Looking Past the Stuffed Dog

Stuffed Dog

Long before he was known as the host of “Deal or No Deal,” Howie Mandel was “Bobby” utilizing his best toddler voice. One of Mandel’s most enduring lines in my memory comes at the end of his “12 Days of Christmas” routine (see the second half of this clip) where the “partridge in a pear tree” becomes “one of those blue little fuzzy things.” Without giving away the entire sequence, he wraps up with a passionate and tearful child-like reflection:

“I looked yonder…Yonder was my stuffed dog, and he was in front of the dresser…So I looked OVER yonder…”

One of my fondest memories as a child involves a large stuffed dog owned by my aunt. Through child eyes, it was the most obvious thing in the room to pet, to tackle, and even to sleep beside. As an adult, I’m much more likely to keep my important items on top of or inside the drawer of a dresser somewhere in the house. A similar shift in vision is needed for the important questions being asked in “the public square.”

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Improvising With Life

Me and Caleb

Last year, my oldest son Caleb created his own blog based on his experience as a viola player. On his site devoted to helping other musicians, one of my favorite posts so far is about “Improvisation.”

It struck me as a great set of tips, not just for music, but for life in general. He is himself at a stage where he will soon leave the teen years behind. So I decided to write a response which, while inspired by his thoughts, will hopefully further inspire him as he faces new decisions ahead. Listed below are each of his musical tips followed by my own reflections on life. Continue reading

Ministry From the Back Row

Sharing Under a Tree
I was a bit late walking into the service, so I thought it best to go up to the balcony. After spotting a friend from South Africa come in behind me, she made her way over to greet me and sit nearby. With her was a strikingly beautiful woman who was hesitant to introduce herself. She even showed some disdain at the prospect of sitting next to me, but at my friend’s urging she did.

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The Practical Theism of “Atheistic” Science

This pottery is part of a collection at Columbia Theological Seminary and can be dated between 3300 and 3000 BCE.

I still come across Christians and atheists alike who imply or even outright state that science as practiced now is an inherently atheistic process. Somehow, theistic scientists are branded as “practical atheists” in spite of the long history of Christians and other people of faith who have contributed toward modern science even to the present day. It is as if the scientific method requires us to both believe in the rational underpinnings of the Universe, and yet suspend belief that there should be any source or reason for these underpinnings to exist in the first place. The suggestion has even been made that Christians either need to reinvent their own form of science or reinvent religion to be more like science. Delusional nonsense! Continue reading

Why We Don’t Really Like Forgiveness

forgiveness reception

Over the past few months, we’ve been talking quite a bit about forgiveness at our church. I know: no real shocker there. But the discussion has ranged much further than simply saying, “Seventy times seven. Just do it!” We’ve taken time to discuss why it doesn’t come easy, and even how important it is in the effort to overcome the evil we experience in daily life.

The Offense of Forgiveness

The whole paradigm of forgiveness gets us into trouble from the outset. Continue reading

The “Where I’m From” Poem

The Adirondack Mountains

To introduce myself to new readers, I thought I would re-post an exercise I did from a previous blog with a couple of small updates. The poem below is an idea that I saw on a friend’s blog. Speaking of “Where I’m From”, Kathy and her husband Scott are also a former colleagues of mine from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Note: The poetic format of “Where I’m From” originates with George Ella Lyon.

My own poem is first and a template is provided below if you would like to try the exercise as well. Feel free to let me know in the comments section if you post your own. The goal is to describe people, places and things that are unique and/or important to you. Continue reading

Candles at Dark


I do not fear the dark, though I am not at home in it either.

As a youth active in scouting, it was not unusual for me to hike through the woods in the dark. My night vision was acute, and on the darkest nights I would rely on other senses to navigate my surroundings. One of my regular rhythms was to walk my dog at night looking up at the stars while on our rounds. I studied Astronomy through college, wandering through life with the planets wondering: Where is all this leading? Continue reading