Tag Archives: life

where i’ve been, where i’ll be.

Just some notes for a sleepy morning. And no picture. It would just be scary.

  • I wrote about Andrew growing up at gnmparents.com this week.
  • Last week, I wrote about Hope and keeping doors (and relationship doors) unlocked.
  • Today, January 1, I’m starting a new blog at 300wordsaday.com. It’s about helping people follow Jesus 300 words a day. (If you put up with the spiritual stuff at levite because of other stuff I write, then you probably don’t want to go over there. On the other hand, if you want 3oo words a day about following, feel free to come over and subscribe.)
  • Two big phrases running through my head these days: deliberate practice and buyer personas. I’ll talk more about them here. Trust me.
  • In May, I’ll be at SOBcon09. I met a bunch of old friends face-to-face there last year.
  • In June, our daughter will graduate from high school. In July, she’ll go to West Virginia on a work project. In August, she’ll go to Bethel College.

Thanks to all of you who joined the readership of Levite. I’ve enjoyed the comments and the emails and the tweets and the conversation. I’m looking forward to the next year.

And away we go.


dying trends

I was standing in line. It led past a casket. I was at the end of the line, talking with the funeral director. I asked him how things were going.

For them, life is busy. Several funerals a day for the past few days. “When the temperature drops, deaths increase.” During the summer, activity was slow.

That’s been the case in our church. Seven deaths in the last 6 weeks. No one thing, no pattern. But many tears.

And with the markets falling, according to my friend, deaths are up as well. There are some suicides happening among comparatively younger people.

“In the moment, they don’t see an alternative.”

My friend Rob is all about alternatives. As other people are despairing in the moment, he’s celebrating. Yesterday, Thursday, he turned 38. That’s longer than his dad lived. That’s longer than his granddad lived.

Because Rob has known how short life is, he has poured life into his wife, into his children. He pours life into a not-for-profit in Portland, Maine. He cares little about turning dollars into dollars and more about turning them into hope for kids who need hope that looks like love, role models, attention, touch.

When you talk to Rob, his eyes and heart have an intensity, a desire to absorb and work through and understand and pass on.

Some people, realizing the brevity of life, live it broadly. They have as many experiences as they can, walking as close to the edge as they can. Others have as much as experience as they can, living deeply for others. When the market crashes for the former, they see the end to their experience options and despair. When the market crashes for the latter, they live deeper.

When I think about return on investment, the latter are richer, and so is their legacy.

sweet. corn.

This morning I talked about sweet corn and my grandfather over at GNMParents.com I thought you might be interested.

So head over to “Just For Me.”

By the way, the picture is of a model of a Massey-Harris Pony. It was a small tractor. It was the first tractor I ever drove.


Every three months, the chaplain’s office at the VA hospital in Fort Wayne has a memorial service for the vets who have died since the last service. Saturday was the day.

On the table in the middle of the picture, under the flag wreath, are about 14 candles, each with a label representing a life.

The youngest of these people was a Viet Nam era vet. The oldest, a cluster of WW2 marines and soldiers. Some had people at the service. Most did not.

I was there because I am married with the pianist and because I knew the founder of these service. He died recently. He was honored Saturday in the service he initiated.

The picture is a plain picture. The service was a simple service. The attendance was small.

But to the handful of family members, it mattered. To the people involved in the service, it mattered. We acknowledged lives that were lived for other people.

Most of us would love to have huge impact, transform millions of lives, save forests and oceans and babies and marriages and the world. We live, however, in 4×6 fluorescent-lit snapshots, oddly composed. And we think that those two sentences are fundamentally at odds.

It is, I think, snapshot lives that reflect the reality of world-transforming relationships far more than glamour shots. And ordinary people showing up for battle and guard duty and work and diapers and desks will in fact change the world by being in it.

Ordinary is where we get to live every day. It’s not flashy. But most people aren’t flashy.

But they are people.

Have a magnificently ordinary week, people.

no fooling

I started the most challenging job of my life on April 1. It wasn’t the best job of my life. In fact, it taught me much about areas of weakness in my life. I haven’t resolved all of those areas, but I am, on average, less driven by career, more aware of the need for followthrough, more aware of my inability to make institutions change by sheer force of will or by weaseling. So maybe, like “take this medicine, it’s good for you”, it was one of the best jobs for my life.

I think that I may be in for another of those learning processes, though this time I’m doing it on purpose.

I’m going to try to live April as if I only have one month to live.

I haven’t received any bad news, any diagnosis, any warnings. My job isn’t on the line, my family isn’t sick, I have received no warning dreams or visions. I am not worried about turning fifty this summer. Our kids aren’t moving out any time soon. I haven’t heard about any comets or other cataclysmic events. I am not aware of any biblical prophesy that will be fulfilled by destruction of me or of my family or of our country or of the universe on April 30.

And yet.

What if, just for a month, I lived on purpose?

I’m reading 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed, a book where Scot McKnight reflects on the words that Jesus would have spoken morning and night, as emended BY Jesus (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself”). That statement can become a purpose statement. Yes, it is the summary of the commandments, but what if rather than doing it because we have to (“Okay, I’ll love my neighbor, but this better be worth it” “Who exactly counts as my neighbor … and who can I ignore”) we decided that it was a way to live?

So what if I decided to live for a month as my last, choosing to live the way Jesus lived his last month?
We’ll see.

(the Jesus Creed on the Jesus Creed blog is here)


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a split-second later

Because of the processing delay in digital cameras, the delay between pushing the button and the picture actually being taken, sometimes your pictures are worthless. People move, the camera moves, everything changes. Sometimes, however, the picture works.

This button-push caught the last possible moment before the puck left the hand of the referee. This is a split-second of complete focus, of everything stopping and then exploding. I love how the attention of everyone, how the sticks and faces and hands and eyes of everyone are on that small cylinder of space, the tube of air through which the puck will drop.

I was talking today with someone who described conversations about changing names of spaces, of considering how to differently describe rooms. I said that it is interesting to look at points of conversation/conflict like that and try to understand why they become flashpoints. Why is it that what a room is called matters so much? Why is it that dropping a different name can trigger as much battle in a church as the puck causes in a hockey game?

Ahh. Do you see the problem in the last sentence? The puck causes nothing. And, in fact, the ref doesn’t cause the explosion by dropping the puck. What causes the explosion is that a culture has said, this counts as a job for the players. A culture has said, this counts as fun for spectators. A culture has said, whatever happens out there, in the real world where cars catch fire and people die and babies are born and lives are changed, is suspended while we care deeply about what happens in the next split-second.

The same thing is true about the names of the rooms. Calling something a church or a church building or a worship center or a hospital or a cathedral or a chapel or a rest area or a sanctuary or a waste of time and money or a home reflects a set of rules and agreements and experiences. Whatever we call it, we have to consider the experiences of others.

And so, as attention is focused with great intensity, as words are dropped and as relational explosions happen, freeze time if you can. Look at the picture. And then, if it matters, if this really matters, play on. but remember, life can change…

…a split-second later.

The governor is in Avilla (and other musings)

From my brain blotter:

1. Yesterday I heard that the  governor was going to be at a coffee shop in Avilla, a small town not far from here. In fifteen minutes, I could meet with him at St James.  I thought about it, briefly, and then realized that I wouldn’t have anything to talk with him about. And I realized that my reaction to meeting with most famous people would be, “hi.”

Some people would have a list of public policy questions for the governor, would wonder about their garbage pickup with the mayor, would have a long list of questions for the president. I acknowledge that they have a lot of responsibility, but my guess is that they wouldn’t be much interested in talking with me. I assume that they have really important things to talk about, that they need to be managing the state or city or country. Anything I could ask would have been asked a thousand times already, often with greater precision.

And then, as I thought about it, I wondered how many people look at talking with God the exact same way.

2.  I taught, I think, in Cole Hall. I at least was a teaching assistant for a couple of classes there, perhaps in the same auditorium. I was a grad student in communication during 1980-81 at Northern Illinois University. My office was just one building over, in Watson Hall. As I watched the news develop yesterday, I realized that there isn’t much that can be done from a policy perspective. There aren’t many more things that can be done with security strategies. People snap and plot and fret and then destroy. What I realized is that I, more than ever, need to be about lives and hope and God. One life at a time, one decision at a time, one bit of grace and mercy at a time.

3. I preached on Sunday last. You can download it by going here.

4. My friend Randy likes Sky Bars. I’m glad he does. I like dark chocolate more than I like these. But that’s okay. We don’t have to agree on candy bars. But I know my friend Randy likes Sky Bars.  So I bought him one. And sent him a picture of it. Someday I’ll get him the real thing.

What I’m thinking about these days is whether I know God as well as I know Randy. I mean, if I was walking around the mall and wanted to buy God a gift card for $5, what would I get it for? What candy bar would I get?

And how would I give it to Him?

5. If you haven’t been rading what my friends have been writing about Lent, you need to.

6. Have a great weekend. I’ll be teaching on Sunday morning. Here’s what I’ll be talking about. If you weren’t reading this blog last March, check it out.

7. And now I’m going to a hockey game with Andrew. The best thing about hockey? Being with Andrew.