Christmas Cards

CHRISTMAS CARDS ARE IMPORTANT. I’m just sentimental enough to believe that traditions are important. The keeping of traditions is one of the things I like best about the holiday season. But Christmas cards; they’re special, at least to me, because they are one of the last bastions of congeniality. Remember when people used to write letters, notes and cards? Just last night, following a magnificent performance by one of our Grand-Girls in the school Christmas musical, I returned to the car to find a hand-written note on my windshield. It was a note of encouragement, telling me I should do a better job of parking next time.

It takes a certain human intentionality and connectedness to sit down and write a note, put in an envelope, address it, lick the flap, apply the stamp and drop it in the mail. Now we text, email, send birthday greetings on Facebook, etc. This season I’ve received a few virtual Christmas cards via email. Next time save yourself the trouble, I’m not buying the sincerity.

MANY CARD-SENDING SEASONS AGO, I was looking through an assortment of boxed, pre-printed, Christmas cards at a bookstore: “I like this one, but I wish it said this… This one is cool except for that creepy angelic creature lurking among the clouds. Surely Gabriel didn’t resemble that!” and so my mind went; on and on. And, then, I thought, “Why not design a Christmas card of our own?!”

There have been several of these homemade, bespoke card designs over as many years now. BTW: If you don’t get one in the mail, don’t despair. Your Christmas will be full and complete without one.

Several times, I’ve collaborated with other designers and artists for the card design. These are my favorites. My all time favorite was with an amazing Japanese/American artist named Julie Robertson, aka: Juuri. Julie and her husband Eric are very dear friends and special people to us.

For the collaboration, I gave Julie a poem I had written and asked her if she would do a watercolor to go along with the poem. The front of the card looked like this—

Copyright 2010. Juuri & Dave

Copyright 2010. Juuri & Dave

The inside of the card looked like this—

Copyright 2010. Juuri & Dave

Copyright 2010. Juuri & Dave

Julie is, among other things, an amazing mural artist. She has painted murals around the world, literally.

Julie at work.

Julie at work.

Work in progress.

Work in progress.



I invite you to visit Julie’s website to see more of her work. Good news—if you would like to have one of her works, you don’t have to have a giant wall for a mural. She has smaller works as well. And, even prints.

So, that was our card in 2010. Now it’s 2018. I struggled more with the design of the 2018 card than I have with any other design. That’s largely because of the inner struggle I am having with the twisting and distorting that I believe is being done to the nature and beauty and truth of Jesus by the religious right. Compared to the card Julie and I did for 2010, the 2018 card may seem like I just threw something together—it’s black and white, looks cheap, and cynical.

That verse though… the one from the Gospel of John… about the Incarnation… It doesn’t need adorning or beautifying. It just needs to be wrestled with. So I’ve been searching my soul and my world for evidence of that mysterious, mind-blowing, heart-changing, soul-searching thing called Incarnation.

In case your copy of the card was lost in the mail, here’s the front—

Artboard 2.png

And here’s the inside—

Artboard 1.png

Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him. —Matthew 2:2

Follow that star. Merry Christmas.

70 Times 7

I FIRMLY BELIEVE that there are spiritual realities that are beyond human understanding. Here, here’s an example: “…God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand…” [from Philipians 4:6 The Living Bible]

Of course that doesn’t stop us from trying to understand, to seek meaning, to boil it all down to an unequivocal absolute. The danger there is that we might strip away the beauty, the mystery and the wonder. We’re left with someone’s interpretation, and in our desire to comprehend the incomprehensible, we settle for the opinion or worldview of another; for better or worse.

Forgiveness. That’s a tough one. In my sixty-some years of Sunday school, sermons, and scripture reading; not to mention prayers for wisdom and simple answers, I still don’t understand Forgiveness. I believe it is right up there with Peace in being “far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.”

Jesus was pretty clear on the subject, at least regarding the relentlessness of Forgiveness.

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
—Matthew 18:21-22 New Living Translation

So, what is it? Exoneration, making amends, mercy, absolution, forgetting about it? Let’s just say it’s complicated. Here’s an example:

One of my favorite singer/songwriters is Brandi Carlile. I have all her albums except for her newest which is to be released on February 16. I have heard the album and it is amazing. It’s called, “By The Way, I Forgive You”.


In learning more about the album, I’ve learned more about Brandi. As a part of the album’s release, she and a couple of her bandmates decided to talk about their forgiveness stories and encourage others to do so as well, even going so far as to use social media and the hastag #ByTheWayIForgiveYou to provide a forum of sorts for sharing.

One of the stories from the Twitter thread was in video form, a young lady granting forgiveness posthumously to her father who died of alcoholism when she was only eleven. It is all extremely moving and affirms the fact that the process of forgiving and being forgiven is deeper than our understanding.

It all caused me to think about my personal encounters with the concept. Without a doubt, if the thing is a dichotomy with Forgiving on one end and Being Forgiven on the other, by far I have been on the Need-to-be-Forgiven end than I have the Need-to-Forgive side. 

Back to Brandi Carlile and her story of the gnarly, knotty, beautiful, spiritual affair of Forgiveness. Her story rang so true and relevant for me. Here, in her words:

I would like to forgive Pastor Tim.

I forgive you for deciding not to baptize me when I was a teenager for being gay.

It was not so much that you wouldn’t or couldn’t do it because of the tenets put in place by the baptist rules and traditions, but because you waited until all my family and friends were present and waiting in the pews for the ceremony.

I don’t believe you did it to humiliate me - I think you struggled with the decision and simply ran out of time... I think you probably still do struggle with it.

I’d like you to know that I still love you and that I understand we’re all on a journey together, trying our best to walk through the world with honor and dignity - but what I want you to know most of all is that you did not damage my faith. Not in god, not in humanity and not in myself.

The experience inspired me to help other gay kids and my spiritual LGBTQ brothers and sisters come to terms with the disappointments they’ve endured on the rugged road to peace and acceptance. I think you’d appreciate that process.

You’ve helped far more people than you’ve hurt and you helped me too.

Thank you



I don’t know Pastor Tim, but I do know “Pastor Tim” in the sense that he could be so many other well-meaning, God-fearing humans making human messes in God’s name. I would love to visit with him to see how he feels all these years later about that day, about Brandi’s amazing grace-full statement of forgiveness. I hope he feels somewhat healed by it and that he can hear her saying that she is somehow healed by it too.

Notice that she seems to have come to terms with the understanding that he might have made the decision based on doctrine, dogma, or reductionist religion, but the thing that hurt her most was waiting until the moment she was to take a step of spiritual obedience into the waters, with her family and friends gathered to celebrate with her, before he said, No. Not now, not like this.

And then her words, baptized with grace, “I’d like you to know that I still love you and that I understand we’re all on a journey together, trying our best to walk through the world with honor and dignity…”

Maybe that’s what forgiveness is: understanding. understanding we’re all on a journey. a journey together. trying our best.


because like Jesus affirmed to his Father while on the cross, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

For more on Brandi’s project click here.

If I Had A Hammer

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

That’s one of my favorite “proverbs”. I’ve used it for years and always attributed it to Abraham Maslow. But, have I been correct in doing so? Wiktionary to the rescue:

From the book Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham H. Maslow (1962):

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

Similar concept by Abraham Kaplan, The Conduct of Inquiry: Methodology for Behavioral Science, (1964):

“I call it the law of the instrument, and it may be formulated as follows: Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.”

This blog post is about tools and utility and reductionism and throwing away some of life’s wonders like so much ephemera.

One of the frustrations of aging is losing your tools, not your physical tools like your screwdriver or tape measure, but finding you don’t hear as well as you once could, or see, or smell, and that wonderful tool of memory, where did I put that? Years ago a guy named Stephen Covey reduced the concept of being “highly effective” to seven habits. Number 7 was, “Sharpen the Saw”. Sometimes these days I can’t even remember where my saw is, much less how to sharpen it.

But even more tragic than losing tools through aging, is when we recklessly throw out tools—reducing the options in our toolbox by seeking simple, quick solutions—casting aside the tools of wonder, creativity, inquiry, spiritual quests, and in their place adding dogma, doctrine, principles, processes—tools that certainly have their time and purpose, but ugly and dangerous when they become the only tools we have.

If Kaplan is right about his “law of the instrument”, then I can probably look at my behavior and attitude and learn something. If I’m constantly pounding everything, there’s a good chance that I’ve reduced my toolbox to a hammer. You know what I mean?

So today, I’m taking stock. I’m thinking of my worldview, my politics, my religion, my relationships, my motives, my dreams, and I’m asking myself: what tools do I have in the box?

I read a column in the Washington Post. As I read I thought, I want more hope, that somehow we can collectively see that it’s going to take more than a hammer to pound everything, more than a screwdriver to continue to do what screwdrivers do. The proof is in the opening paragraph of the story:

There is so much anger out there in America: “Anger at Wall Street. Anger at Muslims. Anger at trade deals. Anger at Washington. Anger at police shootings of young black men. Anger at President Obama. Anger at Republican obstructionists. Anger about political correctness. Anger about the role of big money in campaigns. Anger about the poisoned water of Flint. Anger about deportations. Anger about undocumented immigrants. Anger about a career that didn’t go as expected. Anger about a lost way of life. Mob anger at groups of protesters in their midst. Specific anger and undefined anger and even anger about anger.”

I love poetry. Since our culture tends to reduce the idea of manliness to a caricature that real-men shouldn’t enjoy reading much of anything, especially poetry, I’m including a manly-esque poem, written by John Updike, author of works every guy should read. I share it because it has helped me take the measure of my tools.

By John Updike

Tell me, how do the manufacturers of tools
turn a profit? I have used the same clawed hammer
for forty years. The screwdriver misted with rust
once slipped into my young hand, a new householder’s.
Obliviously, tools wait to be used: the pliers,
notched mouth agape like a cartoon shark’s; the wrench
with its jaws on a screw; the plane still sharp enough
to take its fragrant, curling bite; the brace and bit
still fit to chew a hole in pine like a patient thought;
the tape rule, its inches unaltered though I have shrunk;
the carpenter’s angle, still absolutely right though I
have strayed; the wooden bubble level from my father’s
meagre horde. Their stubborn shapes pervade the cellar,
enduring with a thrift that shames our wastrel lives.

IF I HAD A HAMMER. Click and listen. Makes me long for the beautiful complexity of the 60s and my first Coming-Of-Age, when my toolbox was full, even though I often tore up more things than I fixed or built. At least I was alive.

Welcome To The Island

Remember when Jack Nicholson asked Tom Cruise, “You want answers?” To which Tom replied, “I want the truth!”

Then Jack told Tom, “You can’t handle the truth!!”

Of course this was just a movie; a movie called A Few Good Men. But do you ever wonder if we really can handle the truth? How about reality? Doesn’t it all just seem to real sometimes?

I’ve fully admitted in writing, in virtual ink here on this blog, more than a time or two, that I can be prone to daydreaming, being lost in creative thinking. That sounds so much better than “living in a fantasy world.”

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.
— Edgar Allan Poe

Psychologists have names for those who lose touch with reality. But I wonder sometimes if, as a people collectively, you know,  we are blurring the lines between fantasy and reality a little much.

Here’s a poor example: Back when I was a kid, my heros (professional athletes) played for one team their whole career—Mantle, Maris, Berra, Spahn, Unitas, Griese, Sayers…

Jerry Seinfeld does this amazing comedy bit about the weirdness of this, pointing out that we don’t really cheer for the players anymore, we cheer for the uniforms. Here, watch this.

Now though it’s even worse. We don’t even cheer for the laundry, the team brand. Now we have “fantasy” teams.

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (Yes, the FSTA), there are now 33 million people playing fantasy football each year. 

Research provided by Ipsos found that Americans spend an estimated $800 million annually on all fantasy sports media products. What is harder to quantify is the amount of money gambled in the process. — Forbes magazine.

And it’s not just fantasy sports, but how about that whole thing called “reality TV shows”. Reality, really!?

“Sunday Night Football” play-by-play icon Al Michaels has a solid theory about why so many people still tune in to football, despite the NFL being plagued with public scandals like seemingly never before: “The only real reality television is live sports.”

I feel better now.

Of course escapism isn’t new. We’ve always, all of us, enjoyed a bit of fantasy. I hate to be the one to break the news, but Mother Goose wasn’t a real mother or a real goose. The Three Pigs? The only real thing about this one is the lesson that can be learned—brick is better.

The top three fantasy movies are The Lord of The Rings movies. I enjoyed those a lot, but here are a few of my favorites on the IDMB 100 Top Fantasy Movies:

  • Groundhog Day
  • The Tree of Life
  • Stranger Than Fiction
  • About Time
  • Monty Python and The Holy Grail
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Field of Dreams
  • The Family Man

"A fantasy is an idea with no basis in reality and is basically your imagination unrestricted by reality."

"Reality is the state of things as they exist. It’s what you see, hear, and experience."

What’s the danger in an occasional escape from reality? I guess you can take it too far. Isn’t that always the way? Turns out there is something called FPP. Of course there is.

Fantasy prone personality (FPP) is a disposition or personality trait in which a person experiences a lifelong extensive and deep involvement in fantasy. This disposition is an attempt, at least in part, to better describe “overactive imagination” or “living in a dream world”. An individual with this trait (termed a fantasizer) may have difficulty differentiating between fantasy and reality and may experience hallucinations, as well as self-suggested psychosomatic symptoms. Closely related psychological constructs include daydreaming, absorption and eidetic memory. —Wikipedia

Here’s the thing: there is something between fantasy and reality and we have to be comfortable with that. You see, I’m not so sure that a hardcore, no compromise realist, can ever be open to a spiritual worldview. For example, I am a follower of one who turned water to wine, and fed a huge crowd with a few loaves and a few small fish. I believe those things really happened, but Freud would say I’m crazy for believing so.

Tell the truth: Can you handle the truth? Or, are you too grounded in “reality”?