Lenten Devotional: Day 8

Foolish one

Foolish one,
do something,
or else you’ll just be
standing there, looking dumb.
If you are not traveling
 and on the road,
how can you call yourself a guide?

Pray: Show Me

Show me,
Gracious Lord,
     the peace I should seek,
     the peace I can keep,
     the peace I must forgo,
     and the peace I must give,
For Your kingdom’s sake.

Lenten Devotional: Day 7


Christina Rossetti
As rivers seek the sea,
  Much more deep than they,
So my soul seeks thee
  Far away:
As running rivers moan
On their course alone
  So I moan
  Left alone.
As the delicate rose
  To the sun’s sweet strength
Doth herself unclose,
  Breadth and length:
So spreads my heart to thee
Unveiled utterly,
  I to thee
As morning dew exhales
  Sunwards pure and free,
So my spirit fails
  After thee:
As dew leaves not a trace
On the green earth’s face;
  I, no trace
  On thy face.
Its goal the river knows,
  Dewdrops find a way,
Sunlight cheers the rose
  In her day:
Shall I, lone sorrow past,
Find thee at the last?
  Sorrow past,
  Thee at last? 

Pray: Psalm 42

As a deer
thirsts for a stream,
so my soul
thirsts for You.
I start to weep,
I begin to moan,
then I say to my soul,
“Soul, why so cast down?
“Trust God,
“Hope again.”
As a deer
thirsts for a stream,
so my soul
thirsts for You.

Magic Word from “This is Us” – “Okay…”

(“Okay” as a magic word is found in the following chapter from 
Enough and Other Magic Words to Transform Your Life
by David W. Jones)


Oh, No, No, No…     Bruce Springsteen

The Problem

   I am told that amen means so be it. So be it is a lot like yes. When I imagine Adam walking through Eden, I imagine him saying, “Yes,” a lot.
   God says, “Adam, work the garden.”
   Adam says, “Yes,” and works the garden.
   God says, “Adam, name the animals.”
   Adam says, “Yes,” and names the animals.
   God says, “Adam, enjoy the garden.”
   Adam says, “Yes,” and enjoys the beauty of the garden.
   I imagine Adam walking through the marvels of Eden, the wonders upon wonders, the joys, the sights, and the vistas which, upon seeing, Adam says from deep in his soul, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
   Wendell Berry captures for me what first wonders feel like in his poem, The First.
   The first man who whistled
   thought he had a wren in his mouth.
   He went around all day
   with his lips puckered,
   afraid to swallow.

Yes. Yes. Yes.
   Adam knew yes.
He also knew no.
God says, “Adam don’t eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden.”
   Adam says, “Which tree?” And later, when he’s sure God is far away, when he holds the fruit in his hand, Adam says, “No,” and breaks God’s rule.
   When God looks for him, when God asks what he has done, Adam doesn’t say yes to God but no. No! It wasn’t my fault. It was that woman you gave me.” No.
Adam had yes. Adam had no. He needed something else.
   Peter, Jesus’ disciple, was a lot like Adam. Peter had yes. Peter had no. He needed something else.

Continue reading “Magic Word from “This is Us” – “Okay…””

Lenten Devotional: Day 6

Today, like every other day

Today, like every other day,
we wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.  

Pray: Savior, In This Quiet Place

Fred Pratt Green 1974
O Savior
in this quiet place
where anyone may kneel
I also come
to ask for grace
believing You can heal.


Lenten Devotional: Day 5

The Day Millicent Found the World

William Stafford
Every morning Millicent ventured farther
into the woods.  At first she stayed
near light, the edge where bushes grew, where
her way back appeared in glimpses among
dark trunks behind her.  Then by farther paths
or openings where giant pines had fallen
she explored ever deeper into
the interior, till one day she stood under a great
dome among columns, the heart of the forest, and knew:
Lost.  She had achieved a mysterious world
where any direction would yield only surprise…

Pray: Be Thou My Vision

Mary E. Byrne, 1905

Be Thou my vision
O Lord of my heart.
Naught be all else to me
save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought
by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping
Thy presence my light.


Lenten Devotional: Day 4

i thank You God for most this amazing

e.e. cummings
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any – lifted from the no
of all nothing – human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened) 

Pray: Joyful

Joyful, Joyful,
I adore Thee
God of glory
Lord of love.
My heart unfolds
a flower
before Thee
opening to
the sun above.
Melt my clouds
of sin and sadness
drive my gloom
and doubts away.
Giver of
immortal gladness
fill me
with the light of day.

Lenten Devotional: Day 3

Risk everything

Risk everything
for love.
If you do,
you’re a truly human.
If not,
why bother?
you’ll never reach
You’ll set out
to find God,
but then
hinder your journey
at mean-spirited

Pray: Prayer for Peace

St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred,
let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood,
as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning
that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying
that we are born
to eternal life. Amen.

Lenten Devotional: Day 2


The moon and sun are travelers through eternity.
Even the years wander on.
Whether drifting through life on a boat
or climbing toward old age leading a horse,
each day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.

Pray: I Need Thee

Annie Hawks

I need Thee
every hour
hours of joy
hours of pain
come quickly
without You
my life
I live in vain.
I need Thee
O I need Thee
every hour
I need Thee
O bless me now
my Savior
I come to Thee.
I come to Thee.
I come to Thee.

Lenten Devotional: Day 1

For a daily Lenten devotional, I offer some of my favorite poems and prayers. I have read poetry for years, and it has taken me years to read these poems. Most of them come from various collections I have in my library. Unlike other readings, a poem can stop me still, unable to read on, making me meditate, requiring a one a day exposure.
So, for the journey to Easter, I offer some of my favorite poems, one a day. All of them are tied together by a journeying theme that make them suitable for the season of Lent, as we travel through these forty days to Jerusalem, the cross, the empty tomb, and beyond.

Day 1

Wild Geese

Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting 
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Pray: Isaiah 40

People are grass
     that wither and fade,
                 but You are forever.
Eternal and everlasting,
     the Creator of the earth,
You never faint
     and never grow weary.
Empower me,
     lift me up,
                 renew my strength,
                             set me high
                                         on wings of eagles,
     lift me up,
                 and I will fly,
                             and not fall.
Eternal and everlasting,
     Creator of the earth,
                 lift me up…

Beyond Divisions – Hyponyms Part II

When we are young, and beginning to explore the world, we learn about what something is through its opposite. As quickly as you can, go through the following list and name its opposite. The first one is done for you.
   hot… cold
Continue reading “Beyond Divisions – Hyponyms Part II”

Adam and Eve Flunked the SAT

Adam and Eve flunked the SAT because they didn’t know what a hyponym was…

Like Adam and Eve,
God has given you the world as your garden paradise.
If you choose to eat from the forbidden fruit
in order to label everyone and every experience ‘good’ or ‘ill,’
you will turn your heaven into a hell, just as they did. Continue reading “Adam and Eve Flunked the SAT”

You Can Always Choose so Choose Love

Luke 6: 27 But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.

Praise those who curse you.
If someone tries to steal your coat, give it to him gladly.
If someone classifies you as “enemy”, reject their label.
If someone hates you, love them.
When you give to someone, give freely,
and do not keep a ledger expecting something in return.
Why? Because you can. That’s the power of The Way.

If someone strikes you, you do not have to strike back,
you can always choose.
If someone wrongs you,
you do not have to wrong them in return,
you can always choose.
No matter what evil someone does to you,
you do not have to repay evil for evil, violence for violence,
wrongdoing with an even greater wrongdoing.
No one ever forces your response,
you can always choose.
Why? Because you can. That’s the power of The Way.

War never brings peace.
Hate never produces love.
Only liberated people who choose
can dream the world into a new reality.
That has always been The Way.

From Impossible to “I’m Possible” with Jesus and Aristotle

    About 400 years before Jesus, Plato taught the world about perfection in his Philosophy of Forms. According to Plato, everything in existence was just a shadowy representation of a higher perfect form, like shadows on a cave wall represent the objects casting the image from the fire light. For everything there is a higher perfect form. The chair you are sitting in is merely a representation of a perfect chair. A horse is a representation of a perfect horse. Everything in existence has a higher perfect form.
   Some 400 years later, when Jesus was born, Plato’s ideas of perfection were still the dominant philosophy. God was perfect, righteous, holy, sinless, without flaw. Humanity was a dung heap compared to God. However, among life in the poop pile, some were less putrid than others. The religious in Jesus’ day saw themselves as far from perfect, but in comparison, far more perfect than your regular run of the mill sinner. They were confident if the people of the world would all try and be more like them, the world would be a better place. In order to help others, they were glad to point out all the areas in which people had fallen short from the glory of God’s perfect plan.
   Today, The Platonic Model of Perfection is still followed religiously with each church believing that even though we are all sinners, some are just a little less sinful than others. In order to be helpful, like the other Platonic Perfectionists that have come before us, we don’t begin by validating other people as beloved, we begin by invalidating others as far from perfect. We consider that the best way to be helpful.
   The Platonic Model of Perfection is also primary in education, from the primary grades on up. If you take a test and answer 100 questions and answer accurately on 97 of them, your paper may be returned to you with a red, -3.  Even if your test has a 97 on it, if asked, “How did you do?” you will likely answer, “I missed 3.” Plato would be proud. We learn to grade ourselves on just how far from perfection we are always seeking that perfect Platonic form.
   There is an alternative. For example, I heard of a teacher who started marking her tests differently. She got rid of her red marker. She put the number answered correctly on the paper. For a child who only got three correct, she put a 3 and a smiley face. The child asked her, “Why did you put a smiley face on my paper?”
   She replied, “Because you got 3 right. If you got three, then you can get the rest.”
   She was not saying, “There is no goal, no scale, no measuring.” What she is saying is, “Let’s celebrate potential. You got three correct, that means you are capable of getting more.”
   Rather than showing what the child could not do, she pointed the child toward potential. Billy, in this next story needed a teacher like her, and parents, and pastors, and…

   A teacher asked her third grade class, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
   She got the standard answers, “Fireman. Doctor. Astronaut.”
   Then she asked the only child who had no response, “Billy, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
   Billy replied, “Possible.”
   She did not understand, “Possible? What do you mean?”
   He replied, “Everybody is always telling me, ‘Billy, you’re impossible. When I grow up, I want to be possible.”
   Possibility or Potential is a contrasting model to Platonic Perfection and dates back to the same era as Plato. Plato had a student named, Aristotle. When Plato died, Aristotle was hoping to be appointed to Plato’s position as a tenured professor of philosophy. When he didn’t get the job, dejected, he left the city and went out into the forest to rethink his life. While he was out in the woods, he touched a tree.
   Touching something alive, Aristotle thought how limited Plato’s idea of ‘perfection’ was when it came to living things. What worked well in the classroom had little application with living things. What relevance did perfection have to do with trees, shrubs, flowers, birds, deer, or people?There was no ‘perfect’ form for anything alive. Living things come in so many varieties there can be no perfect form as each has a particularly unique and distinctive form of its own. Instead of perfection, Aristotle focused on ‘potential’. He used the word, telos. In an acorn is the telos of an oak tree. In atadpole is the telos of a frog. In a kitten is the telos of a cat. In a baby is the telos of an adult.    To the frustration of Jesus’ adversaries, he was a telos man. He looked at people as alive, not in some silly less than perfect ranking system. Jesus saw people as distinct individuals, alive and beautiful, each in his or her own way. While the religiously right saw many people as irredeemably imperfect and shouted, “Shame! Shame!” he saw potential in each person regardless of his or her imperfections or their past. Jesus called to all the individuals who could hear him during the Sermon on the Mount,
   Each of you is the salt of the earth. If salt has no flavor, can you make it salty again? No. It’s purpose is to give flavor to food or else it is thrown out.
   Each of you is the light of the world. When people get together and build a city, they do not hide it in a valley but put it on a hill so others can come to it. In the same way, why would anyone light a candle or a lamp and put it under a bucket? No, you put it on the table so that it gives light to all the house.
   So let it be with you. Let your light shine so that others may see the wonder of what you do and give glory

  Jesus’ call was not to consider in shame what we are not, but to find our potentialand live it out. Each of us is to find our flavor and share it. Each of us is to find our light and shine it. Each of us is to take whatever we have and set it on a hill for all to enjoy! Each of us must move from seeing ourselves as “impossible” to proclaiming, “I’m possible!” and living out our God-given telos.

  If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility! Soren Kierkegaard

Too Much Stuff? Then Give Your Gifts…

   Here is how I feel about stuff… I like stuff. According to George Carlin, accumulating and acquiring stuff is our national pastime.

   …that’s what this country is all about. Tryin’ to get more stuff. Stuff you don’t want, stuff you don’t need, stuff that’s poorly made, stuff that’s overpriced. Even stuff you can’t afford! Gotta keep on gettin’ more stuff. Otherwise someone else might wind up with more stuff. Can’t let that happen. Gotta have the most stuff

   Carlin is right. I like stuff, but stuff is like cookie dough, too much and you’re going to toss it!
   If you feel like you’ve got too much stuff, if chasing that one more thing has ruined your paradise like it did Adam and Eve, then try giving away your gifts. Next birthday, anniversary, sweetheart’s day (Feb. 14), completion day (like graduation or retirement) or holiday (like Christmas or Groundhog Day), try donating your gift to someone else. Here is how:

Donate Your Anniversary to Buy Someone Else Something They Need
Through Your Church or Favorite Nonprofit

   Al and Carolyn Baumgartner celebrated their 60th anniversary and collected all their gifts through their church to raise enough money to buy every child at nearby Compton Elementary School a new Scholastic book. They were going to have the party. They were going to receive gifts. Because they decided to share by giving a gift someone needed instead of just accumulating more stuff a whole school celebrated their anniversary as they celebrated every student in the school.

Donate Your Birthday through Your Favorite Nonprofit

Cathie Newell donated her birthday and raised enough money to pay a teacher in Haiti for five months through Haiti for the World.

Celebrate Your Graduation by Helping a School Stay Open

Cayla and Abbie Jones donated their graduations (Cayla from Berry College and Abbie from Hillgrove High School) and raised enough money to fund the salaries of two teachers in Haiti for an entire year through Haiti for the World.

Celebrate Someone You Appreciate
Why Wait Until Mother’s Day, Secretary’s Day,
or Teacher Appreciation Day?

Donate your gifts to your favorite nonprofit today gift today in honor or memory of someone who is more important to you than anything you can buy. For more information, contact your favorite mission group or go to: Haiti for the World: How to Donate With your donation, make sure you fill in the “In honor of” section.

Set Up Your Own Fundraiser on Facebook for Your Favorite Nonprofit

   Most nonprofits have a “fundraiser” link on the left side of the nonprofit’s Facebook page to help you create your own fundraiser and let people know about the causes you care about. Carrie Jones gave her birthday and raised $700 for teachers in Haiti through Facebook and David Jones was feeling thankful at Thanksgiving and facilitated others thanksgivings on Facebook for teacher’s in Haiti and raised $600. To see how you can celebrate your own causes with your Facebook friends, click here for examples: Facebook Fundraisers.

   You don’t have to wait to Thanksgiving to be thankful. Give your gift, donate your presents, share your presence and show someone you care for them by caring for others. For more information, use the contact form below…




A Parent’s Great Commission

   In the summer of 1996, just before midnight, the youth and adults on our Mission Trip to Lexington, Kentucky were bunking down for sleep while I was out driving the church van around the same three blocks in what seemed to me a never-ending track of exhaustion. Cayla, a little over a year old, on her first mission trip, was in her car seat behind me slowly losing the battle between wake and sleep. She wouldn’t go to sleep in the church where we were staying, so I put her in the van and went hoping the driving wheels and the hum of the road would lull her to sleep. That was her first of many ‘mission trips’ to come. By age 12, she’d been on 13. As she graduated from high school, she planned a trip to Russia. In college, she coordinated projects for our Haiti partnership that will end up providing ongoing health care to thousands of children in Haiti. Now, she through her cap in the air and her gown aside after finishing Berry College and is off in Morocco with The Peace Corps.
   As parents, Carrie and I have worked very hard to make a home for our family. That’s what we do, as parents, we work to make a house a home not knowing that our children are conspiring against us all along. While we tell them, “Settle down!” making that our life’s goal, having found each other and settled down, our children are, year after year, with every birthday, cranking it up. No matter what age, as soon as you think you’ve mastered being a parent, they grow to a new stage in their development and your incompetence. I had always heard, “Give your children, roots and wings.” Well, guess what. The wings are far more powerful than the roots.
   I should have seen it coming with Cayla. She put on her backpack for school, but school wouldn’t be enough. She chose horseback riding as a hobby but going around in circles only satisfied her for so long. 
   Yes, I should have seen it coming. Every Sunday she heard me charge a congregation to go out in the world, that’s what we do as pastors. But congregations are expected to come back a week later (or at least next Christmas or Easter). Even so, every once in a while, you get someone who does more on a mission trip than get a small dose, they catch fire. Every once in a while , you get someone in church who actually listens to the gospels and the words of Jesus who says ‘build’ 11 times but ‘go’ 111 times. Look at church facilities and budgets, I think we reversed the ratio. Not Cayla. Even though we seldom preach about the Great Commission where Jesus tells his followers to descend the mountain and “Go into all the world,” apparently on those Sundays, she’s been listening.
   Looking back as full-time parent and part-time pastor in my daughter’s life, I guess I should warn you. Be careful if you come to worship on Sunday, the warm coals of your heart might catch fire – then, as Dr. Seuss says, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.”

Why Worry?

Worry won’t make tomorrow come quicker.
Worry won’t fix your broken yesterday.
Worry won’t keep you from squandering each moment.
So, why worry?

Worry won’t feed you.
Worry won’t keep you safe.
Worry won’t make you live longer.
So, why worry?

 Why worry about your house
when the world is your home?
Why do you worry about death
when you have yet to fully live?

Those who worry are
like the group of starving people
who asked God for beans.
God gave them a banquet.
They complained,
“But where are our beans?”
They were in the way
but not in The Way.

 Do you think the bird worries
about what it will eat
or what it will wear?
Of course not!
It’s too busy flying.
If it starts worrying, it will crash.
Birds in flight are flying in The Way.
Do likewise, or you’ll crash.

The Sower Never Worries

The Way is like the sower scattering seed everywhere.
Some falls upon the road eaten by the birds.
Some falls upon rocks and never takes root.
Some falls upon thorns and are choked out.
Some falls upon the good soil and brings forth a healthy crop.
The sower is not concerned for seed that is lost.
He does not worry about seed that is eaten by birds,
that takes no root upon rocks, or is choked out by thorns.
The sower understands life.
Life grows exponentially.
Life always wins over roads, rocks, and thorns.
So it is with The Way.
The Way is like a mustard seed tiny but large in life.

The Way is like kudzu, once it starts growing in your field,
you’ll never get it out.

The Way is like yeast, a small amount does much
transforming a lump of dough into a loaf,
and all who eat of it are filled.

James Taylor and The Wise Men – Home by Another Way

Today is Epiphany, when the Magi came to the end of their journey following the star and encountered Christ in a poor home in Bethlehem. To have been on such a journey, to have been surprised by God in such an unexpected way, they had to be changed. James Taylor tells the story of their transformation in Home by Another Way

Those magic men the Magi, some people call them wise or Oriental, even kings.
Well anyway, those guys, they visited with Jesus, they sure enjoyed their stay.
Then warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme, they went home by another way.
Yes, they went home by another way, home by another way.
Maybe me and you can be wise guys too and go home by another way.
We can make it another way, safe home as they used to say.
Keep a weather eye to the chart on high and go home another way.
Continue reading “James Taylor and The Wise Men – Home by Another Way”

New Year’s Resolution – Resolve to Pay Attention

   Sophia was asked to speak to the students of a local medical school.
   “Sophia, what do we need to be better doctors?” the students asked.
   “Doctors,” Sophia said, “need strong stomachs and strong powers of observation.” Then she opened a canister. The putrid smell quickly moved through the classroom. Sophia stuck a finger in the jar, pulled it up, and then licked it. She passed the jar around encouraging each doctor in training to do the same. Each did, and though many felt nauseas, no one got sick.
   “You all have very strong stomachs,” she said. “But your powers of observation need some work.”
   “What do you mean?” they asked. “We did just what you did.”
   “There is one difference,” she replied. “The finger I dipped in the jar was not the finger I licked.”

Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble. It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now. Epictetus

Give The World a Gift This Christmas

In this season of giving and receiving gifts to those we love, or those whose name we drew in an office party Secret Santa, reflect on this question, “What can I give the world?” If this is the season for celebrating when God so loved the world, God gave… What can you give the world?

Here is a song by Mipso, a trio formed in the fall of 2010 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina when Jacob, Joseph, and Wood were students at UNC – Chapel Hill. They graduated in May 2013, and took the show on the road.

The hope for the world is to “leave this wicked winter just a couple of acres greener when I go.”