Wednesday, December 31, 2014


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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


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

Monday, December 29, 2014


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

Saturday, December 27, 2014


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

Friday, December 26, 2014


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

Monday, December 22, 2014

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

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014


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

Saturday, December 20, 2014

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

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

Friday, December 19, 2014


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

Thursday, December 18, 2014


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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


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

Monday, December 15, 2014

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

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

Saturday, December 13, 2014


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

Friday, December 12, 2014


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

Thursday, December 11, 2014


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

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


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

Monday, December 8, 2014


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

Saturday, December 6, 2014


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

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

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

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

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

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

Monday, December 1, 2014


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