In the surrounding atmosphere

 Photo by  Jason Briscoe  on  Unsplash

I meet and pray at our church with three guys on Saturday mornings.  Officially we meet from 8 to 9 a.m. but our time together often meanders for an additional 10 or 20 minutes.

We discuss, confess and pray with each other about our lives and faith and the life and ministry of our church.  To meet there where we as church convene to worship, do life together, plan and serve is important in a manner similar to how God himself confers sanctity to certain places in his grand story as cast in the Bible.

On any given week, one or more of us brings something from our personal life and faith to weigh into together. I especially appreciate their insights and prayers when I am wrestling with something personal or regarding my relationship with the Lord..

The particular matters are less important than the sense of tough love and wisdom the guys extended even if difficult for me to initially receive well.  Their emphatic guidance that I turn away from myself and dial instead into the Lord is how iron sharpening iron works.  (See Proverbs 27:17)

Sometimes I am frustrated with striving as much as I do.    Why am I so often anxious, so distracted, so often seeking comfort or joy where it cannot be found?  Why would I ever want to engage in escapism from life that is so vibrantly radiant with God’s very essence?  Why indeed?

Perhaps because I don't truly grasp that Jesus’ straightforward claims and teachings about the “at-handness" of the "kingdom of God” is as accessible and near as he so emphatically asserts?  The present reality of life on earth vehemently refutes all such claims.

I'm reading for the third time a book that really spoke to that idea of God's nearness on a day-to-day basis better than anything I ever read before or since - “The Divine Conspiracy - discovering our hidden life in God” by Dallas Willard.  Published in 1998, I first read it in 2003 then again in 2013, and now I am listening to an audio version.

Bringing the kingdom or realm of God near was in Jesus’ teachings and mission and not because this was something new.  Rather, Jesus ministry demonstrated and his message conveyed that the kingdom of God or the heavens was nearer due to him.

A concern of Willard's was that translators of Jesus’ messages sometimes chose words that convey the kingdom as not so near.  For example, phrasing that Jesus used to express the idea of the “kingdom of heaven” (Greek, tou ouranous) could have been literally translated as “air” or “surrounding atmosphere,” instead of the words that were used, like “sky” or “heaven.”

“Now our English sky means something quite different from air, and heaven means something quite different from either,” Willard explained.  “The translation becomes entangled in these meanings. The sky is more a limit than a space, and as a place it is farther away than the air.  Hence, we say, 'The sky’s the limit,' not 'The air’s the limit.' Heaven, of course, is strictly out of sight for us, beyond the moon for sure and quite likely “beyond” the physical cosmos.”  (The Divine Conspiracy, page 71)

I don’t know about you but the thought of heaven as near as the surrounding air or atmosphere feels a lot nearer than it residing in the distant sky or unreachable cosmos.

I bring this up not because its essential to know, only because it shows yet another way how much we regular people living out our mundane lives matter to God and Jesus. Frankly, I never thought of the kingdom of God as far away or lacking access but I'm inspired by the idea that the kingdom is as close as the thin air around us. How about you?

As inspiring as this is for me, my most applied experience of the "kingdom of the heavens" comes from regularly doing life with fellow Christians, such as Saturday mornings with the guys. Us sharing life and faith and mulling over the God’s word in Scripture together personifies another message Jesus offered that posed no issues for translators to clearly impart.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
— (Matthew 18:20

God draws near to us when we draw near to each other in relevant faith discussions, supporting each other, musings and prayer... 

Right here in the surrounding atmosphere.


1. If you've not read Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, here's a little excerpt from my book’s cover jacket:

In an era when many Christians consider Jesus a beloved but remote savior, Willard argues compellingly for the relevance of God to every aspect of our existence. Masterfully capturing the central insights of Christ's teachings in a fresh way for today's seekers, he helps us to explore a revolutionary way to experience God - by knowing Him as an essential part of the here and now, rather than only as a part of the hereafter.

2. My practice of Saturday morning fellowship with godly guys actually began in March 1983.  The “Christian Men's Fellowship” ("CMF") met many years at St. Owens Catholic Church in Franklin, MI.  I withdrew from that group in 2001 in order to devote Saturday mornings to personal devotions and later to join the prayer group meeting at our church that I reference in this post.  Meanwhile, CMF still meets including a few of the original members from a study facilitated by the late Fr. Dwayne Stenzel in late 1982 at (then) Duns Scotus Monastery attended by some 200 or so Catholic men from all across southeastern Michigan.  After the study concluded in the Spring of 1983, local fellowships were formed to continue meeting, including ours. At one of those meetings in September, 1983 I recommitted my life to Christ.

If You Had Only Known

Are you tracking destiny in this season of life?  Solidly connecting with the Lord each day of life?  Is his word and calling your primary guidance source?

I am asking myself questions like these this Lent.  A friend recommended a daily Lenten study that is drawing me into Jesus’ journey to the cross.  

Day 16 shadows Jesus’ emotions and actions following his “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem that we now mark as Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. Luke captures Jesus’ sobering words as he processes on a colt into Jerusalem.

“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes.”  (Luke 19:42, NIV)

Then, a chilling prophecy about the fate of the holy city that would be fulfilled just 50 or so years later.

“The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19: 43-44, NIV)

The passage riveted me.  Whereas I generally read this as a modern observer of past history, not this time.

“If you … had only known what would bring you peace….”

You, as in me!  My first thought, “Do I know what brings me peace?”  

Peace from living up, syncing in my giftedness, purposeful, relationally strong, nurturing others in my life and who cross my path, in tune with my Lord, resisting temptation and keeping short accounts when I falter.

Some of that is going on but way too often I’m skidding right by the sweet spots.  Overly focused on myself, I am often disappointed, even angry, when things do not go my way. Instead of automatically taking my doubts and questions to the Lord, too often I cheat by soothing myself with escapism which only leaves me feeling guilty and crippled.  

I, I, I, me, me, me.  See the pattern?  Searching for peace where it cannot be found.

When I repent, doubt often lingers as I wonder how much longer the Lord will tolerate me. How long until his offer of peace is withdrawn, no longer available - “hidden from my eyes?”

Here is where regular reading, studying and meditating on Scripture pays off. One of many promise rises from my memory.

“persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:9, NIV)

My take is that Jesus’ frightening warning regards those who refuse his redemption invitation.  Many years ago, the Lord’s persistent pursuit of me FINALLY broke through my hard heartedness.  Now I pray for others to also let the Lord in. I believe the invitation extends through our mortal lifetimes.

So if not from God, the discouragement and fear comes from elsewhere.  Scripture instructs that its hold on us continues until we resolve to deploy the tools God puts into the hands of every believer - his word, obedience, and faith.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6: 11-12)

I love that about the Christian faith - lots of mind, body and soul engagement.  Nothing mamby pamby about it.

From Day 15 of the study: “Actions reveal beliefs because beliefs inspire actions.”  

To give myself over to sin is to reveal diminished belief in God.  Fortunately, God only sees me only through the lens of Jesus so while my grip on him may be feeble at times, his hold on me is not.

True peace in this life is ONLY found in the Lord.

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
— Isaiah 26:3, ESV

We trust and he holds  How very peaceful.



Lent study: “40 Days of Decrease” by Alicia Britt Chole

Dubious Undertones

Not for lack of writing, Road Report posts have faltered a bit.  A growing list of paused messages await further inspiration.

An off-blog comment from a reader a few months ago scored a direct hit to some of my strongest  doubts about this blog project - that my writing lacks the fluidity I desire, that a labor over messages.

Too often, Road Report Journal is way too much like my actual journal and thoughts - choppy and meandering and only occasionally lucid, natural and crisp.

I realize that doubt and brooding have dubious spiritual undertones.  The song, “Through His Eyes” by Jenny and Tyler regards how Satan taunts along those lines.

Blank pages for months
And the sound of his voice rings in my head
Saying I should give up
And all that I write is meaningless

He says, no one else has to know about this
No one else has to know

Discouragement and secrecy gives “him” away. (See Zechariah 3: 1-2; Revelations 12:10)

Abandoned guitars
Dust covered shelves, laundry piled high
Tell me I’m not enough
And I know that they are wrong
But I still believe these lies

He says, no one else has to know about this
No one else has to know
No one else has to know

More discouragement and secrecy and, of course, lies.  This is Satan’s M.O. (See John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:14)

To recognize a counterfeit, study the real thing.  Our enemy’s intent is that we give in to our doubts and despair, set aside our resolve and by all means, abandon and question the claims of our Bible while slowly succumbing to "his” lies.  

Faith is the antidote to doubt.

...whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. (Jesus, Matthew 21:22)
… faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (
Romans 10:17)

Satan deceives believers into trusting feelings while Jesus teaches that faith intentionally engages God’s word, developing discipline to connect feelings with the power of the Holy Spirit at work within our beings (hearts, mind, spirit).  

Mature believers still doubt but they languish less before bringing doubt and disappointment directly to the Lord.  Siding with God is the best way to rebuff and the lose the tempter.  (James 4:7).

When what I’m doing isn’t going where I think it should be going or working out how I  thought, I tend not to notice the “I” part of “my” desires while the urge to silently slink away and not attract any attention is very, very strong.

At these low points, Jesus will find us if we don’t go find him first. (Psalm 139)  “Transfer your load to me,” he essentially urges.  He takes everything and frees me to live large no matter what is going on or how I feel about it.  

Jenny finishes the song with a flourish

Ooh I want to see myself through Your eyes
Ooh Father help me see myself through Your eyes

To see ourselves as God sees us is to reflect the radiance of Jesus. Others might notice us doing so.



1.  Jenny’s explanation of their song, "Through His Eyes"
2. Photo by Tobias van Schneider on Unsplash

Meanwhile, Lent

 Photo by  Ihor Malytskyi  on  Unsplash

Seems I disappeared awhile. Did you miss me?

Truth is, I’m sorting some things out and rethinking about when best to write and about what.  I am still sorting.  Meanwhile, Lent has arrived and I am following the practice of a book recommended to me by a new acquaintance, Jessica.

“40 Days of Decrease” by Alicia Britt Chole is the book name.  Subtitle: “A different kind of hunger: a different kind of fast."

40 chapters, one for each day of Lent.  Sundays excluded, of course. To follow along, I made a table to sync the chapters with the actual dates of Lent 2018 and a little space to write a reflection each day.  

The fasts are unusual:

  • Day one: Lent as a project
  • Day two: Regrets
  • Day three: collecting praise
  • Day four: artificial light
  • Day seven: a meal

Here, from Day two:

At least since the Council of Nicea in AD 325, Lent has been a forty day, communal focus upon the most disillusioning season of the first disciples’ lives.  Jesus, having confessed to be the Messiah, prophecies His soon-coming death.  Jesus, who commands winds and waves, allows Himself arrested.  Jesus, who bests the brightest Pharisees and Sadducees, refuses to defend Himself when falsely accused.  Jesus, who raised others from the dead, chooses not to save Himself.

In Jesus’ journey cross-ward, the disciples’ illusions of what Jesus could and should do with His power were shattered by the reality of what Jesus actually did with His power, and their personal illusions of commitment-unto-death were shattered by the reality of fear-inspired self protection.  Meditating on Jesus’ suffering and the disciples’ disillusionment creates a framework within which we can spiritually process our own loss of illusions and gaining of realities.  This is critical, because… reality is where we meet God.

In Jesus’ journey cross-ward, the disciples’ illusions of what Jesus could and should do ... were shattered by the reality of what Jesus actually did
— Alicia Britt Chole, 40 Days of Decrease


This is always the case with God.  We typically attempt to pull Him into our lives only to find that nothing about Him syncs with anything that we are or desire to be in our own intellect. The only way to overcome the constant crisis of that misfit is to yield, to submit to His incessant but loving tension to be drawn, pulled into His life, manner and ways.  

Painfully we learn and as/if we choose in faith to continue, we yield to how God works transformation in us - through crisis, friction, discomfort, stretching, chopping out, suffering and, yes, death.  

These are the only ways to the new life God offers in grace through Christ.

So here I continue, sorting and being shaped. You?


The Husband Store

As tomorrow, my wife and I mark our 39th year of wedded bliss, I offer this bit of humor that was shared with me by a friend and brother who married before us and is still going strong. 

A store that sells husbands has just opened in New York City, where a woman may go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates. You may visit the store ONLY ONCE !

There are six floors and the attributes of the men increase as the shopper ascends the flights. There is,  however, a catch .. you may choose any man from a particular floor, or you may choose to go up a floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!

So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband.

On the first floor the sign on the door reads:
Floor 1 - These men have jobs and love the Lord.

The second floor sign reads:
Floor 2 - These men have jobs, love the Lord, and love kids.

The third floor sign reads:
Floor 3 - These men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, and are extremely good looking.

"Wow," she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.

She goes to the fourth floor and sign reads:
Floor 4 - These men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are drop-dead good looking and help with the housework.

"Oh, mercy me!" she exclaims, "I can hardly stand it!"

Still, she goes to the fifth floor and sign reads:
Floor 5 - These men have jobs, love the Lord, love kids, are drop-dead gorgeous, help with the housework, and have a strong romantic streak.

She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor and the sign reads:

Floor 6 - You are visitor 4,363,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store. Watch your step as you exit the building, and have a nice day!

(I think my wife found me on floor 2 although I admit to have fallen to the basement now and then over the years.)




Ran across this great post by Robert J. Morgan when I was researching the use of the word "whatever" in Philippians 4:8.  Thought I'd share this with you.  Enjoy!

Oh, whatever...

In our culture, that little generalized word “whatever” has come to indicate indifference or apathy, an attitude of “who cares.” It’s our response to anything we don’t like but can’t avoid, or to anyone whose opinions become tiresome. It’s the verbal shrug of the shoulders. But try looking up this word in Scripture. I’ve been studying the Bible practically every day for forty years, and I’ve often found refreshment in chasing word studies and exploring obscure topics. Jesus said we’re not to live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God — and that includes the word “whatever.”

Recently I spend a wonderful morning looking up all the occurrences of this term in my New International Version. In Scripture, “whatever” is a term indicating the totality of our commitment to God. It occurs 173 times, and many of the references speak of wholehearted obedience and blessing. As I studied these references, I divided them into seven headings.

First, we’re to do whatever God tells us. Mary, the mother of Jesus, told the workers at the wedding of Cana of Galilee in John 2:5: “Do whatever he tells you.” That’s good advice for all of us. In the Old Testament, the Children of Israel told Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go” (Joshua 1:16). My own personal commitment to God is expressed in those two words: “Whatever... wherever...!” When the Lord called the prophet Jeremiah into the ministry, he told him, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.... Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them” (Jeremiah 1:7-8 & 17).

Second, whatever we do we should do it having spent time in the Scriptures. According to Psalm 1, those who meditate day and night in God’s Word will be like trees planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. “Whatever they do prospers.” The apostle Paul said, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8). Since by its very nature the mind of God is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, and since His mind is revealed in His Word, those who meditate on Scripture day and night will increasingly have minds tinged with the same qualities. That kind of thinking leads to prosperity and peace.

Third, whatever we do, we should do it prayerfully. Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.... If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you may ask for whatever you wish and it will be done for you” (Matthew 21:22; John 15:7). The apostle John gives us the all-important qualification: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us —whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). Prayer isn’t a matter of demanding God do what we want. It’s a way of adjusting our souls to whatever He wants — and acquiring it by grace.

Fourth, whatever we do, we should do it earnestly. There’s an Old Testament and a New Testament verse about this. Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” And Colossians 3:23 adds, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.” As a Christian, I want to be wholehearted in my efforts, whatever they are, for I’m doing them for the Lord.

Fifth, whatever we do, we should do it with integrity. Philippians 1:27 says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of God.” Recently I reached an agreement with a man who wanted to “sign” the bargain with a handshake. In shaking his hand I felt like I was signing my name to the contract. In earlier days, multimillion deals were reached with a handshake, for a person’s word was his bond. That’s seldom true now, but it should always be true among Christians. We do whatever we do with integrity and in a way worthy of the Gospel.

Sixth, whatever we do, we should do it with others in mind. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” The apostle Peter added, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others (1 Peter 4:10). This simple principle accounts for the incredible history of Christian benevolent and humanitarian actions.

Finally, whatever we do, we must do it for God’s glory, for the Bible says, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is the Reformation cry of Soli Deo Gloria — “To God Alone be the Glory.” It’s one of the five “solas” of the reformation and one of Christianity’s greatest abbreviations: SDG. Johann Sebastian Bach penned those initials to the bottom of each of his musical scores to remind himself and his listeners that all the glory belonged to the Lord. In the same way, it’s a joy to put those initials at the bottom of every passing day of life.

Whatever happens today, do as the German hymnist Paul Gerhardt suggested: “Commit whatever grieves thee into the gracious hands of Him who never leaves thee, whom heaven and heart commands.” He is the God of whatevers, and He can handle whatever comes your way this week.

1. Original post: The Word 'Whatever" in the Bible
2. Image source: Metro News



Momentary Glory

As I write this, the 2018 North American International Auto Show is underway in nearby Detroit, the self-proclaimed center of automobile manufacturing worldwide. While science and technology is generally credited with shifting human potential into hyper mode, automotive technology puts all this accumulated know-how on the road and into the hands of everyday men and women.

A driver of older cars myself, I cruised the internet for views about must-have automotive technology for 2018.

1. Connected Mobile Apps - to remotely lock and unlock the doors, check fuel level and tire pressure, and start the car on cold mornings.

2. Teen Driver Technology - notify parents if the car is driven over a certain speed, disable the stereo if seatbelts aren't used, and even keep the stereo from being turned up past 7

3. Adaptive Cruise Control - automatically match the speed of the car in front of you, allow  car to be brought to a complete halt and then resume automatically in stop-and-go traffic

4. LED/Xenon Headlights - LED bulbs that never need replacing, swivel to illuminate around corners and auto-high beams that prevent blinding other drivers while maximizing driver’s view

5. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - Plug in your smart phone and it replaces the often user-unfriendly do-it-all screens of the automaker with an interface more like the more familiar look your phone offers.

6. USB Ports - every new car comes with one or two, but the Chrysler Pacifica has nine. Some vehicles are even coming with the same 110-volt power outlets that you'll find in your home.

7. Rear Cross-Traffic Alert - sensors alert to approaching vehicles, shopping carts, or pedestrians in low-speed places like parking lots where many accidents occur. Some cars can even automatically brake before a collision occurs.

8. Lane Departure Warning - cameras that determine if a car has drifted across a marked lane line. Some systems even help nudge you back into the proper lane, a life-saver if you were heading into opposing traffic.

9. Automatic Emergency Braking - sensors to determine if a forward collision crash is imminent and automatically applies the brakes to diminish the severity or avoid a crash entirely.

10. 360-degree Camera - that can show a virtual top-down view of your surroundings and avoid the mishaps that insurance claims indicate are the most likely to occur.

Against this technological dazzle, a recent adventure in our family revealed that even the latest and greatest innovations have their limitations. My wife drives our “newest” car, a 2006 SUV declared “pretty basic” by our son whose lease car is one of today’s “electronic-everything” varieties.  However, I just helped him haul his all-of-a-sudden, non-running car to a repair shop due to a mysterious electrical issue triggered by the recent sub-zero cold snap.  The car starts but cannot be put into gear. (Fortunately, the truck we borrowed to pull the car hauler trailer featured an older, “mechanical” shifter that performed reliably!)

Wrote the prophet Isaiah,

“All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
   surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades,
   but the word of our God will stand forever." (Isaiah 40: 6-8, ESV)

While we love to boast about our gadgetry and credit technology with taking humanity to new heights, all we are and ever will be pales before the majesty of God, like grass that withers and flowers that fade.  

A good perspective to fall back on when our stuff lets us down, as it surely will.



Top auto technologies in 2018

Wise Men Too?

17-17 Wise men mug (1).JPG

New Year’s Day starts the wave of packing up Christmas and hunkering down for the balance of winter here in the north.  For those who observe the tradition, only the Epiphany remains, marking the arrival of wise men from somewhere east to honor the Christ child.

Our legend of them is larger than what we really know.  That learned people like them are part of the Christmas story certainly adds another layer of intrigue to this already incredible story.

A virgin, a census trip, no suitable birthing place, a manger/animal stall, a star, angels, shepherds and now these scholarly men from afar.  

While the they adorn most of our manger scenes, the new family was in a house when the wise men or “Magi” arrived (see Matthew 2:1-23). The actual story doesn’t say how many they were, only that they presented three gifts to the child - gold, frankincense and myrrh. Wise “men” suggests no less than two of them.  

I find their inclusion in the story fascinating because the supposedly learned people of our day stake all knowledge on soley, evidence-based reality that is generally devoid of cosmic and divine inputs.  Conversely, more than the star guided the Magi to Jerusalem.  They new about one to be “born king of the Jews.”

How would they know?  If they hailed from Babylon, the writings of the Babylonian exile, Daniel would equip them as would other ancient Jewish texts like this fourth oracle of Balaam:

“A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17b, NIV).

While they might not be astronomers per se, Pastor/teacher Alistair Begg regarded them as “theological scientists” in his recent radio message entitled “The Wise Men.”  Through the ancient and medieval periods of history spanning some 62,000 years, the divine and material realms were unquestionably complimentary.  Sterilizing the material realm by dismissing all divine elements has taken hold in just the last 500 or so years.  

I’ve recently begun some reading to improve my understanding of the historical basis for my Christian beliefs.  While on one hand, all that is known literally stands on the accumulated knowledge of the past, most modern people are historically naive and have no interest in becoming less so.

I confess to and I am bothered by that bias.   Nevertheless, that notably wise people, like these wise men, Magi, are unabashedly drawn to the Lord fascinates me.  

While I don’t think myself particularly wise or astute, my faith is bolstered by fellow, believing men and women whose grasp of literature, science, history, and the cosmos unquestionably reflects serious intellectualism.  I am an appreciative audience when they articulate their faith.

Think about it.  These learned men, probably guided by considerable study, inspiration and conviction, undertook a perilous journey to find to worship a newborn they resolved to be from God.

I am so glad God included them in his story.


1. Banner Photo by Inbal Malca on Unsplash
2. The Wise Men by Alistair Begg
3. Also see "The Wise Men Visit the Christ Child" at HeReadsTruth

Basking in the wonder

 Christmas morning 2017

Christmas morning 2017

While the snow that started around noon made for dicey driving to and from our family’s annual Christmas eve celebration, it also ensured a snowy Christmas day. Growing up here in the north, snow on Christmas added to the wonder of the holiday, unchanged for me even though I’m also now north of 60.

“Snow-geeked” Christmas morning, I clicked on the holiday lights then bundled up to clear snow from around the woodpile.  A while later, I settled into the early morning lull with a fire roaring and fresh coffee in hand.  Soon enough, everyone would awake to launch into Christmas day.

During my childhood, a Christmas eve snowfall might lure me away from ravioli dinner to press my nose to a window pane to scan the night skies for signs of a reindeer-drawn sleigh. While I would feign difficulty falling to sleep, I was long gone when “Santa” crept into my room to leave a stocking stuffed with surprises to hold me until mom and dad’s signal next morning to traipse down the stairs to check out presents gushing out for under our Christmas tree. But first, we always looked for telltale crumbs from the cookies and milk left for Santa the night before.

As I recall those memories, I’m grateful how mom and dad managed to build ceremonial moments into Christmas morning to gather around the manger scene to mark the baby Jesus’ birth. We carried that forward when raising our family.

Gradually I grew then eventually I knew the difference between the fantasy and the reality. Turns out the reality’s wonder bested the fantasy and we raised our own children in that wonder while respecting traditions fellow parents chose. Our children are now grown and gone but, thankfully, come home for Christmas.

We’ve really been “into” Christmas this year, launching into it all Thanksgiving weekend.  We added to our outdoor display and got caught with my ornament project, gifts, greeting cards, church and various “convenings’ of the season.

We’re wearing out favorite Christmas CDs. One song in particular is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “I heard the bells on Christmas day,” written in 1864. Remakes on Christmas CDs  by Casting Crowns and Steven Curtis Chapman are particularly good but my favorite is MercyMe’s version. [click and listen while reading on...]

Recall how it goes?  The Christmas day bells herald a familiar refrain, “peace on Earth, good will to men.” The listener is initially bolstered by hearing the bells but later despairs as the reality and persistence of strife and hate on earth mocks the claim.  

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

We Christians live in this tension that sometimes overwhelms and teases our faith.  But as we  meditate and persist with sound doctrine and counsel and prayer and obedience, God’s presence and power rises, rallying the refrain to a building crescendo.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor does He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on Earth, good will to men

MercyMe’s ending stirs me,

I can hear You! I can hear You! I can hear You! .....
Oh yeah, yeah
I could still hear You!
The world can hear You!
— MercyMe from Christmas Sessions, 2005


Sometimes I think we’ve applied too much fake fairy dust to Christmas that needs no such treatment from the likes of us.  Its wonder stands on its own. Nevertheless, at this moment, I want to stay in the stillness of Bethlehem for just a while longer before venturing back into the harsh realities of day to day life and ultimately, to the cross.

Beyond Bethlehem, Jesus’ real work beckons, where the world takes issue with what we believe and know to be true, that Jesus is indeed who he says he is.  Nevertheless, I’m staying put today, basking in this moment of wonder and stillness.

Tomorrow will come soon enough.


Banner photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash



Divinely Human - 2017 Ornament

My 2017 (18th annual) ornament was inspired by some conversations this year about legacy. With next generations in mind, we wondered out loud what we would include and exclude if we could control our family legacy.  And what about when something “messy” pushes its way into our story?

 Consider Jesus’ genealogy in Luke 3: 23-38. Through layers of human messiness, God navigates his redemption plan culminating in the birth of a promised Savior who is “Divinely Human.” I pray this nuance of his amazing story blesses you.

 Glenn Trevisan (Christmas 2017)

 Divinely Human - 2017 Ornament

Divinely Human - 2017 Ornament

The cover of our church bulletin reads: “Real God, Messy People, Changed Lives. The Gospel Changes Everything.”  The explanation begins, “The gospel is the story of God’s work as He restores a broken world full of broken people through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Broken people are God’s specialty. Any faltering that we fear would mar our legacies is lovingly handled by a God who separates each of us from our sin. Not only is our broken state where he begins his redemptive work in us, often he transforms our lowest points into inspiring testimonies!

Perhaps to prove the point, the human ancestry of God’s son includes several instances of indiscretions that would no doubt be voted off the family tree if that option were available. Instead, these ancestors are openly included along with everyone else in genealogies featured in not one but two gospels, Matthew and Luke.

Matthew’s genealogy starts with Abraham to establish Jesus’ Jewish lineage while Luke goes all the way back to Adam to establish a relationship with the entire human race. “Divinely Human” illustrates the Luke genealogy:

  • A Christmas "family tree"
  • with God as its trunk
  • and beads depicting some ancestors of Jesus, the treetop star.
 Top to bottom "bead "key" for Divinely Human ornament based on  Luke 3: 23-38

Top to bottom "bead "key" for Divinely Human ornament based on Luke 3: 23-38

“Divinely Human” highlights the ancestry of Jesus Christ whose birth Christmas marks and celebrates. Divinely sourced and sovereignly orchestrated through a human lineage marked by both faithfulness and foibles, the baby Jesus arrived “in the fullness of time” to Bethlehem, as foretold. (see Galatians 4:4 & Micah 5:2)

Genesis 49:10 establishes that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah, fourth son of Jacob and Leah, a marriage arranged through a deception on the part of her father, Laban. Jacob’s preference for and subsequent marriage to younger sister, Rachel was cause for jealousy between the two sisters whose vying for Jacob’s favor literally “produced” the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel!

Years later, Judah would be party to another deception, fathering descendent Perez when lured into sex by  daughter-in-law Tamar posing as a temple prostitute.  Further down the line, former prostitute  Rahab married Salmon, one of the Israeli spies she sheltered in Jericho.  Their son Boaz was the kinsman redeemer of Ruth who he met gleaning grain in one of his fields.  They married and had Obed who brought much joy to grandmother Naomi. 

Ancestor Solomon (of Proverbs ”wisdom”) was second child of David and Bathsheba,  whose first husband’s death was arranged by David. Finally came Jesus whose mother Mary’s conception story was probably a closely-guarded secret known by only a select few before the gospel accounts were written and circulated.

“Divinely Human” illustrates God’s divine sovereignty that assures everything “works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) undeterred by the human ancestry of our Messiah that features more messiness that most legacies can handle.

The “Good News” we celebrate at Christmas is this: In Christ, our redemption that is 100% dependent on God and 0% dependent on us. God’s legacy is us redeemed!


COMMENTS: Are WELCOME and ENCOURAGED here about how the ornament and/or message struck you ESPECIALLY from ornament recipients. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO RECEIVE a 2017 “Divinely Human” ornament, simply request one at My "extras" supply is very limited but if I can get one to you, I will.  If shipping is required, I will ask you to cover those costs.


  1. Genealogy resource: “The Biblical Genealogy,” an awesome 11x17 chart detailing lineage from Adam to Jesus that is available at
  2. Materials:
    1. Tree: This project was a definite go thanks to finding the “Pine Tree Rustic Tin Shape,” at AllTheMemories – Etsy ( )
    2. Treetop star: 2nd key element was the treetop "Jesus" star found at GingerlilyFrance - Etsy ( )
    3. Beads & Wire
      1. 6 beads were purchased from a Michael's Crafts store
      2. 3 beads were found at ScaraBeads – Etsy (
  3. Scripture References: (see hyperlinks in text above)
    1. Anchor scripture is Luke 3: 23-38
    2. Also Galatians 4:4 and Micah 5:2
    3. 9 “birth verses” are listed on the ornament card
    4. A resource but not referenced is Matthew’s genealogy: Matthew 1: 1-17
  4. Advisors, editors, helpers: Grace Chapel Pastor Doug Walker and my wife, Cindy for editing assistance.  Thanks to Karol Gee for help with printing the ornament card.

The Making of "Divinely Human"

I enjoy watching the featurettes about "how this movie was made" sometimes offered on DVDs.  Fascinating how it all comes together, the approaches the director and actors took, etc.  In that vein, I offer this pictorial featurette on the making of the "Divinely Human" ornament. For those of you who like that kind of thing.....


17-1204 Journal 40.jpg

I just launched journal number 40 with a thematic cover that is similar to journal 39.  Usually, journal covers are different, each reflecting a theme in my life at the time.  This time however, I felt I needed to correct for #40 "incorrect" phrasing on the cover of journal 39.

Notice the "Doug Walkerism" statements near the bottom of each cover.


P.S. A "Doug Walkerism" is my own coined phrase in honor of Doug Walker, the pastor of Grace Chapel, our church since mid-1997.  He usually follows this and many of his "isms" phrases with something like, “The Gospel changes everything.” This phrasing derives from a greater, gospel philosophy Doug brought to Grace Chapel when he became our pastor in 2004.  

 Journal 28 cover by daughter, Laura - a 2006 Father's Day gift

Journal 28 cover by daughter, Laura - a 2006 Father's Day gift

I've been keeping some kind of notebook or journal since 1972, my junior year in high school.  Thematic covers like these started with journal #28 in 2007 when our daughter Laura gifted me a journal with a decorated cover for Father's Day 2006.  I liked it so much, I decorated all my subsequent journal covers.

After I locked the “Grace” version onto the cover of #39 in March (2017),  Doug used the term in one of his messages.  Only he used “Gospel” not “Grace.”

“Darn," I thought.  "I got it wrong.  How could I after hearing him say this all these years?”

Resolving to get it “right” with the next journal, I created the cover for #40 a month or so prior to completing journal #39. After replacing “Grace” with “Gospel,” I locked the cover in with a contact paper layer.  

Didn’t have to wait long for Doug to use the phrase again.  Except this time, he used “Grace” instead of “Gospel.”

Turns out they are interchangeable! Dah.  Apparently, I'm not one of Doug's star pupils. Perhaps I should invite him to grade me on this next sentence. The Gospel is the source of Grace and Grace flows from the Gospel. Gospel and Grace go hand in hand - interchangeable as long as grace always contexts the gospel.

A two-sentence statement on our Grace Chapel monthly bulletin summarizes the philosophy, beginning with, “The gospel is the story of God’s work as He restores a broken world full of broken people through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

The gospel restores brokenness through Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the work of Jesus and Grace is the redemption we receive through faith in Christ.

So you see, Gospel and Grace build off each other.

So did I “waste” this #40 journal cover to correct what didn’t need correcting?  What do you think?

 Subsequent journals also "covered"

Subsequent journals also "covered"


Other favorite Doug Walkerisms:

  1. Upside down gospel
  2. Bad Heart; Bad Record; Broken World
  3. That every book (of the Bible) contains an entire gospel
  4. Real God, Messy People. Changed Lives
  5. Others?

In My Father's House

 Treadmill reading light mount

Treadmill reading light mount

(Banner photo: Manger creche building created by dad along with mom's ceramic figurines.)

I do much of my reading on our treadmill.  In support of my treadmill reading, I made a gizmo, a small shelf that is mounted on the cast-iron drain pipe next to the treadmill. I attached a reading light, drilled a pencil hole and have little room left over for a highlighter and ruler.

I come by gizmo-making from my dad.  He was gizmo-making guy able retrofit any space for maximal purposefulness. It seems I am my father’s son.

My wife would agree a little too wholeheartedly.  She would probably lead with how I am dogmatic like him, claiming certain “principles” as true and certain and ranting about ideals.  Along with his bent toward creating practical household gizmos, like him I build and fix stuff, am systematic - a place for everything, and have a strong work ethic.

Dad went home to the Lord in December 2014.  Thinking about him on the date he passed, I recalled a remark Jesus made about his Dad.

 Me and dad, 2003.

Me and dad, 2003.

My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2)

As he looked ahead to his death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus offered this assurance to his disciples and all, like us, who receive him as Lord.  I’m going ahead to prepare your room, he promised, then I’ll come back for you and take you there as well.

 Dad's toast grabber - a Christmas gift to each of his 10 children.  (Year?)

Dad's toast grabber - a Christmas gift to each of his 10 children.  (Year?)

As the oldest of my father’s ten children, I have lived in many, “many-roomed’ houses. Skilled with tools, design, building, painting and fixing, dad’s loving touch literally graced the rooms of all those houses.

Dad also crafted many beautiful objects that still grace our lives - a keepsake box and an initialed chest, a tool for plucking hot toast from a toaster, and a creche for our manger set.  My basement workroom is modeled after his - the workbench, pegboards, even a radial arm like his.  

Dad is home with the Lord and I look forward to seeing him again when the Lord calls me home.  Perhaps we will reunite in one of those many rooms Jesus mentioned.

Wonder what kinds of cool gizmos dad will be working on when we do?

All Is Bright

 Our 2017 Christmas lights

Our 2017 Christmas lights

Took advantage of the mild temperatures to get our outdoor Christmas lights up on Thanksgiving weekend.  

Our outdoor decorations show well both day and night.  Garlands, bows and ornaments for daytime while lights take over after dark.  Nearby neighbors also put lights out so our end of the street is nicely "Christmasy" during the holiday season.

When I was growing up, my dad decorated our house with holiday lights so I often think of him when I put our lights up. Something about Christmas lights….No matter how cold the weather, I stroll our block several times during the season to enjoy Christmas lights.

My wife and I usually plan at least one Christmas lights driving tour every season. A neighborhood across town is a favorite for its many large homes that are stunningly decorated. However, ours is my favorite house because our outside Christmas lights reflect the faith we live inside our house year-round. As we walk life out with the Lord, we grow more and more grateful for the gift of salvation in Jesus.

Just inside our front door is a little ceramic plaque bearing the last sentence of Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  

Our outdoor Christmas lights proclaim the same message.

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8, ESV)

Deregulation Notice

 Photo by  Stefan Cosma  on  Unsplash

Seems overly “governmenty” to declare deregulation for Road Report Journal (RRJ) but I thought some kind of notice was in order.  Been thinking about this awhile - to pull away from weekly RRJ posts arriving on Tuesday morning and ease into a more spontaneous schedule.

Less regularity may look like less or more than weekly with posts; And days other than Tuesday too.

With sympathies to my pastor friends, I do not have their Sunday sermon grind to hold to.  No one is showing up to read RRJ posts Tuesday morning.  I imposed that schedule on myself as a sort of test for putting content “out” with enough regularity to warrant having a blog at all.

According to marketing gurus, a couple important keys to building brand and audience are frequency and repetitiveness.  Note commercials on TV, radio and annoyingly scrolling across or blocking your reading view when you’re on the net. Blogwise, daily posting is considered optimal so my weekly posts are falling way short of the minimum.  

Much as I still enjoy writing in general and Road Report Journal in particular, I hoped it would be develop into more a dialogue than a monologue.  In my mind’s eye, reader comments and my replies would be the backbone of us fellow believers walking out faith together in a pseudo public context that other readers along the way could benefit and grow from.  

Alas, subscribers are few, readers fewer and, besides one particular friend, commenters virtually non-existent.  Often, remarks to posts striking closest to home do not appear in comments but circle back to me offline because someone suspects I’m writing about them in particular and wants me to answer directly to them.

I’m heading that kind of stuff off with some new policies.  See the “About” page for more on that.

To you who both subscribe and read, thanks for supporting RRJ with your attention. I’m particularly grateful for your comments because others can also benefit from your insights.

Looking forward, Road Report Journal posts will arrive “as the Spirit moves me” to coin an over-worn idea.  Although I’m not holding myself to a weekly schedule, perhaps posts over a given period will average to once weekly or more.  Arrival days will vary but only on a weekdays.

Gonna cue more on the rhythms of life and resurrect some focuses shoved aside due to time constraints the writing process has eaten up.  A few house projects are pending and my guitar is gathering dust.

Perhaps (hopefully?), Road Report Journal will emerge better.  

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. (1 Thessalonians 5:1, ESV)

Paul wrote this regarding the Lord’s next arrival.  He followed by insisting that we who follow the Lord and cue on him know him, are known by him and will (or should) be awake and sober of mind when he arrives.

Take it from Paul.  You don’t really need me to write the Lord into your life but I delight to reflect to you about how we matter to him in the context of my own journey along the roads of life.  Also, writing helps me to internalize the life lesson I'm writing about.  I'm pretty sure I get more out of this than you.

Most of all, I pray that all forms of my expression are ultimately blessing and grace to you. 

Because you matter to God!
— Road Report Journal

Thankful ... For EVERYTHING?

 Photo by  Zac Durant  on  Unsplash

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

How will you celebrate Thanksgiving this year? We will go to a sister’s home and I imagine a special prayer will be offered, perhaps participatory.  What to say if invited to reflect what I’m thankful for?

My inclination is to think about what I feel best about in my life right now, according to me.  The Bible, on the other hand, offers a somewhat BROADER perspective on thankfulness.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.    (1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV)

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20)

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:5)

“All - Always - Everything-Continually” doesn’t leave much room for what seems good to me at any given moment.

At work, one of my regular jobs is making different sizes of rubber pads for installing racks in commercial vehicles. Although learning this job was somewhat involved, I’ve got it down now and let’s just say that when I get on a parts-making roll, I struggle to keep my brain engaged.  

I did production work in my younger years so when this job came along, I resolved to mentally prepare myself for the mind-numbing aspects of factory work. Turns out, plenty of positives with this company as well - friendly and supportive management and coworkers, steady and predictable hours, optional overtime, a comfortable and casual workplace. Still, the production doldrums sometimes gets to me.

 At my lowest moments, my resolve to be thankful languishes into pleading with the Lord, something like, “Lord, does all-always-continually cover repetitive, mind-numbing factory work that didn’t even exist when you created the world?”

For drama, I sometimes expand the criteria.  “Lord, what about when someone is wronged or mistreated or victimized by violence… instances of suffering or injustice...suffering losses due to natural disasters?

Something Jesus said that I quote often and think about even more - that believers are to “take heart” when we experience trouble because he has overcome all such trouble. (John 16:33).  What does he mean by “take heart?”  Other translations use “take courage.”

Seems like the Lord is conveying something along the line of, “I know life in the world is tough and troublesome but hang in there because I’ve got you. Trust me.”

I just re-read Joseph’s story in Genesis. At some point, he realized that nothing got to him that the Lord didn’t allow. What others meant to harm him, God used for good.  (See Genesis 50:20). Grasping that, he was freed to receive and forgive the brothers who wronged him.  

The Lord said something along that line to me the other day. “Glenn, I’ve got you, no matter what.  Be thankful for everything.”

Other Bible stories besides Joseph bear this out, such as Job, Moses, David, Esther, Ruth, and Rahab to name a few.

In the third chapter of  Ephesians  Paul prays that we believers would “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, ..." (Ephesians 3: 19b-20)

Assured that the Lord has me in hand and is able to do more than I can ask or imagine, I am free to be “Thankful for everything!”

I’m going to give that a go.

Not Abiding

I had some bad moments last week of not abiding way too well.

Abide is most often a Biblical word from the Greek word menó, to stay, abide, remain.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4, ESV)

I like the Merriam-Webster’s definition.

Abide (transitive verb)
1 a :to bear patiently :tolerate
b :to endure without yielding :withstand
2 :to wait for :await
3 :to accept without objection

Teachings of abide in John 15:4 usually regards clinging to, remaining attached to the vine that is Jesus/God.  Whatever happens, abide.

In that sense, I guess I do abide, technically. I say technically because I never actually let go. However, I waver and my mind wanders into thoughts unfit to abide with the Lord that spawn from doubt that arises in unfavorable situations.  

Any disciple worth his salt should know better than to let feelings rule the moment but this disciple doubts.  Sometimes I doubt so deeply that it seems I have barely a shred of hope in me.

If let myself slip down that doubt slope, not abiding may manifest as anxiety or bitterness or resentment or judgment or envy or self-pity.  I may even start spewing a lot of stupid questions God’s way, like "Why? What’s going on? How could this be happening?" I completely forget that I don’t need answers to any of those questions, all I need is God himself.

Abide.  Cling.  Remain. Hold on… "Take a deep breath," I tell myself.

Summarizing the consummation of Job’s ordeal, Sam Williamson notes, “When Job gives conversational control back to God, God simply reveals himself...When Job sees God, he drops all his pretensions of control...In seeing God, Job is completely satisfied. He never needed the answer he thought he needed; he needed God alone.”  

Here’s a great list of what abiding looks like: “, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5: 22-23). Precede each with “genuine” vs. the disingenuous but very popular, “Fake it ‘till you make it.”

Here again, turning to God’s Word is lifesaving.  Meditating on a few verses gets me back on the abiding track:

Care to offer a few of your own favorites? 



1. Photo by Mitchel Lensink on Unsplash
2. Sam Williamson quote from his book, “Hearing God in Conversation,” page 102




First Answer

 Boys D1 "stampede" at 400 meter mark. Nick is among the leaders on the right side.

Boys D1 "stampede" at 400 meter mark. Nick is among the leaders on the right side.

Last weekend, I went to the Michigan High School Athletic Association Lower Peninsula Cross Country State Championships to watch our nephew Nick run.  Runners qualify for the state meet by placing in the top 15 of their respective Regional Championship meets.

Eight races were held, four divisions of boys and girls.  The predicted inclement weather held off until the last two races of the day.  The worst weather arrived prior to the very last race that Nick ran, the boy’s Division 1 race that finally got underway 80 minutes past schedule after delays due to nearby lightning strikes.

I didn't Nick's expectations but I supposed they might include a personal best and earning top-30 all-state honors.  My prayer was for him to be content with his performance and, while you're at it Lord, all-state would also be nice.

I felt a little funny asking God to allow Nick top-30 placement among the 250 runners competing in his division. Nevertheless, Nick worked hard to become one of that state’s fastest runners this year so all-state was certainly within his reach. Even so, except for the 30 all-staters in each division, most runners that day would cherish simply having qualified and running in this prestigious event.

More than anything, I prayed for trust.  “Lord, that I accept whatever you grant for Nick, whether he is satisfied or dissatisfied with his performance, earns all-state honors or falls short.”

Selecting a first viewing position just past the 400-meter mark, I was grateful that my windbreaker/rain jacket kept me dry during on-again, off-again bouts of rain and thunder that set the start time back three times.  When the race finally got underway, I spotted Nick in the lead pack before I hustled back across the vast complex to stand near the final turn.  When the lead runners finally came into sight, Nick was still well-positioned and I shouted encouragement to him as he passed by on his way to the finish line.

As I casually strolled back toward the finishing area, excited spectators steamed past me to learn results and greet their favorite competitors.  Not sure then how Nick finished but trusting God for whatever was when I received God's first answer to my prayers for Nick - peace.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4: 5b-7, NLT)

The praying person IS God's first answer for every person or situation prayed about and for. When we pray for another, we abide with God, drawing ourselves and the person we pray for closer to God. 

The race results?  God worked that out as well, allowing Nick to earn all-state honors with a 17th place finish at 15:43.2.

Fall Ride

 Fall riding along Huron River Drive in 2012

Fall riding along Huron River Drive in 2012

No matter how busy we are or how many deadlines loom or broken items needing fixing,  my wife and I always find time to take a fall ride each autumn.

We follow a pretty basic plan. We pick a Saturday or Sunday preferably when autumn color is at or near its peak and head out with a couple guest riders, often my wife’s sister and mom. We drive a hundred or so miles along tree-lined roads.  Every now and then, we pull over to gawk and snap a few pictures.

Fortunately we live in heavily wooded Michigan that is blanketed top to bottom with deciduous hardwoods that change color before dropping their leaves.  Contrasting hardward stands are prolific evergreens providing marvelous contrast while softening every landscape with their lush fullness.

 Fall at home, 2010

Fall at home, 2010

As I write, trees right outside our home are bursting with autumn foliage.  Although outside temps are cool, I have a window cracked open to the let the crisp air in and to hear the breezes that are beginning to send leaves to cover the ground below.

Although I will never tire of this season, as much as I can wax eloquent about autumn’s magnificence, to think is but a dim reflection of our loving God whose creation autumn is part of sends shivers through me.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known,” wrote Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:12, NASB)

Likewise wrote the psalmist:

“One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him (meditate) in his temple.

(Psalm 27:4, NIV)

As I can never imagine tiring of autumn, what could gazing on the beauty of the Lord be like?  I am but a mortal, “living in darkness… in the land of the shadow of death.“ So wrote the prophet Isaiah regarding the people the Messiah would come to save, me and you - us. (See Isaiah 9:1-2 and Matthew 4:12-16).

The land of the shadow…. “Farewell to Shadowlands” is the title C.S. Lewis gave the final chapter of “The Last Battle,” the seventh and final book of his Chronicles of Narnia. Telling of the known end of Narnia, the characters are drawn by the “Glorious One” to dwell with him in eternity.

As they journey “further up and further in,” timelessly traversing centuries in seconds, one of those who arrived earlier and serves now to escort the newcomers tries to explain, “It is far bigger inside than it was outside….The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.”

"Larger on the inside than the outside..."  A description of God’s kingdom or church that seems so insignificant in the day-to-day life of most Americans?

More and more, we Americans live in a world of our own making that seems so real and relevant. So enlightened, scientific and technological are we that an illusion of being impenetrably unshakable is not so far-fetched.

Then something happens that so unceremoniously flicks us from our fortress that we are shaken to the core - a wind or flood or fire or cancer, a power outage, break-in, downsizing,  health crisis or death….

Meanwhile all along on our carefully crafted way, creation quietly beckons beside roadways and bursting through the crevices of our pavement. Ever and always behind creation is creation’s Creator.

Autumn is one of nature’s calmer and friendlier expressions.  Take heed as autumn awaits to puts on its show just for us to enjoy...perhaps also to be drawn into its mystery.

Away Church

 An "Away Church"

An "Away Church"

We were out of town visiting last weekend and while there my wife and I talked and prayed about whether to attend a local church service on Sunday if our hosts preferred not to go. Although both grew up in church, met at a Christian college and married, they aren’t regular church-goers now.

We talk with them about this now and then and have even “tried” some services with them in their area but they always have reasons for not going back.  

They live a few hours away from us and we visit back and forth regularly.  When they are visiting us, they attend our church. When we visit them, we used to bring up faith and church attendance more often a few years ago but less so now.

This is a sensitive subject with them so we backed off with our "going to church" discussions.  Meanwhile, we regularly pray that they will receive the Lord back into their lives in a way that is discernible to us.

I admit the “discernible” part is somewhat selfish - not that they have to prove to us that they follow the Lord but because they are dear to us.  We care about their faith well-being.

For me, church-going is one solid sign that a person is dedicated to following Jesus Christ.  Let me be clear that church-going will NOT endear a person to the Lord but neglecting church attendance makes faithfully following Him more difficult.

Let's face it, all the rest of our lives competes with the Lord's claim on us, including church-going.  Quite simply, for me, church-going is worshiping the Lord with His people. Two teachings of Jesus anchor this for me:

“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, NIV)

That Jesus said this is significant, how he wants his followers to be known - their love for one another.  Pretty difficult to love people you don’t regularly spend time with. Even once weekly church going won't really get you there but it's a start.

Church isn’t so much a place as a people. Going to church and not connecting with the people there isn’t really church in my book.  That’s why we sometimes neglect to find an “Away Church” when we're away from home on Sundays.

I feebly hold a notion is that not being in relationship with "Away Church" people renders church-going somewhat ritualistic. I say feebly because most times when we're away, we find a local church anyway and go but, due to my notion, not always.

Last weekend, the Lord challenged my “Away Church” notion by bringing this teaching to mind from Hebrews:

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV84)

Directed to believers of a particular local church, this guidance falls into the middle of a teaching that my NIV84 Bible subtitled, “A Call to Persevere.”

“Let us consider…” is a suggestion vs. do this or else.  Look also at “not give up,” as in don't stop doing something you were doing.  Soon enough, not going becomes a new norm.

Reasons to stop going to church are many.  Outside of church, you won’t find many, if any, reasons to continue going to church.  Giving up going to church is easy but if we give up going, we will not and in fact cannot encourage each other toward the kinds of love and good deeds that mark or should mark following Christ.  

What was God's challenge regarding my “Away Church” notion?  Simply to "go to church” and let our hosts know our plan.

We looked up a nearby church we had attended once with them and picked a service time.  The second sentence on the church’s home page spoke to me: “We are dedicated to taking the broken values of this world and turning them upside down.”

Upside down church is a term we also use at our home church, Grace Chapel.  So while “Away Church” may not be the same as “Home Church,” it still fits my basic definition for church-going - worshiping the Lord with His people.

Turns out, our hosts decided to attend church with us and the teaching was based on John 15:5-9 that believers are like grapevine branches.  In order to bear fruit, we have to stay connected to the vine, God.  

Don’t know if they got the message but we sure did.

Church Home

 Sunday service at Grace Chapel

Sunday service at Grace Chapel

I guess I’m a homebody to a fault.  Home is where you find me except for an annual vacation away for a week or two and occasional weekend visits with friends and family within a several hour drive of where we live.

This may seem boring to those who hop on planes almost as much as they drive cars or who at the very least fly or drive somewhere multiple times annually if not monthly.  We know plenty of people like that - adept at travel arrangements and throwing enough into a carry-on to look passable in virtually every situation and able to settle into and be at home in themselves wherever they are.  

Conversely, the life path that found me didn’t include or require travel and, beyond pleasure trips,  I’ve never dreamed about going to or working in faraway places.  So home is where I am and I’m generally content with that, maybe too content at times.

I am writing this on the second of three successive weekends visiting friends and family.  While I enjoy activities and company of these little trips, missing church for nearly a month of Sunday’s has oddly unnerved me.

Sunday church centers me. I’m talking about the totality of church - arriving, greeting, mingling in the hallway before filing in for the worship service that involves singing, a message, monthly communion, often followed by a post-service meeting to process the message.

This isn't about going to any church service but the service at the church where we belong, where many of those who also attend are close friends over the 15 or so years we’ve all belonged.  Not so much friendship in the classic sense but fellowship characterized by our commonality in Christ along with at least a sense to having been called or drawn or committed to this particular community of faith.

I miss “our” church when we are elsewhere on Sundays, even when we attend a service where we are visiting. For me, our church home is home base for my faith in a way that is hard to understand and harder to explain.

See, God has formed our particular assembly of people in this particular venue.  I would offer that we are a unique expression of Christ’s body unlike any other such gathering.  We have a particular role suited for how the Lord has blended and shaped us with all the limitless particulars at his disposal.

Undeniably, God has such an affinity for bodies that he has deemed them sanctuaries of his own spiritual  essence in each of us.  Didn't our Messiah show up in a human body associated with particular places in a particular region on Earth?

Something too about places with God.  His story take places in all kinds of places like Eden, Canaan, Egypt, the holy land, a vineyard, a shepherd’s field, a wheat field, Bethlehem, a manger, the temple, the upper room, Jerusalem, Gethsemane, and Golgotha.

And what about how the church unfolds in epistle letters written to particular gatherings of people known for the cities where they met like Corinth, Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica, Sardis and Laodicea?

My attachment to and sense of missing these particular people and place, Grace Chapel, that I consider my/our church home has some basis beyond just me.

“...let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT)

Given the mentality of this time in history, we Christ-followers are like aliens when we are not with each other centering on our relationship with the Lord and each other.  Recall Jesus declaring (boasting?) that we, his followers, will be known by our love for one another.  (John 13:35).  For that to be witnessed, we have to be seen together.

While I often bring myself before the Lord when I am detached from church home by reading and reflecting on God’s biblical word, praying, sharing about the Lord with my wife and other believers along the way, something about the gathering and the place and the longevity of belonging that is, as I earlier noted, mysterious to understand and harder to explain.

They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God.
— Psalm 93:13, ESV