With more reasons to be inside than out, life takes on a slower pace for retired folks in the winter. With this slowing pace, comes fresh opportunities to reflect and think about a lot of things that get crowded back in the building momentum of a busy life.

Here are some of the thoughts that seem to rise as I watch the muted colors of the sky change as the shifting clouds trace their journeys across the horizon.

1. Embrace the past, but don’t get stuck in it; you’ll never live there again.

2. It’s not where you’ve been or what you’ve done; it’s always about who you’ve become and where you’re going.

3. Everyone you meet has a story, but not everyone wants to hear yours.

4. Our field of vision changes, sometimes shrinking the clarity of the far distance. But if you’re paying attention, you can still see the periphery of the immediate.

5. The cold, sere winds of winter often crease our faces with a grimace, while the gentle breezes of warmer times bring smiles all around. How do others feel after they’ve been in your presence for a while?

Well, my coffee cup is nearly empty…time to go for a refill.

Good news

Many popular Bible teachers write and speak from a very propositional perspective regarding salvation. In other words, there are certain, specific propositions to be believed, and in so doing, one is “saved.” While I agree that there are certain things to believe about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, the Sacraments, etc., beliefs about those categories are not the essence of salvation. Salvation is a relationship with God, made possible by Jesus Christ and attested to by the Holy Spirit, and it is to be enjoyed within the fellowship of the Body of Christ, the Church.

The contours of this experience are described in a library of 66 books, that together reveal God’s story. We are all invited to enter this story and find our place in it. Whereas at one point in this story, the key element was adherence to the law of God, since the time of Jesus, the key element has been love—God’s unconditional love for the world, and Jesus’ perfect example of both his love to God the Father, and his self-emptying love for humankind.

We only confuse when we re-introduce God’s law as the key element of this story. By doing so, we confuse those who seriously and earnestly seek God and his presence in their experience. Furthermore, we needlessly distort the character of our relationship with God when we shift the focus from love to law.

Some believers and Bible teachers will see an advantage in resetting the terms of humankind’s relationship with God to one emphasizing his law and his commands. The law offers a very tangible means of determining who’s in, and who’s out. It facilitates hierarchical structures which are based on power and authority. In the name of adherence to God’s law, aggressive, often authoritarian teaching surreptitiously assumes the place and role of the Holy Spirit as Counselor and Teacher. The legalistic setting of ancient Israel is transferred across time and becomes the setting in which the contents of the Bible are read, studied, and communicated. Such Bible teachers often assume an authority that should be left to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, we come to the story of God (the Bible) viewing it through one of two lenses. If we view it through the lens of God’s law, then everything; from the character of God to the requirement for participation in God’s life will be seen as demanding, rigid, inflexible, and frankly, just beyond the capability of anyone to perpetually achieve. If we come to the story of God through the lenses of God’s love, then we find ourselves welcomed into a warm, accepting, mutual, and expanding relationship of love. It begins not with adherence to a law or legal system, but with an unconditional invitation to receive a heretofore unknown, unrealized love. With it there is an invitation to accept this love and allow oneself to be transformed by it in a mutual relationship of self-giving reciprocity.

If the lens through which we view our relationship to and with God is law, then our response will be to study, learn, incorporate, behave, and measure up to God’s law and command.

If the lens we use is God’s love, then our response will be to worship, adore, and encounter the living God who invites us to fellowship with him. In the preceding example we might say that the tone is always, “God commands us.” In love, we might say, “God invites us.”

Who will serve God most effectively: those who serve from command or invitation?

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waitingA Meditation on Psalm 40

Psalm 40 is a powerful Psalm with much content on which to reflect and meditate. Beginning with the first verse, Psalm 40 challenges us to “wait patiently for the Lord.” Waiting patiently for the Lord is not something that comes naturally to most of us. We are always in a rush to do something, go somewhere, or to experience wish fulfillment.

Waiting patiently for the Lord is to slow the pace of life—to quiet the turmoil of our inner world—to temper the impatient demands of our desires. The pace of life, the turmoil of our inner world, and the incessant demand of our desires mitigate against communion with God. These three elements diminish spiritual awareness; they drown out the still, small voice of God’s Spirit.

Most privileged, affluent people would not consider their lives as “a desolate pit.” We have crowded the space of our lives with so much stuff that there is little room for sacred space. The “desolate pits” often comes camouflaged as a materially-rich environment. At the same time, it may well be an arid, spiritually impoverished landscape.

One may import plastic palm trees, lay down plastic green turf in the middle of Death Valley and call the desert an oasis. Six feet, however, from the shade of the artificial palm fronds lies a harsh, inhospitable desert. The immediate perception belies the true reality regardless of how cozy the so-called oasis appears.

The “miry bog” may be that state or condition of being entrapped by the elements with which we have constructed our lives. Like the song that Elvis Presley once sang, we are “caught in a trap.” A life devoted exclusively to materialism may provide an array of possessions and pleasures, but how quickly they become an entrapment, holding us fast in a miry bog or a desolate pit.

Patience will yield results if we wait; especially if we are crying out to God in our waiting. The question may be, will God hear my laundry list of demands and requests? Or must I continue waiting upon God until He inclines Himself to me and hears my prayer?

In biblical times, dining with friends often meant reclining upon a rug or cloth while eating and enjoying fellowship with each other. Typically guests were reclining which meant leaning back, away from each other. To converse or hold serious discourse, one would incline himself toward the guest or friend in order to properly engage the other in conversation.

When we commit to waiting patiently for the Lord to incline Himself to us, we must accept the fact that the outcome of His inclining Himself to us may not fit our expectations. God may choose to lift us up out of the “desolate pit,” and free us from the tightening grip of the “miry bog.” But what would that look like? Are we really desperate for God to work in our lives? To work His will in our lives so that we will gladly leave the “desolate pit” we have constructed from life’s ambitions and accomplishments? Are we truly willing to release our grasp on that which keeps us bound within its grip?

Perhaps the days of our desolation extend beyond our comfort level because we have not silenced our demands. We have not stopped talking long enough for God to acknowledge our true condition, and incline Himself toward us and our circumstances.

The good news is, God does indeed listen. He does indeed incline Himself toward us. He can draw us up from the beautiful pits of desolation we have constructed without any reference to His blueprints. He can lift us up, freeing us from the strangling grasp of the miry bogs—those situations where we find ourselves serving what was supposed to be serving us.

Indeed, God can set us upon the rock of spiritual security and give our lives a fresh, new song. But only if we patiently wait!

Because of mandatory corporate retirement age regulations, I left my career just shy of my 70th birthday. My last day was a hot, beautiful day in July, and I was surrounded by my wonderful family, friends, and colleagues who came to fare-me-well. I rode away from the corporate parking lot on a brand new Triumph motorcycle with a borrowed helmet, complete with white shirt minus the tie.

The initial days of getting used to not going into the office did not present any challenges whatsoever. In fact, I navigated the first 100 days extremely well. I am now into my 10th month of retirement and while I have encountered some different experiences, for the most part, I feel like I’ve got this retirement gig down pat. I am busy mentoring a bright young executive. I do editorial work that is similar to the work I did as a magazine editor. I do some speaking, presenting, and I co-teach an adult Sunday School Class as my local church. All-in-all, it has been a very smooth transition.

Recently, however, I realized that I have encountered a bit of turbulence-in-flight, and like passengers on an airliner, I’ve just tightened my seat-belt and waited for it to smooth out. And, I am sure it will. But going through this little patch has been interesting. And, I don’t want to waste any experiences that can teach me how to make this chapter of life meaningful and significant.

I am beginning to feel the reality of being out of the career to which I gave my life, along with the realization that re-entry is impossible. In fact, anything that I do from now on, will be the extra-ordinary, temporary, interim this-0r-that, etc. It’s like I was touring a beautiful place, and have now left it, passing through the gates, and I am headed down an unfamiliar road. It isn’t frightening nor foreboding. It simply leaves me with new feelings or emotions that I’ve never experienced.

Perhaps it’s not that I’ve never experienced such feelings; it may be more accurate to note that it has been over 50 years since I’ve experienced anything similar to them.

Growing up, literally on the road, living in a travel trailer with my family and accompanying my father in his itinerant church ministry, produced similar feelings in my childish mind. We would spend 10-12 days in a location, with my father ministering at a local church for a protracted meeting. There I would meet other kids, and sometimes a budding friendship would begin. Just as that friendship showed its potential, we would leave that place to go to another, and there the cycle would begin again. Forty-eight, sometime fifty weeks of a year were spent this way; until I was not quite 17 when I left the travel trailer to be a freshman in college.  For the first time since I was in the 1st grade, I lived in one place, and mingled with friends that I had, or was making.

Fifty years later, I walked away, not so much from a building in Lenexa, KS, as a way of life; a set of constants, and now I am remembering how it felt as ancient feelings awaken from their long slumber in my mind.

I’ll deal with this, just as I have dealt with every other situation in life. If I’ve learned anything, it’s resiliency is the best means of self-preservation. My theme song for getting through these little trough’s of life’s ebb and flow, has been Steve Winwood’s “You gotta roll with it baby.” If you watch the YouTube video, skip that part, but listen to the cool music, and think about that as a mantra. It’s a tune that plays out in a seventh. That gives it the note of unfinished, ever-continuing, open-ended movement.

So when it looks like the old familiar is slowly fading in my rear-view mirror, and I am driving into the unfamiliar territory that unfolds in front of me, I’ll crank the volume up and take those four words to heart…and I’ll just “roll with it baby.”

Captive to Islamic Terrorists

Captive to Islamic Terrorists

It is very difficult to grasp the scope of the Nigerian tragedy concerning the abducted girls. Spirited away from their families, these hostages are mere pawns in an international dilemma in which the stakes have been raised by the demands of Boko Haram. As a parent and grandparent, I’m not sure I could find the words to describe my feelings were my family and I forced to endure such atrocity.

The cultural mores of those communities affected by this disaster are perhaps not well known to Westerners. We know that human grief is universal. We know that feelings of anxiety, fear, and helplessness transcend cultural constructs and boundaries. It is at such junctures that the global community rejects the insanity of religious warfare and its tactics. Boko Haram wishes to install a Sharia-based Islamic republic in Nigeria. To implement their goals, they have resorted to barbarism, kidnapping innocent young children, instilling fear, anxiety, and torment into their hearts and minds.

There are hard lessons that may be learned from the passage of time, especially in the area of religious intolerance and even aggression. The Crusades were inaugurated by zealous individuals interested in securing the Holy Land with its Christian churches, relics, artifacts, and territory. Knights, soldiers, and probably some others whose interests were less lofty, spent years in conflict to free the Holy Land from the strong grasp of  Islam. Once the Knights returned to Europe, life went on as it does in the Middle East and in a few centuries, other than the decaying structures of castles and fortresses, it was difficult to tell that a conquest of such magnitude had occurred.

Today, one can talk with Arabs and Palestinians whose families lost their homes, farms, shops, and business when Israel became a nation in 1948. Once again, the name of God was invoked as the Jews sought to re-establish a homeland at the expense of resettling resisting Arabs and Palestinians. Today, the Islamic Caliphate stretches from Eastern Europe through the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and across the Indian Ocean to Malaysia. The Christian Church in the Middle East is but a fragile presence even though memorials and artifacts attract multitudes of tourists.

Islamic Jihad, Christian Crusades, and Jewish Settlements all stem from a conviction that there is only one correct belief; one correct understanding of God. Yet all three draw upon the stories of ancient monotheism, Abraham, and even the Jewish Prophets. Islam recognizes Jesus as a prophet, born of a virgin, and scheduled to return to earth. Christianity recognizes Abraham, the Covenant, the Ten Commandments, and of course the Hebrew Prophets. Judaism does not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, but connects with Christianity at many other points.

Good people have convictions by which they live, and even die. They are committed to a search for truth, and once they believe they have discovered such truth, they are committed to its teachings, values, and convictions. Whether one is an Islamist, Jew, or Christian, the gulf between these groups is growing rather than shrinking. The age of intolerance will not permit any coalescence around shared beliefs in the One God revealed to the Hebrew people. Humankind seems to be moving further to the extremes, rather than looking for those areas of common ground. Intolerance feeds such migrations and dialogue becomes monologue and rhetoric is heated to the boiling point.

None but the most marginalized, irresponsible, fanatics will find anything good in the actions of Boko Haram. It is time that we recognize the rights of all people to worship God in their own way, according to the dictates of their own consciences. Missions should not be about coercion or mere proselytizing. Compassion must replace coercive proselytization with the spirit of love, tolerance, solidarity, and thereby create interest in knowing the God who revealed himself, not in commands to eliminate the opposition, but to love one’s enemy, treating him in the same way one would like to be treated. Today, Christians will sing, “We are one in the bond of love.” Let us pray for the day when they will sing, “We are all, everyone, regardless of label, one in the bond of love.”


David J. Felter

Shaul Magid, professor of Jewish studies and religious studies at Indiana University Bloomington, has written a new book, American Post-Judaism.

In this work, he probes some very interesting questions for both Jews and non-Jews alike. The University posted a press release in which it stated:

“Magid argues that we live in a ‘post-ethnic’ time in which traditional signifiers of identity no longer apply for many if not most American Jews. But he finds the seeds for a new paradigm of Jewishness in contemporary movements that draw on ideas from a variety of faith and philosophical traditions.”

Magid writes:

“(The) era of multiculturalism is ending and group identity is becoming fluid and flexible. For Jews, increasing intermarriage, religious conversion, adoption of children, multiracialism and globalization have made being Jewish a matter less of destiny than of choice.”

The phrase that he uses at the end of these statements captured my attention. “Being Jewish…a matter less of destiny than of choice.” I am challenged by this statement and am presently trying to wrap my head around it. What does he mean that Jewish-ness may be more a matter of choice than it is a destiny? For those of us who were raised on the biblical narrative, and the narratives of history regarding the Jewish people in general,  disassociating them from “destiny” almost seems incomprehensible.

Magid says his book, “explores a range of topics including Jewish engagement with Jesus, ‘post-monotheism’ in Jewish metaphysics and questions of leadership and authority.”

I believe these statements have long-term significance for those of us who find ourselves in conservative, evangelical churches. I believe there is abundant opportunity along with compelling reasons for establishing fresh, relevant understandings those under 30 in our congregations. The fluidity and flexibility of which Magid speaks is not unique to Jews.

In the Wesleyan-holiness community, the insignificance of our size could potentially communicate to adherents an ethos of cultural identity as well as theological conviction. If Magid is correct, and the end of multicuralism is upon us, then what significance will an era of of fluidity, flexibility, and an openness to, “draw on ideas from a variety of faith and philosophical traditions,” mean for our religious tradition?





The time has come; this sensation of opening, becoming, and changing accompanied by inner restlessness. It’s as though the cocoon is cracking and the time-hardened shell, created by the accretions of time, duty, loyalties, and responsibility are giving way. Unseen, unknown, the new breaks forth with little more than hints and nods.

With each crack in the shell, there is both a twinge of fear, (what am I becoming) and a current of excitement (what is the nature of these new changes). It is to move from an old familiar space, grown restrictive and disinteresting, to follow after the beckoning of a palpable presence of wonder.

Not to start over…but to move to something even better, more in line with whom I am and have become over time. Not some discovery, but a deep realization that what I need to become is within my grasp.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. describes it beautifully in the poem The Chambered Nautilus:

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,

   Sails the unshadowed main,—

   The venturous bark that flings

On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings

In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,

   And coral reefs lie bare,

Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.


Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;

   Wrecked is the ship of pearl!

   And every chambered cell,

Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,

As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,

   Before thee lies revealed,—

Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!


Year after year beheld the silent toil

   That spread his lustrous coil;

   Still, as the spiral grew,

He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,

Stole with soft step its shining archway through,

   Built up its idle door,

Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.


Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,

   Child of the wandering sea,

   Cast from her lap, forlorn!

From thy dead lips a clearer note is born

Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn!

   While on mine ear it rings,

Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—


Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,

   As the swift seasons roll!

   Leave thy low-vaulted past!

Let each new temple, nobler than the last,

Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,

   Till thou at length art free,

Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!



George Brett is probably the most famous Kansas City Royals baseball player of all time. I was living in the Kansas City area when the Royals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals for Baseball’s biggest trophy–the World Series in 19985. Brett was a hero. His red-hot bat combined with his Pete Rose-like work ethic to make him a star, not only of the series, but of the team and the American League.

Every year, Royals’ fan await the second-coming of the team. Spring training this year looked like the denouement of dreams coming true. Spirited bats, precision pitching, and a ‘hoover’ defense, put them on the top of the Cactus league landscape.

Reality struck, however, and all that precision, stunning displays of power, and opponent-disabling strategy came crashing down on home plate. Loss after loss began to mount. Long home stands of mindless losses took its toll on both team morale and fan interest.

The team manager, at a loss for fresh ideas, stumbled on the holy grail of Royals lore. In an instant, George Brett, long-retired hall of fame hero, was moved into the dugout to be the hitting coach for one month. Brett brought with him memories of his own experiences with a hitting coach, and the results that came when he entrusted his future, perhaps even his career to the mentoring, advice, and instruction of Charley Lau.

Brett summed up his new role with the team and the youngsters who are trying to play their way through an awful slump this way. He said he was going to be the ghost of Charley Lau in the Royals’ dugout.

If there is a lesson in all this, it’s probably not going to be about the Royals or even George Brett. For me the comment of Brett about being the ghost of Charley Lau in the dugout is the touchstone. Working with people young enough to be my grandchildren, I want to impact their lives in a fashion similar to Brett’s desire. I don’t want them to think I am the subject they should copy. I just hope that I can bring into their lives, the ghosts of all those people who mentored and showed me the way to fulfillment, significance, and meaning.

Good luck, George!

Dennis Prager, referring to the sad state of affairs in American politics and the present Administration said, “They live in a hermetically sealed environment.”

My father used to collect uncirculated coins called “proof sets.” The actual cost was the face value of the coins in the set. Their value was in their preservation in their hermetically sealed package.

Prager’s remark reminded me that for some individuals, the hermetically sealed environment preserves the fictions by which they live, and keeps them from having to face the realities of the real world as they live according to their own self-constructed values.

To get to the point, I believe the Justice Department and its effort to tap news reporters personal files and emails, and the effort of the IRS Department to challenge groups like the Tea Party and others with the word “Patriot” in their name, is wrong. It indicates their imprisonment in a hermetically sealed environment, free from the constraints of public morality, honesty, and integrity.

Justice will probably not prevail because of the power of those who spend their existence in hermetically sealed environments. The public will move on to other topics. The Press will finally cave in, and business will go on as usual. The Attorney General will get away with improper behavior and policy. The government will absolve its aberrant elements, covering them over in a deluge of verbiage and double-talk.

Ultimately, we know that life is not like the coin collector who preserves his or her collection by never opening the hermetic seal. My prayer is that somewhere, down the road, the truth will rise and confront the fictions by which people of power shield their actions, with a torrent of revelation and condemnation and bring them to accountability and judgment.

What is poverty? How would you define it? What causes poverty? Can it ever be eliminated?

Here is a definition of poverty that I thought was fairly inclusive:

“Poverty is the condition where people’s basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter are not being met. Poverty is generally of two types: (1) Absolute poverty is synonymous with destitution and occurs when people cannot obtain adequate resources (measured in terms of calories or nutrition) to support a minimum level of physical health. Absolute poverty means about the same everywhere, and can be eradicated as demonstrated by some countries. (2) Relative poverty occurs when people do not enjoy a certain minimum level of living standards as determined by a government (and enjoyed by the bulk of the population) that vary from country to country, sometimes within the same country. Relative poverty occurs everywhere, is said to be increasing, and may never be eradicated.”

(Read more:

Jesus said in his introductory Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (St. Matthew 5:3) In his introduction to the Synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” (St. Luke 4:18)

I believe may Christians in the West and particularly here in North America, wrestle with the issues of poverty juxtaposed to our participation in unlimited abundance. For many years, evangelical, Wesleyan-holiness churches embodied a two-pronged message that challenged both physical and spiritual poverty. The initial origins of the Wesleyan-holiness churches in America emerged from an ethos of aggressive social action and revivalism. They built homes for unwed mothers. They took their message and their resources into the dens of iniquity in inner cities where brokenness was rampant. And they never neglected the nexus of biblical evangelism which is a personal call to a decision.

In the latter half of the 20th and into the 21st centuries, there has been a resurgence of such ministries under the aegis of “compassionate ministries.” Accompanying this resurgence has been a shift in theological emphasis that might have over-compensated a bit. Whether this is true, probably depends on the observer’s perspective.

Given the bifurcation of poverty into two categories, e.g., absolute and relative, the thorny issue of global poverty (and some would point out, right here in the USA) remains. Enormous pockets of absolute poverty persist, while strata of relative poverty seem to be increasing.

The cozy relationships between capitalism, free-enterprise systems, and the evangelical church have challenged all parties. Most evangelicals believe (myself included) that free-markets and an environment that nurtures free-enterprise offer citizens environments of opportunity.

The challenge for evangelical churches may well be our success. Or, perhaps I should say, the success inherent in the “lift” of the Gospel Message in the lives of our adherents.  We have enjoyed an environment of freedom, vast natural resources, and an economic system predicated on consumerist acquisition. This climate has favored the development of an environment of acquisition and the belief that we deserve such massive arrays of available content, things, and stuff.

Nelson Mandela once said,

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

The one exception I would take with Mandela’s statement is his assumption that “poverty is man-made.” I agree that to write poverty off as the sad, but inexorable problem of societies, cultures, and nations where the primary world-view is not informed by the Gospel is to slight the innocent and avoid any responsibility.

What would this perspective mean for the millions of evangelical Christians in the world who take seriously the potential for transformation of both the personal and corporate domains? Would it mean consuming less and giving more? Would it mean measuring every action against the command to love one’s neighbor as one’s self? Would it mean seeing one’s existence in community with the world rather than an isolated island?

I believe the recovery of the Wesleyan message of personal transformation through the power of Jesus Christ, and the partnership with others in the restoration of the image of Christ is the hallmark of Christian beliefs.

I believe the systems that create relative poverty can be challenged by Christians in the way we transact our purchases, business dealings, and the extent to which consumerism impacts our personal lives.

I believe the systemic issues of absolute poverty can only be dealt with through a change from non -biblical religions and associated world-view to a Christian world-view. Non-biblical religions cannot lift society out of the deleterious impulses of those structures of power that ignore humankind’s place in relationship to God and his Lordship.

Finally, the corruption of the free-enterprise systems of the West must be acknowledged. We all have a stake in these matters. The scope of our perspective must be changed. It must be widened to include those beyond the immediacy of the present. And, it must challenge conventional wisdom as it aligns with the compassion of Jesus and finds expression in our lives.