Unplanned Imitation – Hmmmmm!

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If we learn so much from the very day we are born by imitating, how does that influence who we become and what shapes our hearts, our loves, our desires?


We have models that are clearly designed to help us imitate. They include our parents, other family members, teachers, coaches, clergy, and others. We look to them to point us in the best path. That may not be perfect, but we hope it will be at least good enough because these early examples will help us shape our desires and what we believe will be “good” for us in the many years ahead.


Why is this so crucial?  Here is the response by James K.A. Smith in his book You Are What You Love:


“You can’t not love. It’s why the heart is the seat and fulcrum of the human person, the engine that drives our existence. We are lovers first and foremost…we might say that the human heart is part compass and part internal guidance system.

The heart is like a multifunctional desire device that is part engine and part homing beacon. Operating under the hood of our consciousness, so to speak – our default autopilot – the longings of the heart both point us in the direction of a kingdom and propel us toward it.”


Then what causes the heart to look like Jeremiah describes it?


“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
    and desperately wicked.
    Who really knows how bad it is?”

Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT)


To understand what seems like a contradiction we need to recognize that our heart is bent toward what we love, what we want, and that has self written all over it from the beginning and can help us see what it is first and foremost our hearts that the Lord is after so He can transform them. Too many of our wants and desires, our hungers, are influenced by things our models did not intend many times. We caught things beyond things we were taught or encouraged to learn.



We also don’t grow up in a vacuum, so we begin very early to want things we see others have that look good to us. Not long after that we start going about whatever we need to do to get them. We take a toy we want from a child we are playing with. We grab something to eat that we long for from someone else’s hand or plate. And that is just the beginning of leading our hearts down the primrose path, away from the best choices.


“To be human is to be animated and oriented by some vision of the good life, some picture of what we think counts as “flourishing.” And we want that. We crave it. We desire it. This is why our most fundamental mode of orientation to the world is love. We are oriented by our longings, directed by our desires. We adopt ways of life that are indexed to such visions of the good life, not usually because we “think through” our options, but because some picture captures our imagination.”

James K.A. Smith


Few of us would disagree that we are flooded with images, sounds, ideas, and concepts of what that will look like more than ever before. It is happening every moment of every day from the time we awaken until we go to sleep. These same things can impact our longings, hungers, and habits without our awareness.


When we consider that along with the tendency of our unsanctified hearts, Paul’s words in Romans 7 about doing the very thing he hates makes a great deal of sense and can resonate more than ever.


God is love and everything about Him emanates from that understanding and it is little wonder that as human image bearers we have love built into our DNA and it should not surprise us that the enemy of our souls competes for our desires and longings.



It is also why when we sense God inviting us into relationship with Him that He sees this (as should we) as a heart decision. That decision is what invites Him into the process of transforming our hearts, our desires, our hungers and longings so they are reoriented toward what is truly good.


He understands what James K.A. Smith writes:


“While being human means we can’t not love something ultimate – some version of the kingdom – it doesn’t necessarily mean we love the right things, or the true King. God has created us for himself and our hearts are designed to find their end in him, yet many spend their days restlessly craving rival gods, frenetically pursuing rival kingdoms. The subconscious longings of our hearts are aimed and directed elsewhere; our orientation is askew; our erotic compass malfunctions, giving us false bearings.”


These things that we are influenced by not only affect our choices and what we do, they also do something to us. What our hearts cling to according to Martin Luther become what is our god.


It is any wonder that the writer of Proverbs reminds us of this wisdom:


“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Proverbs 4:23 (ESV)


“No faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs through adversity. Tested faith brings experience. You would never have believed your own weakness had you not needed to pass through trials. And you would never have known God’s strength had His strength not been needed to carry you through.”

Charles Spurgeon


God’s grace and tender mercies toward us begin with revealing the condition of our heart and his love points (as a compass or GPS) to a better path beyond any other examples or influences that seek to bend our hearts in a path toward things that will never satisfy – no matter how good they may appear.







Who Are You Imitating?



You might be tempted to say you aren’t really imitating anyone given our tendency toward being individualistic, but before you respond on the question let’s consider it a bit more carefully.


From the time you were born you have been imitating, learning what things mean and how the world works. You have practiced what you learned for such a long time you rarely notice or think about these things because they are habitual and come from where they are stored in the unconscious.


Consider empathy as an example and how it develops from the writing of Maurice Wagner inThe Sensation of Being Somebody:


“Empathy begins to manifest itself in the infant’s behavior soon after he is born. It becomes the basis of nonverbal communication all through his life. Before the child is able to understand the language of his household, he senses the emotions of the people speaking to him. We see his responses and sense empathically that he understands. How much he understands is open to question. We know he enjoys being liked.”


That said, we also can see from the words of this theologian and psychologist that if we were not enjoyed or emotions in our home were loud or not evident to us, we can be left with gaps that impact us. These give us glimpses of what causes us to hunger for a “better.”


What direction that hunger takes can vary, but it will begin its influence very early for each of us. And we were, are, and will be surrounded with people and things pointing to what they believe will be the “better” or “the good life” that we seek.


In Attachments: Why You Love, Feel and Act the Way You Do by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Gary Sibcy, they point out the following:


“The persistent human cry is simply for someone to love us, to hold us tight. Our need for relationship is even more powerful than our need for food.”





How we attach to our moms and dads at the outset will put us on a trajectory that is powerful indeed. But there is another factor that is key.


We were made in God’s image and as most of you would agree, God is love and He desires our love and that love be a hallmark of our character. Few messages in the Bible are repeated more often than the exhortation to love, love one another, love Him.


In a book I have been reading I was provoked to deeper thought when I read these lines:


“You can’t not love. It’s why the heart is the seat and fulcrum of the human person, the engine that drives our existence. We are lovers first and foremost. If we think about this in terms of the quest or journey metaphor, we might say that the human heart is part compass and part internal guidance system. The heart is like a multifunctional desire device that is part engine and part homing beacon.”

James K.A. Smith in You Are What You Love


 Our heart will long for love and will be bent toward loving something or someone. That doesn’t mean the choices will always be the best. What and who we imitate and then practice becomes habit and can begin to calibrate our heart in more than one direction.



Jesus makes clear that our relationship with Him begins in our heart and He notes that the heart is also what needs to be transformed. If the influences of our family and culture bend our heart to search for things and people to love that are not like what He created us to long for, it will become a ruling passion pulling us into all manner of trouble.


Matthew quotes Jesus on this subject in Matthew 15:18-19 (NIV):


18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.


Our hearts were originally designed and intended to love as God loves, but if they are not, we will be searching for it. Augustine wrote in Confessions, “Things which are not in their intended position are restless. Once they are in their ordered position, they are at rest.”


 When we think about the exhortation to love, most of us will think about John’s Gospel and epistles, but Paul writes often on this subject as well. His fervency is clear in Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV):


“12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”


When Paul talks about putting on love it sounds as if he is using a clothing metaphor. James K.A. Smith writes: “It’s like love is the big belt that pulls together the rest of the ensemble.”  I love that description.


If all this is true – and I believe it is – what makes loving as the Lord intended so complicated and often difficult to accomplish?


If you’re curious about that, check back in next time for some clues.

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The Wilderness


Please enjoy this guest post by our youngest granddaughter, Sydney.



Imagine for a moment that you are in the middle east thousands and thousands of years ago. You are making a voyage, not by sea but by land, with many other people just like you. Some of them are your family, some are your friends, and some you only have loose connections with, but there are hundreds of you, enough to form a small nation. And this nation is stuck in the wilderness.


There is no food, there is no water. The sun is hot and dry; it beats down on you from dawn till dusk, scorching your skin. Your lips are cracked, your tongue feels like paper, and your hair is matted with sand and sweat. For days you have been walking a slow, monotonous pace. For days the only view has been dry, crumbling, dusty, brown earth to the north and to the south and to the east and to the west.


Now let me give you some backstory. A few weeks ago you were a slave in ancient Egypt. Your job was to collect straws and fashion them into bricks. You spent most of the day hunched over in the dirt doing backbreaking, mind numbing work. The natives hated you. They would whip you and beat you for no reason. Then a strange man came along. He said that there was a God, one you have only heard about from stories, who was going to set you free. He was going to send you to a land flowing with milk and honey, a perfect paradise. After ten terrible plagues, this God made good on His promise. Pharaoh released you and all of your people. But you did not end up in the paradise God promised, but in the desert. There is no honey, there is no milk, there isn’t even water. You begin to wonder, Wouldn’t it have been better if I just stayed in Egypt? Where is this God who set me free? Why isn’t he doing anything to relieve me from this trial? If He’s really who He said he is, why couldn’t he have just found us a shortcut through the desert?


If you haven’t realized it by now, the scenario I just asked you to imagine was the plight of the Israelites after God delivered them out of Egypt. Now, I used to look down on these people. It seemed to me that while they were in the wilderness, they did nothing but complain against a God who provided for them time and time again. He was faithful to them, but they were faithless. I didn’t understand why it was so hard for them to trust in His word that He would bring them to the Promised Land.


However, in the midst of COVID-19, I reread their story. I realized that the people of Israel weren’t so different from me. We both were stuck in strange and difficult circumstances, to which there seemed no end. We both had ideas of what our future would look like, and we both suffered many disappointments. We both had trouble believing in God’s promises of future blessings. But perhaps the most important similarity of all was that in both the Israelite’s struggle and my own God was walking with us.


I am powerless to do anything about the current pandemic; the Israelites were powerless to do anything about their struggles in the desert. But God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and He was not caught off guard or surprised by the Coronavirus just as He was not surprised when Pharaoh decided to keep His people as slaves. In fact, years before the subjugation of Israel, He foretold the event to Abraham. “Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years,” (Genesis 15:13). However, He also foretold His rescue of the Israelites and the land that He would give them. “But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions… And they shall come back here in the fourth generation,” (Genesis 15:14,16). God knew exactly what would happen to the Israelites, and He knew even then, even in the days of Abraham in ancient times that there would come a year called 2020, and it would bring a huge pandemic. He IMG_1389also knows when it will end, and He knows exactly how He’s going to provide for His people in the midst of it. If He could rain down bread from heaven for Israel, He can put food on the table of all the people who are currently out of a job. If He could protect the Israelite’s clothing from wearing out, He can provide masks and protection for all of the doctors and nurses and first responders who need them. If He could sustain a nation with water from rocks, He can sustain us.
This doesn’t mean that everything will go back to normal immediately, that we will wake up tomorrow without COVID-19. Israel had to wait for their liberation, and they had to wait for the Promised Land. But eventually, God did set them free, He did bring them to the land he showed Abraham all those years ago. He kept His promises, and He will keep His promises to us.




The Wilderness was written by Sydney the youngest granddaughter of Pam Ecrement and a rising senior in High School. Besides writing her hobbies include drawing, singing, acting, karate, all things French, playing the violin, and reading. Her favorite genre of literature is fiction, specifically fantasy, and her favorite books are those of The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. Though she does not aspire to be a writer as a career, she is currently working on writing her first novel just for fun.

A Band of Brothers

Photo by Richard R. Schunemann on Unsplash


September 9, 2001 Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks released the iconic series, Band of Brothers, that tells the true story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army during the last year of WW II in Europe. The 10-part miniseries won acclaim via Emmy and Golden Globe awards and is still watched through various media.


What is the appeal of the story of WW II given how many books and films have been produced since that war ended?


We own the series and as we have watched it multiple times its messages and themes resonate each time we view the series. Leadership is a central theme as you watch what it takes to be a great leader and how that leadership develops. The series gives you excellent examples of great leadership as well as very poor leadership. That key attribute of Easy Company greatly impacts the morale of this “band of brothers” and makes all the difference as you watch them in the midst of great fear move out with great courage.


Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

The men of this company were seemingly ordinary men whose characters develop as the war progresses. They show you the pithy vulnerable ways they deal with loss and the relationships that develop from it and are impacted because of it.


These men were real in every sense of the word and perhaps that is what draws us into the film, the story first penned by Stephen Ambrose. We can feel like we are a part of the story and because of that we learn something about ourselves in many cases.


There was another “band of brothers” that can come to mind that were never filmed in a miniseries, but whose lives left an impact as well. The disciples of Jesus were such in many ways and as their lives unfold throughout the New Testament, we learn much as their lives are transformed and their characters develop. This story is one of real men also with flaws and weaknesses, failings and faults, but just as with Easy Company those do not diminish the impact of their lives on history, on us.


We are drawn to stories of ordinary men who are used in mighty ways because we know we are at best, ordinary ourselves.


What is harder to experience is the camaraderie we see in the story of the disciples as well as the story of Easy Company. In these examples despite differences in personality they joined together steadfastly to be for and with one another no matter what your background or where you came from.


For them, the greater cause was so valued all common things were set aside.


I wonder if that is one of the reasons, we miss it.


Have we become so self-focused, so individualistic, that we no longer connect with each other around the greater cause against a war that is largely unseen but comes into clearer focus each day as we watch the world upend in so many ways we have not seen before?


Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Have we failed to notice the subtle things that have been influencing us for years that have become unconscious habits and behaviors that now reflect a very different story than the one we are called to live?


Peter gives an example of the transformation of his character and understanding as he writes in 1 Peter:


“Now this is the goal: to live in harmony with one another and demonstrate affectionate love, sympathy, and kindness toward other believers. Let humility describe who you are as you dearly love one another.”

1 Peter 3:8 (TPT)


The apostle John writes about this often in his Gospel and epistles.


For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends.”

John 15:13 (TPT)


It can be easy to not dive into this verse and miss that sacrifices come in many sizes and shapes beyond physically dying. The verse takes aim at our self-focus, our demand that our preferences be preferred above those of others.


James K.A. Smith has suggested that our hearts are like a compass in his book, You Are What You Love. Consider his challenge to us:


“The reminder for us is this: if the heart is like a compass, an erotic homing device, then we need to (regularly) calibrate our hearts, tuning them to be directed to the Creator, our magnetic north. It is crucial for us to recognize that our ultimate loves, longings, desires, and cravings are learned. And because love is a habit, our hearts are calibrated through imitating exemplars and are being immersed in practices that, over time, index our hearts to a certain end. We learn to love, then, not primarily by acquiring information about what we should love but rather through practices that form the habits of how we love.”


We see in Easy Company how platoon leader, Richard Winters, shapes this “band of brothers” over the 10-part series. What a difference the life of one man whose compass is true can make.


Jesus provides that example to the disciples who walked the earth with Him as well and He sought to recalibrate their hearts and help them to learn how to love as He lived it out before them.


If we want something different from we are experiencing now, our hearts will need to be recalibrated to become a compass pointed toward Him.


Our heart will not be transformed by what we love, or what we think, but how He loves as we seek his transformation.





Photo by Adrien Olichon from Pexels


None of us would likely question that our lives are made up of a great many details. It is also true that some of us are “detail” oriented and some of us only want the “big rocks.” It’s not about one being right and one being wrong and more how we are oriented by personality type and preference.


A common source of laughter at our home is the contrast between my husband and me. If someone calls to ask about something that has happened in our lives, he can sum it all up in several minutes because the “big rocks” is where he focuses. If the person wants the real scoop and a “play-by-play” account, I am the one to talk with.


But just don’t stereotype us or anyone else because it doesn’t necessarily apply across the board. My husband is meticulous about restoration work he does on things related to his hobby and if you ask him about something he is working on, be prepared to hear far more detail than you may fully understand. If we have purchased a new item that comes with a booklet of directions with detailed instructions, I want my husband to read those and just give me the “big rocks.”


You have likely heard the idiom – “the devil is in the details” – but do you know the source and intent?  The curious thing is that the idiom itself was not what the author originally said because the detail of a letter changed the meaning of his words.


The source of the idiom or proverb is often attributed to a German/American architect, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, but careful research suggests it was an earlier proverb – “Der liebe Gott steckt in detail.” The translation is “God is in the detail” and there is no evidence that Mies Van Der Rohe was the first to use it.


Over time an “s” was added in the translation from the earlier form and became “the devil is in the details” coming into common use in the 1990’s.



The dictionary refers to the meaning as “a catch or mysterious element hidden in the details, meaning that something might seem simple at a first look but will take more time and effort to complete than expected.”


I am not sure how the original intent was changed, but it strikes me that the devil would always want us to get mired in details that he might throw into a problem or situation to throw us off track from the details the Lord would have us see and recognize. Confusion is one of the enemy’s favorite tactics and that always adds more time and challenge to whatever we are dealing with.


Perhaps it is also because God is actually into the details and the enemy wants to take that credit onto himself like he does every other attribute of God since that is who he is trying to be.


It only takes a brief scan of what we know about creation to see God is very much detail oriented. He may have spoken things into existence, but clearly his words have meaning and power beyond what we can fathom. And when we look at creation we need to stop at his detailed creation of humankind and how He made Adam and then “fashioned” Eve.


It doesn’t take a first-year medical student to recognize the intricacies of every system of the body and the delicate balance needed to keep it humming along well beyond the 50,000-mile maintenance. It doesn’t take an astronomer a raft of charts and maps of the universe to inform us that God is into details.



If you study the Bible you see a very detail-oriented God who never loses the “big rocks” in the process. Details of who He is and how He functions and what and who is important to Him is crystal clear at the outset and follows through from Genesis to Revelation. How specific it is can be seen in the example of the Old Testament prophecy about when, how, and who would be born and appear as the Savior that fills the pages of the New Testament.


If we pause in the rush of daily life, we get in touch with how much He involves himself in the details of our lives as well. He is intimately acquainted with us. It is we who too often are not intimately acquainted with Him and the deep fellowship He longs to have with each of us – the very thing that brought about the plan for a Savior to restore to Him.


We are immersed in detail and sometimes we fail to recognize its impact on us because we get focused on the details of something we are doing while losing sight of the many details that are impacting, influencing, and shaping us every day.


These things we are bombarded with from the time we awaken until we drift off to sleep have power, we need to pay attention to. These things shape our desires and what we practice and become habit.


Consider how James K.A. Smith describes this process:


“Our desires are caught more than they are taught. All kinds of cultural rhythms and routines are, in fact, rituals that function as pedagogies of desire precisely because they tacitly and covertly train us to love a certain version of the kingdom, teach us to long for some renditions of the good life. These aren’t just things we do; they do something to us.”


Are the details that are shaping us, the ones we are practicing, fit with the original idiom – “God is in the detail” – or have we focused on a different habit so that “the devil is in the details?”


That distinction is crucial and can make all the difference in who we become, who we look like.