Thursday, October 30, 2014


“Autumnal evening chill, knife-edges of the avenues, wind kicking up newspaper off the street, those ghost peripheral moments where you catch yourself beside yourself, going down a stair or through a door and the spirit world surprising you: those birds, for instance, bursting from the trees and turning into shadow, and then nothing, like spirit birds called back to life from memory or a book, those shadows I held in my hands, surprised.” - Stanley Plumly, Old Heart

The above is another quote borrowed from “Whiskey River”, its words catching me yesterday, not so much as a Halloween “spooker”, but as a picture of where I find myself now and then with life catching me in some moment of realization that I’ve been drifting, paying no attention to the clock, and so much time having passed without me having noticed. Is October really almost gone again? Is McKenna actually in Ninth Grade, Noah on the verge of leaving childhood years behind? It sneaks on you. One day the news channel is showing a video clip of Kennedy riding through Dallas and you think to yourself “Wait! This isn’t history! I was there!” And yet here you are, a bit taken aback that it all happened so fast, but calm, peace in your heart, thankful for longevity and grace that came to you along the way. Boo! Ahhhh, you don’t scare me. Inside eternity flows from that reconnection made and maintained. Bring it on. In a couple of hours the car goes out to Henry’s for an oil change. Last night’s midweek Bible class was a surprise, caught with a substitute teacher announcing a lesson on Scriptural references to financial wisdom, me immediately thinking the next ninety minutes or so were going to be terribly boring and then discovering, as we went, how the Holy Ghost can minister to you if you’re willing to listen. High-school basketball season kicks off in fifteen days. Tuesday I need to go vote. Life…. happens. There’s a verse in 1st John, though, that declares “Perfect love casts out all fear”. Sounds like a good place to end this……..

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Tuesday evening, for the most part, was consumed with this old man seated at the computer helping his granddaughter piece together a three-page report on John Steinbeck. His name is familiar to me only because of having the Navy having stationed me in Monterey, California twice and that being the area where the author lived in his youth. His books were not something a young sailor was into at the time, but fifty years later I find it interesting to learn that much of what he wrote came forth out of a heart for the underdog, a belief that the “upper crust” owed the “lower class” more than just meager wages. For him, Socialism and Communism seemed better alternatives to Capitalism; and religion (Christianity in particular) had failed to live that which it preached. God wasn’t rejected, only determined to be beyond one’s ability to comprehend. The author, in spite of a compassion for others, was agnostic in his theology. In my “Parables of Peanuts” book there is a cartoon where Linus is kneeling on the ground talking to Charlie Brown’s dog. “Yknow what?” he asks Snoopy, “I don’t understand people! No matter how hard I try, I just don’t get them!” As he walks away, man’s best friend ponders what was said and thinks to himself: “I know just how he feels. I gave up trying to understand people long ago and now I just let them try to understand me.” Funny; and some truth there, I suppose, but, in Christ, walking away from the enigma isn’t the answer. There is, after all, One who understands all of us; and if we can approach the mind of Christ, if once “behind the veil” we are willing to examine ourselves through His eyes, however infrequently we get there and however temporary the encounter be, somehow it helps, in looking at the other person, to see ourselves stumbling down the same road. Politics, in any form, is just man kidding himself. Theology, in any manner we develop it void of His reality correcting us as we go, putrefies and stinks in its witness. If America survives, it will only be through revival, not in the sense of some thumped-out demand by the Church for the world to repent, but via a humble acknowledgement that we, the Body, have failed and come short……..

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


How much influence our visits to the Youth Detention Center the last fifteen years has had on the lives of those young adults may never be revealed unto us. We go. We share. We find “connection” with some, rejection with others, anything accomplished there attributed to the Holy Ghost who remains there long after we leave. The change in one girl, as she “evolved” during many months of waiting to be tried as an adult, was quite obvious. By chance, I once encountered a young man visiting the school where I worked, he recognizing me and extending gratitude. For the most part, though, the ministry is simply attempting to find “flow”, to become a vessel through which what He is speaking into my own life finds acceptance on their part. This past Sunday, for nearly sixty minutes, twelve young men and this old relic discussed the basic truths of Christianity through a comparison of Gollum in Lord of the Rings to the identity we, ourselves, possess on the inside. It was basic, but deep. We examined words like: spirit, mind, heart, soul, and sin. We looked at one’s need, not to just invite the presence of God into that inner chamber, but to also continually return there ourselves, the journey being too much for us to navigate under our own strength. How well did they “get it”? Will they survive what life and the world throws at them with no more than the small “care package” left behind, next week another group, another doctrine, another piece of the puzzle? What do I bring with me in two weeks when, thanks to a friend inviting me into his group, that same door opens unto me again? In truth, this isn’t an Algebra lesson. It’s not a matter of me teaching them a course in “the one true religion”. Mystery will always be included in the next step. More than forty-two years down the road, the veil is still in front of me, the “person” inside this weathered, aging body yet requires a Co-pilot, and the only difference in my stumble, between the first three decades and these last four, is an anchor-line, paternal umbilical cord. It not only feeds me, it tugs at my heart, secures me as I go, and takes me, on occasion, into merger, two becoming one, assurance mine to know even if all the answers to my questions aren’t. Freshness. Christ alive “in” me. This is what hopefully returns. This is what tears down walls and give witness. It works in a jail cell as well as it does anywhere else and, in my opinion, is what the Church, at large, needs to discover again…….

Saturday, October 25, 2014


About one in the afternoon yesterday, rather than drive to the church gym, I opted to walk a half mile or so down our road to the back entrance of the park, take that trail through the wooded area, past the fenced-in section where people turn their dogs loose, cross the bridge over the creek and, instead of the soccer field orbits, turn south another half mile or so to the clubhouse before simply reversing the whole route. It was cool out, a nice breeze blowing, and a hoody seemed a good idea. My cell phone went inside that front pouch and all was nice until the sun began to convince me of a need to remove the hoody. It took me about three hours to discover that somewhere in the journey the cell phone had evidently taken a tumble and further investigation would reveal that someone else was using it. Insurance will replace it; but, at the moment, it almost feels like a part of “me” is missing..…. Tomorrow morning we return to the Youth Detention Center and my thoughts are yet on Gollum, that pitiful worm of a former existence whose soul, in Lord of the Rings, had long left sanity behind, his entire being held in bondage to what he now labelled “precious”. While such image speaks to me of humanity at large, all of us as we pursue our own reasoning without help from His tug on the anchor-line, I ponder if, as well, it doesn’t also apply to Christianity as sit has evolved down through the centuries. History doesn’t reveal to me this “conquering force” as sung and preached to me in Pentecost the last four decades, this great “Ship of Zion”, in so much as an ecclesiastical institution, being steered more by men than by the Holy Ghost; and, although there can be no doubt that, within the mess, resurrection is still alive, the divine umbilical cord feeding, leading, ensuring the seed possibility to give birth, nonetheless much of the body, itself, doesn’t seem to be aware of the missing, vital piece of its identity……

Friday, October 24, 2014


Yesterday morning I was one of two males among about fifteen adults shepherding the church school Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Grade students to Taft Theater in downtown Cincinnati where we would watch a presentation of “Beauty and the Beast”. The entire performance was commendable, but especially the ingenuity with which they altered, not only the set, but the characters as well. It was a little over an hour adventure in live fiction, one’s thoughts taken into a fairytale, life as it is replaced with song, comedy, and “love conquers all”. Seated in Chick-Fil-A afterwards, at a small table by myself with the grandson enjoying his friends across the aisle, the old man was scribbling, as usual, on a piece of paper when one of the teachers nearby inquired if it was perhaps a sermon Little did she know. I wonders sometimes how much “fiction” we all live in. Not that our existence, itself, isn’t real, but our perception of it, our idea of who and what we are within it, just how much truth is there in that? The world’s mindset, I understand, since those who express no belief in Christ really have no anchor for their journey other than their own reasoning. Some may well handle that better than others; but humanity, as it survives in its Adamic state, is like a computer possessing no security to protect it from all the potential of catching a virus. It speaks and acts out of its own vanity. Those of us who occupy the pews and pulpits of Christianity, according to our profession of faith, have supposedly gained access to divine input. We speak of having “found the way”; but, in reducing it to only “our version of the Book”, aren’t we, in fact, very close to being right back at square one? Granted: the Holy Ghost is given and made accessible for guidance, correction, and occasional encounters “through the veil”; yet if we define Him instead of the other way around, is not faith still a stumble down the path? If we cannot admit that the only difference between “us” and “them” is a “temporary osmosis”, points along the way that bring assurance of the Gospel, is it heresy to suggest our witness is more “once upon a time” than “Ye, I say unto thee”?.......

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Isn’t it a bit strange how the changing of seasons can affect us internally, alter, however so slightly, our mood, our thinking, the way we begin our day. Summer, indeed, if we experienced any at all this year, has passed. Autumn, having already painted the countryside into a beautiful spectacle to behold, is slipping now into its own demise, giving hint of winter’s approach. No more do I arise with the sun just beginning to break over the hills to the east. Darkness yet holds the world around me and somehow, within that grip, life, itself, seems hushed, only the sound of a train whistle and my wife baking biscuits in the kitchen serving notice otherwise. My mind, as usual, is attempting to piece together two different trains of thought, a couple of quotes just digested over at Whiskey River and a discussion with a friend concerning God’s grace. The perusal suggested how easily we tend to just evolve, to allow everyday environment to lose its “freshness”, absorbing all of it into the fabric of who and what we are and thus losing purpose in our existence. Take another sip of coffee, make a mental note of it, and tell yourself there’s always tomorrow. Examining the other marble rolling around in my brain, then, involves whether or not divine love completely dismisses possibility of divine judgment. Personally, my own perspective takes in Christ’s warning for us to so walk as to avoid a final lake of fire where “the worm dieth not”, ponders a time when Revelation declares He will rule with a “rod of iron”, and concludes wisdom lies in not taking for granted this present state of redemption. Salvation is inclusive of a need for us to “stay awake” to the Spirit’s tug on the inner “anchor-line” and not just creating our own theological pass, expecting “belief”, alone, will get us through the Pearly Gates. Faith is an on-going commitment, a continual look in the mirror, and a shaking of “self” before it falls asleep in its own lethargy. Within that framework, His promise gives assurance and direction. Perfect love drives out all fear………

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Every other Tuesday the church school does a short one-hour chapel service with the students, first through twelfth grade, the first four levels only for an initial fifteen minutes or so, then communal worship with everybody before dismissing the “little diddles” and sermonizing the older ones via a different speaker for each occasion. The principal (our pastor’s wife) has added my name to the schedule (at my request) and I’ve attended the last few assemblies, youth ministry in any area having always been a part of my heart. This morning, listening to her illustrate the Gospel to little children whose perception thus far is still in the “Father Abraham, Jesus loves me” stage stirred my gratitude for all that God has accomplished in her these last four decades. She is great with these kids. Between that teaching and the latter preaching, though, her daughter, with but a guitar and some of the older ones helping her, brought forth a couple of songs with the witness of an inner connection made manifest in all that she is and does. I told my wife afterwards that looking into this young woman’s eyes is like seeing her soul stripped of all pretense, no self-declaration of holiness, no expression of being anything other than what He has forgiven, accepted, and presently working with in the “nakedness” of who and what she is. Ministry is not an ego trip. She has nothing of which to boast, nor from which to hide. Out of her well flows joy, peace, and freedom, the latter seemingly not a matter of having gained release from some physical bondage, but faulty spiritual “thinking”. All I really know, however, is seeing such shine in her countenance makes this old man smile. Dismiss all the legalism of old-time holiness and this is what I walked into 42 years ago, assurance not in one’s head, but in one’s “belly”……

Sunday, October 19, 2014


”Do we ever really understand or master prayer? Yes and no. When we try to pray, sometimes we walk on water, and sometimes we sink like a stone. Sometimes we have a deep sense of God’s reality, and sometimes we cannot even imagine that God exists. Sometimes we would like to stay in our prayer place forever, and sometimes we wonder why we even showed up. Prayer has a huge ebb and flow. But… we can also expect, through the years, an ever deepening intimacy with our God.” – Ron Rolheiser, “Sacred Fire”

At the moment, I’m reading three books at the same time: (1) a collection of WWII reports written by correspondent Ernie Pyle; (2) an attempt by an English Anglican Professor of Divinity to give the “perplexed” man’s philosophical search for God down through the centuries; and (3) the above sequel to “The Holy Longing” which was supposed to answer the questions of future generations as to why we remained committed to both Christ and the Church. Ernie’s is like a devotional, able to be dismissed for a few days without losing his historical record of men in battle. While supplying me with an idea of how many famous men developed their theology, the professor, at least a few times already, spins a C.S. Lewis-like debate on the reality of God’s existence, with little mention of Jesus having eliminated that whole issue, and brings me, on occasion, to a need of relaxing my brain. Thus, last night, not in the mood to climb into another foxhole and fight the Nazis, I picked up “Sacred Fire” again after as much as a three-week abandonment. Some seven chapters into it, the author seemed to have changed horses in midstream, his course failing, in my opinion, to fulfill its original purpose, his words simply repeating religious, pulpit discourse heard before many times during the past four decades. A brain thus dulled, though, can often return to the same source later, refreshed, somewhat renewed, and discover manna overlooked. Prayer, indeed, is communication not always successful in the sense of establishing assured contact between heaven and earth. Such manner of maintaining relationship isn’t always an immediate “stepping through the veil” into an encounter with God. It doesn’t mean our petition is wasted. Nor does it signify our faith was less than sufficient to negotiate entrance into the throne-room. Contact is a matter of His wisdom and our surrender, an act wherein we give reverence, rest on that which He has already established in the depths of our being, and fall into His arms somewhere in our “belly” rather than trying to force a “hook-up” in our head. It is a “follow Me” stumble down the path holding on to the anchor-line…..

Saturday, October 18, 2014


“Science has discovered that, like any work of literature, the human genome is a text in need of commentary; for what Eliot said of poetry is also true of DNA: All meanings depend on the key of interpretation. What makes us human, and what makes each of us his or her own human, is not simply the genes that we have buried into our base pairs, but how our cells, in dialogue with our environment, feed back to our DNA, changing the way we read ourselves. Life is a dialectic.” – Jonah Lehrer, borrowed from Whiskey River

In the middle of reading a book written by an English Anglican Professor of Divinity, the author’s identity in such terms plus his choice of titles “God: A Guide for the Perplexed” being enough to discourage most Pentecostals from any exploration of it content, I stumbled upon the above quote elsewhere yesterday. Such statement, that the components of our basic physical structure actually communicate with each other, stirred the mental part of me into the deep, the creation, in any form, as much of a mystery as the Creator, all of it, in my opinion, just as worthy as Scripture in so far as divine revelation. Both come from Him and, if merged together through a relationship with the Holy Ghost, the anchor-line keeps us from drifting into outer space. “Dialectic”, I discovered, my ignorance of such term confessed, means “a process of reasoning based on the clash of one idea with its opposite, leading to a resolution of these ideas in the form of a truer or more comprehensive concept”. Jonah Lehrer, himself, that makes him really no one to quote; but it does turn out what he says here has truth to it. Not so much to the extent that this old man’s immediate translation of things imagined possible intelligence at such sublevels of humanity, another world existing within life as we perceive it to be; but most certainly enough “science non-fiction” to give wonder about it all. When I read of a process referred to as “metastasis”, tumor cells and normal cells engaging in conversation with each other, transmitting not merely individual words, but complete sentences, paragraphs, in fact, instruction on how to accomplish cancers deadly mission, it does not take me to some primordial soup, Adam no more than a microscopic amoeba crawling out of a swamp to eventually grow ribs and give birth to woman. It speaks to me only in the sense of reinforcement of that which He has already confirmed in other ways. Searching out the mystery is part of what and who we are, our head trying to determine truth, to better accomplish dominion over that which has been given us; but peace in the midst of it all, assurance that this is not all that there is, remains a “belly” connection, a whole “other’ ocean in which to swim……

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Stopping at Half-Price Books Tuesday brought me face-to-face with four different books by the particular author I was exploring, none of which being his one discussing “Open Theism”. There, on a table on the aisle end of the shelves, however, lay what appeared to be a brand new volume by Keith Ward (unfamiliar to me), the title “God: A Guide for the Perplexed” catching my curiosity and its price (six bucks) agreeable to my wallet. The jacket blurb defined the writer as a professor of divinity, an English Anglican priest whose work straddles the boundaries between philosophy, religion, and science. That all suggests to me someone wading around in the universal ether, lost in the deep space of where a man can go in this; but, in a hurry to rejoin Beth at Sam’s, I paid the clerk, thinking later, after reading the first few chapters, another container of raspberries put into my wife’s cart might have been a better choice. Starting with early humanity’s belief in divinity defined by totem poles, sacrificial altars, and mythical titans, the theologian, however, also fed me enough hint of Holy Ghost to capture my hope of meeting the Holy Ghost somewhere ahead. For example, he pens in chapter two his own opinion that encountering God in a “tangible” way is an experience, although beyond all human thought and understanding, possible for everyone to attain, albeit temporal and fragmentary. This has long been my own message. Wednesday evening, just as I pulled up in front of the rescue mission, a couple of last minute phone calls revealed to me that Frank and I could possibly be the only two sharing with the men at Fairhaven. Tony declared himself trapped at work, eventually arriving in time to be handed the last ten minutes or so and final prayer; but God, as usual, weaving it all together into one message delivered by three vessels and the Holy Ghost. No thick, heavy witness of His presence was there with us in that room. Each of us spoke within the framework of who we are as individuals. Somehow, though, “baskets, dreams, Lord of the Rings, and a young boy in the temple crying out “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth” became anointed enough to draw a bunch of grizzled, old men around a campfire burning in our midst. No coup counted afterwards. Verification found seed, not just sown, but received by the soil before us in abundance. Drunkards? Dregs of society? How about “people”, people with souls just like you and like me, their lives different from mine only in the circumstances of their journey thus far. Church! We had church last night, about twenty-five of us, our congregation and us made one in Him…..

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Didn’t get to bed until late last night and then didn’t sleep well, dreaming about hijacking a train. Where is it that our brain takes us during slumber? For that matter, it might also be put to question where it leads us throughout the day, down through the years, any diagram of our journey through life certainly revealing more of a squiggle than a straight line. “It is not in man that walketh”, the Bible asserts, “to direct his own steps.” Maybe that’s because this amazing computer we hold in our cranium is way beyond our ability to fully grasp? Perhaps it’s like me sitting here at my desk in front of this Dell, able to punch a keyboard and access a few things, but over my head in so far as even beginning to understand much more than Google, e-mail, and basic blogging. Could it be that we were not originally created to operate in this manner, our gray matter not intended to become the sole source of determining what’s in our best interest, but merely designed to be a storage unit? What if this organ was meant to be no more than a tool utilized by, not just some individual spirit determining his or her own circumstances, but a “dual hook-up” wherein our Creator, Himself, is a vital internal piece of the puzzle? I was reading John 3:19-21 yesterday, thinking how so many associate “the light” with the message rather than the Holy Ghost, the mind of Christ abiding in our “belly”, not our head. When we lose that reality, replacing His accessible, tangible input into all that we are and do, what we are left with is the Book, our brain, and a lot of “stinkin thinkin”, making our deeds not so much “wrought” (ordered, shaped, brought about) by God, as they are by our own lack of inviting Him into the next step…….

Monday, October 13, 2014


"The laws of nature might dictate that there has to be something. For example, those laws might not allow for empty space as a stable state. But that wouldn't take away the wonder. You'd still have to ask, 'Why are the Laws that way, rather than some other way?' I think we're permanently doomed to that sense of mystery. And I don't think belief in God helps. I've said it before and I'll repeat it. If by 'God' you have something definite in mind - a being that is loving, or jealous or whatever - then you're faced with the question of why God's not another way. And if you don't have anything very definite in mind when you talk about 'God' being behind the existence of the Universe, then why even use the word? So I think religion doesn't help. It's part of the human tragedy: we're faced with a mystery we can't understand."- Jim Holt, borrowed from “Whiskey River”

Just sitting here at my keyboard with a cup of coffee nearly eliminated, the pup curled up on the floor beside me, and my mind pondering life, in general. It’s early morning, my 73rd birthday, and Beth has a doctor’s appointment scheduled for ten-thirty. Neither church service yesterday brought me any real connection with the Holy Ghost, at least in the sense of His presence overflowing in our midst; a statement heard recently on cable news, claiming that the world is in no more trouble than it ever was, sticks in my mind; and today, at the moment, appears to be but one more space on the calendar to dismiss later tonight. Funny how easy it seems for us to merely “drift”, whether caught up in our routine as we have become accustomed to it, or in idleness as it overtakes us, the prospect of holding no obligation whatsoever equally a state developed as we go, one foot in front of the other, ho-hum, ho-hum. It’s who we are. Then, again, “life” doesn’t have to be determined by “things”. You don’t have to just accept what comes to you, be it the other guy’s opinion about humanity’s state of affairs, your own view of the possibilities left to you, or faith delivered to you in another fellow’s sermon. It’s probably safe to assume that the above author has not yet crossed paths with Christ, at least in an encounter that eradicates all doubts in so far as there actually being a Creator who, by virtue of that fact, will always remain more than we fit into a theology. Knowing Him via an internal reestablished Paternal umbilical cord transforms today into an adventure, faith into a reality wherein tomorrow has hope, fear and disappointment into an accessible assurance of peace in the middle of whatever circumstances have been giving you pain. I don’t have to praise it up, sing it up, or work it up in any form or fashion. Thirst is enough to find the flow…….

Sunday, October 12, 2014


At two o’clock in the morning last night, the old man’s eyes opened and his brain began to wrestle with thoughts. Before Christ, I used to do that every so often worrying over bills or some situation currently in my life. Now it’s more like whatever’s been running through my mind to share with the men at the mission or just something recently read. Whether the source to blame this time was a visit to “Faith Meets World” or not is debatable, but perusing discussion there concerning God’s omniscience did take me into some deep mental water yesterday. “Open Theism”, a belief that the Almighty does not exercise meticulous control of the future, leaving it to possibilities (for Him to solve, I suppose) led to talk about “anthropomorphism”, the Creator possessing human behavior and characteristics. Exploring such chasms on occasion is not beyond my interests, but continually chasing what is unachievable to capture sometimes seems to turn the table around, the stalker now in bondage to his prey. Be that as it may, what would not let me find any return to slumber at the moment was an inner voice repeating over and over again “pick up your cross and follow me”. I would eventually arise two different times, making two separate trips to my living room for paper and pen to write down the following: “Just what do we nail to our OWN cross? Our humanity? Our will? How about our theology? Global Christianity has evolved, down through the centuries, into a multi-flavored body, a name under which the institution, without reality of the resurrection, has become a conglomeration of totem poles wherein deity is defined by us rather than the other way around. It seems, at least, that many of us worship only what we hold in our heads, chapter and verse utilized, but there being little or no life in it, no “belly flow of Divinity” rising up to take us back to the Bible again and again, to shape us as we go. In our midst, the Spirit yet deals with hearts hungry to know His inner connection, speaks to ears open to hear, and gives grace to our stumble down the path; but the question remains: How much of ourselves do we surrender to a daily crucifixion? If the “old man” requires continual need of being hoisted on a tree, aren’t we really talking about the present one as well? Aren’t we talking someone whose “stinkin thinkin” was that which brought him to Calvary in the first place?........

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"The Cutting Edge......"

“We shouldn’t act like we (alone) own the truth. I think we need to hold our theology with kind of open eyes. When we limit God, we often do it with the Bible.”… Dave Bakker (son of Jim and Tammy Faye)

As a child, my history holds little in so far as accumulating any religious instruction. Well, at the age of twelve, I did complete catechism classes to become a member of a local inner city Lutheran assembly; but, if such lessons provided any great insight into their particular brand of theology, it evidently went in one ear and out the other. My teenage years experienced only as much encounter with church as was necessary to gain fellowship at their youth roller rink outreach parties; and, for whatever reason, catching my dad at home alone one day, about six months before he died, I asked him if he, himself, believed in God. His one word affirmation, given only after a long pause, was followed by my immediate question as to “why”. His explanation was almost equivalent to “just because”. I would be thirty, with three daughters and about to dissolve my marriage, everything in my life making absolutely no sense, before stepping into a little old-time holiness church, looking for an answer to my mess. Legalism. Pure and simple. Enough “thou-shalt-not”s to make Christ’s Sermon on the Mount pale in comparison. Yet, in the middle of all the religiosity, the reality of a Gospel that proclaims a risen Savior was verified by frequent visitations of the Holy Spirit, indeed, His presence so thick in our midst at times that worship became communal, the whole congregation baptized together in an assurance of grace. Over four decades later, it is yet that personal internal connection that holds me within the faith. The Bible remains a foundational truth, a Book giving me “mystery to explore”, every now and then its verses opening up to me in a different way, truth not written in concrete within its pages, but rather an “umbilical cord anchor-line in my belly” that teaches me as I go. Standing in the shadow of PTL’s history, tattooed, pierced, and with a message that rings different to most, he nonetheless somehow reaches me with such statements. When we pick up the “sword”, rather than surrender it unto the Holy Ghost, indeed, the One who appears to own it according to Ephesians, like Peter, all we accomplish, for the most part, is “severed ears”….

Friday, October 10, 2014


In “The Lord of the Rings” there exists a character that has occupied my mind the last week or so, His image, alone, enough to give one pause, his voice merely adding to his physical witness in a way so as to speak of a soul existing beyond sanity. I’ve long identified him to others by the word that holds him bound, thinking it, indeed, his name, but “precious” actually referred to that small gold band around which the whole story gains its plot. It does seem, though, that such has come to claim his soul is really who he is, ALL that he is, his mind completely owned by that which he has sought to possess; and, whether or not Tolkien created this poor fellow from a knowledge of what the Bible speaks unto us, in my opinion, this portion of his tale could well be inserted into almost any sermon meant to reach humanity with the truth of who and what we are without God’s presence being involved in our life. Examining my own experience leads me to believe that, although birth didn’t place me in circumstances wherein any real teaching of the Gospel penetrated all else that was happening around me, my stumble down the path was somehow nonetheless never without a divine tug on my heart. He was there from the beginning. If events shaped me so deeply that even now, almost seventy-three years later, this inner being, this hidden “me”, is yet dealing with those things stamped into the very fabric of who and what I am, so much so that, even with Christ “in” me, the journey is far from knowing any degree of having overcome error. Within me, this “worm” possessing life in a physical body reminds me of “Precious” and differs only in as much as it has surrendered unto the influence of His Spirit re-connected internally over four decades back. Such embryo, positioned to one day be delivered unto eternity, is much more healthy than it once was, more aware that “worth” is not wrapped up in self, and more convinced than ever that He, alone, puts purpose and meaning into the next step. “Sin” is not some list of “thou-shalt-not"s, but rather a refusal to face the Creator in the nakedness of what we have made of ourselves……

Thursday, October 9, 2014


While last night’s mid-week Bible study was probably some of the best teaching this old man has ever sat under in my more than four decades with this bunch, there was a place during the last few moments where we could have turned it into a debate. Our teacher centered us the twelfth chapter of Romans, entitling the lesson “Life Swap” and surprising me, initially, with his definition of our being “transformed by the renewing of (our) minds”. With human nature remaining human nature, any change in us, he suggested, was not acquired by effort on our part, but by now, instead of just following our own reasoning as we’ve always done, doing our best to hear the reality of the Spirit’s voice within us. Surprised to hear Pentecost put it in such terms, I actually probed him to ensure I was hearing it correctly; and then, toward the end, interjected Isaiah 30:15 as grounds of our need to frequently return to that inner oasis if we are to know its overflow manifested in our journey. As it was, my words prompted the fellow seated in front of me (a good friend whom I think of as “having had his Baptist roots dipped in Charismatic theology” and who seems to view me in terms of “old-time holiness swimming in heresy) to “rebuke”, somewhat, what he considered to be akin to “better felt than telt”. To him there is no prerequisite for a believer to wait for unction since each of us hold title to “the mind of Christ”. To me there is reason to find balance in both approaches, thirsting to know the anointing, but willing to take the next step without fear, responding to His tug on the anchor-line. As I once told a preacher who concluded a Sunday school lesson with the stipulation that it was impossible for two people to witness to others if they don’t hold identical theologies, though, “Give him to me. We’ll just talk Jesus, knock on doors, and have a cup of coffee together afterwards to discuss our differences.” Whether one positions “the mind of Christ” in their head or in their “belly” is optional. Truth, black and white truth, is not. When class was over, my buddy and I amiably tossed the issue around a few minutes, shook hands, and went home to let the Holy Ghost continue to work in our life. “Argument” doesn’t have to include anger. It just depends on which well feeds the conversation. Living water works wonders……

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Just the Facts..............."

"What’s your story? It's all in the telling. Stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice. To love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story." – Rebecca Solnit (borrowed from Whisky River)”

Just left another site where a fellow was comparing reading the Bible to “reading” his wife, asking her what was wrong when, in fact, her mood was at peace until he brought forth such inquiry. My own marital journey now being over fifty years in the distance covered finds this old man still in a stumble down that path, she well fused into all that I hold dear, but not to such point that either of us understand the other’s inner reasoning. Humanity, in general, is much the same, though, and therein lies most of our confusion. “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” wrote Jeremiah. Another version of Jesus asking “Can the blind lead the blind?” Beyond the truth of our own lack of good sense, though (realizing that some of us are worse off than others), we are bombarded on a daily basis with enough lop-sided opinions to, not just augment our individual condition, but put us in a state of wondering who to believe, what to believe, believing what we WANT to believe, the world around us going to hell in a handbag and survival a matter of building your own safety net. The News Media (even the “fair and balanced” bunch), if they don’t put their own biased slant on it all, debate it like some Jerry Springer talk show. Politicians spend more time slinging mud at each other than they do giving you their honest approach to fixing the problem. Evangelists point you to the Book, each giving you a different theology as if they, alone, have figured it all out. From eschatology to Freudian psychology, from hidden Da Vinci codes to Spiritual revelation, take your pick, buy my literature, and follow me. While I do accept that there are, indeed, God-given teachers and preachers, what I trust is “re-connected umbilical cord in my belly” serving as an anchor-line in the next step. Mistakes happen; but His patience and grace remain; and, in that, I am not alone. My story is your story is His story as we walk through the veil together…..

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Sunday morning, before church, my wife’s niece spoke with me of having been able to view a 4D sonogram video of her seven-month granddaughter developing in her mother’s womb. Assigning such a label to it is a bit misleading, in my opinion, since the fourth dimension only applies in the sense of the finished product being but a spliced re-run of individual stages. Still, how neat it must be to see life so sequenced from the beginning. On the other side of that perspective, my wife and I sat for four hours this morning with other relatives in a surgery waiting room, the forty-four year old daughter of a different niece, born with only one kidney, trying to survive, through dialisis, the time it takes to hopefully acquire a transplant. Life, it seems to me, is a gift of God, yet an enigma in so many ways, no guarantees, faith a matter of perspective, a lesson to be learned. What church has taught me over the last few decades is, in spite of our holding multiple theologies that obviously can’t all be truth and nothing but the truth, divine purpose in its existence, in the first place, was about our having completely solved the mystery. Fellowship in Christ is a matter of iron sharpening iron, a horizontal flow achieved through surrender of self, not unity in all of us believing the same thing. Admittedly, while the first part of such statement applies to any community of believers, the latter is almost impossible to handle when it concerns sharing a pew with those who don’t see it as you do. If the roots run deep enough, though, if history shared is a memory able to secure the bond, “Holy Ghost glue” takes care of the rest. Birthed into Pentecost and, at this stage of things, about to turn seventy-three in a few days, knowing such change in both “my bunch” and myself, I give thanks for an umbilical cord restored. Somehow that image suggests another “birthing” yet to come. Not sure, though, that I’ll want to see any replay of my own gestation period……

Friday, October 3, 2014


For the last four days my granddaughter has had my mind occupied with exploring the universe as Einstein and Hawking theorized it to be. As it turns out, as I discovered this morning while driving her out to school, one of her teachers is currently intrigued by the Bible declaring Jesus there “in the beginning”, one with His Father in the Creation, ergo “Before Abraham, I am”. Taken for what it seems to suggest, this earthly body, conceived by the Holy Ghost within Mary’s womb, having conquered death knew no restrictions in so far as “once it was, it always was”. What the students are being asked to consider, then, is the possibility of humanity at large to likewise one day solve the fourth dimension. Is it even conceivable that man might eventually build a time machine able to transport him “back to the future”? When you boil it all down, the geniuses are still only talking “theory”, looking at the “facts” as they perceive them to be, but “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” yet beyond their ability to grasp. They deal with bits and pieces, producing formulas that appear as if someone threw a bucket of pre-glued letters and symbols at an empty blackboard, the result resembling scrambled mess of hieroglyphics whose meaning is only understood by someone else familiar with the language. Stars collapsing inwardly to produce black holes, vacuums of sorts from which light can’t escape and the probability that two of them, on opposite side of a magnetic space wave could connect to provide a “wormhole” seems feasible to me, especially with modern telescopes and satellites feeding us images of their existence. I am, however, left with questions. MANY questions. If both sides of the equation are sucking everything into their individual tubes, what happens at the middle of this tunnel they make in merging together? Surely passing through it to the other side is defeated halfway, isn’t it? Furthermore, if all this originated from a big bang and all that’s out there is contained within nothing more than an infinite “blanket”, does that mean “reality”, as we know it, is no more than the outer layer of a cone formed by a huge explosion? That might explain our loss to assign all of this length and width; but what about depth? What’s occupying the enclosed area of the cone; or, for that matter, what’s beyond the point of origin, beyond the whole image? Forget past, future, and every other pluperfect tense. What, or better than that, WHO is holding this all in place? We speak of God. We take the Bible and “theologize” our individual reasoning of life’s enigma. Assurance, though, is “a reach through the veil”, a tangible inner connection in a man’s “belly”, not his head, and a “from faith to faith” stumble through this present moment. Tick. Tock. Forget the clock. Eternity lies within.....

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Last night’s mid-week service was more of a rally than anything else, one where all of the usual classes were cancelled for everyone to gather in the main sanctuary, united in common ministry: this Friday and Saturday’s two-day outreach “Hope Over Heroin”. Many there were wearing the bright neon yellow t-shirts imprinted with such slogan. Spirits were joined in enthusiasm for the goal before them: singing, preaching, witnessing, and praying on the inner-city streets with any and all seeking help concerning an addiction. Compared to our normal Sunday evening crowd, we were small in number. The pews were no more than three-quarters full. Our pastor was preaching elsewhere, having given full support to such event, but handing the reins over to an under-associate whose history involves an escape from drugs maybe a decade ago. My own emotions were mixed on this occasion, having been here before. This is not my first time to see some within the church “burn with fire” about an upcoming event taking the Gospel beyond the front doors. I’ve walked the ghetto area of Cincinnati late at night on earlier occasions, scaled the stairs of the tenements to knock on doors, and followed the Holy Ghost’s tug on my heart for five years within an outreach congregation birthed by another fellow. Such call is part of my identity in Christ. Experience has taught me, though, that “delivery”, on any grand scale, is a journey, one involving commitment. There is no magic wand. The problem, humanity as it exists, doesn’t get healed with merely a two-day meeting. I was pleased, therefore, to hear a sermon reflecting the truth of the Holy Ghost not always being a “quick fix”. Christianity isn’t a fairytale where the ugly ogre is suddenly changed into Prince Charming, but about reconnecting with an inner power Source willing to go with you for the “long haul”. Excitement will wane. Most believers’ passion will pass. Tomorrow is really a matter of the next step and who will be there with me in taking it. God gives guarantee. People remain people…….

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Nothing in my mind the last few days but babble, at least in the sense of not being able to grab hold of anything long enough to explore the nooks and crannies of it. The caricature I promised our favorite waiter at the Red Lobster is yet unfinished. The Rolheiser sequel that has entertained my love of literature the last couple of weeks has run dry about halfway through it. Services this past Sunday failed to stir me in any way and mostly life has been occupied with browsing through Einstein’s view of the universe, helping my granddaughter piece together a report due Monday. I mentioned Uno’s pizza to Beth Saturday and we drove about forty-five minutes north to a couple of flea markets not visited for years, stopping on the way back for the spinach-broccoli deep-dish we both love. Wandering a few of the outdoor stalls at the one location did bring me four books on WWII for ten bucks; but her back didn’t allow any real search of what was there. For the most part, these places remind me of what I used to see on inner-city street corners in Cincinnati, people hawking items out of automobile trunks, some of it, no doubt, stolen, but everything in the world, toiletries, clothing, jewelry, tools, somebody’s garage or warehouse all spilled out on rectangular tables and up for sale in much the same fashion as some of those Mediterranean ports known to me back in the early sixties. The vendor wanted thirty drachma; you offered him four and worked your way into an agreement. Life, in general, seems that way at the moment. Yesterday morning, having driven McKenna out to the church school, the old man picked up some McDonald coffee and two hash rounds before returning to attend her bi-weekly chapel service. They gather all the kids, kindergarten up to and including seniors, into the main sanctuary, sing a few songs before dismissing the little diddles, then turn it over to a speaker who addresses them with a short sermon before opening it up to prayer. It was an enjoyable hour for me who, so many years ago, double-shifted between its genesis and my job at the railroad, picking up students in an old broken-down van in the beginning and eventually teaching the upper learning center, tenth through twelve grade, the entire class able to fit into the left side of the balcony. Did we achieve anything in so far as our hope to provide a more sanctified, stable atmosphere for learning? Most certainly, here we are yet able to “sow seed”, our teachers all believers, the educational material not purged of that which originally birthed this country. The world is still the world, though; life is still life; and generation after generation makes its own way through this mess that humanity makes of it all. Even sitting in the third pew back, sermon or no sermon, Bible-filled or I-phone saturated, it takes an encounter. My heart cries to see one in our youth……..