I’ll Love You Forever…

I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be…

From the children’s book, Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.                                                                                                   Jeremiah 31:3

I was speaking with a client the other day, and she was relating the pain she felt about the rejection of her adult daughters. The client had been alienated from them for various reasons, and she was unsure how to begin the reconnection process. One of the daughters was in an alternative lifestyle, and the daughter perhaps assumed that her mother would disapprove. Damage had been done on both sides over the years.

I suggested to the client a very simple approach. “Reassure your daughters that you will always love them, no matter what.” Now this is not a very novel, nor even creative approach, but I believe it is the one with the most impact. I asked the client if that statement were true. She said, yes, that statement is true.  

The fact is, when we love others, we need to assume that we will love them forever. That does not mean that they will not hurt or disappoint us, but it does mean that, no matter what, I will always love you.

Isn’t that what God says to us? Isn’t his love unconditional? No, we are not able to love as perfectly as God does, but we can decide that the love we have for our partners, our children, our family, our friends will always be there.

Letting those close to us know that we will love them forever is a very powerful statement, indeed, a gift.

I say, give that gift often.

Prayer: Lord, you have given us the marvelous capacity to love one another. Thank you..

Religion Can’t Save You

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.                                                                    James 1:27

I am guessing that the headline for today’s blog is not really a shocker for most of my readers. Religion is humankind’s response to an understanding that there is a God. Over the centuries, countless wars have been fought over religion. Those wars were fought in a misguided attempt to prioritize one religious group over another. In other words, those wars were about power.

What an irony, since Jesus came to earth to let people know that when religious people are interested in power more than love of others, it becomes evil and oppressive. So, when there is an assertion that Christianity ought to be the state religion of the United States, we have a problem.

Indeed, if we truly lived by the principles that Jesus taught, we would have no need for an establishment of religion. Jesus did not come on earth to establish a religion. He told people to “go and make disciples”. In other words, he said, “I have given you the example of how to live, now go and spread that word. Set people free with the message that the Spirit of God is love, and you must be the example of that”.

But, just like at the Transfiguration on the mountain, the disciples wanted to build a monument to the event rather than to recognize that it was a transforming message of who Jesus is. So, gradually, over centuries, a system of worship and practices arose that became codified into religious structures.

No blame there- it is human nature to try to build some framework around strongly held beliefs in order to preserve them and pass them on in an orderly fashion. The problem is, of course, that the message can get garbled in translation. So, over the years, religions, certainly with good intentions, built up systems which eventually became self-serving, powerful, and even rich. And then they gradually lost sight of the reason that religion exists- to love and care for those outside the “religious club”.

So, religion is the system that is built up around a faith that is not so easy to explain, or even contain. Our relationship with God is based upon a spiritual change that cannot be contained in a specific religious box.

Such is the mystery of our relationship with God!

Prayer: Lord, help us to maintain well our relationship with you, no matter the religious name, Amen


Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Hebrews 13:1-3

Almost all Americans have an immigration story. On my father’s side, his father came to America in the mid 1890’s from Germany. On my mother’s side, her family came from the Alsace-Lorraine area of Germany (or France, depending on the year you look at) in the 1840’s. My family immigration story is probably pretty typical.  Unless you are Native-American, your family immigrated (or was brought) to America at some point in the last 350 years or so.

Now the United States faces an “immigration crisis” on the Mexican border. People from South and Central America, as well as Mexico, are desperately trying to get into America to escape poverty and violence in their home country. What is the response of Christians to this?

Well, not surprisingly, the Christian response may not line up well with the political response. Obviously, this is a difficult problem, one with no simple solutions. Yet, Christians must adhere to the mandates of their calling and tradition- we are to welcome the stranger and the oppressed as much as we are able.

As I said, there is not a neat answer to this, at least not one that squares with America’s political and national aims. Yet, simply putting up high barriers to people who need refuge is not the response expected of Christian charity. Are we not obligated to try to meet the needs of those oppressed and marginalized?

When our ancestors arrived in America, immigrants were not always warmly welcomed either, because they were considered a threat to jobs. My German/French ancestors did not receive the overt rejection that had accompanied the arrival of some earlier immigrants, or those who later emigrated from southern Europe or Asia. Indeed, because of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, immigrants from China were legally excluded until 1943. Yes, we have a history of exclusion as well as inclusion.

So, I simply suggest that as we consider how to respond to immigrants seeking asylum in America, we need to decide what might be the Christian response versus the political response.

Yes, that is a tough one. In some future blogs, I will speculate about what we as Christians might do to respond.

Prayer: Lord, give us wisdom to determine how to treat people as you would have us do that, Amen

Be Jesus to Them…

Just a little thought today, dear readers. I was recently speaking with a client who is changing in his ministry calling. He is going to be leaving church work and working in a secular setting, but one where he can use his years of wisdom and experience to help people other than “church folks”.

This is quite a departure for him and he is questioning what that change will be like. I assured him, knowing him pretty well, that he is more than equipped to do a wonderful job. He cares about people, he has a calming, serene presence, and he is a devoted follower of Jesus- not simply a professional preacher.

I just left him with this: “If you want to let people know about Jesus, just be Jesus to them”.  

That’s it. The gospel in a sentence, I think.

Love to all…

The Dopamine Machine

I said to myself, “Let’s go for it—experiment with pleasure, have a good time!” But there was nothing to it, nothing but smoke. What do I think of the fun-filled life? Insane! Inane! My verdict on the pursuit of happiness? Who needs it? With the help of a bottle of wine and all the wisdom I could muster, I tried my level best to penetrate the absurdity of life. I wanted to get a handle on anything useful we mortals might do during the years we spend on this earth               Ecclesiastes 2:1-3 (The Message)

I read an interesting article this morning by Ross Douthat about the legalization of marijuana and the possible unintended consequences of that. He used a phrase that caught my attention. He called the legalization of gambling and marijuana in recent years a response to the “dopamine machine”. He also noted the exponential rise of the use of social media, especially with our youth, as another example of feeding the “dopamine machine”.

I began to think of how dopamine works. It is the brain chemical that seems to shout “I want this again!” once stimulated by a substance or emotional trigger of some sort. Once we start the dopamine cycle, it wants the stimulus again, and the sooner the better.

Gambling, food, sex, drugs, sugar, social recognition- anything that makes us feel good right away- stimulates dopamine. It becomes a self-fulfilling cycle unless we become aware of it and put in some controls. If we do not control it, it controls us.

Then I began to think of the social effect of the dopamine cycle. Society too responds to this cycle by becoming more permissive of the things that feel good. Extended legalization of gambling and marijuana are some examples of this rewarding of the “dopamine machine”.

I recognize that gambling can be addictive, and it can also be a benign entertainment, as long as one realizes that it has a high potential to become addictive. Legal medical marijuana can be a helpful therapy when used correctly and under guidance.

The idea that we as a society are drifting toward the rewards of the “dopamine machine” gives me pause. We need to consider the directions we are heading, and we need to be having discussions about that direction in light of how we have become an addicted society.

Prayer: Lord, you have given us good gifts. Help us to use them wisely, Amen

Guilt and Anxiety – “I’ll Get by with a Little Help from my Friends…”

By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (The Message)

I was recently talking with some dear friends, and we talked about how guilt can be crippling. I said that guilt and anxiety are both crippling to our spirit, but only when those emotions become out of control.

Guilt, for example, can be useful to the extent that it prompts us to see our failures and sins and then to seek remedy for wrongs we have done. The feeling of guilt can be useful if it gets us to the place of restoration. The problem is that guilt is not always rational. It, like anxiety, can become a self-defeating emotion that robs us of joy and energy. There are times when we feel guilt, but we have not really done anything to warrant it.

Anxiety too can be useful to the extent that it keeps us alert and vigilant to dangers. The problem with anxiety is that the “dangers” it warns us about are often non-existent, or greatly exaggerated.

Analyzing those conditions- the states of guilt and anxiety- is important. In order for us to get calibration, another trusted person can journey with us to explore these things so that we can get good, caring feedback. This is not to just get affirmation of those feelings, but to get honest feedback about ourselves. Left to our own devices at times, we cannot see clearly to determine if that guilt or that anxiety is rational or irrational. Sometimes we need the help of a friend or a counselor to sort those things out.

So, take a look at those emotions that can be crippling, and get the help you need so that they do not cripple you..

Prayer: Lord, thank you for those who journey with us as we explore ourselves, Amen

Faith and Mental Health

He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love                                 Ephesian 4:16 (New Living)

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), rates of depression and anxiety in the general population have been steadily increasing over the past 10 years. Especially among teens, depression and suicidal thoughts have been increasing at an alarming rate. The COVID-19 pandemic receives some blame for this, and this seems right.

I know the difference between correlation and causality. In research, just because two variables are rising in a close parallel, this does not mean causality- that one causes the other. Similarly, just because there are correlations also does not necessarily mean that the data specifically relate to one another.

Given these caveats, I contend that it is possible, that the increasing rates of anxiety and depression, and the lowering rates of both church attendance and expressed faith among the U.S. population may have some relationship. As people lose faith and hope in the future, they have more depression and a sense of loss that they cannot readily explain.  

I would just ask people to consider that a sense of spiritual connection, and belief that there is some meaning in this world beyond just what we see, is important in maintain good mental health. Indeed, as I have said often, Physical, Spiritual, and Emotional/Mental Health all must be considered together in an assessment of overall healthy functioning.

So, just a thought. Maybe as we lose a spiritual perspective, we may also be losing our mental health.

Prayer: Lord, help us to seek health in ALL dimensions of our being, Amen

Disappointed With God

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, there is no one else that we can go to! Your words give eternal life…  John 6:68 (Contemporary English Version)

Disappointed with God. That was the title of a book written by Phillip Yancy many years ago. Do you feel that way sometimes? If so, you’re in good company. The Psalmists, including David expressed such feelings very clearly and openly to God in their writing and in their prayers. Other Bible writers expressed that sentiment also. If you’re honest, there were plenty of times you felt that way too.  

The fact that we can be open and honest with God about such disappointment speaks to the very relationship that we have with him. Hiding those feelings from others, and ourselves, is not healthy. Sharing such disappointment with God is not only honest, it is proper. The fact that we can even be disappointed says that we have expectations of God to be part of our life. He simply does not always react the way that we would want or like.

The hard part is to “trust him anyway”. That is what the Psalmists usually ended up saying. I mean, what else can we do? As Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, there is no one else that we can go to! Your words give eternal life…”

So, it is, in my humble opinion, good to let God know that we are hurt, sad, disappointed- whatever it may be. He already knows that anyway. But we also know that we must “trust him anyway”, because truly, there is nowhere else to turn, and he has the words of eternal life.

Prayer: In the words of Peter, we know that you are the person that we turn to, and to “trust in anyway”, no matter the circumstances, Amen

Just My Opinion

Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions.                                          Proverbs 18:2

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”                            Abraham Lincoln

The quotes above are loaded with wisdom. The writer of Proverbs knew this 2500 years ago. Abraham Lincoln knew this 160 years ago. Yet, we all want to share our opinion on social media. Hey, I do it too. You are reading this in a blog that is on the internet. I like to share my opinion too!

I think the intent of these quotes- this wisdom- is that not all opinions are equal. Many people on social media, podcasts, and news organizations like to express their opinions. That is a right that many people around the world possess, (and sadly, many do not). If our opinions are not tempered with humility, and a diligent research of facts, then we would be better to heed the Lincoln quote above.

Just because we believe something does not mean that it is true. It is fine to express an opinion, but we have the responsibility to have it be an informed and thoughtful one. “Shooting from the hip” is not the best way to express an opinion. Indeed, that expression came about to describe one who fired their gun quickly without bothering to aim. The shot may hit its mark, but it was just as likely to wound an innocent bystander.

Just my opinion!

Prayer: Lord, give us understanding to choose our words, and share our opinions wisely, Amen


“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”                                                                                                      Luke 16:10

I recently talked with a client about the shame of addiction, and how hard it is for his spouse to regain trust in him after his acting out in his addiction. I also discussed how that shame gets in the way of rebuilding self-trust. We need to learn to regain trust in ourselves, and this is hard when self-esteem is lowered by past failures.

I talked with him about basic disciplines that he can build in to regain trust in himself. I suggested that he begin by choosing to practice one small discipline in each life area: physical, spiritual, and emotional. The point is that the little disciplines, if done regularly, are like keeping promises to yourself. Self-esteem is based upon keeping those promises to ourself. Our self-esteem is not built by others giving us praise, rather, it is built slowly in our inner self when we learn that we can be counted on to keep the little promises we make to ourselves.

Like I told the client- keep those promises small, measurable and practical. Make sure that the promises are doable. Being trusted in little things makes for a longer-term trust in self.

Prayer: Lord, help us to keep things simple so that we can be people of integrity, Amen