Let’s Eat Ham!


“So don’t ever worry by saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ because it is the unbelievers who are eager for all those things.” Matthew 6:31-33 

Lately I’ve been listening to a local Christian radio station on my drive to work in the morning. I’m not sure why I keep doing it; it’s terrible.

I definitely enjoy contemporary Christian music (most of it), but the individuals on this radio station’s morning show drive me up a wall. Despite how terribly judgmental this makes me sound, I believe the commentary to be some of the most fabricated optimism I’ve ever heard. Every morning it sounds like they are having the best day of their lives. I wouldn’t mind if they actually were having the best day of their lives, but for example, when discussing the tragic ISIS attacks in Belgium yesterday, I think it’s appropriate to let up on the “smiling voices” effort and sound a bit more somber. There’s nothing more hurtful to hurting people then to have someone smiling tell them “It’s all going to be okay!” It probably will be; but not today. Today it hurts.

My tipping point came when the lady host on the show commented on how Easter is less than a week away:

“Aren’t you excited to celebrate what we believe!?! I can’t wait to try this honey-glazed ham recipe I just got from my grandmother…”

I wish there had been some kind of pause or comment between the two statements. Unfortunately I’m not writing it that way for dramatic effect; it was literally one breath. A ping of conviction came quickly though– I think most of us do get more excited for Easter dinner than for Easter service. Besides, who wants to go to church service when you have to swim through all those faces you’ve never seen before just to find another church member?

But church service isn’t really the point of it all, is it?  This special day finds its origins in the Christian feast of Passover. Easter is intended as a time to reflect, with deep gratitude and praise, on the resurrection of Jesus. It’s the celebration of the ultimate (and final) sacrifice of the Passover lamb. For the believer in God’s grace, this seminal event should be the highlight of one’s year. It should be.

But I’m ready for grandma’s honey glazed ham. . . I really am . . . Sam I am.

It’s not that I think God cares if we’re excited for a annual dinner/feast in his Son’s honor–especially if it’s shared with family, friends, and other believers–it’s that I’m afraid we may have started using his Son’s death as another reason to feast. I’m as much a product of this American culture as anyone I know. Jesus words, “For life is more than food…” is a daily struggle for me. Honestly. And if American Christians are honest, I think we have a problem with leaving food out of our meetings, celebrations, church gatherings, and theological focus in general.

Don’t believe me? When’s the last time you gathered with “church friends” for prayer or study and there wasn’t food involved in some manner?

Believe it or not, my point isn’t meant to be about food. And I don’t want to knock having food when we gather as the scattered church. Rather, it’s a question of focus, and the propensity of our modern church culture to lose the heart of our faith in the extras we’ve thrown in with it. I’m reminded of the parable of the sower and Jesus’s words about certain types of people–those who will initially believe in Him, and then turn away:


And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. (Mark 4: 18-19 )


If we genuinely attempt to narrow-in on what the blood of Jesus has covered in our own life, then a yearly reminder of the forgiveness, grace, and love we’ve been given can be a powerful event. Still, the human mind is fragile. It can easily be conditioned to respond to our instincts. What if —hear me now–what if we talk about Jesus but we include candy, fictitious bunnies, baskets filled with gifts to each other, and feasts of ham? How many years of this ritual mis-focus before the body, mind, and heart look forward to the rewards of the day rather than the rewards of eternity?

Listening to the Small Voice

Last night I sat on my front patio, with its cracked cement and gravel laden corners, and drank wine and ate hot dogs with my dear friend, Jon the Rebel. Jon, who has undergone significant changes in his heart and spiritual journey in the last year, sat catty-corner to me in a lawn chair and pleaded for me to recognize the working of the Holy Spirit. Jon, his wife, my wife, and myself, have talked many times over the past couple years about alternatives to the American church format. We have all felt a deficiency in how the Western church functions. Jon and his wife recently took a trip to Uganda for five weeks. With a couple of weeks left in their trip, Jon’s wife Keisha was offered a job and a place to live in Uganda. They had a little more than a week to make the decision to stay. Jon has been back in the U.S. now for about three weeks while Keisha begins her job with a non-profit healthcare organization there in Uganda. Jon is tying together loose ends here in the states before heading back to Uganda in September. This has allowed us time to reconnect, and I have found Jon to be a more confident, and convicted individual.

As Jon sat and debated with me, he mostly wanted me to see that we had all (his family and mine) arrived at a point where we needed to act; we need to do something about the stirring in our hearts, he said. Jon and I feel the church we see in the U.S. has become removed from the original intentions and purposes it had in the New Testament. My hang up about acting on these convictions has always been a feeling that we are in an underwhelming minority of Christians who feel similarly about this issue. Jon, on the other hand, patiently reasoned with me and surmised that perhaps there are more Christians out there– ones who feel as we do– who want to try something different (though we’re not entirely sure what that looks like yet).

A couple of nights earlier, Jon and I sat at his kitchen table around midnight talking about the same topic. However, during this earlier encounter, Jon made the argument that the stirring in us about the deficiencies of the modern American church were not going away, and were therefore legitimate callings. Perhaps, he proposed, this feeling inside me is so deep and won’t go away because it’s a “thing.” A “thing” we need to give credence to.

Now I have a complex friendship with Jon. We’ve been everything from acquaintances to confidants, mentors and pupils, brothers to enemies. Honestly I’ve often looked at him as an ongoing ministry in and of himself. Yet, I have watched Jon  grow in leaps and bounds this past year, and last night  Jon made me realize my attitude toward him has been wrong–that we can all learn from each other, no matter the perceived degree of spiritual maturity we each posses. Last night,  Jon humbled and taught me. Jon had me realize that we all possess convictions, and those are not accidental. Sometimes convictions are off base, and people get into trouble when they don’t seek out wise men and women to bounce those ideas off of. But these convictions I’ve been speaking about– the ones about the church– we’ve been talking about them for years, and with many, many different people. Almost all of those people agree with what we’re observing too! Yet, for some strange reason, I had dismissed the possibility of exploring these convictions in action because I felt it improbable that anyone else would join in. So, basically I was guilty of exercising the type of logic that I want to see the world freed of: the logic of basing our actions and lifestyles off of what is acceptable to others. This realization made me wince.

Jon pointed out how all along this road we’ve been traveling along, in both our friendship and our spiritual journeys, we’ve both had a small voice speaking to us, prodding us, beckoning us not to settle for the mediocrity that we see so many Christians settling for in their churches, and subsequently in their spiritual walks. I am reminded of Elijah on the mountain, finding the voice of God, not in earthquakes or fire, but in a gentle breeze–a still, small voice. What’s more, this voice was speaking to both of us separately, but at the same time.

For almost three months now I’ve been toying with the idea of a blog– a tool to seek out others who feel that something is missing, that there is more we’re not experiencing in our churches. I’m not saying that all churches in the U.S. are bad, or that nobody grows or gets anything from being a part of them. In fact, I know that many, many people do have great church experiences, and many churches are wonderful facilitators of growth in their members’ lives. But, what if our modern approach isn’t the BEST way?  What if we changed the paradigm we think in when we think of “church?”

That’s what the small voice has been telling me for a few years now. It’s the same voice that Jon has been hearing. And if both of us have been hearing it, maybe there are others out there who are hearing the same voice.

God isn’t like us. He doesn’t have to go to people one at a time or call an assembly to tell us what’s on His heart. So that small voice, it was telling me that a blog might help to connect me with believers who are hearing the same voice. Maybe, just maybe it can.

It’s a theory.