Just a few days ago, my wife, Pam, and I stood on a hilltop in the dark, surrounded by others watching flames and smoke swallow the foothills of Colorado Springs. We knew some of those blazes might be swallowing our home. Those around us feared the same. That night Pam and I held each other close and wept and prayed.

Pam and I recently became grandparents for the first time. I had been told by more experienced grandparents about what would happen in my soul, but I don’t think I really believed them. Well, it’s begun. I get so excited to see little Arie. Even seeing his picture can make me feel, “this little guy has part of me in him!” And surely, we see characteristics of his mom (our daughter) and his dad in Arie.

Beginnings tell you a lot about any story. Try missing the first 15 minutes of a good drama, and you’ll spend the rest of the movie trying to catch up! The beginnings of our own lives tell us a lot about our own journeys.

As a young man I remember being told things like:

Jesus didn’t come to set up a religion, He came to establish a relationship with us and start a community of friends who would follow Him together.
Religion is man’s attempt to reach and find God; Jesus represents God’s attempt to reach men and women that they would find Him.
Yet, we have a world filled with people attempting to reach God, please God, or serve God through religious behavior, performance, and rule-keeping.

In the religious circles I grew up in, guilt seemed to be a prime motivator to keep me in line, or to prompt me toward obedience and good living.  Many people I’ve talked with over the years seem to identify with this performance-oriented spiritual perspective.  In fact, I was just with a friend who confessed that he feels like he doesn’t measure up and that God views him as under-achieving or handicapped in some way.

A couple of posts ago, I talk about some of the challenges I experienced during my years growing up: moving 10 times before college, being a “late bloomer,” being in a religious environment that put a premium on good performance as a measure of spirituality. All this made ripe the possibility of a performance-oriented view of life. I felt I needed to work hard, perform for others, and please significant people (parents, teachers, friends, even God). While that impulse taught me the value of hard work, it also created in me the belief that full or true life was to be found primarily in performing, achieving, and pleasing people.

Picking up from my last post, Jesus was going to Zacchaeus’ house. . . .

Have you ever heard the notion that after a certain age (maybe it’s getting later since 50 is the new 40!) people just don’t change. We get stuck in certain ruts, our reputations are set, and we just don’t change. Don’t tell that to Zacchaeus!

My early years created interesting motivations in my life journey. On one hand, I had a sense that I would never measure up. Life seemed stacked against me. We moved around a lot making it difficult for me to get traction socially or to be successful in my endeavors involving sports, education, or music. I was a late bloomer and being four foot eleven inches in early high school put me at a disadvantage. Even the religious culture in which I grew up taught me that a relationship with God was predicated on a level of morality and spirituality that I did not possess.

I was out for a run recently, listening to worship music on my iPod. I was talking to the Lord, asking why I was feeling distant from Him. I acknowledged that my times with Him had been rushed, and I had been feeling the distance that comes with lack of contact.

As I ran, it was as if He replied, “You feel distant from me because you have been relating to me in the third person.”

Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked about what it means to be “holy,” the importance of Christ-followers being different than the world around them. Yet, if this wonderful difference is only experienced among fellow believers—in the holy huddle—a needy world will never experience the life giving difference.