Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Enigma....................................."

My religious roots are within a small, inner-city Lutheran assembly that my grandmother frequented. Sunday school and Catechism classes educated me to be baptized into its membership at the age of twelve, but nothing actually connecting me to Christ ever occurred along the way and, when my family moved, “faith” was not a word embracing my morals. A neighbor attempted to draw me and my siblings into a nearby Baptist bunch, inviting us to teenage excursions. That ended, however, when my sister and I were rudely ejected on one occasion for jitterbugging on roller skates. It would be a few months after turning thirty, with my marriage about to self-destruct, that something drew me to follow the people next door to a little “old-time holiness” bunch of believers. Their message was over my head; their worship was not; and salvation came through a personal encounter with the Holy Ghost at home in my living room. The last four decades, then, have been what I might refer to as “boot camp”, a lesson in knowing Him, learning me, and surviving humanity as it exists within the sanctuary. That latter portion, of course, includes me as part of the problem and is stated only in a wish to be honest. While fellowship had definitely created life-long relation, bonds that resemble “family” in the sense of an inner connection that isn’t severed when personalities clash and opinions differ, yet it remains that, in pursuing Him, the journey doesn’t always produce a continued set of “like minds” in so far as individual perspectives on “thus says the Gospel”. One has but to look at Church history to realize that, out of such conflict, Christianity has split many times down through the centuries. Thus far, however, in my case, His voice, and my staggered stumble down the road has me still “blooming where I was planting”, sitting in the balcony most Sundays and attending the Wednesday evening Bible studies, but not involving myself in any activities, social, administrative, or otherwise. I’m just the strange old man, anymore, who visits the rescue mission and Detention Center. A fellow yesterday questioned my equating “absolute truth” with “Jesus only”, assigning me a charge of preaching “relativism”. I had to google the definition of such term and then pleaded “guilty” if denial meant change in my confession of placing Christ above the Book. We are still very much friends. Discussion will, no doubt, continue. “Witness” isn’t just outreach to the “lost”. We have multitudes on the pew (again: including me) who have not captured this in a theology; and the real sadness about that is that so many think “thinking” is not required…….

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Doggone......................"

Back in May, at the age of 71, my wife decided she wanted a puppy. Setting aside my own thoughts on the matter, I drove about a hundred miles to just outside Winchester and we came home with a small, white, six-week-old bundle of curls introduced to us as supposedly being a mixture between Peekapoo and Shitzu. I named him “Spook”. For a few days we questioned whether the tiny thing had been taken from his mother too soon; but suddenly, not just “life” came to this creature, but an exuberance to the point of energy just pouring out of his every move. From all appearances, he could have been on drugs. He ran in circles. He leaped. As reported in an earlier post, he climbed a sloped tree in my back yard. He barked at everything, was scared of anything, and, in exploring the outside world, would bring back “gifts”, the steps outside my front door always littered, after one of his excursions, nuts, sticks, somebody’s discarded paper cup, anything at all that two young boys across the road might have left outside overnight. Cute; but too much “surprise” underneath Beth’s feet, she dealing with osteoporosis, four fractures in her back, and the possibility of a fall too much of a threat for us to keep him, especially since his heritage, as reported, was very much in error. Mama had a blind date somewhere. Short and cuddly had quickly turned into something that more resembled a cross between Disney’s “Tramp” and a kangaroo, his back legs enabling him not only to run like a greyhound, but also to leap high into the air. We asked for takers, didn’t expect volunteers, but, surprisingly, an acquaintance, one of those lover of pets, fell in love with his picture and took him home yesterday. Strange story, though. Earlier that morning, upon letting him back in from his first call of nature, I looked down to discover two shred of what appeared to be a dollar bill, still frozen and obviously torn from wherever some patch of remaining snow yet held the rest in its grip. Beth laughed with me at such retrieval; and, a few hours later, in releasing him once more, jokingly encouraged him to bring back the rest. Obediently, he did! At least two more pieces, enough to reveal that somewhere out there, what he was collecting amounted to five bucks; and, as it turned out, one more excursion would give us all but a tiny sliver close to Lincoln’s face once we scotch-taped it all together. Kind of a parting “thank you”, I guess; and enough to make me wonder if, had we kept him, would there have been a twenty for us tomorrow?..... >

Friday, November 21, 2014

"Visualization..........................."

The “Faith Meets World” link on my sidebar connects me with a friend recently encountered over the Internet, a place where his thoughts encourage discussion concerning Biblical matters and the two of thus far fairly close in our theology. He lives in England. His denominational preference is yet unknown to me and, in truth, doesn’t matter to this old man. We talk “of” Christ, “in” Christ, and “seek” Christ as a Resurrection still leading us in this journey we have undertaken. His latest post, however, has me searching, both the Book and the Spirit’s influence, in how to respond to the subject brought forth. Is God “fear”, or is He “love”? Should we simply scrap the image that comes to us via the Old Testament and replace them with New Testament verses that express His character in much more attractive terms? For me, it’s not so much whether the Creator “is” any particular attribute (How can we separate Him into individual units of anything?), but rather how He is “to be received” by us in so far as any relationship attempted in this life as it comes to us. There are those who think Him “evil”, in the sense that natural disasters occur, seemingly with His consent. Hitlers, serial killers, and child molesters are cancers, not divinely eradicated, but brought to judgment only in as much as we, ourselves, attack the disease. The question, therefore, as I see it, becomes “How has He been taught to us by the Church and by those who claim membership within the faith”, for all we possess other than that is what our environment, our culture, and our history has reinforced in our brain. When Rob suggests that the Old Testament portrait of God is not there to tell us what He is like, but “to show us that this is how we humans, in our fallen, damaged, fearful state, see God”, projecting “our fears onto him and assuming that he is angry and to be feared”; and thus, in believing such lie, “we actually keep ourselves locked into that fear-filled condition”, I personally find him “right on the mark”, but ask myself why it is so. There most certainly is that aspect of the Father which is to be held in reverence, a knowledge of Him that recognizes Him in all His potential; but there is also the possibility of our gaining “merger”, if only temporarily, wherein we might also be convinced that we are, indeed, His children, able to come unto Him just as we are if we will but surrender all into His arms…….

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Linked.................................."

“For we shall surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again; yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from Him”… 2nd Samuel 14:14

There were four of us last night at the rescue mission, a number that limits us in so far as trying hard to ensure all get to share. In what old-time holiness used to refer to as “popcorn”, the unwritten rule we utilize is: Speak your heart and use your own common sense to shut up unless, somewhere along the way, the Holy Spirit makes Himself known in what you’re saying”. We don’t always achieve any perfection in that. It’s a learning process and people remain people, much like me driving McKenna home from school yesterday afternoon, making a stop at Wendy’s to get her a burger, catching a red light and, while sitting at the intersection, phoning my wife to see if she wanted anything. Yep; I got lost in thought and looked up to realize the green was about to finalize its cycle with me having gone nowhere. As I turned on the yellow, my mind pondered what the fellow left behind me was thinking about the idiot not paying attention, me knowing full well how many times this old man has been the one left waiting for another go. It happens. On this occasion, though, knowing Tony and I had talked beforehand of having little on our mind, I opened with some lyrics written by me over three decades ago. The words, as it happened, enabled Frank to step in a flow, his short message on God meeting us where we are when we, ourselves, but turn to Him in what we are, connecting with the men. Dave, as well, found the same stream, speaking on how this was a journey with a divine promise of never forsaking us in our stumble down the path. It was 7:30 when my buddy took his turn, his face with a shine to it, his eyes and a smile letting you know an inner well had sprung from what the others had already brought forth. For twenty minutes he fed us with the above verse, the anointing through him spilling grace and hope in our midst. He shouldn’t have quit. With less than ten minutes, however, I found myself using my grandson’s Veterans Day words to me to illustrate how Christ “in” me” was a “hidden treasure”, a “pearl of great price”, a reality that each of us has to confirm for ourselves. It was an hour in His presence, not some thick manifestation wherein all must fall down and worship, but assuredly a “touching the hem of His garment”, a “walk to Emmaus” that culminated in a prayer, all of us one in Him. This, for me, is “church”. It’s what I walked into over forty-two years back and what keeps me alive…….

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Finger-pointing................................."

My granddaughter has me investigating another English assignment due in December. This one is focused on the Salem witch trials that took place in this country during the late 1690s. While such business wasn’t merely restricted to a small area in Massachusetts (England was also eliminating “the dark side”, an examination of what took place here at home gives clear evidence of what men can do to each other through religious ignorance. In less than sixteen months, nineteen individuals were pronounced guilty and executed by hanging, one man died from being tortured to confess his guilt, heavy stones placed upon him finally crushing his chest, four people died in prison, and two dogs killed that were suspected of participating in the occult. Six women were found guilty, but, nevertheless, pardoned. Five actually pled guilty and were pardoned. One woman, a black slave, whose ethnic origin is not known, but whose belief and practice of some sort of voodoo mumbo-jumbo with a few young girls was admitted, was questioned, never indicted. Just where humanity was in its state of evolution down through the centuries or do we yet “miss it” in many ways, our salvation still far short of knowing perfection in what we claim to possess? A few decades back, my own bunch protested against secular music, movie theaters, and all literature other than a King James Bible interpreted in any manner other than through old time holiness. One evening we had a special service, one addressing “the devil in the world’s songs” and pre-purposed as encouraging a bonfire afterwards for any and all to commit any such trash to its flames. With a few protestors objecting, we gathered on the front lawn in the darkness and into a steel barrel torched with some kerosene went, not only Michael Jackson, Kiss, and whatever else was popular in the late 80s, but also Alvin and the Chipmunks, Doris Day, and George Jones. Nobody was subjected to any sort of inquisition about having so obviously having fallen under the spell of such lyrical enchantment. No questions asked as to who owned what. We didn’t get as much press as the Puritans and only a few of us are left with eye-witness testimony concerning the event. Suffice it to say it was not one of our better moments……..

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Verification...................."

Somehow, while the amount of snow may well have varied in different areas around the Tristate, here on the outer fringe of Covington the four to five inches predicted fell far short of anything at all serious. The temperature has dropped below freezing; but, after clearing the walk and our car of the white stuff with no more than a broom, Beth and I went to the top of the hill for Chinese yesterday afternoon. My mind is on visiting the men at the rescue mission tomorrow evening, my thoughts sorting out the three services Sunday (two of them watched on my computer) and trying to piece together a couple of portions of Scripture. The Kingdom of God is a term found in all four Gospels, only Matthew mixing with it, as well, the Kingdom of Heaven. To me, surely there is a difference between the two to be explored; and I’ve pondered if perhaps the latter doesn’t simply refer to the believer possessing the Spirit of Christ “within” him, while the first suggests the idea of such reconnected power of divinity working “through” him. How well my own poor attempt to provide explanation captures truth is another matter; but this much most should accept as a basic understanding a couple of analogies Jesus brought forth: both the “treasure” and the “pearl of great price” refer to an inner abiding of the Holy Ghost being restored unto humanity through the price paid at Calvary. More than merely some revising of the registration forms, our paperwork already cleared for immediate entrance into that city on high, the blood-bought have been restored unto that same connection Adam knew in the Garden with his Creator. Therefore, when the apostle Paul speaks unto the Corinthians with a directive for them to “examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith”, the “proof in the pudding” that he extends is verification of that factor. Indeed, it is the one piece of evidence that affirms unto us that, in this journey, we have not been made “reprobate”, a term denoting our having been “cast away” or “rejected”. Some translations have reduced it to our having “failed the test”; but what’s important, what so many seem to have lost along the way, is a hunger to maintain such assurance in our “belly”, not our head. Does final judgment depend upon your theology matching mine in this matter? Christ sits on that throne, not me. I would, however, to “now”, this moment, this hour, this day. Do we “know” Him in more than just a mental image we have forged for ourselves from others thumping the Book?............

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Resuscitation.................."

A friend of mine recently turned my thoughts to an old movie wherein Jodie Foster’s character was impassioned with a desire to make “Contact” with any other intelligent life possibly existing in the universe. The film remains a favorite of mine, not so much because of the plot, as it played out, its version of “Heaven” dismissing all mention of Christ, indeed God, Himself, not even seen as part of the picture, but the curiosity that drove the young woman’s inner being, the hunger she held for touching that which lies “beyond the veil”. I did not find my Bible rebuked, just avoided. In no way was my faith contaminated. To be truthful, it seems to me that we, as believers, are often too easily offended, ready to “make war” over anything that doesn’t fit our chapter and verse image of how we have determined the mystery to be. Ravi Zacharias wrote a book entitled “Recapturing the Wonder”. It just could be he “hit the nail on the head” When everything is all wrapped up in a box, what’s inside I more religion than it is God. When you go to church and know what to expect before you get there, what you’ve got is a program, not a worship service. The Holy Ghost needs to be “blowing in the wind”, somewhere in the pews whispering to a surrendered vessel, coming forth as He determines, not by our command. He is with us, in us, ready to surprise us, and yet always more than we can subdue. We have lost much of that with my particular bunch. From where I sit, it seems the ecclesiastical community, in general, has misplaced the reality of an encounter, our gathering merely a format for what we have come to expect, our relationship with divinity yet possibly intact, but without knowledge of resurrection in our midst other than in the form that we, ourselves, have determined it to be…….