Wednesday, June 27, 2012


From my balcony this morning there is hope of sunshine. The strong winds have, for the most part, ceased; and, while the sky above me is still overcast, yet the horizon brings to me a defined point where the clouds cease. A distant blue ceiling over the sea grows larger and larger as the gray mass slowly drifts to the east. It is the lone pelican, though, with its wings outstretched and drifting by in such unruffled manner, that takes my thoughts into familiar territory. “Why,” I wonder, “is it so hard for men to at least recognize the existence of a Creator?” Forget the whole theory of evolution, the hypothesis of how long the Earth has been here, and the mind-boggling enigma of this universe within which we are contained. It takes nothing more than the lush green foliage around me to make a convincing argument for God. No brain. No “intelligence” at all. In its design, however, is an abundance of evidence, distinct characteristics that clearly point to, not just “poof!”, up popped a mutated copy of something else, but clearly an artistic mind imprinting itself in ferns and ivy, palm trees and pine, delicate orange blossoms, too much to even try to list here. Surely it is not a question of His being, as much as it is “how can I connect and know Him in as much as it might be possible?” A man needs ears that hear and eyes that see; and this is just what Christ extends unto us via the Holy Spirit: not a “get out of hell free” pass issued to all those with their name on some church roster, but an individual, personal “anchor-line” whereby a man might touch the hem of His garment. It’s a glimpse, not a complete understanding, a step into the light without any ability to harness any revelation given. Even so, I find, within it, peace and assurance for my soul……

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


With Frank Sinatra in the background crooning “Send In the Clowns”, a video clip sent to me by my sister-in-law provided segments of comedy skits from the early days of television: Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Milton Berle, Red Skelton - the list too long to continue. It was simple, “clean” humor, slapstick stupidity that, as Orson Welles put it near the end, was more of a “beautiful, exuberant, childlike zaniness”, the veteran actor pondering if it all was just “the product of a different time, another generation”. Indeed, it does seem as if not only are the great ones gone, but their spirit, their style, of laughter is no more as well. Do we explain such loss as merely a matter of what amuses us having evolved? Or would it be closer to truth to say that we, as a society, have passed through a metamorphosis? I watched a bit of history on the Smothers Brothers the other day, remembering how the pair, in the late sixties, took humor into another arena. Moral issues and politics became the targets of opinionated ridicule, succeeding to the point of Saturday Night Live opening in seventy-five with no holds barred; and, from there, depending on your personal perspective, it’s been a downhill slide into the mud. The world will always be the world, of course; humanity has always been humanity; but where, I wonder, is the Church? If Christ “in” us be a living reality rather than a debatable proposition, then why do we not influence more that which we inhabit on a daily basis? Could it be that we’re just too busy swinging our swords and tilting at windmills, demanding that we, alone, possess truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Maybe we just need to concentrate more on our becoming better vessels through which He can, Himself, be manifested unto the mass……..

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Most people who visit the beach probably don’t philosophize about the experience. Some hours in the sun, sand castles and sea shells: why get so (pardon the pun) “into the deep” over a bit of rest and relaxation? For me, though, it matters not the location. There is an inner desire to know, if only in part, the mystery behind it all. I sit here on the balcony listening to the rhythmic sound of ocean waves rolling in to spill upon the shoreline, the melody almost as if the horizon beckons a man to come. The sailor in me wishes to answer. The old man, however, is content with merely hearing the call, feeling the tug on the anchor-line. After all, the answers I seek have nothing to do with adventure, at least not in the sense of navigating that stretch of water before me. Within me is a greater distance, already spanned in so far as being connected to the One who created all things, and yet a need ever existing for me to mentally and spiritually “give up the ghost” if I am to find peace in Him. It is that pull, that draw, more so than that which my ears bring to me in the otherwise stillness of the world presently around me. One just sets the stage for the other. Out of His well, I am refreshed. There, at His oasis, all else is explained......

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Last night’s visit to the rescue mission was no great emergence into God’s presence. The room was nearly full with a variety of faces, young, old, black, white, nobody familiar. For whatever reason, it was a crowd of drifters, nobody from the neighborhood at all; and yet, looking into their eyes, I could see the same assortment of personalities that always meet us there. Some smile and shake their head in agreement. Others show deep thought, their brows and their mouths, without opening, expressing a mental digestion process taking place within them. They laugh with us. They “eat” with us. On this occasion, one fellow, inside and out of the heat, seated on a full stomach, succumbed to slumber, his head pressed against the wall and his body upright in the chair. Thankfully, no snoring. I thought it a bit of coincidence when Dave opened up the meeting by taking us to a certain verse in Deuteronomy which had just been brought to my attention the day before by a pastor friend in Alabama. It’s a text that the Jews refer to as the “Shema”, a word meaning “to hear”, but to hear in the sense of “obeying”. To put it another way, the term suggests the possibility of our not just merely receiving verbal transmission audibly, but having the truth of whatever is said to break open unplowed ground and cause fruit to come forth. This isn’t just a matter of ears taking in sound waves, eyes framing whatsoever is in front of them without pondering the truth of what they see. We’re talking “enlightenment” to the point of “reaction”. I might even go one step farther to say: That which is sown into the brain somehow gets into a man’s “belly”, the heart and soul of who and what he is. Jesus called it being “born again”; and, while believers equate such phrase to a re-connecting with God through the Holy Spirit, where we tend to come up short is in thinking it to be a one-time experience. I don’t know about others; but, for me, the initial encounter simply opened the door for multiple reenactments……

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


It’s a common occurrence in my church for a message in tongues to come forth, an interpretation thereof following almost immediately and usually rendered by whomsoever delivers the first. The content tends to be something edifying, occasionally prophetic, but never to the extent of setting a date for the Lord’s return or declaring a need for everybody to empty their wallets into the offering plate. I believe it Biblical. Indeed, if Christ “in” me testifies to the reality of a living Savior who somehow co-inhabits me through the Third Person of the Godhead, then the gifts of the Spirit, all of the gifts, ought to be a potential occurrence for anyone possessing genuine membership within the Body. For it to happen certainly doesn’t indicate that the vessel through which it flows holds higher status than another. The anointing is about ministry, not self-exultation; and, in truth, that the Holy Ghost should manifest Himself via humanity at all is just more evidence of grace. Invite our ego into the process and the probability of the finished product being less than sanctified is a given. Doesn’t that apply equally, however, to any manner that Deity might choose to bear witness through us? A sermon can be just as full of vanity as “yea, I say unto thee”. That’s why the walk remains an individual determination with the need to sort out all the junk as we go, our hand in His hand, our head and heart connected to His anchor-line, steady in the journey…….

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


For the past week, a few hours at a time, I’ve been helping my brother-in-law put together some wire cages that will help protect his ninety tomato plants from becoming lunch for all the deer that roam this neck of the woods. He’s got six years on me and when I suggested to him that, for all the money he’s spending, his crop is costing him about five dollars a pound, he just laughed and said, “Yep; but next year they’re free!” His older sibling and his father, both, were in their eighties and still tending huge gardens when they passed. It’s a generational exercise, though, that seems to me about to meet its demise. Even if one has a yard big enough to hold a plot, who has time any more to tend to its needs? Farmers are few and, likewise, how many women yet possess any knowledge of preserving food for future use. Produce is shipped in from out of state and available at Wal-Mart. This is no longer your grandmother’s world and in more ways than one. Humanity remains humanity; people are still people; but we live as we think and our thinking is shaped as we go. It matters much, the environment around us. We speak of technological progress. We don’t consider that which is lost in the exchange. It is a slow process, an “evolution” not so much in the sense of physical transformation, but rather a spiritual one, a mental metamorphosis that slowly possesses us. I see it in the world. I see it in the Church. Not talking life changes here, but morals, ethics, the basic elements of who and what we are. Not so much individually, but as a society. Christ, alone, is an anchor-line and, even in Him, it is a stagger…….

Friday, June 15, 2012


In looking up a foreign word referred to in a book I’m reading, it seems that, even though it can be equated with “actual”, the Germans, themselves, have a hard time explaining its use in linguistics. That leaves me with the author’s definition of “eigentlich”, one which stirred my thoughts enough to search a little deeper. The term means (or so he says) “a unique quality of one’s essential being, what you cannot escape from about yourself, what you hold on to despite everything, what doesn’t fall away through whatever storms you pass in life.” That seems to be cramming a whole lot into ten letters; but, then, it would only take me three to capture it all as well. Within the same story, one of the characters confides in another concerning his only fear being of “falling into that final darkness all alone” and his one need being what he calls a “witness”, someone there spiritually, if not physically, someone who, out of their own mutual understanding, can reach out to him and say “I know”. Surely, in our journey here, we all can identify with that confession. Loneliness is more than simply finding yourself without tangible companionship. Humanity, however, can only meet us in such space as we presently occupy. A friend can walk with you only as far as the grave. God, however, “spans the gap”, linking the here and now with eternity and driving out all fear with the assurance of His presence. He knows us from the inside out; yet, in spite of all, is willing to be an anchor for our soul if we are but honest in the relationship and surrendered to His tug on the anchor-line. Grace: not just a Biblical term, but a tangible Reality within me. In Him there is rest……

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Tick, Tock................."

Life, in reference to the Fourth Dimension, is an illusion, a measurement unrestrictive to an eternal God and, for all our attempts to capture it in definitive amounts, nothing more than a continual dance we humans encounter as we go. It all depends on our perspective as to whether any particular slice of our existence be deemed short or long. Five years can seem like forever if we’re talking about some future event yet to come; but, in looking back ten, or even twenty, it often feels like only yesterday. Where did it go?... In class, last night, we talked of how Mark, in his Gospel, so frequently spoke in terms of everything happening “right now”, consistently utilizing words such as “immediately” and “straightway”. While one might well reason the first term meant to emphasize the authority given unto Jesus and the second merely a matter of the author’s youth overflowing into his narrative, our teacher asked us to consider the pace that we maintain in our own personal journey and then pointed to the example set forth in Scripture of Christ’s need, again and again, to slip away to some isolated, quiet place and pray. Always “in touch” with His Father and yet finding “affirmed connection” to be a vital part of His renewal, refreshing, and reassurance, the Son, Himself, shows us the way. Indeed, for me, anything less is just theology. Our minds are incapable of containing the Creator in any manner other than an understanding reached through chapter and verse, the message as it has been delivered unto us from the pulpit, and the lessons learned in a step-by-step experience. Who is God? He is that which flooded my soul more than four decades ago, washing me clean and leaving me no doubt of a bond having been established between us. He is a reality that, in becoming one with me as I lay in bed one evening, overflowed the physical vessel and convinced me of eternity. Again and again, if not always in such magnitude, as deeply nonetheless, from “up out of my belly” He has proven Himself faithful in His patience with this old man. My walk, therefore, is one of pursuit, a never-ending matter of “returning to the well”. Time, in any sense one might want to look at it, in truth comes down to this moment, today, and forever……

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


“Turn right at the third star past Origen, push through the Parsekian Nebula, and there, on the other side, is the Black Pearl of the universe, bathed in an aura of ultra-violet radiation, the image in itself breath-taking, alluring, and able to suck in a man’s soul”… Where does my mind go to when slumber shuts down everything else? I woke up this morning with the above words (approximately) running through my head, having no recollection at all as to whether or not some previous dream had taken me to “where no man has gone before”. Not that there is any reason to worry about it. Pensacola is once again being flooded by torrential rain, most of Europe is financially going down the tubes and we are close, they say, to being caught in the backwash, and one just never knows “what evil lurks within the heart of man.”We live on a ball the middle of nowhere, spinning on a wobbly axis at a rate of about 1070 mph while orbiting an explosive mass at a speed amplified nearly sixty times greater than that. Add to that the fact that the whole gravitational galaxy within which we are contained is, at the same time, hurtling through outer space so rapidly that all comprehension is lost concerning any boundaries of our existence, and one is left with no rational explanation as to why we are here at all. Sufficient, it seems to me, to just survive the day. Better, if in the midst of it all, an inner anchorage provides security of there being nothing to fear. Whatever the cause for my nocturnal adventures, no matter the storm, the threat before me, yet there is peace in abundance to be found if one only slows down to visit the well…..

Monday, June 11, 2012

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

With our pastor away on another evangelical excursion, the pulpit during each of our three Sunday services was filled by three different men. In the early one, the message concerned itself with the truth that, while the Word is indeed “inspired” of God, it is the Spirit who empowers it in our life. I wasn’t there to hear the next fellow, but was given a snippet of its theme when I returned for the evening offering, a declaration based on a prophetic utterance informing our congregation that is was time for us to “go forth with our sword”, the sinful world around us needing to be conquered for Christ. Fifteen minutes into the third sermon, it was enough for me, the preacher declaring us to possess “the blessings bestowed upon Abraham” and therefore being “the head and not the tail”. How can we so quickly, within the same sanctuary, go from what I consider “solid theology” to what seems like, more and more as we go, the boast of the Laodicean assembly? It’s like reading a book wherein the contents feed you so greatly that immediately you search for something else by the same author; then, plunging into it, you find yourself bewildered that out of the same vessel should come such nonsense. Not that I claim any clear perception of the Gospel in so far as having the only way to interpret its message unto us. Indeed, the point I would make here is that none of us, no not one, holds such gift; and where that leaves all of us is in a stumble down the strait path. Assurance is not a mental, doctrinal credo committed to memory and labeled “faith”, but a risen Savior convincing me of His reality via tangible encounters at the well. Life remains a lesson in progress. Salvation is a matter of “hungering and thirsting after righteousness”, having sense enough to know that, apart from Him, we are lost…..

Sunday, June 10, 2012


With the day being somewhat hot and muggy, it was nearly seven-thirty in the evening before this old man left the house for an exercise walk through the park. Actually, I drove around and entered it from the main highway, parking at the south end and then set a good pace toward the north end for three orbits of the soccer field before reversing my route back to the car. The sun was starting to sink in the west, extending to me the shadows of the foliage along the creek bank for most of my journey. Only the far side of the flat oval track yet knew solar heat, but an almost negligible breeze made the whole event a pleasurable experience. It takes me nearly an hour, the pace I set not just some purposeless stroll, an amble wherein one simply soaks up the scenery as he goes. I am conscious of the world around me; but, unless interrupted by some event, a fellow traveler, children chasing each other across my path, my focus is usually on an attempt to connect with the Holy Ghost. I talk, mentally, to He who holds me in the palm of His hands. Prayer? Not exactly an “eyes-closed, hands-folded, kneeling-in-a-closet” sort of petition. As far as that goes, however, it has never been my habit to require such protocol even when opportunity provides space to afford it. For me, Christ abides within; and so, while there is always, in either instance, this sense of there being “distance” to be bridged, whether it be the heavens above me or the depths inside me, yet He is “with” me. The problem is my own humanity, not so much a matter of being “unclean” and separated from Him by the truth of who and what I am, but of being hindered by the fact that my brain has a hard time maintaining pursuit. One second my whole heart is reaching for the hem of His garment and the next thing I know, my thought process has strayed off into another area. Thus it is; and yet, in spite of it all, from time to time contact is established. For a few moments, there is a flow between us. Usually, nothing verbal on His part. Tangible nonetheless. If restricted in the physical freedom to surrender all, aware that the world around me would not understand, I find no reason to reject the spiritual bond of assurance that His presence provides. Tears fill my eyes and gratitude takes my tongue. Nothing healthier……

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Wednesday evening’s Bible class had nearly twenty of us in the room, the teacher taking us into the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Actually, his prologue, concerning the history and identity of the author in as much as theologians believe him to be, somehow opened up discussion on “taking the good news” unto others and it would be an hour before we finally gave the last thirty minutes to chapter and verse. At one point early on, though, there was mention made of a nearby “witness” located at a rural intersection, a fellow having painted the whole side of his barn with a message for all who pass by to read. The words are familiar, nothing original, just a bit provocative to those who build cement doctrinal temples out of the Word. “All Roads Lead To God”, after all, does hit a nerve when the Book clearly Jesus as the only true path; and, yet, if one would but stop to think, Scripture also indicates that all men will some day stand in judgment. Doesn’t that tend to extend at least some element of truth to such statement? Rather than argument, better, I think, to ask those who quote it what happens when we get there before His throne. What credentials will any of us possess in so far as entering through the Pearly Gates? Personally, I see no sense in going to battle with others over what rests in His hands at some future date. Let’s talk about “now”, about a risen Savior who lives within and goes with us in the next step! Let’s talk about the reality of Him being a restored connection wherein we might know our Creator in a tangible experience! Assurance of what happens tomorrow is found through a faith He brings to me today……

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Just before Christmas break this past year, circumstances occurred wherein our particular Spec-Ed unit was, more or less, reshaped in several ways. A major part of such change was the insertion of a new teacher, a lady in retirement, but still working as a substitute, filling vacancies as they came to her, her hyper-enthusiasm for ministering to these kids over-flowing into the rest of us. Crafts were her passion. Technology and trying to find her scissors beneath two or three piles of possible future projects challenged her, if in no other way, by occupying time that could have been spent otherwise. She told me often that I reminded her of her father, a compliment, or so I was told. On the other hand, although I don’t think I mentioned it to her, a bit of her personality seem to reflect my own habits. Somewhere during the course of our days shared there in the classroom, however, probably as she was reading something in a group session, the book shown here was declared my own personal favorite of any in the library. It’s the story of a fellow whose legs were so spindly and whose neck was so long that when he tried to compete in the annual jungle version of DWTS, his attempts to boogie were ridiculed by all there. Nonetheless, befriended by cricket with a fiddle and swept up into the sound of the breeze blowing through the trees and grass, beneath a full moon he learns that all it takes is “finding music that we love”. I may be seventy years old, but the moral registers with me. What’s more: there’s a copy of the tale now sitting on my computer desk, with a note from my friend on the inside cover. It’s not deep theology, but it works for me......

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Life remains life and each new day brings its own existence to explore, its own lesson to learn. One never knows what the next breath will encounter. Nonetheless we breathe, believe, and go forth. It is early here in my neck of the woods, the sun having already conquered this portion of the globe, the neighbor’s pup filling the air with his dislike of being penned up in the back yard. There’s a quietness otherwise, though, a sort of purity as if God has somehow cleansed the area overnight and this morning is a new beginning. On my mind, however, is word from my pastor in Pensacola that a friend there is close to death, cancer’s grip about to take him unless we, the Church, can somehow pray down a miracle. How does one do that? Forty years into this, even with having experienced along the way the absolute truth of His reality, I find myself at a loss in so far as me possessing an ability to influence the Creator with my faith… Yesterday Beth and I watched a Hallmark movie about some young girls in a detention center. One in particular is serving time for having hit a woman, texting while driving and then leaving her to die at the scene of the accident. Turned down once by the Parole Board for not having figured out why she was there, she returns three months later, changed by events, to tell them if punishment is the reason for her being there, eternity would not suffice in as much as nothing could give back what she had taken away from others. What, then, the point?-That she might be enlightened to the truth of it not being “about me”… Her confession yet rings in my mind, its simplicity a good message to take with me to those kids that we visit in ministry. I find the foundation of what it says able to be used in several ways, indeed an anchorage for all of us in following Him. While we surely are Biblically admonished to take all our cares and burdens to Christ, the idea that we somehow are granted our petitions according to how much belief we can muster, to me, greatly smells of vanity, good intentions misplaced. Better, I think, to remember He, alone, can heal, only He is wisdom, all knowing, all merciful. If into His stream I go, and there, before the Cross, commit all that I am, all my concerns and all my questions can be laid to rest……

Monday, June 4, 2012


My oldest daughter turned forty-seven yesterday. I remember holding her the day after she was born, her head in the palm of my left hand, the rest of her tiny body resting on my forearm. The Navy had me under orders to be in Seattle, Washington on the fifth of June, so I handed her back to her mother, kissed them both, and then drove across country from northern Kentucky in less than two days. I was twenty-three. Leaving was the hard part. Forty-seven years later, not only does such distance fatigue me, every now and then, along the way, somebody has to remind me just where it is that I’m going… The music in the early service Sunday morning was fast-paced for the most part, the lyrics of one particular song speaking of how one wanted, in response to having been set free, to “worship, jump, and shout a little deeper, higher, louder than before”. It’s Pentecost. We don’t just mouth the words. Our enthusiasm is expressed in a number of ways, in order, but nonetheless most certainly allowing for believers to manifest the truth of what they are feeling. Four decades ago, I always wanted to be seated “up front where the fire was” and on the aisle, not “sewed up in some pew”. Who could just sit when the Holy Ghost was moving so strongly in our midst? Let me walk. Give me freedom to be one with the flow. Nowadays, my involvement is rare and more contained, this old body not as physically agile as it once was; but, admittedly, the change has more to do with my mental attitude than it does anything else. Just because it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck doesn’t mean it is a duck. Hopefully, that’s wisdom gained, not just me off on a tangent……

Saturday, June 2, 2012


With my sister having, at one time, attended a Unitarian church, I’ve read enough about what they believe to have come to the opinion that they believe just about anything and everything. Most of those within Christianity, therefore, having doctrinal tenets that define them as a denomination of such faith, would probably consider this particular bunch a cult. Robert Fulghum, if he hasn’t left the premises somewhere along the way, served as a pastor to at least a couple of their assemblies for nearly twenty years. One gathers from his books that he, indeed, holds to an idea of there being a Divinity. It would be hard, though, to frame his perception within any Bible-based sanctuary. He seems to build what religion he possesses, such as it is, on a foundation of the Creator, whoever or whatever that is, having “put” Himself into our humanity and thereby eternally existing within the everyday moments of who and what we are. In this present work of his that I’m reading, the ritual of “Communion” is defined by the author as a celebration of the Body’s common concerns, needs, and principles which bind them together as an extended family. He speaks of them understanding, at times, why they gather, how now and then they are willing to even talk about the event with each other; and then suggests that the real reason that they keep showing up on a regular basis is “because there is more of something here than anyplace else for us.” When he goes on, however, to say that the sanctuary is made holy ground because of what they, as a people, “do and say and are” there, I feel he has left important data out of his sermon. If the Scarlet Thread is not a part of that flow we find within the temple, then are we not reduced to a worship of nothing more than ourselves? It is good that we should “connect”, but the tie that binds and makes us one ought to be the truth of a resurrected Savior alive and well in our midst……

Friday, June 1, 2012


Our final day of school is always no more than a gathering of all staff members in the cafeteria for a sharing of accomplishments, events encountered along the way. Those who are leaving, for one reason or another, retirement or economy-forced reductions, are recognized for their part in the big picture. It’s three hours of being “family”, some humorous stories, some encouragement, some reminders of what “being a teacher” is all about. Then everyone returns to their individual rooms to ensure that the space has been prepared for the custodians’ annual cleansing. That’s it. Summer is officially here… I’m reading Fulghum’s “From Beginning to End”, a book about how “The Rituals of Our Lives” are really the fabric of whom and what we are as individuals. In one place he likens it unto silently sitting around an open campfire remembering, our need to revive and relive times past as vital to us as breathing. It is not just the telling of tales, but a renewing of what has shaped us. It helps us to connect and make sense out of things, giving significance and explanation as to why we think as we do. I see it more of a “thread” running through all of us, a common river of existence given us by the Creator, its origin extending from Him and, indeed, restored to its intended potential when we invite Him to once more be one with us in its course as it comes to us. My friend Tony spoke with apology in Wednesday’s Bible class on how, for him, “church” just didn’t “work”. What he discovered by simply “hanging in there”, however, was a matter of Christ being not a formula or a format, but a “flow”. If one will be willing to open up and allow the Spirit to go out, somehow the stream of His presence not only brings meaning to our mess, it also rejuvenates us in the path that we travel, tying us one to the other and allowing us to put what we don’t understand into His hands. It also, in such manner, renews us with fresh oil. Our faith is not so much a matter of “I believe”, but “I am”, even as “He is” within me. Each segment of our walk is, likewise, not so self-centered. We learn, as the writer once put it, “No man is an island”……