Updated: Dec 28, 2022
Dear, Friends and Family,
When I was starting out in Social Work 25+ years ago, I used to roll my eyes at B.F.Skinner and his behavioral theories. Reward, punishment, behavioral modification, they all seem like such obvious, old-fashion concepts. Where is the special wisdom in these? It reminded me of old religious traditions admonishing us to just behave.
But, for some reason, the older I get the more I value behavior. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” I am beginning to believe it's not what you say, it's what you do.
So what did we do this year? Hmmmm
Logan became a man. I used to envision some dramatic “rite of passage” to mark such a transition for my sons. Turns out manhood tends to come dressed in doing ordinary things like taking his first real job at Peck’s Office Supply, gaining a Driver’s License, finishing High School, taking the ACT, watching the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, and receiving a college acceptance letter – tangible, behavioral steps into manhood that make this year one for him to remember.
Liam’s steps forward were similarly methodical – exemplary attention to detail, quietly agreeing to usher at church, steadily acing the Regent’s exams, working at a local park for the Summer, buying his first computer, designing and sticking to his own work-out routine. He is the picture of non-assuming youth, just doing the next right thing.
Linda personifies the phrase, “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Taking someone across the city to get a photo ID, insisting a teenager stay at our place to finish his homework, buying fast food for someone in the hospital who is craving Chinese takeout, conducting Bible study for teen girls, listening to anyone who needs to talk, nurturing the flowers in our community’s garden – nothing dramatic, just doing good things.
What did I do this year? I just put one foot in front of the other, literally. At the prodding of four local teens, I put together a plan for us to train for a marathon, and it happened in September. The key take away, just keep going. When you don’t have anything left, just keep moving. I remember at mile 23, nearly drunk with endorphins, and much to the embarrassment of the teens, I started singing. “I see the bright light shine, it's just about home time. I can see the Father standing at the door. This world’s been a wilderness and I am ready for deliverance. I never felt this homesick before.”
And even better than hugging the teens at the finish line was watching them choose baptism a month later, all taking a leap forward in their faith by doing something.
So I don’t have a lot of fancy words for the letter this time.
Just this, doing stuff matters. It's been said, “If you want to know someone’s mind listen to their words, if you want to know their heart, watch their actions.” Maybe behaviorists weren’t so wrong after all. What do you find more convincing, a dashing young man declaring his love after two months of dating, or the silent snuggle of a couple at their 60th wedding anniversary? Linda’s parents celebrated that milestone this year, and we are inspired by their imperfect yet faithful example.
On Thanksgiving morning, I had the gift of several quiet hours as small businesses in our Community Kitchen prepared meals. As the sun rose, I turned to an App on my phone and heard these words, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.” God didn’t just say he loved us.
He showed up.
He touched unsanitary lepers.
He partied with questionable people.
He let a woman kiss his feet.
He chided intellectuals.
He made arrangements for his mother.
That behavior demonstrates the heart of God.
And that is what Christmas is all about. It's not an abstraction. It's love that found its way out of the heart into behavior, behavior that includes you. I pray you will know that kind of love this Christmas.
A meaningful baptism in our church.
After the marathon.
Logan and I watching the sun rise over the Grand Canyon.
Malinda Eberly is like an adopted daughter. Her wedding was a "can't miss" event this year.
High school graduation was a reason to celebrate Isaiah Marte and Logan. It seems they were in 2nd grade together just yesterday.
My uncle Laban Hochstetler passed away this year and Phil had a fierce battle with cancer. We remember that life is short, and every day is a gift.
On my 50th Birthday, some made me feel young as we ran 15 miles and ended in the ocean.
Liam being Liam, working.
Linda's parents, 60 years of love.