tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:/posts Jeffrey N. Melton 2016-03-02T21:36:01Z The Meltons tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/949268 2015-12-13T22:20:08Z 2016-03-02T21:32:16Z Notes on _The Forgotten Ways_

I just finished reading The Forgotten Ways, by Alan Hirsch. Matt Newman paraphrased a section from the book recently at Mosaic (audio download), and when I asked him where the quote came from, he dropped the book on me.

For completeness, the quote (as Hirsch wrote it, with apologies to Newman for wrecking his paraphrase, and including a footnote of Hirsch’s from the book):

There is something about middle-class culture that seems to be contrary to authentic gospel values. And this is not a statement about middle-class people per se—I myself am from a very middle-class family—but rather to isolate some of the values and assumptions that that seem to just come along as part of the deal. In a previous chapter, I noted that much of what goes by the name “middle-class” involves a preoccupation with safety and security, developed mostly in pursuit of what seems to be best for our children. And this is understandable as long as it does not become obsessive. But when these impulses of middle-class culture fuse with consumerism, as they most often do, we can add the obsession with comfort and convenience to the list. And this is not a good mix—at least as far as the gospel and missional church are concerned.1

If that doesn’t rattle your cage a little bit…

Now, The Forgotten Ways isn’t a new book, nor are the ideas therein. I’ve been chewing on these things for more than a decade, though mostly in the deep recesses of my mind and heart. But I’m a different person now than I was when I first encountered this mode of thinking. The combination of old ideas and new me seems destined to work itself out in action that I couldn’t have undertaken in a healthy way 12-14 years ago. I don’t know yet what form my response will take. I’m still processing the book, and much of where I go will depend on how those around me respond to these same ideas. At a high level, though, here are some of my takeaways:

  • Context, proximity and availability are important: I need to be ready to meet the people who are already around me on their turf, and that means I need to make myself available for them on their timeline.
  • I have a long (and bumpy) history with my local church. No matter where I go from here, it involves them. Hirsch does a fantastic job of calling rock-throwers like me to balance. Rather than abandoning the institutional church, we need to call her back to New Testatment models of ecclesiology.
  • I’ve long identified with Old Testament prophets, but until reading this book, I never really embraced the idea that the role of the prophet was still active in the body of Christ, and that it was not only active but necessary to her growth and health. I don’t know how to exercise that gift in a healthy, balanced way; I’m inclined to burn bridges, throw haymakers and hand-grenades, and generally cause a ruckus… which is fun, mind you… just not constructive. Lots of room to grow here, for me and the church. I have to learn grace and balance. The church… well, the church doesn’t have a good track record for embracing the prophet, does she? Yay. I’ll probably drop a few bucks on Hirsch’s site to see if I can get a little more insight into my gift mix. Just not tonight. :)
  • I want to launch into something — anything — now at 100 mph… and that’s not constructive, either. I’ll need to exercise restraint and patience above and beyond what I’m capable of or comfortable with. Everyone’s going to be uncomfortable, and that’s OK.

I’ll land the plane with one last quote from the book (emphasis Hirsch’s):

… most established denominations, including the more evangelical ones, are also built squarely on Christendom assumptions of church and therefore, like all institutions, are facing significant threat and need to be led to the edge of chaos. It is there, by living in the tension that it brings, they will find more authentic and missional ways of being God’s people. So leaders, turn the heat up, but manage it.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I passed the paperback Newman gave me on to a good friend of mine and finished reading the Kindle edition. Fair warning, though: If you’re a Christian who was raised in — and continues to go to — a relatively traditional church, you’d better buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride…

1. Robert Inchausti relates that Nikolai Berdyaev saw middle-classness at its most debased level as “a state of the soul characterized by a degrading clutching after security and a smallmindedness incapable of imagining a world much larger than one’s own. [For him] the bourgeois didn’t worship money per se, but they were addicted to personal success, security, and happiness. For these things, they willingly compromised their honor, ignored injustice, and betrayed truth, replacing these high values with trite moralisms and facile bromides that blur important distinctions and justify selfish actions. … The word bourgeois became synonymous with mean-spirited wealth, narrow-minded technological know-how, and a preoccupation with worldly success. The cultural ideals of the knight, the monk, the philosopher, and the poet were all superseded by the cultural ideal of the businessman. The will to power had been usurped by the ‘will to well-being.’ … The bourgeois did not repudiate religion but reinterpreted its value in terms of utility. The love of the poor moved to the periphery of the faith and was embraced only insofar as its didn’t clash with one’s own personal economic interests” (Robert Inchausti, Subversive Orthodoxy: Rebels, Revolutionaries, and Other Christians in Disguise [Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2005]), 42-43.]]>
The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/808235 2015-02-06T21:22:31Z 2015-02-06T21:22:31Z Convergence

File this one under Unexpected Outcomes:

Several years ago, when I first started planning my career transition from constructing to computering for a living, I sometimes wondered whether and how my construction experience might come into play if I ever were able to leap the gap between industries.

One of our customers is a large commercial subcontractor with whom often I worked closely while I was still doing electrical construction. My relationship with their family goes back further than that, though: When I was in junior high school, we bought a couple of market steers from them so my brother and I could show them in our local 4H/FFA events.

Today, the second-generation head of the company called me, asking for a meeting to talk with him about technology he can use on the jobsite to further his business. That’s affirming on a number of levels, and I’m excited about where it might lead.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/754953 2014-10-14T01:37:06Z 2014-10-14T01:37:07Z Daddy's Got A New Job!

Eighteen months ago, I embarked on a new career path. I left behind construction sites and portable toilets. I piled my hand tools in a corner of the garage. I stuck my boots in the back of the closet. I gave away my trusty Carhartt double-front dungarees.

I work every day at a little table next to a server closet, with a man whose resemblance to Rain Man is uncanny. I wear khakis and button-down shirts. I get to use real toilets with running water. It's unusual for me to hear profanity in the course of business.

I've gotten a lot out of my first tech job. I think my people skills—oddly enough—have developed more than my technical skills have. And it's time to move on.

I need to branch out, and this is my chance to do so. I'll make a little more money, but that's honestly not the point. I need to be in a place where I can challenge myself to keep growing, where I'm set up for success. I think my new job improves on my current one in that way.

I know I'm a little light on detail here, and that's intentional. I'm making a concerted effort to dial back my public blathering about my job, as I've realized I'm not doing myself or anyone else any favors by revealing everything.

I'm sure I'll falter and fall into my old habit from time to time, but I'll keep trying to keep my piehole shut in hopes of keeping my backside out of trouble.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/679179 2014-04-19T17:29:04Z 2014-04-19T17:29:05Z In which I discuss Fastmail, rate limits, iOS' Mail.app and the looming possibility of being pwnd...

This is a somewhat more technical post than you'll often see here. If the title didn't clue you in to that, let this be your final warning: Here There Be Dragons!

What Happened:

Wednesday night, I attempted to log in to my Fastmail-hosted domain mail account, but was greeted with this message: '451 Already reached per-hour limit for logins by "me@mydomain.com" of 1000, try again later.'

After a few other attempts, I checked my iPhone's Mail.app, which reported "bad username or password". [I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Cupertino for that really helpful error message.] I checked Fastmail's documentation and found that they do, indeed, block access after > 1000 IMAP connections in an hour, and that they generally attribute such behavior to an IMAP client gone haywire.

I only use webmail and iOS 7's stock Mail.app, and I was aware of issues they'd had with OS X's Mail.app, so I fired off a support request. I asked if there were similar known issues with Apple's mobile mail client.

We use Fastmail's family email level, so Kristina and I both have accounts, and there's an admin-level account for administering everything. I was able to log in to that account and use it to disable logins to the problem account, change the password to both the problem account and the admin account. I'd just changed both passwords a few days before, after getting the email from Fastmail support saying their servers were patched and certs were up to date after the Heartbleed vulnerability had been made public. I use LastPass to generate complex, unique passwords.

I killed all the apps on my phone, shutdown for about 10 minutes, then restarted. Within a few minutes, I was again able to log in to both the web client and Mail.app on my phone.

About 10 hours after logging the support request, I received a response from Fastmail, which included two IP addresses from which my client was accessed. Whois told me that one of those IPs is in Durham, NC. An nslookup told me that it's not owned by my ISP. Since I live in Bentonville, AR, that set off a lot of internal alarms. I relayed this information to Fastmail, and reiterated my question about whether the iOS Mail.app has similar issues to the one they experienced around the OS X client. The case got bumped to "developers/admins", who again responded relatively quickly. Fastmail isn't aware of any problems with iOS 7's mail client, it seems.

What I Think About It All:

I have to consider the possibility that my account was compromised somehow, but I don't know how that could have come about. My password is strong and unique; it would take a lot of computing power to brute-force it. I changed my account passwords shortly after Fastmail patched their servers/certs post-Heartbleed, so that particular vulnerability can't have leaked my new credentials. I just don't get much spam (maybe 1 or 2 a month), and I haven't viewed any of that, so I'm ruling out phishing and social engineering. I haven't logged in to a public wireless network since the post-Heartbleed password update, either, and my home wireless network is reasonably secure, so straightforward packet capture also seems unlikely.

Given all that, I'd think account compromise unlikely...but for the other IP address. A full third of the IMAP sessions were from an IP address in another state, owned by a different ISP. That means two-thirds were right here at home, and can have been originating nowhere else but from iOS' Mail.app on my 5S. My iPhone has been remarkably unstable in the few weeks I've owned it, crashing often, requiring daily restarts; it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to find that Mail.app was buggy.

I've had relatively timely contact with Fastmail support, and they've so far been graciously helpful, even though this doesn't appear to be an issue with their service. I'm continuing to try to break this down so I can figure out better what further actions I need to take. The more I think about it, the more likely it seems that Mail.app is the culprit, but it bothers me badly that I still don't know for sure what happened.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/653482 2014-02-12T01:29:15Z 2014-02-12T01:29:15Z How Is She Almost FIVE?!

At our little girl’s daycare, every child gets to be the “Star Student” for one week, usually sometime near their birthday. Aylin will be five in a few days (HOW DID THIS HAPPEN‽), so this is her weeks. One of the neat things they do is have each parent write a note to their child, to be read in front of the class. Because the note I wrote is as much about speaking something into her for the future as it is about praising her in the present — and because I know the note won’t make it through the day — I decided to preserve its contents here for posterity.

Aylin’s name means “strong and beautiful”. Her momma and I picked that name because we believe that’s what she will become.

I’m very proud of her because she has a good heart, and because she loves to help others.

She’s lots of fun to hang out with, and it’s a privilege to watch her learn and grow into a woman of character.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
Reward her for all she has done.
Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

— Proverbs 31.30-31

I love you, Aylin! Daddy-O

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/609935 2013-10-17T12:13:57Z 2013-10-17T12:13:58Z a visionary year

One year ago, @tm2 and I unwittingly embarked on a remarkable journey. It was on this day in 2012 that the “sinus infection” diagnosed by the local medi-quack began to look ominous. Her headache got markedly worse; she started having muscle spasms in her shoulders and neck; she started seeing spots.

As some of you will recall — and as we will never forget — follow-ups with medical personnel confirmed the initial (wrong) diagnosis. It took several days and switching to a different hospital system for us to get to the bottom of her sudden illness. The final diagnosis was idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Teena is now legally blind, having lost 90% of her field of vision in one eye and 60% in the other. She can’t drive, and she’s on long-term disability from work.

It would be easy today to focus — if you’ll pardon my visually-themed language — on what we so quickly lost a year ago. But to do so would be to lose sight of the bigger picture of what we gained. Kristina’s always wanted to have the freedom to be a stay-at-home mom, and even though we would never have asked for the circumstances that have made that a reality, it’s been a tremendous blessing for all of us. She’s had room for her creativity to blossom. A wonderful community of women have come alongside her to make sure she can run errands and get out of the house a couple times a week. We are — as a family — happier and more at peace than we’ve ever been.

A few months ago, we ordered take-out from a local Asian joint. The fortune in her cookie: “It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.” We’ve borne out that wisdom in our lives these last 365 days. A great many things that didn’t matter fell away, and an ever-greater number of things that do have been added to us.

I couldn’t be prouder of my wife. She is a strong and courageous woman, and I wouldn’t have anyone else by my side for this adventure. If you don’t know her, you’re missing out.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/591344 2013-07-30T03:12:44Z 2013-10-08T17:27:49Z Learning To Write Code... again

My parents bought us a Tandy 1000 from Radio Shack sometime in my early elementary years. Cassette tape drive. BASIC programming. We had a couple of good books — written for kids, even then — on writing code. I devoured everything we had and started getting bored. Whether we couldn’t afford new learning material, or the material didn’t exist, or we were up against the limits of the Tandy and couldn’t afford to upgrade… I don’t know. I do remember — during that same timeframe — going with Dad to the local Apple dealer to look at Macintoshes. And I remember really wanting one. And I know we didn’t get one. And that really was the end of my fascination with computers for quite a long time.

Then, about a year and a half ago, I decided I needed to learn a code language. Code Academy launched right about that time, with JavaScript as their first offering. I jumped in and started working through their courses. The exercises were buggy; the support, non-existent. I wasn’t very far along when I decided that particular route to being a genius wasn’t going to cut it. I waffled a bit, realizing that if I was going to make the jump from wire jockey to keyboard monkey, I’d need to start learning at least a single language. I bought a few books… and they’re gathering dust on my shelf.

Fast forward to now: I’m working full-time in something more or less IT-ish (depending on how elitist your definition of IT is), and I’m working with a lot of embedded systems — multifunction printers, to be precise. Sysadmins everywhere love to hate these things, and I can see why. But they’re fascinating creatures, and as it turns out, they’re buggy, poorly supported and insecure. Over the last few weeks, I’ve become increasingly interested in the (in)security of these devices, and in the piss-poor implementation of network standards most of them bring to bear. Since our manufacturers alternate between actively sandbagging us and passively avoiding us, I’ve taken it upon myself to start learning how these things work.

And, as it turns out, there are a couple of languages that get used pretty heavily by security and network types when they’re poking at embedded devices: Perl and Python. Old School, New School. I can hear @doctorlinguist shuddering from here, I’m certain of it. But now something has my interest; it has a real use case, a real problem to solve; and it has legs. Perl and Python are both marketable.

So I mentioned to the .NET code monkey who works behind me that I was thinking about picking up Python for Kids, and he says, “RURPLE!” ‘scuse me? “Rurple! Like purple, with an R! Check it out, man!” Off to the internets with ye…

And so I found rur-ple. It’s meant for kids. And that’s totally okay with me. I’m starting with Python, and I’ll go from there. Perl and Ruby are on the list, too, though. And Java. I know — problem factory, right?

But here’s the thing: Java gets used in a lot of embedded devices. And whether we like it on the web or not, it’s not going away any time soon. So. I’m moving forward.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/589833 2013-07-20T19:57:12Z 2016-03-02T21:36:01Z Pondering the Value of Work

I’ve been mulling these ideas for some time. I’ve also had Mike Rowe’s YouTube video in my Pocket queue for at least a few months. Today I finally got around to working through my backlog of to-watch items, and after hearing what Rowe had to say, I decided it was time to write. I’ll warn you that much of this is shot from the hip; spit and polish aren’t on the agenda here.

I am an electrician. I worked for more than 10 years in the trade, and while I maintain my master’s license, I’m happy to say I no longer work in that world, having moved into an IT-related business after working for several years to develop skills relevant in that market.

My thoughts will take some explaining, so bear with me. I took a great deal of pride in my work, and I still respect a good many of the men and women I worked around. Mike Rowe is different from many who riff on this theme (I’m looking at you, Marco) in that he’s chosen to expose himself to the world of skilled labor. And I don’t disagree with his assessment that America has a “dysfunctional relationship with work”. But Mike — and many others — miss a fundamental reason for the so-called “skills gap”, and it’s neither laziness nor disrespect. It’s economics.

I’ve never met a single tradesman — out of hundreds of turd-herders, sparkys and duct-beaters — who makes “60, 70, 80 thousand dollars a year”, as Rowe says is possible. To be fair, I am a non-union electrician and most of my work has been around non-union tradesmen. There is, at first glance, a significant difference in the hourly wage + benefit combination offered a union electrician. Look more closely at the long-term, though, and you’ll see the reality is less rosy. Long layoffs are the great equalizer.

Tradesmen spend months at a time out of work. So while a journeyman electrician might make $20/hr., his effective wage over the long haul is likely to be between 50% - 60% of that. For those of you who aren’t very good at math, that works out to ~$20k - $25k/yr, with insurance benefits that are laughable, no retirement or 401k. And all this for a job that is physically demanding, mentally challenging, and not a little dangerous.

It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that companies have a hard time hiring “skilled labor”. What about manufacturing jobs? Now, I’ve never worked in manufacturing, but let’s take off the rose-colored glasses, shall we? Unions, for better or worse, are losing traction in all job markets. Without Big Labor behind you, the wage/benefit equation tilts in favor of the employer. With Big Labor behind you, you’ve more or less signed yourself up to be first on the list for downsizing. Repetitive work in a challenging environment for not much in the way of long-term stability? That’s not very enticing, now, is it?

You say you can’t hire skilled laborers? Raise wages and benefits. Make those jobs more attractive to smart people. Throw aside the elitist presumption that people don’t do hard work because they don’t respect it. Supply and demand, people. Or as George H. W. Bush once said, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400613 2012-12-31T15:05:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:07Z Project Nuke and Pave

As I alluded to in this post, I'll be closing my Twitter accounts. I'll start the process today by unfollowing everyone — nothing personal, you know — and making both accounts private. I'll then request my accounts be deactivated. Judging from what I've seen from some other folks, that may take awhile.

You'll be able to find me posting regularly here, and — for the time being — I'll still be blogging on this site.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400624 2012-12-17T20:41:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:07Z upcoming changes — roadmap and rationale

Over the coming months, I plan to make a number of changes to the way my family and I connect with the world. The first change will be to our email server. Last spring, we quit using our Google accounts for anything except access to Google’s Android application store. I moved all our email, contacts and calendar to a server “in the cloud” that I administer myself. That’s been a successful experiment, and I’m ready to move it into the next phase: Bringing that server down out of cloud and under my physical control at home. It’ll save us a few dollars, too, and that’s always welcome.

In addition to bringing the mailserver home, I will be merging my online personae. For a number of years, I’ve maintained a public/private persona split. I’ll begin bringing those together in coming weeks, and eventually all of my email and blogging will move to The Melton Plantation. That merge is as much about consistency and values as it is about simplicity. It’s time everyone who finds me online sees the same picture, for better or worse. I’ll also be closing down Kristina’s eponymous site, moving her email and blog to The Melton Plantation.

These moves will, among other things, allow me to continue teaching myself a few new things. I like server administration, and this is going to be a good stretch for me in that respect. I have no experience in building, launching or maintaining personal websites, and I plan to move our blogs off free hosted services (Tumblr and Posterous) to self-hosted solutions. This will give me an opportunity to work with a number of different blogging platforms. My reasoning for consolidating our domains, then, is in part to keep the task manageable. It will also save us some money. Just as I don’t need compartmentalized sharing, having come to realize it’s inconsistent with my other values; I don’t need vanity link-shortening. And so the five domains we now own will point to one for a time, after which four of them will revert to ownership by others.

At the same time, I’ll be closing my Twitter accounts, moving to an account at App.net. There are few people with whom I regularly interact only on Twitter, and all of you know how to find me elsewhere. I’ll not go into great detail here about that change. That may best be served by a post of its own, but those of you who know something about my philosophies on technology, privacy and the internet won’t need much of an explanation. The rest of you will be utterly and irreparably confused. [waves at Mom] There are precious few of my close friends and acquaintances who both understand and agree with my positions, so I’ll not waste our time pontificating. My App.net username will likely be changing during this transition, as well, but I doubt that will matter to many of you. If you want to find me there, suffice it to say it’ll be linked from my blog. Kristina will, as far as I know, be keeping her Facebook and Twitter accounts live.

I also expect I’ll be implementing significant changes to my mobile connectivity over the coming months. Once the transition is complete, I won’t be checking email, IM or whatever-else while I’m out, and I probably won’t respond to text messages. That will most likely mean you’ll need to pick up the phone, dial my number, and talk to me live if you want to get in touch with me right away. I’m out of contract on our cellphone plan, so it’s a good time for me to consider other options. I don’t need constant connectivity; I probably never did. In fact, I’m not convinced it’s healthy for any of us, but that’s another rabbit trail I won’t chase just yet. I’ve talked about moving to a no-contract pay-as-you-go service with a top-end smartphone — and I may yet do that — but it’s looking less likely by the day. It would be simpler, of course, if I kept the phone number I’ve had for nearly 11 years. But that has its own philosophical and practical implications. So my number is likely to also change as part of this process. In fact, I may eventually take a cue from a friend on App.net, and eschew myself of a mobile phone altogether, in favor of a portable HAM radio. I recognize many of the limitations and complications of taking a step like that, and I understand there are probably issues I’ve yet to consider, so it’s not a move I’ll make lightly. Kristina will — again, as far as I know — be keeping her mobile phone and number. As with the internet-based changes, my motivations here orbit primarily around simplicity and economics. There are deeper philosophical motivations, perhaps, but those aren’t well-formed enough to yet be put into words, so I’ll leave them for now to percolate.

I’m still mapping out some of this in my head, and since a good bit of this is new territory, I’ll be taking it slowly. It may be an ugly, frustrating process, during which I expect to curse a great deal, either publicly or privately. So it is with new endeavors, valuable as they may be. I’m posting this everywhere in hopes that no one will worry or get left behind. I may take as little as three months to get all the server work done, but I’d say it’s more likely to take me six. The unused domains will probably (hopefully?) redirect until November-ish, when they’ll revert to other owners. The Posterous and Tumblr blogs may stay live through the end of 2013, solely to point stragglers to the new site. We’ll see. Any phone transition will happen over a relatively short period of time, and is more likely to be sooner than later. Since I don’t yet have an amateur radio license, any moves I’d make to HAM will take somewhat longer.

As always, you’re welcome to ask questions. I may not answer them at all, or to your satisfaction. Such is life.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400625 2012-11-27T00:18:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:07Z Caveat Emptor: The Real Condition of Medical Care in America

Kristina's been sick, and we've gotten an inside look at some of the ugly inefficiency and dysfunction inherent to the medical establishment in America: An initial incorrect diagnosis that's caused irreparable harm, foot-dragging insurance companies, a primary care physician who is as new to this condition as we are, nurses who think they're smarter than doctors, a specialist who's tried scare tactics and manipulation to get us to do something that wasn't medically necessary, and another specialist -- maybe the only one we trust -- who's four hours away. Tonight we learned that the hospital screwed up the last procedure they did on Kristina, rendering its results useless, and wasting the last ten precious days.

I'm furious, of course. And if you know me, you'll also know that I've been doing a lot of thinking about our medical system. One thing almost everyone agrees upon is that the U.S. healthcare system is dysfunctional. We have a great number of dedicated, skilled medical professionals. We also have a few bad ones. And while the good vastly outnumber the bad, the system within which they all work is broken.

Patients and their families are increasingly left to fend for themselves in a profit-driven, increasingly competitive business. Patient care isn't the driver in this business. Money is. We're fortunate, in that Kristina has health insurance and an advocate who makes up with tenacity what he lacks in skill.

But what happens to the poor, or to those with no close-at-hand advocates? The poor are largely uninsured to begin with, so their financial prospects are dire from the outset of any serious medical issue. They're also largely not as well-educated and well-resourced as we are. They may not recognize poor care when they see it, and they may have a difficult time leveraging the all too frequently encountered reticent and embittered lower-level providers to their advantage.

There are no easy answers to these problems. Most of you won't ever have to deal with the kinds of cascading failures we've seen in the last five weeks. But don't let the fact that you haven't fool you into thinking our medical system's dysfunctions mustn't be addressed sooner, rather than later.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400627 2012-11-07T21:32:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:07Z "Social"... Really?

I post this knowing full well that some who read this may misinterpret my motive. I won't lie and tell you that Kristina's health problems weren't grist for the mill. But let me assure you that this is not some passive-aggressive dig at specific people whom I feel to be lax in their engagement in my family's ordeals. We're getting loved on a lot. Probably by more people than we realize, if the truth be told.

Now that the sure-to-be-ignored disclaimer is out of the way…

Over the last few weeks, I began to notice a marked difference in the number and quality of interactions on one so-called social network compared to another. And I realized some of these networks really aren't social. They're branding engines, broadcast networks. But — at least in my experience — they're not social.

I'm not naming any names, and I'm not calling anyone out. My data is more anecdotal than scientific. But the fact is that I've had more and better interactions with total strangers on one network in the last two weeks than I have had with people on another who live in the same area code.

I bet that happens a lot. In fact, I bet I've been guilty of it myself.

Now it's time for some brutal honesty:

  • If your feed is so full that you don't actually interact with the people there, it's too full.
  • If your life is so busy that you don't have time to engage with others, you're too busy.

I think it's Bob Goff who says — and I'll have to paraphrase — that life happens at the margins of your calendar. If you don't leave some room at the edges, you can't really tap in and get rowdy.

Tomorrow's Thursday. Bob usually encourages folks to find something to quit on Thursdays, to make a little room for love to go and do something.

Think about it.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400630 2012-10-08T16:07:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:07Z the truth of art and science, inseparable

There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart. The first of these is science, and the second is art. Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other. Without art science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Without science art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery. The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.

"Great Thought" (19 February 1938), published in The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler (1976)

I'm sure someone will note that Mr. Chandler missed the kind of truth that starts with a capital T, the kind embodied in the Word made flesh — and they'll be right to do so — but mostly I don't want to miss the lower-case-tee truth of what he says here.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400643 2012-10-02T16:17:44Z 2013-10-08T16:48:07Z give. quietly.

Lots more folks are talking these days about justice, giving, service, missional living. That's a good thing, in my book. I'm grateful for the power of the networks we wield in service of our King, and for the increasing number of people whose hearts are breaking for the things that break His.

There's this, though:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

- Matthew 6:1-4 (NIV)

Jesus wasn't worried about His platform. He told the demons He cast out not to reveal who He is.

We the dreamers, we the world-changers, we need to look carefully, humbly, into the dark places of our hearts. We need to ask the King we serve to root out of us any of that Pharisaical nonsense we find so appalling in others.

And there's this:

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…"

- Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)

Give. Quietly.

Call others to serve. Humbly.

Hold these commands in holy tension with me. It will require us to rest in grace.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400655 2012-09-28T16:57:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z The Bride of Christ as Hot Mess

Douglas Wilson, bringin' the heat.

...we need to come to grips with the fact that in North America, the bride of Christ is a hot mess.


...if the Spirit didn't actually do anything, then our systematic theologies are nothing but printed kits for organizing smoke.

*shifts uncomfortably in seat*

In the meantime, we do not need for the bishop to process up the central aisle, like the biggest crow in the gutter. We do not need another message from Doctrine Man, with ten rivets in each subpoint. We do not need the worship leader to take us through yet one more orgasmic chord progression. We don't need a doctrine of responsible stewardship and sustainability that worries more about how many times we flush than how many babies we kill. We do not need any more cardboard cut-out celebrity pastors, grinning at us, as smug as all dammit. In short, we don't need any more of what we currently have. A.W. Tozer once cuttingly observed that if revival means more of what we have now, we most emphatically do not need a revival.


The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400659 2012-09-18T19:05:05Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z out of the hinterlands

One often finds in epic literature the hero who must trek through wilderness on his way to conquest and glory. Jason. Ulysses. Bilbo, Frodo and Sam*. When they set out on their journeys, none of them knew what besides adventure lay ahead. The wilds of their respective worlds were nothing more than incidental obstacles.


“Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

John the Baptist, paraphrasing Isaiah


I read these words as a sophomore in college and I knew—in that soul-deep kind of knowing—that in them I would find who God made me to be. It was that knowledge that drove me to seek understanding on a spiritual walkabout of my own.

My own wanderings in the hinterlands were not, I think, a banishment for sin, like the ancient Hebrews experienced. Neither do I think I was sent out to be tempted like the Christ. I set off—much like those men and hobbits did—with a spring in my step, uncertain of my own ability, but rightly knowing it takes courage to plumb the depths of the soul in search of God. I was undoubtedly immature and naïve. It all seemed so romantic at the time.

Now I’m just tired. I’m ready to walk out of the wilderness and into a season of rest. And so it was with Joshua and the Israelites, the weeping prophet Jeremiah, and all the heroes of our favorite epic literature.


“I wish I was at home in my nice home by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing!” It was not the last time that he wished that!

-  Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien


I was thinking about all of this yesterday when I realized something: I have misunderstood the purpose of wilderness wandering. My wandering has not been any more incidental than it was for the great heroes of literature. They found no rest when they walked out of the wilderness. They were weary, battered, hungry and cold…and they were in for the fight of their lives.



What makes each of these characters heroes is that they each saw their journey through to the end. And so shall I. The author and perfecter of our faith finished writing this story a long time ago, and He is relentless in His desire to see each character in it through to the very end. The best stories never end quite like we expect them to do, and I am certain that this story we're now in is the best of them all.




* I feel certain that some of you just spewed a bit of coffee or lunch on your iDevice. The Lord of The Rings may not yet rank in the pantheon, but I think in time we will find Tolkien's magnum opus there alongside the great Greeks. Also, I hope you will grant license to the one who humbly finds the meaning of his own story in the stories of these great heroes of old.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400661 2012-09-16T17:39:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z reflecting on buried talents

If you've followed me for any length of time, you know that I've been wrestling for a long time with discovering my vocation. I've bounced all over the place, grasping at one idea after another, all of them ultimately dead ends.

I still don't know what my niche in God's Kingdom work is, but for the first time I'm able to admit that I've been looking in the wrong places for the answer. All of the half-cocked shots and aborted missions have been my ideas, rooted in immaturity.

I won't go into autobiographical detail about how I came to be where I am. This process goes back longer than just about anyone who reads this has known me. The takeaway is that God has been at work under and behind and through and above my immaturity. He has used a long season in the wilderness to bring me to an understanding of my own selfishness, my own laziness and fear. He has faithully lead me closer to Himself by allowing me to fail, by blocking the way forward I've chosen for myself.

The conviction has been growing in me that it is time for me to engage my talents in greater measure with the work of the Kingdom. Last night at Mosaic, Schatzman was teaching from Matthew 13. While Mark was talking about the parable of the pearl, God was hammering home to me His point from the parable of the talents (Matthew 25.14-30, below; see also, Luke 19.12-27).

Parable of the Talents

14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.

15 “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.

16 “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.

17 “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.

18 “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.

20 “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’

21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’

23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.

25 ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’

26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.

27 ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.

28 ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’

29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.

30 “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

It's really hard to read this and see myself in it. In my brokenness and immaturity, I've chosen not to use the best part of the gifts He gave me. I can't say that it was because I knew Him "to be a hard man"…but I can't say it wasn't, either.

And right now, it doesn't matter why I buried the talents He gave me to invest (or as in the parallel passage in Luke, covered them with a handkerchief). What matters is what I do next.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400663 2012-09-15T19:40:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z literary gumbo

I've been reading a lot lately, and have collected a few quotes I've been meaning to share. It's messy and disorganized to lump them all together. There's no thread running through them that is immediately apparent to me. But I feel like I need to clear out my mental queue, so here you go:



…their resentment and anger exhibited their own bigotry: they looked down their nose at people who looked down their nose at people!

Tim Keller, Ministries of Mercy

I'm ashamed to say I'm just now beginning to see this particular sin of pride in my own life. If I deem someone to be inadequately pious in practice, I'm likely to start hucking stones at them. No wonder I have such a hard time getting through to people.

I've tweeted quotes from MoM several times. It's more practical than inspirational, so it's taken me several months to wade through. I appreciate the effort Keller takes to show the Scriptural case for undertaking ministries of mercy in the church; he loses me, though, when he gets into the nuts and bolts at the end of the book. Since the book was published in the mid-80's, I'd be curious to hear if Keller's perspective on any of those methods has changed.

Reading the book did help me realize something about my theology, though:

Mercy ministries are the mode and the means for both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

To be clear, those are not Keller's words but mine. They make up an as yet unchallenged and unsupported bit of personal theology, as evidenced by my actions, and may not be all that well-written to boot. I may yet decide they're not Scriptural. The idea, though, has certainly been foundational to the way I've seen the world. It's also been a point on which I've been known to be quite judgmental, as the first Keller quote reveals.

All five of my readers are welcome to comment if inclined.




Latin, "Christ, the only King", behind the title page in The Seven Storey Mountain, by Thomas Merton. This may very well get worked into my next tattoo.



On the last day of January 1915, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in a year of a great war, and down in the shadow of some French mountains on the borders of Spain, I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God and yet hating Him; born to love Him, living instead in fear and hopeless self-contradictory hungers.

Merton, ibid.

The opening lines of Seven Storey Mountain. One of the best literary openings I've read, I think. Meaty. Captivating.



The devil is no fool. He can get people feeling about heaven the way they ought to feel about hell. He can make them fear the means of grace the way they do not fear sin. And he does so, not by light but by obscurity, not by realities but by shadows, not by clarity and substance but by dreams and the creatures of psychosis. And men are so poor in intellect that a few cold chills down their spine will be enough to keep them from ever finding the truth out about anything.

Merton, ibid.

Merton's been talking in a sort of detached way about the deep-seated fear of Catholicism held by his grandfather who raised him. Then this. Right to the heart of the matter. Just my kind of thing. Look no further than our current political process to see this worked out before your very eyes.

I've just started it, but I think I can recommend Merton's "autobiography of faith" to those of you who haven't read it. Thanks again, Matt, for suggesting it.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400665 2012-09-12T14:02:44Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z Revealed

Only sin
And glory,
And not yet,

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400667 2012-09-11T13:04:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z Numquam Oblivisce

Our Lady of Empassioned Unity ascended
From the ash and rubble of the Towers of Babel.
Resplendent, bloated from feasting on the fortunes
Of reasonable folk, eleven years gone by now,
She need not pursue them.
A certain devotion brings them to her Temple,
neverforget on their lips as they finger
The prayer beads of their forgotten prosperity.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400673 2012-08-08T19:08:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z Lord, have mercy.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400674 2012-07-30T18:06:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z 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.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400675 2012-06-19T16:38:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z Video: What if doctors could prescribe healthy food and safe housing? [TEDMed]

The 15 minutes you'll spend watching this TED talk won't be wasted. A quote from the talk:

Healthcare: A system where doctors can prescribe solutions to improve health, not just manage disease.


The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400676 2012-06-13T18:26:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z Jean Vanier on weakness

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400677 2012-05-22T13:59:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z 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. :-)

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400681 2012-05-08T22:27:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z 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.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400684 2012-05-02T21:39:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z 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.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400687 2012-04-27T19:09:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:08Z 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.

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400609 2012-04-26T21:06:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:07Z 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

The Meltons
tag:jeff.themeltonplantation.com,2013:Post/400611 2012-04-02T18:43:00Z 2013-10-08T16:48:07Z 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 kristinamelton.com).

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.

The Meltons