Meet Ebenezer, the Blog’s New Mascot

Every blog needs a mascot, right?  Well, maybe not every blog, but this morning I decided this one does.  Before I introduce him, a little backstory on where he came from.

Boston is one of my favorite places to visit, and when I was there last October, we got this great picture of a squirrel in Boston Common.  The squirrels there ignore people most of the time, instead of running away like squirrels usually do.  But this one was not afraid of us at all; he walked right up and stared us down.  He stayed like this long enough for us to take a picture and was still around after we walked away.  For squirrels, fear of humans is a learned behavior and, in some environments, they just go about their business, unconcerned.

Ebenezer, at home in Boston Common

He was a great contrast to the “squirrel moments”[1] dogs (and people) have when they are “distracted by random nothingness.”  The Facebook page where I share this blog is called “A place to inject hopeful reminders of eternity into the distraction that is Facebook.”  I’ve used this squirrel as my social media picture before to joke that it was the best way to draw attention, and if people are easily distracted by squirrels, why not use one to distract people toward the blog?

So, this squirrel is now the mascot for Driving Toward Morning!  But he needs a name.  What to call him?

Meet Ebenezer
Many people know the name Ebenezer from Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, but in the Bible an Ebenezer is a stone monument constructed as a tangible and visible reminder of God’s past help for His people.  Ebenezer means “stone of help,” and such monuments were built in Genesis 28:18, 35:14, Joshua 4:9, 1 Samuel 7:12 and elsewhere.  Only this morning did I make the connection that when I write, I’m often trying to create a type of written Ebenezer.

For example, inspired by a devotional about Ephesians 2:4, I wrote a post about the power of the words “but God.”  In it, James Montgomery Boice says: “The words ‘but God’ show what God has done. If you understand those two words – ‘but God’ – they will save your soul. If you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely.”[2]

So, I’ve decided to name him “Ebenezer, the ‘But God…’ Squirrel,” but you can just call him Ebenezer.  Whenever I see Ebenezer, I hope to be pulled back into awareness of God’s help when I am distracted or frustrated.  I hope to be reminded to store up treasure in heaven as squirrels store food for the winter.  I hope to fear God and not man.  I hope to be encouraged to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), as every squirrel I see reminds me that interrupting the seeming chaos of the world with “but God” can change everything.

Next time, and every time, you see a squirrel, I hope you are reminded of the same.  The world is not random, and God is relevant to your situation, whatever it is.

If you’re ever in Boston and see Ebenezer, say hello to him for me.


[1] https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=SQUIRREL%21%21
[2] From “November 7.” James Montgomery Boice and Marion Clark. Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment.  (2017).

Flashback Friday: More Than Truth

Last June, I posted “More Than Truth” about how the media are “trying hard to weaponize you and I” with their own particular, filtered versions of what they call truth.    Proverbs 14:21 says “Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor,” yet we are bombarded by stories grouping people into neighbors we should love and those we shouldn’t because they’re somehow causing the problems of the world through their political or other affiliation.  I struggle with the right balance, and I know others do as well, especially when the voices get louder.  The “Us vs. Them” mentality is everywhere, and while I generally stay away from commenting on daily news flow on this blog, this one couldn’t wait until Rewind Wednesday.

How should the gospel of the kingdom of God impact how we live in this bitter and chaotic environment?  Please read “More Than Truth” which is linked below, which makes a case that we must prioritize some truths over others, and that we also must not allow ourselves to “weaponized” by particular versions of truth.  Proverbs 14:20 – “The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends.” – is as true as Proverbs 14:21, but it too can weaponize if taken out of context and used as a prescription, not just a description.  “The wrong truth can make us despise our neighbor, or to support the wrong gospel.”

Don’t let the daily roar of news distract you from the love God has for you and for the people you will interact with face-to-face today.  Instead, pray that you may bring the eternal love of God into the pain of today’s world in a very real way.

Eternity matters, but life is hard. Therefore encourage each other today!

Happy 1st Anniversary to Driving Toward Morning!

Fellow travelers,

Although the blog was registered earlier, May 20, 2021, is the date of the first post and so today I wish Driving Toward Morning a happy 1st anniversary!  Thank you to everyone who has read, liked, and commented on the blog.  A special thank you to anyone who has shared it with their friends, or used what they found here to encourage others.

I am thrilled to still be writing and encouraged by the impact it’s had on my life, from challenging me when I am complacent, from encouraging me to be more public with my faith, from growing deeper connections with friends and family, to creating some new connections with other bloggers.  As the “About” page here says: “Purpose #1 of this blog is to force me to think about, ponder and organize my thoughts around Christianity’s relevance to my life and to others. Purpose #2 is to proclaim the truths of the Gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ into our present world.”

Although I thought for years about starting this blog, where I thought I had a plan, I found that things ended up differently:

  • Aiming for more than a post every two weeks seemed like too much, and it would take over a year to write the main ideas I had.  I’ve posted 115 times so far, but oddly most of those early ideas remain unfinished and unposted.
  • I intended Facebook as a way to advertise the blog to others.  Instead, I started a Facebook group in October, which became a driver for me to post more frequent, shorter, and often devotional-like content.
  • I initially struggled to keep posts under 2500 words, sometimes breaking things up into 2 parts.  Now the average post is less than 700 words, with some less than 100.
  • Keeping a thread going through multiple posts was harder than expected.  I’ve started and (so far) dropped several threads and series.

So, a lesson of year 1 is that planning is often futile!  On the “About” page of the blog I wrote very early that “If the Lord wills, I will continue to write and do this or that. (James 4:15)”. I don’t know how long this will last and what it will evolve into, but I’m grateful for the outlet and for any encouragement it has brought to its readers.

What to expect in year #2 (other than to expect the unexpected):

  • Re-blogging.  I plan to re-post existing content in an effort to post more consistently, to bring back some posts I liked or that got good responses, or to bring back topics I intended to continue, but didn’t.  Hopefully I can tie up some loose ends.  “Rewind Wednesday” is probably where these will end up.
  • An attempt to be more predictable about the size/length of posts.  On Facebook, I’m going to add a reading time estimate above each link to the blog.  Also, I’m going to try and keep the longer posts to a regular cadence.  Maybe reserve long reads for the weekend?
  • More posts on history, more holiday posts, more groups of (hopefully) thought-provoking quotes, but also perhaps posts on books I’m reading.

Lastly, the “About” page also says that “As a layman, I have only my own experience in life, study and prayer to offer.  This is not a ‘proof’ blog, but an encouragement blog.  As a writer, I consider how to stir up my readers to love and good works.  (Hebrews 10:24)”  Don’t be shy about letting me know how I’m doing.

Working on this blog has encouraged me, and I hope it has encouraged you as well.  Every one of us has something important to offer for God’s glory and for the benefit of the world around us.

Social Media is Full of Absurdities

Social media is a great place to share short bursts of pontification, whether in memes, quips, quotes, or what have you.  Sometimes a little more research may do some good, though.  Several times recently I’ve seen the quote below shared by people protesting what they see as people in power playing loose with Covid data to pompously push pernicious policies that are precariously close to imperious:

“Truly, whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire

Since this quote was often posted by Christians, they might be appalled by the context of the quote:

“Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. If the God‐given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God‐given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.”

On the positive side, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.[1]  Being a Christian requires holding on tight to things that seem absurdities to the world, but it also means we have the “God-given sense of justice” that requires we show mercy to those whose absurdities are different from our own.

I recently started a series of quote posts, so when I post an absurd quote, it may be intentionally absurd, but probably not.  Don’t be shy about letting me know, mercifully…I think Abraham Lincoln said something similar on his website.


[1] 1 Corinthians 1:25

#CrucifyHim (a Good Friday parable)

How often have prominent public figures had to walk back, clarify, or disown public comments in response to a social media protest?  A recent Pew Research poll showed that only about 25% of American adults use Twitter, and about 25% of those people write 97% of all Tweets.  Yet, journalists, politicians, executives, individuals, and others often feel they need to bow to Twitter and other social media or be “cancelled.”  I’m not sure which is more worrisome, that so few largely anonymous Twitter users have so much power, or that even U.S. presidents sometimes yield to them.

Paradoxically, while the pandemic has shaken many people’s confidence in authority, at the same time some worldly authorities are claiming more power, having failed so miserably to manage the pandemic and its ripple effects.  To me, a lesson of the pandemic was: “See all these things people trust in?  They can all be torn down overnight.”  It has left a lot of people shaken.  Those we used to trust aren’t trustworthy, but where else can we turn?

The authorities respond: “Just give us more power and we will try again, but harder.  Ignore the evidence and trust us.”

The authorities of Jesus’ time were pretty lousy themselves.  In the greatest abuse of authority in history, they killed Him on a cross on Good Friday, humiliating Him publicly for all of history to see.  The rebel Barabbas was released by Roman political authorities instead of Jesus because of the cries of an angry mob stirred up by a few Jewish religious authorities jealous of Jesus’ appeal and resentful of His claims of authority.  Astonishingly, it’s not entirely unlike Twitter.  In modern times, the mob wouldn’t even need to show up to have Jesus killed, the “influencers” would just have to start #CrucifyHim trending and people would follow along just to be seen holding the popular view.  If Jesus’ message of love and hope for mankind died with Him, where can we turn?

Fortunately, we have Easter, where Jesus responds: “You hit me with all the power you have, and it wasn’t enough.  Even the grave cannot hold Me.  I rose from the dead and now sit at the right hand of the Father, in the place of ultimate authority.  The tomb is empty.  Observe the evidence and trust Me!

Jesus is risen indeed!

The stone that the builders rejected
            has become the cornerstone.
This is the LORD’s doing;
            it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made;
            let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Save us, we pray, O LORD!           
            O LORD, we pray, give us success!” – Psalm 118:22-25