Friday, December 30, 2011

"Alice......................................"

Ravi Zacharias, in “Can Man Live Without God”, after asserting that the Church deserves much of the criticism it has had to face, goes on to also state that much of what is offered on religious television programming nowadays leaves not only the skeptics bemused, but many Christians embarrassed as well. Such accusations are made in a chapter devoted to “truth”, beginning with the idea that a man’s childhood years are bathed in wonder as he dabbles in the world of fantasy, an education that gradually erodes in the face of reality, a day by day lesson given him merely by breathing and another word for what he holds to be “so”. If we are but willing to admit that none of us possess knowledge in its entirety, though, we are left, for the length of our existence, with a never-ending search for the answer to that interrogative Pilate put to Christ long ago. It matters not how often we gather together within the hollowed sanctuary of whatever temple we’ve built, at peace with each other in the unity of what we claim to believe and denominationally divided from that bunch down the road in our dogma. Truth remains much more than that which we have determined for ourselves from the Book and the bottom line of our salvation is whether or not we can, in some way, “reach through the veil and touch the hem of His garment”! One can speak of “faith”, but if it is not invested into something greater than a doctrine we have agreed upon, all we really own is a creed. Before we preach to our youth, then, the value of praise, the necessity of prayer and fasting, they need to know the object of such practice is an attainable commodity. It’s like a mother telling her children to eat their vegetables when they have no real concept of what being “healthy” means. If God is but “someone out there” and not “a divinity who lives within me”, if actual contact is not possible, need we look any farther for why the numbers show our ranks steadily decreasing?......

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Ahooooy There!........................."


”For in Him we live, and move, and have our being”…..Acts 17:28

Beth celebrates her sixty-ninth today. My sister hits the same mile-marker on the seventh and the two of them have played telephone tag with the event ever since crossing into their forties. I long ago began dismissing my own annual calendar crisis much like I do with the ticking of the clock at midnight December thirty-first. Time, for me, is a river in which we all boat. It has no beginning, no end, and I’m convinced that neither do we in Him. We change; the world around us evolves; but that which is real is eternal and we can know it even now, if no more than temporarily and in part, through some deep inner connection with Christ. What if God, Himself, though, is indeed that stream which we inhabit, just as the apostle Paul suggests in the above statement? Indeed, just before he so framed our existence to those great thinkers of the Hill of Mars in Athens, surrounded by a number of graven images somehow supposed to establish an appeasement unto any and all divinity such as there might be, Paul also gave declaration wherein, in referencing humanity’s need to “feel after and find” its Maker, he made it very clear that whom we seek is “not far from every one of us”. Is it merely that we are dumb sheep? Why do we, so easily in our journey, lose Him in the distraction of life as it comes unto us? Do we think that because our lungs operate in a natural process requiring no conscious concern on our part, our soul likewise survives without any means of resuscitation? Why do we, like the Hebrews of old, lift up the serpent and worship it rather than bow down before that inner point of contact wherein we might be revived, restored, and made new on a daily basis. Never mind that our outward vessel more and more gives evidence of our mortality. The fellow on the inside has it all but figured out……

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Kinetics................................"

It’s not even been a complete week yet since we broke for Christmas break and already I have found myself having to pause and determine what day it is more than once. Take away the act of routine, the scheduling of our life in some form or fashion, and it all begins to be regulated by nothing more than the earth’s rotation around the sun. You get up, go through the motions, crawl into bed, and arise in the morning to do it all over again. When Jesus stated the Sabbath to have been made for man, I wonder if He meant that in terms of worship, rest, or just giving us a basic means of marking our existence. My book collection has just about everything that Frederick Buechner ever published in the way of sermons; so, having extinguished that source of manna, I recently devoured his fictional tale of a twelfth-century “holy” man, a biography of his life wherein one is fed the details (as the blurb on the back puts it) “in domestic reality”. What one sees is Godric’s humanity, his sin, his conversion, his stumble through the darkness from beginning to end. His mother, in one place, puts breathing in terms of her having had no space for anything other than labor and therefore being willing to let truth be her final judge. “Let the monks, nuns, and priests,” she says, “have care of faith!” Her son, however, puzzles himself with it all, wondering if he is daft and time no more than a “sea where hours float”, a place where we’ve all been simply swimming around and going nowhere with any purpose to it. Some might, in my opinion; but few of us, I think, dog-paddle without any attachments at all. The question of concern, however, is whether, in the middle of our mess, His anchor-line has us secured, His promise not just written in a Book, but an inner reality rising to meet us in our journey. That doesn’t necessarily require seclusion and separation, just a heart willing and hungry to know Him in the connection…..

Friday, December 23, 2011

"Substance...................................."

There were only seventeen men at the mission Wednesday, not counting my group and a couple of fellows who run the operation; but then, such as those places be that we visit with the Gospel, maybe a reduction in the number attending our service is something for which we need to give thanks. It was a good bunch, ears and hearts with us as we shared; and it was Tony, again, who seemed to “catch the wind” of the Holy Ghost, bringing us together in where we were going, his words pointing us to Christ, not just his version of the Book. “Salvation is both an encounter and a relationship maintained,” he suggested, “not via religious formulas, but through a commitment of oneself to His companionship in the next step.” I would agree... This weekend those truly in the faith will celebrate the birth of a baby divinely conceived within the womb of a virgin, what can be nothing other than a miracle, a mystery beyond our comprehension. It is an event marking the genesis of what we claim to be so, for without it the first book of the Bible loses much in its own declaration of the beginning. Most of the world and much of the ecclesiastical institution, itself, however, dismiss such proclamation as a fairytale and merely content themselves with the holiday festivities. Their acceptance of the resurrection on the other end of the spectrum has also evolved into nothing more than a traditional ritual, either completely rejecting what appears to be impossible or else carving it into a fictional face on the totem pole. Christ, though, is reality of His own making. He is the breath of life, the bread of our existence, and a river in our soul, that which ought to give its own witness of truth as we go. All else is just humanity in its stumble…..

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Personified........................."

A pastor friend of mine went through some hard times a few years back, a difficult walk in the darkness that tested his faith, a book by R.T. Kendall being one of the biggest tools used by God in seeing him survive. It was titled “God Meant It for Good” and he gave me a copy. I didn’t get much out of it. Even so, I purchased another of the author’s works called “The Anointing: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” and just recently blew the dust off it for a second attempt to gain something from its perusal. In this one, the writer does bring forth a lot of truth in his understanding of such term; but, nonetheless, my repeated digesting of his words only reminds me why this one, too, was long ago placed on my shelf beside the other. In equating this Spiritual blessing with a temporary state of divinely empowered performance of one’s gift, he gives it definition that, in my opinion, is pretty much “right on”; yet, in failing to assign the Holy Ghost’s role in the matter as anything other than an influence that comes to us from on high, he leaves me frustrated. It's like watching all those contestants on “Wheel of Fortune” who so often can’t seem to see what’s staring them right in the face. His attributing a state of "loneliness", though, as being part of “following Him in our individuality” (my phrase, not his), as being part of the price one has to pay speaks to me. In this, the two of uswsuch mannerTo me, he puts the two of us, if not all of us who see “Truth” as something other than “herd mentality”, as Christ before us and all else merely the journey as it comes to us, in the same boat. He talks, however, in one place, of knowing himself to be “absolutely” correct about some issue. I would be more inclined to believe only that One in front of me holds such position, everything else being a stumble, and the important thing to remember: all within the Body are likewise occupying their own stagger down the path. In maintaining our personal pursuit, never, even in such time that we might find ourselves immersed in His presence, are we anything more than others. When we lose His heart, His compassion, His humility, we are annulled, not anointed……

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Aah so......................................."

The Christmas crowd was not all that thick yesterday morning. Beth yet wanted a particular pair of basketball sneakers for one of the grandsons and we had driven out to the nearby mall in hope that one of those sports stores might have them. While there, however, this old man remembered his own request for a new belt, not that there was any immediate danger of losing my trousers, but I had just recently noted some aging on the part of that which holds up my dignity. Penny’s was my choice for the purchase. I was not prepared for the price. More than that, though, the real “kicker” was the ubiquitous “made in China” that was stamped into the leather of every brand, Levi, Stafford, Dockers, it mattered not the manufacturer’s name. Shocked? Not really. Puzzled? A bit. I mean, why so many labels? Why not just sell them all under “Po Ling Mao Products”? It rather redefines “global economy”, doesn’t it?... In a little old-time holiness church, nearly forty years ago, at least once a week we would usually hear a sermon on eschatology, prophesy taken from Biblical books like Revelation and Daniel wherein preachers predicted what would happen, not so much “in the end of all things” as it was “in the finality of the Gospel”. It was all coming down to “one-world government, currency, and woes”, Israel being attacked from the north by one enemy and another from the south coming from the far East. Do I need to name who that latter foe was said to be? In my own mind there used to be an image of some huge mass army of yellow-skinned barbarian cavalry warriors charging in with spears and sabers. We’re speaking, after all, of four decades back. Nowadays the picture has changed. I used to declare that it would not be nuclear war bringing this country down. You can have all the weaponry you want; but if you don’t have the money to arm, man, and move it, how much force does one really possess? It used to be Khrushchev I pointed to as occupying our television sets some morning, sitting there in the White House pounding his shoe on the table; but any more it’s more like some Asian fellow who will probably be behind the desk in the oval office, smiling at us with a smug grin on his face as he offers us a credit card……

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Resurrection.............................."

There were five of us Sunday morning who visited the Detention Center for worship with the kids, but the two women in our group declined to speak, Tony’s wife along for her first experience in such matters. Mark, my son-in-law, dealing with much on his mind lately, merely played a couple of carols on his saxophone and then yielded the floor, leaving this old man and Tony close to an hour to fill with something other than just another sermon. Chapter and verse, as far as I’m concerned, belongs in a classroom. We don’t go to teach them Scripture, but to share Christ, and the best way to do that, it seems to me, is to relax, allowing Him to come forth. Indeed, that specific theme was where the Holy Ghost had us both focused, weaving our individual portions together so as to speak of the possibility of “knowing” His reality, not just accepting denominational dogma… My church, last night, presented its yearly Christmas pageant, each production growing as we go, this occasion possessing a full orchestra seated mid-stage, the usual musicians, otherwise, occupying the darkness to their left and the choir loft on their right stuffed with the properly positioned ranges of the human vocal potentials. The sanctuary was packed, folding chairs added until emergency escape would have hard, if not impossible, to accomplish. I stood in the rear by the sound booth awhile and then left, the whole affair a bit too much for me, nice, but not meeting me on the inside, my fault, no doubt, not theirs… I am reinstituting a tradition this holiday, one practiced for more than a decade and then abandoned out of a sense that it had lost its “flow”. Spontaneity, doing things from an impulse, a feeling that triggers the event, not because the date or anything else suggests it, is my idea of how it ought to be. It just seems right this time around, though, to once more give each one of my daughters a card, expressing my heart, making sure that they know it is yet strongly connected to them. Call it an “anchor-line” or a spiritual “umbilical cord”, but we all need, at times, on either end of that bond, to be reassured of its existence. I know I do with Him…

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Simplicity.........................."

Twice lately I’ve found myself travelling behind the same automobile, a fact made know to me by, more than anything else, its rear license plate. I’m assuming that “EINGMA” is intentional in its misspelling of the word “ENIGMA” and not just someone’s attempt to announce they’re driving a German-made General Motors product. Arranging the letters to form a bit of mystery, however, is “right up my alley”, simple humor, in my opinion, much better than an opinionated bumper sticker. Give me a pun, not your dirty joke. It doesn’t have to get vulgar to be funny. I find life a serious matter, people precious in their existence, but often strange in their character, and me the biggest banana in the bunch. My wife puts it in terms of me having no personality and she’s probably right. Conversation, on my end, usually involves “open mouth, insert foot”. Nonetheless, I’m quite happy. A good book, a walk in the woods, seeing others, young and old, excited, amused, in love, and enjoying the day as it comes to them – it all somehow feeds me in my own moment. “Old dogs, children, and watermelon wine” was the way that country vocalist Tom T. Hall put it. Give me a hot cup of coffee rather than the latter, but he’s pretty close, as far as I’m concerned, otherwise. Old age has no doubt refined this old man, but the fellow who resides inside has always been pretty much the same. Knock! Knock! Who’s there? Sam and Janet! Sam and Janet who? Sammmmmm and Janet evening, you will meet a stranger…….

Friday, December 16, 2011

"Connection....................."

For the third week in a row, our Wednesday evening Bible study examined the first seventeen verses of Romans, Chapter One. If that seems to indicate the class is either dull or devoted to driving home a point, I can only offer that, from my viewpoint, the hour and a half is anything but. On this occasion, our focus was on “the Gospel” being “the power” of God unto salvation and, as a group, through testimony and exhortation we flowed with the teacher as to how that played out in our lives. Were we unified in all that was shared? Not in the sense of everyone being in agreement (or at least I can admit to my own lack of completely “swallowing” some perspectives); but at no time did anyone get their feathers ruffled enough to openly attack the other fellow’s position. Along the way, though, I did take the teacher back to a phrase he had earlier quoted to us from 1st Corinthians. The apostle Paul, in one place, in no uncertain terms, labels “the preaching of the cross” as being “foolishness” and our leader saw that in terms of the message, itself, being an inane tale to tell. That may well be true in so far as any believer trying to convince the world of a virgin birth, an empty tomb, and a resurrected Savior’ but it is also an accurate description of any man’s attempt to be anything in his witness other than a vessel for the Holy Ghost. Humanity on either end of such exchange needs divine influence if it is to accomplish anything!......

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Reflection....................................."

Our ideology, what we believe, is shaped in us from our earliest years. Life, itself, teaches us, education coming to us, but reality as we perceive it to be reconfiguring things as we go. Our theology, what we hold to be true concerning God, likewise evolves, or at least it should. Anyone who thinks the Creator capable of being kept locked up in a box, restricted by our individual interpretation of the Word, is playing with religion, following a blueprint instead of a resurrection. On either side of that issue, however, it must be noted that we all walk in our humanity and therefore reason enough for each of us to continually “examine” ourselves, even as Paul advised the people of Corinth. In reading that particular portion of Scripture, though, it might do us well to note that the apostle doesn’t equate that activity with a self-assembled checklist as to how we measure up to our denomination’s demands; rather he simply points to a Holy Ghost manifestation providing confirmation of our not having become reprobate. Indeed, if I’m not in error, Jesus, Himself, points to the Spirit as being the main agent involved in determining our salvation, not in terms of Him standing there at the pearly Gates, waiting to authorize our entry, but, in plain language, as that One who confirms us in our stumble, our stagger, and our steadfastness in the next step. He is our teacher, our keeper, our rod and our staff, the Reality whom we, the body of Christ, as whole, seem to have either dismissed or replaced in this with our own set of rules. Maybe it is time for we, the Church, to examine ourselves before we are so quick to judge the world for our lack of savor?........

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Captivity....................................."

Sunday’s morning visit to the Youth Detention Center was a bit different in the fact that our group almost outnumbered the one before us. The guard informed us, as we passed through a small six-foot square space separating the foyer from the inner sanctum of the facility, that it had already been a few hours of “attitude” and that most of the kids were in “lock-down”. We followed him, then, down a hallway, needing to be allowed passage beyond two more doors before reaching an open recreational area, television mounted on the wall and not much there otherwise, plastic green chairs replacing whatever might have been there and arranged for our hour of sharing. Less than twenty boys were marched in to fill the seats and I opened with a short prayer… This is “church” for me, the only music shared on this occasion being a couple of Christmas carols that my son-in-law brought forth on his sax, a chorus in which I attempted to get them to join me a-cappella, and another short song that one of women with us produced in like manner. There were seven of us, each addressing our “congregation” not more than ten minutes apiece, and yet the message, as a whole, seemingly one, woven together by the Holy Ghost. “God is for us”, we determined, “and He will take us beyond any walls that deter us, if we but invite Him along for the journey.” No one had to ask for a show of hands. When eyes begin to outwardly reflect what’s going on in the heart, it’s pretty evident that the Spirit is at work in our midst……

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Centered............................"

The final chapter of “A Place for Truth” is a “sermon” delivered by R.J. Sider, a controversial Mennonite professor of theology identified with the Christian left. He opens with a short statement regarding his having long ago conquered, as a historian, all his religious questions and doubts, all, that is, except one: the church. Naming two specific areas where he finds the Body, as a whole, to be “messed up” (our views of both the Creation and the Gospel), he immediately proceeds to share his own perspectives, reducing the first to being an Edenic work of the Creator and proclaiming it to be every believer’s divinely appointed to duty to restore wholeness unto it. He defines “Gospel” as “the kingdom of God already being in our midst, therefore repent and participate” (my attempt to shorten his words), equates Israel’s idea of a “Messianic order” with a society transformed both vertically and horizontally by a relationship wherein it knows shalom, justice, and a completeness, adding just after that bit of enlightenment how the way we enter into this community of believers is “by sheer grace”. My biggest problem with him boils down to his seeming lack of providing any real “identity” to the Holy Ghost, his “drive”, righteous though it may be, borne more out of his own determination than by any Spiritual tug on his inner man. I will admit, however, that I find most of us guilty of the same accusation, even to the point of confessing my own liability in such transgression. In this day and age, pointing to the Third Person of the Trinity in such terms might well tend to associate me with all the radical extremes that television Pentecostal evangelism has produced; but my own journey, while having encountered His presence, here and there, in enough depth to convince me of an inner re-connection with the Savior, nonetheless never has brought me to consider an authority other than His in the flow of things. Christ saves, heals, and corrects us as we go. It is a stumble down the path wherein He remains my rod and staff, my anchor-line, indeed my very source of life……

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Peanuts.........................."

My Bibles are filled with various addenda, notes scribbled in the side margins, whole paragraphs of my own thinking inserted wherever the publisher was kind enough to leave me enough blank space to opine, quotations and cartoons on either end, I collect it all. In the one I picked up this morning, Charlie Brown and Linus met me with a bit of humor that exactly matched my frame of mind. Four panels, the first beginning with the two resting their elbows on some sort of wall and the latter expressing his desire to be a prophet when he “gets big”; then the other answering how he believed that to be “a fine ambition, especially since the world could always use a few good prophets”. Not stopping there, however, the guy who always seems to get the short end of the stick went on to note how so many of them turn out to be wrong in what they prophesy; and, ever the optimistic fellow, Linus replies that maybe he can be “a sincere false prophet”!... Smiling in my perusal, I pondered if, while the Church may indeed contain its share of hypocrites, perhaps the rest of us who claim membership therein might not well fall into this category. Not that the message of Christ has no validity; rather that we, in our dissemination of it, even though we have good intentions, struggle with our humanity. N.T. Wright speaks of our needing, as believers, to learn that, just because we possess the Book, it doesn’t mean we possess truth in its entirety. We are meant to be vessels for Truth; or, as C.S. Lewis put it: “The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it!” In other words, if Christ be in us, then He is well able to bear witness of Himself if we but get out of the way……

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Insight.............................."

"The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it!"....C.S.Lewis

Our Wednesday evening class, for the most part, simply retraced those same verses in the first chapter of Romans that we examined last week. Our time, however, wasn’t spent in a repetition of the same perspectives shared before; rather the teacher spoke of how often we believers settle into a familiarity with what he termed “church-eology”, utilizing Biblical linguistics without ever exploring “the story behind the words”. Thus, beginning with “servant” and explaining why that one might have been better translated as “slave” in the King James version, he took us through “apostle”, “the Gospel”, “salvation”, and “freedom” as well, the latter subject occupying most of our plate, all of us seemingly with opinions on that subject. This morning I e-mailed him with a Dallas Willard quote declaring: "Our beliefs are the rails upon which our lives run. We believe something if we are set to act as if it were so; but, if our beliefs are false, reality does not accommodate our errors. A brief but useful characterization of reality is what you run into when you are wrong." Noting my agreement, I offered the following: Freedom we do possess in Christ. It allows for the wobble in our walk. Grace, more than a word, is the Spirit, Himself, alive within us, witness and confirmation of His patience with us. Being His slave is our willingness to follow His tug on the anchor-line, probably that area in which we are most prone to fail, dumb sheep that we are, rebellion not always the cause of our stagger… I am prone to speak my heart. It doesn't make me always right. It does hinder me in conversation, in crowds, on the telephone, always an inner fear of opening mouth and inserting foot, making me the fool and angering or hurting the other person. Pursuing Christ, however, is a passion and I love such classes where the Body of Christ can come together in such purpose without making war……

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Infinity................................."

”He hath made everything beautiful in His time: also He hath set the world in their heart so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end”… Ecclesiates 3:11

This weekend, even though we’ve switched assigned slots on the schedule, I’ll still be going to the Detention Center as a tag-a-long with my buddy’s group. That means, unless the Holy Ghost moves otherwise, there’s no expectation of me addressing the kids for any real length of time and probably no more than simply a few words in closing. One never knows, however, and thus there is always reason enough to go with something on my heart. You feed the inner man and then just trust the Spirit to provide the meal along with the moment, should it happen. The above verse has returned to me, popping up into my thoughts like a bubble somehow released from depths within and hanging around as if meant to focus my thinking. The Greek use of what King James refers to as “world” actually equates to one “having no end”, other versions since changing translation thereof to read “eternity”. For me, this is an example where discovering the original root indeed opens the mind to what the writer is really saying: Inside each of us, it would seem, is this void, this inability to comprehend “the big picture”, not just the mechanics of all that exists around us, but that vast unfathomable universe beyond us with all its quarks and quantum physics as well. Who are we? Why are we here? Is there any purpose to this? What happens next? Some look up and, blown away by such inconceivable magnitude, can’t find faith; others, presented with the same evidence, somehow touch the hem of His garment and stand amazed at the fullness of His grace. Even so, for all, it is a journey, God’s love not willing that any should perish……

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Excitement......................."

Yesterday afternoon’s march to the bus with the kids was a comedy of errors, the first time this year, for one thing, that the weather presented us with any real difficulty with the task. Rain was falling in a fair amount and, with four youngsters in tow, carrying an umbrella isn’t really a viable solution. One just ignores the downpour and accomplishes the feat as quickly as possible. One of our boys, though, spends most of his time with his homeroom classmates, returning to us but the last two hours of the day; and, at the last minute on this occasion, I found myself having to run upstairs to that particular unit in order to retrieve a folder. No big deal; or at least so it seemed. The substitute teacher would finish matching up clothing and articles with the proper students. On my return, another woman swapped one of her girls with us for the boy just reunited with his material (a matter of convenience for both of us) and left for her own journey through the wetness outside. Only my charge remained to be dressed for the trip. But wait a minute! Where’s HIS jacket? Discovering that the sub had mistakenly put this covering on the other lad who was already headed out front, I dashed out, got the boy, rushed to the upper level to search for his coat, downstairs again to get our crew and escort the bunch through what was now the whole school making the same exit, ensure each child boarded the right yellow vehicle, all with Mother Nature’s spigot yet turned on, and then back inside for an hour of instruction agreed to last week. It would be later, while driving home, that it would occur to me as to question whether the one fellow’s expensive Ipad that returns each day to his parents got stuffed into his backpack. Their number was in the book, however, and a phone-call to them about seven o’clock let me verify the sub’s handling of the matter, this old man finally able to put it all behind him and relax for the evening. No complaints. These kinds of moments tend to keep it all spontaneous and make it more interesting than just simply sitting on my front porch whittling, waiting for the next train to pass by……

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Sorting It Out........................................."

Inspired by the idea that Harvard’s motto was more than a meaningless relic of the past, in 1992 a small group of Christians at the school hosted the university for a weekend of lectures and discussions exploring some of life’s most important questions. Their hope was to restore within the university a space for asking such deep queries, seeking real answers and building community around the search for truth. I’m, at the moment, about six chapters into a book filled with ideas and thoughts of fifteen individuals, scientists, multi-denominational leaders of the Church, and highly degreed professors, most claiming to be believers. This was not a debate. With at least one agnostic in the group, I would label this bunch (N.T. Wright and Tim Keller among them) as being “cautious” in whose voice they followed in their faith. They don’t just “run with the herd”. Within its pages, Rene Descartes is quoted as declaring he would not accept anything as true that he could reasonably doubt. That might be a bit drastic, but consider Dallas Willard’s statement presented in the introduction: “Our beliefs are the rails upon which our lives run. We believe something if we are set to act as if it were so; but if our beliefs are false reality does not adjust to accommodate our errors. A brief but useful characterization of reality is what you run into when you are wrong.” My favorite thus far, though, was provided by Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic priest who observed truth to be “something that more possesses us than we possess it”. Whether his so expressing that idea agrees with my interpretation of it, I cannot say, but it certainly speaks to me of that which the Body of Christ has, for the most part, lost along the way: Jesus, Himself, is the only definitive exactness of truth; and the best any of us can do, in so far as owning it, is to trust neither our head nor our heart more than we do His reins attached to both……

Friday, December 2, 2011

"Water..............................."

Last night was a strange experience for me. My day was like any other lately, uncertainty in the structure of our classroom, but normal routine in so far as interaction with the kids. Beth’s oldest brother, in his eighties and a WWII Purple Heart veteran of Okinawa,

was led to Christ by his younger brother and she called me at school with the good news. We went out for Chinese when I got home, cancelling plans to pick up a new dryer we are getting. Maybe it was the weather. The rain we've had the last few days


had finally ended and, although the dampness yet in the air made it brisk outside, at least it wasn’t icy cold. Darkness, though, was quickly swallowing up the world around us as I parked the car near the front doors of the church.
I was tired, and as the two of us entered the sanctuary, it was as if some spirit of depression, a mood that had actually been growing in me the last few hours, began to own me as well. Nothing so “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. I didn’t grow fangs and turn green. In truth, however, for about fifteen minutes, seated five or six rows back, on the aisle and to the left of the alter area, I was in a funk. Then the lights went out… From both sides, across the stage marched the entire Elementary grades, all dressed in Christmas colors and looking proud, filling the risers, l’il diddles in front, the older and taller to the upper ranks. My grandson was nearly centered in the group, his blonde hair butch-waxed to stand tall just above his forehead and, at one point, he would step forward to speak a line into a microphone that he almost couldn’t reach standing on his tiptoes. My granddaughter descended several times from her tier also, her hair “crunched” (according to my wife), her whole outfit just purchased by Mamaw for the occasion. Tears ran down my face as they all sang carol after carol, telling the story of a babe born in a manger and flooding my heart with a sense of His love… In this life, moments sometimes catch us fatigued, weary in the way and pondering the journey thus far; He, nonetheless, remains an oasis wherein we might be renewed. Refreshing last night, for me, was an inner overflowing primed by a heavenly choir……

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Mystery.........................."

”If I profess with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ no matter how boldly I may be professing Christ”…Martin Luther

With such quote, the author of “Truth Under Fire” introduces his subject matter, speaking of “the Gospel” as being God’s revelation of Himself in human form and in human history, and adding his opinion that today’s church “has lost its intellect and therefore its mind”. Elsewhere he points to “truth demanding confrontation”. I would agree; and if I were privileged to have this man face to face, would only suggest to him that the intellect we have lost and which, for the most part, no longer seek, (whether out of non-belief or merely our own vanity, I’m hesitant to say) is, as the Scripture so state, “the mind of Christ”…. Our number attending Wednesday Bible study rose to more than twenty-five last night, all eager to wade into the first chapter of Romans. The teacher gave us excellent background on the Apostle Paul and the early church where now we find the Vatican, but mostly we fell into a discussion of a definition for both “the Gospel” and our “faith”. Near the end, declaring my words to reflect no more than my own understanding learned in the journey thus far, I identified that latter term as being strongly secured in Him even though , as far as what I actually held to be definite about myself in this walk was a possession always under construction. “Experience”, I noted, “demands continual examination of what we claim to be true” and I utilized for an example a prayer completed many years ago wherein the “Holy Spirit” had me greatly convince a connection established with Him guaranteed a young woman’s deliverance from her sickness. She died the next day, a good indication to me that it might well benefit me to rethink just what I did believe. In response, however, the person right behind me supplied the typical defense most who occupy Christian ranks hold, telling me the death indeed was just another kind of “cure”. I didn’t argue; but, in truth, it wasn’t the tragedy that gave me concern, rather my own doctrinal outlook. Why is it, I wonder, that so many seem to find it almost blasphemous to ponder it all, as if one’s “faith” must be set in concrete or it isn’t worth anything at all?......

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Weebles........................."

Sitting in Sunday morning service and listening to the worship group up front lead the congregation in several rounds of “I will enter His courts with thanksgiving in my heart; I will enter His house with praise”, it occurred to me that perhaps it might indeed help if I made such an effort. Over thirty-nine years in Pentecost and, while my anchor-line with Christ is yet solid and secure, while belief in basic denominational doctrine has not changed, it yet remains that the road has brought me to a place where so much of what takes place within the sanctuary seems more and more programmed, manipulative in its attempt to connect with the Holy Ghost. It has nothing to do with the congregation’s faith and everything to do with mine…. In a book I’m reading by John W. Whitehead, entitled “Truth Under Fire”, he quotes Martin Luther as once saying “If this daily routine is our only declaration, we aren’t declaring Christ at all. We are only telling what we already know to each other.” I’m hesitant to pin that statement on my bunch, believing that, in many ways, this is a group which greatly reaches out to the community around us. What concerns me is the message that we do take forth, both the content of what we speak and the manner in which we deliver it as well. I find the Gospel to be a resurrected Reality within who is well able to provide His own witness, His own confirmation of the facts. I find today’s believers, for the most part, either void of that Biblical promise or misguided in their understanding of the matter… Not that this old man has conquered the subject. Following Him always has always amounted to a staggering down life’s path on our part, a pursuing of Him through that veil which is ever before us; and here go I. Even as the evangelist weeps for the lost, however, so also cries my heart for His body to awaken unto more than the Book, more than a “self-affirmed salvation” in which we lose sight of center……

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Guidance..........................."

“Compare and contrast the difficulties of young people who are struggling with problems during adolescence, considering whether they are specific to the teens’ particular situation, age, and era or whether they are timeless and eternal.” … Such is the assignment given my grandson concerning the characters in three different novels: one, a white girl in the sixties era of Viet-Nam bashing, drug-induced, hippie generation; another, a boy in the forties, of upper class, but a continual flunk-out with a chip on his shoulder; and, then, a black female knowing loss of human dignity, not only as a slave, but also as a woman subject to male dominance during the thirties. Most certainly their environment, the particular graphics of their moment in time, and even their individual genetics played a part in separating them, distinguishing their stories; but I’m of the opinion that who and what we all are, the outside being merely a reflection of what is on the inside, is a mystery as old as Adam, each of us a specific set of potentialities capable of creating an untold number of narratives. Our brain is not able to fully comprehend the whys, the what ifs, the schematics of thus far, no more than we can control and completely determine that which lies in front of us. Truthfully, all we possess, anyhow, is this moment and what counts is what we do with it. Therefore, as I see it, in my book, anyhow, the best any of us can do is give it away, not in the sense of me orchestrating the event, but as an act of surrender unto a Creator who can speak life into dry bones. His eyes see more than mine; His ears hear when mine too often are unwilling to listen. “Anyone can slay a dragon,” someone once said, adding “but waking up each and every morning and loving the world all over again, that’s what makes a hero.” Hard to do other than in Him……

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Ahoy, there!......................."

“It seems to me that every time I get to where a “thin place” might develop between the Spirit and me, the Spirit has either changed again or is changing again. So have I, for that matter, sometimes even for the better. Therefore I have to be on the lookout for the Spirit to be different from the last time I dealt with Him (Her, whatever subjective form the Spirit’s personality took the last time we were close). As a child, I became terribly disappointed when I would get on my knees and imagine an old white man hiding lightening bolts while I asked him for a new bike. Later, as I grew comfortable walking in a cool place with Jesus and sharing with Him, He sometimes didn’t show up in the cool place for a walk with me. Now I realize He was somewhere else waiting on me to show up. There’s no doubt the Creator is still present, or that Redeemer is right with Him, or that Spirit surrounds and permeates me. I can not hold on to any of them, just as Mary could not hold on to Jesus. They are, all of them, always morphing into the next versions, based on our individual experiences with them.”….Jim Sturges

The above was written nearly a decade ago by a retired Navy pilot working towards his being accepted into ministry with his church. I somehow crossed paths with him via blogging, enjoying his own practice of simply sharing his thoughts on daily passages of Scripture that came to him in his studies; and then, suddenly, he just folded up shop on the internet and we lost contact. Sitting in my recliner early yesterday morning, looking through a book wherein are inscribed everything found in my literary pursuits, celebrity authored or otherwise, I encountered Jim’s wisdom again and was touched by the way it agrees with my own journey. The Holy Ghost remains the same in all that He is, my own perception of Him just awakened and revised, His anchor-line leading as we go. A Google search located an old site maintained by his younger son and I just discovered in my e-mail a reply to my probe. Good to re-connect. Good to have another “old salt” back on board to face the horizon with me……

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Spelunking.............................."

My oldest grandson came to me last night, a last minute plea for assistance with a three-page report due today on the Civil War, not so much a presentation of historical statistics as it was a pondering of what would so drive a man’s sanity as to march into an almost certain mutilation or death. It took us a little over three hours to put it all together, he supplying the key points and me grammatically watching over the composition. To be truthful, it was as lengthy a conversation as we’ve ever shared, an old man and the very substance of his heart, yet in many ways just the two of us, individuals with very little in-depth knowledge of the guy sitting beside him. Why, I wonder? Are our souls so tender, so aware of our own humanity that we do not trust opening up that which is bottled up inside? Does communication make us vulnerable? We are surely “there” for each, but do not “possess” each other in any manner except for that inner spiritual bond of love created within us. Life holds us in its grip and the days pass, our breath given to those things that suck our very existence right out of us. I would gladly sacrifice myself for him should some situation require it; but how much do I really “know” him?.... In the school office there hangs a picture of three children sitting on the tailgate in the back of a pick-up truck. Rebecca Kinkead, the artist, has obscured their faces, for whatever original intent I do not know; but, probably, in this location it suggests that we, within the building, embrace all our students, each important in our eyes. My own interpretation of it, however, includes the truth that there is more to each of us than just the image in front of us, a deeper treasure worth pursuing. God help me to be a vessel for His Spirit as I go……

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Antiquity.............................."

Monday morning here, the beginning of a two-day work week for me, Thanksgiving providing another mini-vacation for we who toil within the Kentucky educational system. It’s a hard life, or at least it has its moments on either side of bringing home a paycheck. Frequent multiple days off help reduce my displeasure with other aspects of the job. Probably, however, my granddaughter will not be inquiring about such opinions when she interviews me this Thursday, her teacher at her school requiring her to explore and then put to print the memory of whomsoever is the oldest relative present at the feast. I’m not sure how I feel about such distinction finally coming to me, but, at this stage of the journey, looking back is actually one of my favorite activities, the view in the other direction not so much open anymore to the possibilities it once held. Dinosaurs were pretty well eradicated by the time I came along. Automobiles had been around a few years; man had learned to fly; but forget technology. What is amazing to me is just how greatly the world, in general, has changed in its thinking during the last seven decades! In this country, alone, racial bigotry may not be completely extinguished, yet there is no denying that we’ve come a long way from what we practiced in the late forties, early fifties. I am also astonished at how population here in our neck of the woods has become a multi-ethnic community, an area where anyone who lived in Ohio back when I was a child was considered “foreigners” by my grandparents and now a walk down any hallway of River Ridge Elementary will reveal an influx of Japanese, Burmese, Mexican, and half a dozen others. We have become not just globally minded in the sense of our being more conscious of others around the planet, but we are a mixture, more than ever, here in our own front yard. Add to such items the pollution of our moral values, brought about, as far as I’m concerned, by the evolution of our Christian theology, and this world is definitely nowhere near the image I held of it so long ago. What’s an old man’s opinion worth, though?......

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Scholastics......................"

……
River Ridge Elementary is a huge facility, our student population, in recent years, swelling to somewhere around a thousand with the addition of several pre-school units. There are three levels to its structure, two lower hallways holding Fifth Grade and the specific classes such as Art, Music, and Computer, two upper hallways assigned to First and Second, and the main floor divided into two hallways for Third and Fourth, two more for Kindergarten, the “little diddles” mentioned above, plus Special-Ed. This particular time around gives me a decade working as an assistant within that last grouping… Walking around inside our building is always an “art gallery experience”, each and every holiday, season, or celebration of any sort somehow expressed by the kids and then arranged outside their classrooms, displayed for all to enjoy. Many are quite clever. None lack of being able to entertain, imagination and the simple heart of a child connecting with this old man. This year, though, on a large bulletin board directly across from our cafeteria, the body of a turkey was placed with an invitation going home for families to create their own individual tail-feather for us to attach in a presentation of unified thanksgiving. It’s been a great success, each coming back uniquely designed, but not necessarily specifically given to any statement of gratitude such as the original pilgrims made in establishing the occasion. Nevertheless, the final masterpiece that we achieved seemed worthy of mention here, especially since one of those at top center represents the boy I mostly deal with each day. Nothing so elaborate, just crayon-colored a pale green with a bit of yellow high-lighting the names of his parents and each of his siblings; but, in the middle, a small Cross as a symbol of their faith and, for me, saying what it should be all about……

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Absolutes................................."

Charles Kimball, in “When Religion Becomes Evil”, ends with a chapter suggesting that at the heart of every major religious tradition there are truths and principles providing us with the first antidote to violence and extremism. He expresses faith, hope, and love as basically being guiding principles on a “spiritual compass”, stressing the truth of magnetic north not being the same as geographical, God, therefore, better perceived as a “direction” instead of an “object”, and quotes Albert Einstein as saying “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Thus he points to the world now around us and speaks of global community. I can understand his concerns and find myself agreeing with the basics of what he is saying, but do not see where any of it eliminates the problem he addresses. His list of conditions leading into dangerous cults and terrorism may be “right” on, but it in no way offers any solution to humanity’s ability to ignore what’s “right”. Men remain men, even in Christ…..

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Weather Report.................."

My drive to school Wednesday was through a soggy, dismal, gray veil, traffic bumper to bumper getting to the expressway, an accident or two not helping matters at all. It matched my mood at the time, several things going on in my world: problems in my class, situations that my youngest daughter is facing, nothing disastrous, just the flotsam and jetsam of life that tend to overflow a man’s brain now and then. The “anchor” holds, but that doesn’t mean one’s existence is without any knowledge of the weather around him. My own portion of what we shared with the fellows at the mission last night seemed “flat” to me, no doubt suffering from my inability to find a deep connection with His flow, God yet in it all, seed sown and received in spite of Mark’s saxophone absence and my rowing through pea soup… There are those I have known who believe negative confession of any kind doesn’t belong in a Christian’s life; but where there’s any Biblical verse to build a foundation for such dogma is beyond me. While it is certainly true that “He ain’t never done me nothing, done me nothing but good” and there’s more to be gained from remembering that fact than from whining and complaining, it nonetheless remains that we are commanded not to lie. Most days are just days. Some are better than others. His promise, alive in my “belly”, is witness enough of His hand upon me as I go……

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Churchiosity.........................."

Reading Charles Kimball’s “When Religion Becomes Evil” has been an interesting few days of thought for me. His main points provided to explain such title are no more than what one might expect to find within its pages. Blind obedience to leadership, dogmatic claims of possessing the absolute truth, solving eschatology to an extreme revelation of future events, plus believing that “the end justifies the means” did not surprise me in being four chapters brought forth within the book. What kept me “in there” for the length of the volume, however, was the history lesson set down as an illustration of “faith” as it is. At my age, most of the events mentioned took place in my lifetime, just not absorbed into my consciousness, my “world” for many years no bigger than whatever came to me on a daily basis and, in fact, technology not so advanced as to “globalize” a man’s concern. World War Two belonged to my father’s generation, Viet Nam was something my government entered in an attempt to prevent Communism from spreading, and America was my roots, my heritage, an image in my mind of being “first” and being “right”. Several decades down the road I yet hold my country in my heart, but question much about its political integrity. The journey undertaken with Christ has opened my eyes to humanity being the major flaw in any attempt men have followed toward Heaven and an afterlife. No particular route is exempt, each path vulnerable to the above list noted by the author, all with a track record to prove it; and, for me, it seems that when we lose grace, when we abandon compassion, when it’s all turned into us against them, our way or the highway, Divinity is no longer part of the program. We’re not much more than a bunch of hypocritical heathen chasing our own egos……

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Assurance.........................."

Saturday morning here. The thermostat for the furnace is set on sixty-five and during the day we turn on an electric heater at either end of the house in a hopeful attempt to conserve on fuel oil. One does what one can. Each day comes to us with no guarantees and the future never a matter of being completely covered by our preparations to meet it. My pastor friend in Pensacola, up in this area and hunting with a buddy, actually killed a deer the other night going seventy miles per hour on the expressway, a head-on collision with a big buck, the large pick-up truck they were in no doubt saving them from harm, but the vehicle suffering much damage to the front end. Another pastor friend of mine, who lives just outside Montgomery, found himself this week suddenly on his way to Atlanta, his young grandson rushed to the hospital with a viral disease quite capable of taking the boy’s life. Thankfully, the crisis was conquered and all is well; but, always, our next step is vulnerable. Jobs, homes, pensions, it may be no more than the refrigerator “giving up the ghost”; but my point is: in a world that right now seems to be more and more self-destructing at an alarming pace, where can a person find peace and an anchorage for his soul? For me, such answer is Christ. Not a theology I have built for myself out of the Book, a doctrinal dogma set in concrete and resting upon my declaration of belief; but an inner re-connection with Him, secured within me by His grace and resurrected each time I return to the oasis. He goes with me through the veil, creating faith enough to trust Him in all things…..

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Respiration............................."

”And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins”…1st Corinthians 15:17.

In Wednesday evening’s study group, I pointed to the above verse as foundation for my claim that it is “the Holy Ghost in me” who confirms the Bible unto me, the reality of His promise with me as I go, meeting me in the next step. The fellow who teaches the class, strongly rooted in his perspective that the Book, itself, is infallible truth and therefore the sole instructor of what we are to believe, quickly gave me answer of Paul, here, speaking only of the Lord’s resurrection, in other words, His victory over death applying here of nothing more than our having hope that the grave, indeed, is not finality. Pausing and sensing that others were waiting to hear me respond, for a moment I examined my own case. Good theology is not a matter of securing who is right and who is wrong, a sword fight for the title being “Best Interpreter of the Word”. What we BOTH are pursuing is growth in Him. If language, history, and some other parts of our individual identities separate us in what we understand of our salvation, the “knot in our belly”, the Spirit’s grip on our heart, brings us together in our love for Him. When I suggested to him in return, therefore, that the latter part of this verse would seem to imply the empty tomb affords unto us deliverance on this side of eternity, not just Pearly Gate entrance once we’ve crossed over, that while we, ourselves, can create faith, it rests on nothing more than our own humanity until His inner presence breathes life into it, the lesson concluded with us all having gained something to take home and chew on: He, alone, is our assurance, the substance of our witness, the rock to which we are anchored……

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Decisions.............................."

Beth and I both voted this morning, pulling but one lever. We did so, not thinking that our party is any less corrupt than the other, just believing in America and finding that, given a choice between the two, at least the one seems to yet “entertain” a sense of morality. In so expressing myself, let me be quick to add such reasoning does not assume everyone on the other side of the ticket to be Godless and all those within my ranks to be holy. It is not my wish to judge others. Platform, not people, is what gains my ballot… Yesterday, while she was exploring the mall with one of the grandkids, I followed my daughter’s tip and went to a nearby store, obtaining a couple of books for half-price. One, “When Religion Becomes Evil”, is written by Charles Kimball, a Baptist minister with a Harvard Th.D., indeed his credentials surprising me in light of the subject matter he brings forth therein. A friend of mine recently spoke of taking a course in “Contemporary Theology”; and, in considering the definition, I joked with him as to whether he was studying an updated, modern version of Scripture conformed to “thus saith society” , the faith of our fathers or a “faith lift”. In the first few pages that I’ve digested thus far, this fellow suggests that most of us operate with a kind of “detailed ignorance” about religion, noting that he often opens a new class by asking his students to take a couple of minute to write a brief explanation of what that word “religion” really means. It remains to be seen if I will agree with where he seems to be going, but his foundational remarks have me intrigued. This “dumb sheep”, though, has an inner rod and staff correcting him in his stagger down the path, working with me in the way, expecting me to “prove all things”, to reason for myself, be it in the political arena or a spiritual search for truth, a deciphering of the Book or an examination of who I am at any given moment. He works out the details if I’ll just give Him the reins……

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Hope.................................."

My latest brush with fiction went into the garbage this morning, no more than three chapters read and, regardless of historical truths within its framework, too much filth stuffed between pages for this old man. Pornography in print. Money wasted. Lesson learned. What did interest me was the telling of governmental affairs being manipulated by individuals, the upper-class elite of various countries, dukes, earls, military officials. Sometimes nations, to me anyhow, seem to possess an identity of their own, a conglomerate image of who they are as a people; but what little I did get from this author reminded me that being pedigreed and wealthy in no way dismisses that which is in a man’s heart. Humanity remains humanity, on either end of the spectrum, much of what is happening in the current coast-to-coast protests only emphasizing that the disease holds its grip on us no matter where we find ourselves on the social ladder. Where does that leave us, though? It’s scary enough to know that my grandchildren’s future in many ways hinges upon the honesty and morality of those who sit in D.C., to look around at America’s spiritual attitudes in general increasingly go to the gutter, but to realize I am no better, just another “stagger down the road”, a man whose thirty-nine year commitment to Christ in no way stripped him of his ability to follow “self” – that’s worth remembering… In church this morning they sang an old hymn as the bread and juice were being distributed, the lyrics, at one point, penetrating deep inside me, speaking of the “flow” being precious and referring to His blood shed for all. What “hit” me, however, was the truth of that fountain, through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, still a manifested assurance available unto us even now, a confirmation of His promise to be with us through the storm, even unto the end……

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Knotted................................"

Saturday morning here, early, my wife with yet nearly an hour before any need to arise for her scheduled appointment with the hairdresser. Kenton County’s school system seen opportunity to provide us with a rare four day break from classes, local elections for Kentucky’s next governor taking place Tuesday; and I’m relaxing in my recliner relaxing, enjoying such peace as comes to me, rejoicing somewhat to be on this end of a mini-vacation. My grandsons’ first high-school basketball game of the season is this afternoon. It doesn’t get any better than this. There’s much reason, at present, for me to be upset with life, with people, questions concerning recent events, we see so much “through a glass darkly”. I’m grateful for a well that runs deep… Three women in the nurse’s station yesterday were in excited chit-chat. It seems that Joel Osteen was in town, a big arena in Cincinnati filled to capacity for his “Night of Hope”. To each their own, these ladies very obviously attracted to his message, but it’s hard for me to understand what psychotherapy in such form has to do with the Gospel. Mercy? Yes! Compassion? Yes! Pumping up one’s ego rather than talking to his soul, though, simply inflates the idea of “self”-righteousness; it doesn’t even begin to re-establish connection with the reality of the Creator. I don’t need flattery. Give me substance, not rose petals and Alice in Wonderland.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Pursuit..........................."

Our Wednesday evening class once again was small in number, about ten of us gathered in the Science room, top level of the educational wing, our hour and a half there nonetheless chuck full of Biblical exploration. For the most part, the teacher simply drew discussion from us concerning the nature of sin, what really happens to one who is “born-again”, and the part Scripture plays in our journey. At one point, he and I, both, disagreed on a portion of that latter element, but found no reason to go to war. If one is willing to examine the other fellow’s perspective, often what can be gained is at least a better understanding of the other fellow. In truth, I really like this man, he reminding me of myself some thirty years ago. He has a heart for “going deep”, for digging into the meat of the Gospel and not just settling for doctrinal definitions. He has a compassion that embraces both the pew and the guy in the street, the hungry and the homeless, whomsoever the Holy Ghost sets in front of him. As he spoke of such things last night, for a few moments it was quite obvious that the passion in his words were coming up out of an inner well; and one woman asked him afterwards what it “felt” like to know such anointing. His hesitation, seemingly a loss for how to best express it, prompted me to suggest it was to find yourself “connected”, to enter into a place where, temporarily, you realize the “flow” is not yours, but His, a “oneness” shared with the reality of His presence. To discover that in preaching, teaching, witnessing, prayer, or a quiet spot apart from the daily buzz…is “life” as only He can give it. To possess that “knot in your belly” where the coupling was reinstituted through Calvary’s Cross…is what holds you in the next step, your “faith” in between encounters……..

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Transition............................."

I began a new book the other night, a fictional work that takes the reader on a journey through history; and, somehow, its initial pages reminded me that the Church has known its own “evolution”, its own bit of metamorphosis, due to nothing more than “time marches on”. I speak not of the doctrinal changes it has manufactured along the way, although its theology adjustments were most certainly also borne out of what I suggest. Rather I point to man, himself, and the fact that environment, technology, and life in the living thereof all play a part in its identity as we know it from whatever perspective we now occupy. In its heart, of course, in spite of whatever mess we tend to have made of the structure in general, yet exists His reality, “tugging on the anchor line” in an attempt to salvage as much as possible; and there sits my bunch, in the middle of things, no singular reflection of Truth and, in no way, the same image of Christ that my wife’s parents knew thirty-plus years ago. The question for me, then, is not just whether His presence can yet be found in our midst, but whether we, as individual temples for the Holy Ghost, are vessels through which He might witness in the comings and goings of who and what we are outside the sanctuary. I do not speak in terms of taking some “three-point” sermon to the men at the mission, the kids at the Detention Center. I do not refer to arrogantly charging whomsoever with our particular view of the Scripture, swinging a sword in the name of evangelizing the heathen. I want to know that I hear His voice in my interactions with those who share my work schedule, the waitresses and busboys at the restaurants we frequent, the hungry, the downtrodden, the everyday people who step into my next breath and are in need of Him. The Gospel was never about the size of our fellowship, the acreage we own, or how beautifully the choir fills the rafters. From the beginning, the message has been His to preach, His to confirm. So it shall be in the end……

Monday, October 31, 2011

"Basics................................"

McKenna, our only granddaughter, is once again staying with us for a few days. A Sixth Grader and showing all the signs of being about to leave childhood behind, she yet enjoys our company and we are receiving the gift for as long as it is there. Last night, she sat with me, working on her homework together, the Math sheet already finished, a few questions on a Bible assignment all that remained on this occasion. Asked by the book as to what she considered to be God’s purpose for her life, she wrote down “to do things for Him”. Papaw pushed. What did that mean? Was her relationship with Him just a matter of Him “issuing orders”, she just a puppet required to obey? Looking up at me and cocking her head in obvious thought, she added “so others will see Jesus in me”. I spoke my approval and, then, when the next point put to her inquired how she could bring glory to God with her life, prodded once more for some consideration before just “filling in a blank”. To this one she answered “by asking Him to help me with what I do”. Good enough for now. There is no need in preaching her sermons. I just want her faith founded on something deeper than definitive terminology and believe that the journey, itself, will teach her if she first merely learns, not a religion, but His reality available unto her……

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Patriotism................................"

For at least the last twelve years I’ve listened to Beth and her younger sister debate politics, this latest season of “Occupy Wall Street” protests just more fuel for the fire. One loudly reveals her disgust for the Tea Party’s “gun-waving religious fanatics”; the other points to the nationwide arrests of the current dissenters, their behavior anything but “peaceful”. Me? I’m more inclined to factor in, on both sides of the coin, the truth that it’s easy enough, nowadays, to find a news media eager to feed whatever bias you hold on such issues, the focus being on all the negatives. It has been said that the two newly formed forces are mirror images, the conservative radicals seeking less governmental control on a man’s right to make his own fortune and less government “give-away” of money extracted from him in taxes, the common masse seeing “big money” as their enemy and demanding more “freebies” to be supplied by an even bigger national penalty increase on those who have succeeded in acquiring wealth. Who wins that war? I really have no idea. Our Constitution is an amazing legislative contract between the states, created more than two centuries ago, but possessing the same flaw found within the pages of the Holy Bible. It is subject to humanity’s interpretation thereof; and that integral piece of the puzzle tends to blur the whole picture. To me, the real crisis in this country is not one of social status, but one due to our ever increasing loss of His resurrection in our lives; and I find that to be the fault of a Church that long go reduced “truth” to no more than doctrinal dogma…..

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Comm-unity............................."

There were only ten of us, teacher included, filling the ranks last night of Wednesday’s Bible study. There was a bit of a rain outside and our “fall back” time change doesn’t happen until this coming weekend, the darkness maybe another factor for our reduction in number. Truthfully, I, myself, arrived a few minutes late, having missed the last class and especially hungry for this one, but also having sat down in my recliner about six and then waking up with a jolt to realize the clock left me scrambling to get there at all. Yes; I did drive safely making the journey… We are in the Book of James, not one of my favorite reads, the half-brother of Jesus always making me think, for what ever reason, of legality set in cement. It’s not that within its verses one can’t find much good advice concerning the life of a believer, just that the author seems to me a preacher whose theology yet held the Jews distinct and elite. No matter; we all, in my opinion, stagger down the path, hopefully learning as we go, and we, within this class, anyway, are happy in recognizing such fact. Discussion, on this occasion, embraced: what actually happens to us in a “born-again” experience; are we “once in grass, always in grass”; and is sanctification a change in us as we go, a singular event pronounced upon us at some point, or a state into which we step when we occasionally step into a connection with the fullness of His reality within us. Deep stuff. Did we all agree? No. Did any of us have it all “nailed down”? Probably not, or at least not in any sense of absoluteness. We speak, knowing that, even with the Book, we are looking through a veil darkly, each of us from our own perspectives of distance already covered, the Gospel given us at our own particular point of entry, and our own individuality, as well, in having “ears to hear and a spirit thirsty for Him”. We take each other for equals and hope only to come way with a good meal to digest. For me, this is “fellowship”. Chicken dinners in the meeting hall are nice, but not vital……

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Constriction..........................."

Brian McLaren’s “Generous Orthodoxy” is a walk on the wild side for anyone so immersed into their denominational identity that they no longer have ears to hear. He’s, no doubt, one of those whom my old-time holiness heritage warned me about decades ago, fearing any consumption on my part of whatsoever literature other than my Bible would have me backslid before I even knew what had happened. Maybe they were right. Looking around, though, I no longer see anyone at all who still resembles the old crowd. Indeed, time seems to have changed all of us in one way or another… In McLaren’s book, he points to a young snapping turtle that was found by someone in Florida. It was maybe a foot long in size, but, as a hatchling, had somehow acquired a plastic ring around its girth, one of those that white arrangements holding together a six-pack of soda. Growth continued, but with disfigurement, the shell pressured into a figure eight; and that image stuck in my brain at the moment... While I recognize the need for truth to “hold up our pants”, yet if it be no more than a man-made doctrinal noose set in cement, sooner or later we, too, like the turtle, are hindered in maturing, we, too, will die not looking much like the original blueprint. Give me an adjustable belt, His tug on the anchor line, and enough good sense to follow His opinion rather than my own. One thing is for sure: whatever just sits still, if nothing else, usually develops a bad odor over a period of time……

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Slipslidin'.............................................."

At three o’clock each day our room is down to five children with just the teacher and I to take them to their buses. That may not sound like a major operation, but considering four of the kids are prone to temper issues and apt to run if not hand-held, it’s not just a “walk in the park”. My paycheck obligations officially end at three-thirty. If it should happen, however, that their transportation home is late for any reason, there is no alternate plan. I’m just stuck baby-sitting for the duration. Over-time isn’t in the contract. Usually we’re talking no more than five or ten minutes on a daily basis, but “things happen” and this afternoon it was close to four-fifteen before I finally pulled out of the parking lot. Quarter to five before arriving at the house. Dinner at Frisch’s; picked up a few items from Kroger’s; and at quarter past six I was carrying the groceries through the front door. A hot bath, the Wheel and then Jeopardy; but, sorry, Chaz performing the tango on Dancing With the Stars fails to interest me in any way whatsoever. Give me a good book, some pause to think about it all, a good connection with Him. Another hour or so and it’s bedtime anyhow. Life, if one is not careful, is merely a dull, repetitious event, a journey wherein the present is always unbelievable in just how quickly it got here, the length thus far deemed considerable only in retrospect. Nonetheless, most days are just days unless He breathes into them…...

"GPS......................................"

It’s early Monday morning here. I’ve been fighting “a bit of the bug” the last couple of days, fever and chills that make me think it might be some mild form of flu, nothing so serious in its coming and going that aspirin and Ny-Quil hasn’t been able to handle it thus far. Time has passed with my re-examining some Brian McLaren books, he, a well-known leader within what was once known as the “Emerging Church” about a decade ago. From my perspective, the movement seemed to see the ecclesiastical institution, as a whole, dying in all of its traditions, dull in its dogmas, and distant from that which Christ had originally meant to become “the light of the world”. My wording is probably somewhat harsher than what any of them utilized in explaining their departure from the status quo. In giving his own definition of “orthodoxy”, the author denied a “what we think as opposed to what they think” equation thereof, offering, instead, “what God knows, some of which we believe a little, some of which they believe a little, and about which we all have a lot to learn” and then adding that it’s “how we search for a kind of truth you can never fully get into your head, so you seek to get your head (and your heart) into it!” … If the group is yet “up and out there”, it has drifted beyond my radar, operating within its individual slice of the pie. I’ve often wondered if these new, more-modern-version-of-worship amphitheaters weren’t, indeed, birthed out of much of their thinking, so much of what they opined, as far as I’m concerned, worthy of a man’s consideration. Sadly, however, they also appeared to me nothing more than a regenerated clone of that which they hoped to escape, just another religious denomination in the making, good hearts with little understanding that direction has to be determined by the reality of His resurrection rather than our good intent. He, alone, is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, a divine, tangible, manifestation given unto us, but always “through the veil” in a stumble as we go……

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Gratitude................................."

About twenty-five years ago, our little congregation opted to start its own school, utilizing in the beginning a well-known program wherein the kids, with guidance, simply studied their way through various subject levels, the books, themselves, being the prime source of instruction. We worked with a volunteer staff, made do with what we had, and had an enrollment of somewhere around sixty students. Today attendance is closer to two hundred, teachers are on salary, either holding a degree or moving toward one, the operation maintained out of it own facility, complete with a large gymnasium and a winning basketball team. Yesterday McKenna and Noah, my two youngest grandchildren, were part of a presentation by the Elementary grades which recognized and gave honor to grandparents who had served this country through military service, a couple of folk dating back to WWII. I was brushing tears from my eyes for nearly the whole hour we were there… In studying the history of this nation, it’s not that I believe it to gave been birthed and founded upon any real representation of Christianity. Men have always been men. The Church has been a mixture of humanity and the Holy Ghost all along. America’s identity, therefore, has not been forged out of some divine blessing, but more like out of divine grace, divine patience, and His willingness to walk with us in spite of our mess. My bond with her flag, then, isn’t some patriotic attachment to principles that too often are abused by people with no understanding that such terms hold little significance if not created out of heartfelt self-sacrifice. I salute, not just stars and stripes, but the lives of those ones who gave themselves, in one way or another, for that which the banner is said to serve. My relationship with it is much like the one I embrace with the standard of my faith displayed on the other side of the sanctuary. Both deeply connect with me, the latter just flown, within, higher up than the first……

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Longevity....................................."

It was cold and wet outside last night, miserable weather about any way one might look at it. Beth and I got a craving for some Sky-Line chili about seven, however, so I geared up and drove south, a stop at Wendy’s for the granddaughter, then right across the street for the coneys. Why, I don’t know, perhaps just the rain, the darkness, and me alone in the car, but I turned on the radio and tuned into a country gospel station. Two quartets later, though, was enough to convince me otherwise. Too many miles down the road. Too much “church” under my belt. Too long learning that people remain people, even in Christ… I write that with no malicious intent. After all, I “are one” and, if the journey has taught me anything, it’s God’s grace, God’s humor, is holding this package together. Fellowship is good; worshipping with others is a vital part of the process; and, yet, somewhere along the way you learn that most of what takes place within the schematics of Christianity is people “being” people. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Better that, in our stumble, we reach for Him than bull-headedly continue in our own determination. A song, nonetheless, is just a song if He is not in it. A sermon, if it doesn’t flow from a deeper well than a man’s own reasoning, is just words. It’s the “connection” that has my focus in the next step; and while it’s “secured in my belly”, the manifestation, thereof, is a matter gained at His discretion and through my willingness to receive it when it comes, a treasure hunt at all times……

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"Bonding.................................."

Approaching five in the morning here. My sister-in-law has an appointment for eye surgery at six-thirty. Beth usually drives her wherever, whenever she has such need, but darkness, anymore, is a bit too much for her to navigate. The plan, therefore, is for me to get them to the hospital; then home for me to get my car and fulfill my obligation with school while she, with the sun “up and about”, returns to take them back after the operation. A little lost sleep, but no big deal… The monthly meeting with the men at the mission last night went well. A cold drizzly rain was falling outside, but the “sanctuary” inside still had a few empty seats, not what one might expect in such weather. Mark stepped in with his saxophone between Tony and me, speaking first of personal experience endured the last few weeks and then blowing that horn as if he and it were one in a connection to a divine stream from on high. On either side of that heavenly honey, my compadre and I simply shared with those there the truth of salvation being, not a list of “thou shalt nots”, nor a “free pass through the Pearly Gates” button passed out upon conversion for a fellow to present to St. Pete upon arrival. Christianity is about inviting God into the next step no matter where you are in your journey. The “kingdom” is a “reconnection re-established through Calvary’s Cross, the only question being whether we will use it, abuse it, or lose it by rejecting what is freely offered us in Him. In ending, I took them to the son in the movie who quoted his preacher father in observing that “Eventually all things merge into one; and a river runs through it”. I believe that. I believe we all are born of the same spiritual umbilical cord and spend all our life trying to get back upstream to the One who birthed us……

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Seasons.................................."

I donned a “Tigger” sweat-shirt about six last night and, in spite of an overcast sky, headed down the road toward the park. My hour of exercise, lately, has been neglected too much, the weather changing, other events more important at the time, excuse, excuse, excuse, and the wind, on this occasion, with a bit of a chill to it, making me wonder if perhaps a hoodie might no have been a better choice. Turning in the back entrance where a dirt trail follows the creek, I have about two hundred feet where the trees on either side form a “tunnel” with their branches, much of their foliage already brown, dead, scattered here, there, everywhere. Indeed, as I continue, stepping into the openness, going past the fenced-in area where people can let their dogs run, over the bridge and taking the concrete path south past shelters, picnic tables, playgrounds, and ball field, everywhere before me the view is as if Autumn, herself, has decorated for Halloween. On the return trip an icy dribble begins to fall and a rumble in the heavens interrupts my thoughts, increasing my pace in order to get home before dark. It has been about an hour alone with Him… Prayer, for me, is more an all-day mental relationship wherein I return, at some point, to an oasis, or at least a place of expectancy, a position of hope that therein I might actually “step into the stream” and, for a few moments, know Him in all that He is. Such encounter is the goal before me at all times whether I am kneeling in some secluded location, speaking with someone of His reality in regard to whatsoever, or participating in congregational worship within the sanctuary. Let’s just be truthful, though: Life is mostly a stumble down the path, vision usually a matter of “looking through a glass darkly,” and that means communication needs to be an open connection, not a cell phone kept in my hip pocket for an emergency……

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Schematics............................."

The picture I’ve attempted to share here was discovered by me some years ago in a small antique shop in Lexington. The fellow who framed it for me with plexiglass did so in such a way as to prevent me now from any manner of retrieving it (other than a hammer) and that accounts for the camera’s flash obliterating “The River of Failure”. Whoever sketched this together didn’t miss much in his representation of such theology as I stepped into nearly four decades ago upon “praying through” at about two o’clock in the afternoon of Monday, March of ’72. In the bottom left corner is a sign reading “The Road from Earth to Heaven” with an archway directly before it inviting “Whosoever Will”. To the right is a series of portals labeled with excuses like “wait”, “not tonight”, and “I am good enough”, all leading to “The Pit”. Just above that is “Salvation Station” with two steps, “faith” and “repentance” leading one up to “The Way of the Cross”. From there it’s like a trip through Disneyland, chutes and roller-coaster drops, numerous ways for one to “backslide” or even end up in that stream mentioned above. Along the way it’s possible to “take the easy way out”, stop for a “social glass” of whatever along with a “friendly card game”, and a place for those to gather who “know it all”. Most people look at it and laugh, seeing no more than old-time holiness with its list of legalities and dismissing everything else. Thirty-nine years down the road, I find it an amazing piece of artwork, so much of its theme certainly at least worthy of discussion, a lot of truth contained within its content……

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Troubled............................"

Beth is not so much 24/7 addicted to Fox News anymore, still watching, but somewhat selective and relaxed in her vigil. Most bulletins, therefore, concerning the world around me, come to my attention on a daily basis via the computer. The main screen provided by my Internet Server displays several lead-ins to various items of interest, the bulk of which tends to leave me wondering if Armageddon isn’t, indeed, sitting just over the horizon. Forget the political and economical state of the world. Never mind that “big money” has globalized us into one big happy family that thinks government should put us all on welfare. It’s the moral condition of men everywhere that gives me problems, the Church, herself, maybe “alive and well”, but certainly failing in any real “leavening of the loaf”. It’s nearly nothing lately to read of another man gone berserk, mass murder in a mall, a hair salon, a place of business, children killing their own classmates with guns and pipe bombs. It makes me question why “terrorist” should be so limited in its definition, bringing forth a mental image of an Arab with hatred in his heart, especially after encountering, yesterday, a report of four mentally challenged adults found shackled in a small Philadelphia basement room, malnourished, dirty, fed but once a day, and with only a bucket to relieve themselves. Two of them had endured such conditions for the last ten years, moved from state to state by a middle-aged woman they referred to as “mom”, she and two companions living off the others’ Social Security or disability checks. It can be said, of course that humanity has always known such depravity within its ranks; but, in such frequency, in such volume, in a country where it is not uncommon to find thirty churches or more positioned within a short drive from each other? God shake us and wake us from our slumber……

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Inhalation............................."

Fall Break this year turned into nothing more than a four-day weekend. I’ll take it, though. Long, short, getaways of any kind, nowadays, have been pretty much reduced to zilch; so even a mini-vacation in the sense of “no school till Tuesday” is appreciated. Not that working with the kids is getting old. Just that the old man learned somewhere back there that the moment is what you have. Breathe it in and enjoy it. Let me note, however, that it’s Saturday morning here, my rising from slumber not occurring on this occasion until nine a.m. since I was up last night for nearly two hours. My usual habit of taking one Tylenol P.M. tablet before bedtime had been neglected and about three my eyes opened with much of Richard Rohr’s “Everything Belongs” entertaining my brain. This was my second perusal of the book and I yet find him guilty of failing to provide the Holy Spirit with an identity. I disagree with him when he seemingly sidesteps hell and would love to sit down with him in a discussion about a few other things; but yet find his overall views reflective of my own, a cup of water to a thirsty man stumbling through this present evangelical wilderness. When he expresses the idea that “What is, is okay. What is, is the great teacher”, it may well need more explanation, but meets me right now at this point in my own journey……

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Animation........................."

In as much as “humanity remains humanity” and “people are people”, it should also be made clear that each of us are individuals, each with our own story, our own perception of life as we have found it to be. Like snowflakes, there are not two of us exactly the same in all that we are. When we bring the Holy Bible into that picture, then, while the seed may have been planted within us, if we do not remember that the Creator, Himself, is greater than the Book, greater than any image of Him we have formed for ourselves out of chapter and verse, what is it that we think we possess? Philip Yancey, in looking at the Old Testament, speaks of Moses as rediscovering a fundamental fact about Yahweh seemingly forgotten during the four hundred years of silence: God is a “person”, divinity, to be sure, but reduced by the Jewish nation, as a whole, to a distant, unapproachable, ineffable mystery who showed little concern over what was transpiring here on earth. In reading such claim, however, I look around and wonder if we, the Church, aren’t guilty of replicating the error, either in dismissing the Holy Ghost to a role of anonymity, or else seeing Him as no more than an authority we, ourselves, govern. We embrace the Cross and glory in the Resurrection; we define terms like “faith” and “grace” while offering religious tenets for which we often have no explanation; but fail much too often in a manifested witness of that One said to be alive within us. The Gospel is more than a message. Truth confirms itself……

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Plumbing...................."

My middle daughter drove from Lexington yesterday for an early celebration of my becoming a septuagenarian, taking me to dinner and just spending some quality time with dad. This Sunday my youngest will, herself, step into her forties and I am proud of all three of my girls, the women they have become, their life in service to Him. None are specifically “in ministry”; but all that they are and all that they do is governed by that inner connection acquired when they were young, indeed maintained as the journey has taken them thus far. My Thursday milestone hit me, I guess, and, after writing Jamie a note of gratitude and love, thinking she was returning home, I drove down our road realizing, for all I knew, this could have been our last time together. Tears ran down my face, but they were flowing from a much deeper source than just my eyes; and it occurred to me, in the middle of it all, that this was the same bond held between me and my heavenly Father. Surely He often weeps in concern for me… I’ve been reading a mixture, the last few days, of Philip Yancey and Richard Rohr. The first fellow is one of my favorite authors, not because he has all the answers, but because he speaks from a perspective of exploring that which he admits to not yet possessing. The other is a current one book meal shared by a priest whose individual Roman Catholic theology hits close to my own thinking for most of the volume. Toward the end, however, he has me shaking my head with his view on “sin”, a topic which, in my opinion anyway, must be “quickened” unto us by the Holy Spirit Himself, a “convincing” established between our conscience and His reality within us; but, then, I see “grace” and “faith” much in the same terms. Salvation is not a set of tenets held. It is an “inner umbilical cord” through which He comes to me as I go……

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Moodment......................."

This morning was one of those when my enthusiasm for “another day at school” was a bit low. Driving the expressway, I noted that the sky overhead was almost completely covered with thin grayish-white clouds, so high and so wispy that one could detect the blue beyond. Maybe, just maybe, the sun would eventually break through. More on my mind, though, in taking it all in, was an awareness of my insignificance in lieu of it all. This Thursday I will turn seventy and it could be that such milestone is what really had my mood; but, if so, it’s certainly buried in my subconscious somewhere. More likely merely the disappointment of a Sunday evening worship service where a move of the Holy Ghost deteriorated much too quickly into something else. Whatever. Stepping out of my car in the parking lot, heading for the cafeteria to refill my McDonald’s coffee cup, I began to hum a tune. The classroom awaited me and “Let a great big bowl of Kellogg’s cornflakes start you on your way!”… In telling a friend recently that “life is good even when it isn’t”, there was no intent to share an oxymoron, nor any wish to downplay the truth that sometimes what comes to us in our years of existence can often be seemingly more than we can bear. Rather, what I was trying to express is that which I found in Christ nearly four decades ago: an anchorage that holds me no matter how strong the wind blows, a peace stronger than any fear the enemy brings against me, an assurance of His presence with me in the next step, and the knowledge that He holds it all, big and small, in His hands. I wrote some lyrics long ago that, in one place went like this: “You can tell me that I’m crazy, gone bananas; You can say I’ve popped my cork and flipped my lid; All I know is that I gave my heart to Jesus; And I’ve been singing ever since the day I did!” Yep; well, it works for me……

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Direction................................."

I finished that “memories of the Navy” book this morning before driving to school, reading in its final pages of an old man’s recollection of salmon swimming inland to spawn in the fresh water lakes of Kodiak. Then, motoring down the expressway, I happened to see a lone, wild goose in flight, headed south for the winter. For whatever reason, my thoughts turned to fish in an aquarium, whatever instinct they possess reduced to nothing more than a contentment to “cruise the tank”, and almost at the same time the old Karl Marx analogy of religion being “the opiate of the masse” ran through my mind. It would be wrong of me, I know, to simply throw that latter fellow’s opinion like a blanket over all of Christianity, but it does seem to me that it might well behoove some of us to take pause and examine what we refer to as our “faith”. While only the individual can really judge the fullness of his own assurance in Christ, yet I wonder how many within the Church at large are merely occupying the perimeters of their particular fishbowl theology, oblivious to His inner tug on the reins, any call of the Creator to “come home”. Human nature makes it easy for our being “saved” to become no more than a fellowship we have joined, a doctrinal membership we have signed. There’s a scene at the end of an old Robert Redford movie that is forever etched in my brain, the words spoken by the elderly fellow fly-fishing in some stream pasted into the front of one of my Bibles. "Eventually all things merge into one”, it begins, "and a river runs through it.” I believe that; and find it sad that so few seem to know the flow……

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Location..............................."

Wednesday evening’s Bible study knew only about twelve of us in attendance. The pastor has begun scheduling special guest speakers to preach the sanctuary service for the next couple of months and some of our regulars evidently opted to seek their mid-week portion in that arena. Given such choice, anymore at least, this old man, will almost always head for the classroom and I suppose that vanity plays a part in such decision. In that arena, discussion takes place and people are invited to share; and, while I can well appreciate the truth that God can move in the midst of the masse as well as two or three, can feed my soul through a sermon or someone else’s testimony, yet, there it seems, with less of us we are more able to explore the depths of the journey, the nooks and crannies of what we believe. Humanity, of course, remains humanity in both scenarios. People are people, whether individually examining each other’s perspectives on chapter and verse or gathered together collectively in worship. In the one, however, there is freedom to disagree and to learn from one another; in the other, opinions are not encouraged, the moment more about finding His presence in the middle of whatever’s happening; and, in today’s Pentecost, sometimes that’s hard for me to do……

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Infallible.................................."

I’m re-reading, at the moment, a book by Richard Rohr, the title of which expresses its theme: “Everything Belongs”. The theology within might suggest to some of his being a Universalist, his subject matter pointing to the idea of God existing in all things; but he’s actually a Roman Catholic Franciscan Friar. Personally, I’m not averse to examining either side of that coin. One just has to remember who it is that’s talking to you; and that holds true, in my opinion, even if the author should happen to be Pentecostal. You can miss an awfully lot of good food if the only thing you’ll touch is your own cooking. It might be wise, though, if the chef is Mexican, to give some consideration that the dish is quite apt to be spicy. Religious literature shouldn’t simply be swallowed without chewing. You take it with a grain of salt and sort it out with the Holy Ghost as you go… About a year ago Beth and I followed my grandson’s basketball team, along with a few other carloads of passionate supporters, to a high-school in Ohio, off the beaten track on the north west of Cincinnati. The lead van was utilizing one of those GPS units and when we left the expressway there was little doubt in its ability to get us there. As we continued to wind across a backwoods terrain taking us uphill and down, through three or four little Mayberry burgs that, in the darkness, seemed to possess no more than a handful of houses. The technology, in truth, did finally get us there; but, in leaving, one of the locals directed us a couple of blocks north where the expressway led us home a whole lot quicker than the wilderness road by which we came… Just saying: Most everything (and everybody) has a flaw in it somewhere; and the journey is as good a teacher as I know……