For @sethhaines and @amberrunsamuck:

The first thing I saw when I looked at this was a picture of Seth leaning on Jesus, and I couldn't help but think of the Beloved Disciple, reclining against His bosom at dinner. I wonder what it would be like to hear the heartbeat of the Word made flesh?

I think John was scared, too. He saw the storm clouds on the horizon. Jesus was talking crazy about being led where they wouldn't want to go and something about a Comforter coming. John couldn't possibly have known what things would look like from the other side of Golgotha...

Hold on tight. Lean in and feel the warmth. Just be for a little bit if you can. You're not alone.


click-thru rate and injudicious tweets #apologiesInside

Last night I tweeted:

It wasn't well said, well thought out, or well timed. I sincerely apologize to all for tweeting without exercising good judgment and self-control.

I thought I should take a few minutes to better address the heart of my concern, though, because I think it's valid.

I've stumbled onto quite a few tweeters lately who have a lot of really interesting and encouraging things to say about how we live a Christ-centered life. I've been enriched by their words. They'll tweet a link to their blog, and I'll quickly add it to my Pocket so I can read later what they have to say. They're consistently good.

My concern is with repeated, reworded tweets to the same blog post, some of which are quite incorrectly labeled as "new" posts. This is branding, marketing, imaging, driving traffic to a blogger's site, "How to make your message stand out," etc. And I fear that the influence of one culture upon another is working in the wrong direction.

Why do I unfollow the worst offenders? First, I don't like being manipulated into clicking through to a blog post I've already seen, just so someone can pad their traffic, regardless of the blogger's spiritual affirmations. Second, and more importantly, I feel like the Why is as important as the What. Do we blog because we have something to say, or because we need to be heard?

My challenge to bloggers and tweeters who feel called to share what God is teaching them is this: Let your words stand on their own. Resist the urge to repackage. Resist the siren song of click-through rates. If you're afraid you won't be heard if you don't scream, that says more about your heart than it does about your effectiveness. Let the Spirit of God roar through your words. Trust that He is big enough to be heard amid the Sturm und Drang which typifies our information-overloaded online lives. Don't call something what it isn't in pursuit of ephemeral measures of success. Click-through rate does not correlate to heart change, and isn't it heart change that we seek?



You're welcome to comment, if you're so inclined. I might learn something. :-)


Stephen Colbert, bringin' the heat...

Evidently this quote made the rounds some time ago. I didn't catch it then, and I don't know the context now. Whatever the context and timing, you've gotta love an actor that drops this kind of bomb when he's out of character:

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.


taking stock of the situation

Today I came across this little nugget from the life of King David, man after God's own heart:

Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the people of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Take a census of all the people of Israel—from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north—and bring me a report so I may know how many there are.”

But Joab replied, “May the Lord increase the number of his people a hundred times over! But why, my lord the king, do you want to do this? Are they not all your servants? Why must you cause Israel to sin?”

But the king insisted that they take the census, so Joab traveled throughout all Israel to count the people. Then he returned to Jerusalem and reported the number of people to David. There were 1,100,000 warriors in all Israel who could handle a sword, and 470,000 in Judah. But Joab did not include the tribes of Levi and Benjamin in the census because he was so distressed at what the king had made him do.

God was very displeased with the census, and he punished Israel for it. Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt for doing this foolish thing.”

1 Chronicles 21.1-8; see also 2 Samuel 24.1-10

Lots of people struggle with how to interpret these parallel passages, apparently, so I don't feel too badly that I don't have crystal clarity on what it means for me right now. But I've been home today, so I've had plenty of time to let the story ping around inside my heart and mind. Maybe it's a Captain Obvious kind of statement, but this story feels significant to the season I'm in.

I just don't know why. Yet.

Maybe there's something here about the enormous danger in taking our security and significance from — placing our faith in — something other than God. Maybe David, in his position of peace, security and comfort, lost that sense of the immediate presence of a rescuing, sheltering Father God. Maybe he just got bored. Maybe it was all of the above and then some.

I don't know. Yet.


do right

When I was growing up, we lived on a little 100-odd acre farm out Arkansas 43, about 15 miles southwest of Harrison. We were at the end of our bus route, so we were usually the first ones on, last ones off. Sometimes Mom would pick us up at the last stop before the bus started up and down the dirt backroads of that part of the county, and it would cut as much as an hour off our trip.

When she didn't, though, we spent a few hours a day riding the bus with the other kids from the Hilltop area. Bus drivers have, since the beginning of time, been struggling to keep heathens from tearing apart their buses and the other bus riders. Our bus driver was only marginally successful in that pursuit, the classic demonstration of which fact was the time Jim spotted the oldest boy on the bus urinating out one of the windows and slammed on the brakes, causing Jimmy to fall into the seat in front of him...still urinating...all over the poor girl occupying that seat. Hysterical. Nasty.

So yeah, there were some rough characters on that bus route, and I was both a geek and a smartass. I couldn't keep my mouth shut, and I was not a terribly impressive physical specimen. I wasn't a typical redneck kid, and we weren't a typical Gaither Mountain family. In other words, I was bully fodder, both at school and on the bus.

[As an aside, for those who'd play Statler and Waldorf: Some things never change. I'm still a geek and a smartass, often can't keep my mouth shut, and am not a terribly impressive physical specimen. I do, however, have a hella beard now. Suck it.]

On those long bus rides home in the afternoons, I learned to whistle, say "uncle", spell "uncle", spell "uncle" backwards ... all while boys older, meaner and stronger twisted one or both of my nipples between thumb and forefinger. I learned how to put mind over matter long before Keanu Reeves explored The Matrix.

One day, one of those boys brought a loaded Saturday Night Special .22 revolver on the bus with him. How the bus driver didn't notice him waving this thing around, showing his buddies, pushing it into the bosom of the same poor young lady who'd been urinated upon a few years earlier, dry-firing it, her crying... I'll never know.

I got home — amazed that he didn't get caught — and was just kind of spilling my guts about my day (again: some things never change). Mom heard the word "gun" and flipped.

Now, I knew that my life was going to get a whole lot worse if this guy got in trouble. I begged my parents not to say anything to the school authorities. "We'll make sure you don't get involved. There's no reason he should know it was because of you that he's in trouble."

Our vice principal brought this young man into his office the next day to expel him and told him my parents had called. I know this because the young man stopped to have a little chat with me on his way out of the school that morning. "[unprintable threats]," he said.

The next several months of my life were hell, since his buddies more than filled in for him during his sabbatical. I was furious with my parents, and I hated the vice principal for selling me out. I can still remember being terrified, not wanting to ride the bus the first day of school the next year, knowing he'd be back, looking for revenge.

What my parents may not have expected, and what I couldn't possibly have foreseen in my adolescent angst, were the enduring effects this trial by fire would have on my adult life. Early in my life, I learned to steel myself against physical and psychological abuse at the hands of a "crooked and perverse generation". I took some bittersweet solace in doing right. It changed me forever and for the better.

Now that I'm grown and have the benefit of both time and distance between me and those horrible middle school and junior high years, I am thankful for the strength the Lord built into me by way of my upbringing and my environment. I hope my kid can develop the same unwavering commitment to doing the right thing, no matter the cost...and I hope I can remember when those trials come into her life that the keeper of the vineyard stresses His vines that they may produce a more flavorful grape, for the production of a more complex wine.


fat birds

The American concept of success is founded on sacrifice. We're asked over and over and over to sacrifice our relationships with our family, our health (physical, emotional, spiritual), our environment... all in pursuit of greater wealth. We're guilt-tripped into believing we're lazy and worthless if we're less than enthusiastic about the cost of these transactions.

I think success is indeed founded on sacrifice. I just think we've got it backwards.

We need to sacrifice our fear of failure and poverty in order to be successful parents and spouses.

We need to sacrifice our pride in order to be successful stewards of our health.

We need to sacrifice our comfort in order to be successful caretakers of our resources.

My choice to guard zealously these priorities may mean I'll never be a successful contractor. I'll take my measure of success over the world's anytime.

Those are some awfully fat birds out there.

-- Shamelessly stolen from Chip and Lynn Jackson, by way of Mike Rusch


We're People of The Second Chance, too.

This morning I ran across a six-part video series [Dallas Theological Seminary, via Irving Bible Church, h/t @RickSmith] beautifully dramatizing the story of Hosea in modern terms. The videos are short, between 2.5 - 3.5 mins each. There is no dialogue. They are powerful.

Hosea's story resonates pretty deeply with Kristina and I. His love for Gomer — Christ's love for us — was the grace I grabbed hold of last June when Kristina left me. Out of the 12 people who might read this, half of you already know what I'm talking about. I've never told the story publicly, though, and I think it's time you other six heard it.

Our story, like all stories of redemption, is long and complicated, too much so for a blog post. Kristina's part in the story is hers to tell in her way and her time (you'll find her blogging occasionally at

I don't intend to gloss over my sin, but I sure don't want to glorify it, either. So, I'll try to sum up my part: I was unfaithful to Kristina a few years ago. The rest was death by papercut. BOOM.

I came home from work June 24, 2011, to an empty house, a note on the door, and a card for her lawyer. She'd filed for divorce and she'd moved out, with our then-two-year old daughter Aylin, without warning.

Kristina had made it very clear that she was not interested in reconciliation. But the first Scripture God took me to was the book of Hosea:

The Lord’s Love for Unfaithful Israel

14 “But then I will win her back once again.

I will lead her into the desert

and speak tenderly to her there.

15 I will return her vineyards to her

and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.

She will give herself to me there,

as she did long ago when she was young,

when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.

It was clear that God was calling me to extend by faith the invitation to reconciliation, knowing that the invitation was hers to accept or reject. After several weeks — it seemed like months — Kristina forgave me, asked me to put her wedding ring on her finger again, and asked me to move in with her and Aylin in Bentonville.

The journey hasn't been easy, and it's never really over, is it? But it has been — and will continue to be — a beautiful example of what grace can do. Without Jesus — without you folks, His Body, carrying us, broken-hearted and weeping, wounded and bleeding profusely — we'd just be another divorce statistic. Instead, we get to reflect the glory of a risen Savior, who redeemed us by His sacrifice while we were yet in sin.

Proclaiming freedom to the captives, indeed.