have seen the risen Christ.
You can read the all eight reasons here. This aspect has always resonated with me. The transformation of lives back then and now testifies to the resurrection of Jesus. The change in my own life testifies to it as well.

Jesus is risen from the dead. He is alive. He is risen indeed. Praise the Lord.

My Easter Story

Forty years ago. The day before Easter 1976. My life was forever changed as I prayed. Here is my story.

This is an awesome time of the year for me - it is the time that I remember that Easter weekend in 1976 when I gave my heart to Jesus. My journey to that weekend started in April 1972 when my new bride (we were married the previous June) Ellen came home from a visit to an ophthalmologist with bad news – he told her that the retinas in both eyes were hemorrhaging and she would be blind within a month.

The next 3 years were painful years ... visits to eye hospitals ... failed laser surgeries ... losing hope about life as I watched as my beautiful perky wife retreated into painful despair. Several years later hope was returning ... Ellen was seeing in shades of gray ... she could somewhat function with a powerful magnifying glass. Then hope was crushed on a Sunday in November 1974 when Ellen awoke with dark spots in her eyes ... before the day was out everything was black again ... I was devastated!

The days were dark again ... sadness and despair ruled the day ... I medicated with beer and bourbon. Then something changed – I transferred to Houston Texas from Newark New Jersey in February 1975 ... Ellen and I moved in March. Within a week of moving to our new house Marvale, a neighbor, knocked on the door ... Ellen answered the door and Marvale knew instantly why they had move to Houston ... you see she and her husband Jerry (with their 2 children) were packing their moving van in Oklahoma that same Sunday that Ellen’s eyes were hemorrhaging ... they had no clue why they were being transferred to Houston ... but God knew and when she met Ellen Marvale also knew. A friendship began to grow with our new neighbors ... Jerry tried to talk to me about Jesus but I would have nothing to do with religion or God ... my wounds went deep.

On a Sunday in August 1975 Ellen capitulated to Marvale’s invitation to come to church ... after all I had to work that day and couldn't go ... and went to church with her and her family. The pastor did something different that morning ... before he gave his sermon he asked if anyone would like to invite Jesus into their heart ...Ellen’s hand shot up ... she was the only one and the pastor decided to speak to her after the service. He proceeded to give his sermon and asked people to turn to a bible passage ... as Marvale opened her bible Ellen looked down and pointed to the scrpture ... she saw the words of the scripture ... and could read the very small print ... she could not believe what had happened ... she could now see out of her left eye ... simply miraculous!

That evening I returned home from work to this wild and thoroughly unbelievable story and ... being a very wounded and skeptical man ... I shrugged it off as a part of the weirdness of our lives. A week later the reality of the miracle hit me in the face ... I came home to the news that Ellen had ... for the first time in over 3 years ... got her drivers license ... I was shocked and could no longer stay in denial of what had happened to her ... she had passed the eye exam. At her insistence we started going to the church where she accepted Jesus ... what a weird place ... people smiled and seemed to enjoy church ... there were no hymnals ... they didn’t kneel ... it made me feel quite uncomfortable. I quickly took control and announced that we would begin attending an Episcopal Church ... the denomination that I grew up in. Ellen acquiesced and we began a journey that encompassed several churches and many Full Gospel Businessmen’s meetings. I was beginning to see that faith was more than a religion ... I started to be lovingly ... and sometimes not so lovingly confronted ... with the scriptures.

On a weeknight in the fall of 1975 Ellen interrupted my TV time with a few questions ... ones that would impact me for the rest of my life. She started with “Do you believe in the bible?” I replied sarcastically “Of course I do ... Episcopalians believe in the bible.” ... I wasn’t going to let her get the best of me ... my religion was just as good as hers. She asked another question: “Do you believe in evolution?” I said “Of course I do ... it is science.” Then she said something that rocked me – “Then you don’t believe in the bible”. Of course being a New Yorker I had to say something, so I retorted “I don’t know about all that but whatever the Episcopalians believe is what I believe.” I had no clue what the bible said because I had never read it and for some reason this bothered me.

As the months passed I watched Ellen become stronger ... we would argue ... I would win but didn’t really feel that I had won. She was being transformed into something beautiful. Then Good Friday 1976 came ... by now we were watching the 700 Club almost every night ... I was often moved by testimonies of healings and miracles. That Friday night Pat Robertson invited us to take communion with him ... we used a hamburger bun and apple juice ... it was so moving ... my heart was touched and broken. The next night we attended a Full Gospel Businessmen’s convention with Jerry and Marvale ... a medical doctor spoke ... the message was endearing ... then came an altar call for healing ... Ellen still struggled with diabetes and went forward for prayer. As I watched her go forward my heart broke once again and I closed my eyes and prayed my first real prayer. I began to pray by saying “God if you will heal my wife I will stop drinking” ... as I spoke a presence came over me ... I became aware that I was a sinner ... I felt dirty on the inside ... I changed my prayer and told the Lord I would give up the booze because it was what he wanted me to do ... I didn't really know it but I was surrendering my heart to Him. A minute later I opened my eyes and there was Jerry standing in front of me – he told me that the speaker was praying for people and asked me to go down with him. I went down and the man put his hand on my head and blessed me ... that was it ... I thought that nothing had happened ... that is until the next day.

The next day was Easter and we went to church in the evening with our neighbors ... no one had a clue what I had done in the quietness of my heart the night before ... I didn’t plan to tell anyone. I remember, like it was yesterday, that night at a large church in Houston ... I was caught up in worship for the first time in my life. I remember we were singing a chorus from the Andre Crouch song "My Tribute". We were repeating the verse "To God be the glory" … I was in a state of surrender … singing my heart out … entering a most holy place of worship … then ... shock of all shocks ... I came to the realization that I was no longer singing in English … I was totally freaked out ... I tried to rationalize but I couldn’t – God had met me, given me a spiritual gift and assured me that I was His ... powerful transformation was beginning ... it was the beginning of the wildest ride of my life ... a ride with my friend Jesus

It has been fun remembering and writing about that season of my life some 30+ years ago ... a sweet memory that I will celebrate this week as I remember Jesus’ week of passion ... a week that started with praises ... continued with betrayal, denials and death ... and ended with miraculous resurrection. What a difference between Good Friday and Easter ... back then and back in April 1976.

- First published in April 2006 at An Eye for Redemption.

Good Friday Commentary

When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, 'I love you.' -Billy Graham

Christmas and Easter can be subjects for poetry, but Good Friday, like Auschwitz, cannot. The reality is so horrible it is not surprising that people should have found it a stumbling block to faith. -W.H. Auden

Good Friday is not about us trying to "get right with God." It is about us entering the difference between God and humanity and just touching it for a moment. Touching the shimmering sadness of humanity's insistence that we can be our own gods, that we can be pure and all-powerful. -Nadia Bolz-Weber

The cross was two pieces of dead wood; and a helpless, unresisting Man was nailed to it; yet it was mightier than the world, and triumphed, and will ever triumph over it. -Augustus William Hare

The dripping blood our only drink, The bloody flesh our only food: In spite of which we like to think. That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood. Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good. -T.S. Eliot

Good Friday is a reminder to me of how far religious people like me will go to defend their turf. -KC Bob

Greater love has no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends. -Jesus Christ

A Poem for Maundy Thursday

Following are the last few stanzas of a poem by Lindsey Paris-Lopez. You can read the poem in full here.

I am this broken and bleeding world.
This bread is my broken body.
This cup is my spilled blood.
As it has been done to victims from the beginning of time,
So it is done to me.
I give my broken self to you.

Take in my life.
Let me nourish you with my love
Until the spirit of compassion bursts the old wineskins of your brittle hearts …
Until you become a new creation.

Let the body of my work become the work of your body.
Embrace the outcasts,
Reconcile enemies,
Feed my sheep.

Unite in me, with me in you.
I give my broken self to you –
Only in coming together can the fullness of my life be manifest again.
Let this bread bind you together,
Let this wine wash away your divisions.

I am broken for a broken world
A world that needs your love
To be made whole again.
Take me into you and become my body.
Eat this bread.
Drink this wine.
Do this in re-membrance of me.

Palm Sunday Hope vs Easter Hope

This morning I shared a devotion on first Peter [read it here].

As I wrote it dawned on me that we read of two examples of hope in the last week in the life of Christ.

The week started with hopeful hosannas as Jesus rode into Jerusalem.

These followers embraced the hope of a conquering messiah.

And a messianic kingdom that would rise up and overthrow the Roman occupation.

That hope was bolstered as Jesus debated the religious authorities in the ensuing days.

Then came Thursday.

As Jesus sat at his last supper with his disciples he spoke to them about being betrayed and denied.

He told them that he was leaving and the Holy Spirit would help them.

He tells them that soon he would be gone.

Hope began to ebb.

Then hope died on Good Friday as those who shouted hosannas on Sunday watch their messiah die on the cross.

Then Easter came. Just a few days after Good Friday.

On that glorious day the earthly hopes of Palm Sunday gave way to a new hope.

A heavenly hope.

A hope that would be born in all who experienced a new and heavenly birth.

The hope embraced the idea that Jesus would not reign merely over Israel but over the whole world.

Not only on earth but in heaven.

Not in the past or in the present or in the future.

His reign would be eternal.

This is what we know as blessed hope.

Not a hope so hope but a living knowing hope for those who know God.

I wish you an awakening of such hope today.

Spring has Sprung! Let's Party!

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? -Percy Bysshe Shelley

With the coming of Spring, I am calm again. -Gustav Mahler

If we had no Winter, the Spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes
taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. -Anne Bradstreet

Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance. -Yoko Ono

Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's party!' -Robin Williams

I enjoy the Spring more than the Autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older. -Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room

If people did not love one another, I really don't see what use there would be in having any Spring. -Victor Hugo

Spring reminds me of new life. Of warm temps and gentle rain. Of an atmosphere where things can grow. -KC Bob

Now I Have MS

My wife Ann shared this with me saying how much she relates to the feelings expressed in it.
The disease that Ann suffers from is very similar to MS.

I used to be a writer and an artist. Now it’s hard to hold a pencil. Now I have MS.
I used to be a great conversationalist. Now I can’t find the words. Now I have MS.
I used to be energetic. Now I’m tired. Now I have MS.
I used to feel rested and refreshed and revitalized. Now I don’t sleep. Now I have MS.

People think I don’t listen to them. I do—I just don’t remember. Now I have MS.

I used to be a violinist. Now my left side is too weak. Now I have MS.
I used to be fearless, when things were more predictable. Now I’m afraid. Now I have MS.
I used to be in control of my emotions. Now my emotions control me. Now I have MS.
I used to make plans and look forward to those plans. Now I don’t know how I’ll be feeling. Now I have MS.

It took a lifetime for me to “find myself.” Now I live with a foreign brain. Now I have MS.

When I used to get sick I knew exactly what I had and how long it would last. Now I have MS.
In 2011, I followed my dream when I fell in love. I was finally excited about my future. In 2012, I found out I have MS.
Now I don’t know what the future holds for me. Now I have MS.
I always gave my best. I still do, but my “new best” is my new normal, not what it used to be. Now I have MS.

I’m still a wonderful person with a good heart. People still see my beauty within.
Now I have MS, but I am not nor will I ever be MS.

Written by Dana Harrison from Mentone, Indiana. Read more here.

Loaning the Government Money for Free

The Motley Fool recently published a post titled: "Getting a Tax Refund? Here's Why That's a Bad Thing".
Following are a few points from it.
  • Don't let fear hold you back: That fear might be hurting your finances. Instead of paying down your credit cards you are overpaying taxes. Imagine how much richer you could be if you invested that money.
  • Avoid temptation: Large tax returns tempt the best of us to spend it on vacations and large purchases. In reality, had you been getting that money in your paycheck all along, you could've found a more responsible use for it
While many of us are inclined to believe that getting a refund at tax time is far better than owing money, in reality, owing a small amount isn't necessarily such a bad thing. If anything, it means that you, not the government, got to benefit from an interest-free loan, which is actually a pretty sweet deal when you think about it. [read the post in full here]

Prayer of St Patrick

May the Strength of God pilot us.
May the Power of God preserve us.

May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.

May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Host of God guard us.

Against the snares of the evil ones.
Against temptations of the world

May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!

May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!

May Thy Salvation, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and evermore.


Spring back, Fall forward?

Just a reminder for you in the United States and other places that observe Daylight Savings - today is the time that we proverbially spring ahead. I am a big fan of DST. I love having an extra hour of daylight in the evening.

The idea of daylight saving time was first joked about by Benjamin Franklin in 1784. It was first proposed in 1895 by entomologist George Vernon Hudson to leaders in New Zealand. Yet DST was first implemented by Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1916. The US began implementing it in the 1940s.

How about you? Are you a fan of this practice or will you lose sleep over losing an hour of sleep tonight? Let me know what you think.

You could have kept on walking, ignoring my cries, but you didn’t.

Last night a friend read a beautiful story at our small group. It is titled "An open letter to the Whole Foods shoppers who consoled me when I learned of my dad’s suicide". Here are a few excerpts from it:
After I hung up, I started to cry and scream as my whole body trembled. This just couldn’t be true. It couldn’t be happening. Only moments before, I had been going about my errands on a normal Monday morning. Only moments before, my life had felt intact. Overwhelmed with emotions, I fell to the floor, my knees buckling under the weight of what I had just learned. And you, kind strangers, you were there.

You could have kept on walking, ignoring my cries, but you didn’t. You could have simply stopped and stared at my primal display of pain, but you didn’t. No, instead you surrounded me as I yelled through my sobs, “My father killed himself. He killed himself. He’s dead.” And the question that has plagued me since that moment came to my lips in a scream, “Why?” I must have asked it over and over and over again.
I never saw you after that. But I know this to be true, if it were not for all of you, I might have simply gotten in the car and tried to drive myself home. I wasn’t thinking straight, if I was thinking at all. If it were not for you, I don’t know what I would have done in those first raw moments of overwhelming shock, anguish and grief. But I thank God every day that I didn’t have to find out. Your kindness, your compassion, your willingness to help a stranger in need have stayed with me until this day. And no matter how many times my mind takes me back to that horrible life-altering moment, it is not all darkness. Because you reached out to help, you offered a ray of light in the bleakest moment I’ve ever endured. You may not remember it. You may not remember me. But I will never, ever forget you. And though you may never know it, I give thanks for your presence and humanity, each and every day.
I recommend that you read Deborah Greene's whole letter here at the Washington Post website.

Remembering Presidential Elections

I have been around for a few of these things. Here are my brief recollections of them:
  • 1956 :: A car with a bullhorn driving by my house on Staten Island shouting "Vote for Ike!".
  • 1960 :: I watched the first televised debate. Morning after the election one of the
                 guys at junior high was carrying a newspaper with the results.
  • 1964 :: In high school. A sad year for those of us who admired President Kennedy.
  • 1968 :: Drafted that year. Spent election day in basic training at Fort Jackson, SC.
  • 1972 :: My first year working for Ma Bell. Do not remember voting.
  • 1976 :: I became a Christian in April of that year and became aware of a candidate
                 that prayed publicly. First candidate to really inspire me.
  • 1980 :: With most of America, I joined the Reagan revolution and the pro-life voting bloc.
  • 1984 :: Still loved Ronald Reagan and voted for him.
  • 1988 :: Pat Robertson won the Iowa Caucus that year. I was glad to see us elect Bush and Quayle.
  • 1992 :: Ross Perot showed up and sadly upset a Bush reelection. Great SNL debate skits though.
  • 1996 :: I supported the other Bob from Kansas even though he did not have much of a chance.
  • 2000 :: I loved the compassionate conservatism message and voted for W.
  • 2004 :: Growing weary of a president that did not hold press conferences and embraced the
                 war president moniker. Fortunately for Republicans, Kerry was even worse than W.
  • 2008 :: Conservatives splintered and the GOP got McCain and Palin. So disappointed.
  • 2012 :: I liked Romney at the beginning. Over time it became obvious that he was running a bad campaign.
  • 2016 :: I like the temperament and message of John Kasich. I'm such a sucker for underdogs.
What is your first memory of a presidential election?

9 Unbiblical Statements Christians Believe

The Christian Post shares the nine statements here. I list them, with my take on them, below:
  1. God helps those who help themselves.
    We are all spiritually helpless and unable to help ourselves.
  2. God wants me to be happy.
    Happy is a pretty superficial word. Even so I want to be happy.
  3. We're all God's children.
    To be his child requires a spiritual birth.
  4. Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
    Gotta work on my fingernails.
  5. God won't give you more than you can handle.
    Define more. Define handle.
  6. We all worship the same God.
    I worship God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  7. Bad things happen to good people.
    Bad things happen to everyone.
  8. When you die, God gains another angel.
    Probably not. But I suspect we may be more angel-like than we think.
  9. We're all going to the same place when we die.
    Big assumption. Why do folks think that everyone is immortal?
Read more at The Christian Post. They really have better responses than mine. ツ

Please let me know what you think about these nine religious statements.

Fallen World not Fallen God

The subject of pain and the sovereignty of God (i.e. why God allows it) has perplexed man for ages. I think that one's view of God's sovereignty is often an issue when the topic of pain and suffering comes up. An image of a fallen God is often painted by some who say that God controls, causes or allows suffering. On the flip-side some understand that God created everything and called it good but humans sinned and we now consequentially live in a fallen world. The contrast focuses on the source of pain.

Here is part of what I recently wrote to a hurting friend after telling them about my struggles with my wife’s disability and my own battle with a blood disease that has caused me arthritic pain and bone spurs in my ankles and wrists ...
These past years have been difficult ones for both Ann and I. Yet in this season I have begun to realize that, for me anyways, God has not been involved to the degree that I once thought that he was. In a sense I have taken a different view of God and don’t see him directly involved in my pain. Even so, I still pray and still seek his will for me in this season. And I still seek to walk out what I read in the gospels every day.

I guess what this new thinking has allowed me to do, in part anyway, is to embrace God’s love differently. I have found a way to separate the cause of my pain from God but not in a schizophrenic way. I guess I see his sovereignty more in a macro (whole world) sense than a micro (narcissistic me) sense. I hate what has happened to Ann and me but see it more as the result of a fallen world than a fallen God.
When I think about the word sovereignty I see a pyramid where God has delegated sovereignty to nations, to communities, to families and finally to the individual. Both groups of peoples and people themselves exercise an incredible amount of sovereignty in the world. Small wonder, with this amount of sovereignty (even at a micro level) that the world is not worse than it is. Perhaps that speaks to the overarching (macro) level of sovereignty that God exerts as He brings beauty from ashes and works all things together for our good?

...originally posted October 21, 2012

The Crazy Bacon Vote

My wife Ann can attest to my love for these strips of joy and love. So I was so excited when I came across a webpage that lists the 10 Craziest Products Inspired by Bacon. Here is a list of the products:
  1. Bacon Bandages ($3.50) Heal your wounds with bacon!
  2. Bacon Watch ($24.99) Proudly display your love of bacon.
  3. Bacon Wallet ($8.22) For the man who "brings home the bacon.
  4. Bacon-flavored Dental Floss ($1.95) motivation to improve your hygiene.
  5. Bacon-flavored Mints ($0.95) a match made in... well, China.
  6. Bacon-flavored Toothpicks ($2.99) for bits of bacon stuck between your teeth
  7. Bacon Gumballs ($3.49) to help spread the bacon gospel.
  8. Bacon Jelly Beans ($1.99) Not as tasty but better for your arteries.
  9. Bacon Air Freshener ($2.74) the perfect way to brighten any carnivore’s day
  10. Mr. Bacon Action Figures ($11.81) fights for everything salty, greasy and meaty.
I have displayed my favorite product ... one that I actually could see myself buying. How about you? Interested in any of these. Please vote for your favorite one in the comments.

...originally posted July 16, 2009