The Pathway To Hope Begins With Letting Go

It's hard to watch the news on TV.  Most of us have stopped doing so, to be honest.  More and more people get their news in snippets from social media, forwarded emails, or from the push notifications on their smartphones.  

But any way you look at it, the news we get is usually bad.  And most of us have an overwhelming sense that everything is screwed up.  We live with a steady sense of foreboding almost all of the time.  

In recent years writers like Steven Pinker and Hans Rosling (among others) have been making the case that we are wrong to be so pessimistic about the future and that there is ample evidence to demonstrate that things in the world are the best they've ever been.  

The problem is, the statistics on drug addiction, depression, low life satisfaction, and suicide rates in the developed world are not just sobering, they're alarming.  

Author Mark Manson  recently wrote: 
Basically, we are the safest and most prosperous humans in the history of the world, yet we ar…

Summer Solstice Redux

Today I went back to the archives for this encore devo.  I've updated it a bit because this was written before my mother's death, and I've learned a few things since then...  

When I was a kid, summer was like magic.  During those summers long ago, I would wake up in the morning with a rush of possibility.  There would be this fierce sense of joy that would fill my chest as I contemplated the day to come.  

And those days would last so long, wouldn't they?  When I was young I wanted to wring every bit of adventure out of those summer days and nights.  I would stay outside as long as I could---until it was almost too dark to see.  

One memory seems to stand out for me today--it's one that I've brought to mind over and again throughout my life.  

In my mind's eye, I can see myself at age 10, catching fireflies with my cousins in the gathering South Carolina dusk.  My parents are young--younger than I am now.  My mother, grandmother, four uncles, and my aunt are a…

From 10:30 to Half Past Midnight

I'm traveling today so I thought I would share an "encore" devo--one that meant a lot to me, and I hope still speaks today:  

In 1654, the famed mathematician, Blaise Pascal had a profoundly mystical, and spiritually uplifting experience one night from 10:30PM until 12:30AM.  How do we know this?  He wrote it down on a piece of paper that he later sewed into the lining of his coat.  

We can only surmise that the reason he did this was to preserve it and keep it somewhere close to his heart.  It was only after his death that the paper with his words from that night were discovered.  
His note began: "The Year of grace 1654... From about ten-thirty in the evening to about half an hour after Midnight... Fire."  Pascal continued his note by writing: "I separated myself from [Jesus]; I fled him, renounced him, Crucified him. May I never be separated from him!" 

And then finally this: "Total submission to Jesus Christ and to my director. Eternally in joy f…

To All Those With Checkered Pasts

Twenty-six years ago my wife Merideth and I were driving away from the church parking lot of the church we'd been attending for a few months when she said something that was so ridiculous it made choke with laughter.

To be fair, I was a smoker then so when I started laughing, I would pretty much start choking, and I'd just lit up a cigarette then. 

I looked over at Merideth and realized she was staring at me with this small smile on her face and her eyes really wide.  It was unnerving.  "What?!" I exclaimed.  "What's wrong?!"  Then she hit me with this:

"You would make a great minister." 

There was no context for this, and no evidence (in my mind) that would lead her to say such a thing to me.  It was ridiculous. It was out of the question.  It deserved the derisive, choking laugh of a smoker. 

Here's what I was thinking:  Leon, old buddy, your past is more checkered than a pair of classic Vans shoes... or a checkerboard... or a checkered quilt…

Stop Worrying About Going To Heaven When You Die

In his recent book Unraptured, author Zach Hunt asserts that one of the worst things to have ever happened to Christianity in America is its obsession with "End Times" theology, and the perpetuation of a faith that isn't grounded in the present.

He describes it like this:
"[A Christianity] focused on the future like a zero-sum game, a faith so over-spiritualized and focused on heaven that it has no practical relevance for the here and now."  This reminded me of the Oliver Wendell Holmes quote: "Some people are so heavenly minded, they are no earthly good." 

Jesus wasn't about that.  Jesus was firmly planted in the here and now.  He spoke more about money than he did about heaven or hell. 

He used plain language to tell stories about the expansive nature of the kingdom of God rather than the overly religious language of the narrow-minded religious elites. 

And, as Joan Chittister puts it: 
He cured on the Sabbath, mixed with foreigners, taught theology t…

No One Really Cares About Our Church-y Arguments

For some reason, I've been thinking this morning about a woman who was a member of one of my former churches.  

I had so much in common with her and her husband--similar interests in music, movies, TV shows and even a shared love of sarcasm and twisted humor.  

But in the end, this woman became disillusioned with both me and the church because of her far-right religious beliefs and her extremely narrow view of the Bible.  

She had a few confrontational meetings with me, and then she and her husband eventually stopped attending.  

It didn't stop there, though.  She grew angry and vindictive, even going so far as to try to convince friends of hers still in the church they needed to leave, too.  

She was so certain that she was right, and that I was wrong that she was willing to malign me, demean me and tell outright lies about me.  It was a hurtful time, to be sure.  

I've spent a lot of my life being triggered by people like this woman.  It's so easy and tempting to just get …

Living Life For A Living

I've had more than a few conversations lately about how short life is, and how time seems to fly by more and more quickly, the older I get.  

I was talking to a friend who said it feels like she just woke up one day and her daughter was grown and in college.  "Where did my little girl go?" she told me. 

I had to agree.  My eldest son and his wife are moving to Chicago this week so he can attend law school.  That very sentence makes me shake my head in disbelief.  

Where did the time go?  How can I have a kid that's married AND going to law school? And why am I asking myself these things in italics?

The way I see it, you have a couple of choices when it comes to the life you've been given:  You can decide to embrace every moment and live it to the fullest, or not.  It's kind of that simple.  

God knows I've spent my fair share of days not really living life for a living. Those days are easily forgotten, and they all seem to run together.  

The days that are mem…