Saturday, March 30, 2013

We Had Hoped

 He said to them, “What things?” “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied, “a man who, with his powerful deeds and words, proved to be a prophet before God and all the people;
and how our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. Not only this, but it is now the third day since these things happened. Furthermore, some women of our group amazed us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back and said they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.” ---Luke 24

There is an expectant waiting beginning with Good Friday and culminating on resurrection Sunday. The initial watchers, witnesses and followers of God had only a mustard seed of hope. This day we wrestle as they did. We say, “We had hoped,” but here we are strolling on Saturday with downcast hearts. We say “we had hoped,” but reconciliation doesn’t come. We say, “we had hoped,” but our pride and arrogance drives a wedge between our hearts and intimacy with Christ. We say, “we had hoped,” and the wish doesn’t come true.

We walk with Jesus without clearly seeing. We hold onto the promises of scripture often with trembling in weakness. We keep walking then comes a moment, a whisper, an inkling of truth, a fiery flash of hope. It is late on Saturday, perhaps even early Sunday. We hold onto the hope.

Jesus opens Himself up to us and we say with the travelers, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?” Christ has risen as the prophets foretold. What we had hoped fades into shadow as true reality is touched for all our hopes save one are a momentary light affliction. ‘For we have been given fullness in Christ;’ our hope fulfilled.

“Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. Now during the blessing he departed and was taken up into heaven. So they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple courts blessing God.---Luke 24

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Brief Reflection

Pictures from the walk at Shields' Date Farm in La Quinta, California.

It is to easy to let Good Friday slip by unnoticed. I miss attending the Lutheran service. Years ago I lived in a house with two Lutherans and would accompany them to the evening Good Friday service. The service is full of symbolism. During the service the Paschal candle is extinguished and will not be relit until Easter; it will burn for the rest of the year until the following Good Friday. The service is given; prayers are said and the crucifixion of Christ is remembered. At the end of the service the doors are slammed shut and the worshippers instructed to leave in silence.

This is a time of reflection. What a privilege to celebrate this cornerstone of Christianity (“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.—1 Cor. 15). The disciples did not know that Easter was coming. We do---so we wait expectantly looking toward that final day when the groanings of this life and the sting of death are realities no longer.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hyundai Quiet Times

Have you had your daily ‘quiet time’ today? Christians have this unique slang. Quiet time is the time spent in prayer, Bible reading, worship, reflection or any component thereof. My favorite quiet time takes place in my Hyundai.

The last six months have been exceeding stressful in the Dillo household. My workplace has been a source of daily trials. So it is that I delight in the forty-five minute drive home. The radio dial has three Christian music stations right next to each other; 89.7, 90.1, and 90.5 (with NPR squeezed right between at 90.3). The car is like the shower in the sense that you can sing loud and make gestures while being relatively alone and unnoticed.

The drive home is a time of giving the day and life back to God. I sing loudly because I need not be self-conscious. I get emotional at times because the singing and the praying are one. It is a letting go of all that went on at work. It is a giving over of all that the family is facing.

People often ask me about the long drive to work. Certainly I dislike spending one to two hours on the road. If I lived closer I would save significantly on gas and time. I would miss those one hour quiet times though. I wonder if God would?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Same Sex Marriage Not Objective Truth

It’s been pointed out that homosexuals have always had the same rights as heterosexuals when it comes to marriage; a homosexual man can marry a woman and vice-versa. The aggressive agenda for the radical homosexual is to change culture and redefine truth. This is what leads me to write this post though I fought it for weeks.

Let me clarify what I am not saying. I am not saying that homosexuals are horrible people or that they are going to Hell because of their behaviour. All sexual brokenness misses the mark of God’s holiness. Romans tells us that we all fall short and need cleansing. My brokenness is as damnable offense as that of any homosexual. Apart from salvation in Christ none of us can be redeemed.

What I am saying is that truth is not subjective; it is not based on the latest poll. God set the standard in Genesis chapter two; “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, an be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh…” Christ reaffirms this model in the New Testament. The radical homosexual agenda is to make a lie the norm. They desire to force approval for their brokenness though objectively it is wrong (“and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them”---Romans 1:32).

Though they give lip service to tolerance this agenda is only tolerant of one view. Those that have an opposing view will not be tolerated. If you have a business or a non-profit (Boy Scouts of America) organization that opposes same-sex marriage then you will come under the gun. Your business will be sued as will your non-profit. Homosexuals will boycott your business. They will attempt to pass laws to take away your non-profit tax exemption. Dana Loesch (Diary) makes the case in a Red State article in which she states, “In suing over marriage one is demanding that others modify their beliefs to accommodate another. Do not people of faith retain their First Amendment liberty of freedom of religion?” She cites a number of cases to demonstrate that homosexuals will aggressively pursue legal action against those that hold to the truth that same-sex marriage is wrong.

As Diana Loesch has wonderfully stated in her article, “The Argument for Marriage Equality Is Not A Conservative One,” In suing over “marriage” itself one is demanding that God change His definition of the union between a man and a woman. If recognition of status, ease with other contractual obligations, and other issues are the issues, why the need to force people of faith to alter recognition of God’s Word on the matter? The people may bend as reeds to lawfare, but God will not. Frankly, I see no point in being on any side other than God’s on any matter, and God is more small government than any player in the scene.”

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

They've Ruined My Cap'n Crunch

You want to ask the Captain but he’s inanimate. You wonder about it; you ask friends, your wife agrees with you but you can’t put your finger on it. Cap’n Crunch is different than we were kids, isn’t it? It’s not nearly as sweet nor does it cut the roof of your mouth into shreds like it used to. It goes beyond that though, doesn’t it? Aren’t Frosted Flakes not quite as “Grrreat” as they used to be? There’s a world of food stuff that’s changed for the worse? How can we raise our children in such a world?

I looked forward to road trips in part because I knew that I’d be getting Apple Turnovers from McDonalds. That was before they changed the oil they used or the frying or the sugars. The Turnovers are now run-of-the-mill and there is no reason to drool over them. Is it my imagination or did Taco Bell burritos go through a similar mid-life change?

It truly is a gutting of all things American especially that which is most American, Coca-Cola. A recent trip to Walmart proved that I’m not alone in this regard. There on the main aisle was a shelf stacked with Coca-Cola hecho en Mexico. Y Por que? It has to be more than the corn syrup. What’s changed?

I know you can fill in your own food that’s been castrated by some health mongering group telling us how to eat. Political correctness has taken the teeth out of my evening munchies. Truly these changes to recipe and baking style have ruined great snacks so that our children have no opportunity to experience the great highs and lows which massive sugar produces. Their teeth may last a tad longer but they will never know the fullness of feeling that sweet Cap’n Crunch makes while it minces the mouth.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Some Days Are Like That

It was 7:34 p.m. when I grabbed the poison off the shelf. Some weeks are like that. The full moon over the desert was beautiful as I drove into work. I enjoyed that a couple of minutes before getting stuck behind two cars while the car behind kept his brights shining into my rearview mirror. The truck lane was impassible as usual making the normal speed up to eighty miles-per-hour necessary once again.

I attempted to maintain composure into my work day but found that I was only praying for forgiveness as every other thought was a negative one. The line of customers continued like clowns coming out of a circus car. Store policy requires I take lunch within five hours which I missed by one minute. One more expected confrontation with the boss guaranteed.

One highlight of the day was that I found an ally in my quest for a coffee pot. Apparently my phone call began a small firestorm. Lisa informed me that she was in touch with the other managers and that everybody was passing the buck. No solution yet but she was pushing them to get an answer.

After work I grabbed lunch for myself and my lady then flew out the door to small group bible study. The wife was wilting, tired from a long work day. Companionship at the study was good but still made for a long sprint before home.

Sitting down to type I glanced down at the entry way floor. One of the floor tiles was moving. On second look I noted that the tile itself was not moving at all, rather, the ants upon it were. That is when I marched out to the garage in search for poison which I applied to the floor and adjoining area around the door. The ants seem to have receded---so has the day. Some days are like that.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Let's Shake The Poop Out Of Him

“Let’s shake the (poop) out of him,” says Jacob the Pathfinder in the movie Ink. The hope is that having the poop shaken out of John, the main character, will humiliate and change his behaviour and ultimately save his daughter (the film is more complex and thought provoking than that—rent it!). What the Pathfinder crystallizes is that when life shakes us it refines us. The bible writers often spoke in these terms; the burning off of dross and the purifying character with hope and perseverance.

My own life brings this point home. It is the shaking of my life via financial struggle, health concerns or the troubles of a loved one that bring perspective and change. Humility is deepened because I realize I am not in control.

Having the poop shaken out of me isn’t a pleasant thing. This weeks’ wrestling with financial issues scares me. My mind runs to worst case scenarios and there I am—poof—living out of a shopping cart. Ultimately I am forced to wrestle with what is important. I am forced to take action.

At the end of the day my hope is that the shaking will be worth it. As Peter goes on to say, “so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Friday, March 22, 2013

City Boy Still Shaking My Head

River-front property increases property value; Wash-front property not so much. Needed to stretch today so I took the dirt road down into the wash and up the other side. I stood still in the middle of the wash and wondered why there was a wall of steel plating spanning it perpendicular to the wash walls. Apparently the force of the three rain storms we get each year aren’t enough to tear down that steel wall. Then I continued up the other side to walk up the hill.

The barking of dogs isn’t a surprising sound in the desert. In the city those dogs are kept behind fences or on a leash. Bicycle rides and long walks have taught me that it’s different in the desert. I’ve been chased by a German Shepherd that resembled Chewbacca in size and growl and small dogs just tall enough to reach ankles. That being the case I stayed clear of the property and prayed the dogs wouldn’t cross the street.

The owner of the dogs sat still on a patio. I think it was the owner though it could have been a mannequin as I saw little movement. The patio connected to a domicile that was more ‘triple-wide’ than house. Large square glass windows, unframed and unadorned, were cut into the front and side of the triple-wide. Where there should have been a third window hung a huge piece of plywood. Hearing noise above the dogs I looked up to see children and something I didn’t expect.

Two decent sized horses (smaller than Percherons) stood on the property adjacent to the triple-wide. There was not much of a house, more a shack actually. The fence keeping the horses in was lines of cable or wire not fence or wall at all. Still they seemed content to stay put.

I have to say the views from the top of the dirt road was terrific. One could see the lay of the land, the hive shaped rock formations adjoining the highway and large flat mesas in their midst. Still I am not accustomed to this ramshackle variety of property. Taking my leave of the view I skirted the dog property one more time. Down through the wash and home to my property just a block down from the (sometimes) waterfront view.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Budget Immersion

This is less a blog post and more of a confession. I do not do budgets. Primarily it’s because I know the outgo is always less than the income. Once I’ve paid my bills there’s nothing to budget as there’s nothing left over. I’m trying to change this behaviour but it’s difficult. It will be harder still because I expect no visible reward.

I’m in the midst of a desperate situation which is forcing me to deal with my finances more intimately. My friend Glenn is very good at this and has sat down over his expenses and analyzed, graphed and budgeted his money. I’m working my way there slowly.

The first step is like all first steps---you’ve gotta wanna. Sometimes an inciting event will come which will force you to look closely at your income and expenses. I just finished my taxes and am now working through a loan modification. Breaking out all the categories of spending has been exceeding painful but good---like what I expect to feel next month when I have my wisdom teeth extracted.

There are a number of tools and sites out there to help with the process. I’ve started by purchasing Quicken. This program helps quantify and graph spending. It helps you categorize your money and track it. In a quick second you can view your spending and see things such as gasoline spending; a dollar amount and a percentage of household income; $1300.00=5%. It’s a start.

Confessing my budget weakness is uncomfortable. It feels a bit like when I was learning to swim. This teenage girl that lived next door kept throwing me into the pool and encouraging me to make it back over to the edge. I never got over the shock of immediate immersion but I grew to love to swim. I’m hoping my leap into budgeting begets the same result.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Vintage Yard Sale

We can’t but help think that Cindy is a hoarder. As I write this she is in the midst of day three of her “vintage yard sale.” In front of her house currently is a bunch of decorator bricks, bowls and cups from her kitchen, one long dresser, some rod-iron, one or two thick tree branches and a bunch of other ‘vintage’ goods. Her house is small but all of this came from inside it. At Christmas we knocked on her door to give her some home-baked cookies. She opened the door a crack, reached out a hand and took the plate---so we wonder. In her back-yard there are nine ironing boards painted pink and green. A number of people have stopped by to shop including a dad that lives down the street with his four young children (as I heard him explain). Could be it’s not a vintage yard-sale at all but something much more sinister.

Neighbors crisscross the street all the time to come and visit any one of the houses in our tract. The three a.m. knock on the door of the house behind us is common. Last week when I went to take out the trash Eric, from the house across the way, was searching the ground intently. He advised me that he was looking for cigarettes ends to smoke.

It’s all very sinister. It’s the classic horror story in which the insane rule while the normal ‘sane’ people are held captive in the asylum. Could also be a drug cartel operating here in the high desert. The bandanas, the early morning clatter of recycled cans going into trash bins, the smell of marijuana accompanying solo sunup arias must all be part of the cover.

The sun is setting and the line of cars en route to the vintage yard sale has ceased to non-existence. Except for the occasional dog bark, baby-cry and bird chirp the street is quiet. I suspect tomorrow is the last chance. If anybody wants eclectic, vintage (circa 1974) furniture and kitchen utensils you’ll find them at the house where a large piece of plywood covers the garage. Follow the sound of the coyotes and the smell of used tobacco. If you smell that sweet burnt-burning joint smell your purchase may even come with special accompaniment.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Chains That Free Me

One of the problems with the Angels Landing Trail is that it isn't a trail at all, but a series of rock steps so narrow and precipitous that chains to hold onto have been bolted into the rock face. This isn't entirely unusual: Think Half Dome, but instead of a continuous cable-assisted climb, picture narrow rocks barely large enough to stand on in spots — and large gaps between chains.---Julie Sheer, Los Angeles Times Reporter

I’ve climbed Angels’ Landing twice and the second time was worse than the first. Putting in all the work to get near the Landing it seemed ludicrous to stop or turn around simply because I am afraid of heights. I prayed for the grace to make it to the Landing and continued to climb, scared and unsteady, hands sweating as they gripped the chain railing hammered into the side of the mountain to secure the route to the end of the trail.

There are seasons when faith is like this. I walk along unsteady not even certain where the end of the trail is or if it exists. One good gust and I will be pushed toward my death as was the Glendora woman that fell to her death in 2010.

What are the chain railings that keep me on track? The first is just plain facts. There are moments that I doubt my faith and doubt the truth of Christianity. When these winds blow I hold onto historical, archeological and mathematical truths as laid out in Evidence That Demands A Verdict (a book that lays out sound proofs for such topics as: The reliability of the Bible, Jesus-A man of history, The messianic prophesies and the resurrection). This is the most secure railing that I hold to as I ascend.

I’ve been journaling since High school and blogging since 2006. Both chronicle my life and the testimony of what God has done through these last seven years. In difficult times I tend to narrow my focus and forget the big picture. Looking back helps me see how God guided me through other rough patches. Looking ahead keeps my eyes off the precipice and on the goal and the final resting place.

In this case the chains free me. They secure me to what is true and guide me to the final Landing. Once there I can rest securely---at least until it’s time to make the trip back down.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons linked HERE

Saturday, March 16, 2013

First Love

He’d spent years being handled by the city government before he came to me. His name was Thaddeus after one of the lesser known disciples. He was white with blemishes around the edges. We shared many experiences Thaddeus and I especially through high school and college. He was my first car---an AMC Hornet.

There was the time my dad found my journal in which I’d written, “Got car up to 105 mph.” My dad stared at me. Thinking I was dead I said, “I could have gone faster but the road curved.” My dad nodded and left my bedroom.

Being a heavy steel vehicle Thaddeus was capable of moving at high speed though it took a while to get there. The turning radius was good too which is, in part, how a fellow Boy Scout was thrown from the hood of my car while I was spinning circles in the parking lot. Many stupid stunts occurred in that car most of them at speeds exceeding the speed limit though not always. There was the time I tried to drive up the ramp of a truck not realizing that my tires were to low to clear the metal edge of the ramp. This resulted in a ding to the bumper but no additional damage save for my ego.

There is something special about your first love and your first car. I’ve had nicer cars but no other cars that I’d secured the window in place with a two-by-four. No other car taught me the fear and foolishness of beginning a tail-spin with a girlfriend in the front seat. As for the back seat I’ll save those stories for another time.

Life seemed simpler in those days---even down to the Hornet’s engine. I’m not mechanically inclined but I could fix those hoses and change that oil. Now I pay somebody else to do it.

Dragons live forever but not so ancient cars. Thaddeus was replaced by little red truck. We both thought we were indestructible in those days. Living raw and crazy don’t happen often now. The road curves and I can’t go as fast. Still; sometimes when I get behind the wheel…

Friday, March 15, 2013

Since The Passing Of My Mother

We all have anniversaries we’d rather not celebrate. This week marks four years since the passing of my mother. I wouldn’t have given it thought but for a stirring in my subconscious, a change in the weather, a hint in my soul like an aftershock that took me off balance. In my case it was fifty years having my mother present then she was gone.

For me the loss of my mom imperceptibly changed my life. It’s not that I was exceeding close to my mom. Toward the end of her life we got together about once a month. I’d drop by and stay the night. She’d fix me breakfast in the morning. We would stay up late and chat; mostly about things that didn’t matter much. Once in a while the topic would turn serious and mom would share her thoughts regarding the situation.

My sister once referred to mom as the anchor of the family. Primarily this was because all family oriented events occurred in her house. The house and my mom were the hub for the get-togethers. My mom’s food and hospitality were the glue that held the occasions together.

My life has seen many changes over the last four years. Four years seems an eternity now. In that light I find it strange, even unsettling, that the simple connection I had with my mom gave ballast to my life. I can’t even say exactly what I miss just that there is a lost connection floating here in space.

There is nothing to be done. There is only the taking of a deep breath and celebrating some moments of silence to remember. Then the grasping of the nearest unshakeable thing and the moving forward til the next tremor hits.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Calvinism: Finally the Letter P, Perseverance of the Saints

Romans 8:28-30, "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his propose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified."

“I was afraid that I would not make it, “ my friend said of a difficult trial. There are times when we feel we can’t hold on. There may be times when we veer off into a besetting sin for a season.

Wherever grace is presented there are people who respond, “Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase?” Some might say that since God will bring us to Heaven in the end we can do whatever we want. That is not the concept taught in the principle of Perseverance.

The biblical principle is that the faith which brings us to Heaven will energize us to do good works. The proof of our faith is that we do works which glorify God. It is a twofold perseverance; God brings us to Heaven and we persevere through faith which is shown in our works. These bookends of perseverance are seen in such passages as 2 Peter which says, "Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

The principle of Perseverance is simply that as Piper states, “God works to cause His elect to persevere.” It is not an excuse to sin the same as salvation wholly by grace isn’t an excuse. It is an assurance that when trials and our flesh make finishing well seem impossible we can rest in the God with Whom nothing is impossible.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When God Closes A Door

“When God shuts a door He opens a window.”

“Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking leave of them, I went on to Macedonia.”

Feel good wisdom tells us that God will allow us equal access to what we want; if we can’t get in through the door we can climb through the window. That is at best childish wishing, at worse, a lie of Satan. I can recount a number of personal experiences where desires shattered. The death of college friends and a close cousin come to mind as does my first marriage. I prayed for years for my marriage to be saved. The only prayer that God answered with certainty was the one I prayed when it was in its death throes, “Lord either save this marriage or destroy it completely. Please do one or the other.” One could argue I suppose that a window was opened though it felt more like being catapulted into a chasm.

God opened a door for Paul and Paul didn’t walk through it. That puts the shoe on the other foot. There are times when neither the door nor the window opens to opportunities we desire. God is big enough to cause all our choices to work for good. He is to holy to say yes every time we get in a jam. Paul chose Macedonia and God honored his move.

At one point Paul saw through a window and experienced a “surpassing great revelation.” As a result he was given a thorn in the flesh which God allowed to persist despite fervent prayer to the contrary. The window did not open for the pain to leave. God did open the door to a life of humility.

God will order our circumstances to His glory and our good. In that sense a window is opened. The path that God opens for us won’t be just another way to get what we wanted. The window may open to paths of pain or even entrance into the presence of God. The closed door may be healing and death the window.

We must be careful to have our healing words come from the spoken word of God and not from the proverbs of Pollyanna. God desires our utmost good when it brings Him utmost glory. We must leave all our doors and windows open to that end.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Walking Alongside

Sometimes it helps just to have someone to listen. Sometimes it helps just to vent. Drove home angry and frustrated with my boss and the company I work for. A boss that demands that hot water be brought to him so that he can eat his oatmeal at team meetings, a company that takes six weeks to provide a coffee pot for the coffee kiosk inside its stores.

The wind blowing into the car window refreshed. The wife behind the screen door a welcome sight after a day with few personal connections.

I’ve lived in a house that wasn’t a home. I slept with a woman that didn’t hear and wouldn’t listen. I’ve heard sermons about leaving the work day at work and being fully there at home---a false dichotomy.

The screen door opens; wet kiss and warm embrace affirm heart and connection. I ask if she minds my ranting. She says she invites it. Almost as if there were connection there; a meeting of hearts and a ‘walking alongside’ as the spouse likes to say.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Trials And The Groaning Of All Mankind

The Dust Bowl covered 300,000 square miles of territory located in Kansas, Texas, western Oklahoma, eastern Colorado, and New Mexico. In the hardest-hit areas, agriculture virtually ceased. With successive storms, the wind and the flying dust cut off wheat stalks at ground level and tore out the roots. Blowing dirt shifted from one field to another, burying crops not yet carried away from the wind. Cattle tried to eat the dust-laden grass and filled their stomachs with fatal "mud balls." The dust banked against houses and farm buildings like snow, and buried fences up to the post tops. Dirt penetrated into automobile engines and clogged the vital parts. Housewives fought vainly to keep it out of their homes, but it seeped in through cracks and crevices, through wet blankets hung over windows, through oiled cloths and tape, covering everything with grit. Hospitals reported hundreds of patients suffering from "dust pneumonia." The black blizzards struck so suddenly that many farmers became lost in their own fields and suffocated, some literally within yards of shelter. More than 350,000 people fled the Great Plains during the 1930s. These "Okies" loaded their meager household goods and struck out along famous highway Route 66 for California.

The Dustbowl took place in the 1930s, the forties gave us WWII, the Vietnam war took place in the fifties and sixties while other calamities raged throughout the world during those days and up to the present. When we go through trials of any sort we should remember that difficulty and instability are normative. Instead we tend to draw in on ourselves. We adopt an artificial world view that imagines trials and tribulations the rarities while health, riches and abundance are what we deserve.

God gives a sobering view of this life in the eighth chapter of Romans; “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longings of the creation…For the creation was subjected to futility…For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers…Even we ourselves groan within ourselves…”

I am finding that life goes down easier if I keep hardship in perspective. It’s a battle to shake myself out of my little selfish perspective. Keeping a biblical worldview is helpful. Viewing life through the lens of history should be easier too when I consider that my mother came to the United States after fleeing her homeland with her family and one large wooden trunk full of valuables.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.---1 Peter 4:12

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Schizophrenic Christianity

The call came as I was driving home. The wife claimed she was getting a restraining order. Per the message I had two hours to go home, pack and leave the premises. This I did and immediately set out in search of a hotel. I spent the next four weeks sleeping in hotels. I slept in five or six hotels during that time. I hated asking if they had long-term rates, was ashamed to admit I was living out of a car trunk and a suitcase. I couldn’t go home and I had no idea where I was going to live. This was the beginning of the end of my marriage. I knew that God was in control. I didn’t know what that looked like or what the outcome would be.

I suspect that to many my Christianity looks schizophrenic. In the midst of difficult circumstances I believe with Spurgeon that I have, “present things working together for (my) good, and future things to unravel (my) happier portion.” How can I say that God ‘orders troubles and pain’ when the circumstance appears dark and desperate? It may seem Pollyanna to believe that ‘all things work together for good,’ and that I get Heaven in the end. I hold to that hope yet pray for God to change the circumstance.

Here’s the greater divide. I pray to God to change our circumstance and end the prayer in Jesus’ name. Yet God didn’t change His circumstance. I believe that through His brutal death, burial and in His resurrection we have access. I pray for God to take away the painful thing ending the prayer, “Thy will be done.”

I type this at a desk in the house I began renting at the end of those four weeks. In the kitchen my wife of two bliss filled years is grinding coffee for tomorrows breakfast. The story has a happy ending but there was no knowing that mid-plot. At that point the only choice was to hold tightly to Him who ‘did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.’ In the words of Jesus, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Call it paradox, call it schizophrenic, call it foolish but in the end, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Friday, March 08, 2013

Necessary Insanity And Blogging

I may lack the prerequisite dose of insanity necessary to be a writer. I don’t have the background or issues of a Penelope Trunk who writes, “When I was five, I knew something was not right. That's when I started therapy. I was never totally sure why my parents were sending me. When I was seven I knew something was not right because the neighbor came over to our house when my parents were smashing picture frames over each others' head. The neighbor said to me and my little brother, “Come with me.”

When my first wife and I were going through marriage counseling we had to fill out a questionnaire on family history. One of the questions was something like: What are your memories of your father? My answer was that I remembered him holding a knife to my mother in the kitchen. Surprisingly my answer was very different than the one my ex had put down for the same question.

Life isn’t safe. It is the edgy and the scary stuff that I want to write about. If I’m insane and not aware of it I will scare off my readers. If I write in the confines of normality in the same way that I live and work within those confines then I may lose an interesting edge.

I attempt to write “from the marrow bone” to make things interesting. Susannah Breslin believes that Crazy People Make Better Bloggers which I suspect is true. There’s a fine line there---let’s hold hands and cross it together.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Things That Matter At The End

There was a time not so long ago when people retired at the age of 55. Not today. When people talk about retiring it’s always with the idea of a major life change. It’s always about change of direction. What if that’s not the best route to take? Perhaps this is a practice run not a gallop around the course til you put the horse away.

What if we are supposed to be building up the things that matter at the end? We can start our mission so that we can continue it twenty or thirty years down the line. We can invest in friends and family so that we are enriched with a broad circle of relationships in our older age. We should experiment and learn now so that we get really good working in that project or non-profit down the line. We can even practice building character so that it looks like it comes natural when we hit sixty-five.

What if its not about making a course correction at the end but staying the course until it ends?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Vinyl Connections


In the days before Google when everyone owned ‘vinyl’ we did this by reading the artist notes and the fine print. You would pick up the jacket of your favorite artist’s record. You would flip it over to the backside and locate the musicians that accompanied or contributed to the album. Then because YouTube and ITunes didn’t exist you would buy the album of the accompanying artist. Often this would lead to the discovery of new favorites.

Back in the eighties I was a fan of a singer named Steve Taylor. His lyrics were Christian but sarcastic. So much so that initially he couldn’t get either secular nor religious record labels to back him because “your lyrics will offend our audience.” His music remained controversial throughout his recording career simply because he often bucked the status quo. That being the case he went on to garner significant awards in music. He was edgy which is why I enjoyed him. He fell off my radar since then. I thought of him because I’d quoted his lyrics to a friend.

I am a fan of Donald Miller the author of Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles In A Thousand Years. Donald Miller, like Steve Taylor, is a controversial and popular Christian writer. He doesn’t fit into the safe normative Christian author mold. Blue Like Jazz was recently made into a movie. The reason that it was made into a movie was that Donald Miller was approached to make it into a movie. The guy that called Miller owned a movie company and made movies. Miller says this about him, “I realized that I’d heard of Steve before. He used to be in a rock band and when I was a kid I had one of their records.” It wasn’t until today when I Googled Steve Taylor that I made the connection.

After he ended his career as a rock musician Taylor continued writing and producing music with such groups as The Newsboys and Sixpence None The Richer. In 2010 he began collaborating on the movie Blue Like Jazz. In that intersect two of my favorite artists came together to create a movie that, like all their previous work, was outside the normative Christian box.

As in the days when ‘vinyl’ was king there remains a great happiness in discovering new artists that connect music and ideas to enhance and motivate. There is that joy of discovery and serendipity when the connection comes together. Today I was jazzed to discover the Taylor-Miller connection.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Basic Training 101

This week has been like basic training 101. The training manual spells it out: Trials equal proven character and hope. A bad, self absorbed boss is a great chance to exercise humility. Cranky customers help train a servant’s heart. Long days with short staff produces perseverance. These tests are a great proving ground for character.

The problem with tests is that sometimes we fail them. For me this leads to berating self and being angry with my failure. Components of the test seem designed to make me fail. Realizing my heart isn’t a servants heart and that it’s easier to curse than praise causes me to cry out to my commander. I know what the Training Manual says I should do. I fall back on previous habits and fail to implement current strategy. I fail and get angry then getting angry makes me angrier. At times it doesn’t feel like the training is worth it; doesn’t feel like they enlisted the right guy.

Times like this I am glad I have documentation indicating I’ve been chosen for the position and guaranteed continuous enrollment. Once in always in they say; once an Eagle Scout always an Eagle; once a Marine always a Marine. In some way the affiliation merits the respect and permanence of the position.

There is a peace in being part of the team, in knowing that there is a body of individuals that have your back same as you have theirs. This makes the testing easier. The failures sting but they don’t permanently damage. Growth will happen in spite of missteps.

Training camp sucks. When pushed hard mind and body reel. Puking and giving up seem logical outcomes. Membership in the team means you don’t give up. You can’t fall away though you may stumble badly. At the end of the day you gain new strength and fly like an eagle.

“Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength,
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.”

Monday, March 04, 2013

Calvinism Irresistible Grace

(A short series on the 5 tenets of Calvinism aka TULIP. I am taking a shallow view in hopes that readers will be challenged to do additional research and biblical study on their own).

In your prayers you ask God to save a specific person. You would not pray this way unless you believed that God would move in such a way as to change that persons’ heart. John Piper states that “irresistible grace refers to the sovereign work of God to overcome the rebellion of our heart and bring us to faith in Christ so that we can be saved. If our doctrine of total depravity is true, there can be no salvation without the reality of irresistible grace. If we are dead in our sins, totally unable to submit to God, then we will never believe in Christ unless God overcomes our rebellion.”

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day,” Jesus states in John 6:44. If as looked at previously there is none righteous then on our own we will not choose good. Romans 8:7 states that “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” How is it then that a man would submit to God since he is not able?

Again from Piper, “Someone may say, "Yes, the Holy Spirit must draw us to God, but we can use our freedom to resist or accept that drawing." Our answer is: except for the continual exertion of saving grace, we will always use our freedom to resist God. That is what it means to be "unable to submit to God." If a person becomes humble enough to submit to God it is because God has given that person a new, humble nature. If a person remains too hard hearted and proud to submit to God, it is because that person has not been given such a willing spirit…….

NOTE: It should be obvious from this that irresistible grace never implies that God forces us to believe against our will. That would even be a contradiction in terms. On the contrary, irresistible grace is compatible with preaching and witnessing that tries to persuade people to do what is reasonable and what will accord with their best interests.”

It seems that the key point in all of Calvinism is whether or not God is sovereign in all He does. If he moves men and history or if we act in our own free will and in some way He responds to that—or is forced to. What is the biblical view of God? That for me is the crux of the issue.

Saturday, March 02, 2013


Birds have nests, foxes have dens But the hope of the whole world rests
On the shoulders of a homeless man
You had the shoulders of a homeless man…Rich Mullins; You Did Not Have A Home

Anytime we run out of options it opens the door to identify with Christ. For Christ did nothing in His own power but relied on His Father in all things. Christ “did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself taking the form of a bond servant…” Christ became poor that we might become rich. Christ was humiliated that He might identify with us. Hebrews says, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin (MSG).”

It is our call to follow in Christ’s steps. We are to be incarnational—to minister to those we live with; or to live with those we minister to. It may be that God has us walk through difficult circumstances so that we are humbled and can identify with others. I couldn’t understand the severity of back pain until my own back went out. I relate better to the fear and helpless feeling of the oppressed when I’ve had similar struggles financially and in my career. My brokenness opens the door to identifying with others that are broken; in sexuality, in finances or in the angst produced by everyday living.

I think it was Wycliffe that asked Christ to, “Break my heart with the things that break your heart.” God is working in me to produce seeds of humility that my heart may better be broken. My hope is to enter more deeply into that place. “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps...”-1 Peter 2:21

Friday, March 01, 2013

Hope Stands Against The Voice Of This Age

“The world is too crazy to bring a child into. There is no safe way to raise them to adulthood even if you shelter them from everything. This world is the worst it’s ever been.” I listened to the coworkers’ comments in disagreement. If I could I’d do it again; I’d raise another child. Not because I don’t recognize the pressures working against us in this age. I’d raise another child because in child rearing as in many other significant areas of life I have a hope that outweighs the visible.

That is one small inner witness to the fact that I know Christ. I have this hope that stands against the voices of the age. Bringing a child into this world is crazy the voice declares. Marriage doesn’t mean anything the voice asserts. You can’t know truth it proclaims. Though these voices permeate our atmosphere they speak lies against a hope that is higher than our visible world.

Hope stands against the voice of the age. Truth isn’t relative. There is one who will never leave nor forsake. The Father cares for the little ones. Do not fear for our God is with us. The voice tells us good is impossible. The Word declares that with God all things are possible.