Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Lily Pads......................."

Worship with my bunch Sunday, both services, was vibrant, but failed to ignite this old man for the most part. The pastor’s morning sermon had me disagreeing with him in so far as several key points he made about faith and an unexplainable weariness drained me of all enthusiasm. I sat there feeling “guilty” and “grumpy”. It was much the same that evening, it seeming to me like the first twenty minutes of his message doing little more than reciting Old Testament history to us and most of it having nothing to do with his proclaimed subject of the prophet Amos being a “burden bearer”. Suddenly, though, it all got personal, the Holy Host providing an anointing that spilled over into the congregation, His presence filling the sanctuary, not to a complete immersion, but deep enough to make all there one in Him, final altar call a sea of people praying with each other. Indeed, nothing else mattered. When Christianity reduces Christ to anything less than a resurrected reality reconnected within us, it becomes nothing more than another religion, a list of “thou-shalt-nots”, an agenda whereby we “save” ourselves. When Christianity exaggerates the indwelling to the point of usurping its identity rather than surrendering itself unto His flow, it becomes a charade wherein, sooner or later, our inability to “call things that are not as though they are” has to face the fact that He, not we, are in control. In many ways, it is amazing to me, not just that God gives us grace in the beginning, but that His patience with us endures us in this stumble down the road. It’s the “funny” thing about “church” to me. In spite of all our humanity, sometimes the inner valve on our connection with Him permits an inner flow of His presence so strong that one has to either step into the water or flee the sanctuary to escape it. Faulty theology, yours or mine, doesn’t matter. Messed up in some way, still struggling even “in” Christ? He takes you “through the veil”, if only momentarily, an “osmosis” of sorts wherein all that matters is that He knows you and is with you in the next step. Judgment Day will sort out all the rest, each of us facing the facts as they apply to both sides of the pulpit. In the meantime, what we have is whether or not we will allow His Spirit to minister in our midst. In such waters, even an old bullfrog loses his croak…….

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Lunacy.............................."

Shopping with my wife at Kroger’s yesterday, I wandered a few aisles over to search for something on my own list and bumped into my cousin doing much the same. That’s about the extent of our knowing each other in any sort of relationship, living within no more than a couple of miles apart, but basically in two different worlds in spite of such proximity. I like this guy, nonetheless, aware of at least a smidgeon of his history; and encounters are always enjoyed. His wife’s family were church people; he and she attended for several years; neither go anywhere anymore. In response to my inquiry, his excuse was “too many bad experiences incurred along the way, too much turmoil that he didn’t need in his life.” I can empathize. Yet, when he as much as reduced the Gospel, for him at least, to harmonizing the lyrics of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” with some of his buddies, a closing “hymn” regularly sung at the end of a weekly get-together held in his garage, it hit me as somewhat of a shame that we, the body of Christ, fail one another so often in so many ways. In erecting doctrinal totem poles without providing any real depth as to the meaning of the Word, we leave people clinging to illusions, nonsense, and the “Bible says it and I believe it; but don’t look at me expecting an explanation.” Before service this morning, a woman spoke to me of how much she liked to hear this certain preacher well known for his sermons on eschatology. When I shared with her my own lack of enthusiasm concerning him due to his delivery being so fast that everything merely went in one ear and out the other, my brain unable to capture anything at such speed, she strangely agreed, admitting to having the same problem with him! Then a short video was shown us during the service depicting Jewish soldiers, linked together arm in arm and chanting “There is no god like Jehovah! There is no god like Jehovah!” Listening as the phrase was repeated over and over, the congregation began to applaud and give praise; yet, if polled, it’s safe to assume that all there would be quick to condemn them to hell for possessing no belief in a risen Christ! To me, it all gets silly sometimes. Judgment Day will, no doubt, sort it all out; and what holds me here, what cannot be denied, is an anchor-line connection maintained in a prayer closet. In the midst of it all, He speaks peace……..

Friday, September 19, 2014

"Progress............"

Heraclitus, a 5th century Greek philosopher, noted that: “Whatever is, is changing. You never step into the same river twice, because the river is in constant flux and out of flux. In fact, it is nothing but flux. The only thing that is permanent is change.” Cratylus, his disciple, took such thought a step farther, declaring “Not only do you not step into the same river twice, you do not even step into the same river once! Why? Because the river is not the only thing that’s changing; you are changing as well. The same you is not constantly you. With the passing of each fraction of a second, your physical and mental makeup is imperceptibly in transition.” Not to be outdone, then, Parmenides, the disciple’s disciple, opined “Whatever is, is; for while things may appear to change in form, in substance they are permanent. Just as energy cannot be created or destroyed but is always there in some form, so life has an indestructibility to it.” Boil all of that down and it would seem to suggest the Biblical statement that, while within man exists eternity, yet there’s this present journey wherein everything, including man, himself, is in a constant state of metamorphosis, the puzzle always more than he can completely conquer and, as Yogi Berra once said: “Even nostalgia is not what it used to be.” I recently read somewhere the description of how our society is walking through a maze of cultural land mines and the heavy prices being exacted as we send our children on ahead. Has not that long been our history, however? If today seems any different than how it has always been, perhaps sit is only because we sense the possibility of having finally arrived at such point in time where we now have the capability to extinguish all that we know, the enigma not yet solved and our intelligence not quite what we believed it to be. For the religious, there is, of course, faith. And yet the question merely becomes “faith in what?” In what do we anchor our souls? In a doctrinal dogma stitched together out of our own reasoning? In a denominational list of “thou-shalt”s and “thou-shalt-nots”? Or in a resurrected Reality who long ago said of Himself that there was nowhere to lay His head, His only point of assurance found in a connection known with His Father. For me, that same umbilical cord is what feeds all else. Indeed, ANYthing else is just a theology under construction, developed as I go, following Him through the veil……

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Assurance..........................."

We return to the rescue mission this evening with three, maybe four, of us trying to squeeze into an hour what we bring to share. Somehow it always comes together, His voice, one message, just different perspectives. My own thoughts, at the moment, are focused on a few verses found in the Gospel of John, the scene one where Jesus has not only just healed a man blind from birth, but, as well, revealed unto him His identity as being the Son of God. To His disciples and to the Pharisees gathered there, however, Christ declares that it is “for judgment” He is come into the world, not in the sense of condemning people, but for eyes willing to admit of their need to gain vision. Indeed, He equates denial of one’s lack of understanding with the state of them living in “sin”. Note that it is the “church” to whom He is talking, those who consider themselves as having their salvation determined, defined, and delineated in a Book, their minds set in concrete, their ears closed to the One who was and is “the Word”. I was talking with friend this morning, via this blog, concerning people who seem afraid of exploring the deep, scared, I suppose, of getting “stuck” out there; but doesn’t it all depend on “whose hand you hold as you go”? Doesn’t the Gospel command believers to pick up our cross and follow? Psalm 23 declares “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters.” This has always been a journey. Sitting down in my own little perception of things, content with my righteousness, my status as certified by me, leads to atrophy and a witness that stinks. Give me a “hook in my belly”, a Holy Ghost leash and the next step. If that yet leaves me with a stumble, my own GPS subject to error, if my heart is set on Him, He shall not fail me along the way......

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Tunnels......................"

“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” – Anais Nin

I am amazed at people who, in their old age, can mentally look back decades and, in great detail, describe some scene or event from the past. All this old man can achieve is “mental snapshots”. It was another world; and yet was never any more than this frail, fleeting, impossible-to-capture-other-than-in-passing moment that too soon joins all the rest. How much of it, I wonder, is real? How much is no more than a perception I, myself, hold of how it “is”, my definition, not His? A couple of reads this morning have sparked such thoughts, one reflecting childhood memories of a walk in the woods with her elders, the other speaking of something provoking our brains to reach back in time even while realizing all the distance traversed. Not only did the second speak of how “the strange has become familiar and the familiar, if not strange, at least awkward or uncomfortable like an outgrown garment”, but pointed, as well, to the journey being different for each of us, the birthright of some having provided adequate foundation to build upon and others burning bridges behind them in an attempt to escape what was. In either situation, however, it remains the same: we are connected via our brain to the past as we experienced it, or at least as we envisioned it. In science, this “ticking of the clock” is an enigma, another “piece of the puzzle”, vital to several of their theories and yet elusive to being solved in the sense of putting it “in a box”. With the universe supposedly existing in the form of a blanket, though, one not lying on a flat surface, but extended in “sound waves”, they propose that “black holes” (stars or planets that have inwardly collapsed) are possible “wormholes” capable of transporting one (should one survive the experience) across the “gap”. Backwards? Forward? Merely a fantasy in Hawking’s head right now; but probable in so far as his genius presently determines it. Then, again, maybe we all are mad. So far, in my life, the one thing, above all, that has proven itself and continues to make sense is this anchor-line in my “belly”. It secures me, in my regrets, in my fears, in my hope for whatever tomorrow brings. Let me know this through His eyes, His reins, the veil removed in Christ……

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Hope.................."

For whatever reason, the Susan G. Komen race against breast cancer was transferred this year from downtown Cincinnati to Coney Island, a small amusement park somewhat upriver. The day of the event was also changed from Saturday to Sunday. As it turned out, the switch was probably a big mistake. A large accumulation of traffic trying to escape I275 at the exit ramp was conquered, on our part, by taking the next one north and then approaching our destination from the other side; but, with only fifteen minutes to reach the starting point (we were pre-registered), the crowd was so great that we were forced to shuffle along, elbow-to-elbow, in a mass that would eventually join the tail-end of a stream of runners with a ten-minute advantage on us. At several places along the route, passages clogged the flow, unable to handle the mass of participants. The course, itself, was a matter of twice circling a large lake, with but two or three staff at one point vocally directing all first-timers to the left and second-timers to the right where an archway, about a hundred feet away, was “plugged” with too many people attempting to cross the finish line. Two other and I were the only ones in our group to catch the cue and complete the entire intended distance. It was, indeed, a mess. Nonetheless, when, in passing a couple of younger women and hearing one of them gripe, albeit in light jest, that “If it wasn’t enough that such poor planning had led to this disaster in so many other ways, how utterly boring it was to suffer the same scenery again on the second orbit!” No comment was shared by me; but I do admit to thinking to myself: “Yep; it’s kind of like having to get up the second day, still looking cancer in the face, and taking the next step.” Scientists say that “time” is relevant to our position and governed, at least in part, by speed. Perhaps time isn’t the only measurement affected by our perspective plus the need to slow down and think before we open our mouth……

Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Black Holes..........................."

“Eagles may soar in the clouds, but weasels never get sucked into jet engines. The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. Then, again, the trouble with being in the rat race is: even if you win, you’re still a rat. But….you can’t have everything, can you? In fact, if you think about it, where would you put it?"....

My granddaughter always comes to Papaw with her "projects" and it looks like we are about to enter the theory of time travel with Einstein. Cogito; ergo sum. If that were true, at least in the way some have assigned meaning unto it, we’re all merely here because we think we’re here; and all one needs to do to accomplish quantum leap is to put his mind to it. Indeed, what is “sanity” if not being able to either ignore all the questions or to explain things in some manner so as to hold onto it all as if we know what we’re talking about? Humor helps. So does anchorage. Trouble is: most of us put our hook into our own reasoning, pour in some concrete, and then settle in for whatever comes against us. What we end up with is an idol. Whether fashioned from that which experience has taught us or from what culture and tradition has instilled in us, even if its form is shaped from sacred verse, if there is no “breath” in it, no life leading us somewhere, what do we really possess? Somewhere in this has to be that which takes us “through the veil”. Not that gaining understanding solves the whole enigma, but that assurance is found of this not being all there is! Grace discovered for the stagger in our stumble down the path! Faith doesn’t have to be manufactured, but found in a connection that doesn’t just transcend time, but another dimension! The Book points us to Him and is profitable for correction. Spirit, however, must go with us, not only through the Book, but the next step as well. There is an inner universe as vast as everything else out there, safe to explore if you’re immersed in the Holy Ghost, one with the Creator…….