Yearly Archives

28 Articles

Layman's Walk

Yep, I’m still here!

Posted on


It’s been a while since I’ve posted. April was a long month, but a great one. We took a trip with our kids and some friends and celebrated Holy Week and Easter.

This past weekend, I completed the first major step in becoming a certified Dale Carnegie trainer, and quite a lot of time went into that as well.

If you’re not familiar with Dale Carnegie Training, it’s a program that focuses on improving people’s lives though the application of human relations principles, methods to handle stress and worry, and leadership training. This little blurb fails to truly do it any justice; a quick Internet search would yield better information.

Now that things have calmed down a bit, you can expect to see more reflections here.


Layman's Walk

God Is Love (Part 2)

Posted on

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.  — (excerpt from) 1 Corinthians 13


In my previous post (God is Love – Part 1), I discussed what Christianity is not.  Having clarified what it isn’t, let’s look at what it actually is.

Quite simply put, Christianity is about love:  Unconditional, never surrendering, unending love.

The core of the faith is a belief in a creating and loving God, who demonstrated to God’s creation God’s love by becoming like one of the created in the person of Christ Jesus, serving and loving humanity, understanding them, experiencing life as one of them, and being willing to die a horrible and humiliating death, all while still expressing God’s love for all God’s creation.

I understand that last paragraph is a lot to unpack, and probably raises as many questions as it answers.  Questions like:

  • Why was God’s creation imperfect?
  • If God really loved his creation (and all people), why do so many terrible things happen in the Old Testament–particularly all those terribly violent things, and things that are completely contrary to what is in the New Testament (Jesus’ Gospel)?
  • If God is really all-powerful, did God really need to “die” to “save” humanity?
  • How is the story of Jesus Christ’s gruesome death a “love story?”

All of these, and others you may have, are completely legitimate questions.  Frankly, they are all significant enough to merit their own article for discussion–because they are big, legitimate, and complicated questions.  (Now I know what my next several posts will discuss…)

But the bottom line is:  Christianity is LOVE:  Love for God, Love for Others, and Love for God’s Creation.  As Christians, we are called to love all of these and nothing more.  No hate; no judgement; only to love.  After an Old Testament (that makes up most of what Christians refer to as the bible) that is full of failed human attempts at righteousness, goodness, and purity, God realized we needed more than just “rules to follow that we can never satisfy.”  That was the mission of Christ–to show that while we were imperfect people (sinners–i.e. people who do what we want, when we want, for our own selfish reasons), God still loved us without end.

As Christians, we are called to LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS as we love ourselves. You’ve probably heard this called the “Golden Rule,” and it is.  In Christianity this is also referred to as the “Greatest Commandment.”  That’s right, it’s more important than the Ten Commandments.  It doesn’t negate them, but it is superior.

Christianity is about showing love to all the world in the same way Christ did:  Selflessly, without judgement, without condition, without anyone deserving his help or love, without being loved in return, and even when that love is returned with hate, or maybe even worse–with indifference.

The New Testament is full of stories that reflect this.  Jesus heals ten lepers, yet only one even bothers to thank him.  Jesus heals countless others–none of whom have done anything to “deserve” his help.  But he helps them nonetheless.

Even while dying on his cross, Jesus prays for forgiveness for those who are murdering him.  Jesus does not pray damnation on those who have beat him, humiliated him, and who are ultimately killing them. In LOVE he prays for their salvation.

It is this love that Christians are called to–and when we fail to demonstrate it, we fail to send Christ’s message to the world.

Who among us (myself included) would be willing to continue using our own strength to make the lives of others better when there is no thanks?  Who of us would be willing to immediately forgive (let along pray for) someone who beat us, or abused us, let alone was going to kill us?

This is exactly the love that Jesus demonstrates.

So when you want to know what Christianity is, know that it is believing is God’s unrelenting love for creation–and in a Christians’ recognition of that love, we want to share that love with all who will listen, all who will hear, and all who seek to fill the void in their lives that only an amazing love can fill.

And when you see a professed Christian doing anything otherwise, know that their actions are not “Christian.”  But also know, that every single Christian you meet is every bit as undeserving, as imperfect, and as sinful as any other person who has ever lived.  Christians are NOT perfect and they are NOT better than anyone else.

We are only called to love as Jesus loves.  And we still screw that up.  But when we do, we try again.

And that’s Christianity in a nutshell.








Layman's Walk

God Is Love (Part 1)

Posted on

“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  1 John 4:8

In post-modern America, “Christianity” has earned itself a pretty mixed reputation.  Granted, people who identify as “Christian” have a relatively positive view of the faith, its teachings, and its followers, but there are major segments of society which have the opposite view.

And I don’t blame them.  There are plenty of good, legitimate reasons that people have no regard for (or even outright hate) “Christianity.”

You’ll notice that to this point, I have only referenced the faith in quotation marks.  The reason for this is simple:  Much of what masquerades as “Christianity,” particularly in the United States, is anything but Christ-like.

In the New Testament, there are many warnings about “false prophets (teachers)” who will corrupt the message of Jesus and us it for their own means and benefit.

This may come as a surprise, but Christianity in America has become infested with these false teachings.  The corruption that lies at the root of these falsehoods is largely the reason that so many people look at Christians and Christianity and say, “No thanks,” or even, “Hell, no!”

As we move further into this discussion, there are a few things I want to make sure are clear to the reader:

  1. I’m just a human, too, and thus I am no better or worse than anyone else.  Period.
  2. Just because I say something is not Christian does not mean that that concept or philosophy is wrong–but it does mean it is misattributed to Christianity.
  3. I am and will always be learning more and growing in my faith–I claim not to have answers that are absolute–but I do have plenty of support for these statements.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s talk at a basic level about what Christianity is not (part 1) and what it actually is (part 2).

Christianity is NOT about “Us” versus “Them” or “the Good people” versus “the Bad people.”

If you have ever been made to think this is a Christian belief or idea, let me apologize to you on behalf of all Christians.  This is one of the biggest corruptions of the faith and it is inherently human.  For millennia, humanity has divided itself into segments, groups, and categories to describe itself and this has too often led to fights between the “us” and the “them.”  Christ’s teachings and others in the New Testament actually profess that we are ALL both “good” and “bad” at the same time. No person is just “good” and no person is just “bad.”  All people have elements of both–Christian or otherwise.

Christianity is NOT about following all the “Rules.”

Two key points here:

  1. Christianity is more about how we are completely incapable of following the rules to meet God’s standard that he sent Christ to both demonstrate how it was done and to demonstrate how much God loves us despite our ability to do what we should.
  2. Christ Himself was a HUGE rule-breaker!  It should be noted, his rule-breaking was to make life better for others, not just for the sake of being a rebel.  Still, he rebelled against the establishment’s arbitrary laws were either nonsense or oppressive.

Having said that, I’m not advocating you go out and do a bunch of stupid/wrong/mean stuff.  Just know that your screwups are understood and forgiven.  And more importantly, God’s love for you doesn’t vary with how “good” you are.  It’s consistent, constant, and unchanging.

Christianity is not about all the “Good Things You Do.”  (But you should do good things.)

Christians do NOT do good things in order to earn salvation.  We do them because in the joy of knowing we are saved in Christ we want to do good things for others and share Christ’s love with the world.  If you’re doing good things (or abstaining for bad things) in order to be “OK” with God, you’re missing the point.  There’s nothing you can do that will put you in better or worse with God.  No one is worthy; only through Christ are we made righteous.

Christianity is NOT about Nationalism or Patriotism.

Again, I’ll restate–having pride for our/your country is not in of itself a bad thing.  A healthy dose of patriotism is good; it’s very important to support our men and women in uniform who are both sacrificing and performing a very important service.  Do not interpret this as “anti-American” or “anti-troops.”  It’s just not a Christian characteristic–it’s an American (or whatever country you live in) characteristic.  Don’t confuse national pride and Christ’s Gospel.  And it’s easy to–we Americans love songs like “God Bless America” and “God Bless the USA.”  No worries there–it’s perfectly OK and appropriate to pray God’s blessing on our democratic experiment and those who protect it.  But don’t confuse national pride and prayer for its continuation for Christianity.  There is not a “nationalism” or “patriotism” requirement in Christianity.  If anything–the only national/patriotic pride professed by Christ is in that of His Kingdom–not of any kingdom or nation here on earth.  In fact, he rebelled against both the religious and political establishment to such an extent that they executed him as a criminal.


In my next post (Part 2), I’ll discuss what Christianity IS.  But before doing that, I think it was important to clarify what it is not……because often the people who are shouting the loudest (those who are heard on TV/radio/televangelists/extremists) are doing Christ’s Gospel (and humanity) a terrible disservice.





Layman's Walk

At the Edge of a Dream

Posted on

I was in a void–neither bright nor dark.

I saw a desk much like the one in the room where I was staying.  A key was on the desktop.  I picked it up and used it to open the bottom drawer.  In the drawer, I found a black leather-bound book.  I picked it up and as I went to set it on the desk, it fell open near the midway point.

I looked and saw something beginning to sprout from the book’s gutter.  It continued to grow–slowly, then faster and faster–until it had become a massive tree that had overtaken the book and the desk.  It was larger and taller than any tree I had seen.

Staring up into the canopy, a nut of some sort fell to the ground and broke open  I looked inside of what seemed similar to a walnut, and there were three pieces.  As I looked at each of them, I knew immediately what each represented.

The first piece represented the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a message of love and compassion for all people.  This is the message I am compelled to live and share.

The second piece represented the fight for social justice and equality–that in all things I must not only seek to do no harm but also to make things right where there is wrong–to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly” as instructed in Micah 6:8.

The third piece represented an open mind and humble heart.  It reminders me to be open to the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of others.  While I may not always agree with them either at first or at all, it is important to listen with openness and humility. As a human, I certainly will never know everything, my logic and opinions will be flawed, and I’m prone to mistakes and my own selfish tendencies.

As I looked away from the nut and back to the tree, it was etched into my mind that if I were to base my life and ministry on these three core concepts, it would be a healthy and helpful one.

Layman's Walk

“Cry a Little; Laugh a Lot.”

Posted on

These were the words a man spoke to his niece regarding how they should approach his death, which would occur before the end of the following day.

This is a phrase that has been burned into my brain; I hope I retain the ability to state this during my own final days.

Earlier this week, I had the honor of presiding over a funeral service–my third in total, and my first for a person who was not a family member.

Even in a time of true, sincere grief, the spirit I witnessed in the departed’s wife, family, and friends, was simply awe-inspiring.

I delivered a message that highlighted some of the events of this man’s life–specifically those that involved his wife, family, and friends. Then I continued to discuss God’s plan of salvation for all people. It was a message meant to soothe the hearts of those who were grieving; for them to know their loved one was in the care of God –safe, secure, and no longer in pain or facing any of the trials of this live.

While a message like this is meant to help people feel confident in the state of their lost loved one, I learned a lesson that I believe is equally important for those who remain in this life after the passing of a treasured person.

This man and his widow had developed, over the year,s such rich and wonderful relationships within their own families and friends, that there was a small army of people who could both simultaneously grief their dear loved one and who could also be the support, strength, and shoulder to cry on that was also needed for one another.

Even with the strongest faith in the live everlasting that is promised through Christ, it still hurts terribly when a loved one is lost from this world.

But together, this tightly knit group of people were able to do exactly as they had been instructed: they cried a little at a loved one’s passing–but they also laughed a lot at the memories created, the love shared, and the rich and wonderful relationships they all shared.

May you be so fortunate as to have those relationships with the family and friends who surround you, that when a loved one leaves this world for the next, you too may receive not only the comfort that comes only from God, but that which comes in the warm hug of a friend, the recalling of a treasured story, or a toast to great memories made here on earth.


Layman's Walk

Guilt and Grace

Posted on

I read a post on Facebook the other day that said something to this extent:

“The forgiveness that is given to others is also for me; I need to accept it.”

Over the last few days, I’ve wholeheartedly embraced this idea–not because of some big bad thing I’d recently done, but because of all of my seemingly minor failures that have accumulated into a large mass that I continually carry around with me.

Some examples:

  • Harshly judging others with whom I disagree.
  • Writing off the legitimate concerns of others in favor of those which benefit me.
  • Being intensely jealous of other people’s circumstances.
  • Swearing, cursing, and the like.
  • Neglecting the needs of my wife and kids.
  • Not being the role model I want to be for my family.
  • Delivering work of inferior quality because I’m lazy or just “don’t feel like doing it.”
  • Neglecting my daily devotions.
  • Snapping and speaking harshly to others with the excuse that I’m in a “bad mood.”
  • Being less than a good steward with the gifts (money, time, talent) I’ve been given.

The list goes on…

A person might look at this list and think, “Hey, no big deal.  Everyone does this stuff.”  And it’s true.  I know everyone screws up–it’s in our nature.  But lately, I have felt like the screw-ups have piled-up.

This morning, I remembered the statement above–that the forgiveness that God offers freely to everyone includes me, too!

Maybe it’s because I’m “in my own head” 24-7 or maybe it’s because I’m the only person who truly knows all my actions and understands my motives that I overlook this important concept.  But whatever the cause of it, I overcame it this morning with the help of God.

Remember, God loves everyone and will forgive anyone.

Including you.

And even me.




Layman's Walk

Getting Your Ash in Church Reminds You of What Matters

Posted on

Worship this past Wednesday night helped me remember what’s really important, and what is not.

This past Wednesday was “Ash Wednesday,” which marks the beginning of the season of Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday).

It’s possible you noticed some people walking around with greyish-black markings on their foreheads shaped roughly like a plus sign (+).

This is a practice in Christianity (in particular, for Catholics, Lutherans, and Orthodox denominations, but some others practice this as well).

As you kneel, the pastor makes the sign of Christ’s cross on your forehead with ashes while saying, “Remember you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.”

It serves as a reminder that our existence is of God’s doing and of our own ultimate mortality–that just as we were made of the “dust” (or molecules, atoms, elements, the matter of the universe), our bodies will ultimately return to that “dust” after our deaths.

On its face, this may sound somewhat morbid or considered a downer, but it’s more than that.

As we look forward though the next 40 days, it concludes with Christ’s death on a cross, and his resurrection three days later.

As we consider our own mortality, we are reminded that God loves us enough to come into our midst, freely give a love to us which we do not deserve, and to suffer a terrible human death.

We also remember that God raised Jesus from the dead and that in faith, God has promised to do the same for humanity.

In the Ash Wednesday Gospel lesson, we are reminded to “store up treasures in heaven” rather than on earth. This means to put others needs ahead of our own gain, to be charitable, loving, forgiving and selfless. We are also reminded not to brag about the good we do or to call attention to ourselves. The good we do for others isn’t about us and how “good” we are, it’s about sharing God’s love with others as God has with us.

As we move through the season of Lent, remember your mortality–that to dust you will return. We remember this as we prioritize our lives. We remember this when we interact with other people. We remember the call to put others ahead of ourselves.

Often, Christians will “give something up for Lent.”  Many times, people will abstain from something as a practice in self-sacrifice and discipline.  You may be familiar with people giving up things like chocolate, lunches out, or alcohol.

But if you’re looking to both “give something up” and to improve the lives of others, we are encouraged to give more.  This could be an increase in your giving to a charitable organization or volunteering your time to a good cause.

Remember that at the end of Lent, we mourn the death of Christ as we mourn those of our loved ones and consider our own. But we also celebrate the resurrection of Christ and remember in faith God’s promise of the same for our loved ones and for us.


Layman's Walk

The Joy of Games with Kids

Posted on

Yesterday, my oldest daughter was at a youth group event for the night (Be Like Jesus).

Once the littler kids were put to bed, my oldest son saw the opportunity to play a game with Mom and Dad!

If you know me, you’d know I’m a gamer.  I love video games, board games, card games, serious games, leisurely games–basically all games.

Isaac decided he wanted to play “Beat the Parents,” a trivia game that puts (as you have probably deduced) the kids against the parents.

Since Kari and I were taking on only one kid, we had two pawns to move across the board while our son only had one.

What does this story have to do with anything?

So glad you asked!

In Matthew 19:30, Jesus says, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Now, in full disclosure,. I know that the application of this verse that I’m going to use is at best a stretch and at worst, a joke.  However, I think the concept helps us to reconcile a concept we have difficulty understanding: aparrent paradoxes in scripture.

My wife and I are both competitive when it comes to games and our children are no different.  

We arguably could have beaten our son in the game we were playing, but he does the normally win. (You read the part about our being very competitive, right?)

But last night, he was within reach of victory, so we gave a few extra hints for his last question and he cinced the win.

If you could have seen how excited he was, you wouldn’t have believed it.

We have played so many games with just him or with him and his sister where he hasn’t been the winner (Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, etc.)

Seeing him celebrate a win, even one that was slightly in his favor, was a joyous occasion that boosted his confidence and made him believe it was possible for him to win. (I’m convinced his biggest obstacle to this point was his thinking he couldn’t ever win.)

And it was this that made me think about Jesus’ statement.  He didn’t say the last would be first and the first would be forgotten.  The last will get the joy of being first, and the first will also receive joy, just after those now before them.

This was how I thought about playing our game. Our son, who could have lost, was made first and Kari and I took a backseat to his victory.  

But at the end of the evening, we all received the same joy we had hoped to receive: a fun time with each other.
Again, I realize this is a distant interpretation of this message.  But if you’re trying to understand that “first is last and last is first” paradox, this might give you some insight.

It helped me.



Layman's Walk

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Posted on

This is good advice I received from a friend several years ago.

And I was reminded this morning to take my own advice.

According to Dale Carnegie, “When you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.”

Well, I was wrong.

This morning I reviewed a Facebook post I had made last night, and after having slept on it, I realized that I had made quite a mistake, and determined that I needed to pull it down.

Mmmm…..who doesn’t love the taste of crow? (I don’t, but this isn’t the first time I’ve eaten it–and God knows it won’t be the last.)

My post was in response to a video I saw of Pat Robertson, a well-known and controversial televangelist, who claimed that the result of the election was “God’s will” and anyone who opposed the administration or its policies were “opposing God.”

I was immediately incensed by this and quickly pecked out a response to the post, which I put on this blog’s Facebook page, describing how God did not determine the election, and thus any resistance to the acts of the administration certainly did not go against God’s will. I compared the election results to the results of the Super Bowl and claimed God had as much of a hand in one as the other, and that God’s level of involvement was none.

I fell for the televangelist’s red-herring, argued the wrong point, and missed the opportunity for something of greater relevance and meaning.

My error was in stating that God had no hand in the election, or frankly, in the Super Bowl. As unlikely as I personally think it is that God directly intervened in either of these, who do I think I am to claim it one way or the other? Do I comprehend the mind and ways of God?

No, I do not. And making a comment that implied I did was not only incorrect but wrong.

And that’s why I get to have the filet of crow special for lunch today.

In hindsight, I should have left the post up and put a response to it, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to get around to writing a coherent response until much later in the day and I did not want anyone else to read it, make the same error that I did, and further share my wrong to others.

I mentioned that I fell for the red-herring and missed the bigger point. Here it is:

It is irrelevant whether God determined the outcome of an election, a game, or any other purpose.

There are things that happen in our world that could be influenced by God, and things that are not. Reading scripture, we see examples of events where God intervened, including in the selection of Israel’s leaders.

I also personally believe that God does not have a direct hand in everything that happens in our world. I don’t believe that a loving God intentionally subjects a child to abuse, a person to cancer, or anything like that. I believe those things occur as a result of creation’s (read: our universe’s) separation from God, but not as God’s direct action.

Having said that, I do believe that God is more than capable of taking those bad things that happen and using them for good.

I’ve heard stories of cancer patients finding themselves being closer to their families, being more loving people, and truly appreciating life at a level they had never experienced prior to their diagnosis.

I’ve read accounts of people who have been through terrible abuse and affliction, who emerged on the other side as stronger, more powerful people who have become role models and activists who help others.

In the case of the televangelist’s claim, I cannot say whether the result of the election or any event is influenced by God’s hand.

But what I do feel confident in claiming is that God can use the circumstances that exist in our world for good.

And in the resistance I have witnessed to some of the inhumane and un-Christ-like actions of the current administration, I see that goodness sprouting like a lily from a barren field.

And that’s because God is good, all the time.

I was reminded not to believe everything I think. Sometimes the conclusions we rapidly come to are not the ones we need to come to.

And sometimes, that also applies to our long-held opinions and beliefs as well.

God did bless humanity with the ability for critical thought. We should use it.


Layman's Walk

The Enigma Who Was Alan Turing

Posted on

A few weeks ago, I watched the movie The Imitation Game on Netflix.  It’s the story of Alan Turing, the man who lead a team of Brittish mathematicians who broke the Nazi encryption system known as Enigma.  This group’s work was top secret in the highest degree and the story wasn’t declassified until the 1970s.

I’d definitely recommend you to watch this show–the acting is great. The plot is exciting.  Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Mr. Turing is outstanding.

One thing the movie strikes on, sadly, is how poorly society treated this incredibly gifted and talented hero–because he was gay.  During the World War II era, homosexuality was illegal in Great Brittan and after the way, Mr. Turing was convicted of this “crime” and was forced to undergo chemical castration.  Side effects of the treatment and the torment he faced eventually led Alan to take his own life.

And because his mission was top secret, no one knew of his contributions to the Brittish and the Allied Forces.  No one knew it was he who was responsible for bringing down Enigma.

Great Brittan had persecuted a man that no one realized was a national hero for a wholly unworthy reason.


Pope Francis recently stated that Christians should apologize to gay people and others that the church has historically oppressed.  I hope you were as happy to see this as I was.  Christians owe that apology to any who have been hurt by the church.  It’s exactly the opposite of the church’s mission.  Christians are called to love others, not to condemn them.


But how often do we do similar things to others?  I have often wondered:

“How many wonderful people have I overlooked for reasons that were immaterial, petty, or just plain stupid?”

“How much talent has our society missed out on because we have ostracized people for ‘a good reason?'”

“How much greater could our world be if we were to focus on inclusion and the merits of each individual, rather than excluding that which we see as different or strange?” 

I know I’ve done this myself.  I see it happen in the world around me.  Have I missed out on a rich friendship because I overlooked someone for foolish, petty reasons?  Have people with the potential for greatness been shut out, denied rights or opportunities because he or she were deemed “unfit” by society?


In the 1940’s, the Allies were fortunate to have Alan Turing–a genius ahead of his time–to crack the Nazi Enigma code.  Alan’s work is often given credit to enabling the Allies to shorten the war, save millions of lives, and even to ultimately prevail over Nazi Germany.  (Forbes, NYT ).


The machine he made that broke Enigma became known as the first “Turing Machine.”

Today we call them “computers.”