Saturday, December 29, 2007

Thoughts for the Coming Year

"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up late to make sure the old year leaves." -Bill Vaughn

Does anyone actually keep their new year's resolutions? I have never been real big on this whole resolution thing, because I've always struggled to hang in there until February, let alone December. I guess it is a good thing that a brand new year causes us to take stock and determine to do better. So, why do we usually fail?

I heard someone say that the reason people like us so often fail to accomplish our goals is because we tend to set our goals too high and try to reach them too soon. I wonder if there isn't some truth in that evaluation. Maybe we need to discipline ourselves with baby steps before we can tackle the giant steps. And perhaps taking the long view can help our little steps still cover a lot of ground, moving us in the right direction. What do you think?

Well, I'm going to climb out on a limb and make a few resolutions of my own for the coming year, factoring in that none of us has any idea what 2008 will hold for us, our families, our work, even our world. But, here goes.

For the new year, 2008, I make the following resolutions:
  • I will use every day of my vacation time.
  • I will keep up my running and basketball, 3-4 times a week, and try to eat less like a hog and more like a bird.
  • I will have a real conversation with each person in my family every day it is humanly possible.
  • I will finally finish writing the book that has been on my list since 2002.
  • I will do a better job of mentoring and encouraging those I work with every day.
  • I will do my best to keep every promise I make, to live what I teach, and to practice what I preach.
  • When I blow it, I will be quick to fess up and ask forgiveness, and even quicker to forgive others.
  • I will do my best to keep my heart close to the heart of God, to know Him intimately, to love Him deeply, to serve Him faithfully, and to walk with Him daily.
Let's hear it for a great 2008! May the best of you be most of you in the coming year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Remembering Christmas Morning

It was the only time my seven older siblings let me be the first in line, and I think Mom made them do it. Christmas morning all eight of us would wait at the top of the stairs all lined up, youngest to oldest. We waited while Mom saw to the last minute details and Dad shaved and dressed. It always seemed to take my dad at least two hours to get ready for the big day. Finally Mom would call, "Alright, you kids can come down now," and we all scrambled down the stairs and around the corner to the tree. In those early years before we got more civilized, Christmas morning was a ten minute tornado with wrapping paper and ribbons and cardboard swirling into huge piles.

Special gifts come to mind. I remember a favorite stuffed animal, a donkey that my sister Jean gave to me. And I remember my purple Vikings football jersey, my electric football game that Jim and John played with all day long, and my first new bicycle. And my brother Jerry's Hot Wheels and chemistry set. Then there was always a present for each of us from Grandma and Grandpa Barnes with new pajamas, always pajamas, but at least they didn't have big pink bunny ears like Ralphy's. More than the gifts themselves was the feeling of genuine love and joy that filled our home, around the tree and around the table.

Christmas morning. There's nothing like it. For a brief little window of time, we are all children again, we are all warm and safe and loved, our fondest wishes come true. Cherish the moment. Give love. Speak peace. Celebrate joy. Find faith to believe. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Wild Hope of Christmas

"To look at the last great self-portraits of Rembrandt or to read Pascal or hear Bach's B-minor Mass is to know beyond the need for further evidence that if God is anywhere, he is with them, as he is also with the man behind the meat counter, the woman who scrubs floors at Roosevelt Memorial, the high-school math teacher who explains fractions to the bewildered child. And the step from "God with them" to Emmanuel, "God with us," may not be as great as it seems. What keeps the wild hope of Christmas alive year after year in a world notorious for dashing all hopes is the haunting dream that the child who was born that day may yet be born again even in us and our own snowbound, snowblind longing for him." (Frederick Buechner)

May that haunting dream come true for you this Christmas.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"Be a Good Donkey, You Hear?"

Well, all the talk at church this week has centered on one crucial subject - the donkey. Tomorrow is the big Christmas cantata and dramatic portrayal of the nativity scene. And, unlikely as it might seem, Mary and Joseph will trek across our sanctuary on a real live donkey. No, this was not my idea. I am just the narrator, reading bits of the story between acts and anthems. Today we had our dress rehearsal. We all had to be there, in costume for a long, exhausting practice. Everyone was there, the shepherds, the angels, the chorus, everyone - except the donkey. That's what makes me nervous, the whole idea that what takes us three hours to rehearse a donkey can get right on the first try.

All week long I've been figuring the odds. What are the chances that in the middle of a major production before a packed house that a normal, red-blooded, Missouri donkey is going to do just exactly what it's supposed to do? And, even more critical, what are the odds that the donkey will not do what we do not wish him/her to do, related to the sanctuary carpet?

Our directors decided it was far too risky to use a real infant to play the part of Baby Jesus, so we have this plastic doll whose head seems a little small, kind of a premature Jesus. But, a live donkey - no problem. I really don't mean to be critical. I do appreciate the ton of work that has gone into this production and I'm sure it will be a powerful telling of the coming of Christ into the world. And for what it's worth, this whole donkey watch has added an element of mystery and excitement to a very familiar story.

Come to think of it, God took the big gamble on that first Christmas sending His Son, our Savior into the world by way of a penniless teenage girl and her bewildered husband. I guess if we are going to tell that same story, there really should be some kind of risk involved. We'll take our chances. "Nice donkey. Be a good donkey, you hear?"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The One Word We Need

"I remember sitting parked by the roadside once, terribly depressed and afraid about my daughter's illness and what was going on in my family, when out of nowhere a car came along down the highway with a license plate that bore on it the one word out of all the words in the dictionary that I needed most to see exactly then. The word was TRUST. What do you call a moment like that? Something to laugh off as the kind of joke life plays on us every once and a while? The word of God? I am willing to believe that maybe it was something of both, but for me it was an epiphany.

"The owner of the car turned out to be, as I'd suspected, a trust officer in a bank, and not long ago, having read an account I wrote of the incident somewhere, he found out where I lived and one afternoon brought me the license plate itself, which sits propped up on a bookshelf in my house to this day. It is rusty around the edges and a little battered, and it is also as holy a relic as I have ever seen." - Frederick Buechner

Need a word today, a little encouragement to deal with what lies ahead? Well, here it is - TRUST.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas Is Coming, Ready or Not

Is it still Christmas if you never have time to decorate? Suzanne's been swamped and I've been tied up most every evening. What happens if Christmas comes and all the tinsel and lights are still in the box? Well, hopefully we will find the time to get our house in the spirit of the season. As of now the pilgrims and pumpkins are still hanging around.

It's snowing like crazy outside, so winter isn't waiting for us to catch up. I picked up a couple of CDs of Christmas music to help spark the yuletide fever, Josh Groban's Noel, and an older one by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. (I sound just like Josh in the shower, and TSO is like listening to Handel on speed.) Here are the words to a Christmas song I'll bet you've never heard, but maybe we all need to hear. See what you think.


Santa Clause is coming and the kids are getting greedy,
It's Christmastime.
They know it's in the store because they seen it on the T. V.
It's Christmastime.
It used to be the birthday of the Man who saved our necks,
It's Christmastime.
But now it stands for Santa Claus you spell it with an X.
It's Christmastime.

I got to buy a present, can't remember who it's for
It's Christmastime.
I'll see you in an hour when I get back from the store.
It's Christmastime.

What about last year, baby?
It's Christmastime.
What did you get me, baby?
It's Christmastime.

(Words by Larry Norman)

Let's you and I make a pact together. When this Christmas is over, let's try to have something more to keep than just unpaid bills and more stuff we could live without. Let's focus on the One who came, the One who saved our necks, the One we cannot live without.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

You Never Know Until You Try.

It was the biggest project of my young life. I was a pretty typical sixth grade boy, looking forward to junior high and the chance to play football on a real team with uniforms and everything. This was long before the coming of youth football, peewees and mighty mites. My experience was pretty much just sandlot football games with my brothers and the kids in the neighborhood, but that didn't keep me from dreaming of huge crowds and Heismans and Super Bowls and even the hall of fame. If you're gonna dream, might as well dream big.

So, as a budding Vince Lombardi, I decided to organize a football club for all the sixth graders in our little town that wanted to learn about football and get ready for junior high competition. I wrote down my plan on a couple of pieces of notebook paper, and the school secretary, Mrs. Sloan, was nice enough to type it up for me. Then I drew up a flyer for the newly created Phantom Football Club announcing the Saturday afternoon of our first meeting and inviting everybody to participate. The principal even let me go around and talk to each class and pass out my flyers.

Soon the big day arrived. We were having our first meeting of the Phantom Football Club in the vacant lot beside our house. I had one ball and one tee and that was it - no plan, no help, no adults, no equipment, no first aid kit, just me and my football. My mother told me not to get my hopes up too high for that first day or I might be disappointed. My brothers assured me that I was an idiot and no one would come.

Well, much to my surprise and shock, just about every kid in the county showed up that day, maybe 60 or 70 sixth grade boys! (As my mom remembers it now, more like 200 showed up.) Being the expert and the leader of this near riot, I had us all just choose up sides and play a football game, about 35 on each side, with everyone playing all the time, tackle of course, only sissies play touch. Within ten minutes my mother was running a M.A.S.H. unit in our kitchen, patching up the bloody mouths of two or three boys who had braces, putting ice on all kinds of bumps and bruises and bloody noses, and trying to put broken glasses back together. There were torn clothes, ripped jackets, even pulled hair, but the game must go on. After three hours we all looked like we had been attacked by wild bears. Mothers came by to pick up their boys and not too many were smiling as they left.

As you might guess attendance at the second meeting of the Phantom Football Club the next Saturday took a dramatic drop to about eight guys, pretty much the same guys I played football with all the time.

So, what did I learn from this football fiasco? Well, first I learned to be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. And, seventy boys on the same field with one ball is not a football game. It is civil war. I also learned that even good ideas need help, maybe a little planning, and some preparation. And last of all I learned that this whole coaching thing is a little tougher than it looks. To this day, I have always had great respect for those who coach, especially those who coach kids.

Have you ever jumped in over your head? Ever try something new that succeeded beyond your wildest expectations? What about being caught totally unprepared and unequipped to handle some new challenge?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More than Turkey and Dressing.

Okay, I'm back to blogging. Sorry for the delay. Way too much going on. It's almost Thanksgiving and I've been giving some thought to my own list of blessings. So, here goes:

I am thankful for . . .
  • sweatshirts in November.
  • peaches in cobbler.
  • a good cup of coffee beside a fireplace.
  • the fun of just tossing around the football in the backyard.
  • sitting in my recliner watching Mizzou beat Kansas really bad.
  • four big brothers who still hug and still watch out for the kid, even when I'm 47.
  • three sisters (older, not bigger) who still cook my favorites. (Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting with nuts.)
  • my Mom, who made a big deal out of my Punt, Pass, and Kick trophy and still believes in me today.
  • my Dad, eighteen years absent from us, and still he speaks to me and shows me the way.
  • warm apple pie with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • listening to my son ask the Thanksgiving blessing.
  • spiffy running shoes that keep this big old guy on the trail.
  • a 14 year old daughter with Mufasa hair, my own strange sense of humor, and a smooth left-handed jumpshot.
  • a one of a kind 17 year old son who is Arnold, Napoleon, and Chuck all rolled into one and has already mastered the art of friendship.
  • a college boy who is more of a man and more of a minister with each passing day.
  • a warm, wonderful wife who is always there when I reach for her.
  • a partner in my work who I would trust with my life.
  • the lump in my throat that still comes when I turn on my mic, step to the pulpit, open my Bible, and look into the faces of my people.
  • maybe one more little sliver of apple pie with a little scoop of vanilla.
What about you? Write 'em down and let your blessings know what a blessing they are. Add your list if you like.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Life's Great Equalizers.

Lucy to Charlie Brown: "I love mankind. It's people I can't stand."

Here's a news flash. Brace yourself. People are different. I live in a town that has dramatically changed its ethnic make up over the past twenty five years. From plain vanilla to Baskin and Robbins, in a typical week I can hear people speaking four or five different languages, just going about my normal routine. And this diversity has an economic side as well, with a widening gap between the haves and the have nots, rich and poor, white collar and blue collar.

And yet, certain life experiences have a way of vaporizing the ethnic and economic barriers that so often divide us. For instance, an emergency room is no respecter of persons. A fire alarm recognizes no class distinctions. A tornado can't tell one neighborhood from another. A flood ruins everything it touches, mobile home or mansion, worthless or priceless. Cancer invades and destroys the human body regardless of the color of the skin or the size of the jewelry. Life deals out the cards and no matter who we are or where we are from or what we have, we must play the cards we are dealt, with no throwbacks or discards.

Sadly enough, sometimes it takes the harshest of circumstances to remind us that we are all in the same boat. It doesn't matter whether we ride first class or coach, we are all on the same journey. We are possessed by the same hopes and dreams for ourselves and our children. And in our darkest moments we all plead and pray and seek the God who alone sees and knows the heart. We search for the God who recognizes only one distinction - family.

"Behold, what manner of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are." (1 John 3:1)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

An Ape in the Corner.

My college roommate, Curt, had the coolest thing - a full-size ape suit. What could be better than that? And I, being a very responsible student and also the resident assistant for our floor of the dorm, had my own key to all the rooms. We did have some fun. We would pick a victim who was out of his room, maybe doing his laundry or shooting pool downstairs, or just brushing his teeth before going to bed. Curt would pull on his ape suit, I'd slip him into the victim's room, and he would hide for awhile, usually hiding in the dark corner behind the chest of drawers the guys used to bunk their beds. Curt was amazingly patient. He would wait for this guy to come back in, lay down, read awhile or watch TV. Eventually, sooner or later, it was lights out and Curt would wait just long enough for the guy to begin to drift off to sleep. Then, in the pitch dark, Curt would let out his best King Kong yells and throw his big hairy ape body on the shocked student. The rest of us would be waiting down the hall, listening for the blood-curdling screams that would always follow. Most of the victims would "scream like a girl." Sometimes we recorded the screams to play for them later.

Other times Curt would hide in the big community bathrooms, hiding in a stall with his feet up waiting for someone to sit down in the next stall. Then he would slowly stand up on the toilet and come over the top of the stall with his big ape sounds and long hairy arms. You can imagine the effect. And no matter how many times you tried to tell yourself, "There's a guy on this floor with an ape suit who likes to scare people," he would still get you. We were never ready for him. He got me a few times too, and once or twice I got to wear the ape suit. Pretty fun stuff.

And no, that was not the sum total of my college education, but it was part of it. This world is a pretty scary place, even without the ape suits. And sometimes what's hiding in the dark is real. And fight or flight, we have to deal with it, face our fears, stick together, and in the end, we overcome.

If I were to come face to face with one of those huge silverbacks high in the mountain country today, I would probably just punch him on the shoulder and say, "Knock it off, Curt. You're just not that scary anymore."

Sunday, November 4, 2007

You Are More Than You Have Become.

First, I took piano lessons as a boy until my teacher moved away. (I'm not sure why.) Then I tried the baritone horn in junior high band until I got tired of carrying it home and quit. Later it was guitar lessons which never seemed to make progress since I never bothered to practice between lessons. More recently, I've even considered picking up the piano or guitar again, but I can't seem to make the commitment.

Believe it or not, I really do love music and I think it would be wonderful to be able to play and sing, if only for myself. But, I've never done it. I've never stuck with it. I've never paid the price.

For the past five years or so, I've been planning to write a book. My first notes are dated April, 2002. From time to time I have done some preliminary work, but for now my book remains unwritten - a favorite dream, a noble goal, a mountain unclimbed. But this time I'm making plans, real plans, and this time I am determined there will be no excuses. This time I am going to finish what I've started, I'm going to express what is inside me, and I am going to see the view from that mountaintop.

I guess most of us are better starters than finishers. Look around your life. Do you find ample evidence of unfinished projects, unreached goals, and unfulfilled dreams? What are you waiting for? Could this be the moment in your life when you finally step up to be the person you were created to become?

"There are vast tracts of undeveloped life in most of us. We have capacities for creativity, for love and for accomplishment that lie fallow. We are dormant in our personal relationships and get pushed around unconscionably. We are timid in our work and get passed over for promotions. We are intimidated in our marriages and get used. We feel futile in our communities, fated to shabby and shoddy service from government and business.

Then, from time to time, a person stands up among us and announces how marvelous it is to simply be human." (Eugene Peterson)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Someone to Watch Over Me.

I grew up with four older brothers. Sometimes they teased, sometimes they tortured, but they always watched out for me and helped keep me on track. I remember John yelling at a neighborhood bully that had intimidated me, and my problem was instantly solved. And when I tried to quit football for laziness' sake, one short talk with John had me back on the practice field.

And lucky for me, in those critical moments in my life God has always provided those people who were there for me, protecting and encouraging me in ways I couldn't even fully appreciate at the time. I'm grateful for their faithfulness.

Who's got your back? Do you have a special someone who is steadfast and faithful, reliable no matter what the problem, the one person you can call in any crisis and find the help and support you need? Who's holding your rope?

"Mentoring is like a group of men scaling a mountain. If a guy is linked to another guy above him, and that man in turn is linked to other men farther up the cliff, then together they have safety, stability, and strength. If a man slips and begins to fall, fifteen or twenty climbers absorb the impact and pull him back from disaster.

But imagine a man climbing alone, with no support system. He may achieve great heights. But one wrong move and he can fall thousands of feet to his death, without so much as anyone hearing his cry." (Bob Biehl)

Too many of us are going it alone, frantically climbing up steep, slippery slopes, naive and overconfident, with no one holding the rope for us, no one backing us up. Have you lived long enough to see the danger of going it alone? Who's holding your rope, and whose rope are you holding? Will anyone hear when you fall?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Musings on the Mystery.

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." - Albert Einstein

I guess we are all a little bit skeptical of anyone who claims to have all the answers. Somebody knows exactly what's wrong with my computer or my Honda or my leaky refrigerator, and of course, they haven't even taken a look for themselves.

And what about the ultimate questions of life and faith? Some bold souls claim to have them all figured out. I'm not so sure. Beware of religious types who trumpet their answers and have never really heard the questions. Life for us is a journey of discovery and yet for every answer we uncover, a deeper mystery remains hidden.

Einstein's problem with the church was that preachers were talking about a god who was far too small and simplistic, a little god who could not be the God who created this magnificent universe in all its wondrous complexity.

"Then Job replied to the Lord: 'I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. . . Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.'" (Job 42:2-3)

Take time to ponder the possibilities. Leave a little space in your life for the realities that you can't see under a microscope and are beyond the reach of the strongest telescope. Make room in your finite world for the infinite. There is a "big G" God still out there, a God who is revealed and hidden, a God who speaks with words and deeds and sometimes with frustrating silence. There is a God who remains a fathomless mystery and yet maybe, just maybe, knows your name.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Looking Good Enough to Bury.

I walked into the funeral home on a Christmas Eve morning in a small town about twenty miles from my home. An elderly man in our church had died and his wife of more than fifty years was taking her husband back to his hometown for the funeral and burial. I was asked to conduct the service. When I walked in, I met the funeral director who sized me up and seemed to chuckle to himself. I discreetly checked my fly, straightened my tie, and wondered what was so funny to him. Soon the woman whose husband had died greeted me with a warm smile and a hug. "Come see Harold." I walked with her to the side of her husband's casket with my arm around her shoulder. And there was Harold headed for his eternal rest and reward and dressed exactly like me. I'm not kidding. I'm not exaggerating. Same suit, same shirt, same tie. "Doesn't he look nice, Brother Drew?" "Yes," I stammered, "Harold looks fine."

Too late for any wardrobe change. Soon the service began, and I did my best to make it a comforting and joyous celebration of a godly man's life. Then, at the conclusion of the service, I closed my Bible and stepped to the head of the casket as people filed past for a final viewing. It was then I noticed some people doing a double take, looking at Harold, then me, then back to Harold, some folks just shaking their heads. They were probably wondering if Harold and I were in the same singing group or with the same company or bowling team or something.

After the service was over and we returned from the cemetery, the funeral director and I shared a few laughs over this remarkable coincidence. But on the drive back home on that Christmas Eve a sobering thought struck me. I had dressed to conduct a funeral, but it could just as easily have been my funeral. Apparently, I was dressed for the part. And one day it will be my turn to take that ride in a long black car, and no wardrobe change can change that fact.

Do you ever ponder your own mortality? When was the last time you were reminded of the limits of your life?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Big Blessing from Belarus.

Tonight the world seems very small to me and the Kingdom seems very great. The National Christian Choir of Belarus was in concert tonight at the church where I serve as pastor. This 30 voice choir, featuring a string ensemble and trumpet was very professional and yet obviously passionate about the Gospel message in their music. It was beautiful to hear and beautiful to see. Our church was filled with a wonderful variety of local people, including Anglos, Ukrainians, Russians, Moldavians, and a large number of Hispanics. It was the genuine worship of God crossing language and cultural barriers and giving us all a wonderful reminder of our common bond in Christ. During their next to last number, the choir shifted to crystal clear English, singing the words, "Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."

I take heart and find great encouragement in our shared affirmation of those powerful words. The scripture promises that one day men and women from every tongue and tribe and nation will be gathered before the throne of God, singing our highest praise to the glory of God. Tonight was a little morsel, just a taste of what is to come. Can't wait!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hang On To Your Shorts.

One morning awhile back, I was hustling to get out the door to work and I scooped up the pile of clothes that needed to go to the cleaners, so that I could drop them off that afternoon. A few days later I stopped by the cleaners to pick up our clothes, and the two ladies that worked there seemed really glad to see me, really friendly, all smiles. One of the ladies tracked down our stuff and hung it up on a hook near the cash register. While I was making out a check, she said, "Rev. Hill, did you mean to bring in the pair of boxers with your other things?" I wilted. "No, I didn't intend to bring in my boxers." She laughed and said, "Well, no one's ever brought in boxers before as long as I have worked here." And I looked over at our clothes on the hook and sure enough, there under the plastic were my green paisley boxers, all cleaned and pressed and on a hanger. She said, "That'll be $23.60 . . . and we didn't charge you for the boxers." Now I was laughing, too. "Well, if you're not going to charge me, I'll bring 'em in all the time!" They probably still laugh about dry cleaning the pastor's shorts.

It was one of those occasional moments when a big hand reaches down from above and pops my balloon and deflates my ego back down to a manageable size. You listening? Don't take yourself too seriously or someone may run your shorts up the flagpole. It can happen.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

"It's Only Today That Counts"

I love these words to an old song by the same title written by Larry Norman. It seems like many of us are stuck in rewind or fast forward, replaying a painful past or worried sick about the future. Larry helps me find my way back to today, the present, where you and I actually live our lives.

It ain't no good to lay in bed at night
And think about the past
About how you could have done things differently
But things just happened way too fast.

Go on close your eyes, go to sleep
Let the angels guide your dreams.
Let that pain unwind behind you
And float away on silent streams.

You gotta live your life the best you can
Though you sometimes do your worst.
And learn to laugh when you fail, it's not the end of the world
Your life's a play you can't rehearse.

Don't make big plans for tomorrow,
You can't control what lies ahead.
You must try to live each moment
As it comes instead.

There is no use dreaming of a perfect future
Or regretting a troubled past.
It's only today that counts
Live it like it might be your last.
It's only today that counts
Live it like it might be your last.

It never helps to worry, it never hurts to pray,
Tomorrow will come soon enough; try to take care of today.
Just relax, trust your life to God,
The future is in his hands,
Only faith will help you face your life's demands.

Ain't no use worrying, life goes so fast.
It's only today that counts
Live it like it might be your last.
It's only today that counts
Live it like it might be your last.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Lonesome Drive Back Home

It's a strange mix of emotions, a mingling of pride and satisfaction with equal parts of anxiety and grief. Our son, our oldest is off to college, pretty much on his own, other than the bills and books of course. It's not that we're worried he won't make it. Sam's been ready to go since about sixth grade, independent, motivated, and determined almost from the start. We both know it's a good thing, a natural thing, even a great thing for him and for us. Less laundry, less mess, less groceries, did I mention less mess? It's a good thing. It's what we hoped for, prayed for, and saved for. So, why is it so painful to drive away from that dorm with our son in the rear view mirror?

And what about the moms and dads we know who have to send off their son turned soldier?

I don't know if God has hands like ours, but I hope He does. And I pray His hands are big enough for my grown up boy. Hang on to him, Lord. He's beyond my reach now, but not beyond Yours.

Who Is This Guy?

"This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities. And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ." (Ephesians 3:7-8, The Message)

Guys like me are often accused of practicing strictly one-way communication - way too much talking, and not much listening to anybody. And I guess I've been guilty at times of taking that approach. But not today. I'm beginning to understand that listening and learning must go together, and that none of us has much to say, until someone speaks a little life to us.

So, for what it's worth, I'm here and I'm listening. Feel free to share your thoughts and insights, your questions and doubts, whatever just doesn't add up in your life, in your spiritual journey. Maybe we can make sense of it together, maybe not. But it helps to know that others have puzzled over some of the same mysteries and found their way through. I'll bet we can too.