Tag Archives: transformation


Writing on the Window

Once a year I fly from New York to London to attend the London Book Fair. After crossing the Atlantic for much of the night, it is normal to feel out of sorts on arrival. This year I was fortunate because the customs line was unusually short; even my luggage appeared after ten minutes. It was a quick train ride from Heathrow to Paddington Station, followed by a taxi ride to Kensington. After a short rest, life began to seem bearable again.

Shortly after arriving at the hotel, I received a message from my good friend and business associate Jonathan Williams. He asked if I would be interested in attending a publishing event that evening with him and his wife Lesley at a place called the Stationer’s Company. I deferred the decision, as I was not sure what my plans for the evening would be.

http://www.london-footprints.co.uk/Photos/livstationersr.jpgEventually, I decided it would be good to go and so around 6 pm, I grabbed a taxi and headed off to the financial district of London near St Paul’s Cathedral. It turns out the Stationer’s was founded in 1403 and originally served as a guild for authors.

The event that evening was nothing to write home about, and in fact, during the presentation, my eyes began to close and my mind wandered. As I looked around, I noticed a stained glass window nearby and began to study the images. Just then, to my surprise, I noticed a reference to Isaiah 40:8 inscribed in the lower part of the window. As I recall, the passage itself was not there, just the reference. I later discovered the passage said this:

The grass withers and the flowers fade

But the word of our God endures forever.

The verse itself was unfamiliar, though I am sure I have read it countless times. What stunned me was the power of the two short lines. It was as if I had been hunting for this verse for years. Finally, I found this hidden treasure in full view; it was as if I had been purposefully given a map and instructions to go to this event to find something very important.

I have oft told the story of how in a desperate moment I entered a church in New York and prayed a simple prayer and how that moment lead me a few weeks later to go out and buy a Bible. This act in turn would lead me in a new direction, ultimately to my writing Getting to Know Jesus. For a person who knew little about Jesus and less about the Bible even into his middle years, it has been a remarkable pilgrimage.

In my earlier years, I did not see the purpose of life clearly. Perhaps the underlying theme of those years can be summed by the prevailing philosophy: “Let us eat and drink, you say, for tomorrow we die.” (Isaiah 22:13) I have always been acutely aware of the tragic divide between our temporal existence and our immortal longings. We know the truth about our mortal existence, but we avoid the implications like the plague.  We long for the grass to flourish and the flowers to last because as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes God “has also set eternality in the human heart.” The mortal heart cries out in this desert wasteland as our immortal longings seek fields and grasslands that never give way to decay, remaining fresh and beautiful forever.

When I reflect upon the arc of my life clearly, I see that I fruitlessly battled the tragedy of time without the comfort of knowing the truth of Isaiah’s declaration that “The word of our God endures forever.” If you choose to live in the world of withering grass and fading flowers without knowing the truth of God’s Word, then life will be a tough struggle indeed.

The truth is we live in the temporal, but long for the eternal. If we believe in only temporal things, life will be a scramble. We will thirst for more, but find that satisfaction dwindles. The turning point for me came when I embraced the wisdom behind Isaiah’s verse: “But the word of our God endures forever.”

New Year, New You

New Year, New You?

As Prospero says in Act IV of The Tempest, “Our revels now are ended.” Now that the commercial world has wrapped up Christmas, we are encouraged by voices in the media to embrace change.  They say in thousands of clever ways: “Never mind the past. It’s no longer relevant. You can push ahead with new promises, new hopes, and new goals. Become the better person you want to be.” But is this claim true to experience? Can we shed the past like a snake sheds old skin? Or does the past disregard our artificial time posts and insidiously sweep us as we are into the New Year?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, image for New Year, New You post

It is as if the commercial culture has expropriated the central Christian message — “You must change your life” — without all the baggage about sin and godlessness. Dietrich Bonhoeffer labeled this secular faith in personal transformation as “cheap grace.”

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

It is cheap because it does not cost us much and does not deal with the implacable truth of our sinful nature. When the word “sin” is excised from our vocabulary, we are left with evidence of a problem, but no tools that can help except in a most superficial and unsatisfactory way. Within a few weeks, we revert to old, familiar patterns of behavior and the promise of a “New You” becomes a sad, repetitive self-deception.

Paul defines the affliction of intractable darker impulses this way: “So I find this law at work. Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in me waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7: 21-25)

Paul did not underestimate this powerful war within our hearts that can subvert and destroy the good we desire, nor should we underestimate it. When we finally realize that we are in the midst of a life and death struggle, then the door opens to the possibility of God’s grace flooding into our hearts and driving out the impulses that undermine the goodness we deeply desire.

So let the calendar turn another tattered page. Prepared or not, let’s peer together over the precipice toward a new year. The view ahead is more than intimidating. Didn’t we just complete the climb to the top of 2015? But perhaps the summit is not a summit at all, but a mere resting place for the next phase of our uncharted journey together.

Christ Expelling the Money Changers from the Temple by Cecco del Caravaggio (c. 1610) image for New Year, New You

Christ Expelling the Money Changers from the Temple by Cecco del Caravaggio (c. 1610)

ONE MAN’S STORY (Part Three): Making the Choice to Testify

Be Bold in the Lord

The_Denial_of_Saint_Peter-Caravaggio_(1610)x20Jesus did not tell His disciples to hide or cover up their faith. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” This command was given to the very disciples who fled in every direction when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter stands out because he betrayed Jesus three times when the chips were down. Yet before Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on His last journey there, he had said to Peter, “…and on this rock I will build my church,” referring to Peter as the rock that would be the foundation of the church to be. It seemed in Gethsemane that this prophetic declaration was going to come to nothing, but Peter is later restored through forgiveness, and shortly thereafter, we find him preaching boldly to the people of Jerusalem.

What happened? Peter became alive in the Holy Spirit and he accepted the call of Jesus to become the foundation of the church that would spread from Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter and all the disciples put aside fear to fearlessly teach and preach the truth of Christ to a resistant world.

Called to Boldness

The road leading to the courtyard where Peter denied Jesus three timesMy own story follows a similar pattern; in fact, what happened to me is at the heart of Christian transformation; it is the Holy Spirit that can take wrecked and broken lives and make them whole and effective. Sometimes it takes desperate circumstances to break open our hearts to the grace surrounding us, but then we are called to address some very real questions: What are we do to with the gift of grace we have accepted? Do we horde it or do we spend it? Do we hide in safe enclaves or do we go out into a seemingly hostile world? Do we live in fear or do we embrace joy? Do we believe we are vulnerable and alone or do we believe “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7)? Finally, do we choose to avoid Jesus or do we say with Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”?

On the path to Baregg Hut near the headwall of this deep ravineSince that April day in 1987 when I entered the church in New York City, God has been working in my life, preparing me for a time when through the Holy Spirit, I would be prepared to boldly proclaim the truth of the Gospels. The time of preparation is past; the message and the life are one; boldness has replaced trepidation; the time has arrived when I am willing to leave a pleasant private existence to share the wonderful truth of grace, fullness and joy that can only be experienced through the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit every day through knowing Jesus and making Him known. Getting to Know Jesus: An Invitation to Walk with the Lord Day by Day is part of that call to serve Him with boldness by authentically responding to His call on my life.

ONE MAN’S STORY (Part Two): A Revelation and Commitment to Change at Masada

Healing Through Grace

The Book  of Common Prayer 1990 edition cr

While all this turmoil was happening, I kept reading the Bible I had bought in 1987. I began attending church and Bible studies, then, on February 13, 1991, I discovered the two-year lectionary “hidden” in the back of The Book of Common Prayer. From that day on, I immersed myself in readings from the Old and New Testaments every day, even though I knew that my understanding of what I was reading was partial at best.

In addition to all of this, I returned to the mountains and trails I had loved as a child. I hiked and climbed all the four hundred footers in New Hampshire; I climbed a few 14,000 footers in the west and in 1996, I returned to the Appalachian Trail, which I finally completed in 2011.And I rebuilt my business. But it wasn’t what I did that mattered; it was the grace of God that entered my life at a critical moment and guided me through the wreckage and then, through the power of His Holy Spirit, God began to prepare me for the future. My recovery had started through God’s grace. What was next for me could not have happened without the healing of my heart, mind and soul.

Eric on KatahdinFor most of my life I had been a nominal Christian. I had adopted the world’s values wholeheartedly and acted on those values. But eventually I ended up bereft. What had been sold to me ended up being so many grains of sand slipping through my fingers. And while I was moving in the direction of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I still kept at least one foot planted in the world I had always known. I was not fully willing to cast off the line that kept me tethered to a world that continued to reject and revile Jesus.

A Change In Direction

In 2012, in the desert of Israel at the base of the rock fortress known as Masada I made a commitment that would lead to a new purpose for my life. I came from a culture that knew Jesus’ name, but not very much else. In the world in which I grew up, Jesus was considered peripheral at best. He had become another “historical” figure, or a “good” teacher or a fictional character made up by a group of desperate followers. In the world I lived in, he certainly was not “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” But even though I did not understand what was happening to me at the time, I actually did encounter a Jesus who performed miracles, who healed the sick and fed the hungry. What had been a tiny speck in my own universe became a huge presence that grew to the point where I desired to get to know the Jesus I had known in name only. I felt God’s call to do more than just learn about Jesus. I wanted to really know Him and then to use that knowledge, and with the help of many others, to make Him known. This was a call I felt compelled to pursue—wherever it might lead me.