Get my book for free

The End of All Our Exploring is a book about trying to delve deeper with your friendship with God. From my own personal life to my professional experiences as a psychologist and pastor, it investigates what it actually takes to create a relationship with God that is fulfilling. It is a book (in Kindle or iPad format) which I am giving you for free, when you enter your email below and subscribe to the blog.


Over the summer, I had a conversation with a friend who has 3 sons all under the age of eight. I told him about a type of poetry which actually can be fun to write – haiku. I asked him to have his sons to try it out and write a few. Since then I have been addicted to writing haiku (I haven’t written hardly any since I was in my twenties).

What is haiku?

  • The essence of haiku is “cutting” (kiru). This is often represented by the juxtaposition of two images in the poetry.
  • Traditional haiku consists of at total of 17 syllables using only three lines of poetry – strictly using 5, 7, and 5 syllables on each line.
  • It often incorporates a nature motif or a kigo (a seasonal reference).

I don’t always use nature themes, but I keep to the syllable restriction. Here is one of my favorites from this summer. It is a triad haiku – incorporating one poem from three haiku. It is called The Sea is Mine.


dark pages, its dark

pages turning leisurely

invoking powers


4000 miles long

beyond the end which begins

turning and withdrawn


the language silent

wind, wonder –  I can’t describe

this grief and mercy


In: Poetry
Tags: , , ,

I’ve been reading Solo: An Uncommon Devotional for quite a while. It puts things succinctly and simply. It gets at the heart of what it might look like to follow Jesus.

In a recent one I read – Walk with Me – there was a phrase that I   spent some time thinking about. It came in the midst of Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus is sharing some good stuff about following him and he says it is an easy journey (I have often thought – it’s easy to follow Jesus? I must be doing it wrong). But then there are periods of my life when it is actually easy. And this is where I listened to these words, meditated on these words, Watch how I do it.

How does Jesus do it? I wondered.

In this period of my life, I have come up with this phrase which I use every now and then when I am counseling someone, be it a leader in our church or a client. The phrase is simply Jesus most often leads with grace.

As I was thinking about that phrase, how does Jesus do it – that’s when it came to me. Jesus does it by leading with grace.

More to come next time about that word grace.

In: Christian Faith


it is this
this morning
somewhere beneath sudden
with first words
like stealth
strung by its
smooth-stilled legs

venet­ian silence
a blink
and undressed open
beside over under
fur­rowed whis­per
choir cer­tain
a vest­ment kiss
piece by piece

savor of coral
of autumn reach
and another
gath­ered or beheld
side­step into twist
arisen touch
woven and

In: Poetry
Tags: , ,

I assume every atom invites our soul. It knows things we do not.

I lean observing a spear of the same grass blade and now hoping to cease from inadequate creeds and nature. Houses and rooms, the shelves honor and unaware—the atmosphere is wooden and naked.

The full noon rising from bed, so proud that it knows the meaning of its origin.

We shall no longer take things nor always look through books.

We shall not look to ourselves.

I have heard of the beginning and there was never any youth or perfection, out of the dimness always increase and identity, always distinction, always elaborate.

Here we are lacking not a thing, proven with each turn.

We think we are satisfied.

People we meet, we live with them—authors who invite us to dinner—these nights bend certain rest, come backward through the fog and spread limitless like a child laying outstretched in the grass.

Now it seems to us, here we are uttering in faint tongues that we wish we could with ease translate. How could we answer, I do not know.

I guess it means we give the same—understanding that somewhere, the moment life appeared we knew it, but somehow have much of it forgotten.

In: Poetry
Tags: , , , ,








The sky seems so uncertain

and on paper, the mountain is flat

or often when walking

I wonder how cities are named or why.


And I walk miles like circles or clusters

and applause goes everywhere

–drawings in the dust–

nearby music is playing,

it is the skin sane click of cars hobbling by,

the recusant water rinsing a basin

and a breath, a learning breath.


The Pharisees had come down from Jerusalem

the sweet kill and a pick-pocket

and I walk miles or I am leaning against this music

that is playing in the next room.


I have a forwarding address

the sky seems so uncertain

and on paper, the mountain is flat

or often when walking

I wonder how cities are named or why

In: Poetry
Tags: ,

When I was in middle school, I loved basketball. I was always next door at the Egan’s shooting hoops with kids in the neighborhood or by myself. I was so dedicated and I have many memories of playing in the dead of the winter wearing out gloves my mom bought me.

My freshman year I went out for the team and made it. However, I was the proverbial bench player. When I did play, I was awful – my hands just didn’t work like they did when I was playing next door. After that season, I realized I just wasn’t very good at basketball, not at least playing at the high school level. That was a very deflating experience because  I thought what now? What do I do with my life now—I really thought I might be the next Dr. J…

That spring, I decided I would ditch basketball and take up tennis. Now this was different from playing basketball; right from the start I was fairly decent. While I wasn’t the worlds greatest tennis player, I did play on the team throughout my high school years and was probably good enough to play at the college where I went. There was difference in playing tennis versus basketball—it was natural for me.

This taught me an important lesson which I keep relearning in my life. When it applies to what you do whether it is your work or what you do for fun, you should:

  • Spend your time focusing on things that you are innately gifted at
  • Spend your time focusing on things in your life that are life-giving

Sometimes I meet people who do the opposite of this. They spend a lot of time doing things that they are not gifted at and most importantly, pursue things that are not life-giving.  Now granted when it comes to what we do for a living we sometimes don’t have a choice in these matters. However, what we do outside of that part of our life, it is vital that we focus on pursuits that are life-giving.

As one example in my life today, painting is very life-giving for me. While I don’t have the talent of a Van Gogh, I am also not too shabby. By putting this into practice, I’ve gotten better and most importantly, when I paint I get energized and it flows into other areas of my life. This is just one of those life-giving aspects—it is when you know that you are becoming good at doing something.

The other thing is this—doing these types of things also help me to connect in my relationship with God at a deep level. Essentially, painting for me is worship. It is a  time in which I can release the stress of the day. It is a time in which I can try to tune into his voice. Like many who might be into woodworking, knitting, running, you name any hobby—I am not only learning on how to do something well, this thing that I do also strengthens my relationship with God.

So what do you do on a regular basis with your free time that is life-giving?

In: Spiritual Formation

One of my favorite assignments while in seminary was in a Systematic Theology class  where we had to write creeds and confessions. A creed or confession is simply a statement about some aspect of faith for an individual or community. Creeds are not intended to be comprehensive, but to be a summary of core beliefs and in writing them, it can help us fine tune what we believe. It is a wonderful and thought-provoking exercise to put down on paper in terms of what you believe about a certain issue. I highly recommend you try it. Below are some of my beliefs about God.

From the beginning, He shows us that he is the Creator; He created the heavens, the earth and all that lives. He made the seen and the unseen: ocean and wind; animals and angels.[1]  Most importantly, he created us, his masterpiece and child.[2] An important part of his nature is creativity as seen by all that he has uniquely made. God is an uncreated Spirit, and he is substantially more than any person we could imagine.[3]

God is holy and is vastly different from us and anything he created; he is dependent on nothing and no person, and indestructible from any power or person.[4]Everything separated from him has no life.[5] There is no place where he can not be found and likewise, there is nothing that can contain him.[6] God is always right in everything he does; not once has he made a mistake or been wrong in a decision. He is fair and full of mercy; nothing evil is found in him.

There is a security found in God. He does not change in his character; he is consistent and constant. He is perfect and good in every way. However, he must always reject anything opposed to the way he designed the world, namely sin. He is honest; he always speaks the truth and can not lie. At the same time, he can be deeply moved; just as with him, it is he who gave us our emotions.[7]

God moves the world in the direction of his purpose. He knows the beginning, the end, and most everything in between. But because He has chosen to make children rather than dolls, he doesn’t know every detail.[8] He is strong and able for anything; nothing can stand in his way.[9] Because of this relationship, God can be flexible in our relationship with him. By living in relationship with us, he sometimes changes his mind on account of us.[10] Though he is in control, he is not controlling. He can take charge, but he can also leave us room to move and grow. However, he does give us the choice to follow him or walk away;  if we do choose to walk away, we will experience our greatest loss.[11]

God is highly personal; His greatest passion is relationships and his greatest desire is to be in friendship with us, his most remarkable creation. He is close and involved because he wants to be known. Though he has no beginning or end, he enters time to rescue us, his lost children; he is not removed from the world and its brokenness.[12] He is not selfish or has his life centered on himself.[13] At one point in history, he literally entered our world to die for us and ransom our lives. He experiences the greatest loss so that we may live. He is friend to the unlovely and the lost; anyone who comes to him, he does not reject.[14] He is the most authentic love we will ever find.[15]

In the end, He will bring justice and perfection.[16] His creativity, which began with a purpose, ends with a purpose that is everlasting and focused on a relationship with those who come to him.[17]

[1] Genesis 1-2

[2] Genesis 1:26-27, 2:1-25, Psalm 139:14

[3] Luke 3:21-22

[4] Job 22:2, Acts 17:25, John 5:26

[5] Job 38:41, Romans 11:36

[6] I Kings 8:27

[7] Isaiah 63:7-9

[8] Jeremiah 18, Jonah 4:2

[9] Deuteronomy 10:17, Joshua 3:9-17, Proverbs 21:30

[10] 2 Kings 20:1-6, Jeremiah 26:19

[11] Matthew 9:9, RICH YOUNG RULER

[12] Deuteronomy 4:7, Jeremiah 23:23-24, Psalm 90:1-2

[13] John 18-19

[14] Psalm 68:4-6, Romans 4:17

[15] I John 3:1, Genesis 1:27, Ephesians 5:2

[16] Revelation 20

[17] Revelation 21-22

In: Spiritual Formation

I recently finished this painting which I started in April. It is my interpretation of Michelangelo Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.

In: Painting
Tags: , ,

The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Exodus 33:11

I want to be like water. I want to slip through fingers, but hold up a ship. Michelle Williams

photoI have a picture in my office at home that might be the one thing that I own that I treasure the most. It is a picture taken in 1972 of me and my grandfather. He and I are sitting snuggled tight in his favorite chair. He is wearing a plaid, blue and white checkered short-sleeve shirt; he has on his Saturday khakis that he would wear while working in his enormous garden; and he is sporting some glasses that kids today would say are hipster and cool. I am wearing some blue shorts, an orange shirt, and the biggest smile a five year old could have. Why is this picture so important to me? It is the perfect image of who Jesus is to me today — me sitting in his lap.

My grandfather was easily the most important person to me when I was growing up. I could argue that there has not been a deeper influence on me in all of my life. Let me share a little back ground. The year that picture was taken is when my biological dad left my mom and I. One day, he just picked up and left and never turned back. I don’t really have any memories of my dad in those years and it wasn’t until I was nineteen that I went and searched him out and finally met him. At that moment in time, when I was just five years old, it seemed as if I was left fatherless. How untrue that really was.

When my dad packed his bags and left, it left my mom in a serious bind—she was now a single mom, she only had a part-time job and a mortgage to pay. We were always close to my grandparents and so the most sensible thing to do was to move in with them. We moved just a couple of miles away and for two years we lived with my grandparents in their small two bedroom home with its one bathroom. I think at best its size would be about 750 square feet—in today’s standards, it would be considered a small apartment. For the entirety of their fifty-five year marriage, my grandparents lived and died there. Though it was small, it was the perfect home.

As you can imagine, with this sort of background, my grandparents had a humble and simple life. To this day, I am so grateful for that heritage. My grandfather worked for over forty years at the local Roper plant making refrigerators and stoves. My grandmother worked as well—second-shift at a factory that she also gave forty years of her life. I have vivid memories in that fifth year of mine, when my mom and I lived with my Grandma and Grandpa Stutz. Every week night my grandfather and I at ten o’clock at night would drive and pick up my grandmother from work, because she never learned how to drive. When we would awake the next morning, I can remember an early breakfast being made by my grandmother’s hand—always an egg, two strips of bacon, a piece of toast and some sweet orange juice from the carton. And most importantly, I remember my grandfather, a solid place to stand in a time of confusion and tumult.

My grandfather was a simple, but an extraordinary man. He served on the board of his church for many years. He was an extremely devoted family man, where even to this day, not just I, but most of my cousins would also tell you that he was one of the most important persons also in their lives. And he had two vices—he loved the Chicago Cubs and he enjoyed wearing nice clothes. My grandfather was the sharpest dressed man at his church, and you would have never guessed that during the work week he was getting his hands greasy and grimy working under a factory roof. He bought some of the finest suits, fedoras and ties, and he taught me early on that “it’s the clothes that make the man.” And he loved the Cubs—a “gift” he gave to me which to this day I will never forgive him because they are always losing. On many occasions, I remember driving up to Wrigley Field, both just he and I, or with some senior group, and we would sit in Wrigley Field and watch the Cubs lose another baseball game. Here is a fitting antidote—I think in all of the games I personally went to—the Cubs won only one game…

As I have alluded to, my grandfather was one of the hardest working people I have ever known, but beyond that, he was a good man. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. He was always honest, even to the point that on one occasion I remember him returning to the bank teller because she gave him an extra five dollar bill. He was an ever-faithful and loving husband. That was what my grandfather was to me—he was solid, like a branch of a tree that you could hang onto and know it would never break. Everyone should have a person like my grandfather in their life, because for me, in a way, he is a picture of what God must be like—generous, kind, caring, wise, faithful, sacrificing, humble—I could go on and on.


Jesus can be this person for us and we can have someone even more solid than what my grandfather was for me. When Jesus spoke about himself, he clearly emphasized that he desires a deep relationship with us, even to the point of calling it friendship (John 15:15). He wants to be a safe, secure place for us where we can learn more and more about him and where we can learn just as much about ourselves. In our relationship with God, we can ease our lives into His and become who we were meant to be. This is what he told us it would be like. We will look into his face, friend to friend, and it would be as natural as anything we have ever experienced.

But for any of this to begin, we need to seriously look at our lives. Are you caught in that believer stage of faith? Is God distant from you because it is you that has moved away from him? Could you care less about how you live life and you truly think that the choices that you make don’t matter? Have you grown up in the church, but never made a genuine commitment to God, making the claim that you were going to live for him and him only? Perhaps you are the type of person who at the end of the day, you live your life as if you don’t need God. Is that you—are you so self-sufficient that God is a nuisance in how you want to live? But with all of this, you also know that your life is not on track and that just around the corner a crisis of some kind could overtake you. Are you in a place in your life that when you look at yourself in the mirror, you realize that your whole life needs a significant overhaul?

For others, perhaps you grew up in the church, but this thing about friendship with God is entirely foreign to you. Does everything have to be perfect and in its right place in your life, but in living this way, you never seem to add up to this standard? Have you when you look back over the years, you have served in many different ways, but almost always out of obligation and not because you really wanted to? And there is something else—deep down, something is missing, and also something is hidden in you that is dark and secret. Instead of being in friendship with God, you really have become just a religious person. Yes, you can speak eloquently about grace or forgiveness, but to know this deep down in your soul, you’ve never really experienced that (and somehow, someway you would really like to). Perhaps a common theme for your life is control—to control your relationships, your marriage, your kids, even your relationship with God.  If this is you, Jesus is waiting for you—grab his hand and learn how to become his friend.

There are many shapes and sizes to being a Christian. But with this, we need to make our days count and attempt to develop our relationship with the One who created us. The choice is ours—whether it is living indifferently or ungraciously toward the seriousness of our lives. Life is short and we need to make the most of it, especially as it relates to becoming a friend to God. In our kitchen for about sixteen years has hung a picture that quotes a Psalm: it says this:

 Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

We need to count our days and the wisest thing we can ever do is move into a friendship with Jesus. For the person who keeps God at a distance in whatever way they do, they miss out on so much. Remember, he wants all of our lives, not just the edges or the crumbs of our lives. Some years ago, I came across the beautiful epitaph that the poet Gregory Corso wrote for himself. It lies etched on his gravestone in Rome. It simply reads:


            is Life

            It flows thru

            the death of me


            like a river


            of becoming

            the sea

On some level, we are all afraid to come to God. No different than Adam and Eve after they had wronged the One who had created them, each of us looks for all kinds of ways to run and hide. But in every situation in our lives, he is right there trying to find where we are hiding. For each and every person, no matter where they are, where they come from or what kind of lives they lead, he is waiting for each of us to courageously pursue him. Each and every day, he is speaking to us in a singular way. Just as he wishes to be sought after, he will pursue us in creative ways—we just need to have our eyes open to his coming. Just like that river in Corso’s epitaph, we have to decide to be unafraid of moving into the sea. To be unafraid of the most daunting thing we will ever do—to learn how to be friends with God, to truly be in relationship with him. When we do this, when we make that decision—we will then be able to swim out to him into the waves that at first we thought would overtake us. But here was the reality of the situation—we didn’t need to swim at all. We could actually walk on the waves, because he already had showed us how. In the end, we learned how to take his hand, and we learned how to look him squarely in the face gaining a confidence we never had before. We were unafraid of what might happen when we took that first step—we were unafraid of the waters that now we could walk on with ease.

In: Friend to Jesus
Tags: , , , , ,

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us. Saint Augustine

But to truly to be in relationship with God, what I have learned in walking this path with many in my practice as a counselor, my work as a pastor, and in my own life, is that your relationship to him needs to change in a unique and specific way. Let me describe what I mean by this. Within psychology, there is a theory called Transactional Analysis and it attempts to explain how we can experience relationships in a mature way. The psychologist Eric Berne in the 1960’s created this theory in which he hypothesized that we use “roles” in adulthood with the different types of relationships we have, be that with our parents, our spouse, our kids, our boss—with anyone who is in our life. The theory uses the analogy of the relationship between a parent and the child. Typically, according to Transactional Analysis, there are three different personalities or roles (Berne called them ego-states) that we use throughout life in the relationships we have:

  • The Parent: the role in which you will mimic how a typical parental figure behaves (e.g., instructing, talking down to the other person, always trying to control the situation, disciplining for bad behaviors, dominating the relationship, etc.)
  • The Child: the role in which you will regress to a place in which you behave and feel as a typical child might (e.g., allowing yourself to be talked down to, often being fearful or feeling inadequate around another person, letting yourself be controlled by the other person, rarely voicing your real opinion to the other person, etc.)
  • The Adult: the role in which you are “yourself”—you offer your own opinion freely; you are able to enter into conflict and disagree with the other person; you are authentic in how you are around the person; you are confident in yourself in all circumstances.

To try to make sense of all of that is above, the premise simply refers to how we act in the relationships around us—whether it is with your spouse or someone you work with—do you act like a parent, a child or do you act in a healthy way, like an adult. A real-life example of this is when I met with an attorney as a client a while back. He was a well-known defense attorney who was highly sought after and accomplished in his work. However, one of the issues that came out in counseling is that if he was ever around his dad, he would inevitably act like the thirteen year old boy he used to be. In part, his father dominated him, but in the same degree, he would also allow the relationship to continue in this unhealthy way. When he was with his dad, he would always play the part of a child who always needs help or was never quite sure of himself. Whenever he was around his dad, he was always walking on eggshells, never said what he really wanted to say, and could never really be himself. For him, his father was not a friend, and primarily that was because they didn’t have a real relationship where they could talk to one another about anything as adults. His dad had remained the parent and he continued to act like a child.

As a counselor, we encourage clients caught in these relationships to use the premise of Transactional Analysis and to act like an adult when confronted with these types of relationships and situations. We literally ask them to change the role they are playing in the relationship. In this case, when this client spent time with his dad, he needed to stay in the character of the lawyer who he was Monday to Friday and not the apprehensive teenage boy he was so many years earlier. Around his father, he needed to be sure of himself and speak what was really on his mind. Simply put, he needed to act like an adult when he was around his dad. Often, it can be the mere recognition of the role the person is playing (i.e., in this case, this man was staying in the role of the child) that people can begin to act differently in these relationships. Oftentimes, when one begins to act the part, the change can become permanent. There is no need to explore one’s past; no need for medications; no need of lengthy counseling. Relationships in our lives begin to change because we begin to change. It’s what the Bible classifies as repentance or to change one’s thinking and move in a different direction in your life. In the situation with this attorney, just after a couple of months, when he acted like himself around his father, his dad also responded in a healthy way and today they have a relationship that is growing closer. With this little change, this man and his father have a maturing friendship in which now they both can now be themselves.

This area is also one of the major catalysts in which our relationship with God can expand. When it applies to Transactional Analysis, ironically  for us to deepen our relationship with God we need to stop acting like a child around him. For some of us, we literally need to change our relationship with God and learn how to be ourselves around him. Yes, we are his “children,” but we can also have an adult relationship to him. God wants us to be authentic with him, and to have a relationship in which we can say anything to him. Let me give you another parallel. Right now both of my sons are in high school and a significant way that I relate to them is as a parent. Often, I tell them what to do; I control when they are to be home; I guide them if they stray. However, in just a few years, both of them will be adults and starting a new life on their own. When that occurs, how I relate to them will have to change. I will have to move out of the role of the parent and they will have to stop acting like children. Mutual trust will become a part of the relationship. They will take responsibility for their lives and begin to truly act like adults. A friendship will emerge between my sons and I, and our relationship will mature and expand. This is precisely what God wishes for us as our relationship with him as it grows and expands.

As the infamous 13th chapter of Corinthians states: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11) When I’m counseling the people that I work with—this is where I press them to go with their relationship with God—to act like an adult with him. By far, it is the most important mark of faith. It is more important than the day you were wed; more important than the day when your children were born; even more important than that day you decided to believe in God for the first time. It is truly the day that you really wake up and understand not only who God is, but just as importantly, who you are. You truly begin to relate to him like never before. You become his friend. This is the beauty of how this relationship grows, not only do I change in my relationship to him, but now God changes in how he relates to me. As I become more sure of the relationship, as I learn how to have a voice in the relationship (one here can think of Abraham’s relationship to God that we find in Genesis 18), God unveils who he is in remarkable ways. As the 16th century saint, Teresa of Ávila penned, “The feeling remains that God is on the journey too.” That is the truth, God wants to journey with us as we deepen our relationship together—he desires to be Friend, Lord and Papa—all in the same breath.

In: Friend to Jesus
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,