Saturday, August 31, 2019

Imago Dei

Today I asked my wife, “What does it mean to be created in the image of God?”

She looked at me sweetly and said. “God is a God of order…thus when I am organized…I reflect his image…how would you feel about reflecting his image by putting away your laundry?” 

I wish I hadn’t asked.  

As I hung up my shirts I pondered the realities of how my wife and I are so different.  There are the obvious things between male and female…but there are less obvious things too like…she has hair with no beard and I have a beard with no hair.  My wife is a very orderly person and I tend to be more of a hurricane.  We can see the creative hand of God in our children too…how He has sown the seeds of our personalities into our offspring. 

Let’s consider my oldest daughter for example: 

My wife loves to study.  She worked hard in high school to maintain a very high GPA, and in college I could always find her sitting at a clean library table with her papers, folders and books spread out neatly in front of her.  “Let’s go for a walk so I can hold your hand and ask to kiss you…only to have you say yes to the hand holding and no to the kiss.” Sarah kept her honorable GPA, all throughout her college career…despite my attempts at distraction.   

When I studied…my work space and floor surrounding my text books would be strewn with papers and littered with empty Coca Cola cans.  Loose leaf paper would make excellent bed sheets and covers.

My oldest daughter is a combination of both.  She studies like her mom…but her space looks like mine.  When she was a little girl we called her “Hurricane Hannah”…because of the path of mess and destruction that she would leave behind her wherever she went.  When she played…she would play with EVERYTHING she could get her hands on!

My wife also mentioned that the “Image of God” means that He is a creator…and she mentioned that I like to create…so that is being the “Image of God,” too. 

I think what she said is true…but I have come to believe that it is secondary.  God is a God of order.  God is a creator.  God is a relational god.  He is a loving God.  All of these are true…and all have been placed in us as image bearers of God.  But…I have a problem.  What happens…when someone is unable to be organized…unable to create…unable to relate…unable to love?  Are we then, no longer, image bearers of God?

There must be something more!

I have come to believe…that when God says that we have been made in the image of God…we have been stamped with something special.  When we have been created as an image bearer of God…simply put…our very existence…the fact that we breathe…the fact that our hearts beat…that we ARE objects of His love…we carry His image. 

It is not about “what” we do.  It is not even so much “who we are.” It is about “what we have been created to BE.” An Image Bearer of God.

If you never left the sofa…If you binge watch Little House on the Prairie for the rest of your life…over and over again.  You are STILL a bearer of His image. 

The next time you struggle with your self-worth, consider…you are an image bearer of God.  The next time you are angry with the sales gal at McDonald's who cannot seem to understand what you are trying to order…consider…she is an image bearer. 

May you come to see that you bear the image of God.  What would the world be like…if we all understood and lived with the understanding that we are image bearers of God Almighty?

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Box

My wife and I have been married for over 19 years.  After buying our first home in 2002, we invited my parents down for a meal.  We were looking forward to seeing them…and to have them see how we had settled into our new dwelling.  As my mother walked through the door she carried with her…a box..a large box…a large plastic bin really.  “Oh! Happy house warming!” my mother cried as she handed me the box.  “I brought you a little something from your childhood!...Now that you have a home of your own, I thought you would like some things to make it more like the home you grew up in!” she said with a sadistic smile.

This bin has been moved from place to place in our home for nearly 20 years.  Rarely do I ever open it, and even more rarely do I read the contents there in.  The bin is filled with some very specific and invaluable childhood treasures.  The box measures approximately 18 inches wide and 24 inches long and perhaps 16 inches deep and it is pretty much completely full of stacked pieces of thin cardboard.  Each piece of cardboard portrays the face of a well known celebrity…at least based upon the time that the photo was taken.  There are columns of numbers on the flip side of each card and in some cases, detailed paragraphs informing the reader of the great accomplishments of the pictured athlete.  They are of course…baseball and football cards. 

I remember my first sports card that ignited my passion for it all.  All of the third grade boys in Mrs. Olson’s class were gathered tightly into a huddle…flipping through football cards of all colors and vintages.  Trades were made…and oohs and ahhs were expressed.  I wanted desperately to be involved in the group…but the problem was…I didn’t have any football cards to trade.  “Hey!, I’ll trade you this chewed up pencil with no eraser for a card!”


“How about my collection of earwax?”


“Bellybutton lint?”

“No way!”

“The cookie from my lunch…it’s chocolate chip and my mother made it especially for me, because she thinks I am sweet…like a cookie…and I have lots of speckles of dirt on my face like chocolate chips?”


SWEET! My buddy Jeremy pulled, and old crumpled and creased copy of a 1980 John Riggins from the Washington Redskins card out of his backpack and handed it over.  It was awesome! His jersey number 44.  What were the odds…that number 44 just happened to be one of my top 50 favorite numbers between 1 and 50.

I still have that card…somewhere in that box.

I began begging my parents for football and baseball cards every time we went to the store.  Occasionally they would concede…other times, I would spend my well saved and sometimes earned money on a package or two of cards.  I chewed every piece of disgusting chewing gum, which was as hard as rocks, tough as Chuck Norris, dense as a mule and strong enough to pull every filling from each bicuspid.

I spent hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours pouring over these cards.  In the end, I probably ended up with 3 noteworthy cards…a Sammy Sosa rookie card, a Jerry Rice rookie card, and a Derrick Jeter rookie card. Yet, I still have a bin full of relatively worthless pieces of cardboard taking up space in our home. 

What is craziest…is that I still can’t seem to get rid of them…and I don’t really know why.  I hold on to them.  Perhaps it is because I know of how much time and money I had invested.  Perhaps, some small part of me hopes to be able to do something unique with them…but let’s be honest…I have 100 other priorities and will likely never get around to it.

I have been reflecting this week about how we tend to hold onto things that perhaps keep us away from being transformed to be more like Jesus.  This bin serves no real purpose in my life…it takes up valuable space that we really don’t have to spare.  The box sits closed…unopened for years at a time. 

I think I have things in my life that perhaps keep me from being centered in Christ as well. 
Honestly, pride keeps me off centered.  Fear keeps me off centered.  Insecurity keeps me off centered.  Maybe the time has come for me to empty out the bin and live freely.  Perhaps it is time to empty my pride, my selfishness, my fear, my insecurity and my anxiety and allow Jesus to do the uncomfortable work of centering me on the wheel as a potter does the clay.


Maybe it is time for each of us…to be transformed.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Old Bicycle

The first Mother’s Day occurred in 1908, founded by Anna Jarvis, who later recanted the holiday because it had become too commercial and lost its focus.  It looks like Hallmark won that battle.  It wasn’t until nearly 60 years later that Lyndon B. Johnson decided to create the official Father’s Day holiday. 

Thanks, President Johnson…but honestly…60 years later feels a little like an afterthought.
Let’s be honest…it is.  How many last minute Father’s Day cards or Father’s Day ties does one man really need? 

I think that my father has perhaps been the most overlooked man in the history of Father’s Day.  Well, at least by me.  Sorry Dad.  Technology has not helped fathers to receive meaningful gifts on Father’s Day.  Now, dads of all ages can receive a quick text, “Happy Fathers Day…can I borrow the car?” There…check that off the “to do” list.

Perhaps it boils down to a lack of resources.  As a child I didn’t have the resources to either compile or purchase a gift for Dad.  However, now that I am older and have children of my own, I find that I still have neither money, nor resources to express my appreciation to my father…so I text him, “Happy Father’s Day…I don’t have the $50 I owe you.” Maybe I could afford it…but I am afraid that the lessons of frugality that my dad has passed down to me has come back to bite him.

During those early Father’s Days, when I had nothing to offer, I would make him breakfast in bed.  I would toast up some bread and let it cool while I poured cereal and milk into a bowl.  While the milk was soaking into the cereal, I would make him a nice cup of cold instant coffee using regular ground coffee beans.  While the coffee was warming to room temperature, I would attempt to spread hard butter over cold toast.  As a final touch, I would hide the toast under a layer of cinnamon and sugar thick enough to vertically support a homemade Father’s Day card.  It was a breakfast that could take down a rhino.  Oddly, he barely touched his breakfast.

I would then go into our old barn and drag out an old bicycle, covered in pigeon poop.  I would wash it up…add air to the tires…oil the chain…adjust the brakes…and “quickly” present it to dad as a heartfelt Father’s Day gift…before the tires lost air pressure again.

Overall, I had nothing to offer.

But that didn’t…nor has it…changed our relationship.  He is still my loving father and I am still his loving son.  There is a short…but amazing passage of Scripture, found in each of the Synoptic Gospels, (Matthew, Mark & Luke).  Mark 10:13-16, gives us the picture of children coming to Jesus.  As they come, the disciples rebuke them and tell them to go away and leave Jesus alone. We read how Jesus gets upset with his disciples and says the “Kingdom of God is for such as these…let them come.”

I believe that in our efforts to be accepted by Jesus we often default to works…deeds…things that I must do in order for Jesus to like me.  I think we often believe that we somehow have to earn our way into the presence of Jesus.  When we approach him, I think we often try to mentally bring something that we may have to offer.  We perhaps try to bolster some form of our own righteousness to make ourselves feel worthy to be accepted by him. 

What is really striking is that Jesus did not accept these children because they were innocent.  I believe that Jesus accepted these children, because they had nothing.  They came to him empty handed…with nothing to offer.  Even if these children had had something to offer…it would have been, as in the paraphrased words of the Apostle Paul, “nothing but rubbish compared to the overwhelming riches of the amazing grace of Jesus Christ.” 

So may you find yourself approaching Jesus with empty hands today.  It is much easier to accept a free gift with empty hands…than hands full of self righteousness.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Pothole

Earlier this summer, our family traveled to Orlando.  I had a week long conference and my family had a need for some time poolside.  There is nothing like Orlando in the Summer.  Actually…perhaps there is…Orlando in the summer is like going for a walk on the sun, while having boiling water dumped over your head.  It’s so hot!…but at least it’s a wet heat.

After my conference meetings were finished, we decided to spend a day searching for Mickey Mouse…we didn’t find him…we even spent an hour in line at Space Mountain and saw no sign of him.  The next day, we decided to give up on Mickey and drive to the Atlantic coast.  I had been to Cocoa beach twice before, once with a group of 16 teenagers and once with just my wife and I.  It was a place that we wanted to share with our children. 

We arrived at the beach and found a FREE place to park (thanks to my especially frugal spouse).  We walked down to the magnificent expanse of the Atlantic horizon.  The hot salty air was already causing the sand to stick to our feet, ankles, knees, neck, shoulders, earlobes, eye lashes, nostrils, fingernails, and teeth.  The kids helped us throw everything on the beach in wad so as to help ensure our enjoyment of sandy infiltrations would continue for the next week or more.  It was all quite wonderful. 

My son was blessed with an epiphany of an idea.  He began to dig a hole in the sand…about 20 feet into the ocean, where his feet were covered by 6 inches of water.  He dug…and he dug…and he dug…until he had generated a hole as deep as his mid thighs.  It was a deep hole…entirely covered by the surface of the ocean.  Totally invisible…totally deep…and totally dangerous.  Once his hole was complete…he invited his sisters to come and check it out.  “Hannah! Come here quick!”
Then he watched as his unsuspecting sister walked along the shallow water until she fell into his newly created pothole.  “Ughhh…gurgle gurgle gurgle…Isaac, that wasn’t very nice…you didn’t tell me you dug a pothole.”

“Because, then you wouldn’t have ‘fallen’ for it!”


It is a funny word.

It kind of makes you wonder where it originated from.  I think that the natural conclusion would be that some 1960’s hippie cut a hole in his bedroom wall to hide his drug paraphernalia from his if the smoke didn’t give him away.

It is more likely that the word comes from ancient roads that were often packed with clay.  It is said that nearby pottery workers would go and remove big wads of clay from the roads, thus leaving a hole…caused by a potter...a “pothole.” True?...Maybe?

In either case there is a fabulous story in the book of Jeremiah.  In Chapter 18, God says to Jeremiah, "Go down to the Potter’s house I want to show you something.”  When Jeremiah goes and sees what the potter is doing…how he is working the clay…shaping it…molding it…creating it, God says something like, "Jeremiah…Can I not do to you…and to Israel…what this potter is doing to the clay?  The Potter decides what to make.  The Potter decides what each pot is going to be…NOT THE POT...Likewise…I get to decide what you will be Jeremiah…I get to decide how I have created you…and I get to decide what purpose that you are to serve.” 

We often find ourselves uncomfortable with this line of thinking.  After all, no one has the right to tell me who I am but me…right?


There is actually only one person who ever has had the right to decide what it is that has been created…and that is the Creator.

Know this however.  You have been created…by a creator…for a purpose.  That purpose is His choosing, and not our own.  But…It is a GOOD purpose. 

Let the Creator shape you…not as you WANT…but rather…submit to Him and allow Him to transform you into what HE wants.

I am still being shaped.  I can tell, because I feel his hands pushing and pulling and trimming.  Sometimes I don’t like it.  But I am learning to trust Him to do that which only he can do…to transform my heart of stone…into a heart of flesh.

Lord…may I be clay in Your hands…and if You would…help me to not step into any potholes.