The Sins of My Writing

Spellcheck says everything’s good. But I’ve learned not to fully trust spellcheck. So, I read over it – one … last … time …

Yep, all looks good. I hit send or print or whatever pushes my writings into public view. In this particular case, it’s a blog post.

I’m never sure how many folks will read my blog, but I hope it’s well received by all who invest five minutes of their lives. I put my heart and soul into it and, frankly, I believe the content and writing is some of my better work. Perhaps it will have a positive impact. That’s always the goal – to get people to think and act in ways that help them grow like Jesus.

So off goes the post into the cyber world, released and free. And I move on to other things.

Then comes that email from a loving friend who gently points out the typo. Not just a random typo, but a typo in the lead (or, if you prefer, the lede). Sure, it’s the second paragraph, but it’s still part of the lead. First word of the first sentence in the second paragraph – standing out like a zit on the forehead of a teenager on prom night. Image should be imagine. Spellcheck won’t catch that, by the way.

I sigh. I thank my friend. I update the post on my website, although by now I suspect that everyone who will read it already has, and I’m certain that each of them snickered at the whiff. Another shot across the bow of my credibility. My insecure self whispers: See, I told you. You’re a hack. This is why you’ll never really make it as a writer.

Little things have always risen up to bite my writing in big ways, and especially spelling. I misspelled water in an elementary school spelling bee, and a high school teacher told me I’d never be a good writer because I was such a poor speller. As a cub reporter for a newspaper, one of my egregious spelling errors resulted in an editor getting chewed out. And I once misspelled a billionaire’s name in a magazine article.

But image instead of imagine wasn’t really a spelling error. I know how to spell imagine without looking it up. It was more of an oversight. It’s one of those words that this writer’s eyes – those eyes that have become all too comfortable with the content – are prone to see as correct, even when it is not. Reading it one more time seldom matters. I look at image and see imagine.

Unless you, too, write professionally or have some other form of OCD, you might think this is much ado about nothing. You’d say that chances are, very few people noticed, and those who did probably didn’t care. Maybe. But I care. And I suspect there’s something in your life – in everyone’s life – that you care deeply about doing well but that you fail at from time to time.

What then? Grace. Forgiveness. Growth.

In my experience, it’s all but impossible to grow like Jesus when I’m wallowing in self-pity that’s swimming in self-doubt. I have to remind myself that Christ died for my sins, that I am forgiven, and that I can walk and live in that forgiveness.

When Jesus encountered and confronted sinners, He never condoned their sins. He offered forgiveness and commanded them to stop their sinful behaviors. (See John 5:14 or John 8:11) So even with something as seemingly trivial as a mental error/typo/misspelling, I am compelled to admit my mistake, embrace forgiveness and try to avoid repeating that mistake.

How? I’ll be more aware of that word, but I’m also investing in a copy editor. Every writer needs one. I’ve avoided it because, well, it’s an expense – either I’m paying someone money or I’m imposing on a friendship. But I work with clients all the time who want to avoid this expense, and I always tell them that doing so is a huge mistake. Every writer needs an editor, usually more than one. It’s time to heed my own advice.

We all need others to help us walk through this broken world – someone who helps us edit our lives. That was a key point of the image/imagine post. And while we’ll never get it totally right, that type of discipleship helps us walk more comfortably in the peace and joy that come from grace and forgiveness.

(Note: My good friend and super wordsmith James Gilzow edited this piece, and I assure you it’s better now than it was when I sent it to him!)


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Our Sanctification Puzzle

Sanctification lives at the heart of the Grow Like Jesus message, and it’s something we do both individually and in the context of our relationships with others.

Imagine a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that never stay the same but that somehow always fit together. We never know how or when our lives might provide the right fit for others or how and when someone else might provide the right fit for us. But we know we need each other to fully grow like Jesus. Our sanctification puzzle is incomplete, of course, without Jesus. His presence fills the voids and gaps, heals the wounds, and makes all things new. But He regularly uses broken human pieces during our earthly journey.

This helps me see myself and others in a different light. My sin nature often tugs at me to judge first and seek understanding later. When I remember that God might use me to somehow contribute to someone else’s sanctification puzzle, or that He might use someone else to grow me, then I become much more empathetic and far less judgmental. I want to know the other person’s pains, baggage, joys, and experiences. I want to understand who that person is and why, not focus on his outward appearance or actions. And I want him to understand who I am and how God has transformed me and is transforming me.

The Me Piece

The biggest, most complex and complicated part of my sanctification puzzle is me. My sanctification begins with my attention to my personal walk with and growth in Jesus. No one else owns it or is responsible for it. When God confronted Adam and Eve for their sins in the garden, Adam immediately blamed Eve and God. The woman you gave me – that’s the problem! (See Genesis 3:12) God, of course, knew better. Like Adam, we can’t shift responsibility for who we are and how we live. We have to own it so we can fully surrender it.

The Us Piece

The next most critical piece of my sanctification puzzle is my wife. God gave her to me, and me to her. While some pieces of our puzzle come and go, this one is ever-present. She adds to my growth, and I contribute to hers. She is my helpmate, which clearly means this: I need help! And I’m called to love her as Christ loves the church, which is no small deal – I am called to give myself up for her to make her holy, to cleanse her by the washing with water through the word, to present her as radiant, without stain or wrinkle or blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27). What an awesome privilege and responsibility when it comes to her growth!

The Others Piece

Finally, there are those pieces of my sanctification puzzle that involve “others.” Some are regular parts of my life, like my family and closest friends. Others are people I know but interact with less frequently. And others still are simply divine appointments – people God places in my life for a short period and then they’re gone. They all shape my spiritual growth, if I’m open to how God wants to use them. And I have an opportunity provided by God to fit some need of theirs, but it’s up to me to embrace that opportunity.

Every day, our puzzle pieces change. We’re reshaped by our experiences. Our needs are different. Our opportunities for growth are different. And what we have to offer others is different. Our challenge is to figure out how we all fit together for the glory of God as we strive to grow like Jesus.


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The God of Tegucigalpa

I’m not a poet, but sometimes I’m compelled to write in my own, unique style of verse. So it is with my recap of the week Audrey and I spent this summer in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

We went with a team led by our dentist and friend Dr. Bob Ward of First Lavaca (Arkansas). And we worked under the direction of World Gospel Outreach, an organization that has learned through the years how to truly honor God and serve the physical and spiritual needs of people in efficient and powerful ways. It was, frankly, the most impactful mission trip I’ve ever taken, and this ode won’t do it justice. But it’s all I have.

We took a ton of photos, a few of which I’ve included. Click here to see more.

God Moved

I asked the Lord:
“Show me a revelation;
“Move within me;
“Move within us;
“Heal this land;
“Heal these people;
“Make Your Glory known.”

We flew in fast, and we landed hard,
Because this is Tegucigalpa – its mountains high, its runway short.

The adventure had just begun;
Pedro took us up and down the mountain,
Through the city and into the countryside,
Driving his yellow school bus like an Indy car,
Smiling all the time.

We came, of course, to help;
A “brigade,” they called it;
A troop of foreigners and nationals,
Joining together in the inward parts of this city,
Offering what we could ….
To provide basic medical, dental, and optical care …
To wash and style the hair of children, treat their hair for lice, paint their nails, and watch them smile …
To pour a concrete floor or paint the random boards
That serves as walls for a shack a family knows as “home” …
To listen, to pray, and to share God’s grace.

Could we make a difference? Really? In this city?
The pollution burned our nostrils, stung our eyes;
We saw pain and heartache holding so many in its vise grips;
Hopelessness attacking their souls, prisoners walking in the streets;
“Who are we,” I asked? “Who am I?”
Poverty had been taking root in these hills of silver for nearly 500 years;
We were here for just a week!
Could we make a difference? Really? In this city?

Evil lurked, whispered his lies,
Distorted truth, twisted hope into despair;
He will not win, I remembered;
He's already been defeated;
Christ's heal has struck his head;
Jesus lives and evil's hold will not prevail!

Could we make a difference? Really? In this city?
Could we make a difference?
Not us … but Christ within us.

So we served and watched Him work;
We saw a double rainbow from the clouds,
Vibrant colors painting the Honduran sky;
We saw God's face in those we loved:
A son, daughter, granddaughter, husband, wife … a stranger … a newfound friend; 
We saw God’s mercies, grace, and faithfulness, 
All written in the faces – of children, young men and women, the elderly; 
They had hope; 
They had Hope. 

We smelled the coffee beans as they roasted, 
High up in the mountains, where the air is clean and fresh; 
We saw papaya growing by a squatter’s shanty house, 
Nestled down a hill on a dirt patch just off an unpaved city street; 
We laughed with the lady who said she had "a zoo" in her tummy; 
We laughed more when we heard about the granny 
Who packed a pistol on her hip and Jesus in her heart; 
And we cried as we washed each other's feet; 
Tears of joy, tears of life, tears of love; 
And along the way we heard the words angels long to hear: 
"Yes, I need Jesus!" 
"Yes, I want Jesus!" 
"Yes, I love Jesus!" 
Another 80-plus souls signed up for heaven; 
Another 70-plus recommitted their lives to the Way. 

And when we stopped … 
When we paused to look and listen … 
All around us, 
All within us,  
All among us; 
Here’s what we saw … 
Our God moved; 
Our God moves! 
Praise His holy name!
  • Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 6/30/17

Practicing Rest

One of the key points in Grow Like Jesus is that rest is a critical piece of our walk with God. Jesus rested. So we should rest. What’s that look like? Well, this week, it looks like me somewhere on a beach. So this week’s blog is the attached photo. It’s from a vacation we took last year, but it symbolizes the rest I hope I’m getting while you read this. I hope you’re getting some, too.