Oh Christmas Tree…

The Christmas tree is one of the most powerful symbols of the modern world, a tree of life, of lights, of hopes and dreams and memories. It is hung with ornaments that speak to us of beauty and prosperity, fruit and flowers and snowflakes, jeweled icons of a splendid life and the artifacts of our civilization, spheres and stars and tinsel lightning bolts, ornaments that depict our children and our past, the magic of elves and flying reindeer and figures from the nativity.

Underneath all the sparkle and light is a tree that symbolizes an abundant life. From a tiny seed that dies in the darkness of the ground, sometimes triggered by fire, a tree emerges, reaching up to the heavens, becoming a habitat for creatures — one day a giant that stands tall in a forrest of brothers and sisters or alone on a rock overlooking a chasm. The tree is sustained by the soil and the air and the sunlight, miraculously manufacturing its food, distributing it throughout its delightful form.

As a follower of Christ, when I look upon the Christmas tree I see much more. Beneath its branches I see a cross, and on the cross, I see my savior who hung on a tree to redeem the world by making the ultimate sacrifice — innocent for guilty, God for mankind. This is a true story about God and people, about people turning away from God, about God rescuing and perfecting His creation through the powerful demonstration of unconditional love, offering the ultimate sacrifice.

Jesus the Messiah on the cross Savior of the World

Jesus, God in the flesh, walked the earth and was known as the living word of God, the manifestation of truth and righteousness. His short life most certainly changed the world with a message of hope, by his victory over sin and death, in the power of His love. And He was more than a prophet, He was and is “God with us” rescuing humanity from itself and me from myself (note: this is a remarkable ongoing process that has become more amazing and powerful with the passage of time).

His impact on His disciples was extraordinary. After his resurrection, after his appearance to the disciples and to over five hundred witnesses, the Christian movement took off. A miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit that continues even today, spreading light through out the world.

The Spirit of God is able to dwell within us if we are willing. And it is by this power that we choose to dwell with God, like the branches of the vine (John 15:1-4), receiving sustenance, and power to produce the fruit of righteousness and love, receiving God’s incredible peace and joy that grows within us despite our circumstances and sometimes because of them.

So this Christmas, as we gather in our warm houses with our beloved families, exchanging gifts, feasting on holiday delights and the images that remind us of Christmas’ past, we might consider that the ultimate gift is offered by Jesus. By His stripes we are able to receive spiritual abundance in the life changing power of God’s Holy Spirit, by faith in the generosity of God’s grace and by the sacrifice of Christ who was and is the innocent, spotless passover Lamb of God, One who’s death burial and resurrection offers all who receive Him, victory over sin and deliverance from fear, anxiety, pain and suffering — as well as transformation through our darkness, by and into His glorious light!

Today’s reading link:

Merry Christmas to all.

Finding The Light

It is my pleasure to share another insightful post from guest writer, my awesome sister-in-law, Lisa Pruitt:

This morning I awoke to the cold, scooted into the kitchen and began making my coffee. It was still dark out and when my coffee was finished, I settled in the living room to enjoy it. I sat there in the room, slowing coming to life, and looked around. I thought how lovely the room looked with the Christmas tree and lights. If I squinted just right, the lights on the tree blurred into stars and I thought about Jesus’ birth and the star of Bethlehem.

In the readings for today, I found myself reading John 8 over and over. There is so much happening in the chapter. Many verses in John 8 have great importance for Christianity. However, it is John 8:12 which resonated the loudest with me today. Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life.” What absolutely beautiful words. Jesus’ light was a star over his manger, it is the stars of our night sky, and it is in the lights on my Christmas tree.

I remember my astronomy class in college. A simple definition of light is visually perceived radiant energy. The science of light is intermingled with the science of color. Light can be reflected and refracted, concentrated and redistributed. It has a wavelength, a speed and can be polarized. If I were to research light in any encyclopedia, I would find information about all the different types of light. But the light of Jesus might not be on those pages because it is a light which we cannot see with our physical eyes.

When we are born, our eyes use physical light to see the beauty of our parents’ faces, to perceive colors and shapes, to detect wonders and dimensions. Although physical light is important for sight and even for our physical health and well-being, it is the light we cannot physically see that is vital to our spiritual health. It is the light of Jesus. Without Jesus’ illumination, we would be in spiritual darkness. We fear darkness because evil things can happen without light. More crimes and sins happen in the night than at any other time.

I remember a time I was alone in a cave for hours. I was waiting for a group to return and had turned off my light. The longer I sat there, the more the darkness seemed to become palpable. I could feel it, sense it. The darkness almost seemed to be a living thing, swirling around me, whispering, teasing me. My mind played tricks, I imagined that there were tendrils of darkness wrapping around me like long, skinny fingers. However, I fought down my rising panic because I was in control. Yes, I was in total darkness, but I was there because I chose to be. I remember a couple of times picking up my light and holding it, resting my finger on the switch just in case. Just in case the water levels rose. Just in case a rock fell on me. Just in case a cave cricket decided to take a walk on my face. Just in case the darkness started whispering.

I once read a study about a group of people who agreed to live in isolated total darkness for 48 hours. One man wrote about his experience. He said that he was unaffected by the darkness for the first four or five hours; even considered it soothing. He fell asleep and awoke after a time but had no way to measure how long he had slept or how many hours the experiment had lasted. He went through a period where he paced the room, slamming into the walls, hurting himself just so he could have some sensory input. Then he began to hallucinate and imagined that he saw a large pile of oyster shells. Because he was lost in the darkness, he mind created its own apparations.

Without Jesus, we are lost to the darkness. Jesus’ light reveals truth. Without His light and His Truth, everything is black or shades of gray. Maybe I would not own up to my mistakes, misdeeds, and my many imperfections without examining myself in His light. Jesus said that whoever follows him will never walk in darkness but have the light of life. His light reveals the way to salvation. When we believe in Him we can have eternal life.

Just as the fluorescent light in my kitchen encourages my orchid to grow, bathing in Jesus’ light can assist my spiritual growth. Keeping Jesus in our life can change us and allow our spirit to blossom. We become rooted in Jesus love which can allows us to withstand the angry winds of turmoil and sadness which enter our lives at times. When we lose our way, Jesus light can be used as a beacon to find the path again. He can lead us out of the dark cave, the dense forest; he can help us find our way. When his light appears, I must turn from the darkness and follow him or I will be forever lost.

I must not only allow his light to guide me as a compass but I must receive it, absorb it, and embrace it. By doing so, Jesus will become part of me. I will not only reflect His light but it will shine from within in me and help me to make correct choices, to truly walk in a Christian life which is guided by Jesus’ teachings. Because Jesus has given us His light, we can enjoy a relationship with God that stretches into eternity.

Today’s Reading.

Seasons Of Life

Its sad and weird to be talking about the passing of a freind, a brother, a tribe member. We are still so young.

The first I heard was the day after, when Randy called to say that Hiatt was the first of our brotherhood to pass from this life last Sunday. He was a prominent member of our small tribe; a group of guys who have history together, many all the way back to elementary school. These are relationships that have made us all better in many ways!

Hiatt, in my estimation, was the Alpha of our group once we all arrived at Hinsdale Central High School and perhaps even at the convergence of elementary schools at the old Junior High. Being an Alpha was no small thing among a group of leaders in a community of achievers. — perhaps fostered some deep sense of responsibility in him.

If he was alpha then I was zed. He was good at everything, sports and school and making friends. His charm and charisma extended beyond the football field, he was a guy, that guys wanted to be, and girls fell for. I was the opposite.

The reason I share this contrast is that we became brothers despite our differences. It happened in the Canadian wilderness and over the course of several memorable canoe trips that bound us unexpectedly.

In the woods we were equals, paddling on the vast freshwater lakes, trudging across many challenging portages and contemplating under the stars. We talked about life and its greater meaning, of faith and what that meant to us, and about the splendid and divine complexity of nature and its revelation of the hand of God.

In the summer of 73, before the shooting, Hiatt and I took an epic canoe trip from Ely to the other side of the Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park We had four and a half days of constant rain and overcast skies, muddy portages, mosquitoes, wet sleeping bags, and difficult fires at night near the shelter of our tarps and tent.

Our two-man-tribe sunk into grumbling disappointment, in the misery of our saturation, knowing that we could have been home drinking beer and hanging out with our other friends. It seemed like years since we had laughed. We began to regress like the survivors in Lord of the Flies; killing chipmunks by throwing our sharp knives. Knives we named “Buck” and “Snake”, who became characters in our strange drama, perhaps reflecting the alter egos of our darker selves.

On the afternoon of the fifth day, we stood on a rock at lake Kawnippi when the sun came out. Its’ power was so great the moisture from our clothing rose in a mist, up to meet the parting clouds. I’ll never forget looking over at Hiatt who hadn’t smiled for days. That big, warm, taunting smile of his was as welcome as the sunshine. The warmth and the joy had returned to him and me. We laughed again and said to each other it had been a great trip. Everything was worth it in the end!

He will be missed.

Last Wednesday I woke up around 2:00 in the morning and thought of Hiatt. I had not yet cried for the loss of my old friend, but now the tears came. Not only tears but some deep groan from within my spirit. What kind of friend had I been? I remember the last time I saw him, on a boys trip about ten years ago.

Him driving up from the Southeast in his perfectly restored Cherry Red Porsche, his Gandalf the Grey hair blowing in the wind on the road to eternity.

On November 22nd, 1975, the anniversary of the day Kennedy was shot, Hiatt and two other friends were shot in the parking lot of a bar just outside of Hinsdale. Hiatt got the worst of it. The bullets changed the trajectory of his life. Had I?

He will be remembered.

We have a Jasmine tree that travels from our sun-room to our deck and back each year. It has been in our care for eleven years to the surprise of the nursery that now tells me they are hard to keep alive.

Each summer it blossoms and blooms, sending out the smell of incense and honey, many times over. At the end of summer it’s brought inside bigger, stronger, and healthier. However by the end of winter it always struggles, leaves falling, branches dying. The worst of it is the attack of the scale bugs. A growing army of tiny insects, slimy dark disk like parasites, slowly sucking the life out of the tree, each day.

So it is by hand, each spring, we wash the bugs from leaves that still live, over and over, and this buys time to get the tree outside where we can pour systemic pesticide into the soil, across the feet of its roots, up into its sap. It is this poison, medicine really, that gives life back to the tree, by taking it away from the blight of dirty mindless creatures wanting to steal its splendor.

The Jasmine tree reminds me of life and its struggle. And for the Jasmine in our home, if it wasn’t for the care it received, the cleansing of its infection, the restoration of its vitality — its life would be shorter. But each summer it survives again, its beauty shared again, and its pleasing aroma hangs in the summer air behind our home and among our friends.

We are the tree and we are its keepers.

Hiatt brought beauty into this world, and into our lives. He cared for us and we for him.

He will be remembered. He will be missed.

Like all of us, he is in God’s hands.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” -John 1:1-5

Today’s reading.

Changing From The Inside Out

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!…” -1 John 3:1

Today’s reading.

A couple nights ago my son Cooper showed me a You-Tube video called “You Are Two” about how the brain works. It is based mostly on the observations of people, after having the hemispheres of their brains severed as a supposed cure for epilepsy. In a normal brain there are two hemispheres operating in collaboration, each controlling half your body. “Half your vision goes to each and half your movement is directed by each. Right controls left and left controls right. Speech resides only in the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere is mute.” But when the neurological connection between them is severed, each side of the body sees and controls the world more independently. For example the right side and the left might each simultaneously select different shirts to wear. Weird. It is as if these people are now two people housed within one body.

In the best selling book, “Incognito — The Secret Lives of The Brain” author David Eagleman, a Neuroscientist who directed the Laboratory for Perception and Action and the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law, both at Baylor College of Medicine, wrestles with the notion of free will. He describes the latest theory of brain function by referencing Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals.” Lincoln’s hand selected cabinet, comprised of accomplished leaders with very different views on the important issues of the day. The brain, Eagleman suggests, is a collection of voices that represent the interests of different systems, all ultimately answering to a CEO of sorts that has to make ultimate decisions to override conflicting agendas. What is the nature of these decisions and can they be overridden by outside signals?

Similarly, I have several friends who have imaginary boards of directors from which they recieve guidance. Their internal conversations include imagined voices, the likes of Einstein, Churchill, Lincoln and other great leaders that have been selected as fantasy advisors.

Then there are theories about genetic memories, and the collective conscious and unconscious of humanity, thanks in part to the brilliant Psychologist Carl Jung.

All this makes me wonder: How do our minds really work? These magnificent and powerful organs that in many ways remain mysterious, despite great advances in scientific knowledge. And what can science say about the mind of God or His grand design? The story revealed by the Bible and confirmed by the history of humanity and in countless individual encounters with the living God.

Were we made to have the Spirit of God, and the consciousness of Christ reside in us? After all we are God’s children, right? The more I come to understand my mind, the more importance I place on my relationship with God. The more the unity of the trinity make sense to me; as well as internal conflicts, mental illness; and perhaps even demonic influence.

It makes perfect sense that the Spirit of God contributes to our mental process, especially in people who look to God for direction. But first we need to know God. This requires enough faith to believe in the possibility that He exists. Then, in the hopeful innocence of a child, we begin to see God as our father in Heaven. When we seek God we find Jesus. If we understand who Jesus is, then we know God and his deep abiding love for all people — for us, and especially the sinner, the weak, the broken and the oppressed.

I have experienced first hand, both walking with God and running away from Him. For me there can be no doubt of the the difference. The desires of my flesh are fanned by a world culture that values material productivity, domination through competition, power, wealth and pleasure. These are the things that always leave me wanting — ironically in the glory of my greatest personal achievements. It is only in my surrender to God that I am able to walk in the light. For me, this has been the easiest and hardest thing I have ever experienced.

“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” -1 John 3:9

As a Christian I have struggled with Sin. I know I am forgiven, and that by faith, through grace, I’m considered righteous by God through the power of the cross. My desire is to live a pure and holy life but I am far from this. For a time I found comfort in the notion that I am a sinner, but forgiven. Lately I have come to believe that without constant and victorious transformation, I am not receiving the full blessing of God or the fulfillment of His purpose for me. It is as if the prodigal son returns to the feast and to the embrace of his father’s unconditional love and forgiveness, only to continue to question which life is better. There can be no doubt.

In his book “The Good and Beautiful God,” James Bryan Smith helps a Christian Businessman “Carey” deal with his identity in Christ. They ponder the same question I have wrestled with for years. “Am I a sinner or a saint?”

“Carey came to me because he was frustrated by his actions. But when I looked at him I saw something else. I saw a child of God, a person in whom Christ dwells, an inhabitant of eternity bought by the blood of Christ and infused with God’s power and presence, who was living a sad, fearful and defeated life. What I wanted for Carey was not simply the cessation of unwanted behavior but a deeper life in Christ—fullness, warmth, power and joy that he did not know he already possessed.”

Even though my transformation in Christ has been remarkable in many ways, I know there is so much more I am capable of through Him. There is so much more I am called to be and do. What’s holding me back?

I think it’s true that we are natural sinners. Even as Christ followers we are prone to sin, but “forgiven sinner” isn’t the full description of our relationship with God. Christ forming in us is not a small thing and shouldn’t be underestimated or ignored. We have His victory now infused in our DNA, within our earthly bodies, yet still prone to sin. We have power we do not understand, waiting to assist us to do things we cannot do on our own, to fulfill a destiny we cannot even imagine. This is the power of God!

We are called to be saints, though we must still wrestle with sin. Perhaps this is how we develop our strength. But sin no longer has power or dominion in our lives. We are NEW CREATIONS and Jesus has restored us, mind, body and soul, reconnecting us to the God of our creation, offering us citizenship in His kingdom and a role in the restoration of paradise.

There have been many times I feel guilty, understanding that my sin puts Jesus back on the cross, again and again. But what I missed was that in order to grow in my Christian walk, I need to embrace a deeper fellowship with the resurrected Christ, he who lives within me.

We are God’s temple. Jars of clay that miraculously contain the Spirit of the Living God — the holy and pure, resurrected, victorious Christ. Does this make a difference in your faith narrative; in your life? It sure has in mine.

We must look to the cross, but also to the resurrection as we die to sin and rise in Christ!

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” -Luke 18:16

By God’s amazing love we receive the forgiveness of sins, a gift we have not earned and the fellowship of the resurrected Christ, a thing we do not deserve. In our brokenness we are made whole. In our darkness we are made to shine. In our surrender we are made strong. I pray today that each of us would begin the next leg of the lifelong journey towards holiness, in the power of the Living Word and in God’s Holy and indwelling Spirit. I pray this for all my family, friends, business partners, present and future Bible Journal writers, customers, tenants, employees, small group members, church and community members and Bible Journal readers. Amen.

Contemplating Life As Worship

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. -1 Peter 4:11

The entirety of our lives is made up of what we think, say and do. Our active and passive response to what we are born into, what happens to us, and our surroundings — situations that unfold.

Whether we see it our not, God is the author of life; of our lives. Each breath we breathe is from God. His plan includes us. Part of that plan is our free will, our ability to uniquely decide how we’ll respond to the world as it presents itself, including interaction with each other.

Through studying the Bible and from insights gleaned from friends and sages, I have come to believe I should glorify God in all things, making my life a constant act of worship. But without some understanding of who God is, this is difficult. Even though God’s revelation is available to us all and His law is written on our hearts, it seems impossible to consistently glorify God.

If I was able to subjugate every thought, and every word, and every deed to God’s power; or to fully understand His purposes and His perfect plan for my life, who would I be then? It’s worth thinking about. A life focused on giving glory and power to God in all things — a perfect life, perfect alignment with God’s perfect will.

My hunch is this would be better than any life I could dream up, construct, or will into existence on my own. It’s crazy to think about this perfect life I am unlikely to attain — yet by my faith in Jesus, and through His grace, God considers me worthy of total righteousness, offering me a different kind of life. One in which I am able to receive God’s love as if I were His perfect child.

Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross offers the best example of God’s perfect love. This is the reason I choose to surrender all, bowing down to the maker of heaven and earth.

Thank you God for giving me freedom in the deliverance from my sin, through my submission to you. Thy will, not mine be done, as it is in heaven and on earth. Amen.

1 Chronicles 23; 1 Peter 4; Micah 2; Luke 11

All You Need Is Love

When Jesus speaks of the perfect life, He is very clear: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” -Luke 10:27. In perfect love, God desires our wellbeing, our fellowship and obedience.

Obedience is a hard word for me to hear, let alone to say or do! But obedience to God’s precepts ultimately make us better, stronger, healthier and happier. God’s law is no longer imposed, but encouraged in love. It’s not offered in oppression, but in freedom from sin through a life of tangible fellowship with the Creator of the Universe. Obedience to a perfect God is to seek the love Jesus speaks of.

Love gets more complicated when we are concerned for our well being, when others threaten our way of life, our freedom or interests. This is when we must chose between our own understanding or trusting God.

I am fascinated by the intensity of the discourse after this very unusual and surprising election. I have had to remind myself that God is eternally sovereign and we are not.

Living out our faith is about love in action, showing love without favoritism, loving the unlovable, practicing grace and gratitude. It is helpful to recognize our hypocrisy and self-righteousness, avoiding demagoguery, so easily embraced.

Personal spiritual transformation is the true source of social change. It is born in Love. God’s Spirit guides us. There is no other way.

God is sovereign and everything, even political power, comes from Him or is allowed by Him.

We have a lifetime of opportunity to live out values like kindness, humility, forgiveness, bravery, sacrifice, integrity, generosity, and compassion. We might easily claim these as our own, and overlook them in others, but love is the champion of justice and truth.

More than anything Jesus is saying to me, “trust God, surrender all to Him and love each other like there is no tomorrow.”

Perhaps John Lennon had it right; “all you need is love!”

1 Chronicles 15; James 2. Secret: Amos 9; Luke 4

A New Covenant

But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.Hebrews 8:8-9

As I read about this New Covenant I wonder: Why did we need one? How does it work?

God once made a covenant with His chosen people. These were the descendants of Noah, and the children of Abraham. He promised to bless them and save them; and to save the world through them. They, in exchange were bound to his law, essentially the Ten Commandments. Law that focused primarily on loving God and each other, putting God above all while striving for purity and relying on ritual sacrifice to receive God’s atonement for sin.

As I read through the book of Kings and 2Kings, it reinforces the tremendous disappointment God experienced in the almost constant rebellion of his people. Though God appeared at crucial times, rescuing His chosen people, offering many signs and wonders, still they turned away — worshiping other gods, sacrificing their children, and leaning on their own understanding.

The New Covenant came despite God’s disappointment, perhaps even because of it. It came as an expression of His constant love for people. This is not His plan “B” but the final reconciliation, through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Considering our tendency to rebel, it’s remarkable God extends salvation to us. When we receive God’s grace, in an instant our sins are washed away and we are made righteous by faith! No longer under the power of the law, we are set free in Christ and given freedom to pursue a relationship with the one true God. A holy God who declares our innocence, though we are guilty. A self-sacrificing God, who takes our place on the cross and dies for our sins so we don’t have to.

The New Covenant is based on an act of love that restores the fullness of God’s intended relationship with us — His created beings. Once set free from sin, we are able to pursue holiness in the power of God’s Holy Spirit and a life in the presence of a living God who offers everything we cannot attain on our own. In this way we are blessed with peace, freedom, power and joy in the truth and security of an eternal, dynamic relationship with the very creator of the universe! This is the New Covenant. Thank you God!

Reading: 1 Chronicles 1–2; Hebrews 8; Amos 2; Psalm 145

Keeping Up With The Joneses

Again I’m grateful and privileged to have my wise and wonderful sister-in-law Lisa Pruitt write for Bible-journal. Thank you Lisa!

Keeping up with the Joneses: What an exclusively American cultural statement of our sense of entitlement. If my house were on fire, in the literal heat of the moment, what would I grab as I made my way out the door? Certainly my family and pets – but what else? Well, I love my Omega juicer, my Breville tea maker, my Kuerig coffee maker, my phone, iPad, pottery, some of the art I have created, and the treasures from my daughters’ early years. But these are mere things. I can live without them and live happily (probably).

Psalms 135-136 remind us to praise God’s goodness and greatness. We should thank Him for all he has given us, the natural wonders, for delivering us from our enemies, for providing food and the land sustaining our food. God’s love does and will endure forever.

But – I take note that while his love endures, the material things do not. The juicer, coffee maker and electronics are temporary. I am reminded not to sweat the small stuff because most material things are small; even things which are big in size. Someone once asked me what would be my first act if I won the lottery. My answer? “I would go immediately to the Tesla dealership.” Is this wrong? Maybe so for perhaps my first thought should have been to thank God and give money to Him and to those in need.

Psalms 135-15 ESV reads that:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!

We all must be careful not to make idols of our material things. Isn’t it interesting that the IPhone comes in the tones of silver and gold? The iPhone may have a camera and a screen but has not eyes, it can not see. The juicer makes noise like a cow chewing grass but it can’t hear or talk. Manufactured goods make our lives easier but we must be careful not to elevate them above the things that matter. When my daughter wants the IPhone 7 or another Simply Southern t-shirt just because her friend at school has that color, isn’t this keeping up with the Joneses which is tantamount to making idols of the work of human hands?

I remember reading a novel about an artist who painted herself as a mermaid, swimming down to the ocean floor. As she swam from the surface down, she dropped items such as jewelry, money, wine glasses, electronics, tools, and keys. It was a symbolic letting go of superficial items. The deeper she got, the more free she felt.

We aren’t the things we own. If we can separate our identities from our things, we have more space to acquire good habits. Rather than striving to collect more amber jewelry, I should strive to collect discipline, time management and listening skills. I should seek friends from all social layers and refrain from our society’s tendency to decide a person’s worth based on their money or profession.

When we concern ourselves with the material world, we are easily drawn in by the “deceitfulness of wealth”, thinking that we will be happy or fulfilled or content if only we had more of whatever it is we are chasing. Satan wants us to be chasing after something he knows will never satisfy us so we will be kept from pursuing that which is the only thing that can satisfy—God Himself. We should seek to be content with what we have, not strive for more and more and more, all the while telling us that this will be the answer to all our needs and dreams. The Bible tells us that a person’s life is not about an abundance of things and that we should seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

I will strive to remember this the next time I have a decision to make and remember that it is only God’s love which endures forever.

Todays reading: 2 Kings 19; Hebrews 1; Hosea 12; Psalms 135–136


In the faint light of a cool and certain world, three nymphs in a pond clung to a reed. In somber tones they discussed the departure of a friend. Why did he leave us? The young one asked. Seems strange to leave the world we know for one we don’t. I can’t imagine a better life than ours. Why don’t they ever come back?

The elder spoke. No one has ever returned from above, so we don’t know what it’s like. When you look up, all you see is a distant light, a bluish haze at the edge of the void.

As his friends descended back to the mud, the elder remained. The urge drawing him to the surface grew stronger. He began to ascend the reed, slowly towards the light. Eventually he broke the surface into the blinding sun. Groggy from the climb he stopped near the top of the reed and fell into a deep sleep.

When he awakened he felt he couldn’t breathe. The shell that had protected him for so long had become too small. Then just as it was squeezing the life from him, unexpectedly the center of his back cracked open and four wet gossamer wings emerged, unfolding majestically into the warmth of the sun. Then his body, with unforeseen skill climbed free from its shell, out into a new world. Soon the wings dried off as his eyes adjusted to a new world, unimagined — a world of dazzling colors and strange new shapes.

Then, as if he had always done it; his wings began to move at an incredible speed, alive with power, effortlessly lifting off the reed he flew. He hovered and darted back and forth across the surface of the pond, wondering about his friends below. This was what he was meant to be. To soar in the light above and begin his true life.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. -2 Corinthians 3:18

The life of a Christ follower, if it is anything, is a life of transformation through faith in action. Spiritual formation is the process of Christ’s likeness forming in us — His attributes of unconditional love, sacrifice and righteousness becoming ours. This is the miraculous transformation that we are called to and made for; practical as it is mysterious.

A few years ago I was at the funeral of my brother’s wife’s grandmother, Freda. She had lived the life of a Christ follower. Her funeral was a celebration of her as a beloved child, a young woman, wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother, now passing into the next realm.

This realm, Christians believe, is an incredible place, found in the fullness of the presence and glory of the living God — for all eternity. Though finer details are subject to speculation, by faith we look forward to an eternity with no tears, in a place filled with the brightest light of truth and love. A realm beyond our wildest imagination.

At the funeral, many of Freda’s family shared fond memories and stories about her abundant love and other-centeredness. Then the Pastor shared a story about the metamorphosis of a Dragonfly. I loved his metaphor and its revelation about the mystery and splendor of eternal life. About an existence we are destined for — one we never fully appreciate in the here-and-now.

When I looked further into this illustration, I found other versions, stories and poems. Perhaps this analogy has been used for centuries to tenderly explain death and offer hope to grieving survivors. For me it was a tale about spiritual transformation and a reference to the great divide between this life and the next.

I find it remarkable that nature offers an abundance of great metaphors amidst the splendor and complexity of God’s creation.  We are so blessed with this revelation. God speaks without words.

The coolest thing about spiritual transformation is that as we grow in Christ, He grows in us. We don’t have to wait for the next life to experience or understand His power. As we change, becoming citizens of another kingdom, we are increasingly given eyes to see and ears to hear. Enabled to understand the truth.

Ours is not a blind faith, it is a faith realized in our daily transformation, as we follow Christ. Eternal life beyond our wildest hope waits for us, but it is only by faith that we truly see beyond the pale.

We live by faith not by sight. -2 Corinthians 5:7

Daily reading: 2 Kings 11–12; 2 Timothy 2; Hosea 3–4; Psalm 119:121–144

Autumn Blessing

What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? -Psalm 116:12

In the pale light of an October evening, I sat on my patio — under the yellow rain of the locust trees, crows cawing back and forth. The cool air was filled with the smell of distant smoke as I sat wondering: How could I be so blessed?

In this tranquil place I had broken bread with my family and friends, sharing stories of our lives that intertwined like vines in a vineyard, planted and grafted, pruned and picked. Not all bore the best fruit, but the ones that did were special.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.John 15:1-2

Vineyards At Sunset

Why was I so fortunate? Honestly I couldn’t think of anything that I had done to deserve all that I had been given. A strong and healthy family. A beautiful, patient, loyal and loving wife. Three amazing boys, all so different. My businesses had been prosperous in ways that made it hard for me to take the credit.

It had also been a life that revealed the hand of God in the splendor of creation.

Scenery Of High Mountain With Lake And High Peak On A Clear Day

A litany of people offering hope and direction to a scrawny freckled faced boy, and then to an arrogant young man. People investing time in me along the way, wanting nothing in return. Now I worked with trusted partners in collaborations reaching farther than I ever could have imagined. Still, I had this feeling there was more to my life.

The feeling I had on this crisp Autumn day was more than abundant gratitude, recognizing God’s incredible grace. It was a sense of responsibility, but not burdensome — more like the anticipation of greater opportunities around the next bend. Yes I had been given much and there was a reason for this, a reason I wanted to understand.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:5

Nothing that was given to me was really mine. I had been entrusted with knowledge and treasures beyond my wildest dreams; perhaps even wisdom. I had been the unworthy recipient of unconditional love; this was the greatest gift of all. Yet when I finally realized that I was only the steward of these gifts, now I had to decide how better to use them.

In the brightness of Autumn it became clear, by surrendering all to God, the fulfillment of my purpose was possible. This was now my greatest opportunity.

Today’s reading: 2 Kings 4; 1 Timothy 1; Daniel 8; Psalm 116