I Still Believe in the Story within the Stories

The Biblical nativity story (Luke 2:1-20) is the rich and nourishing soil from which many of our cultural traditions have their roots. We are a people of the story, who’ve sought to Christianize our culture with salt and light. We believe that anything that is good, true and beautiful is at our disposal.

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

The story of Christ’s birth is packed full of the seeds that have burst out of people’s consciousness in a thousand narratives. The Nativity is a tale of two worlds touching in a marvelous and malevolent cacophony of characters, wonders, miracles, and mysteries.

Through the lens of this gospel story, one can see the truths being told in our Christmas traditions.

In the blessing of our children…we see the miracle and mystery of Mary’s obedience.

In our unexpected choices, left turns, and seeming dead ends…we know of Joseph’s conundrums.

In Rome’s demands…we understand our own displacements, debts, origins and dual citizenship restraints.

In our search for home and place…we understand the humble manger on the margins of society.  

In our songs…we echo the sounds of Heaven that were announced over Bethlehem’s sleeping city, unaware of the earth changing happenings over them.

In our work shifts, late nights and mundane happenings….we identify with the lowly shepherds.

In our world of sin and suffering….we understand Herod’s madness and murder.

In our gift giving…we share in the Magi’s joy.

In our welcome of the return of light to our land…we too embrace the coming age of light of life eternal.

In our feasting, merrymaking and decked out halls….we anticipate the Kingdom of tears wiped away, people reunited and joy unspeakable and full of glory.

In our stockings packed with treasures…we re-enact the overabundance of unmerited gifts of Divine grace lavished on all who anticipate His coming.

In our Characters of Christmas…we remember the Father who always sees us, whoever knows what our heart’s desires may be and visits us wherever we may find ourselves in different chapters of our life.  

These truths are the core convictions of our Christmas celebrations, they provide a meaningful Christian apologetic for practicing our treasured cultural traditions. Don’t let a Herod, Scrooge or the Grinch steal from your heart the wonder, mystery, and joy of Christmas, if you do, you might discover a lump of coal in your stocking this year!

A Defense of All Things Christmas

The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; 
they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; 
they will continue to do it; and someday suddenly wake up and discover why.
-Chesterton “On Christmas,” Generally Speaking

The Conundrum of American Christmas Lover

American Christians today are caught in some perplexing cultural transitions. On one hand, we are sliding into a more acute post-Christian era and on the other, we are still connected to practices and traditions that arose from our religious ancestors and yet have grown ignorant of the very roots of our past.

The secularists in our day mount a historical criticism game of checkers when they jump over the Christianization of our pagan Anglo-Saxon forefathers, appealing to the practices and beliefs of our pre-Christian past in order to invalidate or discredit our traditions.

Hyper-Christian fundamentalists seek to put an end to Christmas or at least its American forms, in the spirit of the early American Puritans, who made it illegal in order to try to sever protestant pietism from the ‘Christ-Mass’ of Catholicism and it’s customs of unbridled festive revelry.

The Winter Holiday lover who happens to convert to Christianity in adulthood will be surprised to discover they’ve been unintentional devil worshippers. Their cherished childhood remembrances of jolly old Saint Nick will be dashed on the rocks of religious realism that exposes Santa as a relettered version of the word Satan.

The newly converted will be forced to endure hours of anti-Christmas sermons, pages of anti-holiday pontifications in print and pious, icy yuletide polemics. The sensitive Christian conscience is forced to confess why they hold dear any of the supposed irrefutable proofs of the devilish roots of Christmas trees, candles, holiday hams and the nefarious practices of gift giving, eggnog drinking and heavens forbid anyone believes in talking snowmen, toy making elves or goblin-like Grinches in green!

The Triumph of Christ over Odin

We are a people with historical religious amnesia. We have forgotten that Christ’s gospel conquered Odin, Thor, and Freya and that all the practices of their religion were struck down, swallowed up, purged or reimagined in Christian witness and worship. We forget that the death of God’s Son put an end to the perpetual human sacrifice system. The Prince of Peace quenched the warrior’s raids that compelled them to try to earn their way into Valhalla through violence, battle, and blood.

Instead, we’ve been duped by persnickety, conscience-binding legalists that demand that all the saints should bow to the scruples and trifles of the churchmen overlords.

We have allowed the great achievements of the past martyrs and missionaries of Christ to be denigrated, dismissed and denounced without a rigorous and righteous rebuttal by men and women who understand that the shadows of truth have been visible among all people. God intends…“that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27).

Christ is the great Light of Heaven that has cast His glory across the ages of time in the minds and hearts of humanity no matter what religious attempts have been made to understand, worship and connect with the God or gods, whom the heart perceives are behind all that we see, hear and experience.

We are the heralds of the good news that brings Great Joy! Christians come to explain the truth, to reveal what has been fully revealed, to connect the dots and fill in the gaps. We are bridge builders who seek to help people come to God. We believe that He has been at work in a people or a person before we ever arrive. We are introducing the worshipper of the idol to their unknown god, to the One whom they have yet to come to know.

It is in this spirit that our ancestors sought to connect or retell the stories of people to the great story that makes sense of all others.

What Story Will You Tell?

A truth that the old ‘Boar’s Head Carol and Feasts’ spoke of:

Then the grim boar’s head frowned on high, 
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Who lists may in the mumming see 
Traces of ancient mystery.

This Christmas, I hope that you and your family will commit to discovering the Story within the stories. That you will experience the joy of the good news in all your merriment with family, friends and those you welcome around your table and heart.

I pray that you will be a people that can share the stories of the past and the present within the greatest story ever told. That your homes will be candles set in dark rooms, like cities of light on hills for all to see and stream towards in search of all that is true, good and beautiful.

May the Gospel story of Jesus inform, enchant and encompass all that you do for those you love and those who need to be loved in these desperate and lonely times. Let your lives be ones that witness to the saving joy of a Scrooge turned to a Saint and may the Star of the Son of David never cease shining over your welcoming, feasting, generous, song-filled and tale-telling…Christan homes.

G.K. Chesterton on Santa Claus:

“What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.

As a child, I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good – far from it.

And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. . . . What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.

Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.

Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dollars and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.”

In Defense of Neptune, Evangelistic Freedom & Beards

I heard this week that one of my sins in the public domain is my use of my blog banner photo of myself juxtaposed to a statue of Neptune.

Since that was a recent charge leveled at me about my heretical proclivities, I thought would explain.

Even though one of my other charges these days is that I am too friendly with the Papists, I know this will possibly add further wood to people’s personal inquisition fires by mentioning my fondness with Catholic Bishop Barron’s use of the Jewish Temple ‘Gentile Court’ as an example of how to engage the secular or seeking world in evangelisation. I see part of my pastoral writing and speaking life as an evangelist and apologist.

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” -2 Timothy 4:5

I try to create or enter a public space where people at various stages of interest or disdain of religious matters might engage with one another. I do my best to “…not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”(Acts 15:19). I do this by trying to declutter my evangelization methods of the typical evangelical religious culture’s stumbling blocks that related to “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” (Colossians 2:21) in welcome and witness in the culture. This can lead to me being “Too pagan for the fundies and too Jesusy for the pagans” but I do my best to work at finding that most engaging middle ground in hope of reaching some.

So in my evangelization effort in today’s postmodern world, I often use the platforms of public interest as springboards for discussing truth claims that I think matter. I “handle, taste and touch” cultural issues, interests and idols in order to proclaim the “unknown god’ many people are worshipping in sincere ignorance (Acts 17:22-23).

I take my thinking from some of the greatest minds the church has ever known, like Saint Augustine, who writes in “On Christian Doctrine” book two, pg 6o:

If those who are called philosophers, especially the Platonists, have said things which are indeed true and are well accommodated to our faith, they should not be feared; rather what they have said should be taken from them as from unjust possessors and converted to our use.”

This idea, which is fraught with dangers and opportunities is profoundly articulated best in Peter J. Leithart’s introduction to his book ‘Heroes of the City of Man’ which is titled ‘The Devil Has No Stories’, you could and should, read it here: https://docs.google.com/…/11BYzzWv_4FX60mqBf7uj6rXCxO…/edit…

In closing, I unashamedly admit that I believe:

“...All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

This means that everything is fair game, we are free to: “…examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good…” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

I know that such freedom scares many people and that there is a ‘defilement’ posture that many evangelicals hold in their minds about interacting with the world. I can understand that point of view, and I agree that we all face temptations and dangers in our work of witness.

But I refuse to be accept a religiously superstitious posture that immobilizes engagement and produces a neurotic, apprehensive life. I choose to live my call dangerously, but purposefully, close to the fires of judgment:

“...you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” (Jude 1:22-23)

As for the Blog Header picture, the reality of why I chose that pic is far more vain…I just liked the beard resemblance.

I stand accused, I am a…pogonophile.

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

The edge of my Oblivion

You are my black hole,

the gravitational pull is excruciating,

my discovery is alarming,

a sinking realization

that I can not escape.

 

Love as fright,

love as all consuming blackness,
love, a bottomless pit,

unknown dark,

a teetering tipping

on the edge of my oblivion.

 

All within me scrambles back to no avail,

my heart like sand caving to the tide,

You have consumed me unawares,

and the roar of my powerlessness

is drowned in the crash

of your unattentive coming and going.

 

The heart of Monoceros

is a diminishing void

the unicorns lie,

that which you thought you caught,

has caught you,

impaled on the great horn

of union’s dilemma.

 

A lover’s horror,

Andromeda’s beauty,

my chains,

my demise,

is there a still a son of Zeus

able to break Poseidon’s chains?

 

11.26.18

I’m not ashamed to be a Pilgrim ancestor

Francis Cook, my ancestor, was one of the passengers on the Mayflower. My ancestor’s survival and heritage is directly linked to the wisdom, kindness, ingenuity, bravery and sovereign work of God among the blessings and sufferings of the Native Americans of the Wampanoag confederacy of tribes, particularly the Patuxet people. Thanks to Samoset, Tisquantum (Squanto) and Chief Massasoit, the early Pilgrims were able to survive at the Plymouth Colony and eventually thrive in the new world.

I have visited Leiden Holland, South Hampton, England and France, all countries connected to the unfolding story of God’s plan for my ancestors, the Mayflower and the early Pilgrim settlements. Even today, as I read over the particular distinctives of the religious faith of the Pilgrims, I see the odd way our lives seem to be shaped by those from which we have come (http://mayflowerhistory.com/religion).

I give God praise for his work of salvation, providence and blessings in my family line. I am not ashamed of my Christian faith, Protestant heritage and American citizenship. I do believe God is to be praised in spite of our historical and cultural sins as Americans. God is and always has been at work in this great land before any Scandinavian or Europeans even set foot here, but there were plans connected to His eternal purposes that included the intertwining of all our people in North America.

There are many fair and right judgments to be made about the history that unfolded but even in the failures and atrocities that took place, there were beautiful displays of the Kingdom of God at work in, among and through all his people.

One of the great blessings of the Pilgrim people coming to America is the gift of God’s written word which they gave to their friends among the Native people. The first Bible printed in America was translated and published in 1663 at Cambridge, Massachusetts into the Narragansett language of the First Nation people, by a missionary named John Eliot.(http://mayflowerhistory.com/wampanoag-language).

Today as I feast with our own family, I honor my Pilgrim heritage and the Native American people who made my life possible. Today when I sit at the banquet table, I remember the first table set in Plymouth. That table will forever be a testimony of what can be realized if people of faith and good will choose to practice charity, trust and friendship across cultural, religious and even political backgrounds.

To that end, I add my amen to Governor William Bradford’s Thanksgiving proclamation three years after the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth.

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the daytime, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.

William Bradford
Ye Governor of Ye Colony

When Lightning Strikes

When Lightning Strikes

11/15/18

The cloven earth,

received the ungrounded fury of Zeus,

what was standing eternal,

now, struck from head to root,

the careless bolt,

has given Elysium

a hero it does not deserve.

Among the thunder of wailing,

the crash of crippled knees,

the tsunami of incoming tides,

all is drowned,

all is buried,

all is lost in weeping.

Our paradise is ravaged,

the boughs of delight, shaken,

all our fruit lay cleaved and smoldering,

and tremors lick our seared nerves

with threatening, tangible power.

The cool shade,

dissipated with thunderous flashbulbs,

blinding suddenness,

stumbling disorientation,

our Olympus has fallen.

A gouged line of demarcation,

jutting downward like a ghostly fingernail,

recklessly directed with a life-altering,

indiscriminate arch of finality.

The air is still charged,

pregnant with impermanence,

tingling terror,

our hairs standing to attention.

The specter of immanence,

stalks us, like a thief unawares,

and shock has awakened

the slumbering immortals

with the cold kiss of Persephone.

The sacrifice of Abraham and Agamemnon

As I have been studying for my series on James, I’ve been tethered to both a theological and philosophical examination of the book. I am fascinated with various themes that run through James’s letter that provoke me to tensions of thought and practice.

I find these matters reflect the issues addressed in some of the great philosophical debates in the works of Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). I am no expert on the works of these philosophers, but I am familiar with some of the profound existential themes, ideas and conclusions that are presented by these great minds. The nature of life, death, meaning, morals, ethics, faith and practice are themes that James wrestles with in his book as well.

One of the shocking stories that James center’s some of his teaching(James 2:20-24) around is the story of Abraham and the near sacrificing of Isaac(Genesis 22:1-19), which is described in the first verse of the story as “God tested Abraham”.

James 2:20-24: “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

I am not sure how anyone can read the Abraham/Isaac story and not be profoundly disturbed by the whole series of events. I would think that any sincere thinker or fairly healthy adult would wrestle with the implications of the mere idea of sacrificing one’s child in response to any supposed Divine command. Most christian circles I have been in avoided serious contemplation about this story, they either offer it up with a sidestep allegorization or avoid it as much as possible.

The horrors of the possibility of Divine sanctioned sacrifice are at the roots of much of the terrorist ideology that we see in the world and to even contemplate the possibility of God asking such things, can sour one’s stomach in revulsion. For some their minds slam shut like a sharp toothed trap, unrelenting in it’s grip, preventing them the allowance to even contemplate the story. But it’s in sacred scripture, and for that matter, I believe there has to be more to it all than just some kind of barbaric, tribal, desert God’s test of one’s ability to submit to the will of the gods over the rights, ethics and conscience of the human.

If God continually forbade and condemned the act of human sacrifice in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 12:31, Deuteronomy 18:10, Leviticus 18:21,Psalm 106:37-41, Jeremiah 7:31), how could He compel Abraham to engage in the potential act? Jame’s himself pushes back against this idea in 1:13: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

This confusing apparent moral contradiction can easily compel someone to throw up their hands in frustration and want to pull away from trusting a God who would ask such a thing of any person. How could the death of a son or any child for that matter, bring about any good?

But we find a similar cataclysmic, conscience conundrum in the ancient Greek story of the sacrifice of Iphigenia by Agamemnon, in various works like those of Euripides and others. There are variations of the story, and even Homer in the Iliad doesn’t mention it with any detail. But others have provided us with a similar Abraham/Isaac situation. The fact that the ancients were willing to write, read and extrapolate it in various ways leads me to believe that there is more to this story than just primitive, uncivilized history.

The story goes that Agamemnon offended the goddess Artemis and as a result the winds ceased to blow, leaving the great fleet dead in the water. It was amassed to sail to Troy and rescue or return Helen who was captured or ran off with Paris. But now the gods have them stuck in the harbor and one of the seers tells Agamemnon that he must sacrifice his daughter to appease the god. So a great plan of deceit and dismay unfolds that eventually ends in the good of the State and of the honor of Menelaus, the husband of Helen, to be considered greater than the loss of the life of one daughter. It’s a horrific tale that various authors reworked or provided alternate endings, like Iphigenia offering herself as an act of national heroism as she surrenders her life for the greater good of the many.

That any god is evil, I do not believe.” (Iphigenia. Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris).

If Artemis has decided to take my body, am I, a mortal, to thwart the goddess?” (Iphigenia to Clytaemnestra. Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis).

O my father, here I am; willingly I offer my body for my country and all Hellas, that you may lead me to the altar of the goddess and sacrifice me, since this is Heaven’s ordinance. May good luck be yours for any help that I afford! and may you obtain the victor’s gift and come again to the land of your fathers. So then let none of the Argives lay hands on me, for I will bravely yield my neck without a word.” (Iphigenia to Agamemnon. Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis).

As to her end, others write that she was rescued by the gods just at the moment of the knife and was replaced with a sacrificial deer. Whatever the case, there are some deep and profound issues that must be wrestled with in such a tale, of which countless authors, sages, theologians and philosophers have engaged since such stories were told.

Even in Christian scripture, the idea that one life sacrificed for the multitudes is at the heart of the gospel story of redemption through the death of Christ on the cross.

Jesus said: “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again.No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him.” (John 10:17-19)

Our justification, being made right with God ,was accomplished by Christ’s self giving, sacrificial act. He was not tricked like Iphigenia or left in the ominous dark like Isaac. Jesus, the son, chose to lay down his life for humanity.

It is this Christological act that captures me as I wrestle with James’s use of the story in apologetic regarding the weddedness of faith and action.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?

I do not want to twist the whole story into some more easily handled analogy that softens the horror and the edge of the actions into some proverbial idea of faith that requires something of us. This tale, these stories, are profoundly more shocking and compelling than a mere faith encouraging moralism can contain. We cannot reduce the cataclysmic complexity of these matters into some nice little Bible story with moral takeaways for a three point message.

This is a story of utter existential torment and decision at the very end of a very sharp knife! One can’t turn away from the demanding attention that this unthinkable situation forces us to face. It is in my estimation one of those stories in the bible that determine those who will walk away and who will stay. There is no doubt that it divides opinions about Jesus as John highlighted in the above passage.

Kierkegaard has his own take on the stories of Abraham and Agamemnon’s sacrifices in his book: ‘Fear and Trembling’, a good resource that you could find more light on this subject. He has some profound thoughts about moving from the aesthetic, to the ethical to the religious that are well worth the read. But I warn you, they are not easy matters to unravel, but the work of it, bears it’s own fruit.

Is there a difference between Abraham, Agamemnon and Jesus’s sacrifice? I think there are many, but a few of my own thoughts center around that ending of sacrifice hinted at in the Abrahamic account with God staying his slaying hand and providing a ram in the thicket. Ultimately Christ is the end of sacrifice:

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” -Hebrews 10:8-10

These are just some of the paths of thought I travel in preparing for a sermon series. They demand rigorous thinking, a prayerful listening heart and a commitment to not shy away from the real provocations of Scripture.

These matters are the ending and starting of worlds and one should handle them with…fear and trembling.

Neo-Paganism, the Wilds and the Word of God: Why I think Nature Matters

Romans 1:20

“Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God’s nature have been made visible, such as his eternal power and transcendence. He has made his wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible. So then, this leaves everyone without excuse.”

I love nature, not as God, but as a wonderful icon of the glory of God.

I have always thought that Christians who serve a God they believe created the world, seem to be some of the least earthy folks around. Somehow the people who were made out of the dirt of the ground and made alive by the breath of the Spirit of God, seem jittery about nature, ecology, environmentalism and the love of nature. There’s a substantive resistances at times to anything that seems flesh. An idea that only spirit matters, and it often creates a community of ideas that dislocate the individual from the very world they live in day to day.

Recently someone accused me of promoting ‘witchcraft’ by writing about the elements of earth, fire, water and wind in an article about camping in the woods that I wrote for men. An accusation that is outrageous but not surprising considering the ideas above. I purposely write in such a manner to engage or capture the attention of folks that might not be reading from a religious affiliation. I purposefully attempt to come at issues that matter to me from angles that I think might be disarming or fresh in perspective.

I think subjects that are religious in nature are often over communicated in a manner that is quickly dismissed. I have my own voice and it’s shaped and influenced by the things that matter to me and are guided by the missional call on my life.

If one is attuned to the rise of neo-paganism, wicca and other branches of religious naturalism, you know there is a need to communicate the truth of the gospel with a culture that is returning to the pre-christianization ideas and practices.

There is a very real revival of alternative worship that any cultural missionary would see as a field of meaningful engagement. I attempt to find ways to speak to the heart, mind and hands of those who resonate with an idea of spirituality that has a place for the created world and experience.

I do not think Jesus is opposed to the created world and our enjoyment and place in it. What biblical faith is in opposition to, is the worship of it, but wonder is not worship.

Romans 1:22-23

“Behind a facade of “wisdom” they became just fools, fools who would exchange the glory of the eternal God for an imitation image of a mortal man, or of creatures that run or fly or crawl.”

Jesus spent more time walking and teaching in nature than talking in temples and synagogues. His ministry often took place outside more than inside and his subjects of conversation were profoundly natural and common. The gospels are packed full of animals, rivers, seas, lakes, flowers, food, birds, farming, etc. He saw truth in life and connected people’s lives with the purposes and revelation of God’s will and ways.

Turning water to wine, mud into a miracle balm or asking someone to bathe in a pool for healing isn’t witchcraft, it’s reconnecting humanity with the goodness, truth and beauty of the world in which God as determined them to discover He is at work within.

Nature is one source of revelation, not the only, or highest, but it’s one sphere that may need to be revisited more and more as we move away from a literature loving culture. I will always point people to the holy and sacred gift of Scripture but sometimes I will ask them to the wilds as well as the word.

I will continue to invite friends to walk with me in the woods, to swim in mountain lakes, sit by roaring fires and stand among wind blown trees in hope that they will hear the still small voice of God.

I hope you will join me.