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People might find it surprising that I write (bad) poetry. I myself am surprised. It’s not really something I ever decided to do.
Poetry is a side of my brain that that I didn’t even know I had until I became an adult. It kind of frightens and amazes me whenever it decides to show itself. In many ways it feels more primal and wild than prose—in spite of it technically being the more structured form. It flows from deeper within my unconscious, and I can’t really control when it decides to come out.
Maybe that’s what’s frightening. I don’t feel like I control it, yet I know it represents me. I feel like I’m staring at a stranger when I write poetry.
The gestation period for this poem was only a day or two. It started with the mental picture that my mind is overpopulated with poor quality tenants like YouTube personalities and celebrities. Then, the other day in the shower, mental contractions started, and I spent the next hour birthing it onto the page.
After that marvelous mental image, enjoy.
My Mind Was a Forest
My mind was a forest, dark and deep
Filled with deer and hare, but it was lonely there
So I created a path by tearing up grass
‘Til friends could wander, and I was lonely no longer
My mind was a meadow, calm and serine
Filled with sunshine and breeze, for there weren’t any trees
I would take off my cap and lay down for a nap
In the dark I woke to toad and frog croak
My mind was a garden, luscious and full
Filled with veggie and flower and other plant power
But I let one weed in, which is hardly a sin
From that one came a pair, and they multiplied there
My mind was a house, cozy and warm
Filled with the things that civilization brings
Books and food to lift my mood
When feeling ill or paying a bill
My mind was a road, empty and bare
Filled with rocks and dust—good shoes were a must
I shouldered my pack, and with the wind at my back
Set off towards the line where the hills meet the sky
Now my mind is a city, busy and crowded
Filled with numbers and noise, tinkers and toys
Gone is the day when I can play
Most of my time is not even mine
And all I want is that forest dark
The meadow calm
The garden full
The house warm
Even the road bare, but none lead there.
It could definitely use a lot of tightening up, but it captured what I was feeling at the time. What does it say to you? Do you ever come up with spontaneous poetry that probably shouldn’t be posted to the internet?
I had a lightbulb moment today. Some truths connected for me in ways they hadn’t before. I thought I’d share.
Humility and pride may be two opposing sides of a coin, but humility and confidence go hand in hand. Humility is a virtue, and being humbled is a blessing. Humility teaches you who you really are. Knowing yourself like that brings a sort of confidence. The proud never truly know who they are, since they have not experienced humility. Their confidence is only a false facade, an attempt at hiding their fear of being humbled.
The same is true in the Christian faith. When faced with the reality of our own sin, we can run away from the horror of ourselves and live in prideful ignorance, or we can run to Jesus in humility. This humbling is a blessing because it allows us to see ourselves—and see who we are before God: miserable, self-centered, self-destructive sinners (Rom 3:10). Knowing this, and knowing that God reaches out in love and redemption through Jesus, gives us a new sense of self. A new identity. An identity that is confident of his place in the world—as a child of God (Rom 8:14).
The proud never experience this confidence. They constantly run from their own moral failings, pretending they have none, but still living in deep fear and guilt.
Thank God for his law that humbles, and his grace that raises up! I wouldn’t want it any other way.
If you refuse to let someone become your enemy, even after they’ve set themselves against you, you are destined to be the favorite victim of bullies and be used as a fellow manipulator to hurt others.
Even Christ had enemies. He responded with truth in love, but he didn’t pander or beg for approval.
Always be ready with forgiveness, should your enemy seek it, but don’t be a doormat. You’re not extra righteous for letting someone hurt you again and again—you’re just afraid to do anything about it.
People like to quote Luke 6:29 and advise Christian friends to “turn the other cheek”, but just 2 verses earlier, Jesus tells us to love our enemies. We can’t love our enemies if we think we aren’t supposed to have any.
Turning the other cheek isn’t so much an act of love, as much as it’s an act of quiet defiance enabled by faith. It’s not going to fix your relationship with the person who just hit you. Letting yourself be a punching bag isn’t an evangelism plan. After turning the other cheek, remove yourself to safety, consider them your enemy, and pray for them.
It’s not a sin to have enemies, but letting them continue to hurt you is often an act of fear, not faith. Sometimes God’s plan for your life will involve suffering, but he doesn’t desire to make your life miserable. He loves you.
Romans 3 says that our suffering produces endurance, character, and then hope. Sometimes character means standing up for yourself, knowing that your hope is in Christ and that you can face your enemies without fear.
When you do that, you may find that an enemy is God’s biggest blessing to you. There’s nothing more motivating than an enemy. You suddenly realize that pleasing everyone isn’t the highest virtue. It’s freeing! You can now make decisions based on what is best for you, or what does the most good for your neighbor.
Not everyone should have their wishes granted by you. In fact, sometimes the most loving thing you can do is tell someone no. What would the world look like if everyone responded to abuse of power with pacifism? It would be an awful place!
I know what both sides of this are like. I’m what you’d call a “people pleaser”. I like to make everyone happy and be everyone’s friend. Unfortunately in life, that’s not always possible. Being everyone’s friend leads you to compromise on things you shouldn’t in order to keep their friendship. It makes you avoid disagreements at all costs, even healthy ones. It backs you into a corner and before you know it, your decision making is wrapped around what makes people happy, rather than what’s right.
And let me clue you in on a little secret, in the end it doesn’t make people happy either. Abusers are often miserable people.
Sooner or later, this cycle has to be broken. If it’s not, you or those you love may get broken. Take courage my friend. For those who are in Christ, the LORD is at your side.
So, don’t make enemies willy-nilly, but having one is far from the end of the world. It may be part of God’s plan for your life, and a blessing in disguise.
Whenever we achieve something great, the temptation is to be proud of it. And if achieving that thing took a lot of work, time, or money, it’s natural and okay to feel a sense of satisfaction from a job well-done. But we have to be careful what form that satisfaction takes.
It’s right and good to think, “Wow! I just finished a marathon. Look at what this God-designed human body is capable of. I am so thankful for good health and a family that encouraged me to accomplish this goal!”
It’s not so good to think, “Look at this company I built for myself. I am master of my fate and totally self-reliant. This accomplishment is proof of that.”
Not that anyone’s inner monologue actually sounds that stiff, but I’ve definitely felt those emotions welling up in myself whenever I do something that doesn’t flop.
Whether we admit it our not, we’ve all been there. When God chooses to bless us, it’s so tempting to take the credit. I am personally very blessed, so I face this temptation every day.
I recently started working at a Christian College that just finished a large building project. I think we are all proud of it. It is a well-thought-out addition to the school. A lot of talent and hard work went into designing and building it.
But I hope that we are mostly thankful. Thankful to donors that have now funded over half of the cost. Thankful for leadership that evaluates the direction of the school in light of scripture. Thankful for a God that has allowed this school to remain on the shore of Medicine Lake for over 50 years. Thankful for this treasure in jars of clay that we get to share with the students who come here.
So go, accomplish great things, run marathons, start companies, build gyms. But remember who made you.
Soli Deo Gloria.
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
I used to think the most misunderstood parable of Jesus was The Prodigal Son.
But now I think the Parable of the Talents might just give it a run for its money in that metric.
A quick summary for the uninitiated. Jesus told this story:
A rich guy goes on a trip, leaving a portion of his wealth with a few individual servants. To one he gives a large amount of money, to the next he gives a moderate amount, and to the last, he gives a small amount.
The guy comes back, and his servants start showing him what they used the money on. The first two servants invested or used the the money in such a way that they doubled their portion. The last one hid his money in order to return it safely to his master. To the first two the master says “Good job! Since you did well here, I’m going to trust you with even more.” To the last one, he says, “You failed. You’re done working for me. Give me back the money.”
In our neat armchair dissection of these verses, we praise the ones who invested and returned a profit. But in practice, we encourage a far more conservative approach.
Let’s take a look at how we run our churches. The Lutheran church denomination I am a part of (AFLC) is made up of individual, self-governing congregations. We are an association rather than a synod. We unite under a common confession, but we are largely independent. This means each church gets to make its own decisions.
As part of this conservative church body, we are known for our rigid adherence to scriptural inerrancy. . . and our resistance to cultural change.
This resistance is not an entirely bad thing. American culture is taking a nosedive by biblical standards—at least in the external ways we pay most attention to.
But that conservative resistance to change also pushes us to play it safe in ways we shouldn’t. It causes us to have an emotional attachment to the past that hampers us from doing present good.
A quick note: In talking about the past, I do not intend to disparage the historical church. We have inherited a rich theology from the reformation and beyond. Many churches have too quickly left this behind. I am not in any way encouraging a separation from the biblical Lutheran theology of the past. Rather, I am encouraging an evaluation of what is theology, and what is merely nostalgia.
Getting back to the parable: What was the final servant’s motive for hanging onto his small sum of money? I don’t think it was greed. He knew he would have to give it back, after all. I think his motive was fear. Fear of losing what was entrusted to him.
How often are we motivated by fear? How often do we miss out on what God has for us because we are afraid to fall on our face—afraid of our pride being bruised.
Congregations within a synod do not have complete control over how they spend their money and resources. In the AFLC, we do. We also emphasize lay (non-pastor) involvement.
This is where I quote Spiderman’s Uncle Ben who said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” To rephrase: With the freedom or the ability to act, comes the duty to act. Or to put it biblically, “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48)
However you want to say it, what does that mean for the “Free and Living Congregations” of the AFLC? It means that “keeping things the way they always were” for the sake of comfort and safety is a poor way to use our God-given wealth, talents, skills, and ideas.
Now, you might say, “We’re not a wealthy church, in money or in talent.” But remember the last servant was also given little. The expectation placed on him was the same: to multiply what he had.
We can complain about declining culture, and declining church attendance, but what if it’s our fault? What if we have not been faithful in how we interact with culture? What if we have not been faithful in how we’ve used our resources? What if, instead of investing our time, our resources, the very Gospel itself, we have instead hidden them all in a hole like the foolish servant?
The wise servant (church) doesn’t build up walls to keep himself protected from the thieves outside; he invests what he is given in the world around him. In the case of the church, returning a profit of souls.
That might mean interacting with culture. It certainly means maintaining our church building and pursuing excellence in the quality and thoughtfulness of the worship service.
If we don’t do this, the little we have may be taken away.
Men need purpose. All people—but specifically men. On a spiritual level, they need to feel that their work is accomplishing something. That what they do on the daily makes some kind of difference.
That’s why simple employment can be so soul crushing. Pushing paper across a desk doesn’t fulfill this need unless it is part of a larger purpose he believes in.
That’s not to say that your day job has to be your purpose. Plenty of men find great satisfaction through volunteer work and time spent with family. But you can bet that if a man is happy, it’s because he’s found meaningful work in some area of his life.
There is no shortage of pleasures available to the affluent western world. Even the lower class has access to constant entertainment. It’s enticing, even addicting, but it does not fulfill the purpose of man. Video games, movies, and sports are fun, but they are poor substitutes to a meaningful life.
The purpose of man is to work. Go find something you believe in and work at it.
Not only does that glorify God, it leads to a much more fulfilling life.
I wrote this back in December of 2020, but I was timid about posting it online. I was afraid people would jump to assuming I was making a political statement. I’m really not. This is more a question about value.
If I were to sum up the collective mood of nearly everyone I have interacted with this year, I would describe it as withdrawn discouragement. I have often seen the same in myself. How can anyone go on caring about anything after a year like 2020? I think we all have a nagging fear that as soon as something matters to us, it will be taken away as a cruel joke of God/fate. Christmas time is normally the most hectic—and supposed to be the most cheerful—time of year. This year it is neither and we're all feeling a bit lost. Again, how does one spread good cheer in a year like 2020. I won't tell you to obey or disobey your state, local, or national government, but I would encourage you to take a step back this year and reevaluate what is important to you. What do you hold most dear? Have you been forced to let your grasp on that thing go? Are you okay with that?
Now, two years later, I would no longer describe the collective mood as withdrawn discouragement. I think it has since descended further into what can only be described as sarcastic nihilism. I would plead with you to not let your circumstances, your culture, or your government dictate what you value. Moving forward, life may look different that we remember it. But that has always been the case.
Keep loving those around you. Keep bettering yourself. Keep forgiving. Keep running to Jesus when you fail at all three.
I’ve always loved the story of Joseph. As long as I can remember, Genesis 37-50 has been my favorite biblical account. In a theatrical sense, it’s a really satisfying story. It has betrayal, mistaken identity, looming catastrophe, and sweet redemption. But the reason I’m drawn to it is actually deeper than that.
The fundamental idea presented in this chunk of scripture is that God uses our pain for good. Not only our individual good, but BIG good—the kind that affects nations. I won’t summarize the whole story here, but through the unthinkable betrayal of Joseph by his brothers, an entire empire (and beyond!) was saved from starvation.
Considering that God created the world to be free of pain and suffering in the first place, this idea of good coming out of pain is pretty radical. Goes to show that God is in control, even when we are not. (And if you look through the Bible, you are sure to find other places with this same theme.)
As a result of growing up with this story, I’ve always been of the opinion that God uses my own hurts for his glory. More recently, I’ve tasted and seen that this is true.
Over the course of 5 years, I was majorly wronged by someone very close to me. This is not the place to go into detail, but suffice it to say, it was something I never thought I would have to go through. It fundamentally altered how I see the world.
Now, it obviously had many negative effects on my life. It was emotionally torturous to go through. It cost me a lot of money. It wasted a huge amount of my time. And I now tend to be a bit more cynical of people because of it.
But I have seen good come of it too.
Because of what happened, I can help others who may be going through something similar. I’ve experienced personal growth that has furthered my walk with God, and surprisingly my career too.
On top of that there have been some really far reaching ways God has used this pain. Many I will never know the full extent of, but a surprising number I do.
This ordeal has affected my family. They will now make certain life decisions much more carefully. They have been able to give informed advice to a surprising number of friends going through similar situations. It has affected how my family members do ministry. It has affected how they serve their local church congregation and how they advise on school boards.
I was told recently that God used this unfortunate event in my life to impact the leadership culture of an entire college. This one was staggering to me!
But I really shouldn’t be surprised.
Just like so many other stories in the Old Testament, the story of Joseph points us to the larger narrative of the Bible. It points to Jesus. It points to the BIGGEST good, resulting from the DARKEST evil.
If God used the evil desires of men to help bring about salvation for all through Jesus’ death on the cross, it’s really no surprise that he can use my pain too.
If he’s big enough to do all that, I can be thankful for my trials.
I tell people I enjoy writing fiction. That’s a blatant lie on a couple levels.
First of all, It would be more correct to say, “I enjoy having written.” Any real writer will tell you that the act of writing is torture. A writer writes because he is driven to, not because he wants to or because he enjoys it.
Second, I’ve managed to avoid writing anything of significance for over a year now. Can I really call myself a writer? Writing marketing content for my employer doesn’t count. There’s writing and then there’s writing. I think you get it.
But the call has always been there. I may do a decent job of ignoring it, covering it up, or distracting myself from the inner voice that screams at me to bleed my subconscious onto the page, but It’s always there.
Sometimes it threatens me. “This story that you so want to get out will never be completed at the rate you’re going. Are you even capable of pulling this off? It’s about time you wrote SOMETHING if you’re going to call yourself a writer.
Sometimes the call is gentler. The smell of fresh coffee. The snow falling outside. The live streamed Yule log on YouTube. All coaxing me back into my craft. My profession. My possession.