More than “blessed”

51K6jzBQyUL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_What does makarios mean anyway? And, where did I find such a word?

It was in the middle of a fascinating chapter on language in E. Richard Randolph and Brandon J. O’Brien’s book, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible. The chapter proposed that though the language of the Bible has been translated from Hebrew and Greek into English, the cultural influences remained.

The words themselves are directly affected by these cultural influences. In the Western world, Randolph and O’Brien contend, there is a word for those things that we deem to be important – and even more words for the things we deem most important. So, for example, Greeks have four words for love where the English has one.

Here’s what Randolph and O’Brien say in regards to a similar word, makarios:

Greeks had a word for the feeling one has when one is happy: makarios. It is a feeling of contentment, when one knows one’s place in the world and is satisfied with that place. If your life has been fortunate, you should feel makarios. We use idioms in English to try to approximate this experience. We’ll say, “My life has really come together,” or “I’m in a happy place,” or “Life has been good to me.” We are not really discussing the details of our life; we are trying to describe a feeling we have. Happy sounds trite, so we avoid it. Actually, we are makarios.

In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that if you are a peacemaker, then you are makarios. Since English doesn’t have a word for this feeling, translators have struggled to find one. What do you call it when you feel happy, content, balanced, harmonious and fortunate? Well, translators have concluded, you are blessed. [1]

In an instant, those two paragraphs planted the word makarios deeply into my thinking – and left me slightly vexed that the language I love to read and to write was so wholly inadequate to describe the beautiful concept expressed in the Greek.

“Blessed” may be the best option we have in English to express the makarios concept, but its meaning has been watered down in recent decades. It’s the word we use to sign off on an email, or a hashtag on social media. It’s a pat answer we give when someone asks how we are doing. The word has seven meanings listed under its entry at

Randolph and O’Brien suggest the problem runs deeper than the words on a page. They posit that it’s possible Americans don’t know how to be “happy, content, balanced, harmonious and fortunate” because they don’t have a word for it.

That’s the question we’ll explore together on this blog, especially in the coming weeks – and I am convinced the answer begins in ancient Israel during the time of the Exodus.

To be continued …



This post is part of this year’s #write31days challenge. Click here to see all of the posts. To learn more about the challenge, visit

[1] E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2012), Kindle Locations 763-767.

Sunday Soundtrack: Blessed Be The Name of the Lord

No matter what comes when we are makarios people we know that circumstances can’t strip away our worship. The name of the Lord is always to be praised. As we grow in our faith, we can declare with Job:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will leave this life.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.
Praise the name of Yahweh.

Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.

Job 1:21-22

Enjoy this arrangement of Matt Redman’s Blessed Be The Name from a few years ago.



This post is part of this year’s #write31days challenge. Click here to see all of the posts. To learn more about the challenge, visit

Saturday Shares: Doctor Who, #Write31Days and Drums!

On Saturdays around here, I share my favorite finds from the internet. This week is a bit of a free-for-all, but next week I will start using my regular categories. If I were to tell you the categories now, it wouldn’t make any sense. We have to explore makarios together a bit more first.

Keep the community of Roseburg, Oregon in your prayers as they grieve the lives lost in a horrific shooting Thursday. Here’s a look at how the faith community is responding (via Christianity Today).

I am loving Emily Miller’s Write 31 Days project on Benedictine spirituality.

Social media can feed the person walking this path alone: There are apps for Bible reading plans, for the Examen and for praying the Hours. There are Instagram accounts that share beautiful photos that can turn our hearts toward the Creator of that beauty. There are Twitter accounts that post daily Bible verses and words of encouragement that point us back to God again and again throughout our day. Social media also, if we take the posture of listening, can keep us from turning in on ourselves and forgetting about what Chittister calls our obligation to care for others.

Julie Holly at Peacequility is doing a terrific series for Write 31 Days, too. It’s all about Revelation.

Revelation is a loaded book. It’s been talked about and presented to many of us as “the end of the world” book, but I’m beginning to learn how off base that is. If this fear has you in a headlock and you want to be free will you join me? God has so much GOOD planned for us (not necessarily first world make a million dollars type plans while living like a twenty-something until we’re one hundred) and regardless of the timing of Christ’s return, you and I have an expiration date …  I don’t want to waste the days I have left racked in fear, how about you?


On a lighter note, from Sarah Bessey, writing at Her.meneutics:

Personally, I’ve never found a better phrase to describe time from God’s perspective than the Doctor Who quote: “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff.”

And, for a little off-beat … well, no, decidedly precisely on the beat … worship check this out!




This post is part of this year’s #write31days challenge. Click here to see all of the posts. To learn more about the challenge, visit

It’s Craig Groeschel’s fault

Photo via the Global Leadership Summit Twitter feed: @wcgls

Photo via the Global Leadership Summit Twitter feed: @wcgls

Truth be told, I likely would not be blogging again if it weren’t for a swift kick in the pants delivered by Craig Groeschel at this year’s Global Leadership Summit.

Groeschel spoke on the topic of expanding leadership capacity in the last session of the two-day summit. A word of introduction to those who don’t know who Groeschel is. He is the pastor of, which has been a leader in leveraging technology for the advancement of the gospel. YouVersion, for example, was developed by

After a few introductory remarks, Groeschel talked about the 5 C’s of expanding leadership capacity. He prefaced this part of the talk by asking everyone to listen for something that resonated with them, and to make that the focus of their efforts to expand their capacity.

Confidence came first. He spoke of stepping into your calling, and made the memorable statement that “the pathway to your calling is through your greatest fear.” He also made the statement in the graphic above concerning all the negativity we throw at ourselves rather than stepping out confidently.

As he continued to talk about the other C’s – connections, competence and character – it really seemed that confidence would be the one thing that struck a chord.

And then he started talking about commitment.

Then. He. Said. It.

“It’s time you stop kind of trying to do something.”

He took the words right out of my head.

I have been a newspaper reporter and occasional blogger for much of my adult life, but I always said that I wanted to try to write. I was writing. I was not taking writing seriously. I was writing for paychecks at the newspaper, not out of a love for the subject.

At the end of his talk, he asked those watching the summit to stand when he mentioned the C they had chosen. In front of God, my fellow seminary students, the gathered public – and myself – I committed to pursuing writing with renewed passion, believing in what Groeschel said, “There is more in you! Your brain does not understand what God is capable of doing through you.”

Step one in pursuing the dream is to get back into blogging. Step two is to set up a blog that speaks deeply into what it means to live a life God blesses – to experience makarios. More specifically, it’s about a life characterized by loving God with all that is within you and to love others with the same intensity that you love yourself.

What are the other steps and where will they lead?

I have no idea. But, I trust that God orders my steps and I am ready to walk in the path he has prepared.



This post is part of this year’s #write31days challenge. Click here to see all of the posts. To learn more about the challenge, visit