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My Son:

Today you take an important step. It seems like something small and celebratory for those who share our faith in the US…the pastor dunks you under the water in front of your fellow believers and it’s over…time for a party.

Today is a big deal in a few ways…This journey is yours, no one else’s and this decision is evidence that you have considered your steps seriously and whole heartedly

You are joining brave and committed legions of Christ followers, who, for centuries now have been engaging in a show of allegiance to Jesus though baptism. In many parts of our world, this step constitutes rebellion punishable by death. In other cultures following Jesus is such an oddity that it limits career options and condemns the follower to poverty and ridicule for life.

If you had the misfortune to be born most parts of the Middle East, you would be placing yourself and your family at great risk for imprisonment, torture, and assassination. In the US, the most it earns for you is ridicule and curiosity

So take stock of yourself and realized that when you take this public stand, you are not alone. You are committing to yourself and all who witness the event that you stand with Jesus, and your real Father.

Get to know Him, Ryan. Take the time to shut down all the noise and listen. He is in his Word, and He is alive and active. Prayer is not a formal, planned God-talk conversation. Devotion is not a dry act around a table reading King James scripture while keeping your eyes open. (I think Jesus would shout “Stop it, you’re boring them to death!!” at most of what passes for devotions in our world.) He came to the world a baby boy, shunned by his culture as a bastard. Son of a Carpenter, who needed his diapers changed until he was old enough to care for Himself. When he helped his old man, he got splinters, and he got tired. Then He went on to challenge all who thought they could enslave men. He was bold and gentle…He was fearless in a fight, and never embarrassed to show affection. He fought with his mind, his words, and with his hands. He has never left a man behind. He’ll fight by your side, when the cause is right.

I recently heard John Eldredge describe Jesus, standing on the shoreline, hands in his pockets, looking out at the disciples, saying…”Hey guys, catch anything?” He still does stand there, asks you the same questions. You’ll find the conversations with Him occasionally troubling. Walking with this Jesus to whom you have now pledged yourself requires stepping out of our common culture. You are an uncommon young man, and your Father has known that since before you arrived on the planet. He is real, He walks with you and talks with you. Keep listening Ryan, He celebrates your heart and your life. He celebrates today, and as I am his flawed, temporary place holder in your life, He asked me to let you know: He is very, very proud of you.

Pictures

I love these pictures.

My Grandfather, John Mitchell

They remind me who I am. One is my Grandfather, John Mitchell, taken when he was 18 or so, in 1924. He was already a coal miner in Glen Richey, PA. I can only imagine the pride he took in his appearance for this photo, and it must have taken quite an effort to make those boots shine. John was born in Pennsylvania, his father had come to Western PA like so many other Scots, looking for work in the mines after Scotland had given up so much of it’s coal.

The other is my dad, Richard Mitchell, youngest of John’s children. Like the picture of my grandfather, dad was likely in his late teens or early 20′s when it was taken. Five feet, six inches of testosterone and confidence.

My dad, Richard Mitchell

John (and by extension my dad as a kid) had by modern measure a hard life. John was industrious, keeping mules on his small farm to lease to the mine for the purposes of hauling coal from the shafts. By 1950, the mines of Glen Richey had given their last and shut down. John lost the farm, and spent the rest of his life making ends meet. By the time dad was in his teens, John was busy keeping life and limb together.

Dad built a life…as a follower of Jesus, husband, father, and accomplished mechanical engineer without the benefit of an engineering degree.

Once, a good friend, after knowing my dad for years, but never seeing us together told me in total shock that he had no idea we were father and son. We are different men in many ways.

But when I look at these pictures…I see much of what made me. The pride and dignity and is palpable, even in the face of seeming insurmountable odds against their success. I am honored to carry their name.

I look in their eyes, and I remember:

“Never be afraid of a fight. If you start one, finish it.”

“Work hard-hard work makes things happen.”

“Never, ever, quit.”

“Don’t fear; act.”

I have not always lived by those words, but I still like a fight, and I am closer to God when I sweat.

Thanks Dad.

I am amazed at,  and humbled by,  the readership this blog receives.  I hope you have laughed, cried, been blessed, or been prompted to think by the words I have written.  The more I write, the more I am convinced that very little writing is original.  The words here are mine, but the thoughts from which they proceed are often prompted by many of you.  I cannot begin to express my thanks to those of you who have been willing to be so forward and vulnerable, either by your writing or your conversation.

Thank you, and please join me as my journey into the wild continues.

DougThe stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 5 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 14 posts. There were 31 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 6mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was June 21st with 68 views. The most popular post that day was Fathers Day, Roberto Clemente, and anger.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were mail.yahoo.com, facebook.com, forum.ransomedheart.com, mail.live.com, and search.aol.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for johnny cash, into the wild, roberto clemente, the passion of the christ, and passion of the christ.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Fathers Day, Roberto Clemente, and anger June 2010
2 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

Troubadours December 2008
5 comments

3

About December 2008
4 comments

4

A Heart Alive and Free November 2010
4 comments

5

“Why,” and The Prodigal God January 2010
2 comments

A Glorious Disruption

A few years ago, a man I once respected angrily told me I was “disruptive”.  He thrust the word forward like a verbal dagger.  The dagger found it’s target, and I bled from the wound.

Last night, when the noise of the season finally quieted, I found myself sitting in the Christmas eve service…thinking, thanks to Pastor Joel, about Joseph, father of Jesus.  It occurred to me how incredibly disruptive it is when God arrives:

A light piercing the darkness

A burning bush

A prophet who calls out a king

A virgin birth to a betrothed woman

A ministry announced by a guy who eats locusts, and wears animal skins

It seems God never arrives as we wish He would, organized, well planned and formally announced, doing it the way experts say it should be done.

Joseph, about whom we know very little, had his entire life changed when that angel told him Mary was already pregnant, and that it was alright.  None of his friends or family talked to that angel, and I can only imagine the impact Mary’s pregnancy had on his life.  It must have been turned completely upside down.  By the time Jesus was born, it is likely that he had far fewer friends, and that his standing in the community was destroyed.  He stayed, and from all we know, was a faithful and good husband and father.

Tonight, I am grateful for the disruption God brings when He shows up-often I have not seen Him coming, and sometimes I am still cleaning up the mess left from His arrival when I realize He has been here.  The Creator cared enough to disrupt the entire world, and show up in a stable, totally dependent on His mother and father.  Since then, He has been disrupting everything and everyone who thinks they have the system down.

The wound… it finally stopped bleeding.

Merry Christmas

Kait and Lola

In riding a horse we borrow freedom. ~Helen Thomson

The great things in life always hold the potential of terror and majesty.

For fun, my daughter Kaitlyn, all 70 lbs of her, climbs aboard 4 legged beasts capable of catapulting her into the next county, and wills them to move in the direction she wants them to go.

It is amazing and terrifying to behold. I watched last summer when she spun out of a saddle for the first time. Funny thing was the pony did not move, and before I could get to her, Kait was on her feet holding the reins. This past summer, I watched one of the beasts get stung by a bee. When it bucked, both hind feet in the air, I aged ten years, but Kait kept control, smiling, either out of relief or joy. I was too breathless to speak.

Yesterday, I got to watch the little one in her first competition. She came home with an armful of red ribbons, one that proclaims her “Reserve Grand Champion.”

My favorite moment though, was when Lola, the pony Kait had ridden through 7 morning events, refused a jump…out of sheer exhaustion. It all happened so fast…the pony stopped on a dime, and Kait lurched forward, barely stayed aboard, kept her composure, and ordered her to make another attempt. Lola never did make a jump in that ring. Kait though, did not dismount until Lola had made two jumps in a side ring.

In the span of a morning yesterday, I watched God at work in the heart of my little girl. She showed her strength, found great courage, and made use of the gifts of God has given her. Riding that pony, she is truly free.

Watching a heart come alive is a marvelous treasure.

One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons

Deitrich Bonhoeffer

I just finished two summer books: Bonhoeffer: a wonderfully researched and engagingly written biography of a 20th century martyr written by Eric Metaxas. I also finished The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus. McManus’ work is 5 or 6 years old, but its message was fresh. In an unexpected way-the books work together-both are at their core about living a life of fearless action.

Bonhoeffer was an gifted and famous young theologian, whose opposition to Hitler and resulting martyrdom have made him a resonant example for us today. Metaxas meticulously documents the hand of God in shaping him. From his youth in a home that encouraged great thoughts with engaging discussions and confidence building love, through his intellectual and spiritual mentors. A significant transformation for him took place at the great black churches of the era in the US-where he saw faith move from an intellectual pursuit to action lived out in concert with a living, breathing God. He was one of the first great theological leaders of the 20th century to see and to teach the Christian life as one lived in great freedom instead of one bound by rules made by men to protect us from sin.

The most fascinating part of the book was the tremendous wrestling match Dietrich Bonhoeffer had with himself over the issues of deception and assasination. He could not watch the repulsive sin taking place in the nation he so dearly loved and stand by shaking his finger from America. He acted, and he acted with great thoughts, deep prayer and heroic action. While he is viewed rightly as a martyr, Bonhoeffer was hanged for his active participation in a nearly successful plot to kill Hitler.

The Barbarian way is McManus description of the Christ Follower’s life. McManus challenges two prevailing presuppositions of the Evangelical Community: One seems to be that to find Jesus brings us to a life of peace on earth so long as we actively avoid sin. The other says salvation by grace qualifies us for a sort of purgatory on earth as we wait for a great eternal reward. In all my years walking in this faith, neither one of those definitions has been satisfactory. By my reading of scripture, they never, ever made sense. McManus begins with the story of John the Baptist, who while in prison sends a messenger to Christ, his cousin by birth, to confirm he is the Messiah. Christ sends back the message that he is, as exemplified by the many miracles and events, including the feeding of the poor, swirling around Him. He then says something very curious-he says to tell John this: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Matt 11:6) In other words, he is telling John that he should not fall away, but that he will not be rescued from the prison in which he has been placed by Herod. Shortly after that, John’s head is placed on a platter for Herodius’ daughter.

So the coming of Jesus was announced by a man thought by many to be mad, wearing camel skins and eating locusts, all the while railing at the religious leaders of his time. And when it came time for Jesus to rescue him from a king who was about to behead him, it didn’t happen.

I like the story-it confirms that the purpose of my faith is not to be rescued and safe, but to live the life of a Barbarian faith.

The transition from the soft definition of “Christian” to a barbarian faith of Christ Follower is the transition from a game of charades to jumping off a cliff. When you make the jump, you discover that the platform you were standing on has been replaced by air. When you jump enough times, you no longer fear the landing, because the journey, dangerous and without a guarantee of survival, is worth it. It is the opportunity to live fully, with the God who created you, and to be a fully committed member of His kingdom.

God is dismantling my platform of security. I do not enjoy the dismantling, it is truly frightening at moments. I am finding a new reality of faith. I am learning to love each and every moment in the presence of my wife and children. I am learning how to laugh from deep in my soul with a few friends who walk with me. I am a little harder, and much wiser than I was a few years ago, and in the end I love this barbarian journey, even though the end is unknown.

“Anger, for Roberto Clemente, is the fuel that makes the wheels turn in his never-ending pursuit of excellence.”
Roy McHugh, Pittsburgh Press

I remembered Roberto Clemente this weekend, like I do every Father’s Day weekend. Some of my favorite memories are of being 5 or 6 and sitting with my dad in Forbes Field, watching Roberto. I remember the smell of dad’s cigars (he has not smoked for decades)-the ones that mom used to make him smoke outside. I remember the fire and smoke of the J&L mill on the way to the ballpark, the vendors in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, hawking pennants and peanuts. Most of all I remember what it felt like to be my father’s son, and the sheer joy of a day at the ballpark.

I also remember the majesty of Roberto Clemente. He made playing right field into ballet, ran the bases with barely controlled grace, finding another gear as he rounded second. Watching him with dad was my first lesson in giving every effort with every play. I never wanted to play infield.

I saw the quote above yesterday in an old documentary about Clemente. Roberto was misunderstood for years. He believed the press portrayed him wrongly because of his race and his accent. His anger did fuel his excellence on the field, propelling him to baseball immortality. His good heart led him to his death. He went down in plane crash headed with relief supplies for Nicaragua, after a devastating earthquake there.

I have been angry for a month now, justifiably so. I have for a while struggled with the concept of just anger. My faith tradition has many who believe anger is bad and should be avoided, no matter the cause. I have grown these last few weeks to view anger differently. The emotion anger is neither good nor bad.  It is fuel, like jet fuel or gasoline.  The right fuel can blast a well designed craft to the moon or it can run a nuclear reactor. Uncontrolled fuel can destroy a life in an instant.
So it is with anger. It is fuel. We choose to be propelled, or to be destroyed.

I know my choice.

photo  by Edwin Morgan, available at

https://ssl.post-gazette.com/store/photosbycat.asp?cat=Pirates

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