Thursday, December 18, 2014
Beth was fighting a virus yesterday and, not wanting to abandon her in such state, this old man opted to cancel his participation in the monthly visit to the rescue mission. It’s not like my vacancy hindered the Holy Ghost in ministering to those men. It only requires a vessel surrendered to “finding the flow”. Tony and Frank, both, have such a heart. As far as that which had been in my own heart? mind? spirit? (Can one really know correct terminology for that part of our identity?), is always an on-going evolution with me. The “pot is always on the burner”. My wife claims I live there. Isn’t that true, though, of all of us? The only difference is in what we choose to feed it in terms of “stoking the fire”. My favorite dictionary defines “mind” as “the element or complex of elements in a person that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and, especially, reasons”. A friend, in writing about his own investigation into this, suggested that perhaps, in so far as our faith, all of those terms might be better expressed as “believing”, for we tend to “see” God only to the extent that we, ourselves, have created Him there within us; and then, subconsciously, possess relationship with Him under such terms as we, ourselves, determine. That could well be if not for the Gospel. Not the message, but the promise which confirms itself within us: Christ “in” me! We all stand guilty of a charge wherein that which we believe is “of our own making”, even if garnered from the Bible and encounters along the way. It’s the best we can do seeing as how the subject before us will never be conquered in the sense of “putting deity in a box”. For that matter, our own humanity remains an enigma unto us for the most part. What we must learn, as Christians, is that the Book doesn’t eliminate a need for pursuit. Chapter and verse doesn’t solve the mystery, but points us to it. “Pick up your cross and follow Me” was the commandment given; and THAT involves more than just sitting down satisfied with one’s present theological position. Motel Six isn’t the only one who promises to “keep the light on” for us……..
Posted by Jim at 9:43 AM
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
I have long referred to that last week of the year as seeming like existing in a state of limbo, all the hustle and bustle that goes with Christmas suddenly reduced to shoppers either returning items for one reason or another or simply looking for bargains now on sale at an even cheaper price. What occupies our mind is our inane reasoning that a special click of the clock, a turning of the calendar page, somehow gives us a second chance, one more orbit to grab the brass ring, change our habits, hope is in a fresh look at the horizon. At seventy-three, finally retired and doing nothing other than a couple of outreach ministries that assign me any sort of “scheduled expectation” in my life, that state of “limbo” is an ever present threat. My earlier plans for this stage of the journey, should it come to be, was visiting those in the hospital and volunteering at church in some capacity. Several issues have altered such hope. My days are mostly spent with computer games, crossword puzzles, juggling a couple of books, and watching television with Beth. Throw in a trip or two to the mall, dinner out three or four times a week, and an occasional errand run for one of the girls. It would be easy to sink into the ennui. Two things prevent that: Exercise, for one, the mental part of which has already been noted, the physical part a commitment kept with either my treadmill or the church gymnasium running track. The second is faith, His in me confirmed through encounters here and there along the way, mine fueled by the same. It is an affair kept fresh through pursuit, in a prayer wherein my words sometimes stumble into His, and in wrestling with words otherwise, be it here in this blog, a church journal, Facebook entries, or something to share with the kids at the Center, the men at the mission. The river runs deep, feeds my soul, and keeps “adventure” before me. No limbo; more like a dance in the dark with Holy Ghost and a flashlight…..
Posted by Jim at 2:34 PM
Monday, December 15, 2014
Sunday morning my pastor preached on Jesus “of Nazareth”, his whole message centered on how that city’s identity is assigned to Him throughout Scripture and how such analogy gives promise to all of us. It reflects Him having been born in a manger, not a palace, raised in the middle of “nowhere”, a man with no credentials other than what His Father would work through Him. The message, as given unto us, was pre-noted as a burden laid upon his heart the last few days for a member seated there in the pews, and pre-announced to end with specific prayer for this fellow’s healing. Within its delivery, there were memories recalled, the first one of his aunt having given a young boy anointing oil with instruction to “slosh” it around in his mouth as she brought his need before God. Afterwards he spat the liquid into a handkerchief and found the abscess no longer there. The second took us back to his having once gone to the hospital with an older preacher called to minister to a young teenager who had been pronounced “brain dead” and all hope gone. When the elder man laid hands on him and humbly sought a miracle, machines suddenly “lit up” bringing nurses from all directions; and all these years later the “corpse” is now married with three children. Altar call was unto whomsoever; but, as a body, we specifically sought with him and the Holy Ghost for that individual divinely assigned our shepherd. In the Bible, Job pleads in one place “Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know my integrity”; and elsewhere Abraham, concerning a mess he has created with his own words, is told by his Maker that the “integrity of his heart” has been noted. So I believe it shall be for all of us on Judgment Day. If much with my bunch has changed, to where I sit in the balcony and watch from afar, yet our roots run deep, attached to Him, and will be what is examined in the end. Even in Christ we remain separate in our identity otherwise. In coming together, the whole idea is to somehow connect in Him……………
Posted by Jim at 7:14 AM
Saturday, December 13, 2014
They tell me that Thomas Jefferson, finding it hard to accept all the miracles, all the enigmas such as Ezekiel and his wheel, simply rejected most of the Book and rewrote it to suit himself. The moral tones within the original were deemed proper instruction to utilize in the raising of his children; but how much he, himself, absorbed any of it is beyond my knowing. History does record an accusation of at least one indiscretion with a member of his household female staff. The third President of our nation, however, is far from being isolated in “throwing out the baby with the bath water”; and, by that, I do not speak of simply dismissing the Bible altogether, but of creating God in our own image, settling for a totem instead of Christ “in” me. People do it in various ways. To be truthful, it might be said that we all stand guilty to some degree any time we, as believers, get sidetracked to a point where God needs a chisel to reach us through a theology we’ve set in concrete. That’s not to say we can’t hold to some doctrine, convinced of its integrity through having found it anchored in chapter and verse; but it does seem pretty safe to say we can’t all be right! There’s nothing wrong with our being passionate about some portion of the Word. We just can’t take it to the point where we become deaf and blind to the sound of His voice. The roots of our faith must be buried in Him in such a way as to His Spirit being that which directs our path, adjusts our course, flows through us to become a witness of His reality. It’s not about me having solved the enigma. Rather, I am thankful for such a mystery that remains more than I can conquer, a connection that comes up out of some inner well, surprising me at times, but always a matter of me then being willing to lay myself on His altar. In the darkness, He is my light, the tug on my reins as I go……
Posted by Jim at 10:45 AM
Friday, December 12, 2014
Frederick Buechner quotes one of his college professors as saying: “Every morning, when you wake up, before you reaffirm your faith in the majesty of a loving God, before you say ‘I believe’ for another day, read the Daily News with its record of the latest crimes and tragedies of mankind, and then see if you can honestly say it again.” The author marks the fellow a fool, in the sense that he wouldn’t “resolve, intellectualize, or evade the tensions of his faith, but lived those tensions out, almost torn in two by them at times.” He describes such faith as being “not a seamless garment, but ragged, with the tear showing, and one that he clutched about him like a man in a storm.” Such description leaves me wondering about how we define, not just “faith”, but also “grace”. Both of the terms are part of that one verse in Ephesians where the apostle Paul declares unto us the birthing of our salvation. My own experience suggests that, beyond our initial entrance into the kingdom, there yet remains a need for repeated reassurance, humanity remaining humanity, even “in” Christ; and that is achieve, it seems to me, time after time, via the same process involving the same duo. What’s debatable is the “identity” that each of us assign to them. The first only has as much value as that into which it is entrusted and if that amounts to no more than a theology holding no life but what we, ourselves, create, then it is no stronger than our own mental fortitude. The second, also, is nothing if not known via a “connection”, heaven touching earth within us, for what do we really possess otherwise? Indeed, it, too, much for the same reasons as the first, must be repeatedly found at an altar, an on-going process whereby we learn His arms are always ready to welcome us if we are just willing to return, humble and honest in the truth as we know it thus far……
Posted by Jim at 11:58 AM
Thursday, December 11, 2014
“Godric” would probably not appeal to those who have the Gospel held tightly in some sort of mental grip with no liberty given unto possibility. This particular work of fiction by Frederick Buechner sets our faith in medieval times, expressing one man’s journey as indeed it might have been, influenced by the world that then was and a Church that yet had much to settle in so far as “Christ in me”. The story intrigues me, offering here and there fragments of truth as I have found it to be in my own life, one such moment being the main character’s definition of prayer. He puts it in terms of accomplishing it much the same way as he “breathes, for else his heart would wither within his chest, else waves would dash him on the rocks or he would drift with witless tides”. He then declares immediately after “and sometimes, by God’s grace, his words are heard”; and that… gives me pause. I do find myself accepting that latter statement, if only in the sense of a believer not always (as they used to say in Old-time Holiness) “praying through”. Too often in this, maybe for multiple reasons, “connection” can avoid us or even be abandoned, the whole attempt often interrupted by some sudden urgency. It’s also true, it seems to me, that many just do not enter into it with expectation of any sort of tangible form of assurance, having been taught this all is merely a matter of how well we submit ourselves to “faith”. Without at least occasional success marked by the gulf between our spirit and His having been spanned, we are left with Jesus on the Cross, his mission unfulfilled, our salvation not retracted, but certainly hindered in as much as our having any real confirmation of that which we hold to be true. That’s why I was pleased to discover, a bit further along in this book, this same individual sharing an experience that, in passing through it, he realizes “When I deserved it least, God gave me most”. So it is. Relationship with Him is not based on how well we eliminate our humanity, but on whether we are willing to surrender it unto Him as we go……
Posted by Jim at 10:14 AM
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
“Listening to Your Life” is a devotional, a collection of excerpts taken from Frederick Buechner’s earlier works, most of which already occupy my shelves here at home, his ability to paint a picture with the Gospel attracting me from my first introduction to several of his sermons. Within the first forty-six pages of this particular offering, however, the author has twice referred to the Bible as being the “incarnate word” and to hear it defined in such terms sounds strange to me. It seems to suggest that the Book somehow possesses within its composition the Spirit of God. While Peter declares it as “a more sure word of prophecy” that came to us through men who were “moved by the Holy Ghost” and Paul, unto Timothy, describes it as being “inspired”, in as much I understand such element of faith, the “indwelling” abides within the believer, not the Scripture, itself. Indeed, I find us in error when we assign chapter and verse any sort of deification. It is not OUR sword, but His; and when we begin to see it as such, perhaps our theology, held in our heads, can grasp better the necessity of continually being subjected to the reality of the Third Person of the Trinity whom we claim to now live in our “belly”. The Bible, as I see it, is an intermediary between the what was once spoken by Divinity through a human vessel and a present human vessel who must now return it unto He Who originally birthed it, all the details worked out in as much as we involve Him in the nuts and bolts of the journey as it comes unto us.
Posted by Jim at 9:03 AM