Tag Archives: faith

Muscle Memory

Most Wednesday evenings, I momentarily plunge into a tunnel of darkness.

Thursday is the day they pick up the garbage at our place.  By 6 am on Thursday morning, the two big plastic garbage cans on wheels have to be rolled down our long driveway to the road. Usually, it’s after dark on Wednesday before I get around to it. Close to the house, the sky is open; the same at the road. But in between, there’s a section of driveway that is covered by a canopy of thick cedar branches. So, even when the moon is bright or the stars are out, it is completely dark. I’ve walked it enough times now that I can get through just on muscle memory. Still, for those few moments and those 50 or so steps, I’m putting one foot in front of the other with no visual confirmation that I’m going in the right direction.

I gathered with some of my people earlier this week for bible class. There was a heaviness in the room. We had been together on Sunday morning; there and then we acknowledged the violent week we had just lived through — the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, the spate of mailed pipe bombs, the shooting at the Kroger store — but no one was able to give voice to their grief. At bible class, we took time for that. Ironically, we were scheduled to study John 6 that morning and began with John’s account of Jesus walking on the water (vs. 16-21). As John tells the story, he does his best to paint a picture of the proverbial dark and stormy night. There’s darkness, a sudden and strong wind, an angry sea, and an absent Jesus. I can’t help but picture John writing to his people for whom the experience of the world was dark and stormy. And the message is clear. In the midst of all that, Jesus comes.

I believe that. I believe that in the midst of all the darkness — and believe me, I feel the darkness. As we run up towards next week’s election, the fear-mongering rhetoric is getting ramped up even more. I wish we could have a break from all of that. But my experience over the past two years tells me that we will not get a break, even after the election. That’s the new normal.

Yet, we live in hope. That’s part of my calling as pastor to remind people that we live in hope. Part of that hope is knowing that as a community of the called, gathered, and enlightened people of God, we know what to do, even when it’s dark. In the darkness, we live from muscle memory. Even when we can’t see the way forward, we know what to do. When we can’t see, we still put one foot in front of the other. We know what to do. It’s the little, common, ordinary things. Love those around us, and love them fiercely. Look out for our neighbor, especially the vulnerable ones. Reach out to the stranger. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with God.

With Gratitude for Those with Burning Hearts

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1571 – 1610
The Supper at Emmaus
Oil and tempera on canvas, 141 x 196.2 cm
Presented by the Hon. George Vernon, 1839

I walked into the gallery and immediately was struck by the size. Seeing a painting in a brochure doesn’t prepare you for a confrontation with a near life-sized painting. The Michelangelo Caravaggio “Supper at Emmaus”  was on loan from The National Gallery in London to The Art Institute of Chicago.

There’s the calm, peaceful countenance of Jesus at the center, his eyes serenely closed, his right hand extended in blessing. And I love the different reactions of the three sitting at table with Jesus. For the guy standing behind him, everything is reduced to a profound sense of wonder. The guy seated across from Jesus leans forward trying to believe the unbelievable, ready to reach across the table to verify with his hand what his eyes are telling him. The guy seated at the side of the table is retelling the story with his wild, broad gesticulating as if in the retelling it will make more sense.

The one detail that consistently grabs me is the dish teetering on the edge of the table. At the Art Institute, the crowd studied the painting from a carefully demarcated viewing area, stanchions separating the humans from the painting. I had this urge to reach across the divide and push that dish away from the edge.

For me that dish is the locus of tension. Is the dish going to hold or fall of the edge? One little bump on the table — which I can assure you I would have done inadvertently had I been there — and it goes crashing to the floor. Maybe it’s a visible sign of the tension still in the hearts and minds of those disciples. Was the Jesus sitting across the table real? Was the story he told them really true? Those questions and that tension are palpable in their postures and gestures. I can only imagine how acute the tension must have been when shortly after the moment captured in the painting  Jesus vanished from their sight.

I know that tension. I experience moments of extraordinary clarity, when God’s presence and God’s goodness are so real I can reach out and touch God’s wounded hands. And I experience moments when I wonder whether any of it is true,  when I feel acutely God’s  absence.  In those moments, I wonder if it will all hold together. Or will it go crashing to the floor? Is the resurrection life that Jesus promises more than just wishful thinking? 

Luke tells us that after Jesus disappeared, their hearts were burning within them, as if he became more real in his absence than in his presence.

I have my own version of Cleopas and his companions. They accompany me on the road with the risen Christ, who, by the way, is there whether we recognize him or not. Sometimes the road is only 7 miles; sometimes it feels like a lot longer. I’m grateful not to have to walk the road alone. Companions hold me up with their excitement at seeing the risen Christ, telling me how their hearts burn within them, even when whatever it is that I possess feels more like a flicker than a flame.

I met this week with a couple of nonagenarians whose faith had the quality of a fine, aged wine. They have endured the trials and can see God’s goodness and presence with the sharp-eyed vision of an eagle. They are the very incarnation of what last Sunday’s second lesson (1 Peter 1:3-9) described as an inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,” faith that has been refined by trial and has come out the other side as pure and precious as gold. I also had coffee the other day with a guy who told me of his deep prayer life and how God was answering his prayers and about the opportunities for ministry that came out of those prayers. The burning quality of his faith was contagious.

I don’t very often experience my faith with that kind of sharp clarity. My experience is more like Paul’s metaphor of seeing through a glass dimly. More like a dish teetering on the edge of the table and about to fall off. Why is that, I sometimes wonder. A function of temperament? Personal defect? Not trying hard enough? I never come up with an answer.

Which makes me all the more grateful for those with burning hearts. My fellow pilgrims and their witness are often the proof of the presence of the risen Christ. I’m grateful that my faith is not just a me and Jesus thing. My fellow travelers have seen the risen Christ, and that is enough encouragement to keep walking.

Wrestling in the Night, Blessing in the Morning


Today would have been the 8 month birthday of our granddaughter, Eliana. (Happy Birthday, Precious Little One!) She was born on February 17, 2016 and died 6 months ago yesterday, on April 16. In one of those not infrequent coincidences, the first lesson appointed for yesterday told the story of Jacob’s wrestling with God (Genesis 32:22-32). It’s a mysterious story, and one that has received a broad range of interpretations through the  centuries, both in Judaism and Christianity. As I taught through the lesson at two of our bible classes this past week, it touched me deeply and resonated with the wrestling I’ve gone through in the past year.  In yesterday’s sermon, my own story provided the launch point for thinking and talking about an elusive God, about questions that remain unanswered and griefs that remain unresolved, and the God revealed in Jesus. The reference to a parable of Jesus near the end is from the gospel lesson appointed for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, Luke 18:1-8.  You can also listen to the sermon on Faith’s YouTube channel .

Today marks the 6 month anniversary of the death of our granddaughter, Eliana. She was born on February 17 of this year with a genetic skin disorder called epidermolysis bullosa. Aside from the extraordinary pain that was a constant in her life, she was prone to infection. Her 3rd encounter with infection ravaged her little body and she could not overcome it. On April 16, she died. In these 6 months, I have been Jacob, wrestling with God in the darkness. Some of my fundamental assumptions about faith and about how God works in the world and in peoples’ lives have been called into question. There have been times when I didn’t want to pray, when I couldn’t pray. There have been times when I have wondered even about prayer itself, wondering if prayer works or what, exactly, it is. For all of my struggles and wrestling, I don’t feel like I know very much more now than I did in those first raw days after her death.

In our first lesson this morning, Jacob the conniver becomes Jacob who wrestles with God. The Conniver is going back home. Jacob is the one who decades earlier tricked his way into his brother Esau’s birthright, stealing it outright. Jacob posed as his brother and their aging, nearly blind father fell for the trick. To escape the wrath and vengeance of his brother Jacob left home. Life in a faraway land had been good to Jacob. He had become a wealthy man. But he yearned for home. He prayed for safe travels and he prayed that his brother might receive him in love. But frankly he was worried. Now just before the crucial time when he was to meet his brother Esau, he sent his large family and his servants and his cattle and his sheep and his goats and his donkeys across the River Jabbok onto his brother’s land. And he stayed one more night on the far side of the river. He will meet his brother tomorrow; tonight he must wrestle with God.

This image of Jacob wresting with God gives us a different picture of God. This God is an elusive God, one who comes in the dark of the night and will not let himself be fully known. This God throws Jacob to the ground and holds Jacob’s arm behind his back and puts him in a headlock. This God will not let Jacob get to tomorrow without a struggle. When morning comes and the wrestling is over, Jacob walks with a limp. His hip joint was injured in one of those moments when God threw him to the ground. His encounter with God left a mark.

In my own struggles of the past 6 months, I have never believed like God was not present. But I have felt more acutely the things I cannot know about God. I realize that what I thought I knew about God and about how God works in the world is clouded in ambiguity and mystery. My mind has been changed. My heart has changed. And my faith has changed. Wrestling with God leaves a mark. In fact, I don’t think we can ever have an encounter with the divine and remain the same. I think God is always with us in the middle of struggle and doubting and questioning and seeking; but that doesn’t imply that we remain unchanged in the encounter. The pain we experience in the hard things of life leave a scar, a limp, an empty space. I was talking with someone this week who is grieving and they said they feel like they need to move on. I don’t know if we move on as much as we just keep walking. Sometimes with a limp. Doing the best we can.

When Jacob and God get to morning, they have wrestled to a draw. God has not defeated Jacob, nor has Jacob overcome God’s divine power. For Jacob, wrestling with God to a draw feels like a win. At least he’s alive; to get to morning after struggling with God all night is saying something. So Jacob asks for a blessing. What I think he was asking for was more of the same — the material blessings of sons and cattle and sheep and goats.

God gives him a blessing, but a blessing of God’s choosing, not of Jacob’s choosing. Instead of more material wealth, God gives Jacob a new life, a new name, a new identity. No longer will he be Jacob; he will be Israel. As the father of a people, he will be given a measure of that divine power and will be instructed to put to use for the good of all. 

At the heart of our own life with God is the new name and new identity that God has given us. You are Christian. You are marked on your forehead with the cross of Christ. Somehow, mysteriously, in the waters of baptism we participate in the life-giving event of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Joined to Christ in the baptismal waters, you have a new identity and a new life. That new life is given brand new every day. We wake up in the morning, remember our baptism, make the sign of the cross as a reminder of our new identity, receive the forgiveness of sins. We are given a measure of divine power and instructed to put it to use for the good of all.  It may not always be the blessing we seek, but it is the blessing that gives us life and sustains our life.

Feeling pretty good about this encounter with God, Jacob goes one step further. He wants to know intimately this God with whom he has wrestled. “What’s your name?” Jacob asks. In that question, Jacob wants to bridge the distance between himself and God.  Jacob wants to remove the mystery, Jacob wants all the answers. Just like the couple in the Garden of Eden, Jacob wants to know God on his terms, not on God’s terms. In response to that question, God changes the subject and then turns and walks away. It’s the question that God will not answer.

Though we may wish it be otherwise, God is still God, and we are still creatures. Much of what we would like to know about God and about our place in the world and why things happen and what God is doing about the pain in our own lives and the evil in the world, lies behind the veil. Not every question will be answered. Not every struggle will be resolved. Not every grief will be healed. Not every problem will be solved. Most of the answers to the questions that begin with “Why. . .” will not be answered this side of eternity.  God is still God and we are not. There is still much about God and God’s ways that remains a mystery.

And still somehow we go on. Somehow, still, by God’s grace we trust in God’s goodness. Somehow, in the midst of all we don’t know about God, we do know this about God. That God has come to us in Jesus. What we need to know about God, we know in Jesus. In the God we know in Jesus, there is grace and mercy and peace and hope.

In the gospel lesson, Jesus tells a parable that is supposed to teach his followers to pray always and not lose heart. A widow keeps asking a corrupt judge for justice until he grants her request, just to get rid of her. When we talked about this story in confirmation class on Wednesday, one of the students asked, “Does praying more increase the chances that your prayers will be answered?” I think it’s a pretty logical question, but one that we know from our experience is not true. And I don’t think that’s what Jesus is getting at in this story. I think Jesus knows that things will sometimes be hard. And for whatever reason, the answers we seek are not available to us. The story ends with Jesus asking if he will find faith when he comes back to bring all things to fullness. Maybe that’s a key to living faithfully in the wrestling. To know and to trust that in the midst of things that are hard, things that we cannot fully understand, things which bring pain and sorrow, God is at work, God is good, and God will carry us through.

When daylight had come and Jacob’s combatant had left,  Jacob took a moment for worship. He sang a song, said a prayer, and built an altar to mark the spot where he had wrestled with God. Peniel he called it, literally, the face of God. “I have seen the face of God.” It was time to get across the river, and get on with the business of meeting his brother, and whatever the coming days had in store for him. This morning, we sing a song, say a prayer, come to this altar. And then we go, confident that whatever limp we walk away with, whatever grief or pain we carry, whatever questions and doubts still linger, we have seen the face of God. And we will walk across that River Jabbok facing our own tomorrows in hope, secure in the love of God.

The Fabric Is Fraying

EthansblanketThe fabric is fraying.

Maybe it always has been.

Today, I am feeling it acutely.

It’s still too early to know the details of the shooting in San Bernadino, California, but the news outlets are calling it a mass shooting.

These days in Chicago have been tense. The video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald has been public for a week, and it still haunts me. Every day something else dribbles out that ramps up the righteous outrage. Today it was the news that another video has been suppressed, a video of yet another young black man being shot as he’s moving away from police. Another case in which damages were paid, charges were not brought, and the offending police officer is still on the job, over 400 days after the incident.

Arrests were made in Belgium, men allegedly connected to the terrorist incidents in Paris a few short weeks ago.

Since 2011, some estimate that a quarter of a million Syrians have died in the civil war; that’s a bit more than 1% of the 2011 population of 23 million. Close to 12 million — that’s 50% — have been forced from their homes, and more than 4 million have fled.

The fabric is fraying.

Most disheartening to me is the way too many of our national leaders advocate the kind of action that has gotten us here — bombs, boots on the ground, no fly zones, suspicion of the stranger, close our gates, prop up the fiction of our security, change the subject.

The picture looks awful lot like the picture painted in our sanctuary on Sunday morning as the preacher read the gospel lesson from Luke.

Then there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and there will be anguish in the earth month nations bewildered buy the roaring sea and waves. People will faint from fear and the expectation of things that are coming in the world because celestial powers will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near.

Though I don’t expect to see the Son of Man coming on the clouds, I feel the apocalyptic character of these times.

What would it mean for Christ to come in the midst of this mess?

The truth is that he does. The One who came to this mess centuries ago comes again now in the midst of our own mess. He still comes the same way, with the power of his gentle love. He walked among us, healed our diseases, calmed our fears, and rode into the Holy City as a king, though his noble steed was an ass and his eventual crown was woven of thorns. When we lift up our heads, we see his crucified body, broken so that we and this messed up world might be made whole again.

When that One who came as God among us spoke of apocalyptic times, he said — quite curiously, it seems to me — that in the midst of the turmoil, the preferred posture is not hunkering down or cowering in the corner. The preferred posture is to be standing, head lifted up. That’s a posture of confidence and action. It’s a posture of defiance in the face of evil and fear.

It’s the posture of those who know they don’t have to save the world; rather they are the ones who get to do God’s work of healing this broken world.

So, stand up.

Lift up your head.

Carry on.

Be open and vulnerable and generous.

Work with joy in your heart.

Refuse to close yourself off to other people.

Refuse fear and violence.

And live with the hopeful expectation that together, we can actually address humanity’s big challenges. Standing together with our heads lifted up.

I wrote this because I need to read it.

Reflecting on the Flood, Part 2

rushingwater1In this space last week, I reflected on the story of the Great Flood, suggesting that, above all, it’s a story about God and not about floods and geology and arks and animals. In that post I argued for a view of God that is based, not on God’s anger, but God’s grief over human sin.

When we get to the other side of the The Great Flood, Noah and his family have been spared and God makes a promise never to abandon that which God has created.

One of the startling reports from the Genesis text is that before and after, nothing has changed on the part of humanity. Before the Flood, God “saw that the wickedness of humanity was great in the earth.” (6:5); after the Flood, God still makes the same judgment, “for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (8:21)  The cataclysm of a great flood has done nothing to change the inclination of humanity to rebel against God’s purpose and will. If there is any hope for the future, it will not be found in any change in the human heart apart from the touch of the love and grace of God.  Hope for the future depends on God doing something. Human beings are not, apparently, capable of saving themselves. We cannot, in the end, rise above our calculated self-interest.

Yet this humanity that has been created in God’s image is still regarded by God as good. God yet gives an affirmation about the value and the dignity of human life and human work. “Never again,” is what God says. (9:11)  What has changed is not anything in the human heart. What has changed is the heart of God.

What has also changed is the formula. We seem to be hard-wired for a formula that says wrongdoing must exact a proportional punishment.  An eye for an eye, and all that.  But in the Flood story, God breaks the one to one connection between guilt and punishment. Death and destruction are still real; evil has not disappeared. But after the Flood, death and destruction are no longer rooted in the anger of God, and they are not God’s necessary and inevitable response to wrongdoing.

These reflections are particularly timely for a couple of reasons. First, in the church, we are coming close to the annual Holy Week commemoration of the events of Christ’s last week, culminating in his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. I still hear, far too often, about Christ’s death as the punishment wrought by an angry God for the sin of humanity. It’s just not a helpful way to talk about or think about Christ’s death, nor is it consistent with the picture of God that courses through Scripture, going all the way back to what we learn about God from from the Flood.  Christ’s death and resurrection certainly bring salvation to all humanity, but not in the one-dimensional “payment to an angry Father” schema that is so pervasive in popular western Christianity.

Second, I think it’s particularly important to say in a world where violence and retribution hold sway. The picture of God presented here, a picture which finds its fulfillment and sharpest focus in Jesus, offers another way for us to live together. It is not necessary that punishment be meted out in proportion to the crime, especially when punishment is not a deterrent, and when the drive for punishment completely overshadows any thought of rehabilitation. The current world stage is as much proof as we need that retribution solves nothing; in fact, it serves to escalate the violence and increase the suffering and death of mostly innocent people.  Early yesterday morning, two police officers were shot outside the Ferguson, Missouri City Hall. Retribution? You kill one of ours and we’ll kill one of yours?  Who knows? We still haven’t shed our tendency toward violence and bloodshed; it must still grieve God.

For all of that, I’m grateful to be on the receiving end of a gracious God and still hope that in the peaceable kingdom that is coming in our midst, the same grace might have something to do with how we live with each other.

Faith and Literature — A Vocational Intersection

Jim bestIn October, 2014, I was invited to Luther College in Decorah, Iowa to participate in the festivities for Homecoming Weekend, and for the inauguration of their 10th President, Dr. Paula Carlson. It was such an honor to be there. I had the privilege of preaching for the morning chapel service, and then serving on a panel for a symposium that President Carlson had called dealing with the relationship of faith and literature, a particular interest in her own research and writing.  I shared the dais with three esteemed academic scholars, Dr. Jacqueline Bussie (Concordia College), Dr. Peter Hawkins (Yale University), and Dr. Robert Schultz (Roanoke College). Each of us were to give some remarks with respect to our vocation and the intersection of faith and literature. Today I offer the first section of my remarks. I’ll follow with the second installment on Thursday.

I suppose we all have a variety of ways we could frame our vocational journeys. Here’s one for me:  my vocational journey has been one of seeking the truth, seeking after The Truth, trying to understand the truth, and how we can live truly before God, with each other and in the world.

Having lobbed that opening salvo, let me step back for a minute and tell a little about myself. I grew up as the oldest child of Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS) parents; my grandfather was an LCMS pastor. I came to this institution (Luther College) at age 18 intending to be a musician. I discovered that music was much more an avocation for me than a vocation. In other words, I didn’t want to work that hard or practice that much. I felt like I had to figure out quickly what I wanted to do with my life — a misplaced notion, to say the least. I determined pretty quickly to pursue a vocation as a pastor in the church. Because I had been raised to observe a sharp distinction between denominations, I transferred to an LCMS college, eventually attended an LCMS seminary and entered pastoral ministry. I was very much steeped in the notion that theology was a set of propositional truths. My job as a pastor was to make sure people knew the truths necessary for their salvation.

The first 15 years of pastoral ministry was a long journey of discovery towards authentically engaging the scriptures, the church, people, and what it means to be a pastor. I discovered through experience that story is fundamental, basic, and essential to human existence. We eat, sleep, poop, have sex — but mostly we tell stories. When we talk to each other, that’s what we do. Some of us tell stories exceptionally well. Those stories help reveal the truth — about life, about God, about being human, about how we relate to each other.

Wallace Stegner is one of my favorite novelists. For years, he was the chair of the Creative Writing program at Stanford University.  He used to tell his students, “We have no agenda but to tell the truth.  Of course, what I’m getting at is the deep truth about human life that is not always accessible through mere facts.”

Jesus told stories.  His parables are known far and wide both inside and outside the church.  When we try to understand Jesus’ parables, we have to know that they tell the truth slant, to use a phrase of Emily Dickinson. They evoke rather than prescribe. That’s true also of literature and the way it speaks to matters of faith and life.

An important discovery and a really life-changing vocational moment was when I came to see that the Christian faith is fundamentally relational; it is not propositional, it is relational. The mystery of the Trinity is a relational mystery, not a propositional truth. Throughout history, God has interacted with people relationally, not propositionally. God bids us to live with one another relationally. Relationships don’t rest very well on propositional truth. It just may be that the only way to even begin understanding anything true about God is to tell stories about how God is and what God does, which is exactly what the Hebrew and Christian scriptures do.

We can treat relationships clinically; when this happens do this; when that happens, do that. There’s some value to such exercises. We learn a lot and we learn differently through story. In the Wendell Berry story, Jayber Crow, Jayber, an introverted, balding bachelor-barber, has a deep affection for Mattie Keith Chatham, an attractive neighbor-girl. Mattie grows up, marries the local all-American boy,  bears, rears, and begins burying their children. When he realizes that Mattie’s philandering husband Troy will never be faithful to her, Jayber breaks off with his own girlfriend, and vows to be the husband Mattie deserves, even though his relationship with her will always be one-sided.  As Jayber’s one-sided passion for Mattie grows, so does his compassion, and he is able share in the sufferings of all his neighbors. In this story, romantic longing becomes the seed not only of a deep and broad human love but also for salvation itself.

(In the next installment, I offer more examples from a few of my own favorite authors, and reflect briefly on my vocation as a writer.)

Which Truth?

tecumseh“Excuse me. Could you tell me which way to Wheaton?”

It’s a Friday morning, mid-morning (my day off). I’m in downtown Glen Ellyn, a smallish western suburb of Chicago. I’m walking toward the Prairie Path, a rails-to-trails recreational path that runs right through our small downtown.

She appeared harried, confused, and anxious as she approached me asking for directions. I point to the west.

“How far?”

“About 3 miles.”

I know how far to Wheaton. On that morning, I was about to run along the Prairie Path, precisely to Wheaton, where I would turn around and come back for a six-mile run. Actually, it’s only about 2.5 miles to the center of downtown Wheaton, 3 miles to the far western edge. That’s where I was going because I needed to get in a 6-mile run.

She also asked me where the train station was. I pointed to the brick building about a half-block from where we were standing. She walked toward that building as I began my run.

It was only later that I started asking myself about why she wanted to get to Wheaton and how she was going to get there.

From my house — not so far from the train station, it takes about 10 minutes to get to Wheaton by car. So close, it’s hardly worth thinking about. If she ended up getting on the train, it would have taken even less time.

Not infrequently, I ride my bike over to a coffee shop in Wheaton.  It really doesn’t take that long and I enjoy the 20 minute ride along the Prairie Path.

If I have to walk to Wheaton, however, I think twice about it. No longer is it a 7 minute drive by car, or a 20 minute ride by bicycle. It takes 45 minutes. That feels like more of a commitment.

On that same recreational trail, I run distances that greatly vary, from 3 miles to 20 miles. It’s a near-constant source of wonder to me that the distance I run is often not the critical truth that I experience.  Long runs sometimes seem short and short runs sometimes seem so very long. I can go out for 8 mile and it feels like it’s been 3. And I go out for a 3 mile run and it feels like 8. The distances haven’t changed. Only my experience of those distances. I suppose the different perceptions of the distance wouldn’t matter, except that there’s often an important truth that underlies my experience. On the days when the short runs seem long, I start that reflection process: what’s going on? Stress I need to pay attention to? Did I get enough sleep? Have I been training too hard (rarely is the answer to that question “yes”!).

So, why do I spend these paragraphs stating the obvious?

  • How far we’ve come or how far we have to go is not measured in miles.
  • Value is not most importantly measured in dollars and cents.
  • The weight my brother or sister is carrying is not felt in pounds.
  • The amount of time I have left in my life has little to do with the number of days or years before I die.

As a people, we could use a bit more reflection on the deeper truths that lay buried beneath the truths we can measure. These deeper truths reveal things like character and vision. These truths become especially significant when we have conversation about what kind of persons we want to be, what kind of church community we want to be, even what kind of nation and society we want to be.

The most important truth in any given situation at any given time is probably not the kind that’s measured in miles.