Monday, January 28, 2013


Originally a 1935 Broadway musical, “Jumbo” became a movie in 1962 and opened with Jimmy Durante walking down the street with an elephant behind him. When a policeman stops him to ask about the elephant, the comedian gives him a puzzled look and inquires “What elephant?” …With such introduction our assistant pastor began his sermon Sunday morning, the message pointing to a claim that, inside all of us, is a different kind of pachyderm, one that goes with us in all that we do and all too often throws its weight around in our daily life. The identity he assigned to the beast was “self-ishness”, making clear from the “get-go” that such term embraced a whole lot more than merely not sharing our toys with the other kids. Indeed, word reflection a condition common to us all, one wherein the inner man is always wrestling with a need to be heard, to be first, to be right, and one which being “born-again” was, in no way, a solution to the problem. In emphasizing that latter point, Steve went to the Gospel of Mark, that portion where Peter confesses Jesus to be the Christ and then, just a few verses down the road, he finds himself, not just rebuked, but also called “Satan” by the Messiah he has endorsed… I agree. What’s more: If we, as individuals, so stumble down the path, in need of His rod and staff to correct our navigation, isn’t it just as probable that the Church, as an institution, can “miss the mark as well? Martin Luther thought it to be so back in 1521; and, from there, we’ve evolved into a multitude of opinions all claiming to be following the truth. Maybe it’s not as much about being “right” as it is being “re-adjusted”, being “disciplined by the Holy Ghost anchor-line in our belly” more so than being “doctrinally dead in our head”…..

Saturday, January 26, 2013


The weather here, as one might expect with February right around the corner, suddenly dropped into much lower temperatures this week. Up until now we’ve been able to stay quite warm with three strategically placed electric heaters and utilizing the oil furnace no more than ten minutes or so in the morning to jump-start the day. As so often happens in life, though, exactly when it might have been nice to gain a little more support from such source of heat, the guzzler down in the basement refused to cooperate, kicking in if the reset button was pushed, but the motor only running a few minutes and dying before shifting into second gear. The son-in-law usually works his magic when something like this happens, but is out of town at the moment. Thinking perhaps the batteries might once again be the problem, I tried replacing them right off the bat; and, when nothing happened, settled in to await Mark’s return. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Last night, in bed, it occurred to me that it might be good to repeat my original attempt to cure the problem, the truth being that batteries, around here, don’t always get thrown away after their demise and often find their way, somehow, into a mixture kept in a drawer. Two out. Two more in. Voila! We’re back in business! I’d blame it on old age, but I’ve been like this all my life. Whatever possessed Beth, not just to marry me, but to stick with me for nearly five decades, is beyond me……

Friday, January 25, 2013


Our Wednesday evening class began with a mention of the “revolving door”, a term coined that reflects the truth of people leaving many churches through the back entrance as fast as others are arriving through the front one. If such intro tied into the subject we addressed afterwards, though, I must have missed the bridge. In truth, our teacher warned us from the start of having learned long ago the need for a “common frame of reference”, the lack of which leading all too often to misunderstanding between individuals in a discussion. He had even utilized at least ten minutes reading various New Testament verses in an attempt to provide us with such aid. Somehow this old man, however, failed to connect with him on the idea of a believer’s “spirituality” equating to being “led by the Spirit” only if the one leading him or her was actually the Holy Ghost. Looking back, it was, no doubt, a matter of faulty communication on my part, as I recall, my exact words possibly suggesting we achieve such state merely in those moments when His presence merges with us, working through us in some manner. Sitting here now and rehashing our dialogue, I can see where that might sound as if the event has to always be some deep experience, the indwelling overtly manifested to the point that all there know He is among us. That’s not quite the picture intended. The incident, itself, nonetheless, does seem to illustrate the condition. Whether the path before us involves others or not, it’s just too easy to think ourselves following His will; and, yet, what really drives us is nothing more than our own determination. When it was obvious that we were not focused from the same perspective, rather than zealously plowing ahead full steam with a wish to enlighten him concerning my view, I opted to surrender to the authority of his position. Whether that makes either of us “spiritual” or not is debatable, but it did result in an enjoyable hour and a half of fellowship, everybody leaving at the end with a desire to return again next week……

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"You Are Here..................."

The universe, in as much as science has thus far even begun to grasp any complete explanation of it, is the product of a great explosion. The point where that particular event occurred, though, is, I believe, yet beyond our ability to locate, the other direction, as well, never determined to have any kind of end to its spread. What exists, then, in so much as putting any measurement to it all, is infinity stretched to infinity regardless which perspective one might take, eternity, if time is applied to such calculation, no clock capable of surviving the trip. That latter statement, however, is made merely because, within such vast space there is nothing known to us that can be classified as being perpetual. Everything changes, some things faster than others; and what’s more: everything has an end. The only thing we really possess is the moment; and yet even it belongs to us only in the sense that decisions we make, actions we take right now, shape the future as it comes to us. Little, seemingly insignificant pieces of the puzzle form the picture as we go. Doing nothing at all can alter the course of things as much as anything else. Of course, in the big analysis, the individual has no choice but to deal with the process as it continues to evolve around him, that being where most of us live on a daily basis; but if there be any remedy to the situation, the best that this old man has found is an inner connection with the One who holds it all in His hands. There is some work required on our part to ensure the channel remains free of the debris that seems to collect non-stop, flotsam and jetsam from a world spinning in a frenzy and gone mad; but He supplies peace and wisdom to navigate the stream, strength to maintain the pace…….

Monday, January 21, 2013


My pastor’s message last night was extracted from one of the Psalms, a cry for those who are barren to break forth into singing by reason of their being about to birth many. His morning sermon, based once again on the prodigal son, proclaimed the Church having been given authority, among several other blessings, a statement enthusiastically received by the congregation, but considered by this old man to be without sufficient explanation when served to this present-day bunch of Pentecostals. In this one, while I recognized his heart pleading for a return to those depths that the old-time holiness folk knew in a connection with the Holy Ghost, it seemed to me without essential information and a false witness to just what is required of us if we wish to step “behind the veil”, to find ourselves, not just in a flow of living water, but submerged in Him. He spoke of being “consecrated”, but put that in terms of a condition achieved through works. In such manner one ascended to a higher “level”. I maintain that the only necessity in this is a complete surrender unto the Spirit within us. He is not impressed by OUR righteousness, but by our willingness to submit all that we are unto HIS reality. He, alone, is our sanctification, the One who speaks peace over troubled waters, the One who brings assurance of salvation, the One who indeed IS our faith, our grace, our witness unto whosoever; and when we fail to recognize Him as the Third Person of the Godhead alive within us, reducing Him to a force controlled by our actions, His power ours to manipulate rather than our vessel made one with Him through temporary merger, the Gospel gets distorted. I believe in “boldness”; but I have also read about the seven sons of Sciva……

Sunday, January 20, 2013


There is no doctorate of psychology hanging on my wall, but it does seem to me that man is a product of his culture, his environment, and his history. Nonetheless, it would also appear that any two people those three elements in no way come out “cloned”. We are individual in who we are, distinct in our character, our personality, and our opinions; however, in. spite of our differences, we tend to gather in “herds”, seeking fellowship in our passions, I suppose, needing security, perhaps, among those who are at least like-minded… While Beth and my oldest daughter were shopping Saturday morning, I spent nearly an hour in a half-price book shop rooting through the religious section and walking away empty-handed. It’s usually the same anymore with Barnes & Noble, the shelves there stocked with the same selection, just marked with a higher price. Celebrity preachers, each with their own approach, their own insight, their own way to “make it work”, peddling what may well feed others, but failing to put much on my table. Most of it I’ve heard before. It has nothing to do with wanting new revelation, another perspective on the Gospel message. In truth, it’s more like the other way around. If Christ “in” indeed equates to a resurrected Savior actually re-connected to me via the Holy Ghost, then, within me, the Spirit leads, pulls, and directs my path. In searching, I am simply trying to secure His witness in sorting out all that’s “blowing in the wind”. When the Bible speaks of being “of one mind” and “in one accord”, the important thing to focus on is His voice……

Friday, January 18, 2013


Wednesday evening I opened up the service with a more modern version of one of the old hymns, shared how we were there more out a desire to worship “with” them than to thump a sermon “at” them, and, when I asked for volunteers to share a word of testimony, an older African-American gentleman currently going through their program so blessed us. “Anyone else?” I queried. From the rear of the small room (that was fairly well packed on this occasion) a soft, almost timid voice responded with a desire to sing a song. You take your chances in such circumstances. You take your chances, for that matter, in a church when you offer such opportunity. People are people; and some just like to be heard. This was a young fellow, though, no more than twenty or twenty-one, no tattoos or piercings that most his age display nowadays, and not that my mentioning such here would have made any difference to me. His whole manner was polite. When he queried whether he should come forward, I welcomed him behind the simple wooden lectern they provide us; and he began by speaking of his learning that he was helpless in managing his own affairs, of how God was teaching him, of how thankful he was for places like the mission. The message was short and humble, the song one he had written and brought forth almost with apology, the words almost not able to be heard by this old man; yet something in his spirit had us all. Again and again, within the lyrics, we heard how Christ had shown him the way. As he returned to his seat, the men gave their support along with ours, the moment one to be remembered, the sort of thing that has kept me in this ministry for more than twelve years now, “church” to me…….

Monday, January 14, 2013


The husband of Beth’s oldest sister died Saturday. Back in March, doctors gave my wife’s oldest brother and this fellow terminal diagnosis, expecting the latter to go quickly and the first having maybe six months left to live. As it turned out, cancer reversed that, this one not just surviving the longest, but remaining, to my knowledge, without pain, up and around the house until several days ago. More or less, he simply lay down in bed and crossed over. They’ve asked me to sing at the funeral tomorrow, requesting the same song shared at the earlier one, this occasion actually marking the fourth time I’ve done it. It came to me via hearing the Crabb family perform it on some television program. The father had written it, speaking to his deceased mother, his words, from the very start, connecting with something deep inside me. More than merely a statement of grief over a dear one’s departure, there is truth expressed in how so many of us all too often let opportunity slip away until it’s too late. I’m providing this link for any who might care to hear it, this one providing the lyrics in case wanted. This weekend, as one might imagine, has had me busy, school today a bit hectic. The rescue mission is slated for Wednesday evening. My mind, at the moment “runneth over”. Somewhere in the mixture another post will come. When is another matter……

Saturday, January 12, 2013


About eight-o’clock this morning on my way to an appointment for an oil-change, I stopped at the local McDonald’s for a senior coffee; but, with the drive-thru being at a stand-still for some reason, purchasing it inside seemed a better option. An older man was the only one in front of me, the markings on his ball cap identifying him as a “former” Marine; and when I touched his shoulder to get his attention, to express my gratitude for his service, he turned to look me in the eye. “Thanks;” he replied, “but I’m afraid it was all for nothing.” His words surprised me. My inquiry, though, brought forth passionate explanation. Saipan and the Pacific counted for zilch, in his opinion, “by the time Congress and this s.o.b. in the White House get through with what they’re doing to this country!” He got my agreement, although not brought forth as heatedly as his sentiments. Further mention concerning his respect for Hillary being “the only one up there in Washington with enough sense to handle our affairs” revealed his probable political alliance as with the Democrat Party. He was one of “them”. I paid for his breakfast nonetheless, having read a few books about Saipan and what our service men endured in the Pacific back in the 40s. He had my respect even if our voter registrations fell on opposite sides of the fence. Our young men, from the beginning, and, nowadays, our women as well, offer their lives for no more than those basic principles upon which this nation was founded. Those seven red stripes in our flag represent a lot of blood shed along the way to insure, not just our freedom, but also our identity as a body of people locked together in the belief that, “under God”, we are one. Somewhere the latter has been lost and here we are. God save us……

Friday, January 11, 2013

"Occupational Blessings......"

It was an easy day at school today, three of our charges absent for one reason or another, giving me opportunity to mostly relax after administering a couple of tests to one fellow. Work did not cease; but, with three of us and only four children, the whole atmosphere in the room was changed. There are many things about this job that keep me coming back each year. The little Mexican boy in our room persistently calls me “papa” even though I repeatedly correct him that, to him, I am “oso feo” (ugly bear). One fellow in our Fourth Grade math class, whose behavior marks him as one to keep an eye on, has warmed to my instruction thanks to my bribing him with an occasional peppermint. There’s also, though, the girl who continues to dine at my table in the cafeteria. I thought, at first, that she simply had a crush on the lad who comes in there with me for lunch; but it’s beginning to look like my Cheez-Its are the main attraction. You learn their names and their personalities. You watch them grow as they go, bumping into some of them often, in one way or another, from kindergarten all the way Fifth Grade and graduation. One lass spoke to me in the doorway this morning, waiting to go in to her Science class and I learned she was the baby sister born to the family of that autistic lad who was my introduction to Special-Ed some eleven years ago. Somehow she had slipped by me during the last decade, this old man’s mind unable to connect the dots that a decade is a decade. Thursday was a rarity, me encountering a First grader in the nurse’s station whose mother, at least, came here from the Ukraine. Asked in her own language if she spoke Russian, she gave me a smile, her whole face lighting up in a glow. It was mixed conversation for a moment, me telling her that I had learned it in an Army School; but, after fifty years, “pochti zaboravio vsyo”. That latter phrase put together, no doubt, with error, roughly translating to having “almost forgotten it all” and explaining my lack of good grammar. She told me her name was “Looby” and grinned when I expressed my knowledge of it meaning “Love” in some form or another. A new friend. This job has fringe benefits that don’t come in a contract…….

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


It’s four o’clock in the morning, my wife and granddaughter asleep in the bedroom, this old man sacked out for the night in his recliner, his mind now having a conversation with itself, I suppose, something left unsaid in my last post. In talking to the Detention Center kids this weekend, I pointed to an old iced-tea commercial as an illustration of how to connect with the Spirit of God. The original ad portrayed a fellow, sweaty and hot, lifting a glass of that beverage to drink, its effect being such as to make him totally relaxed, enough to fall back into a pool of water. Even so, I suggested, when we are willing to surrender our humanity, to admit who and what we are to our Creator, there is a place where we also might simply fall back into the flow of His reality…. Sunday evening, then, my pastor would paint a different image of that event, picturing the merger occurring when we enter into a worship formed from an honest plea brought forth from the depths of our identity. The musical tone of such message was not restricted to any one culture as he, himself, attempted to demonstrate it manner, his own voice reflecting his Appalachian heritage, a sort of “back hill country wail” sung unto God. Both examples, it seems to me, are true; and neither were given with any intent to teach a method guaranteeing success, the Holy Ghost certainly not bound by any of our formulas. The merger occurs through grace, His wisdom dictating the whole affair; but I believe people need to know that such experience is possible, much of Christianity having lost that part of the promise along the way, others disappointed after learning that trying to reproduce it out of our own making leaves one with nothing more than sand. To each of us, our own encounter, of course; but, without one, what do we possess other than religion?.....

Monday, January 7, 2013


Our visit to the Youth Detention Center Sunday morning was blessed by clear roads, predicted snowfall evidently finding somewhere else to manifest its weather conditions. Two of my group had dismissed themselves due to illness; but, because of the scheduling having been altered, our number merely dropped to six, four of whom would actually share with the kids. The hour went well, the Spirit tying together our thoughts and a theme somehow emerging of our existence here no more than a small slice of infinity we occupy, culture, environment, and history all shaping us into individuals, all of us with a need for the reality of God being much more than something we profess to believe. Several among our congregation listened with tears in their eyes. The six girls would enter into prayer with our women in a separate room after we closed… My pastor, during evening service, would speak to us out of that portion of Scripture where Hezekiah, faced with a prophetic sentence of death, “turned his face toward the wall” and got hold of the Almighty. The message was a good one and I am in agreement with the truth that we all need such connection in our life, our journey down the path a matter of days and weeks filled with drudgery, perplexity, stress, triviality, trauma, and traffic jams. As one fellow put it,: “What kind of person do we become in the math and aftermath of all the fecality slung at us between diapers and Depends?” Faith ought to be more than mental doctrine acquired from the Book, an inanimate totem we worship out of some sense of it gaining us entrance into heaven in the end. Must we all find assurance in the same manner, though? Is it required that each of us be cloned by another’s experience of “hooking up with the Holy Ghost”? For this old man, the “mystery of the Gospel” is verified, not so much by what gets us into God’s presence, but by how much of Him is shown in our walk, manifested in our identity, once we’ve come out of that merger……

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Beth and I watched a “Person of Interest” episode last night, one wherein the computer genius is actually the main character; and, having maneuvered his way into holding a certain high-school teacher’s position, he steps into keeping a young boy from being killed. Possessing high skills in math, he has no problems with the assignment. Gaining the kids’ attention, however, is another matter; so he draws a circle on the board and then writes out the number pi to about the seventy-sixth decimal point, announcing its potential to continue unto infinity without ever repeating any sequence. When his “congregation” finds it “no big deal”, what they’re told is: within that stream of digits, somewhere, is their birth dates, their cell phone number, the combination to open their lockers, etc. Now, they’re listening… Taking toys apart to see what made them work was never a passion of mine in childhood; nor did dad teaching me in my teenage years to change the oil in my car ever evolve into a love of mechanics. Always, though, at least as far back as I can recall, trying to figure out life in general has occupied my thoughts. Humanity, itself, is strange enough; trying to understand myself seeing as how I didn’t seem to fit into that puzzle was even harder; but, when the reality of deity became part of the picture, while a sense of peace came to me in so far as my own situation, exploring the truth of my salvation has been a forty year walk with Him, a lesson still being taught as I go. Some may find the above basic arithmetic fact no more than a coincidence, questioning, as this old man does, if indeed its eternal measurement really contains all that information; but, to me, it represents, either way, the precise tuning of this universe, the hand of God manifested unto us in but one more way. Nothing is solved; much in the same sense that any computation reached with the aid of such numerical assistance is going to be left with an answer hanging out there in limbo. What remains unshakeable is that internal connection given me back in the beginning, the innumerable times along the way two have become one, my faith a matter of having been received and then nurtured in the journey. Finding Him in small “pebbles” like this one, here and there along the path, is just icing on the cake……

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Sunday evening, just as the worship service was about to begin, the pastor’s son approached me with a request to begin an at-home Bible study with the youth. There being no time at all for any discussion, my reply was rather short and without any explanation. As I recall, my exact words were: “No thanks; I don’t want to do it.” In truth, it’s more like he didn’t really want me, a man only able to teach it the way he believes it and my theology differs a lot with what I hear coming from the pulpit. That doesn’t mean this old man thinks he has all the answers and, like Elijah up in that cave on the mountain, holds himself to be the only guy left serving God, only that sitting in a position to represent the church carries with it some responsibilities. Though my history with this bunch goes back over four decades, I no longer consider myself a member, occupying a seat in the balcony for the most part and separated from anything that might even suggest I’m one of “the chosen few”. Wednesday evening classes are the main attraction for me, a place where, even if my contributions are not always aligned with everybody else’s perspectives, people never get angry. We talk, laugh, enjoy each other’s company and leave as friends. Would I accept an offer to speak to the kids? Sure! Sharing Christ is my passion; and, in saying that, let it be understood “sharing Christ” doesn’t necessarily equate to preaching a sermon. A one-time opportunity also permits freedom to speak from my heart with the Holy Ghost ensuring what comes forth is out of His well, not mine. In Him, alone, there is unity. E pluribus unum. Anything less than that is just humanity playing with religion……