I’ve made slight adjustments to make this more personal.  It was intened as a confession, not a sermon.

Lent: it’s not just about repenting.  It’s also my gateway for:  Reflecting – Recounting – Releasing – Receiving – Restoring – Redeeming – Rejoicing and Reconnecting.

Lent conveniently marks the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring, the season of rejuvenation.  A time that ushers in excitement of anticipated regrowth, new beginnings, the start of baseball and rush to the NHL playoffs.  But my appreciation for the richness of Lent has grown deeper in recent years as I’ve absorbed my own failings and transgressions and witnessed parts of our world marked by anguish and despair.

Lent is associated with repentance — a letting go of sins or behaviors that cause a contrite conscience to alter course beyond a superficial repeal and replace.  It goes much deeper and is a natural and healthy part of seasonal and spiritual renewal.  Lent literally means to soften and make less severe and reduce the pressure.  It is about recounting and reflecting — taking inventory of who I am, what I’ve done and how I’ve treated others.

When I relinquish things, my unhealthy baggage that’s piled up is more easily revealed as is the healthy baggage that I’ve neglected.  Releasing and letting go then frees me up and provides the space to receive better alternatives or more fully appreciate what I already have — often the gifts I’ve taken for granted.  Releasing my tight grip also allows me to reassess, refocus and reprioritize.  Maybe even reposition myself by returning to God to mirror how he is always turned to me.

As the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday symbolically reveals my need to take stock and review my inner inventory.  And, like Spring Cleaning, I often need to release a lot of it.  Just let it go.  The mark of ashen forehead crosses also serves as a reminder of the remarkable ways God made me, reveals himself and reclaims me.  Daily.

Lent kicks off Easter, where Jesus was rejected, resurrected, returned and revealed himself fully as the true redeemer.  To the young and naive, the repentance associated with Lent seems loaded with harsh and fearful sacrifice.  But, especially as I grow older and my inner inventories swell, it is a minor discomfort that actually binds me closer to God.  That is actually a joyful notion worth sprinting toward despite the thorn in my side or limp in my gait.

True suffering reveals what nothing else can — truths about myself and my world. But suffering also reveals the depths from which I can be reclaimed and redeemed.  With clearer eyes from a repentant heart I can then more clearly see God’s love and desire to reconnect with me no matter what.  Thankfully, that is something about which I’ve found God to be absolutely, tenaciously and wonderfully unrelenting.


Manger Management

After the Holiday whirlwind and revving up of resolutions, we’re still being asked, “What’s in your Wallet” but never, “What’s in your Manger?”  Surely, the greatest gift of all-time was received in a manger.  Sadly, it’s no sweet irony that my own personal manger — both garage and mind — has gotten uncomfortably full.  No shortage of gifts but, frankly, most are neglected and in need of more love and sunshine than I’ve given them.  No room at all for any new meaningful gifts, let alone another meaningless New Year’s “Resolution”, which always seemed like a gift that I’m supposed to give myself as an awkward proclamation that I’ll mend my ways THIS year.  It’s another thing to do on top of other things to do…in order to have more.

But letting go is hard to do.  And that’s the point.  Receiving a gift often requires letting go of something else and giving it up fully.  It means needing to open my hands, mind and heart and set free what I’ve been clinging to so that I can fully receive and embrace the gift coming toward me.  So often, I’ve been unable to accept gifts because I’m too busy juggling the things I rarely take care of.  The best gifts, of course, are those we don’t expect or want but desperately need.  I mean, seriously, who ever really wanted a savior in the form of a baby?!?!  But could that gift have been so fully received and appreciated if the manger were full of other noisy gifts clamoring for attention?  Things happen for a reason.

The things in my manger are very demanding of time and space, both physical and emotional.  Most of it is just baggage; some full of lingering memories, others more clumsily packed for some anticipated, hoped-for journey or unmet visions of resolutions past.  Though I’ve collected them all with good and noble intent, they’ve become bloated and disdainful of their owner.  Now, sensing my awareneness, I know they will fiendishly conspire to intercept other, more life-affirming gifts that beget joy and gratitude.  It’s an old trick that’s worked for centuries on millions more than me.

So my resolution this year is clean the manger to let go and give up as much clutter as possible so that I can make a little breathing room.  God’s gifts flow freely but they need room to flourish — certainly more than I’ve been allowing.  My manger needs to give them a home where they can be nourished, not simply stored and neglected and pushed further into a dark, hidden corner as has happened to baby Jesus.  No more.  It’s time to return baby Jesus to front and center and make him sentinel of what gets in.

Gifts flow all the time, but our manger needs to be able to receive them.  Is it too full and in need of cleansing, or will it let them in and allow them to breathe and grow?  Is it ready or does it need to get ready?

What’s in your manger?

Dial “M” for Miracle

And now for something completely different.

I wish I could claim that I’ve been successfully extricating myself from the ferociously tight grip of this bear market.  In fact, events intervened that illuminate dramatically the highs and lows of life and living.

The High: after years of trying, my wife and I were blessed with a baby daughter in September.

The Low:  three weeks later, our car was hit head-on by a drunk driver going 95 mph.  The accident has left my wife paralyzed below the chest, gave me a crushed foot that was nearly amputated and my sister a severe concussion and multiple contusions.  Amazingly, our little girl emerged unscathed.


The fact that we all survived the wreck is in itself a miracle.  Certainly, technology and airbags played a significant part.  Nevertheless, there is no more humbling and, ultimately blessed feeling to know that we were saved from almost certain death.  I cannot prove it but I know with absolute certainty that God’s hand shielded us from greater harm.  To be sure, the spinal cord trauma my wife suffered is a devastating injury that we struggle with daily.  It will likely continue to test our resolve, faith, stamina and perseverance in ways we would never have imagined.

It’s no accident that miracles occur, but it sometimes takes an accident to see them.  Miracles are everywhere all around us; all we need to do is pay attention.  Moving from a half-asleep state to one of just semi-attentiveness quickly reveals both how little control we really have and how blessed we are…IF we properly align our perspective.  My perspective has certainly changed, as has my definition of “in the blink of an eye,” which used to be defined as the time it took a NYC taxi driver, sitting ten cars behind a red light, to hit his horn as soon as the light turned green.  My new definition is the time it takes for your life to be completely shattered but then replaced, assuredly, with the peace of grace.

Why we survived our accident may not be completely obvious given the trials we face in its aftermath.  However, there are obvious miracles too.  Take our daughter (no, not literally): she represents a series of miracles all designed, I believe, to get us past our immediate hardship and focused on living with a new vision.  First, that she was even conceived is a miracle.  Trust me.  Second, that she survived a very traumatic birth was miraculous and even endorsed by the delivery team.  And third, that she not only survived the accident but also emerged unscathed is a miracle beyond comprehension.  Best of all, she is happy and healthy and full of joyous enthusiasm.  She is a miracle that keeps my wife and me going…often late into the night.

I have known for quite a while that miracles happen all the time; but I have learned that they sometimes arrive in packages we don’t expect or even hope for.  The gift we received took something in exchange.  Our challenge will be to continually remind ourselves that what we have now is greater than what we were required to give up in order to get it.  It is a challenge that both tests and renews our faith daily.  In the meantime, we continue to pray that Kim walks again.  Join us.


My life could have very easily been snuffed out, so I am very grateful that I have been granted a few more days.  I do not want to squander them.  With all due respect to the latest James Bond thriller, “Die Another Day,” (and yes I will, thank you) and with apologies to Prez George, Saddam and Osama, the real threat to our country’s prosperity and security is the alarming state of healthcare and medical insurance here in the US.  I often try to find some humor in many things in life because, well, many things are funny, if not absurd.  Now that I have lately been entrenched in the battlefield of medical services and insurance coverage, believe me, there is nothing at all humorous about the state of healthcare and medical insurance in our fine land.

More than anything, insurance seems to be about denial.  As a result, medical practitioners now frequently determine their medical treatment for a given patient based on what is or is not covered or allocable.  In other words, insurance companies now dictate medical care.  What drives me totally nuts is the insane amount of time required to get anything done within these labyrinthine systems.  One: all the phones are staffed by minimally paid and subliminally motivated high school dropouts who are in reality employed as human shields at insurance companies.  They stand between you and what is fair, right or reasonable.  There are many of them and they are given no responsibility beyond what their little computer screen tells them, which is nothing.  Two: information technology at these organizations doesn’t work and no one would use it anyway.  How many times and to how many different people do I really need to restate my name, social, date of birth and state of mind?  How many times are transferred calls dropped before, during and after periods of “super hold”?  Three: why can’t different companies (or departments within the same company, for that matter) share information that pertains to the same person, case, claim or problem?

The answer is that there is a vast conspiracy to waste our time…to deny us yet another day.  The simple rationale, from an insurance company’s perspective is that we’ll get fatigued, give up the fight over our rightful benefits and either avoid a procedure or pay for it out of pocket.  The more devious rationale is that all these organizations are conspiring to make such things so exasperating that, by the end of the day; we simply want to collapse in front of the idiot box and get lost in some brainless TV.  In so doing, of course, we will be coerced into obedient spending behavior by purchasing all kinds of consumer items designed to make our lives a little easier.  Who can criticize such comfort purchases after daily bruisings while trying to get something done?

The popular media drones on about the wickedness of corporate executives at Enron, WorldCom and so on.  But those guys were just greedy (like all of us) and got overzealous.  Who cares, really?  They broke laws.  Punish them and move on.  The folks running medical insurance companies, on the other hand, represent a wholly different class of criminal.  These organizations are designed to deny, deceive, confuse, obstruct and otherwise thwart their customers’ attempts to receive prompt and fair service.  They have created a fortress of IT dysfunction and human inability to take decisive action that has resulted in a huge and maddening waste of our time.  These organizations are evil because peoples’ (their customers!) lives and wellbeing are at risk and most of their employees are not empowered to actually do anything about it.  This is corporate greed of the worst kind.  The irony is that these companies could probably be much more profitable if they were more open, honest and dealt with issues quickly instead of allowing them to drag on into eternity.


Eternity is a long time, especially when you’re alone.  Many people have relationships (with God or others) to address that fear.   For some who feel alone, it is matter of choice…or not paying attention.  When you’ve had an accident like we had, it tends to grab your attention.  After a paralyzing injury such as my wife’s, there are of course emotionally heart-wrenching highs and lows.  But beyond that, people quickly fall into two camps: those who are angry, bitter and remain resentful of their situation (like I probably sound, ranting about my insurance peeve above!), and those who are grateful to be alive and optimistic that they can successfully rebuild their lives.  The accidents that often cause these injuries are usually quite horrific, as was ours.  Interestingly, very few of these accident victims who are so seriously injured remember their accident.  (I remember ours because my injury was slight by comparison and it is important for other reasons that I remember it.)  Most are completely void of any memory of events a few hours before and several days (if not weeks) afterwards.  Why then, am I confident and hopeful despite the challenges ahead?  Because few things more convincingly highlight God’s power and grace than His act of compassionately eliminating, at least for a while, Kim’s memory of her suffering.

I resume work in a few days after a long hiatus.  The battlefield in the market looks a little different to me now (considerably smaller and somewhat…slower), but it will be good to re-engage.  In the weeks and months ahead, I hope that all of those in harm’s way on real battlefields are comforted by the same knowledge and assurance that they are not alone.