Psalm 136 (Slightly Edited)

Psalm 136 is a song commemorating God's redemptive provision on behalf of the nation of Israel, but interspersed between the lines of the song is the refrain "His love endures forever."  It is as though the love of God is woven together with the story of God's people...

Below are two versions of Psalm 136 (the original version is found here).  One is my own personal creation, and the other is compiled from short phrases of testimony from a group of people in the congregation:

I will give you thanks and praise for you have loved me
   His love endures forever.
You gave me parents who cared for me and corrected me,
who protected me and taught me to be strong
   His love endures forever.
You gave me a brother to love and fight with, to explore and play with
   His love endures forever.
You taught me your love as a small boy,
and buried your words in my heart
   His love endures forever.
In my rebellion you kept watch over me,
when I spurned my family you looked on with sadness
   His love endures forever.
As I tore down my own life with my own hands,
you kept your hand on my heart
   His love endures forever.
You used my own evil deeds to bring me
right to the place you wanted me to be
   His love endures forever.
A place where you could correct me and heal me,
rebuke me and restore me
   His love endures forever.
For you had plans for me that I could never have imagined,
nor chosen for myself
   His love endures forever.
You have given me a family of my own to love as I have been loved
   His love endures forever.
You have given me a life of purpose and hope,
and called me to labor in service to your Kingdom
   His love endures forever.I will give you thanks and praise for you have loved me,
and you do love me
   His love endures forever.


I was kidnapped by sin, a captive--broken, wounded,
and abused; your love rescued my soul,
restores my heart, and re-invents my life story.
   His love endures forever.
Despite my errors, I have always had
the covenant provision of God, never knowing lack.
   His love endures forever.
He rescues me when I do something stupid
   His love endures forever.
I was able to witness life and death
in a way that was presented in mercy and grace
through the loss of my mother.
   His love endures forever.
Despite my constant doubt and shortcomings
God continues to reveal himself to me.
   His love endures forever.
Through my broken-hearted mess,
when my insecurities seem to rule the day…
   His love endures forever.
He gives me songs of joy in the night.
   His love endures forever.
I am in a place where I am flourishing,
surrounded by a community that loves me.
   His love endures forever.


100 Things: Simple Acts of Purpose

1-smile at someone
2-hold a door open for someone
3-tell someone “thank you”
4-tell someone “I love you”
5-tell someone what you like about them
6-let someone else talk first in the conversation
7-hug someone
8-hold someone's hand
9-compliment someone on their outfit
10-take your dog for a walk
11-let someone pet your dog
12-let someone else choose the movie
13-let someone else choose the meal
14-get someone a glass of water
15-pass the salt without being asked
16-let someone else go first in line
17-let someone beat you at a game
18-help cook dinner with your family
19-help clean the house
20-help do the laundry
21-take out the trash
22-dust the television
23-clear the table after the meal
24-do the dishes
25-shovel the sidewalk of snow
26-offer your seat on the bus/train to someone else
27-put your phone away when talking with people
28-help a child tie their shoes
29-keep someone company who is lonely
30-hold someone’s hand when they are sad
31-sit with someone when they are sad
32-forgive someone
33-donate some clothes to Salvation Army
34-donate your spare change to a kids sports team
35-let someone else have the last cookie
36-loan someone your earrings
37-loan someone a sweater
38-say hello to someone new at church
39-make coffee/tea for someone when they are cold
40-invite someone to eat with you
41-invite someone to sit next to you at church
42-introduce someone to your friends and family
43-share a funny video with someone
44-tell someone a joke
45-tell someone “Happy Birthday” on their birthday
46-listen to someone else tell a joke and laugh
47-show someone a picture of somewhere beautiful you’ve been
48-when you see something beautiful, say “thank you, God”
49-make a list of things you are thankful for

50-share the list
51-point out a beautiful sunset to a friend
52-point out beautiful architecture to a friend
53-share a verse from scripture with someone
54-make a list of things you like about someone
55-share that list with them
56-share the list with someone else
57-share your mistakes with others
58-share something personal with someone
59-tell someone the truth when they ask a question
60-apologize to someone you have hurt or upset
61-dance in public
62-tell someone a good thing that happened to you
63-share your successes with others
64-keep a promise
65-help clean the church
66-help with the church BBQs
67-color a coloring book with a kid in church
68-help set up for church on Sunday
69-help someone carry groceries
70-volunteer at the farm
71-cook a meal for someone
72-clean someone else's room
73-organize someone else’s messy closet
74-pick up trash on the street
75-shovel your neighbor’s snow
76-invite people to start a dance team
77-volunteer at the animal shelter
78-help someone move apartments
79-ask someone to tell you their life story
80-share your life story with someone
81-ask someone, “where will you be in 10 years?”
82-share a dream with someone
83-text someone a simple “thank you”
84-ask someone to teach you something you don’t know how to do
85-teach someone something you do know how to do
86-send someone a card
87-tell someone a story
88-let someone help you
89-play someone your favorite song
90-ask someone their favorite song
91-show someone your favorite picture from your childhood
92-write someone a letter
93-write someone a poem
94-invite someone over to watch your favorite movie
95-ask someone their favorite movie
96-walk to the store with someone
97-listen to someone who has something to say
98-pick some wildflowers and give them to someone
99-hide a secret note for someone where they will find it later
100-share this list with someone who thinks they have no purpose in life


Psalm 137

A painting by Fugel that captures the despair of the Jewish exiles in Babylon; a despair that turns to rage by the end of the 137th Psalm.

Here is a rendition of the first lines of lament from this passage.

Here is a link to another version with voices only.



Christian Politics?

Politics is the squabbling over who gets to polish Caesar's throne.

We are called to serve a different King and embody the ethic of a different kingdom and in so doing we will largely ignore Caesar and his throne.  Perhaps the greatest critique of all for those who bluster and swagger is to simply ignore them and get on with the business of life.

This isn't necessarily a call for a retreat from political engagement (although that might be appropriate at times) but rather a clarification about what we should hope for, and where we should turn for justice.  The irony is that those (on both sides of the aisle) complain about Caesar's past injustices, while simultaneously expecting Caesar's future justice.  Those who hope in Caesar for justice ought not be surprised when Caesar delivers.

Here is what Roman justice looks like:


...our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Philippians 3


Fighting Injustice: An Alternative Vision

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains ... an un-uprooted small corner of evil.
Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”

― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956



In case you wanted to know what one of these rare creatures looks like, you can see a picture above.  This particular image is of a teenager in its natural habitat.  The gesture this teenager is making is a defensive posture that typifies the behavior of many of these strange creatures...

It's official, I have a teenage daughter.


Chicken Feet

A few years back I spent a week in the Dominican Republic.  We stayed with a family.  One of the meals they served us a Dominican "delicacy."

          Chicken Feet.

I did my best, and I did eat my fair share, but I did not enjoy it.  After all, where I come from, that is the part of the chicken that we throw in the garbage.  Which got me thinking...

          One culture's delicacy is another culture's refuse.

Years later I invited a friend to come and share at a class I teach.  This friend is someone I respect, he has lots of wisdom, and experience.  He is, however, from another culture.  I shared with him the background of the people in the class, I shared the content of the class up to that point, and I gave him a topic to share on.  The class was horrible.

As I reflected on the mess, I realized that he had brought us some ideas and practices that were very helpful and powerful within his own culture.  However, they were ideas and practices that we had explicitly rejected as unfit for our use.  At least in this case, his culture's delicacy was our culture's refuse.

Which of course, got me thinking about how much of what I think of as a delicacy would be seen as refuse in my friend's culture.


Coaching for Non-Athletes

I've spent a good chunk of my life in the athletic arena.  As a competitor in various sports from the age of 5 all the way through college as a division I wrestler.  And after college as a coach at every level of competition from youth programs to college athletes, primarily in the sport of wrestling, but also in soccer and baseball.

There is something I have noticed about the relationship between a coach and a competitor that has a great parallel to leadership in general.

A coach has the ability to offer tremendously pointed critical feedback to their athlete.  In point of fact it is essential to their job as a coach to offer this criticism without softening the blow.  But most athletes don't feel this criticism as an attack, but rather as a help.

What is going on here?

What lessons can we learn for mentorship in other venues?

1) A coach is trusted to be completely invested in the success of the athlete.  In point of fact, the coach loses when the athlete loses, and wins when the athlete wins.  This trust is inherent in the relationship.  What does it look like to build this kind of trust in coaching relationships outside of the athletic arena?

2) A coach is trusted as an expert on the sport they are coaching.  This is usually because of two important facts: the coach has had a successful career in that sport far surpassing the level of those in the program, and the coach is able to defeat those he is coaching in direct competition.  What does it look like to demonstrate this level of mastery in an area of expertise other than athletics?

3) A coach doesn't simply offer criticism, they offer a practical vision of success.  The coach is a walking example of victory.  The coach can demonstrate successful techniques and strategies for the athlete to watch and learn.  The coach offers stories about what victory feels like.  How can a compelling vision be offered outside of the athletic arena?

4) A coach doesn't simply point at the objective and say, "get to work."  The coach also provides the strategy for success.  The coach offers a clear pathway to accomplish victory.  The coach leads the athlete through a process that is designed to end at the success of the athlete.  What does is look like to advocate for productive strategies in areas other than sports?

5) Criticism is offered within this larger framework of vision and strategy, coming from a trusted expert.  This criticism is focused on specific details, and designed to motivate the athlete, not to demoralize them.  This criticism is usually balanced by equal amounts of praise.  A good coach is always happy when the athlete is hard at work, but a good coach is never satisfied.  What does it look like to offer this kind of constructive criticism in other endeavors.


Sex Education

I had a conversation recently with an administrator at our kids school about sex education that got me thinking about the messages we have taught our children over the years...

We teach them that sex is good and powerful, uniting people emotionally, and creating new human beings in the process. Sex, sexuality, and our sexual parts are not shameful, but rather, they are personal and private. It is something to be shared with the right people; trustworthy people. Obviously this includes parents and doctors in appropriate settings, and eventually it will include a wife, or a husband.

We have given them a full understanding of intercourse and the reproductive cycle. But we have not talked with them about specific sexual acts other than intercourse, except as those questions arose from our children's conversations with other children.  This is because those are things that are properly explored within the context of a wife and husband who are bound together for life.

We have taught them that all good things can be abused, including sexuality. We have taught them that our personal desires are often the enemy of our own health, and that this is true in the realm of sexuality as well. Sexual irresponsibility is destructive to the individual, and to those they are in relationship with. It is emotionally destructive to self and others, and it can be physically destructive to self and others.

We have explained to them that our culture enshrines the pursuit of personal desire as the highest ideal, and that this leads to much confusion and experimentation in many areas of life, particularly sexuality. Most of their peers will be having sex before marriage, and many of them will be experimenting with their sexual behaviors, their sexual identity, and even their gender in ways that will cause unnecessary pain.

We have taught them to be respectful of the choices, behaviors, struggles, and identities of other people, and that all people are to be treated with reverence simply because they are people. But we have also taught them that many of those choices, behaviors, struggles, and identities aren't healthy, and that they should avoid those behaviors personally.

We have talked with them briefly about sexual addiction and pornography. We have also explained more exhaustively how sex outside of marriage builds intimacy with someone other than your spouse, and that this will cause pain and confusion later on in life.  Extra-marital sex can also lead to unwanted pregnancy, disease, and even death.

We have taught them explicitly to wait until they are married to engage in sexual behavior, but we have also interacted with them quite a bit about the messages they receive from peers and cultural figures that contradict that wisdom. We have shared with them some of our own personal history with sexual behavior (both our mistakes and our successes).

We have also talked with them about grace and forgiveness, and how one mistake, or even a long pattern of mistakes, can be forgiven and overcome, no matter the consequences.