A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 344: Sunday God Quote – Isaiah & Jesus


In the Gospel of Luke it is described how Jesus began his public ministry. He was in his hometown of Nazareth, in the synagogue, when he was invited up to read from some scripture and say a few words. He was handed the scroll of Isaiah the prophet and we are told he read these words:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

This Christmastime, perhaps more than any other in my lifetime, I find myself seeking solace in the mission and purpose of Jesus. I have grown so disenchanted with what Christianity has become and come to represent to the world. Rather than lose all hope I choose to cling to the hope of what Jesus represents and how that challenges me to live. If the passage above was what he chose to clarify who he was and what he was charged to do, I also choose it to clarify for me my own sense of purpose moving forward from a desperately challenging 2017 into 2018.

Luke tells us the crowd in that synagogue, after hearing Jesus say that he was the fulfillment of that passage, tried to throw him from a cliff. Religion seems to be leading so many to acts of violence and words of hatred, mostly because of fear. Jesus reminds me that I do not follow a religion and therefore am not defined by fear. I follow him, who is defined by love, justice, truth, mercy and forgiveness.

As we get closer to Christmas, it is the thought of Jesus that lightens my heart and brings me peace. Not so much the Jesus in the manger, but the Jesus standing up and saying boldly what he is about and acting and living that out to a world in fear.


A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 76: Water-colored Crucifixion


The Crucifixion is a motif in the history of Western art that has appeared in perhaps tens of thousands of forms. From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, to Jewish artist Marc Chagall, to Salvador Dali’s surrealistic renderings, to the controversial “Piss Christ” and on and on – The image of Christ on the Cross holds various degrees of meaning and purpose depending on the viewer and the artist. Ironically, I am a believer and an artist but I’ve never painted any crucifixion scene. However, recently I was inspired by a devout young man who diligently crafts his paintings in the art studio I help to manage.

I work at a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. Among my duties is the responsibility to provide an atmosphere of creativity and the opportunity for self-expression through art. The young man mentioned above often pictures Bible stories in his own distinct style. Currently, he is working on a Crucifixion scene which he said was for Good Friday. Here is his work in progress:


I often find myself inspired by something my students are doing. They can give me the needed push in a certain area in my own personal art exploration. Lately I’ve wanted to try out water-colors and so I decided to do some paint sketches of the Crucifixion. I showed the sketches to my wife and she though it an odd juxtaposition: A media that is often associated with things soft and beautiful used to picture the torturous death of Jesus. Perhaps she’s right. But God becoming a human being is an odd juxtaposition too.

Here are my water-color sketches. I may turn at least one of these into a larger painting. I suppose this is a fitting study during Lent:





A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 26: Can Jesus Be


Black Jesus by Dariusz Labuzek, 2015

Because everyone needs a little poetry on a Thursday…

Can Jesus Be

If my heart is not open wide

If I support tyrants

Perpetuate lies

Can Jesus still be my guide?


If I demand my voice be heard

If I cannot eat humble pie

Or see the plank in my eye

Can Jesus be my living Word?


If I recoil in disgust from anyone

If I cannot kiss the leper

Or the fearful stranger

Can I claim to know God’s only Son?


If I aim my daggers at the foe

If I hate anyone at all

Or wish ill befall

Can Jesus’ steps be the Way I go?


If I cling to comfort and greed

If I stare at screens

Chase virtual dreams

Can Jesus be really all I need?


If I give lip service to the News

If I twist Good into bad

Untruths sung and said

Can Jesus’ Gospel be my muse?


If I fantasize and play the game

If reality interferes

Deaf to silent tears

Can Jesus be Name above names?


If I refuse to open my embrace

If I say Yes but do No

Or put on a show

Can Jesus lead me in his grace?


If I can recite what I’m supposed to say

If I keep up appearances

For believer audiences

Can I be Jesus today or any day?




Earth Discovered Heaven: a Christmas Psalm


Earth Discovered Heaven: a Christmas Psalm

 by Ronald Kok


The sun rises each and every day

It shines and daily gives its life light

Yet darkness dominates our way

We stumble, eyes bereft of sight


We think we know the road, the path

Yet we repeat the past, we fail

To grasp, living in gasps, in wrath

Despite light given, we rant, we wail


Climbing, striving, to reach the divine

Hoping our toil will bring us peace

Slipping, falling, aching for a sign

We see life as pain with no reprieve


We are alone, it can be easy to think

Around us is war, hunger, lies, abyss

Darkness drags us to the very brink

Life laughs at us, betrays with a kiss


But there is a Birth, a baby’s eyes

There is a song of vulnerable might

A silver note that splits dark skies

Revealing hope to drive out the night


A Grace that takes the hardest road

Down to dust, sin, heartache, death

A Grace lifting Pilgrim’s awful load

Giving all true Life and Peace, Breath


The Divine in human life, human sighs

Striving, aching, to reach each and all

Climbing, toiling, the Glory laying by

Lifting us all to glory in his fall


No expectation on us was there

To find a way to the Throne above

His plan, purpose, passion was here

In the Way called Grace, Peace, Love


The struggle to find truth supreme

Is no struggle, no task, no chore

Truth in person, Truth that beams

God’s Gift is given forever and more


This is the Life that laughs, that sings

The Life that death could not waste

Life whose Grace-dance around us rings

Giving us of dust heaven’s wondrous taste


It shines in darkness, shatters gloom

This Gift is precious and glows real

In our life’s pain and threat of doom

Nothing can dispel the Grace that heals


The Way we seek, the Truth we find

Is met in the Life of Glory given

Seekers lost have been found, in kind

And we on earth discovered heaven

Ron’s Briefs


I’d like to share my briefs with you. My brief comments, that is.

Sometimes a little sanity is in order. These days, a lot of sanity is in order. I don’t purport to be someone of great wisdom but I do consider myself pragmatic. In that spirit, I share my briefs with you below, random and unabridged…


Sometimes a rainbow is just a rainbow.

Most times a niqab is just a niqab.

The only thing we have to fear is a fear-mongering candidate on the campaign trail.

Oxymorons: Jumbo Shrimp, Military Intelligence, President Trump.

Pride and Greed: When did two of the Seven Deadly sins become a requirement to run for public office?

The Tea Party was a Canuck band long before it was a band of Ka-Nuckleheads.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But people can kill a lot more people with a gun.

Jesus would never be packin’. Just sayin’.

Black lives matter. Co-opting the slogan for your own means just totally misses the point.

The USA: 5% of the world’s population, 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. The Land of the Free is the Home of the Imprisoned.

Giving boxes of Kraft Dinner to a food bank is not “Tackling Hunger”.

Canada is planning on building a wall to keep Justin Bieber in the US.

It’s a simple formula, guys: Stop being idiots. Women like guys who aren’t idiots.

It’s easy to take offense; much harder to extend grace.

If you live in the suburbs you’re not uptown or downtown. You’re just town.

Wonderbread is the suburbia of wheat products.

The War on Christmas rages on in the world, leaving a bloody red trail of Starbucks cups in its wake. Oh, the humanity!

Since 9/11, 0.000003 percent of refugees admitted to the US have been arrested for plotting terrorist activities. Also since 9/11, irrational fear and prejudice have made people really bad at math.

Simple equation: Refugees + Seeking Asylum = LET THE DAMN PEOPLE IN!

Free people don’t live in fear or act out of hate. Doing so just makes you a slave.
























The Jesus Experience

This summer I presented a brief series at my church called “Christianity for Dummies” about the basics of the faith. It was a four-part series with the first three parts being Knowing God, Loving God and Serving God. For the finale, I decided to write a letter to a fictional seeker, one who I imagined asked me about my experience with God, about why I choose Christianity. Below is that letter…


You’ve asked me to describe to you the experience of being a Christian. Why believe this way? Why Jesus? Why bother? It’s a big set of questions. I can’t necessarily address the “why Christianity” angle of these questions in the sense of comparing and contrasting with other faiths. I don’t know enough about other faiths to work out that kind of argument. No doubt I would horribly misrepresent what others believe, anyway.

Really, I can only speak from my belief, from my experience, from my experience of God – knowing God, loving God, serving God. Ultimately, I believe that experiencing God is at the core; that experiencing is all those things – knowing, loving, serving – happening all at once, all the time. And I believe that Christianity offers the ultimate experience of God. That belief statement hinges on Jesus. You can’t talk about experiencing God as a Christian without Jesus. That equation doesn’t work.

Funny thing, though: Many Christians shy away from connecting Jesus directly to any faith statements they might make. You’ll hear a Christian say, “I believe in God” or “I follow God” and seem to think that covers it; that is all that is needed to convince you of their devotion to Christianity. Though there is nothing wrong with those statements, there is also nothing particularly Christian about those statements, either. In fact, it could be argued that saying “I believe in God” is a very human thing to say, to believe. Belief like that is very universal in our world, one shared by literally billions of people, give or take a few million dissenters.

Knowing God, loving God, serving God – these concepts are at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. But these concepts are also at the heart of what it means to be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, etc. Of course, Christianity puts its own particular spin to these concepts. And that spin has no momentum at all without mentioning Jesus. It is odd, then, that the name of Jesus is not often included in a Christian’s statement of faith. Perhaps they are afraid of offending (a not uncommon Christian trait). Perhaps by stating “I believe in God” they are just trying to fit in with the few other billion people on earth who would agree. But a Christian leaving Jesus’ name out of any statement of faith is like not mentioning beef in a recipe for beef Stroganoff. People might eventually notice and it won’t help anyone who is trying to cook up the recipe for themselves. I mean, “Where’s the beef?”

So let me make it really plain for you and very straightforward: I believe in God because I believe in Jesus. I believe in God because of Jesus. I believe in God because I likely would not without Jesus. And it is Jesus that I follow. My experience of a life lived in faith is all wrapped up in Jesus. And tied with a bow.

How does this impact my experience of God? How does it make things different? To understand that, you need to understand what I believe: I believe Jesus is the only Son of God, born to a virgin named Mary over 2,000 years ago in a town called Bethlehem in Judea, in Israel. I believe that he is (not was but is) 100% human and 100% God (Yes, I believe in a mathematical impossibility. Sue me – it’s why it’s called faith). I also believe Jesus was both human and divine for an extremely important reason: So that he could take on all the sin of humanity, bear the weight of punishment for our sin and yet conquer it too. As a human, he could represent us all completely. As God, he could save us all completely. In other words, he was the only person who has ever lived who could possibly accomplish this. I also believe Jesus lived among us to set a pattern for life, an example to follow, a way to ensure that your life is full of purpose and meaning. I believe he went ahead for us to mark out the Path – peace, justice, love, forgiveness, truth, grace, mercy, light and joy. I also believe that died but came to life again (Yes, I believe a scientific impossibility, too… faith, remember?), that he ascended back to his Father, and that he sent us his Holy Spirit to guide us in that path he marked out for us.

That last paragraph is full of stuff that most Christians, give or take a slightly different angle here or there, would be in complete agreement with. From a purely theological standpoint, there is nothing earth-shattering in what I’ve professed to believe. It is when all that theological stuff gets translated into flesh and blood, into my real walking around, eating, sleeping, working, complaining, laughing, crying, whining life that things really start to take off. When it moves beyond the head knowledge, beyond the theology to life practicality, the Jesus Experience really kicks in, and a simple human being like you or me can begin to understand every moment lived in the presence of God.

Now, I’m not going all mystical on you here. I know the language sounds mystical but the Jesus Experience is way more pragmatic than that. In fact, it is downright earthy, grubby, hardscrabble and lots of other gritty adjectives. This is where I believe the experiencing of God takes on a different feeling as a follower of Jesus; a follower of the God-Man, the One who became one of us to makes us one with God. You see, because of Jesus, in all the very things that make us human, God chooses to dwell. In all the things we associate with being a man or a woman on this earth, God imbues himself and his will and his love and his truth.

Sorry – this is sounding all mystical again. But what I’m trying to say is that you can experience God down to your very DNA because God created that DNA and God, in Jesus, is that DNA. Because God chose to express himself as a human, because he chose to pursue us and love us and save us all by becoming a human, because he didn’t despise us for the lowly humans we are, we can now experience him in every aspect of what it means to be human. We don’t have to graduate to some elevated spiritual plain. We don’t have to achieve some state of non-personhood. We don’t have to cast off our mortal coil to begin to grasp the immortal. We can experience God as fully as a fully human being can.

In other words, when I love I experience God because God is love. When I enjoy good food, good company, good sleep, good sex, good art, good music, good books, good movies, good days I experience God because God is good. When I create, innovate, speculate; when I think, ponder, consider; when I move, feel, breathe – God is in all of that and all of that is in God. As a believer in a God who is human, too – in Jesus Christ – all that makes me who and what I am is an avenue to experience God.

Of course, this means more than just the good and lovey stuff. Experiencing God because of Jesus also includes a deeper understanding of God in the pain, heartache, depression, doubt, anger, sorrow, loneliness. Jesus lived a truly human life and, therefore, lived a life like ours: a beautiful and terrifying thing. But because of Jesus, we realize that God is not removed from the miry clay, above the dirt and the filth; no, because of Jesus, we realize that God is right  there with us, up to the neck sometimes in the crap of life. So a great part of truly experiencing God is in the shadows, in the dark, knowing that he doesn’t pick and choose what aspects of the human reality to reveal himself; he’s there always, all the time, and in all moments and places.

The Jesus Experience is so interwoven with the Human Experience that they cannot be separated. God meant it this way.

That’s what I believe and why I believe there is no deeper experience of God than through Jesus. Of course, I am very limited to understanding God by my humanness and so are you. But isn’t it an incredible, amazing thought to consider that God knows that, too, so he made a way, through Jesus, for us to understand and experience him as completely as we can in our limited humanness? That sounds like a God who truly loves me… and you, too.

What do you think?

The Face and Saving Grace of My 25th Anniversary

moron wedding g 001

On Tuesday, May 26, 2015 I will have been married to Monique for 25 years. To many in our culture, this is a significant anniversary. From one perspective, it seems a bit arbitrary: Why is 25 years more meaningful than 24 or 26? Those are pretty darn close to a quarter of a century, too, right? But from another perspective, it is a symbolic representation of a longevity not seen in very many areas of life anymore. Who today stays at the same job for 25 years? Who lives in the same house for 25 years? Who drives the same car for 25 years? Who wears the same underwear for 25 years? Don’t answer that last question…

As I consider the 25 years of water under our marital bridge, the most shocking thing to me is the speed at which that current is flowing. When I was a young boy and we marked my parents 25th while traveling in Europe in 1977, 25 years sounded like 250 to me. “Wow! My parents are old!” I couldn’t conceive of that vast amount of years! Now, I consider 25 years with my wife and think, “Wow! How in the name of my giddy aunt did we get here so fast?” Our perception of time is a funny thing. Certainly it doesn’t slow down or speed up but each of us has moments when we could swear that time is either crawling or sprinting. The last five minutes of a playoff hockey game, when your team is up 2-1, seem to last an hour. The past 25 years of something way more meaningful, like your marriage, seem to hurtle by you in a blur of life, work, play, sex, kids, meals, trips, bills, talks, spats and hugs.

The events and experiences that make up our 25 years have flashed by. I see them in my mind’s eye as quick snapshot memories, like a slide show clicking by way too fast. But where my 25 years slows down, where I can feel my feet on the ground again, where everything that swirls around in my brain finds a center, is when I look at my wife’s face; that most familiar of all faces, maybe more familiar to me than my own image in a mirror. In her eyes, in the lines and shapes that make up the person that I fell deeply in love with, I find time at a standstill. At the 25 year mark, this truth is taking my breath away.

Mo c. 1990 001

Monique is a beautiful woman (or as young woman put it to me last night “She’s a babe!”). She is not “model” beautiful or “actress” beautiful in the modern sense of how we label these things. But I have always considered her a beauty in the timeless sense. That is, comparable to the women painted and drawn by artists throughout the centuries; the women they were inspired by and drawn to, not because of perfect proportions but because of a beauty that comes from a deeper place; a beauty that seems to be a reflection of Beauty itself; Beauty that gives image to hope and love and peace and dreams.

That all sounds very poetical but, of course, I was first attracted to her ’cause I thought she was hot! But even in those crazy head-over-heels days, I saw something in her face that I could easily imagine taking in for my entire life. Even as a love-drunk twenty-something, I realized that I found the person whose face I would gladly look at for decades and never grow tired of it. That wasn’t because she was gorgeous perfection personified; it was because I found a home, a place I wanted to stay for as long as possible.

Of course, over the years I have been attracted to other women. As the saying goes, I may be married but I’m not blind… or dead! But every time I consider that other woman I may be attracted to, I realize that no one can take Monique’s place. Again, not because of her perfection, but because there is no one else like her for me; no one else I am meant to be with; no one else that could possibly mean what she has meant to me in my life. After 25 years this feeling just gets stronger and stronger. After 25 years of being together through all the amazing times, frustrating times, painful times, beautiful times, I can honestly say that I am on this journey with the one and only person I am meant to be with as a traveling companion.

MoRon Montreal 2006

I want to make something abundantly clear, however. All the above may lead you to believe that either I am delusional or that I am in the kind of marriage most people can only dream about. Neither is true (at least I think the delusional part isn’t true; but if I were delusional I’d think so anyway because I’d be so deluded… Hmm). The fact is that our relationship has been subject to all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that any relationship can be subject to. We can annoy the hell out of each other at times. We have had tough days and bitter arguments. After 25 years we can still be miffed and mystified. We have never endured unfaithfulness or any kind of separation but there are times when we can behave like roommates who are fed up with each other. Any couple who tells you they’ve never felt like “The Odd Couple” is lying. I don’t believe in the perfectly compatible person. I don’t believe in the romantic ideal that is pitched to us over and over again in our movies and TV shows. I am weak and petty at times and so is Monique.

Yet after 25 years there is an undeniable strength to our marriage; there is a faithfulness that keeps us tied to each other no matter what happens; there is love that has gone from gaga to grounded over these two and a half decades. To what do we owe these resilient qualities of our marriage? To our own upstanding moral character? To our fine personalities and intellectual capabilities? To the simple fact that we’re just superior human beings?


OooKay… I’m kidding. After 25 years it is clear that the strength, faithfulness and love at the core of our marriage has very little to do with us. I know this is true because we are as fallible as anyone, if not more so in certain areas. After a quarter century together there is really only one thing we have in common that I could point to as the X Factor in our relationship: Our commitment to Jesus. There may be some reading this who will think I’m slipping into delusion again. But after all these years I simply can’t point to the perfection of my spouse or to my own outstanding-ness as a reason for our marital longevity. I know us too well. We are neither perfect nor outstanding. We are very human. Very much like you. We are as much in need of saving as anyone else. And it is only my Savior that I can truly credit with the strength, faithfulness and love at the core of my marriage.  Why? Because only he is perfectly outstanding; only he is unshakable and perfectly solid. He is the only explanation that makes sense to me for 25 years of wonder I can celebrate with Monique.

So much of what I’ve written here seems pathetic to me, as if I can’t summon up the words to really communicate what I’m thinking about. But I hope you understand. I believe that there can be a person who is meant for you. Not in a “you complete me” sense but in a “God’s purpose for me” sense. I also believe that I am that person for Monique. And I believe that there is a spiritual reality to all of this that can’t be easily explained but also can’t be easily explained away.

On the occasion of this significant anniversary I find myself thankful for the face of Monique, the one I get to see every day that keeps me grounded despite the frenzy of life; and I find myself thankful for the saving grace of my God, that keeps my marriage sound and solid despite our weaknesses and failures. On one hand, that doesn’t sound all that spectacular. But on the other hand, it sounds downright epic.

MoRon 24th pic - Copy

Jesus: The Yes Man


As a Christian on Good Friday, I can’t help but consider this day and its events, its impact on history, its resonance despite the distance of almost 2,000 years. The fact is that the day wouldn’t hold such prominence if not centered on one man; a man whose life and death transcends easy categories.

Jesus is so many things to so many people but to me on this day I remember the man who battled the religious and died with terrorists.

His most heated debates, his harshest words, his greatest rebukes were directed at those who loved God and sought to worship Him with all their heart, mind and strength. They were believers living under the rule of an unbelieving Empire and they fought desperately to maintain their sense of right and wrong, their faithfulness to the Bible, their calling to represent their God in an increasingly wicked world. It is easy to cast these characters of the Gospels as villains; but that would be forgetting that they were very sincere in their desire for the wholeness of their faith. They believed that it was crucially important to guide their fellow Jews along a true path. They saw Jesus as a threat, one who would undermine this goal. Increasingly they saw the man of Nazareth as a religious rebel, a “blasphemer” who was sullying the name of God and tearing down all the distinctiveness of Judaism and therefore dragging the faith into the mud. For people who saw themselves as defenders of their beliefs, Jesus became an adversary that had to be dealt with before he dragged more people down to his irreligious level.

An honest reading of the Gospels makes it much easier to understand their perspective, especially if you are a believer and put yourself in their shoes as you read. Jesus seems to go out of his way to pick fights with the upright of his day. He recasts the Law time and again, putting his own spin on things, telling people “this is what you’ve been taught for hundreds of years but I say this“. The seeming arrogance of his statements, the casualness of his apostasy, would have rankled so many of his fellow Jews; particularly those who felt the pressure to live true to their faith in the midst of a world that was dominated by the non-believing, the godless and the secular.

Jesus invited the presence and the influence of the non-believing, the godless and the secular. He didn’t live as if there was an ever-increasing gap between those who believed and those who did not. In fact, he lived as if that gap didn’t exist, as if the warfare that waged between the faithful and the wicked did not influence his goals or his mission. In other words, he doesn’t seem at all motivated by the factors that motivated his Jewish peers. His agenda was not their agenda. Their fears did not play a role in his mind, words or actions. Unlike the religious, he boldly stepped into the breach. He brought hope instead of fear; love instead of law; he said “Yes” virtually everywhere they said “No”.

And, yes, he did die with terrorists. The Gospels record the fact that he was crucified between two criminals, often called “thieves” in a traditional recounting of Good Friday. However, it is highly unlikely the Roman authorities would resort to their harshest form of execution over a couple of common thieves. It is much more likely that these two men were insurrectionists, Zealots: Jewish men who felt so strongly about their people, their nation, their faith that they were willing to kill and to die for the cause. To them the evil Empire that dominated their land and lives needed to be directly opposed and attacked. Their crime was probably killing Romans or others they saw in league with the Empire. Therefore, the two men crucified with Jesus were, in the eyes of the Romans, terrorists; those who would use fear, violence, intimidation as a means to their end.

The Gospel of Luke tells the simple but profound account involving these two terrorists on either side of Jesus. In Luke’s account, one of the men joins in with those who came to the cross to mock Jesus, to rub salt into his wounds. It is really not a surprise that this man would do so, especially if he was a hyper-committed Zealot. Jesus had spoken and acted like he was the Messiah but had failed miserably to live up to that promise. To this criminal on the cross he was just a pathetic poser with delusions of grandeur. Even as his own death was imminent, this terrorist would feel anger and resentment towards Jesus, someone who was undeserving of a martyr’s death.

But the second criminal, instead of sinking deeper into the void of bitterness, seems to gain insight as he sees the specter of death approaching. He rebukes his fellow terrorist for his harsh words directed at Jesus saying, “We are getting what we deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” And then, in one of the most heart-wrenching and direct statements recorded in scripture, he turns to the young rabbi hanging next to him and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Did he understand at that moment the deeper implications of the death of Jesus? Or was he professing a faith that no matter what transpired that day, this man crucified next to him must be the Messiah; he had to be, he could be no one else? Whatever was the motivation, a man who likely killed out of his fierce ideology was now proclaiming faith out of the glimmer of hope his soul still clung to.

Jesus rewards this gasped confession of faith with the powerful words, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

These words of Jesus, as his own life was ebbing away, is just another example of the fact that, time and time again, when he was faced with an opportunity to respond to those around him, he says “Yes”. Jesus never turned someone away and he always saw a movement towards him as a movement towards truth, towards good, towards what God had in mind in that moment. And he approached each of these moments without fear, without a judgment based on the moral character or background of the people before him. He showed us over and over that when given the chance to do so, he was a Yes Man.

I am pondering this on Good Friday at a time when there is firestorm of debate on social media surrounding the recent events in Indiana. From one side of the story it is a triumphant expression of religious freedom; on the other side it is a cloaked and dangerous form of discrimination. I am in no position to take any one of these sides as I am simply not informed enough. However, as a Christian, I am saddened that non-believers automatically associate the discrimination, the negativity, the exclusion, with followers of the same Jesus I have been writing about here. To those outside the faith so often we are people who, when confronted with the opportunity to engage with the world the way Jesus did, give a loud and undeniable “NO”. As people who believe and follow a man who did not act out of fear, we continually and repeatedly rely on fear as our “fall back” position.

This disturbs me on this Good Friday. As I see it, Jesus died to free us from sin, to give us forgiveness and eternal life. His resurrection on Easter seals the deal. It is God’s great act of restoration and healing for us and all Creation. We can make the theological proclamations and re-affirm this belief. But in day-to-day living what does it mean? Ultimately I believe it means that we are meant to live and engage in our world the way Jesus did, without fear, without our actions being tainted by our mistaken notion that we are “defenders of the faith”. We get so caught up in the wickedness of the world, in our concern that religious freedoms will be stripped away, that a godlessness will descend on our lives that we miss the moments, over and over and over again, to display to our world the powerful example of Gospel grace and truth, love and mercy, openness and engagement without fear.

We are meant to embody hope to people who so desperately need it. Our world is full of sadness. We are not meant to make life more of a struggle to a people stumbling around in darkness. We are meant, like Jesus, to shine; to take those moments offered to us, when our world needs a word of love amid its gasps of pain, to speak and act as our Lord did. Perhaps this was one reason Jesus was so critical of the religiously upright of his time. He saw their attempts at preserving a pure faith as laying heavier and heavier burdens on people who were already feeling crushed. He reacted to their expressions of fear of their world by throwing it back in their faces, confronting them with the actual God they thought they knew and understood.

I’m not sure what it means to you to follow Jesus. But to me it means that every time I am presented with an opportunity to be Jesus in someone’s life, I want to say “Yes”; recognizing that these opportunities will often come with a heavy dose of challenge to my values, my belief system, my understanding of what is right and wrong. Because it is not my job to make sure everyone lives in accordance to the will of God. It is my job to do the will of God, period. And the will of God has never been more powerfully on display than in the life of the one I follow: Jesus.

On this Good Friday, I ask God to grant me the strength to be a Yes Man to my world. To be present and real and a source of hope; to not live my faith out of fear but out of joy; to act and speak from a place of trust in my God and love for all. In other words, I ask God for the strength to be more and more like Jesus.

A happy and hopeful Easter to you all.

So This is Christmas… and Who Do You Love?

On this day when we remember the birth of a man who would be King of Kings and Lord of Lords, being everything that is right about humanity in the midst of everything that is wrong about humanity, it seems appropriate to talk about love.

A funny thing is happening to me as I approach 50. Well, to be accurate, it is one of the many funny things happening to me as I approach 50. Some of the funny things are actually funny, some not so funny. Getting older is often not fun at all, truth be told. This has mostly to do with what is going on physically: the greying, the balding, the hair springing out of the ears (why the hell in the ears? WTF?). But there is an aspect of getting older that is truly beautiful. It is in the beautiful category that I’ve noticed this “funny thing” that is happening to me.

I am becoming less and less reserved when it comes to showing and telling people that I love them. This may not seem like such a funny or amazing thing to those of you to whom this comes easily or to those of you born into naturally effusive ethnic groups (you know who you are). I have always felt a great warmth and affection for many people but have not always been very good at expressing it. Either it felt awkward or I was concerned it would be taken wrong or I was too caught up in my own personal crap to not be thinking of others. But lately I have adopted a “damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead” approach to loving people. And, frankly, it feels awesome.

Last week I wrote out Christmas cards for all of my co-workers. There are twenty of us and the job could have been quick if I just signed my name and stuffed the cards into envelopes. However, instead of the easy route, I decided to take the time to write each of my co-workers a personal note about how much I appreciate them and value them as people. This exercise forced me to sit and think about each person in turn, what unique qualities they have, how I had observed things in each of them that I admired, and then to put those thoughts into writing. I already have a high regard for my team at work but now I can say without a doubt that I love them, each and every one. There was something about getting outside the selfish thought patterns and actions of my day and focusing on others that brought a profound love to the surface.

I went in on a day off to bring in the cards because I couldn’t wait to deliver them. I actually went to work when I didn’t have to, driving through crappy weather. Love makes you do crazy things.

Today is really a day about that crazy little thing called love. After all, it was love, a mad and uninhibited love, that caused God to send his Son to earth, to history, to us. Christmas Day is less about the Gift of God than it is about the Giddiness of God. Imagine, the Supreme Being loving you and me so much that He goes so far as to become one of us, born to a young woman in a ramshackle Roman province, born into an oppressed group of people “walking in darkness”, born vulnerable and dependent. Love in the flesh, delicate and soft. This is God. Crazy.

Why did He do it? I truly believe it is because God’s thoughts are on us all the time. He ponders our unique characteristics, our personalities, our circumstances, our humanity and He loves us all the more deeply for doing so. He loves us so much – past, present and future – that he took that crazy step, that ridiculous action, that insanity wrapped in intense affection, and sent His Son, Jesus: the Love of God for all of us incarnated – flesh, blood and bone.

By acting out of this crazy love, God made himself vulnerable; vulnerable to rejection, to misinterpretation, to the worst in humanity, which would rip apart the best He had to offer and throw it back in His face. Only love can explain this action, a love unfettered and unconditional.

So this is Christmas… and who do you love?


Whether you believe this interpretation of Christmas or whether you think I must be stoned on some spiked eggnog, I hope you see the power of love in it all. That’s the message I’m trying to convey; more than just a reflection on the meaning of Christmas I want what I write here to be an impetus for you to do and say love in your life to all the people in your life.

I don’t want this to sound cliche but damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead: Life is too short to not love people fully and completely in words and in actions. 

Ultimately, that defines the funny thing that is happening to me as I approach 50. If my affection makes you feel awkward I make no apology. You are being loved so deal with it. Better yet, receive the love and pass that shit on. How’s that for a Christmas theme? Pass that shit on!!!

So if you are lucky (or unlucky) enough to get a hug from me, some words of affection, a card written out for you, an “I love you”, realize it is given with no strings attached, no agenda except to make love a defining characteristic of my life.

If that sounds nutty than that is high praise, because love like that is as crazy as Christmas

You May Be a Lousy Evangelical Christian If…

Ned-Flanders-ned-flanders-33045610-491-378Are you a lousy Evangelical Christian?

I am a Christian. For most of my life I have identified with the Evangelical camp in the broader Christian world. At least, if I had to give a definition that most people would understand, I would tell them I was an Evangelical Christian. I’ve never been one that likes labels, but after considering many things that are currently connected with being an Evangelical, I began to realize that I am not very good at it. I am a hopelessly lousy Evangelical.

However, I suspect I am not alone. In fact, I think there are many of us out there. You may be one, too.

To help in determining this, I’ve compiled a very un-scientific list. If you can relate to any of these statements, you may be as hopelessly lousy at this as I am.

So, without further ado…

You may be a lousy Evangelical Christian if:

  • Your view of God is so full of love, grace, mercy and perfect justice that it squeezes the Hell right out of the picture.
  • You suspect that God is much more enraged with injustice and greed than with Adam and Steve.
  • You have the audacity to vote for the candidate you think will do the best job and not for the candidate who leans most to the right.
  • You would much rather hear a song by Lorde than a song about the Lord.
  • You spend exactly 0% of your time worrying about the End Times.
  • You don’t spend time worrying because you consider yourself a “Panmillennialist”: It’ll all pan out in the end.
  • You don’t worry too much about whether or not the Bible is full of facts because you’re more interested in the fact that it’s full of Truth.
  • You found nothing offensive or scandalous in the “Noah” movie.
  • You thought the Rock Monsters in the movie were pretty cool, actually.
  • You figure people who use the term “church shopping” are likely looking for a McChurch or a Church-Mart.
  • You run the other way, screaming, when invited to see any movie with Kirk Cameron in it.
  • You have read exactly 0% of the approximately 37 “Left Behind” books published.
  • You were offended and scandalized by “The DaVinci Code”; not because of the content of the story but because the writing sucked.
  • You have never been tempted to leave your church because of:
    • A woman preaching/leading/using her gifts to help and inspire others
    • An article written in your denominational magazine
    • An opinion expressed different from your own
    • Any doctrinal minutia that maybe might possibly in some circumstances be different from your own.
    • The newfangled hymn books that were purchased.
    • Guitars and/or drums and/or pipe organs and/or didgeridoos in worship.
    • (Fill in any other reason here)
  • You were never concerned that kids reading the Harry Potter books would all become witches or warlocks and fly on broomsticks or cast spells that made slugs come out of someone’s mouth.
  • You actually really liked those Harry Potter books, to tell you the truth. And the movies, too.
  • You wonder why we take ourselves so bloody seriously sometimes.
  • You don’t need huge video screens, massive sound systems, professional praise bands, pyrotechnics, smoke machines, CGI, dramas, hip pastors with tattoos or light displays to feel closer to God.
  • You sometimes feel that those couple of hours on a Sunday morning are much better spent elsewhere or with other people.
  • You imagine that Jesus might be unwelcome in most Evangelical churches if he brought along his posse of secularists, prostitutes and ne’er-do-wells.
  • You hear someone tell you to “Take Back the City for Christ” and wonder how He lost it in the first place if He’s, y’know, God and all.
  • You fear that if Jesus was roaming around today, teaching and healing, his harshest words would be directed at us.
  • You have felt far more inspired and encouraged after a simple coffee shared with a friend than after a dozen church-related activities.
  • You wonder what all the fuss is about most of the time.

Did you find yourself anywhere on this list? If so, you may be struggling at this Evangelical Christian thing, too.

I want to follow Jesus. But after considering how badly I am doing at this, I think it’s time we had a new category for Christianity. Either that or it’s time to cast aside categories altogether and live and let live. Jesus was clear that it would be love that would be the defining characteristic of his followers. It sounds too simple but maybe we are guilty of making it too complicated. The first believers were called “followers of the Way”; Jesus has laid the path out and we’re to follow. It is we who’ve added the tons of baggage and trappings and rules and regulations and expectations and limitations to the deal. He put it so straightforward and unencumbered: “Follow me.”

I want to be able to do that free from labels, free from the shackles we put on others and on ourselves.

I just want to be known as someone who believes in, loves and follows Jesus. I might still be lousy at that but at least I’ll fumble along in joy instead of confusion.