the painful joy of multiplication

Last week my youngest son’s Kindergarten Registration paperwork came in the mail. He was quite excited. His parents were not.

Certainly we are delighted that Carson is growing, healthy, and (almost) mature enough to spend his days at school. Certainly we are thankful that he has a great school to attend, one that is staffed by caring and devoted teachers and administrators. And certainly we are excited to see him take steps forward into maturity. But, if we are honest, those steps forward also seem to us like steps away from a season of life that we’ve loved. As a preschooler, our little man has brought us much joy. He is fun. We love the enthusiasm and boisterousness of his “little” years. Now he’s getting “big” – and that is a bittersweet reality, to say the least. (more…)

community opens your eyes

“Help me to see the messes I don’t see anymore.”

That’s what Kristen will say to me when she’s preparing our home to entertain guests. We have four young kids who live full lives on top of our own full lives. Consequently, our house is not always ready for unexpected houseguests. Instead, when we know people are coming over, Kristen cleans. (I would like to say that I help, but I’m not sure that picking up the shoes I’ve left out all over the house really counts.)


like a family: how community groups work

Last fall, my cell phone rang while I was sitting in my office one afternoon. I didn’t recognize the number that was calling, but because it was from our area code, I answered.

“This is James.”

On the other end, there was a brief pause, long enough to be awkward but not quite long enough to be called pregnant. Finally, “Uh, what time is Devin supposed to come over?”

I froze for a moment. The voice was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Plus, I had no idea who Devin was, much less what time he was supposed to come over. So I said, “Excuse me?”

Again: “What time is Devin supposed to come over?” Still, I hesitated. Then the breakthrough: “Mom said we were taking him home from school, but he doesn’t think so.” At last, everything clicked. (more…)

the grace of community

Some things are better shared than enjoyed alone. My two oldest sons are bookworms. When one reads and loves a book, he immediately wants to share it with the other. He is convinced that his enjoyment of that book will be greater if he can share it with his brother. Perhaps you have felt the same way about a book. Or a movie. Or a joke. Or a restaurant.

We usually want to share with others the things that bring us real joy in life. We want to help others know and experience the things we delight in. Our joy in them actually increases when we share that joy with other people. (more…)

the courage to be protestant

In 1517, a German monk nailed a piece of parchment to the door of a church in a small town called Wittenberg. His poster disputed key doctrines – 95 of them – taught by the Roman Catholic Church in that day. This moment set into motion a movement that changed the landscape of church history.

Changing the world is never easy. For Martin Luther, and for those who followed after him, the Protestant Reformation demanded extraordinary conviction and courage. Five hundred years later, in a culture ambivalent to biblical Christianity and hostile to those who herald its teachings, the conviction and courage required to be Protestant is still extraordinary. (more…)

counting the apples in the seed

Every apple has five seed pockets – called carpals – containing one or more seeds. The exact number of seeds per apple depends on the variety of the apple and the health and vigor of the apple tree.1 Therefore, it is impossible to predict the exact number of seeds in any given apple – until you cut it open, of course. But once the apple is open, you can count – precisely and accurately – the number of seeds inside.

What can never be counted precisely nor predicted accurately is the number of apples in a seed. If an apple seed is planted in rich soil and receives the right nutrients in the right climate, allowing the plant to grow to be healthy and strong, over time that tree can produce an untold number of apples. From our perspective, it can seem like a limitless number of apples. Year after year, the tree will produce hundreds of apples – or more. Year after year, each of those apples will contain seeds, which can in turn be planted to grow more apple trees producing even more apples producing even more trees…You get the picture. (more…)