Thursday, July 31, 2014
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
In the verses above, Solomon seems to have arrived at the same place I find myself after more than forty years of digesting the printed page. The “wisest man in the world”, whatever his relationship with the Creator, though, was at a disadvantage, not knowing yet that which Christ brings to us in an inner reconnection via the Holy Ghost. Such difference doesn’t change the opinion stated here concerning the infinitesimal amount of literature out there for one to explore. Forget fiction. Pick any genre you wish; then choose whose opinion, perspective, and style feeds your own thinking. If you go to Barnes and Noble’s website, click on “religion” and then, once more, filtering out all but Christianity, your computer feeds you 4,443 possibilities. If “theology” is your interest, one’s individual faith is dismissed and the count jumps to nearly 8,000 bound (but not necessarily sound) reasons for a belief in almost anything. Perhaps such abundance of “rabbit trails” is why we were encouraged years ago in old-time holiness to read nothing but our Bible. I certainly don’t regret following such advice for nearly a decade. Somewhere along the way, however, it became clear to me that humanity is humanity, regardless whether we’re all on the same page or not. A.W. Tozer wrote that “The only book that should ever be written is one that flows up from the heart, forced out by inward pressure.” To me, that’s right on. It should also be noted, however, that such rule of authenticity should also apply to the other side of the coin. Anyone who dives into this literary ocean needs “oxygen” other than that he’s taking in through his lungs. For that matter, it’s just as true that one can take in “polluted water” from the pulpit in one’s own church. What being “born-again” brought to me was an inner well, an oasis to which I might run with all my confusion, the connection somewhat like a “hook in my belly”, an anchor-line securing me in my stumble down the path. The real danger here, after all, is not the other guy, but me, me and my vanity, me and my pride. Now there’s wisdom that maybe even Solomon could have benefited from……
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown into instant flame by an encounter with another human being”…… Albert Schweitzer
Monday, July 28, 2014
“You’re deep.” Thus commented our houseguest to me after reading my thoughts concerning her ongoing anger with the next-door neighbor’s manners behind the wheel. After my rejoinder, then, that it seems to be where most people put me in my pursuit of Christ, my wife posed her own opinion that she saw no reason for “taking the plunge”; and to that I suggested that, if someone was to place a bucket of money before her with the freedom to take what she wanted, she wouldn’t stop with just the top layer of dollar bills. Nope. As believers, we don’t explore any further than the surface for a couple of reasons. One: we are satisfied with the “membership card” already in our possession, all the rules and regulations as determined by our particular group printed on the back, entrance into heaven guaranteed by those who sit in high places. Two: we’ve certainly seen what happens to those fanatics who aren’t content to simply “occupy until He comes”, heretics adrift in their own vanity, trouble-makers insisting they have discovered new “revelation” beyond what we already know. In admitting to recognizing risk in spelunking the mystery, humanity, even “in” Christ” still humanity, yet I would point to such condition holding just as much significance for those satisfied with doing no more than “following the herd”. What we get in this is “a hook in the belly” and a stumble down the road, on either side of the fence held here in question. Yesterday I heard two sermons, both set into a warning for the church to “get ready” because a predicted shift of the Earth’s magnetic poles and the political state of affairs worldwide point to our departure being close at hand. Between those messages, conversation with a woman whose faith I highly respect, nonetheless informed me of her commitment, not just to “Jesus only”, but to “Swaggert only”, “King James only”, and the Cross “only”, in terms of it being the Gospel in its entirety, anything else unworthy of investigating. We are, indeed, a “peculiar” people. I plead “guilty as charged”. Sanity, for me, though, is achieved in a relationship maintained at an inner well, an attempted pursuit governed by His rod and staff, His tug on the anchor line, and trust in the knowledge that He has kept me thus far. In that, I believe…..
Saturday, July 26, 2014
“If the God who engineered creation with such precision professes some whit of interest in what takes place on this speck of a planet, the least I can do is wander away from the streetlights more often and look up…..”
The above quotes were captured from sources now unknown to me, but represent where my mind, in almost any moment not occupied with some task requiring undivided attention, finds itself swimming, wheels turning, questions asked, answers explored, my days a constant journey down a path other than the one my feet occupy. One fellow, a friend, never fails to remind me how weird I am, the same guy who openly admits, having been “called to prophesy”, to now being held responsible for reaching as many as possible during any church service with “a word from God”. Nonetheless, his description of me is probably not all that far from wrong. Most people, in socializing with others, especially men, tend to turn in conversation towards business, sports, or politics. I found myself, last night, at a church dinner, seated at a table with four other guys, the topic engaged being pick-up trucks and how much money was saved in purchasing a new boat by bartering with someone else on Craig’s List. It was a last minute decision, made out of a desire to hear the guy scheduled to preach afterwards; but, having passed on the pork chop and baked potato and with my ice-cream and cake dessert already consumed, the old man escaped to the running track over the gymnasium, preferring solitude over the discussion before him. Do I not like people? No; it’s me who is the problem, if indeed there is one. To each their own. It is the mystery of it all that holds my interest, both humanity at large and divinity beyond the veil. It is the encounter I seek, meaning in the existence; and, while sometimes that no doubt means listening to your neighbor’s perspectives, enjoying interchange, each of us part of the bigger picture, we all remain individual in our identity. I just happen to be one of the “hard to understand” bunch. So it has always been; and so, evidently (at 72), it always will be…….
Friday, July 25, 2014
Beth and I have had a house guest the last month or so, an eighteen-year old girl whose life at the moment requires some assistance, mostly the invitation thus far being defined by possession of her own room. She sleeps here every night. Other than that, she raids the refrigerator, drinks my coffee, works a day job, and brings a little bit of laughter into our life with her personality. Last night she stormed through the front door, enraged for the second time in the last couple of weeks about our neighbor’s driving skills. Hopefully, her eruption was better contained while behind the steering wheel. This morning, though, a video shared by a woman who, quite understandably, yet mourns the loss of her son, had me pondering how, while hate and anger seem to be birthed in our head, love and grief flow from the very depths of who we are. It is an almost undefinable point, if you ask me, a place most certainly un-named in any doctor’s inventory of humanity as it exists. Psychology deals with the brain (as far as I know) and may well disagree with my assumption here; but, then, Jesus spoke in terms of “living water” coming forth out of a man’s “belly”. No; realizing that He wasn’t referring to a physical location, we can agree that evidently there is this “well” within us, a spiritual connection site where all that is classified as that “emotional” part of who we are can somehow be joined with all that He is, His love, His grace, His compassion made available unto us, to meet us in our need. This, it seems to me, is where the verse of above Scripture would encourage us to seek on a regular basis. Moreover, the thought expressed doesn’t just suggest our needing to tarry until He decides to show up, but rather a surrender, on our part, to discover a merger with Him. Those two words, “wait upon”, carry within their Hebrew roots the idea of being “twisted together”, two being made one. It is an “osmosis” of sorts, an “anointing”, temporary in its extension unto us, but lingering in that which it imparts unto us. This is the “boldness” we can know in prayer, in witness, in facing life as it comes to us. We just need to remember the oasis is a bit further down than the level we occupy most of the time……
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
My relationship with my church changed drastically over the last couple of decades, mostly out of a disagreement with where their theology (and mine) has evolved along the way. The two of us are still rooted in basic Pentecostal tenets. I just never swallowed claims of “divine authority” now ours to manipulate, higher levels of “spirituality” achieved through faith, this “one-ness” with the Holy Ghost being a condition we swim in at all times. Apologies might be due to the Charismatic bunch, however, in so far as me crediting them for birthing all such thinking in our midst. Thomas Merton, in “The Inner Experience”, speaks of men being able to be “completely transformed into the likeness of Christ, to become, as He is, divinely human” and quotes St. Irenaeus as saying that “God became man in order that man might become God”. Evidently Catholicism has been at least entertaining this idea for much longer than just the last twenty or thirty years. In looking for whom to blame, however, my own finger has always point to “humanity”, in general, not merely the name we hang over the door; and that, understandably, makes me part of the problem as well. Merton avoids my argument, declaring it a “controversy“ dead and done with, earlier contestants having become worn it out trying to determine whether our union made possible through the Resurrection was “acquired” or “infused”, or, in my own words, “permanent” or “temporary”. Yet when I read “the one who contemplates the divine presence is in no position to bring about its manifestation by any effort of his own, nor is he capable of increasing or modifying it by his efforts, and even, in some cases, incapable of preventing it”, surely he makes clear my own perspective, that, while our restored connection with the Creator remains vulnerable only to an “Adamic rejection”, fusion with the flow is a matter of our seeking it, receiving it, returning to it again and again in a stumble down the path following Him. Arrogance doesn’t equate to boldness; and faith, according to the Apostle Paul, works out of love, not mental calisthenics……..
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
My distant cousin lost one of her grandchildren this past weekend. Twenty-two years old, she died in bed, an unknown heart condition taking her without warning. Whether such loss is responsible for my present thoughts, I know not, but I wrote in some blank space at the end of the sixth chapter of Thomas Merton’s book: Soul – that part of “me” yet within an “embryo”, still being developed for whatever state of being is to be birthed after this existence as I have experienced it. Such image is nothing original. Others have suggested death to be nothing more, nothing less. It is that “life”, though, that holds my interest at the moment, the idea that each of us, in reality, is no more than a seed, the continued produce of that which was sown in the beginning by a divine Gardener. All of us are individual, genetics and circumstances, the journey, itself, shaping us as we go, changing us, not just on the outside, but inwardly as well. The above Bible verse is declared by Jesus as the first commandment and whether the positioning of His words, “soul” being set between “heart” and “mind” has any significance is, no doubt, debatable. This much, though, is at least worthy of consideration. The first is an emotional conscience held by that inner person, part of its person-ality, feelings born out of wounds encountered, love received. The second, as I see it, is a mentality we refer to as spirit, thinking centered on information gathered, but nonetheless nothing more than an extension of a working process, again, that inner person utilizing the brain. Deep stuff for sure. Too much to squeeze into a couple of sentences and surely more than this old man has conquered to any great degree. Interesting, however, that the fourth element is injected into the picture, placed there at the end as if necessary for any success to be known in our attempt to fulfill that which has been assigned unto us. It’s as if God is warning us the task is to be taken seriously, indeed our need of Him vital in facing what’s ahead; and yet what immediately follows is a prescription for us to find horizontal flow as a “pick-me-up” for vertical connection. The other guy is struggling, too. The mystery is no less where he sits. Together, we’ll get through this…….
Monday, July 21, 2014
My wife thinks I’m weird. Well, mostly because I’m always lost in thought, pondering one thing or another that, to her, isn’t worth considering in the first place. Maybe she’s right; but, to me, when humanity at large, and especially believers, seldom stop to consider their existence, content to take life as it comes to them and asking questions only when they catch a brick, they’re missing out on an important part of what salvation is all about. Theology doesn’t solve the mystery. Conversion doesn’t end the interrogative. It opens an oasis to which we might run, its waters able to meet our thirst in more ways than one. Going “behind the veil with the Holy Ghost” has never been restricted to some appointed prayer closet. Good sermons get clarified in the next step; illumination is worked out in a dialogue on a daily basis; and truth, in any way our minds attempt to contain it, is always bigger than any definition we assign it. It’s like looking at the universe and trying to limit it to our solar system, like peering into a microscope and stopping with an amoeba. Who has God in a box? That’s not to say there’s some need on my part to continually encounter miracles, to discover something new because what’s already known has somehow lost its “glow”. The wonder remains, because He, alone, is the attraction, having given me permission to bring unto Him whatsoever occupies my mind, having always been patient with my tendency to drift in and out of the connection. After all, this isn’t some attempt to “conquer” Him, but a desire to better understand me and this relationship that has been restored unto me. Grace, I have found, doesn’t just say “You’re forgiven”, but “Take me with you as you go”……
Friday, July 18, 2014
“Small as a peanut, big as a giant, we’re all the same when we turn off the light; red, black, or orange, yellow or white, we’re all the same when we turn off the light; So maybe the way to make everything right, is for God to just reach out and turn off the light”…..Shel Silverstein
My niece’s husband works for the county, mostly in charge of detention detainees who are put to task keeping our highways and byways free of people’s discarded trash. Yesterday he spoke to me of being so occupied on a nearby typical Kentucky one-lane road, the pavement following the small creek as it snaked through the country-side and a small church opposite but a few yards up the hill. Whether the pastor, or a deacon, or just another Pharisee, this fellow comes strolling down to check his mailbox and, informing the workers of two hundred dollars in an envelope he’s lost, asks if they’ll return it should they find it. Given a polite, affirmative reply, he then snorts at them, chuckling “Sure you will” before strolling back to his sanctuary. Mike wasn’t too happy, giving me promise of visiting the “reverend” in the near future, his mindset of the religious community, in general, already tarnished from previous encounters. I reminded him that everything marching around “in the name of Christ” wasn’t officially endorsed by the Holy Ghost; but healing wounds usually requires more than a word of truth. The second quote offered above appeals to me in that which it expresses concerning humanity. The author’s solution, however, gives me pause, indeed it seeming to me that he’s got it backwards. Having referenced our external differences, the poet then takes us inward, into that dark mysterious unpredictable intelligence inhabiting the vessel, a place illuminated only by our own thinking, our own reasoning, understanding, surely a mess in the making. Filling a pew doesn’t cure that. Baptism doesn’t wash anything away. Even a “born-again” experience doesn’t help if that which was supposedly acquired amounts to no more than a theology set in concrete. If all we possess is a Book and a membership card, the world around us isn’t getting much witness of a resurrection. He, alone, shines…….
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
“I know nothing except what everyone knows: if there when Grace dances, I should dance”……W.H. Auden
“Earth is crammed with heaven and every bush aflame with God; but only those who see, take off their shoes….. Elizabeth Barrett Browning
”Life, in Christ, is a fountain reconnected; yet, unless there is flow, what purpose is served?”…… jim filer
The grandkids (other than the twenty-year old who is now into his third week of five given to an orphanage in Honduras) are all home now. Two of the boys had extended Youth Camp into a three day visit to Gatlinburg after Youth Camp; but, at the moment, life is once again pretty much held in a twenty-five mile radius, the outside world a matter of Fox News and a pinch of local TV. No job, not even in sight. I’ve signed up for substitute teaching at our church school. That, however, remains to be discovered as to exactly what that means when it all comes to pass. Summer Break is one thing. Where do we go from here now that regular employment, as experienced for over five decades, is behind me – that is the question. Leisure, in any form, quickly grows old. Always has for this old man. Fishing. Hunting. Good for a day here and there. Both left behind long ago, the real thrill not the activity, but the environment, the getting out into nature and breathing. Bowling. Beach. A day at Disney Land. All just “fillers”, something to do, like reading a book, or working a crossword puzzle. I need excitement, the unknown, the mystery not yet explored; and it is exactly that “manna” which Christ brings unto me as I go. He is not a theology conquered and owned, but a fresh supply of living water given daily, a “step behind the veil” to be sought, making sense of my stagger down the road. Spanish sailors once sailed into the mouth of the Amazon, its width so great that they thought the ocean yet surrounding them. Many died of thirst, right there sitting in the middle of the Earth’s largest supply of H2O, believing it contaminated with salt! Not me. Not as many as God would give me in this. And not through some demand that his mind has solved the universe through chapter and verse. If He be in me, then He, alone, is the witness, the invitation to catch the adventure, to taste and see……
Sunday, July 13, 2014
The last words of the Bible are an open invitation from “the Spirit and the bride” unto “whomsoever will”. Let him that heareth and him that is athirst “come”. A warning is then extended unto any who would add or take away from those things which are written therein; and then, after giving promise of His return, ends with the hope of God’s grace being accepted by all. Christianity, down through the years, has taken the Book and divided itself into multiple extrapolations, claiming unity only in its central focus on Christ. In the name of whatever harmony that might bring to us, might I suggest that where such agreement leaves us in our faith can be boiled down to this finality of the Word, our journey a matter of enrollment, distance covered in-between, and judgment on the other end. Grace is a pardon encompassing forgiveness and patience, confirmation of our possessing it always left in His hands, new birth establishing His throne within us, not just an appointment awaiting us at some future date. Jacob, in the Old Testament, is an illustration of humanity. We are all “supplanters” in one way or another in our stumble down the path. The only question is: who holds our reins? Indeed, if there is any difference at all between me and this trickster, it is merely in Calvary separating us as to the positioning of the Creator’s “anchor-line”. The “hook” now rests in my “belly”. In his case, it was an external “lure”, a reality known from connections found here and there, physical points where angels ascended and descended, worthy of constructing an altar and calling to him “Return! Return!” His declaration of “Surely God is in this place and I did not know”, though, takes me to where Jesus asks Philip “Have I been so long time with you and yet hast thou not known me?” and gives me pause. Too many, it seems, are content with a “checklist”, a doctrinal “pass” that one day will permit passage through the Pearly Gates, settling all accounts as they go, regular visits to His inner oasis not a popular subject in most pulpits…..
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Every year sixty million people die; of these, half are children under five. Every 110 hours a million more humans arrive on the planet than die into the planet. Of every seventy-five babies born today in the United States, one will die in a car crash…
There are 1,198,500,000 people alive now in China. To get a feel for what this means, simply take yourself, in all your singularity, importance, complexity, and love, and multiply by 1,198,500,000. See? Nothing to it.…
Was it wisdom Mao Tse-Tung attained when, like Ted Bundy, the serial killer who defended himself by asking “What’s the big deal? I mean, there are so many people!”, he awakened to the long view? “China has many people”, he told Nehru in 1954. “The atom bomb is nothing to be afraid of. The death of ten or twenty million is nothing to be afraid of.” A witness said Nehru showed shock. Later, in speaking in Moscow, Mao displayed yet more generosity, boasting that he was “willing to lose 300 million people”, then, in1957, half of China’s population. Then, again, Stalin also had the opinion that “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths are just a statistic.”…
. Los Angeles airport has 25,000 parking spaces. This is about one space for every person who died in 1985 in Columbia when a volcano erupted. This is one space for two years’ worth of accidental killings from land mines left over from recent wars. At five to a car, almost all the Inuit in the world could park at LAX. Similarly, if you propped up or stacked four bodies to a car, you could fit into the airport all the corpses from the firestorm bombing of Tokyo in March, 1945, or all the world’s dead from two atomic bombs, or the corpses of Londoners who died in the plague, the corpses of Burundians killed in civil war since 1993. You could not fit America’s homeless there, however, even at eighteen or nineteen to a car…
The question to ponder, however, is who has God put on your heart today?......... (The question mine, but the numbers from Annie Dillard in “For the Time Being”)
My youngest daughter and three of our grandchildren returned from youth camp last night. It’s been a week of continual reports concerning “tears and tongues”, deep prayer encounters taking place at that huge altar area the gymnasium sanctuary there in Barbourville. I am grateful; but, in truth, it is an annual pilgrimage for our church and the “dip in the pool”, the immersion into God’s presence must now come home to face the world. If the well isn’t maintained through frequent visitation, if the baptized aren’t taught “Christ in me” in so far as handling “me in me”, the experience tends to fade as tomorrow meets you day after day. Life isn’t easy. In the Bible, Jacob, while fleeing from his brother’s wrath, dreams of angels ascending and descending a heavenly ladder. When he awakes, a conditional vow is made born out of his statement that “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not!” Twenty-one years later, already blessed beyond measure, just before reuniting with Esau, he wrestles with God and demands audible, oral confirmation of the Creator’s hand upon him, their relationship evidently still not “written in cement”, at least as far as he’s concerned; and when I read of him eventually returning to Bethel, by divine command, stopping on the way to hide idols that he permitted his household to entertain, it gives me pause about any real commitment to that oath made there in the beginning. Surely it has always been a “stumble down the path”. His experience, there with but a stone for a pillow, his relationship realized through an external connection, differs from ours in the sense of the “hook-up”, through Calvary’s Cross, now positioned within those who believe. Humanity, however, remains humanity. Maybe that’s what we need to teach more, instead of all this theology suggesting we have the Almighty locked up in a box? How many do we have to lose in battle, having armed them with little more than ecclesiastical toothpicks?......
Friday, July 11, 2014
My wife underwent surgery Thursday, five hours at the hospital and coming home minus one of four parathyroid glands, the guilty party blamed for somehow a number of issues, but misdirecting calcium away from her bones being the major offense. With both of us now in our seventies, it’s just part of aging. It seems to me that life, in every stage, has presented its own set of circumstances. The journey has not been about knowing some equality or “fairness”, success determined by what has been achieved, happiness rooted in what we possess. The question is not “Why?” but “Who?” Who do I run to when the winds of sorrow threaten, when my soul needs consolation, or, for that matter, depend upon in all that I am in my stumble down the path? Wednesday evening Vacation Bible School had necessitated dismissal of our midweek class and I sat in the main sanctuary with a scattered few listening to our teacher preach a Gospel stripped of all the perks that Pentecostals have adopted over the last few decades. As I sat there listening to a plea for the Church, at large, to awaken again to the truth of “Christ in me”, my own thoughts spilled over onto paper, exploring a question that my group could well benefit investigating. Somewhere along the way, it seems to this old man, we have misplaced the facts. “Who is this Holy Ghost?” I asked myself. “A closet spook unable to be defined in any manner? A visitor who sometimes shows up in the middle of our meetings? A faith connection tangible only at certain times, available as an anointing only to a few certain elite, and otherwise merely a theology held in one’s head? Holiness has evolved from legalism to liberalism, not just in the sense of easing up on our list of “thou-shalt-nots”, but on our reverence of His reality as well. Today almost anything and everything claims itself to be an extension of such personality! While our people recognize a manifestation of His presence when it occurs in our midst, it seems to this old man that many, if not most, know little of moving under the influence of such divinity, realizing His will and His wisdom here and there in who we are and what we do. The gifts of the Spirit have been usurped and misused. The fruits of the Spirit have been either neglected or tried to be replicated out of our own efforts. We’ve been so busy claiming the promise that we’ve failed to grow in a relationship with the Promise who abides within us, so eager to embrace authority as ours that we’re deaf to the Authority willing to go with us in our humanity. Fortunately, His grace and patience is a deep well………
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
At nine-ten yesterday evening I was a bit puzzled, not only by the view through a kitchen window revealing darkness had not yet overtaken us, but also by the strange orange aura that seemed to permeate the whole neighborhood. Were my eyes deceiving me? No; my wife and the lady next door both confirmed my sanity, all of us stepping outside at the same time to investigate the matter. To the north, bright blue skies beyond a fringe of white clouds suggested Cincinnati knew nothing of such phenomenon. The atmosphere directly above our heads, however, was a mysterious light grey soup being stirred by an almost “spiritual” breeze, its content growing blacker and much more ominous to the south. The setting sun evidently was being filtered through this particular portion we possessed, creating conditions that seemed to suggest “rapture” had just occurred. Beth and I joked in such manner; but, in truth, it’s probably been at least thirty years since either of us have heard that word mentioned within Pentecost. Eschatology preachers, no doubt, yet manage to make a good living selling their books to those who feast on solving prophecy; but when Hal Lindsay’s prediction of 1981 marking the Church’s departure point didn’t come to pass, holiness folk chased “faith” in another direction. This generation is too busy with “prosperity: name it and claim it” to ponder just when Gabriel going to sound the trumpet. Nonetheless, I believe; not in the sense of swallowing the doctrine “hook, line, and sinker”, its details set in concrete around some certain date; but, most assuredly, in some form or fashion, the idea of being “caught up” to meet the Lord is a probability this old man holds to be factual. It is no different than “heaven”, “eternity”, or the Creator, Himself. Salvation is in the connection, not the translation; and it is amazing to me that many who testify to the theology, seemingly fear the finality. Whether merely a step through some unseen portal or a vertical bungee jump into outer space, what counts is judgment on the other end……
Monday, July 7, 2014
The Youth Detention Center has been “a whole ‘nuther ballgame” since the beginning of this year. For one thing, the schedule, since they revised it in an attempt to update those churches committed to the cause, has only resulted in utter confusion. It is nothing anymore to arrive and find the date “double-booked”, two groups, both surprised to find the other there, but sharing the occasion. In truth, though, inmate conditions have required a more secure setting for our visits, the gymnasium and the rec-room no longer being utilized, our “congregation” broken up into individual units and assignment left to our discretion. Sunday morning, therefore, while Mark moved from cell-block to cell-block with his saxophone, Chris and Ashley opted for the girls, leaving the two remaining bodies of male occupants to be divided between the young Baptist, African-American fellow who had joined us and this old Pentecostal walrus with his buddy, Dave. Twelve to fifteen boys, mostly older teens, were seated at a small row of tables extended inwardly, down the middle of about an 8x20 foot room, cubicles with barred windows to either side and a guard to the rear to insure all remained calm. While we would later learn that four of the inmates (no identities revealed), are in there on charges of murder, all we encountered an obvious hunger for what we shared. I say that wishing for no credit in what took place. If anything, my own efforts are usually a matter of notes committed to memory, fear of making a mess in trying to deliver what’s on my heart, and honest revelation of both those facts. In spite of my humanity, though, somewhere in it all, the Holy Ghost gives me grace, these lives before me the important issue. One moment our identities can easily be counted. We’re locked in a small segment of a facility built to ensure bondage. Suddenly there is no doubt, however. His presence is thick, overtly manifested in a connection that He, Himself, has created and the Gospel not a condemnation of one’s life, but rather a promise that, in spite of who and what we are, He wants to meet us in the next step, help us in our journey before us. Final prayer was more than words. Eight weeks until next time is too long……
Saturday, July 5, 2014
” If you want a symbolic gesture, don't burn the flag; wash it”. ~Norman Thomas
My exposure to any celebration of the Fourth was minimal this year. Beth and I left the house only for an early breakfast, shopping for a few groceries afterwards and knowing very little of the usual fireworks that accompanies the occasion. Our neighbors did supply a few minor explosions, along with a couple of whistling rockets shot into the darkness; but, for the most part, the evening hours were calm. The closest we came to any act of patriotism was watching Megan Kelly on Fox News. She was interviewing Bill Ayers, the leader of an anti-government 1960s terrorist group that bombed both the Capitol Building and the Pentagon. While I hold no allegiance at all with the methods they embraced in their protests of the Viet Nam War, his complaints now being registered on this show were not all that different from my own political perspectives. We separated somewhat on the idea that the corporate rich who have benefited from Capitalism owe me a slice of their profits; but at the same time fail to understand billions of dollars given to other nations when our own economic state of affairs is killing the middle class. Am I proud to be an American? My heart is rooted in all that our declaration of democracy proclaims. If our history is tainted, somewhat, its record stained with questionable actions along the way, it yet remains that, through it all, the ideals of freedom, liberty, and a man’s right to live his own life have continued to draw others. Humanity, however, has always been humanity. Set it in office and its nature tends to corrupt even more as it is invested with power. Let it fester on the other end of the scale, though, and violence erupts. If our peace is not anchored in something greater than ourselves, foundations crumble. It’s true of individuals, and countries as well. A man’s soul was created to know balance in Him. His Spirit was meant to tether us, giving us grace in our stumble down the path. More than ever, as a people, “from sea to shining sea”, what we need today is a prayer closet……
Friday, July 4, 2014
“We are called to be fruitful, not successful, not productive, not accomplished. Success comes from strength, stress, and human effort. Fruitfulness comes from vulnerability and the admission of our own weakness.”…..Henri Nouwen
“Listen. Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?”.....Mary Oliver
“I often say that I don’t worry about the meaning of life. I can’t handle that big stuff. What concerns me is the meaning in life, day by day, hour by hour, while I’m doing whatever it is that I do. What counts is not what I do, but how I think about myself while I’m doing it”….. Robert Fulgham
Most of my literary digestion is books written by priests, preachers, and men whose lives rest in a claimed call of God. All may not actually fill positions within the Church. All, however, pursue the same “truth”, follow the same Savior, consider life from a Biblical perspective; and so any perusal of their thoughts produces “nuggets”, statements I underline, collect and amass separately for later consideration. God’s Word, in my opinion, is more than a leather-bound “authorized version” that has been set in concrete, this translation better than your translation, our theology better than your “stink’n think’n”. Rather the Book, it seems to me, is an oasis, a well from which flows “life”, the Holy Spirit using it as a rod and staff to direct my way, an explanation concerning my stumble down the path, a dose of medicine for that which ails me, a drink of water to quench my thirst. It’s where I go with my day-by-day existence, all my questions, wounds, fatigue, and thoughts accumulated in the journey. Quotes like the above are part of the package, even if some have come to me from men and women who, seemingly, do or did not know Him as He has come to me. If there is a bit of room for discussion with Henri Nouwen as to what he means by the first part of his declaration, his final sentence speaks volumes to me. Mary Oliver’s query gives me pause, my being over forty years in this commitment to Christ already not negating a need to examine my position. Robert Fulghum is a strange individual, an author whose humor amuses me, whose “religiosity” blows my mind, but whose offerings often “stir the pot”, the meaning both of and in life worthy of investigation. Where it all leaves me this morning is swimming deep in the ethereal realm with our visit to the Detention Center just two days away. Time to get up from here and take a long walk with Him……
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Our family vacation eliminated my participation in my group’s scheduled visit to the Detention Center. It was the first time that (if my memory doesn’t fail me) I’ve missed such occasion in over thirteen years. This coming Sunday, however, is a standing invitation from a buddy who also has his own slot on the calendar and my mind is searching for the Spirit’s voice, juggling all that life brings to me on a daily basis, gathering “eggs in basket” in hopes that He’ll make an omelet out of it all when we get there. In last night’s Bible study we explored that sort of scenario, the idea of this being a journey wherein we, as believers, are no more than earthen vessels for a Personality, a Power who indwells us and goes with us in our humanity, a Priest who accepts us in our humility if we are but willing to surrender the truth of our identity and admit our need of Him. Our teacher has great patience. The class encourages open discussion and he handles such input well, no doubt this old man often misunderstood. I try to wait for a Holy Ghost “nudge”, wanting to “know the flow” in any offering, but remain a man in such efforts, fallible in my knowledge of God, the voice of God, and my obedience in the next step. This “stumble”, though, rather than some “sanctified” state achieved out of our own strength, is exactly what Pentecost needs to reexamine, what those kids, what our kids and our converts, indeed our congregations as a whole, need to hear. Grace is balanced by His rod and His staff. Victory is an “umbilical cord anchor-line” feeding my soul….
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Unforeseen circumstances kept me at home Sunday evening, watching the latter part of our church service on the computer. Such broadcast doesn’t set well with me, the maintaining of it changing our identity in several ways, but I must concede that, at times, it has allowed me to worship from afar. In that sense, the ability to reach our shut-ins, the elderly and the hospitalized, balances that which, in my opinion, is negative. On this occasion, with our pastor away again, two young men had been appointed to fill the pulpit. It was an interesting sermon. The first fellow drew from his experience as a basketball coach and admonished the congregation to “defend their house” and the second, the son of a close friend lost to breast cancer a few years back, followed with a Biblical recipe for “offense”. There is no denying that, together, it was a potent message. Within it, though, was an old-time Pentecostal perspective demanding this “separation from the world”, that which was seen as “setting us apart” being a matter of “material circumcision”, what folks in our bunch refer to as “hanging a clothesline”. While, undoubtedly, there is much that we could excise from our existence and be better off without it, over four decades of “holiness” has taught me humanity’s problems run deeper than external influence and, there is any hope of healing us of who and what we are, more can be accomplished with a mirror showing us our need of knowing Him at a greater depth. When little stirs us enough to answer altar calls, it’s time to investigate the plumbing, not so much the state of the ark around us……