Friday, November 30, 2012

Following In Their Footsteps

Some of mine are dead, some, obviously, living.  John Piper claims his are dead overall.  Hero's of the faith; those saints that we look to as our examples when our own framework of dust and bone doesn't provide context enough.  I look to Joni Eareckson Tada for inspiration and a bunch of dead guys; C.S. Lewis, Biblical saints and Spurgeon to name a few.

Life is difficult.  No surprise there.  When I throw my little pity parties (because it's all about me) it helps me to remember that Joni has had to have somebody dress her in the morning for the last 45 years.  Yet she remains one of the most positive and Christ exalting people I know.  Job lost it all yet maintained a perfect faith in God's goodness and holy character.  I look to these saints and see God's handiwork therefore I believe I can trust Him with the difficulties in my own life.

The apostle Paul repeatedly told others to follow him as an example of following Christ.  Peter said of Christ that He died, leaving us an example that we should follow in His steps.  It is important to find yourself those Christ affirming, Christ exalting role models to follow.  For myself they flesh out what Christian life looks like especially in the midst of affliction.  Their reality destroys my petty fantasy of my own importance. 
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.--1 Peter 2:21


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Petraeus, Pride and Protection

The General Petraeus scandal reminds me of the scandal of another military leader: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army….From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her.” My purpose isn’t to focus on General Petraeus but on the sin he committed. Know that I write both as one that has experienced the betrayal of adultery and as one that has committed sexual sin. I do not cast the first stone.

I can only imagine the pain, shame and embarrassment this has brought to all concerned especially wife and children. Beyond that it certainly has impacted many as the ripple circled out from the initial admission of guilt; those serving under the General as well as those that respected him. Like David’s sin it was a private act with far reaching consequences.

The text says that King David ‘sent Joab out.’ I wonder if General Petraeus also sent his leadership away that there would be no immediate accountability. I am certain that he has many serving with him that have his back in the field of battle and in daily public life. It is sad that there wasn’t someone there who had his back before his shirt was off.

It was pride that set him up for his fall just as it did for King David. Humility is our first protection from attacks of the flesh. Rather than send our friends away we need to open up our lives to them. We must be willing to be accountable. This means that they have the right to ask us how we are doing in the private areas of our life. We give them accessibility. We keep short accounts with our friends/or our accountability partners. When we screw up we admit it. Pride does not allow such open sharing of human frailty.

“Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.” One has to go through many steps to maintain an adulterous affair. In the case of the King this eventually led to murder. I do not know all the steps Petraeus maintained but I suspect one at his level could manipulate much to hide much. At that point you have closed yourself off to the world to maintain your sin. How much easier it would have been to open yourself up to a few trustworthy men?

We are told that King David had a heart for God. The conclusion is easy to draw; if David could commit such a horrible sin so could I. In the grocery store magazine covers (like that of Time magazine) shout out the sad story of the General’s sin and fall. It should be warning to each of us (and not men only) that pride comes before a fall. David’s fall began in Spring but every season has its dangers. Let us stay humble and transparent that the enemy may not gain a foothold.

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.—Hebrews 3:12

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Music

My uncles’ favorite chorus is “Bring me flesh and bring me wine.” It’s from Good King Wenceslas which celebrates the Feast of Stephen. Growing up mom would start the Christmas music in small amounts after Thanksgiving and it would reach its peak on Christmas Eve. We listened to quite the mix including The Mormon Tabernacle choir, Harry Belafonte and Tennessee Ernie Ford. Usually I say that I first heard the Gospel in a Mormon household but truth is I first heard it in the Christmas music I listened to as a child.

Growing up on Tennessee Ernie Ford is reason, in part, for my taste in Christmas music. I say, “In part,” because the other piece is just that I’m wired weird. This next is one of the glowing differences between my wife and I. She likes all Christmas music. That means she likes the crooners (Bing and Frank) and the modern, the schmaltzy roasting chestnuts and snow falling stuff. Yeah---not me. I lean strongly to the Christ-exalting stuff especially the hymns, except for one which I’m just tired of.

Little Drummer Boy has been done every-which-way by every artist from Jars Of Clay to Audio Adrenaline. Initially I liked the song. It’s fun to hear each different rendition. It’s just that it’s played every other song on the radio, kind of like White Christmas.

Whatever the tune we enter into the Christmas season celebrating the birth of Christ and the ransom paid for men. Let us sing the hymns loudly and celebrate the seasonal songs. In it all let our hearts and our characters reflect Him whom we sing about;

Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourselves find blessing. ---Good King Wenceslas

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Marriage And Weekend Getaways

In a life with little discretionary time and income; How important is it to get-away as a married couple? I ran this same question by a close friend who emphasized the importance of going someplace that, “It’s just you two and thousands of people you don’t know.” I don’t know if this is something that can be measured scientifically. Anecdotally it makes sense. Certainly there are some caveats as well. In my previous relationship we did take trips away; but she brought the laptop and neither unplugged from work or plugged into our relationship. But my marriage now is the antidote to that anecdote.

There is mystery and adventure in being ‘just you two and thousands.’ There are the days to discover new places and share experiences and serendipity. Seems it opens up opportunity for discussion beyond, “Can we pay the gas bill this week?” Ultimately it paves the way for that “We’ll always have Paris” moment.

The wife and I are reading the Old Testament A whirlwind tour shows that God mandates Sabbath. God too values ‘having Paris.’ Why else insist that Israel put up altar after altar (some of them even on river bottoms)? God encourages rest and making memories.

The weekend getaway allows unhindered time to be relating. It’s that time free from stress, routines and errands. It’s a little weekend that is a stepping stone to the big picture. For those reasons and a thousand more the getaway is important. Finally it’s also the carrot that gets us through these months. That’s important for us two.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Safety Of Fences

I grew up in a house without fence or hedge. At which my sister would yell, “But our house had a hedge all around it!” There were no immaterial hedges. For example as a teenager I had no curfew and only needed to call my mother and give her my location and estimated time of return to home. So it was that I had much confusion and anxiety in my youth.

Imagine my excitement years later to find out that God had provided a fence and guide for me. There were directions for what was best for me. There was a place to run when the world got too scary. There were boundaries which kept me protected. In midlife I continue to depend on this guide to hedge me in and keep me safe.

Midlife has no guarantee that terror will not press in. Some pressures are greater; one knows more people that have died. The ignorance of youth gives way to clarity---this is a two edged sword. Conviction in one’s decisions is easier. The list of those you know that have crashed and burned is longer. It is easy to imagine the worst.

I could have grown up with no safety net. Then the terrors of life would lead to angst and spiral into a death dive. Instead I find hope in the ‘light unto my feet and light unto my path.” I run to the one that calls the descendants of Abraham His friends encouraging them, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.”---Isaiah 41:10

“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me…”---Psalm 16

Sunday, November 25, 2012

They Know Drama

“…Dad who was by then an energetic orthopedic surgeon, always a rocket right out of bed even after a night of surgery…woke up slurring his speech, unable to move his left side, and trapped in bed. He was having a stroke.” So writes Ted King about how ‘Ted’s parents taught him to succeed in cycling.’* The point of the story is that he learned more about perseverance and success by watching his parents struggle through his dad’s brain injury than by cycling with them (which he rarely did). The best stories are often the toughest to hear.

That rather scares me. My wife and I are praying to live a good story. To some I expect that means money and comfort. God seems to have the same motto as TNT, “We know drama.” Seems the good stories have some character desperately at the end of their rope. The rope frays, stretches and just as it’s about to break and send our hero into the abyss God steps in. Personally I’m much more comfortable with the riches and comfort story.

Life is like that. If we had to choose between the story we’re given and “What’s behind door #2,” we’d pick door number two every time. In reality the wife and I choose to trust the Author and rejoice in the story. You know what? That edginess makes getting out of bed an adventure.

*The Best Lesson by Ted King, Bicycling Magazine, Nov. 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stuck Or Letting Go?

It feels like slogging through mud sometimes, doesn’t it? You know you shouldn’t be getting sucked down but you are. The world is pulling you in. Spiritually and emotionally you know you should get free but you can’t. You are on one level but there is still that strong pull made evident by the sucking sound every time you lift up your foot.

We have these material bodies that get sick and need comfort. We have food and property, medical bills and school bills. These slam us up against the reality of being aliens and strangers, people that have a house not made with hands. It’s this slamming up against that is so disconcerting. Lift foot from mud, walk, lift foot from mud, walk…that’s how the faith battle feels most days.

That’s why Peter said, “I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them…” Without the reminding it’s easy to sink down into the mud. We don’t feel like we have an inheritance imperishable, undefiled and reserved specially for us. The telephone calls from the bill collectors and our sin nature scream at us and when we look about we just see mud.

When we pull free from the mud Peter reminds us to rejoice. We have to deal with the mud for a little while because, somehow, it proves our faith. At the end of the day mud will turn to faith “that is more precious than gold,” though it be tested by fire.

So we endure the mud. We walk by faith and we remind ourselves and each other that mud isn’t our inheritance. Kept by faith we press on to that which is ours; imperishable, undefiled and reserved.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Family Traditions As Anchors

Why would you leave your ship in harbor unanchored? Yet when I look at the lives of those around me that is how they appear. One of the great tethers we have to joy are family traditions. In the big picture those can be blood line, friends or even assembling together in a church. It is those connections that help secure us to life.

Trying to figure out where to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas is a joyful and frustrating event. It comes down to tradition. Growing up my family celebrated Christmas eve. Since mom’s passing my sister continues the tradition at her house. Thanksgiving too has been held at her house. Christmas day we celebrate with close friends. It surprises me how powerful that is.

Yesterday I was reminded how deep those anchored affections touch us. The sharing of hugs and greeting family and friends affirms our belonging. There is a rich well that flows through those year after year connections we make. Hugs given and toasts over beer celebrate commitment and connection to one another. The bond strengthens more as we share the year’s events; deaths and blessings, family coming home and marriages that are sweeter and stronger.

Thanksgiving ushers in a season of decoration and busyness. Deeper still we enter into the Advent season. Looking forward I am reminded that it is not about the superficial stuff. As we come together week after week we come together as family. Driving all over Southern California on Christmas it’s also about family. These are the anchors and foundations that secure us here. These are the traditions that anchor us through the storms.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Counter Intuitive Christ

People don’t usually respond the way I want them to. Working with the public I find all type of petty attitudes amongst customers and co-workers. My petty gut reaction is to respond in kind. Jesus’ gut reaction is to love them.

I am reminded again that Jesus’ response to life is so counter intuitive. We want our enemies to suffer. He tells us to forgive and love them. We judge others faults. He reminds us to look at the log in our own eye. We are petty, proud and arrogant. He is humble and meek. We push away. He embraces.

I am reminded that when I first heard truth it was Jesus saying these type of things. It was the counter intuitive responses that He requested that caused me to think He was God.

On this eve of Thanksgiving I am thankful for that counter intuitive, radical, loving response to humanity. Gospel principles have changed my priorities and focus in life. They pave the way for me to love and appreciate my wife and my kid. I don’t love them well enough now, I couldn’t love them well enough without Gospel truth.

Tonight I give thanks for the many blessings given me. For the God whose heart cuts through what seems right into what truly is, and who loves humanity in a way that is so very different then our broken bent.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Prayer and Waiting: The Silent Season

My wife and I find ourselves in a silent spiritual season. God brought us together a year ago which was a cataclysmic event. We took our first year to mesh and set up house. In June we began praying toward our future. In the mix of life and us my sister in law found she had cancer. Through all of that we prayed.

It seems that nothing happens. My sense is that I’ve done a lot of deliberate praying in the last six months. We pray for a mix of items such as healing for the sis, enlarged spiritual territory, finances and vision for employment. Still we don’t see change.

It’s four in the morning and I stand in the steam filled bathroom after showering. Soon I will head out the door to work. Work has been tough lately as morale has decreased as demands on the employees have increased. The mirror is fogged up, I’m still tired, and I wonder about answered prayer. Does God hear my praying? Is God mad at me? Those answers make no sense in light of God’s character.

It is in the revealed character of God that we trust. Beyond that we have the past to reflect on and see how He has answered previous prayer---like for a spouse. I suspect the waiting is part of the answer. The rest will get answered as God desires as is best for us His children.

Monday, November 19, 2012

How Do We Change A Culture?

How do we change a culture?  In an article by Marvin Olasky quoting Ross Douthat (the conservative voice of the New York Times) he writes of “an Obama coalition “created by social disintegration and unified by economic fear.” Douthat wrote of “the growing failure of America’s local associations—civic, familial, religious—to foster stability, encourage solidarity and make mobility possible.”  Without a solid Judao-Christian framework the culture crumbles. As an earlier writer has said, “If the gold rusts, what then will the iron do?”

There is no changing culture without changing hearts. That is why corporations fail when they attempt culture change. It is usually an outward change while the marrow inside is still rotting. As Jesus indicated a shiny sepulchre still holds a dead body.

The change can’t be political or legal. It needs to spread one by one until a wave rolls forward changing the landscape. Christ changed the world through the disciples and change through the gospel is responsible for countries changing and walls falling. Simply look at the history surrounding this country’s establishment or the fall of the Berlin wall. Each was a result of a spiritual movement spurred by spread of the Gospel.

Changing a culture is difficult work. For those of us who are serious Christ followers there is no other option. It is a one by one, person to person quest. The walls are going up. We must struggle to break them down again. Like Israel rebuilding the wall in the days of Nehemiah we do it with sword in one hand and trowel in the other. Only we tear down the walls to build a better framework.  We have no choice. To arms!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Conservative On NPR

Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Driving home from work today, a journey of forty-five minutes, I grew tired of my normal radio pre-sets.  KCRW falls on the dial between two local Christian radio stations and a show on investments caught my ear.  In typical NPR style it was divided into a number of smaller segments one of them on families in Joplin that survived the tornado thanks to God’s intervention and good investing.  This particular story had a mother tell her daughter to climb into an old chest, ‘for fun play’ as the tornado hit.  Afterward they found themselves in a house with a stairway leading nowhere and a complete view of the skyline---the roof had been blown away.  The thought occurred to me as it has a number of times I’ve listened to NPR: they know how to tell a good story.

Searching the dial on road trips I am always thrilled to find a broadcast of Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk or The Splendid Table. Other times I’ve wiled away hours listening to stories about music or aspects of the human condition. The stories resonate at soul level. I laugh, sigh and stay entranced as I am drawn into the story.

There has been some controversy these last years regarding funding public television and radio. I suspect part of that is because some conservatives state the news reported on NPT is liberally slanted. Honestly I have no clue either way. I don’t get my news from them but they are often along with me as travel companion in my car.

In the scheme of things funding public radio is inconsequential.  What is of consequence is relationship wisdom and auto advice from Tom and Ray (with Chief Legal Counsel from Dewey, Cheetham and Howe) and Americana from our own national treasure, Garrison Keillor.  If the day comes that they chuck the funding it may be the baby going out with the bathwater.  He'll be awfully cold out there in Lake Wobegon.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cycling Solstice

It’s not the bicycle riding I miss. It’s the pushing hard against the pedal, adrenaline coursing through your veins as you inhale a stream of cold air and spit it out. It’s the spitting out that’s the thing; blowing off the crummy boss, the half-hearted employee and attitudes that spiral downward in the breakroom. The whole adventure happens on one level while at another you are enjoying your surroundings.

Winter riding is different. My Excel spreadsheet shows previous rides to snow level. Going downhill at forty-five miles per hour in summer cools you off to normal body temperature. Downhill in forty-five degrees makes any extremity hurt and your snot freeze.

Five days post surgery and I’m looking forward to getting out again. I tap the bike on the seat as I walk by it and I check the tire pressure by feel. It’ll be the first ride post-election. We’ll see if all the signs are down.

Nature should be waking up.  The hawks should be out. I type with my fingers and think cycling. My lungs fill with air in memory and anticipation. I’m thinking the weekend after Thanksgiving. The body will have bloated enough the blood slowed enough in the arteries to have reached a level below equilibrium. Time for renewal. Time for my cycling solstice.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lisa Whelchel, Identity, and Survivor

If real life were like the movies----In the movies the good guy turns in his Sherriff badge so he can get the bad guy without his job (and it’s ethics) getting in the way. Even in the movies you can turn in your badge but you can’t change your identity.

I keep coming across articles about motivation. I read articles pertaining to motivation and men and motivation and positive thinking. The reading got my head spinning about motivation. The reading and one more thing got me thinking about motivation; this season’s Survivor: The Philippines.

One of the survivors this season is Lisa Whelchel from Facts Of Life. She is a professed Christian and is trying to play the game with a level of integrity. That takes us back to the badge imagery. For some Christians playing poker is decidedly difficult. You have to allow yourself to bluff. I had the same experience as a teen playing Dungeons and Dragons. To be the evil wizard meant setting aside your world-view for three hours. Easy enough for a teen, harder for a poker player—impossible on Survivor?

It comes back to identity. Identity is the person you are when no one is looking. It is the ultimate motivator. It was his identity as a preacher of the gospel that allowed John Bunyan to “choose prison and a clear conscience over freedom and a conscience soiled by the agreement not to preach.” It was his belief (later realized) that he was a modern day prophet calling Soviet Russia to account that led Solzhenitsyn to cry, “As for me, I kept silent for another reason: because those Muscovites thronging the steps of the escalators were too few for me, too few! Here my cry would be heard by 200 or twice 200, but what about the 200 million? Vaguely, unclearly, I had a vision that someday I would cry out to the 200 million.”

Ultimately it is our identity that motivates us. It is who we believe ourselves to be that denotes how we will respond to life as it bears upon us.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Marriage, Rocky Waters And Safety Equipment

The book Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti talks about how men and women are wired differently. The idea is to know the differences to help us communicate with each other. I once led a group in which the men, having read the book, felt that since their wives knew they related differently the wives should address that. It was an eye opener.

Knowing me you know my first marriage crashed and burned. You’d think having gone down in an airplane one time one wouldn’t want to do it again. Some folks just don’t think like that. The fun part (if you allow it) of being remarried is focusing more attention on doing things right. Right now we are reading through Bill and Pam Farrel’s other book, The First Five Years.

The first year sailed smoothly. Now we are trying to dive deeper into the relational waters. There are some rocks down there that you don’t notice when you are dating. Or you notice them but decide to go to a different spot for the night. Now it’s year two and we are having discussions about deeper stuff. We are trying to figure out how we mesh and how God means to blend the good stuff and the broken stuff. It is a fun and scary process.

We were navigating around these waters last week and hit some choppy areas. Unlike my first flaming disaster we affirmed our lifetime commitment to each other. As we move forward it is important to know the life-preserver is there. Life navigation in new waters can be a blast but sharks prowl about seeking whom they may devour. It is good to know the safety gear is intact.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Desires: Property-Living Between the Answers

There are no boards designated ‘Asceticism’ on Pinterest. There are great pictures of the ideal house, the ideal yard and the ideal vacation spot. If I had a board in my head it would look like Pinterest. I dream of the perfect house but life has taken me down a different road.

I had a short period of time living in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. Then God moved me out to the desert. Shortly thereafter I married a wonderful gal that He moved to the desert so she could be with me. We live in a little rental that has broken tile in the kitchen and bottom-line sinks and faucets in the bathrooms. We long for a nicer place that is our own.

That is the struggle. We want more yet we want to live within our means. Currently our means don’t allow for more. We are not alone in this. Many in today’s economy simply don’t have a basic house. Still we have a roof over our head and food on our table.

So we wrestle with wants, we grapple with longing. To want the dog and the yard to entertain isn’t wrong. To learn to live in a way where we can invest finance and life in people who have less than we do is our calling as well. Like so much in life we pray and live between the answers.

Stand and sing the words about his majesty
They're all found on page four hundred fifty-three
We could sing them to the walls in holy trances
We could touch the Lord of all
Between the answers

Between the Answers written by John Fischer

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Desire And Work

"Within my lifetime in England money was (very properly) collected to buy shirts for some men who were out of work.  The work they were out of was the manufacture of shirts."

If I had all the chocolate in the world, the fastest bike, the most money, carte-blanche at Trader Joes; the wish-list starts in childhood and changes as we grow into adults. Still it never goes away. For some adults it ever stays at the chocolate wishing phase. If we are serious we attempt to break down desire into healthy/unhealthy, needs or wants. My life like yours is one in process. For me part of the process comes in blogging as I wrestle in hopes that the sharing and grappling will produce answers.

In our life’s work we question ‘calling.’ Is this a western idea or are we called to specific work? Or are we to just do our Nine-to-Five and find our fulfillment outside of those hours? We can count on one hand friends who have careers that imbue their life with meaning. There are aspects of my work that I enjoy, the customer interactions (mostly), the sharing of life and knowledge of coffee. I dislike being underutilized, having no respect and given authority not commensurate with my position.

What of the rice farmer in China—or in Fresno for that matter. Do they feel called or are they simply putting food on the table? C.S. Lewis writing on Good Work and Good Works says, “…so we shall do better if we remember at every moment what Good Work was and how impossible it has now become for the majority. We may have to earn our living by taking part in the production of objects which are rotten in quality and which, even if they were good in quality, would not be worth producing---the demand or ‘market’ for them having been simply engineered by advertisement….”

We have two basic needs; security and significance (Lawrence Crabb). Ultimately these are found in Christ; in doing our work to the glory of God. In eking out our work we seek fullness of both of these. I sense that we may never fully arrive yet we dare not cease striving to do both good work and good works.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Investing Or Moving On

My little church had a father-daughter dance tonight. I sat next to a Marine that joined our church recently and who I am just getting to know. As we were chatting he told me that though they’ve been in ‘29’ since 09 they were supposed to move to Camp Pendleton next year. My internal reaction was mixed; I felt bad that the relationship wouldn’t go longer and deeper. I felt hesitant to invest any more time. That connection won’t last. Looking around the room I had a different feeling and thought.

I’ve been in the desert seven years and my wife is going on two. Our plan is to leave when the daughter graduates. Yet each year we are here the roots go deeper and the connections stronger.

As I looked around the room I saw all the fathers dancing with their daughters; the men in jackets and ties, the girls in party dresses. I know the stories of so many of the men that were there tonight. As the music played and I looked around I thought of the stories that will go forward.

A mix of fathers was in the room with a mix of daughters; step daughters and nieces. I know the dad’s in the room love their daughters. You know though that all will parent imperfectly and some will make catastrophic mistakes. God willing the daughters will grow up morally strong and rich in character. If you’ve been around the block a bit you know that there will be children going astray and hard stories along with the great ones.

As God keeps us here we will be part of those stories. At this juncture I don’t know if we will keep these connections or move on. Today we invest and pour our lives into those of our friends. Tomorrow we wait to see if our orders are to march away or stay connected and grow deeper roots.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Living As Having Nothing To Lose

Solzhenitsyn writes in The Gulag Archipelago, “From the moment you go to prison you must put your cozy past firmly behind you…..For me those I love have died, and for them I have died. From today on by body is useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me.” There is surprising freedom in having nothing to lose.

I wonder if that’s why some of my elderly customers act the way they do. If I were driving an electric cart and ran into a door or knocked down a wine display I’d be mortified. My older customers aren’t fazed by it. In a more real sense looking death squarely in the eye makes one bolder and free. On KFI radio Tim Conway and Steckler have a shtick where they yell, “We are the middle class and we have nothing to lose.” Having nothing to lose makes you all the more bold in the conviction you have.

Paul knew this as well. In writing to the Romans he continuously encouraged them to ‘Reckon yourselves dead to sin.” The dead man has nothing to lose. In our authenticity and our convictions we should live like that. Not looking to please others, not self-protecting, but promoting ideals that are lofty and true. That is how we must live if our lives are to count to the utmost; having only our spirit and our conscience as most precious and important.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Perfection And Obedience

“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities, for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is is lovingkindness toward those who fear him…”

“True whole faith is better than sacrifice.”

There are days when I look at my life and see all the big mistakes I’ve made. The past weighs me down like a ball and chain. Today should look bright but I’m blinded to it. Despite my past God continuously restores ‘what the locusts have eaten.’

During the implosion of my previous marriage as well as the days afterward I sought to do what God wanted me to. In part I did the right things because they were right. Greater still I tried to do right because I took pleasure in the joy that flowed from God into my life.

When I started dating Valerie we were both seeking what God desired. We even evaluated our relationship in terms of God’s rules for remarriage. Up to and through the dating process we tried to listen to God.

We ended up getting married. We are into year two of a marriage that is rewarding and soul-satisfying. I have friends that say, “It’s great that you did all the right things. You deserve it.” Know what though? My life wasn’t a hundred percent perfect after the first marriage blew up. Val and I didn’t walk into our marriage in perfect holiness and perfection. We sinned along the way yet God did not deal with us accordingly.

All along the way God dealt with us (and is dealing with us) as a loving father that gives not because we are perfect. Certainly our hearts desire matters. Still He gives because He is a loving father. Father’s give the best they have to their children because they are their children. So it is with God. We deserve the devastation of locusts but He has redeemed all of our days.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Us Against Them

Wednesday I was talking with a fellow employee when another employee that is African-American sarcastically said to us, “Why are all the White guys so upset today?” I don’t know if he voted for Obama because of his policies or because of his skin color. Either way he insinuated that he had an us-against-them mentality.

America has denigrated into a structure where some type of warfare is warp and woof of who we are. Growing up we had debates about whether America was ‘melting pot’ (different elements melting together) or ‘salad bowl’ (cultures mixing but staying intact). Neither quite fits anymore. We look more like the dinner plate of my daughter where different foods can never touch.

The president continuously incites class warfare into his speeches and programs. We hear all about the rich republicans and their dislike for the normal folk. Latino rights are large in the southwest with radical agencies such as La Raza marching to a beat that incites the same us-against-them mentality. After Tuesdays’ election Romney supporters don’t understand the mentality of the Obama supporters and they say the same thing about those of us that support Romney. We are a divided America.

There is no easy solution. In the movies this problem is solved by the intrusion of a common enemy like a Hitler or an alien attack. We have gone so far astray of truth and Judeo-Christian ideals that compromise is impossible. The only route that I can see for repair is the Christian route. In Christ, Paul says,
Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.-Colossians 3:11
I see no other ideology or hope that can save us.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Obama And Our Downward Slide

"...and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them."---Margaret Thatcher

I sent my daughter a text: Sorry for the world that you will have to live in. The darkness has begun. President Obama was elected to his second term last night. If it were simply a difference in personalities I would not feel this way. It is four more years of debt increasing above the current 16 trillion. It is the ongoing devaluing of the dollar as we continue to print money. It is the hostility toward Israel and the friendships with the enemies of Israel. And of course it is the fleshing out of Obamacare. These will produce greater financial strain on the nation and stagnate an already dead economy.

My generation has had it relatively easy. There haven’t been any world wars in my time, no depression, no wide-spread famines and no dust-bowl (though we’ve come close). At this juncture I sense an American downhill slide.

It’s the slide that causes the greatest angst. A socialist president, four Supreme court appointees, and half a country which supported his election.

Tomorrow my plan is to recalibrate and find equilibrium. I will spend time in prayer. Tomorrow I will seek God’s perspective on this mess. The truth is that God is in control of all these things. Life has always been difficult.

So the people without understanding are ruined…Hosea 4:14

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Television, Taxes and the Presidential Election

It’s all about the taxes! We’re voting to keep em, or raise em, or vote for people to lower them and keep them from destroying us. I was talking with a customer today about our taxes in California. I told him that I figure I will be working til I drop dead. He sells high quality window treatments. Having ten or more years on me he says he is going to work until the day when he goes to somebody’s house and he hears, “There’s an old man at the door.”

I’m not in the mood for another rant about taxes. Suffice it to say I’m Libertarian when taxes are involved. Government should only tax us for infrastructure-roads, maintenance and military. That ain’t the philosophy of the current administration. So tonight we wait…

Election day at my house means I’m glued to the computer. Being newly married the night will be a tad different. We are going to watch Survivor on Hulu which seems a good pairing for election eve. We are following that with Last Man Standing; I’m feeling a theme here. Perhaps we should finish out the evening with Last Resort.

After winding down with Hulu we’ll click over to Fox news and follow the voting results for each state. My lovely bride had me assure her that I’ll get some sleep tonight. Hopefully there will be good news before bed time. Til then we pray and hope that next time we talk about the Obama administration we use the words Once Upon A Time.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The 46 Percent Still Believe That Crap

That’s the point Rush made this morning. If (when) Romney wins with a margin of 53/46 that means that those 46% believe the anti-Romney propaganda. Certainly there are other reasons people may vote for Obama as well though there is no logical reason to do so. In my post on January 18, 2009, I asked

Will he establish and maintain laws that give dignity to life, or establish such laws which would greatly expand government funding of abortion(among other things.) Will he recognize Ahmadinejad and Hamas as terrorists, or invite them over for tea? Will personal freedoms be enlarged, or taken away?

Four years later and Obama has negatively fulfilled my predictions and I am not a professional pundit or prophet. Charles Krauthammer writes that,
“An Obama second term means that the movement toward European-style social democracy continues, in part by legislation, in part by executive decree. The American experiment — the more individualistic, energetic, innovative, risk-taking model of democratic governance — continues to recede, yielding to the supervised life of the entitlement state.”
Sadly still the country is divided. Many will vote for Obama like my employee that mimics rhetoric that Romney is for the rich, Ryan will take away Medicare, they will steal away the rights of women and gays.

The 46% will continue to believe lies and turn from the truth. As we become a nation of relativists and self-seekers we choose based not on truth but on what best benefits us. Sadly that blindness leads not to freedom but to chains and slavery. The minority fail to understand that there choice would lead to bondage in taxes and socialism and movement away from individual freedoms including the freedom to worship and speak as we choose. Let us hope that those with clearer vision will continue to be in the majority and that many will finally recognize that, as I wrote 3 years ago, the current emperor has no clothes.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Coming Out Of The Party Closet

A Christian friend of mine recently confessed that he is a Democrat which is anathema in the small rural community I live in. He leaped out of the closet when confronted by a fellow believer that said, “You can’t be Christian and a Democrat.” My friend said that by stating his voting party he betrayed his rule to never discuss politics.

It is unfortunate that we don’t discuss religion or politics because they lead to controversy and discord. If we are serious about our beliefs we should be serious enough to discuss them in the public square. Certainly a valid discussion of religion is a life or death (or afterlife after death) discussion. Since God exists how we respond should carry tremendous weight. Similarly we vote based on our convictions because we believe it makes a difference.

Perhaps it only makes a difference based on how you weight the issues. My friend indicated that he opposes abortion. He also believes that the government should take care of the masses, i.e., social justice. His actions indicate that he places societal good above the life of unborn children.

If we hold our convictions based on reasoned thought and contemplation then these ideas should be discussed at other places besides dinner. Unless of course we hold them for convenience and safety. In which case they are not convictions at all. They are simply concepts carried on the wind,  seeds never taking root and growing.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Rekindling Love

Jesus tells the church in Ephesus, “I hold this against you, you have forsaken your first love.” This weekend is our church retreat for men. In looking over the itinerary I see we are covering basics, evangelism, discipleship and confession. I got to thinking about my own life and the tenets of faith. I see so much that I do that is Christ maturing me. I pray differently now than before. I trust God to hear my prayer whereas as a young believer so often I wondered if He listened or heard.

The flip side is that it’s easy to lose sight of the early astonishment of it all. Early on I feared God differently. Now it is more as father than as scary big-as-the-universe God. There is a fine line there someplace. True I can rest in my heavenly dad’s love for me. Still it is good to tremble at the fullness of all that He is.

That inkling of thought for me, that nudge from the Spirit, is to rekindle those first amazing understandings of God. To pray to Him as He is, to surrender to Him as He deserves, to worship in awe at the fullness of Him who holds all things together by His hand. In that balance between trembling awe and childlike comfort lies the secret of staying in love with God.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Memory, Retrieval And Story

“We don’t have memory problems, we have retrieval problems,” says a friend. There is something about having a child that prods memory. This week my daughter anguished over her pre-calc at a level that was painful for a father to watch. I flashed back to my childhood. I hated math. I had significant math anxiety. I remember crying because it made no sense to me yet I still had to produce.

Tonight the kid was working on Spanish homework via a computer program. As I let my mind wander (as I accessed the file marked ‘Spanish’) I remembered a song I enjoyed when I was in Taxco, Mexico. Thinking of the song brought back other memories of my trips to Mexico.

Memory is an interesting animal. One day late in my fathers’ struggle with Alzheimer’s he was recounting to me the loves he had over his life. He started fine but soon into the story I realized that he was combining elements of his early life with the current. As an example he told of a high school sweetheart of his and how their love didn’t last because he lost her on 9/11. The memories were there, just the ends threaded together without the middle.

I am hopeful that despite loss of RAM I am still able to retrieve memories and data as I age. Part of me suspects that my stories will be lost both to time and to access. That is one reason I blog. To set down the stories. The ‘cloud’ will remember long past my capability to do so.