Monday, April 29, 2013


The road just outside my front door, early this morning, bore witness to at least some rainfall over night; and then, when I left church a little after ten, the sky was smeared with a grey paste mixed with an all-day off-and-on drizzle. In spite of all that, driving out to the first service I was blessed in experiencing a few minutes of a cloud-free, bright sunshiny existence. It was like the world around me was just waking up for another face-to-face encounter with the source of life. My mind was on Him, turning over questions, dealing with the veil around all of us, the mystery of Christ “in” me, me still a mess in many ways; when, halfway up the hill that takes me from river level to higher ground, something connected in my “belly”. There was no small inner voice, no tongues, just a touch of His presence in the depths of this old man; and, with a tear in my eye, my spirit offered thanks…. During worship a bit later, the choir would lead the congregation in several rounds of a popular contemporary chorus that declares how God “surrounds” us in our walk “everywhere that we go”. Leaning toward my niece sitting there beside me, I whispered in her ear and asked if she believed it possible to sing, albeit in ignorance, a lie. The lyrics sound good. The melody is catchy enough to draw us into it. There’s little truth, however, to the claim that a believer’s journey is encased in a Holy Ghost bubble. Divinity is in the well. While it may be that nature and events can speak to us of His reality, it is not until a man is “born-again” that he can begin to “see” or “enter into” the kingdom. Semantics? Possibly. It’s just too easy in our humanity, though, to build an image, a theology, out of words and then fail to return to the oasis, content with the god we hold in our heads…….

Friday, April 26, 2013


Our Wednesday evening Bible study left me a bit disappointed last night, the question of “Do you have all God wants for you?” reduced to a mixture of Joel Osteen and Norman Vincent Peale theology, a serving of clever analogies meant to encourage us in ourself. There were a few references to chapter and verse wherein Christ was acknowledged as being involved in whatsoever we might attempt in His name; but, for the most part, the emphasis was placed on us gaining understanding of our own potential and not much attention at all given to the Holy Ghost’s role in our endeavors. The teacher spoke, in truth, of our culture being the underlying factor in the freedom Pentecost gives to expressing oneself in worship and the need to apply wisdom in such area; yet prophesying unto others, believing yourself to be “anointed” merely out of your own volition and His participation in your actions taken for granted, was simply a matter of taking the New Testament for its promise unto us. Perhaps I’m just old and rooted in my own thinking; but when Francis Chan, in “Crazy Love”, pointed to Solomon warning that men ought not to be fools, rushing into the Creator’s presence with words, it occurred to me that nowadays, in my ecclesiastical neighborhood, anyhow, believers are told to boldly charge the very gates of hell, His authority theirs by proxy, victory guaranteed if their “faith” doesn’t waver. When we’re told in Romans, however, that God predestinated us to be “conformed” to the image of His son, the Greek for that particular term brings it down to any transformation taking place being “jointly” accomplished. It is a “merger”, then, wherein two are made one; and, as far as I know, it is a temporary condition, nobody yet having become anything more than a vessel through which He might be manifested in a time of His choosing. Yes! We need to be hungry to serve Him in such fashion. We need to see ourselves as possibilities for such an event. Always, though, we must recognize that He is the vital piece of the puzzle. While we must move, the goal in front of us should never be the mountain, itself, but a surrender in which the well within us comes forth to the task at hand……

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


”Shadows define the real. If I no longer see shadows as dark marks, as do the newly-sighted, then I see them as making some sort of sense of the light. They give the light distance. They put it in its place. They inform my eyes of my location here, here, O Israel, here in the world’s flawed sculpture, here in the flickering shade of the nothingness between me and the light”….Annie Dillliard

School is down to the nitty-gritty: four full weeks with a couple of days of fun and games tacked on at the end to celebrate the journey completed once again. A lot of reviewing taking place right now; and all staff are staying late for one hour tomorrow afternoon once the buses have departed, a yearly ritual wherein everyone goes over any new rules for final testing. I’ll be one-on-one with one of my boys, if nothing changes, the teacher opting for the fellow with anger issues and assigning me the lad who is more prone to vent his emotions through tearful lament. The job, from start to finish, is baby-sitting, for the most part, often questionable as to whether much is being accomplished; yet relationships are nurtured with these kids, a sense of worth in what you are doing, and a belief that it matters somehow, to me if to no one else. The old man turns seventy-two in October, but has signed up for another go next year, the future always uncertain, this moment, this hour enough in the long run… The author’s words, above, speak volumes to me. I find her perspective making more sense, though, when it’s turned around, me, rather than God, being “put it its place”, the shadow, if in front of me, indicating I’m going in the wrong direction. Even in facing the light and moving forward, however, the image is blurred, the Source, itself, enough to blind me if I try to capture it in my focus and a slew of other things between me and the light messing with my mind. So maybe it’s not so much that the shadows, the lack of understanding, make “sense” of Him as it is that they make me see my need of His warmth, His promise and confirmed assurance that yea, though I walk with a stagger and a stumble, He is there with me. He is with me each day, each hour, the sun that I orbit, the giver of Life……

Monday, April 22, 2013


Francis Chan stepped into my radar at least a couple of years back, a friend pointing me to a You-Tube copy of him preaching a sermon entitled “Luke Warm and Loving It”. He had a book out at the time, one called “Crazy Love”, but I kept ignoring the impulse to purchase it. With nothing to read while on vacation in Pensacola, however, his latest, “Forgotten God”, caught my eye at Barnes and Nobles, held my attention, and has fed me well, its pages devoured at least twice since. Hopefully, our Wednesday evening Bible class can discuss its content after we conclude with Tozer. In just the introduction, this author speaks of a “tragically neglected Holy Spirit”, and “entertainment model of church adopted in the 1980s”, and how “we are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Spirit of God”. The line that says it all, though, is a suggestion that “Perhaps it’s not theology we’re missing, but rather theology with integrity”. Now that will rattle some sabers… My own roots are in Pentecost. I was “born-again” into old-time holiness on March 27th of 1972 and have watched it lose most of its legalism as it chased Charismatic television evangelists into its present state. If we, as a denominational body, have over-“theatricised” the Third Person of the Trinity in our midst, seeing ourselves as somehow authorized to operate under the anointing regardless of whether or not the Anointed is in it or not, it might also be said that too many others seem to have settled on the extreme other side of that condition, His reality reduced to ritual if maintained at all. It amazes me God’s patience with our humanity. It bothers me that those who come to our altars connect with Christ only to drown in doctrinal dogma that fails them in the journey that follows, health, wealth, and prosperity not necessarily an automatic benefit secured through conversion. Laodicea, it seems to me, crept in somewhere along the way and we are too busy counting our “blessings” to look in the mirror……

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Thursday afternoon found Beth and me about ninety minutes early for my appointment to talk with a nurse practitioner concerning an upcoming biopsy and therefore patiently sitting in a second floor waiting room over at Veterans Hospital. In all my previous visits to the location, it was impossible to find a parking spot, not just in their lot, but anywhere within walking distance in the surrounding neighborhood. On this occasion, however, no more than we approached the front entrance, as if the Red Sea had been parted, an opening awaited us not more than a hundred feet or so from the sliding doors. Beth was there at my request, to circle outside and wait, had we not been so fortunate on this occasion, but also because my decision in this affects her life as well as mine. Not that there’s real cause for alarm yet. Blood tests a year ago revealed a sudden jump in a certain area. Doctors want to investigate. Yesterday, however, was the first time any of them has explained to me in any depth as to why this event required “going where no man has gone before, at least in the sense that the object being explored is me. We left with a much better understanding of the situation, her fears calmed and my perspective still not all that thrilled with the options before me, but at least at peace with me using some wisdom in the next step. The anchor holds… Thursday morning, I had been listening to Fox News, two regulars bringing viewers up to date on the bombing in Boston, the explosion near Waco; and, in hearing the one fellow speak of “keeping the victims in our prayers”, it hit me how we, as believers, so frequently bring forth that solution, tossing it out there as if just mouthing those words somehow put substance into what we are suggesting. I say “we”, finding myself as guilty as anyone else, often giving promise and then failing to remember the pledge until a day or two later. For me, though, the commitment was more like “this is going into my well”, that place where, at no certain appointment, with no attempt to “categorize priorities” with a list to fulfill, what comes forth is a merger of Him and my heart. It’s not about vocalizing anything, not about breaching heaven’s walls and getting His attention. The connection is “in” me. This is “life”, not a scheduled meeting, another obligation on my daily calendar. The oasis goes with me and, although best in a quiet place, the old man swimming in His waters, its presence is never far, an inner witness able to be found in a waiting room as much as anywhere else……

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Tomorrow morning I return to school after ten days of Spring Break, a reunion met with at least some welcome, working with these Special-Ed kids a bit of food to an old man’s existence. It’s approaching one a.m., though, and after only two hours sleep, my mind has me sitting here in my recliner, wide awake with too many thoughts rolling around present events, lives elsewhere who are dealing with questions tonight. People up in Boston still didn’t have any explanations when I went to bed earlier; but, then, answers never supply any remedy to the damage done. Too much too often makes no sense in the first place. Life comes with no guarantees, no warranty, one to a customer, no refunds. All we have is hope, each other and a spiritual umbilical cord, an anchor-line provided in Christ… A young four year-old boy I know in Pittsburgh is lying in an ICU unit tonight, having undergone heart surgery today. His family, I’m sure, is near, his grandfather even closer, no doubt, his unexpected death occurring last Thursday. Over three decades ago my wife and I occupied a similar room here in Cincinnati at Children’s Hospital, our youngest daughter, nine at the time, having been thrown accidently under a two thousand pound hay wagon. There wasn’t much encouragement about her chances. To see her body hooked up to several machines, a maze of tubes keeping vital functions from ceasing all together discouraged faith, the image a reality right in front of us. Something deep inside me, however, said otherwise. Call it what you want; but I am grateful in this moment for a reconnection that came to me way back when there seemed to be no reason for breathing, my whole identity clearly a mess, the journey more than I could handle. Surrender brought more than relief. Grace had substance when it stepped into my abyss back in March of ’72, His presence remaining to meet me again and again in times of need, strength, peace, love all in an inner well yet available now. Prayer is more than words……

Monday, April 15, 2013

"The Journey.........................."

”Teach me Thy way, O Lord; I will walk in Thy truth: unite my heart to fear Thy name”…a prayer of David, Psalm 86:11

While on vacation this past week in Pensacola, I read something in one of the books taken with me, Elizabeth Hoekstra quoting the above Bible verse in terms of the giant slayer asking God to give him an “undivided” heart. Close enough, I suppose; either way occupying my thoughts this past weekend. Late Thursday evening, a telephone call changed our plans about returning home today. An old Navy friend, a shipmate with whom I served in ComSixthFlt during the early 60s, had passed unexpectedly, his heart just ceasing to beat on his way home from the hospital, tests just undergone to determine possible treatment for his condition. When you’re in your seventies, such loss is part of life, but never easy to accept, this one, for me, even more of a hurt, knowing another friend of ours from those days had just verbally attacked him over nothing. One wonders if the event sparked too much at the wrong time. Beth and I left early Friday morning, making a few stops along the way, but arriving in Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon in time for visitation. It was a journey made out of love and respect, the departed and I reconnecting after five decades a few years back, a bond between us restored mostly through e-mails. He stopped by once, on his way to a reunion, going with me that evening down to the rescue mission.... What makes us who we are on the inside? I wonder. There is no anger in me at the fellow who assaulted my buddy in print. As long as I’ve known him, he has been “at war”, with himself, with the world. He speaks continually of the need for “peace among men” and the “brotherhood” established back when we all were young men turned loose on liberty in various countries around the Mediterranean. His actions, however, have always marked him as a “loose cannon”. It seems to me, though, that all of us are no more than products of our hurts, our history, and our environment, each of us shaped even beyond that by the very genetics of our birth. The only sense, I’ve found, to any of it is God missing from the original creation, a situation cured through what Christ brings to us, but such restoration still not a complete remedy for what ails us. Salvation doesn’t equate to instantaneous transformation, humanity dissolved and divinity assumed. We yet stumble down the path along with everybody else, the difference just an “anchor-line” acquired and any improvement a matter of how often we merge, stepping into His flame……

Thursday, April 11, 2013


It's early morning here in the hotel lobby. Beth prefers a later hour to greet the day, but the old man likes the world much better before all the commotion starts. They are predicting thunder storms, due, I suppose, to all the crazy weather ccrossing the country north of us. There will be sunshine tomorrow for the drive home, though, and my mind is presently occupied with "leadership". The friends we have been visiting here in Pensacola pastor a small church, a mixture of ethnicity, financially secure and dirt poor, old, young, and in-between. I've known these two for thirty years, have served both with them and under their authority in ministry. I'd follow him anywhere. He has proven himself again and again a reliable witness of "Christ in me". If you google the above term to see how some see it, there is a multitude of opinions out there, two of my favorite being expressed by (a) Dwight David Eisenhower, and (b) Lao Tsu (whoever that is). The latter advised "To lead men, walk beside them". The first noted "You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assaul, not leadership". My own thoughts concerning its meaning, however, contains the word "integrity", one fellow equating that quality with "doing whatsoever you ask others to do", me believing it better decomposed as "that which holds up your pants". Dan is just plain honest. He lives his faith. He has a heart for the hurting, the down and out; and he has the wisdom to deal with humanity, that within his own identity as well as that which is in front of him. He's the only preacher I've ever known who has, on occasion, answered his own altar call. Christianity needs more like that.....

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


"A kind of northing is what I wish to accomplish, a single-minded trek towards that place where any shelter left open to the zenith at night will record the wheeling of all the sky's stars as a pattern of perfect, concentric circles. I seek a reduction, a shedding, a sloughing off"...Annie Dillard, Tinker Creek

After dropping off Beth and two other women at the boardwalk beach, the inland side of this small outer island in Pensacola, I drove a mile or so farther out to a park area that faces the open sea. There's some open shelters here, a few tables in the shade, the breeze from the ocean and the sound of the waves enough company for me. For as long as this old man can remember, solitude equates to peace. That's not to suggest, however, an inner urge to abandon society all together, only that life leaves me with many questions and my mind is continually in search of some sense to all this. In coming to Christ over forty years ago, there was an instantaneous acknowledgement of having connected with truth, at least to some degree. The journey since has surely taught me that such commodity was never captured in its entirety. If the Book was an eye-opener, the Spirit was and is the confirmation of anything gained as I go. My pursuit changed merely in an understanding that answers come, even if acquired but partially, via encounter with Him. The puzzle is solved in bits and pieces, the hunt never a matter of me chasing an elusive quarry. Rather it's more like what the author describes above. I decrease that He might increase and sometimes, somewhere in His well, I get a glimpse of glory......

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"Super Glue.........."

Twenty years ago, the pastor of an inner-city church in Cincinnati felt the call of God to accept an offer from another congregation in Florida. Two African-American women, unwed mothers (in as much as I know about their personal history) followed him somehow, kids and all, Shirley big and bold with a voice and spirit that took worship into a merger with Him, Quintine smaller in stature, wider in girth, but whose song also connected with the Holy Ghost. Strange as it seemed to me that people could just abandon family and ties on almost a moment's notice, both would prove to be, not just valuable assets to Dan and Cathy's ministry, but trusted friends who stuck with them through thick and thin. Shirley would marry, her health at the present restricting her somewhat in what she can bring to a service. Quintina passed, last summer, cancer taking her much too quickly. After two decades of no contact whatsoever, though, a horde of relatives immediately arrived from out of town demanding their wishes be met in all things, the church to provide all expenses including a large sum of money to ease their grief. That never happened. In finality, the "extortionists" would withdraw and return home, those who knew her best sharing in giving honor to that one held intheir heart. There is, in spite of the truth that the ecclesiastical community doesn't always equate to a perfect reflection of Christ "in" me, a "tie that binds", a promise of "yea though I walk through the valley of death", we are not alone in Him. This I have found to be true......

Friday, April 5, 2013

"Following the Tug......."

Wednesday Bible class, last night, was a mixture of conversation, the teacher taking us into a study of how the Holy Ghost “influences” our life. For some reason, we were low in number, there being only about a dozen of us there; but the evening in no way fell short in supplying this old man with his favorite pastime: discussing “Christ in me”. In the beginning, when the group was asked as to which came first, regeneration or conversion, I suggested it depended on how each of us individually translated the two terms. Indeed, all too often, what separates us as believers is nothing more than linguistics, a fact well illustrated as we then attempted to define the subject at hand. Most who were present either spoke of their own life having been altered by another’s example or of the struggle that comes with raising children, rejection of authority hindering all efforts to endow them with good habits. To me, however, the topic was one better explained by examining the basic condition of our salvation. Scripture declares we all are spiritually “lit” by God upon entry into this world, that particular portion of us said to be “the candle of the Lord”. The Indwelling, purchased for us via Calvary, is a second flame, two wicks now burning side by side, and our journey now a matter of just how much we will humble ourselves to follow His lead. Raising three girls, I have been the only male presence in my household for nearly five decades. Believe me, my thinking has been adjusted along the way even as it’s a safe bet it is just as true on the other side of the fence. Alterations, however, have been a matter of submitting ourselves, one to the other; and change was effected, not by some dogmatic theology introduced to which we all agreed. Forty-one years ago His reality stepped into my heart, my home, my very existence. “Influence” equates to an umbilical cord anchor-line, extended from Him, providing all things needed in the stumble down the path…..

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


The teacher and I sat yesterday afternoon trying to “equate” similar experiences in our faith, events separated merely by terminology. Two of our charges were in other classes, another was with a speech therapist, three more on computers; and, for a few minutes, our schedule allowed us a break. He actually sketched a proposed diagram for such likeness. I suggested it be altered almost immediately. On my drive home from school, however, our conversation yet played itself out in my head, my rejection of his original picture not leading to a more perfect image of that which we were attempting to corner. What makes any of us think, to begin with, that it is possible to contain God in any manner whatsoever? My buddy finds the Eucharist to be a pinnacle for touching the hem of His garment. The old man wanted to point to Merton’s description of contemplation for a better example. In reality, though, both of us were walking around that which we held in our “belly”, wanting to share the divine encounter in as much as we knew it to be thus far. Hard to do with nothing more than vocabulary… Deep in praise last Sunday morning during worship, I pondered, however briefly, the linguistics pouring forth out of my mouth. Credible language or garbled utterance? Did it matter? Something deep within me cried out unto Him “You, alone, are the Word!” And that settled that…..

Monday, April 1, 2013


“Fecundity” is a term encountered in that Annie Dillard book, my dictionary enlightening me as to it meaning “fruitfulness” or, in my own words, “reproduction to the point of staggering the imagination”. Mostly the condition applies to insects, thousands of eggs, perhaps, hatching only to be eaten by each other, the mother, herself, or any number of predators looking for a good meal. The author addresses such subject questioning why the Creator would so formulate their existence. Someone else, no doubt, might suggest “survival of the fittest” for an answer, birthing a plethora of offspring guaranteeing, at least to some degree, that a few will live long enough to ensure the species continues. Enough for me to note here that, God being God, we can find mystery in this in almost any direction we might want to look… One of the basic doctrinal tenets we profess to believe in Pentecost is “speaking in tongues”, a condition defined as both “a gift of the Spirit that often is manifested during a church service” and also “a state entered into during prayer or worship wherein one’s speech becomes garbled, the Holy Ghost one with us in what comes forth, a pure praise coming right up out of our innermost depths”. The first, it seems to me, has been misused and abused. The second is one of my most treasured possessions, it reaffirming again and again my connection with him having in no way suffered loss due to my lack of common sense. Explain it beyond that? I don’t think I can… A crane of some sort, on the wing, caught my attention this morning, me driving to school and it a rare sight in this neighborhood. Several years back, there was one that frequented the creek by our house, foraging for food where the shallow waters pass under the bridge. I happened upon it twice. Was this the same one? Who knows? The sight of it, though, given to me for but a few seconds, was almost sacred, a bit like reaching “through the veil” and briefly touching the hem of His garment. We will never solve the enigma in its entirety, not in this life and I’m betting not in the next one either. We can, however, know Him in as much as Christ “in” me. How much is really up to us……