Sunday, September 6, 2009

the Ugly Duckling Chrisitan

I am an Ugly Duckling Christian.
For the un-initiated let me explain. When God is doing serious work in our lives there may come a time when we can no longer present a facade, a mask to those around us. What we are is what you get. If we are having a bad day it shows, if we are happy we can not but help to share it with all those around us, and when we are emotional then the tears are there, ready to flow, for happy or sorrow. An Ugly Duckling Christian is not about apperances or looks, he is in God's hands. God is teaching him, showing him, dealing with his life and relationship. A man in the hands of God will learn that there is nothing on this earth that is of any importance. That the greatest purpose that he can have here is to bring forth the will of God in his life. God brings about these changes, this growth with trial, tribulation and pain. The prideful nature of the man must be broken and made to submit to God's will. The soul of the man is shown in stark contrast to the perfection of God, his every sin brought in to judgment, every action given meaning with the motive that drove it, the "ugliness" that is within him is brought out and dealt with. A Christian that is going through this "Training Program" will develop an entirely different set of values that will, at times, seem self destructive, counter-productive to our culture and just plain "weird". To an Ugly Duckling Chrisitan work, home and church become tools for the purpose of Jesus. What I am saying here is that a Christian that is going through this process is being changed in significant and powerful ways, his values may change, his outlook on life will be less self and his whole purpose for living will be drastically altered. And it can be very ugly.
I am an Ugly Duckling Christian. God has taken my life and turned it completely upside down, then shaken it out. What I thought as noble acts are shown to be nothing more then acts of pride, the motives for my work are selfish and the basis of my cherished hobbies are self serving. I am shown to be a thief and liar, a man that delights in the hurting of others and full of boastful words. There is no truth in me and everything that I do stinks. God must empty me of these things and replace them with his will, his perfection, his truth. I am a work in progress, a work of God, a work to his glory and holiness, and while this work is going on I may appear "ugly' to those that do not understand what is going on in my life, my life and the lives of other Ugly Ducklings.
But for all the ugliness that is being revealed in these "works" of God there is no other Christian in the world that can better understand what you are suffering, the trials and tribulations that you may be going through. An Ugly Duckling Christian truly understands the worth of prayer, he's not worried about the knees of his pants, he will get down there in the muck and pray with you. An Ugly Duckling Christian knows what sacrifice is, God is requiring the sacrifice of all that he has and all that he is. An Ugly Duckling Christian is learning that being still and listening is part of the conversation.
An Ugly Duckling Christian can be a challenge to be with, but even with all the embarrassment that being with him entails, you can keep your smooth talking, bright smiled, always cheerful Christian with the immaculate dress suit. Give me a Christian that God is working with and is more concerned with his relationship with God then he is about how he appears to those around him.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Love

Love
What an incredible feeling. The feeling that nothing else in the world really matters. We want to spend all our time with the one that we love. Holding hands, talking about everything under the sun, or again, being silent together sharing the most beautiful sunset in the world. All that matters is that we are together. Sharing our lives. Being. There are some that say that the first love is the only true love that we will have. Then again, maybe not. At least not in my life experience. I came to know Jesus late in my life and he is the most wonderous love I have ever had or could have. He is the most wonderful, incredible, beautiful friend that I have ever had. I can honestly say that without him I would never have been able to weather the storms that have filled my life. When the going gets bad his hand holds mine, his arm supports me and when I can no longer carry the burdens that fill my life, that is when he carries me. His love has sustained me in the darkest times on my life. His love is all important to me. I want him to know how important he is in my life. Only his love satisfies me anymore.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Losing my religion

Why are we losing the battle for Jesus in America today? At whom do we point the finger for our failure to reach the masses here in this blighted country? I am not sure that we can really blame any one person but I think I have an idea of what is going on.

I call it the Taming of Jesus.
When we go to our local church we hear sweet stories about the God that will protect us and keep us from evil. How this Master will keep us safe and protected in harbors till our time to return to him has come. A walk, if you will, along paths in meadows of green grass and flowers.

Is this reality? NO
You see we, in our stupidity, are trying to tame that which is wild. God is not some tame dog that will keep us safe from the world, barking out his warning when trouble approaches. No, God is a God that does what he will to bring about the perfection of the Saints (thats you). Look at what he allowed to happen to Job, the Man that he loved. All that he owned was destroyed, his children were killed, he friends turned against him and accused him of hiding some sin in his life, his wife turned against God and left him. On top of all that he was afflicted with a hideous rash. What worse fate could have happened to Job? This was a man that worshiped God daily. God will not be tamed, he will do what he will, not what you want him to do. (When you pray with the intent of forcing God to do something he has no intention of doing, that is called spell casting.) Look at the lives of any of the New Testament brothers and sisters. Many if them suffered for their testimony of Jesus.

1Pe 4:19 So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

We do a dis-service when we deny the wild side of God and how he deals with his children. Have plans for your future? Did you check with God? I think it can be rather pathetic how some pastors portray Jesus as this tame, friendly, brother figure that will protect you from all the evils of the world. Then the first time a new Christian runs into a life changing trial he immediately begins to question the depth and validity of his faith. After all if God is allowing him to go through this trial then he must have sinned or done something wrong... Isn't that what Jobs friends accused him of? Why don't we tell these people the truth? If you accept God, you will have trials, your faith will be challenged and you will suffer for his name, in fact, the more you do in Christ the more you will suffer. (The obverse of this observation has some interesting consequences, if you are not going through trials for Jesus, where is your faith and walk? In the gutter?)
Why aren't we up there preaching that proclaiming Jesus as our Master and Saviour is to sign up for a roller coaster ride through life? Jesus is not interested in how many toys you collect, how much money you have, or how good of a job you have. He is interested in only one thing, your journey to perfection. If he has to allow the destrucion of all that you have, the death of your children, your friends turning against you and/or disease/handicaps into your life to bring you closer to perfection then he will do it. Remember Job?
I am sure that some of you will object to my portrayal of God, saying "how could such a loving God allow this to happen to me". I say to you, read your bible.

Psa 23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,

and again

1Co 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

You will be tempted and God will allow it to happen.

Rom 5:3-5 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

There is a reason for your suffering, God is creating a new person. The sword is created on the anvil under the hammer just as you are created in suffering on the anvil of your trials. Praise God in your trials because you are loved by him and he is striving to bring you to perfection.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The thorns must come before the crown

A friend recently wrote those words to me, reminding me that in the pathway of suffering that is laid before us, the pain and sorrow must come before the crown. She mentioned that in her years of trial that she felt abandoned by God. That got me to thinking. In my own trials I too have felt that God has left me, that there is no church that is prepared to deal with the load that I bear, there is no friend that can understand what I suffer. And yet that would be wrong in one way, there is a man, a man that I have rejected time and again, still he returns to ask that question. "How can I help?" He does not do it for reward or recognition, he does it for love. And I didn't see it till I read these words in an email today "but it is good too to feel that one is not alone in facing each day with heartache and pain". When one is in pain and under severe stress it can be hard to see that there are still those around us that are reaching out in Christ's love to help us. When the churches fail to do God's work then we may feel abandoned by God, but there are still men and women that love God, and try to help those that are suffering, even when we don't see them. These men and women, are the hands and feet of God sent to do his bidding, to show us his love.

"We must carry on."

Yes Brenda, we must carry on, but not alone. Let me help.

Sinners

Dear God,
I am so sorry that I am such a sinner. All I ever wanted to do was give this life to you.  My sins surround me and through my shattered life. The stink of my works fill the air around me. The devastation in other lives caused by my selfish unloving acts, the pain filling others from my biting words, the wounds reopened by my carefully aimed jabs. Every time I try to do something it ends in ruin.
Jesus, Word of God, speak to me. As the sands of my life run out do something with this sad existence of mine. I can no longer pretend that somehow my pathetic works are in anyway pleasing to you. There is no perfection in this life, only love for you my Lord.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Glass Floats

I have in front of me a glass ball sent to me by my friend Justin. It is a small Japanese float that the fishermen used to use as a float in their nets. I am not sure if he had a reason for choosing a glass float for a gift but for me it has significance. I grew up on the coast of Oregon and after a storm would blow through I would run down to the beach to see what had been blown in. Many times I collected glass floats, covered with seaweed, sometimes pieces of nets would still be wrapped around them. I would pick up those floats from the sand and wonder at the journeys that they had taken to reach my beach. Some of the floats were so covered with seaweed that you just knew that they had spent years circling in the ocean. Holding them in my hand I would imagine what lands they had floated by. 
Now I have a new wonder to hold. I think of the seas that it might have traveled through and I think of the seas that we have to travel through. I see in my hand a symbol of my life. My skin feels the slime of the seaweed, I smell the sharp tang of the sea as the remnants of the nets rub against my arm. In my mind I see the oceans of life that we travel through, a world of hardship, suffering and sorrow. The experiences of our lives grow on us as the nets of our sins tangle us in their cold harsh grip. Caught in the grip of the currents of our lives we travel through many lands, bearing the scars of many encounters that the waves drive us into. Some of us burst at the crashing of the wave against the black rock. Many times the floats seem to rise up at the last second and slide around the harsh jaggedness. But for those glass floats there is only one safe harbor, one final destination, one final peace.

What will you find in death?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cancer Continues

TJ's cancer is becoming an emotional roller coaster ride. A visit to the lab yesterday showed that the cancer cells in her blood are increasing again, from 2200 to 4500. Her Doctor sent a request to pathology to find out what type of cancer cells we are dealing with now. The medications that TJ is on are affecting her emotionally and physically but they are controlling the seizures and the brain tumors are continuing to shrink.
We are doing a lot of traveling right now with the kids trying to give them good experiences to remember their mother by in case her time should come. Last weekend was a zoo trip and visits to some local museums.
Today TJ went to the store for groceries. I drove her down since the medications affect her driving ability then stayed in the truck to catchup on my sleep. TJ sampled some lunch meat that reacted with her medication. Fortuanetly the staff knows her and took her to the express line to get her out quickly despit the large quantity of itmes she had. TJ says that there was the one senior lady behind her that continully complained about the number of grocerices TJ had and that she should be in a regular line. Despite the staff explaining to her about TJ's cancer this woman would not let up. TJ took it with her usual gentle spirit and prayed that she would never have to expereance cancer herself.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good News

A talk with the Doctor today brought good news. TJ's brain tumors are shrinking under the influence of the medication. This is indeed good news as the tumor behind the eye is inoperable. We continue to pray for complete healing of her body but stand ready to humbly accept whatever our Lord decides.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Update

TJ has finished her second surgery. Removal of a tumor from inside her chest. Her recovery is going incredible well. The Doctors talk about radiation treatment after she heals from this last surgery. This leaves one last large tumor, the one behind her left eye. Her Doctor is hopeful that radiation will reduce this tumor so that direct intervention will not be required.

How is TJ doing? She refuses to give in and continues to live.  She trusts that God will see her through to whatever end that he choses. Faith or Love? Whichever it is the basis is Trust.

Praise

Tonight I bring my praises of God.
 
As many of you know, TJ had surgery this last Tuesday. Friday TJ came home and is now occupying our bed, in pain yes, but being well cared for by Dr. Semachiah, our 7 year old. On the day of her surgery, her Pastor, Pastor Sherman, was there to pray for her in pre-surgery and stayed with me for 2 hours. The Catholic Chaplin dropped by pre-surgery and prayed for her at my request. The entire time while we waited was filled with peace. We discussed you my friends and the out pouring of support that we received from you my brothers and sisters. DNR even tracked down TJ's room and sent her a teddy bear with flowers.
My praise today is you my Brothers and Sisters. It didn't matter that hundreds, even thousands of miles separated us. That we speak different languages or have different denominations/churches. One thing came through loud and clear, God is here and we are praying for you. I don't think I could have gotten through the last 3 weeks without Jesus and without you interceding with him. I won't lie to you my friends, I was only making it with his grace and in his arms.
 
My Jesus, my Saviour
there is none like you
all of my days I want to praise you.

This has been the greatest test of my faithfulness. To face the possibility of the death of my love has been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. And yet, once I got focused back on Jesus, his peace was there. I knew that all would be ok. One way or another, Jesus was the Master of the situation.
It isn't over with Brothers and Sisters. No you see, life continues and as long as we are alive we shall be running the race. I understand now what Paul was saying. Not in my head but in my heart. The race is life and the running is the testing we go through to strengthen our faith/dependence in God. Like a marathon runner we are being pushed to our limits, tired, out of breath and wanting to quit. Our feet beat into leaden bricks and our hearts ready to break under the load. Only we can't quit, we have to go on but the only way to go on is to depend on our Master, Jesus. It is in him that we will find the strength to continue. I don't expect you all to get this. It isn't something you learn in a book but only by experiencing the wonders and peace of God in your life in the darkest moments that can happen to you.
Tomorrow will bring new trials, new tests, but I know now in my heart and spirit that he will always be there, that he will be there in the darkest moments. And there will be dark moments my friends, for all of us. I also know that you my friends are my fellowship, my church if I may, and, that you are the best brothers and sisters a child of God can have.
Thank You God for leading me to Brothers and Sisters as true to you as these are.

The Bitter Pill

When life hands you a bitter pill how do you handle it? Car crash, house fire, death and disease in the family, where does your eyes focus? On the bank account, your collection, car or the lawn you have nurtured? When people talk of you, what trait do they speak of most highly? "He has a nice lawn", "His car is fine", "She is on the street corner every Friday teaching about that Christ".
Walk around a graveyard and you may see epithets like these, "He ate what was set before him", "Her life was a tragedy, may she rest in peace", "He played the cards of life and won", "She walked with Christ, now she sits with him".
Christians are supposed to have a higher view of life, an eye to the wondrous life to come following death. Yet in our day to day life what do we find? How may Christians are afraid? Yes, afraid. Afraid of loss of possessions, loss of house, loss of money, loss of collections (wow look at all those fears of loss), disease and death. How many Christians are afraid of loss of their relationship with Christ?
I have, what I believe, is a most excellent truism, "Actions speak louder then words". Another way of putting it would be "You talk the talk but do you walk the walk?" James spoke the same words in his day, "Faith without works is dead". Well do you walk the Christian life or do you parody it? Do you have Works of Faith?

These words preface a painful reality and a powerful truth.

TJ's cancer is back.

Four words that speak of a reality that changes lives and futures. Words that speak of bitter disappointment, pain and death. How does one respond to such a reality? With a powerful truth.

YHWH-Ra-ah — "The Lord my Shepherd"

A name that speaks of strength, love and caring.
Yes, I can see the future of painful tests, risky surgery and months of chemotherapy which will cause sickness. Yes, even death. But.... Perhaps, through these dimmed eyes, I can perceive the shape of a scarred hand holding her hand, arms comforting shaking shoulders and soft fingers wiping tears from pain ravaged cheeks.
"The proof of the pudding is in the tasting."
"The strengthening of faith is in the walk."
As we face the specter of disease and death in our lives where do our eyes focus? Are you worried about the loss of earthly treasures? Who will care for your precious treasures, houses, cars, collections? Do you cry out to the uncaring skies, "What a bitter day it was, the day I was born"?
Yes, TJ was rocked by the news of the specters return but this is a specter that has no power in her life. You might ask her the secret of her ability to overcome this devastating news. She will tell you that she has none, she is overwhelmed, tired and afraid. You might then ask, "Then how do you keep going? Why don't you just give up?". TJ will respond with, "God sustains me". "But you have a family, three special needs boys at home, a house to care for, a senior mother to help maintain, a step-father that is dying. How can you deal with all that and now you have cancer of the cervix, ovaries and stomach. God doesn't care about you, why don't you just tell God how damn unfair he is and give up?".......
You know what, TJ smiled, she actually smiled and asked "How can I give up the Master that has cared for me and loved me so much? Am I to curse the one that I need most now? He died for me, can I do less?"

Do you have a sunny day God or is he there for the rainy days too? Are you?

Oath Breakers

How many promises have you broken today? Did you make a promise of convenience and then dismiss it from your mind saying that it doesn't matter because they are just children? How are your marriage vows holding up, you know the one to love no matter what? As the shine has left the relationship do you still care for them or have you found a new interest? Has the wear of the years tattered your promises into meaningless words?
I am amazed when I go shopping with my wife. When she writes out her checks for her purchases at the stores she frequents, often I hear the clerks tell her that they don't need to see her ID. I even heard one of the managers telling a clerk not to ask to see her ID because "TJ is the most honest woman in Port Orchard."How good is your word? Ask your children, your spouse, they will tell you (if they aren't afraid of you).
We are so easy with our word. The day was that a handshake was good enough as a guarantee, but now we have to sign ten reams of paper to ensure our compliance to a contract. How good is your word today? When you say that it will be done, will it? The sad situation is that we as Christians are, as a group, oath-breakers. Sarcasm edges these words because Christianity is based on just that... a promise. God made you a promise, that if you relied on his name that he would save you. Now I am not here to dispute the entire requirement needed for salvation but rather I am here to point out the irony in the fact that God made us a promise and we expect people to believe us about that promise when we can't even be trusted to keep our own. Here we are, the representatives of God, and we can't be trusted with the little things. Think how sad that is.
Did you break your word to a person who knew that you are a Christian? Perhaps you are why he doesn't believe in the promise of God. For you, it was just a minor thing, for him, why should he trust what you say about a promise from God?

What do you deserve

Advertising today is amazing. Think about it, here is a group of smart people hired and paid big money to make you want to buy this or that product. These are people that know how to work that salesman charm and they know what makes you tick. So I follow advertising trends with interest. Want to know where Americans are at today? Watch the commercials. Which brings me to the meat of this post.

What do you deserve today? I am sure you have seen the commercials, you deserve a BMW, you deserve a prime steak dinner, you deserve a 5000 square foot house, don't wait because you deserve to have this gold necklace. WHY?! What makes us, in this disillusioned American culture, think we deserve a thing except to be Damned? Day after day the TV tells us that we deserve this, that and the other. Why, because we are such fine people? Did we do something spectacular that gives me the right to feel that I deserve to have a Porsche? Am I missing something here? Perhaps some angel of God came down and told us that we earned ourselves a break today? Because I am really confused here, people around me are telling me that we deserve it. When I agree with them and tell them that we all deserve to be going to hell for our sins I get the strangest looks. And the worst place is the Christian churches. COME ON PEOPLE! Brothers and Sisters are starving to death in Africa and you deserve to be financially rich because of your faith (and because you are making the pastor rich)??? I mean, we have the examples of the Apostles and early church fathers that chose poverty. Name one rich Apostle....... Just one.... If any of Christ's followers deserved to be rich it would be an Apostle right? Why do you deserve to be rich? What makes you so special above all the others of God's children? Don't you know when you are being tickled, are you so desperate for the things of this world, or so weak in faith that you don't trust God's promise?
You know the Lord's prayer, the one that asks for todays needs? Give us this day our DAILY NEEDS. Nothing there about wants or deserves. Give us this day our steak dinner because we deserve it? Are you really that sad?

GOD WHERE IS MY BMW, YOU SAID I DESERVE IT!!

Why don't you pray for God to make the starving people in the third world countries rich so they can feed their children? Truthfully, I think that the majority of American Christians are pathetic. We worry more about the stains on our clothes then we do about the stains on our souls. We want to be lead astray by things that must make God shake his head in dismay. I am reminded of children who spend their days chasing butterflys and rainbows rather then sit at the feet of Jesus and learn his truths.
Back to the advertising. If the phrase "you deserve a..." didn't work they wouldn't use it, so, obviously it does work and you, dear brother and sister are the ones that believe it. Do you really deserve the things of this world? Because if you do you don't deserve the salvation of God.

Kitty Salvation

I work in the Naval shipyard at Bremerton WA.. As anyone knows that works in an industrial environment, there are rats. We have a good selection of wharf rats that are vicious and large. I tell you this to give you an idea what the predators of this rats deal with, that is the cats. The cats are feral and fearless. Through generations of selective breeding and shear survival skills they have developed into some of the finest hunters I have ever seen in cats.
About 6 weeks ago I heard a kitten meow in the warehouse section of our building. Now our building is over 150,000 square feet in size so I hoped to keep the litter unknown to management since the shipyard policy was to destroy all cats. Unfortunately day-shift noticed the litter and bothered the mother too much. She shifted the kittens from the box of plugs they were in to a pallet of coiled up steam hoses where we were able to trace them too. Bringing in some cat food in the hopes of keeping the latest location secret, we feed the cat and watched over her new nest. The mother is a gorgeous calico short hair.
But then disaster, I was sent to another part of the yard for a week. When I returned the mother had moved her litter again. This time day-shift was talking about her because her kitten could be heard in a wall. After the shop had settled down that night I went looking for the meow. I could here the kitten but not find them. On second floor of an interior storeroom I found the mother growling and hissing at me. Leaving her alone, I came back during her hunting time at sunset. I could still hear that kitten but could not find them. Carefully searching old boxes and under pallets I finally located the meow to a hole in the floor going down into the main wall. There, 9 feet below me in a concrete retaining wall, I see a little white head and blues eyes crying out her heart.There just was no way to get through the wall to her. I could not bear to leave her there to die, so I found a length of small diameter rope and tied a noose into the end. For the next 20 minutes I prayed as I tried to get that noose around that little kitten. Time after time I would get the noose around her only to have it slip off when I pulled it tight. Several times she retreated out of the reach of the rope under an overhanging concrete shelf. But she came back and I refused to give up. Finally the rope settle around her neck and I jerked it tight, her screams resounding in the space as I hastily pulled her up to me. Safe in my arms at last, I looked at the little dirty snowball that stared at me. I had done it, with God's guiding hand I had manged to pull her from death. I walked with her to the water fountain, where the Foreman and General Foreman were talking about a job. I walked by them and when they saw what was in my arms I told them bluntly, "You don't see anything". The G.F. smiled and turned back to the Foreman.
Tonight Brandywine is terrorizing toes from under the couch. I don't think she understands. She just knows that that toes are fun to attack.

Pain

I am tired, so tired. The tears have streaked my face and clogged my eyes. The burdens are great and only God is keeping me on my feet. The burdens of life are so great. It is very late at night, TJ and the older boys are in bed exhausted from being at the hospital all day. The house is totally quiet and dark. I sit here in front of this laptop typing these words and wonder if they will ever find their way to your heart. Whether they reach their target or not I must type, only in the typing can I release the pain.
I flash back to earlier today when I had to hold my struggling boy as a needle was forced up his leg so that more blood could be drawn, to find what is wrong with his little body. He has no idea that his screaming pain is in my heart. That it sits here like a hot leaden mass, searing the very soul of me. The betrayal in his eyes will be long in leaving my dreams. Is he mature enough to understand what trust means? That what was done to him today, while painful, was in his best interests? Are any of us?
I think about the burdens I bear and wonder. A disabled wife, a mentally challenged adult son, a gay adult son, a bi-polar teenage son and a sick little boy. A job that is challenging for a Christian to work in and a culture that considers Christianity as a social club.
I know that God is working something in me but can I go on? How much more pain can one man take? Can I trust that God can keep me? Look at what he allowed to happen to Job. He lost everything that would matter to a man, his friends betrayed his trust and even his wife turned against him then left him. Everything that I thought was important in my life is being turned upside down. How can this be God's purpose in my life. What purpose is served by what I am going through?
I was told that I didn't need to be in there holding him, but I had to be, he needed to know that even in his pain he was loved. Do you think that might be the real reason behind why Jesus was born? Do you think that maybe God setup the salvation plan in such a way that he could come down here and show us he loved us, hold us while he allowed us to be hurt, whispering in our ear that we don't understand now but he loves us.

I believe God, help me in my unbelief.

Dying

My seven year old son lies in a hospital bed struggling to live and his body is so far gone that he doesn't care that he isn't eating, that his metabolism is shutting down. His small body wasting away as he stares out the window, the doctors struggling to keep him alive, force feeding him to keep his fragile toehold in life. He just stares out the window watching the eagles dance in the air above him. He doesn't understand when I tell him that he is dying, that he needs to eat, to drink, the food that I hold before him. He only knows that the birds are pretty, his eyes peaceful as his life slips away.

Life is such a fragile thread, we hide our fear of death today and brag how we are beating it, living longer, looking better as we do it and in our ignorance we have forgotten what death really is. We forget that death is a metaphor, a symbol, the reality faces us everyday and we refuse to face it. We take the objects of this pale and we call them important. We collect them and pile them together building bigger and bigger containers to store them in safety. Our whole existence becomes centered around these pretty things, these objects that entertain us, make us look better, give us power over others, or make us think we are smarter. We play our games of who is better, smarter or has more toys and we forget that this life is not what we think it is.
The reality that this is but a dream has been forgotten, that when we wake up we face real life or real death. We watch the pretty eagles do their dance in the air not realizing that our life is slipping away, that we are not eating or drinking and that soon, all too soon we must face the ultimate reality. The doctor shakes us to get our attention, but we smile our smile of ignorant peace, untouched by the dying of our souls as the food of life slips from our fingers. The doctor can only offer, we must accept the food that he offers, the new life that he has promised if we will just eat.

I smile as my son accepts the cookie I offer him, at this point does it matter what form the food comes in? He will live.

Aren't the eagles beautiful?

The cursed season of Xmas

Driving in to town tonight to get a belt for my son we ran across an interesting scene. Let me set it for you. It is dark outside, the road into town moderately traveled. We drive past three churches, dark and then ahead, the flash of lights, the ones that make you check the speedometer. Slowing to a crawl because the shoulder is narrow and this one is crowded. A large dark SUV is over the edge, right wheels into the ditch, mud covering the front. Behind the SUV are three police cars, lights going, and behind them a small black sedan. Three policemen are struggling with a young man in cuffs, he is yelling and cursing. In front of the black sedan a young woman, (his girl?) and an older woman holding her, the sobs of the younger woman shaking her.
 

Swinging partway into the other lane, I drive past the congestion and in one of those moments of timelessness my eyes meet the eyes of the older lady. Life has not been good to her, sorrow heavy on her face, a bittersweet smile touches her lips. My movement carries us beyond her and on the SUV I see it, The Symbol. Tied tightly to the top of the SUV, snow still caught in it's branches, The Christmas Tree. At that moment, through my open window I hear the man scream...CHRISTMAS SUCKS!

I agree with him.

What have we turned Christmas into? An orgy of possessions and disappointments. The symbol? A place to collect more possessions. Right now outside this home are millions of people rushing from store to grinning store, grimly in pursuit of that perfect gift. Why is there more depression, suicides and bitter divorces at this time then any other? Because Christmas sucks! Christmas is the season of disappointment and bitterness. The season of going into debt for more possessions that aren't needed, for junk that will be gone next year. Toys for kids that will break them in 2 days and cry because they want more. The stress of trying to do it all for family that will eat dinner in 15 minutes and be snoozing in front of the game for the rest of the day. And why? I don't know. Do you? And above it all, that futile feeling, what a waste. Xmas should be flushed down the toilet.

Tell them about Christ? Sorry, these are the Christians. Remember those three dark churches? This is Sunday night, they are shut up tonight so the members can go shopping and not miss the big sales.
 

And the older lady? I am sure I will see her in church next week, smiling and lying about how nice this season is along with the rest of us. Just look at her eyes.

Ritual of Death

First let me say that I enjoy and get much from the Liturgical Services. TJ (tobie) and I have both been known to attend a local orthodox church because we enjoy the service so much.

Todays Tirade.....RITUAL, EMPTY, REPETITIVE, RITUAL
 

It appears in all denominations and religions. You have been there, the song, the offering, the same boring sermon, followed by the same admonition to get saved. Well I will tell you, if heaven is like this church then COUNT ME OUT!

Are these people serious? Why are they wasting their time? Take the poor song, rip out the words and replace them with "Bored, bored, bored, boring"! How can any man that claims to be a servant of the Most High God treat his word so crassly? We should be following the example of Jesus. Make a whip from cords and chase them from these pulpits where they are disgracing the Words of our Most Holy GOD. How can the word of the Living God be made so dead. How dare they turn the Words of Life into words of death. And there they sit, the zombies of God drooling thier Christian life away. WHY? They should be alive, dancing, praising his name in the aisles, shouting GLORIA TO THE MOST HIGH!! WE ARE ALIVE IN HIM. So why do we act dead. The same ritual every week, the same repetitious drivel sunday after sunday after awful boring sunday. No wonder God says he will spit the lukewarm out, we are lucky he doesn't puke them out. "Man, look at that, another puked out church."

I pray that the True Christians will be persecuted. Clear out the dead wood and bring back life to the church. Look at the churches in 3rd world countries. Are they worried about the ink stain on the rug? NO! They're out there dancing on that ink stain in the NAME OF GOD! What this church needs is a good shake up. Do we think we will escape judgment for our lack of action? Did Israel? NO. So why should we, the adopted children, think we can sit around and yawn at the WORD? By what benighted reasoning do we think that we won't be accountable for our lack of action in a world that is seeking death? How can you sit there and continue to participate in a ritual to death, the ritual that kills the faith and destroys the message of life to the unsaved. You should be in that sanctuary crying, yes I said crying, crying because ritual and complacency is killing the church of God, the church of your Master and God. Look at those zombies, dying, minute by aching minute, dying. Oh they may pretend to life but it is a false life of ritual. Thats right, ritual. There is no life there, no salvation, no glory for God and brother it will be you that God looks at.

You think you can't make a difference? Then you can't and believe me brother satan is happy you feel that way. Maybe you should let Jesus make a difference in other's lives through you.

The Hero

Look, there he stands, the mighty knight in his shinning armor. Wearing the Breastplate of Righteousness, feet shod in the Gospel of Peace, the Shield of Faith on his left arm, the Helm of Salvation on his head and in his hand the sword of The Word of God. There he stands, the strong warrior of God. Defender of the faith, protector of the weak and champion of the Word. Do you see yourself there? Are you ready to die in the defense of the gospel? To stand before the enemies of God and Christian, pronouncing his word then dying gracefully in his arms? The words "Welcome home beloved son and champion of my faith" pronounced over your head to the cheering throngs of saved man and angels? A pretty picture isn't it.

Are you ready to live for God? Armour battle worn, grimy and dented from the mighty blows of the enemy? To lose job, house, reputation, even family to do your master's work? Ridiculed, spit on, cursed and hated for what you represent? Is his love worth a living death in a hard labour camp. Toiling to the end of your life under the contemptous lashes of those who imprisioned you for speaking out for him? Now what is his love worth? No TV, computer, warm bed, clean clothes, sweet perfumes, the loving hugs of your children and the kisses of your spouse, companionship of your buddies, the good job providing you with a filling dinner and a comfortable house to live in surrounded by the comforts of culture and civilization. ALL GONE. Replaced with bitter cold, stomach cramping from hunger, back racked from the pain of unending toil, teeth aching from rot, skin itching from crusted dirt and the infestation of vermin.
 
How about a dead end job for a company that has no appreciatation for your work, is this life worth living because God wants you to be a living word to that man on the next machine? Are you willing to have cancer and die of it so that you can be a living word to the Doctor who has never accepted his free gift of salvation? Will you accept an accident causing mental retardation so that your spouse can be the living word to those unsaved around her?
Where are your thoughts now? What do you desire after? Are you ready to live for God.....no matter what?



What is the church?

I sit in the pew looking around at the congergation gathered to worship God this day and I am saddened. As the Pastor exalts the virtues of the Regenerated Christian I look at the dull eyes, sagging faces, mouths so slack you think they will start drooling and I am forced to stop myself from wiping the face of the nearest zombieised member. I think back over the last three churches I have visited and I am forced to admit that the similarity most obvious among them is the faces of the congergation.
Where did the apathy start? Who is at fault here? Why did the members lose thier first love for Christ? Are the Pastors at fault for some reason? Thinking back over the people I have talked to and the churches I have checked out, I seem to see a pattern, one that I don't like. In the majority of churches the Pastor gives the sunday sermon, the sunday night sermon, the wednesday sermon and many do the major sunday school class while thier wives teach the womans study. The Elders care for the money, property and clean the parking lot.
Where are the members? What are they doing? Nothing, they sit, listen and slowly die in thier pews. Where is the joy in Christ I was lead to expect? Why aren't the members participating more? I asked one member how he presented Jesus to his friends. His response was enlightening and saddening. "Oh, I just tell them a little about Jesus and then bring him to church. The Pastor does the rest." "Haven't you ever brought someone to Christ yourself?" "No, I don't know how and that is the Pastors job."
Who is failing? The members for not demanding more, more teaching, more interaction, more hands-on?
Is it the Pastor for allowing the flock to become complacent? Easier to deal with stupified christians that don't ask hard questions and demand more active, pertinent classes?
Do we blame the seminaries? Are the Pastors not equiped to teach active, hard charging, Jesus energised Christians?
On this point I am sorry to say that I am attending a church at the moment where the Pastor seems to be avoiding me, not answering my emails because, it would seem, I don't fit into the mold of a pew warmer. I am not a pew warming comformist, I believe that each of us has talents and gifts for reaching select groups of people. My group seems to fall in the wierdo's, geeks and freaks category. (every type out a verse in hexidecimal code so it will banner on your puter just to get them to decipher it?) I also believe it is every christians responsibility to take the sermon and check it against our standard, the Bible. If it doesn't measure up to the bible then we need to sit with the Pastor, in love and respect, and find out what is going on (and be ready to be corrected yourself). Some Pastors have a problem with members pointing out doctrinal errors. Another is the dress code. TJ told me that the Pastor wanted me to wear black slacks and tie. "Why?" It would seem that they video the service for TV and I don't fit in..........Duh? (I am thinking of edging my hair in blue and purple :) )
Are we all just becoming complacent and, do I dare say it, lukewarm? No longer able to handle the uniquness of each member and what he/she brings to the local group? Are we demanding conformity rather then celebrating the differences God has given us?
Do you know what it is like to attend dying churches then go to a Christ energised church? The Pastor was directing and everybody was doing something. Even the kids were up in front, IN THE MAIN SERVICE! I asked the pastor how he did it. "Training, training and ensuring that everybody is involved. The service is not a one man show, it is an extended family getting together to celebrate."
Pastors, how are you training your flock? And how are you involving them in God's work?
Flock are you involved in a spiritual, powerful way?
Is your congregation more concerned about conforming to a "norm" or do they celebrate Jesus and let him worry about what you wear?