Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Arm-wrestling.......".

I’ve been listening to a debate on “The Monster God”, sponsored by IHOPU and presenting two theologies, one held by Dr. Michael Brown, an American Messianic Jew, and another perspective endorsed by Pastor Brian Zahnd who birthed Word of Life church our of a coffee house ministry. Such title for the event was assigned only to reflect on the subject of whether or not Calvary was an angry judgment inflicted by the Father upon His Son, or a victory achieved by a deified Christ that should reveal unto us the Almighty’s all-encompassing nature as being one of love. There will be no deeper definition of the exercise shared here. It’s easy enough to Google You Tube and make one’s own assessment of the event. This old man’s thoughts, however, tends to accept both sides, finding neither to be “the whole truth”, indeed both, it seems to me, being void in considering, as Paul Harvey used to put it, “the rest of the story”. Carving “mental totem poles” is just part of this journey, as I see it, just so long as we are willing to admit that, even with the Bible as a basis for what we believe, what we bow down before is always short of having captured the Creator. Our conception of God should always be a “work under construction”, a pursuit in progress and held together by our surrender unto His tug on an “umbilical cord restored”. Stink arises when there is no flow, when the image is set in concrete and life is no more than what we, ourselves, attempt to breathe into it. Take away the Trinity and you have eliminated a “complete circuit”, Christ “in” me reduced to the Gospel as each man determines it for himself. Until we learn that the Holy Ghost is a reality extended unto us, deity in His own right, a vital piece of the puzzle giving grace in our stagger down the path, all we really possess is argument wrapped up in our own vanity……

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Life.............................."

With less than two days left before we begin another orbit around the physical source of our existence, I find myself absorbed this morning in exploring the spiritual side of such reality. Admittedly, as my wife will tell anyone, this is where this old man usually can be found. If some religious author’s book doesn’t have me digesting his point of view, this computer provides both other written material to be examined and a place for me to sort it all out on paper. When I read, therefore, some pastor speak of it being midnight, his wife and three kids sound asleep in bed, and he, himself, strolling the inner city streets deep in thought, it “connects”. Can you get so far “out there” that you’re not just isolated for a few moments, but living there with nothing on your mind but self? It depends, it seems to me, as to whether you’re seeking Him or just reinforcing your own theology, your own ministry. If the vessel doesn’t know flow from the “belly”, there’s a good chance that all you’ve been feeding is your own ego. Sunday morning at the Youth Detention Center, when the “pulpit” was handed to me, there was no need for a sermon. Others in my group had already poured enough of His presence into our midst and more “words” were not necessary. An old song came up out of my own personal part of that well and, for a few moments, with tears streaming down several of those faces seated around the room, we were one in Him. That doesn’t have to happen just in outreach and it doesn’t mean encounter has to involve singing, prophesy, or any other overt manifestation of He who abides within. In truth, neither is it anything that you, yourself, can control, other than being both willing and hungry to know it in your daily walk. From “faith to faith” is the way the Book puts it, not from church service to church service. Christ abides, year round. There are no clocks in Heaven…..

Monday, December 29, 2014

"Interpretation........................"

Beth and I both awoke about seven-thirty this morning and settled in the living-room with a hot cup of coffee before the television. Usually, Fox News is immediately sought, as my wife has long been fed by their political output; but, for whatever reason, with the tube’s reintroduction to our daily life we were greeted by one of these modern celebrity evangelists about to deliver a sermon snippet concerning the “last days”. For a few moments we listened, disagreeing as to what was said and not said. The message, in my opinion, was “right on” in so far as warning the Church at large to wake up and look in the mirror, but “out in left field” when it suggested that all believers were under a promise of peace and prosperity even as Goshen knew in the land of Egypt. Truth; but not the whole truth. One verse utilized to make a point while neglecting others that declared life before the exodus knew much misery. “Blessing” is not God’s blanket promise to all who are under the Covenant, at least not in the sense of physical healing and financial success is a guaranteed commodity. What we get in this is a restored connection within us, one that yet requires the circuit to be completed if we are to experience the fullness of what it extends unto us, if we are to even come close to knowing Him individually in our own personal assurance what the next step brings unto us. Benefits are not measured by pecuniary windfalls, by assigned power and authority to raise the dead in our own strength if we can but find the faith. What we gain in Christ is the potential to experience HIM, to find His presence suddenly in our mist, resurrected, alive, and still doing that which He did from the beginning. It comes in various forms, operates in His wisdom, and, always, is a matter of grace. Sunday morning at the Youth Detention Center, as we were about dismiss, one of those young men seated before us, one within whom God has been working over the last few months, raised his hand and requested if he might, himself, pray for those who were incarcerated with him. Nothing cocky. Without any mischievous ring to it at all. His words are yet manna unto this old man’s heart. My cup runneth over. THIS is the Gospel. This is “wealth” in my book……

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"Retrospect..................."

As we approach another traditional ritual, this one celebrating a tick of the clock that, in truth, will occur twenty-four times before the whole world has dismissed the old and rang in the new, what occupies my thoughts this morning is the idea that we actually know such division of our existence only because we, ourselves, have so ordained it to be. It could be argued, I suppose, that the Creator is responsible for such methodic logging of the years, having originally set it all in motion with the precision of a finely tuned engine wherein orbits and revolutions, like wheels and gears, bring to us an ability to number the journey as it comes to us. In reality, though, all of eternity is held in His hand and that which we possess of it is no more than this moment, this breath, and whatever memories remain in our head concerning what has already been. Therefore, there is, it seems to me, at least some logic to something said Thursday evening concerning how humanity’s “value system” is a matter that continually changes with each generation, manners disappearing, language losing its vulgarity, morality evolving into circumstantial reasoning, whatever feels good to me as I go. The seed develops, blossoms and blooms; and yet the only one aware that the fruit is rotting on the vine is he who is able to view it from a historic mental snapshot of the plant as it once was. Thus, old men gripe, old women gossip, and youth hear nothing but antiquity complaining about life, in general. The music’s too loud; the tattooing and piercing is demonic; nobody shows respect; and it’s all going to hell in a handbag! Surely, though, as believers we must examine ourselves in so far as how much influence we have injected into the situation. How much have we substituted religion for a manifestation of Christ “in” me; and, in the process, hindered the very healing that we, as a people, so desperately need? The Law was fulfilled in Grace. The Word was made flesh, dwelt among us, and now abides within us. Renewal, revival, and regeneration springs forth from roots still able to bring up water and food to feed new growth. Before we point a finger, maybe we need to finger that point inside ourselves……

Friday, December 26, 2014

"Depth.............................."

It could be that nearly seven months of holding no job, being “retired” in every sense of what the word actually means, is part of my feeling lately like I’ve “turned a corner”, having passed some final milestone and heading down the last stretch of the journey. There’s no “doom and gloom” in the picture. Christmas was just different this year with no “little diddles” left in our brood. The youngest grandchild is now in Fifth Grade and, in having finally dismissed Santa as a fantasy, with a smile identified his father, at the same time, as being the tooth fairy. The yearly tradition of presents shared the night before at our house was shifted elsewhere and, in fact, because of unforeseen circumstances, we’ve yet to celebrate the event as a family. If such change, though, has attached itself to other areas of my existence and set the mood, it, in no way, has me in some dark tunnel. Life is good; and mostly because this holiday isn’t a date set in stone, but a trinity, a threesome involving a manger, a Cross, and a resurrection, the latter not so much an empty tomb in Jerusalem, but a stone rolled away from one inside of me over four decades ago. This Sunday is Beth’s natural birthday and we’ll mark it with a good dinner at some restaurant; but that morning is also my group’s scheduled visit with the kids at the Youth Detention Center and these thoughts, above, are what’s on my heart in so far as speaking to them of Christ “in” me. We live so much in our head. There is a point deep inside us, however, a place Biblically referred to as our “belly”, but most assuredly not some physical portion of our inner anatomy, a spot where feelings and emotions dwell, that part of us such as knows hurt, and love, and everything that speaks to us “connection”. We are not in this “alone”. We need each other. We need Him. For me, whatever “identity” others might assign it, there dwells my integrity. There resides truth. It is what “holds me together”, gives peace in the midst of all else, renews hope in spite of the mess, and provides assurance that this isn’t the whole story. It is there that the light shines, and the angels rejoice, not just every December, but on a daily basis. It is there that the Gospel is verified, the message confirmed. It is what keeps an old man smiling…….

Monday, December 22, 2014

"Free Will.............."

My oldest daughter has been wearing a “boot” for about two weeks after surgery on her ankle; and while crutches now provide her with at least some mobility, it’s been, otherwise, pretty much a “couch” experience. People from the church have been continually dropping by with food, sparing Mark the expense of “take-out” every night. Yesterday evening, after a phone call invitation, Beth and I walked through our back yard over to their log cabin to get a container of Christmas candy brought there by a common friend still visiting. Discussion turned, for whatever reason, to tattoos, gauges, the need this present generation seems to possess for disfiguring their body to the point of “extreme dosage”. From there, it evolved into other areas that simply lend more proof to the reality of how much the individuality of our humanity is more than we can fathom, often provoking us to “pick up our sword” and attack, verbally, physically, making “war” either way. Politics, religion, as little as someone’s passion for a certain sports team can make enemies out of family members and close acquaintances. “Peace on earth” may well have been divinely announced to shepherds watching o’er their flocks more than a couple of centuries ago; but mankind has well proven ever since that such message was an invitation, not a “Let there be light!” sort of proclamation. So it is, as I have found it to be within any community of believers. While the above hospitality shown to Brenda as she heals pictures what Christ “in” me should bring forth, in truth does there exist that congregation who has had no disputes within its midst, whose business meetings have never known heated disagreement? Emanuel, God “with” us, went from manger to Cross to resurrection in our innermost parts. Manifestation of such truth, however, is a choice we must make, ourselves, every day…….

Sunday, December 21, 2014

"Whoops!..................."

Beth and I live on the outskirts of Covington, not so much a suburb as it is history, a segment of what must have been, over fifty years ago, homes constructed to escape the inner city. This house was built out of rocks secured from a nearby creek and it sits a block off the main road which is merely one of those narrow two-lane routes that wind throughout Kentucky. Only a section of out street is paved, as the county is willing to take our taxes, but refuses to recognize us otherwise. We are positioned on a corner where what does finally know a flat surface dead-ends with a neighbor to our left side and another directly across from us. My oldest daughter’s husband owns the place and there has always been a small pile of rather large rocks that occupy this property at that spot. I’ve never inquired as to why they are there; but, for anyone trying to turn around, they do extend reason to be careful in what you are doing. That’s a truth the young fellow delivering pizza next door found out very quickly last night when he threw his vehicle into reverse and suddenly found himself sitting atop those stones. It was lodged on a huge flat slab beneath the car’s center with the rear right tire suspended several inches above the ground. The front wheels could turn, but could get no traction. I invited him inside, out of the cold, gave him a coke, loaned my cell phone to call his employer, and asked the son-in-law if he wanted to risk his tractor in an attempt to extract the Honda. As it turned out, though, with some help from that neighbor across the street, the three of us were able to life the rear end up enough for him to gain mobility. No real damage noted; gratitude was extended; and he drove off with my cell phone in his pocket! A quick call from my wife caught him before he got too far and he apologized profusely, the whole episode no doubt embarrassing his sense of self-worth even though I tried my best to let him know that we’ve all “been there” a time or two in our life. My own confessions, however, while many in number, will put forth no details here. The human animal: highest form of what can be found on earth and yet an enigma amusing in so far as the predicaments he so often inflicts upon himself, terrifying in his ability to dismiss all others of his species and think only of himself, and desperately in need of focus, purpose, explanation for why he should even exist at all. Thank God for a connection that, having “stepped through the veil”, we can encounter more than merely our own theology…..

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"External Oasis........................."

More and more, in growing older I find myself content with silence, solitude, and serenity whenever and wherever it comes to me. Quiet moments are now sought, secured as much as possible, and seen as treasure in a world where it seems true peace can only be found through an inner experience. For me, such time is mostly found in small doses here and there, driving alone for some short distance, just me and the Holy Ghost lost in thought, sitting on a bench in the back yard when the weather is warmer, or early morning sessions in the recliner pictured here. The fire is but an electric heater, as the fireplace has been abandoned to the antiquity that this small rock house has now acquired. Beth and I are in much the same shape, opting this year for no Christmas tree, no trimmings whatsoever, and no bustle since the daughters are now hosting the holidays. The mantle has been passed. What this old man misses is the nativity set purchased for me one year by the oldest girl and returned to her a decade later to ensure the heirloom might eventually be given to one of her boys. In so much as me possessing “Ho-Ho spirit” in any other sense than memories of this season as shared with all my other relatives, family as I have known it throughout my life, celebration of this particular event is but a piece of the bigger picture, one including the Cross and the empty tomb, one wherein Christ is not any certain day, but the whole of my existence. The various dolls arranged across that ledge are but a few collected by Beth along the way. She was never one for jewelry or flowers, her tastes more for American Girl and Hummel figurines, purses and those pink Hostess snowballs. What has both her heart and mine, though, is framed on the wall, all the grandchildren along with a portrait of her parents sketched by me nearly four decades ago. Relatives, friends, many of whom have already gone on, surround us in almost every room; but it is this spot that is favored by me. Here I sit with my Bible, or a particular author of some genre or another, scribbling something or other that comes to me, often just ceasing to talk with Him in short attempts at prayer. It never lasts long. The clock ticks and the day comes forth with all the busyness that humanity can stuff into another click of the calendar. Here we go again. Within me, however, the tie still binds and I shall return…...

Friday, December 19, 2014

"Investigation..................."

If the virus floating through our family doesn’t choose me for its next victim, there’s but nine days left before we return to the Youth Detention Center. That’s plenty of time, of course, to collect my thoughts as He filters them through my brain; and no doubt what’s in my basket will change much between now and then. Having missed our visit to the rescue mission Wednesday, though, opting instead to minister to my wife who was suffering as noted above, I find myself still tossing around the Apostle Paul’s statement of the Gospel equating to “the power of God”, seemingly suggesting that, within such commodity, His righteousness is revealed “from faith to faith”. What, then, can be said to convince us that we have indeed encountered the reality of what we preach? Elsewhere, in another epistle, in writing to previously won converts who now seek proof of such matters, he points to himself as being weak “in Him”, but living “with Him” by those four words, and therein establishes for believers to simply examine themselves. Either this confirmation of His resurrection is known unto us or we need to go back to square one and determine whether our conversion went no farther than our head. Maybe all we own is just a theology that never actually got connected to a Holy Ghost who abides in our “belly”. In being so bold as to open that question, however, perhaps I should address what exactly is meant by an encounter with the Truth. Miracles? Healing? Some rending of the heavens and His voice declaring His existence? Surely none of us can demand our own personal experience must be replicated in another. Each of us must be assured for himself, in his own heart. In my own walk there has been, over the course of more than four decades, a dream, a vision, an immersion into His Spirit so deep that there is no denying the osmosis entertained for those few moments in time. Singular events never repeated. Faith to faith. In between, there have been continual returns to the well, however, grace taking me “through the veil” and into the Holy of Holies where somehow all that I am finds the hem of His garment, His presence made known to me only by some tangible merger. The rest is life. Today and tomorrow, facing the world as it comes to me, trusting in the tug on the other end of the anchor-line. This little light of mine. How well, I wonder, does it shine…….

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Puzzle-solving....."

Beth was fighting a virus yesterday and, not wanting to abandon her in such state, this old man opted to cancel his participation in the monthly visit to the rescue mission. It’s not like my vacancy hindered the Holy Ghost in ministering to those men. It only requires a vessel surrendered to “finding the flow”. Tony and Frank, both, have such a heart. As far as that which had been in my own heart? mind? spirit? (Can one really know correct terminology for that part of our identity?), is always an on-going evolution with me. The “pot is always on the burner”. My wife claims I live there. Isn’t that true, though, of all of us? The only difference is in what we choose to feed it in terms of “stoking the fire”. My favorite dictionary defines “mind” as “the element or complex of elements in a person that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and, especially, reasons”. A friend, in writing about his own investigation into this, suggested that perhaps, in so far as our faith, all of those terms might be better expressed as “believing”, for we tend to “see” God only to the extent that we, ourselves, have created Him there within us; and then, subconsciously, possess relationship with Him under such terms as we, ourselves, determine. That could well be if not for the Gospel. Not the message, but the promise which confirms itself within us: Christ “in” me! We all stand guilty of a charge wherein that which we believe is “of our own making”, even if garnered from the Bible and encounters along the way. It’s the best we can do seeing as how the subject before us will never be conquered in the sense of “putting deity in a box”. For that matter, our own humanity remains an enigma unto us for the most part. What we must learn, as Christians, is that the Book doesn’t eliminate a need for pursuit. Chapter and verse doesn’t solve the mystery, but points us to it. “Pick up your cross and follow Me” was the commandment given; and THAT involves more than just sitting down satisfied with one’s present theological position. Motel Six isn’t the only one who promises to “keep the light on” for us……..

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Passage................"

I have long referred to that last week of the year as seeming like existing in a state of limbo, all the hustle and bustle that goes with Christmas suddenly reduced to shoppers either returning items for one reason or another or simply looking for bargains now on sale at an even cheaper price. What occupies our mind is our inane reasoning that a special click of the clock, a turning of the calendar page, somehow gives us a second chance, one more orbit to grab the brass ring, change our habits, hope is in a fresh look at the horizon. At seventy-three, finally retired and doing nothing other than a couple of outreach ministries that assign me any sort of “scheduled expectation” in my life, that state of “limbo” is an ever present threat. My earlier plans for this stage of the journey, should it come to be, was visiting those in the hospital and volunteering at church in some capacity. Several issues have altered such hope. My days are mostly spent with computer games, crossword puzzles, juggling a couple of books, and watching television with Beth. Throw in a trip or two to the mall, dinner out three or four times a week, and an occasional errand run for one of the girls. It would be easy to sink into the ennui. Two things prevent that: Exercise, for one, the mental part of which has already been noted, the physical part a commitment kept with either my treadmill or the church gymnasium running track. The second is faith, His in me confirmed through encounters here and there along the way, mine fueled by the same. It is an affair kept fresh through pursuit, in a prayer wherein my words sometimes stumble into His, and in wrestling with words otherwise, be it here in this blog, a church journal, Facebook entries, or something to share with the kids at the Center, the men at the mission. The river runs deep, feeds my soul, and keeps “adventure” before me. No limbo; more like a dance in the dark with Holy Ghost and a flashlight…..

Monday, December 15, 2014

"Super-natural Glue....................."

Sunday morning my pastor preached on Jesus “of Nazareth”, his whole message centered on how that city’s identity is assigned to Him throughout Scripture and how such analogy gives promise to all of us. It reflects Him having been born in a manger, not a palace, raised in the middle of “nowhere”, a man with no credentials other than what His Father would work through Him. The message, as given unto us, was pre-noted as a burden laid upon his heart the last few days for a member seated there in the pews, and pre-announced to end with specific prayer for this fellow’s healing. Within its delivery, there were memories recalled, the first one of his aunt having given a young boy anointing oil with instruction to “slosh” it around in his mouth as she brought his need before God. Afterwards he spat the liquid into a handkerchief and found the abscess no longer there. The second took us back to his having once gone to the hospital with an older preacher called to minister to a young teenager who had been pronounced “brain dead” and all hope gone. When the elder man laid hands on him and humbly sought a miracle, machines suddenly “lit up” bringing nurses from all directions; and all these years later the “corpse” is now married with three children. Altar call was unto whomsoever; but, as a body, we specifically sought with him and the Holy Ghost for that individual divinely assigned our shepherd. In the Bible, Job pleads in one place “Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know my integrity”; and elsewhere Abraham, concerning a mess he has created with his own words, is told by his Maker that the “integrity of his heart” has been noted. So I believe it shall be for all of us on Judgment Day. If much with my bunch has changed, to where I sit in the balcony and watch from afar, yet our roots run deep, attached to Him, and will be what is examined in the end. Even in Christ we remain separate in our identity otherwise. In coming together, the whole idea is to somehow connect in Him……………

Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Isolation....................."

They tell me that Thomas Jefferson, finding it hard to accept all the miracles, all the enigmas such as Ezekiel and his wheel, simply rejected most of the Book and rewrote it to suit himself. The moral tones within the original were deemed proper instruction to utilize in the raising of his children; but how much he, himself, absorbed any of it is beyond my knowing. History does record an accusation of at least one indiscretion with a member of his household female staff. The third President of our nation, however, is far from being isolated in “throwing out the baby with the bath water”; and, by that, I do not speak of simply dismissing the Bible altogether, but of creating God in our own image, settling for a totem instead of Christ “in” me. People do it in various ways. To be truthful, it might be said that we all stand guilty to some degree any time we, as believers, get sidetracked to a point where God needs a chisel to reach us through a theology we’ve set in concrete. That’s not to say we can’t hold to some doctrine, convinced of its integrity through having found it anchored in chapter and verse; but it does seem pretty safe to say we can’t all be right! There’s nothing wrong with our being passionate about some portion of the Word. We just can’t take it to the point where we become deaf and blind to the sound of His voice. The roots of our faith must be buried in Him in such a way as to His Spirit being that which directs our path, adjusts our course, flows through us to become a witness of His reality. It’s not about me having solved the enigma. Rather, I am thankful for such a mystery that remains more than I can conquer, a connection that comes up out of some inner well, surprising me at times, but always a matter of me then being willing to lay myself on His altar. In the darkness, He is my light, the tug on my reins as I go……

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Restoration.........................."

Frederick Buechner quotes one of his college professors as saying: “Every morning, when you wake up, before you reaffirm your faith in the majesty of a loving God, before you say ‘I believe’ for another day, read the Daily News with its record of the latest crimes and tragedies of mankind, and then see if you can honestly say it again.” The author marks the fellow a fool, in the sense that he wouldn’t “resolve, intellectualize, or evade the tensions of his faith, but lived those tensions out, almost torn in two by them at times.” He describes such faith as being “not a seamless garment, but ragged, with the tear showing, and one that he clutched about him like a man in a storm.” Such description leaves me wondering about how we define, not just “faith”, but also “grace”. Both of the terms are part of that one verse in Ephesians where the apostle Paul declares unto us the birthing of our salvation. My own experience suggests that, beyond our initial entrance into the kingdom, there yet remains a need for repeated reassurance, humanity remaining humanity, even “in” Christ; and that is achieve, it seems to me, time after time, via the same process involving the same duo. What’s debatable is the “identity” that each of us assign to them. The first only has as much value as that into which it is entrusted and if that amounts to no more than a theology holding no life but what we, ourselves, create, then it is no stronger than our own mental fortitude. The second, also, is nothing if not known via a “connection”, heaven touching earth within us, for what do we really possess otherwise? Indeed, it, too, much for the same reasons as the first, must be repeatedly found at an altar, an on-going process whereby we learn His arms are always ready to welcome us if we are just willing to return, humble and honest in the truth as we know it thus far……

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Communication........................"

“Godric” would probably not appeal to those who have the Gospel held tightly in some sort of mental grip with no liberty given unto possibility. This particular work of fiction by Frederick Buechner sets our faith in medieval times, expressing one man’s journey as indeed it might have been, influenced by the world that then was and a Church that yet had much to settle in so far as “Christ in me”. The story intrigues me, offering here and there fragments of truth as I have found it to be in my own life, one such moment being the main character’s definition of prayer. He puts it in terms of accomplishing it much the same way as he “breathes, for else his heart would wither within his chest, else waves would dash him on the rocks or he would drift with witless tides”. He then declares immediately after “and sometimes, by God’s grace, his words are heard”; and that… gives me pause. I do find myself accepting that latter statement, if only in the sense of a believer not always (as they used to say in Old-time Holiness) “praying through”. Too often in this, maybe for multiple reasons, “connection” can avoid us or even be abandoned, the whole attempt often interrupted by some sudden urgency. It’s also true, it seems to me, that many just do not enter into it with expectation of any sort of tangible form of assurance, having been taught this all is merely a matter of how well we submit ourselves to “faith”. Without at least occasional success marked by the gulf between our spirit and His having been spanned, we are left with Jesus on the Cross, his mission unfulfilled, our salvation not retracted, but certainly hindered in as much as our having any real confirmation of that which we hold to be true. That’s why I was pleased to discover, a bit further along in this book, this same individual sharing an experience that, in passing through it, he realizes “When I deserved it least, God gave me most”. So it is. Relationship with Him is not based on how well we eliminate our humanity, but on whether we are willing to surrender it unto Him as we go……

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Heresy......................"

“Listening to Your Life” is a devotional, a collection of excerpts taken from Frederick Buechner’s earlier works, most of which already occupy my shelves here at home, his ability to paint a picture with the Gospel attracting me from my first introduction to several of his sermons. Within the first forty-six pages of this particular offering, however, the author has twice referred to the Bible as being the “incarnate word” and to hear it defined in such terms sounds strange to me. It seems to suggest that the Book somehow possesses within its composition the Spirit of God. While Peter declares it as “a more sure word of prophecy” that came to us through men who were “moved by the Holy Ghost” and Paul, unto Timothy, describes it as being “inspired”, in as much I understand such element of faith, the “indwelling” abides within the believer, not the Scripture, itself. Indeed, I find us in error when we assign chapter and verse any sort of deification. It is not OUR sword, but His; and when we begin to see it as such, perhaps our theology, held in our heads, can grasp better the necessity of continually being subjected to the reality of the Third Person of the Trinity whom we claim to now live in our “belly”. The Bible, as I see it, is an intermediary between the what was once spoken by Divinity through a human vessel and a present human vessel who must now return it unto He Who originally birthed it, all the details worked out in as much as we involve Him in the nuts and bolts of the journey as it comes unto us.

Monday, December 8, 2014

"Portals......................."

Every now and then there are yet those middle-age folk who approach me recalling all the songs we shared in some sort of children’s ministry thirty-some years ago. When they do, my thoughts turn to the elderly gentleman who always encouraged me and my other two siblings to participate in events that his church sponsored. In visiting him more than two decades later, after finally coming to Christ and all excited in my salvation, I found him no longer among the brethren, wrestling with alcohol and no longer that enthused about spiritual matters. Not so with me; but time has undeniably altered much in so far as the “soil in which I was originally planted” and, no doubt, in this old rutabaga as well. If my roots are still firmly anchored in Christ and thankfulness fills my heart for the experience gained with this original bunch of believers, though, it still must be said that theology now separates us in a few areas, outreach pulls me elsewhere, and the relationship we once knew is not quite the same. The pastor preached yesterday morning from Luke 6:6, entitling his sermon “Jesus Wants to Get into Your Synagogue”. It drew maybe three to the altar for prayer afterwards, none of them, seemingly, in any sort of response to what had been said; but his words did register with me, causing consideration of my own condition. He had pointed to the idea of each of us, within our own personal temple, creating, as the Jews did, an expanded version of the Gospel as we go; and the Holy Ghost within us, as the “mind of Christ” trying now to span the gulf between our “belly” and our “head”. All too often, what happens, he said, was “having invited Him into the one, we shut the door to the other. Good analogy, in my opinion, and well worth self-examination. There is much, truthfully, with which I grapple, if not with an addiction acquired, most certainly with myself in other ways. While assured that He did, indeed, take up residence with me more than four decades past and that such addition to who I am as a person has undeniably changed me greatly, this old man has known from the start that those other pieces of my identity, MY spirit, MY soul, MY humanity, went nowhere. It’s always been a stumble down the path and a question of how often and how much, not just an invitation was kept open for Him to step into my sanctuary, but also how often and how much I visited His……

Saturday, December 6, 2014

"Rx........................................."

“Like the Hebrew alphabet, the alphabet of grace has no vowels; and, in that sense, His words to us are always veiled, subtle, cryptic, so that it is left to us to delve their meaning, to fill in the vowels for ourselves by means of all the faith and imagination we can muster. God speaks to us in such a way, presumably, not because he chooses to be obscure, but because, unlike a dictionary word whose meaning is fixed, the meaning of an incarnate word is the meaning it has for the one it is spoken to, the meaning that becomes close and reflective in our life only when we ferret it out for ourselves.” – Frederick Buechner

More and more, as the years go by, I am convinced that the individuality of each of us is uniquely shaped, not just by genetic schematics assigned us at birth, but by the journey as well, every moment along the way filtered through a brain holding its own reasoning, its own assessment of everything that has happened thus far and its defense against what might happen in the next step. Humanity is complicated. With that said, however, it must also be confessed that I find the Church, in as much as my own experience has come to me, to be much like a religious pharmaceutical counter whose shelves are filled with each denomination peddling its own cure for the common cold. Each provides you with basically the same ingredients. Take your pick, whatever works for you. Success is a matter of matter of faith and commitment. Assurance can only be known when all the symptoms have been eliminated; and it seems like, in this life, sniffles, sinus congestion, and headaches are just “par for the course”. The key phrase in what the above author suggests is “incarnate word”; and that, indeed, is what we have if all we possess is paper and ink bound in a leather wrapping. The inscription of “Holy” stamped on its covering, however, should not be taken to indicate a reverence we attach to the book, itself, but the truth that there, within its contents, we can make contact with that One whose Gospel is presented unto us. It is not OUR sword; it is His, to deliver us from our fears, our shame, and our guilt as we inevitably know it. Always, it needs His Spirit in any revelation thereof; yet it is exactly that possibility that Calvary brings unto us and it is the pursuit of such relationship that keeps the cure alive in our system. Not that the source of our medicine, once re-installed within us, can be lost in any matter other than by our own re-enactment of Adam’s transgression; but common sense tells us that if you want the dosage, you’ve got to go the cabinet, open up the bottle, and swallow….

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Deja Vu..........................."

Frederick Buechner is one of my favorite authors and discovering one of his books yesterday on a Joseph Beth shelf yesterday was a treat. “Listening to Your Life”, as it turned out, is no more than a yearly devotional filled with snippets from other works I probably already possess; but this from will allow me a refreshing and his introduction, if nothing else, has already provided me with his usual ability to feed my soul. Ralph Waldo Emerson is supposed to have reached a point in his life where he had gradually slipped into a “serene senility” in which his mind finally became a calm blank. One day he happened to pick up a volume of his old essays, browsed through it for a while, and then remarked that although he couldn’t place the young fellow who wrote them, he thought that, all in all, there was promise in what was said. I can relate. The journey changes us as we go; and wisdom isn’t necessarily to utilize in suggesting what we have gained in the process. Indeed, while one might hope that we have learned some lessons along the way, humanity remains subject to error, still prone to stumbling in the next step, and yet the fool it always was in chasing its own ego down the path. If, in looking back, we feel we have one up on youth just now arriving at some point we experienced in our past, it may well be that we could extend some helpful advice, but it isn’t written in concrete that our perspective is the only solution to the mystery. Just because the bridge and then the left turn after picking up the sledgehammer worked for me, that doesn’t make the other guy dumb if he rows a boat across river, turns right, and goes over the wall with a ladder. The key is Christ. Other than that we are individuals…… I sat in Bible class Wednesday evening and listened to the passion in our teacher’s voice as he compared Canaan to a promised land within every believer, an oasis given unto us via Calvary whose waters provide reassurance and food for our soul, and yet a “mountain” in the sense that we must “take it” again and again, removing all the obstacles that life seems to bring to us on a daily basis. He took me back to myself, twenty or thirty year ago, with maybe ten people in a small room for Sunday school. His theology and mine differ on a couple of issues. Nothing that could be amiably discussed over a cup of coffee; but it must be admitted that my thoughts sometimes embrace the truth that he has not yet been where I have been. Give him time. He’ll see. A wrong attitude on my part, of course. What’s important is that evident witness that comes forth in all that he is. He and I are plugged into the same well, eat at the same table; and there is room enough for an old man to appreciate the new kid on the block, to see, in him, myself, as it was back there in the beginning…….

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Page 23 in the Hymnal......................."

Why our pastor called a three day “revival” with church school basketball games scheduled for both Monday and Tuesday is beyond me, but last night I rode with the youngest daughter and her family over to Cincinnati to watch the grandson and his team play hoops. There was a drizzly rain falling and darkness had not yet claimed the inner city when we drove up Linn Street looking for the YMCA. That area is just two blocks west of the tenements and all the racial unrest the last few days (nothing too serious here other than some protesters having flooded the expressway, shutting it down temporarily one evening) had me a bit apprehensive about the event. I’ve walked here on several occasion in earlier years, passing out tracts and talking with individuals, even going up into the upper levels of that government housing to knock on doors. People are people; but, then, that’s my point: when emotions are stirred, a little wisdom on the other side of the coin doesn’t hurt. As things turned out, it was an enjoyable experience. Their team had all the height, but our boys took the lead and never looked back. The score stayed close until the final quarter, a sort of seesaw back and forth that kept one wondering about the final result; and we, though definitely a minority there in the bleachers, just one with the crowd in rooting for our individual team. The gymnasium was old and run down. The building held a couple of swimming pools, but overall it was obvious that this was the ghetto. These kids live in the middle of drugs and violence. Their future holds little hope of escaping such surroundings. It’s a lifestyle we, ourselves, have created as a nation; and one in which, it seems to me, that racial tension has only reproduced itself, the hatred now as strong on both sides of the equation. The answer is, and never was, in government, but in hearts that are willing to sit down together and talk, to listen and accept each other’s failures while acknowledging our need of His reality in our midst. Culture doesn’t have to separate us. It just takes three, not a village; and a little competition between the kids on a hardwood floor doesn’t have to mean war. Last night was fellowship with some other good folk, Gospel without a sermon, a couple of hours of fun……

Monday, December 1, 2014

"Advice............................."

This morning I shared several B.C. comic strips Facebook where Miss Know-It-All is busy, seated at her boulder and answering all those who have written her for enlightenment. One fellow refers to his doctor having recommending that he play 36 holes a day, admits he hates golf, and asks her “What should I do?” Her response? “Buy a harmonica!” In relating that to a need for believers to embrace a bit of humor in any journey they make where “church” is more than just a pew occupied on Sunday, I compared attachment and commitment to any assembly as living in a “briar patch”, an analogy probably not understood if one has never been introduced to Brer Rabbit in “Song of the South”. Trapped and caught by Brer Bear and Brer Fox, he convinces them to throw him back into entanglement of thorns, the two of them ignorant of the truth: the place is really “home” and a place of safety from what the world elsewhere brings unto him. Thus I have found it to be within the fellowship, over four decades with this bunch having me convinced that “unity” is the same no matter where you sit. It has to flow out of what you hold in your “belly”, not necessarily your head. If the two of us have evolved along the way to a degree of separation finding me nowadays seated in the balcony, it yet remains my heart is rooted in them as well as Him, the Holy Spirit juggling the affair, the “mind of Christ” actually, in as much as this old man has found it to be throughout over forty years in this, is more than just “mentality”. The Greek roots of the word “mind”, as it is used here and there in the Book, give definition to its meaning more than what one might suppose, in one place suggesting “being sound mind and self-controlled as to opinion or passion”, elsewhere as “exercising so as to have sentiment, disposed in a certain direction”, and again as “the intellect in thought, feeling, or will”. So when Paul expresses as possessing that portion of Him, can it be that, rather than our having been permanently “cloned” to be as He is, in truth we are no more than we ever were, “just” reconnected to His reality in a manner that we, like those in the Cartoonist’s rendering, can take our questions, our confusion, our humanity as it exists, unto His oasis? What if, as we go, salvation is not about how perfect we are, how much we “blend” with everybody else in the sanctuary, or how well we have “thumped our theology” unto others? What if it all comes down to a face-to-face conversation with Him maintained on a regular basis? Now there’s a rock with better answers than “Buy a harmonica”………………

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"Elmer Fudd.................."

”If you believe nothing is always what's left after a while, as I did; If you believe you have this collection of ungiven gifts, as I do (right here behind the silence and the averted eyes); If you believe an afternoon can collapse into strange privacies - how in your backyard, for example, the shyness of flowers can be suddenly overwhelming, and in the distance you can hear, clearly, the explosion of thunder, personal, like a voice; If you believe there's no correct response to death, as I do, that even in grief (where I've sat making plans) there are small corners of joy; If your body sometimes is a light switch in a house of insomniacs; If you can feel yourself straining just to be yourself every waking minute; If you are, as I am, you are almost smiling” - Stephen Dunn, via “Whiskey River”

My wife, even after fifty years, fails to understand my continual capacity to “live in my mind”, my tendency to always be “somewhere else” in my thoughts regardless of what else is going on around me. Isolation for seven years in my childhood battling Rheumatic Fever might have something to do with it. No television in the early days. No other kids, my two siblings not restricted in spending their whole day with me. Imagination and comic books fueled my existence. Reality was just an anchorage to return to when the moment required it. Such existence didn’t evolve me into a serial killer, but did produce this inner guy who is always exploring the mystery. My wheels are always turning. During Wednesday’s unexpected sermon, for example, while the preacher was delivering admonishment for God’s people to never forget the source of all we possess in Him, my own thoughts were chasing a rabbit elsewhere. My Bible has numerical annotations that lead to the Hebrew or Greek root giving birth to the King James translation; and, in following one of Steve’s references, I discovered the word “mind”, while utilized several times in that portion of Scripture, did not always give indication of the same exact root being there in the original text. Interesting. To me, anyway. History clearly reveals that the early Church, though born-again in Christ, yet struggled with its humanity. The Apostle Paul’s epistles give evidence of “dissention among the troops” in so far as understanding the Gospel. For several centuries, beyond the Gnostics claiming their own “spiritual enlightenment” to be the truth of the matter, the Catholic bunch on the other side were split into our different “kingdoms”, each with its own pope, its own teachings, its own demands. If, from there, we’ve “progressed” into our current menu offering a conglomeration of doctrinal dogmas all emerging from the same Book, pardon me if, while seeking no confrontation with any of them, while recognizing my own membership within the species, at large, I prefer to follow His tug on my anchor-line along with those like-minded few who seem to be similarly inclined. Be verwy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits…….

Friday, November 28, 2014

"Manifestation................................"

While someone trying to induce a bit of humor into the event once said that “Only in America would people, after specifically giving thanks for what they have, rush out the next day to do hand to hand combat with others in an attempt to have more, it would seem that Black Friday has finally gained enough significance as to be embraced as Black Weekend. With the first football game over and the feast already at least partially consumed, my grandkids departed for the Mall yesterday afternoon in hopes of capturing treasure, having struck an agreement with my wife for early distribution of what we intended to spend on them for Christmas. Beth’s reasoning: easier for her health wise than having to fight the crowds herself. The holidays are here. My own thinking: the youngest among us is now a Fifth Grader and the December 24th get-together has lost Santa Claus along the way, becoming, as it should, more and more “family centered in Christ”. Who needs presents? What you hold in your heart is the biggest gift, changing as time passes, the structure of such unit growing new branches and losing leaves along the way. The human condition: strangely capable of knowing deep bonds with one’s own, compassion for others, and yet step into another dimension where, as little as who gets their hands on item presently conceived as vital for “me” to possess, can alter our emotions to a point of anger. I’ve been reading some history about our country’s involvement in WWII and find nothing to condemn us in so far as entering into that conflict. Certain portions of what occurred in the course of things may well be questionable; but we had little choice other than to defend ourselves from Japan, to stand with others against a Hitler out to eliminate particular elements of mankind he deemed unfit to live. Likewise, I wrestle with a Bible that seems to give us an Old Testament God of wrath and a New Testament incarnation espousing “love thy enemies”. Where I attain peace is in recognizing “homo sapiens” in the details, accepting the Scripture as “inspired”, but realizing that the divine whisper passed through carnal nature, leaving truth as a matter known only in as much as we, ourselves, stumble through the pages with Him. Hopefully, in following that path, we become vessels wherein the reality of the reconnected Spirit brings unto us enough of Him to influence our actions and give witness of what we claim to believe……..

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Connected......................."

”Spirituality is about seeing. It is not about earning or achieving. It’s about relationship rather than results or requirements. Once you ‘see’. The rest follows. You don’t push the river, because you are already in it.” – Richard Rohr

It’s seven o’clock in the morning. I’ve already took the chill of the house with the furnace, adjusted the electric heaters, made a hot cup of coffee to clear my head, and posted an entry on Facebook. The granddaughter is still asleep with Beth beside her. No school today, her principle having turned the holiday into Fall Break. The grandson who lives in Lexington, a college sophomore, is arriving this afternoon with a friend, pre-Thanksgiving enough to maybe play some basketball with the two other boys and with plans to possibly Black Friday shop with them as well. Beyond having some new tires put on the Fiesta later, there will also no doubt be some errands to run. The usual pies to pick up that she orders from a small local “home-cooking” restaurant, last minute pick-ups from Kroger’s. Bible study, this evening, is scheduled for a merger with another class, it being an almost certainty that many of our women will not be there. An unfortunate turkey will be occupying their attention. In reality, we’re looking at another year about to pass into the history books; and for me this part of my existence, more than anything else, seems like it keeps getting here faster and faster with each orbit we make around the sun. Although the reality of it all doesn’t have us “circling the drain”, as one grows older the image comes to mind. I am grateful, therefore, for “roots”, for that which “hooked” me more than forty-two years ago, a life-line, anchor-line, paternal umbilical cord holding me securely attached to the other side of the veil. That entry referred to above was begun with the quote preceding my thoughts here and then ended thus: “While I am thankful for preachers and teachers, even more so for those in the pew who have simply ‘lived it’ before me and thereby have been an example to follow, it is the journey, itself, that has taught me when life didn’t add up to theology confessed, brought assurance when faith was more than I could grasp at the moment. Again and again, somewhere in a quiet place, it has been He who has renewed my strength from an inner well.”… In my “belly”, in the most deepest part of whom I am, there is a cry, a hope, that all might so know Him as they travel their own path.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"Alzheimer's.............................

In more ways than one humanity seems marked by, not just how quickly it forgets, but also how easily it can be conditioned to believe what was never so. In the Navy, they taught me Serbo-Croatian and Russian with an admonishment to “use it or lose it”. So it seems also with this faith that we refer to as Christianity. We look to our Bible to find form and foundation for what we profess to be truth; and yet the apostle Paul’s epistles were written to churches he, himself, had planted, but which, in short time, had already evolved into something other than the Gospel he had sowed into them. Indeed, we exist today as a body of believers, supposedly one in Him, yet very much divided by the Book. Can it be that the latter portion of that statement may well be attributed to our never fully grasping the truth of what those three words, "one in Him",actually are in the reality of the gift as given? In no way do I count myself “called of God” unto some prophetic ministry of reshaping the ecclesiastical institution’s over-all doctrinal dogma. I speak only out of my own journey, my own thirst to know Him, my own questions concerning what has been preached unto me. For over four decades, for example, sermon after sermon has declared my “sins” to have been “nailed to the Cross”, in such a way as to suggest that, having been cleansed at the foot of that altar, His righteousness became my righteousness and any further transgressions a matter of rebellion on my part. Yet there are few verses addressing Jesus as having accomplished that in such manner. 1st Peter 2:24 speaks of Him bearing our sins in His own body; 2nd Corinthians 5:21 says that He became sin for us; and Colossians 2:14 acknowledges the Law as being, symbolically, attached to the tree; but the third merely signifies a transition unto grace and the other two actually refer to the Savior having paid the price for Adam’s rejection of the Holy Ghost. When those words, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” (God, oh God, why hast Thou forsaken me) came forth on Calvary’s hill, Christ, for a brief time, became all men, void of that connection possessed with His Father, that we might be restored unto Eden’s initial state of existence with the Spirit abiding within us. How far we have drifted from that theology. How drastically we have mutated exactly what that means in so far as knowing Him on a daily basis………

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Debate........................."

Does an “absolute truth” demand and “absolute theology”? If so, is there anyone who possesses one? Does “relativism” stipulate that allowing others the right to their own opinion eliminates my right to disagree with their conclusions? A friend of mine recently briefly discussed such subjects with me, believing the Holy Scriptures to fulfill the first one and finding the second opening a door for people to claim all paths capable of leading us to God. My own thinking, however, finds this, at least in part, where Christianity long ago sailed off into dangerous waters. The institution, like the Jews before them, defined the Book above Giver, creating multiple versions of the Gospel and, in the process, burying the solution within their doctrinal enigma. Good news, simply stated, tells us of His re-established anchor-line being the best hope we have for survival. In “picking up our cross” to follow Him, we haven’t eliminated our humanity. “Dying daily” doesn’t translate to us having been permanently stripped of our former identity, but to our need of continually facing Him in the reality of our imperfection as it yet exists. I am not suggesting that the Church, at large, is defunct and without any demonstration of His resurrection within it. There is yet a pulse within the body. The Holy Ghost has not totally departed the premises. We, though, who fill the pews, who seek to be vessels through which the kingdom might come forth are so submerged in dogma and tradition that hearing His voice amidst all the others is a stagger down the path all in itself. It is as much a mystery within as it is outside the sanctuary. Rene Descartes is quoted as saying that he would not accept anything as true that he could reasonably doubt; and C.S. Lewis supposedly observed that the whole point of seeing through something was to see something through it. All I’m trying to say is that the journey teaches us as we go if we remain open to His tug on the anchor-line, realizing that none of us, even with the Bible as an authority for our faith, have got this all figured out. As Paul said, “If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.”………

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Enigma....................................."

My religious roots are within a small, inner-city Lutheran assembly that my grandmother frequented. Sunday school and Catechism classes educated me to be baptized into its membership at the age of twelve, but nothing actually connecting me to Christ ever occurred along the way and, when my family moved, “faith” was not a word embracing my morals. A neighbor attempted to draw me and my siblings into a nearby Baptist bunch, inviting us to teenage excursions. That ended, however, when my sister and I were rudely ejected on one occasion for jitterbugging on roller skates. It would be a few months after turning thirty, with my marriage about to self-destruct, that something drew me to follow the people next door to a little “old-time holiness” bunch of believers. Their message was over my head; their worship was not; and salvation came through a personal encounter with the Holy Ghost at home in my living room. The last four decades, then, have been what I might refer to as “boot camp”, a lesson in knowing Him, learning me, and surviving humanity as it exists within the sanctuary. That latter portion, of course, includes me as part of the problem and is stated only in a wish to be honest. While fellowship had definitely created life-long relation, bonds that resemble “family” in the sense of an inner connection that isn’t severed when personalities clash and opinions differ, yet it remains that, in pursuing Him, the journey doesn’t always produce a continued set of “like minds” in so far as individual perspectives on “thus says the Gospel”. One has but to look at Church history to realize that, out of such conflict, Christianity has split many times down through the centuries. Thus far, however, in my case, His voice, and my staggered stumble down the road has me still “blooming where I was planting”, sitting in the balcony most Sundays and attending the Wednesday evening Bible studies, but not involving myself in any activities, social, administrative, or otherwise. I’m just the strange old man, anymore, who visits the rescue mission and Detention Center. A fellow yesterday questioned my equating “absolute truth” with “Jesus only”, assigning me a charge of preaching “relativism”. I had to google the definition of such term and then pleaded “guilty” if denial meant change in my confession of placing Christ above the Book. We are still very much friends. Discussion will, no doubt, continue. “Witness” isn’t just outreach to the “lost”. We have multitudes on the pew (again: including me) who have not captured this in a theology; and the real sadness about that is that so many think “thinking” is not required…….

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Doggone......................"

Back in May, at the age of 71, my wife decided she wanted a puppy. Setting aside my own thoughts on the matter, I drove about a hundred miles to just outside Winchester and we came home with a small, white, six-week-old bundle of curls introduced to us as supposedly being a mixture between Peekapoo and Shitzu. I named him “Spook”. For a few days we questioned whether the tiny thing had been taken from his mother too soon; but suddenly, not just “life” came to this creature, but an exuberance to the point of energy just pouring out of his every move. From all appearances, he could have been on drugs. He ran in circles. He leaped. As reported in an earlier post, he climbed a sloped tree in my back yard. He barked at everything, was scared of anything, and, in exploring the outside world, would bring back “gifts”, the steps outside my front door always littered, after one of his excursions, nuts, sticks, somebody’s discarded paper cup, anything at all that two young boys across the road might have left outside overnight. Cute; but too much “surprise” underneath Beth’s feet, she dealing with osteoporosis, four fractures in her back, and the possibility of a fall too much of a threat for us to keep him, especially since his heritage, as reported, was very much in error. Mama had a blind date somewhere. Short and cuddly had quickly turned into something that more resembled a cross between Disney’s “Tramp” and a kangaroo, his back legs enabling him not only to run like a greyhound, but also to leap high into the air. We asked for takers, didn’t expect volunteers, but, surprisingly, an acquaintance, one of those lover of pets, fell in love with his picture and took him home yesterday. Strange story, though. Earlier that morning, upon letting him back in from his first call of nature, I looked down to discover two shred of what appeared to be a dollar bill, still frozen and obviously torn from wherever some patch of remaining snow yet held the rest in its grip. Beth laughed with me at such retrieval; and, a few hours later, in releasing him once more, jokingly encouraged him to bring back the rest. Obediently, he did! At least two more pieces, enough to reveal that somewhere out there, what he was collecting amounted to five bucks; and, as it turned out, one more excursion would give us all but a tiny sliver close to Lincoln’s face once we scotch-taped it all together. Kind of a parting “thank you”, I guess; and enough to make me wonder if, had we kept him, would there have been a twenty for us tomorrow?..... >

Friday, November 21, 2014

"Visualization..........................."

The “Faith Meets World” link on my sidebar connects me with a friend recently encountered over the Internet, a place where his thoughts encourage discussion concerning Biblical matters and the two of thus far fairly close in our theology. He lives in England. His denominational preference is yet unknown to me and, in truth, doesn’t matter to this old man. We talk “of” Christ, “in” Christ, and “seek” Christ as a Resurrection still leading us in this journey we have undertaken. His latest post, however, has me searching, both the Book and the Spirit’s influence, in how to respond to the subject brought forth. Is God “fear”, or is He “love”? Should we simply scrap the image that comes to us via the Old Testament and replace them with New Testament verses that express His character in much more attractive terms? For me, it’s not so much whether the Creator “is” any particular attribute (How can we separate Him into individual units of anything?), but rather how He is “to be received” by us in so far as any relationship attempted in this life as it comes to us. There are those who think Him “evil”, in the sense that natural disasters occur, seemingly with His consent. Hitlers, serial killers, and child molesters are cancers, not divinely eradicated, but brought to judgment only in as much as we, ourselves, attack the disease. The question, therefore, as I see it, becomes “How has He been taught to us by the Church and by those who claim membership within the faith”, for all we possess other than that is what our environment, our culture, and our history has reinforced in our brain. When Rob suggests that the Old Testament portrait of God is not there to tell us what He is like, but “to show us that this is how we humans, in our fallen, damaged, fearful state, see God”, projecting “our fears onto him and assuming that he is angry and to be feared”; and thus, in believing such lie, “we actually keep ourselves locked into that fear-filled condition”, I personally find him “right on the mark”, but ask myself why it is so. There most certainly is that aspect of the Father which is to be held in reverence, a knowledge of Him that recognizes Him in all His potential; but there is also the possibility of our gaining “merger”, if only temporarily, wherein we might also be convinced that we are, indeed, His children, able to come unto Him just as we are if we will but surrender all into His arms…….

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Linked.................................."

“For we shall surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again; yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from Him”… 2nd Samuel 14:14

There were four of us last night at the rescue mission, a number that limits us in so far as trying hard to ensure all get to share. In what old-time holiness used to refer to as “popcorn”, the unwritten rule we utilize is: Speak your heart and use your own common sense to shut up unless, somewhere along the way, the Holy Spirit makes Himself known in what you’re saying”. We don’t always achieve any perfection in that. It’s a learning process and people remain people, much like me driving McKenna home from school yesterday afternoon, making a stop at Wendy’s to get her a burger, catching a red light and, while sitting at the intersection, phoning my wife to see if she wanted anything. Yep; I got lost in thought and looked up to realize the green was about to finalize its cycle with me having gone nowhere. As I turned on the yellow, my mind pondered what the fellow left behind me was thinking about the idiot not paying attention, me knowing full well how many times this old man has been the one left waiting for another go. It happens. On this occasion, though, knowing Tony and I had talked beforehand of having little on our mind, I opened with some lyrics written by me over three decades ago. The words, as it happened, enabled Frank to step in a flow, his short message on God meeting us where we are when we, ourselves, but turn to Him in what we are, connecting with the men. Dave, as well, found the same stream, speaking on how this was a journey with a divine promise of never forsaking us in our stumble down the path. It was 7:30 when my buddy took his turn, his face with a shine to it, his eyes and a smile letting you know an inner well had sprung from what the others had already brought forth. For twenty minutes he fed us with the above verse, the anointing through him spilling grace and hope in our midst. He shouldn’t have quit. With less than ten minutes, however, I found myself using my grandson’s Veterans Day words to me to illustrate how Christ “in” me” was a “hidden treasure”, a “pearl of great price”, a reality that each of us has to confirm for ourselves. It was an hour in His presence, not some thick manifestation wherein all must fall down and worship, but assuredly a “touching the hem of His garment”, a “walk to Emmaus” that culminated in a prayer, all of us one in Him. This, for me, is “church”. It’s what I walked into over forty-two years back and what keeps me alive…….

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Finger-pointing................................."

My granddaughter has me investigating another English assignment due in December. This one is focused on the Salem witch trials that took place in this country during the late 1690s. While such business wasn’t merely restricted to a small area in Massachusetts (England was also eliminating “the dark side”, an examination of what took place here at home gives clear evidence of what men can do to each other through religious ignorance. In less than sixteen months, nineteen individuals were pronounced guilty and executed by hanging, one man died from being tortured to confess his guilt, heavy stones placed upon him finally crushing his chest, four people died in prison, and two dogs killed that were suspected of participating in the occult. Six women were found guilty, but, nevertheless, pardoned. Five actually pled guilty and were pardoned. One woman, a black slave, whose ethnic origin is not known, but whose belief and practice of some sort of voodoo mumbo-jumbo with a few young girls was admitted, was questioned, never indicted. Just where humanity was in its state of evolution down through the centuries or do we yet “miss it” in many ways, our salvation still far short of knowing perfection in what we claim to possess? A few decades back, my own bunch protested against secular music, movie theaters, and all literature other than a King James Bible interpreted in any manner other than through old time holiness. One evening we had a special service, one addressing “the devil in the world’s songs” and pre-purposed as encouraging a bonfire afterwards for any and all to commit any such trash to its flames. With a few protestors objecting, we gathered on the front lawn in the darkness and into a steel barrel torched with some kerosene went, not only Michael Jackson, Kiss, and whatever else was popular in the late 80s, but also Alvin and the Chipmunks, Doris Day, and George Jones. Nobody was subjected to any sort of inquisition about having so obviously having fallen under the spell of such lyrical enchantment. No questions asked as to who owned what. We didn’t get as much press as the Puritans and only a few of us are left with eye-witness testimony concerning the event. Suffice it to say it was not one of our better moments……..

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Verification...................."

Somehow, while the amount of snow may well have varied in different areas around the Tristate, here on the outer fringe of Covington the four to five inches predicted fell far short of anything at all serious. The temperature has dropped below freezing; but, after clearing the walk and our car of the white stuff with no more than a broom, Beth and I went to the top of the hill for Chinese yesterday afternoon. My mind is on visiting the men at the rescue mission tomorrow evening, my thoughts sorting out the three services Sunday (two of them watched on my computer) and trying to piece together a couple of portions of Scripture. The Kingdom of God is a term found in all four Gospels, only Matthew mixing with it, as well, the Kingdom of Heaven. To me, surely there is a difference between the two to be explored; and I’ve pondered if perhaps the latter doesn’t simply refer to the believer possessing the Spirit of Christ “within” him, while the first suggests the idea of such reconnected power of divinity working “through” him. How well my own poor attempt to provide explanation captures truth is another matter; but this much most should accept as a basic understanding a couple of analogies Jesus brought forth: both the “treasure” and the “pearl of great price” refer to an inner abiding of the Holy Ghost being restored unto humanity through the price paid at Calvary. More than merely some revising of the registration forms, our paperwork already cleared for immediate entrance into that city on high, the blood-bought have been restored unto that same connection Adam knew in the Garden with his Creator. Therefore, when the apostle Paul speaks unto the Corinthians with a directive for them to “examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith”, the “proof in the pudding” that he extends is verification of that factor. Indeed, it is the one piece of evidence that affirms unto us that, in this journey, we have not been made “reprobate”, a term denoting our having been “cast away” or “rejected”. Some translations have reduced it to our having “failed the test”; but what’s important, what so many seem to have lost along the way, is a hunger to maintain such assurance in our “belly”, not our head. Does final judgment depend upon your theology matching mine in this matter? Christ sits on that throne, not me. I would, however, to “now”, this moment, this hour, this day. Do we “know” Him in more than just a mental image we have forged for ourselves from others thumping the Book?............

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Resuscitation.................."

A friend of mine recently turned my thoughts to an old movie wherein Jodie Foster’s character was impassioned with a desire to make “Contact” with any other intelligent life possibly existing in the universe. The film remains a favorite of mine, not so much because of the plot, as it played out, its version of “Heaven” dismissing all mention of Christ, indeed God, Himself, not even seen as part of the picture, but the curiosity that drove the young woman’s inner being, the hunger she held for touching that which lies “beyond the veil”. I did not find my Bible rebuked, just avoided. In no way was my faith contaminated. To be truthful, it seems to me that we, as believers, are often too easily offended, ready to “make war” over anything that doesn’t fit our chapter and verse image of how we have determined the mystery to be. Ravi Zacharias wrote a book entitled “Recapturing the Wonder”. It just could be he “hit the nail on the head” When everything is all wrapped up in a box, what’s inside I more religion than it is God. When you go to church and know what to expect before you get there, what you’ve got is a program, not a worship service. The Holy Ghost needs to be “blowing in the wind”, somewhere in the pews whispering to a surrendered vessel, coming forth as He determines, not by our command. He is with us, in us, ready to surprise us, and yet always more than we can subdue. We have lost much of that with my particular bunch. From where I sit, it seems the ecclesiastical community, in general, has misplaced the reality of an encounter, our gathering merely a format for what we have come to expect, our relationship with divinity yet possibly intact, but without knowledge of resurrection in our midst other than in the form that we, ourselves, have determined it to be…….

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Armageddon.................."

I’m reading an American Heritage book on WWII, discovering more than just history heretofore unknown to me, but revelation that, while the present political situation of this nation seems almost to the point of taking us into self-destruction, it would appear that we have been here before. Only the names have changed, although it can perhaps be said that modern technology has increased all the consequences. In 1940, though, this country was also divided. Hitler was steam-rolling over the European continent, Denmark taken in just a few hours, Holland, two days, and Belgium, eighteen. Norway required two weeks; and, within not much more than a month, British forces were driven back across the channel with France surrendering to the German invaders. It was interesting to me that, when the Nazis entered Paris, the one person with any governmental status who didn’t run from a face-to-face confrontation was the American ambassador. His report, upon returning here, would strengthen FDR’s determination to somehow bring us into the conflict despite an obvious looming threat on the other side of the world; and, when the leak of a top secret Rainbow Five Plan of war brought investigations into public knowledge, one has to wonder what might have happened had not Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor. Had not? What if? My own belief has long been firmly convinced that “things happen”. Call it luck, happenstance, whatever. I don’t see where any of it takes God out of a position of being “in control”; and I say that with no intention at all of finding Him responsible for natural disasters, tragedies, all the evil that we know in our existence. For me, the Creator takes a more “one-on-one” with mankind. Just as we, within the Body, look at Him as “the Pearl of Great Price”, even so he sees us as individuals, all of us, each of us, saved, lost, trying to make our way through this mess; and that means He is whispering, tugging, trying to speak some sense unto that whole bunch presently occupying positions of authority, whether it be in D.C., Moscow, or Outer Mongolia! In that there is peace; in that there is hope; and, if it all nonetheless goes down the drain, yet in Him I have promise……

Saturday, November 15, 2014

"Scarred..........................."

Ernie Pyle was a WWII correspondent who, having survived the front lines in both world arenas for nearly five years, was killed on Okinawa by a sniper’s bullet. On his body was found a column meant to be released once the Allies achieved total victory and in it he expresses what stays in a man’s mind having “been there”. It’s pretty visual in content. Battle, no doubt, scars memories forever, leaving images that cannot be erased. Truth is, though, that there are many other ways human identity can be damaged to such extremes. Carnage isn’t restricted to combat. Who we are wasn’t determined with any sort of manuscript, our story written before it ever even happened. Life, from Eden forward, is a walk through a minefield, God’s anchor-line severed giving birth to a virus in our midst, an epidemic of major proportion, and our own vanity killing us as we go. Environment, history, and circumstance all play a part in the production as a whole. If some would dismiss luck in any form or fashion, I find such reasoning in need of further discussion. The future splits into infinite possibilities and evolves through a myriad of factors that our brain can’t even begin to contemplate. Even with the reality of Christ “in” me, we yet maintain “steerage” through our own head and things “happen”. Reconnection extends an oasis located at an inner depth on a lower level, a place providing us with peace, purpose, and promise in the middle of chaos; but how often we frequent such source of strength and how well we follow its tug on our reins is an individual decision. Forget the obituary. The novel, as it plays out, gets laid at His feet in the end and final judgment rests with He who has known us from our mother’s womb. No lawyers. No appeals. All decisions stand as served……

Friday, November 14, 2014

"Cloning..............................."

“Is the Gospel shareable?” Such was the question asked by Glen Scrivener, an English evangelist attempting to teach others that rather than responding to argument with a set of Scriptural truths, as believers we accomplish such mission by offering “something personal and attractive”. I agree, but yet feel we miss it when we fail to realize that the message isn’t so much chapter and verse as it is Christ “in” me. Indeed, it seems to me that the Church, as a whole, is wrapped up more in its individual theological definitions explaining the Book than it is in the reality of a resurrected Jesus now abiding within every born-again convert. We do not teach it (possibly because, as a body, we have either lost or misconstrued such understanding along the way) and the end result is not just that we, ourselves, are weakened in our witness, but also that the world around us sees only another religious group. The cartoon shared here was posted on that same site already noted, the artist giving perfect image to how the whole issue usually exists, his only fault, in my opinion, being the two identity characters need to be reversed. It probably also ought to be said that I find not much difference between convincing the guy on the street or the fellow in the pew, believing that His penetration power has to deal with our humanity on both sides of the transfer. Vanity and pride are the walls that have to come down on the “pulpit” side of such pursuit, although good intentions tend to take us down the path ahead of the Holy Ghost and there is a lesson to learn as to His Spirit being what accomplishes success in so far as bringing down the barriers the other person has created. It takes His wisdom, His grace, His love, His presence in the midst, He, Himself, establishing the initial contact and nurturing the residual seed after any birthing. Chapter and verse is His scalpel, not our sword. Just some thoughts that came to me after a phone-call from a friend last night……

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Atten-hut!........................"

Veterans Day was a particularly pleasant experience for me, personally, this year, although I do confess the weather dismissing my usual visit to the cemetery. Nothing so drastic in this area other than a chilly rain; but not suitable for an old man to wander among all those hillside graves. Beth and I went out to O’Charley’s for an early lunch where my tilapia was free, indeed, the restaurant filled with those who presently serve and many like me with it all many years behind us. We don’t usually seek out such gratuity, but talking with others there, regardless of branch, ignited within me the bond created through having worn the uniform, the heartfelt love for this country, the flag and what it stands for, the Constitution, not the corruption that politics brings to it. Not all agree. Not all understand. And I would go so far as to say, as humanity tends to do with almost any issue, people, in debating war in all its horror, it seems to me, get into some pretty nasty battles right here on the home-front. That, in itself, seems a bit inane when you think about it, crying “Peace! Peace!” with a club in one’s hand, anger in your heart. At the same time, without any wish on my part to suggest judgment on a man’s soul one way or the other, it gives me pause that, almost always, it is a given for us to usher the fallen into heaven and assign the enemy to the other location, one’s ultimate sacrifice for his nation automatically assuring entrance through the Pearly Gates. Weird where we have taken Christianity. I weep. I wrestle. Souls are at stake. Peace is an inner connection known in a stumble down the path wherein I salute all those who have enlisted. There is another banner picked up along the way, though, this one blood-stained, too, its attachment to my soul an even stronger pull on my allegiance……..

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Jeopardy.................................."

Conversation with one of our church school kids yesterday has me deep in thought this morning. We birthed that ministry about thirty years ago, my middle daughter the first to graduate from it, our hope set in providing better environment than what seemed to be prevalent in the public arena. If such effort fell short in some areas (no science lab, no athletics in those early stages), we felt at least academically our results would fare as well as what was graduating elsewhere. Indeed, I was somewhat shocked to see the lack of grammar and math skills that came to us in that initial switch. Whether it was representative of the masse, I do not know; but three decades later it would appear that the condition is merely who we are as a nation, education being a matter of any individual’s own desire to learn and, at this point, teachers, themselves, but products of the system. Let it also be noted that this old man confesses that, while having traversed those first twelve years making all “A”s and “B”s, with a good handle on English and Algebra, college was dismissed after nearly failing two subjects right out of the gate and any knowledge possessed as to this country’s history and governmental foundation was very minimal. Thus my mind ponders the idea of America as a creation, of sorts, a “being” not so much in the sense of it evolving out of a “singular” sense of an ethical set of morals, but most certainly out of the bulk of those people contained within its journey. If our flag and our Constitution define us, what they define is “e pluribus unum”; and when that is lost, it’s all over. Looking back at my small slice of that, it would be easy to blame television and Hollywood for much of the mess, to wonder if “progress” hasn’t enslaved us every bit as much as it may have helped us, people lost any more without a computerized device of some form or fashion held in their hands, attached to their ear, feeding their brain. Beyond that, though, I’ve got to ask myself if where we stand globally, compared to other nations knowledge-wise after gaining these college degrees, doesn’t suggest we need to take another look at “No Child Left Behind”?......

Monday, November 10, 2014

"Where's Waldo?......................"

In one of my Bibles, just within the front cover is scotch-taped a Peanuts cartoon wherein Snoopy, seated atop his doghouse and pounding on a typewriter, is addressed by Charlie Brown as to whether or not he’s writing a book on theology. “I hope you have a good title”, he says to his beagle buddy. “I have the prefect title”, man’s best friend brings forward to himself; “Has It Ever Occurred to You That You Might Be Wrong?” Knowing some of Charles Schultz’s biography, this old man is quite sure that there was no intent on his part to suggest Christianity, itself, might hold no merit. Rather he points to humanity as it exists in its stumble down the path with the Word. The name applied to such expedition, of course, is “the Church”; but, while the term encompasses a vast conglomeration of ecclesiastical institutes, unified thinking as to just what chapter and verse says to us remains yet a work in progress. Suffice it to say that there are those who would explain our faith, in its present state of existence, with the idea of there being a “true” and a “false” body of Christ, separating it all out being settled from the pulpit, and how it all plays out of Judgment Day a matter of who you want to believe. That said, I look around me at the whole scenario: A guard at the Detention Center this past Sunday morning confessing to me his being “burnt out” with the Catholic side of the situation; a friend who missed such outreach because he’s understandably occupied with trying to birth a new church in a world seemingly no longer drawn to the premise of just gathering to worship; another old Navy pal of mine attempting to minister to diminishing congregations and facing that condition as we have reached it in this nation; a relative of mine who is excited over discussing, with a group of other women, Joyce Meyer’s thoughts on the Holy Ghost; and tears flowing down Ashley’ face as she departed from the girls’ unit yesterday after an hour of ministry and prayer. Who’s right and what’s right isn’t the point in pursuing Him! Error is bound to be in it all if mankind is involved in it in any manner! What stays constant in the middle of the whole enchilada, though, is Christ “in” me, resurrection not just a promise of Heaven, but a confirmation manifested through us right now if we but focus on His inner tug instead of religion’s smokescreen……..

Saturday, November 8, 2014

"Step Two...................."

If nothing changes, I’ll be visiting the Youth Detention Center tomorrow morning, hopefully the same unit of young men falling to me again on this occasion. Having already sown seed as to our spirit being “the candle of the Lord” with our emotions and our reasoning wrapped together as one “wick” and lit by God at birth, my intention is to now share how a “born-again” believer’s relationship with that second flame, the Holy Ghost, is to be maintained. We’ve already discussed the Sermon on the Mount’s strange demand for our eye to be “single”, two becoming one in a temporary merger; but it takes more than the stage being set, props in place, and the script memorized enough to quote a few verses. Encounter is possible again and again. Indeed, it is necessary if the well water within us (to make a different analogy) is to remain fresh and not grow stagnant. In Galatians, Paul repeats himself, declaring that, in Christ Jesus, it is not a physical marking that testifies of God’s covenant with us, but two internal events, the first being “a new creature”, and the second, “faith working through love”. Pentecost likes to see that initial demand as expressing “a switch thrown” wherein suddenly we are no longer prone to “do what we used to do” (drinking, smoking, and robbing banks emphasized, but anger okay as long as it’s “righteous”, fibbing nothing drastic if necessary to protect the innocent). I, myself, find the term merely repeating Jesus in His one requirement for us to both “see” and “enter into” the Kingdom. Thus, what’s “new” about any true convert is a restoration of what Adam knew in the Garden, what the Lord knew from Mary’s womb. The latter phrase above, however, serves us notice that “possessing the parts” doesn’t automatically ensure the “operation”. It takes prayer if we are to benefit from what has be renewed in us; but “connection” is what “seals the deal”, not just a few words mumbled more out of our head than our heart. His reality, alive in us, witnessing unto us, through us unto others, brings with it assurance; and the process takes no more than a surrender on our part, humanity humbled encouraging Spirit to meet with us, the Word confirmed……

Thursday, November 6, 2014

"Fine-tuning............................"

The above Charlie Brown quotes have been so positioned on this site for nearly fifteen years now, expressing sentiments entertained by me throughout my life. In class last night we discussed, out of 2nd Peter, “self-control”, one of the building blocks noted by the apostle whereby, in accessing such quality of character, we might “make our calling and election sure’ and “never fall”. A lot of history was shared wherein all of us admitted that owning this gem was not something we had yet totally conquered. When you think of it, though, isn’t “self” control what made us such a mess in the first place? When the reins are entirely in our own hands, our own thinking, our own “flesh”, the results can be devastating. The journey, as it is “in” Christ, is yet a stumble down the path, me yet being me, but at least now I’ve an “anchor-line adjustment”, a “paternal umbilical cord” that supplies loving correction if the old man will just listen and stop by enough to renew the reality of what being a “new creation” actually means. The Church, as a whole, it seems to me, fails greatly in teaching the Gospel this way, leaving people either under the notion that conversion somehow suddenly translates them into “super saint”, weakness, error, and “the old man” having been eliminated altogether, or else thinking divine forgiveness eliminates all need to struggle with the matter anymore, His love blind to our condition and not requiring us to attempt change. Is it any wonder, all these centuries down the road, that our witness to the world around us is seemingly lost, its declaration a mixed interpretation of our identity rather than an undeniable anointed flow of who He is within us………

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Simianity............................."

This entire book written by the English Anglican Professor of Divinity has been an examination of man’s attempt to define God rather than the other way around. Indeed, I have found it much as a discussion entertained at the moment concerning the claim of “inerrancy” that some would apply to the Bible. As one fellow put it: “If you give a compass to a chimpanzee, what do you have? A chimpanzee with a compass, nothing more!” I agree; and yet, if one throws the Book away, where does that leave us in terms of connecting with the Creator through Christ? My faith is fed through the Scripture and confirmed via the Holy Ghost, error due to my faulty reasoning sorted out in my stumble down the path. Likewise, when the philosopher omits Jesus from his mental pursuit to put deity in a box, we are once again left with a monkey trying to explain more than it can comprehend. It was interesting, therefore, to read Kierkegaard’s renunciation of belief based upon “the amount of evidence collected” that the Almighty has answered our prayers, seeing petition as “an objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation process of the most passionate inwardness”. It seemed to me at first that the Danish theologian held insight to what some call “contemplation”, or what we, within Pentecost refer to as being “baptized in the Holy Ghost”. A further digestion of his words, however, suggests he might have just preferred “logical thinking” over a “belly connection”; and I am left to marvel how quickly the early Church eliminated the very crux of what came to it by way of Calvary and the Resurrection, Christ “in” me! When that piece of the puzzle is discarded, all we have left is religion, humanity with its own reasoning trying to convince the world of its need to adopt their perspective, an organ grinder wherein the ape turns the crank while his music attempts to draw an audience…..

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

"Moments..................."

Sunday morning brought to me an act of nature never before witnessed. Nothing significant or out of the ordinary so far as in the fact that the event, itself, isn’t a yearly occurrence. It’s perfectly normal at this time of year for trees to shed their foliage. With the overnight drop in temperature taking us down to 27 degrees, however, the leaves on the magnolia in my front yard, still somewhat wet from the previous day’s drizzle, must have frozen in such state; and the sun, now rising over the hills to the east, was melting the only thing yet holding them to the branches. Watching from my kitchen window, I marveled as, not just one, here and there, floated to the ground, but indeed they fell like raindrops, in multitude, the light reflecting off their dampness and the whole picture like one out of a Disney cartoon. In the matter of a few short minutes, some ninety-five percent of the limbs were bare, a leaf here, another there, yet attached, surviving momentarily, but enough of a pile below for me to fill five huge bags after church. Glimpses of God in my life, likewise, have been temporary encounters wherein my eyes were suddenly opened and cleansing took place. If such events were almost always illuminating, occasions of realizing the warmth of His presence, it nonetheless remained afterwards that enough of “me” was left, humanity as it exists, to ensure the old man was going to need another “foot-washing” somewhere down the road. Someone spoke recently of “going back” twenty or thirty years, this recent resetting of our clocks having sparked such thought, no doubt, and I declined the possibility should it ever be there. Memories are enough for this old man. It’s easy there to lose all my ignorance along the way, recall the good things and laugh. Even if reliving it all, with the knowledge of where my actions and decision took me, would bring changes, who I am would still be who I am, humanity with lessons to learn, a stumble down the path. This, therefore, remains a journey for me and I’m more drawn to what yet lies before me, believing there is indeed something beyond the grave. Too much for me to conceive, but tugging at me in spite of the enigma, stepping beyond the veil somehow not feared…….

Monday, November 3, 2014

"Re-alignment....................................."

As usual, I awoke early this morning, read some Bible, inserted some wisdom into Facebook, and then, while pouring my second cup of coffee, reset all the clocks to find myself right where I was when my feet first hit the floor. Fall Back. While some, in knowing exactly what the term, in this case, refers to, might merely apply it to the extra hour of sleep that comes with it, my own mind ponders it in the sense of “retreat”, losing the battle and seeking some place of safety to think things over before going forward again. In my case, it’s where I live. Not in so far as possessing no hope that eventually victory can be mine; but most certainly in the truth that life is an enigma in which I, myself, am the biggest piece of the puzzle. Charles Schultz, in one of his cartoons, has Lucy going to Charlie Brown in her normal state of self-righteousness, declaring unto him that the whole trouble with him was that he didn’t understand the meaning of life. When he turns it around, however, and asks if SHE knows the meaning of life, his rejoinder is dismissed with “We’re not talking about me; we’re talking about YOU!” That scripture digested earlier was in Malachi, not just the last Book of the Old Testament, but the final prophet before a four hundred year silence between what men had done with the Law and what men were about to do with grace. In the second chapter, God speaks to a people who did not “lay to heart” their relationship with Him. If, in this journey, our next breath is always a step into the future, then what’s behind us is gone, unchangeable every bit as much as resetting our clocks in no way altered the earth’s orbit. The next moment remained the next moment regardless whatever digital placement we reassigned it in our schedule. What matters is what we do with it. Considering it, and all that comes with it, His place in our state of affairs, our place in Him, shouldn’t be an onerous appointment somewhere ahead of us. Today, this hour, the door unto His chamber is always open……

Saturday, November 1, 2014

"Boo!!!.............."

With one last protest against winter’s arrival, the temperature here in northern Kentucky soared to the lower eighties Thursday and then, overnight, Halloween knocked on our door with a drizzly, cold rain, not enough to ice things up, but reducing evening festivities to indoor celebration. We never get trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood, but it’s hard to imagine anyone being outside for long in such weather. There are too many other venues out there nowadays: malls trying to attract business, churches with pre-eve invitations to the community, individual parties. It will take more than Mother Nature and religious accusations of devil worship to eliminate humanity’s dance with the holiday. The elementary school where I worked the last twelve years within Special-Education always allows the kids to “suit-up” for a march around the bus loop or the gymnasium, location determined by the above; and this old man drove over yesterday afternoon to visit. The parking lot was jammed, as was to be expected with so many parents there for the event. My old room was waiting for their turn to join the parade. Isaac met me in the hallway with a hug; Louie smiled and was all ready to boogie; Allen still had that mischievous look in both his eyes and his grin, but wouldn’t make contact. The two women assistants now assigned to the unit had the whole area more tidied than my young Catholic friend and I had ever managed! It’s amazing what femininity can bring to the male perspective in so far as eliminating our tendency to make a mess. My stay lasted less than an hour, my departure necessitated by a requirement for my car to be removed from the circle out front. Dismissal was drawing nigh. Do I miss the job? Yes! But not enough to return. It’s friends that you maintain in your heart, memories of doing calendar with Denise, monitoring the constant quarrels between Jack and Julian, those last daily thirty minutes or so talking with Mr. M. When you leave, that all goes with you. Summer classes, administrative red tape, and all those negative aspects that also went with the job get left behind, no more than a season of my life, a costume of sorts once worn for over a decade. What are you doing now that you’ve retired from the railroad? I’m working with special children and great people who give of themselves unto others. Whoops! I’m enjoying time with my wife, ballgames and Ninth Grade literature with the grandchildren, the next step as it comes to an old man. The guise is a little different. No need for Chili Fritos to share at snack time. Just me, my books, the computer, and occasional outreach ministry. No complaints. What’s left of the journey is in His hands; His light dispels the darkness……..