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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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