ManMaker 2024

ManMaker @ Riverwood

Tradition dictates that we call our annual men’s conference “ManMaker.” Honestly, though, I don’t know why. We don’t pretend to be making men over the course of a single weekend (in fact, we often talk about the way that our identity is primarily centered around being children of God, formed in his image, developed over the course of decades). And there’s always a lot of confusion about how we parse the name; across the H2O Network, I’ve seen “ManMaker,” “Manmaker,” “Man Maker,” “Man-Makers,” “Man-Maker’s” — and probably some other variations as well. Regardless of whatever one calls it, though, it’s hard to deny the fact that God does something powerful on these weekends.

ManMaker @ Riverwood

We had many of the traditional elements for this traditional event: musical worship… biblical teaching… practical workshops… flag football… pick-up basketball… board games… and lots and lots of food (young men really know how to pack away the calories!). But this year’s ManMaker was also a simpler event than what we often do. We stayed local (thanks to our friends at Riverwood), instead of traveling to a different part of the state. We gathered a smaller cross-section of our network, with students from Kent State University, Youngstown State University, and the University of Akron, instead of the whole network (which stretches from Western Michigan to southern Ohio to Buffalo, New York). We simplified operations by eliminating a couple of meals and the overnight component, instead of overwhelming our hosts or our staff with a 24-hour siege. And we just generally tried to accept our limitations and entrust everything else to the Lord.

ManMaker @ Riverwood

Thankfully, God multiplied our “loaves and fishes” to provide beyond any reasonable expectation for the men of H2O. And honestly, even when I stayed up way past my bedtime last night, I felt more energized at 11PM than I’d felt at any other point in the day leading up to that.

ManMaker @ Riverwood

The most intriguing part of the weekend for me, personally, was the Free Time last night. We were the group who chose to play neither basketball nor board games. Instead, we just talked. And I really enjoyed the group that ended up hanging out for those couple hours. They seemed genuinely enthusiastic to talk with me, not just in spite of my age and/or position of church authority but because of those things. They wanted to ask follow-up questions based on some of the things I shared in my message. They wanted to hear stories from my years of ministry experience, and they wanted to talk about the art of storytelling itself. They wanted to talk about vocational ministry. And in everything, they were just eager to learn. It was fun to see the “fire” in their “bellies.”

ManMaker @ Riverwood

The other thing I hope to remember from this year’s event was the musical worship. I always seem to forget how different it sounds to have all-male voices belting out “Be Thou My Vision” and “Goodness of God” and the like. Even as one of the organizers for the event — knowing full well how everything was put together — my soul was filled by the beauty and mystery of what happened in those sets of musical worship. I’m thanking God for a successful ManMaker event in 2024.

Posted in Church, God, H2O Kent, Health, Ministry, Prayer, Preaching, The Bible, Traditions, Young Adulthood | Leave a comment

Giving Care

Unexpected Shift as Cottage Gate Caregiver

My parents have a regular rotation of paid caregivers who come to their house and help with cooking, cleaning, running errands, and managing my Dad’s Parkinson’s Disease. Unfortunately, one of the caregivers had to call in sick for today, so I ended up getting pressed into service for most of the day. And sadly, it ended up being a pretty rough day for my Dad.

He seemed to be having a really hard time getting his leg muscles to cooperate with the rest of him, leading to several slow falls and near-falls. Yet, at the same time, he didn’t rest well. He kept trying to get up, and I’d ask, “Where do you want to go, Dad?”

He’d respond by saying, “Heaven.” I think he was half-joking, half-serious.

Unexpected Shift as Cottage Gate Caregiver

He didn’t take any long naps, which didn’t allow me to do much except tend to him. It was just a very hands-on day that I wasn’t emotionally prepared to have (especially heading into a very hands-on event for my job, with H2O’s ManMaker conference).

It’s challenging to care for my Mom on days like these, too. She’s dealing with the challenges of aging in her own ways. We had a doctor’s appointment for her in the morning, and it seems like she’s dealing with a lot of Stress and Depression, in addition to the physical challenges of her Multiple Sclerosis.

Unexpected Shift as Cottage Gate Caregiver

At this point in my life, I’ve gotten used to dealing with the everyday adventures of marriage and parenthood and ministry. Even when it’s a more stressful season of work, with four sermons in four weeks, and our February women’s and men’s retreats, and special situations requiring extra pastoral care, I’ve figured out ways to get through things one day at a time. But I haven’t yet figured out how to account for this “second job,” or new level of family responsibilities, in caring for my aging parents. It’s kind of kicking my butt.

Still, I’m finding solace in reading the early chapters of Genesis these days. I’m weirdly comforted by their graphic depiction of the world’s brokenness. It just jives with the world I’m living in, as sad as it is, and there’s something reassuring about the fact that none of our struggles are a surprise to God. I can easily drift into some sort of “Savior Complex,” imagining that it’s up to me to beat back all the chaos of the world around me. But Genesis reminds me that this way of thinking is so quixotic. So small-minded (even though it feels so grandiose, inside my own head).

I want to keep trusting God to bring order to the chaos. So help me, God.

Posted in Aging Parents, Family, Health | Leave a comment

Super Boost

We’ve made it to Super Bowl Sunday. And it’s all a little bit much for me, honestly.

Now, I’m not as much of a Super Bowl Grinch as I used to be. I’ve learned to go along with the flow. And honestly, I actually like American football (believe it or not, I played four years of high school football, myself)… Still, the celebrities and the commercials and the sports betting all get a bit overwhelming for me.

There is, however, one thing that I get excited about that involves the celebrities and the commercials and the sports betting. It’s the hope that I might see a commercial for one of the sports betting websites that features Aaron Paul (most famous for his role as Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad).

I don’t know why this one ad has become an obsession for me and my son Cor — but it was a commercial that played more prominently earlier in this football season, and in this one ad the actor mentions the word “boost” or “boosts,” like, ten times in a 30-second spot. With a pristine Californian accent.

The company seems to have done its best to scrub the internet of this spot (some cursory internet research indicates that it was pretty widely ridiculed), so I can’t find an easy way to embed it on my site. Still, it’s out there. Personally, I’d like to see the company lean into the campiness (as they sometimes do for the Super Bowl). Cor and I go nuts when we think we might get to hear Aaron Paul saying, “Check out our boosts.” So, you know we’re going to be watching for that tonight.

Posted in Recommended Viewing, Recreation, Sports, The United States of America, Video | Leave a comment

Scandinavian Fishing Village

Scandinavian Fishing Village Houses in Kent

We’ve had unseasonably warm temperatures and clear skies for the first week of February. I appreciate these mild conditions on many different levels, but in particular I’ve enjoyed the chance to take walks and take pictures. Mostly just in my neighborhood, on the west side of Kent. Anyway, one thing from these walks that’s been highlighted by the brilliant sunshine is how colorful Kent actually is. There are a lot of houses, especially among the ones which were built about a hundred years ago, which are painted in bright colors. And somehow, they make me think of a postcard I’ve seen of a Scandinavian fishing village. Right here in Northeast Ohio!

Scandinavian Fishing Village Houses in Kent

So, I made a conscious effort to document some of the best examples of the colorful houses I’ve seen throughout this sun-soaked week.

Scandinavian Fishing Village Houses in Kent

They’re not all in a row, along the edge of a waterway, so the effect is not as strong as it would be in a true Scandinavian fishing village. But still, it’s kind of fun to notice these things.

Scandinavian Fishing Village Houses in Kent

The front porch of the peach house on Pearl Street is even adorned with one of the three-dimensional stars that I associate with Scandinavian winters!

Scandinavian Fishing Village Houses in Kent

Do you know any good houses in Kent that I should add to my photo collection? I’d be interested in as many tips as I can get!

Posted in Culture, Europe, Home, Kent, Photography, Sweden | Leave a comment

The Mouth of the Machine

There’s a feeling of foreboding, a quiet fear, a helplessness that comes with being asked to lie down on a small metal plank with one’s feet dangling off the end.

The technician attached a few adhesive markers on my wrists and side and instructed me to put my arms over my head — adding to my sense of defenselessness. She said I should just listen to the prompts as I went into the mouth of the machine. “Only chin deep,” she said.

When the technician stepped out of the room, the big imaging components (magnets? lasers? insecurity?) started moving, humming, clicking. My metal plank started sliding into the empty space, and then the machine really started whirring.

“Hold your breath,” said the machine.

My body was pulled forward and backward, and then the machine said, “Breathe.” The process repeated a second time, and then my body was pulled back out into the open air.

A different technician, or maybe the radiologist, appeared. He was an older guy, with a salt-and-pepper beard and glasses like me. He told me I could put my arms down and helped to remove the markers. There was more of a sense of kindness to this person: a few smiles, an apology for the pulling of some arm hair, taking some extra effort to show me the way out. I stopped in the lobby just long enough to put on my coat and hat, and then I was back out in the daylight, going about the rest of my day.

I’ve seen it in film and on television many times, but I never fully understood that the big black hole of an MRI or CT scan is a metaphor for death, or human mortality, or something along those lines — until I went in for a routine cardiac calcium screening last week. Even though I knew that the process was prompted by nothing more than my age, and my doctor had told me it was a low likelihood that they’d find anything, it was fascinating to observe my subconscious reaction to it all. My cardiac calcium screening brought my mortality to the fore more than I expected. And not just the scanning machinery itself (though it is a particularly apt metaphor).

In fact, if anything, the emotional tension was the greatest in the last 48 hours leading up to the scan. I felt phantom pains in my gut. My intestines seemed to liquify everything that passed through them. I had persistent headaches. Yet right after my cardiac calcium screening, all of my mysterious symptoms disappeared almost immediately. To the point that it seems more than mere coincidence.

I’m anxious about my mortality, more than I would like to admit. I’m able to intellectually acknowledge that “we’re all going to die,” and “it’ll be cancer, or pneumonia, or a car crash, or whatever” — but it’s still scary to get past the intellectual acknowledgement, into the actual experience of death-adjacent activities.

I believe that it’s still healthy, even when it’s uncomfortable, to be reminded of one’s mortality. And it does draw me into closer intimacy with God, knowing that my fate rests with Him and in Him. Still, it’s unsettling when the mouth of that great machine opens wide, to the point where I can feel its breath on my neck.

Posted in God, Health, Introspection, Middle Age | Leave a comment

My Relationship with Words and “The Word” (Part Five)

Bibles Telling the Story of Learning to Love the Word

I was recently given the opportunity to prepare for a sermon about “Learning to Love the Word of God” at H2O Church on Sunday, January 28, 2024. I chose to approach the topic from a very personal standpoint that maybe functioned as a sort of self-therapy, or catharsis. But there was way too much material for a single sermon. So, I thought that I would repurpose some of the extraneous information (along with the original content of the sermon) in a series of blog posts, here. The stories are about me and my family, but it’s really not about me. I’m a sinner. I’m actually way worse than I usually dare to admit to myself, or to you guys. But the Good News is that God’s goodness, and God’s grace, and God’s glory are simultaneously way bigger and better and more beautiful than my imagination can possibly conjure up. And God’s Word is how I know this. So: here is Part Five of this series I’m calling “My Relationship with Words and ‘The Word.’”

Christmas Eve Service at Grace Church

Over the Winter Break, just like a month ago, my sister Anna had to look for something in my Dad’s email archives. And while she was there, she found drafts of some emails that my Dad composed but never sent. It felt really special to read some of these thoughts, but also really painful. One of the emails, dated September 8, 2020, showed how my Dad felt as he was losing his grasp of words. And the Word.

The role of COVID-19 is being studied from all sides. I want to be able to contribute to the conversation, but “my participation in these epic times” is prohibited when I can’t even remember the most basic words in the discussion, such as the names of the disease we are supposed to be fighting… I’m working hard to regain some of my mental faculties, but when I read Scripture that should be familiar to me, it just doesn’t stick. I am continually reading the same passages over and over in order to at least get the context so that maybe the next time I read it the next time around.”

Gosh. Can you imagine what that’s like?!? I have to hope that my Dad knew his relationship with the Word (both the book and the person) superseded his relationship with words.

Portrait of Dave Asp, December 2021

These days, my Dad has become less quiet but also less coherent. Sometimes he still makes sense, and we can have real dialogue. But a lot of the time, he’s prone to speaking in this sort of “word salad,” stringing together rather complicated, professorial-level words (like masticate and peripatetic) in long sentences that don’t make a lot of sense to me. So I don’t always know what’s going on inside his head. Still, I find it fascinating — and somehow comforting — to know that even as his Parkinson’s and his Dementia has progressed, my Dad’s fluency for prayer and for singing old hymns has remained much greater than his fluency in everyday conversation.

I don’t know what it’s like to be my Dad right now. But I’ve come to identify with him more and more, as I’ve gotten older. And I feel like my love for the Word of God has gotten deeper and deeper. Hidden in my heart… Deeply determined to keep its decrees to the very end. My identification with my father has gotten to the point that I now start most of my days at my desk, with a Greek New Testament open in front of me, along with a journal that contains my own translations of words, phrases, and verses from the Word of God. It is a labor of love to study, to ingest, to savor the Word of God. I don’t pretend to be an expert in the field of Greek translation or New Testament scholarship. But I sure do love the Word of God.

In that review of my Dad’s old email drafts over Winter Break, my sister also discovered a message addressed to me, shortly after I had sent him my first full translation of one of the (shorter) books of the Bible, seemingly composed on May 20, 2020.

#1 Son, I am proud to see your ASP paraphrases of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. I guess I brag that I played a part of your learning how to do something that I played with but never followed through on. You really did a lot of work in order to make it legitimate. Dare I assume that you hope to do the whole New Testament? If you do, that is obviously a huge undertaking.

Belated Fathers Day Celebration at Handel's

I don’t know if I’ll have the opportunity to do my own personal translation of the entire New Testament. But I love the opportunity I’ve been given to learn and love the Word of God.

I’ve been telling you this story about me and my Bibles and my Dad because I want you to be able to visualize it. To feel it. And especially to want it for yourself. Maybe it’s an act of self-therapy. There is certainly an element of catharsis that has benefited me in preparing for this message. But it’s really not about me. I’m a sinner. I’m actually way worse than I usually dare to admit to myself, or to you guys. But the Good News is that God’s goodness, and God’s grace, and God’s glory are simultaneously way bigger and better and more beautiful than my imagination can possibly conjure up.

And God’s Word is how I know this.

This whole time, I haven’t been talking about myself so much as I’ve been talking about the Word of God.
I love the Word of God so much that I want you to love the Word of God. I want you to pray the kind of prayers that we read in Psalm 119, like David did, and Dave did, and I’m trying to do. I want you to take advantage of the opportunities that are right in front of you. Read the Word of God. Memorize the Word of God. Let the Word of God shape you. Prioritize your life and make decisions based upon the Word of God. Don’t wait. Do it now. This is my prayer for you.

Posted in Aging Parents, Asp's Suggested Paraphrase of the Bible, English, Family, Greek, Health, Introspection, Language, Nostalgia, The Bible | Leave a comment

My Relationship with Words and “The Word” (Part Four)

Bibles Telling the Story of Learning to Love the Word

I was recently given the opportunity to prepare for a sermon about “Learning to Love the Word of God” at H2O Church on Sunday, January 28, 2024. I chose to approach the topic from a very personal standpoint that maybe functioned as a sort of self-therapy, or catharsis. But there was way too much material for a single sermon. So, I thought that I would repurpose some of the extraneous information (along with the original content of the sermon) in a series of blog posts, here. The stories are about me and my family, but it’s really not about me. I’m a sinner. I’m actually way worse than I usually dare to admit to myself, or to you guys. But the Good News is that God’s goodness, and God’s grace, and God’s glory are simultaneously way bigger and better and more beautiful than my imagination can possibly conjure up. And God’s Word is how I know this. So: here is Part Four of this series I’m calling “My Relationship with Words and ‘The Word.’”

Week of a Million Moves

I moved from Amsterdam to Kent in 2012. Two years later, in 2014, my Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. So the next year, in 2015, he (and my Mom) moved to Kent.

Parkinson’s Disease moves relatively slowly. First, it slows you down physically. And then (in about 75% of patients) it starts to slow you down cognitively. Still, when my Dad moved to Kent, there was a brief window of time when he was able to help me and Jason (the same friend from college who has now become my co-pastor here at H2O) learn New Testament Greek. As recently as 2019, we would meet together once a week for Greek Lessons.

Every week, our lesson would include some time in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Either Jason or I would take a turn reading the Greek text and translating it (as literally as possible) on the spot: building our vocabulary and our understanding of Greek nouns and verbs and the ways they all worked together.
But somewhere in the course of those Greek Lessons, it became apparent that my Dad started losing his grasp of words. In the beginning, it seemed that he was just losing his ability to express himself. It was like he could still make sense of all incoming information, just the same as usual. But outgoing information was more challenging. It was like he would just get tongue-tied. Or not able to spit out the right word. He’d say as much. And it was clearly frustrating — for all of us.

But there’s only so much that medicine can do. Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological disease. And language (among many other things) is a neurological function.

For a while, it just seemed like my Dad got quieter and quieter. It actually worked well for our Greek Lessons. His reduction in instruction forced me to become more self-directed, with occasional nods and affirmations from him. And just like I had fallen in love with the Word of God in English… and then in English again, when I entered young adulthood… and then in Dutch… and then in Greek… I hope that I never stop loving the Word of God.

Outing to Lucia S. Nash Nature Preserve with Eric, Dave, and Jan

I may end up getting Parkinson’s Disease, just like my Dad. Or I may end up getting some other condition that leads to physical decline… and cognitive decline… and Dementia. But I want to believe what it says in Psalm 119:11: “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” And I believe that the prayer of King David was the prayer of my father, Dave, as well. Even though nobody completely knows how it works, how it feels, when it comes to Dementia. Or death. Oh, that it would be the prayer for all of us who walk by faith in Jesus! That we would treasure God’s Word and hide it in our hearts…

[to be continued]

Posted in Aging Parents, Family, H2O Kent, Health, Introspection, Nostalgia, Preaching, The Bible | Leave a comment

My Relationship with Words and “The Word” (Part Three)

Bibles Telling the Story of Learning to Love the Word

I was recently given the opportunity to prepare for a sermon about “Learning to Love the Word of God” at H2O Church on Sunday, January 28, 2024. I chose to approach the topic from a very personal standpoint that maybe functioned as a sort of self-therapy, or catharsis. But there was way too much material for a single sermon. So, I thought that I would repurpose some of the extraneous information (along with the original content of the sermon) in a series of blog posts, here. The stories are about me and my family, but it’s really not about me. I’m a sinner. I’m actually way worse than I usually dare to admit to myself, or to you guys. But the Good News is that God’s goodness, and God’s grace, and God’s glory are simultaneously way bigger and better and more beautiful than my imagination can possibly conjure up. And God’s Word is how I know this. So: here is Part Three of this series I’m calling “My Relationship with Words and ‘The Word.’”

FootballersPyramidCropped

In my mid-20s, I moved to Amsterdam (in the Netherlands, in Europe) to join a team of people starting a new church in the center of the city.

In the process, my newly-initiated study of New Testament Greek was paused for a full decade because I needed to devote that brain power to speaking Dutch.

Bibles Telling the Story of Learning to Love the Word

Still, one of the ways that I worked to improve my Dutch was by making a deliberate choice to read through the Bible, in its entirety, in a Dutch version of De Bijbel. And even though I don’t want to romanticize that period of my life too much, I have to say that I gained new appreciation for God’s Word, reading through it in another language. It took me some extra time and effort, but everything also felt fresh and new and interesting.

I also loved the way that it spoke to my experiences as a foreigner in a strange land, looking for something steady and true.

Be good to your servant,
that I may live and obey your word.
Open my eyes to see
the wonderful truths in your instructions.
I am only a foreigner in the land.
Don’t hide your commands from me!
I am always overwhelmed
with a desire for your regulations.
You rebuke the arrogant;
those who wander from your commands are cursed.
Don’t let them scorn and insult me,
for I have obeyed your laws.
Even princes sit and speak against me,
but I will meditate on your decrees.
Your laws please me;
they give me wise advice.

Psalm 119:17-24

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible — both in the number of verses (176) and the number of words (2,445)! It’s an acrostic poem, devoting eight verses to every letter of the Hebrew alphabet (with every stanza starting every line with the letter associated with that stanza). And this poem is an ode to the Word of God. It talks about the beauty of God’s Word… the necessity of God’s Word… the power of God’s Word… And it uses a lovely variety of synonyms for the Word of God: instructions… commands… laws… decrees… advice… regulations…

Vondel50 - Crowded Park

Why?!? Because the Word of God is something special! The Bible is beautiful! The Bible is remarkable! I believe that the Bible is uniquely, verbally, and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit — without error in the original manuscripts. The supreme and final authority in faith and life in every age. The world might be messy. Our lives might be messy. But we need to recognize that it’s our mess that creates the dissonance, when we experience a sense of friction with the Word of God.

I learned a lot about myself and about the Word of God during our family’s Amsterdam years. Which, in retrospect, I believe was a significant part of preparing myself for what came after our return to the United States from the Netherlands…

[to be continued]

Posted in Amsterdam, Amsterdam50, Church, Culture, Culture Shock, Europe, Introspection, Nostalgia, Preaching, The Bible, The Netherlands | Leave a comment

My Relationship with Words and “The Word” (Part Two)

Bibles Telling the Story of Learning to Love the Word

I was recently given the opportunity to prepare for a sermon about “Learning to Love the Word of God” at H2O Church on Sunday, January 28, 2024. I chose to approach the topic from a very personal standpoint that maybe functioned as a sort of self-therapy, or catharsis. But there was way too much material for a single sermon. So, I thought that I would repurpose some of the extraneous information (along with the original content of the sermon) in a series of blog posts, here. The stories are about me and my family, but it’s really not about me. I’m a sinner. I’m actually way worse than I usually dare to admit to myself, or to you guys. But the Good News is that God’s goodness, and God’s grace, and God’s glory are simultaneously way bigger and better and more beautiful than my imagination can possibly conjure up. And God’s Word is how I know this. So: here is Part Two of this series I’m calling “My Relationship with Words and ‘The Word.’”

Mercer Manor 2

Even though my childhood and adolescence provided a strong foundation for faith, it wasn’t really until I got to college that my own love for the Word of God, the Bible, really started to take off.

In my freshman year at Bowling Green State University, I joined a group of peers for a weekly Bible study in Conklin Hall. And to prepare for one week’s discussion, I still remember reading the Book of Romans in my room (#224), and I was like: “How did I never notice how immediately- and personally-applicable this stuff is?!?!

Bibles Telling the Story of Learning to Love the Word

I was blown away by the beauty of Scripture. I started to fill up with the beauty of the Bible to the point that I couldn’t stop talking about it — kind of like that song that you just can’t get out of your head, or that movie that somehow finds its way into every conversation with your friends over lunch or waiting for class to start. Like what the Apostle John described in first four verses of his first letter to the churches of the ancient Middle East.

I learned that the Bible is the “Word of Life” pointing us to Jesus as the truest and fullest “Word of Life.” John was a student of the Word (in both senses of the term). He helped to capture the truth and power in written form, so we could share in that joy. And it’s just so beautiful and overwhelming that the joy just bubbles up among those who are looking and listening and reading.

I remember one friend from BG who had spent so much time reading his Bible, using his Bible, handling his Bible, that he had to duct tape the cover together — and I got so excited when my own Bible got its first tear in the cover, so I couldn’t apply my own strip of duct tape!

Kohl's Bible Study Circa 1998

My friend Jason was in the middle of a similar awakening, regarding the beauty and power of the Word of God, and we decided that we wanted to challenge each other to start memorizing the Bible. Not just individual verses, but whole chapters and groups of chapters. We started with Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapters five, six, and seven — from the New International Version. After we finished Matthew 5-7, we memorized Hebrews 11.

Around that same time, I also remember “writing a song” (with just three chords banged out on a piano in a practice room of the Music Building) to the words of Psalm 1.

These passages that I memorized in college are still deeply embedded within my heart, soul, and mind. I don’t know if I could still spit them out word-for-word, without mistakes. But I have a grasp on these passages that I cannot claim for every section of the Bible.

My college years became a time of learning to love the Word — and the words of the Word.

Bibles Telling the Story of Learning to Love the Word

Eventually, Jason and I decided that we wanted to start learning Koine Greek, so we could study the New Testament of the Bible in its original language. So, do you know who I consulted for resources on how to learn Koine Greek? My Dad! He helped Jason and me to find some newer resources and workbooks, but he also offered to teach me from one of his old textbooks: Gresham Machen’s New Testament Greek for Beginners. And he gave me a copy of the Greek New Testament, too.

Neither Jason nor I were serious students of the Greek, in our early-20s. We never really got past learning the alphabet and writing what amounted to coded notes to each other, using Greek letters to make phonetic renderings of English phrases. But my appreciation for God’s Word kept growing and growing, even if my Greek language skills did not… Especially when I moved to Amsterdam in my mid-20s to join a team of people starting a new church in the center of the city…

[to be continued]

Posted in English, Greek, Introspection, Language, Nostalgia, Preaching, Small Groups, The Bible, Young Adulthood | Leave a comment

My Relationship with Words and “The Word” (Part One)

Bibles Telling the Story of Learning to Love the Word

I was recently given the opportunity to prepare for a sermon about “Learning to Love the Word of God” at H2O Church on Sunday, January 28, 2024. I chose to approach the topic from a very personal standpoint that maybe functioned as a sort of self-therapy, or catharsis. But there was way too much material for a single sermon. So, I thought that I would repurpose some of the extraneous information (along with the original content of the sermon) in a series of blog posts, here. The stories are about me and my family, but it’s really not about me. I’m a sinner. I’m actually way worse than I usually dare to admit to myself, or to you guys. But the Good News is that God’s goodness, and God’s grace, and God’s glory are simultaneously way bigger and better and more beautiful than my imagination can possibly conjure up. And God’s Word is how I know this. So: here is Part One of this series I’m calling “My Relationship with Words and ‘The Word.'”

Family Portraits, Dave

When I think of “Loving the Word,” I think of my Dad. Dave.

Some of my earliest and most enduring memories from childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood involve finding my Dad at his desk, with his blue-and-white Greek-English Interlinear Bible on one side of the desk and a spiral-bound notebook full of his chicken-scratch handwriting on the other side of the desk, collecting his notes on what he was learning.

Bibles Telling the Story of Learning to Love the Word

He was a pastor, like I am. He had gone to seminary and taken classes in Hebrew and Greek. And he used those resources to enrich his (and his congregation’s) love of the Word of God, the Bible.
I suppose some of those early-morning translation sessions were work-related: preparation for some sermon he was about to preach. But it wasn’t just utilitarian. He loved the Word of God. It was foundational to his understanding of himself and the world around him.

He loved words, generally, too. He used the word “peripatetic” when most other people would say “walking, or traveling, around.” He said “masticate” when most other people would say “chew.” His skills in crafting clever puns were strong long before it became popular.

So I think his morning study of the New Testament Greek texts of the Bible scratched two itches at the same time: getting into the Word and getting into words.

Dave, Awana Leader

My Dad taught me to love words, too.

I was a little bit like the proverbial college professor’s baby, from a joke that my Dad used to tell. The baby who spoke his first words one day, while playing with his toy train set. He picked up the tiny locomotive in his tiny hand, made eye contact with his father, and said: “Masticate, masticate…”

In school, my love of words helped me to succeed as a student. When I got to college, though, my friends sometimes teased me about my vocabulary. They called it “Spice.” I’d use a fancy word in casual conversation — like “surreptitious” when most would say “secret” — and one of my friends would look at another friend, grin, and say, “Spice!”

Bibles Telling the Story of Learning to Love the Word

But my Dad didn’t just teach me to love words. He taught me to love the Word. My Dad also gave me my first Bible. He regularly told stories from the Bible, and I also got to hear him preach from the Bible on a regular basis. As a kid, I memorized lots of different verses from the Bible. Believe it or not, the King James Version of the Bible was the most popular, when I was a kid. So I’ve still got some of those 17th Century turns of phrase stuck in my head… Along with newer versions, too.

Still, it was also when I got to college that my own love for the Word of God, the Bible, really started to take off…

[To be continued]

Posted in English, Family, Introspection, Language, Nostalgia, Preaching, The Bible | Leave a comment