Friday, August 22, 2014

"Targets..............................."

I wonder: Which of us would play a game of darts, back to the board, simply flinging missiles over our shoulder, content with wherever they might perchance hit? After all, isn't the bulls-eye the whole point of the game? Who pulls up to the gas pump, inserts their credit card and then just stands there spraying the whole car with the nozzle rather than inserting it into the tank? What woman gets out the vacuum cleaner and then tries to plug it into the electrical outlet by throwing the cord at the wall? And yet how many walk through Christianity without connecting to the inner well, wading in the shallow water when all the while the Spirit beckons us, deep calling unto deep?........

Posting on Facebook isn’t something this old man does with any real regularity; but, whether out of pondering Wednesday evening’s talk with the men at the mission, knowing this Sunday we’ll be talking with the kids at the Detention Center, or an article read at "Killing the Buddha" wherein the mysteries of life and the universe were plumbed, the above thoughts came forth, my mind yet considering the whole scenario. Is it really enough to simply acknowledge Christ, to verbally give promise of commitment without spiritually taking up pursuit, to enjoy the beach without taking the plunge? Perhaps the fact that the faith, in America at least, is encountering both reduction in our numbers and aggression against our message, can be greatly attributed to our witness coming forth just as hostile, out of our heads instead of our bellies. If the Holy Ghost hasn’t been locked up and lost in a closet, He has been deemed our own to control, believers building their own fire rather than waiting for it to fall from Heaven. My preacher in Pensacola put it this way in one of his sermons: “If you’ve really got the anointing, you don’t have to push it!” It’s where we’re at in this: Some force it; some fail to even know it’s there. As a body, we’re much too busy promoting our theology to point to the pool. I recognize it’s a stumble down the path, for the Institution as well as the individual; but, oh, the people we hurt through our humanity. Thank God for the inner oasis that meets me as I go……

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Rhythm..............."

During the reception dinner after the wedding, on that recent trip to South Carolina, my niece talked the fellow serving up the music to crank up "Johnny B. Goode". Then she asked this old man and his sister to step back fifty-five years or so, with no oxygen handy to keep us going and no medic to help us should we attempt any of the "moves" accomplished in our youth. If I had tried the "flip" or the "criss-cross through my legs before pulling her back through to drop into the beat again", this would have been posted on the evening news instead of Facebook. Not enough strength in my arms any more. Not enough wind for two hundred pounds to manage the hop over her as she passes beneath me. One up on Peggy, though. We used to come in together and rotate four or five spins, but a slip in her footing quickly notified me that it, too, was history. The beat goes on, The body just can' keep up. Still fire in the furnace, however; still that seventeen year-old boy on the inside crying out "Throw me the ball!", ready for a full court game of basketball; and all it takes for an old fool to risk it all is the sound of Chuck Berry's guitar.......

"Productiveness....................."

”Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that, even in the happiest moments of our existence, we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness… But this intimate experience, in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death, can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us”…. Henri Nouwen, quoted in “The Holy Longing” by Ron Holheiser

Just the three of us last night at the rescue mission. It was the first meeting scheduled after a short break to install new hardwood flooring throughout the facility. Such fact may have accounted for the smaller number of men in attendance, maybe about ten empty chairs reducing us to twenty or so gathered for worship. No matter. The Spirit would meet us in a connection verifying the message being shared, Dave speaking on grace always “outweighed” those sins we place on God’s scales, Tony briefly addressing “approaching God in prayer”, and my own thoughts centered on a verse in Romans, stressing God’s availability to meet us in the next step. Reflecting on recent events in my own life, I talked with them of how “Christ in me” equates, at least in part, to a connection we can know “ankle-deep”, “knee-deep”, even “over-our-head”, but not always some “Yea, I say unto thee”, authoritative transferal of power wherein one dramatically “raises the dead”. More than just a place to run when trouble becomes too much for us to handle, this inner well is there to confirm His grace, His concern for us, and His love with us in all that we do. Indeed, the Gospel doesn’t stop there, providing for an “overflowing of the vessel” wherein, through us, this manifestation of the promise either creates life or connects life, making us one in Him. In this sense, it seems to me that the above quote falls short, making it seem as if, only in Heaven, can we know “perfect joy”. While this present moment might well hold all that the author suggests, yet it also possesses the possibility of knowing Him now, in all that He is, temporary, perhaps, but sufficient in convincing me that eternity started when He stepped into this old man’s existence…….

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Hooked......................"

”I have no faith in that woman who talks of grace and glory abroad, and uses no soap and water at home. Let the buttons be on the shirts, let the children’s socks be mended, let the roast mutton be done to a turn, let the house be as neat as a pin, and the home be as happy as home can be.”….. Charles Spurgeon

In searching for something to occupy my mind those two nights in South Carolina, I purchased a six dollar copy of “Lost Christianities” from Half-Price Books. Written by Bart D. Ehrman, who is supposedly an authority on the early Church and the life of Jesus, it deals with “The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew”, thus far presenting me with some information about a wealth of other literature rejected by such Church authorities as appointed by King James back in the year 1611. The truth of other gospels and other epistles existing is no surprise to me. I’ve read a few books of the Apocrypha, wasn’t impressed, dabbled with one or two of these mostly gnostic, often forged by an unknown author in someone else’s name, pieces of literature, and find myself usually repulsed, but not surprised where men have gone with the original seed planted by Christ. Then, again, the same might well be said of our faith today, the Scripture, as we know it, reprinted in multiple versions and utilized as a foundation for enough doctrinal differences to confuse anybody. While claiming recognition of “the basics”, we nonetheless separate ourselves one from the other, on occasion taking the Word “where no man has gone before”. The above quote reflects the mind of a well-known British Baptist who stepped into this via entering an old-time Primitive Methodist assembly’s service, and suggests to me that “legalism” certainly wasn’t invented by Pentecostals back in the early 1900s. At the end of the first chapter of this author’s endeavor to enlighten us to “all that’s really out there”, therefore, I penned my own thoughts, including this statement: “If my gospel, my Bible, yet is something less than “infallible”, at least in the sense that some label it, let it be known that the key, for me, is in recognizing my humanity as being prone to error, and truth being this Reality in my belly, not merely the reasoning in my head.” Give me the Holy Ghost, chapter and verse, and the next step. Let me trust in His reins, His rod and staff, to work out understanding as I go. His voice yet speaks. Open my ears to hear......

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Appointments............................"

A weekend excursion to Charleston, attending the wedding of a nephew whom I’ve seen no more than twice in the last twenty years, has left me filled with thankfulness for how God’s grace spills over in our life in more ways than one. Two encounters made while exploring the area downtown a bit Saturday morning stayed with me. Near a fountain with multiple cascades in a park just off the beach, stood a Jehovah’s Witness couple, one on either side of a large display of publications and tracts regarding their faith, both with arms folded across their chests, looking as if they had no heart, nor indeed any interest at all in someone possibly starting a conversation with them. Then, a few blocks further into the city’s depths, we walked through a graveyard attached to a Unitarian assembly that, for whatever reason, had completely neglected any and all care of it. Whoever was buried there had long ago been forgotten, erased from all memory by time and nature’s onslaught. Two different scenarios all together, the “evangelists” and the deceased; but they reflect well on my visit, gathered there in a hotel with my oldest daughter and her husband, along with my sister and her whole family. It was the son of my deceased brother getting married at the age of 52, the two of us meeting for possibly only the third time in his life, fraternal careers in the Navy having taken his father and me in different directions. I hardly know him and his sister. Somehow, though, when they announced the bride and groom as “Mr. and Mrs. John Filer”, it was as if Wayne was there with us, pleased that we had made the trip. Moreover, it was as if the Holy Ghost parted the waters, opportunity opened for an hour of conversation with my sister’s son Saturday morning in the lobby, more with his daughter driving back after the ceremony that evening. The three women, three generations with the youngest noticeably carrying the next addition in her womb, were part of an “anointing” that seemed to be, not “creating” bonds, but surely strengthening that which was previously known. We “connected”. For only the second occasion in thirteen years, my scheduled visit to the Youth Detention Center was trusted to a friend Sunday morning. I hated missing. Yet it seems as if divine intervention had something else in mind, these past three days special to me. Good to be back; but glad we went……

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Dehydration................."

”I thirst”….. spoken by Jesus, nailed to the Cross, that connection known with His Father from birth momentarily severed.

With our teacher, about half-way through his lesson last night, confessing to a headache that had been with him all that day, I can well understand how we managed to abandon the original subject along the way and chase something else down a “rabbit trail” instead. It happens. Having initially emphasized our need for “Spiritual” water, somehow he missed the turn; and, for almost an hour, our class pitched our tent in “the valleys that come unto us”, testifying to the truth of it being there, in the middle of adversities and trials, that we learn and grow. Trouble is, I’m don’t think we ever got to the even greater reality of it being important to remember: “While you are there, dig a well!” It’s not that the river has relocated, no longer where you found it in the beginning, “out of a man’s belly” fairly accurate in letting us know that the source of all that He is unto us isn’t external. The “hook-up” isn’t a matter of occupying the front pew in the sanctuary nor retreating into nature in an attempt to escape the world around you. Praise, peace, and psalms may well help the cause, but do not automatically open the floodgate. In fact, working yourself up in a sweat, trying to formulate the process out of your own strength, may get you nothing more than discouragement. In the Old Testament, about twenty years apart in the wilderness, God brings forth water from a rock. Moses, on the first occasion, is told to “smite” the stone, speaking to me of the scourging endured before Calvary; but two decades later such source appears to have ceased, the people once again in need of a miracle. This time, however, the prophet is commanded to “speak” to the rock; and when he, in anger, strikes it instead, entrance into the Promised Land is lost. The price has been paid. Christ suffered that we might know such fountain within us. Physical labor isn’t demanded. Surrender is. How well the Church has taught this down through the centuries, however, is, at the least, up for debate……..

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Chatter.................."

"What would happen if you just shut a door and stopped speaking? Hour, after hour, after hour of no spoken words. Would you speak to yourself inwardly? Would words stop being useful? Would you lose language altogether? Or would words mean more? Would they start to mean in every direction, become all somersault and assault, like a thuggery of fireworks? Would they proliferate, like untended plant life? Would the inside of your head overgrow with every word that has ever come into it, every word that has ever silently taken seed or fallen dormant? Or would your own silence make other things noisier? Would all the things you'd ever forgotten, layered there inside you, come bouldering up and avalanche you?" – Ali Smith, “There But For The”

“I used to think the power of words was inexhaustible, that how we said the world was, was how it was and how it would be. I used to imagine that word-sway and word-thunder would silence the Silence and all that, that worlds were the Word, that language could lead us inexplicably to grace, as though it were geographical. I used to think these things when I was young. I still do.” – Charles Wright, “Body and Soul”

For nearly a week, each morning has come to this area filtered through a solid grey blanket that eventually, by mid-afternoon, somehow gathers itself into a mixture of both dark and white clouds, here and there an opening to let one know the sky is still there, but rain possible if the wrong color drifts overhead. Today, however, the dog, still with too much pup in him and refusing to stop his barking on the leash where I’ve secured him in the back yard, has drawn me outside to sit there on a bench while he explores the area under my supervision; and, hallelujah, the sun, rising over the hills to the east, spills over me there. An airplane passes somewhere overhead, it, like the highway traffic flowing in both directions, hidden from my sight by nature as it exists all around me. A cool breeze plays with leaves and branches, solar heat not yet enough for me to remove the light hoodie worn to such location; but it’s peaceful, quiet otherwise, and the above quotes borrowed earlier from Whiskey River have my thoughts. The Bible says that “In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It seems to me that humanity, in truth, is but an expression existing only by the breath of that which was spoken, linguistics being the very core of our identity and that which “holds us together” yet a mental verbal message continually being spun in our head. The only question is: out of whose well does creation come? The choice has long been ours to make, free will established in the Garden. Clean-up is messy, the part we want to hand back to Him, often with no real remorse. Panic, maybe. Sorrow, perhaps. But putting it all into words is beyond our ability to capture and somewhere along the way, if any wisdom at all has been gained, we learn that communication is better accomplished in a surrender, a silence wherein two become one, connection established in a flow that needs no form. Give me the Holy Ghost and a quiet moment. Sometimes my head hurts………