Signing Off

Posted April 11, 2010 by Michael F. Martin
Categories: Blog Policy

Since we started this group blog in July 2008, there have been three new kids welcomed into our family, and one goodbye to a graduating Senior, for a net increase of two between us. Waywords was an experiment in group fellowship, and we consider it a successful experiment that will be useful to each of us in exploring ways to build community and faith through new technology in the future. For the time being, however, we are signing off to focus on other time commitments.

Each of us continues to blog elsewhere. Collin is at, Chris (and his wife) are at, and Mike at Although there will be an indefinite lapse in time before we post here again, we wanted to leave the blog up for any waywards like us who might find a connection through our musings.

In Christ’s love,

Collin, Chris, and Mike

Letting go

Posted February 14, 2010 by Collin
Categories: Responsibilities

In a recent sermon, our pastor mentioned something that’s really important for spiritual growth: letting go.

Specifically, letting go of a certain false sense of responsibility: the sense that it all depends on me, or that I can control my world. Really, I can’t control much; I can barely control myself! It’s the Lord who controls heaven and earth; he is God and I’m not.

It’s remarkably freeing to know this, because if I think it all depends upon me, I’ll be a prisoner of everything around me. So for example if I think I can and should control how things go at work, I’ll constantly manipulate people; I’ll “need” them to do things my way, see things the way I see them, and so on.

This is an awful way to be if I’m insisting things be done my way, but even if my objectives are the “right” ones (that we not waste the company’s money for example) it can still be toxic: when things don’t go well (shareholders’ money goes to buying the wrong thing, or doomed projects get started) I’ll be second-guessing myself. “Maybe if I’d made a stronger case…” and similar thoughts can rattle around in my head, keep me up at night, and distract me from being truly present with my loved ones.

What if my objectives are not only the “right” ones but eternal ones? I want all people at our church to feel ownership for the activities they’re involved in; nobody should feel useless or disempowered. This is a great desire, but what happens if someone says a discouraging word? Might I start second-guessing myself then? “I should have coached this person more” or “Maybe if I had affirmed that person more, or more wisely” or “If only I had…” — this kind of nonsense results from the belief that I’m in control, or that l even could control things.

So here’s the truth: Even if my motives are 100% pure (hey, it could happen someday!), my wisdom is complete and my technique is perfect, people won’t necessarily do what I want them to do. And since I’m full of flaws myself it’s mathematically obvious: I can’t control things.

Why then do these things still bother me? Why do I vainly try to control stuff? And what can I do about it? Here’s what I think: I need to meditate upon God’s great care for me, and cast my anxiety upon him, as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:6-7.

Easier to say than to do, right? Yes it is.

This list is incomplete!

Posted January 23, 2010 by Collin
Categories: contrasts, God's Presence

Along with the fantasy/reality issue, Mike Erre’s book raised the question of what it means to be a Christian man. Specifically as we think about what we see in the Scriptures, things like this come out:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

This is a great list, but the list applies as well to Mr. Rogers as it does to Jesus Christ.

So what gives? Did Paul err in giving us an incomplete list?

I don’t think so. You may have noticed that verse 22 begins with “But” — But what? Like the rest of the Bible, verse 22 isn’t a systematic theology; rather, its function is to show the contrast vs the “works of the flesh” (verse 19). Additional insights come if we look around that passage a little more. Verses 13-15 warn against selfishness and malice; verses 16-17 urge us to live by the Spirit, as opposed to the flesh (which the NIV renders “sinful nature”). Again, verses 25-26 urge us to walk with the Spirit and avoid selfishness and malice. So verses 22-23 are part of the overall argument: rather than idolatry, hatred, fits of rage, etc., better to have joy, patience, self-control and the like.

So if that’s not the complete list, what are some other things we would expect to see in someone following the Lord Jesus? I remembered another list:

Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.

Like the list in Galatians, this isn’t just a list; it’s a list against something — in this case greed, as the Galatians list was against selfishness, hatred, greed, etc. And immediately after the list is an exhortation to fight–which, come to think of it, is something Fred Rogers actually did, though it wasn’t always visible on his show.

What’s my point? Just this: though I’m a fan of Scripture memory, we need to take the entire Bible in, not just favorite verses. This is as much of a problem if we only memorize Galatians 5:22-23 as if we only memorize Psalm 139:22.

And also that I want to read more of Mike Erre’s book.

Fantasy and Reality—for men

Posted January 6, 2010 by Collin
Categories: Books, Responsibilities

…that is, “especially for men.” Why especially for men? Because women have a lock on reality and men don’t? No, because

  1. I’m not a woman; and
  2. I’ve been looking at Mike Erre’s Why GUYS Need God, which has some really important things to say on this topic.

If you haven’t seen the book, the back cover has this provacative note:

Why, after years of being
told otherwise, do we still
chase after bigger paychecks,
better homes, and cuter women
to define us as men?

Why does the church often
seem so fake and irrelevant
to guys?

So here’s a little about fantasy:

Reality bites. … God, the universe, other people, traffic, disease, death, love, risk, pain, and depression all refuse to bend to my will….

And I suppose this simple truth is what fuels a bewildering (and in some cases bizarre) array of options for escape from reality.

… If reality disappoints us, we can find substitutes at the click of a mouse. Video games gobble up countless hours of youth, lust engulfs healthy sexual desire, and the anonymity of cyberspace creates the illusion of community and friendship without the real demands of true intimacy. Wherever reality falls short, fantasy promises a quick and painless escape.

Fantasy also exists in the church. Instead of engaging in real discussions about the pressing issues and concerns that confront men today, we often accept a caricature of masculinity that bears little resemblance to the portraits we find in Scripture. Instead of anger, we learn about serenity. Instead of ambition, meekness….

Erre, pp.27-28

As long as we pretend (“No, I’m not angry [dammit!]” for example), we never confront our weaknesses, and we never have to face -gulp- growth!

The Bible has a phrase for this sort of pretending; here’s what John says about it.

If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:6-9 (NIV)

To make progress, to be purified from sin and unrighteousness–in short, to grow–we need to face the truth, to face reality.

Reality has both good and bad news, like “modern” gospel presentations from the BGEA or the Navs always say: The bad news is that we are weak and easily distracted. We are not the men we’d like to be, or the men we’d like others to think we are. Even worse, as Erre says, “God is the one who led us into this mess.” We can’t blame the media or the feminist movement or Hollywood (or Bollywood for that matter either).

The good news for us, as it was when we were sinners, is that God will lead us out of this mess (Erre, back cover).

It’s really part of the same gospel: we were foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, spending our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another, and God by his mercy saved us. That’s the gospel, right?

But wait — there’s a lot more! Paul goes on to tell us about the Holy Spirit who makes us heirs. This is the same Holy Spirit that Jesus promised, who would lead us into all truth (i.e., reality). And as the passage above says, the way we get purified, the way we grow, is by accepting and acknowledging reality and confessing our weaknesses, not by escaping and pretending.

May the Spirit of the Lord help us to do so!

What did God have in mind when he decided to create you?

Posted December 5, 2009 by Collin
Categories: God's Presence, Wonder

Whatever else spiritual growth is about, it must have something to do with becoming whatever (or whoever) it was that God had in mind he had the idea of you.

It’s a question worth thinking about, and now that I think of it, should lead us to worship.

Placing our bets

Posted November 30, 2009 by Collin
Categories: God's Presence

Every day, we decide with our hearts, with our feet, with our checkbooks, what we think about God’s presence with our lives. Put differently, we’re placing a bet.

If I had to bet my life on one possibility or the other, which one would I bet it on? If you had to bet your life, which one would you bet it on? On Yes, there is God in the highest, or, if such language is no longer viable, there is Mystery and Meaning in the deepest? On No, there is whatever happens to happen, and it means whatever you choose it to mean, and that is all there is?

Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark, pp. 172-173

As I go through my day, through my week, what do my decisions say I actually believe about God’s work in the world, in my life. My mouth may recite that “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20) but what do my feet, my calendar, my checkbook say?

And what does my prayer life say?

Are we going through the expected, habitual motions of prayer, without vigorous belief in what we are doing? Have we lived as functional atheists until faced with personally desperate situations, prompting us to pray deeply only then?

Keith Swartley (ed.), Encountering the World of Islam, p. 435

A son of our friends was hit by a car, and our prayer life has rather intensified since then. I think Swartley’s rather pointed questions are right on the money for most of us, at least some of the time.

Now I’m not a fan of navel-gazing, but it’s important to reflect from time to time on where we are, and where we’re headed — where our bets are currently placed, and where we want to place them.

Psychology for Spiritual Growth?

Posted November 29, 2009 by Collin
Categories: Uncategorized

Some Christians don’t trust psychology. I don’t believe all its conclusions, but that doesn’t mean it’s without benefit. I wrote a short piece about psychology as it applies to spiritual growth at, which I hope you find helpful.