Another Dad is Gone. Giving thanks in sorrow.

Jim wout glassesMy Dad died in June. Jack’s Dad died last Tuesday. Monday evening we receive a call: He’s been feeling bad for three days and finally consented to go to the hospital. Monday night we receive another call: He’s in ICU. At 4:30 am we receive another call: He’s gone. Just like that. Irrevocably. Permanently.

We will fly to Dallas for the funeral. We will walk in the door, but there will be no hearty hello hug. No booming voice asking, “What’s up?” No great presence filling the room, enthroned in his recliner with a book in his hands and one eye on the TV. No one will want to sit in that empty chair.

Jack’s Dad was a fair minded, honest, no nonsense type of man. We will always remember him for his many words of wisdom, such as, “You are the only one who can ruin your day.” You can read his obituary and see the visitation slide show here.

As Jack and I processed the news on that still-dark Tuesday morning we were overwhelmed with gratitude. God had given us a priceless gift: time together. We had spent the previous Tuesday with his folks. And the Wednesday before that.

ISIS: Is there a path to victory? Safety?

Paris attacks2When bloody horror erupts on our TVs and phones we mourn with those who mourn. We pray for the gospel to “speed ahead and be honored” and for God to comfort all those who have suffered loss because of ISIS’s rampage through Paris.

We are also hard-wired from the factory to grasp for the “Why?” In the West’s war with ISIS this much is certain: Like the Republicans and Democrats, we don’t even agree on what the issues are.

The secular West thinks ISIS is morally bankrupt because they subvert freedom. They murder and rape as an act of worship to Allah. They think the West is spiritually and morally bankrupt because we do not acknowledge Allah and we pervert sexuality.

Al Queda, the Taliban, now ISIS…We have been at war with radical Islamic terrorists for over 15 years now. Is there an end in sight? Will we ever be safe again?

How Change Happens

Guest Post from Sue Bohlin, Probe Ministries

Today’s post is by my friend Sue Bohlin, a speaker with Probe Ministries who has long worked with ministries to the LGBT community.

close up of a butterfly

On my 2010 trip to Australia, one of the topics I was asked to address at a conference featuring a redemptive view of homosexuality was “Is Change Possible?” This is a controversial question because there are some loud, insistent voices in the culture who say, “Unless you never again have a homosexual thought or feeling, you haven’t changed. And since no one admits to that, any claim of change is an illusion.”

No one would apply that strict a standard to any other issue! Former alcoholics living sober and free from the chaos of their drinking for decades still would like a cold beer on a hot day, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t changed!

Is change possible? Change is part of life! But transformation is also part of what it means to be a Christ-follower. Understanding how change happens, on the other hand, is another matter. So I have been thinking about the process for a long time as I prepared for my message.

Princeton Professor Robby George champions Life, Liberty and Law

Coming to Columbia this Monday, Nov 16th

Hobby Lobby Robby GeorgeThe New York Times calls Princeton Professor Robby George “the country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.” He is a champion of the sanctity of life, the institutions of marriage and family, and the freedoms of conscience and religion. He helps us articulate solid reasons for what we believe about these things, whether we rely on Scripture or not.

God is pleased to use the foolish, the weak and lowly of this world. He also uses men and women of great learning, like the apostle Paul and Dr. George. His official ivory tower title is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Founder and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.

He holds degrees in law and theology from Harvard and a doctorate in philosophy of law from Oxford. He is the prime thinker behind the Manhattan Declaration and Glen Beck hails him as “one of the biggest brains in America.” You can see his books here.

Dr. George will speak at a free forum in Columbia, SC this Mon, Nov 16 (details here). Here are 3 ways he can equip and inspire you right now:

First, he clarifies the challenges to life, liberty and law and helps us respond. Take 5 minutes to watch this video on “Why We’re Losing Liberty.”

Why it matters that Hillary lied

Watergate's Chuck Colson on the dangers of believing the greatest good is getting the "right" person elected

Hillary swearing inImagine for a moment…you’ve received word that your son/nephew/friend was killed on September 11th while defending American personnel in Benghazi, Libya. You quickly pack, get on a plane and make the long, sad journey to Andrews Air Force Base to receive his body.

All the while your mind reels with questions…How did this happen? Why did it happen? Why was my loved one in harm’s way not rescued by US Troops?

On September 14th you are sitting with the other families in view of the closed, flag-draped caskets which will not be opened. You will never see your loved one again.

One by one the President, the Vice-president, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense offer you their condolences. Empathy washes over you from hands, faces and voices that embody the power and prestige of the United States. Empathy and promises of justice.

Hillary Clinton tells Charles Woods, father of Tyrone Woods, a retired Navy Seal killed in the attack, “We are going to have the filmmaker arrested who was responsible for the death of your son.”

Makoto Fujimura inspires us to create living art out of love

On 9-11 artist Makoto Fujimura had to evacuate his home and studio located a scarce three blocks from the smoking rubble of the World Trade Center. When he was allowed to return he opened his studio doors to be a place of community, consolation and healing for local “ground zero” artists.

On Wednesday, Nov 4th you are invited to an Evening Conversation with Makoto Fujimura at the Columbia Museum of Art. Free admission. Reservation required. Presented by The Trinity Forum. Details here.

Mako CharisKairos

Charis Kairos (The Tears of Christ) from The Four Holy Gospels, courtesy of Crossway

Just weeks after severe flooding, in the midst of our rebuilding, Mako will speak in Columbia, SC. Out of his post-9-11 conversations Mako brings a timely and timeless message of hope: “In the midst of fear, in the midst of material and emotional scarcity, in the midst of the world’s collapsing idols, we can draw on the Giver / Artist, and let His creative Spirit spill over into a hurting world.”

Mako’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. From 2003-2009 he served as a Presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts.

Schooled in the ancient Japanese art of “Nihonga,” he creates his paints out of ground minerals and applies them on the canvass in layers of translucent washes. The richness of ground malachite, lapiz, vermillian as well as gold and silver, both in powder and foil, offer tribute to the richness of his subjects.

In this painting, Charis Kairos: The Tears of Christ, Mako begins with a black background representing the sorrow and brokenness of existence. Two large pillared washes of gold and sprinkles of vermillion evoke the splendor of the presence of God and the shed blood of his Son.

Across the entire width of the canvas the azurite-washed tears of Christ flow and spill down into the black and, with generative power,  the green malachite wash below. Here “love and sorrow meet,” sacrificial blood is spilled and new life grows.

Reflecting on this work, Mako writes,

Fighting for Love in Columbia, SC

It rained over twenty inches in our fair city last weekend. This weird radar-red and yellow arm reached way up out of Hurricane Joaquin , pinned Columbia down and kept pouring water on our heads. Coming on the heels of over a week of soaking rains, this final unrelenting round of Joaquin waterboarding threatened to drown us. We spluttered and coughed, but thankfully, we survived.

flood Justin

Creeks and streams filled to overflowing Saturday night. Dams on neighborhood lakes liquified and began to breach. On Sunday morning our friend Justin launched his fishing boat down a nearby street in his subdivision and began rescuing people whose homes were quickly filling with water—one family huddled together on top of their kitchen table. Where else do you go when your car is already under three feet of rising water and there is no dry land in sight?

Gun to Your Head. “Are you a Christian?” What would you say?

We can never know how we would respond to the ultimate threat. But a thoughtful heart check sheds light on what we treasure most.

Pray for RoseburgWhile our choices matter to God, he tells us our motives matter even more. God is always looking at our hearts.

Thinking of what I would say to a shooter pointing a gun at my head was not nearly as revealing for me as pondering why I would say it. As you read these wildly different responses from the candid crew over on Reddit how does it clarify your motives?

Life Is Becoming Entertainment: The 2016 Great Race Survivor Reality Show

If you locked all the Hollywood reality TV writers in a room until they came up with a script that would compare to our nightly news episodes they’d never be seen again. Each evening we tune in to discover what our crazy cast of characters has been up to today. And we are not disappointed.


Just in the last few days…over at the Values Voter Summit the billionaire with the uniquely crafted hair was waving his Bible in the air. Back in July, when asked whether he has ever asked God for forgiveness for his actions, Mr. Trump responded, “…if I do something wrong, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

But on Saturday he was all about reading the inscription in his “favorite book” and in his closing remarks held it aloft once more, reminding the evangelical voters, “This is the key.” Except maybe for the forgiveness part?

In New Hampshire a 74-year old socialist, Bernie Sanders, leads Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton 46% to 30%. One of two very smart women in the Great Race made some very curious decisions to take her government email off the grid and wipe her server. (Inquiring minds will be lining up at the October Benghazi hearings to find out why.)

Meanwhile the other very smart woman, Carly Fiorina, was bombarded with condoms at an Iowa tailgate party by supporters of Planned Parenthood. (Really, you could not make this stuff up. But wait, there’s more!)

Captive the Movie: WOW

A serial killer and his hostage grapple with God's purpose in their crashing lives

On March 11, 2005 the Atlanta police locked the city down in a massive manhunt for Brian Nichols, an escaped convict who had bludgeoned his police escort, burst into the courtroom, murdered his judge and, before the day was over, gunned down three others.

Across town a meth addict widow, Ashley Smith, makes yet another promise to her recovery group and her daughter that she will show up clean. Hours later she holds a packet of crystal meth over the toilet…then rolls up a dollar bill and inhales it.

Of all the women Nichols could have captured that that day and forced to hide him, he chose Ashley. Of all the books Ashley could have been reading, the one on her kitchen table was Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life.

“Read it to me,” Brian orders. The words change both their lives.

90 minutes in Heaven: Is it credible? My movie review

90 minutes“I died on January 18, 1989. Immediately after I died I went straight to heaven. While I was in heaven a Baptist preacher rushed to my lifeless body and prayed for me. At least 90 minutes after the EMT’s pronounced me dead, God answered that man’s prayers. I returned to earth. This is my story.”—Don Piper, 90 Minutes in Heaven, 2004

Maybe you’ve read one of the Christian leaders advising others NOT to go see the new 90 Minutes in Heaven book-based movie, released Thursday. “You dishonor God and the Bible if you need this kind of outside verification.” “Bad theology.”

I don’t think so.

My many reasons why began Friday, March 22nd 2003. I was in the “bullpen” at the Mt. Hermon Christian writer’s conference in California. At break time a handful of us news junkies were watching the US military unleash its “shock and awe” campaign on downtown Baghdad. “I can’t help but notice your limp,” I eventually said to one of the guys. “After twenty-three years of rheumatoid arthritis I limp sometimes too, so my antennae are fairly sensitive to that.”

“Yes,” he replied, “I was in a car wreck.”

Is the Gospel Mainly about Going to Heaven?

New jerusalem JPGWith this week’s release of the movie 90 Minutes in Heaven, heaven is all over social media and the news. I’ll review the movie Tuesday, but today I want to ask you a more important question: Do you think that the “main point” of the Bible and salvation is escaping hell and going to heaven?

I grew up with the Wordless Book—one page black for sin, one red for Christ’s blood, one white for being cleansed of sin, one gold for going to heaven, one green for growing. It is a strategy often used in children’s ministry to explain the salvation message. It has no doubt been helpful to bring many to Christ.

But I think in my own life that gospel message and the children’s ministry I was a part of nurtured a “Salvation is a ticket to heaven” mentality. The main thing was to get rid of my sin, escape hell and get to heaven. I think there were some adults in my life who were trying to cast a vision of being reconciled to God so I could know him, so I could love and enjoy him more. But all the heaven talk kind of drowned it out.

Being a Christian became primarily about the destination, and then learning God’s word, and then obeying– black, red, white, gold and green. And somewhere after that, the relationship and intimacy. Anyone else growing up in a Christian home or church have that experience?

When I was twenty-nine I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. As I tried to live in a world of shattered dreams, chronic pain and limited mobility I lived`more and more from duty and resignation. In his mercy, God met me right where I was, as he always does, and drew me into the intimacy and joy that I was missing. I chronicled that journey in my book Godsight: Renewing the Eyes of Our Heart.

I discovered that there was a name for what I had experienced: “Destination Theology.” I decided to re-read the book of Acts with careful attention to the way Jesus’ disciples presented the gospel. What I found there surprised me.

Jesus Calling: More Thinkers Needed in Today’s Culture

Feeler needs to thinkThe more the world changes from modern to postmodern the more thinkers (and thinking) are needed. In today’s culture it’s going to take more and more courage to stand against the feelings and experiences of other people. If we rely mainly on our own feelings and experiences to base our faith on, how will we have the courage to sacrifice? To go against the cultural flow? How can we grow as thinkers?

We find ourselves in a culture saturated with images–videos, games, selfies, Pinterest, movies, Instagram, TV, even notable quotes are embedded in pictures for heightened impact. And while images capture our attention, we don’t process them the same way we do words.

Three Reasons Why Thinkers Should Feel more

thinker to feelerAre you a thinker or a feeler? If you’re a thinker like me, is growing into more of a feeler something you might want to be more intentional about? If you’re a feeler, how might you inspire a thinker to grow into more of a feeler? Or is that something we can change?

Before we go any further, what does it means to be a thinker? According to the Myers Briggs gold standard of personality testing…you know you’re a thinker if, when it comes to decision making,…

…you make decisions with your head and want to be fair.
…you like to find the basic truth or principle to be applied, regardless of the specific situation involved.
…you like to analyze pros and cons, and then be consistent and logical in deciding, not letting personal feelings get in the way.

You know you’re a feeler if…

The World’s Almost* Best Advice on the Rest of Your Life. No kidding.

Welcome to in this, the official launch week of my Faith and Culture: Live wisely │Love well website. Here you’ll find original weekly posts from a Christian worldview on any topic that helps us  thrive in today’s culture with a confident faith. I also scatter jewels of resources you may not find in Facebook memes.

axstj-successdsc_0808-1013-6142This week’s diamond is the June 2015 Dartmouth University Commencement address from my favorite comic sociologist and New York Times op-ed writer, David Brooks.

You’ll want to invite every 20-30 something you know to listen. You’ll glean great insight into the secrets of success and course corrections for your road ahead. Here’s a Fb Timeline-worthy Ivy Leage speech for all our friends that makes the extraordinary case, with wry humor and standing on reams of research, that what we really need is…steadfast love.

Not just Taylor-Swift good feelings, but love that sends down roots of commitment.  And the moral character that can keep it. The path to exploring your freedom and keeping your options endlessly open is “a path to a frazzled, scattered life in which you try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one.”

A Prayer for Josh Duggar: God’s ruthless exposure of secrets this summer

Ashley MadisonSince I wrote last May about the disclosures of Josh’s inappropriate touching of his younger sisters (and a friend) when he was fourteen and the ensuing scandal, my thoughts turn again to him and his family today.

Now we find out that for years he’s been leading a double life, addicted to porn, getting on the Ashley Madison website that facilitates adultery and has been unfaithful to his wife.

“I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have been unfaithful to my wife,” he wrote in a public apology. “As I am learning the hard way, we have the freedom to choose to our actions, but we do not get to choose our consequences. I deeply regret all hurt I have caused so many by being such a bad example. I humbly ask for your forgiveness.”

Sorrow upon sorrow. So disheartening for the body of Christ. And another shot across our bow to turn from our failures and indifference and draw near to a God who reaches out in terrible, loving rebuke to draw us to himself.

This summer I’ve been reading the prophet Ezekiel.  I’ve been struck by how God ruthlessly exposes the sin of his people, especially their leaders, before he brings down horrific destruction.

Back to School, Back to Work: How you can find more joy in work than play


We live in a culture where work is a means to leisure time. Where on Thursday the radio DJ starts celebrating the fact that it’s “Friday-Eve.” But what if God intends us to work…and enjoy it?

Just think: God could have created you as a pleasure machine. He could have created a world, even before the fall, where Adam and Eve did not have to work to tend the garden. (Yes, work came before the fall.)

He could have given us bodies that didn’t get soft from lack of movement. With appetites barely felt. Where we could take endless pleasure in swimming all day every day. Or playing harps. Or video games. Or hanging out on social media. Or watching movies. Or simply sitting in his presence.

But God decided to make you in his image. And God is not a God who takes his greatest joy in leisure. God is a working God. He takes his greatest joy in work. Good work. Always doing something deep and new.

As summer vacation fades in our rear view mirror, and we head back to school and work, these truths will build our anticipation and increase our joy:

When Politicians Fail Us: A Bonhoeffer alternative to doublespeak and cunning…what you can do

Doublespeak Meme

“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds.

We have become cunning and learned the arts of obfuscation and equivocal speech.

Experience has rendered us suspicious of human beings, and often we have failed to speak to them a true and open word.

Unbearable conflicts have worn us down or even made us cynical. Are we still of any use?

We will not need geniuses, cynics, people who have contempt for others, or cunning tacticians, but simple, uncomplicated, and honest human beings.

Will our inner strength to resist what has been forced on us have remained strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves blunt enough, to find our way back to simplicity and honesty?” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, Germany, 1943-45)

Until you reach the last lines you might think this quote could be from political outsiders Ben Carson, or Carly Fiorina…or, if it weren’t so eloquent and respectful, even Donald Trump. Simply substitute “political class” for “human beings” in line three.

When Friends Frustrate Us: A Bonhoeffer alternative to criticizing or withdrawing

My Or Your Way Keys Showing Conflict Or Disagreement

How do you respond when people frustrate you? When their vision is smaller, their personalities grate, their pride annoys, their fears quash progress? Our culture nurtures a critical spirit. Social media affords more opportunities (and reinforcement) to vent and complain than ever.

German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew how to speak truth to people in the wrong and how to give grace when the relational issue was more a matter of personality or preference. As the Lutheran Church of Martin Luther fell under the spell of Adolph Hitler, he boldly joined the dissenting “Confessing Church,” becoming one of Hitler’s earliest and staunchest critics. (In Part 2 of this post I’ll review Bonhoeffer’s challenge, “When Politicians Fail Us.”)

But first, the personal challenge. Bonhoeffer’s commitment to speaking truth was tempered by great love. In his book, Life Together, he challenges our Western penchant for radical individualism, even (especially) in the church, and shows us, better than anyone I’ve ever read, how to forbear others who offend and try our patience. How to see and honor the image of God in each person.

Shopping for a New President: Why Strength and Cool without Kindness Can Bring Buyer’s Remorse

Every four years, when we shop for a new president in debate season, we have a history of looking for what we believe is missing in our current president. You can look back from president to president and see the cultural pendulum swinging from one profile to its opposite.


For example, after four years of Jimmy Carter’s malaise and sunset in 70’s American  gas lines, we elected Ronald Reagan to be strong and bring back the morning again.

In the wake of Pres. Bill Clinton’s affairs and slippery I-did-not-have-sex-with-that-woman deception, we wanted someone who was honest and trustworthy. In George W. Bush we elected a straight shooter with no history of scandal or corruption, and a strong family man.

After years of war on terror, we settled on a president who was less of a “cowboy” and more of a conciliator. Now, after eight years of negotiations with Iran and retreats from red lines, we see a lot of enthusiasm for a strong man again– someone who will Get. Things. Done.