Not failing

February 6, 2016

“What would you do if you knew you would not fail?”

Have you heard or seen that question? What is your answer? Can you answer it?

I can’t. Every time I see that question, I’m stumped. I simply cannot imagine not failing. I have no idea what life without failure would look like.

Part of my problem is that I can imagine so many ways to fail. I have personal experience with quite a few of them along with the many consequences of failure.

I might be able to answer the question, “What would you do if you knew you could fail without consequences?”

Because it is the consequences of failure that stop me, not failure itself.

Embarrassment, yes but that’s not the worst consequence. Failure and embarrassment I can live with (Mostly. After a period of feeling sorry for myself.) I can, I hope, learn from failure.

The consequences, those often hurt other people. What if I let others down? What if I unintentionally hurt someone? What if I accidentally make things worse? What if something goes wrong? Seriously wrong? This is what I am afraid of.

And underlying that fear are my tiny, little control issues. What if I can’t fix it? My tiny, little control issues are exhausting and futile and filled with fear.

It has been said that one of the most common phrases in the Bible is “Fear not.” or “Be not afraid”. It is the first thing angels say to humans. Jesus says it, more than once.

How we respond is up to us. Some people shed their fear and some cling to it. Many of us, like the apostle Peter, can sometimes shed our fear and step out of whatever boat we are in. And then I think, we become afraid of life without fear. It’s so unfamiliar. So unimaginable. So we grab our old companion fear tight and hold it close while we sink into the waters of chaos.

The thing is, when Jesus shows up, we’re not alone. Whether we succeed or whether we fail, we’re not alone. Whether we walk, or swim, or sink, or never leave the boat, we are not alone. And neither are the other people who are affected- for better or for worse- by our actions. We are not alone.

That is great and good news.




January 17, 2016

This is my favorite window at my church. At first I was attracted by the deep blues and purples of the sky.

As I spent more time with the window, I began looking at the people in it and wondering about them. Do you see what intrigued me?


When people came to visit me after my children were born, they were smiling. No one in this picture is smiling. Not the people. Not the angels. Not even the sheep or the camels. No one is smiling.

You would think that someone might be happy that the Messiah is born. This is, after all, the good news proclaimed by the angels.  But Joseph looks as if he is about to cry.

It is as if they all recognize the dangerous thing God is doing. It is a very dangerous thing for God to become one of us. It is a very dangerous thing to live among us. It is a very dangerous thing to be the good news, the Word among us.

Each year we tell the Christmas story up to the coming of the Magi.  It is a wonderful story. The Magi, gentiles from the East come and worship King Jesus. But we often neglect to tell the rest of the story. The Magi are warned by an angel to avoid Herod when they leave because Herod wants to kill the child. An angry Herod orders the death of innocent infants in a frantic attempt to destroy the Messiah. Mary, Joseph and Jesus flee for their lives to Egypt. This is a dangerous thing God is doing. Jesus was born into dangerous times. No wonder everyone is so solemn.

It is easy for us to make Christmas into a feel good baby story. Who doesn’t love babies? And we are right to rejoice at the birth of Jesus. But like the people in the stained glass window, we also need to give proper consideration to the dangerous thing God did for us.

Look at that baby. Is there anything God will not do for us?


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