1941 Chrysler Dream Car 

1941 Chrysler Dream Car 

Ideals are good.  They are principles toward which we might reach. They help give shape to images of what we hope can be. We imagine something different and maybe better than what is and that image or ideal gives energy to our growing and changing.

But, where ideals are good, being an idealist can become problematic.  When people attach “ist” to ideals, the ideals can become so powerful that we are unable live and love the life we have. To add “ist” to ideal is to allow those images of what we hope to be true to block our capacity to see value in what is true. If I have an ideal of how I want to look and become so obsessed with making that happen that I can’t be contented with how I really look, then life can become a daily grind of discontent.

I have been an idealist in my life. I have had images of what life might be and have sought to live up to those images. One of the problems I have discovered is that I not only have images of what I want to be, but I develop images of what I want others to be as well. And when I try to measure life according to those images that others may not have bought into, I find myself disappointed by them. 

So, what I try to do with this idealism that has been part of my DNA is to allow the images of a better self shape my actions, but also allow the grace of forgiveness to keep me from becoming overwhelmed by my inability to live up to the ideals.  And what I do for myself, I try to do for others. I have values and dreams. I work for the kind of world that I believe is loving and just, but I know that reality can never be what my images conjure. And I hope that growth toward that just and loving future will improve my life and the life of those around me.


I love change. I love it when the pain in my back changes to no pain.  I love it when the seasons change and we get different weather. I love it when laws are changed and people who love each other have the freedom to marry whomever they desire.   

I love change, except when I don’t.  I don’t like it when the laws that protected the voting rights of millions of minorities are struck down. I don’t like it when someone suffers because of the change in the economy.  I hate change when my sister was living and now she is dead. 

Freud suggested that being human is to love what we hate and to hate what we love.  Guess by this description I am human. 

But, regardless of whether or not I love or hate certain changes, the fact is I must learn to live with it.  I can try to grab onto what I love and keep it from changing.  And when it changes, I can hang onto the memory of the way things were.  I can attach myself so tightly to the way things were that I am create a prison made of the remains of that which has changed. 

Or, I can learn to live with change.  I can forgive the past for changing and find mercy for those who are responsible for the changes. I can open my heart to the possibility that there is something in the changed reality which I can celebrate.  I can try to imagine a new way of living in the absence of the way life was before. 

This seems to be important work if I want to flourish in my future.  My future is emerging from the changing of my  life the way it now is.  If I open my heart to it’s possibilities, maybe I will discover blessing.


Grieving significant loss can be a long and arduous journey. That is why many people try simply to "get over it." But, it is my belief that grieving loss is an opportunity for self-discovery that ought not be missed. When we lose someone who has been critical to our self-understanding and self-identity, our lives are broken open. It is like an earthquake has severed the ground and suddenly you can see the life that was lived centurys ago in the striations of the earth.  

And grieving is a journey in which we can explore dimensions of life that we may have simply ignored before. The journey of grieving, that is, the journey toward creative new life, is learning to live again in the absence of someone or something significant. Therefore, it does have pain and anger because our sense of self, our sense of what is right, may be threatened. By feeling our pain and anger, we see more clearly what we value. 

The journey is also filled with remembrances.  When we lose something that we value, we often spend time remembering it. Telling stories of the recently deceased is a way of re-membering that person within our heart.  They are no longer here the way they were, so we need to create an internal presence by conversation and story-telling. This includes rehearsing the loss, the pain and the anger, all part of the experience. By remembering well we see more clearly the gifts that life has given to us. 

Loss almost always sends us looking for someone or something to blame. Sometimes we blame ourselves for not doing enough, or sometimes we blame others for doing something to make it happen.  Guilt is related to our effort to make some sense out of life.  When we go on this journey of grieving, we try to reconstruct a meaningful world in which our life makes sense.

But, those who learn to live again in the absence of someone or something significant eventually learn to forgive the past for not being permanent. When life is good, we want it to keep going.  It is painful when it doesn't. That pain can lock us in the past. Forgiving is what frees us from the power of the pain of the past to control our future.  It is what opens us up to the energy to embrace what new life and gifts come to us.

In the moments when the forgiving spirit visits us, we discover that we are imagining and playing with new ways of living. We are exploring new practices that will help us figure out the future we will embrace.  We experiment and discover the adventure of new relationships and opportunities.

The journey of grief is painful and challenging. But, it can be an opportunity for self-growth and an opportunity for discovering new dimensions of the self.


[This post is the sixth in a series of devotions on forgiveness that I first published last year in a leaders’ devotional book, "Disciplines 2013" from The Upper Room. This is based on a reading found in II Corinthians 5:18-21]

God loves creation.  Divine life creates the world and declares it good.  All creatures are gifts of God.  God ‘s love is attentive and enjoys being in right relationship with the created order.  God creates partners with whom to discover the way life can be lived fully and faithfully.  God’s goal is the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven.

Therefore, God is committed to not holding our sins against us. In Christ, that is, through mercy and forgiveness, God acts to reconcile us with each other and with the divine will.  God’s agenda is to break down the walls of pain and injustice that divide us from the good that was created.  God has chosen those who claim Christ as Lord to be partners or ambassadors for Christ in the creation of a new world that reflects the divine desire of justice and mercy.

That new world will be different from the previous one. Our experiences, our mistakes, our discoveries, our achievements and failures will all be taken into the Divine heart through “the one who knew no sin” and will give shape and form to the new world that is being created.  Because God returns to us and does not hold our mistakes against us, we can be bold in our living, trying and failing, picking ourselves and each other up and trying again.  The future world of a reconciled people keeps calling us forward into new action. 

When we allow the mistakes, the hurt and pain of past offenses to capture us and create prison bars to keep us away from a new and reconciled future, we deny God the insights of our experience. We are kept from offering ourselves, broken and incomplete, for the service of God’s design.  Therefore, receiving Divine forgiveness is the devotional imperative of those who seek to follow Christ.  Are you open to be free to join God in an innovative future of grace and justice?

Beloved of all, take our hands and walk with us into your divine future.  



[This post is the fourth in a series of devotions on forgiveness that I first published last year in a leaders’ devotional book, "Disciplines 2013" from The Upper Room. This is based on a reading found in Luke 15:25-32]

 It seems the reuniting of a family would be cause for unbridled celebration. Hurt and separation are not desired. But betrayal and abandonment cut deep.  The brother who remained at home was wounded.  He not only suffered the loss of his brother who deserted him, but he was left to share his father’s pain.  It is hard when someone we love is hurt.  The cut is even deeper.

 So, when the happy reunion occurred, the older brother didn’t join in.  He could have done his duty and joined the festivities, but anger was deep.  He was not only responsible while his brother wasted his inheritance, but he also must now share the remainder since his brother was now a son again.  Not only the past needed to be grieved, but also the loss of the future that he had anticipated.

  Is it fair to ask the older brother to forgive his younger brother?  Certainly if the father’s desire for family unity is honored, then he has no choice.  But, don’t ask him to like it.  Overcoming deep and shaming pain is an arduous process.  Forgiveness isn’t simply declaring that it’s over.  Grieving the loss of the world you knew and the world  you hoped for takes time.  Being freed for a new tomorrow requires a forgiving spirit that must grow toward that liberated future.  It takes patience. Take small steps.  It takes prayerful conversation with the offending party and your own soul.

 Also keep in mind the mind of the father.  While the younger son has new opportunity and does not suffer permanent separation, the older son is the beneficiary of the steadfast presence and affection of the father.  While it may appear that the gifts of grace are only for those who do grievous offense, there is constant and faithful presence for those who never know the pain of separation. Hold on to  God’s constant grace.

Hold us, patient Redeemer, in your constant state of grace.