Jack’s Purpose

Jack Dietrich passed away a couple of weeks ago. He was 92. His memorial service was held yesterday.

I didn’t know Jack (A friend asked me on behalf of the family to sing his favorite hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”) But the service was one of those that when you left you felt like you knew the person regardless of previous history.

Everyone who spoke weaved the story of Jack’s life which included his influence on their teaching careers, his love of family and really everyone, his witty humor, and his outspoken faith. Apparently, if you walked by his porch on the way to the beach, most likely you got an introduction to sit with Jack.

That was the neighbor’s story who gave the eulogy. His initial introductory conversation with Jack lasted three hours and started an unexpected, life-changing relationship. As he described it, the life change was for both of them.

Although Jack had lived a full and successful life, he asked his neighbor the same question I’m guessing all 92-year-olds do. “Why am I still here?” His neighbor unashamedly told him, “You’re here for me. God knew I needed you. That’s why you’re here.”

Truth is, we don’t have to live 92 years to ask Jack’s question. For a multitude of reasons at any given time, our minds and emotions look at our situation and wonder why we’re in it. We question what’s the point. And as is often the case, the point isn’t about us; it’s about someone else. Someone that needs to be noticed. Someone that needs to be heard. Someone that needs to be touched. Someone that needs something that we have-time on the porch.

We sell ourselves short. Okay, maybe you don’t, but I know I do. There’s plenty God has given me that doesn’t cost me much, if anything, to give away. Occasionally, I’m reminded that’s it’s not as hard to know the why as I make it. Occasionally, all it takes is saying yes to singing a song, to give someone something I can easily give, and the why is clear.

Photo by Ana Essentiels on Unsplash

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“Listen, God” (Part 2)

The next day I was still thinking about the previous day’s all-day conversation and referenced it in a conversation with a former coworker.

While we discussed it, God shared a final word. Adding to his direction to get my eyes off myself, he pointed out, “John, you know how you don’t like to hear people talking over each other and are frustrated when you catch yourself doing it? How about you practice that with me, too?”

He had the final word. Graciously, it was a question. And my “Listen, God” posture was altered.

Left me wondering what a “Listen, God” posture sounds/feels/looks like. Not too hard to imagine, really. Probably sounds similar to a Christmas morning temper tantrum from a six-year-old who just finished opening more gifts than they know what to do with. Probably feels similar to the tightness in a hair stylist’s chest whose client berates them because their work doesn’t match the picture from the magazine. Probably looks like the adult child rolling their eyes at their aging parent whose short-term memory loss has them repeating the same question three times in five minutes.

How God manages to keep a “You’re my son in whom I’m well pleased” posture is beyond my comprehension. That posture transforms mine from “Listen and do what I say” to “I’m glad you’re here. What would you like to talk about?”

Photo by Heike Mintel on Unsplash

Understanding Yes

Yesterday gave me the answer to a question. The question had to do with having said yes and wondering how that particular yes was going to work out. Turns out, pretty good…way better than expected.

The older I get the more weight each yes carries. What I’ve noticed this year focusing on flow, saying yes doesn’t always mean everything’s in order. In fact, the best yes results so far have started with very little in order.

Improving on flow and yes seems to only come by experience. It’s a product of better listening, deeper trust, and reduced paralysis from fear. These improvements, our growth, comes from both our wins and our losses.

For example, David started out with some significant yes wins. He didn’t always have everything in order the moment he said yes, like when he said, “I can take down Goliath.” Five stones later, the flow and the yes made sense. Years later, that win was countered by another yes (Bathsheba) that resulted in lifelong losses. The level at which he flowed with God determined the win or loss of his yes.

Abraham is another example. When God first asked him for a yes, Abraham had no idea how it would work out. But he followed and reaped the benefits of not expecting to understand everything ahead of time. The bumps in the road between then and saying yes to sacrificing Isaac certainly had some losses, but Abraham learned from them and improved his flow and yes to an ultimate level of sacrifice (Genesis 22).

Determining the unity of a yes with Holy Spirit flow can be tricky. One key is discerning where the wish to answer yes is coming from-my own desires or his. And often that discernment can look like asking these three questions:

  1. What is God telling me?
  2. What is God not telling me?
  3. What do I want God to tell me?

None of these questions are bad questions. But I’ve found that the only one that really matters is what is God telling me. Without the answer to that question, a yes or no shouldn’t even be given. I’m also finding that my best understanding of yes is pretty simple. If God is asking for a yes, it’s the best answer. His higher ways and thoughts support my yes. My understanding, secondary to his glory, will come when he’s done with my yes.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

First 2022 Reads

If my first two reads of 2022 are any indication, I’m in for an education.

Book #1

Before reading this book, I knew nothing about the start of Wycliffe Bible Translators and Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). It’s quite a story. In this memoir, you learn just how passionate founder Cameron Townsend was and how that passion laid the foundation for one of the largest mission organizations. His vision and commitment led many world leaders to join forces to transform communities. He used what he had and relied on God for what he didn’t have.

Book #2

If James Cone only wrote this book for me, it would have been worth his time. I’m thankful for the direction I received to read it. I had no idea what I was going to learn and experience. I learned many things. Much of what I learned gave voice to my mind’s whys I didn’t know I needed to voice and answered my soul’s questions I didn’t know I needed to know. As a white, 53-year-old son of a Baptist preacher, my heart ached and my eyes teared through much of this book. So many what if’s and why not’s simultaneously producing shame and empathy, anger and compassion. My view of American history has changed. My appreciation for suffering has deepened. My belief in Jesus’ sacrifice has solidified.

These two books exemplify why it’s important to read. What are you reading? What education will you give yourself in 2022?

Leaving Secrets

Posthumous secrets.

Some are good. We find out things that the person did that mattered, that impacted, that altered courses, that showered generosity without attention. We read things they wrote, produced, created that uncover meaning. The world is blessed by unexpected surprise.

Some aren’t good. We find out things that the person did that shocks, that hurts, that damages, that produces unanswerable questions. We hear things they chose, hid, manufactured that defy understanding. The world is grayed by unexplainable bewilderment.

May we live lives that leave good secrets.

Photo by Nathan Hanna on Unsplash

He’s Not the Dry Cleaner

I picked up my dry cleaning yesterday. It was actually two separate tickets, so that says something about the lack of urgency of my dry cleaning routine. When they say, “It’ll be ready tomorrow by five,” I courteously reply with thanks. If I wanted to reply in kind I’d say, “No rush. See you in a few weeks.”

There is the rare occasion when I realize I need something that quick. A wedding or funeral demands a quicker pickup. So I’m more in the “I’ll see you then” mode.  I’m in need, and I’m expecting them to deliver.

If we aren’t paying attention, we can treat God like the dry cleaner. We pull up in the drive-thru lane, drop off our needs, say thanks, and go about our day without much urgency.  No big deal. Unless it’s that rare occasion. Then we might actually be more demanding of him than we are the dry cleaner.

To be clear, He isn’t the dry cleaner.

He doesn’t say, “You tell me when you need it, and I’ll get right on that.” He’s not a business owner needing your business in order to keep the doors open. He’s not in the business of keeping you satisfied.

But here’s a question: What about those desperate times when you are truly in need of support, or connection, or at least an acknowledgment that He’s there? We understand in that moment He isn’t going to completely solve our issue, but can He at least let us know He’s on the job.  We aren’t an irate customer; more like a hurting son or daughter.

Recently I found myself torn between treating him like the dry cleaner, fully knowing He isn’t, and like my heavenly Father.  I won’t share all the dialogue, but suffice it to say it was more than a short conversation in the drive-thru.

And what He did was what He promises to do. He heard my cry.  He didn’t totally solve my issue, but He gave me what I needed to get back on the road.  His answer to my question, “What are you doing?” was, “Whatever it is, I’ll give you the strength for it.”

And that was enough-especially when I stopped acting like His customer and more like His child.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Waldemar Brandt

Maybe I Should Be More Prodigal

Our life group started a study of Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God tonight. We highly recommend the book.


Here’s a great example why. 

The word “prodigal” does not mean “wayward” but, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “recklessly spendthrift.” It means to spend until you have nothing left. This term is therefore as appropriate for describing the father in the story as his younger son. The father’s welcome to the repentant son was literally reckless, because he refused to “reckon” or count his sin against him or demand repayment.

Makes you think, right? Under this definition, the story in Luke 15 has much more meaning and application.

As we discussed this tonight, a question came to me: How could we be more prodigal? 

  • Toward neighbors
  • Toward siblings
  • Toward friends
  • Toward coworkers
  • Toward anyone that is physically, spiritually, or emotionally disconnected 

If God, my Heavenly Father, recklessly forgives, loves, endures, welcomes, provides, embraces, longsuffers, probably means I should also. Maybe I should be more prodigal.

God of My 20’s

On my drive home from visiting family last month for Thanksgiving, I realized something. All my nine nieces and nephews are in their 20’s and 30’s. Had to shake my head at that a little. Four of them are married, and three have children. Double head shake.

Thinking about them and the difference in my world during my 20’s and their current world, a thought for a blog series came to mind. The series, entitled God of My 20’s that will post every Monday beginning next week, is a chance for friends of mine to share their story of who God was to them in their 20’s. I invited a slew of men and ladies. Twelve accepted. So this will be fun.

These writers represent every age groups from their 30’s to theirs 70’s. So that means from Millennials to Baby Boomers, born anywhere from the 40’s to the 80’s. That’s a lot of living through a world of change. So the question, and there could be many, that I’m curious about is how does God show up over the decades in people’s lives. On a side note, those living today in their 20’s could be classified as Millennial or Generation Z. If these generation labels are another language or like me you need a refresher, follow this link: Generation Z.

An interesting note from that link is that Generation Z is the largest generation in American history. The God question is therefore a good question to be asking. What if we helped them answer it by telling our own story? I hope you’ll follow along. And maybe even share your own story here or in person. Who was God in your 20’s?

Are We Doing Church Right?

A friend (thanks, Pat) recently loaned me a copy of David Platt’s latest book, Something Needs To Change. If you’ve read anything by him, I’ll go ahead and suggest you haven’t read anything like this one. Platt chronicles his week-long journey through the Himalayas where he came face to face with some of the most difficult questions and challenging needs in the world. Because he’s reacting, you react. Because he’s questioning, you question. And nothing is outside the realm of analysis. Even the church.


In chapter six, Platt shares the lives of church leaders in the Himalayas. Their work is not easy. And it’s quite different than the majority of church leaders in other countries-vastly different from American churches. At the end of the day, he was asked to do some teaching and training. Here’s an excerpt of his thoughts about that time:

Over the coming hours, we walk through all kinds of pictures and passages in the Bible describing the church as God designed it. As I’m teaching and we are all discussing what we see in God’s Word, I am struck with a fresh realization.

Looking at the Bible to see how God has designed the church is exactly what needs to be done. As I had reflected a couple of days ago, these villages needed the church in them, but they don’t need an American version of church; they need a biblical version of church.

As I walk through the Word with these leaders, it hits me that so many of my conversations about the church in America are often focused on cultural traditions that are extrabiblical at best and unbiblical at worst.

For example, as I read the Bible with these brothers and sisters, we don’t see anything about constructing church buildings or organizing church programs or managing church staffs, topics that so many church conversations in America revolve around. It makes me wonder, Why are Bible-believing, Bible-preaching churches in America so focused on what is not in the Bible? As I ask myself this question, I can’t help but think that one of the greatest needs not just in the church in the Himalayas but in the place where I live is for us to open our Bibles with fresh, unfiltered eyes and ask, “Are we really doing church the way this book describes it?”

American Christian, it’s a fair question. If you aren’t convinced, get a copy of this book. After you’ve read it, come back to the question. We must be open to the possibility that we are not doing it right. And if that’s true, what are we going to do about it.