season’s readings

My youngest daughter reminded me that Christmas is exactly one month away, which means you still have time to order copies of my books for yourself or your loved ones. In fact, why not both?

I published my first book, Soil of the Divine, in 2017. It is a collection of 150 poems and prayers based upon the psalms. (Paperback = $8.99; Kindle = $3.99).

My second book, Living in the Larger Story: The Christian Psychology of Larry Crabb, came out in 2019. I was the editor of this wonderful volume published by the Gideon Institute for Christian Psychology and Counseling. In addition to the chapter I wrote with Bryan Maier, there are excellent chapters from experts in Christian Psychology. (Paperback = $12.95; Kindle = $9.49).

Books three and four came out together in 2020. Notes from the Upper Room: Lessons in Loving Like Jesus, and an available devotional filled with unique content, focused on Jesus’s last meal with his disciples discussed in John 13 to 17, which is often known as the Upper Room discourse. (Book: Paperback = $9.99; Kindle = $7.99 / Devotional: Paperback = $5.56; Kindle = $0.99).

One month ago, I released my most ambitious writing project, Letters to the Beloved, which I worked on for six years. In this devotional commentary, I wrote through the New Testament verse by verse as though God was telling me about it in letter form. (Paperback = $24.95; Kindle = $9.99).

Each of the books is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. However, a limited number of sets are also available directly from me, though I will order more if I run out.

Altogether, the five books are nearly $65.00 on Amazon, though if you order all five from me, I will sell them for $50.00 plus shipping and handling. If you are interested in some other combination of titles, reach out, and we’ll see what we can figure out.

Season’s Readings!

you are wholehearted

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Many of my followers have taken Jesus’s words here to mean that you should work hard for holiness, but that interpretation misses my Son’s point. Striving to become like my Son is undoubtedly wise, but you cannot achieve purity independently; I grant it. In my Son, you are already wholehearted. When you recognize that you are already whole, you will have eyes to see that I have been with you all the time.

Matthew 5:8
Letters to the Beloved

more or less

Here’s what I would like to see:
more peace, less violence
more love, less hate
more gray, less black & white
more both/and, less either/or
more welcome, less exclusion
more conversation, less vitriol
more questions, fewer assertions
more beauty, less ugliness
more curiosity, less certainty
more wholeness, less fragmentation
more light, less darkness
more diversity, less homogenization
more inner work, fewer outward assumptions
more spaciousness, less bondage
more welcoming tears, less demanding smiles
more questions, fewer answers
more pursuit of wisdom, less trust in propaganda
more “is it possible I’m wrong,” less “I’m sure I am right”
more hugs, fewer fists
more plowshares, fewer swords
more circles, fewer pyramids
more kindness, less sarcasm
more downward mobility, less power-seeking
more “how can I love all people well?”, less how “can I protect my own rights?”
more true loving God, fewer wrong ideas about God.

comfort in mourning

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” There will be times when grief, sin, and incompleteness fill you. You may weep over losses you have endured, pains you have caused, or a general sense that this world is not as it should be. In your mourning, my Spirit is always with you. I want you to know my embrace, especially in difficult times.

Matthew 5:4
Letters to the Beloved

grateful for becoming myself

This morning, on the best five minutes of the day with my friend Mark Halvorsen, he began by asking the question, “What is one thing you’re thankful for this year?” He was surprised when I didn’t mention the release of Letters to the Beloved. To be sure, I am grateful to see that project come to fruition, but that isn’t what I said. I told Mark that I was thankful for the difficult inner work I’ve been doing this year. Quite coincidentally, I came across this quote from Richard Rohr in his excellent book, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps:

The more you are attached to any persona (“stage mask” in Greek) whatsoever, bad or good, any chosen and preferred self-image, the more shadow self you will have. So we absolutely need conflicts, relationship difficulties, moral failures, defeats to our grandiosity, even seeming enemies, or we will have no way to ever spot our shadow self. They are our necessary mirrors. Isn’t that sort of a surprise? And even then, we usually catch it out of the corner of our eye—in a graced insight and gifted moment of inner freedom.

As I survey the past year, it has been among the most challenging in my life. Like many others, the 2020 election, the January 6th insurrection, the pandemic, and national unrest have taken their toll. Amid this broad-ranging disintegration, I have continued to work on knowing and loving myself. This inner work involves pulling ideas and beliefs off of the cluttered bookshelves of my mind and carefully examining them for elements of truth. Every person has a unique story with different shaping influences, some healthy and some toxic. I find it uncomfortable to confront my core beliefs and presuppositions, but in my experience, standing confidently in the truth is much more challenging, especially when it leads to conflict and relationship difficulties.

Looking back, there has been a cost to living from my most authentic self as I currently understand it. Some people have criticized. Others have misunderstood. Some relationships have grown cool. Some people have checked out. Others have called me names. Still, others have questioned my beliefs and even my salvation. As a life-long people pleaser, all of these encounters have been challenging, but I’m still standing.

My life looks far different than it did five years or even one year ago, perhaps especially on the outside. My journey has been upsetting for some people. If I am honest, it is often unsettling for me. Still, my journey is my own. One thing that is increasingly true is that my path is not to live to appease others but to become more deeply myself, which involves pressing into my discomfort and standing firm in the truth of who I am. I have been working with two counselors who are helping me to become who I am. I am also attending a 12-step meeting, which has also helped me on this journey to know myself. Let me conclude with the adaptation of the Serenity Prayer that we use in our weekly meetings.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change,
the courage to change the one I can,
and the wisdom to know it’s me.

Some people become so wedded to a belief in their own sufficiency that they completely lose sight of who I am. They believe that if they hang around with the right people, go to the correct church, or live in the right country, they are entirely secure, but these things are all traps that lead to false security because they blind people to their errant thinking.

Romans 11:9-10
Letters to the Beloved

loving well

Keep the end in view. Practice godliness. Control your passions with the help of my Spirit. Pray fervently for believers and unbelievers alike. Seek to love well. In the world, the concept of love has been diluted. Recapture what it means to love as my Son loves, with seriousness and service. True love wills another’s good, even when they fail you repeatedly. Open your home and your heart without complaint. I have given you so much, but I did not provide so that you could hoard my gifts. I gave lavishly so that you also could share generously and thus glorify me. When the abundance and variety of my gifts are shared freely, it pleases me. When you speak, speak my truth. When you serve, serve in my strength. In doing so, you reflect Jesus and glorify the Trinity.

1 Peter 4:7-11
Letters to the Beloved

listening to my life

A few days ago, I shared this on Twitter:

I spent several years training for the culture wars. The Christians I was learning from were clear that secular culture was the enemy. So I trained in logic, apologetics, and worldview studies. I learned the answers to confront the evil out there. Over the past five years, it has become clearer that “my team” also harbored considerable evil. Several of my faith heroes were credibly accused of gross misconduct, which they uniformly denied. I witnessed friends defend evil to protect the church. I profoundly harmed and shunned others on behalf of the church. In 2018, my eyes were opened to my complicity and I couldn’t stay. I wish I could say all has been clear since then, but I remain disoriented. I have been in good churches since then, but the confusion and internal disintegration have continued to have profound effects. I want to be involved in a faith community. And I don’t. What is true is that the evil that I naively believed was “out there” was inside as well. That is partly why I am less interested in the us vs. them approach. The church isn’t exempt. I am not exempt. We’ve all been wrong. So for now, I am trying to do my own work uncertain where it will lead.

To be clear, I know too many outstanding Christians to name. I have seen churches and Christian organizations pull together to do amazing things. For example, my friend Perry is a pastor of a small congregation and also the founder of Touched Twice United, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. My friend Peggy is the founder of Teamwork Africa, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Both of these are amazing organizations. Countless believers have done and continue to do miraculous things around the world. I am grateful for every one of them.

However, over the years, I came to accept ideas that were not necessarily accurate, which were cultivated in the soil of an us versus them mentality. It is hard to say how much my thinking was shaped by those I was listening to and how much was shaped by my own mental life, but the fruit was division and arrogance. If I am honest, I believed Christians were better than non-Christians. The blogs and people I was reading suggested that if gays, liberals, atheists, or Muslims did something that benefitted the greater good, it was inconsistent with their own worldview. I even recall one blogger asking whether someone who was not a Christian could genuinely love others. The culture war mentality prepares soldiers to fight evil, and enemies are required, even if we have to create them.

At the same time my confidence in faith heroes was growing,[1] evidence was accumulating of abusive behaviors among more than a handful of them. I still do not believe that the majority of Christians or Christian leaders are abusive. I do not think that most churches are evil. Still, it became increasingly apparent that many of the thought-leaders who shaped my thinking, both nearer to home and afar, could be harmful. Once I became willing to listen to stories of hurt, I also began to pay attention to my own story and listen to my own questions. I actively started to look for things like goodness, beauty, and peace wherever I could find them. I have also been sensitive to hatred, violence, and divisiveness[2]– in the world, in the church, and in myself. And here’s the thing: the common divisions that many of us accept tend not to be particularly good predictors of goodness or evil, beauty or ugliness, peace or violence.

Having written all of that, I remain confident that many people who love me are concerned about the state of my soul or doubt whether I am a true Christian.[3] The 2011 me would certainly have questioned the eternal security of 2021 me. Still, a large part of my own spiritual journey has involved coming to a place where I am comfortable in my own skin and believe that God’s love is far more expansive than the divisions and categories I previously believed.

I am currently filled with both confusion and clarity. I have wondered if I am experiencing a dark night of the soul. I don’t know my destination, but I am trying to pay attention to where the Spirit leads.


[1] Some will point out that as Christians, we should not have faith heroes, but in truth all of us have learned about Jesus from someone. Even the apostle Paul said “follow me as I follow Christ.”  

[2] People will point out that I have often been critical of certain ideas and people. Granted. In some cases, I have acted in the very ways that I have tried to dispute. At the same time, I believe one of our tasks as humans is to speak out against divisiveness and hatred, which perhaps is divisive in and of itself.  

[3] Yes, please pray for me, but also sincerely pray that if your understanding is wrong that the Spirit may reveal truth to you. 

growing up

Beloved, as my Spirit continues to transform you into the image of my Son, there will be concepts, ideas, and beliefs you think are accurate, but you will begin to recognize that they do not align with the way of Christ. You will outgrow some things, and others you will seek to destroy before they destroy you. I will give you the strength to overcome every stronghold; all you need to do is ask.

Letters to the Beloved

integrity of heart

Turn away from the youthful drives and passions that motivated you in the past, which are often inflamed by self-centeredness, self-righteousness, and misplaced zeal. Instead, pursue wholeness, faithfulness, love, and peace, which are the marks of my Son. I have created you to live with integrity of heart, which is completeness.

2 Timothy 2:22
Letters to the Beloved