If God Feels Far Away, Who Moved?

Many years ago, I read the following question that was posted in some sermon or another and eventually made its way to the internet:

"If God feels far away from you right now, who moved?" 

I admit that I've used that question in the past during sermons or talks.  It's a pretty church-y question, but there's some depth to it, despite that fact.  The question implies something about the unmoving and annoyingly present presence of God all around us. 

It also implies that whatever we perceive as the absence of God is most likely formed and informed by our own inability to see God at work around us. 

And so many Christians spend all of their energy trying to perceive God on their own terms.  They lift up all sorts of man-made doctrines, dogmas, rules, and regulations that they falsely believe will usher them into the presence of the Divine somehow--as long as they can adhere to them. 

Some Christians spend so much time doing things in order to experience God that they lose…

Blobs Of Glue & Perfectionism

Artist Stefan Sagmeister once reflected on how in his hometown in Austria there was an annual event called the Bregenzer Festspiele.  The Festspiele featured the performance of operas, concerts and theater productions, which were presented from a floating stage on Lake Constance. 

One year, an Italian production company designed the stage set for a performance of Mozarts Magic Flute.  The designers created a scale model of the stage, along with the drawings and instructions, and then left for Italy. 

When they returned, the Italians discovered the set was perfectly created as they had specified, with one exception.  They were flummoxed by the presence of several large "blobs" on the stage---none of which were part of the original design. 

What they eventually realized was that the contractors had so meticulously followed the plans they were given, they actually recreated the blobs of glue that were visible in the model. 

After I read that story, I couldn't help but think abo…

Some Steps To Forgiveness

Yesterday I shared the importance of always being able to move toward forgiveness as a more excellent way of living and moving in the world. 

I also shared that because we have been forgiven (repeatedly) by God, we are in turn called to share that same mercy to others--even to those who continue to wound us. 

Today I'd like to share some steps that you can take in order to make forgiveness a reality.  I originally discovered the basic idea for this from the work of Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., and I modified it a bit. 

First, don't let the offense come between you any longer.  Whatever has happened is in the past, and it needs to stay there.  It has no place in your present.  The truth is, you may not ever laugh with this person again... or they may never be a part of your life going forward, but it's done.

Second, make a promise to yourself not to use the incident against them. Resist the urge to constantly rehash the incident with friends, or to bring it up in public for the pu…

490 Moments Of Forgiveness Is A Good Start

There's this moment in the Gospel of Matthew that I wish wasn't there.

Peter asks Jesus about forgiveness--specifically about how many times you should forgive someone who continues to wound you.

Peter thought he was being generous when he asks and then answers his own question:  "How many times should I forgive?  Seven?"

I'd like to imagine that Peter is thinking what most of us would think:  "Seven times is pretty much the absolute limit when it comes to forgiving someone who's wronged you... Three is my limit, but seven... now that's downright holy.  You'd have to be a saint to forgive that many times."

And then Jesus says, "Yeah, here's the deal... You should forgive up to seventy times seven times." 

There it is.  The moment I wish wasn't there.  

Jesus takes what Peter thinks is a holy number and then multiplies it so it becomes a number that is completely out of reach when it comes to those who have wounded us or the peop…

Why Did God Allow That To Happen?

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.  - 2 Cor 4:6
Some years ago, I had a church member make an appointment to see me in my office.  During her visit, she struggled to keep her composure as she shared how she was struggling to deal with a traumatic event in her life. 

At one point, she blurted out through her tears, "I don't know why God allowed this to happen to me!" 

She quickly qualified her comment by affirming her belief that God was all-powerful and all-knowing and that she believed God was inherently good, but then she paused for a moment and whispered: 

"But I still don't know why God allowed this to happen to me."  

In the newly released book, God Can't, Thomas Jay Oord takes on the issues surrounding my church member's statement--issues centered on the idea of why (if God is good) God would allow…

Everybody Who Is Honest Is Interesting

I recently read a wonderful quote from Quentin Crisp that sparked my imagination. 

Crisp, the late British author, actor, and raconteur was addressing a group of reporters once when he said, "Everybody is interesting." 

One of the reporters pushed back by saying that he quite disagreed with Crisp on that point and that there were, in fact, lots of boring people in the world. 

Crisp thought for a moment, and then amended his statement: "Everybody who is honest is interesting."

Come on!  How fabulous is that? 

Crisp's quip (say that five times really fast) got me thinking about how far too many of us Christian-y types live out our faith in uninteresting ways, simply because we aren't being entirely honest about it.

I like to imagine what it would be like if Christians everywhere started being completely and incredibly honest about their faith-- especially the parts of their faith filled with struggles, doubts, fears, hang-ups and wrong-headed notions that have led …

When Being "Smart & Special" Isn't Enough

Awake, I beseech thee, O my soul, and let the fire of a heavenly love be kindled in thy heart, and wisely consider the beauty which thy Lord God hath bestowed upon thee... Anselm of Canterbury

Once, many years ago, my wife and I were enjoying a rare night out together that included dinner.  The restaurant was jammed that evening, and so we had to sit at the bar, where an energetic and personable young guy waited on us.

Merideth is always great at connecting with people everywhere she goes.  She will often engage in deep conversations with strangers---cashiers, flight attendants, and bartenders.  I love that about her because I tend to stay in my lane when it comes to those kinds of interactions.

At any rate, she began talking to our bartender, and he opened up to share a bit of his life's journey with us, and why he had decided to back to college in his mid-thirties.

He said something I never forgot: 

"I was told that I was smart and special for so long that I believed that all m…