daveburchettDave Burchett

All articles by daveburchett

 

W.T. Johnston: A Life Well Lived

Over my forty-year sports broadcasting career I have met a lot of coaches. Some are famous. Some are infamous. Rarely does an interaction with a coach impact my life in a truly significant way. That happened to me when I became friends with a Newton, Texas high school football coach named W.T. Johnston. One of my assignments in 2017 was directing a number of Texas high school championship games for Fox Sports. Our preparation included a conference call with each coach. Most of the time the coaches simply tell us about their season and their players. W.T. Johnston did that in December of 2017. When a question was asked about his health challenges I was captivated by his story. Johnston had been diagnosed with sarcoidosis in 1998. That was the lung disease that ultimate took the lives of Hall of Fame football player Reggie White and comedian Bernie Mac. Johnston eventually needed a double lung transplant and at first it
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Life’s Tapestry

Years ago in a college dorm room far, far away I would drift off to sleep listening to Carole King’s Tapestry in spectacular portable cassette quality. Tapestry was the title cut of an album that Rolling Stone placed in their Top 50 all-time album list. Tapestry talks about how seemingly unrelated threads can be woven into something beautiful and even royal. I suspect that my life experience makes this a much more meaningful song than it was when we played it in a now demolished dorm room. My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue An everlasting vision of the ever changing view A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold So many threads of life that seem completely unrelated have come together to weave the tapestry of my life. My life tapestry sometimes feels tattered and ugly and ill-fitting. But as a follower of Jesus I
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A Timely Lesson from Ephesus

A favorite song from MercyMe cycled up at a good time. The lyrics from the song Greater perfectly describe my need to trust who God says I am. Bring your doubts And bring your fears Bring your hurt And bring your tears There’ll be no condemnation here You are holy, righteous and redeemed. That is the truth I have to remind myself just about every day. There is no condemnation in Christ. Yet I too often default to shame and self-effort. I have to daily remember that the grace of God is already mine. I need to remind myself everyday that I am redeemed. Paul spent a little over two years teaching and discipling the new believers in Ephesus. Just a few short years after he left Paul received reports that those new hearts had reverted to old habits. Things were a bit of a mess and the word came back that the old behaviors of rage, immorality, lying, stealing and
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Dealing With My Doubt

I am amazed by people who are so brazenly sure they are right about what they believe. I have friends who are completely sure there is no God and there is no logical need for such beliefs. They believe science is the ultimate answer for everything and they view my faith as a naive weakness and crutch. Sometimes I long to be as sure of anything as they are of everything. So I will be honest. I have wrestled with doubt in my faith journey. I am not convinced that I know everything. Here is a bit of what I wrote about that journey in Waking Up Slowly. The story line of the movie Risen was intriguing to me. Historically, there was a Nazarene who was crucified, and two groups had a tremendous interest in making sure that his death was the end of the story. The Romans wanted no movement to grow so large that it would cause political
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What was Good about Good Friday?

I often wonder what it was like for followers of Jesus on the day he was killed. They saw nothing good about that Friday. They went from great hope to complete despair. To their eyes everything they had put their faith in died on a cruel Cross. No doubt they were scared, confused, and hopeless. They did not know on that dark day that the hope of this season was all about Sunday. Tony Campolo writes about a life changing sermon he heard in his book It’s Friday but Sunday’s Comin’. (Note to spiritual cyber hall monitors…I know Mr.Campolo is controversial. Just enjoy this illustration, take a deep breath, and move away from the keyboard). Campolo writes about hearing a wise African-American pastor preach about the events of Easter week. For an hour and a half he preached one line over and over again…”It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!” He started his sermon real softly by saying, “It was Friday; it was Friday and my
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One Word I Hate

I am trying to limit my use of the word hate. I don’t say that I hate those who oppose my faith. I don’t hate those who have opposite political views. I don’t even hate the Pittsburgh Steelers even though that will get my Browns Backers pass revoked. I do, however, have a few things for which I will use the word hate. One thing I hate is legalism in Christianity. Legalism is answering to the wrong source of authority. My faith journey began in a legalistic church and I will probably always walk with a bit of a spiritual limp. Legalism takes the sweet Gospel of Jesus Christ and mixes in some “churchified” version of the law. Church by-laws often occupy equal footing with God’s Word. Righteousness is no longer about Christ but about right behavior as only they define it. Legalism cherry picks verses that support behavioral control while conveniently ignoring dozens of verses about grace, forgiveness, kindness, love, gentleness and forbearance. Focusing on
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Life Happens

The goal of my book Waking Up Slowly was to examine actions and attitudes that cause us to be less connected to God and one another. One of the things you can be sure of when you write or teach about your faith is that you will get a pop quiz on your own material. John Lennon famously wrote that “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”. I think we can all relate to that. You have expectations for a day or project that are derailed by unseen events. Schedules don’t line up. People let you down. The daily rhythms of life can be frustrating. At times if feels like the universe is conspiring against you. But I believe there is joy to be found and sacred moments to discover in the most frustrating situations. My lovely wife calls these moments “postcards from God”. Satan relentlessly reminds us of how bad our situation is and that we
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What Do You See in the Mirror?


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Hope Springs Eternal on Opening Day

This week marks my thirty-seventh Opening Day as a television director for Texas Rangers broadcasts. I must have started when I was twelve. Someone asked me at church if I ever grow tired of Opening Day. The answer is a resounding no! When I do it will be time to move to a rocking chair at the old director’s home. I feel like I am just behind Lou Gehrig as the “luckiest man on the face of the earth” to have been able to do this year after year. In my mind there is no more special day in sports than Opening Day in baseball. It is an annual rite of Spring to post this article on the magic of Opening Day. The smell of freshly cut emerald green grass delights the senses. The base lines painstakingly and perfectly defined by a grounds crew that is committed to perfection on this day. Red, white, and blue bunting give the ball
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The Cost of Worry

“Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” That old proverb came to mind as I read a study about the link between increased worry and stroke risk. After adjusting for other behaviors they discovered that those participants with the highest level of anxiety factors had a thirty-three percent higher risk of strokes than those in the lowest range of anxiety. The study was sobering on a personal level. My Dad was a chronic worrier. He died from complications of a stroke. Worry steals joy and peace from its victims. I saw it with my Dad. I see it all around me. As I get older I experience more and more how practical Scripture is for daily living. In the teaching of my youth the Bible was a book of lofty and seemingly impossible demands to behave in a way that would please God. Now I see that the Bible
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Friends Who Are Good For Your Soul

An article titled “Friends Who are Good for Your Brain” caught my attention this week. The BBC post postured that we can only process so many things so we develop shortcuts to help us cope. The downside is that approach limits creativity and growth. One of their solutions was one I wholeheartedly agree with and have written about in these musings. Spend time with people who look and think differently than you. “When people are exposed to a more diverse group of people, their brains are forced to process complex and unexpected information. The more people do this, the better they become at producing complex and unexpected information themselves. This trains us to look more readily look beyond the obvious – precisely the hallmark of creative thinking.” Philip Yancey points out that getting out of your comfort zone is really important for followers of Jesus. “As I study the Pharisees, and Jesus’ strong words against them in Luke 11 and
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What is a “Real” Christian?

  “If you were a real Christian you would (fill in the blank)” is one of my least favorite phrases. I have found that blank is always filled with an observation that you would believe exactly as your accuser if you were, in fact, a real Christian. The strategy is from the guilt is a way easier persuasion tactic than grace handbook. Recently I passed a billboard with this message. Real Christians Obey Jesus. Okay. I get the intent of the message. Too many folks leave their Sunday Lesson in the parking lot as they drive to lunch. Exactly what does it mean to be a “real Christian”? We subtly (or in my own experience, not so subtly) program Christians to believe that growth is about doing more right things. That righteousness somehow requires busyness for Jesus. We imply that change can only happen when you are trying hard and being disciplined for God. The truth is that a dramatic
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Don’t Blink!

Yesterday was a convergence of reality and random satellite radio surfing. As I contemplated that my first born is somehow forty years-old a song fired up from Kenny Chesney. In the lyric an interviewer asks a man celebrating his one hundred and second birthday about his secret to life. His response? Don’t blink The lyrics go on to describe just how quickly this earthly journey goes by. Just like that you’re six years old and you take a nap and you Wake up and you’re twenty-five and your high school sweetheart becomes your wife Don’t blink You just might miss your babies growing like mine did Turning into moms and dads next thing you know your “better half” Of fifty years is there in bed. Wow. I am right there. I’m still a ways from the century mark though my shoulder feels that old this morning. It seems like just yesterday that I was playing sandlot baseball as a kid. Moments
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Stopping the Slow Rot of Sin

I used to be quick to jump on Christians who failed morally. How could they claim to be a Christian and do something like that? A bit of insight came from a Texas storm a few years ago. Strong winds toppled a 50-foot-tall tree in a friend’s backyard. But strong winds are a part of every spring in Texas. Why did this particular storm fell a mature tree? The answer came as my friend cut up the fallen tree. It was completely rotted inside. There was no way to tell when you looked at the tree. The bark covered the decay and the leaves were still green and pretty. But inside the tree was dying. It finally reached a point where there was not enough strength left in its core to withstand another storm. The example from nature is a metaphor for how we can topple as Christians and completely surprise those around us. We wear masks. We look good.
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Spring Training for Followers of Jesus?

Baseball fans countdown the day until pitchers and catchers report like a kid impatiently marking off calendar days til Christmas. The teams arrive in Florida and Arizona as the nation grows weary of gray and gloom. Spring Training is the first hope of Spring. Today begins the annual six week period of teaching, training, and repetitious fundamental drills. It seems almost silly for uber talented and well paid athletes to be reviewing the same fundamentals they learned in youth baseball. Yet you watch the very best players focus on repeating proper fundamentals over and over. Superstars hit off a tee. Gold Glove fielders practice footwork repeatedly. Pitchers constantly repeat correct throwing motion. The message is clear. Talent is important but even the best can be derailed by forgotten or sloppy fundamentals. Perhaps we should co-opt that idea of fundamental training for followers of Jesus. Today I am starting a movement for “Preachers and Christians” to report for Spring Training. For a few
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Grace Doesn’t Keep Stats

I live in the performance driven world of sports. We too often measure value not by character but by statistics like how many tackles for loss or how many yards gained per carry. Character is a nice bonus but performance is king. I remembered a comment from Northwestern University football coach Pat Fitzgerald about the impact of negative stats on a football player’s performance. Coaches often talk about the need to reduce “missed” tackles and they keep track of each miscue. Coach Fitzgerald has a different philosophy. His staff does not keep track of missed tackles at all. The staff evaluates each play by their effort even if it does not produce perfect results. His next comment stuck with me. “I don’t like to put negative results in their minds because you become what you think about.” It immediately hit me how profound that comment is for followers of Jesus. We tend to keep spiritual stats on failure. We beat
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Groundhog Day Faith?

Every year they rudely awaken Punxsutawney Phil long enough for the prognosticating rodent to let us know whether six more weeks of winter awaits. Phil always looks about as happy as I do when when I am disturbed in the morning. Twenty-six years ago a funny and underappreciated movie came on the scene. Groundhog Day told the story of a self-absorbed news reporter (redundancy alert?) that finds himself stuck in an endless repeat of the same day. Bill Murray is perfect in the role of reporter Phil Connors. Reporter Phil is less than thrilled that he has been assigned to cover Punxsutawney Phil’s annual peek outside to predict winter’s duration. He feels he is “above” such an inane assignment. Connor’s looks into the camera and cynically reports: “This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.” The premise of the movie is that Phil Connors realizes he is doomed to live
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We All Bleed The Same

I have been on a news fast for a month. I backslid last week and tuned my satellite radio to see what was going in Washington (D)ysfunctional (C)hildren). Within a minute I regretted my decision. Both sides were attacking and demeaning the other’s motives, integrity, and decency. My mood turned sour. Then I flipped to another channel and the first song I heard was a duet from Mandisa and TobyMac. These lyrics immediately grabbed my heart. Are you left? Are you right? Pointing fingers, taking sides When are we gonna realize? We all bleed the same We’re more beautiful when we come together We all bleed the same So tell me why, tell me why We’re divided. Why indeed? I am praying for another leader like Martin Luther King Jr who will remind us that hateful rhetoric never, ever, ever changes a heart. Followers of Christ have a message of hope and light that is desperately needed. But we get caught
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Surviving Trials

No one gets through this journey unscathed. A song I default to when walking through valleys is from singer/composer Rich Mullins. The song “Hold Me Jesus” is from his CD called Songs. Well, sometimes my life Just don’t make sense at all When the mountains look so big And my faith just seems so small Right now I am in a pretty good place in my life and journey with Jesus. But then I start thinking about the many friends and loved ones who can relate completely to those lyrics. The words do not exaggerate the agony of going through dark valleys. And I wake up in the night and feel the dark It’s so hot inside my soul I swear there must be blisters on my heart I remember how I used to respond. I would deduce it must be my fault. God must not be pleased with me. I would decide that I had to do something to bolster my faith. I needed to
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A Leadership Trait That Changes Everything

I am a lifetime, avid Cleveland Browns fan. I know. Thank you for your prayers. I am more optimistic now than I have been in many years. Part of that hope is some great young players. But another factor is the new head coach. Freddie Kitchens is a down to earth and positive influence on the field. He asks each player what plays they like to run and then implements their ideas into the game plan. The players were blown away by that level of personal involvement. My first reaction was “why is that deemed unusual”? Why wouldn’t a leader want buy-in and ownership of the game plan? Why wouldn’t a leader create a culture of affirmation? As General Dwight Eisenhower wisely observed. “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.”  A recent book entitled The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton concluded that appreciation might well be the missing accelerator for
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Finding My Way in a Confusing Culture

Joni and I live in a racially diverse city. Even with that disclaimer my recent morning errand run was unusual. I made four stops, interacted with at least a dozen people, and not one of them looked like me. Every encounter I had was friendly, upbeat, and kind. Not one black, Hispanic, or Asian person seemed to notice or care that I was not like them. I reflected on that experience versus the America the media and politicians portray. According to the inflammatory headlines we are a country of hatred, racism, and greed. I am not naive. We are far from a perfect union because our nation is made up of imperfect people like me and you. People who want freedom. People who want to be able to enjoy friends and family. People looking for acceptance by others and forgiveness for mistakes. People who want to believe they are a part of something more significant than just getting through the
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A Cure for the Post-Christmas Letdown?

Greeting cards have all been sent The Christmas rush is through But I still have one wish to make A special one for you     Lyrics from ‘Merry Christmas Darling’ – The Carpenters During my caffeinated quiet time today I reflected on the odd way we celebrate Christmas. We rush pell-mell to Christmas Day with intensity that would make a Marine drill instructor proud. The build up to Christmas goes on for weeks and then, before you can assure everyone that Mary did know, it is over. Maybe the idea of the Twelve Days of Christmas is a good one if we can overhaul the confusing and messy gift list. The cost to fulfill the 12 Days of Christmas shopping list inflated to $39,094.93 this year. Labor costs have driven up the price for the Lords a leapin’ and the Pipers piping by over 3 percent. The good news is the price for the gold rings declined 9 percent. Let’s concede that
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There are NO Misfits on the Island of Grace

Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. I love the music, the memories, the traditions, and the chance to annually think about Burl Ives. His memory returns with the annual airing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Ives is the voice of Sam the Snowman who narrates the “enhanced” story of Rudolph. Rudolph and his elf buddy Hermey don’t fit in with the others. Rudolph looks different than his peers. Hermey is not interested in making toys. In an odd plot twist, Hermey wants to be a dentist. Not surprisingly, his elf supervisor is upset with the unproductive Hermey. So the two outcasts set off to find their purpose and a place to be accepted.                                                       The part of the story that resonates with me these days is when Hermey and Rudolph find their way to the Island of Misfit Toys. All of the toys on this island are castoffs because they are flawed and deemed worthless. There is a
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The Healing Power of that Silent Night

One of my favorite Christmas stories happened during the horrors of war. The Christmas carol “Silent Night” was actually responsible for a wartime Christmas truce. The year was 1914 and soldiers were having to spend Christmas Eve night on the World War I battlefields of. After only four months of fighting, more than a million men had already perished in the bloody conflict. The bodies of dead soldiers were scattered between the trenches. Enemy troops were dug-in so close that they could easily exchange shouts. On December 24, 1914, in the middle of a freezing battlefield in France, a miracle happened. The British troops watched in amazement as candle-lit Christmas trees began to appear above the German trenches. The glowing trees soon appeared along the length of the German front. Henry Williamson, a young soldier with the London Regiment wrote in his diary: “From the German parapet, a rich baritone voice had begun to sing a song I remembered my German nurse singing to me…. The grave and tender voice rose out
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The Cattle Were What?????

One of my contributions with these modest little musings is to continually ask the tough questions. While listening to  “Away in a Manger” my inquiring mind kicked in. You likely know verse three of the song. The cattle are lowing The poor Baby wakes But little Lord Jesus No crying He makes As I listened an important series of difficult and probing inquiries popped into my head. What noise, exactly, were the cattle making when they started lowing? Was this normal cow talk? Did lowing just sound better than mooing in the lyric or is lowing a more spiritual and reverent cow sound? And then the most important question came to mind. What is wrong with me? I can’t answer the last question but I can help with the others. Lowing is defined at dictionary.com as “the characteristic sound uttered by cattle; a moo”. So little baby Jesus was awakened by the characteristic sound uttered by a cow. That would not have flowed well
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Looking for a Unique Gift for Christmas?

Looking for a truly unique gift idea? How about giving a personalized edition of Stay:Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace or Waking Up Slowly to a friend or family member. Just go to your local Barnes and Noble, Christian book store or order one or both online. Send me your mailing address and how you want the book/books signed. I will mail you an autograph plate(s) that you can affix inside the book. Simple and very personal! Send your requests to dave@daveburchett.com or private message me on Facebook with your mailing info and requests. The deadline is December 17th so hurry! Merry Christmas! Dave Burchett
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All I Want for Christmas is…

Amy Grant recorded “My Grown-up Christmas List” for her “Home For Christmas” album. The lyrics imagine an adult going back to Santa with a different perspective on what matters most in life. Instead of material things the writer now asks for good things for others. I love the sentiment of the song. No more lives torn apart That wars would never start And time would heal all hearts Everyone would have a friend And right would always win And love would never end This is my grown-up Christmas list I thought about my “grown-up” Christmas list this week. I would love for all of the things in the lyric above to come true. But I have lived enough to know they will not. Everyday lives are torn apart. Wars start too frequently. Time does not heal every heart. Some who are reading this are lonely. Right seems to lose way too often and love ends for many. So what could
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Following Jesus in an Angry World

I have been thinking and praying a lot about following Jesus in the current climate. How can I represent the grace and love of Jesus in a culture that is angry and divided? I read pundits and commentators saying terrible things about the motives of Evangelicals as if all people of faith act in lockstep. To be fair, some of their accusations are valid. I wrote a book called “When Bad Christians Happen to Good People Happen to Good People” so I would suggest I have no problem owning the shortcomings of Christians. In some circles you bring up Evangelical Christians at the risk of getting your hair parted. Too often the church has made what we stand against the message of our faith instead of the wonderful and liberating Good News of the Gospel. The word Evangelical literally means “Good News”. Is that the connotation the word has in our culture today? Do we share in the degeneration of
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The Most Important Thing in the Church

This week the Most Valuable Players in Major League Baseball were announced and it reminded me of a former baseball MVP. I have written a lot about how people in the church do considerable damage with actions and words that do not reflect Jesus. I have been frustrated by Christians who receive grace willingly and deny it to others. I see division in the body of Christ where we should see unity. It occurred to me that the church does not understand a few key principles that winning baseball teams understand. The first thing that winning teams understand is that every teammate brings strengths and weaknesses to the team. A great team celebrates the strengths of each player and works together to offset the weaknesses. I pondered this as I was reading about the career of Joe Gordon. In 1942 Gordon led the American League in strikeouts. He made more errors that year than any other second baseman. He hit into more double plays
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The Beauty of Refining Trials

My lovely wife loves pottery, so one of my “sacrificial” ways to love Joni is to accompany her to pottery shops. Guys refer to that as “hitting behind the runner” or “taking the charge.” Once we visited a shop where the artisans were making vases and pots right before our eyes, surrounded by shelves of the colorful, beautiful, and functional finished products. While Joni looked around, I watched a potter take a nondescript lump of clay and skillfully make a unique creation. This verse from Isaiah came to mind. O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.  (Isaiah 64:8) I was fascinated by the complexity of the process. The potter must make sure that no dirt or impurities are in the clay. These unwanted materials will make the pot weak and unusable for its intended purpose. God desires to do the same with us. Impurities (sin) weaken us and
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We All Serve Something

Bob Dylan wrote some powerful songs about his faith journey in the late 70’s. One song he composed popped up on the music feed recently. “Gotta Serve Somebody” simply says that no matter how independent, self-sufficient or in control we might try to be we still serve something or somebody. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You’re gonna have to serve somebody Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord But you’re gonna have to serve somebody That lyric struck a spiritual chord because it reminded me of some seriously head and heart messing stuff I have been reading from Tim Keller. Keller wrote a thought provoking definition of idolatry and how we can substitute even good things for God. “Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily
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Don’t Know Much About…

I used to get nervous around Biblical scholars. They would start talking about the text in the original languages and I realized the only Greek I understood was yogurt. To be honest, some of the theologians I encountered did not seem like anyone I would want to be around on purpose. It seemed like some theologians were to joy in Christ what nutritionists were to enjoying cheesecake. They both took something full of delight and made you feel mostly bad about it. Yet something has changed in my life. I saw the need for a solid theological basis for what I believe. All of this came to mind when Sam Cooke’s classic Wonderful World popped up in my iTunes. You know the one where Sam builds a strong case for academic slacking actually being a strength. Don’t know much about history Don’t know much biology Don’t know much about a science book Don’t know much about the french I took But
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As I was finishing my first book the editor at Waterbrook Publishing asked me to submit some potential titles. I sent ten suggestions but, in keeping with my character, three of them were jokes. Imagine my surprise when one of my “smart aleck” ideas was chosen as the official title. That is how the book became “When Bad Christians Happen to Good People”. I had no idea how much that book would resonate with people who had been wounded by the church. I started the book with a rather unusual disclaimer. I must begin with some words of disclosure. I am a hypocrite. I can be arrogant and selfish. I have been known to stretch, conceal, or slightly massage the truth. I am sometimes inconsiderate and insecure. I struggle with lust and impure thoughts. My ego often rages out of control, and I battle foolish pride. I can be lazy and foolhardy with my time. I get angry, petty, and
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My Response to Circumstances is a Choice

This was an interesting week. The lovely Mrs. Burchett acquired a brand new knee on Monday (so I was nursing and not musing last week). She is doing great and will be chasing grand kids in short order. The day before surgery a brief but violent storm took down multiple power poles in our neighborhood leaving us without power. We hoped it would be quickly resolved but the reports said we would likely be without power until Friday. Now I had a conundrum dealing with a convalescing wife in a home without power. Do I curse the darkness (literally) or do I address the problem with determination and good cheer? That is a choice. I would venture that any energy wasted on complaining and assigning blame is wasted energy. I put out a call to friends and family for a generator. We found one and had the generator up and running by Monday night. We were able to power the
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We Forget our Blessings Way too Easily

When I need “comfort” music I often go country. Tracy Lawrence has a simple yet thought provoking song called “As Easy As Our Blessings.” Here is the opening stanza: Lately I’ve been having more nights that I can’t sleep Storms of life keep blowing in sometimes it gets so heavy It drives me to my knees and it’s coming down again Then a voice inside reminds me of the roof over my head And my wife and kids are tucked away warmly in their beds I have written often about Satan’s strategy to rob us of our joy. When we spend our time regretting the past or living in fear of the future we cannot live in peace in the moment. Paul addressed the syndrome in his letter to the church at Philippi. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4 NIV Perhaps the most insidious tactic of
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A Secret to Happiness

Regular readers of these humble ramblings (all tens of you) know what an over the top dog lover I am. I shared this illustration in my book Stay. A sick man turned to his doctor, as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.” Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know.” “You don’t know? You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?” The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side of which came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness. Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He’s never been in this room before. He didn’t know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master
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Finally Confident In Where I Am

I had some social media fun with the picture above helpfully proclaiming “YOU ARE HERE”. As if I could be anywhere else while I was, well, there. But as you probably already suspect that picture produced some musing that begat today’s blog. For years I wandered spiritually wondering where I was on my journey. Was I going to Heaven? Was I a good, bad, or indifferent Christian? Was I loved? Was I significant? The question of where I was as a follower of Christ and who I was as a person consumed and confused me. The always present Enemy answered the questions above on a regular basis. Likely not going to Heaven. Definitely a bad Christian. Not really loved by God or bad things wouldn’t happen to you. Totally insignificant. The following is a little excerpt on this topic from my latest book Waking Up Slowly. For too many years I believed the accusations, without considering the question that Philip
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I was blown away the first time I heard Lauren Daigle’s song “You Say”. The lyrics perfectly describe the battle that most of us fight to believe that what God says about us is true. Here is a sample of her powerful lyrics. I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low? Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know… I wrote about this topic in my book Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace. I am drawn to wounded and dysfunctional people like a moth to light. When I hear their stories, I see a familiar pattern. They tend to believe that all the old junk in their lives is still true about them in God’s eyes. Too many followers of Jesus cannot
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Back When I “Knew” It All

OK, I admit it. I like country music. I also like rock, Motown, jazz, pop, folk, gospel, and classical music. I once tried to distance myself from country in an ill-fated attempt to be sophisticated. To quote an old family idiom, that effort was like putting earrings on a hog. I am a small town boy and my roots are in the hills of Kentucky. So I no longer deny that I have a few banjos and some fine squirrel recipes in my genetic pool. In addition to my chromosomal predisposition toward Nashville, I am developing a deep appreciation for the honesty of country music. It is one of the few safe places to discuss God, country, and old-fashioned values without fear of politically correct busybodies getting their undergarments twisted. We all laugh at a few outrageously titled country tunes, but there are many songs that reflect exactly who I am: a proud father, a husband who married way up,
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My Hope

Sometimes we wonder if God is still there. Sometimes we wonder if He really cares about what is happening in our lives. Sometimes we wonder if it will ever get any better. Those are questions that every honest follow of Jesus has wrestled with. My friend Bart Millard of MercyMe was pondering those questions when he wrote one of the most powerful songs from their amazing new record Lifer. I found it interesting that in the same time frame I was writing a chapter about doubt in my book Waking Up Slowly. Bart can write in a stanza what it takes me hundreds of rambling words to say. But both of us experience the same struggle. We share the hope of grace. We write and sing about how our identity is not worldly success but who we are in Christ and who God says we are because of that relationship. You should be extremely grateful that Bart Millard is the
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Did Satan Invent Prevent Defense?

If you read more than a snippet of my writings you know that I am a grace guy. But there is a question that confounds me. “If grace based theology as the way to live out the Christian life is true then why is it not more popular in the church?” That is a great question. I have been swept away by grace. Everything in my life has been changed by taking away my performance based faith and believing in Christ’s performance for me. During a recent preseason football telecast I thought about a parallel between one of my least favorite football strategies and this grace conundrum. Perhaps it was an insight from the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it was simply because my brain is not wired to factory specs. But this idea popped in my mind. A lot of football teams play a defense that is called the prevent defense. That style of defense is designed to allow the opponent short yardage
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The Myth of Control

You see t-shirts and signs that proclaim that I am the master of my destiny. Slogans like these sounded really empowering. “If it is to be, it is up to me” “If you can dream it you can achieve it” I agree that having a good attitude and determination is important. But sometimes my life experience is more accurately described by the great boxer and philosopher Mike Tyson. “Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth” Yep. Well said Mike. No matter how much I may plan my life I will face the inevitable “punches” in the mouth that life delivers. No amount of efforts to control my life will prevent illness. I do not have control over every relationship in my life. I cannot keep those I care about from making bad decisions. I cannot control unforeseeable circumstances that impact those I love. Recently I have had a couple of Mike Tyson moments. James warns about
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Six Things I Wish I Had Known in High School

I wrote this for my niece a few years ago. Perhaps there is a student you can share it with. 1.    I wish I had known that my high school years did not define me for life My teen years were a mixed bag of memorable highs and incredible lows. Now I realize that I am grateful for what I once considered some of the worst moments of my life. In many of those spiritual valleys you could not have begun to convince me that God was molding me or that those experiences could ever be of value. I have developed a heart of compassion for those who are wounded. Why? God gave me the privilege of being wounded early in my life. That sounds crazy as I read back over that last sentence. But I can now see that my struggles as an overweight, geeky and often outcast adolescent molded my heart to empathize with those who are hurt and ostracized by
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Bald is Beautiful

This is an article I wrote twelve years ago when Joni was going through chemotherapy for Her2 Positive breast cancer. She is a proud survivor and I am re-posting this for my wonderful niece Deb and others who are going through this trial. Last night I had the weird privilege of helping clip off the rest of my bride’s hair that was falling out from the chemotherapy. As I reflected on that moment later I realized that nearly everything I knew about beauty when I was 25 years old was wrong. Like most men I looked for appearance first and then tried to find some good qualities. Joni was a stunningly beautiful woman when I fell in love with her over thirty years ago.  I have often said that I married my trophy wife first and got it over with. I also joke that I married her to deepen my gene pool. And she has done that admirably. One of the ironies of this cancer journey is
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Some Things Jesus Didn’t Say

I received a lot of feedback from a post suggesting that we make faith entirely too complicated. Jesus didn’t say figure out every theological jot and tittle. (Note to spiritual hall monitors: there is an important place for that discipline. No all caps comments please) Jesus didn’t say, “Go and clean up your act, and I will deem you a worthy follower.” He didn’t say, “Browbeat yourself and others into behaving better in order to earn the badge of righteousness.” Jesus didn’t say,  “Try harder, be more disciplined, and I will be pleased with you.” He simply said, “Follow me.” Not once. Pretty regularly. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) Jesus told him, “Follow me.” (Matthew 8:22) [Jesus said,] “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) [Jesus answered,] “Come, follow me.”  (Matthew 19:21) Finding Philip, he said to him,
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Faith Over Fear

Recently our family was rocked to hear that my wonderful, kind, beautiful niece Debbie would be fighting a difficult battle in the months to come. When she heard the words bladder cancer she had the predictable responses of shock, fear, and sadness. Here is what I love about this woman. She took in the news, processed it, determined that she would fight with every ounce of strength she possessed and made it known that she was trusting God. Deb adopted a verse from Isaiah for the difficult road ahead. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, NIV) This past week Debbie enjoyed a family beach getaway as she prepared for battle. Debbie knelt down and wrote this in the sand.   I loved the imagery of writing these words of trust
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Recovering From Legalism

I was introduced to Christianity in a church that put a legalistic leash on my behavior. By strict rules they believed they could force me to live a holy life. You can imagine how that worked out for a teenager in the sixties. Our denomination reminded me of characters from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We did not have the dreaded knights who said, “Ni” but we definitely had the dreaded pastors who said, “No.” I’m certain there were several volumes filled with things that were forbidden and, not surprisingly, most of them were man-made rules. Here is a sample platter of no-no’s I was asked to follow. NO movies. (Might have been in violation) NO drinking. (Too young so I got holiness points for this one) NO mixed swimming. (I kid you not) NO television. (The temptation of Mr Ed, The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction was too strong) NO cards. (More holiness points) NO rock-and-roll
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Putting On This Lens Changes Everything!

The grand kids love the spectacular optical effects of 3D movies. They feel like they can reach out and touch the images floating right in front of them. It takes sophisticated film techniques and amazing creative talent to produce these stunning results. But there is one component that is essential to seeing all of the beauty, magic and wonder of a 3D film. A special pair of glasses that cost a few pennies make the millions of dollars of 3D production come to life. During one spectacular nature scene we were surrounded by a flock of birds. We fought the instinct to duck as they came flying right at us. Then I took off the glasses and the magic was gone. The image was blurry and flat. There was nothing special about the images without the 3D lens. There is another lens we can put on that changes everything. It is the lens of grace. The lens of grace doesn’t
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Watch for Postcards from God

What if we are stubbing our toes on the sacred every day and not realizing it? That is one of the taglines promoting my book Waking Up Slowly. The book suggests that we are the most connected culture in history but arguably the most disconnected from the awareness of God’s presence. I examine twenty-one different attitudes and actions that cause me to miss the sacred moments that I believe can be found in every day. But like the believers of the early church at Galatia I have an amazing ability to forget what I have learned (and written). Paul could have addressed this to me in recent weeks. You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for He is the one who called you to freedom. (Galatians 5:7-8, NLT) I run along smoothly for a day. Sometimes two. Then I forget who I am. Not my actual name.
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Jesus Message about Children was Revolutionary

(This is an excerpt from my book Waking Up Slowly. I don’t care how pundits, politicians, and propagandists cherry pick the words of Jesus to support their side. I do care about how the radical rabbi viewed these precious children. His teachings rocked the culture. They still should.) Jesus had some subversive teachings about children and women. We forget how revolutionary His message was in that culture. Children were viewed as expendable. In his book When Children Became People: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity, historian O. M. Bakke details Jesus’ radical teaching among the people of His day. An infant boy was not named until the eighth day, and an infant girl was not named until the ninth day, enough time for parents to decide if they wanted to keep their child. Those less fortunate infants, ones who were deformed or just happened to be girls, would often be killed or left to die of exposure. Bakke makes
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