The Grudge



I don’t even like the sound of the word.  It just sounds… icky.  I think that’s the technical term for how holding a grudge feels: icky.  



Stocks to your soul and rots it away.

We shouldn’t handle a grudge with a ten-foot pole.  And yet we tend to hold these poisonous little chunks of egotistical unforgiveness as if they are a badge of honor.

And grudges can come from a variety of sources.  We might hold a grudge against someone for hurting us, or cheating us, or speaking ill of us.  Maybe it wasn’t me who was directly harmed, but my family, or friend.  

Maybe we just don’t like someone’s lifestyle.  Or religion.  Or politics.  Or ethnicity.

Maybe we just don’t like the way their mother dresses them in the morning.

The grudge is not a reflection on the one we are choosing to shut out, but on the holder of the grudge.  There is no love in a grudge, because the grudge is born out of – and grows in the soil of – hate.

Yes.  Hate.  And while we may think it feels good, it really is rotting our souls.

Consider this line from the Lord’s Prayer: forgive us our debts / trespasses, as we forgive our debtors / those who trespass against us.  Our very forgiveness hinges on our forgiving others.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. – Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)

We are called not to unforgiveness, but to love.  Love the Lord with all being.  Love our brothers and sisters.  Love our neighbors.  Love our (gulp) enemies.  Bless our enemies.  Feed them.  

Applying forgiveness and love are the only two methods of ridding the grudge from our souls.  When applied, the grudge will be released, decreased and, in time, totally ceased.  However, left untreated, the grudge will simply take over with its bitter bile.

Judge not.  Grudge not.  Love one another.

Even / especially those you think are unlovable.

One From the Archives: Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist Chicken


Photo by Peter Griffin

My wife and I were talking today about “success” and just why it is that some people “succeed” and others do not.  

Or, rather, seem to succeed.

True success comes from being who God created you to be.  It isn’t defined by career or social status or riches or fame.  God created each of us individually – formed us in our mothers’ wombs – and it is He Who has the right to define who we are.

When chasing success (as the world defines it) or trying to redefine who we are, we are making a huge mistake.  We become judgmental.  We become perfectionists.  

And we miss out on what’s important in life.

For many years, I felt like I couldn’t find “me”.  I had some vague idea of who I thought I ought to be.  But those notions were based on what others said I should do, or be.

Little did I know, I’ve been staring at me in the mirror all my life.  I just didn’t want to admit it.  Why?  My self image was pretty poor.  I truly believed myself incapable of anything worthwhile.  I believed that nothing I did was good enough, that my talents weren’t talented enough, my smarts not smart enough.

Vanity of vanities, all was vanity.

Thankfully I serve a faithful, patient God, Who walks with me, puts up with me, strengthens me, wisens me.  (And, trust me, I can always use wisdom.)

I am finally learning that my talents are only important inasmuch as God uses them to work through me to bless others.  

I am learning that results are not my problem.  I’m not called to succeed.  I am called to be faithful.  I am called to follow Christ.  I am called to not fear, but walk in faith.

If I stumble, I stumble.  If I fall, I fall.  If I fail,… well, did I really fail?  Not if what I did was for the right reason: the cause of Christ, the work of the Gospel, the Love of the Shepherd.

None of us has a thing to fear.  No reason to get worked up.  No need to be anxious.  To be sure, scary things will happen in life.  Worrisome situations.  Troubling circumstances.  Stuff over which we have absolutely no control.  

Hear this: we have no real control anyway.  We cannot control our circumstances but we can control our reactions.  We have no need to fear.  All fear does is polarize, neutralize and destroy.

Being a chicken, succumbing to fear because we are not perfect or life isn’t playing by our rules, can only have one outcome:

Photo by Maliz Ong


The Picture of Happy

“…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11b-13 (ESV)

Are you happy?

By happy, I do not mean mere giddy emotion. I mean fulfilled.


Overflowing with peace.


Are you ready for true confession time?  I have spent – in the sense of wasted, not invested – an awful lot of my life being unhappy.  I have pursued many avenues chasing the ever elusive “happiness” I so deeply crave, and have always turned up empty handed (in the long run).

There have been plenty of joyous moments, to be sure.  I mean amazingly joyous.  The problem – well, part of the problem – is in living to pursue those moments.  The mountain highs.  The incredible vistas.  The high points.

But, as much as we enjoy the mountaintop, the air there is thin.  The view is beautiful, but life is unsustainable at the highest peaks.  Inevitably, the Sherpa is going to bring back down to the valley.

If you live to experience cresting the peak you will learn to detest life in the valley.

Where you live.

Where I live.

Where reality lives.

There is nothing wrong with having the mountaintop experiences.  We should all have them, and have something to look forward to.  But there is no reason to forsake the valley life – the here and now. We look so hard to the external for our fulfillment, our joy, our peace…

We should really be looking upward.

Will a new car, new home, riches make you happy?  It may bring you some level of happiness.

Until the car breaks down.

Until the home springs leaks or drowns you in debt.

Until the taxman cometh (and he will).

Until the market takes a downturn and wipes out your 401(k).

There is no certainty in the stuff of this world.

May I show you a picture of happiness?

Here is what happy looks like:


This is my son.  He is a happy kid.  He isn’t jaded by life.  He doesn’t worry about bills or groceries or anything else.

He isn’t afraid.  He is who he is and he is comfortable in his own skin.

He loves others, cares about them, wants them to be happy.

Sure, he has his unhappy moments.  He is human.

But that isn’t his focus.

Nor should it be ours.

We cannot wish our lives away.  We cannot find true contentment in life’s externals.  We will never be happy by trying to gather happiness for ourselves.

We have to learn to live in the moment.  We have to find our pleasure in being who we are, and using our strengths and blessings to bless others instead of feathering our own nests.  We have to be content with who we are, where we are, what we are.  And, most importantly, who we are with.

Are you happy?  Do you want to be happy?  Then stop pursuing happiness.  Instead, pursue Love – giving love, not getting it.  Seek to help, not be helped.  Seek God first and follow His lead.  Be here now.

Live confident, boldly, fearlessly, joyously, rooted in Love and following Christ, in the moment, in the valley.  Enjoy the mountain peaks.  But live for today.

Book Review: Unoffendable by Brant Hansen


Unoffendable by Brant Hansen (Thomas Nelson, 2015)

 There is a key to living a joyous, peaceful life, to building relationships and making a lasting impact on people.

And Brant Hansen hits on it masterfully.

If read with an open heart and mind, Unoffendable is a book that should serve to help break through that holds us back from fulfilling the potential and plan God has put before and within us. It is easy to get offended: at home, at church, at work, in. Traffic, watching TV, listening to radio, talking with friends I’ve coffee… Life offers a cornucopia of opportunities to take offense and the ideas and words and images that clash with our own sensibilities and sensitivities.
In this entertaining, often light-hearted and frankly unoffending book, Hansen shows us the value of find rest by following Christ and His radical departure from the ways of the world. He puts pay to the ideas of turning the other cheek, forgiving trespasses and living at peace with others by refusing to take offense in the first place. Even if that requires taking guff from a middle aged, potty mouthed church organist.
“Unoffendable” is 24 easily digestible chapters of wisdom, touching on many of the things that can derail our peace by kicking own the door of offense. Brant Hansen shows how easy – as well as unfruitful – it is to be offended. Choosing to forgive, to not take offense in the first place, is truly Christ’s path to peace. This attitude lies at the heart of truly loving one another.
Opting to never be offended isn’t easy. But nothing worthy or valuable truly comes easy.
(Please note: a copy of this book was provided to me free from the publisher for review There is a key to living a joyous, peaceful life, to building relationships and making a lasting impact on people.


Be Here Now (Even on Monday Mornings)

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” — 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:13-15 (ESV)

All we have is this moment.  Yesterday is long gone and in God’s hands.  Tomorrow holds no guarantee.  In fact, what happens later today is of no true certainty.

We spend so much of our lives fretting over past mistakes or planning for the future that we forget the moment we are in.  The here and now escapes us.

There is much wisdom in planning for the future.  As George Harrison sang, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”  We need a path, a plan, a map, or we’ll end up going ’round in circles, wearing down a path but going nowhere.

But, by the same token, we cannot be so focused on the days to come that we don’t take the time for where we are now.  This morning I started with a plan for my day.  Book work to do.  Blogging to do.  Shopping to do.  Cleaning to do.  To do to do to do…

Had I stopped to take a moment and see the world around me right now, I would have missed the beautiful scene of the sun rising over downtown Minneapolis (as photographed above).  It makes me wonder how much wonder I miss in the swirl of busyness.

We have surrendered our awareness to our careers and hectic schedules and PDAs and long commutes and social media…  And awareness is most vital to our walk.  If are not present in the he and now, how can we possibly experience the glory of God?  How can we see Him working in our lives when all we do is run and go and live for tomorrow?  No wonder people dread Mondays.

Just like the parable,of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25, we need to be prepared.  We need to have enough oil in our lamps.  But, we also need to be aware of this moment.  This is where we live.  This is where we are.  Never lose sight of that.

Our children won’t be children forever.  Our parents won’t always be with us.  The unexpected hits and our lives change in an instant.  Life is a vapor.  So don’t spend your life on uncertainty.  Invest the time you have in the here and now.  Don’t be so busy chasing dreams that you miss the blessings of the moment: the wonder of God around you, the love of those in your life, the blessing you can be in the work you now have your hand on the plow to do.

The past is gone.  Trust it to the Lord, Who exists outside of space and time.  The future may not be.  Trust in the Lord to guide you where you need to go.  Be here now.  Live in this moment.  Seize it.  Be aware.  Seek the Lord.  Love heartily.  Revel in His grace.  Stop worrying.  Start living.



How’s Your Gemütlichkeit?


I am a self-professed word nerd.  I love words – digging into the etymology to find the roots of a word and understand the deeper meaning (if one exists).

The fascinating thing about English is that it is a linguistic amalgam – a hodge-podge collection of derivative locutions: a little Latin, some Greek, touches of German and French and Spanish… a stew of expressions as complex and varied as the people who speak it.

Unfortunately this means that, often times, there are words in other languages that simply do not translate well into English.  The classic example is the word “love” as found in the New Testament.  Usually it is translated from the Koine Greek word agápē, which conveys a deeper meaning than mere affection. Agápē is a more active word.  It refers to preferring others over self in all things, at all times – truly the ultimate definition of Love.

Another wonderful word that has no truly well-fitted English counterpart is the German word Gemütlichkeit.  It is a term that refers to the spirit of brotherhood in a community, the ambience of cordiality in a home, the atmosphere of fellowship in a church.  If you experience Gemütlichkeit, you feel comfortable, welcome, at ease – a part of the group.

Believe it or not, the Bible has a lot to say about Gemütlichkeit:

“…welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” – Romans 15:7 (ESV)

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV) (The same sentiment is repeated in Exodus 23:9)

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” – 1 Peter 4:9 (ESV)

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” – Hebrews 13:2 (ESV)

When you get right down to it, we are all sojourners traveling through a strange land.  As Christians, this isn’t our ultimate home.  We’re just passing through on our way to a far better place.

But while we are here, we are called to love one another.  To come together in community.  To reach out to others.  To help.  To serve.  To share.

All of which requires we maintain Gemütlichkeit in our communities, whether they be a “traditional” church (whatever that is these days), small group, ministry, home church…

Granted, there will be times when Gemütlichkeit is the farthest thing from our minds.  There are days we feel more unwirtlich – inhospitable.  Maybe it was a tough day at work (where the office felt more like a gestapo), or the kids were fighting or your spouse was grumpy or your dog messed on the carpet for the umpteenth time this week…

Here is what we – what I – need to always remember: agápē affords no space for self-absorption, in any form.  Is it a struggle?  Yes.  What if I just don’t feel hospitable?  Pray for grace and create an atmosphere of Gemütlichkeit anyway.

We all need down time.  Time alone with the Lord is absolutely essential.  But so is being part of a healthy community of fellow believers.  Forget your troubles.  Cast your cares.  Don’t let emotions and feelings keep you from being with others.  Remember we are called to be disciples of Christ – to imitate Him and follow His lead.  Christ is God incarnate.  And God is love (agápē) (1 John 4:8).

The more we love others – the more we practice creating Gemütlichkeit for others around us – the more we will find amazing comfort and comradery that can only be found in true, heartfelt, “doing life together” community.

Be open.  Be joyful.  Embrace grace.  Love one another.  Share.  Gather.  Rest.


The Fish and the Knucklehead


14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:14-21 (ESV)

I am a work in progress.  And whenever I start feeling like I have come closer to the mark of Christ, the Lord reveals to me that He has a lot more work to do in me.  And it is usually my own stupid disobedience that opens the door to His revelation of my sinful nature.

Have you heard of an ichthys?An ichthys is the simple line symbol of a fish (ichthys being Greek for “fish”).  It is how ancient Christians, fearing retribution from Romans,secretly identified themselves to one another – by drawing an ichthys in the dirt.  It serves as an apt reminder of Who Christ is, and who we are as disciples: fishers of men.

Like many Christians, I have an ichthys on my car.  But I have mine for a very specific reason.

Allow me to tell you a little story…

Once upon a time, long ago in the faraway land of suburban Chicago, there lived a beautiful maiden and her hot tempered, knuckleheaded husband.  The two had just moved there from small town Indiana a few weeks prior and still had corn husks behind their ears.  Dealing with city folk was not yet their forte.

It was a fine late summer day, and the two decided to take a trip back home, their first since leaving the cornfields behind.  Their car was packed and, with the husband behind the wheel, off they went.

However, they had only travelled two blocks when trouble began.  The husband was attempting to turn left from a side street onto a very busy four-lane highway.  Impatience being a virtue on Chicagoland roads, the person in the car behind him decided to pull up to the Hoosier couple’s right and, just as traffic cleared, turn left alongside them – cutting them off and nearly hitting them in the process.

When the two cars arrived alongside each other at the first stoplight – both cars with windows down to let in the fresh air and gorgeous sunlight – the Hoosier inquired of the suburbanite as to any problems he may have.  The suburbanite assured the Hoosier had no particular issues and, likewise, inquired what problems the Hoosier may have.

Just as the Hoosier suggested that he was certain the suburbanite must have some major problem – I believe “malfunction” may have been the word he chose – the light turned green and the two sped forward to the next red light to continue their conversation.  When the Hoosier suggested to the suburbanite that more careful driving techniques would be a most reasonable goal for him to aim for, the suburbanite made a suggestion about the Hoosier’s mother that would have made Sam Kinison blush.

This tine, as the light turned green, the two continued their conversation as they sped onward, their language and volume increasing (probably due to the sound of the wind whistling between their vehicles at 55 mph).  Suddenly the suburbanite decided to help the Hoosier find an alternate route (where no road existed) by quickly and sharply turning his car in the direction of the Hoosier vehicle, to which he was still travelling parallel at 55 mph.

The Hoosier’s quick reflexes, stealth manouevering (and slamming on the breaks) avoided just the sort of accident that ignoring the aforementioned careful driving suggestion could cause.  It was at this moment, as the Hoosier car had slowed to around 30 mph and the suburbanite sped off down the road, that the Hoosier husband realized his beautiful wife had been screaming at him the whole time to cool down, shut up and get away from the suburbanite (although I don’t remember her using the word “suburbanite”).

The remaining four hours in the car passed silently.  However, once they arrived at the Hoosier husband’s mother’s house, the wife became quite chatty with her mother-in-law.  The word “spew” comes to mind, like the violent force that pushes water out of a hydrant.

Needless to say, it was an uncomfortable evening for the Hoosier husband.

A few days after returning to their suburban Chicago apartment, the Hoosier husband heard a news story.  Two cars were speeding down one of the tollways in the midst of an altercation.  As they drove along yelling at each other, one pulled out a gun and shot the other, killing him.

The next day, I went to the local Christian bookstore and bought an ichthys.  I have had one on every vehicle I have owned since.  It isn’t so people will look at my car and say, “Oh!  He’s a Christian.”  It is to remind me that I am proclaiming to be a Christian so that I don’t blow my witness by getting angry over something stupid like being cut off on the road.

It reminds me of Who Christ is, and who I am – a humble fisher of men.  A follower of Christ.  A sinner saved by grace. The undeserving recipient of God’s love and kindness.

A work in progress.