Crooked Path Straightener

Image source - see notes
        Image source – see notes

Here I go again with some potential new career developments.  What to do?

“Discernment is always mysterious, tricky, careful work.” offers author Lauren Winner.  “We always see through glass darkly.” Think of vocation as “an invitation from a Friend.  I accept it today in the contours of my present situation until the moment when I will perhaps see more clearly.”

She italicized that word perhaps because clarity is not assured. When clarity remains elusive, we keep our eyes fixed on God and do the best we can, living in the tension.

Quoting theologian Paul Evdokimov, Winner added, “One’s entire vocation is an option, an answer to a call that has been heard….It is never a voice that clarifies everything.  The dimness inherent in faith never leaves us.” (underline added)

Undergirding Winner and Evdokimov’s views  is St. Paul’s teaching on discernment in 1 Corinthians 13:12.  “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (KJV)

Absolute clarity is elusive.  Until then, we make our best calls while trusting in faith that God’s got our backs. Still our experiences beg the question, does God intend we flounder about and just do the best we can or does he really have something specific in mind for each of us?

Books have been written to address that question and a good one is “The Call” by Os Guinness.  Advocating for vocations based on calling instead of just giftedness, Guinness urges we seek to do what we are vs. the more popular “We are what we do.”

But what about when I discover I am not doing what I am but I found a way to make what I am doing work for my life?  Can God still work with me?

Yes, absolutely!  If, say, my God-deemed way is a straight path and the way I’ve chosen apart from God is a crooked path, guess what?  God specializes in crooked path straightening!  Crooked paths, if not best, are normal.

Six weeks ago, I asked my pastor Doug for advisement about a change unfolding in my current job.*  I’ve counseled regularly with him during this long and winding search. This time, I had a couple of options, door number 1 and door number 2.

Doug responded, “Glenn, as deliberate as you’ve been to place this quest in God’s hands, let me assure that no matter what you decide to do, God’s got you covered.”

Doug’s comments sort of encapsulated my theme passage for 2015 in Proverbs 3:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5-6, NIV)

Notice what’s implied.  Crooked paths WILL be encountered.  No matter how God-centered our life-process is, stuff happens.  When it does, everyone who believes in the Lord has a locked-in warranty against all crookedness that occurs, even if it’s intentional.  Among his many specialties, the Lord is an expert “Crooked Path Straightener.”

Note the caveat in the next two verses of Proverbs 3:

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3: 7-8, NIV)

NOT leaning on my own understanding is to also NOT be wise in our my eyes.

When the next bomb goes off in the middle of your day, career, family, life, health, try this: 1) Take a deep breath; 2) Commit the situation to the Lord in prayer; 3) Calmly deal with it the best you can.

Even if we mess up or ignore the Lord in our next choice, our Lord is an expert “Crooked Path Straightener” who only waits for our call to be let in to get to work – for our good and His glory.

You and I really matter to him.


  1. Lauren Winner’s quotes are from her book “Real Sex – the naked truth about chastity.”
  2. That meeting with my pastor? See:
  3. Image source:

Catching the wind

"Fixed" wind chime

“Fixed” wind chime

I recently had one of those Saturdays when I just wanted to be still.  The day was cool and breezy.  Desiring some fresh air, I cracked the window of our home office to catch a little action from the wind chime hanging right outside the window.

But even after a couple of robust gusts, the wind catcher barely moved.

This IS a problem, a chimeless wind chime.  The chime’s wind catcher doesn’t catch enough wind to crash the clapper or striker against the tubes.  Time to do something about that.

The solution turned out to be pretty simple, resolved in less than half an hour.  Out of quarter-inch plywood, I cut a large, angular wind catcher and attached it with fishing line below the original wind catcher.

The wind had no problem finding the new wind catcher and I was rewarded with a cacophony of pleasant chimes that I listened to for a long time. 

Wind is popular in the Bible.

“He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.” (2nd Samuel 22:11)

“the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:16)

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 1:14)

Wind chime "parts" (see notes for source site)

Wind chime “parts” (see notes for source site)

My favorite wind passage was said by Jesus during his conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:7-9

“You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

That the Spirit is somewhat like the wind surely gives pause for thought.

Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know! (Proverbs 30:4, NIV)

Imagine God not so detached from His creation  that he gathers the wind?  My wind chimes suggest He is busy today.


  1. Check out cool site where I found wind chime parts:

Oldies but (very good) Goodies

Kind of Quiet EP by Chain of Lakes, 2011

Kind of Quiet EP by Chain of Lakes, 2011

I somehow lost track of a favorite CD. Fortunately I know the songwriter personally, my nephew Kyle, who willingly offered me a replacement.

Don’t know how many time’s I’ve listened to “A Kind of Quiet,” Kyle’s 6-song “EP” produced in 2011.  Many, many, many times.  Not sure I could articulate what I like so much about it…

No surprise that I appreciate Kyle’s lyrics and the messages they evoke as they rise through the nuances of the musical arrangements.  I do words too but to be able to wrap them with music the way Kyle does really gets me going.

Of course messaging is tricky with songwriting, even with word writing.  The artist’s intent isn’t necessarily what the audience receives. I start with that disclaimer to say that the meanings I attribute to these songs probably differ from Kyle’s intentions.

A radio station I listen to features songwriters recounting the backstory of their songs. Hearing those stories usually enhances my appreciation for a song, but not always.

When I claim as favorite a song or book or photograph or memory is because it spoke to me at a certain moment. The only explanation needed is the context the moment it belongs to. If left alone, re-listening, re-reading, re-viewing, re-calling causes a re-visitation.  At least that’s what happened  when I listened through my old/new “Kind of Quiet.”

I resonate with music and songs and have attempted to play an instrument or two over the years but I find practice wholly unsatisfying so I am stalled at the “hack” level with little interest in progressing. Other expressions engage me more, like writing.  I also have an annual fixation with creating a Christmas ornament that represents a certain idea to me. Already, I am well-along with a concept for ornament 2015 which will be my sixteenth annual.

When Kyle replaced my lost “Kind of Quiet” EP, he commiserated about having boxes of them in his basement. Do those EP-filled boxes remind him of costs that remain unrecouped?  I wonder if the life themes that gave rise to those songs have drifted way far back into the wake of his life? Perhaps compared with themes presently surfacing in his life, the backstories of “Kind of Quiet” songs are oldies now.

“Oldies but Goodies” is an expression that resonates with me.  In fact, many of my best goodies are oldies because the spark of their original goodness defies time.

For me, “Kind of Quiet” is becoming an oldie but (very good) goodie.  The same holds true with other music I cherish, favorite books, phrases I clip and hang, pottery mugs recalling places visited, figurines and framed prints that adorn our house…

The Bible is kind of like that for me, the oldie but (very good) goodie that I turn to often, daily in fact.  While I’ve read it in its entirety several times,  how often has something from its pages “spoken” into my life in a just right, certain kind of way?  Many, many, many times.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; (Lamentations 3: 22-23a)

“Every morning….”  On my drive to work this morning, perhaps I’ll ponder the latest Biblical goodie while also listening to “Kind of Quiet.”

Seems like a great start to my day.


Link to Chain of Lakes music:


The Power of Enter

Reach through the power of enter. (see notes for source site)

Reach through the power of enter. (see notes for source site)

A Christian brother recently expressed that Christians of old seem more principled and winsome than us, their modern day counterparts.  His primary context was social media, how we Christians come across in that platform.

Apparently we don’t pass muster on the “What would Jesus do” scale.  When we could be winsome, we’re accusatory.  When we could bravely suck it up, we whine or make a big deal about our trials and suffering.

Many Christians I know either aren’t using social media at all or only have profiles to keep up with people in their lives who are so engaged – family, friends, colleagues.  Then comes the group I fall into – “somewhat engaged.”

I moderately use Facebook and LinkedIn, rarely use Twitter and Pinterest, and have one-time sign-ons with a bunch of others.  My 200 plus  Facebook “friends” include a number of self-professed Christians who post from occasionally to often. My most active engagement with social media is this blog.

Intrigued by my friend’s view, I visited some of the feeds of Christian FB friends. As I perused various posts, the thought came to me, “Could Christians be accused of aligning with Christ based primarily on our social media content?”

My friend offers that Christians of old had a stronger constitution.  I presume he means those we know primarily from books written by and about them.  Since their era was not “graced” with the internet, our access to them is limited to content that was subjected to multiple editors before arriving on our bookshelves.  .

Being able to put a view out to the entire connected world by simply pressing “Enter” was unimaginable to these past paragons of virtue my friend has in mind.  Were they able to also have our “Enter” capability, I suspect they would be similarly guilty of a fair share of “conduct unbecoming” their Savior,

Not to make light of the waywardness of us modern believers but the oldest book in the world provides plenty of evidence of God’s people behaving badly long before the internet burst onto our scene….or for that matter, the printing press.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5, ESV)

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6, ESV)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23, ESV)

We do behave badly when we are unlike our Savior, indistinguishable from the unbelieving people around us. While we can be ashamed about our faltering, God prefers we not wallow there but simply recognize that we don’t possess the power to be acceptable to Him until we rely exclusively on him.

Only He can save us.  We can’t save ourselves no matter how hard we try.

While the power of  “Enter” may not bode well for the reputation of Christianity, accelerating the realization of our decline potentially offers a significant upside.  The sooner we recognize our absolute need of the Lord, the better positioned we are to give ourselves completely to Him.

Why else does the Bible speak so often and so significantly into the darkest and most dysfunctional places of our beings?

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40: 2, NIV)

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses… For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10, ESV)


Image source:

Holy Grounds and Places

A special edition post in light of an ongoing conversation.

As I mentioned last week in “Present and accounted for,” our church leaders (of which I am one) are conversing about how best to nurture and support the people who share this church place with us, whether they visit just once or stay for a long, long time.  Our aim, simply titled “discipleship,”  is to grow individually and corporately in our relationship with Christ.

What brings people to this place, our church? What causes them to stay or not to stay?  As I ponder and pray more about this, I offer some random thoughts about place.


 1– I have lived and lead and toiled in certain places, most that I had nothing at all to do with the design of.  Those responsible for place decision-making have a wonderful opportunity they don’t always tend as much to as they should regarding place design, presence and use.  Bless those who do, though.

2–Our church mission statement leads with the term, “A Place to Belong.” Long before our church came to this land, the property was the site of a church in the early 1800’s. If use confers meaning, perhaps the land beneath us brings a modicum of holiness.  I used to think so but now I’m not so sure.

3–What we today know as our church is a blending of its physical, geographical and historical features AND the stories of how each of us now here came and remain.

4–Place takes on meaning in moments and/or settings when we realized something in such a way as to mark us for a while.  While a place may remain special to you or me, it is not in itself special apart from me or you attributing it as such.

5–As leaders of a place, all the permission/authority we need to lead the people where we lead is embodied in the simple choice of people to come and be here for however long and for whatever reason they remain.

6–Features of certain “God” places:

  • Places with significance due to God’s staging: 1) Earth/creation, Eden, the “Promised Land” flowing with milk and honey, Jerusalem.
  • Places God temporarily designated as holy ground:
    • where Moses was standing during burning bush encounter in Sinai wilderness (Exodus 3:5; Acts 7:33)
    • Where Joshua was standing at Jericho before conquest of Canaan. (Joshua 5:15)

7–Place quotes:

  • “A life filled with movement, with constant motion and no rest stops isn’t life at all.  It’s tourism.”
    • Jeff Goins from his book, “The In-Between.”
  • “I hear you sing your song in the next room and as far as I can tell, most everything means nothing except some things mean everything.”
    • Patty Griffin from her song “Railroad Wings,” on “children running through it” album, 2007



Monument at Ground Zero

Ground zero lights

Ground zero lights

Last night was one of those nights when I saw every hour change between 11 pm and when I finally dragged myself out of bed after 4 am.

Times like these seems like my soul is resting squarely on ground zero.  The turf of me where hell still has some kind of foothold is a bloody, bombed out mess.  Here looks and feels like the ground has been under siege for years and years.

Tonight I’m not stuck on that battle-scarred wasteland but, thankfully, meandering around the neighborhood ruled by Christ where peace and calmness reigns.  Not a speck of contention here.

So why am I so fitful?  I don’t know.  Harassed?  A Bible verse that I only have a few words of keeps drifting into my consciousness.  It demands fuller knowing so I’m going to have to get up to go look it up.

Such a blessed weekend –  visiting our daughter and son-in-law’s new house; delighted to learn a dear nephew reads this blog; basking in a well-offered prayer by a fellow elder at church Sunday. Also during service, enjoying the joy in my wife’s face as she sings with our praise band, her sweet, clear vocals more than mere music to my ears.  Then at the close of the day, our small group re-convened after a couple month hiatus of none of us being unable to get our schedules to sync….

I’m not so far into heavenland that I’m beyond the raucous screams outside, feigned revelry reminding me of the wasteland of my sinfulness where I’ve spent way too much of my life. I’m sickened to think how I easily I can be lured there with such tiny threads of temptation. My infidelity shocks me.

I look up verses about faithfulness…1 Corinthians 10: 12-13; Exodus 19:5; 1 Kings 2: 3-4; Deuteronomy 5: 32-33; Deuteronomy 10: 12-13.

Then I turn to faithfulness of the marital faithfulness variety….. Hebrews 13:4; Ephesians 5:33; Proverbs 20:6-7.

I pray over them, wait on them, allow them to wash over me, to sort me out and flush through me, exposing my darkness. I envision the Holy Spirit bursting onto my scene, throwing open the windows of my hard heart to let in brilliant light and a cool, steady breeze to freshen up the dankness of my cowering being…..

My eyes are lifted up to a vision of my wife and I walking together, soulmates.  I see us as we are, how life and love and time and faith have made and molded us. Her fun-loving humor and radiant smile and hands that toil for those she loves with me near the top of her list…..

Then I recall how I awoke to find that verse that was knocking on my mind. Something about not being fearful… Here it is, 2 Timothy 1:7. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (NASB)

Not fear or timidity or anxiety but confidence for life. And power.  Hmmm.

I’m reminded how God is a specialist at restorations and recoveries, of turning ugly, sorry, broken, skittish ruins of people into someone altogether different – prayerful, resolved, loyal, calm, graceful.

Here at ground zero, our God makes monuments out of ruins.  Because we matter to him.


Image source site:

Present and accounted for

Grace Chapel sanctuary

Grace Chapel sanctuary

Our Elders are discussing discipleship, how we at Grace Chapel disciple our people. Essentially, a well-discipled person is maturing their relationship with Christ.

We started this discussion not because we lack mature believers but because most of our congregation isn’t engaged in our discipleship strategies.

While on the one hand I do attribute the growth of my relationship with the Lord to Grace Chapel, I have never thought much about how Grace Chapel nurtures, supports and challenges me to grow.  Now that I am thinking about that as part of this discipleship discussion, I realize it’s a lot of things but the common thread of all of them is some kind of connectivity to Grace Chapel.

Since coming to Grace Chapel eighteen years ago* , I’ve developed some definite views about church in general and our church in particular.  One view is that our church, and each local church, is an outpost of the kingdom of God with a particular purpose or niche.  Another view regards the “new command” Jesus announced to his disciples on the night of his arrest..

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

(1) An outpost with a particular purpose where (2) loving one another happens…. Does Grace Chapel have those attributes?

To be part of advancing the purpose of an outpost while loving fellow Christians involves being present and accounted for. Something about that is both profound and frighteningly simplistic.

Is it that showing up and just doing something / anything what cements “body bonds” most?  I wonder if ramping up celebrating those “showing up” roles would guard against our tendency to become discontented?

Loving one another to counter self-absorption.  It can’t be that simple, right?

Notice that when Jesus established the church, he didn’t offer many details.  “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16: 18)

Jesus didn’t say any more then about how he would build this “church” able to withstand the assault of hell.  Later came the “love one another” ingredient as well as the “when” part – at Pentecost. (see Luke 24:49).

All these discipleship ideas colored my perspective at church last Sunday.  I arrived a couple of hours before service for coffee-making duty with a new appreciation for warm greetings I received from people already there ahead of me – for worship practice, to run sound board and media during service , and to set prep the nursery and youth lessons. When our greeter Ray arrives, he makes sure to go around to welcome all the early arriving workers before making his way to his entryway welcome post where he remains until the service is well underway so as to include even the late-comers.

I made a point of visiting with more people than usual last Sunday both before and after the service. Every conversation regarded something God was doing in our lives.  I was left with the impression I often get when I connect with fellow Grace Chapel people – intentional about following Christ, purposeful in their calling and loving.

It’s noticeable to me but how would the “everyones” ever find out?


* in September 1997

An Unbelief Problem?

Image source: see notes

Image source: see notes

I scheduled a visit with our pastor Doug last week for counsel about a life development that I characterized as a “setback.”.

After I laid out what was happening, he offered a question, “What is this “setback” preventing you from achieving?”

I reviewed some goals I viewed this setback blocking my way from – to make a satisfactory living, contribute in my workplace, be viewed there as valued and relevant, and to have sufficient non-work time leftover for personal pursuits – family, community, church, etc.

When I finished my diatribe, Doug allowed a long pause into our conversation during which an odd dawning rose in me that I had failed to mention the Lord in any of my answers,

n o t   e v e n   o n c e.

“OK,” Doug commented, “but you haven’t answered my question. “How are you not moving forward due to these developments?”

I thought I had JUST ANSWERED that question so I was somewhat at a loss for words.   Doug came to the rescue (if you can call it that).

“Glenn, don’t take this wrong because I suffer from this as well.  Try considering that you suffer more from an unbelief problem than from this so-called setback.”

An unbelief problem?   Me?

Cycle of unbelief

The vicious cycle of unbelief (Gospel Transformation, pg 145)

Clutter-clearing comments like those are why I appreciate Doug’s counsel so much.  However, not until I was visiting with God the next morning did the weight of my alleged unbelief problem begin to sink in. The Gospel Transformation study I’m doing even offered a nice little diagram for my condition, titled “The vicious cycle of unbelief.”

I was more than a bit taken aback to see myself in ALL FOUR unbelief categories.  A couple of pages later was “The gracious cycle of faith” where I saw some of myself but not nearly enough.

Doug often explains how belief is just one of three ingredients of faith – Knowing Christ, Believing in Christ and Trusting Christ. If all are not present and working simultaneously, it’s not faith.

The fourth bullet of category 3 of the unbelief cycle really gave me pause., “I give intellectual assent to who I am in Christ, but it is “only positional,” it will really be true when I get to heaven.”  To defer to this line of thinking, as I sometimes do, is to dismiss what Jesus offers, “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” As in RIGHT NOW!

These points were contained in a lesson titled ‘“Who am I: ‘saint” or “sinner”?’  In Christ, I am a saint.  Developments that seem like setbacks are, for saints, actually fodder the Holy Spirit uses to mold us into Christ’s image.

Gracious cycle of faith (Gospel Transformation, pg 147)

Gracious cycle of faith (Gospel Transformation, pg 147)

When faith is operating on all cylinders, we become how Paul describes himself in 2 Corinthians 6: 3-13.  Waking in trust in the Spirit of Christ within us, setbacks are absorbed so we are always “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks … to give the reason for the hope that (we) have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15).

Excuse me but I have some praying to do.



  1. Photo source site:
  2. Diagrams from Gospel Transformation, second edition, pages 145 and 147.  By World Harvest Mission

The Village It Takes

baby and handsWhoops! Road Report had a little mishap this week and couldn’t get out of the garage.  But we are back up now thanks to my gracious host, Todd.  So here’s a special re-edition of my intended Tuesday post.

In my large extended family of nine siblings now all grown, expansion passes on to our children marrying and having their own children.  My oldest sister’s two children lead the baby-production with three each including two sets of twins.

The youngest twins, born just three months ago were recently baptized.  “Two new Christians, “ declared another of my sisters at the ceremony.

Having been raised in a Catholic family, I was baptized as an infant.  But I was in my late twenties when I was drawn to Christ by a series of occurrences before accepting His invitation to commit my life to Him.

I share with many others looking on that “conversion” experience as an important turning point in my life.  In many Christian denominations not Catholic, baptism occurs after conversion, “believer’s baptism.” When I became a believer, I was still a practicing Catholic so believer’s baptism wasn’t an option.

Twenty years ago, we joined Grace Chapel, Protestant, “Evangelical Presbytarian” denomination, or “EPC” as we call it. We were not drawn to Grace Chapel’s Protestantism or its denomination but by how its people believe and live out their faith.

We warmed into the denominational belonging. Official joining occurred after attending classes. I was pleasantly surprised by how closely EPC essential beliefs and official positions on certain issues aligned with the Catholic faith I came from. I found certain comfort in not having to reconsider my stance on some of those positions that I had already embraced.

An exception was infant baptism.  Fully expecting my new Protestant denomination to subscribe to the  “believers” version of baptism which would thus give me an opportunity to be baptised as a newer believer, I was surprised to find that infant baptism is “believed in” by the EPC!

I won’t go into the Biblical basis for the two stances on baptism, infant and believer’s.  Good people believing strongly in either stance can offer solid Biblical support for their respective position. Although I tend to be more supportive of believer’s baptism, I maintain a truce with the practice of infant baptism.

Fortunately, my stance on baptism is not a requisite for being a Christian.  That only requires believing in Jesus Christ and living as if that belief were absolutely true.  Still, God patiently draws me along on some of these views I hold as I continue to walk and live in faith.  This week, something by author Lauren Winner about infant baptism really resonated with me.

I’m reading “Girl Meets God,” Winner’s memoir about converting from Orthodox Jew to Christian.  Regarding the practice of some churches to renew baptismal vows during certain seasons of the annual church calendar, Lauren confesses she finds this hard to do.

“I remember what I pledged at my baptism and how badly I’ve done at keeping those pledges and I wonder if I dare make them again….no baptismal candidate, even an adult, can promise to do those things all by himself. The community is promising for you, with you, on your behalf,” wrote Winner.

“It is for that reason that I love to see a baby baptized,” she added.  “When a baby is baptized, we cannot labor under the atomizing illusion that individuals in Christ can or should go this road alone.  When a baby is baptized we are struck unavoidably with the fact that this is a community covenant, a community relationship, that these are communal promises.”

While the call of Christ is certainly personal for each of us who believe, the Lord mandated that we live faith out as a people, a community.  Even Jesus belongs to a community, a triune godhead. As His Father formed a people, Israel, God the Son also established the communal entity that would be His offensive force to take down the powers of sin and hell – the Church.

Immediately following Peter’s inspired recognition of Jesus as Messiah and God, Jesus established upon the “rock” of Peter’s confession a “church” against which no power in heaven or either would or could combat.

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18, ESV)*

In my mind, Winner’s explanation folded in with Jesus’ church-establishing declaration. Just as Church is not about one (human) man, baptism is not about one infant or, for that matter, the belief of any lone person.  Church and baptism regard the community of the faithful that is even bigger than the sum of everyone ever affiliated.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20, NIV)*

When a God-declaring community forms, even for a simple prayer, God is present and accounted for.  In that context, community is formational.  Conversely, going it alone, forsaking community is also formational.  Americans call this rugged individualism. Heaven has another view about that.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NIV)*

“It takes a village to raise a child.” I would add “in faith.” Something about church that baptism plugs nicely into, whatever the variety.


* For homework, read the verses preceding the ones I quoted: – Matthew 16: 13-19; Matthew 18: 15-20Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Crossed Up Logic

Sporting my cross pendant.

Sporting my cross pendant.

I put that choker type cross pendant on just for this post.  For many years, I wore some kind of  cross pendant but stopped several years ago when wearing it became a burden for me.

The cross represents Christ and Christianity, right?  Like a badge authenticates the office of the badge-wearer, a cross implies or at least suggests the cross-wearer is a Christ-follower, conducting himself in a Christ-like manner.   Right?

Understand my dilemma now?  I am not always such a good ambassador.

Without that cross pendant burning a hole into my chest, when I “slip” into conduct unbecoming of a good Christian, which occurs more often than I care to admit, at least I’m not sullying the reputation of Christ.

My understanding is different now.  Clearly, I missed the point. The cross isn’t about having it all together at all. If anything, the opposite is more true.

See, cross-wearers share the condition of all humans – sinners in need of redemption.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (Romans 3: 23, NLT)

Look at the preceding verse.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. (Romans 3: 22, NLT)

No exceptions.  Far from claiming a corner on holiness, the cross broadcasts brokenness that desperately needs mercy and redemption.  Brokenness is a condition I am powerless to change no matter how many crosses I wear.  Rescue and restoration is obtainable only through Jesus Christ.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2: 8-9, ESV)

With that kind of meaning, it’s a wonder anyone would want to be associated with the cross, never mind wear one as a pendant or earring. A friend has an awesome cross tattoo on his arm that he is able to cover over but can’t exactly “take off” on a whim.

Considering its rather dark history as a diabolical method of execution and shame, how did the cross become revered as a symbol of redemption and mercy? Indeed, the cross “crosses up” our understanding of how God operates. Think about where we are with the cross right now:

  1. Due to the cross, death is no longer final but a corridor to life eternal.
  2. The cross mandates that the only deed that counts is faith in Christ, a crucified outcast.
  3. By the cross, God not only rendered resounding justice, he also preserved  bottomless mercy.
  4. For the believer, the cross is solidarity with suffering and abandonment of self-reliance and control.

(see 1 Corinthians 1:23; Philippians 2: 5-8 and Hebrews 12:2)

Are you thinking, where do I sign up?

Far from a simple adornment, the cross stands logic on its head.  About the only thing right-side up about the cross is the cross itself!

The reason I am more O.K. now wearing a symbol that highlights my messiness over my goodness is due to my alignment with Jesus who is more than enough to overcome the ugliest parts of me.

Could be you’ll see me wearing a cross again.