Sunday, March 31, 2013


Easter Sunday morning. Sitting here at my computer desk with the blinds on the window to my right opened to reveal the sun as it rises over the hills to the east. It used to be that I wouldn’t miss the early service scheduled for this celebration. It must be later this year, though, for I can remember getting up one time at five-thirty to go; but perhaps that was the occasion when our clocks all “sprang forward” on the same date. No matter. The churches will all be packed this morning, my wife and my niece opting to stay home and avoid the squeeze. This old man will be going, nonetheless, my understanding of the ritual observed no doubt a little different than most. Prayer, before coming in here to witness daybreak, took my mind to a dream encountered several decades ago, one I believe given from God, a view of Calvary and His subsequent walk into hell, all seen somehow as through His eyes. It gave me better definition of what it meant to “take my place”. The enigma is yet there. The mystery will always be beyond us and, for most, the mystery is enough. When I read in John 3:13, however, Jesus revealing to Nicodemus how “no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven”, it speaks to me in terms of eternity, in either direction, having no hold on the Savior. He was, indeed, one with the Father and, therefore, “once He was, He always was”. Born in a manger, He partook of me, becoming “me” when the Spirit, if but for a brief moment, withdrew as He hung on the Cross. He died; then went down into the depths of the earth to lead captivity captive; and, even if nature failed me today, overcast skies denying full witness of the cosmic resurrection, there is within me, even so, a rejoicing that the stone being rolled away yet points to an empty tomb…..

Saturday, March 30, 2013


“Wherever there is life, there is twist and mess.”…”Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”

Annie Dillard’s writing may not be “inspired” in the same sense that we apply that term to the Bible, but reading her mental observations often takes me to a place where I and the Holy Ghost connect in thought. In the above mentioned book, she opines in one chapter that not only did the creator create everything, but he is apt to create anything! So many forms! Off on one tangent after another (or millions simultaneously) with an exuberance suggesting He loves pizazz!” She applies no capitalization in any reference to Him, her acknowledgement of His existence still in question. She can see the demand for divinity, there being too much evidence of design in such a puzzle as exists around her. Religion, robed in all our humanity, however, makes no sense to her; and, rather than simply surrendering to His reality, taking the leap and allowing the Mystery to explain Himself, she pours herself into books that feed me in my journey… The teacher over our Elementary Special-Ed unit is twenty-eight, married, no children thus far, and deeply rooted in his Catholicism. Our conversation, almost every day, turns to faith in those rare moments when the room is calm, kids either elsewhere in something like an art class or occupied on a computer. We speak openly, me of Pentecost, he of his own bunch, both of us giving insight to the other’s beliefs. There is no attempt to convert anyone. What I hear in him is “water coming up out of the well”, a love for Christ discovered in an encounter and maintained through a relationship. I hope it’s the same with this old man. If our terminology differs to the point of needing clarification at times, if our experience has been nurtured in different environments, yet we converge with Him at that point where He abides! Indeed, it seems to me that, while there may well be a lot of “twist and mess” in this, much of it is no more than what we, ourselves, create……

Friday, March 29, 2013


The fellow who teaches our Wednesday evening class stepped into Christ about twelve years ago and, other than having been shaped by his experience with us, is also well read far beyond all this television theology filling our book shelves nowadays. He shares the “pulpit” in this study on an every other week basis with a friend invited to do so, this guy raised in Baptist theology, married into our denominational flavor, and actually merging into our ranks a few decades ago when the Charismatic wind blew through everything. I highly respect both men. I obviously often disagree with them, our thinking in this having been forged out of different journeys thus far. Mostly, the teacher and I merely dance around the claim of Biblical infallibility, the two of us as one in so far as it being “inspired”, he not willing to remove it, in any form or fashion, from the pedestal our group has given it. The second guy seems to see the Holy Ghost in terms of the indwelling being “fused” with him in such a way that the gift of prophesy is a news flash waiting to happen. I take him with “a grain of salt”. In truth (or at least the way I see it), God is in each of us, shaping us as we go, warts and all. While Judgment Day is a given, the “finals” will be more about our heart and the thirst we had to know Him in our walk, not a percentage score on how correct we were in our interpretation of the Book. What we “have” is Christ; and surely, if He has us, we are able to love each other, encourage each other, in a way that promotes the Kingdom, not tear it down….

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Some people tell me I plow too deep. That might be; but I want more than just faith in “faith”. It is not enough for this old man for you to simply quote chapter and verse. I want to know it works in my life. The Bible is truth because He inhabits it, not because we claim to possess an interpretation thereof that is better than all others. Tomorrow marks my forty-first birthday in Christ. As is often the case, my mind, on the drive to school this morning, was tossing around over four decades in this, on this occasion pondering once again the mystery of God’s reality. In my opinion, humanity has always been humanity, flawed in its spiritual make-up, prone to err in feeding its flesh and following its own thinking. Indeed, the only difference between me and previous generations is knowledge gained. The addition doesn’t necessarily make me any smarter; but it does give reason to pause. The world is not flat. While the universe may not yet be fully defined, what we have discovered leaves us with many questions. What lies beyond? Is death merely a step into another dimension? Exactly “who” and “what” is this Creator that spoke all this into existence? It blows my brain into oblivion; and yet we are told “in Him we live, and move, and have our own being.” We read that He “is” love and that He “is” light. In Him “is” no darkness at all. This is what I found in my living room four decades ago when such truth captured me in my living room, flooding my soul and cleansing me from the inside out, an initial restoration, but also an experience left available unto me in the journey yet to come. In the beginning “was” the Word. All these years later, He “is” still the Word. In Him I trust. He holds me by His anchor-line and yea, though I walk through whatever valley, I fear no evil. This goes deeper than my head……

Monday, March 25, 2013


”For if, while we were yet enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life”…Romans 5:10

My pastor preached a good sermon this morning, but, even so, left me with little more than a fresh glimpse of the familiar Easter narrative. My failure to get on board, though, just might be explained by Annie Dillard having already captured my thoughts earlier. She deals with the subject of “light” in “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” and, while discussing how the sun’s rays can sometimes open up the world around us, giving brief revelation of the spectacular, she also declares that seeing her shadow but gives evidence of there being nothing between her and the source of such luminosity. If the latter is enough to stir up this old man’s passion, the idea of a “veil being rent”, whereby we, if but for a moment, can spiritually connect with Him, makes me want to rejoice. Such possibility of encounter is what drives me, whether it comes in such form as an all-encompassing submersion into His presence, an expansion in my understanding of faith, or a Fatherly Holy Ghost kick in the rear to adjust my stubbornness. Annie speaks of it in terms of nature suddenly giving her vision to see what was right in front of her in the first place. I find it better phrased as the reality of God manifesting Himself in my life! It isn’t a normal everyday occurrence; but neither is it beyond hope of happening anywhere along the way. After all, we aren’t following One who resurrected from the grave and then left us to our own devises. He conquered death that we might know life in Him; and the writer of Hebrews puts it like this: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”……

Friday, March 22, 2013


”The world spiritual geniuses seem to discover universally that the mind’s muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, indeed, trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness. Instead you must allow the muddy river to flow unheeded in the dim channels of consciousness. You raise your sights. You look along it mildly, acknowledging its presence without interest and gazing beyond it into the realm of the real where subjects and objects act and rest purely, without utterance.”….Annie Dillard, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”

The author ends her above thoughts by suggesting if we would “launch into the deep”, we just might see. I was reminded of what Jesus said to Peter, he and his shipmates washing their nets after toiling all night and catching nothing; but she, being a naturalist, speaks of snaring something quite different than a physical meal. She points to visible realities that escape us on a daily basis. My own mind turns that into spiritual revelations, God not necessarily talking to us in an audible voice, but connecting with us, nonetheless, in a number of ways, opening our eyes to know Him in a deeper relationship. For that to happen, however, it all comes down to the same thing I told the kids at the Center Sunday, the men at the mission Wednesday evening. While the Bible says that those who come to God “must believe that He is”, it yet remains, from that point, we all tend to go many directions. The place to start, therefore, and the place to remain as well, is in recognizing our need of Him. Much too often, it seems to me, we form His image out of our own thinking, chapter and verse part of it or not, then set it in concrete and go our own way. Just like the guy who can’t see the forest for the trees, our reasoning hears only what it wants to hear, our will refuses light, adamantly determined it already has everything all figured out. I love a chorus Clint Brown sings that simply goes “Where would I be? You only know. I’m glad You see through eyes of love. A hopeless case. An empty Space. If not for grace.”……

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Cody, my oldest grandson turned twenty-one today. He has been holding down a regular part-time job at Fed-Ex since graduating from high-school, and attending classes at Gateway, a local community college, shooting for a degree that will eventually give him a career working with computers. I watched him and his brother play basketball last night in the church men’s league. They make me proud. My own twenty-first birthday was celebrated somewhere in the Med, the exact location depending on what port the Admiral’s flagship was anchored at the time. By then the Navy had already flown me to San Diego for boot-camp, taught me Morse code just across the bay a stone’s throw from Mexico, and stuffed my brain with the equivalent of a four-year course in Serbo-Croatian. Two years sea duty aboard that guided-missile cruiser was like being on extended liberty, home-ported in Nice, France and continually visiting places like Monaco, Barcelona, Lisbon, Naples, Athens, and Istanbul. I had three square meals a day, a space to lay my head down at night, and the security of a paycheck twice a month for entertainment. Life was a game, my only responsibility and the only authority known being my employer. My dog tags were stamped denoting my religion as “N O N E”. I was thirty, with a wife and three kids before something called “reality” knocked on my door. Am I glad my girls and grandchildren were raised to experience a tangible God, One to whom we can turn, One in whom we can rest, His promise never far from us in all things? Our theology may differ slightly; but when we stop to pray, we drink from the same well. We are “hooked”, not just to each other, but to He who keeps us as we go……

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Our visit to the Youth Detention Center this past Sunday morning was once again greeted with the news of a lock-down being in place. My buddy’s wife opted to minister to the two girls for the entire time; and that left the rest of us with three different male units. Simply splitting the hour into approximately twenty minute segments seemed the plausible solution. It didn’t take long for Chris and me to regret the decision. While my son-in-law’s contribution came forth via his saxophone and consumed but a few ticks of the clock, the fourth man in our group took no thought concerning our limitations, spread out his notes before him and “occupied the pulpit” for about fifteen minutes. Quoting Bible verses and utilizing little wisdom (strangely enough the very subject he was addressing), he brought forth good instruction, but with little anointing for the job at hand. It happens. The fields may, indeed, be ripe for harvest, laborers hard to find. Nonetheless, like anything else, ministry is learned as you go and patience is required with the newcomer. What becomes evident as one continues in this is the truth that God is not hindered by our humanity. He speaks through donkeys, makes water flow out of a rock, and feeds a great multitude with no more than two fish and a few loaves of bread. Thrice, with limited time left to do much, the Holy Ghost somehow managed to fill each individual cell, the boys well aware of His presence in their midst, final prayer received in earnest. Our original hour got stretched a bit, but we found Ashley still talking with the girls when we finally finished. The hardest part is waiting another ten weeks before being able to return……

Friday, March 15, 2013


In "For the Time Being", Annie Dillard ponders God in view of all the ways genetics can bring forth abnormalities in the birthing of humanity. I work in an Elementary Special-Ed unit and am well acquainted with how autism, with its definable symptoms, yet allows for individuality in those born within its grip. Surely inside each of us there is this spiritual being apart from the brain, an intelligence possessing its own identity, its own passions, its own ability to choose and determine its destiny, at least in terms of what we become. Granted: our history and our environment play a huge part in all that; and, while I disagree with that Rene Descartes statement "I think; therefore I am", I do at least entertain the idea of "I think; therefore I become what I am." Therein, it seems to me, lies the point: even if some of us appear to handle the reins better than others, it yet remains that all of us sorely need a better "sense of navigation", a place to which we might run for counsel, wisdom, assurance, and encouragement. This, God brings to us in Christ, the reins left in our hands, the connection our decision, both in its renewal and its frequency of being utilized as we go. Life happens. How we meet it and get through it is a "whole nuther matter"......

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Our Wednesday evening Bible study last night opened with a look at Acts 1:4-8, the teacher inquiring what we thought Jesus' promise of "power" meant. It surprised me somewhat when all seemed agreed as to it not referring to we, ourselves, becoming some sort of "super saint", the Holy Ghost being an inner source of temporary fulfillment rather than a permanent transfer of authority. I also took note when no one contested my opinion that His words spoke of a "repeated merger", not just the initial Upper Room event, His reference to their future "baptism" in the Spirit seeming to suggest an "indwelling" and "reconnection to the Father" had already been accomplished when He had "breathed upon them" earlier. My pastor like to express it all in terms of Pentecost not being a denomination, but an experience, not a "level" achieved, but a well to which we can return again and again. I add only that the depth available to us in such encounter is determined by His grace, His wisdom, and our willingness to surrender ourselves unto all that He is, the fact that we're "wet" when we step out of the pool in no way negating the truth of life drying us out rather quickly afterwards. We are but a "glitch" in the program, salvaged as a vessel through which He might reach a lost and dying world; and it works best when we realize that He is the "dynamo" in this. It doesn't take a seminary degree, charisma, or an ability to sing like some celebrity. Witnessing doesn't always require words and "tongues" is not an initiation into superior ranks.....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


One of the children in our unit at school, a Fourth Grade girl, approaches me almost every day after lunch wanting me to walk her around the building. She comes with her upper torso wrapped in a Velcro-secured blanket, its length short enough to allow her at least some liberty with her hands and the whole idea of being packaged in such manner initiated at her own request. Dialogue is usually accomplished via signing or picture cards; but, in this case, her wish for an excursion is made known by extending to me a pair of leather gloves brought in at the first of the year specifically to avoid being scratched on such occasions. The two of us, thus garbed, are a pair. Nonetheless, we make our rounds, three levels, upstairs and down, occasionally taking one of the elevators, often stopping at the old room to which she was formerly attached, interested in whatever is going on there at the time. Today, however, for some reason a poster across the hall from that location caught her eye and for at least ten minutes she sat in a chair positioned just outside that door staring at the image of an adult hand reaching down to take a smaller one attempting to span the gulf between. "Touch the future. Communicate today", it read; but the words were beyond her comprehension and I had no idea of what was going through her mind. My own thoughts, though, were drawn to the truth that this old man's ability to connect with her depends on my reaching, as well, for His grip, His wisdom, and His influence as I go...

Saturday, March 9, 2013


"We are filled unto the fullness of God; but, of course, we cannot contain all of God because God contains us. We can, however, have all of God that we can contain. Oh, that we could enlarge our vessel, the vessel getting bigger as we go on with God."...A.W.Tozer, "Life in the Spirit"

I'll be seventy-two this October. The 27th of this month marks my forty-first birthday in Christ. For thirty years within that latter segment I taught Sunday school, advancing along the way from children to adult classes, no seminary training, merely me and Him on a journey, the sermons and books by others consumed, contemplated, and sorted out along the way. You learn as you go; and, in truth, never is there a place where God is fully and correctly contained within your understanding of the matter. My initiation into old-time holiness was met with an adamant insistence from those already within its ranks that my "born-again" experience merely instituted a "re-connection". I was once again "hooked-up" with the Creator, but there was a deeper merger waiting to be acquired, one that would somehow "endue me with power" and "supply me with the gifts". When, several months down the road, such a union came to me one evening while lying flat on my back in bed and talking to Him, it would indeed prove to be a vital milepost in this relationship now held for over four decades. Was it, though, some sort of "level" secured, a permanent elevation into superior ranks where only those similarly baptized can operate? I would label it a "door-opener", a witness to the reality of the Holy Ghost "in" me, or at least available "unto" me. Life would prove me still the same fellow with a stagger in his walk. The difference was an inner oasis that now provided me with an anchor-line for the stumble and a well to which I can return again and again. It is an altar before which I worship, an inner-sanctum where sometimes He takes me "through the veil", the mystery yet being if there is really "more" of Him at such times, or just "less" of me. The only thing I am sure of is: He is! Some seem able to claim Him in all that they do, hearing His voice with a frequency unknown to me, casting out devils and healing the sick in the name of "authority". My own faith is grounded, not just in the words of a Book, but in He who indwells me, confirming the relationship with His rod and staff as we go. If the above quote seems a little confusing, a bit oxymoronic, perhaps that's because our vocabulary can't contain Him any more than our "temple" can. Nonetheless, we can, through Christ, not just approach the throne, but touch the hem of His garment, know Him, however briefly, in all that He is......

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Detours, Stop Signs, and Patience......"

Sunday afternoon Beth and I returned to our local Sam's outlet and purchased a rather expensive laptop, abandoning my former stationary unit and stepping into Windows Eight. The latter didn't really give me any problems other than Microsoft no longer being a standard part of the package. The mouse being built into the keyboard, however, was driving me up the wall, mostly it seeming super sensitive to my big fat fingers. I would have ten or more email messages set up to delete and, before the trash-can trigger could be clicked, "poof!" the screen took me elsewhere. This morning it all went back in the box and with us over to the clerk, a young girl who was very pleasant concerning an old man's inability to cope with modern technology, the final transaction seeing me bring home a Dell system much like the previous HP product, this monitor as big as my television set. My friend will be coming by in a day or so to fine tune the operation; but it looks like senility hasn't completely captured me yet, the basics up and running enough for me to slowly re-enter the old routine. It feels good to settle back into familiarity. Some change may well be good, but it seldom comes easy to the elderly... Last night our midweek Bible study made our fourth session in dealing with Tozer's "Life in the Spirit". The classes are merely utilizing the author's chapter titles as a guide and not serving up his thoughts for consideration, each lesson a matter of where the teacher takes us with his own mixture of chapter and verse, quotes from several sources, not just this particular book. We are a motley crew, not just because of age differences, but separated as well by our denominational history. One fellow and his wife attend the Baptist church just a mile down the road, planted there for decades and not about to switch membership now. A few of us fall into my class, born-again into old-time holiness, legalism and the Holy Ghost sharing the same pew, our personal dogma sorted out over the last fifty years. Add fifteen or so others still raising their own children, Pentecost mostly a faith acquired not all that long ago, backgrounds varied, modern television evangelism, for the most part, the only teaching they have known thus far. Stir the pot and the discussions that come forth are certainly not "all in one mind and in one accord". What we do possess, however, is His presence. No fist-fights. No demands for "my way or the highway". Passionate? Oh, yes; but there is a discernible division between what comes out of a man's head and what comes out of his belly. If we do not always see all things alike, it yet remains that we are agreed in the other fellow's perspective being worthy of our attention. We leave as friends and with food to digest. This is and always will be - a journey. The place we occupy at present may well be cozy and comfortable, but none of us have truth locked up in a personal doctrine. Faith is an item under construction. No need to get excited. Just follow the Carpenter......