The Accountability Group


4 preachers had a weekly tradition of going fishing together. One particular day, they were out on the lake and the boat was unusually quiet. One of the pastors who was usually loud and jovial was hardly saying a word. The others could tell he was troubled. One of them finally asked, “What’s the matter, brother?”

“Well,” the preacher said, “I haven’t told this to a soul but I trust the three of you so I’m just going to be out with it. I have a drinking problem. It started out innocently enough with a couple drinks here and there but now I get drunk every day. I go three towns over to the liquor store so no one will see me. I’m afraid if my congregation finds out, they won’t want me as their pastor anymore.”

The other three pastors offered words of encouragement and challenged him to get help. He looked very relieved to be free of the burden of his secret.

After a pause, a second pastor spoke up. “Brother, your bravery has inspired me to come clean about something. I’ve been addicted to internet pornography for quite some time. I know it’s wrong and I feel awful about it but I can’t seem to control myself. I’m worried that if I don’t get help, it will destroy my marriage and my ministry.” 

Likewise, the other three pastors encouraged and challenged the second pastor.

“While we’re all sharing,” the third pastor said, “I need to get something off my chest as well. I have a gambling problem. It started out as just the occasional scratch-off but now it seems I bet on everything. I go to casinos or race tracks on the weekend and it’s destroyed my finances. I don’t know what would happen if my church found out.”

Again, the other three pastors encouraged and challenged the third pastor. The 4th pastor was silent for a few minutes but finally worked up the courage to speak:

“Brothers, I too have a confession to make. I’m a raging gossip and I can’t WAIT to get off this boat!”

“Whatever is said here, stays here.” This promise is the hallmark of any true accountability group. This joke reminds us of the true damage that can be caused by broken confidentiality and serves as a warning that we should choose our confidants with care. Gossip is a grave sin. Not only does our need to share what we’ve learned (or more often, think we’ve learned) hurt the people we’re spreading tales about, it hurts us. We can damage our friendships with people permanently over the silly compulsion to be “in the know.” Whereas carefully guarding the hearts of your friends and loved ones can deepen those relationships. Next time you’re thinking of rushing off the boat to share the latest juicy bit you’ve learned, you’d do well to remember that loose lips sink ships.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

The Problem of the Dead Lion


There was a village that contained three exceptional men known for their great learning. They excelled in many of the sciences and were renown for their intellect. One day, the three learned men got together and decided they were tired on living in the village.

“The people of this village are superstitious simpletons and cannot possibly understand our learning,” said one.

“There is nothing here for us to apply our superior skills to. We have so much to offer the world and we cannot do it in this simple place,” said another.

“And there is so much to see that we have not yet seen. We should go explore and find new challenges to apply our great minds to,” said the third.

They resolved that their voyage of exploration should begin in the forest. So they set about exploring. After several hours, they happened upon the bones of a lion in the middle of the forest.

One of the learned men exclaimed, “Look! We have finally found a problem which we can apply our great learning to… Among my many studies, I have studied all the skeletal structures of all the earth’s creatures… I could easily reconstruct this lion’s skeleton!”

Another of the learned men added, “In my studies, I have studied the muscles and sinews of the earth’s creatures and have learned the art of sewing skin… If you can repair this lion’s skeleton, I can make it new muscles and skin.”

“Oh we make a great team indeed,” chimed the third, “for I have learned in my studies the art of life. If you two can repair this lion’s body, I can concoct a potion that will give it blood and breath!”

So the three learned men set to work applying their great knowledge to the problem of the dead lion. One carefully reconstructing the skeleton, another adding the muscles and skin, and the third restoring the blood and breath, until at last they had brought the lion back to life. The three learned men marveled at their accomplishment.

“Look!,” said one, “A fully restored, living breathing lion! Surely such a thing has never been done before!”

“I know!”, said another, “It is a true scientific breakthrough! Imagine the implications!”

Before the third could speak, the lion lunged at the three learned men, mauled them, and ate them for dinner.

This elegant African folktale is a great parable about the responsibility that comes with knowledge. Just because we have the power to do something does not mean it should be done. We can build machines that can destroy the earth a hundred times over… Should we? Biological engineering, singularity, and advancements in warfare, raise important ethical questions that disciples have an obligation to speak into. We are not called to be neophytes. Rather we are called to engage the great questions with integrity and conscience. It has been said religion without science has no brain and that science without religion has no heart. God requires us to love Him with both.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

The Book Moth

RIDDLE 47

A moth ate words. To I who wondered it seemed
A remarkable fate, when I learned of it,
That the thing had devoured the speech of a certain man.
A thief in the dark of night, chewing through proverbs,
Replacing them with himself. That unwanted guest,
Was no whit the wiser for the words he ate.

The Book of Exeter

I can still remember coming across this poem as a child in a bright orange paperback on my Mother’s bookshelf titled, “Anglo Saxon Poetry.” I remember reading this poem and being disappointed in the riddle. “It’s a moth,” I thought to myself, “It’s right there in the first line.” I quickly lost interest and moved to other things. The wisdom of this simple parable was wasted on me. It wasn’t until I flipped through the book as teen who was hungrily devouring poetry that I chanced upon the riddle again and found much in it worth contemplating. There is a difference between being a reader who simply chews through words and is not made any wiser and a reader who understands and internalizes what she is reading. When Ezekiel is given the prophecy he is to set before the people, he encounters it in a vision of a scroll which he must eat. When the 1st Psalm declares that the righteous “meditate” on God’s Word day and night, the word “meditate” is the same word used for “chew.” We are called, as disciples, to devour scripture. But there is a difference between memorizing verses, stories, and bits of theology, and actually applying that wisdom to our lives. When we read the words of scripture, we must put them into practice. Otherwise, like the book moth, we will be no whit wiser for the words we ate.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

3 Stone Cutters


A pilgrim traveling through medieval France happened on a work site where some stonecutters were busy working. Curious, the traveller stopped to ask the stonecutters about the work they were doing. The first stonecutter he approached was muttering under his breath.

“What are you doing?”, the pilgrim asked.

“What do you want to know about it?”, the stonecutter replied, barely looking up. “I do nothing but break my back all day, slaving over these stones with cheap instruments. I put them where they tell me and I go home when they tell me. I do it without any thanks and for very little pay. ”

The pilgrim quietly backed away, so as not to offend the fellow any further. He saw another stonecutter whistling as he worked.

“What are you doing?”, the pilgrim asked the second stonecutter who looked up and smiled. 

“Just working to make a living. I cut these stones all day to support my beautiful wife and family back in the village. It’s not exciting work but it’s honest and it puts food on the table. I know many able bodied men who struggle to find work and this job pays regularly so I feel pretty blessed.”

The pilgrim was about to leave when he saw a third stonecutter. This one was working quietly and intensely. His hands were quick and precise.  

“What are you doing?”, asked the pilgrim.

The third stonecutter was so engrossed in his task that he didn’t even hear the pilgrim.

“What are you doing?”, the pilgrim asked, louder this time.

The third stonecutter looked up to the heaven and whispered, “I’m building a cathedral.”

“There are two types of people,” the trite saying goes, “those that see the glass as half empty, and those that see the glass as half full.” This thought provoking parable, however, introduces a third way of seeing the world: one that is less about how the world impacts us and more about how we impact the world. It is about having a vision that is larger than our selves. Having vision is looking beyond the day to day and seeing the purpose and meaning in what we do. It’s more than merely working toward a goal. As disciples, we are charged with no less than building God’s Kingdom on earth. A monumental task, to be sure, but also a captivating vision that gives purpose to our work beyond how it affects us. When we see our lives as working toward the goal of the Kingdom then it matters not if our glass is half  empty or half full, all that matters is that we seek first the kingdom of God. The good news is that knowing we are part of something greater than ourselves, that we are making the world a better place stone by stone, is truly a cup which runneth over.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

Duck Church


There is a little town of Ducks. Every Sunday the ducks waddle out of their houses and waddle down Main Street to their Church. They waddle into the sanctuary and squat in their proper pews. The duck choir waddles in and takes it place, then the duck minister comes forward and opens the duck Bible (Ducks, like all other creatures on earth, seem to have their own special version of the Scriptures.) He reads to them: “Ducks! God has given you wings! With wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up and soar like eagles. No walls can confine you! No fences can hold you! You have wings. God has given you wings and you can fly like birds!” All the ducks shout “Amen!” And they all waddle home.

This short parable by Søren Kierkegaard perfectly illustrates the truth that faith is meaningless unless it is put into action. We should leave Church transformed and ready to change the world. The book of James tells us to be doers of the word and not merely hearers of the word. Disciples are called just to like Jesus; we are called to be just like Jesus. Too often, though, we listen to eloquent sermons about the extraordinary way in which we are called to live but fail to put those words into action. We have only wasted an hour of our time if we waddle out of Church the same way we waddled in.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

The Mustard Seed


Once Jesus was teaching his disciples about the Kingdom of God and he offered them this parable:

“What is the Kingdom of God like? With what shall I compare it? The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. A farmer takes it and plants it in his field. Even though the mustard seed is the tiniest of seeds, when it is grown, it surpasses all the other herbs and becomes the greatest of trees. So wide are its branches that the birds of the air come make their home in them!”

 I’ve heard it said (I can’t remember by who) that the Parables of Jesus are a wading pool for tiny children to play in and a vast ocean for sailors to explore. That has certainly been my experience. This simple little parable is easy enough for a child to grasp, yet it rewards continual meditation. Rather than give you some didactic explanation of what this parable is trying to say, let me instead offer you some questions to ponder while you meditate upon this parable yourself. What exactly does the seed represent? Is it a good deed, seemingly small and unnoticed? Is it the message of the Gospel planted in our hearts? Is it a small faithful band of disciples who will one day be the Church? Is it Christ, Himself, a man of no consequence, buried beneath the earth? Is it our own mortal bodies awaiting glory? Is it the promise of God beginning as a covenant with one man, growing until it eventually encompasses all of creation? Is it the life of the disciple that begins with a simple act of saying “Yes” to Jesus and continues until we are finally transformed into the likeness of Christ? Is it all of these or something else entirely?  See what I mean? You could probably meditate for a week on the mustard seed, to say nothing of the mysterious farmer, the dark soil, the majestic tree, and the many pilgrim birds which find safety in the outstretched branches pointing toward a bright blue heaven.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

The Wolf and the Dog


There was a Wolf who was cold from chilly winter winds and near starvation from lack of food.   He was in this terrible condition when he met a healthy looking Dog. The Dog greeted him cheerfully:

“Hello, Cousin! It pains me to see you like this: wasting away for no good reason. Why do you scavenge for food when you could be taken care of as I am? My Master feeds me regularly and here you are close to death. Why not find a home for yourself?”

“That would be nice,” said the Wolf, “But how would I even find a place like this?”

The Dog smiled. “It would be no trouble! You could come home with me and I’m sure my Master would take you in as well. You could share in my work and we would both be fed regularly!”

The Wolf agreed and he and the Dog set off to go to town together. While they were on the way, the Wolf noticed a spot on the Dog’s neck where there was very little hair.

“Cousin, what is wrong with your neck?” the Wolf asked.

“Oh that,” said the Dog, “It’s nothing. My Master keeps me on a chain at night and that is where the collar goes. It’s uncomfortable but you get used to it after awhile.”

“Goodbye cousin!” said the Wolf, turning to leave. “I’d rather starve and be free than be fat and a slave!”

Freedom versus security. It’s the age old debate at the heart of this fable by Aesop. Who is right? The Wolf or the Dog? Your answer probably depends on your point of view. The truth is both cousins suffer from a kind of bondage. The Dog is a slave to a human master while the Wolf is captive to his circumstances: forced into a lifelong fight for survival. We human beings find ourselves in a similar situation.  Jesus says, “Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden and find rest for your souls. My burden is easy and my yoke is light.” Disciples are called to throw off the chains of sin and death and to find freedom in serving Christ.  Like the Dog, each of us is born a slave to sin and must abandon the false security offered by our old life and embrace the radical freedom that is found in knowing Christ. But this way of life is not forced upon us. It is one we must choose. Like the Wolf, each of us must decide if we are willing to take up the yoke or Christ or cling to the illusion of freedom that threatens to destroy us.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…