Category: Lessons Learned

A Visit To Soopers: Getting It Right And Getting it Wrong

I don’t know about your town, but in mine the main grocery store has become a very large employer of special needs folks. The spoiled rich kids call these people “specials” for short and because they have enough wealth to not have to understand things like life on planet Earth. Given that I was the spoiled rich kid too, I was embarrassingly uncomfortable when I saw this hiring trend. But over the last year or so, I have come full circle with such force that I am often dizzy. I didn’t do it by choice. It took the Word of God. But I think I now see what Jesus meant when He said, So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit…Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 

Despite what the world often tells us, the goal is not homogeneity–the goal is the glorifying God our Father through building the Kingdom of Heaven as proclaimed by the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.

Here’s another thing. As an adult, I still produce the thought, “I just am uncomfortable because I don’t know how to act around them.” H- has never evidenced that she has of yet had that thought. Don’t misread me. It’s not that she has “acted” perfectly around all people, it’s that she just acts. H- is a child. Jesus also said, truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 

My point: Our problem is we do not readily discern between child-like, dogmatic, immovable, and unshakable faith in Jesus Christ and NOT child-like, dogmatic faith in the things that we build on this foundation. But the distinction is real. And now is a good time to start making it. Jesus also said, therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock

Now for some fun. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this display just now at the store. Transformers will always have a special place in me because my helicopter was the first transformer in the first movie. But that place just got smaller and more remote. Could they get it more wrong? When I need a recommendation for which razor-maker is doing the best these days at ensuring I don’t accidentally bleed-out next time I shave, it will only and ever be accepted from man-flesh. Sorry, Prime.

TF

Excerpt from Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans

I couldn’t help but perk up when I heard my pastor mention “London” as he led us in prayer this morning. My folks are in London vacationing. I just figured he misspoke, but then he also mentioned Manchester. Having not checked the news since early yesterday, I inquired of my pew-mate. Then I cried. My parents are fine. But this scene from Cooper’s classic came to mind.

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So long as their enemy and his victim continued in sight, the multitude remained motionless as beings charmed to the place by some power that was friendly to the Huron; but, the instant he disappeared, it became tossed and agitated by fierce and powerful passion. Uncas maintained his elevated stand, keeping his eyes on the form of Cora, until the colors of her dress were blended with the foliage of the forest; when he descended, and, moving silently through the throng, he disappeared in that lodge from which he had so recently issued. A few of the graver and more attentive warriors, who caught the gleams of anger that shot from the eyes of the young chief in passing, followed him to the place he had selected for his meditations. After which, Tamenund and Alice were removed, and the women and children were ordered to disperse. During the momentous hour that succeeded, the encampment resembled a hive of troubled bees, who only awaited the appearance and example of their leader to take some distant and momentous flight. 

A young warrior at length issued from the lodge of Uncas; and, moving deliberately, with a sort of grave march, toward a dwarf pine that grew in the crevices of the rocky terrace, he tore the bark from its body, and then turned whence he came without speaking. He was soon followed by another, who stripped the sapling of its branches, leaving it a naked and blazed trunk. A third colored the post with stripes of a dark red paint; all which indications of a hostile design in the leaders of the nation were received by the men without in a gloomy and ominous silence. Finally, the Mohican himself reappeared, divested of all his attire, except his girdle and leggings, and with one–half of his fine features hid under a cloud of threatening black.

A tree which has been partially or entirely stripped of its bark is said, in the language of the country, to be “blazed.” The term is strictly English, for a horse is said to be blazed when it has a white mark.

Uncas moved with a slow and dignified tread toward the post, which he immediately commenced encircling with a measured step, not unlike an ancient dance, raising his voice, at the same time, in the wild and irregular chant of his war song. The notes were in the extremes of human sounds; being sometimes melancholy and exquisitely plaintive, even rivaling the melody of birds––and then, by sudden and startling transitions, causing the auditors to tremble by their depth and energy. The words were few and often repeated, proceeding gradually from a sort of invocation, or hymn, to the Deity, to an intimation of the warrior’s object, and terminating as they commenced with an acknowledgment of his own dependence on the Great Spirit. If it were possible to translate the comprehensive and melodious language in which he spoke, the ode might read something like the following: “Manitou! Manitou! Manitou! Thou art great, thou art good, thou art wise: Manitou! Manitou! Thou art just. “In the heavens, in the clouds, oh, I see Many spots––many dark, many red: In the heavens, oh, I see Many clouds. “In the woods, in the air, oh, I hear The whoop, the long yell, and the cry: In the woods, oh, I hear The loud whoop! “Manitou! Manitou! Manitou! I am weak––thou art strong; I am slow; Manitou! Manitou! Give me aid.”

At the end of what might be called each verse he made a pause, by raising a note louder and longer than common, that was peculiarly suited to the sentiment just expressed. The first close was solemn, and intended to convey the idea of veneration; the second descriptive, bordering on the alarming; and the third was the well–known and terrific war– whoop, which burst from the lips of the young warrior, like a combination of all the frightful sounds of battle. The last was like the first, humble and imploring. Three times did he repeat this song, and as often did he encircle the post in his dance.

At the close of the first turn, a grave and highly esteemed chief of the Lenape followed his example, singing words of his own, however, to music of a similar character. Warrior after warrior enlisted in the dance, until all of any renown and authority were numbered in its mazes. The spectacle now became wildly terrific; the fierce–looking and menacing visages of the chiefs receiving additional power from the appalling strains in which they mingled their guttural tones. Just then Uncas struck his tomahawk deep into the post, and raised his voice in a shout, which might be termed his own battle cry.

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And these scriptures.

But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Pray for mercy. Preach Christ.

Impin’ Ain’t Easy

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, X, viii-x.

Not long ago, a certain boy found himself curiously free from the normal assault that accompanied the end of the school day. His walk home began no different than any day before. While always a bit like a gauntlet, on this day he made his way down the hallway with no interruptions. The uneventful moments were filled with the buzz of weekend plans, clangs of locking metal, and worshipful snickers other boys directed towards Billy as he downed a shooter and lit up before even leaving the building.

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Teachers puzzled over the boy. He turned in flawless homework, and proved it was his own with perfect in-class test scores. But he would not speak while at school. The walk home, however, was a different matter altogether.

The boy had Christ in his heart, in his mind, and was not afraid to summon Him when necessary. The Devil knew this and called one of his Imps over to him.

“But we are powerless against that Name,” the Imp responded when challenged.

“I didn’t ask about your weaknesses, you fool!” the Devil seethed. “I gave you an order. Now go!”

****

“I’ve tried that!” Billy said. “I told you I’ll do what you ask, Imp, but I will not strike the boy. He has done me no harm. I like being able to use your powers, but this boy doesn’t seem affected by the curses you gave me. His Chri-”

“-Don’t!” the Imp interrupted violently. “Do not say that name. Ever! Do you not know what would happen to us? I’d be done for, and you’d be as powerless as you were when I found you unable to fight off your drunken father.”

Taking a swing at the Imp, Billy screamed, “Say one more thing about my dad and I’ll kill you!”

Leaning back to avoid the attack, the Imp’s eyes lit up as he watched Billy feed on rage. He feigned, “Sorry. I’m sorry. Just don’t ruin this, kid.”

“Okay, okay,” Billy said. “What’s the plan this time?”

“You’ve tried breaking his things?”

“Yes. I’ve broken and torched just about everything he has brought to school. He just replies, ‘You-know-who says, Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth...'”

“You’ve tried insulting him?”

“Yep. He just says, ‘You-know-who says, Blessed are you when people insult you.‘ I’m telling you, Imp, this boy is not like the others.”

The Imp and Billy sat and thought.

Visibly impatient, the Imp began, “Wait a minute, we’re working too hard. Let’s get lazy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Next time, instead of directly challenging the boy, I want you to give him something that will take his voice away.”

“Huh?”

“Yes,” the Imp whispered, as if to himself. Growing louder, he continued, “We’ve been going at this one all wrong. What’s the newest mirror-like thing that all your kind looks at?”

“I’m not sure what you mean?”

“ANSWER ME!” the Imp screeched. “That thing you all stare at when you are with each other? Your kind never used to do that. What’s it called?”

“My phone?”

“Yes,” the Imp said. “Your phone. Does the boy have one like yours?”

“I think so, but he doesn’t seem to care about it.”

“Fine, fine. Here’s what you do. Call him over to you and make friends with him. Tell him you’re sorry and you’d like to be his friend. Do what you have to to get him to look at his phone more and more. We’ll simply silence him.”

“Oh, I see your game now. Silence. Yes, I can do that. I even know just what will work.”

“He’ll be working against himself soon enough. Maybe I can even get that vacation I’ve always wanted,” the Imp fantasized.

****

“Hey, boy!” Billy said, “Can I get your number? I want to text you later about this Bible app my aunt installed on my phone.”

****

“No, no. Stay there another week. Enjoy yourself. The next round is on me. You earned it. Brilliant, I tell you. The boy went from three hundred mentions to just a single mention each week,” the Devil delighted. “The best part,” the Devil paused, wiping a tear as he laughed, “The best part is he thinks we’re losing!”

Foolishness

It’s been exhausting, but the Holy Spirit has finally given me the promised rest. I’m not sure why I had to wrestle for nearly a year, but the LORD works in mysterious ways, of that I’m certain.

Summarizing: My seminary’s required course in Christian Apologetics included mentioning/teaching the available logical arguments for defense of Christianity. This included an argument named after the Muslim that developed it. For reasons including the professor’s utterly shameful assertion, “You might be the smartest Christian someone ever meets” and the fact that I lost a war to Muslims, the whole thing did not sit well with me.

Shortly after that, in the media coverage of events happening in Europe and America there was a seeming surge in “Islamic” terrorism that peaked, for me, with the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom who thought I had at least kept the fighting at a distance–and now a Christian seminary student with a growing appreciation for the Word of God, both Jesus and the Bible–I finally picked up the Qur’an to see what it says first-hand. To my shock–and I cannot emphasize this enough–to my shock I learned, not that Islam is inherently violent, but that Muhammad had deduced Allah from the “god” of the Old Testament and New Testament (no different than a Deist deduces some manner of monotheism). And this was exceedingly troubling to me.

Worse than troubling me, it tempted me into foolishness. You see, I believed, and spent the last ten calendar months attempting to persuade others, that logic–or man’s wisdom–must be removed from Christianity.

To what end? In short, Christians that knew this already agreed with me. Christians that disagreed, remained unchanged. In other words, no one budged. I didn’t make a dent.

Then finally–finally, finally, finally–the Spirit spoke. What did He say? Turn with me now to 1 Corinthians 1:19 where these words are recorded, “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever, I will set aside.'” Dum, dum,dummmm. Who destroys the “Wisdom of the wise”? The Living God. (How? Through his Word–both Jesus Christ and the Bible.) No man, not even me, can do it.

Therefore, I am officially done messing around with the wisdom of the world which God has made foolish. From now on I am preaching Christ, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, but also the Weakness of God and the Foolishness of God. 

If you’re aware of the spiritual war, I encourage you to likewise limit yourself to preaching Christ too. To those who are called, Jews and Greeks, Christ. Arguments don’t save souls. The Blood of Christ does. Preach Christ. Christ and only Christ. Or as yesterday’s namesake put it back in 377AD-ish,

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

Amen.

Fast Broken, Fast Renewed–For Two Reasons

From Star Wars Episode VII until Logan, I had determined, for spiritual reasons, to not watch any movies. That’s fourteen months of no movies. While I do confess that several times during those months, I told folks, “If it gets solid reviews, I’ll go see it,” no solid reviews came in for those films. Finally, my childhood hero, Wolverine, seemed to rise to the occasion. Rated-R Adamantium claws and solid reviews? How could I resist?

Unfortunately, I seem to not be able to fully “escape” anymore–darn you, books!

By my thinking Logan normalized the act of harpooning little girls through the chest on screen and also advocated lying to children if it keeps them hopeful while the world falls to shit. No thank you, Hollywood. As Colonel Nathan R. Jessup once said, “You see Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to (censored) extend me some courtesy.” Do we really need to see a bloody (red-not-British) harpoon point sticking out of a little girl’s chest to be entertained? Fool-ish-ness.

Then, as if I needed another reason to not visit the cineplex again, I resumed reading some Tolstoy short fiction and came across a story called, “God Sees the Truth, But Waits.” It’s a brief account of a wrongfully convicted man spending his adult life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. And while in prison he finally meets the real killer, who proceeds to try to escape by digging out, little by little, and dumping the sand from his pockets onto the prison yard. Upon light investigation, sho’ ’nuff the internet tells me I’m not the first to notice that Shawshank Redemption totally ripped off Tolstoy.

So I’m back on the movie fast. Twenty-eight plus years of staring at screens. And for what? What a waste.

I Bought A Pocket Sundial

pocket-sundialI bought a pocket sundial. I bought it because a lot of my recent reading has caused me to question my assumptions about everything, including time. You see, the Christian Bible has many instances where man’s conception of “time” is kind of poo-pooed. And with many of you sensuous heathens being incapable of listening to words that follow, “The Bible says…”, I needed to find a different way to get you to the Word. Now, with my sundial in hand, I finally can demonstrate what the biblical writer’s were saying in a non-threatening manner. Here’s how.

Suppose I have my pocket sundial. And suppose after a leisurely midday meal I set the device correctly and the sunlight passes through the hole and I read the time to be 2:45. Now, suppose you check your phone and it reads 2:52. Well, you know me; I’m stubborn as a mule and I insist that I’m right. And I know you; you’re arrogant as Icarus and you insist that you’re right.

Who is right? By what measure can we agree?

In the end, I have a piece of pretty metal upon which a spot of sunlight shines and you have an electrified screen upon which an Arabic numeral appears. All we’ve demonstrated is that time is a convention. I’d feel smart if my namesake didn’t express the exact same truth nearly two thousand solar-Gregorian-calendar years ago when he said that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day–without pocket sundials or portable electricity at his disposal.

But noooo. I couldn’t just listen. So I bought a pocket-sundial. And on the seventh day of owning it, I found my thirty-five year old self expressing to a friend, “Did I tell you I wrecked my car the other day? Sometimes I feel like, ‘if I can just make it to forty’…” as if I hadn’t learned a thing.

Christ is all and in all. Don’t give an inch.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign

lost-history

I used to think it was Christians who were virtually mindless robots, all saying the same thing. Since receiving the Holy Spirit, I can report from the inside that Christians are certainly not robots and moreover we are certainly not nearly close to saying the same thing about anything. It’s like part of the Holy Spirit’s manifestation in a person includes suspicion of everyone and everything–often including what the heck the Good News of Jesus Christ even is. We’re the most disorganized, freewheeling “people group” I can imagine. (Though, we are rightfully sure that we’re on our way to glory!)

But you non-believers, whether Deist,  Atheist, Muslim, Agnostic or any other heathen flavor, you all are robots. After listening to your first five words I find I can accurately forecast your entire train of thought–especially if one of those words is “Trump.”

Or maybe it’s just that you all watch the same shit and I read books.

(Seriously, turn off the television.)

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One of those books, pictured here, is not a must read. In fact, do not read it (unless you’re a Muslim feeling like the world is out to get you). It’s depressing. I just wanted you to see the title and maybe begin to consider that the last Christian in a region/society has already died many, many times.

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With the Quebec Mosque terrorist attack, the West is officially back in the game–and playing to lose.

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Christ Jesus humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

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I don’t know what to write.

If Thunder walked into your life, could it convince you to turn down the volume? How about if you met Lightening? Would you look up for Lightening?

Ah, but let’s not kid ourselves. You and I, we need the rain. We always have.

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Despite the above, I believe there is hope. I see the peaceful way forward. And I am working on concrete projects which encourage us to challenge our assumptions, which can lead to peace. Specifically, I’m working on re-tooling how we teach our children math. (Speaking of children, pray for our children, especially H-. I don’t imagine too many six year old’s find themselves forced to work through Euclid’s Elements as their dad works on a Master’s thesis in New Testament.) But I need help, so contact me if you possess the rare trifecta of time, hope, and the Holy Spirit. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I must believe there is time.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

It’s Not Over

I fought in Iraq.

Not often, but sometimes while I was there I felt a unique-to-me sensation which I later determined to be my body’s response to feeling afraid-for-my-life. For me, this kind of fear feels similar to run-o-the-mill crying. But whereas everyday crying feels localized to my face and eyes, afraid-for-my-life doesn’t leave any part of me untouched–plus it is many times more intense. Put another way, I might say crying cuts like a scalpel, afraid-for-my-life cuts like a semi-truck.

That said, as I keep reading about these attacks, I hear the interstate. What about you?

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Maybe you don’t think you’re smart enough to see what is going on. It’s not that difficult. If you can read, you can get it.

Here’s what I could track down as the formal response of some of the West’s leaders. One formal statement is different from the others. Can you discern whose it is and how it is difference? Or do you need pictures?

Germany – Merkel: “We have to assume it was a terrorist attack.”

Russia – Putin: “This is a shockingly cruel and cynical crime committed against peaceful civilians.”

America – Trump: “Our hearts and prayers are with the loved ones of the victims of today’s horrifying terror attack in Berlin.”

America – White House Spokesman: “…we stand together with Berlin in the fight against all those who target our way of life and threaten our societies.”

Poland – Szydlo:  “…with pain and sadness we received the information that the first victim of this heinous act of violence was a Polish citizen..”

London – Khan: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the awful suspected attack on Berlin last night…”

Can anyone explain to me what Khan means by “suspected”? Does he not know what “an attack” is? Does he not know that even if it turns out to be the equivalent of a Columbine or Sandy Hook mass-murder that it is still an attack? Is he really asking us and expecting us to withhold forming an opinion?

What about you? Are you with Khan? Am I being silly? Does he seem reasonable to you? Should we put our ability to match like-with-like on hold? Also, who is he praying to? Allah? The same god that the “suspected” attacker prayed to? How does that work?

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The Gospel of Jesus Christ is only path to victory. For H-‘s sake, do not believe the lie that the war is against flesh and blood.

Our God’s Word–the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who loved the world so much He sent His son Jesus the Christ to die for us and whom He resurrected on the third day, this God and no other–could not be clearer: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

Do not send our children to fight flesh and blood. Instead, turn off the television and fulfill your calling and proclaim the Gospel. In our day this looks like ensuring and insisting the people in your life know that Our God is not their god. This begins with you knowing this is the case. Do you know this? Do you know our God? Do you know Jesus? Really know Him? If you have any doubt, then track down a “Christian” and ask them to remind you what the Gospel is. If they don’t seem to know, or if what they say doesn’t sound like good news, thank them for their time and find another one. (Christian churches are a good place to start…)

When You Say ‘Radicalization’, What Do You Mean?

The 1910 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica uses “Mahommedan Religion” to describe what we now call “Islam.” Times have changed so much that my 2016 spell-checker thinks even the spelling of “Mahommedan” is wrong–both times. Here’s how the entry opens,

“The Mahommedan religion is generally known as Islam–the name given to it by Mahomet himself–meaning the resigning or submitting oneself to God. The participle of the same Arabic verb, Muslim (in English usually spelt Moslem), is used for one who professes this religion. The expression “Mahommedan religion” has arisen in the West probably from analogy with “Christian religion”, but is not recognized as a proper one by Moslem writers.”

(As a grammar refresher, a participle is a verbal adjective. In English, it is usually an “-ing” word: running, walking, or in this case, in Arabic, Islam (“to resign/submit [verb] to Allah”) becomes Muslim (“resigning/submitting” [participle] to Allah”).

Before getting to radicalization, I want to take one moment to call your attention to the name change–or how no one says “Mahommedan Religion” anymore. My point is not to romanticize the past, but instead to suggest that we can benefit from the admission that there has been a change. And not just a change in names, but in the way we write–a change in our methodology. That little paragraph is very observational. The writer merely recorded what was going on. The writer was very honest. He admitted, “We say ‘Mahommedan Religion’, they say, ‘Islam’.” (period)

I cannot speak for you, but to me that kind of honesty feels as refreshing as a new pair of wool socks on a snowy winter morning in the Rockies.

On the whole, though, like the American prize-fighter Muhammad Ali demonstrated, I fully support letting each person decide their name. This should be no surprise considering the theme of my last two posts. At the end of the day, I just want to be able to swap stories and ask what you mean if I become confused.

And I am confused these days.

See, we hear the word radicalization more and more. In my social circles, I seem to be the only who is confused by this word.

By my thinking, radicalization is a distinctly non-Christian word. By my thinking, radicalization implies some form of neutrality at an earlier stage. And by my thinking, followers of Christ–those of us filled with the Spirit of the Living God–know that there is no such thing as radicalization. Instead, we believe that there is redemption. For we believe that all have sinned–even the terrorists.

There is no neutral–not in our story at least. I certainly was never neutral. I have only ever been in motion. And I think no matter what story you have believed up to now, you have only ever been in motion too.

I have been moving forward or backward or left or right my entire life. It was never a question of “should I move?” or “should I grow?”, but “which direction?”

Cars have neutral. People–not so much.

You want to use the word radicalization? That’s cool. But can you please tell me what it means? Because as of this moment, I can’t seem to ground your word except in relation to redemption. And redemption only comes from the blood of Jesus Christ.