The first time i lost a sponsor, it was disappointing and a bit discomforting, but i didn’t feel utterly abandoned. I had not wanted to make a change, but his life circumstances demanded that he cut some things out of his schedule. I was shaken a bit, but i understood. i was perching dangerously between my fourth and fifth steps, which, as anyone who has been through the steps can testify, is a considerably difficult time in the process of Recovery, and no easy thing to walk through with a new and somewhat unfamiliar person. But God provided someone who i had gotten to know fairly well, and the transition was fairly seamless, mercifully. My new sponsor walked with me through some very trying times, and helped me get all the way to the end of the steps and even was instrumental in helping me transition into being a sponsor myself. When he, too, was forced to step away from the ministry, the blow was fairly severe. He had been my sponsor for the bulk of my time there, and had become not just a mentor but also a close friend. The absence of his impact on the program and on my life was felt immediately, and to some degree i am still recuperating from that loss personally.

There were really only two people left after that who i would have felt comfortable sponsoring me, at least in our particular ministry. i was just beginning to develop a dialogue with one of them over the last few weeks when he also made the decision to step away from Recovery.

To those of you who are not familiar with the 12 step process, having a sponsor is critical. They are the person who sharpens you, encourages you, prays for you, even slaps you around a bit when you need it. Granted, these things can be found in any true community, but it is true community itself that can be difficult to find. Sure, there are plenty of accountability groups and Bible studies and book clubs and whatnot out there, and certainly edification can be and is accomplished in those environments. But for an addict, there’s something about looking into the eyes of someone who has been exactly where you have been, and seeing all the love and severity of Christ reflected in those eyes, that spurs us on to living faithfully. Without that relationship, those shamelessly fierce and unabashedly forgiving people in my life, i would not be where i am today. So when one by one they are taken from me (and frankly from many other people in the program who are, on some level, even more in need than i), i am forced to wonder at God’s motives for doing this. Three men, two of whom were founders of the program, and all of whom had unparalleled wisdom and insight, all called to leave the program for various reasons.

i have no special insight into the mind of God, but i have my suspicions. At the very least i am fairly sure i know what these circumstances mean for my life. It is true that i gained some valuable encouragement from these men. They were teachers, sounding boards, accountability partners, and men of God. And there is certainly nothing wrong with soaking in the wisdom of those more experienced, unless it begins to be a substitute for developing your own relationship with Christ. i believe God is weaning me off of the crutch of other men, and wants to nourish me Himself. It is rare that i take things to Him first. If i am struggling at work, or in my Recovery, i tend to talk to one of these men, historically, or my wife, or my brother, but very rarely do i just kneel down and spill out my guts to Jesus. i believe this is what he wants from me, from all of us. This is why He came to sacrifice Himself: not chiefly that we might be able to talk about Him to one another, though this is certainly an effect which bleeds over from His purposes, but so that we might be able to talk directly to Him; so that if we needed encouragement we would be able to receive it directly from the One who is All Encouragement. This is what He has called men to experience, and the very thing to which He is now calling me.

A similar theme runs throughout the book of Judges, as time after time God is attempting to show the Israelites what He can do, rather than teaching them to rely merely on what they can do. Perhaps nowhere is this more prevalent than in the story of Gideon, during which God weans Gideon’s army down from 10,000 men to merely 300 before leading them to victory.

My army of 10,000 is slowly being whittled away, and if i am any judge of these things at all, i would guess that it is for similar reasons. If i am to have victory in my battles, be they of character or spirit, be they personal or moral, then it is going to be He who leads me through those battles, and not my own strength, and not the strength of my army. Perhaps it is time that i start running to Him whenever i have insufficiencies, rather than to other men. While i am by no means ungrateful for these men and what they have been to me historically, they are but dim and partial reflections of the One who wants to do for me utterly and entirely what they could only do for a season.

I must admit there is something terrifying and chilling about being spiritually naked before God. Perhaps this is why i have needed mentors in my life. There was a time when i was spiritually naked before no one. Gradually these brothers have taught me the way of grace and forgiveness, they have showed me the love of Christ to the best of their ability. Now He wants to show it to me Himself.


Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.        – Phillipians 4 : 6 – 7

a slow veer



As a few people have been kind enough to remark, i have been posting significantly less lately. The reasons for this are myriad, however a few are worth mentioning here. Firstly, i was out of the country for about a week or so, limiting my access to the internet, although it would be disingenuous to suggest that this was much of a factor, since my virtual absence really started back in late October. Secondly, i was listening to an NPR program a few weeks back on which a poet was being interviewed. (Which one, i do not recall) This particular writer mentioned that a poem written in less than two weeks was, for her, fairly phenomenal, and in general three or four weeks was more the norm. My own tendency, though i don’t believe there is necessarily a right or wrong here, is to use primarily a stream-of-consciousness approach, and do very little editing of my own poetry. This allows for ample and abundant posting of writing, but my fear is that is hinders my ability to be critical of my work and improve upon it. In an attempt to learn from those wiser and more experienced, i have begun to let poems marinate for a while before posting now, walking away from and coming back to them two and three times. Thus rather than posting a poem immediately after the first draft is complete, i now wait at least a week to see if anything about it strikes me as naive or banal. i am not sure this has catalyzed any significant increase in quality, as was its intent, but the strategy is still young.

But all of this, while true, still merely beats about the bush. The true reason, if i may be honest here (and if i cannot here, where can i?), is i have been suffering from a tremendous lack of confidence. i have mentioned before, and thus will not belabor the point ad nauseum here, that perseverance is not one of my strengths. i had high, and almost foolishly mystical, hopes for this blog. i imagined that in no time hoards of readers would be refreshing their blogreaders salivating pavlovianly waiting for the next nugget of wisdom from my mouth, then gleefully sitting back in repose after reading, content in their knowledge of having discovered a secret prophet.

Needless to say, this has not happened, to my knowledge.

Which is good. Of course. i must admit that, though my pride does not want to do so. But i need to remind myself what the purpose of this blog is, and it is not self-glorification. My stated intent from conception was to use this space for two purposes: to hone my talents and practice my craft, and to glorify the One who gave them to me in the first place. Interestingly, in neither case is confidence particularly necessary, and in fact in both cases it may strangely be a deficit and a hinderance.

A good friend once told me never to apologize for not writing. i have no intention of doing that here, at least not to my few readers. Nevertheless i do wish to admit that my heart has been in the wrong place, and thus apologize for the flaw at root in my absence. In other words, i have no specific regret about not writing, merely about the heart condition that my lack of effort writing indicates. But this, too, will ultimately be used by the Lord for His purposes. Dry seasons, too, are necessary that rain may have its desired effect when it at length blessedly falls. So my lack of confidence in my abilities in no excuse for ceasing to attempt. In fact, it is all the more reason i should be putting forth yet greater effort. God will use what he chooses, and most of the time he chooses those with little or no ability at all, that it may be His strength that shines through. May it be so here, as well.


The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.    – John 7 : 18

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  – 2 Corinthians 12 : 9



i feel weirdly naked without my phone. Saturday it decided to overheat and spew smoke, and for some reason that makes me wary of using it. Two days without it have demonstrated how addicted to that piece of technology i have become. Like most smartphone users, i use it for everything at this point: communication, including email, Facebook, texting, and the occasional phone call (i know, archaic, right?), but also directions, entertainment, and instant access to unlimited information. It is almost always in my hand for one reason or another, so the last few days i have caught myself reaching into my pocket and grasping nothing but fabric before i remembered it wasn’t there. Yesterday i had to (gasp) look up directions to where i was going at home before i left, and then remember them. I also had to wait until my wife got home to talk to her, which was an agonizing hour. This interdependence, i realize, is completely absurd. It wasn’t that long ago that i didn’t even have a smartphone, and was forced as the plebians to go to the laptop or my desktop at work to google an answer to an irrelevant question or to delete the twenty senseless emails a day that i receive.

It isn’t the phone itself that i miss, but rather the connectedness and the instant gratification that it provides. Checking my blog stats and comments, reading people’s reactions to my reactions to their Facebook posts, sending photos via text, etc. i get that it is ridiculous to be so habitual about the use of the phone, but really, it isn’t entirely my fault. Man was made to be connected, and technology has just made it easier to indulge this need. By being so involved, i am really only tapping into deep spiritual needs that have existed in me since birth.

Except that i am doing it the wrong way.

Yesterday’s sermon was a rather poignant reminder of this. While it had nothing to do with technology, it did ultimately have to do with connectedness. The essential point was not necessarily revolutionary, but it is something that is rather easily forgotten, or at the very least it’s weight does not land on us properly because we have taken it for granted. i was reminded yesterday that the nature of our relationship with God is not as creation and Creator, though it is that in part, and not even as subject to King, though it is also that, but the fundamental characteristic of our relationship is that we are adopted as His children. This is really a staggering claim, when i think about it. If i think of my standing with God as a spectrum which runs from negative infinity to infinity, it becomes more so. God has redeemed us, and given us grace for our sins, this is true. But this is not where the story ends. He has not stopped with taking us from negative infinity back to zero on the spectrum, but has instead continued carrying us all the way to positive infinity. We are not only justified, squared with Him, but He has taken us into His house and offered us everything He has. More than just being a neutral authority, like the government, with whom i can have either no standing or a negative one, he has actually become Our Father.

Indeed i may be built for connectedness, but i am to be primarily connected with Him first, as all other connections are made stronger and purer (and truthfully can only exist at all) through Him. i am called to something so much greater than merely being “right” with Him, although this is certainly an undeserved blessing in itself. But i am called to relationship. i am called into connectedness with Him. Perhaps a few days without my phone will be good for me. i can spend my time connecting with the One who is the source of all relationship, and stop substituting for that opportunity the meager chalk outlines of connection offered by the replacement therapy of social interaction.


See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God  – 1 John 3 : 1

Underdogs Unite


I have never spent much time in the book of Judges. In fact, before recently, i would have been hard pressed to recite even one story from the book. In a way, Judges is one of the underdogs of the Bible. It is not oft quoted. Generally speaking, there are no artsy cursive-script pictures hanging in kitchens with scriptures from Judges. It is probably possible to have a very intimate relationship with God and the Bible without ever setting foot in Judges. But this is fitting, because as i have spent some time in the book recently, it seems to be a running theme therein that victory is not always for the strong. And though i didn’t see it coming, my perusal of the book has definitely enriched my understanding of the Word as a whole. Here’s why:

i have a tendency to err on the side of disqualification when it comes to service to the Lord. i look at my life and my past and see too much litter there, too much garbage and brokenness in my history, for me to be of use to God. And this is where Judges is a great affirmation to me. Even in the earliest days of the Israelite nation, God was already trying to guide His people to act in ways and follow precepts that, frankly, were just different, counter to the reason and logic of the world around them. Of course, this didn’t begin with Israelites. All along he had been using unlikely characters to further his designs. Abram, promised that he would be a great nation, was nearly 100 before he had any descendants at all. Sarah, his wife, was a barren woman before this point. Throughout the next few generations God is constantly using youngest sons and barren women to continue Abraham’s lineage.

He seems to take this to a whole new level in Judges. First off, the whole point of the book of Judges is that Israel was intended to be a land of which God himself was the king. They were to be surrounded by enemies with powerful kings, but were not to be a nation with a king, but rather a nation ruled by Judges. God intended to use this political structure to indicate man’s proper place before God, and to demonstrate this to the world. To drive the point home, consider just a few of the people he chose as judges:

Ehud – “a left-handed man.” (3 : 15) His left-handedness was significant because the right hand in Israelite culture was the royal hand. Consider that Christ sits at the right hand of God. Also, he was from a tribe, Benjamin, whose name means “son of my right hand.” And yet it was his very left-handedness that allowed him to be victorious. (vv. 15 – 30)

Shamgar, son of Anath – (3 : 31) Shamgar is not an Israelite name, and Anath was the name of both a Canaanite god and a Canaanite city. So by most indications, Shamgar was not an Israelite, and yet God chose him to aid His people.

Deborah – a woman. Need i explain why this is significant? In many cultures, women are still considered second-class citizens, and the effects of that attitude still echo in cultures where it has long been (at least according to law) eliminated.

Gideon – one of the few stories from Judges we are familiar with. In this case it is not Gideon but his army that God chooses to be an unlikely victor. He whittles the fighting force down from 32,000 men to merely 300, so that they would know it was not their strength but God’s that delivered them.


I could go on and on, because this theme does not stop in the Old Testament. God chooses a virgin and a carpenter to be Christ’s parents, old barren people to be the parents of John the Baptist. Jesus chooses fishermen and tax collectors for his disciples, some of whom go on to be leaders of the early church and powerhouses of faith and spirit-filled preaching, and none of it has to do with their personal backgrounds of learning or exemplary faith. He chooses a murderer antagonistic to the faith to be his messenger to the Gentiles, etc. etc.

The point is, i look at my history of sin and rebellion and depravity and hear a tiny malicious voice that discourages me from speaking about Jesus. They will never believe you. You are not educated enough. People will think you are crazy. You are not faithful enough. You should not be so bold as to brag about something you are not worthy of.

There are a hundred ways in which my doubting heart and mind twist these facts into excuses for being cowardly about the gospel. But when i read books such as Judges, i come to realize that it has nothing to do with my capabilities anyway. i am not being asked to convince anyone of the truth of the gospel. It is only the Spirit that can do that. i am only being asked to tell my story, and to tell Christ’s story, and tell them faithfully and truthfully. God will use my words as he will, as he uses barren women and bones and stones and virgins and rapists and thieves and murderers and liars and adulterers and a whole host of unlikely, impossible anti-heroes throughout history. What makes the Word believable, and thus the gospel as well, is not that everyone in it is perfect and acts rightly all the time. In fact it is quite the opposite: it is that everyone in it is broken and weak and flawed in some way so that by the end of it, it can only have been God who brought everything about. It can only have been God who turns sticks to snakes and raises people from the dead and stops the very forces of nature, and in my case it can only be God who makes anything i say land on fertile soil.

God is both capable and qualified, and that is all i must believe. When i start to worry about my own qualifications and abilities, then i am only getting in the way, blocking the view: eclipsing the one true sun.

i’ll step aside now, Father, and let you shine through. That’s all You were asking of me in the first place.


But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.   – 1 Corinthians 1 : 27

a tale of two states


It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.  – From “A Tale of Two Cities,” Charles Dickens


Everyone loves a hero, and everyone loves a hero story. There can be a million variations on that story, but ultimately people want to see good triumph through the hero’s actions, and perhaps no story is more memorable than that of the hero who gives his life so that good may triumph. Such is Sydney Carton, the protagonist of Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities,” who swaps places with a man condemned to die not only so that that man may live and love, but also so that Carton may be redeemed from his previous purposelessness.

We are fascinated by the sacrifice of the heroic martyr. Saving Private Ryan, The Dark Knight (not the newest one, i wouldn’t share spoilers), Spartacus, Braveheart. Why does this story speak so loudly and painfully to us? Why does it need to be retold in a thousand forms and why does it have such a dramatic impact on us? The answer is twofold:

1) Because we were all made to live like this.

2) Because most of us don’t.

i certainly don’t. Movies like Braveheart, stories like A Tale of Two Cities make me literally burst into tears when i see a man is ready to give it all for what he believes. Every single disciple of Christ, to history’s knowledge, was martyred for what he believed, and many Christians after that. Still today i know people who have given away everything they have and moved to countries that i’m not even allowed to know the name of so that the kingdom of God might be furthered. They go to these places in secret, because to openly declare Christianity there is punishable by death.

And this is what i did last week: had a mediocre week a work as far as my production was concerned, shared the gospel with no one, and spent almost the entire week trying to figure out how to make more money and advance myself in the world. Now, had my aim been to make as much money as possible to give away, so that Christ’s kingdom would be advanced, that would be one thing. But it was not. It was simply wanting to see my own name lifted higher, wanting to see my own reputation built up, wanting to see my power and my glory amplified. i did not even see it as such at the time, because i was so immersed in the lie that is status, but in retrospect i have very clear memories of the motivations of my heart during that time. And interestingly, i still had the gall to be disappointed when the opportunity i was seeking did not pan out.

Everyone loves the story of the man who gives everything for someone else. No one loves the story of the man who takes everything he can for himself. Today’s sermon brought that to light in my heart, and i am grateful that God did not provide me with the career move i was seeking, because even though i would have certainly credited Him with the miracle, i cannot say my heart would have used that position for His glory. i know what i would do if i were Sydney Carton. i would wait for Darnay’s death, then swoop up to Lucie under the auspices of comforting her and seek to angle for my own benefit. i would serve her for the sake of getting her to love me, not because it was the right thing to do. i know i would do this because that’s what i do for my own wife.

i wonder when i am going to have my Sydney Carton moment for Jesus? When i am finally going to be so sold out to him that i will give anything, trade my entire life if need be, for the sake of another, even another i don’t really care for. There is some nobility, some dignity, in trading my life for another man’s, or for love, or for freedom, or for my nation, but noble though these things may be, all of them are perishing. The man whose life i save dies eventually anyway, as does the one he loves. Freedom lasts for a time, but nations crumble and falter and peace is perilous and precarious. Ultimately, there is only one thing worth selling out completely to, one thing that is worth my utmost commitment, because there is only one thing that outlasts decay, that outlasts death, and that thing is the love of Christ. Nothing else is worth living for, and certainly nothing is worth dying for.

i waver then between two states of being: seeking my own glory, and seeking His. My rational mind accepts that the former is absolute rubbish. i pray the Lord leads me ever more to the state in which i seek only His.


I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  – Philippians 1 : 20 – 21



The guy in the cube across the aisle laughs audibly, and calls me over. He points me to an email conversation he is having with the owner of a local air conditioning business. The company has been around for many years, and has been a sponsor of our non-profit for most of them. Now they are deciding that they are unwilling to continue that relationship, not because of anything we have done on our end, but because “the economy has been tough.” The owner stated explicitly in his email that “if you can find a way to get Obama out of office, then we will renew.” Of course, this is what my friend is laughing at. How are we even to counter such a preposterous proposition? Now, i know i have already touched on the subject of how the president has very little to do with the economy, and the ramifications of what he does control generally occur many years after he has left office, so i will not belabor those points in this post. (If anyone is interested, my take on that particular subject can be found by clicking here.) i instead will choose to direct my focus at another issue.

Several other data are necessary for us to have a complete picture of what is transpiring.

1. The owner is quite old, and has owned his business for close to 40 years in a fairly large city in west Texas, one which is hot and dry for many months out of the year.

2. He has done business largely the same way for the duration.

3. He advertises almost exclusively in the Yellow Pages, which is notoriously overpriced for the modern era, especially considering the likelihood that a given phone book will be used for anything other than a trash bag weight.

4. He does not have a website for his company, nor any social media, nor any official directory listings (i.e. Thumbtack, Buildzoom, etc.)

5. His company is still named AAA A-1 A-plus Services or something equally innocuous and preposterous. (side note: i happen to be the tiniest bit amused that a company called ZZZ is now many, many times more likely to stand out than one named AAA, due to its uniqueness.)

Now it is a widely recognized fact the primary way people find businesses in the current economic landscape is on the internet. So, given that a company has a name that is indistinguishable from at least 100,000 other companies out there, and given this owner’s refusal to put any effort into making his company accessible on the web, and since he absolutely insists on doing things the way he did them 35 years ago when he first started, it is not surprising to me at all that his business is suffering. i am not denying that there are industries that are greatly impacted by economic woes, such as manufacturing, but the A/C industry in Texas is not among them, for the most part. Perhaps this business has been forced to reduce the cost of a service call, but the volume of service calls at large is only going up. This is undeniably true: almost every major metro area with more than 10,000 residents is growing in Texas, and A/C is absolutely mandatory when temperatures in the summer reach over 100 degrees for the better part of 6-8 months every year. Additionally, new A/C companies are coming about all the time. People for whom you have worked for years will move away or pass away. New ones will come to the area, and the likelihood that someone new to the area is going to know who you are, or know anyone who does, is only going to decrease, and the rate at which it will decrease is only going to increase!

What i am driving at is this: a business owner who insists that he is doing business the right way when any outsider can see that he is not, one who instead blames the president of the U.S. for the shortcomings of his business, is not a man who is living in reality. Now i have no intention of simply bashing this man, whose misfortunes are pitiable and real. The reason that this topic merits discussion is because recently i have done almost exclusively the same thing. Lately i have been blaming my own lack of success at work on any scapegoat i could find. The guy next to me gets under my skin, so i cannot concentrate. The economy is bad, so i cannot produce sales. Our database is faulty. Our protection rules are inadequate. Our hiring process is detrimental to veterans. Ad nauseum. And thinking about this owner’s response today, and how nonsensical it is when the facts are examined, i came to realize how nonsensical my own excuses are as well.

It is not just work that brings this out in me. When i do not love my wife well, i nearly always say it is because i am tired or because she doesn’t understand what is on my mind, or, worst of all, because she didn’t love me well first. In fact any time i sin in any way, i can pin it on stress or culture or bad days. When i am rude, when i do not love others, when i am impatient, when i am cowardly: it is in these times i can accomplish a hundred tumbles on the mat of mental gymnastics, and by the time i am done even i start to believe that what i am saying is true.

But it is not.

It is hard for us to admit that perhaps of all the problems we face in the world and in our daily lives the biggest one is we ourselves. i have historically interpreted the Scripture about a plank in one’s eye as a reminder not to judge others for their sin, but i believe it also applies to scapegoating. This is most harmful of course when we blame someone near us who should be instead our “brother,” but i think it is nearly as bad when it applies to environments or climates or governments or entities too large and distant to be there to defend themselves. It is easy to blame these things partly because nearly everyone is in agreement with us, and partly because many people don’t see the harm in it. But it is easy, too, to forget that not only is a plank in our eye painful, it can also be debilitatingly blinding. We often cannot see the myriad of ways in which our own performance, our own adaptability, our own grace or patience or forgiveness could improve. And believe me, there is no shortage of ways in which i am deficient.

i blame the schools for that. 😉


Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

– Luke 6 : 41 – 42

the exchange


ancient years past

i made a promise

a bargain

i told him that he could have

whatever he wanted

whenever he wanted

(all he had to do

was come claim it)

in exchange for

that one thing

that i wanted

needed more than anything

if he would pull me from

holes, wholly drab and


then his heart’s desire

would be his


now he is here

to claim that gift

and i must make good

on my promise

if i had only known

(oh clever clever soul that

he is)

the thing he would ask

would be

my life


oh foolish man that i am

i did not know

this is because

to give me what i had needed



begged for

it had cost him



a course correction


Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 6 : 1


This verse landed on me heavily this evening. Pretty sure i’ve been all about doing that lately. Teaching at Recovery. Checking my blog stats (which are paltry, if anyone cares). Covering this issue of the heart up with clever phrases like “gospel confidence” and other assorted nonsense. i feel most convicted by this verse today, but it wasn’t just this one that hit me. The lessons were abundant. As i am fond of saying, whenever there is a confluence of a theme from more than one source in my life, i am generally sure that that is what my heart needs to hear. i won’t waste the space if you are not interested, but also on today’s reading was Isaiah 58, which has to do with true and false righteousness, Psalm 119, which is essentially comprised of about 150 different reminders that God has a particular Way and a particular Law, and lastly Deuteronomy 31, in which both Moses and God state not only the likelihood but the inevitability that we will fail at keeping that law. (Click on the scripture references if you want to read them.)

Long story short, it is rather apparent that my own righteousness is mostly false, or at the very least incomplete. Sure, i want to make an impact on others, but often i want that more than i want God. i want to make sure it was me who impacted them, forgetting altogether that really only God can do that. Sure, i want to live a clean and healthy lifestyle, but mostly i want that because it enables me to be comfortable rather than because it is right. i don’t love what is right because it is right, i love it for what it provides me. i don’t love God because he is God, i “love” Him for what he can do for me, as if He is some cosmic UPS or a giant invisible vending machine in the sky.

The very end of Matthew 6 reminds me where my heart should be instead: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (vv 33-34)

Here’s what i get out of that verse: i am miles away from being righteous, and having lost track of that just proves that it is true.

i have been very consumed with this blog lately, worried about whether certain posts will meet with people’s approval, wondering what it means when a post gets no likes, wondering if i should be concentrating on the religious or the secular; and i have been equally concerned with what the other participants and leaders at Recovery think of me: whether i am a “good” leader, whether my insight is worthwhile, and whether i have anything to contribute. But ultimately, if tomorrow my fingers are chopped off and i lose internet connectivity, and the day after that i am kicked off the Recovery team, then i need to be trusting that those things are for the best, and in fact they probably would be if i can’t get my approval idol under control. And i need to be particularly conscious about using “righteousness” or “leadership” as a means to gain friends or be a superstar.

For that reason, i came close to shutting the blog down today, but that might be a bit drastic. For even though i may not be in control, God still is, and He can use even my most self-interested garbage to change someone else. Hopefully this post is a step back in the right direction.

But i hope i do have the guts to tear it down if i keep finding myself off track and wandering in self-indulgence. In the meantime, i intend to circumcise the whole process, purify it, and give it back paltry and bleeding to God.

Seems like that’s the kind of thing He can use the most.


The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

From “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

two kinds of fools (part 1)



And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.            – Matthew 7 : 26


“I am just not afraid of looking like a fool,” she said, with fire and truth in her eyes. The statement floored me.

The night had gone in a completely unexpected direction. When we set out, we were headed to get some quick dinner before going to the grocery store. We jumped around the corner to the trendy sports restaurant nearby, and plopped ourselves down at the bar. As we were getting close to ordering, something started to prick in the back of my mind. Something as yet unperceived, something like a faint scraping noise sending shivers of annoyance chasing each other around my skin.

That is when i suddenly became aware of our newly acquired neighbor. i became aware of him because of the gratuitous f-bombs spewing out into his phone. He was covered in ink, wearing an athletic jersey and cargo shorts and sporting exorbitant dreadlocks. He was livid, and his rage was seeping into me and starting to rub off on me a little.

“This guy is starting to annoy me,” i mentioned to my wife. i had no intention of eavesdropping, and in fact fully desired to ignore him completely, but his volume and proximity made that impossible. i am sure my wife could see the bother creeping up in me, lurking and inflating and getting ready to burst. But then i started to catch a few pieces of his story, and it became increasingly obvious that something fairly serious was going on. He was moving out of his house that very evening, and because of a severed relationship, or so i could glean. i related these tidbits to my wife, sympathy already starting to gear up for battle against irritation in my heart. My wife called charge.

“You should ask him if he is ok.”

Um…really? This guy seems pretty furious…

“No one is sitting a a bar alone drinking and talking like that if something is not seriously wrong.”

She was right, and i knew it, and the more i thought about it the more it started to seem that i was probably put right next to him specifically to do that.

So i did. A few seconds later he hung up the phone, and i asked him if he was ok.

“Not really.” And he proceeded to tell me a fairly tragic story about how he was living here in Austin with his mother, who was apparently a meth addict, who had recently split up with her boyfriend (also a meth addict) and was taking her rage out on him. He in turn was cutting her out of his life, he said, and taking a plane that evening to Oakland with, apparently, a bag full of weed which he planned to sell to make a living.

We talked for hours. Some of what he said may have been true, some of it not, but whatever part of the story was accurate was heartbreaking, and if anything wasn’t it was probably fabricated to cover up something equally if not more heartbreaking. i learned, among other things, his name, his age, and a great deal of his story. He was 24 years old, a convicted felon, a drug user, a dope slinger, and yet somehow he believed that if he thought anything hard enough, if he imagined it strongly enough that he could make it come to pass.

From an outsiders perspective, it seemed that it was either not working, or he was just imagining the wrong things.


time, fleet and furtive


And then one day you find ten years have got behind you, no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun…

– from “Time” by Pink Floyd


My thoughts will not be unique today, nor my perspective revolutionary. In fact quite the opposite. There is not a human alive (except for perhaps the very young) who has not at some point, and more likely at many points, pondered his mortality. Today was such a day for me. Not only did i learn today that a friend of mine is gravely ill, perhaps so severely that she may not recover, but my most immediate co-worker had a very close friend pass away yesterday. It must be stated (though i know there is no such thing as “dying too soon” if all these things are in the hands of the Lord) that both of these individuals are quite young, and both were taken ill very suddenly, within the past week.

The natural bent of the human mind during such occurrences is thus: how fragile is the substance of life, that it can be so easily lost. This is not a profound revelation, of course. i have no new or enlightening wisdom for the subject. i cannot provide any insight or clever words which can open new doors of understanding for us. All i can do is join with every man, face the brutality and severity of the mortal existence, and most of all wonder if i have done anything worth a fart in my life.

One issue immediately springs to mind when contemplating the brevity of this life: any moment with an individual may be my last. My last interaction with my friend (and i pray it was not my last interaction, merely the most recent) involved a good deal of sarcastic ribbing. i would be surprised if she was upset by this, if she even caught on, but nevertheless i know in my heart it could have been otherwise. i could have spent the afternoon listening to her and sharing in whatever way possible the love of Christ, either verbally or just by demonstration. Instead it was the furthest thing from my mind that day. All i wanted was for people to laugh at my jokes and think i was cool.

My co-worker’s friend went to the doctor yesterday morning for a headache and died that day before leaving the hospital. Morbid though it seems to dwell upon, perhaps it is good to be reminded from time to time that any one of us could go at any time. We must be prepared for the sudden and unheralded departure of our friends, our loved ones, or even ourselves. What does being prepared mean? i think for me it means reaching the people that are around me every day and loving them the way God does. It means not flitting from encounter to encounter trying desperately to pollenate the idea that “i” am somehow awesome and should be loved. It means not simply “ticking away the moments that make up a dull day.” It also means not traipsing through days with money or food or some slovenly grumbling on my mind about how this or that situation ought to be more to my liking. Nothing is right with the world, really: it is a broken creation, and not made less so by any complaints of mine. It IS made less so by the redemptive work of Christ, and only that, so if i truly wanted something to change, i would spend every waking moment living and breathing this gospel. Anything less than that is laziness, unpreparedness, and improper perspective. So today, one day in a row, i made a point to mention God in my conversations with my co-workers. i pray that He will sustain me in that effort for some time to come, but also that He will grant me the ability to love and not just lecture.

i am sure God’s plan in these heartbreaking circumstances is immensely greater than a mere lesson for me: there are many relatives and friends who are closer to these individuals who are hurting in vaster and deeper ways right now than i can fathom. i am praying for them earnestly, and that is of course the first and most appropriate response. But it does me no good to pretend to be unaffected by what has transpired or the confluence of these events in my life, so i am grateful that He has reminded me today through them that my calling is the gospel, and nothing else.

Say a prayer for those involved, if anyone is out there reading. i would appreciate it, as would they.

In all things, great and small, His will be done. Hard to say sometimes, but ultimately it is the only thing we can say that makes any sense at all.


Psalm 131

1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; 

my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

too great and too marvelous for me.

2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, hope in the Lord

from this time forth and forevermore.


P.S. If you choose to, you can experience this Psalm expressed quite wonderfully as a musical piece here. (If you are curious, you can find the lyrics here.) Just as the work begins with dissonance and seeming chaos, there is a similar discord in our hearts when troubling times arrive. Resting in God’s wisdom, providence, and sovereignty is the only thing that can settle this disquiet in our hearts in any lasting way.


Time lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., T.R.O. INC.