The Thirst for Mercy

2 08 2017

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

(J.R.R. Tolkien)


Suggested Resources:

A Severe Mercy (Sheldon Vanauken)

The Name of God Is Mercy (Pope Francis)

Radical Forgiveness: A Revolutionary Five-Stage Process to:- Heal Relationships – Let Go of Anger and Blame – Find Peace in Any Situation (Colin Tipping)


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Careful–Your Tongue Is Loaded!

24 09 2013

Tongue A WeaponIf we had any conception of the power of the spoken word, I’m convinced we’d be different people.  We would handle words—whether spoken or written—like a bomb squad handles a bomb that needs defusing.

As a Christian, I believe the universe was spoken into existence.  Obviously, I was not there to witness it.  But I believe the biblical record when it talks about how the universe was framed:  From the mouth of God.  I’ve no intent to go into the various scientific cosmologies.  But I do believe the record that says “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11:3)

If words create worlds, what do they produce when uttered or penned by creatures made in the image of God?  Maybe, as Peter Kreeft says, we should all be wearing crash helmets, considering that words are so powerful.

I’ve served in three different churches as an associate pastor since 1993.  I learned very quickly that words have the power to destroy people and cripple them for years, sometimes for life.  And I learned that people can shoot for the stars with a little encouragement.  That words are creative.  “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21)

Treat your mouth and your pen as either loaded instruments or creative vehicles.  “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” simply does not square with reality.  Try these on your family, friends and associates:

“You’re gonna make it.”

“The best is yet to come.”

“I love you.”

“I forgive you.”

“You can do this.  You have what it takes.”

Watch what happens.  And when tempted to let someone feel the brunt of your anger by your tongue, stop for a bit, think carefully and remember that you are in the possession of a loaded weapon.

Handle with care.

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Can You SEE Me?

14 09 2013

Can You SEE MeI’m learning that to look into the eyes of another human being is not necessarily the same thing as seeing them.  I think the eyes are the most beautiful feature of any human being.  Because when I look into someone’s eyes, I get a glimpse into their soul.

Sometimes I see hope.

Sometimes I see mischief.

Sometimes I see pain.

Sometimes profound goodness.

Often, I see someone whose soul seems to communicate this question: “Do you see me?”

Over the years I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of people.  Perhaps the most complimentary thing I’ve ever heard is when someone remarks thus, “When he is with you, it’s as if you’re the only person on earth.”  Complete focus.  Courtesy.  Eschewing superficiality, manifested in canned replies and hollow laughter.  Undistracted.

Someone has said that one of the most profound expressions of love you can give to another human being is to pay attention to them.

Are you seeing those around you?

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Marry Well! (You Won’t Regret It)

10 09 2013

Photo1The title for this post is not original.  It’s from Bill Hybels’ outstanding book Making Life Work.  Were someone to ask of me advice about what it takes to have a happy life, one of the first things I’d tell them is this: Marry well.  You’ve no idea the wonder and joy that follows on such a decision.  Nor the incredible sorrow that follows when you marry poorly.

(Sweetheart, if he’s a bum now, he’ll probably be a bum long after you marry him.  Dude, if she’s a diva now, chances are diva will grow into a monster.  Avoid.  Like the plague.)

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in life.  Most of the unhappiness I’ve ever experienced was a product of my own skill at doing stupid things.  But one thing I did, with God’s help and goodness, was marry well.

When writing about home and marriage years ago, Michael Card penned the memorable line “that half of your heart that somebody else treasures, the one who’s your forever friend.”  The song aptly titled “Home.”

Boy, that sums it up nicely.

When choosing someone to spend your life with, there are few things more comforting than knowing the one who cares about you at your best  and worst.  Who picks you up and puts you back together again when life crushes you.  Who is there in the dark with words of encouragement and sunshine.  And forgiveness.

In today’s sexually-charged culture, it seems that the friendship factor in choosing one’s spouse is given short shrift.  Those who’ve been married for years will tell you that feelings and romance can ebb and flow.  Eros is capricious if nothing else.  But being married to your soul mate, your best friend can carry you through things nothing else can.

Here’s to the one I love and will grow old with.  The one I dream and pal around with.  The one I’d rather be with more than any other person on Earth.


Mandy Patinkin, Dr. Geiger and Success

20 07 2013

Homeland Season 2In 1994, I moved our family back to Michigan where I was raised.  Our girls were quite small at the time.  For five years we were able to stay close with my family.  While there were the usual difficulties and challenges that attend such a move, it was a special time for us.

Our move coincided with the premiere of a new weekly television drama, Chicago Hope.  My larger family has quite a few medical professionals in it, so a medical TV drama was right up our alley.  Our favorite character on Chicago Hope was Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, played by Mandy Patinkin.  We would go to my mother and stepfather’s home, have dinner and watch Jeopardy and Chicago Hope.

Dr. Geiger was a brilliant cardio-thoracic surgeon, rated top in the country.  He was also a curious mixture of insecurity, prickliness and medical distinction.  Within the larger story line, his wife had been institutionalized with schizophrenia after she drowned their son, Joey.  So this pain came out in interesting ways in Geiger’s interactions.  Mandy Patinkin played him in an outstanding fashion, which won him an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a drama series in 1995.

Like my late stepfather, of blessed memory, (himself a brilliant physician), Geiger was Jewish.  If you know and work with Jewish people, you’ll probably have noticed that they are almost temperamentally incapable of mincing words.  To the point.  Dugriut.  This is not a criticism at all; just a fact. Geiger said once to a fellow doctor in the operating room, “That’s the thing about bluntness.  It intimidates the weak, engages the strong.”  Great line.

I’ve recently begun watching reruns of the series, now eighteen years old.  Again, I’ve been drawn to the character of Dr. Geiger.  Not that his arrogance is to be emulated.  He needed to work on his bedside manner.  But his directness and competence are refreshing.  Patinkin is a great actor.

I’d forgotten that Patinkin left regular participation in the show after the second season.  This bummed me out because I looked forward to seeing the story of Jeffrey Geiger unfold.  He made a number of appearances over the years and rejoined the cast for the final season.

What impressed me more than anything was Patinkin’s reason for leaving the show.  Poor writing? No.  Inability to get along with colleagues? Nope.  Wanted more money? Wrong, again.

He left to devote more time with his family.  They lived out east and the show filmed in Chicago—incidently, the town of Patinkin’s birth.  So he’d spent prodigious amounts of time away from them.  He was unwilling to do this for years.

Remember, this is a brilliant actor and singer who had won an Emmy.  His future was set, so to speak.  But he chose his wife and children over continued fame.  Incredible.

He’s done a lot over the years—Criminal Minds (a show he left because the content was too violent for his conscience), recording and public concerts, the stage.  But it impressed me that he looked “success” in the eye and chose, at least in his appraisal, true success.

A winner.

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Got Testosterone?

5 07 2013

testosterone_1I had a fascinating discussion with some guys I met with regularly last year.  I mentored them and they schooled me.  It was mutually beneficial.  Our discussion topic:


This is not wholly unexpected in a gathering of three or four men.  Testosterone and its maintenance is a subject you—and I’m primarily addressing guys—cannot afford to treat lightly.

I’ve read statistics that say, essentially, that males in their twenties today have 60% less testosterone than their twenty-something counterparts from eighty to a hundred years ago.  Remember, males in their twenties are generally at their most active.  Why is this?

Some of it is lifestyle and vocational changes.  We are far more sedentary than our counterparts working in the early twentieth century.  The lack of exertion equals more flab and diminished testosterone.

A lot of it is our diet.  We eat way too many carbohydrates and too much high fructose corn syrup (which is in a lot of processed foods, even some you might not suspect).  Why? Because carbs are cheap and easy.  And it’s killing us.  Dr. Mehmet Oz explains that too much of this locks belly fat in guys (hip/buttocks fat in the gals) because it requires a lot of insulin to be secreted to process it.  I’m not a doctor but Dr. Oz says high insulin secretion precludes a lot of fat burning.

Some other things that emerged during our discussion:

  • Soy apparently is the cause of lots of estrogen.  Estrogen and inactivity produces, among other things, the unsightly moobs (man boobs) in guys.  I’ve yet to meet a male who’s excited about growing male breasts.
  • Ministers have lower than normal testosterone levels.  Some of this may well be due to the sedentary nature of the ministerial enterprise.  But some of it is probably linked to an unbiblical and feminized view of Jesus Christ and Christianity, a la “gentle Jesus meek and mild” which, when wrongly applied, causes Christian men in general to be less aggressive and assertive when meeting the challenges and confrontations of life.  Ideas have consequences.
  • Diminished testosterone is linked to depression and erectile dysfunction, the latter not a particularly pleasant topic but relevant in our day.  Why all the E.D. meds, Viagra and the like?  I seriously doubt Frank Sinatra or Steve McQueen would’ve needed Viagra or Cialis.

What to do? [Disclaimer: I am neither a doctor nor a nutritionist.]

  • Get active.  Regular exercise, especially if your work involves sitting for a long time, is a must.  Your overall health, including testosterone levels, will improve.
  • Eat well.  Keep sweets and cheap carbs to a minimum and eat more proteins and the proper fats.
  • Have a healthy view of maleness.  Jesus Christ, while gentle at times, also cleared the Temple of moneychangers and their livestock with a whip.  There is a time to be gentle and a time to get tough.  The key is knowing the difference and choosing your responses and attitudes carefully.

Guys, this is important.  Take care of yourselves.  Your loved ones, especially your ladies, need this.

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24 07 2012

Today is a bittersweet one for our family.  A new chapter looms before my wife and I.  For me, it will involve a return to two familiar places—graduate school to finish my Master’s degree and the pastorate.  For my wife, continued growth—including college—in her varied artistic pursuits.

This new chapter also involves a move about 90 miles south of our home in the historic Thousand Islands region of northern New York.  And so, fittingly, we’ve worked very hard this summer and today put our house on the market.

It is a poignant and difficult thing.  Our girls grew up in this home which we bought right after the Twin Towers fell in New York City.  It is a place stained with memories both joyful and sorrowful.  As we returned home from town this evening, we were met with the tearful embrace of our eldest daughter as she realized our home will soon become home to another family.  Sigh.

It is a solid old Victorian farm house in a small country hamlet.  It was built in 1914, the year the Great War commenced.  One learns that it is the people and the love they share that make a house a home.  Ours is no exception.

We would appreciate your prayers for us as we launch into this next phase of our lives.  Prayers for the sale of the house.  Prayers for effectiveness and growth as we journey on to new vistas, new experiences, and new friends.  Prayers for the emotional ebb and flow that accompanies such a big step.

We are excited for these new “lines in the book of our lives” (apologies to Dan Fogelberg) that are, even now, being written.

And yet….bittersweet.

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