like lightning?

Ever notice how the shape of macaroni really is sort of a sham?

Waiter: "Which type of pasta would you like?"

Me: "Does it matter?"

Waiter: (looks around, leans in) "No, not really." 

Sometimes people think this to be true of God... that you can pick any faith or religious figure to follow and you'll end up in the same place.

Unfortunately, the same can be true even when you're living within the truth of who God is. It's easy for people to assume that you can pick any form of Christianity to follow, whether you're more conservative or liberal, and it's all legit.

The truth is there is only one form of Christianity - Jesus lived it, and we can't... yet we're invited to.

How does that happen, then? How can we do something that we can't do?

I like this quote from Peter Kreeft as insight:
“Christ changed every human being he ever met…. If anyone claims to have met him without being changed, he has not met him at all. When you touch him, you touch lightning…. I think Jesus is the only man in history who never bored anyone. I think this is an empirical fact, not just a truth of faith. It’s one of the reasons for believing his central claim, and Christianity’s central claim, that he is literally God in the flesh…. The Greek word used to describe everyone’s reaction to him in the Gospels is thauma— wonder. This was true of his enemies, who killed him. Of his disciples, who worshipped him. And even of agnostics, who went away shaking their heads and muttering ‘No man every spoke like this man’ and knowing that if he didn’t stop being what he was and saying what he said that eventually they would have to side with either his killers or his worshippers. For ‘Jesus shock’ breaks your heart in two and forces you to choose which half of your heart you will follow….”
Is your faith like pasta... 

or is it like lightning?

worth reading?

Many of you know that I regularly write in a few other places.

It's actually quite amazing... not because of me, but because of the community that interacts with it.

What I try to share here are the thoughts that are still in me after I've posted around in those places. That's perhaps why it's a bit irregular at times.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd link you to some of those more recent articles that I felt were especially useful or personal to me:
I'm also actively tweeting random thoughts of faith and weird observations at @tonymyles

And... if you like reading some more of my personal journey or some old school observations, my original blog Don't Call Me Veronica is still up. Enjoy! 

how? or why?

You're going to spend an immeasurable amount of time in your life learning how to survive.

We assume this is a good thing - after all, bare bones... we all need to survive.

In the workplace, surviving is called "just clocking in" or "living paycheck to paycheck."

In households, it's felt when we concentrate on the next chore in front of us.

You're not dead... you're just busy.

You're asking the question "How?" on a regular basis.

Tracking so far?

What you may not spend as much time on in your life (at least, comparatively) is asking how to thrive beyond mere survival. 

We assume this is a luxury thing - after all, bare bones... we all need to survive - and maybe "one day" we'll thrive.

In the workplace, thriving is called "being career minded" or "considering the big picture."

In households, it's felt when we concentrate on the next person in front of us.

You're not dead... you're quite alive.

You're asking the question "Why?" on a regular basis.

Ready for the real takeaway?

You may want to write this down.

If you have your "why" to live, you can face down almost any "how."

Unfortunately, the opposite is not true.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

a sideline insight

A sideline insight:

What God does in you on the sidelines is as important as what happens under the lights on the field.

Just make sure you're in the arena either way.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt

forgiveness is a commitment

Forgiveness is not a feeling.

Forgiveness is not a choice.

Forgiveness is a commitment. 

It doesn't mean you can easily forget what happened, but that you will consciously choose not to focus on what happened.

It doesn't mean the relationship returns back to how unhealthy things were, but that you are embracing what a healthy new alternative to the relationship needs to be.

Forgiveness is a commitment. 

It's you giving grace... instead of you holding a grudge.

It's you trying to grow up personally... instead of you trying to grow your support publicly.

It's you moving forward... instead of you replaying the past.

It's you giving a gift to someone... instead of you demanding that person satisfy a debt you feel.

It's you releasing... instead of you gripping.

It's you owning what you did wrong... instead of you waiting for the other person to own what you think they did wrong.

It's you taking actual steps in this... instead of you looking for the "Yeah, but what if they..." loophole.

It's you not doing all of this one day... but you doing all of this every day - every day.

Forgiveness is a commitment. 
Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13b)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans 12:3)

one step at a time

This will happen, if people start building stairs based on their personal perspective and circumstances.

This will also happen if you build your life based on your personal perspective and circumstances.

How do you begin seeing things beyond how you see things?

Spend time with God today, enlarging your perspective by letting Him give you His perspective..

one step at a time.
"There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12)

"May you be able to feel and understand, as all God's children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is" (Ephesians 3:18)

may God bless America?

- a woman we will see in social media pictures today

It's a weekend of celebrating our country and the freedoms others have fought for.

Sometimes we struggle with this... 

whether we are cynical of government or wave the flag every chance we can - including the unique aforementioned bikini.

There's wisdom on all of this in the Bible. It instructs us to see an honorable government as a way to honor God, and for a government to be honorable to God in how it treats its people.

Even when the government does not live up to its role, we are still to live up to ours.

The catch is when a government asks us to do or support something that is in direct disobedience to God’s Word. In such times, we are to put God first, trusting in His power to protect us here or take us into the world to come.

Those who take this kind of stand for God stand in good company.

One example we can read about involves some young men who took a stand by simply doing that - standing up when everyone else bowed down in resignation at the risk of punishment.

Our persecution might be name-calling or shunning. Their persecution involved being thrown into a blazing fire.

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18)

The question this weekend isn't if we're blessed to live in a country like America.

We are blessed.

(Eat a hot dog and a brat and a burger alongside of a slab or watermelon and a diet coke... if you need proof.)

The challenge with a "blessing" is to not turn the blessing into an indulgence to do whatever we want but to be responsible and God-honoring with it.

That's the true nature of a blessing -

not "Woo hoo! Look at me! Let's do anything and everything with it!"

but "How can I use what God has given me to further what He is doing in this world?"

May God bless America?

Only if we begin by blessing God as America.
"America was founded by people who believe that God was their rock of safety. I recognize we must be cautious in claiming that God is on our side, but I think it’s all right to keep asking if we’re on His side."  - Ronald Reagan

Are you in?

go team!

Exciting days in the Cleveland area because of the NBA Finals. 

Lots of fans jumping on board and buying tickets now they didn't buy all season. The followers who have been at this all season have made space for the fans... and why not?

Still, I'm reminded of the difference between being a fan and a follower.

Fans are buying expensive merchandise and tickets today. Followers sit out there at cheap games when nothing is happening and cheer on any progress.

Fans are still learning the names of the players... "How do you say that - 'Dellavedova' - is that Russian?" Followers could pronounce the jersey numbers and history of players from years back.

Fans are shaking their fists in enthusiasm now, cheering loudly. Followers were shaking their heads when the team seemed to be losing months ago and watercooler chatter said it was a lost cause.

Fans think they're followers. Followers think about how easy it could be to just become a fan.

As Kyle Idleman pointed out, this is a great metaphor for faith.

Fans dress up in the "right" gear to get religious for a moment in their week/month/season/year. Followers come before their Coach each day no matter what they're wearing and ask, "What does it mean to let You take the lead on the details and decisions of what I do out there today?"

Fans talk loudly about how Christianity is nothing but a game with corrupt officiants and players who really don't play. Followers get quiet and lean into the redemptive, authoritative whisper of God that can turn any foul into a free throw shot that changes everything.

Fans are experts (if you ask them) about who should do what out there because they've been watching from the sidelines by for years. Followers are amateurs (if you ask them) because they recognize the Playbook requires them to think beyond their instincts and trust in a bigger strategy that requires regular community and teamwork.

Fans think they're followers. Followers think about how easy it could be to just become a fan.

Are you a fan... or a follower?

Perhaps there is a better question.

Will you CHOOSE to be a fan... or a follower?

If you think you could never show your face among the followers because you recognized you've just been a fan, no worries.

The followers who have been at this all season have made space for the fans... and why not?

Whether you're a fan or a follower (or a cynic who refuses to decide, which is a decision in itself) there's a spot for YOU (perhaps again) and anyone who wants to be on the team.

No religious "jerseys" required.
In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all. (Colossians 3:11)

your fourth chapter

I'm sharing the following not for your comments but for your ownership.

Chapter One:

Today at the local library, I walked into our teen area and heard a conversation happening between a mom who was in it and a group of teens who were sitting around being sassy. One of the teens, a girl, was scrolling down her phone and telling everyone around her what she was seeing on Snapchat. She and her friends were apparently commenting on it, going into detail about how "crazy" it all was. "Look, there are two people in the shower together doing..." she'd share.

I'm not sure how long it had been happening, as the mom spoke up about 60 seconds after I walked in. "Come on, guys. There are kids up here." She was waiting on her 12-ish looking son, along with her 15-ish looking son. The girl sort of nodded and quieted down for just a bit before furthering her dialogue with slight tweaks.

The mom eventually left, and the girl then began mocking her. "comeonguystherearekidsuphere-hehehehe" she told her friends.

I had enough.

"I like how you waited until she left to mock her," I said walking over.

"Oh, well," the girl stammered.

"Really, that must take A LOT of courage."

"Well, I, uh... didn't want to make a big deal about it and cause a scene in the library."

"And yet you're doing it now that she's gone. Kind of seems hypocritical, huh?"

She blushed with silence. The boys around her buried their heads into their comics and phones.

I smiled. "No, don't worry if you don't have anything to say. I'm about to leave and so then you can talk about me, too. Have fun with that. I'm so glad we just got it all out on the table right now so we all know what you're really doing and choosing to be like right now. See ya."

End of Chapter One.
Chapter Two:

I walked downstairs to check out my materials and noticed the mom and sons were getting ready to check out, too. She was flustered and trying to share with them how wrong it was. I don't know her or her boys, but could tell they were having an awkward teen moment of silence where they weren't sure if they agreed with her or not.

"Hi, can I tell you what happened after you left?" I asked.

She nodded, and I did.

"Thank you for sticking up for me," she offered after hearing me tell the story.

"Absolutely. I also mentioned something to the librarians." I looked at her boys and then back at her. "You know, you did the right thing. We should all stick up for what's right, right?"

She... and her boys... nodded.

End of Chapter Two.
Chapter Three:

I shared the story at home with my family during dinner. My hope was that we might all realize we don't have to tolerate what's off in this world nor assume the weirdness has to become commonplace.

Whether we're drawing a line ourselves or highlighting a line someone else drew, we can be pointed in the right direction and help point others that way, too.

Because the real solution would be to reach out to that girl and those guys around her somehow and help them be transformed by God from the inside out. I wasn't in the right frame of mind to do that, which I regret. Sometimes all you can do is speak into the situation somehow as best as you know how. Maybe I was one leg in their journey... which is better than not being any leg and hiding out behind the stacks of books.

Perhaps next time I'll be one or two legs... or three or four.

End of Chapter Three.
Chapter Four: 

(your turn - go live these values out where you live this week)
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." (Matthew 5:14)

5 things I probably won't tell you as a pastor

I came across an article called "11 Secrets Leaders Won't Tell You." It's well written with several points I'd nod my head at.

Still, I wondered if I were to create a list as a pastor what would be on mine. Here's my best shot at it:

1) "I really take joy in what I'm doing."
This is an odd way to begin my list of secrets, but I don't often say this out loud. Perhaps I should, but when I do the reaction is puzzling. People who hate their jobs or feel stuck in their circumstances can take on a subtle jealousy when they see someone else take pleasure in work or life. I sense this when I share my joy among people who reply with a tilted head and raised eyebrow, "Must be nice."

The irony is my job is incredibly challenging. When others say, "I'd never want to do what you're doing," I know exactly why. Pastoring is emotionally exhausting, incredibly messy and spiritually burdensome. Toss into that leading a non-profit and coordinating teams of volunteer leaders all on different schedules, and it adds up. Still, through Jesus we can claim joy even when life or career wear us down. It's why I shared this unique conclusion in the introduction to my book Uncommon Wisdom From The Other Side:
Your heart will gain scars.
You’ll be misled by others.
Close friends will seemingly abandon you.
The resources may run out.
You may fake your faith some days for the sake of others.
Simple things Christians say will annoy you.
The church you serve may appear two-dimensional in your three-dimensional stress.
Students will let you down.
You will disciple at least one Judas.
People will say all kinds of unkind things about you and your family.

And it is the best possible way to live.

2) "I'm a real guy, but I'm also a professional."
There are people who love that I can be their friend, but won't ever choose to see me as a leader or pastor. There are others who like what my title represents or the biblical guidance I can give them, but struggle with visualizing me being tempted or having real life problems.

It's awkward for me to remind people that the inverse of their preference exists. I've watched congregation members get tense because they didn't want my voice to have any kind of authority in their lives, while others wanted more of my voice than I was able to give and ended up frustrated at my human limitations.

3) "Knock it off."
I get emails, text messages and more containing the venting of people who would have me or our church do things differently. Honestly, it works me up because (as context) I personally can't do or endorse something unless I see God in it myself... so we wouldn't be doing it in the first place if it didn't meet that criteria. I'm all up for someone questioning us for accountability, but when it's a loud personal preference I want to look at the person and say, "Knock it off" - especially when I am seeing lives changed through whatever is being criticized.

At times, I will speak up. It can't be my first response, as I've learned it's easy for others to become more focused on my bold reaction than on how they first came at me. Suddenly my words become the new sound-byte, because (let's face it) it's easier to react to someone's reaction than it is to consider what they're saying underneath it all.

Which... is another reason why I don't respond this way. When someone charges at me with a topic in hand, I can't react to their reaction either. Whether because of my position or my awareness, I'm responsible to be patient with people who won't be patient back. The occasional reward is I get to hear the real topic happening inside of them. Often the people who need to be loved most tend to come at you in unloving ways.

I don't get to say "knock it off."

But, seriously... "knock it off."

4) "That's cowardice."
I understand that people are going to typically take the path of least resistance. Still, the Holy Spirit reminds me that this isn't always right and won't change unless it's pointed out to them. With great fatigue, I've attempted to share that God has a better ideal for the situation that what they did or are about to (even though their choice made great sense circumstantially to them).

To be clear, the Lord would have us love each other - not pull back... work things out toward one another - not "agree to disagree" as we part...  lead our families - not have our spouses/kids/parents/siblings create funks we fall into... restore relationships into trust - not look for ways to continually second-guess each other... talk face-to-face - not banter behind a screen.

All of that is counter-cultural, which means it's rare... and likewise, easier to find justification in cultural habits to be cowards who settle for the path of least resistance... even though what God proposes is what we secretly yearn for.

5) "I'm about ready to quit."
For the record, I quickly typed this statement out without realizing it would be my last thought. It's both incredibly honest and incredibly scary to see it included. I tend to be a quick writer and move on from one thought to the next, but this one rattled out of me... and sobered me up to stop and stare it for a while.

I understand that a pastor saying such a statement is cause for everyone to scurry about in anxious fear. People tend to be in a church until they feel like going somewhere else versus staying with it though thick and thin. We've seen households move on somewhere else simply because they feared something uncomfortable happening or continuing to happen. It's why I don't say out loud that I am tempted to quit my job just like anyone else is tempted to quit theirs... because it can turn people into mice fearing a sinking ship, when what's actually happening are loud mechanical noises that can be addressed.

Perhaps one day God will change my calling from where I'm at to somewhere else. In the meantime, I'm going to keep giving my best to what's in front of me and assume that my human inklings of throwing in the towel are less about the "throwing" and more about the "towel" - the Lord would have me use it to wash the feet of others who are tempted to feel the same way.


I could write more, but this is where I'll stop... because chances are whatever #6 would be is something I have yet to realize. Maybe you can help me discover it over waffles?
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

the blind spot of the almost-committed

Are you committed?

Consider the problem of not being all in.
Until one is committed there is hesitancy...
the chance to draw back...
always ineffectiveness concerning all acts of initiative and creation. 

There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans... 

that the moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves too. 

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man or woman could have dreamt would have come his way. 

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets - "'Whatever you can do - or dream,you can - begin it . Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.'"

- W.H. Murray

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23)

ordering another "hit"

Be aware -

some social media trends/posts turn us all into Mafia-like mob bosses, ordering "hits" out to "kill" someone/something we don't like...

but it a business that treated us a certain way or a person who cut us off in traffic.
  • "No one shop there!"
  • "If you see this person, give them a cold shoulder!"
  • "Everyone go write a bad review online!"
We justify it by saying such things are justifiable, and in rare occasions they may be.

Strangely, we don't treat this as a rare response but as our first response.

And our response is often as ugly (if not uglier) than what we end up rallying against.
“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. (Matthew 5:21-22)

what's wrong with the world?

In truth, we are all pretty messed up.

While it's convenient for us to point the finger at some external source of misery and say, “Right there... that person... that situation... there’s the problem!” it is more authentic to confront the person and situation staring back at us in the mirror.

The London Times once asked people to respond to the question, “What is Wrong with the World?” Christian theologian G.K. Chesterton wrote this bold reply:
Dear Sirs,
I am.
Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton
Thankfully, God has not washed His hands of us. He already has a plan in force to set our upside-down world right-side-up again... it involves us washing our hands (and our entire lives) in Him.

The problem with the world is not something strange out there.

The problem with the world is something familiar within. 
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. " (1 Timothy 1:15)

even though we argue over the truth...

There is truth.

Our arguing over it doesn't negate it's ability to be known.

Our humanness means we will simply be incomplete in our knowledge of it.

The fast that God took the time to come near and teach us things...

His Incarnation and Revelation...

mean that we don't have to guess in the dark, but get grow in the Light.
" will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)

tangible ambition

Tangible ambition matters.

The moment that you finally forge your sense of ambition will give sudden clarity to the remaining moments of your life. 

Without that moment, you will continually think of yourself as an outsider to everything everyone else seems like an insider on. You will be a victim.

With that moment, you will begin to put your jabs together and form combinations that will give you a shot at the title. You will be a victor.

Ambition gets you off your side of the chasm and onto the bridge of discipline...

and discipline gets you over the chasm and onto the side of life you want to live on.


what's your next right thing to do?
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord." (Ephesians 5:8-10)

3 things leadership means

If you're the leader of anything...

this practically means at least three things:
  • Anyone ready to “buy in” is given a shot.
  • Anyone "in" is given accountability.
  • Anyone bowing "out" is given love.

This is not easy to do.

You'll likely be greater at one or more of these, and weaker at one or more of these.

It's also not a complete list.

What's missing?
"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." (1 Corinthians 12:12)


I read this comment today in a conversation.

It's brilliant.
"Now that I think about it, we have a false view that we're sometimes not in a place of disorientation. It's probably more our natural habitat than we realize, and funnels us toward redemptive dependence..." - Rick Lawrence
What if God redeems our confusion - something He didn't choose - to give us a greater opportunity to deepen our trust in Him and all He has chosen for us?

God created

They're familiar words.

"In the beginning, God..."

These words are so familiar, in fact, that we may overlook how they make all the words that follow that much more special.

What if the Creation part of God's Story is less about what happened and more about why it happened?

Might it have been incredibly fun for Him, like a parent preparing a baby's nursery even before the baby was born?

Imagine every cloud and star as part of the mobile above the crib...

every droplet of water as a vaporizer for the room...

every color in the sky as paint on the walls...

every blade of grass as the fuzzy blanket the child would find textured comfort in.

How much joy did He have putting it all together, and what does that tell you about Him?

And what does that tell you about you?

And what does that tell you about Him and you, and His love for you?

something insane to think about

People often say, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."


they keep saying that,
over and over...

as if stating that is going to change things...

only nothing changes.

That seems kind of insane,
doesn't it?

What else are you spouting off but not paying attention to?
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3)

3 easy steps to change the world

Somewhere deep within you... you want to change the world.

You may have a lighter, humorous side to you. That's fine.

Maybe the last thing you posted online was a witty remark or link to something that cracked you up.

Still, you do yearn for more.

Here's how you do it:
  1. Pay attention to what moves you. 
  2. Ask, "Why does it move me?" 
  3. Share both what moved you and why it moved you so others can be moved.
That last step involves both your life and your words.

You don't need to pine for hours over finding something to say.

Simply let what is already speaking to you begin to speak through you.

People are more likely to follow you if they see you're on a genuine journey to begin with.
"Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father." (1 John 2:24)

i'll say it if no one else will

Watching sports regularly doesn’t qualify you to coach a professional team.

Viewing your favorite TV show each week doesn't qualify you to write its next episode.

Attending conferences doesn’t qualify you to be a keynote speaker.

That said...

What thing are you a regular part of that you are not qualified to speak into?

I'm not suggesting you shouldn't, nor do I mean to imply it's not a responsibility in your life somehow.
  • Maybe it's your family, and you presume proximity equals intimacy... only as you speak into it you sound more like an annoyed neighbor than a reputable caregiver.
  • Maybe it's your workplace, and you presume familiarity equals integrity... only as you speak into it you sound more like a seasoned faultfinder than a humble proponent.
  • Maybe it's your church, and you presume sincerity equals clarity... only as you speak into it you sound more like a blind optometrist than an inspiring guide.
  • Maybe it's your school, and you presume geography equals authority... only as you speak into it you sound more like an irate taxpayer than a genuine advocate.
What you're communicating, however you present it, is essentially this:

"I'll say it if no one else will."

Sure, maybe the reason it hasn't been said is because it needs to be said and no one has boldly stepped up to say it. That will often be what you presume.

Then again, maybe the reason it hasn't been said is because there are more important things that do need to be said. How clear are you on this?

Consider - "Was the silence there on purpose? If not, what is the best way to say what actually does need to be said and avoid what doesn't?"

That may not be what you wanted to hear today.

I'll say it if no one else will.
"If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate." (1 Corinthians 13:1, The Message)