Watch Your Language

by DanWolgemuth on September 6, 2019

Another routine optometrist appointment. My depleted supply of contact lens required it.

After a short wait I was escorted back to my exam room by a young technician named Diego. He was thoughtful and engaging.

He directed me into Exam room #2 and into the seat that would be my resting spot for the next 45 minutes.

Then, with appropriate thoroughness, Diego instructed me to cover my left eye and read back to him the smallest line of letters that I could read on the screen in front of me. With my left eye covered, I struggled to make it even to the middle line on the chart.

Much to my surprise and subsequent delight, Diego responded with a single word… “awesome”. Then, with right eye covered and letters communicated, once again… “awesome”.

Over the course of my appointment, on every encounter, Diego chose to respond with one of two words… “awesome” or an occasional “perfect”.

I confess, whatever misguided delight I might have experienced at first was quickly being diluted.

There are words in the English language that should be kept under lock and key. Not that they don’t exist or apply, but they have to be verified before use.

Awesome is one of those words.

Exodus 15:11 nails it… “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”

Or Nehemiah 1:5… And I said, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,

Great and awesome God.

In fact, according to my English Standard Bible, the word awesome is used 32 times in the Bible, all in the Old Testament, and never in relation to reading an eye chart.

Yes, in terms of parting the Red Sea, but never related to whether I remembered to bring my glasses to my optometrist appointment.

Even the word “awe” is used sparingly… ten times in the Old Testament, and four times in the New. Listen to the power of Psalm 33:8…

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

Or the account of Jesus healing a paralytic in Luke 5…

And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

And again in Hebrews 12…

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

Words matter. In some cases, they inflate the meaningless and diminish the… well, awesome.

When I left my appointment, sun blitzing through my dilated pupils, I tasked myself with an assignment… instead of judging an over-zealous eye-technician, I challenged myself with the appropriate declaration of the term.

Awesome. Yes, God is awesome. Beyond comprehension. Unexplainable. Infinite. Mind bending, pulse racing, breath exhaustingly awesome.

Yes… Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Words as an acceptable act of worship. Deploy them thoughtfully, appropriately, powerfully and humbly.

Awesome, indeed, God is just that.

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Infinity Redefined

by DanWolgemuth on August 30, 2019

I watched with interest as construction crews transformed a quiet corner into a brick icon. Sitting on the edge of an expanding Aurora, Colorado neighborhood, tax dollars became classrooms.

It wasn’t until the project was completed that I fully understand the vision for the project… a Cherry Creek School District Middle School. It was expansive, attractive, and perched on a hill overlooking the neighborhood it would serve.

Then, with the pent-up mystery of a gender reveal party, the name of the school was unveiled…

But first, let me digress. Quite honestly, after I realized that it was a middle school being constructed, I flashed back to my middle school experience… except in the late 60’s they called them Junior High Schools. The name of my school was Edison Junior High… on the south side of Wheaton, Illinois. The Panthers.

Frankly, my palms began to sweat, even as I typed the name of the school. It was roughly a half mile walk from our home at the corner of Main and Park to 1125 S. Wheaton Avenue, but it wasn’t the walk that elevated my heart rate… it was the fact that as an eleven-year-old, I was anything but ready for Junior High. Add to this, the fact that I fancied myself as a potential basketball player on the proud Panther squad, but alas, my stature betrayed me, and my jump shot escaped me… and so, on the final cut for the team, I succumbed to the reality… and subsequently joined the wrestling team.

This seemed ideal since the lowest weight class for a seventh grader was 70 pounds, and this aligned with the data that was revealed when I stepped on the scale.

While most of my classmates were putting their ID bracelets on the wrists of young ladies, I was eating three sandwiches for lunch in an attempt to alter my identity.

The facts remain that Edison Junior High was a bit nightmarish for me. Two years of realizing that I was very, very different than most. Two years of feeling significantly out of the social mainstream. Two years of sweaty palms and a lump in my throat.

So now, perhaps this context will help you understand just why, when the beautiful new middle school in our community was completed, and the name was revealed, I felt a sense of horror. Disbelief. Like a twisted jolt from an episode of the Twilight Zone… yes, the name of the new school in Aurora, Colorado is Infinity Middle School. Yes, infinity, like never ending, never completing, never escaping… middle school.

Infinity. The Vipers. But in the mind of a man who still very much remembers the crushed ego and undefined identity at Edison, Infinity is an unfortunate and fear-inducing reminder and nightmare. Trapped, and not just for two years, but for eternity.

And I ask… what were they thinking?

A name. The name. A reminder of who we were and what we are.

In the story line of Jesus… names and labels were powerful and impactful in more lasting and damning ways. The names and labels of cities or regions or people. Identities shaped by seemingly inescapable reputations…

Sinners
Tax Collectors
Shepherds
Harlots
Lepers
Sightless
Speechless
Lame
Unclean…

Enter Jesus… enter a redefined identity… a new name.

Beloved
Daughter
Son
Clean
Forgiven
Blessed
Family

Rescued. Redeemed.

My destiny reborn. My sweaty palms in the hand of my Savior…

Whether an underdeveloped seventh grader, or a sixty-four-year-old grandpa… Jesus redefines Infinity.

Bless Him. Praise Him.

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Incarcerated – Beyond the Coupon to Grace

August 23, 2019
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For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9, ESV) Coupons. The currency inside incarceration. For those in positions of power, they represent the pathway to behavior modification. Tucked […]

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Incarcerated – The Dad Gap

August 9, 2019

39 times. All within the first 15 verses of the first chapter of the New Testament. 39 times. The beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, the beginning of the narrative about the life of Jesus… and in the first fifteen verses the word father appears 39 times. Fathers connect generations, history, legacy, destiny and identify. […]

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A Delay When it Seemed to Matter Most

August 2, 2019

Patience. Waiting. And not with toe tapping and clock watching. But resting in God’s sovereign timing. This is NOT an area of strength for me. In fact, there may be no more confession inducing activity in my life. Perhaps that’s why I empathize with the urgency, disappointment and subsequent frustration that’s expressed in the story […]

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When You Love a Prodigal

July 30, 2019

The title above represents a book project from Judy Douglass, my friend and trusted ally. Judy and Steve Douglass have been a part of Cru for many, many years (Judy partners with Steve in leading Cru). Judy has brilliantly and honestly walked a journey as the parent of a prodigal. In March, Judy asked me […]

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Incarcerated – The Wrap Up… for Now

June 28, 2019

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. (Luke 22:63, ESV) Incarcerated. Yes, Jesus was locked up. In custody. The Prince of Peace. The Creator of the Universe, shackled. For a night, Emmanuel behind bars. Then, as morning broke, the plot coalesced. Hatred pounded the gavel. Religious […]

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Incarcerated – Part 8

June 21, 2019
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Before Mark… Lisa. I met Lisa at a Youth For Christ event in Kansas City. Her story gripped my heart as she shared vividly what it was like to have her front door kicked in by the police who were there to arrest her thirteen-year-old son. That was over three years ago. It wasn’t until […]

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Incarcerated – Part 7

June 14, 2019
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“What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God for his Father.” I read these words, shortly after graduating from college in 1977. They were penned by J.I. Packer in his classic book, Knowing God. The beauty, […]

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Incarcerated – Part 6

June 7, 2019
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I’m not sure when I realized it… most likely in the morning of our second day. Perhaps it was birthed from the realization that we had a photo crew doing their best to chronicle the incarceration experience as accurately and authentically as possible, but at some point it dawned on me. No mirrors. But then […]

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