Category Archives: A personal note

Gratitude, an Army, and a Dance

“What do you have that you did not receive?”  1 Corinthians 4:7

Today I turned seventy, and some have asked what it is like.  I’ll tell you, it’s an experience of profound gratitude.  I came wailing into the world on January 17, 1953, with nothing owed to me.  And before I took my first breath an army was assigned to my care: doctors, nurses, administrators, dietitians and diaper-changers.  

My first day of school, and the first day of my seventies.

The army expanded as farmers and pickers, truck drivers, and toy makers, jumped into the act to keep my little demanding self fed and entertained.  Teachers and preachers, scout masters, school-staffers, den mothers and doctors swirled ‘round my young soul in a tango of training, a ballet of discovery in a  world unexplored. 

The dance grew with craftsmen and makers of pianos and flutes; of guitars and ukes, designers of autos and airplanes, and pilots who shuttled me to far-off places. There’ve been bakers of baguettes and clerks who sold them to me in lonely airports, and strangers who smiled at me when I was alone, or walked me to the bus station in a foreign city. Firemen and soldiers have guarded me while I slept, and symphonies have soothed me in times of distress.

Others joined quietly: unnamed coal miners,  linemen, and gas-field workers who kept me warm and mobile, or kept the lights burning, authors and book-writers, artists and illustrators, balladeers, and inventors, Romantic composers and Renaissance painters who stood me before beauty, while sanitation workers and plumbers quietly kept the toilets flushing and the garbage at bay.  Do you see the staggering complexity that has undergirded my life?   I get lost in the thought of how many have fed me, nurtured me, inspired and sustained me . Keeping a soul alive for a week is Herculean.  Keeping it alive for seventy years is a miracle! 

I read recently that the little metal band that holds the eraser onto the end of a pencil requires no less than thirty processes, from mining and smelting to shaping and coating.  Thirty processes!  And that’s just for the band that holds the eraser!  

My mind strains to think of vanilla-growers and chicken-pluckers, of road-pavers and engineers of bridges and tunnels, of builders and butchers, of packers and produce-managers, of cooks and servers and geniuses who keep the Internet online, shoe-makers, shirt-stitchers, of postal workers and barbers who keep the deliveries coming and my cow-lick at bay.   It’s no exaggeration to imagine an army of millions has served and assisted me in this great dance of life.  How fortunate to be the recipient of all this goodness!

And you, too, are included.  Maybe you’ve danced with me for only an afternoon, or perhaps you’ve held me tight over the years.  For your part, I am fiercely grateful.  You have shaped me by your friendships, laughter, tears, and embrace, all woven together by an unseen Hand, who issues the invitation:

“Your Heavenly Father, His Glorious Son, and the Spirit of Life
request the honor of this dance”.  

Profound gratitude.  That’s what turning seventy feels like.

*(This post was inspired by The Great Dance, by my friend C. Baxter Kruger).

Why I Am A Christian (Rewrite)

In 2001 I was living in postwar Sarajevo, Bosnia. The World Trade Center had just been attacked, and people were asking existential questions. I wrote a piece entitled “Why I Am a Christian” which received an unusual amount of traction at the time. I recently went back and updated it. It’s a little longer than my other blog entries, but if you take the time to read it, you’ll see why.

When I was a new believer, if a person were to ask me why I’m a follower of Jesus, I would have drawn from the beautiful, subjective experiences of my new found relationship with Him. I would have spoken about “peace”, “forgiveness” and “life” with deep sense of wonder and gratefulness. But if you were to ask me that question now, so many decades later, my response would go so much deeper, beyond the subjective into the depths of reality itself:

Today I follow Jesus not only because of the beautiful inner work He did in me during those early days, but also because the Biblical story offers the only complete and viable answers to life’s most universal questions

  • Who and what is man?
  • Is there meaning to life?
  • What’s wrong with the world?
  • How can the world be fixed?
  • Why is my heart so deeply moved by beauty, compassion, and stories?
  • Why do I dream of a different, more perfect world?

Jesus answers all the questions:
While the Materialists, Marxists, and Postmodern intellectuals wrestle in vain to make sense of these questions, Jesus gathers them all up and assembles them into a story that gives a complete accounting of all nature, life and human longings. No other worldview even comes close to that. Search for yourself the philosophies of Materialism, Marxism, Postmodernism, Islam, Buddhism, and New Age Spiritualism. They fail spectacularly in answering even the most basic questions of life.

The Way to Beauty, and Life:
I’m a follower of Jesus because wherever it grows, Biblical Christianity produces consistently beautiful and enduring fruit. No other “way” has built so many hospitals, orphanages, rescue missions, has fed so many hungry people, lifted so many out of poverty, emancipated so many slaves, or established so many organizations to serve, educate, heal, and bless the human family as the simple followers of Jesus, who believe that “inasmuch as you did it to the least of these, my brothers, you did it unto me.”

The Foundation of Science and Creation:
I’m a Christian because creation itself testifies of a wondrous order that can only point to a loving, genius Creator. The world’s greatest scientists from Isaac Newton and Francis Bacon, to Carl Linnaeus and Max Plank have believed that only an infinite, personal God can account for the intricacies of fireflies, animal instincts, eyesight and hearing, the Fibonacci and the water cycle, the rotational clockwork of the planets, and the natural laws of nature. Man and animals alike exhibit a capacity for love and relationship that could never have arisen out of a cold, impersonal time-chance universe. Follow the science, and you will come to an infinite, personal God who designed us with mind-boggling DNA, self-consciousness, and emotions that cause us to tear-up in the presence of profound beauty.

The Basis of Civilized Society, Order and Blessing:
I am a follower of Jesus because the Biblical story offers the best and only viable foundation for a civilized society. Look at the nations of the world. Where there is freedom, purpose, prosperity, justice and compassion you will find Jesus at the foundation.

Christianity Explains Us:
But it doesn’t stop on the cultural level.  Christianity goes deeper to undergird and explain our own personal passion for beauty, life, relationship, understanding, order, meaning and story:  I was created in the “spittin'” image of a loving, creative, genius of a God.  And that explains so much about who I am. The Father, Son and Spirit is eternally relational, and so I, (we), long for relationships.  God ordered the universe, and so we desire order.  God creates, and so we love to create. God works, and we enjoy work. God thinks, and we are thinkers.  God writes powerful, meaningful stories  And we too have a great yearning to live deep and meaningful stories!  

The Satisfier of Personal Need:
And finally I am a follower of Christ because of the deeply personal way He meets me in everyday life; because he steps into my human brokenness, darkness and despair and meets me with a love and quiet presence that stills my soul with assurance and peace. I follow Jesus because he is the true source of life, purpose, truth, wisdom, understanding, and reality itself.

The Man in the Mirror

During World War One, the London Times ran a popular series of editorials in which they invited well known people to opine on the question, “What’s wrong with the world”? The great writer and theologian, G.K. Chesterton contributed what is perhaps the shortest editorial in history:chesterton-i-am-postcard

Dear Sirs,

I am.

G.K. Chesterton.

As we face another election cycle, it’s a great temptation to classify other people as the problem or even “the enemy”. They are not. The point I was going for was not a theological statement of identity, (I know full-well that I am one who is deeply loved by the Father), but rather of the human tendency to judge and condemn others while giving ourselves a pass.

Jesus touched on this idea in the Sermon on the Mount: “How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”  (Matthew 7:4-5) Other people are not my problem, and the friend who disagrees with me is never my enemy.  My greatest challenge is not the person I see through my window, but the one I see in my mirror. Only when we face this truth can we begin to embrace the life of personal responsibility which characterizes the Kingdom.