Monday, January 26, 2015


In spite of the reported successful box office gains that “American Sniper” is drawing, odds are that this old man won’t be purchasing a ticket. My pass on the opportunity, however, has nothing to do with the subject matter. From what I hear, the language throughout is satiated with four-letter vulgarities; and, while the use of an occasional mild expletive utilized here and there doesn’t offend me, there is a point, it seems to me, where it just becomes too much. As far as the story told in this one, my own history holds ten years of U.S. Naval service. Nothing that put me all that much into harm’s way. Some submarine duty in the Med playing “chicken” with the Russians. Having worn the uniform, though, there is a bond created, a “love of country” maintained, and the biggest item I wrestle with in this situation is not so much the idea of taking of another man’s life in battle, but the “authority” who chooses the war, picks the shot, and, in doing so, makes me a killer. Having just finished Brian Zahnd’s “Farewell to Mars”, a book devoted to embracing the Bible’s message of “love thy neighbor”, my own thoughts have been dancing with this theme before the movie was even released. Truthfully, my coming to Christ forty-three years ago altered my thinking in many ways. Is “pacifist” a label someone might pin on me? Like the author, my preferred choice would simply be “Christian”, there being no desire to fanatically chase some segment of the Gospel down the road. What I believe in is God’s voice, His tug on my inner anchor-line; and it is my personal contention that the road before us is accomplished in a stagger. Our Gospel may well be written in black and white (other than those possessing a red-lettered edition), but our next step will always be somewhere in the grey area, taken in faith, trusting in His grace. There is, it seems to me, that within the Book allowing me, directing me the right to defend my family. If war is pressed upon me, there is a self-defense permitted. Scripture instructs me to “be angry, and sin not”. Walking that thin line, obviously, is not an easy task. My major concern, therefore, is focusing on my own stumble, not a national hero. I salute the brave and the dead. I worry about this county…..

Friday, January 23, 2015

"The Throneroom..................."

The finality of what was shared with the men at the rescue mission last night pointed to a television commercial that I detest, one where some actor promotes security by investing in gold and silver and asks the question “What’s in YOUR safe?” My own use of the interrogative suggested that it might be better utilized to query what occupies our individual inner sanctuary, that secret place we all know within ourselves, that space that no one knows but me and God; and the only real item to explore is whether we have invited Christ inside to help clean up our mess. This, to me, is the heart of the Gospel, the kingdom He came to birth. Sadly, though, in looking around at the Church, at large, it puzzles me as to how well we have realized such truth. We establish our faith by how well we submit ourselves to the authority of the ecclesiastical institution, itself; and, in such manner, have split our identity into multiple fractions. We have deified the Book while, at the same time, framing from it enough theologies to rival Mars Hill. We have settled for good works as a means of expressing our conversion unto others, admittedly, admirable, but without a manifestation of His resurrected reality, just the right thing to do. People remain people, of course, and I are one; but that’s the very sermon I preach. That which convinces another of the Bible’s proclamation is not our humanity, not in in any form, that is, other than the vessel it can be for the Holy Ghost to come forth and reveal Himself! It’s not how glorious our worship service, how well we are able to recite chapter and verse, not even how much money and time we invest into outreach. The most powerful witness of this is Christ, Himself! If that seems to suggest Pentecostal voodoo” (for we have indeed injected enough of our vanity into speaking in tongues and assuming the Spirit to be ours to command), let me make it clear that our humanity in no way negates the fact that there is a true Indwelling desiring to so make Himself known unto the world. Be it through a still small voice or via some more awesome presentation, it begins with us investigating what really motivates our walk and then finds possibility in our surrendered willingness to experience it as we go…..

Monday, January 19, 2015


The following is a "comment" to a friend of mine("Faith Meets World" linked on my sidebar), a "response" probably a better term, due to the length thereof. It's always a good visit, mostly because he lives what puts forth in print, the two of us not always completely in agreement, but mutually able thus far to discuss perspectives and remain anchored in Christ. In a world cluttered with voices crying God to be here, there, and everywhere, this is my recipe for maintaining a good grip on "the tie that binds"....

I’ve been reading Brian Zahnd’s “Farewell to Mars”, Rob, am about halfway through it, and am in deep thought concerning his message as well as yours. The book is already highlighted and with my own sideline remarks throughout. I loved his father’s advice about the majority almost always being wrong and found his own analogy of the crowd being “antichrist” right on target. When he writes, as well, though that “The spiritual experience of expressing a shared hostility can even be confused for the Holy Spirit… because of how it feels”, he comes close to my own thinking, my own hesitations to simply swallow any group’s “call to arms”, even when that last use of wording is endorsing the very opposite of what it seems to imply.

Your declaration here of it becoming clearer every day that humanity is being challenged with a stark choice to either learn and adopt the Gospel of peace or face self-destruction is without argument, in my opinion. Yet, when you say that humanity needs a “mechanism to periodically reduce our propensity to resort to violence” and suggest that Gospel “revelation” fulfills such a role, I’m left to ponder whether you refer to just the Book or the One who, in breathing it into, must now, as well, breathe into me. You give me hope when you speak of our needing more than “common sense or enlightenment” to ward off all threats, for, as Zahnd seems to imply, a believer, even a “born-again, filled with the Spirit” believer, still stumbles down the path clad in his own humanity. Where does that leave us, though?

I’m not wanting to give debate. We are agreed, hopefully, in the urgency before mankind as a global community. My own walk, however, has determined that the best that any individual can manage in this is to be a vessel for the reality of His resurrected Presence within us; and that involves a trinity: the Bible as well as we can decipher it; His tug on that paternal umbilical cord restored unto us via the Holy Ghost; and the journey, itself, as a lesson unto us as we go. I do ponder this present-day Church that seems to make a totem pole out of the Book, assume for themselves what, in truth, belongs to “Christ in me”, or throw it all out, lock, stock, and barrel, to create their own solution for what it takes to eventually enter through the Pearly Gates. The ecclesiastical institution, as a whole, as much, or more so than anything else, gives indication to me of “finality”. Judgment, it is written, must begin at the House of God.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


It’s been thirteen years since I retired from three decades of working on the railroad as a clerk. In 1971 my job involved simply driving a truck around the yard, hauling crews and delivering mail, several keypunch positions that communicated between various locations, and numerous types of office tasks otherwise. Being able to frequently move from one thing to another on that roster was initially a plus, my age, after two enlistments in the Navy yet young enough to enjoy change and, with more than four hundred slots to fill, somewhere someone was always dying, retiring, giving birth to vacancy in some manner. Seniority would eventually alter that somewhat. The introduction of the computer, however, was a killer and by the time I walked away, never to return, three huge national rail systems had merged into one that required no more than thirty-five or so individuals to handle that part of the business. What was once “security” for many men no longer extended to them such promise. Indeed, every so often my sleep finds me dreaming that I’m still employed in such manner, but facing a particular technical assignment beyond my ability to perform, so much so that my gut hurts pondering how to support my family when they fire me for my incompetence. Where do I go? What do I do now? It takes a few seconds after awaking with such fear to gather my thoughts as to reality as it actually is. How many today, though, have actually known this in their life, living now either on welfare checks or visiting homeless shelters? My boss, during that final segment of my employment, as men were being transferred across the country or else handed a small severance package, told me with a smirk on his face that people were stupid if they didn’t invest in stocks and bonds to protect themselves against future possibilities. The last report on him, after Wall Street crashed and the CSX decided they didn’t need his services any longer, was that he was divorced and selling insurance. There are no guarantees; tomorrow is in His hands; and any promise of peace is a matter of knowing Him through an inner connection. Such an anchorage has held me throughout whatever storm has come my way, an assurance confirmed each time this old sailor kneels at His altar. No nightmare can conquer that……

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Whenever I’m sitting in somebody’s office, my usual tendency is to seek whatever copies of National Geographic might be hidden in the pile of magazines, the pictures they contain, admittedly, being that which captures my attention for the most part. Sometimes, though, the articles pertaining to the photos gets me as well, particularly if the subject matter is biological or cosmological, scientific facts to take my mind sailing into the deep. Yesterday afternoon, while waiting for my granddaughter to fulfill her appointment with the dentist, was such an occasion. The mystery presented unto me was various killer parasites, one, with a name already lost to an old man’s memory, abides in creeks and ponds shallow enough for children to entertain themselves, splashing, wading, chasing dragonflies. Yet, while there is no plausible reason why it shouldn’t interject itself into a human’s life, it seeks out tadpoles only, as if its DNA contains specific instructions as to just what it may or may not utilize as a host for its appetite. Even weirder, after the invader has eaten its fill and matured to a certain stage, it repositions itself in its victim’s brain, leading it in a sense to commit “suicide by bird”, surfacing with no attempt to escape being dinner for the next crane in the neighborhood. Thus eggs are spread and the cycle is repeated again and again. The assassin has a cousin which attacks cats in much the same manner, the final stages of cohabitation involving a lobotomy; but Puss-in-boots often survives, departure in this case not involving his having to cross paths with a German Shepherd. Such phenomenon might well puzzle some folk (Annie Dillard comes to mind) in so far as why a loving Creator would have made this particular method of “population control” part of the big picture; but what I see is “precision”. It is, in truth, a schematic such as none other, designed by Deity so that “all things work together”, in a sense a “perpetual motion machine”. To believe that all this evolved out of some original single-cell creature crawling out of primordial muck is more than my brain can fathom. While it might likewise be said that God, Himself, is beyond my ability to assign any definition that completely contains all that He is, yet His reality exists as a solution to all my questions, an anchorage that holds me on this side of the veil. Thus secured, there is peace in exploring the deep…….

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

""Back in the Saddle................"

This past May, after twelve years of working within Elementary Special-Education, I “pulled the plug” for the third time, but immediately submitted my name and phone number for possible calls to substitute teach at our church school. The principle seemed delighted adding me to their roster and my expectations were hoping for being utilized possibly one day a week, maybe more, enough to keep this old man from gathering cobwebs in front of his computer anyhow. August, September, October: nothing. By Christmas I reasoned my initial enthusiasm had been a bit too intense. They had changed their mind. It wasn’t supposed to be; and, in truth, somewhere along the way, having no obligations to anything or anyone other than my wife was starting to feel pretty good. Monday morning, though, before the granddaughter (who was staying with us overnight) was even out of bed to start her day, a phone-call asked if I could handle the Fifth Grade. Icy temperatures and the road conditions had prompted the country to issue a one hour delay. Written instructions awaited me on the teacher’s desk, making my initial plunge a little easier to negotiate; but it must also be said that the nine kids, stuck with me for the rest of the day, were the biggest part of my finding it to be an enjoyable experience. Science, Math, and Bible were all visited and diligently plowed. A Library class and a gym period made space for me to not get lost in transition. Four boys and five girls. A mixture of personalities reminding me of the old television series “Welcome back, Kotter”, the faces in front of me just a few years younger. “Me! Me! Pick me, teach!” The child who knows he’s not as fast at pushing numbers as everybody else. The “clique”, even in that small amount of individuals; and the class “clown” injecting humor in to everything. It was a great group, one that hopefully will come to me again somewhere down the road. Next time high school? Whatever. It all is in His timing and nowadays it all is just one day at a time……

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"Culinary Tips..........."

Within the next three weeks my calendar now holds three appointments, each with opportunity of bringing forth unto others this inner connection established in Christ nearly forty-three years ago. Two of the dates are regular commitments, the Youth Detention Center and the rescue mission, a part of my life for well over a decade. The third is nothing new, in the sense of having ministered to church kids many times before. My grandchildren will be in this bunch, however, part of those who attend our own interdenominational school; and, in truth, this particular “congregation”, as a whole, sits in just as much need of the Holy Ghost in its midst as does the other two. Environment and circumstance does not change our humanity. Life “happens”, even in a sanctuary. What does one say to others concerning hope? How does one share possibility? Other than making yourself a vessel through which He might come forth, one doesn’t; and the way that usually works for me is usually no more than a word, a singular term “cooking” in that pool known in the depths of who I am. The aroma comes up and stirs my thoughts. My mind tries to capture it, examine it, and, at the same time, try to hear His voice speak to me concerning it. Always, though, the process remains throughout a joint operation. He is the “integrity” of the venture, holding it all together; and I am just a messenger, ill-fitted for producing any great message on my own. My talents do not embrace public speaking. If the “eggs in my basket” are to become an omelet, this old man needs to find the hem of His garment. That brings assurance; and all that’s necessary thereafter is stepping into His flow. Such recipe applies to much more than standing behind a pulpit, which, by the way is a ping pong table in the first place, a lectern in the second, a small stand at the latter, and all rarely used for anything other than a spot to lay my Bible. A starting point; no more. He then assembles all the ingredients, adds the variables, and seasons it to His tastes. If repeated more than once, the meal, even so, is never quite the same dish………

Thursday, January 8, 2015


After three or four weeks of no mid-week Bible study due to holiday festivities, we began a new commitment last night to read the entire Book in ninety days. Mostly this initial class was a matter of all those there either giving witness as to why they had opted to take the journey, or testifying as to what digesting the written Word brings to one’s life. The hardest part for this old man was, as it always is, hearing pieces of the puzzle framed in terms contrary to that which he has come to believe. Humanity wants to immediately address such issues instead of waiting for the Holy Ghost to open such doors at His discretion. It is not my lesson to teach, however; and, even if it was, such authority must be surrendered unto Christ “in” me. Ministry isn’t about creating replicas of myself. Proverbs makes a pretty good point, also, when it lists a six-pack of “things that the Lord doth hate” and the isolates a seventh one as “stirring up discord among the brethren”, labeling it an “abomination” unto Him. Still, while I can understand an admonition pronounced unto all there that anything discussed in our gathering together as a group must always fall within the boundaries set by our church’s doctrinal statement of just what we hold to be Gospel, it makes me wonder if the denominational body isn’t somewhat guilty of trying to clone itself rather than the risen Savior. Looks to me like any pursuit of Jesus has to take us (as the author of Hebrews put it) “outside the camp”, since the box we, ourselves, have erected to hold Him has to fall far short of containing Him in all that He is. Our flesh, it seems to me, is on both sides of that debate; and, as for me and my house, I choose the stagger down the path following Him, rather than bowing down before a totem pole. If we can’t, as members of His body, give evidence of what we claim to possess, then how much value does this faith actually hold? If unity is nothing more than all minds fused in a common dogmatic demand instead of multiple perspectives surrendered unto His Spirit leading us in the next step, aren’t we more of an oxymoron than proof of His resurrection? Just sayin……..

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


We went to bed last night with a slight coating of snow already on the car windows and the weather predicting significant depth before morning. Such report, for an old man who no longer has to go to work in it all, merely encouraged me to put the Fiesta in the garage. How nice, though, to look outside a few minutes ago and discover the world outside frozen in a sudden plunge of temperature with only hint of the white stuff here and there. Sitting down in my recliner next to that electric fireplace heater, I settled down with one of my books that arrived yesterday, just me and Frederick Buechner starting a new day in the silence of my living room. “The Yellow Leaves” is not all that thick of a collection of the author’s thoughts, memories gathered together and wrapped into what he, himself, speaks of as perhaps a finality to all else; and his words, with just a decade separating us in this journey, speak to my heart. A descriptive four pages of his mother as she was in her own transition of “approaching the exit”, five more reflecting on an autistic brother-in-law, and then a little over nine detailing encounters entertained with three different U.S. Presidents. Roosevelt was a childhood experience, an image stamped within of his huge frame exiting an elevator, supported by an individual on either side and leaving a young boy with the thought that the most important man in the world needed others to help him. Truman was another story, looking as though it might take two strong men to hold him down should his anger be stirred; and yet, seated at a dinner table with his back half turned toward this newly-married writer, he unknowingly provided glimpse of “seeing the world through his eyes”, his thick-lensed glasses focused on a wife he called, not Bess, but “boss”. Eisenhower was an “opinion changer”, his political views and his military history not held in high regard by Buechner. The two of them, however, were scheduled to speak at a college graduation; and the seating arrangement, by a quirk of fate, placed them side by side. Almost all of the occasion’s details, otherwise, have long been lost; but what remains is the general’s smile, a facial expression that “held nothing back and asked nothing back”. It was straight from the man, himself, no false production for the public, and it broke through all else. Suddenly all the years of badmouthing him and not voting for him were dismissed were replaced by the knowledge that if the moment arose and required it, he would follow him anywhere…. I read, and find myself there within the reflections. Different times. Different people. Humanity unchanged. The globe spins and orbits the sun. Winters come and winters go. What remains is this thread of life that connects us all. How precious the well from which it flows………

Saturday, January 3, 2015


Charles Krauthammer is a Jewish political news columnist who appears quite frequently on Fox. A diving accident during his early college years made him a paraplegic, altering him physically, but in no way spiritually. He continued studying medicine, but gradually determined his real love lay elsewhere as he watched this country’s government evolve, his own views changing with it. It gives no clues as to how much his religious heritage affects his thinking, but I admit to my surprise in hearing him recently speak of our universe possessing thousands of planets capable of possibly knowing intelligent life forms. Why have none thus far ever contacted us? According to him, it’s never happened because, before reaching an ability to do so, they destroyed themselves; and, if we are to escape the same fate, our best bet is politics! Personally, I have only to examine the success attained by the league of United Nations, since its inception back in 1945, to conclude that sitting down at a table together to discuss human affairs will never garner peace on Earth. Without some surrender unto He who created all of this in the first place, we’re doomed. Furthermore, while I do believe Christ to be the one answer for men to realize serenity within themselves, there yet remains a need for us, as a religious faith, to find the fullness of what the Creator extends unto us through Calvary. Otherwise, all we bring to the situation is but more of the same: theology in contention. Either we unite in His reality alive within us, or all we manifest is our own ego. Either He lives and owns my heart, or this Gospel I proclaim is no more than my own “stinkin thinkin”. A stumble down the path for us all? Most assuredly; but the only question is whether we are willing to give that stagger unto His reins……

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Fredrick Buechner is one of my favorite authors and, thanks to a Christmas gift card, there are three more books of his being shipped to me via UPS. Hopefully, none will prove to be the same discovery experienced with a recent purchase of a devotional from Joseph Beth. It turned out that a copy of it was already a part of my collection. Even so, a buddy benefitted from my loss of memory and the incident sparked a re-read of the author’s thoughts therein. Thus it is that, on January 1st, 2015, the old man is occupied with a July 17th entry that, oddly enough, speaks of the Greeks possessing two words for time, (a) “chromos”, which speaks in a quantitative sense, chronological in that we divide it into durational segments; and (b) “kairos”, which puts it into qualitative terms possessing no measurement at all. It is possible, I wonder, to know a balance of those two, a place where, in spite of the clock and the calendar’s grip on our existence, one can know “life” without losing cognizance of reality, where, even though a peace is maintained within the soul, concern and compassion is not ignored for others around us? My entry on Facebook this morning referenced an old cartoon of two golfers ignoring what appears to be nuclear holocaust occurring in the background in order to finish putting before the shock wave overtakes them. A present-day version has our current President inserted into that same scenario and there might well be some political truth to such accusation; but what concerns me is “me”. Putting meaning into moment has to involve more than just satisfying my own comforts, chasing my own dreams, operating only out of my own perspectives. That’s true in all areas of our existence. Marriage requires two become one; church membership demands the same surrender with the numbers multiplied; community must at least be approached with an effort to accept the other person’s humanity. Reduce Christ to a theology anywhere within those perimeters and a believer has no more than a religious robe, a covering beneath which eternity is not already conquered in an inner connection, but a future yet to be achieved through his own doctrinal determination. I choose walking with the Holy Ghost…..