The Mixture

In addition to the books of the Bible, I am currently in the process of reading five books.  I am reading one on the subject of connection to God, one on the theme of living well as a man / father / husband, one recounting the history of religious diversity in America, one telling the tale of a magic castle, and the story of Little Joe Otter and his adventures.

The mixture of fact, fiction, advice, adventure, critters, creeds, prayers, pups, knights, and kids pours into my brain and leads me to lands of exciting imagination and places of personal reflection.  I enjoy the diversity of subject, focus, and intention as I read. 

I also enjoy that diversity as I live my Ordinary Life.  Among other things, I am . . .
     a husband
     a father
     a pastor
     a teacher
     a friend
     an Alaskan

Each day as I prepare for hours ahead, I do so without knowledge of much that day will bring -- even though I enjoy routine.  I will face fact and fiction as I talk with people and, hopefully, we will agree on which is which.  I will offer and be offered advice and, hopefully, good advice at that.  When the chance for adventure comes my way, I will consider the opportunity and, perhaps, jump in.  I will pray, play, read, and run; and I will connect with my kids, hug my wife, and laugh with my friends; and, hopefully, I will embrace the richness of it all. 

When you choose the Ordinary Life, you choose to embrace and enjoy diversity.  In that diversity, while you face both clarity and uncertainty, you see the beauty of God using all things to His glory.  Check out Paul's reminder.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NIV)
Not all things that happen are good or God's will, but all things are malleable in the strong hands of God.  He will work through and in them to strengthen you.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,    39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:31-39 (NIV)

As you read and as you live, go enjoy the mixture.

So Many Choices

It is referred to by many names:
The Book
The Good Book
The Word
God's Word
The Holy Text
The Bible
The Holy Bible
It comes in many versions:
(just to name a few)
It comes in many forms:
Imitation leather
Olive wood cover
It has been translated as a whole into:
     636 languages
Portions of it have been translated into an additional:
     2587 languages

So many choices!

Rick Warren says that "the best translation is the one you read."  Whether your collection of Bibles is vast or limited matters not.  Whether you read the words or not matters much. 

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.

Psalm 119:9 (NIV)

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock."
Matthew 7:24 (NIV)

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Luke 11:28 (NIV)

15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:15-17 (NIV)

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

Call it by the name you prefer. 
Pick up your preferred version,
bound in your favorite material,

Happy Reading!

Marriage Recipe

In three days, just before "the kiss," I will pronounce a man and a woman "Husband and Wife."  After pronouncing such, in short order, I will send the couple down the aisle with a blessing, namely "Go now, and the grace of God go with you both." 

With those words, the newly proclaimed couple will join over 60 million ring-bearing couples in the United States.  One hundred and twenty million people live their everyday ordinary lives as married adults. 

I am one of those adults.  I have been, so far, for nearly twenty-two years. 

Healthy marriages certainly consist of generous gift giving, flower bouquet surprises, and exotic anniversary trips; but those things are the proverbial "icing on the cake."  How about the cake?  Since you asked, I'll share my not-so-secret recipe. 

Mark's Recipe for an Ordinary Life Marriage


One Man
One Woman

Optional (and highly encouraged) Ingredients:
2 rings
Shared Interests
Moving out of Parents' Basement
$ Set Aside for Fun


  1. Carefully choose a compatible man and woman and introduce them to each other.
  2. Continue to stir as the mixture of attraction and love thickens into a firm commitment.
  3. Engage the services of a pastor, priest, or willing and qualified friend to invite the couple to voice their commitment publicly.  [Optional (highly encouraged):  rings exchanged here.]
  4. Encourage the couple (in most cases, very little applied pressure is needed) to slowly and steadily increase the temperature (aka - turn up the heat).  Warning:  Results may vary.  Any long-lasting results will fully appear in about nine months time.
  5. Invite the happy couple to set goals in regard to their life.
    Suggested topics (along with words to say):
    God "Serve Him."
    Church "Choose, attend, and serve in one."
    Debt "Avoid it."
    Money "Save for the future."  "Buy memories."
    Conflict "Expect and deal with conflict."
    Fun "Have it."
  6. Introduce the couple to passages from the Bible.
    Genesis 1:27
    Song of Songs
    Ephesians 5:21-33
    (Make sure they start in verse 21.)
  7. Remind the couple to pray for one another and encourage them to continually repeat steps 2 -6.
  8. Ask the man and woman to commit to faithfulness and forgiveness.

Other notes:

  1. If the first two ingredients begin to separate, introduce them to a trained recipe counselor.
  2. If the first two ingredients, when mixed, create a child or children, remind them to continue to nurture their connection as they care for their offspring.
  3. Remind the first two ingredients of Jesus' words in Mark 10:9 - "Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." 
  4. Add spices as necessary and desired.

Happy Cooking!

Resurrection Response

Two Marys went to the tomb that they thought still held Jesus’ body.  To their surprise the earth quaked.  Even more to their surprise an angel sat on the once tomb-covering stone and spoke.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
Matthew 28:5-7 (NIV)

Is this historical event more than history to us?  A German poet expressed the importance of believers embracing the cross.

Were Christ a thousand times to Bethlehem come,
And yet not born in you, it would spell Your doom.
Golgotha’s cross, it cannot save from sin,
Unless for you that cross is raised within.
I say, it helps you not that Christ is risen,
If you yourself are still in death’s dark prison.

We must not ignore God’s invitation and call to change.  Once we hear the gospel truth and internalize it, our God will change us by the mighty power of the Spirit and the transforming grace of Christ.  Following such a transformation, we are to serve God and His purpose. 
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Matthew 28:8 (NIV)
The Marys “hurried away from the tomb.”  We must run out and tell!  Christ is alive!  He does not desire billions of grave dwellers; rather, He wants us to declare that while He did die, He is now alive and He is the Savior.  When we internalize the cross, Christ compels us to share His story.

As the women ran to tell the eleven (remaining) Apostles, they had two conflicting emotions . . . Joy and Fear.  We understand their joy.  Remember?  They were going to see a tomb.  This was to pay respect to a dead man.  They did not go with any hope of a resurrection.  Expectations never stop Jesus!  Jesus provided much more than a tomb to visit – He provided an empty tomb and new life.  They found joy indeed.

At the same time, their fear was real.  If a heavenly being visited and spoke to me, I would be scared, too.  But, isn’t it true that we scare at much less? 

Following God in full obedience sometimes brings fear.  If we have experienced fear:

-    we may be too afraid to tell our friend about Jesus
-    we may ignore God’s call to a ministry
Whatever fears we face, we know that we are not alone.  Don’t be ashamed of fear; yet don’t give in to its paralyzing power either.
9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Matthew 28:9-10 (NIV)
Jesus didn’t have to meet up with the two Marys.  They were already following in obedience.  He knew however what encouragement they would receive from seeing Him, in the flesh, again.

Jesus has not changed.  If we will obediently go and do as He commissioned us (fear and all), He will meet us.  We will not see Him in the flesh, but as He promised His first disciples, He will send the Comforter and Guide – The Spirit.

Jesus never expects us to go anywhere He wouldn’t, do anything He wouldn’t, or say anything He wouldn’t.  As Lord, He promises to be with His followers – always! 

This week we celebrate the day that changed the lives of the two Marys and changed the world.  Does that glorious day make any difference in our life today?  He is risen indeed, and that not only reveals our hope, it also reveals our responsibility.

What's That Smell?

In most places, the season of Spring brings joy to those who, throughout the Winter, anticipated birth of flowers and warm rays of sun shining on any and all freshly grown green.  Spring is a favorite season for a great number of people. 

Alaskans, however, dread Spring. 

Don't misunderstand; we smile at the budding trees and look forward to large, ready-to-play-in fields of green.  But we must first survive the yuck of Spring

  • Snow, once pure white, turns a repulsive shade of brown. 
  • Once helpful, stop-the-slide gravel now launches from rear tires and cracks our windshields. 
  • Long dead yet still wet plants smell horrendous. 
  • And, to top it all, evidence of effective dog digestion, once covered by snow, now surfaces.  [I'm not sure which is worse.  Is it the puppy poop that no one bothered to retrieve or the neglected and, therefore, lying where it was left, plastic doggie bags (and I don't mean the kind you take as you leave a restaurant)?]
I advise you, if you don't already live here, should you choose to visit this amazing state, books tickets for no earlier than May.  Spring stinks!

But . . .

Summer!  Now that's a whole different story.  Green abounds, birds sing, and neighbors you haven't seen since snow fell in November exit their homes.  Spring smells; yet Summer is a season of new life, fresh air, and renewed friendships.

What season is it in your Ordinary life?

Do birds sing right now or are the Devil's Club (aptly named) leaves still "stinking to high heaven"?  If it's an Alaskan Spring in your life right now, take heart.  Under the wet leaves lie sprouting blades of green.  The dirty snow is melting fast.  Summer is on its way!

The teacher wisely declares in Ecclesiastes. 

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

Unfortunately, however, the teacher does so with exasperation in his voice (pen, I guess)

When we decide to take our everyday, ordinary lives and offer them to God, we can, without exasperation in our voices or pens, declare that
in the beautiful and the stinky times, God is good.

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you:  Take your everyday, ordinary life -- your stinky (or green), dirty (or fresh) life -- and place it before God as an offering."