The Anonymous Recipient

Recently I took two of my kids to get their haircut. After giving the nice lady behind the counter their names, we sat down in the waiting area just two steps away. Not long after a man comes in with his young son. I’d guess the boy was probably 5 years old or so. The lady who had just helped me was occupied when the man and boy came in, but greeted them and told them nicely she’d be right with them.

So far.  So good.

When she returns to the front counter anonymous recipienthowever, this is where the plot commences to thicken.

The nice lady smiles warmly, greets the man and asks, “What is your name?” (A standard question asks to every customer so that their name is put on the list of who’s getting their hair cut next.)

The man looks back at her and simply shrugs.  Clearly he heard her, but clearly wasn’t answering the seemingly simple question. She tried again. “Your name?”  He shrugged again.  *Shrug.*

She tried another tactic, “You can give me ANY name.”

With an irritated look up and away at the ceiling of that hair cut place he replied, “Winnie the Pooh.”

Without another word, the nice lady typed (presumably) “Winnie the Pooh” into her computer and turned to walk away.

Within 60 seconds I heard the man say to his young son in a conspicuously loud tone, “I know I’m not Winnie the Pooh, but I don’t think a business needs to know anything about me in order for me to take advantage of their services.”

I thought to myself, “Geez guy, conspiracy theorize much?” As if the Hair Cuttery is really a false front to some governmental underground personal information farming. As if the nice ladies who clip your hair are covert operatives with no other objective then to sell you gel while they leach every bit of identifying information from you they possibly can. Yeah. I bet that’s it. “Hey Jason Bourne, you might want to consider taking it down a notch or two. Your son might end up as kooked out as you seem to be.” That’s what I thought to myself.

And then I thought other things to myself. Things less to do with “Pooh” over there and more to do with how some people approach God in a similar way. Let me explain. It seems we’re totally fine taking what God gives us freely, but not as keen on the idea of letting Him get close enough to be Lord. In our own way, we live the snarky attitude of “I don’t think God needs to know anything about me or have any part of my life in order for me to take advantage of his services.” So, they slip in to the church service, collect their “I feel good cuz I went to church” feeling and slink out the door; unconnected, unnoticed, unknowing, and anonymous. This approach is also handy if you happen to find that whole “spiritual community” and “fellowship” and “bear with one another” and “unity” thing the Bible endorses (commands actually) to be not quite your thing.

I’ll spare you the history lesson on the Industrial Revolution and how that got us sliding down a slippery slope of disconnectedness, isolation, and ultimately a thinly veiled anonymity. But I will say this:

Anonymity is a dangerous thing. It lets you keep others at arm’s length while your soul withers from starvation of the things that it actually needs to survive and thrive. When we approach God with a spiritual ski mask on, insist he shove the grace in the bag in small, unmarked bills and we bolt out the door into our hectic, streamlined, anonymous lives, we are truly only fooling ourselves.

Besides, few things are more pathetic and dangerous than being so delusional that you call yourself Winnie the Pooh in a strip mall Hair Cuttery.

So ask yourself…

  1. Where do I need to let God and others get closer to knowing who I am?
  2. What sins are making up the walls I’ve constructed in hopes of keeping myself safe from judgment?
  3. Who is one person right now that I would allow to know my name, my story, my fears, and my hopes?

Bonus question for the comment section: Why do you think American culture has drifted as it has to isolationism?

Seeing What You Can’t.

As I plummeted to earth and toward the Atlantic Ocean at breakneck speed, I pondered this question:

“What is faith?”

Fair question, right?  I mean if you think about it we all put our faith into lots of things everyday.  On the highway today you’ll be putting your faith in the other drivers to stay where they belong.  On that narrow backwoods road, you’ll be putting your faith in that oncoming driver not to drift into your lane when they look down to text a message, change the radio, or light a cigarette.

I’m putting faith in the chair I’m sitting in right now.  You put your faith in the neighbors who live around you not to shoot you when you step out your front door.  (Remind me later to tell you the story of when I got shot by my next door neighbor.)  I put my faith in the dentist when he gives me that injection that its actually Novocaine and not mercury because he’s secretly part of the Taliban and is killing infidels one by one in his suburban dentist office.  You put your faith in your coworkers to give you a heads up when the boss is passing by so that you can stop reading this blog and instead look over that spreadsheet the boss asked you to put together by the end of the day.

Yup.  Faith surrounds us.

You want to find yourself in an interesting conversation?  Ask the next person you see what they’re definition of faith is.  Go ahead.

faith-road-wallpaper_1920x1200Hebrews 11:1 gives us God’s definition of faith.  Feel free to look it up here, but let me give you the Cliff notes version (or Spark notes for those born after the mid nineties): Faith is trusting the invisible.  Faith isn’t in the chair you’re sitting on, the drivers who surround you on your commute, or your dentist.  Faith isn’t in those things.  Faith is the silent transaction you make that drives fear far enough away for you to operate.

All that is admittedly generic and quite frankly pretty benign.  You might find similar sentiments in a greeting card.

So when we talk about faith and the invisible, we can’t not talk about the spiritual realm you and I are actually swimming in constantly.  The Bible teaches us that the visible is temporary and the invisible is eternal (2 Cor. 4:18).  In other words, if you can see it, it won’t last.  If you can’t see it, it will.  I’m not trying to insult your intelligence here, I’m just trying to re-calibrate our thoughts correctly.

Faith says to fear “You’re not the boss of me.”  Faith allows you to rest when questions are unanswered.  Faith stands you up when your knees want to give way under you.  Faith assures you that despite the present conditions, literally nothing is now as it will be later.  Faith stands on the crazy idea that God is working things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

So where is fear present in your life?  Where has it elbowed its way in and declared presidency?  Let faith speak up.  Let faith have the floor.  Let faith in the loving God of heaven show you how powerful He is and what depth of peace only He can establish in the midst of chaos.

Faith isn’t blind.  Quite the contrary, actually.  Faith sees clearly.  Not in the present conditions, the tangible, or the visible details we can see; but in what God might be up to for our benefit and how in His good time He is going to prove Himself faithful as long as we hold tight.

Against? Not again.


It’s taken nearly 2000 years but I think we Christians have finally done it. I think we’ve successfully turned following Jesus Christ into something more like standing opposed to a mile-long list of this and that. We’re known more by what we stand against than what we stand FOR. Ugh. Gross.

So as a follower of Jesus, let me tell you what I stand for…
God’s glory
Holiness (my own; yours is between you and God)
Passion for Jesus
Being a husband and dad I’m not ashamed of
People, who are God’s prize creation
Making my flawed faith vulnerably visible
…and little else.

What about you?
Forget “against” for a few minutes. What are you FOR?


“Praise the Lord, O my soul!
Do not forget all his kind deeds!”
Psalm 103:2

I took inventory while driving in my car this morning and I couldn’t help but repeat it over and over to myself. Turns out, my heart needs reminding. Maybe yours does too.

What has God given me, what am I currently receiving from Him and what will He continue to pour into my life tomorrow, the next day, next month, and next decade? Revel in this truth with me, and repeat it as necessary.

Loving kindness.

So thankful for this reminder today.


The Art of the Brake

Last week, my oldest daughter took her drivers permit test.  Unfortunately, she passed.

And its not that I’m not looking forward to her driving.  I’m just not looking forward to her growing up. But alas, that’s the aching plight of every parent, isn’t it?

The driving part I’m actually cool with.  I like the sight of her behind a wheel.  Mostly because I know how huge a life step this is for her and her excitement to take that step.  And I’m laid back enough to actually both enjoy the journey of teaching a teen to drive and hopefully also help to set her at ease as well.

The other night I took her to the biggest, emptiest parking lot I could find. We filled it with imaginary cars and navigated our way through the invisible traffic.  We started off with the first-things-first checklist like seat position, mirrors, seat belt, and all that good stuff.  Then, when everything seemed to be in order, I said some pretty terrifying words: “Okay, now with your foot firmly pressing the brake, shift from park (that’s that big “P”) to drive (that’s that big “D”).  She did just that and as far as I could tell, we were both still alive.

“Okay…now slowly, ever-so-slowly, painfully slowly, I want you to slowly, real slow-like, lift your foot off of the brake pedal.”  She did and we slowly (that was on purpose) began to creep forward.  Technically speaking, my daughter was driving our car.  And yep, we were still alive.

While other parents might have instructed their new driver to move their foot to the accelerator, I did not.  Mostly because acceleration was something I was entirely disinterested in at that moment. Instead, and after a long journey of 10-15 feet I said, “Okay…now slowly apply pressure to the brake pedal.”  With the slightest jolt, we came to an immediate stop.  And so we tried again: release the brake, apply the brake…release the brake, apply the brake.  Its not that I was afraid of the gas pedal, its just that my priority for teaching my daughter how to drive was to first get her to learn the art of the brake.

We’ve lost that art form in our culture today.  We seem to constantly be full-throttle, never-stop, ever-faster, and busier-is-better.  But from what I can tell, we’re reaping exactly what we’ve sown. We’re burnt out, we’re worn thin, we’re frayed inside and out, we’re impatient, we’re irritable, we’re self-centered, and we’re unrested.  We’ve lost the art of the brake.

Where are your heart, mind, or emotions thread-bare today?  Where is rest a forgotten art form?  While your defense mechanism might throw up the wall of “things just have to be this way” or “I’m just going with the flow of traffic”, let me challenge you to look deeper than defenses.  Look to where you lost the brakes and find a way to regain your ability to come to a full and complete stop.

Wrong way, Magellan.

I know its been three weeks in a row of parallels I’ve drawn between the bike trail and spiritual truth, but hey–when its there as plain as the nose on my face (and have you seen my nose?!?)–well, I’ve got to share it.

Okay, so you know I’ve started biking, you know I got a helmet, you know I’m prone to getting lost, yada, yada, yada.  In this week’s installment, I’ve upped the ante even more by becoming somewhat of a mountain biking missionary; or an ambassador at the very least.  I was in a recent conversation with a good friend we’ll call “Dicky” and ended up inviting him to come biking with us this past weekend.  Dicky was on the hunt for a new bike since he hadn’t ridden in 20+ years.  I told him not to worry about how long it had been since he’d been on a bike, because it’s like riding a bike; you never really forget how.

On the threshold of making that monumental purchase for himself, Dicky’s wife (who’ll remain nameless) reminded Dicky that he already has a bike and that it was hanging in the garage where it’s been for 20+ years.  A mountain bike, no less.  An ’89 Huffy, no less.  Steel frame, gears, and a classic 80’s speckled paint job no less.  So Dicky pulled it down from its perch, wiped off the dust, pumped up the tires and mounted the relic.  The next morning (the morning of our ride), he found the tires still inflated and the bike (albeit old) was ready to roar.

Dicky showed up at my house Saturday morning with his 80’s flashback ride hanging out the back of his van.  I hoisted it up on my bike rack and off we went with our friend “Todd” in-tow.  (You remember “Todd”, don’t you?)  We arrived at the trail a few minutes later and soon we were in the thick of our ride through the woods.

It didn’t take long for Dicky’s bike to start showing it’s age.  I kid you not–at one point we stopped because his handlebars were detaching from the frame.  Thankfully, Dicky had the foresight to put several wrenches in his backpack, which I think was also from the late 80’s.  With bars re-tightened, we were on our way.  Not soon after, “Todd” contacted “Martin” (you remember “Martin”, right?) and informed us that he (Todd) would be joining up with Martin on a nearby trail for a longer ride and consequently would be leaving Dicky and I alone.

Have you read my post about the last time Todd and I parted ways?

So after giving us what he was sure were crystal clear directions about how to find our way out, Todd disappeared into the distance and Dicky and I kept on rolling.  After several minutes of being “pretty sure” we were going the right way, I heard the sound of cars which told me we were getting closer to the parking lot.  That was good news.  However, after several more minutes of rolling along, the sound of cars seemed to disappear and I began to feel like we were indeed going in the wrong direction.  Bad news.

Oh, how right I was to think I was wrong.

Not only were we not getting closer to our intended destination, we were also heading the wrong way on a one-way trail.  Certain of our (my) mistake, I pulled off the narrow trail to rethink and regroup.  So there we were, me with my Schwinn and Dicky with his “iffy” Huffy and bag of wrenches, pointed the wrong direction next to a narrow bike trail.  Dicky–being the consummate hipster–had (thankfully) brought his iPhone with him.  Unfortunately for us however, it could only tell us where we were on the planet; not where we were on the trail.

As we stood there contemplating what to do, a few obviously avid & serious bikers came flying past us (in the right direction).  Decked out in spandex, expensive bikes gleaming in the morning sun, and without a hint of desire to stop and help us, they flew by in a whir.  Whoooosh.  It was a breathtaking display of disregard for our plight.

Not two minutes later a group of 3 bikers came (also going in the correct direction) and stopped next to us.  One of them had a GPS mounted on his handlebars, but his GPS app (called “MapMyRide”) not only showed that we were in Virginia, but EXACTLY where in Virginia and better yet: where in Pocahontas State Park we were.  They were glad to show us where we were on trail, how we got there, and how we could get out.  So thankful for their help, we bid them farewell, turned our bikes around to head in the right direction, and started pedaling.  Several minutes later after we arrived at an intersection of sorts, we were surprised to see these same 3 men waiting there.  Clearly they were more experienced bikers than we were.  Clearly they had the gear and the physiques to go wherever they chose. Clearly they could have simply kept going.  But for whatever reason they chose to stop at the very spot we would need to turn, so as to insure that we would indeed make the CORRECT right turn this time.

Needless to say, I was impressed.

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to follow Jesus in the flesh.  To walk with Him while He walked on this earth.  What would have been the murmur of the crowd as we shuffled along behind and around the Messiah?  While this is only speculation, I’d suspect that many of the rumblings in the crowd would have echoed that of the Samaritan woman; the one Jesus spoke to personally and privately at the well.  She said to the townspeople, “I’ve found the man who knows everything about me.”  (John 4:29)  In other words, I’ve found the One!  Or perhaps common to the chatter in the crowd would be the words of Peter when Jesus asked him, “Who do you say I am?”.  Peter answered: “You are the Messiah. The Son of the Living God.”  (Matt. 16:115-16)

Being “lost” and encountering 2 very different types of people on the trail that day reminded me that I have a choice to make as I live my life knowing the Truth that I know.  I can either zip along life’s path, paying no attention to people in need, or I can keep a eye out for an opportunity to stop, share the Map, and show someone the way out of the dark and into the Light.

*By the way, I downloaded “MapMyRide” to my phone as soon as I got home.

Same Target, Different Aim

I had the privilege of speaking to a group of high school students yesterday and after taking the stage, I began with a simple series of questions.  I felt as though the Lord had laid them on my heart to ask myself, then those students.  And now I’m asking you the same questions (addressing Christians):

Have you been introduced to Jesus or just to church and church activities?

Are you in love with Jesus or are you in love with Jesus-y kinds of things?

Do you love Jesus or do you love singing worship songs about Him?

Is it Jesus that has made the difference in your life, or just your Christian friends?

I believe that Christians can be guilty of confusing these things.  We use Jesus and Jesus-ish activities interchangeably.  And while each of the things listed above have their place in the Christian’s life, we can receive a fair warning from the words spoken to the church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2:

2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.’

I’ve been to a firing range a few times.  I’m not a great shot, but I can surely hit a paper target (not necessarily the bulls eye every time, but the paper target for sure).  I’ve stood in that stall, ear protection on, with a handgun raised toward the target and squeezed the trigger.  BANG.  Missed.  A little to the left.  Squeeze again.  BANG. A little more to the left.  I wouldn’t retrieve the paper target, take it back to the front counter and complain that the target isn’t working.  I wouldn’t even complain that my gun isn’t aiming correctly.  I WOULD adjust MY aim.  I squeeze another round.  BANG.  Bullseye.

I periodically hear statistics of Christian young people graduating high school, heading off to college, and in short order abandoning their faith in Christ.  Some wild-haired philosophy professor tells them they’ve been lied to, to forget everything they’ve been taught since its all illusory, then throws some questions at them, introduces doubt mixed in with thoughts their young minds haven’t thought before, and wham-bam: “I’m an atheist now.”

Really?!?  We’re losing young people to “intellectuals” at some university who say “it isn’t so”, which means it isn’t so?  Not at all.  We’re losing those young people because we’re not teaching them what to aim at.  We’re erroneously equating activity with affection, busyness with fruitfulness, and niceness with Christ-likeness.  I’m not saying attendance to worship services isn’t important, or that worship music isn’t helpful in our spiritual walk, or that being nice is overrated.  I’m not an idiot.  I AM saying that we need to remember where the bulls eye is or better yet: WHO the bulls eye is.

I refuse to be a pastor who doesn’t want to rock the boat by not asking the piercing questions like the ones listed above.  I believe that each of those questions that were asked yesterday to those students will stick with many of them; introducing them to a wrestle with God and their own hearts that will ultimately bring them to the next step in their faith journey with Jesus.  That they wouldn’t consider themselves “Christians” or “disciples” simply because they hang around with like-minded “Christian” friends, or that they are followers of Jesus because they’re followers of Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, or David Crowder, or that their salvation is secure because they show up somewhere and listen to someone talk from the Bible and about God for a little while.

That every student God allows my life the privilege of touching would find that when it all comes down, it really all comes down to their “first love” being Jesus Christ.