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By Norris Burkes Dec 26 2021

Did you happen to notice the warning labels that came attached to the Christmas presents you gave or received? While some are quite funny, these cautionary labels are likely inspired by lawsuits.

The stickers counsel you to do such things as “Remove child from stroller before folding.” Or, and this is real, “Once used rectally, this thermometer should not be used orally.”

The irony of these warnings is they are written for witless people who rarely stop to read such things.

Nevertheless, they got me thinking how these cautionary caveats might be amended into a helpful list for anyone contemplating a faith commitment for their New Year’s resolutions.

Let’s start with the one you might see on your holiday car purchase.

1.“Objects may be closer than they appear.”

This imprint on your car mirror warns you that distances vary greatly from how you see them in your right-sided view.

If I could modify it, I would counsel the faithful: “Truth may be simpler than it appears.”

I say “simple” because we have a way of complicating our faith, causing it to become more convoluted and contrived than it should be. We pack religion full of rituals, ceremonies and routines overcome the simplicity intended.

As I’ve said in past columns, Jesus encouraged his followers to enter the faith journey as little children. In other words, KISS: “Keep It Simple Silly.” Jesus taught that the faith-walk of following God should “hang on these two commandments: 1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart; 2. Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Faith ought not to include a long list of indecipherable assembly instructions. There really are just two: Love God; love others.

2. “Your mileage may vary.” (YMMV)

This is the advice repeated by the salesman who once sold me a plug-in Prius. The car is supposed to get between 50-95 mpg, but I saw only 55 mpg. This doesn’t mean the salesman lied to me. It means that good mileage is subject to driving conditions, speed and mostly the nut behind the wheel — me.

When it comes to faith, experiences truly do vary. For instance, I won’t dispute that faith can heal people of their diseases or help them walk on coals. However, I do dispute that faith is a one-size-fits-all deal. YMMV. Don’t force yours to fit me and I won’t make mine fit you.

3. “Game requires two or more players.”

You may read this on the side of the video game you gave your grandchildren. It’s more a qualification than a warning label. But when you apply it to your faith community you see that faith requires multiple players.

It’s an element I hear in Jesus’ promise: “When two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there” (Matt. 18:20 Message).

Whenever I meet someone who proclaims faith as a “solo practice,” I can’t help but wonder where they find the three elements necessary in a contemplative religious life: encouragement, accountability and community.

4. “Wearing of this garment does not enable flight.” I read this one on the Superman pajamas I once gave my grandson.

The words certainly seem superfluous, but like the Superman emblem, faith can sometimes encourage “flights of fancy.” The pajama warning could easily include the folks who play the faith card as if they are invincible to harm or criticism.

5. Finally, “Harmful if swallowed.”

This is a cautionary label attached to countless products, but I found it particularly amusing on a brass fishing lure with a three-pronged hook.

It’s also a good admonition concerning all elements of religion. In other words, “Don’t just swallow everything you hear or are told about faith.”

Particularly when reading a witty and talented spirituality columnist.


Contact Chaplain Norris at or 10556 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail (843) 608-9715.