Thursday, August 28, 2008

Seasons of Change

(When life becomes overly stressful or emotional I tend to write. With the passing of my aunt, I felt compelled to write the following. The picture to the right is of my Aunt Lynda with my Uncle Arnold, her husband of over 40 years.)

Blossoms replace the somber desolation, new growth penetrates the bitter air of winter and new life explodes on the canvas of nature as God directs the symphony of his creation. Springing forth from graves of temporary death, life is renewed, new life created and potential is realized. And so it was that in the spring of the year she was delivered to the world by the very hands that knit her together. As morning’s first light shatters the darkness and forever changes that day, so the surface of the still pond was as glass until touched by the presence of the one created in God’s own image. The ripples spill forth from her arrival and will forever resonate in everyone she touched
Summer’s radiant heat is comparable to passion and love of the purist kind. A playful, jovial love forms deeper and more complex love during the frenzied pace and abundant activity of a summer day. A doting parent’s feet will carry them across the cracked earth of the most scorching dessert for the sake of their child. The tracks of her life, as traced through the hot, white sand reveal her immense impact in streams of crystal water; flowing still through the barren wilderness where few find lasting love and rich in compassion and devotion to her children and their children after them.
Autumn trees ablaze with orange covering cannot slow the pace of the pending call. Leaves falling like extinguished ashes, littering the landscape with their shades of completion and hues of culmination are silenced by the mandates of the Creator. As nature temporarily, yet stubbornly, relinquishes the final signs of life so his call to her rang out, piercing the pace of life endured and relished for so long. The created acknowledge the Creator and His will for lives to exist as seasons…and so they honor Him by finishing well. She finished well and leaves in her wake the fruit always produced by the tree of trust and obedience.
Low hanging clouds quickly transform the experiences of earlier seasons into shortened days, darker nights and howling winds. The bleakness of the season is only surpassed by the stinging, bitter cold that invades every space like a raging river after cresting above the levy. Isolation, loneliness and wonderment serve their time in the prison that is this season. Darkness attempts to answer the very questions it asks; the very questions that are only answered in time, not through devotion to the process of answering. Where is life hiding? Why is the life that was so wonderfully and masterfully handcrafted by the I AM suddenly absent and elusive…yet so very near? The cold boulders scattered abroad the brown, gray forest relieve no fears. The valleys and hilltops littered with barren trees are short on reasons. The ice formed over stagnant mountain streams offer no comfort. It is winter.
The Author and Finisher of her faith, of our faith has written another chapter to “The Great Opus of Life”. His final chapter is the best one of all as it causes the beauty of spring, the passion of summer and the questions of autumn to cower in its presence. And what of winter…the harshest and most dismal season of all? His final chapter is not captured by mere words. He can only paint this chapter across the bleak and barren canvas of winter…replacing the invading bitterness, the lingering resentment and questions of faith with hope, peace and joy. And we can never forget love…it is the greatest of his colors and it is poured liberally over his palate. Love never fails, defeat is never fatal and even death is never final.
Our solace is found on the wings of His call. The call, faint yet ever growing, is the call of all eternity and of every person. It emanates from behind the host of those who have gone before us, constantly cheering us on, always reminding us, as she often did, that God is so good, despite our circumstances. She heard his voice, she recognized his call and her entire life is summed up with her reaction to his call. Only walking at first, not wanting autumn to finish out just yet, she broke into a trot and finally a sprint. She hurried as the wind toward Him, unashamed, without regret and full of child-like blissfulness. Her confidence grew exponentially, aware that she fought the good fight. She ran the race. And now God has provided her with a crown of life, real life.
Knowing her and knowing the verses found in that final chapter, I can state with great certainty that she has taken her crown, bowed before the One we will all bow before in time and gently placed her crown at the pierced feet that transcend every season. With that, He smiled the smile that speaks “welcome home” a million times over, enveloped her soul with His and spoke the words she had longed to hear since she was knit together…”well done my good and faithful servant”.

See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me." (Song of Solomon)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Family Picture Day Redeemed

I normally hate family picture day. I hate that some person we don't know sits in some studio and creates artificial scenes behind us to pretend that we aren't in an artificial studio. Then the expectation is to try and dress in ways we normally don't and make the boys behave in a way that allows someone to take the artificial pictures....ugh and sigh!
Leave it to my cool wife Brook to remedy all of that drab crap and make our family picture day one that was pretty cool. So how did she do that? I'm glad you asked:
1. The photographer wasn't some middle-aged technician with a rather large rear end, thick glasses and a salesman attitude. The photographer is Jessi. Jessi is talented, fun and best of all, she has known Brook for years...they even cheered together in high school...and has known my family since our inception. No drab technician here...Jessi rocks!!!so if you want to contact Jessi so she can "pimp" you family photo day and make it cool, you can. Her myspace page is

2. Brook is a lot of things...artificial isn't one of them. What you see is what you get and that's how we did pictures...We wore clothes we actually wear in real life. We went to an old church near our house so the settings are authentic and Jessi took pictures of us doing things that we do in a normal day anyway...very few posed pics.

Here are some samples of the bounty we are enjoying from an authentic family picture day.

My family...the reason life seems worth living.

My boys, from left to right, Judah, Elijah and Zion

Those crazy boys are actually all being held by me. I am holding Zion in my arms and Elijah and Judah are both perched on a shoulder..."Daddy is not a mule". But I love it and I wouldn't trade a minute with these amazing boys.

This is my HOTTIE wife!Thanks Jessi...I bet there is more of my wine in your future for doing such an awesome job!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gone Home...

Tonight around 7:35 my aunt Lynda went to be with God. She is the aunt with whom I have always been closest and with whom I have spent more time with than any other aunt or uncle I have. She fought a courageous battle against colon cancer. I think it is natural to say something like "she lost her battle with cancer", but it is difficult for me to say that she lost anything. Through her bout with cancer I saw her faith increase, her walk with God become more intimate and her love for God and others explode. Despite her absence from our tangible lives, I can only think of how she has won. With her victory comes the right to be able to echo the words of Paul, "and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day".

May we all live our lives in a way that leads us to the Cross of Jesus...the only place where peace, joy and love flows freely, the only place that shows the way to where she is now, and forever will be.

Wishin' I Was A Bit More Like "Karl"

One character that I have never really identified with is Karl from "Sling Blade". It has been years since I have seen that movie but for some reason today I looked up a quote and I think this one kind of sums up how I wish I felt and reacted to the negatives in life, church, government and the dysfunctions of society as a whole.

Frank Childers: I told you I ain't got no boy, now why don't you get on outta here and let me be. You ain't no kin to me.
Karl: I learned to read some. I read the Bible quite a bit. I can't understand all of it, but I reckon I understand a good deal of it. Them stories you and Mama told me ain't in there. You ought not done that to your boy. I studied on killing you. Studied on it quite a bit. But I reckon there ain't no need for it if all you're gonna do is sit there in that chair. You'll be dead soon enough and the world 'll be shut of ya. You ought not killed my little brother, he should've had a chance to grow up. He woulda had fun some time.

To me, Frank represents the "system", take your pick, that denies the issues they have caused. It is always easier to point at the previous generation, the next generation or the thing you compete against. In some ways I suspect, perish the thought, that there is a little bit of Frank in all of us. Ultimately, refusing to accept responsibility is sometimes as painful to others as the original crime itself.
Karl seems a bit slow...OK, a lot slow. But Karl also speaks truth, a good bit of the time has some wisdom to share and despite many reasons not to be, he is good. He has what he has and is who he is in part due to the System (Frank) and in part because he has chosen another path.

In my opinion, Karl's statement is full of wisdom.
***I love that Karl feels that he can navigate the Bible enough to make sense of it but doesn't even begin to think that he has it figured out. He does the best he can with what he has...and amazingly, he trusts in what he has, or at least what he has accepted to that point. How easy would it make life if I could just accept where things are and operate with boldness out of my current position, never tempering life because of what may one day be?
***Karl recognizes lies told to him by others. He is also willing to point them out. It is great how Karl just speaks what he feels to be true and leaves it at that.
***I like that Karl feels angry, damn angry! And I like that he weighs his response with the Bible. I think it is interesting that Karl decides not to kill Frank...not because he doesn't deserve to be killed, but because he isn't doing anything productive-negative or positive- anyway. Perhaps my anger towards apathy should be relief that the apathy is preventing further harm.
***Karl recognizes that nothing lasts forever and the life that he thinks is pathetic will end soon enough...and the world will be better for it. Like or not, PC or not, this world is a bit brighter when some people die or are killed. Nothing on this Earth lasts forever...including the horrible people.
***Karl also seems to mourn the loss of life, the loss of potential. Even Karl recognizes that as tough as things are sometimes, "He woulda had fun some time". I am increasingly convinced that life isn't as much about the hand you are dealt or even how you play the hand, but is instead the attitude you have about the game. Karl, despite his feelings toward Frank, despite his loss and the loss of potential life, knows that life can be fun sometimes.

Here's to hoping that I become a little more like Karl and a little less like Frank today.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

U. S. Army...A Service Oriented Church?

My recent conversation with my dear brother Tyler about the role of government, political aspects of faith, etc has lead me to a thought...or at least something that seems ironic.

Tyler made the statement Saturday that any country that spends more for the military than on people is doomed for failure. In fairness, that is actually a quote from MKL Jr. (my thoughts on him may come a bit later...maybe). Now I love stats and of course, having served in the U.S. Army for 6 years, I happen to know those particular stats and I, being the jerk I am, asked Tyler which country, other than China, Iran and Russia did something so stupid. Tyler, with the best of intentions, said that the good old USA is guilty of such stupid budgetary squandering. I sent Tyler the stats concerning the U.S. Budget and Military spending comes in 3rd...behind Health and Humans Services and Social Security Administration. In fact, if you add up the entitlement programs and various other Departments that serve our people and the people abroad, the budget for The Dept. of Defense is right at 30% of the others. I then began to think deeper about the Defense budget and what all that might include...

In thinking back on my time in the Army I quickly recall that many times the purpose of a particular training exercise or actual deployment was for humanitarian purposes. The military is very good at killing people and destroying things...but we are also very good at repairing, rebuilding and replenishing. Japan, Germany, Iraq...take you pick. They have all been destroyed by us...and arguably the people in charge of them prior to the US invasion or attacks...and we have done some really cool work in the areas of constructing roads, schools, hospitals, etc. We have also given millions around the world clean drinking water, decent sewage treatment facilities and more reliable electricity. Especially in Iraq, the people didn't have near what they have now with Saddam in power...they did have government sanctioned rapes but I don't think that is a good thing.

I say all of that because as harsh as people can be on war, the US military and our recent tactics in "The War on Terror", I would say that in speaking of the atrocities...and yes, those too exist, we must remember the positives as well. People ask us to do the same thing with church, no? I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "Well, sucks and it isn't perfect and so many things aren't as they should be. People get hurt, faith gets damaged but we help a lot of people and we bring some people to know God." And I am not knocking some of some degree. Let's just extend the same courtesy and grace to others...

In the same way, I would argue that the U.S. Military in general has helped more people than the American churches, especially if we are just counting service projects and what many would refer to as "missions". The military sends physicians around the world to treat people and even sends free medicine...just like some medical mission people. I would also argue that the number of people killed by our military is lower than the number of people killed over time by "christians" and "in the name of God". The Crusades, the Inquisitions...all took tons of lives. Even spiritually, I would argue that the U.S. military has killed far fewer people than the American churches have wounded spiritually.

So before we become self-righteous and more liberal in our views toward the Military...who is serving more people and harming fewer people? Even if it is a toss up the case must be made that an institution of God shouldn't even be close to one of man. But it is, no? When Jesus decides who gets to be a sheep and a many soldiers will have been "guilty" of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and setting the captive free? How many christians will be? Trying to answer that question is kind of scary to me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What Just Happened?

So today I will be working all day and attending a school open house on about 3 hours of sleep. It should be fun and exciting on so many levels. Why so little sleep? Well, I was at my weekly guys meeting last night until about midnight and on my way home I imagined my head hitting the pillow and being asleep within a few seconds...minutes at the worst.

After going into the boys room to say a silent goodnight I finally found my way to my bed. But I couldn't sleep. I knew that I was meeting the guy who has quickly become one of my favorite people, not to mention my new workout partner, at the gym for a 6am workout and the thoughts of that weren't helping me have less pressure to go to sleep. Knowing that I had some paperwork to do at the office prior to that workout and that my alarm would be sounding at 4am added even more pressure to fall asleep...but still no such luck. So I am in bed, knowing that I would have to get out of bed in 3 hours but all I could do is lay there and think...why?

The main thing on my mind was what happened earlier in the day. See, I sent a buddy of mine a political email, endorsing in a sense one of the candidates running for president based on their proposed tax changes alone. I know the buddy I sent it to doesn't get to wrapped up in politics but to the degree he does it is likely in a way most would consider more liberal than me. Something in his rather typical reply set off something in me that I am still having a hard time figuring out. I understood his reply to imply that people who have money should be forced to pay high taxes because doing otherwise is another way of "The Man" keeping the poor people poor and further exploiting people for financial gain. I am not saying that his point was that exactly but I certainly took it that way.

To back up for a minute I will say that I have traditionally leaned very much in the conservative direction politically...often explaining how it is the responsibility of Christians to vote for the conservative candidates. I have more recently become apolitical...often stating that God's Kingdom...the one Jesus talked about all the not of this world so it is less important for followers of Jesus to get involved in politics. However, apparently some dissonance with the way things are and the way things should be from a perspective of the world and my faith showed up in some "jerk" type much so that I stayed up late, missing very valuable sleep, thinking about why...

Here is a part of what I wrote to my least he use to be my buddy (edited and amended for the sake of explanation and brevity):
As a result of business and educational decisions I am qualified and willing to work at my current job and my average work day is well over 12 hours...not to mention that I am on call 365 days per year, 24 hours per day. So am I blessed by being able to work a job that is more lucrative than let's say...working for $12000 per year as a janitor or $25000 as a garbage collector? And if I am simply blessed and that is the only reason I have the job or the income I do, exactly what percentage of my income is the government entitled to?
Additionally, saying that I am blessed seems to negate the fact that I work longer hours than anyone else I know within my given demographic and circle of friends. So I wake up daily at 4am and get home every work day after 6pm...and work many times during the weekends due to one thing or another...and for what? So I can save money? So I can make sure my children are well supported? So I can assure that my wife doesn't have to work? Or so I can make sure that someone whom I have never met can live in government housing, receive government welfare, receive government food stamps and have zero responsibility other than walking to the mailbox to collect the check?
The individuals receiving the benefits of my tax dollar don't wake up at 4am, they don't bear my medico-legal liability and they don't (for whatever reason) have the sweat equity invested in education and experience that I do. So what amount of my compensation or what percentage of my annual salary would you suggest I owe those who wish to receive checks? I can give you one figure...Uncle Sam thinks my "fair share" is 35%...on top of property tax, sales tax, ad valorem tax, gas tax, etc. When it is all said and done, about half of everything I produce goes to Uncle Sam to support Governmental Overspending, Entitlement Programs and endless thanks!

It isn't that I disagree with what I wrote entirely. My issue is that the spirit with which I typed it and thought through it wasn't considerate of the poor. I wasn't thoughtful of those in horrible situations not of their own choosing. I didn't sympathize with "the least of these". I do think faith mandates charity and love to the people who "have not". I still disagree when the government thinks it is their responsibility to mandate the same. I can't wait to hear opinions about this one...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"God Will Spank You!"

I love it when my boys think I am the world's strongest man, the world's smartest human or someone that can fix anything they break. I guess having a celebrity status is one of the really amazing parts of being a Dad. Truthfully, I would love being a Dad without that part but getting the "Rock Star Welcome" each afternoon when I get home from work is awesome.

As much as I want my boys to think I am the greatest Dad or somewhere on par with Superman, I really want them to know that God is greater. When I fail as a dad, I want them to know that they have a Father who doesn't fail. When I drop the ball I want them to remember that they were created by a God who never sleeps and has never once dropped the ball.

This past weekend I realized that some of my pointing toward God as being way better than I could ever be and some of my assuring the boys that as much as I love them...God loves them so much more has started to sink in. As we were walking into a place for lunch on Sunday I reminded the boys what kind of behavior and manners I expected from them. We were all in a jovial mood and I remarked in jest to Zion (my 3 year old) that if he acted up I would have to find something to beat him with. He seemed shocked at first and then he was almost instantly he had an Ace up his sleeve or some trump card that I didn't have. He replied quickly and with great confidence..."God will spank you".

I smiled...ok, it was more like beaming. My boy is "getting it". Even my baby understands something That I too often forget. To quote a kids song, "My God is so great, so strong and so mighty there's nothing my God cannot do". Zion adores me...and tells me so repeatedly each day. But Zion knows that there is One that I answer to, there is One that has his back when no one else does and there is One that allows a 35lb little boy to stand up to the perceived threat of a 205lb bully...Zion adores me, but Zion adores God even more. God is in 1st place in Zion's eyes and I don't ever mind coming in second place to God. May I continue to live a life that shows my boys that they aren't the only ones in the house who put God first.

Elijah's First Day

Over 6 years ago I knew that today would come. When my wife was pregnant with our oldest son I tried to think about the different scenarios that would exist over the years. Today is one of the days I's one of the days that has received a good bit of attention in my prayer life. Today Elijah went to his first day of "Big Boy School". He has done the preschool thing and the mothers day out thing before that...but this is different. He will begin a new chapter in his life today and with his new chapter comes a new chapter for our family.

It is exciting and it is rewarding to see his level of interest in learning, his discipline and his innocence. This morning he looked like such a big boy in his school uniform and backpack. Today promised to be emotional for my wife but it has also been emotional for me. The emotions for me are more along the lines of excitement and pride rather than sadness at this rite of passage.

I think my excitement is fed in a large part by Elijah's school. His school has been beyond impressive to us. From the head of the school to the teacher's aide..."impressive" is really an understatement. We first met the head of the school and we shared about an hour long conversation...a deep and refreshing conversation about the philosophy of education, the classical model of education and Biblical worldview in the shadows of post-modernity and Platonism. This guy is exactly who I want in charge of the school where my kids are educated. On to the principal...his principal knew his name yesterday when we went to the school to meet his teacher...she met him only once and that was months ago when he went to test during the application process. For what it is worth, she also knew our names. Have you ever met someone and thought that their enthusiasm was at a level that couldn't be genuine...but somehow you know it is actually authentic? Well, Elijah's principal is that woman. Elijah's teacher is kind, intelligent and a true educator (as opposed to someone who simply holds the title of "teacher"). I may have been most excited when she discussed with us her awareness that boys and girls learn differently...not because one is better than the other or because one is flawed but because God created males and females in unique ways, with unique gifts. In previous years I had some serious reservations about the quality of education being received and the level of giftedness found in Elijah's teachers...I left Elijah's school yesterday without the slightest question of what Elijah will be receiving in the area of instruction and nurturing. I am confident that Elijah is attending the exact school God has in mind for him and I have no doubt that he will flourish there.

Is it possible that the thing I once dreaded more than anything else will become something completely wonderful and exciting for my sons? How cool would that be?!?! God is in the business of miracles so anything is possible .

Friday, August 8, 2008

God Is Just Not Fair...

"Pastor Joe" is a dear Brother in the faith and also happens to be a pastor at an independent baptist church south of town. He asked my opinion yesterday on a lesson he is preparing for his church and some of what he is studying is from Acts 12 and so of course I pulled up the online Bible I use and read it. Something other than what he was asking about really jumped off the screen and made me has to do with God's ideas about fairness.

Some in this world demand things be "fair". I have an intellectual understanding of what "fairness' means but unfortunately I think, like most of us in this world, fairness is too often defined by whatever happens to work out to my benefit...or at least something that doesn't harm me. It seems that God doesn't really claim to be fair...other than whatever He decides He wants to do, being the gold standard in operational definitions.

In Acts 12 we read about an angel...presumably of God...setting Peter free from prison and almost certainly saving his life in the process. That sounds pretty miracles always do. If you are Peter you must be so please, excited and honored...but what if you happen to be someone else in the story? What if you are one of the guards that was charged to watch Peter and make sure he did indeed stand trial the following day? I assure you in that case that you are emotional but you aren't pleased, excited or honored...a list of more probable emotions would be frightened, angry, sorrowful, etc. You see, after Herod determined that Peter had escaped, he ordered the guards who were to be watching him be killed...which seems to be a harsh punishment.

So was God fair to those men? How hard do you think it was for those men's family to accept the Gospel they possibly heard from Peter? I have a hard time thinking that the families of these guards were pleased with the idea of Jesus being the Messiah and I don't think they were likely waiting in line to worship the God that apparently sentenced these men to death.

What was their crime? They were not overtly evil, so far as we know anyway. The text doesn't say that they had beaten Peter or molested neighborhood kids or even had bad attitudes. And what if they had beaten Peter...what would God's reaction be? I seem to remember God hanging on a cross looking at those who had beaten Him and his reaction wasn't death for them, but pity and mercy. "They don't know what they are doing". Is that God's message for the guards of Peter...except with less grace and less pity? I have asked a ton of questions and I don't have an answer to the first question I have asked. I just think that such questions and meditation on these particular acts of God can only serve to stretch and broaden faith. I hope so anyway...anything less just wouldn't seem fair

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Name of God...A Verb?

I must pay tribute again in this blog to Peter Rollins and his latest book. I can't state for certain exactly what parts of what I will write are ideas directly from Rollins as his thoughts have blended with mine and thoughts I have been cognitively chewing on for a with that, what about God's very name being not at all a noun, but instead, a verb?

The Biblical text I am specifically talking about is when Moses asks God His name (Exodus 3:14). God replies with "I am who I am". Many people have read that and understand it to be a cryptic answer that could imply or be understood to be a number of things. However, like so many things in the Bible, an alternate translation is equally as viable as "I am who I am". The alternate translation is, "I will be what I will be". Even in English, this is lacking. The basic implication in the difference is that God's name become a verb rather than a noun.

So what? Well, if that is the case, God goes from a being...a person place or thing bound by usual parameters of a noun, to being an event, an interaction with His creation that takes place not just in the ideas or within the realities of beings. This would make sense in the context of so many scriptures...for example, Jesus will go on to say in the Biblical text that as we have done for others, we have done as unto God...the action of the reality of God. Additionally it would make total sense in the description of God as "God is Love" and love being best understood as a's something you do.

This is a new idea that has been bouncing around in my mind so I want to think on it a bit more. I may write more about it or I may not...who knows? However, I do like the idea...and find great meaning in the idea that God's vastness expands well beyond even the words I can speak or the meanings I can attach to God.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Reminder of Why

At times I wonder why I ask questions...or at least why I seem to ask questions some intuit as offensive or challenging. Occasionally I wonder what inside of me must exist that refuses to allow me to simply participate in systems or organizations that are not as they should be, in my opinion anyway. Though I fully realize that no system is perfect, to sit back silently and accept some skewed reality as "fine" or "OK" is just not something I have ever been able to do.

Yesterday I was reminded by Doug Pagitt that asking such questions isn't at all a form of hatred or evil. The people who seem to always challenge and deconstruct are not haters of people, faith, church, etc. but rather are people of love. Instantly I was reminded that hate is not the opposite of love...indifference is. I am a lot of things but "indifference" is not a word I have ever heard used to describe me. If I was indifferent toward church, faith or the people who participate in either I could be guilty of not loving. The contrary is true. The very fact that I love God and the things of God (admittedly not exclusively) leads to me deconstructing, asking weird and perhaps difficult questions. Additionally, love is the very thing that prevents me from accepting things as they are when I feel that they could and perhaps should be so different...or better, as I define it anyway.

So anyway, I simply was reminded why I questions...why I ask why, how, when, where and if. As I explained to a friend last night over dinner, it has nothing to do with judgement on those who find meaning in the things I deconstruct but it has everything to do with making a new way for those of us who don't find meaning, purpose or faith in those same things.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"I am a me and you are a you"

One of my favorite things in the world is when I get to take my boys camping and rafting. Life seems to make sense in the woods and a usually receive a sense of clarity while in nature. This past weekend was one such time...retreating to the woods with my two oldest boys and my dad...or so that was the plan anyway (more on that another day).

My middle son, Judah, is 4 years old. He is a lot like me and I love that. He seems to think in ways that I thought at his age, which should possibly give the world pause and should certainly confuse and worry my wife. While walking through the woods this past Saturday, holding hands and not really talking about anything, Judah looks at me out of the blue and says, "Daddy, I am a me and you are a you". I instantly thought...What a brilliant kid and what an amazingly insightful, if not philosophically profound, statement. OK, before I get carried away, I don't think he has been reading my blog and I doubt seriously he has been picking up any Kierkegaard or Nietzsche at summer maybe his words have much more meaning to me than to him, but to me, my 4 year old has dropped some serious ecclesiological wisdom in my lap. Check this out...

As best as I can tell, the drive of most ministries, churches and other organized forms or gathering of faith is conformity...conformity of thoughts, conformity of behavior, conformity of theology, etc. How else could one explain the utter outrage and disgust for anything unusual or unorthodox? For example, see what kind of reaction someone endures for suggesting traditions and particular heritages forsake rather than otherwise foster a growing faith.

So back to Judah's epiphany. I find it so profound because despite the utter display of individualism in scripture, the mission for so many attempting to follow the scriptures is often opposed to individualism. Despite the phrases often used like, "Jesus, my personal saviour"...we often link said saviour to a group, denomination or corporate gathering. In so doing I think our cumulative perspectives serve as obstacles to deeper and perhaps more genuine faith.

That is to say that God is enough, big enough, loving enough, vast enough, deep enough, etc. to deal with us on personal levels and even call us to variations in our walks that resonate deeply and intimately with God, His mission, His purposes and His calling...though not always with culture, church, community or even traditional expectations. That is to say that though God is the same yesterday, today and forever; His dealings with me, or His mercies toward me are new every morning. Though God always has been and always will be, His work in me and in others, as individuals, displays God's love for diversity and variation.

Though many have been called to lead people, there was only one Moses. Though many have been called to sacrifice, there was only one Abraham. Though many have been called to walk in a new path, a new faith and a new tradition, there was only one Paul. And so the story continues...

To me, the call is never to try to fit in to the prevailing religious culture. The path never leads through a land of predictable stagnation. God isn't interested in how closely we conform to those from who we hear about God. God seems to be much more concerned with the degree to which we conform to Him. He is concerned with the degree to which we fit into His will. His path always leads through a dangerous landscape...packed with unpredictability, saturated with warfare, decorated with love and overflowing with scents of His goodness.

God smiles and reminds me that out of the mouth of babes, or 4 year olds as the case may be, His truth flows like a raging river. Celebrate, give thanks to God and cherish the fact that Gos has seen to it that "I AM A ME AND YOU ARE A YOU".