Reflecting on thanks.

“Happy Thanksgiving.”

I understand that’s a hard thing to hear for those who are grieving the loss of a life or of a mind this year. For those who are wondering about the next job, about the next step. For those who are missing family members this year because of service to God or country, fractures in relationships or health.

Some of those themes will be running through my head and heart this on this day. When people say, “Happy Thanksgiving” I will be thinking, “Thank you for your wishes but there are things you don’t know.”

And yet. Even as I write of my hesitation,  I know that I have things and people and events that I am grateful for. And grateful to. And I know that the phrase is offered as a wish, not an obligation.

I am grateful in this year that I can still remember the loving actions of my mother whose mind cannot remember for herself. I am grateful that I saw Nepal before the earthquake so that I can remember faces and ask God and others to give them peace and support. I am grateful for watching our daughter and son-in-law make commitments to each other, and our son and daughter-in-law navigate life changes with hope and grace.  I am grateful for friends and conversations and questions about God and what it means to follow Him.  I am grateful for you and your encouragement as we meet here. I am grateful for a life with Nancy that is full of quiet surprises and daily invitations to obey Christ together.

famAnd I am grateful that God meets me and patiently directs my steps and renews my heart, that he has offered me gifts and opportunities to use them. That he loves me.

Peace to you.


Photo from Perregeaux Wedding Photography


184 days.

May 25th I went for a run. I’ve run at least a mile every day since. A couple days I ran 13.1 miles. Many days at least three. But every day at least one.

It’s called a running streak. You can start your own on Thursday as part of  Runner’s World’s “37 days of awesome”. Run a mile a day from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day.

12246841_10153729106772008_3977364845334677584_nAnd I admit. It’s pretty amazing that I’ve had good enough weather and healthy enough legs, stomach, and lungs to keep moving. But I have the luxury of safe streets, strong legs, a flexible schedule, and a supportive family.

I may be a little like Will Wade. He’s a college basketball coach who has been on a running streak since January. According to a New York Times article, “Wade said: ‘I ask my team to be disciplined. I’ve got to be disciplined as well.'”

We all have the possibility of streaks, of consecutive days of choosing to do as much as we can, of choosing to discipline ourselves. It can be in running or in reading or in exercising patience with annoying customers. The training is challenging, but it teaches us that we can be focused, that we can do more than we thought.

Paul wrote to friends in Corinth, people familiar with the training that athletes endured.  He said,

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

I’m with Paul. I’m with Will. We can’t ask what we won’t do.


Thanks to Jeff Arnold for the Wade article.

Preparing for Thanksgiving conversations

You are going to be asked in the next few days how things are going. And you are going to feel stuck. Or you are going to be starting your review of the year soon.

tea-mountains-long// are a bunch of questions (first published here in July 2012) to help in that review. Before the Thanksgiving questions, sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and reflect on the year so far. But as you look at these questions, you will realize that progress isn’t always related to goals. Sometimes new things happen. Sometimes things change. Sometimes just keeping up with the basics (eating, breathing) is making progress.

Life change is its own set of goals…

  • Did a relationship end? start?
  • Did a family member die?
  • Did a child join the family? struggle? graduate?
  • Did a job change?
  • Did you keep doing the daily work?


  • Did you write an unplanned poem? a letter? a thank you note? a blog post? a song? a script?
  • Did you read a book? many books? A book of the Bible?

At least once…

  • Did you say no to an addiction? Can you do it again?
  • Did you change a habit?
  • Did you give someone flowers?
  • Did you choose to stay quiet?
  • Did you wrestle with a major question?
  • Did you apologize?
  • Did you say thank you?
  • Did you keep Sabbath?
  • Did you find solitude?
  • Did you forgive someone?

Looking at things as a farmer would (with thanks to Becky)….

  • Are you ripping out the old plants?
  • Are you between crops?
  • Are you planting?
  • Are you weeding?
  • Are you watering and waiting?
  • Are you harvesting?

Questions for thinking.

  • Did you complete one of last year’s goals? (right goal, wrong year)
  • Did you come back?
  • Did you step out?
  • Did you cry out for help?
  • Did you step back?
  • Did you let go?

Sounding formal…

  • How did you build capacity? Yours? someone else’s? your organization?
  • How have you developed infrastructure?
  • Are you looking forward to the next half of the year?
  • How did a goal change?
  • How did a new goal emerge?
  • Did you realize that your goals weren’t small enough? big enough?

Coding for Jesus

I was talking with a friend who designs web forms, among other things. We were trying to figure out what it might mean to represent Jesus at work. Other than telling your coworkers that Jesus loves them. Which, though it is true, often does not fit in the conversation.

I suggested that it might mean doing amazing work in how you code web forms.

For example, what if you thought about the people filling out the form, the people often frustrated by illegibility, tiny arrows, obscure options in dropdown menus, and color distinctions indesciperable to those who only see in gray? What if you started from the premise that if Jesus were designing webforms, his love would be evident?

binaryYou would consider how people think, how people respond to confusing choices, how best to phrase items to ensure accurate responses. You would consisider how people get distracted, how people differ in reading ability, how some items are not either/or but are both/and. You would consider the diversity of your friends and have them test the form. You would create a form that is functional and beautiful.

And then you would consider the other designers that have to connect their work to yours. You would make connecting easy, you would document the connections. You would anticipate the interconnectivity issues that “always” happen and would do all you can do to minimize them, because, as much as it up to you, you want to live at peace with them.

You would create such elegant and usable code than people would always recognize the human accesibility of it, even if it took way more time than you get paid for.

And once in a while, someone might say, “Jesus couldn’t code better than that.”

And you would reply, “Funny you should say that.”


You are doing a great work.

First published September 10, 2012

neh coverNehemiah was leading a team that was rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem. 24 centuries ago, this meant a lot of heavy lifting.  It also meant, as it would mean now, a lot of intimidation from the people who would lose influence when the walls had gates to keep them out.

They were mostly bullies, these intimidators. They rattled swords and spread rumors and huffed and puffed. They weren’t able to do much to blow the walls down.

After trying threats, they tried trickery. “Come out to meet us,” they said. “We just want to talk.” Nehemiah knew that this was a trap. And so, of course, he didn’t go. But his focus wasn’t on the trap as he responded. His focus was on the task at hand.

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

Every time I read that recently, I want to stand up in respect. Or fall down, heart convicted.

Say that out loud. “I am doing a great work.”

Doesn’t that give you chills? Or maybe, as it does for me, doesn’t that make you wish you could say that about what you are doing?

Nehemiah was rebuilding walls around “The City of God.” He had come 900 miles to do this work. He had prayed and planned and risked his life. He was completely committed to this project. It mattered.

But maybe you are doing something that matters, though you don’t see it that way. Maybe you are rebuilding the walls of protection for children whose lives have been wrecked. Maybe you are rebuilding your own life. Maybe you are just starting to build a foundation of following Jesus.

Go ahead. Say it again. “I am doing a great work.”


This turned into my book on Nehemiah. It’s still available.

A Great Work (paperback)
A Great Work (Kindle)