Monday, December 26, 2011

Routine Doesn't Detract from the Miracle

Well it is the day after Christmas. The three garbage bags of minced wrapping paper, grand kids style, have been put into the dumper. Gigi's extra large box of batteries is almost empty, toys seem to suck them dry in no time. Two of the grand kids are in the front room watching Cars2, almost seems normal. Two dogs in the house have been outside, done their thing and came back in and started to wrestle. I call it that because it is hard to describe a twenty pound Westen Terrier trying to battle a one hundred and eighty pound Saint Shepherd. I guess the day after Christmas seems like every other day.

Mary's day after Christmas must have been just like every other new mothers. The folks around the Inn and village would come by and tell her how beautiful her newborn was. I don't know if she told them about the angels or the shepherds. She had mothering things that had to get done and she was the mother that had to do it. Now, I'm sure Joseph would help as much as possible, you know, run down to the corner store and buy disposable diapers, Nappies, for my English friends. But there are things a dad just can't do, no more needs to be said.

Along with the mothering things Mary would need to rest. Even though she gave birth to God her body needed rest and healing. The days leading up to the presentation of their child would be about the only rest Mary would get. We have no record of any extended family from either side coming to help Mary in the early days. She is pretty much on her own with her newborn, including all of those feedings during the night and early morning. Again, I'm sure Joseph was by her side, but that is about all.

History and faith has recorded that first Christmas as the greatest miracle ever. But, very few people, outside the shepherds, even new what took place. The importance of the miracle would need a lot of time to grow. Days, weeks, months and birthdays would come and go until the real import of that day would begin to dawn upon mankind. Mary would get a small picture when her son was found in the temple debating with the elders. Almost twenty more years would pass, routine and mundane days filled with chores and the minuscule items of life.

Miracles can rise high in our field of vision. And, it is perfectly normal for them to cast a shadow over the living that takes place. We experience the miraculous from the hand of God and living has to go on. The miracle must change us, our heart and spirit, but it doesn't eliminate the everyday routine of life. Work must be done and the bills paid, groceries need to be bought and the pile of dirty clothes doesn't vanish because we experienced the miraculous hand of God. Mary was expected to live out her routine and responsibility. Beside being a virtuous young woman, it is just possible that God also knew that she would be faithful to the routine and mundane of being a mother, yes, even to the Christ of God.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Creation Stands Still

Creation stands still, from the edge of deepest space to the tiny blade of grass next to the stall there is stillness. The quiet is their acknowledgement of the deepest reverence possible. For a moment in time the created world bows, every element within everything material knows the world is going to change. In a way no man could understand the created world knows their Creator has taken on human form.

The Bible is pretty clear in stating that even the created world has been cheated and disfigured by the fall of man. The earth was cursed and yielded her fruit only after hard labor. The book of Romans puts forth that the created world groans and waits in expectation, like a birthing mother. When the world is finally set right by the coming Kingdom Of God even creation will enjoy her original glory. I wonder how much more glorious the heavens can become. But they will become even more glorious.

The first advent has meaning for every person who will have a place in their heart for the Christ child. For those who seek Him will find Him, those who long for Him will find fulfilment. He tells us that He stands at the door and knocks and if we allow Him entrance into our lives He will give us life like never before. His life, at the first advent, is His gift to us.

The second Advent will have meaning for all of creation, for that is when the kingdom will come and creation enjoy her new glory. The Second Advent is also the time all humanity, followers of Jesus and non-followers, will bend their knees and acknowledgement of the Christ will pour forth from their mouths. Governments will collapse as the kingdom will reign. Kings, presidents and dictators will fall on their knees in recognition of the Supreme King of all time and space.

Let His Kingdom Come.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Additional Thoughts on Being and Doing

Society tends to judge people as successful or not by what they do, accomplish, achieve. And, that also means money, power and influence. A prime example is professional sports, there are many others as well. As long as they make the crowds happy and bring in the revenue their state of being doesn't matter. Oh, if they do something so disgusting and break the law it might matter. Some years ago a professional sports star admitted to sleeping with hundreds of women. It didn't seem to hurt his celebrity status, in fact it might have helped him. That story can be retold a hundred times and include politicians and preachers. What we see with our eyes seems to be more important than what we perceive with our hearts and understanding.

Jesus told us that we would be in the world but we should not be part of the world. Now I don't know what that means to you. To me it simply means that I am supposed to live under a different influence. What I do is supposed to line up with what I say I believe; that is being in a state of congruity. Being is difficult, it takes intentionality and a spiritual grounding in something outside of self. Trying to explain how to find a true state of being is like trying to give instructions on catching air. I don't think I can explain to others how to achieve the state congruity. I know how I need to work on it and what helps me.

I struggled last week with knowing I had many things to do and wasn't getting them done. My state of being was more important than accomplishing tasks for my book. I needed to be a grampa (Bumpa), which meant spending a couple of hours in the morning watching cartoons(Never SpongeBob), with my youngest grandson on my lap. And it would be repeated in the afternoon, with a hopeful nap. My grand kids needed me to be their Bumpa. In the long run, when time is not, being a Bumpa might be more important.

Peaceful is a state of being. Contentment is a state of being. Loving is a state of being. Hopeful is a state of being. These virtues flow out of the inner person, they cannot be manufactured or contrived. When they are false they collapse under the stress of living. When these marvelous attributes are genuine they can and do withstand the tests of living.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Being or Doing

I just went through a rather short period of inner conflict, short meaning four or five days. The conflict was about doing everything that I had to do, against being. Now, so as not to appear nuts, let me explain. At the end of this I hope some of you understand and can relate. I have some really important things that need to get accomplished within the next week or so. Like, this piece and book requirements. I figured how much time I would need to get things done and the tasks completed. I made commitments to have certain things done by a certain time. Yes I know, these are issues we all deal with everyday. We have responsibilities and in order to pay the bills and keep gas in the vehicle we must do what we must do.

Now comes the conflict. A serious family issue came up and I had to set aside my to-do list and concentrate on being, being Bumpa(grampa). Being is so difficult for me as I am pretty task drive, as most men are. I guess the female gender may not be quite as driven, I have my doubts. I like to know and see what I have accomplished. A good wood project that projects the perfect idea or image is to be admired. I drive Donna crazy when we go someplace in the car. Once I point the front of the Sebring towards the destination there is little time or patience for abstractions, like garage sales or weird things along the side of the road. I can head to a destination 300 to 400 miles away and tell you within ten minutes when I will arrive, I've got a problem.

Being, an inner sense purpose and knowledge of intrinsic values. Think of the following states of being and what mind picture do you have. Being in love; being a friend; being a grandpa; being a gramma; being a student; being a teacher; being a parent. All of these states of being are also coupled with actions. Gramma's bake cookies and Bumpa's sit in their chair and watch cartoons with a four year old. CONFLICT comes when you go over in your mind all of the things that you should be doing instead of being.

More on this later I have to get busy doing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dad was The Real Santa Claus

I remember the time the real truth about Santa hit me. And, I say, hit me, for a very good reason. It was a childhood revelation with a gigantic impact. Indulge me a moment to explain. A few days before Christmas Santa always showed up at the American Legion in Riverview. Why would Santa come to the legion? I didn't know and as a kid I didn't really care. I was just happy that he came. So, every Christmas the Galloway kids went to the legion Christmas party. There was an endless supply of soda pop and little bags of chips. We all knew that a big moment was going to come, we just didn't know exactly when.

With a huge belly laugh Ole Saint Nick would announce his arrival. Somehow he appeared, almost out of nowhere. All of us kids would laugh and giggle and scurry around trying to get close. A really big chair was waiting for the jolly gift giver, up near the Christmas tree. With almost continuous belly laughs he would sit down and us kids would scurry into a line. No cuts in line were allowed, nor even thought of, Santa would certainly see such a serious naughty.

One by one all of the waiting kids would get up on Santa's lap and the most serious question in the entire universe would be asked; Have you been good for your mom and dad? I don't know about any of my friends, but I always answered yes. Deep inside I was hoping Santa wasn't God, and knew very well all of the things I did wrong. Like, tell my brother, Tim, he was going to hell for killing my frog. I did pay for that sin with a well placed bar of soap, coming from my mother. I guess he wasn't God because Christmas morning I was always happy.

Talk about having ants in your pants, waiting in line was as bad a waiting to get the winter dose of Cod Liver Oil, also distributed by mom. When it was finally my turn I got up on Santa's lap and after a couple of belly laughs he asked the all important question. My rather sheepish yes brought another belly laugh. And then it happened, the revelation of all time. My dad was the Real Santa, I could tell. It wasn't his laugh or anything like that, it was the ring on his finger. I recognized the ring. Wow, what a secret I was now carrying around in my adolescent brain. My dad, the Real Santa. No other kid in the universe could say that. But, for  a while I would have to keep the secret.

Many years later I had the opportunity to be the Real Santa. We were living in Niles and my good friend, Larry Clymer, wasn't able to visit the kids like he always did for the Optimist Christmas party. I agreed to attempt to fill the role. The first problem was the outfit. Larry was about 5'8" and I was 6'4". Well with some elf magic the suit fit. the next problem was the Ho, Ho, Ho and the deep belly laugh. I didn't know if I could pull that one off. I practiced the laugh and the all too familiar, Ho Ho. Just before my entrance to the waiting children I was in the bathroom, one last practice and out the door. As I reached for the door it opened, a very small hand from the other side had given it a tug. Much to my surprise, and I'm sure to his, I was standing in front of the son of the district court judge. Little John was in the first grade. His dark brown eyes seemed to glow as he looked at me. Santa, Santa, are you the real Santa? With a perfect belly laugh and a much practiced Ho, Ho, Ho, I told him I was and in fact that I knew his name and his dad.

The story is true and a short time later little John was killed in a tragic accident. I cherish the memory of being the real Santa for a bright eyed little boy that Christmas. I hope and pray that his dad and family continue to remember his bright smile and awe filled eyes.

What about you? What do people see in you? I'm not talking about the real Santa. I'm talking about the real Jesus Christ. The real Saint Nicholas was always about the real Jesus. That is why he gave and lived, so others would see Christ in him. May our Christmas gift to the world be, Christ alive in us.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Random Thoughts on Being a Christmas Shepherd

They were men used too and at home with dirt, dung and dew.
They were men of earth, skin dark and weathered by years of earth's elements endured
Hands, fingers bent, scared, assured the safety of the sacrificial flock.
Dirt as skin with these men. Dust of summer fills their lungs as the mud of spring clings to their feet.
Dirt, dark and rich with pungent smell, holds life as men of dirt will tell.

Dung on earth enables springs green birth, left by sheep, new growth to keep.
The dew shimmers and glistens with such beauty, entrancing beyond jewels.
The drops cling to wool and blade, riches for common man Creator-made.

Just some visual words for the Holydays

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dreams- Don't Let Them Die

I remember the first story I wrote in elementary school. The Radioactive Rabbit, was based on a movie I watched on TV with Mickey Rooney. He was caught in the fallout of a radioactive blast. My radioactive rabbit was as big as a person. Another attempt at writing came years later when I wrote a story about my dog, Scout. He was caught in a coyote trap. I found him nearly frozen late on a February night a couple of miles from our house, in the wilderness of northern Michigan. I sent the story to Readers Digest and got a real nice, Rejection Letter. I was disappointed and it took a few weeks for me to get over the rejection of a piece of writing that was sure to be prized.

I am blessed to be able to have a book near publication. My work on, A Mother's Heart Moved the Hand of God, was my therapy. I had no intention of putting it out into the public world. I wrote because I needed to, I had to write down experiences and pains to see if anything made any sense. For hours at a time the words gushed out and the yellow tablet filled. To stop writing would have been like stopping a dam with a giant hole in it. At many point the writing was raw and painful, wounds would bleed again. When I came to what I thought was the end I wanted to set it aside. I would be able to look at it and feel some sense of accomplishment. A few people knew what I was doing and wanted to read it. The exposure of my thoughts and spirit was not what I wanted.

Purpose- My writing struck a nerve with some people, people I trusted and valued. They encouraged me to complete the writing in a manuscript form. I was told that the real message of the book needed to be told and that I was entrusted with the story for a purpose. Well, that put a whole different light on the subject. If I was entrusted with the story how could I not put it out into the world. So, I decided that if I was entrusted with the truth and story I must complete it and wait to see what should be done with it. When it was done I let a few people read the entire manuscript and the encouragement continued.

Hold On- I completed the body of the story and knew that some important truths were in the writing. Now, what should be done with it. I researched the publishing world and learned some pretty sobering facts. Hundreds of thousands of manuscripts are written and submitted each year and very few get read. For first time authors the chance of finding an agent and publisher is almost impossible. What made me think I would be any different. Time passed and doubts piled up. Pretty soon the manuscript was in a nice binder and sitting on the shelf. The passing of time brought a great friend into my life and new hope. The manuscript was recorded as an audio book. The few copies that we made were an impact in the lives of the people that listened. I needed to hold on to the dream that what was entrusted to me would find a place when the time was right.

Message and Messenger- I needed to remember that I was just the messenger. God could have picked any other person to tell the story, but He picked me. Good or bad, pain or joy, I was the one who was to tell the story. The message is always more important than the one proclaiming. John the Baptist heralded in the ministry of Jesus Christ. He proclaimed His coming and told others that, He must increase and I must decrease. Christian writing must always keep the proper relationships. Writers are entrusted with a message and they will give account of the message and talent in which they were to proclaim the message. Communicating the message from God, in print or voice, is, and should be, an awesome responsibility. A responsibility not to be taken lightly, nor thought of as being optional. The accounting finds the faithful and the lazy, the accountant knows what each has been given.

Dream- The thought that words put down on paper could influence the way people live has always been compelling to me. Do writers have big egos? I suppose most do. But, the idea that what is written can be used by God for years to come out to temper any ego with the sobering fact of, truth. Do not let your dreams die. Believe that there is a time when God will make light shine on the truth He entrusted to you.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Puppy Dogs

We have a new puppy in the house. Knox is a cute Wheaten Terrier, about 12 weeks old. We picked the name due to the fact that Knox is Scottish and we are a bit weird. John Knox was a famous Scottish preacher whose prayer was, Give me Scotland ere I die. Now, Knox was not supposed to be living with us, at least not yet. You see, we had a cat that was gramma's cat. A rather fat and lazy Calico, named of course, Cali. She was almost 15 when we had to lay her to rest. After the tears Donna and I came to an understanding about pets, no more for a while. Wait a couple of years and then think about another addition to the family. Addition to the family, that is exactly what a pet is to our family.

A Puppy is- A puppy is exactly that, a puppy. A puppy is not a small dog. A small dog used to be a puppy. Expect dog stuff from a puppy and you will either get mad or be disappointed. Expect puppy stuff from a puppy and you will enjoy the puppy and not be surprised when they do the bad puppy stuff. Knox is a ball to play with. Donna has bought, from thrift stores, more toys and stuffed animals for this puppy than all the other pets combined. He has a stuffed Elmo that is twice his size, he doesn't hesitate to wrestle and fight with Big Elmo. He also does the puppy stuff we don't like. He can be outside for an hour and come into the house to pee. I know what you are thinking, well you are not training him right. Well, we are, we have had at least a dozen puppies that have all graduated into dogs. We didn't flunk any of them, or ship them off to doggies disobedience school. Knox is learning and each day he is getting a little better. For now I want him to be a puppy, and beat up on Elmo. Soon he will be a dog and Elmo might go into the toy box.

A Dog is- A dog is the sum of puppy learning and training. Knox loves to go for walks with Donna. He loves to smell the leaves and root around in the dirt. That is part of his nature as a terrier. He loves to burrow under blankets and take rides in my truck. Partly because he knows that when he goes for a ride treats are waiting. When I drive through the teller window at the bank Knox jumps on mt lap and stares at the teller, he knows that a treat is coming. Knox will grow up to be a wonderful companion dog for Donna. He will not be the relaxed and peace loving dog that one would expect from a retriever. He will be rather protective and spoiled. He might learn some cute tricks, like prancing on two back legs. Donna is teaching him now. Knox will become what we influence him to become.

Expectations- Some might be offended at the relationship that I am drawing between puppies and people. So be it. But the issue of expectations fits very well. We are living in a world where expectations without understanding seems to be the norm. Let us look at the relationship expectations in many families. Have you ever met parents who expect their child to be little adults. They expect their children to talk like adults and think like they do. How many children have lost childhood because they had to live like an adult. The same is true when it comes to faith and growth in our spiritual life. People of any age, who come to faith in Christ, begin as children. We need to let them be children, we need to guide and make sure that the right nourishment is available. Many Christians begin their faith life with little guidance and nurturing. And, we are surprised when they do childish things. Many people of new-born faith face issues and problems that seem to drag them down. Without someone close by their side it is easy for them to give up on trying to live as a Christian.

Puppies are puppies and will grow up to be dogs. Children need to be children, they will become adults. New-born people of faith need to be allowed to be new-born and then grow. We must help each other along the way with expectations saturated with understanding.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Company of Heros

I grew up in the company of hero's. My father and four of his brothers served in combat zones during the second world war. There was always something mysterious about my hero's. I knew that my dad fought in the Pacific against the Imperial Japanese. But he was slow to talk about what he experienced. I do remember as a child of about ten sitting on the floor, with my brothers and sisters, asking dad about the war. He told us of a couple of instances during his time in New Guinea and the Philippines. On one occasion an enemy plane was shot down as it tried to machine gun his camp. The plane crashed less than a hundred yards from him. He also talked about helping some fellow soldiers who were suffering from severe dysentery.

What I learned later, he never told us, was, he paddled a dugout canoe for many miles to get the soldiers to an aid station. His action saved their lives. It is hard to imagine today what that scene must have been like. He received a commendation for his actions. Later I learned he suffered from cerebral malaria, which would haunt him for some time. Since I had malaria as well, I well know what he went through. More men in his division died of disease than of combat wounds. As with thousands of soldiers his feet were terribly infected with jungle rot. All of this he talked very little about.

The mark of a real hero is they always deflect attention. My father, like thousands of hero's, down played his actions and elevated those of his friends. He never wanted attention for what he did because he knew he was fortunate to have survived when thousands did not. Now, my father was not without his faults. Hero's are real men and women, prone to all of the problems and failures of mankind. He carried with him scars that would affect his adult life. All hero's have feet of clay, ask any of them. One of the iconic figures that raised the flag on the island of Iwo Jima died a broken alcoholic.

We are hurting for real hero's today. There have been some remarkable stories in the recent times of real hero's. Not sport stars that are paid millions to show off their talents. Not actors and actresses that live rich and lavish lives because people plunk down money to watch them. They are not hero's. They may be idols in a world that seems screwed up, but hero's, no. A few stories of our men and women who are protecting our liberties today are trickling out into the public. Hero's, men and women who put aside fear and even logic, to do what their spirit tells them is the right thing to do.

There are real hero's around us. Remember they will never tell you how brave they were, how they overcame fear and did the remarkable.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Demise or Dream- Dilemma of the Small Congregation

Over the past few years I have the opportunity and blessing to work with a few small churches that were struggling in their ministry direction. It is indeed a privileged because the folks in these congregations are dedicated and committed to the message of Christ. One of the biggest issues they face is what I call, Fuzzy Future, their direction seems unclear and with little focus. They know that they need to be the Body of Christ to their world and the world around them. At times, they just don't know how to accomplish, The Great Commission. Over a period of an eight to twelve hour seminar style gathering the people are able to begin understanding how God has impressed upon them certain values. The values we keep close to our heart are the source of great passion. From these values springs forth a prayer filled vision that empowers the congregation to live out the commission from Christ.

Values- All people have a set of values. What they determine in their mind and soul to be important and a priority in living. Values are as varied as the people that hold them. A few are common and universal, Loving relationships, Children, Health, Nutrition, Safety etc. Others might be music, education, fellowship, and specific cultural or demographic values.  The important thing for congregations is to come to an understanding of mutual values.

Understanding mutual values is the first step in congregational focus. People need to come together and talk about and define their values. This first step may take as little as an hour, or more. It is amazing to watch this process as people can become very passionate as they talk about what pulls at their heart. Values are written out on large sheets of paper or marker board. The next step is to prioritize the stated values. There may be a few values written down or dozens. These values need to be prioritized down to four or five. These four or five values will be the driver behind the most passion and commitment from the group. The group needs to be in agreement that the values are of the highest priority. Prayer and communication will be the elements that enable these to come together.

Vision- This portion of the gathering is of the utmost importance. Worship and prayer need to preceded and proceed this portion. The gathering needs to pray over and ponder the vision that God will lay upon their hearts in light of the values they have expressed. This "Visioning" process will take time. It may be best if a time of rest and more prayer takes place prior to expression and understanding of God's Vision for the congregation. This is a time of openness and vulnerability and the freedom for all to express themselves must not be hindered. Remember this is asking people to reveal their heart and desire for their church as they believe God is showing them.The process of expressing and writing down the vision needs time.

Prayer and worship will be used by God to bring His people together. Remember it is His church and He wants His people to accomplish His will depending upon His power. The vision that is born through this process will be unique to the congregation. It will be their passion for ministry and purpose that will empower them into the future.

The priority of the Vision Statement is utmost. This statement will be used to guide the congregation in the focus of ministry. Resources such as financial, building use, time and talent will be focused on the ministry of the vision. This will bring great freedom to the people as they have agreed to the new priorities in ministry.

Mission- The mission of the church has been given to us by Jesus Christ himself. He told His followers that their life focus would be the spreading of the gospel. Matthew 28:18 begins, The Great Commission. The mandate to the church is plain and straightforward. Take the message of the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ to the known world. Bring new believers into the fellowship and empower their growth into Christ likeness.

Many churches are in a state of confusion because they think their mission changes or is open to any or all sorts of interpretation. Any mission that wanders from the heart of Christ is not the churches. It may be noble and good for people or society but it is not the mission of the church nor is it the true mission of the people of God. The spread of the gospel brings life to people. The people that the gospel changes become participants in the message. They reach out and touch others and the church is alive.

I am not stating that all outreach ministries within the local church should stop. Not in the least. What must be clear is the preaching of the transforming power and love of God as shown in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, must be first and foremost. Ministries of feeding the hungry, helping the disadvantaged, and the myriad of other social causes must be kept in place.

The small church can be a vibrant and living power as she knows her values, has a passion filled vision and is sold out to living out, The Great Commission.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chapters in Life

My life, up to the present, seems to be divided into chapters. I suppose that this may be true for people everywhere. Some chapters were written for me. Some chapters were written in connection and some were written in concert. Since expressing my faith in the transforming power of God through His Son, Jesus Christ, my life chapters should have His hand impressed upon them. Looking back over the pages I have made some observations about the book that is me.

Conception- My book began without my consent or knowledge. My dad, a world war two veteran, was the father of seven children. My mother, a ravishing beauty, snagged my dad shortly after the war. I am the fourth of five boys and the fifth of seven children. Birth order people would have fun with this family. I didn't ask for brothers or sisters as they did not ask for me. I was born into a mixture of personalities, environment and family culture, all of which, again, I did not choose. So, for the first years of my life I was the product of  care and nurturing. I didn't make many decisions on my own. I didn't pick out my clothes or decide what I was going to eat for breakfast, lunch or supper. I suppose this chapter took up the first five to seven years of my life.

Conscious- At some time during the conception period I began making some decisions. There is a mixture in the flow of one chapter into another as personality an identity develop. Somewhere in the mix of early years I remember very clearly telling an older brother, Tim, that he was going to hell because he killed my frog. That deeply held experience might have been reinforced by the bar of soap my teeth scraped as my mother held my mouth open. This chapter in my life is one of experimentation. Learning what things I liked and what I didn't like. Again a strange mixture. Some things I liked my dad didn't care for and had a rather abrupt way of telling me. I learned I liked playing baseball and football with my friends and did not like playing them in any organized way. I learned a bit of passive-resistance during this chapter. You see, sports were a big thing in our house. My dad, prior to WWII, tried out for the Toledo Mudhens. Baseball was king and it was expected that we would play. I played, but stunk. I was especially stinky when i played on the team my dad coached. I was learning that I could make decisions and that each decision would have consequences. This chapter in my life would color the pages of all that followed.

Concentration- This chapter or chapters brought great challenges and rewards as well as confusion and pain. It seemed as though great awakenings were filling this part of my book. The desire to obtain certain goals were pretty strong driving forces. Getting my drivers license meant freedom and supposed adulthood. Finding ways to obtain alcohol brought challenges and elation, headaches and vomiting. The first girl that stole my heart had me doing some really dumb things, like taking a bath in Canoe Aftershave, not a full bath, just an ounce or so. I was so gaga over this girl, only to have her turn me down for a dumb hillbilly that could play guitar and sing country. She still wanted to be my friend.

These chapters or phases also brought pain and confusion. My mother suffered from epilepsy all her life and I began to understand how severe this impacted all of us as a family. Some near tragic events haunted me for a long time. Confusion came as I understood that she would live a very healthy and vibrant life as long as she took her medication and stayed away from alcohol as much as possible. So, when seizures led to her knocking out teeth and falling into a fire confusion followed me. At the age of fifteen the death of my brother brought great pain and even deeper confusion. It was at this point that my concept of God was warped. I believed that God had favorite people and if you were on the good list good followed. With family trauma and pain I knew that we could not be on the good list. God had a club that he used for people that were not on the good list. The club yielded pain, heartache, confusion, fractures in functioning and assorted other ills.

Cooperation- As a young adult I fell head over heels in love. Along with capturing my heart my new love helped God capture my soul. As a young adult I had to examine the claims of Christ and His power in transforming human character. I knew I needed God's grace and love, nobody needed to beat it into my head. I knew full well the confusion and lostness of my spirit. So, at a given point in time, I agreed with God about my condition and the ability of Christ to radically change my life. I came to the point of knowing that I trusted Christ to have paid the penalty for my sin and by His resurrection to bestow upon me a new life and character. I was going to live my life in cooperation with God. As my knowledge of, and relationship with, Him grew, so also did my desire to serve Him in whatever way He desired. His path led me and Donna to serve in active full time ministry. After our ordination we served God and people in three congregations before moving to Zambia. I felt confident in His provide-ance for my family and served with joy and passion. The time in Zambia would prove to be the highest and lowest points in my life. The highest was in God's timing of Ana coming into me and my families life. The lowest point came in the attack and ensuing trauma forced upon Donna and the girls.

Convalescence- After Zambia a series of serious health issues came upon us. With the already damaged and bruised spirits we were living with the health issues forced me to make a drastic decision. I decided that it would be best for the family to resign from our ministry and try to find some peace and healing. A friend provided the place. We put enough money down to buy a small orchard and farm house. I named it Genesis Farm, our place of new beginnings. The new surroundings brought a sense of peace and starting over. But, that would last only so long. God never intended for us to sit on the sidelines of life and watch. Over a period of time new ministry opportunities came our way and we moved forward into the spiritual battlefield. I found writing to be a great healing balm for the wounds I carried. You see, I doubted God and even came to the place of doubting His concern and involvement in the affairs of mankind. I was thinking again, that He carried a big stick and I was not in His favor. Through writing I was able to understand a little more about the purposes of God. His grace empowered me to see and understand His character in ways I never thought of before. I began to thank God for the experiences of Zambia and the crushing I experienced.

Congruity- Hypocrisy is alive and well in my life. The things I find so easy to criticise in others are the boils that are just under the surface of my life. How easy it is to talk about spiritual truth, to preach of the goodness of God and make allowances for my self. Excuses are a dime a dozen when it comes to covering over my own inconsistencies. I earnestly desire to have the final chapters in my book to ones of congruity. To have my words and actions line up, to leave behind the excuses and rationalizations. To grow into the person God always intended for me to be. I have no idea how many chapters are still to be written, or how long each chapter might be. I do know that I want my life to match my words.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pain and Peace

Pain is very common. It can come suddenly, through unexpected circumstances, or it may gradually build over time. Feeling like you are unable to cope for another minute is a sure sign of emotional pain. How you and I deal with emotional pain will lead to inner peace or continued pain possibly crushing the life out of us.

I spent an extended period of years overcome by inner emotional pain. I had questions in my mind that were consuming me. Questions that I kept going over in my head, for days and weeks. Questions I kept asking God, but never getting any answer.Even in the performance of everyday activities the nagging pain was present. It was having an impact in every area of my life. My relationships were suffering, I found it almost impossible to trust, even those closest to me.

You see, we left a country we dearly loved, Zambia, due to a series of events. Donna was sexually assaulted and the safety of my daughters was in jeopardy. During the following days our security was under threat. It was at this time that the pain and questioning began. We felt we were in the place God intended for us. We were serving God and our denomination and this just wasn't supposed to happen. The questions were the  proverbial snowball going down hill. The number and intensity of questions increased and the answers were never coming.

Even after a major life change the pain and questioning continued. There were times when I seriously felt my ability to function was almost gone. During this time I kept up the charade of stability and a faith life. Inside my spirit I felt that God had abandoned me, my family. I was a hypocrite at best and an agnostic in the worst. In the midst of this I was able to find peace, real and deeper than ever before the days of darkness and shadow.

Don't Pretend- Emotional pain is as real as physical pain. Face the pain and do not pretend that it isn't eating at you. This is especially true for men. Emotional denial is a big thing with men. We are taught not to cry, not to show weakness of any kind. Many men stuff themselves full of the pain that they have experienced. It will not go away until you bring it out into the open of your own heart and soul. I had to come to the place where I could face and deal with some deep emotional issues after my parents and a brother died. I wrote them each a letter and described the pain and their part in it. As a kid I grew up under some really negative circumstances and didn't know how to deal with them. I dealt with the pain on a cold winter day at the cemetery where all three are buried. Well, with the letter in hand I read it at each grave and then I burnt each letter and let the ash blow away in the winter wind.

Ask Questions- If you feel that God let you down, or failed you in some way, don't be afraid to ask Him why. He is big enough to take anything you have to say. And, the amazing thing is, He won't love you any less. Ask, ask, ask, ask, until you are tired of asking. You must be able to exhaust out of your spirit all of the negative emotion, and asking helps. I didn't say anything about answers. Not yet. I knew in my heart that we were serving God in the place he had planned. His hand upon Ana and the timing of our arrival was enough proof for me. Yet, I could not understand why He would allow the terrible things to happen to Donna and the threats against the girls. It did not fit into my concept of God. I knew the Psalms that promised protection, I taught them to our children, we sang about them. We believed what they said. So, the question of, why, was haunting me. I asked God why for years. And, for years of asking I did not get an answer.

Rational Exhaustion- Even talking with Donna and friends did not bring answers nor peace. I became exhausted mentally and spiritually. The questioning led me down the path of questioning the revelation of God as I thought I knew. A friend who was helping me in my desire to write urged me to keep on questioning. He is a gifted writer who taught writing in college for years. Our times together began to center more on philosophy than writing. I began to read some of the ancient writers who asked the most basic question known to mankind.  Why am I hear and what is my purpose? The amount of questioning began to ease, the same questions, just not as often. I realized one day that I just couldn't ask again. What answer was I looking for anyway? What happened to us didn't make sense and never would. Was I expecting God to tell me that the evil was good. Did I want him to tell me that everything was going to be ok.

Undeniable Evidence- Coming to the end of questions did not bring any answers. It did however give my mind and heart a pause. I have had a conversational style of talking to God for years. I knew that even in my times of questions my heart was praying. Some weeks after the questions stopped I was drawn to the ancient history of the Hebrews and then  the early followers of Christ. The one point that was so powerful for me was their experiences with God. I could doubt creed and doctrine, even theology and philosophy, I could not doubt personal experiences illustrated in the biblical characters. What was it that gave the prophets the boldness to stand before king or army? It certainly wasn't doctrine nor creed. It was a reality of God, involved and evident in their life. What gave the early followers of Christ the grace and peace to stand in the arena and face the beasts? It was not believing in doctrine, scripture or creed. It was the living Christ that was abiding within them through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I could not deny the evidence that God revealed to me through many years of ministry. I watched families that had been shattered by adultery and violence made whole. I watched a man, known as the town drunk, radically transformed through the love of Christ and community. And, my experiences in Zambia, which could fill pages, were rather remarkable as Christ delivered some people I cared deeply for, from the evil of Juju and witchdoctors.

Peace, Sweet Peace- As I allowed myself to review the works of God that I had witnessed I changed. Within my heart I began to understand that God knew the reasons and that would be good enough for me. And, as that truth settled in my soul, I didn't need nor want to ask why. That inner sense of not needing to ask began to take on a different form. I realized that all of the pain and agony, tears and darkness were leading me to a sense and understanding of God that I never experienced before. Now I am honestly thankful for every hour of darkness and shadow, every tear, sleepless night and exhausting day.

If you are in the midst of pain and darkness, ask the questions until there are none left. Examine the evidence of God loving you and moving in your life. Come to the place of thanksgiving for the new peace that will fill your life.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Encounter with God

A few thoughts to follow up my piece on Isaiah and chapter six. Beside being one of the most awe inspiring and gripping portions of scripture other points jump out. This was not a meeting with God, not some planned duty that he had to perform as a priest. In fact, it was far different than all other religious duties that he had performed. His duties as a priest were all centered around shadows of the real and representative of the heavenly reality. The objects used in worship, Laver, Candlestick, Altar, Table, and Ark all represented what was revealed to Moses. This was an encounter with God, no shadows or representations, reality in the present.

Isaiah encounters the reality of eternal God, in the present reality of a dead king, Human power is dead in the person of Uzziah the king. Human timing records the death of a king and encounter with God. It is fitting that the prophet would record the king's death. In the presence of the great I AM, God who always was, is and will be, Isaiah acknowledges divinity and humanity. Human power, however great and commanding is but a vapor and gust of wind.

When Isaiah is in the presence of Eternal God and the created servants cry out, Holy, Holy, Holy, the temple and the framing begins to shake. The mere mention of I AM by the Seraphim's is enough to cause an upset. At this the prophet responds from the center of his soul. His confession is not couched in theological terms or the language of the religious world. His response is from the center of an honest reality. His cry, Woe is Me, for I am undone, I am a man of unclean lips. His shortcomings did not need to be counseled out of him. He knew, he confessed. His sin was responsible for the terror in his soul.

Encounter brought realization, realization brought confession. And now, Isaiah's confession will bring the searing heat of the sacrificial fire. The coal taken from the Altar cleanses the self-professed agent of sin, his mouth. With the heat of sacrifice comes the mercy that assuages guilt, reconciliation and forgiveness that restores relationship.

The endless universe must listen as the Creator asks the question that must probe every sincere heart; "Who will I send and who will go for us?" With the profound knowledge of who he was, and now is, the prophet responds and his eternal destiny is set.  His words to kings and nations will announce doom and destruction. His pronouncement of the coming Messiah will be used to set millions on their own person encounter with the Great I AM.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meditation On Isaiah

My leather chair squeaks a bit as I try to get comfortable and put my legs up on the footstool. The leather feels good against the skin on my arms and neck. The volume on my music is just loud enough for my failing hearing to distinguish the notes. I don't need to hear the words, those I have memorized years ago. In fact, the words to that hymn have done so much in my soul I could never calculate the impact.

The movement of the music begins my meditation, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty."  Words echoed by millions of human beings and untold numbers of heavenly beings. Cherubim and Seraphim's, each in unison proclaiming the unreachable depth of the truth of His Holiness. But, hearts and spirits only have words to try express that which is not fully understandable. Many times we sing with voices that try and express the experience of God's visitation with us. At times there are tears, at times silence as ears listen to others attempt at real expression.

As I listen to the music the story of the prophet and his vision of the Most High comes to mind. Isaiah, a priest, a man dedicated  to serving God, has a vision that is beyond words and human understanding. Oh, if only I could sense the movement of celestial air from the wings of fiery angelic servants. Feel the air move past my face, hear the movement from ears to soul. What did their voices sound like? Even the prophets attempt to describe them must have seemed trite or impotent. How would you describe the anthem that heavenly creatures put voice too? At that moment the prophet must weep for the very weakness of his expression.

The prophet reacts to the scene before him, not in praise, song, worship, nor some noble sounding prayer. He cries out to the host and the endless universe, "Woe is me, For I am undone. My eyes have seen the Lord of Glory." His confession continues and every self-righteous motive in my heart must be consumed. My spirit knows the story so well. The fiery hosts brings the coal from the altar and sears the lips of the prophet. The heat of the coal destroyes every unclean word and intent.

The prophet again must try and describe the voice above all voices, using impotent words that will never be able to describe the scene and sounds. How do you describe the voice of God, His voice that is filled with such power that stars, planets, galaxies to the edge of the ever increasing universe, are brought into present simply at His command. The prophet understands the message from the Almighty. His response indicates that he did not contemplate the message, think of the impact upon his life, he voiced in human terms what the divine revealed to him. "Here Iam Lord, Send me".

In my soft leather chair my soul longs to feel the brush of the angelic wing, the movement of celestial air. My ear longs, strains, yearns to hear that voice. Oh, I have felt the coal and heard the voice many times and I hope my prayer will always be, Lord, let me feel the wing and air and experience the coal till I die.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Risk Taking

As a kid I used to jump at the chance to do something dangerous. I remember climbing to the top of the backstop in a park and jumping off with a parachute made from a smuggled sheet. It didn't work, but that did not stop my enthusiastic pursuit of the crazy. A Flintstone type push cart zoomed down a hill off of Valade street, only to be run into the grass and roll over. The two or three sticks designed to hold up the roof didn't work very well. The plunge into danger that almost cost me my life, according to my dad, involved stealing a rather large motor from an abandoned riding mower. The mower was in an abandoned barn on the outskirts of town. A Riverview policeman noticed two bikes in the tall grass, not well hidden, upon finding me and my accomplice in the act of removing the awesome go cart engine, he asked us a simple question. The question, "Boys what are you doing with that engine?" My reply revealed my stupidity, "We're looking to see what makes it work".

I escaped death that day, because I had an early morning paper route and every cop in Riverview knew my dad and all of my uncles. My zest for risk taking took a small vacation and I walked the boring and dreary path of complacency. Gladly the days of boredom didn't last long. Soon my brother and I were in the fields across Pennsylvania Road playing in the pond and catching frogs and germs. That is, until Todd almost cut his foot off from an old can that on the bottom of the pond and not seen. To this day he credits me with saving his life, I carried him on my back for a while. I used to remind him of how much of a favor I did for him.

Moving from my hometown to a small one bedroom cabin for my senior year was a risk the entire family took. The impact was greatest on the five of us who made the move. I left Riverview with one year of high school to go. At the time I didn't think much about it. We loved Northern Michigan and had talked often about living in the woods. So, a small one bedroom cabin with a kitchen and screen porch became home. That time of risk taking was done in ignorance and desperation.

The move to Zambia was a great risk, yet it was in a way, no risk. We were following the path that had been opened to us after ten years of waiting. A young American family moving to the bush of Zambia, facing the unknown with zeal and an adventurous spirit. Yes, there was a lot of risk. Every time you drove down the roads you were placing your life in peril. I witnessed cars driving down the roads with no windshields, doors and even rubber on their wheels. Mammoth trucks would drive at night with no tail lights. Road accidents claimed hundreds of victims each month.

Taking a risk can be costly. Insecurity lives within every risk decision. The fear of the unknown, or the known, awaits all risk takers. After our time in Zambia my desire to take risks was pretty well gone. The Zambian risk almost cost a daughter and wife to be swept away. Four years after returning to the states I took another risk, resigning from officership. The doors opened for us to buy a small apple orchard near Hubbard Lake, Michigan.

Donna and I both found jobs and I thought, "Genesis Farm" would indeed be a place of new beginnings. The fact of the matter is quite simple. I decided to resign from ministry based on a flawed institution. Isn't everything run by man flawed? My resignation did not mitigate God's call and impress upon my life, nor Donna's life. Some years after our move I stepped out of my secluded acreage and pastored a small church. That risk was richly rewarded by the blossoming and determined life of Ana. For five years that little girl caused quite a stir in Lily white Alcona County. Her basketball and track prowess brought love from her friends and families and vile statements from bigots and haters.

The time in Alcona came to a close when I was rushed into the hospital for emergency spinal cord surgery. The surgery went as well as could be expected, the recovery, well, it did not go so well. My spinal cord suffered permanent damage and left me with partial paraplegia. Seems like my risk taking days would be over. I fought that idea and want to continue fighting it. I began writing a book as part of my own personal therapy. The book, "A Mother's Heart Moved the Hand of God", chronicles the life struggle of Ana and the events that surrounds her miraculous journey.

I have sat, not really, on that manuscript for a few years. As I hate rejection I have just given lip-service to publication. I know that there is a powerful message of inspiration and challenge to individuals and the church within the pages. A number of people have told me so. I know that a major publishing house is not the route for this book. I have tons of information on self-publishing and also tons of information on how much it costs. Any and all routes will demand taking a risk. I know and understand that the risk will be worth it as the rewards will be the accomplishment of completion and the unknown blessings that would come to those who would read the pages and understand the message.

Please pray for me that I would take the risk and get off my rear, which I can't feel anyway.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Protection for the Heart

His helmet is designed to give him maximum protection from falling debris and hot ashes. His boots, leggings, jacket and gloves are all designed to withstand extreme heat. With an oxygen tank on his back he can attack the flame and escape the great danger of smoke.

His training and equipment is maintained to the highest degree of readiness. Every man and woman who wears the uniform and attacks the enemy stands proud, determined and ready. At the sound of every siren self is stripped away as boots, leggings, jacket, gloves, coat and helmet are donned and trusted. Fear of the unknown and the known enemy is overcome with courage and determination to face whatever is around the corner.

Courage and peril are connected in his life. Scenes of great peril call for greater courage. Countless scenes of destruction and great peril have witnessed courage beyond words. A structure near collapse finds a fire warrior searching for a missing child. Frantic and panic stricken parents stand in horror as their child is no where to be found. And then, he emerges from the flames as they reach high into the night sky, child and Teddy Bear in his arms. Placing her into the mother's arms, she sobs and her tears leave tiny streaks through the dirt and ash covering her cheeks. He stands quietly for just a moment, knowing that every warrior who battles smoke and flame would do the same.

What protects the heart of the warrior who faces flame and smoke, debris and destruction, despair and death? The smoke and ash are washed down the drain and forgotten. The hoses and equipment are cleaned and put at the ready, ready to jump at any call. The imprints upon the heart of the warrior fill him with pride, satisfaction, horror and the unimaginable. His comrades share the same scenes etched deep into their minds. Strength is found in comradeship, the glance of understanding, the fleeting connection of eyes, all provide the infusion that keeps them going.

The bond shared is deep and lasting. These brothers and sisters would place their own life in peril without a moments hesitation. They would sacrifice their own safety in an instant, a sacrifice of self to save a fellow comrade. When hardship and suffering attack like the flames, they stand shoulder to shoulder and back to back. One in need is treated like family. The one who is blessed shares with all. Laughter is loved by all and tears appear in every eye.

Today ladder trucks park on opposite sides of Main Street. Their extension ladders reach fifty feet into the sky and the platforms cross high above the street. These machines, used to save lives and property cross their swords in final salute to a fireman being laid to rest. The county dispatch gives a final call to the fallen warrior, as his badge number is called no response comes forth. The fire bell on the old ladder truck sounds three times and the warriors ready themselves for action with courage and determination.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Any Excuse Will Do

Their Glowing, it was slowing,
as the Old Law they were towing.

Their Light, hard to trace,
as they seemed to forget His grace.

God is intensely personal and intimate. He has always been that way and as He is God I guess it is His prerogative. Some of us do not believe that, I did not for a while. All of the doubt in the world can not change His character. His intention has been, since the beginning with Adam, to be on a first name basis with every human soul. Remember, He called Adam by his first name, as He did with Abram, Moses and His New Testament friends. The New Testament goes into intimate language as His followers are known as adopted children. Sonship and heirs are common themes for the followers of Jesus.

Human nature complicates God's design of simple faith. He tells us to be like children and we revel in our wisdom and education. He tells us a child can move a mountain and we want to measure the mountain and form a committee to set a plan to determine if the mountain can be moved or is in fact God didn't really mean what He said. We turn the simple into the almost impossible. After the Council of Jerusalem, simplicity of relationship was burdened with social expectations. The expectations had been in place for the Jewish people, now the Jews were placing them on their gentile siblings.

After the last of the apostles died rules and expectations began to increase. The expectations were based on customs and tradition, not necessarily on sacred truth. By the end of the third century the fellowship of believers was dealing with factions and institutionalism. The conversion of Constantine and the ensuing political and ecclesiastical marriage caused difficulties. Some time around 325 A.D. Constantine called for a council to meet at Nicaea to have the church agree on certain tenants of faith. Around 1800 bishops gathered and set into motion the reference to the Nicene Creed.

The bishops of the Eastern Church and the Western Church now held power to determine what was the accepted faith in Jesus Christ. The leader of the Western Church bishops became known as, Papa, or Pope. In time, absolute power in governance over the church rested with him. His voice was God's voice. As dependence upon creed and Papal Edict increased the personal relationship with God would naturally decrease. People, as we are, found it much easier to give voice to religion. Dealing up close and personal with God made people uncomfortable and demanded relationship.

The corruption found in human nature ran rampant in the church and the ignorance of the common people provided but another link in the chain of bondage. For almost a thousand years the church was kept alive by devout men and women who kept close to God. The dark ages threatened to snuff out the lamp of the church. The scripture was kept from the common people as the religious leadership deemed them to ignorant to understand God's Word.

Two events would be used to bring light back into the church and the surrounding lands. The invention of the printing press threatened the Papal powers as the scripture was put into the hands of common people. The reading and understanding of divine truth removed the cloak of deception the church had used. Church edicts, once used as divine law, now were questioned by those honestly seeking the truth. The other event, the Reformation, allowed lights to blaze and God's children to rejoice in the truth of their relationship.

The church has come along way since the dark days. But, today we use righteous rules to discern true believers from false. Can a really committed Christian smoke? No you say, they sin against their body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Do you over eat, swear, have anger problems, swell with pride, get envious or jealous? The hypocrite in each of us is not hard to find, but very hard to confess.

It is our responsibility to keep our relationship with Christ intimate and tender. God is my Father and Jesus is my brother in-love. I must not allow any church denomination or creed to have priority over the very personal and intimate relationship I have with the Triune God. The Holy Spirit knows my heart, Jesus talks to our Father for, and about me, my Father, Abba, will one day usher me to my new house.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Problem is Me

Leave it mankind to screw things up. God creates a beautiful lush paradise, leaves a couple of simple directions and we screw it up. Adam had already accomplished the complicated stuff, he named all the living creatures. He was the original zoo-keeper. That job he could handle. The hands-off the tree job he is pretty lousy at. It was the same way with Jesus. He told us to be like a little child in our faith and love for him and his Dad. He wanted us to love our neighbors and love Him. Not much of a great expansion on that great theological nugget.

Love for God and neighbor was to be the litmus test of knowing Jesus. John tells it pretty clear in his gospel, people receiving Jesus get to be part of his family, adopted into the family of God with Jesus as a brother and God the father as their, Abba, daddy. The love of Jesus would fill the life of his brothers and sisters and everybody around them would know they are different, because of Jesus.

Jesus knew that we would try and muck things up so He even left us some easy to understand instructions. He told us to stay close, abide, in his love and presence. Stay close by praying a lot and reading about his life and love. Remember to K.I.S.S. keep it simply simple. I changed it. He demonstrated some really important lessons, forgiving, loving, sacrfice, faith, friendship, and a bunch more. Just before his death he gave us the greatest demonstration about love and light.

As the men he loved gathered around him for some food and to remember the passover, he took off his cloak and washed their feet. Now, how hard is that to understand? Serve the people around you, that will show to everybody that your love is not just a bunch of empty words, but real action with dirty feet. While he was being executed he forgave his killers and in words of a seemingly crazy kind of love, told a criminal he would be in Paradise with him.

After the resurrection Jesus continued to show in very simplistic ways his love and care. Well, simplistic in a couple of ways. I guess he may have scared the hell out of Thomas. Most of the time he talked with them and grilled fish on the beach. When he left them and returned to some place in the universe, anybody know where heaven is, he gave them final words of comfort. He told them, and us, that he would be with us until the end of the age.

We have all heard it said, "When the cat is away the mice will play". I hope this isn't offensive but, When Jesus went away people began to stray. The book of Acts gives us a pretty good record of the early church. The center of activity was in Jerusalem, as Jesus told the disciples to wait there for a while. He told them that God was really going to get their lights shining when the Holy Spirit invaded their spirit. Well, the impatient and the patient alike waited until, fire broke out and a wind blew through the house. About 120 men and women who loved Jesus started glowing.

The glowing Jesus followers began telling all of their friends and neighbors about their own life-change and what loving Jesus would do for them. Soon, all the streets of Jerusalem were filled with glowing Jesus lovers. So much so, the leaders of the Jewish Starched Shirts, proclaimed that the entire city was being over-run with glowing Jesus people. It didn't take long for the love of Jesus to begin invading foreign lands. Gentile people and pagans began listening to the words of the glowing Jesus people and soon they were glowing.

Now, some of the original glowing Jesus people didn't think it was right for the gentiles and pagans to be able to glow with Jesus. In their minds Jesus was only supposed to let Moses' people glow. After all, they were special people, God even told them so. Now, with their glow running low, they complained to the big glowers, Peter and his friends. The running low on their glow folks demanded that the gentiles and pagans face the flint knife and follow some rules that they had too, told to by the big Starched Shirts. Rules would be laid down for future glowing people.

More problems to come. Love your comments.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Light- The Source is God

Genesis is, The Book of Beginnings. It opens to us, in the first thoughts, the absence of presence, which is darkness, and the depth of darkness. The next thought is the presence of God moving and expelling darkness. The principle of Light over-taking darkness is an underlying truth in the spiritual world. The writer of Genesis, whom I believe to be Moses, begins the record of creation with, deep darkness, and a coming Presence.

The Gospel of John gives us many instances of the Light image. Jesus said that he was the light of the world. The gospel records in John 1: 3-4 In Him was Presence and presence was the Light. The Presence was illuminating the world and the darkness (absence) could not overpower the presence. Presence was the Light given to every paraphrase   Jesus spoke of his followers as being the light of the world. The epistles refer to believers as, "Children of Light".

Now, the question must be asked, Why is there still so much darkness in the world? If Christians are the light of the world and light expels darkness what has happened in our world? There are books galore about missions, church growth, evangelism, spiritual darkness and battles in the unseen world. All of those books have a place and use in our church world. I am not going to begin to pretend that I am any expert in regards to the topics listed. My opinion is very grass roots and basic. I believe there is evidence in scripture and history to support my opinion.

The battle against spiritual darkness has already been won. Christ defeated darkness when he was suspended on the cross. Remember the earthquake and darkness that covered the land, seemed in the spiritual domain that Christ was going to lose and evil would win. How can a dying man win? A dead man could not win, but the Risen Christ did win and the large battle has been decided. Presence expels darkness for all of eternity.

Where you and I live there are still many battles to be fought. Evil and darkness are all around us and it will be that way as long as man has a free will and God allows more time for people to turn to Christ. I do not need to speak of the unthinkable things we as humans are capable of. The media is overflowing with reports each day, at home and abroad. We fight the battles against darkness by our words and actions. On of the strongest weapons we have is love. Especially the way we love each other.

It seems that loving each other is rather difficult. We proclaim to be a people of grace yet we judge each other and wound each other in very deep ways. Our homes should be places of grace and peace. I have learned over the years that grace needs to have a place in our homes and then in neighborhood. Homes filled with judgement reveal the need for grace, for the judged and the judge. Many times the judge slams the gavel down on themselves as well as others. How can our light shine in the darkness when it is smothered in the living room? Let us be people of grace in our homes,  first.

We must allow Presence to expel darkness in our own hearts and this is a process that is joint, between you and the Holy Spirit. Presence will expel darkness to the extent that you allow. So many of us,(I) have a very acceptable form of Godliness. We worship God and really desire to live a life that is pleasing to Christ. Yet, how many of us have little spaces in our souls where we do not really want God poking around. We allow ourselves to have little closets without presence. Do you have issues with anger, pride, envy, jealousy, gossip, lust, power, money, habits. These may very well be closets without presence. Ask God, if you have the courage, He will tell you.

The next post will tick many of you off, so be it. It will deal with the church and how the church has in fact been used to make us a, Dim Lit.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Light Expells Darkness

Light fascinates me. I have watched the night skies for years. In fact, some of the very best times with my family have been watching lights that are billions of years old. When Ana was in the third grade she won a trampoline by playing in a basketball tournament. We used that trampoline summer after summer late at night watching the shooting stars. There was always an August meteor shower that we looked forward to. The light on the barn would be turned off and we would pile blankets and pillows on the trampoline and watch the marvelous lights shoot across the heavens until we all fell asleep.

Later the grand kids would enjoy the same display and I would try and explain how awesome God is, in that He created the vast universe that so big no man would ever be able to reach the end. The kids were awestruck that the light from the stars started traveling to get to us before Jesus was even born. It was, and is, pretty hard to understand. It seems to me that 186,000. miles per second, the speed of light, is pretty darn fast.

One dictionary defines light as the power that allows things to be seen. Another thought, the power that brings illumination. We all learned as kids that a flash light was a pretty fun thing to have. Place it under your chin and you could look like a ghoul, put it in your mouth and that was even a bit stranger. The best use for the, hand-held power, was to make sure there was nothing hiding under your bed. A couple of sweeps with the flash light and I was always assured that the only thing under my bed was a couple of socks, obvious the sock monster left them at some other time.

Light expels darkness. I learned very early that darkness must flee from the light. There was no battle, no tug of war, the light always won the battle. The creatures that traveled the paths of dark were always afraid of the light. Like a wild animal caught in the headlights, the creatures of the dark froze in the light, caught red handed, no where to go or place to hide. A bit later in life when I wanted to accomplish some prank, like TP a house, or a couple of eggs, it was always done in the dark.

Darkness is absence, absence of light. Darkness(absence) is overcome by presence. Think what would happen in our world if people did not have the cover of darkness to complete their deeds. Crime loves darkness, darkness of surroundings and darkness of souls.

Jesus was very emphatic in His self-proclamation as, Light of the World. The next part of this piece will reveal my own heart-felt opinion and written burden about the darkness in our world, country and communities.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Contentment & Peace- Lessons Learned from a Disabled Duck

Over the past few years my observation skills have greatly improved. This is due to the fact that I prefer to stay in my vehicle, which is safer for all concerned when it comes to such locations of torture and unbridled crazy behavior found in W...M... or other establishments. I have come away with some pretty keen insights, the birds love large parking lots. I have witnessed some really strange things, especially when people don't know they are being observed. When Donna does her hospital visitation in the Toledo area I usually drive. This gives her some time to relax. The most recent trip to one of the hospitals enabled me to observe and be challenged.

Adjacent to the hospital parking lot is a large pond. The pond is in sight of two sections of the parking lot and offers an observation deck for those wishing to sit and watch the ducks and squirrels. I stayed in the car and watched the different flocks of ducks. Some were in the water, most were on the grass that surrounded the pond. As I watched the feathered flocking fowl one duck stood out from the rest. He didn't really have a choice. As the gathering would scramble off to a new locale every minute or so this one duck stayed behind.

The duck in question looked like every other duck. He quacked like a duck, shook his butt like a duck, did every duck thing, except one thing. He could not waddle like like a duck. He was a disabled duck, a floundering fowl, a malformed Mallard. His left leg did not work very well. As the other ducks waddled in unison this poor guy just gimped along. I started to feel sorry for the guy. I thought that he probably really got beat up, verbally, that is, when he took time in the pond doing duck things. I imagined him unable to swim, sorry, paddle, in a straight line. All of the ducks probably quacked a sort of laughing quack as he just kept going in circles.

My thoughts of sympathy quickly vanished as I watched him. The other ducks always followed the lead duck. I have no idea what the requirements are to be the lead duck. I think it has something to do with your quack and waddle. Well, the others would run off after the head duck and Gimpy, my name for him, would pay no attention. He stayed in one place, and in fact  found more food in the place the others ran away from than in two or three places they waddled off too. He was content to stay in his place and look for what was provided. The grass clippings around him must have been filled with all kinds of goodies. As the others ran Gimpy enjoyed the bounty around him.

Gimpy looked like the rest of the ducks, he didn't use a cane or have a handicapped sticker on his back. Gimpy was content, he didn't try to catch the rest and he didn't play on their sympathy. I don't really know how they would sympathize with Gimpy. In the twenty or so minutes I watched Gimpy he didn't move ten feet. Oh, another thing about Gimpy, he didn't blame anybody, parents, siblings/ducklings, friends or foreign feathers. He accepted Gimpy and lived on.

Gimpy was a wonderful lesson to me. He was content in his present, enjoyed what was given, didn't argue with the provider and seemed in peace. A very good lesson for my present, I still fight the present, hoping my future will be like the past, before my disability. I want God to use me like He did years ago. Gimpy showed a  man with a heart for God, but a mind in the past, to live in the present, enjoy the provided and find contentment and peace in following the Lord with a different pace than before. Thank God I am not in some pond swimming in circles.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Banned Books and Rock and Roll

While serving in my second church a very controversial book was at the center of a heated debate over censorship. One group demanded the book be removed from the library because the content was explicit and access to the book was unrestricted. Another group demanded that any book the library deemed appropriate should be available to all. It was decided that the book would be kept, but access would be limited to adults.

As a new believer in Jesus Christ I listened to a conversation by a seasoned minister who thought rock and roll music was a major contributing factor to teen pregnancy. After her community had summer teen dances a number of young girls found themselves pregnant. They debated banning the dances and the music that was thought to be evil.

We are in the beginning stages of the recognition of laws and ethics based on severe judgement. Their are communities across the states that are recognizing certain points of Islamic law. Severe judgement allows for the severed hands of the thief, stoning of the adulterer(usually the woman), killing of a child that dishonors the family name. Orthodox Jews abandoned such judgement, leaving it in the hands of the judicial government that saw the wisdom of combining judgement with compassion and grace.

A movement towards radical judgementalism would seek to extinguish the flames of liberty and freedom. The freedom to think and express, even the most extreme, ideas, books, music, methods of communication, must be safeguarded at all costs. I might think some type of art is trash, some music or written work of no redeeming value, the communicator still must be allowed to communicate. Else some person, or power, tells me I can have no voice.

The personal boundaries of moral and ethical standards restrain liberty and freedom. Liberty and freedom are aspirations, desires, and dreams placed in the human spirit by the Giver of the Spirit. Man desires freedom because he is designed that was, it is part of his essence, his personhood. So, freedom and liberty are very restrictive in their purity. I can do what I desire, I desire to harm no person. I have all of the freedom I want, my spirit has placed limits on my wants. I want peace and contentment, some semblance of security for my wife and children, though, not at the expense of another, or the powers that rule. I want the opportunity for my wife and children to reach their dreams through their own effort and intelligence.

What happens in a society when their are no moral and ethical standards? I believe license and opportunity would lead to devastating immorality and gradual destruction. On the other hand, a people governed by any judgemental and restrictive power is just as doomed to collapse. A moral failure by a person could and would lead to a form of punishment that is barbaric at best and mercy and compassion killing in the severe.

A free and liberty loving people must understand their source of such. They must respect their own moral and ethical standards, and those of others, or lack of in others. The founders of this land listened for more than 150 years of the stories of religious intolerance and corruption at the hands of kings and popes. And they still knew and voiced their conviction that real freedom and liberty came from God.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Balanced, And Yet With Movement

The arch in St. Louis, the Sears Tower, the Mackinaw Bridge, all have in common the ability to move with the wind. To design a structure that can not yield in measured amounts to the forces of wind is to invite failure. Modern building engineering is so advanced that materials are used that can withstand earthquakes that laid waste communities, not even sixty or seventy years ago. Modern steel is designed to flex and sheeting materials have engineered abilities to bend and stretch. All of this is within limits, of course. Engineering disasters occur, such as the collapse of the Hyatt Regency sky walk and others. Thankfully they are rare exceptions and the cause is usually in man's ability to calculate correctly.

The monumental structure that I call America is much like the engineered buildings and complexes of today. I have already stated my absolute conviction that the bedrock upon which our republic has been built is nothing less than, The Triune God as revealed in Holy Scripture. The single most important force that keeps the sway of the republic within the bounds of safety is, the vote. The gift, responsibility, voice, and power of the vote is what keeps the sway of the structure from moving to far to the extreme, past the tipping point. The current two main party system has worked to keep the sway in check.

The structure of our republic has faced strong forces of change in the past. I believe the single most influential force of change has been an extremely gradual erosion of the moral and ethical fabric of American life. Some people call the gradual changes in morals and culture progress. Other people find the changes to be threatening and dangerous. However it is looked at the changes are dramatic when time is concentrated and the changes examined over, let's say, the last fifty to seventy five years. Almost seventy five years ago the moral voice of America called for the end of the alcohol trade. The U.S. Constitution was amended and the production and consumption of alcohol was banned. The ensuing years witnessed the explosion of organized crime and no viable increase in morals and ethics. In fact, some would argue the point that the opposite of what was desired took effect. Morals and ethics declined as crime increased.

The past fifty years have witnessed an almost cataclysmic change in foundational morals and ethics. The judicial decision to treat the constitution as a living organism that must change with society is bringing forth disaster. The government sanctions placing a value on the living by sanctioning the destruction of the very life it is sworn to protect. We listen to educators who proclaim a, Post Modern, Post Christian, world. And that we are the better for it. Human sexuality has been reduced to, animals doing what animals do, as often and with as many partners as can be found. Today we give license to sexual relations that are even extremely rare in the animal world. When deviant sexuality is talked about even the church is changing her tune.

My warning is this: The monument that is America can only sway within limits and stay safe. If the monument sways too far to either side it will move past the ability to regain center and will collapse. If the moral center is abandoned by either, gradualism or an illegitimate vote and voice the sway may not be mitigated. The Supreme Court of the State of Pennsylvania, case of Updegraph v. The Commonwealth, 11 Serg. & R. 393-394, 398-399, 402-407, "...Religion and morality are the foundations of all governments. Without these restraints no free government could long exist... No free government now exists in the world unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country.... It's foundations are broad and strong, and deep.  it is the purest system of morality, the firmest auxiliary, and only stable support of all human laws." (italics mine)

The next post will speak of the extreme danger that an unyielding and constrictive fundamental politic would have on the monument, America.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Foundation for Peace and Liberty

From the brick mason to the engineer the importance of bedrock and foundation is beyond question. A structure built upon solid bedrock will never suffer failure due to compaction or movement, unless of course it is built upon unknown faults. Footings and foundations set upon bedrock are indeed the safest of all possible structural beginnings. Next to that, an engineer must "design bedrock", that is, he must design a foundation that will stand as firm as bedrock. These foundations can require up to thousands of tons of concrete and miles of steel reinforcing bars. Only when that foundation is certified can the structure begin.

The bedrock of the American system of government is without a doubt, Triune God. Documents from, The Mayflower Compact to The Constitution of The United States give explicit acknowledgement to God's providence and care. There are at least thirty five direct references to the Holy Spirit in early historical writings and official documents. Moreover, there are more than one hundred and sixteen direct references to Jesus Christ in the writings and official documents of the early colonialist and founders. An interesting note, the name, God, in referring to, In God we Trust, is used nine times, Under God, used twenty four times, God as having involvement in our country, used forty three times, and God, The Name of God, used thirty eight times. Historical and official writings during the first years of this land refer to Jesus Christ more than any other person in the Trinity.

Upon this bedrock of Divine Life the earliest settlers created the culture of absolute trust and faith in God. In fact, it was an absolute dependence upon God and His care. When the environment within the colonies became one of oppression and tyranny the colonialist knew that the land they loved was given to them by God and their early forefathers. The freedom within their spirit was being threatened by an oppressive crown and a deaf, distant government.

When the smoke of many battles cleared and the dead were laid to rest the thirteen colonies became the, United States of America. They formed, as was noted, the Greatest Experiment in Self-Government, ever devised. Beginning with the Federalist Papers and finding culmination in one of the greatest documents written, The United States Constitution, the foundation for freedom and liberty were set upon the bedrock of Divine Life.

The lives of the newly self-governed quickly began recording a new history. The lives of individuals and communities began recording for future generations the truth of a free people. Men and women were given the opportunity to explore their dreams and determine their own destiny and future. That is not to say that everything was perfect and that the new freedom structure, America, was not without calamities and trials. Each generation built upon the previous and a monument and  memorial to liberty and freedom reached into the sky. The height and beauty was so awesome and powerful that liberty seeking people braved the storm and sword to come to the land.

In the next posting I will write about the need to keep a balance upon the foundation and bedrock.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Government-Freedom and Liberty

A bit has already been said about self-governance; some men could, some must never. Evidence abounds for the lawlessness and evil that would certainly over-run the land if men were allowed to live unrestrained. Domesticated animals revert back to beasts when they are outside the confines of fence and leash. Some times mankind acts no better than a beast. We must have laws and restraints to pinpoint the offenders, not the civil law abiding citizen. The balance between fair and just legislation and oppressive and unequal legislation is placed in the hands of the elected. And, the elected must always answer to the electorate.

The injustice that propelled good men and catapulted the land into war was just this issue of unfair legislation and being powerless in the selection of a voice that would represent them before the crown. The Boston Massacre, Lexington & Concord, the attack on Bunker Hill (Breeds Hill), were actions destined to take place as men would no longer sit on their hands as oppression slowly choked the life of freedom from their souls.

During this time Edmund Burke was an outstanding orator and author living under the crown. He addressed Parliament on more than one occasion. He had an insight into the heartbeat of the colonies that  gave a great illumination to the questions of why war and the motivation behind the colonialist. On March 22, 1775, in his, Second Speech on the Conciliation with America- The Thirteen Resolutions, Burke addressed Parliament, saying: Religion, always a principle of energy, in this new people is no way worn out or impaired; and their mode of professing it is also one main cause of this free spirit. The people are Protestants; and of that kind which is the most adverse to all implicit submission of mind and opinion. This is a persuasion not only favorable to Liberty, but built upon it.  All Protestantism, even the most cold and passive, is a sort of dissent. But the religion most prevalent in our Northern Colonies is a refinement on the principle of resistance; it is the dissidence of dissent, and the protestantism of the protestant religion.

Burke certainly knew the heart and soul of the colonialist. A people so in love with liberty and their blessed free land are bound by their conscience to stand and fight. The fight was not against the need for government nor laws, not against authority and enforcing law. The revolt was against the loss of voice and self-determination. A voiced and self-determined people would be able to hold each other accountable. Laws would be enacted that their voice would give assent too. The laws of the colonialist were to be based on the ethics and morals of the colonialist, not a removed and distant crown.

In 1791, Burke wrote to, The national Assembly: What is Liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without restraint. Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites... Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

The foolishness of modern man is his being convinced that ethics, morals, and religious conviction no longer have a part to play in the governance of man. The Old Testament give a powerful word to the wise: Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.  Our mind is not god, our education, however great or noble, is not to be worshipped. The works of our hands and the greatest feats of science fall far short of the Divine.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Government- Can man govern himself?

Our founders considered the government they were forming as one of the, greatest experiments ever attempted. The founding of a government elected by the people, a government with limited powers, set within three branches. The three branches of government designed to be checks and balances, to insure that no single branch might obtain power to control the others. Now, other countries have attempted and continue to attempt, such a government, with this exception. Our founders explicitly proclaimed that our aspirations of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were God ordained. And, even more, the aspirations for such are placed within the heart of man.

Now, can man really govern himself? Answers of yes and no abound. Some serious questions arise as one would think on the question. What is meant by govern? What is the purpose of governance? Who sets the standard for actions to be governed? I do not intend to exhaust time listing all of the examples of government and their success or failure. An understanding of world history will easily shed light on the successful as well as the failures, those that espouse liberty and those of tyrants and despots.

There are many fine individuals who could govern themselves. They have, through education, parental influence, religious conviction, understood and live within certain boundaries of actions and influence. They know what it means to be civil in a society that flourishes within those boundaries. In contrast, there are countless individuals who should never be allowed to govern themselves, or others. Yet, we live in a land where self-governing is allowed and encouraged. When those who cannot control their actions or certain influences. and trespass the boundaries of a civil society they are, or should be held accountable.

The actions and influences of people need to understand the sense of control that is placed over them. Governing is the intent and actions of making understandable the rules or directions people are to follow. Self-governing is the application of rules and directions by the people themselves, in macro and micro systems. The federal government down to our local principalities exert government. Those that exert government from great distances are at times questioned about their loyalties to certain groups or locations. Self-governance with representatives far removed is easily distrusted and suspect.

Now, to the point of government and the standards used. Many of the early codes of conduct instituted in our country were based on British Common Law and the Mayflower Compact. Common Law had its foundations set firmly on Biblical Codes of Ethics. And, many of the codes were intrinsic in the souls and conscience of man; murder, stealing, adultery etc. Our ethical system of behaviour is based on accepted actions and non-acceptable actions, or influences. Our system of ethics is based on moral standards which are in fact, accepted principles and instructions stating the way things are or should be done. What you are allowed and not allowed to do.

George Washington, in his farewell to the people he served said the following in regards to governance and morality, "And let us with cautious indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure; reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Our founders had much to say about the ability of man to self-govern. More than one Founding Father warned of the corrupting influence of power and placing such power in bodies without limitations and controls. I will be using many quotes from them in the next few postings.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Patriotism- Is it Dying in the Land of the Free

In the city of Riverview there is a cemetery out on Sibley Road. It is like thousands of plots of land given to bury the dead and bring friends and family to remember the lost. The earth that covers the resting place of the thousands does not recognize the entombed as those who walk above do. The earth knows nothing about status, money, crime, goodness, philanthropy or greed. The size, or lack of, a monument or simple stone is not recognized either. Walking around a cemetery a person would probable have no idea of who might be underfoot. Unless of course, you were familiar with the area where you were walking.

The cemetery in Riverview, Ferndale Cemetery, is no different to countless thousands. It is different to people who have loved ones at rest there. It is different for me and my family. Some very special people in my life have Ferndale earth as a blanket. Ferndale earth is a blanket for a sister in-law, uncle, brother, mother and father. Even though it has been a few years I can walk directly to the monuments that mark their graves. I can't see the monuments from the two-track, due to cemetery rules all markers are now level to the ground for ease of mowing.

In a couple of weeks cemeteries across America, and foreign fields, will stand out as American flags, stapled to small round wood rods, give testimony to what makes America great. Monumental flags will point people to the resting places of the brave who served from Lexington-Concord to the mountains and desolation of Afghanistan. When taps are played many will shed tears. When the rifles fire in perfectly disciplined unison the scene sensitive still shudder or twitch. I know from first hand experience, tears from taps and shuddering from the rifles.

Brave men and women across the land and the ages were willing to face danger and death so the dream of real freedom would live on. That freedom, to think, talk, gather, worship, elect government, is so precious that the cost is blood. My brother Tag served in the Marines during the Viet Nam War, he died in December of 1969 from leukemia. Many of my friends will remember that ordeal he went through. My father served in World War II, in the jungles of the Philippines and New Guinea. He witnessed what was never talked about and carried in his body the reminders of malaria and jungle rot. I will always seek to honor them and the sacrifice they made.

Today it seems that patriotism is not in vogue. I can't pinpoint any particular reason, I suspect there are many. The evidence is obvious, attend any sporting event and count the number of people who do not take off their hats, talk and laugh and seem oblivious to what is happening. How about singing the National Anthem, even a superstar screws it up. There is even an alternate for people who do not like the original. How many of us even know that there are four verses to the anthem ? The fourth verse is quite militant in word and image, "Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto, "In God is our trust" And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

For a period of time I lived in a land that was ruled by a single party socialist government. The common people had no voice, yes they voted, for the only person running for president. They lived at the mercy of a corrupt government and a military that was as bad. While we lived there an attempted coup took place and the dead lay in the street around the government building to remind people of the cost. This country of ours in not perfect, far from it. But, it is the best form of government on the planet today.

Now, many people will not like a very personal opinion of mine in regards to our country. My opinion is this: If you don't appreciate freedom, if all you can do is complain and moan, if the sight of our flag and our brave men and women in uniform bothers you then, MOVE OUT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA