Saturday, August 30, 2014


About a year ago Sam’s had a book by Stephen Hawking on sale for twelve dollars. It had lots of pictures, was a hard-back copy, and the title “A Brief History of Time: The Universe in a Nutshell” led me to think the average mind might be able to, at least somewhat, grasp its content. The enigma of all that’s out there has long provoked my curiosity as well, so I bought a copy and stepped into waters that are, literally, “over my head”. The author might as well be speaking in Chinese. If the illustrations succeed in giving at least some minute understanding of some particular subject he’s addressing, the caption beneath (i.e. “The intense gravitational field of an orbiting black hole rips matter from the companion star and creates an accretion disc which spirals in towards the event horizon”) leaves me scratching my head, lost in space. Here and there, however, digesting chapters in small doses, I have underlined bits and pieces of the cosmologist’s explanations in an attempt to hopefully capture knowledge. Surely this is the nuts and bolts of my existence. This is the whole enchilada! If Hawking has not yet encountered the God who created it all, that doesn’t dismiss my faith nor give me reason to ignore the heavens. Indeed, it was humorous to read this morning of a conference organized in 1971 by the Jesuits in the Vatican, one where, seeking advice on such matters, they invited some of these scientists to attend. At the end, the participants were granted audience with the Pope. He told them it was “all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but not to inquire into the big bang, itself, because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God.” Me? I’m more in line with Ravi Zacharias, who seeks truth, but then demands relevance, putting the former in a state of always being beyond us and the latter as an inevitable “next step” letting us know that, whatever “facts” we think we possess, we haven’t yet begun to realize it in its entirety. Jesus said “Follow Me”. Somehow I don’t think he meant I could stop at the third pew back from the front, satisfied with John 3:16 declaring my faith…….

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Spot Check........."

On the treadmill once again and listening to Ravi Zacharias speak on whether it’s possible for a man to “walk closely with God”, I was struck by a quote, something an 18th century Scotchman once said concerning morality and politics. “Let me write a nation’s songs,” Andrew Fletcher did opine; “and I care not who writes its laws.” Such statement, quite obviously, was made long before Elvis swiveled his hips and led this country’s youth into rock and roll rebellion, eons before heavy metal and eventually rap entered the picture, however; and there’s probably more truth to the idea that our music flows out of that innermost part of who we are as it faces and reacts to all external forces facing us in the journey thus far. Give me, therefore, the reins that hold a man’s heart, that which feeds him and directs his path; and it will not be hard to predict, not just the sort of tune he hums, but also his path in other areas as well. What’s on the inside, no matter how hard we try to hide it, bleeds to the outside whether we’re sitting in Nashville or Washington, D.C., whether we frequent the corner bar or the parish pew. The question becomes, then, if grace is to be given in so far as this stumble down the road, what is it about any believer that gives witness of Christ “in” me? If, as Paul says in Ephesians, truth “holds up my pants”, me dealing with me as well as my image in front of others, what is it that maintains my integrity? Some seem to think it their works. Others would declare it their faith. I would point to that which inhabits the vessel. Resurrection needs only my willingness for the stone to be rolled away, His glory reflected in my humility, His power manifested via my surrender unto His reality. He confirms Himself…….

Thursday, August 28, 2014


”Many good, sincere persons struggle today with their faith and with their churches. Lots of things contribute to this: the pluralism of an age which is rich in everything, except clarity; the individualism of a culture which makes family and community life difficult at every level; an anti-church sentiment within both popular culture and the intellectual world; an ever-growing antagonism between those who see religion in terms of private prayer and piety, and those who see it as the quest for justice; and a seeming tiredness right within the Christian churches themselves. It is not an easy time to be a Christian, especially if you are also trying to pass your faith on to your own children.”……. Ron Holheiser, “The Holy Longing”

Wednesday evening’s Bible Class feeds my soul, not so much that what comes forth matches my own theology, nor that the lessens, themselves, provide revelation. The teacher, in my opinion, is fantastic, well-read, in no way “up-on-a-self-constructed-pedestal”, and open to discussion. What develops, therefore, is a multiplicity of perspectives, all important because each individual shares from his or her own present position in this journey. We minister to each other, young to old (and vice-versa), “seasoned” to new convert (and vice-versa). We even dismiss the gender-gap, having long ago abandoned mental “sexual harassment”. What develops, then, within this ninety minutes or so of common focus upon, not just the Word, but the reality of Christ “in” me as well, isn’t an answer to all our questions. Humanity remains humanity. Divinity remains a “point” yet beyond any light any of us have individually gained while there. What has been gained is seed sown, the combined connection each of us have momentarily found in Him. We learn from each other if we are open to each other, sorting it all out later in personal prayer closets, allowing the Holy Ghost to instruct us as we go. When this becomes no more than a religion, a structured doctrinal check-list whereby we count ourselves as having already “arrived”, what is it that we really possess in so far as in wishing to transfer it to our posterity? Our kids aren’t interested in dead dogma; people outside our sanctuaries want neither our pomp nor our pride; but if they can see the “light” shining in our eyes, hear the “life” bubbling in our witness, and feel the truth of a “Holy Ghost overflow” tugging at the emptiness they know, the torch can be passed. It takes more than a sermon. Thirst is contagious……

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


This is the second week of an attempt to lose fifteen or twenty pound. No running record of how many calories taken in each day. Just eliminating all snacks, eating smaller portions, and twice a day working up a good sweat for thirty minutes on my treadmill. The computer is nearby and it’s been my habit to utilize You Tube for either some Gospel music or somebody preaching to occupy my thoughts during that time. Today I listened to a fellow, passionate and anointed (I believe) in his delivery on Ezekiel prophesying to those dead bones, yet also (again, in my opinion) “missing the mark” in so far as “nailing down the truth”. Can that happen? It depends on how deep one is immersed in the river at the time. It depends, in fact, upon how one defines the very verse shared in that discourse, Paul in Ephesians declaring God’s ability to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in you”. If the highlighted word refers to nothing more than the believer, himself, swinging a Scriptural sword, “faith” achieved via some mental grunt worked up in the effort, then maybe the guy behind the pulpit is correct in directing his flock to “name it and claim it”. If, however, the term is understood to be the Holy Ghost, alive in the individual, all authority His to claim, it now suggests my efforts in “moving any mountain” must be focused on stepping into His flow, not taking on the problem in my own strength. In a way, it’s like me and that treadmill. Losing weight could be attempted standing there beside it as it runs, working myself into simply rebuking my girth down to an acceptable size, or step up into the kinetics that can make it happen. I lean toward the latter……

Monday, August 25, 2014


After being assured that the latest “up-to-date” schedule was now in my possession, I drove to the Youth Detention Center with three others Sunday morning only to discover another church group already there waiting for their special speaker from the Cincinnati Bengals to arrive. We conceded, seeing as how it was a little too late to cancel their intentions; but a phone-call early today revealed that it was indeed they who missed the memo and another would, with no hard feelings between either of us, get us their spot this coming week-end. Miscommunication. Last minute changes from those in charge. Humanity in general to blame for but one more miscue in the state of affairs with this particular program. Take whatever, government, education, and yes, even church, insert man with all his potential for error, and what one gets is better understanding of the Bible verse “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” just gets multiplied when there are greater numbers of us involved in anything. For that matter, at least so far as my last item on the above list, it seems to me that “organization’ isn’t all that’s susceptible to our “faulty wiring”. In our religious pursuit of Christ, just like those of old, if we aren’t chasing the celebrity, the commotion and the noise, the “fishes and the loaves”, we go off the deep end on the other side of the fence, reassuring ourselves of our righteousness through ritual, works, and commitment to doctrinal totem poles. I like what one pastor recently preached: “If you’ve got the anointing, you don’t need to push it!” By the same token, however, if Christ really be “in” you, then surely the invitation has been there from the beginning to “explore the deep”. Indeed, in the middle of all the mess, what the believer has to maintain balance, correct his course, and breathe in the Gospel in its simplest form: the Holy Ghost, peace in me.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


“In a sense, we come today like salesmen, with a product that’s free for the taking, and some of you perhaps having already sampled the product in one way or another. There are so many knock-offs out there, though, that where I must begin is with questions: Who is God? What is God? Do you even believe in such possibility? What good is religion, any religion, in the first place? Why Jesus above all others?.... If some seem to have settled for theologies, manipulating words, shaping individual totems, claiming power and prosperity, assigning grace and glory as if they were ours to give, truth remains a belly connection, a point within where this life and the next are made one, a place where all that I am surrenders unto Him, only Jesus spanning the gap.”

It’s early Saturday morning here and discovering that an extra church added to the Youth Detention Center schedule has my group’s visit now “on deck” for tomorrow has my spirit plumbing, again, the depths of His Spirit, rehashing what was shared Wednesday with the men at the mission. It’s not that the same verse in Romans concerning our “mortal” bodies being “quickened” by the Holy Ghost can’t reach these kids, the same mental notes utilized for the old unable to speak to these in their teens. It’s this clay vessel that has to be careful, the message coming forth, not out of my own head, but “fresh”, in a flow He gives if I’ll not let the water become stagnant. That applies to any believer, though, “ministry” more than preaching, teaching Sunday school, praying with the sick, singing in the choir. “Faith” is a risen Savior, alive in me, not a doctrinal credo confessed, nor an elevated moment in which one grabs the brass ring, achieving some hope granted from Heaven. If it works correctly, authority is not brazen, love is not boastful, and the mystery is solved only in an encounter shared. Witness occurs as He opens the doors. When and where are His to determine, our only part in this being to “stir up the gift that is within us” and take the next step. It doesn’t take a degree, just a decision to “pick up one’s cross” and follow……

Friday, August 22, 2014


I wonder: Which of us would play a game of darts, back to the board, simply flinging missiles over our shoulder, content with wherever they might perchance hit? After all, isn't the bulls-eye the whole point of the game? Who pulls up to the gas pump, inserts their credit card and then just stands there spraying the whole car with the nozzle rather than inserting it into the tank? What woman gets out the vacuum cleaner and then tries to plug it into the electrical outlet by throwing the cord at the wall? And yet how many walk through Christianity without connecting to the inner well, wading in the shallow water when all the while the Spirit beckons us, deep calling unto deep?........

Posting on Facebook isn’t something this old man does with any real regularity; but, whether out of pondering Wednesday evening’s talk with the men at the mission, knowing this Sunday we’ll be talking with the kids at the Detention Center, or an article read at "Killing the Buddha" wherein the mysteries of life and the universe were plumbed, the above thoughts came forth, my mind yet considering the whole scenario. Is it really enough to simply acknowledge Christ, to verbally give promise of commitment without spiritually taking up pursuit, to enjoy the beach without taking the plunge? Perhaps the fact that the faith, in America at least, is encountering both reduction in our numbers and aggression against our message, can be greatly attributed to our witness coming forth just as hostile, out of our heads instead of our bellies. If the Holy Ghost hasn’t been locked up and lost in a closet, He has been deemed our own to control, believers building their own fire rather than waiting for it to fall from Heaven. My preacher in Pensacola put it this way in one of his sermons: “If you’ve really got the anointing, you don’t have to push it!” It’s where we’re at in this: Some force it; some fail to even know it’s there. As a body, we’re much too busy promoting our theology to point to the pool. I recognize it’s a stumble down the path, for the Institution as well as the individual; but, oh, the people we hurt through our humanity. Thank God for the inner oasis that meets me as I go……

Thursday, August 21, 2014


During the reception dinner after the wedding, on that recent trip to South Carolina, my niece talked the fellow serving up the music to crank up "Johnny B. Goode". Then she asked this old man and his sister to step back fifty-five years or so, with no oxygen handy to keep us going and no medic to help us should we attempt any of the "moves" accomplished in our youth. If I had tried the "flip" or the "criss-cross through my legs before pulling her back through to drop into the beat again", this would have been posted on the evening news instead of Facebook. Not enough strength in my arms any more. Not enough wind for two hundred pounds to manage the hop over her as she passes beneath me. One up on Peggy, though. We used to come in together and rotate four or five spins, but a slip in her footing quickly notified me that it, too, was history. The beat goes on, The body just can' keep up. Still fire in the furnace, however; still that seventeen year-old boy on the inside crying out "Throw me the ball!", ready for a full court game of basketball; and all it takes for an old fool to risk it all is the sound of Chuck Berry's guitar.......


”Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that, even in the happiest moments of our existence, we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness… But this intimate experience, in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death, can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us”…. Henri Nouwen, quoted in “The Holy Longing” by Ron Holheiser

Just the three of us last night at the rescue mission. It was the first meeting scheduled after a short break to install new hardwood flooring throughout the facility. Such fact may have accounted for the smaller number of men in attendance, maybe about ten empty chairs reducing us to twenty or so gathered for worship. No matter. The Spirit would meet us in a connection verifying the message being shared, Dave speaking on grace always “outweighed” those sins we place on God’s scales, Tony briefly addressing “approaching God in prayer”, and my own thoughts centered on a verse in Romans, stressing God’s availability to meet us in the next step. Reflecting on recent events in my own life, I talked with them of how “Christ in me” equates, at least in part, to a connection we can know “ankle-deep”, “knee-deep”, even “over-our-head”, but not always some “Yea, I say unto thee”, authoritative transferal of power wherein one dramatically “raises the dead”. More than just a place to run when trouble becomes too much for us to handle, this inner well is there to confirm His grace, His concern for us, and His love with us in all that we do. Indeed, the Gospel doesn’t stop there, providing for an “overflowing of the vessel” wherein, through us, this manifestation of the promise either creates life or connects life, making us one in Him. In this sense, it seems to me that the above quote falls short, making it seem as if, only in Heaven, can we know “perfect joy”. While this present moment might well hold all that the author suggests, yet it also possesses the possibility of knowing Him now, in all that He is, temporary, perhaps, but sufficient in convincing me that eternity started when He stepped into this old man’s existence…….

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


”I have no faith in that woman who talks of grace and glory abroad, and uses no soap and water at home. Let the buttons be on the shirts, let the children’s socks be mended, let the roast mutton be done to a turn, let the house be as neat as a pin, and the home be as happy as home can be.”….. Charles Spurgeon

In searching for something to occupy my mind those two nights in South Carolina, I purchased a six dollar copy of “Lost Christianities” from Half-Price Books. Written by Bart D. Ehrman, who is supposedly an authority on the early Church and the life of Jesus, it deals with “The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew”, thus far presenting me with some information about a wealth of other literature rejected by such Church authorities as appointed by King James back in the year 1611. The truth of other gospels and other epistles existing is no surprise to me. I’ve read a few books of the Apocrypha, wasn’t impressed, dabbled with one or two of these mostly gnostic, often forged by an unknown author in someone else’s name, pieces of literature, and find myself usually repulsed, but not surprised where men have gone with the original seed planted by Christ. Then, again, the same might well be said of our faith today, the Scripture, as we know it, reprinted in multiple versions and utilized as a foundation for enough doctrinal differences to confuse anybody. While claiming recognition of “the basics”, we nonetheless separate ourselves one from the other, on occasion taking the Word “where no man has gone before”. The above quote reflects the mind of a well-known British Baptist who stepped into this via entering an old-time Primitive Methodist assembly’s service, and suggests to me that “legalism” certainly wasn’t invented by Pentecostals back in the early 1900s. At the end of the first chapter of this author’s endeavor to enlighten us to “all that’s really out there”, therefore, I penned my own thoughts, including this statement: “If my gospel, my Bible, yet is something less than “infallible”, at least in the sense that some label it, let it be known that the key, for me, is in recognizing my humanity as being prone to error, and truth being this Reality in my belly, not merely the reasoning in my head.” Give me the Holy Ghost, chapter and verse, and the next step. Let me trust in His reins, His rod and staff, to work out understanding as I go. His voice yet speaks. Open my ears to hear......

Monday, August 18, 2014


A weekend excursion to Charleston, attending the wedding of a nephew whom I’ve seen no more than twice in the last twenty years, has left me filled with thankfulness for how God’s grace spills over in our life in more ways than one. Two encounters made while exploring the area downtown a bit Saturday morning stayed with me. Near a fountain with multiple cascades in a park just off the beach, stood a Jehovah’s Witness couple, one on either side of a large display of publications and tracts regarding their faith, both with arms folded across their chests, looking as if they had no heart, nor indeed any interest at all in someone possibly starting a conversation with them. Then, a few blocks further into the city’s depths, we walked through a graveyard attached to a Unitarian assembly that, for whatever reason, had completely neglected any and all care of it. Whoever was buried there had long ago been forgotten, erased from all memory by time and nature’s onslaught. Two different scenarios all together, the “evangelists” and the deceased; but they reflect well on my visit, gathered there in a hotel with my oldest daughter and her husband, along with my sister and her whole family. It was the son of my deceased brother getting married at the age of 52, the two of us meeting for possibly only the third time in his life, fraternal careers in the Navy having taken his father and me in different directions. I hardly know him and his sister. Somehow, though, when they announced the bride and groom as “Mr. and Mrs. John Filer”, it was as if Wayne was there with us, pleased that we had made the trip. Moreover, it was as if the Holy Ghost parted the waters, opportunity opened for an hour of conversation with my sister’s son Saturday morning in the lobby, more with his daughter driving back after the ceremony that evening. The three women, three generations with the youngest noticeably carrying the next addition in her womb, were part of an “anointing” that seemed to be, not “creating” bonds, but surely strengthening that which was previously known. We “connected”. For only the second occasion in thirteen years, my scheduled visit to the Youth Detention Center was trusted to a friend Sunday morning. I hated missing. Yet it seems as if divine intervention had something else in mind, these past three days special to me. Good to be back; but glad we went……

Thursday, August 14, 2014


”I thirst”….. spoken by Jesus, nailed to the Cross, that connection known with His Father from birth momentarily severed.

With our teacher, about half-way through his lesson last night, confessing to a headache that had been with him all that day, I can well understand how we managed to abandon the original subject along the way and chase something else down a “rabbit trail” instead. It happens. Having initially emphasized our need for “Spiritual” water, somehow he missed the turn; and, for almost an hour, our class pitched our tent in “the valleys that come unto us”, testifying to the truth of it being there, in the middle of adversities and trials, that we learn and grow. Trouble is, I’m don’t think we ever got to the even greater reality of it being important to remember: “While you are there, dig a well!” It’s not that the river has relocated, no longer where you found it in the beginning, “out of a man’s belly” fairly accurate in letting us know that the source of all that He is unto us isn’t external. The “hook-up” isn’t a matter of occupying the front pew in the sanctuary nor retreating into nature in an attempt to escape the world around you. Praise, peace, and psalms may well help the cause, but do not automatically open the floodgate. In fact, working yourself up in a sweat, trying to formulate the process out of your own strength, may get you nothing more than discouragement. In the Old Testament, about twenty years apart in the wilderness, God brings forth water from a rock. Moses, on the first occasion, is told to “smite” the stone, speaking to me of the scourging endured before Calvary; but two decades later such source appears to have ceased, the people once again in need of a miracle. This time, however, the prophet is commanded to “speak” to the rock; and when he, in anger, strikes it instead, entrance into the Promised Land is lost. The price has been paid. Christ suffered that we might know such fountain within us. Physical labor isn’t demanded. Surrender is. How well the Church has taught this down through the centuries, however, is, at the least, up for debate……..

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


"What would happen if you just shut a door and stopped speaking? Hour, after hour, after hour of no spoken words. Would you speak to yourself inwardly? Would words stop being useful? Would you lose language altogether? Or would words mean more? Would they start to mean in every direction, become all somersault and assault, like a thuggery of fireworks? Would they proliferate, like untended plant life? Would the inside of your head overgrow with every word that has ever come into it, every word that has ever silently taken seed or fallen dormant? Or would your own silence make other things noisier? Would all the things you'd ever forgotten, layered there inside you, come bouldering up and avalanche you?" – Ali Smith, “There But For The”

“I used to think the power of words was inexhaustible, that how we said the world was, was how it was and how it would be. I used to imagine that word-sway and word-thunder would silence the Silence and all that, that worlds were the Word, that language could lead us inexplicably to grace, as though it were geographical. I used to think these things when I was young. I still do.” – Charles Wright, “Body and Soul”

For nearly a week, each morning has come to this area filtered through a solid grey blanket that eventually, by mid-afternoon, somehow gathers itself into a mixture of both dark and white clouds, here and there an opening to let one know the sky is still there, but rain possible if the wrong color drifts overhead. Today, however, the dog, still with too much pup in him and refusing to stop his barking on the leash where I’ve secured him in the back yard, has drawn me outside to sit there on a bench while he explores the area under my supervision; and, hallelujah, the sun, rising over the hills to the east, spills over me there. An airplane passes somewhere overhead, it, like the highway traffic flowing in both directions, hidden from my sight by nature as it exists all around me. A cool breeze plays with leaves and branches, solar heat not yet enough for me to remove the light hoodie worn to such location; but it’s peaceful, quiet otherwise, and the above quotes borrowed earlier from Whiskey River have my thoughts. The Bible says that “In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It seems to me that humanity, in truth, is but an expression existing only by the breath of that which was spoken, linguistics being the very core of our identity and that which “holds us together” yet a mental verbal message continually being spun in our head. The only question is: out of whose well does creation come? The choice has long been ours to make, free will established in the Garden. Clean-up is messy, the part we want to hand back to Him, often with no real remorse. Panic, maybe. Sorrow, perhaps. But putting it all into words is beyond our ability to capture and somewhere along the way, if any wisdom at all has been gained, we learn that communication is better accomplished in a surrender, a silence wherein two become one, connection established in a flow that needs no form. Give me the Holy Ghost and a quiet moment. Sometimes my head hurts………

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Public school opened its doors yesterday for “re-indoctrination”, a yearly procedure wherein all staff are introduced, given extra-curricular activities, and handed various forms to sign as required by the state. Tomorrow the kids make it all official. Our church educational facility is also hard at work getting its rooms ready for our own enrollment (around 200), their arrival scheduled for next Monday. I stopped by in the middle of all the house-cleaning to ask the principle as to any possible instruction for me in my role as a substitute and then, having received a negative reply, inquired about any rules concerning witnessing should the Spirit open a door. Permission granted. Kentucky money isn’t involved in our operation. Knowing my Old-Time Holiness roots, she figured it was safe (I guess), our relationship in this faith extending more than four decades and her probably not aware that, along the way, my theology has expanded to add “Apologetic Existentialist” as further identification of my beliefs. “Making waves”, though, stirring up discord, has never been where I operate. Any ministry entered is His, not mine. Six pages of a prediction (not prophecy), made by a since deceased friend in 2009 and revisited by me yesterday, amazed me in its accuracy thus far concerning a “Coming Evangelical Collapse”. In pointing to culture wars, political conservatism, and a demand for orthodoxy rather than a healthy understanding of “Christ in me” passed onto our heritage, he outlined our current state of affairs pretty much exactly as they are. “All they that take the sword shall die by the sword” is a lesson we’ve failed to learn down through the centuries, our victory, from the beginning, in His hands. America was not founded on Christian principles; it was birthed by men who hearts had not yet been completely corrupted of what had been taught them in Sunday school. As our heritage progressed to become no more than “whited sepulchers” filling our governmental seats of authority, we settled for threatening those powers that be with our vote without examining ourselves as to just how well our children were inheriting any knowledge of what “resurrection anointing” really means. God save us, as a country. God open our eyes to that which right in front of us……

Monday, August 11, 2014


With the last few decades of history behind us and all that’s going on in the Middle East, it doesn’t surprise me when someone asserts that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same god. Such statement, however, does seems short of “truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. Hasn’t our faith, as well as the other, known our own share of extremists? Indeed, worshipping “in spirit and in truth” has resulted in multiple doctrinal dogmas, individual perspectives that separate us in so far as what we believe He requires of believers. So wouldn’t it be more correct to note that man, in his carnality, has often taken religion down a bent road? In talking with a friend at early church, Sunday, about existentialism, I listened as he noted it having been adopted and adapted by atheists, agnostics, and philosophers in general, dismissing its core tenets which simply state that everyone is responsible for their own choices, their own destiny. With time limited, our discussion was not lengthy. It could well be that his objection was born out of where people took it from that simple birthing, rejecting along the way all rules, laws, and Biblical thou-shalt-nots. For me, though, the problem lies on either side of that fence. Humanity doesn’t die just because you give it a Book to read. Our pastor’s morning sermon was built around the prophet Isaiah’s admonishment to “wait upon” the Lord, enlightening us to the Hebrew roots of that verb translating to a “twisting together” as a body in facing this present world. His evening message, with public school beginning another cycle this week, pointed to baby Moses being placed in a “sealed” basket. So ought we, as parents and grandparents, to protect our children, covering them with continual prayer. It’s all we’ve really got, isn’t it? Somehow, while yet sorting out, with Him, our own mess, we’ve got to teach them, not just chapter and verse, but the reality of His Spirit, in us, around us, over us, in our personal stumble down the road. I want His hook in their belly, more so than my demands in their head….

Saturday, August 9, 2014


”Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other, to let their souls blend in a soft whisper, so the mystic longs for the moment when, in prayer, he can, as it were, creep into God”…. Soren Kierkegaard

I’m pondering this morning if perhaps I’m not a bit of an existentialist. Can one be that and still claim membership with Christianity? Such label was first penned on the above author who was also quoted as saying “If you want to be loathsome to God, just follow the herd.” Its definition is determined a 20th Century philosophy embracing diverse doctrines, but centering on an analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe, each and every person held accountable for their own choices, ignorance being no excuse. Other thinkers like Nietzsche and Sartre would take the idea as a foundation for atheism. Kierkegaard, however, while breaking relationship with the Lutheran state church of Denmark, believing it to be merely playing with “a form of morality and a doctrinal system”, maintained pursuit of God. He is said to have coined the term “leap of faith”, punctuating it with a need for it to be made “only after reflection”. Life, as he saw it, should be an adventure and a constant risk, a “stumble down the path” in my own words, but one always taken with “a passionate commitment” to a truth beyond conquering with theology. Within such margins as stated here, we are close to being in agreement, my singular point of departure being that one’s plunge into this ought to be preceded, as well as followed, by serious consideration of our position in Him. Indeed, I like it when he refers to “infinite resignation” being the last stage prior to faith. Human beings are like snowflakes: no two of us are exactly alike; and it occurred to me that this might well be what Paul actually meant in his epistle to the Galatians with his statement that, in Jesus, there is “neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female.” More than just salvation being extended unto all, grace equates to patience with all, love for all, each of us taken just as we are, ministered to with no attempt to make us “one” other than in Him, the only requirement being our handing Him the reins of our heart. Did Kierkegaard know Christ via a born-again encounter? I’ve not yet discovered mention of anything resembling it within his writing; but who am I to judge another man’s journey by mine. To each their own appointed place before His throne……

Friday, August 8, 2014


”Don’t insist on going where you think you want to go. Ask the way to the spring.”… Rumi, “Moving Water”

Beth and I drove to Lexington last night, gathering there at the airport with all three daughters and several others, husbands, grandchildren, to meet the second oldest grandson’s flight. Twenty years old, he and another fellow his age have spent the last five weeks in Honduras, visiting an orphanage previously known on a church mission trip. Different circumstances were involved this time, both on their own in this day and age. Believing that God was dealing with his heart, mom and dad permitted the trip. Modern technology kept the family in touch; but oh how relieved and happy we were to see him home safe. In June of 1960, this old man was eighteen, flying on a propeller aircraft toward San Diego and all I knew about to be replaced by ten years in the Navy. A year earlier, seventeen and, looking back now, without a mature thought in my brain, I was returning from an adventure accomplished with a buddy of mine, a long half-a-day one-way trip down a two-lane highway to Bowling Green, Kentucky in an old Dodge Desoto for no other purpose than a date with a couple of girls we’d met. Their names, faces, the whole evening is nothing more than blurred memory; but a moment in time occurring in the wee hours of the morning, the two of us no more than twenty minutes or so away from my house, has never left my brain. Jackie was asleep in the seat beside me. Slumber consumed me, held off only by continual repositioning, slapping my own face, just anything and everything thought to keep me going with us this close to completing the journey. I had rolled my window down a crack, hoping the cool air would help. It was probably all that saved our lives. The roar of the big rig’s engine, about to engage my own head-on, penetrated the abyss. My head snapped; my eyes opened; my hands yanked the steering wheel; and you couldn’t have put a sheet of paper between the two vehicles as we passed each other. God was just a word heard in Sunday school as a kid. We wouldn’t “connect” for more than a decade yet to come, this event, though, possibly why I would question my father, just before his death months later, as to his own theological beliefs. Life is a mystery. Christ “in” me doesn’t give me all the answers. Was He there with me from the beginning, keeping me for some purpose? There are at least three other occasions along the way that give me reason to wonder. What I do know is, that having found the oasis and knowing it since as a place, not just to rest and refresh, but where to take all my concerns as well, there is no doubt in my mind of the difference He makes in the next step. I’m grateful for having been able to put all worries about my grandson in His care…….

Thursday, August 7, 2014


What I love so much about our Wednesday evening class is the potential it brings for us to minster to each other. It is the Body, one-on-one, so to speak, sharing perspectives as we learn, not just a formatted lesson prepared by our teacher, but the truth of Christ “in” us being a reality in our midst. Indeed, such was the theme on this occasion, Steve taking us to 2nd Timothy where Paul is writing to his young disciple, exhorting him to stir up the “gift” within him, something reportedly received by the “laying on” of the apostle’s own hands. Such transferal would actually become the “meat” of what we were exploring, the fact that we, ourselves, are no more than vessels for the Holy Ghost, our being used by Him not a matter of longevity or assigned position within the church. The Greek root of such term that our King James translates as “gift” is actually what we now would refer to as “charisma” and tend to define in the sense of (a) a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others; or (b) divinely conferred power or talent. In its native tongue, however, it meant “favor freely given” or “grace”. Therefore, it would appear, what is being encouraged in this epistle is not pointing to some singular talent or ability spiritually passed from the teacher to his student, much like Elisha being given Elijah’s mantle, but to the Holy Ghost, Himself, in the sense of there being need of the believer to “kindle the fire” within him, to realize that ministry is personal accomplishment nor limited in its outreach. “Calling” doesn’t just apply to the guy in the pulpit, the singer in the choir, and the missionary in West Africa. If His resurrection gives us hope only of conquering the grave, what do we really possess other than another religion? Christ “in” me ought to equate to an overflow that extends itself unto others as He opens the door; and the only requirement unto us is a matter of keeping the wonder alive in our heart, fanning the flame on a regular basis……

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


“I do not understand the mystery of grace, only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us”…. Anne Lamott

“The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, but a Reality to be experienced”……… one of several adaptions, original version and source questionable

There is an anonymous work written in the latter half of the 14th century that was intended to be a spiritual guide on contemplative prayer. Its underlying message proposed that the only way to truly know God is to abandon all preconceived ideas about Him, being courageous enough to surrender your mind and ego to the realm of “unknowing”, at which point you begin to glimpse Him as He is in His true nature. In the last chapter of Thomas Merton’s “The Inner Experience”, the author speaks of an inner merger between humanity and divinity, possible to temporarily achieve, and yet incapable of being communicated unto others in its full reality. As the biggest skeptic around, I’ve always approached Christianity, in so far as theology preached by whomsoever, with caution, the practice learned long before stepping into this faith and strengthened as experience taught me very well that being “Biblical” just means it’s the other guy’s perspective, not necessarily what life and the Holy Ghost reveals as you go. This encounter of which the Catholic monk and the unidentified believer speak, then, is nothing Pentecostals haven’t preached for decades, indeed the event being that which birthed them in the first place! It’s referred to with different terminology. It’s certainly been abused and misunderstood, our denomination having tried to assume for ourselves that which only He can extend unto us via such immersion. Nonetheless, it remains, a point within us where one “steps through the veil” into depths yet assigned for us to determine, our will and His wisdom being all that’s required to realize “the fullness of the promise”. Does one walk away with all the answers? Can one then explain it to any great degree afterwards? It seems to me that the first two sentences here express it fairly well. Two of my early years in the Navy were spent aboard a ship home-ported in Nice, France. The guys in my particular unit shared two rooms downtown while on liberty, the one smaller, two beds, a wardrobe, and glass doors to a veranda. One night, just me and another fellow in there, I awoke in the wee hours of the morning in a cold sweat, moonlight still illuminating such space and with the knowledge of someone or something watching me. Fear consumed me; but not enough to warn my buddy. Instead, I forced myself to sit up, get dressed, and then leave to walk the streets, not returning till daylight. Nightmare? Too much to drink before retiring? At sea, a month or so later, in relating the story to others on watch, I would hear how my tale was not singular. At least two of those there on duty with me had likewise known the mystery. Strange? Not exactly what might be expected for me to use as a comparison to coming into God’s presence? Well, it’s all I have, the initial approach giving one some hesitancy, me in all my mess and He in all His righteousness. The osmosis, however, still without any linguistics sufficient for me to define it (the Creator greater than my ability to capture), is like being bathed in exactly the opposite emotions. His love, His peace, His grace – surround you, fill you, erasing all doubt and assuring you of your place in Him. It becomes one’s pursuit, a hope, not a demand, renewing and refreshing in our stagger down the road……..

Monday, August 4, 2014


”“Peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal”..... Martin Luther King Jr

Our pastor’s son, who leads worship, spoke to the congregation Sunday morning about people who get the gospel lyrics confused. One young girl had somehow misinterpreted what she had heard and was singing “Elvis is king”. His own wife, instead of “recover it all”, was substituting “covered in oil”. After service I told him of her version being my personal preference. In today’s church world, it seems to me that too many are out to conquer health, wealth, and prosperity in general without an inkling as to a need of visiting the well on a regular basis. Not just for a drink of water. Not merely to sit with your toes in the stream. While Jesus did declare a “foot-washing” would suffice for our daily cleansing, it yet remains that life, itself, in the natural requires of us at least a “Saturday bath”. As it is in the physical, so also in the spiritual. We exist in a time like no other. Global crisis comes to us, flooding our living rooms with war, famine, disease, and natural disaster. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? What can I do? Children killed in battle. Children sick and illegally crossing our borders. Eboli. Multitudes right here in America, without God, without hope. It makes my head swim, too much for one man unless carried and left at the Cross. The sermon, yesterday, pointed to “A Safe Place in Desperate Times”, an inner oasis, not given so much as a refuge where we are to run and hide, but a “refueling station” where all that He “is” is made available unto us in the next step. The question, however, becomes: Does “flow” demand immersion? Can we know an encounter with His presence without taking “a dip in the pool”? My own answer is “no” to the first and “yes” to the second. Remember: Scripture reports that God, at least once, talked through a donkey and is able, if necessary, to have dead stones give Him praise. Ankle deep, knee deep, or in over our heads brings assurance in corresponding doses, residual benefits a matter of our faith and the path before us. You’re only as “wet” as much as you, yourself, determine……

Friday, August 1, 2014


Thomas Merton wasn’t my first revelation concerning my old-time holiness bunch having it wrong about all Catholics going to hell. A little old lady who once answered my evangelistic knock on her front door with a smile, one that then responded to my query of her being a Christian by illuminating her whole face, was my initial clue. The Trappist monk’s literature, though, fills a large portion of my book shelf, some volumes more treasured than others. He and I part company concerning several tenets his church holds; but, then, that’s also true of my relationship with everything that has evolved along the way after Martin Luther nailed his theses to the Wittenberg assembly’s door, Pentecostals included. Forty-two years in this faith has taught me that nobody has God locked up inside a doctrinal box; it’s okay to disagree as long as you don’t “make waves”; and usually, if one cares to explore the other guy’s thinking, there is much where what separates us is no more than perspective, language as big an issue as anything else. In other words, when you boil it all down, the real problem here is me “in” Christ. Merton made me smile this morning. After blowing my mind with his announcement in an earlier chapter of God having made man “in order that man might become God”, he now points to the possibility of one’s humanity spoiling everything achieved by contemplation. This merger that we might know with the Spirit works only “as long as our eyes are not on ourselves”. Now there’s a mouthful! In our Wednesday evening class we talked about idols, how we can make them out of most anything: money, hobbies, possessions, people, ministries, even chapter and verse mental images set in concrete, the only life therein our own. How easy it is to fall into any of these traps, including the last one, while sitting in a pew, serving on the deacon board. How many along the way have seemed to be no more than “puffed up” in a call to preach, a gift claimed? How often have I, myself, looked in the mirror and recognized such condition still there in some corner of me? This is what I tried to teach my daughters, what I want my grandchildren to learn, not authority, arrogance, and adamant self-righteousness, but assurance of His grace ever there to meet with us at the inner oasis if we are but willing to surrender unto Him all that we are…….