Skip to content

Category: Grace

In a world of vitriol, a breath of fresh air

We live in a world of ugly vitriol. We spew hatred online toward each other, and we seem hell-bent trying to top ourselves every day. Social media websites, who claim the purpose of their companies is to bring individuals and communities together, are the primary tool we use for tearing each other apart. Facebook and Twitter have become poison. Although we tend to personally deny that we are a part of the problem, a quick search through our own social media accounts probably would reveal otherwise. Sadly, we all contribute to the fast-moving poison.

So what brings out this poison, this vitriol and hatred? Simple. We have different opinions.

Apparently, having a different opinion is justification enough to warrant personal attacks, prejudiced generalizations, character assassinations, and wishes for harm to befall our opponents in order to teach them a lesson. read more

1 Comment

The joy of being found

I have been owned by dachshunds long enough to know three things. First, they do not ask for attention; they demand it. Second, the intensity of their midnight “potty urgency” corresponds directly to the depth of my sleep. And third, they have ADD.

Of my three wiener dogs, the one who most embodies these tendencies is Missy. One recent night she jumped off the bed – which means, “I gotta go now!” My wife heard her before I did, and went downstairs to let her out.

Soon after, my wife started calling, “Mis-sy!” (which sounds really loud at 3:00 in the morning). She then called to me that she couldn’t find Missy and needed help looking.

So I checked around to make sure Missy hadn’t slipped back upstairs (she hadn’t), and then went down to search for her. read more

2 Comments

Giving the devil his due: the art of the lie

As I stood at the top of the staircase in the academic building at my august British university, the voices began: “Failure. Flunkie. Flop.”

I had just experienced what was, and remains, the most awkward, humiliating moment of my life. In the final hour of my seven years of effort, my two oral examiners had just rejected my PhD work. After hearing the news, I had to stand up in front of them, cram my useless 400-page paper into my briefcase, and exit the room in heavy silence. One of them had simply stared at me without expression; the other never made eye contact.

Classes were letting out, and the atrium below bustled with throngs of students, chattering and laughing. Their journey of chasing their dreams was just coming to birth, whereas mine had just died. read more

Leave a Comment

Breaking a hard heart

Recently my church offered a time of prayer for healing. As I waited for my wife, who was praying for someone, an elder approached me and asked if I myself needed prayer.

I thought I didn’t, but my heart knew. Immediately I said yes, and when I was asked what to pray for, the words rushed out: “My hardened heart.”

05-19-2011I realized just how badly my hard heart did need healing prayer. After a wonderful advent season, as 2016 began I had started to feel deluged by political speeches, social media debates, and “awareness” campaigns over injustices about which I can do little, except worry over how little I can do. At such times, my old patterns of cynicism, sarcasm, and apathy tend to start sneaking back into my heart. After all, my flawed logic assumes, if I act superior or uncaring, then all of the bad things can’t bother me. read more

Leave a Comment

Can we be sinners but not losers?

Since the release of my book, Losers Like Us, I have argued that the Bible does nothing to hide the sins, flaws, and blemishes of the people within. They are too clueless, too full of themselves, and too ordinary to be considered spiritual giants. So I have used the term “losers” to describe them—and also to describe all the rest of us who, each in our own stumbling way, try to follow the Lord just as they tried.

But many people have objected to the “loser” label by saying: “Yes, I am a sinner—but not a loser!”

Loser-Sinner1This response shows just how much people hate being labeled as “losers.” I think they mean that in Christ, we are winners, and I agree with that. Yet I see the sinner/loser distinction differently. read more

3 Comments

Embracing surrender

surrenderDo you know that old song, “I Surrender All”?

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to thee, my precious Savior,
I surrender all.

As Lent comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “surrender,” and what it means to truly surrender my life to Jesus.

More accurately, I have been trying hard not to think about it.

But the harder I try to ignore it, the louder it repeats in my head: surrender.

What does it mean to surrender? The dictionary says “surrender” means “give up.” But give up what?

I think surrender means giving up three things: pride, freedom, and control—even control over one’s own life. read more

Leave a Comment

Four mistakes that keep me from loving my neighbor

It’s no secret that I have felt out of place in the Portland metro area where I live. I’m a Montana boy in a big city, and after living here for 17 years, I still fight the culture shock—and the fact that despite my wish to live elsewhere, I seem to be right where God wants me.

LoveThyNeighborAsThyself

I crave peace, quiet, and elbow room, all of which are virtually nonexistent in my densely packed neighborhood with its traffic-clogged streets. And the neighborhood is visibly deteriorating.

My inner turmoil reached critical mass recently as I walked my dogs. It’s a beautiful time of year, but I couldn’t enjoy the warm sun or budding flowers. I didn’t even notice them.

Instead, I was flooded with an overwhelming sense of disgust. It wasn’t because anyone had wronged me. It was about aesthetics. read more

Leave a Comment

I am Jonah

Photo by Daniel Hochhalter

It’s been almost two decades since I left my home state of Montana and moved out to Portland, Oregon for seminary. When asked where I’m from, I still answer, “I am from Montana, but I live in Portland.” After eighteen years, I still don’t see myself as being from here. I still consider myself an outsider. I just don’t seem to fit in.

I think I’m too rural for the city; I feel claustrophobic here. My horizons are blocked by the neighbor’s fence behind me and the tall apartments in front of me. I always seem to be jostling against people and bumping into things. Even the parking spaces are smaller. It’s hard to ignore the chaos and clamor—the yelling, the car horns, the police sirens (one is screaming past right now). Whenever I get chance to return home to Big Sky country, my body decompresses. My breathing slows. My heart rate goes down. My natural movements become, well, more natural. read more

Leave a Comment

A fowl reminder of grace

rooster-crowing-2A rooster’s crow aroused me from sleep during a campout / speaking engagement last weekend. Normally that sound is pleasant to me, but this time I was annoyed. This rooster’s morning song apparently was on Eastern time or earlier, because here in the Pacific Northwest it wasn’t morning; it was only 1:30 a.m. Not only was the day not about to break, but I was pretty sure the sun was still hovering somewhere over Europe.

So for about half an hour, I lay listening to a time-challenged bird, desperately hoping to get some sleep before I had to speak in the morning. Then I caught the irony: my topic was the apostle Peter—who, after insisting he’d die for Jesus, in truth was so afraid to die that he denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, just as Jesus had predicted he would (John 13:38). read more

Leave a Comment

A book pre-release prayer

botticelli_sleeping_apostles_2_smallIt’s been years since the start of this journey.

But then the years became months.

The months became weeks.

The weeks, days.

And now it is only hours until the release of Losers Like Us.

I am well aware that countless others have published before me, but this is my first publication. I have been antsy the last few days: anxious, jittery, full of anticipation, beating my head against the wall until it is all soft and squishy. Like a kid on Christmas Eve, I am tired but too excited to sleep.

Last night, my mind raced with thoughts about what could—or will—happen next. There is no possible way to know, but that doesn’t stop my imagination from conceiving of a slew of “what-if” scenarios. read more

1 Comment