Brown Paper Bags and Big, Round Eyes

“Everything is so familiar, but we feel so out of place.” My sister said it best when we first walked into our local Walmart after returning from two weeks in Mexico. For a few days after, I would drive down the road and half expect to see a crazy quilt of houses and shacks built…

Every Vessel Matters

It was Thursday evening, the 30th of May, 1940. The coastline of the English channel was littered with small boats … “fishing smacks … drifters … excursion boats … glittering white yachts… mud-spattered hoppers… open motor launches… tugs towing ship’s lifeboats.” Businessmen with hobby vessels were hurrying about on deck, trying to figure out how…

A Jesus Encounter

I knew the second she walked up that she loved Jesus. I had slipped out early one morning on my family’s vacation to get some time with the Lord; the haze was still floating lazily in the mountain valley where my family was staying for a couple nights. I finally settled down, my phone, Bible,…

Singing to Mountain Lions and Other Thoughts

We had just thrown down our backpacks and starting strapping on our snowshoes when the weight of our situation first hit. We had decided to snowshoe up to Crater Lake that day in an attempt to reach one of the top photography spots in Colorado. The last All Trails entry informed us that as long…

Nothing to Lose

“I was in Berlin shortly after the wall fell,” the retired pastor leaned forward in his seat. He stopped and cleared his throat, his eyes watering, as he described one of the most affecting moments in his life. The wall — or rather, the stub of what was left — was but the width of…

A Real World and a Real God

“He seemed to live in such a real world and to have such a real, great God.” Such was Maria Dyer’s observation upon meeting her would-be husband, the great pioneer missionary to China, Hudson Taylor. I haven’t been able to shake off those words. They strike deeply into the heart of the theme written across…

Straddling Cultures

“You were homeschooled too?” I had a joined a couple of our discipleship group leader girls in the cafeteria over lunch. It was as if a spark went off. Suddenly, we could share about our experiences taking co-op classes and laugh about fifteen-passenger vans (especially the ones with at least ten mini-people bumper stickers on…

Looking for God’s Edelweiss

Life at the Dotten house is pretty crazy right now. Not only did we have to pack up and move with about month’s notice, we found that our tenant ruined most of the flooring in our new house, so we’re in the major demolition and remodeling faze now. In the middle of it all, I’m…

The Pen is His

“There is a place where your fears must meet the God you know.”[1] Where is that place? It’s here. Here—as I sit at my desk, books, journals, half-written letters scattered around me, somehow reminiscent of how out-of-control my own life feels. Behind me is difficulty, those haunting memories of trials that only time can work…

Look to the Bulwark!

Imagine being inside a castle during a siege. Outside the thick, stone walls surrounding you, the enemy is shooting flaming arrows and preparing a massive siege engine to ram against your gates. Occasionally, you are jolted awake as huge boulders are catapulted against the stone walls. But despite their ceaseless attacks, you are safe. The…

Discipling Girls [transcript]

The following is a transcript of a talk I gave recently to the “Reaching Beyond Yourself” Bible study for middle-school girls. Today, we’re not going to talk about a 5-step system for how to build a friendship with a younger girl, or take them through a program. Let me explain by telling you two stories….

Day 26: When Christmas Is Over

I am teaching world history to a couple of kids this year, and the first day of class was definitely my favorite. Before we discussed the Pharaohs, the Peloponnesian War, or the Renaissance, we started by drawing diagrams all over the white board. I wanted to make sure we had the foundation down: what is…

Day 25: Advent, Christ’s Birth and Cosmic Battle

Revelation 12 peels back the curtain and reveals the ‘rest of the story’ behind the nativity scene. What looks like an ordinary baby being born in a stable surrounded by an adoring mother and father and a few shepherds and perfectly-behaved sheep is actually the battle scene foretold in Genesis 3: “I will put enmity…

Day 24: Christ the I Am

You know a statement is powerful when the listeners start throwing stones. At the end of John 8, after an almost humorous back-and-forth with the Pharisees, who can’t seem to understand why Jesus claims to know Abraham, Jesus says it bluntly. “Before Abraham was, I am.” Immediately, everyone started picking up stones to throw at…

Day 23: The Lord our Righteousness

I am breaking from the traditional I Am’s of Christ to another name of Christ—one that I’ve been thinking about today after the sermon yesterday and a fascinating word study this morning. 🙂 Jehovah Tsidkenu. The Lord our righteousness. The name appears only in an obscure prophesy in Jeremiah 23: “Behold, the days are coming,…

Day 22: The Bread of Life

I’ve never really wrestled with the meaning–and sweetness–of Christ as the Bread of Life until recently tackling the Bread of Life passage in John 6 with a Catholic girl I’m discipling. Honestly, I didn’t have answer for her when she described the Roman Catholic traditions surrounding the passage. But as I dug in, I came…

Day 21: Christ as the Living Water

I have often wondered why, if Jesus promised He was the Living Water that always satisfied, unmet desires didn’t go away the moment I was saved. After all, didn’t Jesus tell the woman at the well that “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:14). Why is…

Day 20: The Light of the World

Recently, I was doing research for an article for work when I came across this image. It is early morning on the streets of Beirut, Lebanon. Apartment complexes, strewn with drying clothes, makeshift air conditioning units, and a mishmash of curtains, fill every conceivable space. Refugee families, 250,000 of them to be exact, fleeing the…