Nope, this isn’t a post about Spartans or the next movie based on one of Frank Miller’s graphic novels. It’s simply a celebration, of sorts, of my 300th post. 300 posts, that’s nearly one for every day of the year. 300 posts may be considered an awful lot of babbling for a blogger, depending on what it is that they write about.

Throughout my life, I have been blessed with people who aren’t afraid to call me out. I can’t say that it’s always been fun, but it’s been worth it in the long haul because it has generally led to growth. Growth is good, if we really want it, but I have found far too many people who are completely satisfied to stay where they are. If I’m really honest with myself, I am one of those people at times. Growth means movement, it means progression, it means going forward, and that’s not always a comfortable thing to do. In fact, it’s usually pretty hard work.

I haven’t set up shop here on this blog to fill an inner need to be liked and followed. Sure, it’s nice to gain more followers, to know that you are being read by more and more people, but that’s not the driving factor.

I’ve generally been the kind of person who learns from the mistakes of others rather than feeling the need to make those same mistakes myself. Nope, can’t say that I’ve never made mistakes, and there’s no shame in that. Mistakes can lead to some of the greatest growth a person can experience, but if you can gain that same wisdom and growth by watching the experiences of others, is there really a need to go through it yourself?

This blog has caused me to look at myself in greater detail, through a stronger microscope. It’s caused others to look at me in a similar fashion. It’s not always comfortable and easy to put myself out there, admitting my own faults, but if I can’t admit that they’re there, how do I expect to move forward at all?

I’m grateful to have been here for 300 posts. I’m grateful that people have taken the time to read, to comment, to like, and to share what I’ve written. My hope and prayer is that growth can happen as we reflect on who we are, that I can grow as I begin to understand myself better and better every day.

Thanks for reading and following. Thanks for helping me keep asking the questions, keep searching for answers, and keep growing.

The First Time We Saw Him – A Book Review

first time we saw himIt’s quite possible that a person has been following Jesus for so long that they’ve lost sight of what it was like in the very beginning. The early church in Ephesus had forsaken their first love, even despite the fact that they lived much closer to the Christ event than we do. So, why should it be a surprise that we might experience dryness and need a “shot in the arm,” a rebirth, or a fresh perspective?

Matt Mikalatos has grown up in the church. He’s seen the Bible stories played out and played out and played out again. He knew all of the right answers, but it seems that some of the questions might have been forgotten along the way, which is why he wrote this book.

Too often, it’s easy to read the stories of Jesus and lose so much because of the cultural and temporal distance between them and us. Some of the shocking elements of the stories that Jesus told and lived lose their shock because we don’t always fully understand just how important or how controversial or how significant something was at the time of Jesus’ telling.

Mikalatos is a gifted storyteller, there is no doubt about that. He uses this gift to reimagine some of the stories of Jesus that we find within the gospels. He tries to find ways to connect the elements of the story that were grounded in the culture and time of Jesus with something that will connect with us in our own time to impact our own telling and hearing of the story.

He’s mostly successful at this, changing some of the names here, changing locations there, changing some of the cultural shocking elements to things that might be equivalent in today’s culture. He uses artistic license to expound upon stories, adding elements that might connect better with the reader. As I read these stories, I could hear the voices of some of the “Bible police” in my head, shouting at the exgetical fallacies that were committed by the author. But, honestly, if someone is looking that hard to make sure that every connection and change is spot on, they probably shouldn’t be reading this book. Or maybe they should.

In his own words, Mikalotos wants to, “talk about the Gospel stories in a way that might shock us out of our preconceived notions and help us approach Jesus with the same wonder, frustration, revelation, uncertainty, and nervous fear that people did in the first century.” And that’s just what he does. There are things that might feel offensive, I found myself stirring up within at the retelling of the woman anointing Jesus’ feet, but I think that stirring up was a good thing, brining me closer to experiencing the emotions of those who heard Jesus’ words for the first time in his presence.

The stories will be familiar to most who have grown up within the church. The prodigal son. The lost coin. The raising of Lazarus. Mikalatos even tackles the end of Jesus’ life, a bold feat which could stir up strong emotions in anyone who is familiar with the atrocity of racism that we tend to want to sweep under the rug within our country, likening crucifixion to lynching. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem ends up in a convertible rather than a donkey. Peter wields a gun rather than a dagger to cut off the ear of the soldier.

Yes, Mikalatos is a gifted storyteller and he leans on that strength to retell these stories. He also adds personal commentary and stories along the way, connecting well with his reader and helping them to understand that he is not simply reciting nice stories, but sharing some of the very things that he has wrestled with himself.

“The First Time We Saw Him” was a worthwhile read. It was a reminder to me that I need to pause more frequently when reading the Gospel accounts, to reflect on just how powerful those stories were at the time of their telling so that they can be equally as powerful to me and all of us who hear them today. These are the stories that we need to tell because they change us. They are the stories of God’s promise, that he will be among us, and that he will meet us where we are but never leave us there. If you need that kind of a reminder, I would recommend this book to you.

The First Day of School

When I went to open house for elementary school with both of my boys last week, I may very well have been as excited as they were. When I found out who my younger son’s teacher would be, I got choked up and had tears in my eyes. I’ll be the first to admit that I am an emotional person, but I was a little startled by my reaction.

I have to dig deep into the recesses of my mind, wiping away the cobwebs and struggling to see in the dim light to remember what my first days of school were like. When I was growing up, we were told our teacher for the next year on the last day of school. Where I live now, they make you sweat it out. You’ve got to wait the whole summer.

Today is the day that I knew would come. No matter how much you prepare for it, though, it never seems to go the way that you think it should go. It’s the first day of school and I officially have two children in elementary school.

This morning, parents waited at bus stops, took pictures of their kids with their new clothes and backpacks, they waved to the buses, they choked back tears, they shed tears, they rejoiced over this newfound freedom that they have with kids in school, and then they shed some more tears as they realized that their kids are indeed growing up.

Funny how that happens, no matter what, still time marches on. You just can’t stop it. One chapter ends and another one begins. Summer turns to Fall which turns to Winter which turns to Spring, and then you start the whole cycle all over again. Time marches on.

Just a few years into this elementary school thing and I have been incredibly grateful. The teachers that my kids have had (well, my kid, since it’s only this year that the second one is starting) have been great. The school is close. There are plenty of opportunities where my wife and I can volunteer. There’s a great program for dads to spend a whole day at the school helping out. The community is great. We’ve just felt blessed.

I know that my parents felt that way about the schools that my brother and I went to as well. My mom eventually started working at my old elementary school. My dad would substitute teach when the opportunities arose, which is a whole other story altogether. Looking back on it, I felt very blessed to have had the school system that I did. Good teachers. Good opportunities. I was blessed.

All of these memories flood back into my head as I walk to the bus stop this morning. It’s the first day of school and I’m excited, maybe as excited as my kids are. I really can’t wait to meet the bus later on and hear how it all went.

So begins another year and another chapter…..