Image result for sesquipedalianYes, that is a real word. It’s a big long word. If you have never heard it before don’t feel bad, I had never heard it either before about a week ago. And if you had asked me I would never have even guessed that there was a game named after it! Image result for sesquipedalian game To paraphrase the dictionary, it means that you use a lot of big long words. I like this word because it is so ironic. Having a big long word to describe how you like to use big long words appeals to my sense of humor.

All my life I have loved to use big words. I thought it was impressive to have a really large vocabulary. When studying God it made sense to me to need to use big words. After all, God is large and complex and you can study forever without fully knowing all about God. Thinking like that seemed to beg for large and complex words to go with it. My studies got more complicated, I loved to hear music that pushed the envelope, I would teach and use a lot of big words because…. because….I had made it about me. *sigh* More about that in a moment.

There is nothing wrong with using big words, just like there is nothing wrong with using simple words. God is big and complex (read the book of Job, “who can understand”) , salvation is easy (“Put your trust in Jesus”, Romans 10). Just like so many things about God, he is many things at once to us. Big and complex and simple and easy.

There doesn’t have to be a choice between easy and complicated. I can embrace both. God really is big and He really does want me to understand what I need to do. He is not hiding behind big words or great thoughts. But there are big words and great thoughts in the bible and he gives me big words and  (at least semi-)great thoughts sometimes. After all, each of us learns at different rates and in different ways and at different times. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 it says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens“.  So there are times for big words and there are times for easier words.

So when does this become a problem? Back to that previous thought: when it becomes about me. When I am using big words and complicated thoughts to make me look smarter or wiser or greater. When I am wanting me to get bigger and blocking out the view of Christ in me. It doesn’t have to be a conscious thought like “I am going to use a big word to appear smart!”. No, it creeps up on me and gets into my life in sneaky ways.

And this way of thinking also affects other things in my life. I can see how our culture has made me seek the complex and forget the simple. I want the new phone, I want to watch a video, I want to see what is in my email/facebook/twitter/youtube/latest_thing, I want, I want, I want. And all too soon, those complicated things are making me think that I am the center, that I could be in control, that I don’t need anything else. And I block the view of Christ in me.

So, what now? I am trying to simplify my life. To reduce the clutter around me. Cut back on things that aren’t helping me grow or understand God’s love for me. And yes, I am sharing my thoughts in that same complicated media because that is another way that I am making myself accountable. It is not the complicated thing that is wrong, it is my attitude towards it.

I have grown to appreciate the simple words, the easy words, the words that are easier to relate to. But…that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a good sesquipedalian every once in a while!



Written in Stone

With a title like that you may think that this is going to be about the 10 commandments, well, I don’t think it will be but I’m not done writing yet. At least we will start in a different place, the southern United States.

There is a tradition at the UnImage result for university of arkansas names on sidewalkiversity of Arkansas where the university engraves the names of the graduates into the sidewalks around campus. They have been doing this for a long time, over a 100 years. Since the school keeps expanding, there is more than enough sidewalk space to let them keep up the tradition.

Today, I want to talk about one of the names that has been engraved in the sidewalk there. It is mine. Yes, I confess, I went to the University of Arkansas and graduated and they engraved my name in the sidewalk along with everyone else that graduated in the same year that I did. It is pretty cool to think about your name being memorialized in stone. Now back when I graduated they didn’t engrave the names right away. It was a couple of years before they actually got around to doing the year I graduated.

A few years later we went to visit the school and remember all the good times we had there. After checking out where we used to live, visiting some friends and professors who were still around and ,of course, eating at some our favorite old places we started looking for my name in the sidewalk. It took a while. The years weren’t in order after the first 50 years or so. We walked quite a bit until we finally found the right year. And there it was, my name, in stone, written for everyone to see….and there was a mistake.

imageYep, my name was not correct! So what do you do with something like that? Something you have looked forward to for years. Something that is supposed to be an ongoing monument to the work that went into school. What to do? I could call the school and get them to correct the error. I know that they do corrections, they do make other mistakes. It’s right there on their web site how I would contact them and get it changed.  Instead I have chosen to leave it. I only occasionally think about it, typically when we are planning a trip that would take us nearby. But when I do think about it, It reminds me of some things.

It reminds me that mistakes are made. I really shouldn’t need a reminder about that because I make lots of mistakes, but I make some big mistakes, and some of the mistakes I make are going to last this long or longer. This mistake didn’t really hurt anyone. But I have made mistakes in relationships that have injured people emotionally and taken years to recover from.

It reminds me that I am not nearly as important as I think I am. After all, if I were that important they would have double checked the name or corrected it before I ever got there. To whoever was doing their job and engraving the names, I was just a name. Not a person.  So what is important? To treat people like people. To treat them with respect and get to know them. To let them know that they are not “just” a name, but something a whole lot more important both to me and especially to God.

It reminds me that not all Image result for elsa frozen let it gomistakes need to be corrected. Sometimes the best thing to do is to just let it go. (Yes, I am humming the song from Frozen while I type this). Sometimes correcting mistakes is done for the wrong reason. Would it be wrong to have the school correct this one? No, not really. But the sidewalk would be damaged if they corrected it and it would look like an obvious patch. By letting go, I can allow the other names around me to be less affected.

It reminds me to laugh. Life can be so serious that sometimes at appropriate (or inappropriate, depending on who you ask) moments I tell people: “Hey, this is pretty bad, but my name is misspelled in stone”. Hopefully I haven’t misjudged that moment too often.

And most importantly. I am reminded to forgive. It doesn’t matter if it was unintentional or not. I was hurt (ok, only my pride was injured, but that’s not the point) and chose to forgive and not let it infect my thinking. One big thing about forgiving that I sometimes ignore. Sometimes what I forgive doesn’t go away. Sometimes the forgiveness is just for me and my attitude and my soul. Sometimes that thing that you have to forgive is permanent and public and will always be there for anyone to see. But God can help you with that too. Even (or especially) when it is written in stone.

What’s my filter?

Everyone has filters. And I do mean more than one filter. There is a technical name for it: “unconscious bias”. There is a common name for it: “stereotyping”. It all boils down to making judgements based on your perception. Experts make a big deal about filters. They study them and try to get clues about how they work to see if we can reduce racism and increase learning. They try to see how to break down or eliminate filters.

I am sure that even though we develop a lot of filters through our life that we have some control over them. We can change filters, we can develop new filters, we can recognize when they are being used and avoid some of the worst of them. It isn’t easy, I actually have to think about what is going on and make conscious decisions. If I go on auto-pilot and let my subconscious handle everything I am saying that I really just don’t care.

I’ve been reading the book of James this week and I thought I would run a few verses through some of the filters I know I have and see what comes out the other side.

James 1: 22-25 says this: “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

Now, If I just read that without thinking I am pretty much going to go to the filter that I have been exposed to early in life. The filter of self condemnation, the filter that says “I am not good enough”, the filter that says, “I must act for God to accept me!”. The thought is that I am not good enough for God so I have to do something, and not just something but I  have to interpret the word correctly or I will have failed.

So I make a decision to apply a filter to the verse. Lets try the filter of consumerism. I got that from being exposed to good old western cultural thinking (remember, you can get filters without knowing it). Now I see that God has given us a way to be accepted! I can act through my faith and study and I can get rewarded for it. Is that really what God is trying to teach me?

I have more filters I want to apply, what about the filter of Love and Grace? That filter says that God has given me a way to be free! I can look at the perfect law and take it into myself and I will be blessed because of making it my own. I can act because God’s love is now inside me.

So which filter is correct? I have many more filters that I could apply to this scripture. Some make it look like I win, some make it look like others win, some make it look like the most confusing thing in the world, other filters make it so simple that I have to laugh. So what is the answer? Which one is God expecting? I have to say “All and None”.  I know that makes me seem wishy-washy. After all, isn’t there supposed to be a RIGHT answer and a WRONG answer? And the thoughts that are coming to me are : No, I just have to believe that God can accept me with whatever filter I am using, at any time and in any way.

God doesn’t give up on me when I have a filter on. I am sure that he wants me to get rid of all the earthly filters and put on the filter of God but I don’t know how to get that right yet. And the comforting thought is: God can make it right. And God knows that I believe and accepts me. God can work with whatever level of belief I have.

It is another one of those ways that God is more things all at once than I can possibly understand. In my mind I want to be right, and God knows that. And in my mind I know that God has made me right, but I don’t act like it, and God knows that too. And in my mind I know that God has made me right and I can express his love and everything is wonderful, and God knows that too. God knows me and he loves me. I can feel the unconditional love.

I can feel my filters gradually changing to be more like him. Gradually becoming clearer and clearer. Some day I want to be completely unfiltered and just bask in who and what God is. The great I AM, all real, no filters.



Something old, something new…

This could have easily been a political post. I feel like I am surrounded by them right now. Everywhere I turn there is either a political ad or someone complaining about a candidate or someone complaining about people complaining or …. it just goes on forever.

But I am encouraged by something else. I was looking over my notes and found what I had written for Psalm 2. I want to share what I had written many months ago because I think it is appropriate now. This is only cleaned up slightly from what I wrote originally.

What has changed in thousands of years? The nations are still angry, they still waste their time planning and plotting and fighting against God. But we can turn that around because something else hasn’t changed in thousands of years. God still laughs, God still scoffs, God still rebukes, God still supports the king he set on the throne. God is constant.

God still wants our submission, God still wants us to give up plots and anger and attempts to control God or replace God. Along with all that, we still can have joy. That has not changed either.

See what I mean? This could be a commentary on our times and it was written thousands of years ago. Solomon even said it, “It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

And that is why it is such a strong contrast when we get to Isaiah. He repeats over and over, God is doing a new thing, God is leading us on a new path, God is telling us new secrets. “They are brand new, not things from the past. So you cannot say. ‘We knew that all the time!’” (Isaiah 48:7). Isaiah even says what the new thing is: the Messiah! God sent his son to save me and you! It is no coincidence that we say that is the good news. It is news, it is new, it is a thing that had never been done.

And that is part of the mystery, God is the same but God is new. Both at the same time. At.The.Same.Time! We don’t have a God that is stagnant but a God that stays new even as he stays the same.

Think about how that thought frees us!Image result for old hand new hand

God is the same, I can depend on him, he keeps his promises, he will always be there for me!

God is new, he is anti-death, he leads me in change, he is always teaching me to grow and reach!

No matter which way I turn, when I stop, when I go, God is there with me, the same and new all at once.

Just change seats…

On my last business trip I flew on a small regional jet. For those of you who have never been on one, they are very skinny and cramped inside. So of course I was crammed in next to a guy that was at least as large as I am, in fact he was a few inches taller than me (and I don’t fit well in those seats). I was on the aisle and he was by the window. We exchanged some small talk and then settled back as well as we could for the flight.

After about an hour he indicated he needed to go to the back. Of course I let him by quickly, I have been on a few flights in my life and you try not to get in someone’s way. He was gone a long time. When he came back he actually looked like he had been in a fight. He was wet, his clothes were crooked, in fact it looked like the buttons weren’t even in the right spot. I got up and let him back in. After a few seconds he started apologizing over and over for his appearance and told me that he was claustrophobic and had had a panic attack. Image result for panic attackI hadn’t ever have that come up on a flight before, I have seen heart attacks, vomiting, lightning strikes, screaming kids and drunks but never someone with a full blown panic attack. He was starting to breathe hard again and It suddenly came to me to just offer him the aisle seat. As soon as we switched he started breathing easier and was able to relax a little bit. That little bit of extra space for the aisle and more room over his head helped him just enough to make it to the end of the flight.

So what is the lesson in that? Pretty obvious really, it was just a seat for me, just a few extra inches of comfort for an hour and a half. For him, it was like giving him a life preserver and hope to make it to the end of the flight. Christian life doesn’t have to be huge great sacrifices on mountain tops with angelic choirs singing in the clouds above us. In fact,  in I Thessalonians 4:11 we are told to make it our goal to live a quiet life.

So the real lesson? Our God is there in the small simple things. He wants us to be so in tune with him that we don’t even ask why? or is this the golden rule? or think about how we will be inconvenienced. We can just live our love and just change seats.

The Good Shepherd…

There have been a lot of sheep stories here lately, I don’t think that this is going to be one of those.

One of the ways that you can study the bible is to read yourself into scripture. Replacing parts of a scripture with your name so you can make them personal to you.  Sometimes that is pretty easy to do. Here’s an example, in Matthew 8:2, it says “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”. That is pretty easy to personalize, “Lord, I said, if you are willing you can heal me and make me clean”. And just that little change can make it more meaningful, you are actually in the story. It can give you a different way to look at how you can apply it to yourself.

There are times though that I think we get confused about what our role is. There are a few verses in John 10 that talk about the Good Shepherd and the sheep. Lets just look at John  10:14-15  for a second: I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father.” Now lets personalize it. Until recently I may have done it like “I am the good shepherd, I know Peter and Peter knows me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father”. Or to put it more obviously, I associate myself as one of the sheep. Now, this is a perfectly good sentiment and I don’t want you to think that I am saying it is wrong, but recently I had a question pop into my head. Who is the shepherd?

My first reaction was “Jesus” of course and that is correct from the verse. But I think my second reaction was correct also. “I” am the shepherd too. One of our aims is to be like Jesus and that means being like Jesus in every way. Ways we normally wouldn’t associate with ourselves. What if this verse were already personalized. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father.”  If we are going to act like Jesus (remember WWJD), then we need to act like a good shepherd also. But I hear my own objections already. Doesn’t that make me proud? After all, I am assuming that this responsibility of being a shepherd is mine. Well lets look at another place that the Good Shepherd is talked about.

In I Peter 5:4 it says: “And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.”.  Seems pretty simple to me, when Jesus comes we will get a crown, right? Well, yes and no. What does it mean to get a crown? Is Jesus really into bling? Or, now we have something really nice to wear on special occasions? I don’t think so. When someone gets a crown they get a big bunch of responsibility along with it. Think about it, a King or Queen or Prince or Princess gets a crown, do they sit around all day and do nothing? No, they have work to do. And I think we have work we can do also. When we strive to be like Jesus, that means we also strive to do the same things he did. We talk to people, we comfort people, we study God’s word, we associate with everyone. In other words, we become a shepherd.

And that’s why the story is not about the sheep, it is about the shepherd. Me and anyone else who truly wants to be like Jesus.


Head vs. Heart

“They” say that when you are speaking in public you should always end with what you want the audience to remember because they will most likely remember the first thing and the last thing you said. I have normally found that to be true and in addition, the audience will most likely  put their own spin on the last thing you say no matter how you phrase it. This can , of course, create some problems with us humans. I have sat through many sermons on the greatest commandment, like here in Matthew 22:37-38 :  Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. 

So what did I remember? “Love the Lord your God ….. with all your mind”. Seriously,  I became head oriented. I was logical, rational, cool (make that cold), and decently and in order. Everything had to make perfect logical sense. There was no room for emotions in my worship. No way I would let my heart run away with things, I had to stay in control. And that was the elephant in the room, Control. By confining my love of God to emotionless logic I could maintain the illusion that I was in control of my religion.

It has been a struggle for me over the years
to let emotion in, to let the heart have a place. Even though that command specifically says heart … and mind. The struggle was in learning submission to Christ and giving up the illusion of control. I keep saying illusion of control because that is exactly what it was (is). When we think we have control then we are being controlled by something other than God.

Now, this may seem backwards to some people, but I started writing to get in better touch with my heart. In the past I would have thought that writing things down would have led to more rational thought, orderly thought, cool and logical thought because the act of putting words down would lead to order. But the opposite has happened.

If you happen to read the introduction to my blog it says “Sometimes I just need to write it down to get it straight in my head.”. I do love puzzles and figuring out complicated things and knowing things that others didn’t know. But that wasn’t getting me any nearer to letting my heart have an equal voice in my walk with god. Well, I consciously made a decision to write in simpler terms because in my head it was getting more and more mixed up, not mixed up in the sense that it wasn’t orderly, but mixed up in the sense that something important was not being given a place.

That something was my heart. My wonderful wife has known this for much longer than I. I could try to figure out why that is, but that would only be me trying to control the situation. It is enough that she has known and I have been able to slowly slowly slowly allow the example of her life to trickle into my heart and make it grow. So we come full circle back to that commandment:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and….. with all your mind”

psst…. you out there typing this in…. i think you missed something….

Yes, that commandment is not only heart and mind, but heart, soul and mind. It is not a head vs. heart problem at all but a head vs. heart vs. soul. Not only had I cut emotions out, but i had cut myself off from the very thing that gives life and meaning and purpose. My heart saved me though, it has grown enough that the head has retreated and that soul love finally has a place to grow.

But what does that mean? (There goes my head again… I can’t say that it is wrong though, I want to understand this at least little bit). If the mind is the head (rational, reasoning, deciding) and the heart is the emotions (joy, happiness, dancing) what is the soul? That part of us that is not permanently bound by our bodies. After all, God is a spirit and we worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Loving God with all our soul means making that spirit connection with God.

When I only have head love then i miss out on the heart and soul connections and my love of God is brittle. If I only have heart love then I miss out on the richness of God’s teachings and allowing the spirit to work in my life and I have a hard time growing. If I only have soul love then I miss out on both the teachings of God and the fullness of sharing emotions with those worshiping around me and lose the strength of fellowship. I need them all to be complete. I need them all to not only love God but love those around me.

No wonder this is the greatest commandment, the very things that make me unique and special are the things that I use to love God.