Thursday, January 28, 2010

THE ROAD TO HELL by Milton Glaser

NOTE: One last article by Milton Glaser. A nice follow up to yesterday's essay on Truth.

Keep in mind that he's writing this to designers and writers who work in the advertising industry.

The Road to Hell by Milton Glaser

I once created a test called The Road to Hell, ... a series of questions that become more difficult the deeper you go. The first couple are easy, would you—

1. Design a package to look larger on the shelf?

2. Do an ad for a slow-moving, boring film to make it seem like a lighthearted comedy?

3. Design a crest for a new vineyard to suggest that it’s been in business for a long time?

4. Design a jacket for a book whose sexual content you find personally repellent?

5. Design an advertising campaign for a company with a history of known discrimination in minority hiring?

6. Design a package for a cereal aimed at children, which has low nutritional value and high sugar content?

7. Design a line of T-shirts for a manufacturer who employs child labor?

8. Design a promotion for a diet product that you know doesn’t work?

9. Design an ad for a political candidate whose policies you believe would be harmful to the general public?

10. Design a brochure piece for an SUV that turned over more frequently than average in emergency conditions and caused the death of 150 people?

11. Design an ad for a product whose continued use might cause the user’s death?

When I gave this test to students between the ages of 21 to 28, I discovered that in a group of 20, three or four of them were willing to go all the way — That is, participate in advertising a product whose use might cause the user’s death.

These were generally idealistic young people as yet seemingly uncorrupted by money or professional life. However, they drew the line at harming their family, friends or neighbors.

The other day in the country, I thought I’d make a Greek salad for lunch. Tomatoes are not quite in season but I had some good onions, peppers, cucumbers as well as a small square of feta and some excellent olives, olive oil and Greek oregano.

As I was adding the feta to the salad I checked the nutritional label; it read 70 calories per serving. “Not bad” I thought, and crumbled the cheese into the bowl.

Something made me examine the label again. Under “number of servings” it said 7. I had just added 490 calories to a diet-conscious lunch for my wife and myself.

I wondered how did a thimbleful of feta become a serving? You all know the answer.

After lunch I turned on the TV to watch the ball game. A commercial for a nasty-looking green salve to treat arthritis was on, showing a smiling young woman testifying to the efficacy of the medication.

“I was barely able to move my fingers” she said, “and now I can type for hours without any pain.”

At the bottom of the screen in 6 point, barely visible type, were the words “results may not be typical”.

Could I have picked any more trivial examples to indicate the lies we experience in daily life? Perhaps not, but the truth is we are subjected to a thousand of such misrepresentations every day of our lives.

So pervasive is the culture of small distortions that we can no longer recognize them as lies. To quote Mc Luhan, “The fish in water doesn’t know it’s in water”—nevertheless the assault has changed our brains and our view of reality and truth.

Most of us here today are in the transmission business. While we don’t often originate the content of what we transmit, we are an essential part of communicating ideas to a public that is affected by what we say. Should telling the truth be a fundamental requirement of this role? Is there a difference between lying to your wife and friends and lying to people you don’t know? Certainly one thing that makes lying easier is thinking of the audience not as citizens but as consumers—the consumer is another species, and in professional life they are often thought of as the “other”.

To quote Elaine Pagels in her book, The Origins of Satan, “The social and cultural practice of defining certain people as ‘others’ in relationship to one’s own group may be, of course as old as humanity itself.”

While marketing is obsessed with the way groups behave it doesn’t generally conceive of those groups as being our fathers, mothers, sisters or friends, this would make the job far too complex. Rather, these groups are thought of as ‘markets’ with generalized characteristics that make manipulating them seem ethically acceptable.

One thing seems consistent, the greater the psychic distance the easier it is to persuade people to act against their own self-interest. The issue seems more significant than ever. Today, given the aggressive distortion of truth and reality that pervades our civic and business life. It is not a coincidence that Karl Rove, a brilliant marketing man is, next to the President himself, the most important man in Washington and perhaps the world.

What is truly frightening is the degree to which lying has become acceptable in our public life. I’m not sure when the word “spin” replaced “lie” but it is characteristic of how our language has become a way of deflecting or distorting reality. We seem to be awash in lies from business, the government, and almost every institution we have traditionally looked to as a source of belief. Our government has embarked on an investigation to determine whether the atrocities performed at Abu Ghraib were aberational or systemic. What would be equally important is an examination of whether lying has become systemic in our nation and the way our government speaks to us. The relative lack of public outrage as government and business lies are revealed is troubling, and may indicate how the American sense of what truth is has been profoundly shaped by our most pervasive educational medium, advertising.

Actually it works two ways, advertising influences our relationship to government and government influences our view of advertising. A recent somewhat homophobic ad by Anheuser-Busch (no relation), in addition to characterizing Miller as a “sissy” beer, “outed” the Miller Beer Corporation as being owned by a South African company, paralleling the outing, by unknown government insiders, of CIA Agent Valerie Plame.

As you all know, that event was triggered because her husband told the truth about whether or not nuclear materials were being shipped from Niger. In my memory this is the first time that the patriotism of a competitor has been questioned in order to promote beer sales. Marketing can be shameless.

Politicians and businessmen have re-discovered the power of Lenin’s old idea that a lie repeated often enough, becomes the truth. This dark assumption throws a pall over America as well as the entire world and endangers democracy itself. When people believe that their government systemically lies to them they become cynical.

Cynicism breeds apathy and a sense of powerlessness that causes people to withdraw from public life. It is not coincidental that less than half our population votes.

If only 44% of our country vote and we are equally divided ideologically, it means that 20% of the electorate control the fate of our nation—this has become a profound threat to the future of our republic and democracy itself. We can only call this a systemic scandal and observe that those in power have done very little to change the condition. Which raises one last question. From our government’s point of view, have we become the “other”?

ABOUT MILTON GLASER – Creator of the iconic “I Heart NY” image, Milton Glaser helped revive illustration in the 1960’s when photography was thought to have swept the field. After studying at the High School of Music & Art, then Cooper Union in New York, Glaser studied etching in Bologna with the painter Giorgio Morandi.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010


*Note: The following article was written by Milton Glaser and appeared in the AIG publication: "The Truth Issue". I have reproduced it here without permission. Mainly because I could not find it anywhere else online and because I wanted to share it with all of you.

Some of you know that my day job is in the field of marketing and advertising. I work as a copywriter and penning headlines, taglines, corporate advertising slogans and compelling editorial copy is what I do to put food on my table.

In this world of advertising and marketing, Milton Glaser is something of a legend. All you need to know about him is that he invented the "I (heart) NY" graphic which has since become synonymous with the city of New York. He's a genius. He's also something of a philosopher of advertising (if you can imagine such a thing) and at times his articles and interviews even take on issues of ethics and conscience - something sorely lacking in most marketing firms around the globe.

Because of this, I reprint this article by Milton Glaser on something quite rare for this field: The Truth.

See if you find any parallels to modern culture or christianity.


I went to Las Vegas for the first time to participate in the AIGA conference. I was booked at the Venetian – a hotel whose vast vistas of painted, cloud-filled skies had required the skills of more mural painters than had ever existed in Venice during the entire 15th century.

On my first day at the hotel, I noticed a sign that said, “Grand Canal.” I asked the concierge at the reception desk where it was. “One flight up,” she said. The earth reeled beneath my feet. A canal one flight up; what a concept.

The canal was, in fact, upstairs, complete with gondola and gondolier who would cheerfully take you around a bend to the Piazza San Marco. Later that same day, the hotels plubming broke down, and suddenly the entire ground floor began to smell like Venice on a warm day. I actually found myself wondering whether the hotel had planned it. Is there such a thing as virtual smell?

On the Dallas leg of the flight from Las Vegas after the AIGA conference, the hostess entered the aisle with a vigorously steaming tray of hot towels. I noticed that a wine glass filled with water was the source of the steam.

“What is that?” I asked the hostess, pointing to the glass.

“Dry ice and water,” she replied.

“Is that for drama?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

Even to a dormant mind, a trip to Las Vegas inevitably raises the question, “What is real?” and, by inference, “What is truth?”

Obviously, “What is truth?” is one of humankind’s most persistent questions, but it seems ever more insistent at this moment than at any other time. What can it mean when a freezing glass of dry ice is used to simulate a steaming towel on a plane trip? Can this modest deception benefit either the airline or its passengers? Where was the decision made to do it? In the boardroom? In the advertising agency? On the flight itself? Does the airline believe that the drama of the steaming towels will suggest a policy of concerned service? What happens to the customer in the last row of the plane when he is handed a cold towel while the tray above his head is steaming madly? Doe he doubt his own nervous system? What makes me uncomfortable with all of this? Why do I believe that harm is being done? All of which leads us in a convoluted way to the question of professional ethics.

“How can we tell the truth?” can be thought of as two separate questions. The first part asks why we believe what we believe; the second, where ethical questions begin, involves our responsibility to others.

One must start with the presumption that telling the truth is important for human survival, but at this moment of relativism and virtuality, I’m not sure how many would agree on what truth is or how important it is in our private and professional lives.

But we must begin somewhere. The question becomes a professional one, because as designers or communicators (the preferred current description), we are constantly informing the public, transmitting information and affecting the beliefs and values of others. Should telling the truth be a fundamental requirement of this role? Is there a difference between telling the truth to your wife and family and telling the truth to a general public? What is the difference?

In a profession that defines itself by effectively persuading others, it’s impossible to consider our work outside the context of advertising, an activity that is so fundamental to our economy and so pervasively influential that it may have informed our idea of what truth is, more than any other single thing.

We drown in the sea of relentless persuasion that we help create as well as receive. There are now ads under our feet in supermarkets. I opened a fortune cookie the other night and found that an advertisement for an e-commerce company had replaced my fortune. (I am not kidding!) And some weeks ago, we were informed that the pauses in Rush Limbaugh’s talk show had been electronically eliminated to gain six more advertising messages per hour. All these messages intend to sell rather than inform, and tend to distort or modify the truth in ways that we can no longer see. Our brains and sense of truth cannot be unaffected by this onslaught.

For years, I have struggled with the question of whether the designers, by virtue of their positions as communicators, should have more ethical responsibility than the average citizen. Perhaps a better questions would be, “Should they have less?”

ABOUT MILTON GLASER – Creator of the iconic “I Heart NY” image, Milton Glaser helped revive illustration in the 1960’s when photography was thought to have swept the field. After studying at the High School of Music & Art, then Cooper Union in New York, Glaser studied etching in Bologna with the painter Giorgio Morandi.
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Monday, January 25, 2010


I’m going to make a few observations about myself in the interest of full disclosure.

Personally, I struggle with pride. Anyone who knows me knows this is true, so this isn't my big confession yet. That comes later.

Anyway, because of my struggle with pride, I’ve always had a hard time being the guy behind the pulpit. Not because I’m uncomfortable there, but precisely because I am much TOO comfortable in that spotlight. My love language is “Words of Affirmation” and whenever I am the focus of everyone’s attention I tend to absorb more than my fair share of ego-inducing energy. After a short time, I begin to see my sermons as performances and I tend to experience a blurring of focus. I start to believe my own hype and I over-internalize all those well-meaning comments about how great I am and what a good sermon I preached and how blessed they were and blah, blah, blah.

Let me be clear, I’m not against public speaking or teaching. It’s not a bad thing to have someone teach others about God’s Word for twenty minutes while they take notes, or better yet ask questions. God has given teachers to the Church for the building up of the Body. That's good. The problem I had with preaching in front of an audience was me. The problem was with me.

So, here I am, about four years later. I’ve started a house church in my home. I am no longer “the pastor” and I do not preach in any formal way. In fact, if anything, I’ve done my best to encourage others to teach and to share more than I do. I’ve also wrestled internally with being a member of the Body of Christ rather than as any sort of “leader” in the Body. I still think I talk too much, and others in our house church would agree. But overall it’s been a great experience for me to step down off the pulpit and allow others to teach me for a change.

Now and again I do still preach and teach, but only on rare occasions and, so far, only at other churches or gatherings outside of our house church. Again, I’m not against preaching at all and when it comes to my own issues with standing behind the pulpit I’ve mostly overcome the challenge.

So, imagine my despair when it dawned on me about a week ago that nothing has really changed at all. In fact, I still continue to preach from a pulpit and accept adoring praise as a way to fulfill my own ego and pride every single week. It's called: This blog you're reading right now.

My blog, and my Twitter page, and my Facebook account, are all just cyber-versions of that same pulpit I thought I had escaped. Each comment and Tweet sent my way in appreciation continues to feed my desire to be stroked. Every re-Tweet sent is yet another drop on my endlessly expanding ego sponge. Every shared link to my blog is just another brick in the ever-growing temple to my own vanity.

And there you have it. I suck.

Seriously, this realization nearly killed me. I mean, in my spirit, in my heart, it physically hurt me to the core. For the last seven days I have been in spiritual and psychological pain. One friend of mine described it as the Dark Night of the Soul and I would have to agree. It was very dark. My soul was in deep distress. I hated myself for being so foolish and selfish. And trust me, there's no greater suffering than for someone who loves himself to discover he cannot stand being in his own skin.

So, I contemplated ending my blog, killing my Twitter account and shutting down my Facebook page. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. What was the point anymore? I was so disgusted with myself for being so full of pride. The only thing that kept me sane during this time was my wife and her prayers for me. A few of you also prayed for me and I am grateful for those prayers, but sadly they did little to lessen the pain. When I closed my eyes at night and laid my head on the pillow one thing remained the same: I was still a scumbag. My prideful heart was still pumping strong. All I wanted to do was crawl under a rock somewhere and die.

Today I think I felt the clouds parting slightly. Maybe it’s not all for nothing. Maybe, in spite of my pride, God can still use my teaching ability. Much like my ordeal with preaching from the pulpit, I was able to manage my own response to those words of affirmation and continue to teach, however sporadically, without allowing the praise to go to my head. Perhaps, with my blog, I can do the same thing? Maybe I can continue to write articles and encourage people here without taking myself too seriously? Maybe, now that I am aware of my weakness, I can learn to manage this part of my pride as well? Maybe.

So, for now, I will continue to write articles here and to Tweet now and again, and to post things over on Facebook once in a while. But, today I am more aware of my own wicked heart and my own deceitful nature. My hope is that I can edify and encourage you – my brothers and sisters in Christ – without using this as a platform to spread my own meager fame.

Again, the problem here is not with blogging, or the internet. The problem is with me. I am the problem. The tool is just a tool, but I need to learn to use the tool for the common good, and not for my own selfish purpose.

Please forgive me for being a hypocrite. I hope to improve my serve in this area, as God gives me Grace.

Peace to you,

Friday, January 15, 2010


How can a follower of Jesus look upon the heart-breaking devastation being reported in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti and respond by proudly declaring that the God you follow is responsible? I don't understand this.

Do we not believe Jesus when he says, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father"? Are we not convinced that God is merciful when Jesus shows mercy? Are we unmoved by his treatment of the woman caught in adultery? Are we unphased by his compassion for the leper, the blind, the outcast? Can we not fully accept that God, the Father, is just as merciful and loving as Jesus?

"Don't you know me...even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?" - Jesus, (John 14:9-10)

Those who believe that the tragedy in Haiti is the result of their being judged for their sinful practices must consider the following:

1 - 80% of people in Haiti are Catholic.
2 - America is the world's largest exporter of pornography in the world.
3 - The United States of America is principally a transit and destination country for trafficking in persons. It is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. annually.
4 - Poverty is not the evidence of God's judgement. Neither is wealth an evidence of God's favor.

"The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower" - (James 1:9-10)

"Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" - (James 2:5)

5 - Suffering, natural disasters and tragedy are all opportunities for those who walk in the light to bring hope to those in the darkness.

"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (Jesus answered) "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." - (John 9:1-5)

We, the followers of Jesus, must change our attitudes about sin, and most importantly, about sinners.

First, we must remember that we also are sinners. There is no "Us and Them" here because we are still struggling with sin ourselves, even though we know the Savior and are in fellowship with Christ. Sin is our enemy and we struggle with it daily.

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." - (1 John 1:8-10)

Our response to the distress in our world is to humble ourselves and pray and confess our own sins to God and cry out for people to be healed and saved - not judged and condemned.

"If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." - (2 Chronicles 7:14)

It is the people of God who need to humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways in order for God's healing and forgiveness to fall - not the "sinners".

We need to erase this sentence from our minds:
"If only those sinners would get saved, the world would be a much better place".

The idea being that, if there were more people in the world just like us, then everything would be perfect...because of course, we are so much better than all of "Those People" who are not like us.

What God says needs to happen first is that we humble ourselves. That means we don't use statements like "If only those people would be more like us, everything would be wonderful". Humble people don't talk like that...or think that way either.

Jesus reminds us that the Father allows rain to fall on the just and the unjust as well. Because of this, whenever we show mercy to the unbeliever, or love to our enemy, we are being like our Father in Heaven. He is loving. He is merciful. He mourns with those who mourn and rejoices with those who rejoice. We should do the same.

Finally, we must remember that the time for the judgement of our sins is not in this life. This comes later, at the end of time and the return of Christ. For now, we are in a season where God waits beause he is not willing that any should perish. This is a season of mercy, not a season of judgement.

We would also do well to remember how Jesus will judge us on that day. When it comes he will divide the sheep from the goats based on how well they loved those who were the victims of poverty, or of tragedy, or injustice.

The tragedy in Haiti is an opportunity for the people of God to respond with compassion and love. Let us focus our attention on being light in the darkness. Let us bring hope to the hopeless. Let us not assign the blame to the victims while we sit in luxury.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." -Jesus (John 13:34-35)

Keith Giles

Sunday, January 10, 2010


It's one of the most terrifying things I've ever read in my life before. What makes it so frightening is the idea that it's talking about me.

If you're someone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus, then the truth is you should feel the same way I do because it's also talking about your future too.

I'm talking about Matthew chapter 25 where Jesus gives us a snapshot into the future. He explains that, in the end, all those who call themselves followers of Jesus will be gathered into the same place together.

You will be standing there. I will be there too.

If there was a DVD edition of Matthew 25 you and I could freeze the wide shot and begin looking for our faces in the crowd.

There! You're just behind the guy with the black ponytail. Oh, there I am, next to the skinny guy with the beard. That's me.

When we really consider that our presence in this passage is an actual point in time, it makes the passage all the more difficult to read.

Maybe you've already read this passage before? Maybe not. Maybe you understand the sobering reality of the words spoken by Jesus here, and maybe you have already considered the consequences.

I wish there was a way for me to adaquately communicate the seriousness of Matthew 25 to everyone, but perhaps it's more powerful if each person simply reads it for themselves?

At any rate, Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that there will come a day when you will be standing in a large place with everyone else who has ever called themselves a follower of Jesus. Or more specifically, with everyone who has ever called Jesus "Lord".

You'll be there one day, in that great assembly. You'll cheer when Jesus makes His entrance. You'll feel the goosebumps. You'll bend your knees and weep. You will want to pinch yourself because you'll hardly believe that you're the presence of Jesus, here at the end of time.

Then Jesus will stand up in front of everyone and he will ask some of the assembly to move to the right side of the room, and others he will ask to move to the left side. We'll all shuffle around wherever he asks us to move, of course, perhaps so taken in the moment that we'll not realize what exactly is taking place.

Then Jesus will ask those on the left side why they never gave him anything to drink when he was thirsty. He will ask them, with tears in his eyes, why they didn't feed him when he was hungry. The room will grow quiet. Finally someone will respond by asking him what he's referring to exactly.

That's when Jesus will explain to them that whatever they did for the least of those in the life they had on Earth, they were doing it to him also.

It makes me wonder, what will my response be?

We can ask ourselves this same question right now. We don't have to wait for Jesus to ask us at the Great Judgement, thankfully. I think that's the whole point of Jesus giving us a sneak preview of this moment. So that we can be prepared to give an answer that will please Him when the time comes.

If you're not in the habit of caring for people who walk into your path on a regular basis, then you already know what your answer will be to Jesus on that day. "I'm so busy, Lord" or "Those people should have gotten a job", or "If only I had known it was you, Jesus".

But of course, we already DO know that don't we? That is the whole point of Matthew 25. We get to have a window on the future so that we can begin to live now in a way that will reflect the Truth on that final Day.

You will be standing there one day. You really will. I will too.

What will your response to Jesus be when He asks you that question?

Honestly, I don't want to motivate anyone to start caring for the poor out of a sense of guilt or coercion. If nothing else, sit down and read Matthew 25 all by yourself. See what you think it is saying to you. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you on this subject.

What I find fascinating about Matthew 25 is the fact that those who do care for the poor are just as unaware of the significance of their actions as those who failed to care for the poor. They answer, "When did we see you naked and clothe you? When did we see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?"

Those who sincerely loved Jesus and who cared for the poor in their life on Earth did so because they were incapable of walking past someone who was hungry without doing something about it. It was almost a natural reaction for them, it wasn't a task to be completed or a ticket out of condemnation. Their acts of compassion were almost unconsciously done out of a heart of love for others.

"Swimming won't make you a fish, but if you are a fish you will swim"

Because of the fact that Jesus had really changed their hearts and made them a new creation, they found it impossible to walk past a fellow human being in need and turn the other way.

If anything, what's most necessary is to become transformed from within. You and I need Jesus to change us into the sort of people who love others more than we love ourselves. We need to become people who have a heart like His heart.

Only Jesus can change us into people like this. It takes a miracle, and lucky for us, Jesus is in the Miracle Business.


*Originally posted on the [Subversive Underground], November, 2006.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Keeping a journal has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I can go back to old journals from ten or fifteen years ago and see what I was thinking, what was happening in my life that day, and what God was doing in me at the time.

On New Year’s Eve, just a few days ago, I sat down and looked back at what was going on in my life over the previous year. One thing that jumped out at me was how much of what I was experiencing and struggling with back in December of 2008 and January of 2009 was exactly the same as what I was experiencing in December of 2009 and January of 2010.

So, what does that tell me? I suppose the most obvious thing is that I haven’t grown very much over the last year. If I’m still having the same internal dialog a year ago that I’m having now, it must be because I’m still asking the same questions and wrestling with the same issues. It also tells me that spiritual growth and maturity don’t happen overnight. Sometimes – maybe all the time – our process of learning and re-learning what it means to trust God takes serious time to sink in. There are no easy answers. There are no get-mature-quick shortcuts to spiritual maturity.

Honestly, for most of last year I was deeply saddened and empty. I read over my journals from 2008 and over and over again, I read about my feelings of being alone, of being empty, of being in severe emotional pain. Much of that stemmed from being rejected by brothers and sisters in Christ who I had poured my heart and soul into for several years. It hurt – really, really hurt – to be told I wasn’t welcome anymore to teach or encourage people who mean so much to me. I also endured the loss of having two dear friends move away in 2008. These were people who inspired me, loved me, and connected with me in ways that only my wife Wendy could rival. When they moved away it left a very large hole in my heart. I can’t say I even expected it to hurt me so much, but it really did. And it still does.

Last year at this time I was trying to finish my third book, “This Is My Body”. I’m still trying to finish it. Although, I am in the final stages now. The book is all written. I just need to finish it and get it ready to publish.

Last year I resolved to disciple my sons each week and spend time with them one-on-one to teach them about the Kingdom of God, and encourage them, and pray with them about their walk with Jesus. I was also having to start, and re-start, this on a regular basis as other things began to crowd out our time together. I am still having to fight to keep this appointment on a weekly basis, but the fight is part of the resolution. It keeps me in the battle for my sons and their spiritual development every single day.

Last year I was concerned for the direction our house church was taking. We were growing larger, and to me, this signified a need for us to plant a second house church. I prayed about this, I voiced this concern to the group, we met and discussed this as a Body, and then God showed me how I needed to let go of this and allow Him to worry about it. So, I did that. Now I’ve just begun to realize that part of what God was doing in me last year was loosening my grip on this church. He was showing me that this is His Church, not my church. I am a member of this Body, but it’s His Body. I am a brother among brothers and sisters in this Family of God. I am not the Father. There is only one Father and one Lord. We are all called to submit to His Headship.

This year, I’m excited about experiencing life in the Body as one of the functioning members and not as “the Pastor”. This year, I’m resolved to disciple my sons and teach them what it means to follow Jesus with their whole life and to love Him and love others – and to demonstrate to them how those are all really the same thing.

This year, I know that I will journey deeper through the valley of the shadow of death with my friend, Robert Higgins who is dying of bone cancer. He has no family but me and a few friends. He has nothing but a few belongings that could fit into the back seat of my car. He has barely enough money to afford his motel room and a little food each month. I already know that I will be with him on the day he dies. In fact, just yesterday I made a few phone calls to investigate cremation services for him and to make arrangements for all of it. The reality of this is looming nearer now. I know that he, and I, cannot avoid what is coming. My only prayer is that I can be the friend, and the pastor, that he needs right now…and on the day he breathes his last.

This year, I am looking forward to finishing up my book and having that out of my hands and into print. Twice now I’ve nearly abandoned the entire project. Thanks to the encouragement of my mother-in-law, Ellen, and author Jon Zens (who contributed the Foreword and did a lot of proofing for me), I have made it this far. Now, with my wife Wendy’s help, I will finish it this year. Already I’m looking forward to experiencing life without this book hanging over my head.

This year I look forward to seeing God do more incredible things at the Church that He is building at the California Studio Inn in Santa Ana. I’m grateful to be included in the team of men who teach there and I’m humbled to see what God is doing to change lives and bring healing and hope through this Body of believers. It truly is a work that God is doing and I love seeing His joy as people learn to “be the Church” and love one another.

Above all, this year I’m looking forward to letting go of some of the things that have held me back from walking by faith. I look forward to embracing Jesus more and more. I look forward to what new things Jesus has in store for me and my family as we follow Him daily.


Saturday, January 02, 2010

Joyous New Year!

My friend John Wahrmund recently emailed me to wish me a Joyful New Year. In his words, "Happy" just wasn't enough:

"As I have reflected on the phrase "Happy New Year," happy doesn't seem to be the right word. Happiness is fleeting...but joy, now there is something powerful.

My friend, I hope we all have a Joyful New Year and in the words of Paul..."Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

I have to agree. Our constitution promises every citizen the right to the pursuit of happiness, but our happiness usually involves being selfish about our wants and desires at the expense of others.

Joy is a spiritual reality where a permanent fountain of God's rich internal satisfaction wells up from within. The joy of the Lord is our strength. It sustains us even in difficult times. Joy is not dependent upon our circumstance. It can thrive, and often does, in spite of our trials and tribulations.

In 2010 I wish every one of you the joy of the Lord. I pray that He would fill you with His goodness and allow you to experience the peace that passes understanding and the joy that gives us strength to endure and overcome.