Monday, September 7, 2009



  • Function: noun
  • Date: 14th century

1. way somebody or something looks:

2. outward aspect

3. performance or exhibition in public:

Appearances can be deceiving. By all outward appearances this door is solid wood. Only a closer inspection reveals places where the wood is rotten.

So is the door solid or rotten? I really like for things to be one or the other, but in reality, the door is both.

When I was preparing for ordination this last time (there have been others, but that is a longer story), someone asked me to talk about the image or metaphor of the church to which I am most drawn. The first to leap to mind was that of saint/sinner. Perhaps it is because I struggle with it the most. I want people to fit neatly into one category or the other, but truth be known, we are all both – all a mix of some things that are solid and some that are rotten. I have been surprised by the goodness of people I have written off as “sinner”, and I have been wounded by those whom I have wanted to be a “saint”.

There are a couple of people monitoring the rotten spots on this door. They check periodically to see if the rotten places are widening. The take preventative measures to hold the rot at bay. It helps if we have similar kinds of people in our lives – people who will be honest with us about how we are living our lives; people with whom we can share the rotten places.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Etymology: Middle English trak, from Middle French trac
Date: 15th century

1: detectable evidence (as the wake of a ship, a line of footprints, or a wheel rut) that something has passed

On a recent trip to a beach on the Atlantic Ocean, I was intrigued by the tracks made in the sand by the ocean rescue vehicles. As I observed the tracks left behind them, I was reminded that we leave tracks wherever we go. How we live our lives makes an impression on the people whose paths we cross.

Not long ago I heard someone tell the story of a denominational official who came to visit her church. It was clear to her that he was not interested in having a conversation with her or anyone else, and that made an impression on her. When we discussed it, she said, “This makes it easier to understand why some people get fed up with church and leave.”

What we say and do and what we don’t say and don’t do leaves detectable evidence that something has passed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009



Function: transitive verb

Inflected Form(s): dev·as·tat·ed; dev·as·tat·ing

Etymology: Latin devastatus, past participle of devastare, from de- + vastare to lay waste —

Date: 1638

1 : to bring to ruin or desolation by violent action 2 : to reduce to chaos, disorder, or helplessness

This is the home of the in-laws of one of my co-workers. It was devastated in the tornado that ripped through Kirksville last week. Devastation is the only word I know to describe what I saw that day. For a few days I have been trying to think of something more to say about that, but the truth is that devastation is just beyond words.