Tuesday, November 29, 2011


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


“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


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


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


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


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


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


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


”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


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


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


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


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


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……