Therefore Having Gone

Therefore Having Gone

Saturday, April 10, 2021


I have been loving the advent of this current springtime more than any other I can remember. We didn't make it back to Indiana until mid-April last year and so we had already missed the first blossoms when they are at their brightest and hardiest. And of course we didn't experienced last spring as the far side of a cold and dreary Indiana winter - and that makes a difference in appreciation levels for sure.

And maybe I'm just a bit more melancholy than past years, but this spring has inspired in me just as much sadness as awe. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and the kids are leaving the nest and I am unexpectedly in the midst of reevaluating my career trajectory while in my 50s. 

I guess things are feeling so ... temporary.

To top it all off, recently (some of) my 8th graders have been reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and she has the narrator at one point recite a famous Robert Frost poem he learned in school.

And it is a sad little poem:

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf's a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay. 

Sad, but true.

As a way of illustrating the veracity of Frost's claim that "nothing gold can stay", compare these two pictures of the blooms on the cherry tree Melissa and I planted in our front yard many years ago now.

Here's the first:

And the second is just four days later:

And here are a few of this spring's first leaves - looking like a flower, up against a few leaves leftover from last season on a bush in the backyard:

No doubt about it, Frost is right: nothing gold can stay.

That's where Frost leaves it, anyway, but I have to remind myself that "Eden sank to grief" is not where the story ends ...  


Lately I've become aware that I miss teaching. 

I mean, I miss teaching the stuff that really matters. The stuff that at least has the potential for being life-changing. 

In my current classes I focus on critical thinking and reading comprehension and writing skills. All important for life and career - nobody has to convince me of that. 

But, ultimately, so what if we grow better able to read and comprehend if we don't get to practice with the most important Book of all time?

I remember hearing someone once say about typical American conversations, "We spend the most time talking about the things that matter the least." 

In my public school classroom I'd say, "We spend the most time talking about things that matter a lot ... but no time talking about the things that matter the most."

And that's getting to me. 

Thursday, April 8, 2021


I found out years after the fact that "God forbid!" was my father's reaction when I first announced (during my senior year in college) that I was going to pursue a career in youth ministry. 

His objection - which he kept to himself - wasn't about anything like low pay, lack of status, or limited career options. 

No, the gut-level "God forbid!" came out of his years of attending local churches and especially the experience of serving on various church committees. 

Here was dad's fear: I was a na├»ve idealist who was about to walk into the reality of the inner workings of a church. He figured that I might witness "how the sausage is made" and get so discouraged that I would walk away not only from the local church but from my Christian faith altogether. 

Thus ... God forbid!

He didn't seek to discourage my plans, but he sure prayed for me. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021


One evening, years ago, as a young youth pastor I walked into a scheduled church meeting, hoping it would be a short one. 

And not just because it was a church meeting, but because I had play practice to get to. I was just out of college, living in LeMars, Iowa, and I had been pulled into a community theater production of a goofy play called "Bleacher Bums". I had been way too shy to ever get on stage in high school, but I had always wanted to try. And now I was doing it. The cast was an eclectic group of 8 individuals and the atmosphere of practice was thoroughly secular, if you know what I mean.

But I loved it.

So I really wanted this church meeting to be brief. 

When I walked into the church parlor, though, I knew this wasn't going to be an ordinary meeting. It was going to be an attack. 

At the folding table, sitting next to the pastor, was the mother of two youth, neither of whom EVER came to any of the church activities I planned. This woman seemed to be the pastor's guest of honor. And she was scowling. 

After the opening prayer, for the first 40 minutes, the meeting was nothing but this woman dumping all sorts of criticisms on me and the pastor nodding in assent, occasionally tossing in his extra two cents. When things finally calmed down and we moved on to other business, I realized this meeting was not possibly going to end early enough for me to be on time for play practice. And I didn't dare leave before the meeting ended - out of fear that I might receive a fatal back stab on my way out of the church building. 

So I stayed to the bitter end and then drove myself a half hour late to the little community theater maybe ten blocks away, crying and pounding the steering wheel violently as I went.

After parking, I dried my eyes, collected myself briefly, and entered the building. As I walked down the center aisle toward the stage, the cast members looked up from their scripts, jumped out of their seats and someone declared, "Thank goodness you're here - we were all afraid something bad had happened to you!" The pain on my face must have been fairly obvious; the cast members surrounded me and several put their hands on my shoulders to comfort me. 

And for the first time that night, I felt loved.

There's a moral to this story but it is too terrible to spell out in black and white, so I won't. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021


The internet is littered with "leadership quotes". 

I looked through some recently and found:

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. —Max DePree

You manage things; you lead people. —Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. —Jack Welch

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. —John Maxwell

Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes. —Peter Drucker

... and a million more.

But here's what I've learned about leadership (mostly from watching other leaders), and it's not going to appear on a motivational poster:

"When you step into leadership, a huge target gets painted on your back."

Does that strike you as overly cynical? Or realistic?

Monday, April 5, 2021


I am always looking for solid Christian teaching online and thought you might be interested in one particular man who is doing some top-notch Scriptural studies on YouTube: Mike Winger. 

Winger is apparently an associate pastor at a church in California, but he has dedicated more and more of his time in recent years to producing free content online. 

He's got hundreds of videos on YouTube these days - everything from refuting Jehovah's Witnesses to methodically moving through the entire Gospel of Mark in 50 + parts.

Winger is a rare breed - a teacher who is:
- and extremely Likeable

He also strikes me as one of those brothers in Christ who seems to be cloaked in the Holy Spirit. Have you ever met someone who is obviously filled with the Spirit? That's Mike Winger. 

When you get the chance, you should check him out. Here's a sample video where he spends an hour and 20 minutes exploring the connection between Jesus's sacrifice and the Passover:


Sunday, April 4, 2021


Five of the easiest words to say are "If I were in charge ...."

Have you ever noticed that:

98% of the time, "If I were in charge ..." is a prelude to a sharp, thinly-veiled criticism of the person who IS in charge?

99% of the time, the audience for "If I were in charge ..." is anyone except the person who IS in charge?

100% of the time, the one who says "If I were in charge ..." truly is unaware of all of the factors involved in the decisions made by the person who IS in charge? 

We need to think twice before we allow "If I were in charge ..." to escape our lips.