Job's Tale Reordered

New visitors to my site may wish to read about my journey from start to present. I thought it may be easier for them to have this blog available that puts it all in order (rather than pouring through archives).

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Location: Canby, Oregon, United States

I have adopted two boys from Haiti. Both are mentally handicapped. One is is now 20, the other 18. I divorced my wife of 28 years a few years ago and have just remarried, a woman from Belize. I find beauty in many things... many, many things (nature, art, people, space...) and that helps me to survive my deep empathy for so many who suffer. I like to write, and I've written quite a bit on my blogs. I have been thinking about writing a book. Unsure if it should be about the things I have experienced, or fiction (I have an interesting plot line worked out). I'm pretty open about things. I like blended whiskey, but I never have more than two drinks... usually just one, and not often at that. I have had many adventures. Makes me a little different. (Odd?)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

"Job's Tale" in Order

I thought I would place all of my postings in order and in a single post so that if folks wished to read them from the beginning they wouldn't have to struggle with archives. Here it is.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Starting point:

I know that people suffer terribly. I know that God loves us. I know that good can come from bad, and that what hurts can have benefits, even if those benefits do not seem to match the costs.

This ancient story examines the intersection between good and evil, humility and pride, friends and accusers.

To frame my perspective, my starting point in examining this book, I here offer a piece I wrote about my contact with God three months after the death of my son:

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" -- Job 1:18-19

A March Moon

He staggered along the gravel path, bent by his invisible burden. His breath hung in the air, glowing in the moonlight as it slowly drifted over the frosted grass. The huge yellow moon was sinking toward the western trees, shining as if it represented warmth and beauty, but sliding toward a tomorrow that would bring neither.

“You’re just tired little guy; you need to sleep.” He laid the crying infant in the crib.

The moon had never seemed so huge. It filled the March sky with an importance that the sun never matched. It reminded him of the importance his child held in his life. The sharp, cold light cut through the sky without illuminating it. The small, sharp stars were insignificant companions to the brilliance of that vast yellow moon. The moon shone through naked, grasping tree branches, forever beyond reach. This most precious golden orb rolled silently on toward the edge of the world.

He rolled the crying child onto his stomach, remembering the pediatrician’s admonition that Willy needed more tummy time to learn to crawl (“There is an increased risk of S.I.D.S. in the tummy position, so try to have him sleep on his side.”) It was hard to leave him crying, but Willy needed to learn to sleep without the rocking of parental arms.

The moon deepened to orange as it began to slide behind the trees. The warm color brought no warmth to him. Its round face reminded him of the round face of his child. Its perfect beauty seemed to match the perfect beauty in the face of his child. This huge yellow moon loomed as large as a small child’s life.

The child’s cries went from an insistence on being picked up, to a self-pitying wail, to a soft whimper, to a murmur, to. . . silence.

He walked over to the crib. OH GOD NO!!

In the east a faint hint of the coming day could be felt. It wasn’t so much a lightening of the horizon as a deepening of the night above. The sky had traces of a color that has no name.

He picked up the lump of clay that had been his son. He pressed his lips against the blue lips and blew gently, softly, and felt the tiny lungs expand. “Hhhhaaaaaa,” said the lump of clay.

Standing alone in that field he felt an intimate connection to the world. The moon was a metaphor. A metaphor for him alone. Like his son, the golden moon was more beautiful than all other moons, than all other sons which had ever graced the world. Like his son, the moon was slipping away into a past that could never be brought back. Like his future, this cold morning promised a coming day, a tomorrow, that could not be ignored, or stopped.

He smacked the tiny chest. “Breathe!!”

He stood at the center of the universe. The moon shifted toward red. The east began to glow.

He stood at the end of the drive. Alone in the city. Holding his dead child; holding his cold dead world.

He looked up and saw that color which did not seem meant for mortals. To call it purple would mock it. To say it was a deep dark shade of blue would belittle it. It was to purple what affection is to love. It was to blue what sadness is to grief.

Neighbors walked out to the street, or peered from windows. The sound of a siren filled the air. Holding his dead child. Holding his son.

It was the color of recognition. A metaphor for him alone. Alone.

Lights of an ambulance, winking on and off in the distance. The shrill mechanical scream of a machine warning warning warning. It screamed and it blinked, but it never moved. It hung in the distance, rushing, but never closer. Promising assistance, help. salvation, never moving.

It was three months, to the day.

It was a metaphor.

It was an accounting.

The moon was sinking, never to return, never to be the same moon again. The sun was rising. The promise of tomorrow, of today, of yesterday, beginning to change that indescribable color.

And it all came swiftly together.


He was shaken by simultaneous, opposing, contrasting, and linked emotions. He trembled and fell to his knees.

And for a moment, for a very brief moment, it seemed that the universe had bent itself to recognize him. It had made itself a metaphor for his life. For his life. It was recognition and promise. It said: “I know.”

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Chapter 2

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" -- Job 1:16

When Willy died it started a series of events that have turned out to be watershed moments in my life. I have grown. And growth is painful.

Now I have begun another odd path in this journey. Thursday night my mentally handicapped child was playing with fire and burned down our church.

Here are the facts:

Our church is pretty large and has had many additions over the years. The original portion of the church was a used building that was moved to the site in the 50's. Its a "U" shaped basement has classrooms off the halls so it's full of odd little corners and out of the way places.

Behind the old sanctuary is a stairwell. In one direction it goes up to the baptistry, and the other winds down into the basement. Over this space are metal poles swinging out above the stairs to store banners.

J. (he's physically 16, mentally closer to 4) found himself alone and wandered into the kitchen of the old section in the basement and turned on all the burners of two stoves. Then he wandered off.

He found a lighter and a candle, went to the stairwell, and watched the little flame burn in the darkness. He took a sheet of paper and lit it. It flared up, he got scared, and grabbed "a red blanket" (a banner). "The fire turned blue." Frightened, he left, closing the door. He probably thought it would all just go away.

Our meeting was just ending and he came in. We went to say our goodbyes and get our other son. The alarm went off. Moving throughout the church to make sure everyone was out, Brenda found the stoves on. At first she thought that the heat from them may have been the cause of the fire alarm. She and one of the elders (Brenda first) found the actual fire a few minutes later.

We had a bad feeling it may have been started by J. but he consistently denied it. I told one of the elders what I suspected, and we let them start their investigation.

We were told that everyone who was in the church had to stick around and so we waited while five departments responded. In a typical Oregon Spring drizzle we watched as flames licked the corner of the santuary. I felt helpless and like our lives would never be the same again. And every once in a while we would turn to J.

"Do you know anything about this?"

"Did you start the fire?"

"Where were you exactly?"

Consistent denials and a sinking feeling in my gut.

Eventually they asked for our names and numbers and sent us home.

The police showed up at our house about 12:30. That's when he spilled it , they read him his rights, and arrested him.

The newer portion of the church has a gym, a new kitchen, a nursery, and classrooms, and was pretty much unaffected (except for soot). The coffee center, the library, the youth center, the pastoral staff offices, the basement classrooms, the food pantry, and the "family room" were destroyed. Estimated damage: $750,000.

Oh Lord. Tell me what you wish me to do.

The D.A. has not made a final determination yet, that will be tomorrow morning. But he indicated that he would probably use a small loophole in the measure 11 law which relies on intent. (Measure 11 lists certain crimes under which juveniles would automatically be tried as adults. Arson is one. The worst case scenario is an inclusion of attempted homicide because there were people in the building.) He asked me to bring the paperwork that shows J.'s mental abilities (IQ about 50). So I think he will bounce the case back down to juvenile where they will decide on what crime he may be charged with.

As for sticking with the church, there is no question. We will remain there. This morning we will hold our services at another church (Bethany Evangelical). They usually have three services each morning so they are giving us the use the middle service for a couple of weeks. It is going to be difficult to go to church this morning. But I need to stand up and take what responsibility I can.

Our church has really been supportive of this. B. and I have been like zombies since it happened and there has been a steady stream of people bringing food, offering prayers and help. Yesterday I stopped by Bethany church to offer any assistance to them as they prepare to squeeze their services to fit us in. There was a meeting going on of all the leaders of our church, about 15 men. The pastoral staff, the elders, the governing board, and about half of the deacons. It gave me a chance to apologize to them and share what is going on legally. They all gathered around me and prayed for us, and then each of them gave me a hug and said words of encouragement. It was pretty amazing.

One of them is a man I asked earlier in the year to mentor me and he and his family coming over this morning for breakfast and go with us to the service together.

We have not been honest with ourselves about his abilities. He is really more like a 3 or 4 year old. Those false, prideful, parental dreams have been swept away.

Yesterday I put an alarm on J.'s door so I would know when he left his room at night, put up seven more smoke detectors, and bought a 2nd fire extinguisher.

I really expected to have the media pounding on our door. I mean there must be 300 people who know it was J. and no one told the news people (and there were news vans, helicopters, newspaper reporters, the works). But I guess in a town like this folks just felt it wasn't any of the media's business.

Our pastor was interviewed, saying that we are really members of "the first church of Canby that just happens to meet in different buildings." The other churches have offered the use of their facilities if we need them. We routinely work with them on many other sorts of things, food for the needy, building a Habitat for Humanity house, monthly prayer meetings that rotate from church to church.

Well, it is time to get ready for the day. I am apprehensive about the service this morning, but I think it will be ok.

We have been going through a lot, and there is much more to come. But all growth is painful.

When Willy died it hurt so bad. But good did arise from it. What might rise from these ashes? I think I will collect some from that spot on the building that persistently flicked its hot tongues along the old sanctuary's eves.

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said ". . .and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Blessed be Your Name

Life is good. Life is hard.

You give and take away. My heart will choose to say: “Blessed be Your name.”

We always wanted kids. It just never seemed to happen. After ten years B. became pregnant. Our excitement spilled out of our lives to friends and family.

We had been looking into adopting a special needs child from the state and like many couples who “settle” on adoption we found that we had “our own” child on the way. A realtor (a friend of another couple who’d shared an adoption course with us) popped up, and practically dragged us to look at houses despite our repeated claims that we had no money.

Suddenly we found ourselves borrowing earnest money for a little house in a small town with a swing set in the back yard. I began working on the house to bring it up to FHA standards and we went in for our first prenatal visit.

You give and take away. My heart will choose to say: “Blessed be Your name.”

It was a tubal pregnancy. It was already large and she was rushed into surgery. I wept and prayed while my confused mother-in-law stood by.

This was B.’s last fallopian tube. We walked woodenly through our lives in the new house with the empty swing set. We got a dog.

Self pity welled up around us as we watched others celebrate births and birthdays. Our neighbor invited us to his church, and after a month or two thinking it over, we went.

The pastor was about my age and he gave a message about the ache of being childless. And then he announced that she was pregnant. We sat stunned as the congregation burst into applause in that small sanctuary. Here was another couple getting the one thing we desired most.

We went home. A couple of weeks later I lost my job.

It had been a long time since I had attended a church. We went back to see and hear more of these people who met in that small church.

That little church was good for us. We looked beyond ourselves, and occasionally acted. They accepted my odd views and I was loved and welcomed.

I went to school, seeking a career that would be less at the mercy of economics. And the second year in I was introduced to a 16 year old searching for someone to adopt her baby due in three months. We took him home when he was less than a day old. And this child, who looked just like my baby pictures, died in my care three and a half months later (SIDS).

You give and take away. My heart will choose to say: “Blessed be Your name.”

There are miracles in that story. I don’t say that lightly. I am a huge fan of science (I read science nonfiction constantly). There are miracles in that story. And they didn’t end with the memorial service we held for him in that small sanctuary.

That experience was a watershed event. I learned much about grief and joy, good and evil, and the testament of the Lord found in nature, scripture, and my own heart. I was hurt deeply and the wounds are still tender. But the love found in that sanctuary helped us walk through that dark, thorny canyon.

We adopted two orphaned boys from Haiti. There were miracles in that story as well. I dreamed proud dreams. I saw a future for them that was boundless.

This past couple of months I have become more aware of who they truly are. Good boys. Large hearted boys. But they have their own challenges that I cannot remedy.

I have been too proud. I gloried in my mental exercises, and reveled in new ideas, working to create a paradigm for myself that reconciled the superficial questions that lie in the gap between faith and science. And my children will never do the same. They are simply unequipped.

A week ago one of them, playing with a candle, accidentally set fire to that sanctuary where we met my friend who publicly shared the joy of a long-awaited first child, where my wife and I held the memorial for our child, where we renewed our vows and watched our children baptized. The flames burned through that sanctuary, threatening lives and sweeping away the place of treasured memories for so many, burned away my hopes for what my children are able to achieve. My oldest will always be four.

You give and take away. My heart will choose to say: “Blessed be Your name.”

So I begin a new journey. I have crossed out of one valley, that watershed of personal growth. And while looking back down over my shoulder I have stepped across the ridge of my life into a new watershed. Now I begin the path down into a new unknown valley of experiences.

But the Lord is my shepherd and I will follow Him.

And my heart chooses to say: “Blessed be Your name.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I love learning. I love reading and writing and new ideas and stretching myself.

I was the first of my family to go to college. My parents didn’t graduate high school. I had made it through the two years of a community college, gotten an AA transfer degree and was attending a university.

The Bible as Literature seemed like a good choice. It was a summer course, it fit my schedule nicely, and it would be good to come at the Bible from a fresh angle.

In the lit class we were to select a particular story from the old testament and analyze its literary qualities. Did it have the elements of an oral tradition? Where there parts of the story that had deeper meanings, double meanings, unclear meanings?

Since we had wanted children for so long (and we had recently realized that it would never happen), I chose the Abraham and Isaac story.

Abraham, a successful shepherd from Ur, and his wife Sarah believed that there was only one God who was everywhere, all knowing, and all powerful. This creator of the universe wanted to work through Abraham to create a nation, a people through which He would interact.

The problem was that Abraham had no children. God promised to remedy that, and though the years passed and this couple grew old, Abraham held fast to that belief.

So I chose that story for my final project. It’s a fascinating story. It culminates with Abraham having two children, an illegitimate child of his wife’s maid and, surprisingly, a child from his aged wife. This child of his old age, Isaac, he loved dearly. God tested Abraham’s obedience and devotion by asking him to sacrifice Isaac (or Ishmael according to the muslims) on the very hill upon which Jerusalem is built.

I read that story, I studied that tale, I wondered, and pondered, and prayed.

“Lord, if you give me a child, as you did for Abraham, I promise I will give him to You. I will raise him as You wish, I will dedicate him to Your service. Let me have a child as well.”

I met a pregnant 16 year old who asked us if we wanted her child. I took her to her doctor visits. I made sure that she was eating well. I prayed for guidance. Should we adopt this child? Is he Isaac, the child the Lord has for me, or Ishmael, the child that came first, but is not the child?

We made an appointment to see a lawyer, to begin the adoption proceedings. We hadn’t much money. Is this the child we were to have?

As we went to bed the night before our appointment with the attorney we prayed.

“Lord, please give us the wisdom to make the correct choice. Is this the child that you want us to have? We haven’t much money, and tomorrow we begin spending what little we have toward this adoption. If we go through with this how will we pay for it? We pray that when we wake in the morning we will know clearly what we should do.”

We drifted off to sleep.

And I had a dream.

Not the usual sort of dream that has the flotsam and jetsam of a rattled subconscious. No rhinos pulling tractors in the mud or Bill Clinton selling flavored ice at the fair. This dream was different.

It felt different. There was a choral note hanging, reverberating, in the air. There was a sense of deep calm. Everything was still, dark. And in this vibrating stillness a pool of light formed. In the center of the light was a treasure chest. The sort one sees in pirate movies. The chest opened. It was empty. A gold coin dropped in. And another. And more, and a steady stream of coins flowed into that empty chest until it was heaped up. The unseen choir grew more intense as I looked at that pile of gold filling that chest to the top.

A dollar bill floated down and landed atop the gold. And another, and more, until every bit of the gold was covered with currency.

I awoke.

I knew.

I rolled over, woke B. up.

“I know what we are supposed to do.”


I told her the dream.

“It sounds weird, but I know just what it means.” I was actually choking up. I felt so happy.

“We are supposed to adopt the baby. What has been missing in our lives is coming. The treasure we have been looking for will be ours and it will fill us up. We aren’t supposed to worry about the money. It will all be covered. Whatever the baby needs we will have the money to do it.”

And we did it.

We adopted that baby, born two weeks early, on B.’s birthday. We took him home when he was less than a day old.

And people helped. Mostly folks from our church. We got gifts of clothing. We got cards and cases of baby formula and diapers and everything we needed. We were so happy it is not possible for me to express it.

I loved holding him and feeding him and changing his diapers. I even loved it when he spit up on my shoulder while I burped him. I wasn’t so fond of the 3 a.m. feedings and the fussy way he cried at odd hours.

Close to Thanksgiving we had a special meal with our friends to thank the Lord for this blessing. And with those close friends I said a prayer something like this:

“Thank you Lord for this blessing of our child Willy (we had named him after me). I will always remember this wonderful gift. And this afternoon I keep the promise I had made with you last summer. I read of Abraham’s desire for children and I promised that if You gave me a child I would dedicate him to You. And I do that now, Lord. This child is Yours. I will do what You would have me do. I will raise him as You wish. Thank you for giving him to us, and now I give him back to You.”

Raising a child is an amazing experience. For those who have never had a child it is difficult to understand. But when you are handed a baby and you look down on that small wiggling bundle, something clicks deep inside. You become something different. You are no longer a husband, or a student, or employee. You are suddenly FATHER. You realize that for the next two decades every action you take you must consider how it affects this small life. You have a new task that takes precedence over everything else. You are a parent.

There are hopes and dreams and plans and things to do. There are rooms to clean, dishes to wash, and traditions to start. On December 15 I started a tradition. I took my infant son out to cut down our Christmas tree. OK, he didn’t do much more than ride in the car seat and watch (sort of) me cut the tree, but we did it together. Our first Christmas and there would be at least 17 more of these trees that he and I would cut.

I put him in the car, tied the tree to the roof, and took him home.

I changed him, fed him, and laid him down to sleep.

He didn’t want to sleep. He screamed and hollered. I sat nearby at the computer (it was 1992 and I had a computer I was very proud of. It had a whole 64 mg of RAM and a huge hard drive of one gigabyte!). Willy screamed and hollered and cried, and whimpered, and moaned softly, and finally drifted off to sleep while I tinkered with my computer. (It was the first time I had let him fall asleep crying. I felt he needed to learn to sleep without my holding him.)

I waited a few minutes to make sure he fell deeply asleep, and I went over to check on him.

He was gone.

What was left of him looked like him, but it was cold, and blueish, and not him at all.

“Oh God no!”

I called 911. They took him away. I met B. at the hospital. We picked out a tiny casket and held a memorial service for him with all the pictures we had of him taken a week before at K-Mart. I took a large piece of petrified wood to Washington state where it could be cut into a headstone.

And it was the beginning of a very bad year. I struggled on as a double major for most of it, but finally I dropped the art major and stuck with the path that would lead to teaching language arts. Grey started appearing at my temples and in my beard, and I needed glasses for the first time. I thought of suicide. I started really reading the book of Job.

After his death we received a flood of cards. Many of them had money in them. A lot of money. An awful lot of money. I counted it all up. Then I started thinking about what it cost us to adopt and care for Willy, including the funeral. To my best calculations the two numbers, what we spent and what we were given, were within $10 of each other.

There were three calamities that fell on Job. First his possessions. He lost his livestock, his wealth. Then he lost his servants and employees, his business. Finally, the worst came. He lost his children.

“Lord, You asked Abraham to offer up his child to You and I did it also. But You didn’t take Isaac from him! Why did you have to take my only child? Why did you have to have the one thing I prize over anything else? Why did Willy have to die?!”

I studied hard (I graduated with a 3.96 g.p.a.) because there wasn’t anything else to do. I mowed the lawn. I went to church. We went to a SIDS support group and a grief group It helped a little to know we weren’t alone. Mostly I simply shuffled along.

They put me on prozac and the scream deep inside quieted down.

As the anniversary of Willy’s death drew near I insisted on dropping the prozac so I could know that whatever I felt was truly me and not some drug.

How could this be? The Lord had clearly told me that I was to adopt that boy. Even after all that had happened I still knew that the dream was unique. It was a message for me. But how can this be right? This child was my Isaac and God took him.

He didn’t die from pneumonia. There wasn’t a car accident or a drowning or food poisoning. He just went to sleep and died. He simply died.

Job’s friends tried to comfort him, but they were no help. My friends tried as well. But in the end what carried Job through was simply being steadfast. I determined to stand steady.

Now this is a sad chapter in my story. But it is only a chapter.

About a year and a half after Willy’s death we got a phone call. The woman, a missionary, had heard our story somehow and said that she had been praying for us. She said that “your quiver would be full”, a reference to children (Psalm 127). She told us about a fertility doctor in New York and a woman with war orphans from Haiti in Florida. We made a call.

I told the woman there about our situation, that we were looking for a child to adopt. We wanted someone very young. Skin color did not matter.

“We have just the child!” she said. “His name is Isaac.”

A few weeks later during a follow up call she told us that Isaac’s best friend’s adoption had fallen through and would we be interested in adopting J. as well?

June 1st is family day for us. That is the date we first laid eyes on our kids. We were in Florida at the foster home, and the overworked dynamo who ran the place asked us between straining spaghetti noodles and emptying the trash if we wanted to see the boys.

“I think Isaac is awake. If you look out the sliding door across the back porch you should see him in the first crib in the bedroom on the other side.”

I looked where she directed. There was a crib by the bedroom’s sliding glass door and a big eyed little boy was jumping up and down in his crib watching me and yelling “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”

I had my Isaac.

“The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. . ." --Job 42:12

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Does the LORD Care?

“Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the schemes of the wicked? Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees?” -- Job 10:3-4

He can see it all. He weaves the events of our lives together and we do not see how the threads of our existence are tied to all those around us. Sometimes it may feel very lonely to be limited in what we see. Does He know?

It is difficult to see the pictures of children in Haiti making their food for the week from dirt and shortening. It is heart breaking to see into the eyes of a woman holding her dead child after a calm ocean has suddenly turned into a wall of water that sweeps thousands of lives away. It makes me angry to see a man sitting in the heat of an African sun breaking big rocks into little ones, wearing out hammers so he can sell the gravel to the road builders to buy bread. We ask ourselves why.

Brenda is having a very difficult time. It seems that life has treated her roughly. Abused as a child, thrown into the role of a caregiver for her mother before she was a teen. Unable to bear children (her greatest wish). Our first child died (see posting: A Starting Point). The adoption of two war orphans has recently led to new challenges (see the last three postings). Two and a half years sober she is struggling in ways that I do not. Now we are learning to deal with the day to day reality of raising two children who are mentally challenged.

She was nearly killed in that fire (see “Chapter 2”). If she and Norm (one of our church’s elders) had chosen to go through the old sanctuary instead of out the nearest door things would have been very different. The sanctuary did not look dangerous. The flames had gone up the banners in that storage area and were licking along the ceiling, but there did not appear to be any danger beyond that. They did not know that the gases produced from that fire had filled the sanctuary and the temperatures in that vaulted ceiling were approaching a flashback point.

Outside that sanctuary, perhaps 30 feet away, Pastor Tim was trying to turn the fire alarm off. He did not yet know that the fire was real.

At the back of that sanctuary at another door I had just stepped inside calling for one of our children. I saw Tim punch in the code at the alarm. It paused for a moment and then started up again. I stepped into the sanctuary. It was still dark (I couldn’t see the flames behind the door to the storage area).

“Isaac?” I called.

Tim heard Mel, another of our elders, yell.

“Fire! There really is a fire!”

Tim could see through the sanctuary and a side door on the stage the flames in that storage area, and quickly went into his office to call for help.

I didn’t know yet that there was a fire burning on the other side of the door at the end of that room and that the gases above me were heating up to an ignition point. I turned around and went out a side door to see if Isaac was in the parking lot. I found him milling about.

Norm and Brenda exited the door nearest the fire. As they stepped away from the building Norm saw a fireball flash throughout the sanctuary, starting from where they were back to the point where I had just been. Tim says that the air suddenly turned black and he felt pressed down to the floor.

Tim crawled along the hallway, and turned left toward where the door was supposed to be, but he couldn’t see it. Confused, and growing muddled he crawled along in the darkness.

I started toward the side door where Mel and another elder were at the doors toward which Tim was crawling.

Suddenly the door flew open and Tim sailed past the porch, over the steps, and landed in the drive. The smoke blew through the door like the exhaust of a jet. This horizontal column of smoke roared over his head. He stood up, his upper body hidden in the soot and smoke blowing out of the church. Surreally I noticed papers from the office blowing around the parking lot as he staggered to the neighbor’s lawn.

Brenda, Norm, Tim, and myself had all been near the sanctuary when those heated gases exploded. Tim was literally on the edge of it.

We stood in the drizzle for a couple of hours while the firefighters worked. Engines from five communities responded. Finally they sent us home.
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  • That was a very difficult night. Jeremiah’s denials, eventual confession to the police, and his arrest seems like some sort of bad dream. We have been trying to wrap our minds around the idea that our church was so damaged and that we are somehow connected to this terrible thing.

    And Brenda is having an especially hard time understanding why we have children who are less than what they might have been.

    This is a great surprise to us. We have lied to ourselves about the extent of their disabilities. I think every parent wants their children to be exceptional in other ways. To be scholars and athletes and cheerleaders and class president. But that is a topic for another posting.

    Today I wish to look at Brenda’s grief and her question of “why?”

    Does God know what it is like for us? Does an omnipresent God see the world as we do? We are limited. We see but one thing at a time. Does that limit make our lives more painful? I think it does. We cannot see all the implications, all the stories of who an event might touch, all ways that we are spared what could have been worse. What we see is the abusing stepfather, the dying child, the nervously smiling boy who does not understand why we are so upset.

    Jenny has been the secretary of our church for the past few years. Her husband has been diagnosed with a very serious cancer and given a pastoral position near Sacramento. She sent me an email:

    “. . .I wanted to share a beautiful and interesting piece with you. I became acquainted with a shirttail relative about 2 years ago -- my brother-in-law's brother. He had been estranged from his family for many years, but has reconciled and shows up at many family events now. He lives in a hermitage in Sacramento and lives a life of poverty, service, and prayer. He has been a wonderful prayer supporter and encourager through Bob's cancer. His monastic background adds many interesting notes to our evangelical life! I've often copied his emails for Tim -- usually many weighty things to chew on!

    I sent an update about Bob to him a couple of weeks ago and mentioned the fire. When he responded he said that the fire confirmed a dream he had had! I quickly wrote back and told him he piqued my curiosity, and asked if he'd please share his dream if he was comfortable with doing so. I received another note from him a few days ago, which included this paragraph:

    ‘Your curiosity is up! Apologies, did not mean to do this. Dreams & Visions have been part of my life from conception. I have learned to accept them as gifts from the Divine Father. I dreamt several weeks prior to the fire and then just several days before your message of a fire in God's House, an apostle of the Lord was crawling and the Holy Spirit carried him out of a door way. In the beginning the dream showed a [special] young person with fire. The "specialness" is of mental/emotional capacity. There was absent any intent to be destructive or cause damage. In fact this young person & his family has a very special place in Our Father's heart. Our Father was pleased by the unity of His church and community. Life flows from and through the ashes [used for fertilizer in many cultures, that is -- to produce growth and life.]’"

    Here is a monk living in solitude 600 miles away and the LORD sends him this message. Since I have been writing about these events in this blog I have been getting messages from people all over the world (the comments on this blog are a few examples).

    Perhaps there are benefits to people out there from this. But that does not help us much. Brenda has been so depressed. This event is calling up all sorts of memories emotions for her. (I have been very concerned for her. It frightens me.)

    But regardless of what happens to other folks, I can’t help but be most concerned about how this affects us.

    I feel steady in my love and affection for my children. I love that boy who nervously smiles at us, uncertain of things because we seem so upset. I love Jeremiah now as always. I will love him even if he must live with me for the rest of my life and he always has the mind of a four year old.

    I am concerned about the reality of how we must now supervise Jeremiah. I know things will be difficult, but I also know that He will guide me. It’s been a rough path now and then (now being one of them). But He is my shepherd and I will trust the path that He chooses for me.

    Though He is not limited with human eyes, He understands it. Jesus took the form of a man and experienced the mortal life. And he spent that life understanding how we suffer, how we feel, and at every opportunity He stopped to give kind words, comfort, and healing. Even on the cross He stopped to reassure the thief dying beside Him. He knew what it was like to suffer, and He cares about us. What happens to us is small compared to the suffering I see throughout our world.

    I believe that life is very short. Consider eternity. What is a hundred or less years in the face of billions? What is unique about this life is the limitations we have on our understanding. Not being able to see the whole picture puts us in the refiner’s fire. What we experience and learn on the spinning glob of dirt in this corner of the universe are mortal experiences, experiences that will shape us for eternity.

    Jesus lead on, I will follow.

    “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” -- Job 23:10

    Friday, July 08, 2005

    The Whisper in the Dark

    "A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end. It stopped, but I could not tell what it was. A form stood before my eyes, and I heard a hushed voice:

    'Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? If God places no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error, how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth!” -- Eliphaz the Temanite (Job’s friend)
    -- Job 4:12-18

    I approach this posting with trepidation. Is there a force of evil in the world? Is there a supreme boogie man who is out to get us? To get me? Might I attract his attention? I don’t like the idea at all and I tend to push the idea aside. Perhaps I’m a little like the Cowardly Lion. If I don’t believe in spooks they will leave me alone. But I do believe in spooks, I do, I do.

    Most of the world believes in God. Christians believe in a personal God, a creator who knows each of us, and cares for each of us. Most christians believe in Satan, but perhaps not a personal Satan. Is there a dark side to the universe or are we projecting our own failings onto a convenient myth, avoiding responsibility. (Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." Genesis 3:31) Perhaps what we call Satan is nothing more than a personification of our own failings.

    Perhaps not.

    There is evil in the world. True evil. Annie R., the woman who brought our children out of Haiti, told us of some things she saw while rescuing those war orphans. She told us about the night procession carrying an infant to a sacrifice. (She called in several favors to leave Haiti with that child.) She told us about gangs roaming the streets of Carrefour at night and their executions of “street rats” (she counted over a 150 bodies on a walk two weeks after the military coup). There is a saying in Haiti that "children are like dogs, worth nothing." They are thrown away. Literally. People abandon their children at the dumps. Annie pulled some children out of the rolling garbage beneath the heavy equipment.

    There is the evidence of evil on my own sons’ bodies. Isaac’s face is scarred by the burns of hot cashews (a Haitian tradition to ward off were-wolves).

    And Jeremiah. His body is still misshapen in so many ways, whether from lack of prenatal care, malnutrition, or abuse, I do not know. Once I cut his hair all off with shears. There are scars and dents all over his poor head. His feet were crushed, the growth plates behind some of his toes are so damaged the toes do not grow.

    He was starving when he was found, and he fully expected us to eat in front of him and not share. When we first brought him home he was so excited but suspicious of the bowl of rice in front of him. He had trouble believing it was all for him to eat. He had the biggest grin on his face when we told him that he could eat as much as he wanted. His favorite topic is what he ate last night, what is for dinner tonight, what others are eating, or have eaten.

    It makes me angry to think of him starving while others ate. It is evil to do that to a child.

    There is ample evidence of evil in the world. Do a google search on Idi Amin, or Saddam Hussein, or Adolf Hitler, or Josef Stalin. Read about Ghengis Khan, or Nero, or the worshippers of Baal. An hour spent researching the evil that men do will lead you to one of three conclusions:

    1. Men have a great capacity for evil.
    2. There is a force of evil that prompts men to do unspeakable crimes.
    3. Or both. Sometimes we choose, and other times we are prompted.

    There is ample evidence of good in the world. No other creature can rise to such heights. Ghandi, M.L.K Jr., Mother Theresa, Stephen Biko, and countless others sought to change their societies, regardless of the cost to themselves.

    We love. We sacrifice. We appreciate. No other creature appreciates beauty as we do. I have never seen a dog marvel at a rainbow or thrill to a sunset.

    “What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?” --Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2

    We are capable of great things and evil things. Art and torture. Compassion and cruelty. Generosity and greed.

    We can be selfish, destructive, gluttonous, self-righteous. We can justify anything. We are consummate sophists. We paved over paradise and put up a parking lot and complain that there still isn't enough room for our SUVs.

    But does that argue for a malevolent force to the universe?

    Consider that rainbow for a moment. We have the capacity to enjoy its beauty. There is something within us that lifts at the sight. It is more than an emotional response. It precedes the emotion.

    I learned to speed read in high school. I was reading at an astonishing rate with comprehension. I tried it on David Copperfield (by Charles Dickens). There was no emotional punch. The heart is not as quick as the mind. Search yourself and you will find this true. You know that there is a lag between emotional news and the emotion itself. We know the emotion is coming before it arrives. We see the rainbow and some living thing twists in our chests. It is like a thing apart from hearts and lungs and mind that responds. It is our soul.

    Now, let us take the opposite example. Sometimes we sense evil just as we sense beauty. Children are often better at this. Do you remember walking into a dark place and feeling something dreadfully wrong there? You know that the place is empty except for you. Yet your heart races as you walk over to the light switch. And it races even faster when you must cross back that dark space when you turn to leave. You are tempted to leave the light on.

    My wife felt that recently. During the fire (see previous postings) she and a friend were searching the basement of our church to ensure everyone was out. She was walking down the hall, approaching the place where the fire was burning. She kept calling out for our son, partly to hear her own voice.

    She was getting the “heebie jeebies." She was so nervous that when she opened the closet at the end of the hall she half expected a body to fall out. She felt the presence of evil. Her words.

    She tells me that when she heard the crackling of the fire it sounded like a chuckle in the dark. She turned up the stairs and saw the flames dancing in the gloom. Our friend ushered her quickly out the nearest door, certainly saving her life. The area soon burst into a fireball.

    I have had similar experiences. Times when I was young, times when I lived in a yogic ashram. I shy away from thinking about them. As I write I think, “oh that would be a good illustration for my point, or that other story, or the time that. . .” But I don’t want to think about it. I want to get to the light switch as quickly as possible.

    So I guess I’m going to chicken out. I don’t want to think too hard about it. But I believe that many of you reading this have stories that illustrate this point. (Feel free to leave them in a comment.)

    It follows then that if we believe in a personal God, we must believe in a personal Satan. Or at least that one of his minions might occasionally drop by to whisper in our ears, just as that voice in the darkness did to Eliphaz.

    To what purpose? Why would he? What has he to gain? The book of Job provides a hint. There is a force that believes God made a huge mistake in creating us. It argues that all we need is hard times and we will curse His name. That is the bet he had with the LORD. And he believed that even Jesus the Christ could fall to temptation; that the putting on of flesh is so inherently corrupting that even the divinity incarnate would fall to his whispers.

    And to some extent it is true. We are easily tempted. We tire, we hunger, we lust and envy and lie and rationalize. We are a self-centered lot that rejects the power behind the rainbow.

    Just as there are extremes to human behavior, there are extremes on the spiritual planes. The universe is filled with polarities. Positive and negative magnetic poles. Protons and electrons. The strong atomic and the weak atomic. Credit and debit. Good and evil.

    Evil is real. But he does not have free reign. The LORD put clear limits on him in the book of Job. And for those who have turned to face their fears in the darkness between the light switch and the door, we have found that a strong rebuke in His name is a powerful defense.

    We are capable of sensing the presence of evil. We are also capable of sensing the presence of good. And we can make choices. This may be a fallen world, but the LORD is near.

    His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"

    He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" -- Job 2:9-10

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    All Screwed Up

    Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason."

    "Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face."

    The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."
    Job 2:3-6

    Why do people suffer? is it some big bet between God and Satan or is there more to it? Here is a little essay I have written on how messed up life can be and wondering if there is a point:


    Everything is all screwed up. Everything is perfect.

    The last couple of months there has been a series of events that have screwed everything up. My child was playing with fire. Soon we were watching flames leaping from our church. Our church family has been forgiving, loving, and caring but we are going through big emotional, psychological, parental, financial, and legal challenges (optimisticly). My wife and my two sons are seeing counselors. Our dog broke through a french door, resulting in blood on floors, walls, and furniture throughout the house (he’s fine). I ran out one night to investigate a beating in front of our home, and found myself on a fast-paced ride on the back of a pickup.

    I have torn the muscles in my lower back, and it is difficult to move. My psoriasis has flared up to the point where I am swelling, peeling, cracking, and splitting all over. In the past three weeks my hair has suddenly found itself more at home on the floor of the shower than on my head, and so I got, for the first time, a sunburn on the top of my head. I just learned that an old injury has gotten to the point where my shoulder muscle is in danger of slipping off the bone (I am doing exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles). We have had a series of unexpected expenses and financially we have just about given up the idea that we can keep from going deeper into debt. Our emotions are pendulums swinging wildly between depression and hope, relief and anxiety (fortunately my wife and I usually counterbalance each other). Emotionally, physically, legally, and financially it is all screwed up.

    But everything is perfect. Often there is a great sense of peace (it’s beyond logic, I know). Throughout these events there has been a sense of purpose and power and protection. I know that I (we) will be ok. No, we’ll be great!

    Take for example the strange ride a few weeks ago. I was flying down the rode, hanging onto the back of a pickup truck, while waking up (I was asleep less than 60 seconds before).

    My wife had yelled that someone was getting beaten in front of our home. I sprang from bed, ran outside. Gang members were jumping into the back of a pickup. I ran to see if someone was being hurt. The truck sped off while I was peering into its bed. I jumped up and on instead of up and off. I found myself gripping that tailgate as the truck swerved back and forth to throw me off (those swerves only kept the two youths in the back from reaching me). After squealing around a corner and racing down a quiet street they come to a stop. I stepped off, hands open, high. A squeel of tires and it was off again. I stood there, contemplating the receding truck, in my Sponge Bob Square Pants boxer shorts, listening to a dog bark in the distance. I felt no fear at all.

    A little later my wife and I, while waiting for the police, found ourselves bumping into another gang member. He was searching for his friend (the recipient of the beating) and was carrying something spear-like.

    “What’s that you’ve got?” my wife demanded. She took away the metal fence post. She even scolded him about his need to smoke and not being in bed where he would be safe.

    We felt completely safe. And we were, I am certain. Yes, it was stupid to do what I did. It was dangerous. They could have had guns, or knives, or simply used their fists. I could have simply fallen off of that truck at 40 mph and been seriously injured, or killed. But throughout the incident I felt safe, even amused. It was a part of a series of events that should have demoralized us.

    The physical, the financial, the emotional drain on our family recently has been rough, but there has been frequent times where we have felt loved and safe in the midst of these difficulties. I understand that it doesn’t make sense. Still, it is true.

    I believe that dark forces have wanted to do my family harm. And those forces have been prevented by the prayers of many who care about us. The amusement comes from the incongruity of it all. Picture a malevolent being, thousands, perhaps billions of years old. Seeking to do harm, but is thwarted by an overweight middle aged guy smiling with chagrin in his boxer shorts on a dark suburban street.

    For those who are skeptical about prayer let me pause to say, I understand. I can only claim that my experiences have shown that the petitions of myself and others have had a real effect. I love science, but there is a huge blind spot in the scientific paradigm. Science is based on the premise that things are repeatable and measurable and therefore the imperical proofs it offers come with strings attached. I agree that most of what we see around us in the universe is observable, measurable, and often repeatable. But not everything. There are unique events that cannot be subject to verification.

    So, dear reader, you have three choices here.
    1. Accept my point, at least for the sake of my argument.
    2. Reject the point and either read on out of curiosity or quit reading now.
    3. Experiment with prayer yourself.

    Before any of this began I had been praying a particular prayer for three months. It was about Jesus as our shepherd. I prayed this prayer by writing out the words in tiny letters on a wall in such a way so that when one steps back it is an image of Jesus carrying a sheep. He is the good shepherd, willing to stand between the wolf and His flock. But we are to be obedient. That is our role. We are to follow Him, regardless of how rocky the path is currently. We are to trust that He knows where He is leading us. And that is what I am doing. Wherever He leads, I will follow.

    So why the tough spots at all? Consider: we are eternal beings. I will continue long after this overweight, aging shell with the skin problems and receding hairline fails. What kind of creature will I be then? I’m not sure. But I believe that mortal experiences will effect large changes in how I approach eternity.

    For example, the death of my first child is the most difficult event of my life. I would NEVER choose such a trial. It was painful, debilitating, and damaged me in deep ways. But out of it I have grown spiritually. What does that look like? It will be different for different folks, but for me it meant getting more out of reading the Bible, more out of my time in prayer. My empathy toward suffering is far greater. My compassion for others has grown. My desire to grow has grown. I believe I am better at helping others through difficult times. Most importantly, I feel closer to God. If you would like to know more about this experience and that type of interaction with God, you might read the first posting found on this blog: “A Starting Point”.

    So that is where I am now. In a tough spot. Everything screwed up. But at peace. I feel protected (though I will not test my invulnerability). I believe that no matter the situation, I am under the guidance of someone wiser, someone greater, and it will be all right. I am growing and all growth is painful.

    Everything is perfect.

    Monday, August 08, 2005

    The Steadying Hand

    There is a flip side to the whisper in the dark. There seems to be an opponent, a force of good that counter-balances evil. Are we pawns in some spiritual chess match? I don’t think so. Despite the paradox of an omniscient divinity who knows all that will happen, there is clear evidence of free will. The pawns can march cross the black and white squares without the pressure of the players’ hands.

    The book of Job begins with Satan arguing that the Lord’s servant is good only because he has it good. The Lord permits the testing of Job’s faith (twice) and the reader is carried along to watch how the businessman of Uz handles the outrageous pain he receives.

    Job loses his property, his business, and his children. His wife and friends accuse him of some great sin. He proclaims that he has done no great sin, at least not in his adult life, to warrant such treatment. He is an honest businessman, and carefully follows the spiritual laws of his faith. He worships the Lord without reservation. He prays for his children regularly, just in case. He is a man "blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil."

    He stands between two forces, the Lord and Satan, and tries to understand why he is where he is. He cannot see the hands of Satan in his life, but he is deeply hurt by them. He wonders, is this the Lord’s doing? For what reason? That is Job’s plaintive cry: “why?!”

    I have seen some creepy things now and then that make me wonder about what is slithering in the shadows. But there are also flashes of light as well.

    December 18, 1992

    Willy has been dead for three days. His funeral is tomorrow. The child I had dreamt of, the child who was entrusted to me, the child who was IN MY CARE, died with a whimper and a sigh. There is a terrible scream pulsing out of my chest that makes it hard to comfort my wife. My heart seems to be some sharp jagged thing that continually slices at me from within.

    We haven’t hardly slept since it happened. We walk woodenly through our days, accepting the cards, flowers, and phone calls, with eyes that are red and alternating between a watery film that makes it hard to see and a dryness that makes the eyelids scratch.

    We can’t keep going on like this. If we continue without sleep much longer we will become very ill. After exacting a promise from my wife that she would not abuse it we go to Kaiser Permanente to get something that will let us sleep.

    It is a 30 minute drive to the medical center, where we stand like zombies for 20 minutes before someone notices us, and gets us what we need. We walk like marionettes to the car and head home.

    It is a dreadful night. There is a storm pounding the roads. The wipers are on full speed and still I can only catch a flash of the road with its blinking white line as I thread the weaving highway above the river toward home. I’m only going 45, but occasionally I can feel the car hydroplane. I’m gripping the wheel hard enough to make my hands cramp.

    “Look out!. . .” Brenda starts to say.

    I saw it also. For a moment there was someone in the road ahead of us. But then he was gone.

    “I saw it too,” I tell her. "There was someone there, wasn’t there?!”

    She looks at me unsurely. She is doubting what she saw.

    I’m glancing over at her every few seconds to gauge how she is doing when it happens again. I see her eyes widen for a moment and I jerk my attention forward.

    In the brief moments when the wipers have cleared away the sheet of water sliding over the windshield I see someone running along the road ahead of us. He is perhaps 20 feet ahead of the car, running along the fog line between us and the guard rail, racing along the river on our right. His arms are pumping up and down with powerful ease. His feet are flashing down through my headlights into the splashing rain.

    I glance at my speedometer. It is hovering about one third of the way between the softly glowing numbers of 40 and 50.

    I look up again. There is no one in sight.

    I reach over and take Brenda’s hand. I know we are going to be all right.


    March, 1972

    I’m with a couple of friends and we are at brother Michael’s house. It is a tiny little house divided in two. The left side is a wedding dress shop. Brother Michael lives in the right half. His front room is filled with vegetables and stale bread he has gleaned from grocery stores to feed the poor, and gospel tracts. He drives an old beat up Datsun pick up truck and sleeps on a fold up cot in the kitchen. Years later I learn that he was once a very wealthy man who gave away all his possessions to the needy. Now his eyes twinkle through his cataracts at the teens who want to distribute his pamphlets.

    He is giving us SO MUCH STUFF! Handfuls of those old Jack Chick comic book tracts, Campus Crusade’s “The Four Spiritual Laws,” and such. I had a box filled with little red booklets. They are two by two and a half inches:


    My friend Jeff’s car is parked across the street. I run out to it. I'm emerging between the parked cars and a car is heading toward me at about 30 mph
    , perhaps ten feet away. No time to race ahead, or to turn back. I'm about to be hit.

    I feel hands on my shoulders. Big hands. The fingers stretch down my chest like they are the size of bananas. I can feel the large thumbs touching each other below my shoulder blades. And I'm flying back in the air, the way I had just come.

    I land with a thud on the sidewalk, the car sweeps past, making.

    I look around. There is no one. No one anywhere. My legs stretch across the sidewalk, pointing toward the street. I'm still clutching the box of pamphlets.

    I stand up, unhurt, and walk slowly back into the house.


    11:30 p.m., July 31, 2005

    I’m standing on the bumper of a pickup truck that is swerving down the street. My house, my wife, are receding at 40 mph. The truck squeals down a side street, and somehow my feet stay on the bumper, my hands on the tailgate, almost as if I am being steadied.

    The truck slows. I jump off. The strange ride ends.


    I know it was dangerous. (And I know that what I did was stupid.) But there was something about it that made me feel safe. Somehow I knew I wasn’t going to be really hurt.

    I was surprised, certainly. I was a little embarrassed (I was standing there, alone on that street in my boxer shorts). But I felt that I was safe.

    The entire series of events that night had the feeling that there was some sort of force field about us, like something from Forbidden Planet. The monster was not going to get through the shielding.

    True, there is no evidence, even of my own senses, that indicated anything paranormal, supernatural, or spiritual, but the sense of calm was almost palpable.

    The Lord does not coerce us to follow him. But he forbids His opponent to coerce us as well. He places restrictions on Satan.

    “The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’"
    Job 1:12

    There are unseen things around us. There are temptations that come to us as if in a whisper, and there are fears that spring at us from the shadows. We can keep those fears away with a strong rebuke in His name. But sometimes something else steps between us and danger and says “but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

    The latest theories about how our universe is put together describe a reality that contains more than the four dimensions that we experience. They are unsure how many (eleven? more?). Perhaps there are spiritual laws that are truly physical laws in realms we cannot discern.

    Whatever the truth may be, I believe that there are forces of good at work. Forces that lend a steady hand, that sing louder than the whispers in the the dark.

    Sunday, August 14, 2005

    The Watcher

    “I Loathe my life: I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are a breath. What are human beings that You make so much of them, that You set Your mind on them, visit them every morning, test them every moment? Will You not look away from me for a while, let me alone until I swallow my own spittle?”
    Job 7:16-19

    It can be a fearful thing, living under the gaze of the almighty maker of all things. The omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent I AM is too much for us to bear.

    ". . .And He said 'I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy. But,' He said, 'you cannot see My face; for no one shall see Me and live.' "
    Exodus 33:19-20

    This is the creator. The Big Bang that excites physicists so much is the very breath of God. He said “Let there be” and there it was! (All praise His name!) Creator of the universe. Uni-verse = one word. His word. The word. The Living Word. And He still holds it all together (John 1:3).

    So Job, struggling to understand the WHY, wants out from under His gaze. He has lost everything that is dear to him. If only he could hide, to crawl away from this intense scrutiny, and die.

    But he is too completely the LORD’s servant. He knows that God is watching. He would take his own life to make the pain stop, but he cannot die under that powerful gaze.

    King David sings in praise: “. . .What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:4) Why do you love us so?

    Job moans in despair: “What are human beings that You make so much of them, that You set Your mind on them, visit them every morning, test them every moment?” (Job 7:17)

    Job’s torment is so great. “. . .I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. . . When I say ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then You scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than this body” (Job 7:11-15).

    When my son Willy died I was haunted by nightmares filled with blood and death, guilt and self blame, of past and future hurts.

    I imagine Job dreaming of his employees bleeding in the fields, his children gasping for breath as their nostrils clog with debris, the fallen walls squeezing the air from their lungs, dust settling upon their open eyes. His dreams are disturbed by the weeping sores of his skin, his life is all ashes. And when he awakes he looks up at the slowly drifting clouds and knows the He is watching. He is watching!

    “Do You have eyes of flesh? Do You see as humans see?” (Job 10:4) He is pleading. How can a loving God allow such pain? He cannot live with it. He cannot die. It is intolerable.

    Job is trapped. He knows that the LORD is just, fair, righteous. He also knows that he is innocent of any great sin. Job is trapped in the trap that all men faced before Christ. He is under The Law.

    There is a saying: “Forgiveness is for Christians. Guilt is for the Jews.” For Job and those of his age, there is no recourse under The Law. Prayers and sacrifices, obedience and humility before our maker are all we can offer.

    Today there is another option. This is one that makes it bearable to be under the eye of the almighty. In fact, we count upon it.

    “’I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs on your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than sparrows.’” Luke 12:4-7

    God is an intent watcher. And more. He loves us. He desires us to choose Him for a relationship. We have free will. We are designed to make choices. And we have appetites that we wish to fulfill that tend us toward poor choices. He waits for us to choose Him (Rev. 3:20).

    Poor Job lived on the other side of the cross. The side where a relationship with Yahweh is tainted by our inherent failures.

    Life on Earth is temptation. We will fall into it. If nothing else, we will fall to some form of selfishness. We want to be praised, honored, regarded, considered, consulted, loved, respected.

    We are a curious mixture of traits. We have a spiritual nature that seeks God. We cherish beauty and goodness. We marvel and appreciate. Something lifts within us when we turn our heart and mind to higher things.

    We have a physical side that has much in common with the other living things on this world. We hunger for food, for resources, for sex, for control.

    We have the capacity for discernment. We have an intellect to make choices, and to implement those choices. To plan, to maneuver, to accumulate, to devise, to deceive. To focus on blood or rainbows, wars or friendships, tortures or healings.

    We have an animal nature that hungers. A spiritual nature that delights. A mental nature that decides.

    Why do we have these traits? How can they benefit Him? The LORD has spiritual beings who were created to serve him, to praise Him. Beings who have been doing so for thousands, perhaps billions of years. Why would He create us, creatures who are so flawed?

    In this book of Job, Satan stands before the LORD as a sort of prosecuting attorney. He is making the case that even this very good man would fail the LORD if things were not so good. Satan wants a warrant from the divine court to set up a sting operation. To prove that love is something God has paid Job to do. God believes that it is in Job’s nature to honor and love and worship regardless of circumstances.

    It’s a wondrous gift when someone chooses to love us.

    Could it be that when He created us that Satan argued that we are unworthy? Unworthy of His love, unworthy of spiritual gifts, unworthy of eternity? Could it be that the story of humankind is set against a backdrop of a spiritual debate?

    For a moment consider that Satan may have felt slighted by our creation (or the plan of it). Satan may have felt that the LORD was wrong in including creatures that sweat, and grunt, and hunger into the spiritual club. That we have no place alongside cherubim, and seraphim, and archangels, and powers, and dominions, and principalities. We do not deserve to be so cherished.

    Perhaps the events of human history are under the watchful eyes of the LORD and Satan because we are the Job story. That tale begins with the creation of Man, with his flaws, and a temptation. It also begins with a relationship. Man and the LORD.

    Adam walked with Him. “They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and the woman hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God. . .” Genesis 3:8

    They hide because of more than mere shame. Prior to this they were face to face with Him. They could be in His very presence. Adam was with Eve when she chose wrongly. He failed her and himself. And then they were fundamentally different creatures. Creatures that indulge their baser appetites. They were human.

    “’But,’ He said, ‘you cannot see My face; for no one shall see Me and live’” (Exodus 33:20). Part of the reason the first couple hid was simple self-preservation.

    So He is watching. Has been all along. Sometimes that is a dreadful thing. It means that if we are in tune with that truth we cannot do anything without being aware of Him.

    It is also a wondrous thing. He is aware of every sparrow, but He loves us.

    Satan was so sure of the inherent corruption of being human, that the mixture of animal needs and desires with a divine nature, a soul, that he bet it all. He thought that even God incarnate could be tempted while in the form of a man (Matthew 4:1).

    So where is our victory for Him in what we do? It is love. Love for each other, love for our creator. When we love we beat the odds. When we praise Him we tally another victory on the side of the LORD. And when we love Him despite the difficulties we face, it is a special triumph over the forces of darkness.

    Satan is whispering to us to give up, to despair, to curse God and die. He tells us that we are unworthy, that we are cursed, that we are mayflies burning out our lives in futile desires, we have no hope in deserving His love.

    Ah, he is very good at mixing lies and half truths. We are unworthy. We are selfish and animalistic and base. We are crude caricatures of divinity. But that is what is so marvelous! We wade chest deep in the muck of human frailty. But when we stand on our toes, we can lift our hearts above the primordial soup of our desires so that our hearts are pushed above the gunk of mortal existence. We can look upward and love. We raise our hands out of the sloppy mess and lift them in praise. And when we hold up our gratitude to him, especially when the offering itself is painful, we show that the spark of divinity that He has given each of us, that the LORD of creation lives within that heart temporarily above the ooze, we achieve a victory for more than ourselves.

    It is a victory over darkness.

    So, those of you who struggle, those of you who are hurt, those of you who are beaten and bruised and afflicted and are damaged goods, PRAISE HIM! In praising your creator who loves you more deeply, more fully than we can possibly understand, you claim a victory for Him that proves that love is the strength that binds the universe together.

    Praise Him from whom all blessings flow!

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005


    "The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first." --Job 42:12

    I am so grateful! I can’t fully explain how I feel. The LORD is pouring a steady stream of blessings into my life. I am completely in awe of Him. Thank you LORD!

    First, I should explain that life has not been easy lately. I’m not saying that I’m going through times as tough as Job's, but it hasn't been easy. Here is a synopsis just to get you up to speed:

    Thirteen years ago, after much struggle with infertility issues, my wife and I decided to adopt. That story is filled with miracles, and wonders, and pain. The refinancing of our home to pay for the adoption, the intrusive home visits, the lawyers, the counseling, and the caring for the birth mother led us to our first child, born on my wife’s birthday. The joy of that child was magnified by the generosity of our church family. And that same wonderful group of people were the source of great solace when he died of SIDS three and a half months later.

    His death was a watershed event in my life. A very dark year passed where suicide frequently seemed a viable option. But I grew. (Thank you LORD.)

    Eleven years ago, after much struggle with grief, my wife and I decided to adopt again. That story is filled with miracles, and wonders, and pain. The refinancing of our home to pay for the adoption, the intrusive home visits, the lawyers, the counseling, and the trip to Florida led us to our next two children, born and orphaned in Haiti, and brought into this country on medical visas the day after our first child died. The joy of those children was magnified by the generosity of our church family. And that same wonderful group of people were the source of great solace when one of them, playing with a candle, burned a large portion of that church down.

    This fire has been another watershed moment in my life. It almost seemed that there were forces at work that were trying to drive me from the church. I continually felt inadequate to lead a Sunday school class. (The whispers seemed to say: Who are you to be here? You should be ashamed. It was your child who hurt these people, why should they have to put up with you anymore? At least you should be sitting quietly in the back somewhere. . .)

    I had various physical ailments. I tore the muscles in my lower back. My psoriasis flared up and the skin on my fingers split so badly it hurt just to turn the pages of a book. Rashes appeared on my scalp, toes, ankles, the backs of my hands. My hair started falling out.

    My wife and I had difficulty in avoiding arguments. She was having so much trouble loving this child who had done so much harm (there were several people who barely escaped the explosive inferno which literally threw our pastor out of the building).

    The D.A. had to decide if he needed to try our son as an adult for arson, which could have included an attempted homicide charge as there were people in the building. We had to get our boy into counseling and agree to a 24-7 watch for him.

    Our other son became severely depressed and we seek ways to get his feet on firm ground.

    But the LORD is pouring a steady stream of blessings into my life. I am in awe of Him.

    Since these events (and others, some of which I have shared in previous postings) the LORD has been faithful. No, He has been more than that. He has been working to make huge changes in my life and those around us.

    Our church will be rebuilt, and the new building will better serve the needs of our community and our congregation. Prayer has become much more important to many, especially me.

    I have felt confident stepping out in faith. I know that there is evil in the world. It seeks to harm me. (It seeks to harm you as well.) But if God is with me, who can be against me?

    I’m a little kid is standing up to a school yard bully, knowing full well that my big brother is standing right behind me. I look at my adversary and I'm saying: "Bring it on!" And my big brother, with His arms calmly folded and wearing that thorny crown, flashes His eyes in warning: “Don’t try it”.

    Let me share something with you, dear reader.

    We just returned from a road trip, a get away. And here are two of the many things I saw that I want you to consider.

    We traveled all the way down the Oregon coast and found ourselves in the Redwood National Forest in northern California. There are trees there. They are real trees. Not those we usually see, but trees that stand higher than any other. Hundreds of feet tallThe trunks are over twenty feet wide. The moss, and ferns, and shrubs that carpet the floor of the forest seem perfect for kneeling. The birds that glide through the air beneath these boughs seem like motes of dust in a great cathedral. The burls on the sides of these trees can be over a dozen feet wide! This place cannot be described without superlatives. If I tried to fully describe this enchanted place you would think me spewing hyperbole's, not reality.

    A nonbeliever may dismiss the wonder of such a place, but only by disregarding the joy that (up to 367 feet!) and can live 2,000 years. Imagine walking beneath a tree and looking up at its lowest branches which are over a hundred feet up! dances in one’s heart when confronted with true beauty.

    We also traveled east and saw Crater Lake. When one approaches the lip of the caldera, the eye drops down a sheer drop of 1,000 feet to an astounding sight. The color of the water redefines the word blue. Because the water is so pure, so clear, the properties of the water molecule cleanly eliminate all but the truest portion of that exquisite color. The lake is the deepest in the United States (over 1,900 feet) and shines like a sapphire. The vision is so pure that one gasps and feels a sense of wonder not felt since they were a small child.

    A nonbeliever may dismiss the wonder of such a place, but only by disregarding the faith that dances in one’s heart when confronted by the works of an almighty creator who gave human beings the ability to enjoy beauty.

    Those two places are concrete expressions of something that has been growing in my heart this summer. My wife and I have rediscovered the joys of praying together each night. I have rediscovered my duty in teaching my children to pray and sharing the truths of God’s world with them. I have fallen in love with reading the Bible and prayer. And let me share with you my friend, it is all VERY GOOD!

    I feel like singing and dancing. Yes, I know it doesn’t make any sense. Things are all screwed up. But I am a part of His flock. He is my shepherd. I am honored to follow Him wherever He leads. Sometimes the path is rocky, but I trust him. He will lead me beside still waters.

    My friend, I cannot express how I feel. But if you have never felt like this, and you wish to contact me and discuss this privately, please feel free to leave your email address in the comment section of this posting. I check this blog frequently and I will respond as quickly as possible. If you wish, we can delete it later so others don’t start spamming you.

    God bless. God bless you and your family. May you feel Him walking beside you all the days of your life.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2005

    Parenting Teens

    His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, "Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." This was Job's regular custom. --Job 1:4-6

    Next week both of my children will be in high school. It’s a major shift in parenting. While the older boy has a mental outlook that makes him think as a young child, the next boy has been steadily stretching himself toward the world outside our home.

    Gone are the big-eyed tikes who saw me as king and hero. And just as puberty has made them different persons, their maturing is changing me as well.

    In the past few weeks, especially with Isaac, I have had to start doing different things with them. I had to practically drag him off on a family road trip. He would have preferred to hang around town on the off chance he might run into friends at the county fair. He enjoyed the trip, but it took my best persuasive techniques.

    Just before that I taught him and his brother how to shave. That was pretty cool. They have their own razors, and have learned the rituals of hot water, razor angle and direction, and the benefits of aftershave.

    Yesterday I took Isaac out and we had THE TALK. It went pretty well. In fact, as we headed off to pick up Mom’s birthday present he said “I’m glad we had that talk, Dad. Let’s do it again.”

    Last night I taught them how to play poker, emphasizing the dangers in the game. I think they got the message because this morning J. said “Let’s buy chips to play that game. I don’t think money is good ‘cause we might end up playing with cameras and cell phones and cars and stuff.” Right on dude!

    But the real change for me isn’t the need to talk about girls, and marriage, and sex, and responsibilities. The real challenge is to explain how God fits into all of this. The Sunday School classes they have attended only took them so far. The example I set in prayer and reading scripture only set up a foundation. Even their professions of faith that led them to the baptistry in that now burned out sanctuary was just a step. My duty now is to pull the disparate elements of their encounters with faith into something that will sustain them. They need to see how it fits together. That is one of my final stages in parenting.

    They need to know how to love and be loved. They need to see that unconditional love isn’t just that I loved them before we even met. That I love them now and forever, and I will not relinquish my adoption of them no matter what they might do.

    (Side note: it was suggested that we might let J. go after what he did at our church. That indicates two things. 1. Some people do not understand how deep love is and that biology is not the only way to have your own children. 2. Some people do not understand what unconditional love means. I pity their small hearts. How will they ever come to know our LORD?)

    They must learn that they are lovable for them to truly love. If they are to have a mate that will love them fully, they must realize that it is possible for someone to love them and not leave for another, not cheat on them. I suspect that infidelity comes out of the fear of not being lovable. That we suspect that we are not going to be loved and we seek to either pre-empt the hurt we feel is coming, or seek reassurance of our worth from at least one more person (who is probably doing the same lonely thing).

    There is one more thing I need to stay steady in this last phase of my parenting. I need to take my relationships regularly to my king. I need to seek His advice as we go into these teen years so He may guide me. Like Job, I need to intercede for my children, and I must do it regularly, seriously, fervently.

    For those who do not have this relationship, I offer again all that I have to help you find Him. Leave your email address in a comment and I will contact you so we can chat. We can delete it so you do not get unwanted spam.

    May you all keep your eyes on the shepherd’s heels. They are leading us to a place of peace. God bless. I love you.

    Sunday, September 04, 2005


    Prologue: I few weeks ago I wrote about “The Watcher.” I was grappling with the idea of how the creator is intent upon us, watching us, trying to be a part of our lives without shoving aside our free will.

    I noted how Job felt this intense observation and it made him squirm:

    “I Loathe my life: I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are a breath. What are human beings that You make so much of them, that You set Your mind on them, visit them every morning, test them every moment? Will You not look away from me for a while, let me alone until I swallow my own spittle?” --Job 7:16-19

    It is interesting to note the similarities of this passage and a passage from the psalms:

    ". . .What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him? --Psalm 8:4

    Job regularly set aside time for prayer (something that is a true blessing). Today’s posting is about a group of men who do that regularly, and what it was like slipping into the shadows to be a quiet part of it.


    T. approached me briskly, a little excitement showing in his voice.

    “Did you get my email?”

    I mumbled some reply about not getting home yet. (I had been in the prayer room.) Something had been growing in my heart and I wasn’t sure about it.

    T. asked if I would like to hear a “wild” idea. He invited me to go to the trappist monastery on Friday, early in the morning.

    Flattered that he would ask, interested in the experience, and a little amused that this wild idea was nothing more unusual than getting up a little early, I said “sure!”

    I’ve been trying to formulate what I felt about Lent this year. Perhaps I was trying too hard to make it mean something special, but I don’t think so. I’ve been feeling a sense that something was coming, something special. Last year I gave up a habit, but more importantly I had reflected over and over about our LORD’s sacrifice. It had been very meaningful. The year prior had also been special. What might I expect this year?

    I had trouble sleeping that night (last night). I laid my clothes out on a chair in the dining room and set the alarm for 2:45. I woke up to the alarm and shut it off. I lay still for a moment, wondering if I had awakened Brenda. I sat up slowly and reached for my glasses to see the clock. It was 12:30. It wasn’t the alarm that woke me. It was a dream of the alarm going off. I smiled at myself. I used to do this to myself when my dad was letting me go with him to work. I laid back down, prayed a little bit and went back to sleep.

    I woke up suddenly, fully awake. It was 2:30. I crept out of bed and turned the alarm off, a little pleased that I hadn’t awakened Brenda. I made some coffee and slipped into the shower.

    T. arrived a little early. I think he was as excited about our expedition as I was.

    The drive was quiet. He drove smoothly under the nearly full moon and I filled in the gaps in conversation (when I remembered to), falling into the habit/obligation of the role of a passenger as I had done 30 years ago when I was a wandering hitchhiker.

    The moon has always been important to me. It was there, teaching me about perspectives and the distances of the real world when I rode with my dad before I was old enough for school. It was there when I hiked the John Muir Trail in my early adulthood. It was there when the LORD told me how much he cared for me when my first child had died. Last night it was there again, growing yellow as it glided along with us toward the west.

    We found our way into the sanctuary. It was dark. There was a monk sitting not too far away from us, barely bathed in the light of a candle nearby. I watched my step carefully, I felt like I was intruding on his solitude.

    As my eyes adjusted I noticed a few other monks.

    A few minutes later more came in. Soft lights were switched on. Soon a steady stream of monks entered, none even glanced at us. I felt reassured that I was not intruding. Their internal focus didn’t permit it. Some had obviously just awoken. Some of the later ones did their crossing and bowing quickly, and slid into their places.

    I felt warm, comfortable. It didn’t matter my brand of faith. It didn’t matter what my life. I was here, and so was the LORD. I felt the sense that something was coming, something important.

    The muslims think of Christians as polytheists. That we worship three gods. Absurd or course. But still, I can see how they might get that idea. What an unusual idea, the trinity. A creator with three sides, three faces, three forms, one reality. A being able to create the universe, in all its complexities (quarks, sub-atomics, atoms, molecules, organisms, worlds, galaxies. . .) and yet so simple. Simply beautiful. As simple as the beauty of the moon.

    This all powerful being, capable of anything except sin, and interested in ME. A triune God. . . .seeing through space, through time, through me. What did HE look like? Of course I can only think in terms of metaphor. Jesus looks like me. The Holy Spirit looks like a dove. God the Father looks like. . . no, not like that. Not the patriarch of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. Not a burning bush, or a pillar of fire, or anything my mind can conceive.

    (And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD , in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.")

    I felt the LORD. He is love. He cares for me. he looks like nothing I can imagine, and he looks like all the wonderful things that make my heart lift. He is the red sunrise shouting in crimson and orange and yellow. He is the intersection of the peaks along Bear Tooth Pass and the brilliant blue of a winter sky. He is the spark of wonder in an infant’s eyes.

    The monks came to the end of their prayers. I was a little disappointed that it had ended so soon.

    T. and I made a little small talk on the way back, small talk tinged with a little more meaning than the chat we had on the way there.

    What is unique about human beings? How does our experience lend texture to our responses to God? Does it please Him to have us grow in such slow ways, in all our failings?

    I looked at T.

    “We are unique of all the creatures on this planet. Despite our animal natures we have something in us that is also divine. You never see a dog enjoying a rainbow.”

    “That’ll preach,” he said.

    "What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! ". --Hamlet: Act II, Scene II

    Thank you LORD for how you have made me. I am wondrously made. Please forgive my pride for the gifts You have bestowed and teach me to always be Your servant.

    Post script: It turns out that it was a very interesting year after all (see previous posts). I believe that the feeling I had for earnest prayer was a subtle encouragement for me to prepare my heart for what was coming. If you have any questions regarding any of the ideas here, please feel free to ask away. I am your servant as well.

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005


    "At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that comes from his mouth. He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. After that comes the sound of his roar; he thunders with his majestic voice. When his voice resounds, he holds nothing back. God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding." --Job 37:1-5

    A few weeks ago, just before the church service, two elderly ladies motioned me over. Sweet ladies, faithful. I was a little taken aback to learn they were unhappy with me.

    You see, I had some coffee in a travel mug, and I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. They felt it was too casual for church, the coffee and the shirt. They meant well. They feel a sacredness in coming to church. (As they should, for He is there).

    They also said something about how Jesus cast the money changers out of the temple because they were being disrespectful.

    I think they were just feeling a little rebellious. A week earlier our pastor had spoken about how we sometimes focus on the wrong things, such as how people are dressed, or if they bring coffee with them to church. He also said something about all the stuff we owned and that he thought it would be great if we dragged all the things we don’t need down to the church, had a big sale, and gave the money to the poor. (I think that is where the money changers allusion comes in. It didn’t fit in real well, but they needed to work it in somehow.)

    These little old ladies were taking a stand against the potential corrupting slide that may come from the relaxing of an unspoken dress code. They were striking a blow for the LORD, drawing a line in the sand, placing a little chip on their thin arthritic shoulders and daring me to knock it off. Kind of cute.

    There are two points to this little interaction. First, they are wrong. Secondly, they are right.

    They are right because we do feel too relaxed sometimes. We are coming to church and He is there. Right there! The living God, maker of all things, my creator, my savior. It is difficult to wrap my mind around the idea, but when I really consider who He is, I tremble. Sometimes during worship I shed a tear. This sounds a little melodramatic, I know. But I’m not talking about some fairy tale here. I feel Him near and it frightens me. It frightens me and it warms me.

    Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” -- Job 38:1-4

    We often show more enthusiasm at a basketball game than when we “worship” the maker of all things. So, my mug of coffee (I mix cocoa in it!) does seem a little casual. As for the Hawaiian shirt, it is brightly colored and does not connote a very serious attitude.

    So, they are right. Church is where mortality intersects with immortality. Sinful beings are confronted with holiness. It is best to set the coffee carefully down, and look inward and upward.

    But they are also wrong. There is something else happening in church. It is community. It is a joyful celebration. I see my friends there, my church family. There I am loved, and wanted. This is the church that has recently set aside its own discomfort, hurts, inconveniences from a fire my son started so they could embrace me and my family. This is a place where I am loved, and I’m not a conformist either. In some ways I am a square peg in this church. Some people think outside of the box; I’ve friends there who laughingly say I have trouble finding the box. I am loved.

    I was so sorry about what had happened this summer. I kept trying to find ways to make things right. To apologize, to atone for what my child had done. Finally, our pastor told me flat out to stop saying “I’m so sorry.” And I did. I kept thinking it for a while. But it finally sunk in. The damage to the church is far bigger than me. I cannot fix it. And it is wrong to try. They are my family. It hurt them to see me hurting.

    And then something wonderful happened. I started to laugh. I laugh all the time now. It’s nuts, I know. But it is all too big for me. And when things get to be too much, I laugh.

    Today was our first day back at work (I’m a teacher.) Golly, what a schedule! I have four different classes to prep for each day. I have two after school programs I will run each week. I have a study skills program that I will teach next week and monitor the students’ for eight more weeks. I counted up seven meetings a month that I will be attending. It’s nuts! (LOL!)

    I laugh! I laughed every time today I thought about my overwhelming schedule. And the reason I laugh is. . . because it is NOT overwhelming. No matter what comes, no matter what is asked of me, He will be there with me. He will give me all I need.

    My hands itch, the skin is flaking, peeling, splitting, bleeding. It’s funny! Why should I concern myself over an itch when He is near?! That back ache still nags, but it is no problem at all. Just a small discomfort. (I hurt much worse when I think about New Orleans.)

    Ah. . . but I digress. My point is slightly to the left of this situation. I want to consider those little old ladies some more. They may wish for me to wear a tie, and to be a little more serious about my worship (I am a tad demonstrative). But I think our pastor was right on target about how we worry about the wrong things. Let’s look closely at those in church. Maybe we are a little bit casual in our dress, but there is a hugely conservative dress code still in full force.

    I don’t see anyone with facial tattoos there. There may be, here or there, a nose with a stud in it, worn by some teen desperately trying to prove how individual she is. But I don’t see any tongue piercings, or brandings, or anything truly out of the ordinary.

    I don’t see anyone who is clearly a drug addict. No one I know of is a former prostitute or drug trafficker. They are all good, clean people.

    Not the sort of people Jesus went out to dinner with.

    He went to and ate with all the wrong people.

    My aunt came up to visit a couple of weeks ago (she lives 1,000 miles away). She and her friend brought their two dogs and were on a road trip to see the northwest. I was thinking about inviting them to church when I learned that they were heading south again on Sunday morning to meet up with folks in northern California.

    The reason I was thinking about asking them instead of just asking is because they are lesbians.

    I wasn’t sure how they would feel in our church. I wasn’t sure how the church would feel about them.

    I’m not saying that we should water down our faith so that everyone should feel comfortable. I strongly believe that if my faith does not challenge me, if it isn’t bigger than me, then it is worthless. Fortunately my LORD is much bigger than me and I find Him quite challenging. (LOL)

    What I am saying is that if I feel comfortable, loved in church, that is a good thing. But I should not let the nice clothes, the wholesome affection, the atmosphere of a close family lead me to forget something very important.

    Clothes are just clothes. The important thing is hearts. I need to look at the people in my neighborhood and love them. Period. Just love them. That includes the guy who tore off his roof nine months ago and hasn’t opened up the roofing packages to fix the biggest eyesore in the neighborhood. That includes the trio of lesbians that live a block and a half from me. That includes the teen walking around town with the dramatic velvet cape and heavy mascara. That includes the odd homeless guy who mumbles to himself and smells terrible. These people are also my brothers and sisters. They need to know that they are loved, wanted, respected.

    As for the Hawaiian shirt. . . well, it is a little bright, but it is clean, it is one of the nicest shirts I own, and it covers a heart that beats for our LORD. I don’t feel bad about the coffee as I chat with my spiritual siblings before service, but when it comes time to worship, I am focussed only on Him, not my homemade mocha.

    The early church met in peoples’ homes. They met where they lived. Where they disciplined their children. Where they raised their children. Where they made their children. It is where their friends came to see them. It is where they wept for loved ones lost, and sang praises for loved ones gained. It is where they held each other tight, and it is where they laughed.

    It’s just the kind of place Jesus liked to visit.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005


    I am writing a new post for this blog (I have discarded two versions already), and I thought I'd just drop a note here asking for your patience. I try to post once or twice a week, but with school starting it is difficult.

    I am writing about prayer. Types of prayer, effects of prayer, purpose of prayer.

    If any of you have thoughts about it, I would love to hear them. Perhaps they will help me with this third version.

    Thank you.


    Saturday, September 17, 2005

    Prayer: Part One

    I want to share with you a few thoughts about prayer. But it is such a big topic that I am going to deliver it in segments. The last few years prayer has become a big part of who I am. Today I bring you the first piece, an event of nearly 30 years ago. . .

    Part One: 1976

    I was very sick once. I was dying. I had been living in a yogic ashram and had gotten carried away with meditation and fasting. I went weeks without eating. After a year or so of this my system had enough. It quit. I was extremely anemic. I had bouts of amnesia. I was no longer getting much nourishment from what I ate. I kept getting weaker. I was dying.

    That was OK. I was ready. I felt it was just. I had abused my body, seeking spiritual visions and what not, and I was receiving the natural consequence for what I had done. I went off to die. I was staying in Ojai, California and when I felt it was over I went down to the Ventura river. In the summer it wasn’t much more than a creek running through a wide river bed.

    I had spent a couple of months there. It was a good time for reflection, that summer of 1976. I had seen 14 of the last 24 condors alive in a tree there. I had stolen honey from bees, and sat under a fig tree and thought about the fact that I had spent so much time trying to reach some sort of spiritual enlightenment (they called it sammadhi), and had simply used my body up. There was a beauty in that dry place that I had become comfortable with, familiar with.

    I had given up on the meditation and spent the time reflecting on life, nature, and praying. The praying was something I had stopped doing and now I had returned.

    I wasn’t praying for my health. I wasn’t praying for much of anything. I was simply appreciating the beauty of the natural world and saying thanks.

    I wasn’t sorry about dying. I was sorry for spending what I had been given on something worthless. I had forsaken the joys of a natural life for the pursuit of “astral planes” and “enlightenment.” I know, pretty hippyish. What can I say? I was a teen when “Kung Fu” was on the air and it sort of imprinted.

    Dying was the just result of what I had done just as much as if I had spent my life on drugs and reckless living.

    So I laid down on a sandy spot of the river bed, a few minutes before dusk, ready to pay for my foolishness.

    I prayed.

    “LORD, I am sorry. You gave me this body and I didn’t take care of it. You deserve more from me. Please forgive me.”

    I felt a little vertigo, something I felt often, felt the breeze running through my thin beard, the sand under my head, and then a feeling that something was coming. Slowly I looked up the river bed and I saw the flood. Not of water, but of light. It was like a golden dust a hundred feet high and it rushed down the river bed and washed over me. And, almost audible, not with my ears but with my heart, I heard a voice.

    “You are forgiven. There are things yet for you to do. Stop the foolishness you have been doing and get up. Go home. I love you.”

    The point here isn't about a miraculous healing. I believe that the healing of my body was secondary to a more important lesson I learned. I learned something about love and gratitude. I was grateful for all He had given me. I had come to learn that I had been given wonderful resources and I had squandered them. I also learned that He loves me. Really loves me. He cares about what I think and feel and learn and do. He wants to be a part of a bigger story than the one I had lived for only twenty years.

    Now I have added thirty years to that story and I understand much more about how He can be a part of a story that has helped me become something different, something better. I am still a foolish man. A mortal who gets off track and does silly things.

    But the biggest part of prayers, then and now, is that they are not about requests or needs or sorrows or grief or even joy. Those can be a part of it, just as they are for any meaningful relationship. He wants to walk along side of me. To be my God, my master, my LORD, and my friend. He wants to share my life. He wants me to talk to Him. The point of prayer is not about achieving miracles, or even being obedient. The point of prayer is in being a part of a relationship.

    So often our prayers are requests. I don’t think He minds listening to them. He wants to be a part of our lives, and our needs are important for Him to hear. He may even grant our requests for no more reason than persistence.

    But I believe it depends more on whether or not what we want is truly in our best interest. What is important is that sometimes He goes beyond what we seek and gives us grace.

    Things happen when we pray.


    If you do not have such a relationship and would like to chat privately with me about it, leave me your email address and I will contact you. We can then delete your address so others don't send you spam. I am at your service in any way that pleases Him.

    God bless you. Know that He loves you very much.

    Monday, September 19, 2005

    Prayer: Part Two

    It isn’t good news.


    46 points.

    Let me make this part of my essay on prayer the prayer I pray today. . .

    Oh LORD. I am Your servant. What You would have me do, I will do. Sometimes it tastes of ashes, sometimes it is a stony path, but I will follow where You lead.

    I love him LORD. I am grateful You gave me this child. No matter that my dreams turn to dust, I know that an eternity awaits and the events of a mortal life are brief.

    Remember that my life is a breath. . . (Job 7:7)”

    I begged for a child, and I am grateful that You gave me two (three). I fear the path ahead LORD, I know it will be difficult. And I ask no more than to feel You near.

    You gave me intelligence, and I hoped to share my passions with my children. But I see now how that cannot be. Very well. I am Yours and I will obey.

    Oh LORD You gave me so much more than he. I would give half of my mind to make his whole.

    I see clearly who he is, the psychologist’s words ring true and I understand what I did not know before. Where I was blind now I see, even if it is through bleary eyes.

    I rejoice in knowing You LORD, and I rejoice in knowing what is truth, even it is bitter.

    I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit: I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. . . (Job 7:11).”

    I wish I could teach him the things that I love. Ah. . . my LORD, my master. . . I will, none the less, teach him what is the most important thing You would have me teach him. I will teach him the only great truth that has ever been discovered.

    That the LORD my God is a being of love. The LORD my God is the source of every good thing. The LORD my God has a plan for my life, for his life, that includes freedom. It includes freedom from all bondages. It includes the birth right that is ours when we are adopted into Your family.

    By the claim I have in Your son, my brother in the ultimate family, I claim freedom for my son. I claim freedom for my child. I claim that good SHALL COME FROM THIS!



    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    Prayer: Part Three

    The most fervent prayer I ever made, the most consistent, steady, intense prayer I ever lifted up to Him, was for a child.

    “Oh LORD. Oh God. I want a child. Please grant me a son to raise. Please give me someone to teach and to love. Please, give me a child.”

    It went unanswered.

    I met my wife leap year day, 1980, and the years crawled past. There were hopes raised, and hopes dashed. B. became pregnant, but it was a tubal pregnancy. So I repeatedly asked God for a child. Whenever I saw little kids, and my heart ached, I asked God for a baby.

    I hadn’t talk much to Him. I had spent most of my time doing the usual self-absorbed living our species does. But now I prayed.

    “Oh LORD. Oh God. I want a child. Please grant me a son to raise. Please give me someone to teach and to love. Please, give me a child.”

    It went unanswered.

    We began attending a local church. Our first Sunday there the pastor spoke about the long awaited hope for a child suddenly being fulfilled. We went home, prayed and prayed and prayed.

    And He granted us a child. A miracle of improbable circumstances, finances, and timing. I had been praying and reading in scripture about this. My biblical studies had focussed on the Abraham & Isaac story, and things (finances, spaces, food, clothing. . .) fell neatly, tightly into place.

    And he died. The child died.

    And I prayed.

    I wept, and I grieved. I hurt with an ache that I had never felt before. I woke each morning with a heavy heart and I fell asleep each night wishing I was dead. I went for walks in the fields and woods in the middle of the night, and I felt like I would never smile again.

    I walked across newly fallen snow softly lit by stars, I walked through rain, and I walked through fog illuminated with dawns’ first red light.

    And I prayed.

    I read Job and saw how he prayed: weeping, raging, quietly, and defiantly. I prayed likewise.

    I struggled with the idea of a loving God who could permit this terrible anguish. I read the papers and the internet about Angola, and Haiti, and Afghanistan. I wondered at the immense suffering of people throughout the world, throughout time. How they suffer, how they are cruel, how they are evil. I wondered at the tragedies people go through and questioned why it should all be so ugly.

    And I prayed.

    I examined the beauty of nature, rainbows, sunrises, flowers and rivers and mountains and the cycles of the moon. I felt the stirrings in my soul of indescribable beauty and depression, and wondered at the range of emotions a human heart can hold.

    And I prayed.

    I prayed in groups and I prayed in solitude. I sang praises to the rising sun, and to the risen son. I prayed to the God who made me, and to the God who kept me breathing when I would rather be laid in a grave. I whispered prayer in the dark, and I shouted angrily in the dawn. I prayed in songs and I prayed in screams. On my belly, on my knees and standing defiantly on precipice.

    I prayed.

    I learned that I can pray through words, and songs, and whispers and shouts. I learned that I can pray through art and writing and even dance (if one could call my sideways shuffling a dance). And I learned an important thing about prayer.

    It isn’t really about requests and praises and psalms. It is about communication. It is about sharing a life. . . my life. It is about sharing dreams and fears, joys and sorrows, love and anger.

    Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?” Genesis 3:8-9

    This was the way we were designed to interact with God. Casually. Regularly. A sort of “See ya this afternoon! We’ll sit on a rock and chat.”

    If you struggle with praying, don’t worry so much about the how. Whether it is The Lord’s Prayer or the Prayer of Jabez. Whether it is a humble "thank you" at a meal, or a whispered word of gratitude as you drift off to sleep, it doesn’t matter where you start and what is said. Just start. Just say something. Anything. Let it grow into something more. Let it grow into prayers of reflection and prayers of praise. Let it grow into rants and songs and adoration and whatever else you may feel.

    Every relationship requires communication. So, pause, right now, this very moment, and whisper a “thank you,” or a “I wish to know You more,” or a “Our Father who art in heaven. . .

    There is power in prayer. Things happen when we pray. And the most important thing that happens is that He and we get to know each other.

    p.s.: If it helps to pray for someone else, I would be grateful for a prayer for my family and my health. Things have gotten a little rough again.

    God bless.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2005

    Prayer: Part Four

    When people talk about the point of the book of Job they often sum it up as addressing such questions as: “Why do people suffer?” or “Why would a good God allow bad things to happen?”

    I think those are the wrong questions.

    I’ve been thinking about my life lately, and if it was a story I was reading I would have to say it is fiction, and poorly written at that. But, as one of my favorite authors was fond of saying: “Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.” (Mark Twain)

    There has been a lot of suffering going on lately. The United States has seen some of it. Katrina, Rita, 9-11. . . As bad as those were, the world often sees worse. The December tsunami, war, famine. . . And there are catastrophes coming: the African AIDS epidemic, the Asian flu. And worse is possible: collapsing ecologies, nuclear arming of rogue nations, near Earth asteroids, global warming, earthquakes in California, the impending La Palma volcano tsunami. . .

    Christians posit that our creator is good, that He loves us. So how can there be so much heart ache, so much suffering? What of my own aches? Why did Willy have to die? Why are my children of such low intelligence? My heart is aching today with new challenges that frighten me, that threaten my family. Why would He let such things happen?

    There is a song about starvation by Sade that nearly makes me weep:

    There is a woman in Somalia
    Scraping for pearls on the roadside
    There's a force stronger than nature
    Keeps her will alive
    This is how she's dying
    She's dying to survive
    Don't know what she's made of
    I would like to be that brave

    She cries to the heaven above
    There is a stone in my heart
    She lives a life she didn't choose
    And it hurts like brand-new shoes

    Hurts like brand-new shoes

    There is a woman in Somalia
    The sun gives her no mercy
    The same sky we lay under
    Burns her to the bone
    Long as afternoon shadows
    It's gonna take her to get home
    Each grain carefully wrapped up
    Pearls for her little girl


    She cries to the heaven above
    There is a stone in my heart
    She lives in a world she didn't choose
    And it hurts like brand-new shoes
    Hurts like brand-new shoes

    This isn’t fiction. There are people dying today because they haven’t enough to eat, searching for grains of rice in the dirt. My own son has the marks of starvation on his body.

    Is this right? Is this just? Why doesn’t He do something about it?

    No. No. And, He is.

    We were given a sense of right and wrong, and these things feel wrong. God gave us that inner set of balances to judge our world. And these things are wrong. But we live in a fallen world and it was inevitable that it would be. If it wasn’t Adam or Eve who broke the LORD’s commandments it would have been one of their children.

    So what is He doing about it?

    Well, what are you doing about it? The Bible says that we are the body. Our hands are supposed to be doing His work. And if we listen to Him, we will know what that work is. It is an amazing feeling.

    As I have hinted things have taken another strange twist. And for now, hints are all I feel free to give. But the task before me is huge. Bigger than getting through the grief of the death of my first child. Bigger than adopting my next two children.

    But though I am not big enough to handle this, He is. And I know that since He has given me this task, it will be accomplished. He will provide the strength, the patience, the endurance, the resources to do whatever He wishes to be done.

    How do I know? He told me. I prayed that He would permit me to feel Him near, to let me know that I do not walk this path alone. And I do feel Him! There is a sense of peace about me that pervades all the tension, all the fears. I know that He will sustain me, protect me.

    I know this because I have been praying. I have let Him into my life and He pours grace into it continually. It sounds nuts, I know, but I will not curse Him for I see that He is good. He works wonders continuously.

    Here is a wonder that amazes me: He has forgiven me for all I have done wrong. Every selfish act I have ever committed He has forgiven. And I keep doing them! I try to obey, but I continue to fail Him, and when I go to share my life with Him, I find that He brushes aside my short comings with a fatherly smile and welcomes me back! He never tires of my coming to Him. He is always ready to hear what petty things seem important to me.

    Prayer is what it is all about. And the more I pray the more I realize that the hurtful things that happen in the world are all about being a part of a mortal life that is full of selfishness, self-centeredness. And as far as that goes, I can handle a brief century of hard mortal experience, especially if it prepares me better to be of unique service to Him in an eternal immortal one.

    He generally avoids the flashy setting of things straight with miracles, though I know He will do those in a pinch. If He were to step into the world and right every wrong it would be such an over abundant source of proof that faith would no longer be faith but merely sight. We need to believe in Him because we are listening to our hearts, not our minds. But the biggest miracles He performs are the quiet ones. The change in peoples’ lives. The softening of hearts.

    That is a miracle all of us can have. And it is right there, right now. All that is needed is a quiet moment, and a repentant heart offered in humility.

    So whatever path you are on, know that He wants to walk beside you. He is following your movements anyway. He just needs you to offer him a closer spot in your life and He will draw close.

    Why do people suffer? Why would a good God allow bad things to happen?

    A better question is why does He love me so? I am so fickle and self-absorbed.

    The real question is why does He honor me so much as to give me difficult tasks to do for Him? What a privelege to be told that such mighty tasks are mine!

    We choose to listen to our minds rather than our hearts. Our hearts are telling us a story of love, and if listen we will see that our hands are the hands of Him.

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    Prayer: Part Five

    I haven’t been through so much, not like the protagonist in the book of Job. It is hard to imagine what he went through. A devout man, praying for his family continually, a good businessman, a good friend, and everything turned against him.

    He lost his wealth. Bandits killed his livestock, fire from heaven killed his employees, and a great wind crushed the house where his children were eating. He must have thought long about the dying moments of his employees, his children. Then he was covered, head to toes, with sores.

    I haven’t been through so much, not like the parent in Somalia who watches her child slowly starve. Or the orphan wandering the streets after a tsunami.

    But we each have experiences that shape us. It seems that when we have been pushed the hardest we grow the most. Not a pleasant experience.

    I have had some unpleasant experiences. I have been gravely ill. I have been kidnapped, and mugged. I’ve been stranded afoot in a snow storm (caught pneumonia). Once I was in a sand storm. It shredded my tent and I sought shelter from the stinging sand under an over turned picnic table for several hours until it passed. I have held and kissed my dead child in my home, in my drive, in the emergency room, and in the funeral parlor. About ten years ago I thought that my marriage was doomed. I’ve had back injuries and skin disease. I’ve had dreams come true. . . and seen them turn to nightmares.

    And I feel joy.

    I feel joy, and I feel strong, and I feel protected.

    What a long strange trip it’s been.

    I am currently struggling with how to deal with my child’s mental illnesses while lending my wife the strength she needs. And as I look at the task set before me I am in awe of my creator. He prepared me for this challenge by using difficulties times.

    When they used to make swords they would heat and fold the metal over and over, mixing the carbon with the iron to create steel. This would make the metal strong and flexible. The heat of the forge and the pounding hammer on the anvil creates a tool, a weapon, that is resilient and capable.

    I sometimes feel like that sword. When life takes us into dark places we are pounded into new shapes. Afterward there is often an imperfection. We become a little bent. We slide our fingers over the damaged areas and even if it isn’t visible we can feel. . . well, a little bent.

    But we are stronger. We are better able to take the next blow. The soot, the carbon of the flames, the traces of the furnace are beat in, blended with who we are. We are stronger.

    I dearly loved Willy. That little boy who was my dream child, who looked like my baby pictures, who laughed and cooed and giggled. . . But he died, and that event bent me in ways that will never be smooth again.

    They say that after decades of persecution the Church is flourishing in China. Many gave up so much for their faith in that country. They gave up their homes, their freedom, sometimes their lives. And now it flourishes. Could it be that the struggle is what made it grow so well? Could it be that the muck and filth of human oppression was needful nutrients to make that hard soil fertile?

    Could it be the same for the individual? Could it be that hard times force us to rely on Him, make us better able to serve? Could it be that when we are forced to strive, to struggle and weep and grieve, that we draw closer to the only true strength in the universe?

    Let me tell you something about how it affected me. Imagine the human heart as a dial, its needle pointing to its current emotion. You might find that the range of that dial changes during a lifetime (some get wider, and some get narrower). I know that when I was a teen it was a small thing. The needle's pointed range of emotions was short arc. Sure, I felt it was large (teens are so dramatic), but it centered on me. If I was a little sad, a little happy, a little whatever, it wiggled to and fro; it was pretty much all about me.

    As I grew and as I experienced, the range of that wavering needle swept into new areas. The death of Willy made it burst, double, triple what it could feel. I grieved over my child, and I grieved over the losses I saw in the world. My heart felt like some living thing bursting out of my chest. It was covered with spikes and it felt like it was trying to kill me. And I found in the midst of my anguish that the world was filled with pain like mine. I had never noticed that there were so many people weeping. My world had been much smaller, my heart had been much smaller. Now it was big enough to hurt for others.

    As I face new tasks, I see that the hurts of my life make me better able to handle new challenges. That isn’t to say that I am capable of handling them on my own. I am not. The work at hand is bigger than I can bear. Fortunately my LORD is quite capable of lending me the resources I need. My confidence in Him makes it easier for me to tell my trembling legs to hold still, not run.

    That is why I feel joy, strength, protection.

    The greatest source of this new found strength, new found courage, is prayer. It is in the knowledge that I am entirely weak and unable. I can do this because He holds me up when my knocking knees will not. I get that from prayer.

    I used to think of prayer as something my grandmother would do. It was something for little old ladies. Though I had heard it was for everyone, I thought that real men don’t pray. It was something folks did in groups at church and was preceded with a litany of sad stories, spoken in somber seriousness without joy.

    Today I find that prayer is not about a formulae of penitence and begging. It is something that is whispered and shouted and laughed and screamed and wept. And I am still a real man. I don’t worry about what others may think. It is a private thing, and it is a public thing. It is sharing with Him who I am, where I am, and what I am feeling. It is about a relationship. . . my sharing, my giving of me to Him.

    I have found value in praying about a single topic day after day (this year I spent a couple of months praying a focused prayer about Jesus as my shepherd). I have found that it is useful to sometimes pray flat on my face, and sometimes shouting at the sky. Prayers can be written, and even drawn (and both! That prayer on The Shepherd was written in tiny lettering on a wall forming a life-sized image of Him.).

    But if you are unused to prayer, where to begin? I have a recipe for prayer that I am teaching my children.

    Take three gratitudes and place it in your heart.
    Mix in three concerns for others.
    Stir with love for two minutes.
    Ask for strength for two of your largest concerns.
    Dust with two more heartfelt thanks.
    Frost with a praise and an amen.

    It is a simple prayer that fills the soul and can be served hot from the passion of your heart, or cool with the joy of everyday living.

    That sounded a little corny. (Sorry.)

    I want to say that prayer is more than going to Him with requests (please heal. . . please give me. . . please teach. . .). Those are fine. But there should be more. I find that in starting a prayer in praise and gratitude it puts my heart in the right framework. The real point is in sharing my life with Him and He sharing His strength with me.

    I’d never make it without it.

    Friday, October 07, 2005


    I’ve been thinking about what I eat. At the start of the school year I decided not to eat with the other teachers and instead spend my lunch walking briskly for a mile while I eat a meager lunch. Usually it is an apple, a piece of cheese, and some jerky. I listen to my iPod (gift from a friend!) and pray while I walk.

    I am thinking carefully about what I consume. I even tease myself with food. If I need to get something to eat and no one is home so regular dinner won’t work, I drive by Burgerville, slow down, think about the juicy delights within, and then go on to a restaurant. There I look at the menu, reading over the description of the hamburgers, and when the waitress arrives I say: “I’ll have a bowl of soup please.” I feel like I am a very, very good boy.

    I don’t eat that ice cream at bedtime. I pass on the cookies in the staff room (today there were donuts!). I’m being good. I’ve lost 15 pounds in three weeks.

    I was once thinner. I was a vegetarian (seven years!). In fact I was the head cook of a popular vegetarian restaurant in Southern California. The restaurant faded away (but was reborn as a chain of markets and cafes). It wasn’t a good diet for me. I abused my body at that time with extremes of fasting and paid the price.

    I later went the other direction and lived by raising my own food: gardening, chickens, rabbits, milking goats. I was trying to be responsible for my own diet.

    It occurs to me that there are different ways to view consumption. I was reading a blog the other day about transubstantiation, the idea that in communion the elements literally become the blood and flesh of Christ, the essence of His sacrifice. (I’m not taking a position on that issue.)

    When He was preparing to die for us, He gathered the apostles and fed them a meal that was real as well as metaphorical. He wanted us to remember Him and the point of His life. He wanted us to take a personal part in His sacrifice, to think about taking in this ultimate sacrifice as nourishment, as food, to consume Him. Just as the priests of the temple took part in the sacrifices of the people, Christians acknowledge their role in the crucifixion by partaking in communion.

    How strange! In no other faith do believers take responsibilty for the suffering of God. We actively remember our responsibility by consuming a symbol (or actual part) of that ultimate sacrifice.

    Whether or not you believe that the actual essence of communion is the body of Christ, it should be clear that He provides all we consume. We get everything we need from Him, and Him alone. Whether you are a vegetarian or a full fledged carnivore, the source of all you eat has a divine element to it. He holds the universe together.

    I have an odd little idea, probably wrong on several levels, but here it goes: All material in the universe (universe meaning “single statement”) is made up of atoms. Atoms are made up of smaller particles (protons, electrons, and neutrons). Those smaller particles are made up of even smaller particles called quarks. There are six types of quarks and they work together in quantities of thirds to make up the constituent parts of the atom. (I find the thirds idea interesting. At the basic level of the universe there is a sort of shared trinity holding things together.)

    Many of the theories regarding quarks state that they are made up of tiny loops of one dimensional strings vibrating in at least eleven dimensions. These vibrations produce different quarks in a way similar to a guitar string producing different musical notes or a vocal cord producing various sounds. So at the deepest level of physics there are elements which sing the universe into existence.

    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

    It is all Him. The food I eat, whether it is bread or beef, the things I drink, water or wine, the air I breathe, the light that shines, the things that nourish me are all Him.

    I live on and for Him. All that makes me live, all that I consume, all that keeps my lungs working, my heart beating, the very force that holds the particles of my being together is Him. I feast on my deity. I am a deitarian.

    Job was an honest man. He was honest with God, with his wife, with his friends, with himself. He wondered what he may have done wrong, and finding nothing, was honest in how he felt, how he interpreted his circumstances. He told God how he felt. He told his friends.

    I thought I was fairly honest.

    But I’m not. I saw my children through the lens of my love and took a distorted view of them into my heart. I took that image out and shared it with my friends, my family, and passed it around like any proud father. Nothing wrong with that, except that I have not provided my children the resources, the support that best addresses the challenges they face. Friday I will be meeting with a psychiatrist to share my insights and get a better sense of who he is. For his sake I need to practice better honesty with myself.

    I am prone to putting my best foot forward. I want people to like me, to respect me. When I write these pieces for this blog I go over them many times so that they are well-crafted, perhaps error-free. I tell myself that I do it because I want to do the best at all that I do, or that a good writer considers the audience, respects the reader, and therefore approaches what is written with a certain level of expertise.

    What a crock. I want you to like what you read. I want you to like me. It is true that I write these things to work out my own internal issues, and in sharing them I make them serious heartfelt essays. I also hope to help people, and perhaps be a witness for Him, perhaps helping someone make that important decision. But I cannot deny that I enjoy accolades. I like seeing that I have a regular reader in Hong Kong, and I wonder why someone from Nepal or Iraq chooses to read this stuff.

    So when my life gets messy, I try to clean things up a little before I lay them out for the world to see. Some of that is what I should do. There are issues going on with my children, my home, that should not be for public consumption.

    I suppose this posting is really a sort of confession. I have not been honest with myself regarding who my children are. I want my readers to think, “Gosh, what a swell guy!” But the truth is I’m just as self-centered as anyone else. I don’t have it all together. I have been cranky with my wife, perhaps even a jerk (why is it that we can be harshest with those we love the most?). I could give the excuse that I am under a lot of stress, that I have taken on more than I should, that I am too busy, too tired.

    That is where I am wrong. If I am a Christian. . . no, strike that. If I am a Christ-follower, then I should be living I Corinthians 13. I should be praying unceasingly. Not delving into some private little pity party.

    So, let me ‘fess up: “Hello, my name is Curious Servant, and I am a sinner.”


    “I am a sinner. I keep putting myself first. I think about myself before I think about my children. I think about myself before I think about my wife. I think about myself before I think about my creator.”

    (Murmurs of understanding from the Sinners Support Group.)

    “I worry about things in which I have no control. I am secretive when I needn’t be, and I make grand gestures of being open when it makes me look good. I often try to do things for others quietly, anonymously, but I really don’t mind that much when I am found out. I am proud of things that are not mine (artistic ability, writing skill, etc.) but are loans from Him. I tend to think that the privileges I enjoy because I was born in the midst of north America as inalienable rights. I am demanding of quality service from public servants (ex.: DMV), and not patient enough with others (especially in traffic). I am self-centered and weak.

    “And I am scared. I am nervous about what this doctor will say. I really don’t know what is going to happen Friday and I am afraid that it will place burdens on my family, ah let’s face it, on me, that I am uncertain I can bear."

    So, I’m laying it all out there. I want you to know that I am a phony. I try to be a good follower of Him, but I fail constantly. I want you to know that no matter how polished my posts are, they are that way because I do a lot of polishing. I am not anything like Job. I know I deserve far less from Him than He bestows daily.

    But If you would pray for me and my family I would be grateful.

    Heavenly Father: I am weak and unable to do anything without Your help. I offer my life up to You right now. Let me truly be Your servant. Let me feel You near and to acknowledge daily, hourly, continually, that You are sovereign. I lie face down before Your throne and acknowledge that it is all about You. Take my life and shape it LORD. Take my home, my family, my wife and my kids and the dog and the fish and every bush that needs trimming, every squeaky cupboard, every thing I own, valuable and worthless, and make it Yours. Guide me LORD in what You would have me do. I am Yours. Amen.

    Job was an honest man. He was honest with God, with his wife, with his friends, with himself. He wondered what he may have done wrong, and finding nothing, was honest in how he felt, how he interpreted his circumstances. He told God how he felt. He told his friends.

    I thought I was fairly honest.

    But I’m not. I saw my children through the lens of my love and took a distorted view of them into my heart. I took that image out and shared it with my friends, my family, and passed it around like any proud father. Nothing wrong with that, except that I have not provided my children the resources, the support that best addresses the challenges they face. Friday I will be meeting with a psychiatrist to share my insights and get a better sense of who he is. For his sake I need to practice better honesty with myself.

    I am prone to putting my best foot forward. I want people to like me, to respect me. When I write these pieces for this blog I go over them many times so that they are well-crafted, perhaps error-free. I tell myself that I do it because I want to do the best at all that I do, or that a good writer considers the audience, respects the reader, and therefore approaches what is written with a certain level of expertise.

    What a crock. I want you to like what you read. I want you to like me. It is true that I write these things to work out my own internal issues, and in sharing them I make them serious heartfelt essays. I also hope to help people, and perhaps be a witness for Him, perhaps helping someone make that important decision. But I cannot deny that I enjoy accolades. I like seeing that I have a regular reader in Hong Kong, and I wonder why someone from Nepal or Iraq chooses to read this stuff.

    So when my life gets messy, I try to clean things up a little before I lay them out for the world to see. Some of that is what I should do. There are issues going on with my children, my home, that should not be for public consumption.

    I suppose this posting is really a sort of confession. I have not been honest with myself regarding who my children are. I want my readers to think, “Gosh, what a swell guy!” But the truth is I’m just as self-centered as anyone else. I don’t have it all together. I have been cranky with my wife, perhaps even a jerk (why is it that we can be harshest with those we love the most?). I could give the excuse that I am under a lot of stress, that I have taken on more than I should, that I am too busy, too tired.

    That is where I am wrong. If I am a Christian. . . no, strike that. If I am a Christ-follower, then I should be living I Corinthians 13. I should be praying unceasingly. Not delving into some private little pity party.

    So, let me ‘fess up: “Hello, my name is Curious Servant, and I am a sinner.”


    “I am a sinner. I keep putting myself first. I think about myself before I think about my children. I think about myself before I think about my wife. I think about myself before I think about my creator.”

    (Murmurs of understanding from the Sinners Support Group.)

    “I worry about things in which I have no control. I am secretive when I needn’t be, and I make grand gestures of being open when it makes me look good. I often try to do things for others quietly, anonymously, but I really don’t mind that much when I am found out. I am proud of things that are not mine (artistic ability, writing skill, etc.) but are loans from Him. I tend to think that the privileges I enjoy because I was born in the midst of north America as inalienable rights. I am demanding of quality service from public servants (ex.: DMV), and not patient enough with others (especially in traffic). I am self-centered and weak.

    “And I am scared. I am nervous about what this doctor will say. I really don’t know what is going to happen Friday and I am afraid that it will place burdens on my family, ah let’s face it, on me, that I am uncertain I can bear."

    So, I’m laying it all out there. I want you to know that I am a phony. I try to be a good follower of Him, but I fail constantly. I want you to know that no matter how polished my posts are, they are that way because I do a lot of polishing. I am not anything like Job. I know I deserve far less from Him than He bestows daily.

    But If you would pray for me and my family I would be grateful.

    Heavenly Father: I am weak and unable to do anything without Your help. I offer my life up to You right now. Let me truly be Your servant. Let me feel You near and to acknowledge daily, hourly, continually, that You are sovereign. I lie face down before Your throne and acknowledge that it is all about You. Take my life and shape it LORD. Take my home, my family, my wife and my kids and the dog and the fish and every bush that needs trimming, every squeaky cupboard, every thing I own, valuable and worthless, and make it Yours. Guide me LORD in what You would have me do. I am Yours. Amen.

    Sunday, October 16, 2005


    When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. --Job 7:13-15

    I had a dream last night. I was walking in Portland and as I passed a parking garage a bomb went off. The debris was flying all around me as I dropped to my knees and pulled my shirt up over my nose and mouth so I could breathe. When things stopped shaking I got off my knees and opened my eyes. Before I could move a car backed over me, pushing me down and bruising me, dragging me into the street. It sped away and I rolled onto my knees. Slowly I stood up. Another car was backing out of a parking space and it also hit me. I lay for a while, got up on all fours and caught my breath. Slowly I rose to my feet and decided that I would not go to work. I found myself walking in the cemetery and my son’s grave had been dug up. I opened his casket and looked long at him.

    I awoke. The thing with dreams is that it isn’t just about the imagery. There are emotions that seem to run through the dreams and the images are almost secondary to the feelings. I felt awful.

    But there is something about the imagery as well. For dreams such as this the events are clearly metaphorical. It is how we are made. Our minds naturally construct symbols for concepts, events, moods. One doesn’t need to be a literary scholar to know that when it rains in a Hemmingway novel something bad is going to happen. We sense the foreboding.

    We construct metaphors for all sorts of things. We devised letters to stand for sounds, sounds to stand for things, things to stand for ideas and emotions. A rose offered to someone we love is a symbol. A great statue greets those entering New York as a symbol of freedom. Our world is filled with symbols that are important to us. The flag of our country brings tears to grizzled veterans. The cross was turned from a hideous symbol of tyranny and cruelty to a symbol of love and hope.

    We are metaphorical creatures. He made us that way.

    Could it be that all of this, our world, is a metaphor? When I see something beautiful, something that inspires me, could it be a metaphor of something more real? Not because I choose to turn it into a meaning of something else, but because it really is a metaphor, that it was designed that way.

    Ah, I see I am starting to lose you. Hang in there.

    Consider the things of Man. The greed, power, lust, hate, anger, selfishness, and self-centeredness. We can agree that these things are not of God. But consider the things that He gives us. Love. Beauty. Things that are good. Things that lift us and nurture us and heal us. Look hard at the “Pillars of Paradise” in the Eagle Nebula. Consider the gentle vibrancy of a rainbow that spans a majestic vista or the swaying blossoms of a field of wildflowers in spring. There is something about the way the moon swings through its phases and the sun announces its power with its heraldic rays that inspires. The joy of a child who is happy and loves because it seems natural to do so. I think they are metaphors.

    What if they are hints, symbols of the power and beauty and grace and glory that are His? What if this life is a representation of the struggles of good and evil and that what we experience here is part of something larger than us: eternity.

    What if this world is to Heaven what a projection is to the real thing? What if the added dimensions that physicists describe are a part of a reality that is more real than we are? That from the point of view of eternity we are mere projections of spirituality? That we are constrained by flesh and blood and three dimensions and that there is so much more for us to experience? That the beauty we see here is just a pale reflection of what real beauty, real joy, is.

    Friday we went to learn things about our son. We spent two hours drinking in a flood of information and left with a report of fifteen single-spaced pages that tried to describe who our child is in terms of his physical brain, his mental abilities, his psychological propensities, and his probable behaviors. It is a lot to take in.

    But who he is, who I am, is constrained by a “reality” that works in a single dimension of time that drags us along in the direction of entropy (whether we like it or not). A brain injury, or even the full use of all that a human brain can do, pales to the reality of the freedom that is promised in bodies that do not require the shackles that are part and parcel of this world.

    When I see beauty, real beauty, something moves inside of me. It is not just an emotion. In fact I know it precedes the emotion. It takes a moment for an emotion to build. I can feel that coming. No, this is something else. I feel something twist inside me, like some living thing that has no physical organ, and I am moved. I feel this thing that tells me that what I see, what I am recognizing there, is something GOOD. I am catching a glimpse, a hint, of Him.

    What if the beauty I see, the wonders that makes this thing in my chest move and twist in joy and awe is a metaphor for glory?

    Then I shake. I tremble. I know that though I am wandering through a vale of suffering, where people are crushed by falling mountains, and waves sweep thousands into the sea, and evil men prowl with guns and bombs, where children starve, where children die, where parents lay tiny bodies in graves, is all a dream. It is an awful, terrifying, soul-shaking dream that prepares us for a relationship with the maker of stars and graceful molecules, and sharp jagged peaks which arrow into blue skies. The maker of galaxies that dance through space and time, the creator of whales, the artist that painted the grand canyon, the craftsman who fashioned the hummingbird, and pounded carbon atoms within the hearts of stars loves me. He who knitted my bones together and who inspires me with beauty, loves me! He loves me.

    He is preparing me for real glory. He is preparing me for a time when I can be freed from the burden of a life which permits hate as readily as love. He fills my world with metaphors that remind me that there is something out there, something greater. And that no matter where I am today, He is there. He is waiting for me to come running home someday where I can share in His feast. Where I can join my son and friends and family. Where I can join Him. He gives me hope with such a simple thing as a resting butterfly and a cloud gliding undisturbed overhead.

    For those of you visiting this site and are beginning to wonder what is the matter with this guy who gets all emotional about a God he cannot see, I want to share this one truth with you.

    I can see Him. I know He is real. He leaves His fingerprints all over this world and all over my life. You can see it too. All you have to do is feel for that living thing that lives inside your chest, that thing that flips and moves in the presence of things small and mighty that are metaphors of a greater reality. Look into that spot, open it up, and ask Him if He would show you more.

    You will find that He will whisper into your heart and make the world of the “real” as metaphorical as a bad dream.

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Moon Howlin'

    When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. --Job 2:11-13

    The snow was falling. It lent a hush to the world, a muffled echo of the numbness we felt.
    A playpen sat empty in the living room. An undecorated Christmas tree was leaning on the front porch. My son had died the day before. F. was at the door, telling me that if there was anything, anything at all, he could do, just tell him what it was. The child we had sought for so many years was gone. There really wasn’t much anyone could do. I invited him in and we looked at the three portraits from K Mart. I thought about the pictures we didn’t select. Ones we had passed on because of the expense.

    “There are some pictures of Willy at K Mart we decided not to buy. I would like to have them.”

    “Sure thing!” he said. “Don’t give it another thought.”

    And off he went in that old white Dodge truck. He was back three and half hours later with those pictures (a distance of eight miles). Smiling ruefully, he explained that the snow had turned to freezing rain and folks were sliding off the roads everywhere. But he had the pictures.

    Friends do things like that.

    Our church had burned down because my son was playing with fire. It was 2:30 in the morning, the police had left with my child. I called T., my pastor and friend.

    “I’m so glad you called!”

    Within minutes we were at Denny’s, I was drinking coffee and he was eating an LT (they were out of bacon). He set aside his concerns for his church building, his skinned up arm (he was blown twenty feet out of the building by the explosion). We talked. We prayed.

    Friends do things like that.

    The fire marshall told me to fix some electrical problems (part of the home fire safety the DA asked us to complete). R., an electrician, bringing equipment, parts, wiring, and expertise, made it right.


    Most men I know don’t make close friends. My father buys his friends. When they grow tired of his calling the shots on trips to Belize or Amsterdam, he gets new ones. This is a big mistake. The criteria for friendship shouldn't be that they never challenge us.
    It tends to make us self-centered and shallow.

    I have one childhood friend still. We email and chat now and then. But there are some guys I can call any time, I mean ANY TIME. And they can call me.

    Each month the days scratched off on the kitchen calendar wheel around to the little box marked: “Moon Howlin’.” Once a month five men get together, sit around a camp fire, and talk. We laugh, we joke. We talk politics. We talk theology. We sit by that fire, watching the flames lick chunks of split oak. And as the flames run through their cycles of leaping high on fresh logs and murmuring sleepily on cooling coals, we share who we are. We talk about our passions and our fears. We talk about our wives and children and dogs and trucks. We watch the full moon glide slowly overhead. We talk about what stirs our faith and where we struggle. We practice the art of listening and the art of story telling. I look forward to our Moon Howlin’.

    That is what we are supposed to be doing.

    As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. --Proverbs 27:17

    I once spent almost three months without speaking to, or even seeing, anyone else. I was curious about world religions and I read a four foot stack of books on every major world religion in solitude. And though that experience gave me background information I found valuable, and though it taught me how to be comfortable with my own company, it wasn’t a healthy thing to do. I was very awkward around people for a while. I didn’t know what to say, or where to stand, or where to put my hands, or anything. People need people. There is a reason we find hermits odd. They ARE odd.

    We are created for company. The word company means “with bread”. We are designed to share our food and our lives. We are supposed to be passing a bag of peanuts around a fire. He made us that way because that is the type of being He is.

    Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden --Genesis 3:8

    It was natural, normal, for Him to visit the man, visit the woman, and share who He is and take in who they were. It was natural because at the very heart of who He is, He is three. Relationships are what make Him God. And we are created in His image.

    He made the angels, and He holds court with them (Job 2:3, Rev 4). He made us so that we can share ourselves, share eternity with Him.

    As Americans we are so full of ourselves. We have taken our freedoms as some sort of mandate for self-centeredness. The point in being unique isn’t about selfishness. We are unique so that our lives lend texture to His relationships.

    “ in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach...” --Roman 12:5-7

    It is good to be unique. But it should be used as an avenue for giving ourselves to each other and to Him.

    We act different from each other, and we look different from each other. Diversity is good, but only because it makes the whole better.

    “...After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb...” --Rev. 7:9

    I don’t wish to rail against bigotry or prejudice. I see it as a stupid point of view, but people need to grow on their own. My anger would not bear any useful fruit. It is better for me to just raise my African American children and continually explain to them why their skin is beautiful. They don’t need to look like me to be loved. Someday people will see that these issues are patently silly. Someday we will share eternity together.

    We all need each other. We need friends in our lives, true friends who know when to talk, when to listen, and when to just sit quietly.

    Getting to know God is unlike any other relationship.

    I come to know Him through His word, through His creation, and through the events of my life. These things reveal His nature.

    He comes to know me as I trudge along this trail of mortal existence. He comes to know me as I come to know, to make, myself. As I bumble through life, fumbling for a light switch in the dark, He whispers instructions. I stub my toes, bang my shins, and slowly learn to listen. I become more obedient and He smiles.

    It’s a little scary. When I think of the maker of all things watching me, touching my life, it frightens me. I’m tempted to make the human to ant comparison, but omnipotent, omniscient creator to human being is clear enough.

    Job puts it this way:

    "What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment? Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant?” --Job 7:17-19

    I like the way David viewed it:

    When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? --Psalm 8:3-4

    It’s scary because I am so flawed. He doesn’t seem to mind. Odd as it seems, perfection loves imperfection. He loves me.

    Things have gotten rough at times. I’ve made late night calls to close friends. But the first calls I make are to the friend who never sleeps, and is always willing. . . to walk in the garden in the cool of the evening.

    Sunday, October 30, 2005

    The Warrior

    It’s 2:30 in the morning and I am writing this down before I forget it.

    I have had another dream. My family was living along a road. We were in filthy clothes and hiding in ditches and trees. It was night and someone was coming.

    I lay in the ditch below our tree, contorting my body so that I wouldn’t show among the weeds and dank water. I was clutching a bit of metal rod that had been sharpened on one end. Above me my family was hidden.

    Horses cantered up, the knights astride them wore clean clothes and carried beautiful swords. They heard a noise from my family and stopped under the tree, the hoofs of their horses within reach of my hand. They were quietly discussing what to do when one of them glanced down and made out my form in the dark.

    “Why look. There is one of them right there.”

    I leapt up to defend my family, but they took no notice. They continued to speakly softly. They got down off their mounts and climbed the rude stairs nailed along the sloping tree trunk to where my family was hidden.

    I followed. I was terrified of what they may do, and I knew I had to act swiftly before I lost all chances of protecting my family.

    In the crook of a branch we had lain some boards to create a place to lie down and sleep. The leader sat down in that squalor, my children fled further up the branches.

    I strode up to the warrior and jabbed the point of my bit of metal into his stomach. He looked into my eyes as I confronted him.

    “You cannot come and take away from us the little we have. We don’t have much, but if you want our home for the night, you will have to bargain for it.”

    He looked at me with clear eyes filled with love, compassion, and something indefinable, something deep.

    “No, my friend, you do not understand. We aren’t here to take. I know you think you are doing what is best, that you are defending your family. But this is not where you belong. You and your family belong among the stars, not here in the dirt.”

    I awoke.

    Those who are regular readers know that I have been struggling with a few things these past few months. I have become convinced that this is more about spiritual warfare than anything else.

    It isn’t a subject I enjoy. I love rational thinking. I love science nonfiction, and my views of the world are so conservative that some of my brothers in Christ have tried, gently, over the years to get me to accept a more faith-centered view of creation.

    But I am becoming more and more a believer in this supernatural battle that is played out in the mundane world of a mortal life.

    My children are from a very dark, very evil, place. They were born in Haiti. My eldest, J., was beaten, abused, intentionally starved, and saw death many times. I believe that he at least watched voodoo rituals, I know he saw scores of corpses during the military coup. My other son bears the scars of ritual burning designed to ward off werewolves.

    So I have been reading about spiritual warfare. I am reading about demons and curses and the effects of sin. I am praying with and for my children each night, and I find the entire situation bizarre and a little frightening, but it is my duty to protect my family, and I will do whatever that requires.

    So here I sit tapping at the keyboard at my desk in the middle of the night, trying to capture the feeling the dream left in me.

    When I looked into those eyes filled with love and compassion and something deeper I knew that someday my family would not be living in the ditches. That we would be wearing clean clothes, and striding through the stars.

    The logical part of me wants to defend my position that this is a spiritual struggle by citing all the passages of scripture that I have looked up, that evil is real, and that there really are demons in the shadows according to His word. But I’m not going to do that. Perhaps another time.

    Tonight I am just going to close with this thought: I don’t belong in the filth trying to ward off the darkness with a little bit of sharpened metal. I have looked into the eyes of a friend, a brother, a comrade in a greater battle, and have learned that I can lead my family to where nothing can touch us.

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    Taking Out the Trash

    The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?"

    Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it."
    --Job 1:7

    I’m trying to make sense of something. It’s like reaching into a nasty old koi pond and trying to pull out a fish. It’s all too murky and stirred up to see anything. And when I touch something it’s slippery and slimy, and almost certainly smelly. When I am able to get a grip on something I’m not sure I want to pull it into the light.

    Human beings generally believe in God, or at least a god (goddess). Christians believe in a personal God, one who cares and loves and suffers and sacrifices for His creation. We also believe in Satan. Maybe not a comic character who dances about on our shoulders, but perhaps some vague force opposing God. We might see it as some sort of Star Wars thing with two sides of the force battling across time and space. But since we aren’t Jedi knights we don’t worry about it too much.

    We don’t want to live in a world where evil is personified. We don’t mind that sometimes things are bad, and sometimes there are bad people. And we don’t mind
    sometimes acknowledging that we are naughty. But we don’t want to think that under the veneer of beauty the world is manipulated by some evil force who seeks us harm. Personally seeks us harm. We don’t want to be some pawn on a spiritual chess board.

    Reluctantly I can see that there are dark forces in the world, sliding just beneath the reality we know. They move about unseen, like oily things gliding beneath the surface. Occasionally they create ripples in my world.

    I written before about those whispers in the dark. Could there be something creeping about the edge of the light of my home? Might there be shadows within my home, places where the light of my LORD does not shine?

    My eldest son felt compelled to play with fire. He burned much of our church down. He says he heard voices telling him to do it. For weeks. What does that mean? The psychologist says he isn’t schizophrenic. Could there be something evil lurking about my son, whispering to him, tempting him?

    I know that my children have come from a place where darkness rules openly. But in the land of iPods and Big Macs getting a grip on cruelty and voodoo rituals doesn't come easy. What dark things might be lurking near my home because of the evil visited upon my children? Someone took a baseball bat to Jeremiah’s feet, crushing them. There are dents in his head. When he first came to us he didn’t believe we would let him have his own bowl of rice to eat. Isaac has scars all over his face. Someone had ritually burnt him to ward of werewolves.
    I've heard worse stories from the woman who rescued my children. I’m not sure what to make of it all, but I want to figure it out.

    So I’m “boning up” on the dark side of the force. That sounds a little flippant, but that’s my point. I prefer to think of evil as a dark figure with a cape who is into heavy mechanical breathing and sounds like James Earl Jones. But I think that usually evil does not grab our throats with an invisible grip. Usually it just whispers to us the things we want to hear, the things we desire, the self doubts, and what our rights are. It hints that our conscience doesn't matter. And the biggest lie he whispers is that he doesn't exist. I’ve gotten used to not thinking about the evil side of my theology. Which is just the way he wants it.

    Now I’m reading books on spiritual warfare, and generational curses, and demon possession. Not a comfortable topic. I don't like it.

    There was something in a book I was reading yesterday. It was a chapter on evil objects. It suggests that there are things in our lives that attract evil, push away what is good. I wondered if there was anything in my home that I needed to remove. There isn’t any pornography, or drugs, or voodoo dolls. Then I remembered. On the top shelf of my bedroom, in the corner, are some books and mementos.

    When I was eighteen I wanted to learn about world religions. I took a stack of books and went off where there weren’t any people and read them. I have some of them still. And there are books from when I was a monk in a yogic ashram. But books can’t be bad. They are just information, and I love learning things. And oh, yes, there’s that little wooden box. It has a picture of Sri Ramakrishna, a stone from India, a few Rudraksha beads, and a candle from a hindu temple. So it’s not like I have any porn or any... Wait a minute. Those things? He wants me to get rid of that stuff?

    Yeah, that stuff. And not just that stuff. I need to sift through my home and really take a look at what is in it. I am my LORD’s servant and everything I have belongs to Him. And frankly, there’s a lot of stuff He doesn’t want.

    My dad has a few bucks. He lives in Southern California and is very successful. (If you can call divorcing his fifth wife, giving away one of his houses, and spending most nights with his former maid successful.)

    He takes pride in throwing stuff away. I don’t give him things anymore because when he tires of something he throws it away. He takes pride in paying extra for garbage service. He hauls five or six cans of trash to the curb every week and it is often filled with stuff that people give him. After a birthday it might hit six trash cans and seven large plastic bags. After Christmas... well let’s just say it is astonishing.

    But I think Jesus would just as soon haul five or six cans of the stuff I have given Him to the curb.

    I thought that those books and mementos are just that, mementos. But why do I have them? I’m not going to read them again. I know all that I want to know about that stuff (actually, more).

    So, out with The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Out with The Autobiography of a Yogi. I don’t need to read Patangali or The Baghavad Gita or Surathji. I certainly don’t need the beads or the candles.
    There's even a fragment from a Mayan temple my father-in-law gave me. That stuff is dead, and it is nearly forgotten.

    Nearly, but not quite.

    That is how he works. He whispers in my ear: “That’s not important. That doesn’t mean anything.” And so I let it sit on the shelf.

    There are a lot of things I know I need to do with and for my kids. And I am working on it. I'm reading the gospels out loud to them, to be sure they hear the good word about the Living Word. There's the reading I have taken on. I’ll finish up those books. I'll go to that seminar this Friday on spiritual warfare, and I’ll enlist friends in helping me through prayer. But there are a lot of things that I can do to clean up my own act.

    I don’t need any Schwarzenegger movies, or horror movies or any of that stuff. I don’t need any books on mysticism or mythology. And I don’t need mementos of a life that is dead to me.

    Hang on a second, LORD. Let me help you haul those cans to the curb.

    UPDATE (Tuesday 10/8/05):
    My first thought was to burn that stuff. Seemed a little dramatic, and I thought, why not just let it rot in the landfill forever? So I wrapped it all in a paper sack to make sure it didn't fall out, and put it in the trash.

    Well, the can didn't get picked up today! Strange. First time for everything. So it is still at my house, outside, in the trash can. I'm tempted to dig it out and do something more permanent with it.

    I've got to say this whole thing is giving me the creeps. I don't like dealing with this sort of thing. But I can't deny it since scripture is very clear here.

    Thank you, all of you, who are saying that you are praying for me and my family.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    Journeys Mapped in Heaven

    She set the steaming bowl of rice before the little boy and went back to the kitchen to retrieve the rest of his dinner. He stared at it with large eyes, his thin arms began to tremble. He looked up at his new daddy.

    “Do you want to eat first?” he asked.

    “We’ll eat together after we say grace,” I said.

    He looked back down at the rice. Hesitantly he put his hands around it.

    “Do you want the first bite?”

    “No thanks, Mommy will bring me my own.”

    He started to shake.

    “This is for me? All of it?”

    He couldn’t believe that the food was all for him, that no one was going to take it away.


    He sat in the tub and I came in to give him his first bath in our home. I wanted to make him feel that everything that had happened to him before was being washed away.

    I grabbed the large plastic cup and dipped it into the water. I put my hand on his shoulder and raised the water over his head.

    “Close your eyes.”

    He looked up at me with a false grin and terror in his eyes. There was something terribly wrong. His arms were rigid. His legs straight and stiff. He looked at me and I could see the strain of trying to please me and fear of what may happen play across his face.

    I washed his hair, explaining to him how to get the shampoo through his nappy hair. I washed his arms, showing him how to get the wash cloth saturated with soap and how to keep it away from his eyes.

    I washed his feet, and some of his legs, but as the cloth swept up toward his waist he become rigid and the false grin returned.

    I wanted to make the bath some sort of ritual of cleansing and new beginnings, but he didn’t trust me enough yet. I had him show me he could rub the wash cloth well enough and explained to him how he had to wash everywhere. I left him to his privacy.


    It was just a couple of days after they boys came to live with us. I thought I’d try horsing around with them like my father did with me when I was five. I hugged them, tried to get them to wrestle. They just didn’t get it. I lifted them up in the air and swung them around. Jeremiah started crying and got a nose bleed though he never bumped his nose on anything. I set him down on the couch and rushed to get some toilet paper.

    As his new mommy comforted him and I could hear him say: “Daddy hurt me.”


    We couldn’t seem to get their hair picked out right. It hurt them despite the conditioners we rubbed into their scalps. So I bought some electric shears and tried to give them haircuts. That first time was a total loss. It takes practice to learn how to do it right. One side would get uneven and I would go over it again to smooth it out. Then they would shift or twitch or flinch, and the shears would dip too low, and I’d start going over it again.

    After a frustrating 45 minutes I just put the clippers to the scalp and ran it over the whole head. It was summer anyway.

    Once the curls had fallen around the stool I saw the marks. There were scars running across his poor scalp. There were little dents where the bone beneath showed a dip or lump. Terrible things had happened to this boy’s head.


    There are a more stories. Some hint at or reveal other terrible things that this boy has experienced. But I wish to share just one more story, one with a different ending.


    We were sitting at dinner, talking about school pictures and how there are few pictures from before they came to live with us. Brenda ran to her hope chest to get their passports, containing the earliest pictures we have of our boys.

    We passed them around. There is a look of terror in the boys’ eyes. We can only guess at the horrors reflected in those eyes. They don’t know why they are posing for those pictures, that this photo is a step toward taking them out of Haiti.

    I examined the places they had been, the times and dates and notations. There was the customs stamp showing when they left their birth country. The time and date struck me.

    At the exact moment they were boarding a plane from that awful place I know what I was doing.

    I was sitting on my couch, the sun was coming up. A new day, a new beginning. I hadn’t slept all night. I wasn’t sure what I should be doing. I had gotten up early the morning before to feed our baby. He died later that morning. As the dark of night turned into the dark of a day of grieving I sat numb. All my dreams of what I would teach my child, all the years I had foreseen, all ashes. I felt like my heart was breaking, like it was some living thing beating loud and strangely in my chest. I felt that it would ache forever. It didn’t seem that I would ever smile again, that I would every be able to love a child again.

    3,400 miles away two small, frightened boys were being ushered onto a plane. They were leaving all they had ever known.

    I wasn’t ready for new children. They weren’t ready for a new daddy. But He was moving Heaven and Earth. He was preparing me and He was preparing them.

    I love those boys fiercely. I kiss their heads each night (even though they are in high school). I lay my hands on them and I pray blessings into them, and I lay them on the altar of my heart before the LORD constantly.

    Whatever challenges they bring to my home, it is because He has given me that task to do. Therefore I cannot fail. He works His Will through me. His grace is sufficient.

    Saturday, November 12, 2005

    The Sword

    We were in a mountain pass, snowbound. My family was wandering through nearby trees. The dark figure's soft sibilant voice was taunting, assuring me I would fail. I kept checking on each member of my family, he kept whispering.

    I was putting off the confrontation.

    The black carriage swept into the clearing, spoked wheels throwing snow, the breath of the black horses trailing in the air, floating before a backdrop of frosted evergreens. He stood up, dropped silently to the slush. A slight breeze swirled his cape about black clothing and lacquered breast plate, his face a shadow.

    At my feet in the back of the covered wagon, was a golden sword and six large old fashioned Bibles.

    My unsure hands picked up the oversized sword. The handle was a foot long with a crown for a pommel. The hand guard jutted out a foot on each side, making the weapon a cross. The gold blade's first foot was a saber, a regular sword. In the next foot the blade widened out to a broad sword, giving it weight. In the last foot, the tip became a thin rapier.

    A word came to me:
    "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17). I picked it up, and though it was too large for me, it moved easily to wherever I pointed.

    I turned to face the dark figure waiting by the dark carriage. And the Bibles at my feet began to float. They moved out of the back of the wagon toward the Enemy.

    I jumped onto them and sped across the open snow.

    I was going to hack at him when I got close enough, but I felt directed to change tactics. ("Extend your arm. Drive the point into your foe.")

    was propelled at him by the Bibles and I aimed the tip at his chest; the blade pierced the breast plate...

    And the clothes collapsed. They were empty.


    I know what I need to do. The dream is clear to me. This is going to be a week of prayer and reading the scripture. And starting Friday evening I will pray through every room of my home, every corner of the property, every corner of the building, claiming it and all within it for my Lord. I will anoint the doors and windows with oil and
    every time I feel a doubt or worry I will quote the word of God. I will defend my home with The Word.

    I don’t like this stuff. I have been a long time in getting to this place, but I will not let him have a foot hold in my home. Strike that, His home. For all I have I give to my Lord. I am not going to shirk this because it seems weird or farfetched or... whatever.

    The message is clear and I will obey. I am the Lord’s servant and there is no power that can pluck me from His hand. The word of God is my sword and it is time I picked it up and seriously practiced with it.


    Heavenly Father, bless my home and bless my children. I confess that I am a little fearful of what may be haunting my children, my home. But I know that if You are with me no one can be against me. I pray that You show me all my sins so that I may confess and repent. I pray that whatever is in my home that does not honor You, You will show me so I may remove it. Strengthen my knowledge of Your Word so that I may have the sword ready when needed. I claim the victory that You won on Calvary. --Amen

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    Girding up

    Tomorrow. Tomorrow I send my family off and I pray through my home. Perhaps I am making too much of this, but I am proceeding cautiously.

    A couple of nights ago the son I was not so concerned with shared some things with me that showed there are things creeping about the edges of his consciousness as well. My wife is moody. I am irritable.

    Little things have been popping up that are keeping me so busy I haven’t gone through my home and gotten rid of the minor things I feel need to be removed. Small things such as videos a friend sent that really aren’t so bad but... Things like the "Alien" trilogy, "The Highlander" series, stuff that really aren’t about blood and gore and evil, but I would not feel comfortable having on the tv if my LORD was sitting on the couch beside me. (Please take no criticism if you enjoy such things. This is just about me and my choices.) But I WILL get them out of the house tonight.

    I have started anointing my family members each night and praying over them (including my wife). I have confessed and repented of what He has shown me as unworthy of a follower of Him. I have fasted and prayed and gathered scriptures, and I am almost ready.

    In the morning I will rise early, go to the prayer room in our church and place myself in His care. I will see my family off and I will start in the most remote part of the house and work through it, as if I am pushing something out, room by room, closets, hallways and porch. I will pray in the shed and in the tree fort and on the roof. I will anoint windows and doors and eaves and peaks. I will pray over the corners of the property and with His guidance create a spiritual barrier about my home.

    I know this is a strange post. And for anyone who has stumbled onto this blog at this point you may think I’m a little looney. But that doesn’t matter to me. I think this is all a little odd also, but I am convinced it is real and I need to do this.

    “...Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints...” Ephesians 6:10-18

    So, if you are inclined, and the time is before noon on Saturday November 19 Pacific Standard Time, could you say a prayer for me and mine?

    I could use the help. I’m busy girding on the full armor of God and I want to be sure all the straps are secure.

    “And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.” -- Job 1:5


    We had wanted a child for so long. We ached to have a baby, one that would be ours to love, one that we could raise. I wanted to share my love of learning with a child. A child is a legacy. I wanted to leave a bit of me in this world by teaching another human being the things I felt were important.

    I kept going to the story of Abraham in the Bible. I saw how desperately he wanted a child. I kept praying that I would have a child to raise.

    “Heavenly Father, if You would bless me with a child I will care for him and raise him to bless Your name. If You would give me a child I would teach him about You and he would carry Your love, Your word through his life. If You would do for me what You did for Abraham, I will do the same as he did. I will give that child to You. I will dedicate my son to You and I will follow Your will in all that I do with him. Please give me a child, and I promise I will give him back to You. --Amen.”

    And it happened. We got that child. We named him after me: Willy. He was born on my wife’s birthday, August 30th. Oh, it is hard to express the joy of that day. We had yearned for that child throughout the twelve years we had been a couple and he had arrived!

    I kept my promise. I remembered how the LORD asked Abraham to give his son to Him and Abraham complied. I thought about this new life in my care and I took such joy in thinking how I would teach Willy about the Word, about Jesus, about eternal life. I thought about Abraham, how he followed the LORD’s will and gave his son to Him. I would be obedient, do the same.

    In November, we had a feast in our home. We invited friends, we cooked a huge meal. We set tables end to end in our living room and filled the chairs with friends. I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and dedication.

    I shared our journey, our desire, and God’s faithful answering of prayer. I kept my promise. Before those witnesses I told my LORD I was giving this child to Him. I said that no matter what the LORD wanted my child to do, I would uphold His will. I gave my child, I gave my hopes, and dreams, and promises, to my creator.

    Four weeks later I was standing at the end of my drive, watching for the ambulance to come, hoping they would be able to make that child breathe again.


    I didn’t understand.

    As I sit here, tapping at this keyboard, something in my heart twists over slowly, a bruise rolls up into view. I think, “Oh dear LORD. I love You, but couldn’t there have been another way?”


    The LORD asked Abraham to give up the thing that most filled his heart. And he did it. But the LORD never actually took Isaac from Abraham. The offering was enough. But the LORD did take Willy. That morning Willy cried himself to sleep; and when his crying stopped, so did he.


    But I am not the only one who has given up a child. Even He provided a very difficult offering once.

    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” -- John 3:16

    Though my heart aches when I think about that day, December 15, 1992, I know my Lord understands. That means a lot to me.


    So, here I am, thirteen years later, and though there is still a bruise where I was hurt, I am a little better able to understand.

    Now I have two other children. Two children who need me and I find myself doing things that I didn’t know were part of the job description. (I should have though, it is clearly in the manual.) I am to pray over my children, just a Job did. And I am to place their needs first, before my own.

    It is my job to intercede for my children, especially while they are within my home. I am to pray for them, pray with them, and pray blessings into them.

    I felt awkward doing this at first.

    My father is a tough guy, a sort of swaggering John Wayne sort of guy who doesn’t read books. He prefers to do tough things such as crush buildings with heavy equipment and cuss a lot.

    It wasn’t so bad teaching my kids how to pray to God, but to put anointing oil on a finger and place my hand on their heads, well it seemed foppish, melodramatic. Not the sort of thing real men do.

    But the look on their faces when I do it! A smile spreads across their faces and it seems something is flowing through me, they are receiving something through that prayer, that touch. I heard Jeremiah tell his psychologist that when I do that he feels all the bad things being pushed out of him.

    And this goes for how I care for my spouse:

    “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.” --Ephesians 5:25-28

    I am to strengthen my wife's faith through sharing prayers and scripture. I have started anointing my wife each night as well. Each member of my family has a vial of anointing oil on their headboard, the scent chosen to reflect who they are.

    Again, it seems strange.

    I was required to take courses outside of my major while in college. One such class was “Women in Culture.” A very strange experience. There were only four men in it on the first day, and by the end of that week I was the only one left. But I hung in there; I’m not a quitter. But golly, they hated men! Men were seen as the source of all that was wrong in the world (and they did have some persuasive arguments).

    The militant lesbianism was uncomfortable, but I hung in there. I finished that class with an "A" and a deep respect for women and their struggles.

    I think that experience made me feel awkward in taking a leadership role in my home, that I was being sexist, misogynistic. It somehow felt that in claiming the position of head of household I was saying that my wife is not as valued as I, not an equal.

    But she is. And in praying a blessing for her I am not making her beneath me, or subservient. I am lifting her up to my LORD and asking Him to bless her. I am asking that she be given the resources to do all the difficult tasks that are placed on her.

    And it isn’t as if I am elevated in any way. I am not the master of this home. My LORD is. I am a steward. I’m simply a manager of this franchise.

    So I offer it all to Him. I know that can be dangerous. I remember offering Him something big once before. I didn’t like what He chose to do with Willy. But I am His servant.

    I had an odd task to do this past weekend, and as uncomfortable as that was, it was the right thing to do. I first thought it was something that the elders of my church should do, or people in the congregation who seemed better versed in such things. But I was wrong. It was my job.

    There were difficult moments, and I suspect more are coming. But I can tell you that in being obedient I feel lifted up. I feel a sense of joy and relief and... well, gratitude.

    In that ultimate sacrifice of God's, in giving up His son, we can see the perspective of the sacrifice itself. A difficult task for God incarnate.

    “And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” --Luke 22:40-42

    Sometimes we are asked to do things we don’t like. Abraham did not eagerly lead his son up that mountain in Moriah. But he was obedient. And it pleased the LORD.

    “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” --Psalm 19:14

    That is what I want. I am the LORD’s (curious) servant.

    Saturday, November 26, 2005

    Joy in Sorrow

    The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so he died, old and full of years.
    --Job 42:12-17

    What a curious book, the Book of Job. A good man, one who loves God, is tormented by the worse things possible. He loses his possessions, and his business, and his children. He loses his health, his wife turns against him, and his friends sit and accuse him, one after another, of secretly sinning, cursing, God. The Lord never explains why he had to suffer.

    Yet in the end, Job seems to have been happy. He took as much joy in the children that came later as those he had before. He still loved the Lord, and he lived many more, “full” years.

    Life couldn’t have gotten more screwed up, and yet he found joy.

    Life is screwed up today. People suffer so terribly. When I think about the suffering in Uganda my heart aches. A rebel army, calling itself a group of christians, turns children into prostitutes, soldiers, and murderers of their families. Imagine what it does to a child to force him to axe his mother.

    When I think of those dying from AIDS and cancer and malnutrition, it is like a blow to my spirit. Earthquakes and tsunamis and wars, the Earth is a very sad little ball of dirt spinning in a corner of the universe.

    There is a bruise on my heart from the aches that I have felt, and it throbs when I see suffering. And I am reminded of the mistaken notions people have about the Book of Job.

    They cannot understand how God could have permitted such a thing to happen to such a good man. I hear that sentiment echoed by the skeptics of my faith when they turn moist eyes to gaze at the heartache that typifies humanity. I understand that confusion.

    I have felt confused many times because I have looked at such things, felt such things, and have trembled at how wrong it all seems. That ache comes from loving people, though I do it so poorly.

    I wish I could love the way Jesus did. He loved people. As simple as that. He did not base His love on how much or how well they would love Him back. He did not base His love on how well they obeyed. He did not base His love on how much influence His love would get if He showed that person love. He simply loved.

    He knows that we are all screwed up. He knows that we are selfish, and silly, and sometimes simply stupid. And it doesn't matter. He loves us... knowing that we are screw ups. His love is not based on whether or not we will return it or earn it or even yearn for it. He simply loves. He IS love.

    We are creatures with stunted hearts. We tend to think of ourselves first. Our bellies, our roof, our children, and so on, in the exact order of how far they are from our center, from our heart.

    But if we can make Him the center of our heart, we will find that in that center is a love that encompasses everyone, everything. We will find that the creator of the universe has no problem with removing our worn out shoes to wash our feet carefully. That He will place His hands on the sores and the cuts and the thorns and spread a balm of healing love on our hurts with more tenderness than we could.

    Imagine that sore spot in your life as a wound on your foot. The God of all creation sent someone to Earth, to you, to wash that foot, and place it on His lap so that He could bind it up.

    He may never tell us why we have gotten our injuries. But He understands them. And He loves us with a passion that sent him stumbling up Golgotha with a splintered piece of wood across His shoulders.

    (Lord, help me to love that way! Help me to love without embarassment, without excuses, the lesbian trio down the street, and the strange woman who wanders around the park muttering to herself, and the pompous jerk, because they are Your children as much as I. --Amen)

    When I consider the love of my Lord I feel such joy. I feel like dancing! Oh I am such a blessed man. I have a home, and so many do not. I have a family which loves me. Many do not. I have food in the frig and a place to pray and a dog who thinks I am a much greater a guy than I really am. But, oh wonders of all, I have a Lord who loves me and blesses me.

    So, for those who don’t understand the Book of Job, I can relate. The world is so dreadful, so sad, so hurtful. But do not lay the sorrows of the world on the clean hands of the only one who loves us despite our self-centered ways. He may not explain all, but draw near to Him and your hurt will ease and your feet will begin to shuffle side to side and you will understand why Job was, in the end, a happy and blessed man.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    Thank You

    Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

    Job 1:20-22

    I want to take a moment and say thank you. I wish to thank those of you who have encouraged, and prayed, and read, and wept, and shared with me the last few months. I am grateful. Your words, even your visits alone, have been a source of encouragement. Thank you.

    I want to thank my wife for her sacrifices and effort and love in raising our children and making this house a home. Brenda, I know that sometimes I am cryptic, and hard to understand. I thank you for your patience and for the incredible work you place on your own shoulders, especially when it is to make things easier, or more "homey" for me. I praise Him for you daily. Thank you.

    I want to thank T for being my pastor and friend and lending me encouragement and forgiveness and guidance. Your example, your sacrifice of time, and prayers at odd hours, are humbling. I embrace you fellow servant. Thank you.

    I want to thank my children for simply being who they are. Their lives have not been easy and I am so grateful to have the privilege to guide them in these past few years. Boys, I love you more than anything. I would give my life for you two without a moment’s hesitation. When I think about you my heart swells, and my eyes begin to water; you mean so much to me. If at some point, my children, you read these words, I want you to know that though I have struggled with the ramifications of your adoption, it has been a wonderful blessing to me that is worth far more than what it has cost. I adore you boys and I am very pleased with you. Thank you.

    I want to thank my friends, my Moon Howlin’ buddies who have listened to me around many camp fires and laid hands on me numerous times in our prayer room. May God bless you continually for your large hearts. Thank you.

    Lastly, I want to thank my Lord God. I praise You Lord for Your unending grace that has sustained me, guided me, blessed me. Thank You for giving me hard lessons that have driven me closer to You. I worship You. This whole gig is less than a hundred years long and I am grateful for anything that makes this mortal life something that brings You honor. Thank you for everything, even for the brief time I had with my first child. Even for the physical discomforts that have made me reliant on others. Thank You for meaningful work. Thank You for giving me Your word to read, and a mind to hold it, and a heart to cherish it. Thank You, thank You, thank You!

    All praises to the Lord God Almighty!

    That day David first committed to Asaph and his associates this psalm of thanks to the LORD :

    Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.

    Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.

    Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

    Look to the LORD and his strength;
    seek his face always.

    Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,

    O descendants of Israel his servant,
    O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.

    He is the LORD our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.

    He remembers his covenant forever,
    the word he commanded, for a thousand generations...

    ...Sing to the LORD, all the earth;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.

    Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

    For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
    he is to be feared above all gods.

    For all the gods of the nations are idols,
    but the LORD made the heavens.

    Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and joy in his dwelling place.

    Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations,
    ascribe to the LORD glory and strength,

    ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.
    Bring an offering and come before him;
    worship the LORD in the splendor of his [d] holiness.

    Tremble before him, all the earth!
    The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.

    Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let them say among the nations, "The LORD reigns!"

    Let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
    let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them!

    Then the trees of the forest will sing,
    they will sing for joy before the LORD,
    for he comes to judge the earth.

    Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

    Cry out, "Save us, O God our Savior;
    gather us and deliver us from the nations,
    that we may give thanks to your holy name,
    that we may glory in your praise."

    Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.
    Then all the people said "Amen" and "Praise the LORD."

    1 Chronicles 16:7-36

    Wednesday, November 30, 2005

    Learning to Dance

    So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.
    --Job 2:7

    Could it be that the church fire was a good thing? Perhaps a blessing to me, to my children?

    The previous post sparked some interesting debate in the comments section on the sovereignty of God and the free will of men. And in following that rabbit trail of logic this occurs to me...

    I have learned a few things. I have learned things about myself, about my children, about my Lord. I have learned who my children really are and what they need from me for them to grow closer to God. I have learned that I am a foolish man who thinks much too highly of himself. And I have found the more I rely on God the stronger I am.

    Background: My mentally handicapped child was left alone. He started listening to whispers in the dark. He played with fire. By 2:00 a.m. the police were handcuffing him in my living room.

    The sanctuary where my wife and I renewed our wedding vows, the baptistry where my children proclaimed their acceptance of Jesus as messiah and creator, the place where a memorial service was held for my first child, was a charred shell, awaiting clean up, insurance estimators, and demolition.

    Could it be a good thing?

    Look what it forced me to do. My eyes have been opened to who my children are, truly are. I work diligently with them now, instructing them in my faith, in how to pray and how to draw closer to God. I am a fiercer advocate for them at school because I know precisely where they need help (from counseling and testing). I am helping them to engage with the world in healthy ways.

    I have seen more clearly the struggles of my wife and what I need to being doing to help her. She needs to know how much I love her. I’m finding new ways to show her. I rub her feet, I give her times of solitude, I anoint her with oil, I treat her tenderly.
    I pray for her each night.

    I have become more reliant on God, realizing that there is nothing truly under my control, that obedience is the only commodity I have to offer my Lord.

    And there is my prayer life. I pray much more than ever before. Sometimes, while I am walking the track and praying at lunch, I have to contain myself because I feel such joy while praying that I want to throw my hands up, dance about, (That would certainly distract the students in the classrooms that look out onto the athletic field!)

    I place myself at His service. I know now that I cannot control my own fate, and I never could.

    It sounds like a twelve step program where the addict states that he is not in control of his vice and that only through a higher power can he be saved. I am such an addict. I am addicted to sin. I keep thinking that it is all about me, that I am important, that what I think or say or feel is what matters, is more important than anything else, even His will.

    I’ve been trying to control what was uncontrollable, and it is no wonder that I have been frustrated with the results.

    Could it be that the church fire has been good for me?

    My son says that he kept hearing a voice. It was telling him to play with fire. That it was bright, and pretty, and good to see. He isn’t schizophrenic (according to the in-depth evaluation). But he heard a whisper telling him to do things he knew were wrong.

    That fire placed so much of what I held as my area of authority into the hands of others. My home, my children, my parenting, are scrutinized by other authorities. The fire marshall, the district attorney, even psychologists and counselors’ words have great weight in what happens in my home, in my family.

    Could it be that the church fire was a good thing?

    Some feel that God is in control of all things.

    I agree.

    Some feel that God causes all things to happen.

    I disagree.

    1. God is in control.

    2. There is an evil force that acts against our Lord.

    I’m unsure how to reconcile this antimony, but I know that no matter how bad things get, no matter how screwed up life is, He can make good of it.

    "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." --Romans 8:28

    I have been a proud man. My father didn’t graduate high school and I have a master’s degree. I like that. I love to read and have made myself a wealth of useless information. I kind of like that too. But I have been humbled, and to my surprise, I like that as well.

    You see, I have found that as I admit how weak I am, how little control over my life I have, the stronger I feel!

    There have been times when life has knocked me flat. I mean really knocked me flat. Regular readers are aware of some of those times.

    But today I feel something different. I feel that when I was laid low someone came along side me and placed a strong, gentle hand on my arm. I was helped to my knees, to my feet. That hand steadied me, helped me to walk along a stony path, guided me. And oh my, has my gait changed! I went from a shambling walk in the shadows of a deep canyon to dancing along, praising my Lord.

    Oh sure, things still... well, suck. But that heavy load that I have been carrying, well my big brother’s got it!

    I could provide a litany of things that need my attention, that concern me, that are within my responsibility to guide and repair and supervise. But when I give those burdens to my Lord (not shirking the responsibility, but relinquishing the eventual outcome) I find my feet doing something different.

    Instead of shambling, I am dancing. There is a skip in my heart, in my soul, that finds its way into my feet. I suspect that this dance will grow the more I learn that I have nothing truly in my control. I suspect that as I continue, this awkward shuffling dance will grow into a full fledged frenzy of praise. I am currently like some middle school boy, unsure of how to make his suddenly large feet keep time at his first dance. But by the time my Lord invites me home I think I will be dancing the way King David did before the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:12-15), with wild abandon.

    So, I think the church fire may have become a good thing. I was humbled, and that is a good thing. I learned who my kids truly are, and that is good. I have learned to pray more, and to care more for my wife, and to love others more, and all those are good things. I have discovered that the smaller I am, the stronger I am.

    The fire was not good in itself. Satan was at work there, slithering his way into my son, into my family, into my church. But I also know that my Lord God has the final word in all things and that no matter what bad the Deceiver brings about... God works for the good of those who love Him.

    So, to the point of this post. I wanted to just say, that though my back is out, and my fingers are bleeding, and though my children demand more of me than ever before, I am filled with a joy that I can hardly contain. I am so eager to sing the praises of my Lord God! I am so happy to be alive. I am so grateful and... maybe if it took an outrageous attack by a force of evil to put me in this place, then there is more going on than meets the eye.

    I must be following the right shepherd.

    Jesus lead on, I will follow!

    Friday, December 02, 2005


    A dear friend, a powerful servant of the Lord, and an all around great guy is in need of prayer NOW.

    Bob C. has had cancer and it has been a long battle. He finally got a donor (from Germany!) and has gotten a T cell transplant. Well, I will just let this email tell the current chapter:

    Bob is still stable, although he is fighting big battles. A CAT scan of his brain showed a spot that is most probably infection in his brain. This is most likely the same infection that he is fighting in his lungs. Please pray for healing of this infection. Medicine can be less effective when dealing with the brain as it is somewhat protected. They will need to use stronger medication to fight the infection in the brain.

    In addition, they will be backing off the medication that helps protect his liver so they may fight the infection. Please pray for protection of Bob's liver. There will be a backing off of transplant medicine and an upping of medicine to boost his immunity. Please pray that his immune system will begin fighting the infection as well.

    His heart is beating as it should and has stabilized.

    The next 48-72 hours is of critical importance in fighting this infection. Jenny and family are okay. Please continue to pray for Jenny, Josh, Carrie and Laura.

    Remember, "prayer is the only thing that moves the hand of God."

    Could you, would you?

    Thank you.

    For those of you who came because of a comment I left on your blog, I apologize for the blatant request to come here. Please feel free to clean up your comments by deleting that comment of mine. I just wanted to get as many folks praying for my friend as possible.

    email Friday:

    Bob Cryder update: I don't know how else to say this, but just received word that Bob Cryder is slipping away. Tim and Heather, family and close friends are with Bob, Jenny and family. Please pray for all of them. Jenny shared that they have made him comfortable. We need to remember that the Lord is in control, even when we don't understand.

    Update, Noon Sunday:

    The doctors say that while the cancer is gone, Bob's body can not fight the infection he has in his lungs and brain. The only thing that can save him is a miracle.

    While he was in stable condition this morning, there is hope only in God.

    I have a post half written, and I would finish it an d post it now... but I want to put my energy into praying for Bob right now.

    I want those who visit this site to know a little bit about Bob.

    He has had a ministry for some time, Bob Cryder Team Ministries. This web page is worth looking at just to get to know what he does. his connections to the evangelical church reads as a Who's Who of the modern church.

    But I've known him as one heck of a great guy, someone who would drop everything to lend a hand.

    He is a car buff (the cherry red '55 chevy pick up, and the 57 nomad are pristine, and he hosted a car show in our town every General Canby Day (that's the 4th of July for those out of towners).

    Bob has ministries all of the world, and especially strong connections to christian organizations in Israel.

    He was recently hired on as the senior pastor of the Arcade Church, which is hosting updates about his current status.

    Please, please continue to pray for Bob. His gifts are enormous and his work has won thousands to the Lord.

    I'll get back to posting soon enough.

    p.s. It is 5:20 a.m. and I have just gotten back from the hospital. Been there praying. The medications have him unconscious, and his breathing is a little rapid. The respiration therapist says he is really trying hard, working hard, at breathing. He has a slight fever from the infections in his lungs and brain. He is just holding steady right now. It is unclear if he is getting better or worse, but it cannot stay this way long. Soon he will gradually start to get better, or the reverse.

    Please continue to pray!

    Update, Monday

    My friend Bob went home today at 1:00 p.m.

    Wednesday, December 07, 2005


    "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'

    "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' "

    --Matthew 25:19-21

    Dedicated. Bob was a dedicated man. He didn’t do anything in half measures. When he restored a car, it was done, it was restored. Pristine. It purred. He raised (with Jenny of course) his children, making it clear that they were the most important task he would do in his life. As a husband he made certain that when he was with her, he was with her. When they were standing side by side it wasn’t Bob and Jenny. It was BobandJenny. And when he talked about the christian life it was based on solid scripture, not vague references, but exact passages.

    His work was all about the Lord. He traveled all over the nation, all over our world, and I believe every task he put his hand to was about how it may glorify God.

    One lenten season he got us together to walk the surrounding neighborhoods of our church just to leave a little gift and tell folks they were loved.

    Another time he stepped before our congregation and told us we needed to show the people of our community love; that the first step in that direction was to make sure no one
    in our town is hungry. So we started a food pantry in our church. And though the fire shut it down for several months, it recently started up again. That ministry did not fall away. In a way, every sack of groceries carried out to a car from our church is an echo of those challenging words from Bob.

    He taught classes, he spoke with neighbors, and friends, and strangers about the Lord constantly. I was at his house once, shortly after he began his first round of chemo (he looked so different without hair!); he was out in his garage working on a car. There was a rather tall, rather rough looking fellow helping Bob with something. After a while the guy left and Bob told me about this man. This
    embittered widower told Bob he had learned new things about christianity, just by working on cars. Bob had shown him love and companionship. Bob lived the christian life.

    Bob was dedicated.

    Bob knew the Bible. I’m a rather strange sort of guy. My ideas don’t always fall within the box. (A friend once introduced me as a guy who has trouble finding the box.) So it is no surprise that a few times Bob told me he thought I had gotten off track scripturally. I never felt attacked. I felt that he had good reasons to talk to me, and almost every time I changed my point of view because he was so grounded in the Word.

    Once he invited me onto his radio talk show. We did a show on the intersection of faith and science (I am a real science buff). I felt like an honored guest. And during that chat I was impressed at how quickly he saw the implications of things I said. He had a sharp mind.

    During that show he told the listeners he had a sore throat and that is why his voice was a little raspy. He'd had the sore throat for over a week and maybe he would go to the doctor in the next day or so and get it checked. That was the first indication of the cancer.

    Bob’s cancer did not deter him from doing everything he could in working for our Lord. He kept up all of his projects. My favorite "Bob project" was the Classic Car Show at our annual General Canby Days. He and his wife opened their craftsman style house to the public and the street in front (and around each corner) was filled with the coolest cars. BobandJenny showed the love of Christ by being good neighbors. One year he even let me take his '55 Chevy pick up out of the line up so I could use it in the parade.

    On “Fat Tuesday” 2003, as New Orleans was hitting its frenzied peak of Mardi Gras, Bob and his family were a few seats away from me while we watched The Passion of the Christ. I remember their reactions clearly. There wasn’t any conversation in the theater afterwards, but I think we all walked out into the cool Portland evening with the sense that we had shared a significant experience.

    Those are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think about Bob. I wish I could tell you everything about him. About his dogs (bassetts and later a daschund) and the cat he befriended despite his allergies and his love of God-centered worship and the church camping trips and his love of John Wayne movies and his Bible classes and his sermons...

    I prayed a lot that last week of Bob’s life. And to be honest I felt frustration when he died. Didn’t my prayers count? I know, I know, that isn’t how it works. God is not at my beck and call. But it seems that if I pray earnestly, if I am living as a Christ follower, then He should bend the rules now and then if I really, really, really ask. I know this reveals a little immaturity.

    I’m reminded of Job 37 (Job is whining to God and then for the next four chapters the Lord sets him straight). I wanted Bob to be around for a while. I told my Lord (respectfully) that I thought that Bob could still do a lot of good if he were given a few more years. I was trying to make some sort of bargain with what I thought Bob could yet do for God.

    Isn’t that like us? I don’t think God is offended by such requests. Probably more amused. When Abraham is pleading for the cities of Sodom and Gomorra in Genesis 18 there is a sense of playfulness in God’s replies. And that same amusement is echoed when the Lord tells Jonah to lighten up.

    So perhaps I’m a little stubborn. But, in my defense, Bob was a powerful servant of our Lord. And I love his family. I taught his youngest for a year in my language arts class (she just graduated last year). I didn’t want them hurt.

    Well, I'll be honest, I didn't want to hurt. I don’t want to put off any conversations with Bob until the afterlife.

    Perhaps I’m just plain selfish. I loved listening to Bob teach. He had such a great voice, one of those “radio” voices. And he had a way of interacting with people that made them feel close to him.

    The Lord gave him four people, his wife and three children. And he gave the Lord thousands. I know folks usually need many encounters before accepting the Lord, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob helped place thousands of names into the Book of Life.

    So, in terms of the parable of talents excerpted at the top of this post, Bob gave back far more than the four (his family) he was given.

    I have no doubt that among the first words Bob heard when he opened his eyes to glory on Tuesday are “well done good and faithful servant.”

    See you later, Bob.

    Sunday, December 11, 2005

    The Word

    People sometimes look at the Bible as something that got magically placed on the kitchen table when no one was looking. They kind of see it as if God slipped in and just sort of left it there. Some look at this amazing work, the Word of God, and give it an importance that sets it above, outside of their lives; as if it is so sacred we can’t even discuss it... as if to say: “Human beings do all sorts of disgusting things and we shouldn’t taint what is holy by wrestling with it.”

    Too late.

    God created something holy and it didn’t stay that way long. He created us. We were set apart from all of creation as the only beings worthy of walking along side Him and discussing what we think of His creation. He gave us the job of naming His creation. He gave us the directive to husband the Earth. He has given us so many things, and we are so very good at mucking it all up, and the first thing we ruined was that relationship.

    So, when it comes to The Word there are those who feel we shouldn’t look too closely at it for fear of mucking that up too.

    Well folks, it can’t be done. Oh sure, we can corrupt it and warp it and market it and do all sorts of things we shouldn’t. But in the end, it is already out there and it is too late for us to really change anything about it. Done deal. (Thank you Gutenberg!)

    That's not to say there aren't Bibles out there that shouldn’t exist. There are politically correct Bibles, and Bibles that always refer to God in a gender neutral fashion, and Bibles that are careful to tell us that we should never spank our children, and Bibles that replace the word for God with something that suits our particular world view. But there are a lot of good versions out there that are simple, careful translations and that bell can’t be unrung.

    Personally, I feel that there are three testaments to the reality of God. The first (my favorite) is His Word. He gave us the Bible to let us know where things are with Him, and where we stand in relationship to it. The second is His creation. God created this universe and there is nothing in nature that contradicts Him. If we feel that science has discovered something that is in conflict with The Word, then we are mistaken about what The Word is saying, what creation is showing us, or both. The third and final testament is the trickiest. It is the Holy Spirit. Specifically the indwelling of God within the heart of each person who has accepted that Jesus Christ is The LORD God incarnate. This is an area that is to be most suspect because we are so very good at corrupting things and something as close to us as our own heart can be easily swayed.

    But back to the main point: The Bible. I have met folks who feel that the only Bible version worthy of being read is the King James version. I would readily agree that this version is the most beautiful of the English translations, but that has more to do with the state of the English language at the time it was written than about the accuracy of its linguists.

    Case in point (now keep in mind two things: 1, this is highly speculative, but it does provide an interesting place to begin a discussion, and 2, I am frequently wrong about all sorts of things.): When the King James version was underway William Shakespeare was winding down his career. He only wrote one more play. He was getting on in years (in that era reaching 46 was above the average life span). Now, in the 46th year of the bard’s life there is the project going on under the blessings of good King James. A handy connection to Shakespeare and the court already existed (Shakespeare’s troop was sponsored by the king). Take a look at the 46th psalm. The 46th word from the beginning is the word “Shake." Now if one discounts the word “selah” (which is considered a probable liturgical musical direction and not a part of the actual poetry) the 46th word from the end is “spear." Coincidence? Perhaps. But compare the placement of those words to other translations and you will begin to feel that there was a little pushing to make those words fall into those particular spots. Does this make the King James suspect? Not at all. Perhaps one reason this translation is so beautiful is because people such as Shakespeare worked on it.

    This isn’t any sort of proof at all, but it is interesting. I like wrestling with ideas and I find that it makes me stronger. The Bible always wins, but I come out with firmer biblical muscles.

    In modern times we like words to be very specific. The English language is HUGE compared to most other languages, particularly Hebrew. We like things very tidy, very specific, very concrete. This paradigm reflects the love affair of modern culture with science. We want everything well measured, well stated. Look at how much scrutiny a president’s speech undergoes. Every word is examined for its nuances (ad nauseum). We choose words so carefully that we are forgetting how to be poets.

    I don’t feel that the Bible was intended to be placed in the context of bullet points and blueprints of a metaphysical sort. For the most part the Bible is about relationships. It is filled with stories, not mission statements.

    We like things complex, but it doesn’t need to be that way. I like how Jesus put it. He pretty much said “Love God with everything you’ve got, and do that for people too.” It’s simple.

    Now back to how we look at scripture. We often look at that book that appeared miraculously on the kitchen table and think that it was dropped from Heaven with a loud thud that shook the house. But it didn’t.

    Much of it was shared around campfires for a long time before folks (Moses, et al) put pen to paper (or feather to parchment, or stylus to clay, or chisel to stone...). That is the reason there are passages that echo. Folks spoke those words together with the storyteller while the warm light of a campfire danced beneath a starry sky.

    “...and God saw that the _____ was good...” everyone said together.

    “...and there was evening and morning...” everyone called out.

    Stories that are most clearly descended from these campfire tales have such patterns throughout them.

    In the book of Job the two encounters of God and Satan are nearly identical, exhibiting another common storytelling technique.

    “...One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’

    Satan answered the LORD, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’

    Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’

    ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’

    The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’

    Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.”
    --Job 1:6-12

    And then:

    “On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’

    Satan answered the LORD, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’

    Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.’

    ‘Skin for skin!’ Satan replied. ‘A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’

    The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.’

    So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD...”
    --Job 2:1-7

    This is not a responsive part but a simple storytelling technique that gives rhythm and is used by humans in every culture with an oral tradition (you might notice my own fondness for parallelism, which I picked up from listening carefully to J.F.K. and M.L.K. Jr.).

    I think it is important to remember that scripture comes from stories. I think it is important because western culture is so wrapped up in outlines, blueprints, schematics, bullet points, mission statements, step by step instructions, and business plans that we sometimes forget something very important: Relationships.

    We were created to be in a relationship with God. We survive only because of our relationships with each other. Our happiness is often measured by how well we relate to each, and most importantly with our creator.

    I look at the Word of God as something that has meaning for me today. I enjoy reading it critically and wondering about how it was made, what it says and what it doesn’t say. (Who was Lamech and what is the story behind the fragment of the song we see in Genesis 4:23-24? Who inserted verses 18 & 19 in Psalm 51? Which came first, Job 7:17-19 or Psalm 8:3-4?)

    The Bible can seem to be a difficult read for those who are looking for those bullet points and mission statements. But it might be better to look at it as a love story. It is about this amazing being who is the essence of pure love. He creates creatures to share that essence, to experience that relationship. And to make it all fair, and honest, and voluntary, He gives those creatures the ability to say “no.” He gives those creatures chances to sulk and gripe and whine and be selfish. In other words, to experience the incredible joy of love because we choose to love, not because we are constructed to do so.

    The Bible is about this being who creates creatures who reject Him and then He goes to all sorts of lengths to guide them into a position where they can witness just how much He is willing to love, to sacrifice, to restore.

    If we leave the Bible as just something that landed on the kitchen table and we bow to it and debate how it is worded, but miss the message of the relationship it shares, then we are missing the whole point.

    The book of Job is about how much a man is willing to suffer when he knows, I mean really knows that there is a creator who is goodness and love and that things aren’t making sense but he is going to hang in there anyway (this chokes me up. Oh Job! Thank you for hanging in there so I could see how it is done!). The book of Job is about trusting that it is all going to work out because there is a testament in our heart that verifies what The Word says is true, that God is love and that He is turning that powerful gaze upon his creation and yearns that we simply look back and say, “Daddy, I know I’ve been pretty naughty, but I really do love you. Will you just hold me for a little while?”

    The magical mystery of life, at least in my experience, is that He always does.

    Thursday, December 15, 2005


    His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, "Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." This was Job's regular custom.

    Job really loved his kids. He went before the Lord for them regularly, and he certainly saw after their welfare. I think, at least I hope, most parents feel the same way.

    But not all. Not all.

    I’m a middle school teacher and I have seen some pretty bad parents. Actually I have surmised more than I have seen of the really bad ones because those parents usually don’t show up anywhere near school.

    I could share stories, skirting and hiding identities to avoid losing my job, but there are plenty of examples appearing in the news all too regularly.

    Aside from the tangible wreckage these people leave in their children’s lives their actions affect the relationships those growing hearts will have with God. God the Father. If an earthly father is absent, or neglectful, or apathetic, or abusive, it is very difficult for people to believe in the real thing.

    Not impossible. Just difficult.

    For those who have experienced that difficulty it is easy to understand the importance of doing the job right.

    I was afraid of my father... but I still love him. I love my heavenly father, The Father. But sitting here pecking at these keys I realize I also fear my heavenly father. The idea of meeting Him quickens my heart.

    I was speaking with a friend this morning about a story Bob Cryder had told about the Palestinians discovering the Ark of the Covenant under the temple mount (the story tells it was quickly sealed back up). Just the idea of being near that sacred object makes my heart race. It was on that container that God almighty dwelt. He was there as a pillar of fire, and a pillar of smoke. Within that golden chest lies Moses’s staff and the tablets carved by the finger of the almighty God.

    The idea of looking upon The Ark makes me tremble.

    Do I fear God because I feared my father? Probably. But I would probably fear God anyway.

    When I worship on Sunday morns I do so with my eyes tightly shut, knowing that He is listening, that He is accepting my small token of heartfelt vocal offering (as awful as it sounds to human ears). I haven’t had my eyes open during worship for a dozen years. How can I think about anything else when the creator of all things is listening to what I am singing? If singing before your maker doesn’t make you nervous you aren’t thinking it through. (People get nervous before ordinary auditions!)

    Why do I fear my father? Actually, feared, past tense, is more accurate as I live a 1,000 miles from him and I am all grown up now. I feared him because he beat me with a belt, sometimes for things I didn’t do. I feared him because he is untrustworthy. I feared him because more than once he thought about... well...

    Allow me to share.

    My mom and he split up when I was in the third grade.

    When we moved away I missed him. I dreamt he and I shared a bath. He was washing my hair and laughing. It felt so good to be close to him. His loving eyes were set in a strangely red triangular face, framed with a goatee and horns. His barbed tail waved in the background before the doorway to the screened-in balcony were we slept one summer night as a family, overlooking the yard where my brothers and I were cowboys and Indians, pirates and Tarzan and Zorro.

    He was a powerful man. Strong, quick, and he knew so much. He smelled of diesel, grease, grain, and sweat. He was a mysterious giant, a god, and they told me I looked so much like him. I leaned in doorways with my arms folded the way he did, and tried to swagger. And I tried to be powerful, strong, and quick.

    It would probably have been best if that is where my relationship with him ended. As I became a teen I learned how far short of his expectations I fell.

    I couldn’t do anything right. Not for him. I poured too much oil in the truck. I couldn’t pick up a hubcap stuck in a pile of dirt with the track loader racing over it at full throttle. I couldn’t find a date (“I think the kid’s a fawking homosexual!”). I couldn’t even pick up sticks and debris right (“Get back to work! I want to see nothing but azzholes and elbows!”).

    My father loved me. I think he was just disappointed. I read too much for him. Or talked too much. Or thought too much. Perhaps the first-born should be different. Mike was agile enough, mechanical enough, more libido-driven.

    In our teens Dad did share a dream of his with us, and so we built, Dad and us three boys, the Gxxxxxxxf Ranch. Too bad we lost it to Mom and my stepfather for back child support.

    There were a couple of strange incidents after we moved under his roof. Once, in San Clemente, an old tall house was coming down so that a new tall house could stand on long stilt-like toes on the cliff’s edge, to better peer at the crashing surf below.

    Dad made a living crushing things with big yellow machines while we kept the dust down with fire hoses. Between loading trucks with debris we horsed around.

    Mike and I played with the fire hoses to keep cool while my dad mixed screwdrivers. I was taking a nap when a shaft of water from the three inch line woke me, pushed me, and finally knocked me off my feet. We laughed and I plotted revenge.

    After lunch Dad started the loader and yelled for us to grab the bucket. Mike and I jumped to catch the edge of the dinosaur-like machine, its neck stretched out level, its jaws closed. It raised up; our bodies swung against its cool metal chin while the ground dropped away. I had grabbed the sharp cutting edge and shifted quickly to a rounded metal tooth. Gently the bucket rolled downward until we could see him at the controls, laughing, cheering us for our strength.

    The machine clanked slowly forward; he was watching us carefully to see if we were weakening. He looked proud of us. We watched the ground roll beneath our feet, then the rocky cliff edge, and suddenly, the vertical slope embracing open space, the surf fifty feet below. Under us sea gulls were dancing on foaming water.

    Dad had a thin, hard smile. Mike and I glanced at each other. This was hard!

    Slowly the bucket tipped forward, its front edge lowering to dump. The bucket’s interior turned from a shelf to a downward slope. When the level was greater than 45 degrees dirt slid out, dusting Mike and me as we clung to the metal teeth of the steel-jawed monster. Dad was no longer smiling.

    There was a quick up and down shake; we held on. The cramping in my fingers throbbed to the silent screaming in my mind. Neither Mike nor I yelled. Abruptly the bucket tipped back up, and the mechanical dragon retreated to the pile of crushed house waiting for the truck to return from the dump.

    So I tremble when I think of God.

    But I love Him with all of my heart.

    And I love my children gently.

    Saturday, December 17, 2005

    Dear Lord...

    My Lord...
    Do not listen to my bravado...
    Do not let me glory in things that are small...
    Like who I am and what I have done.
    Do not leave me with myself,

    For I am a speck of self-important dust.

    My Lord...
    Hear my prayers begging to serve...
    Let me glory in things that are great...
    Like who You are and what You have done.
    Press me close to You,

    For You made Yourself small to tell me I am loved.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    Dancing in the Wind

    He answered, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, 'Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.' But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."
    --2 Samuel 12:22-23

    It’s cold. The wind is whipping around my coat’s hood and it makes my eyes water. (It’s only the wind doing that.)

    There is a Civil War vet buried here at Zion Memorial Cemetery, not so common in the Pacific Northwest. The old section of the graveyard has ornate, sometimes tall, stones. The moss and lichen worked at them for over a hundred years, making it difficult reading. There aren’t a lot of things around that old. Native American petraglyphs, some trees, this cemetery.

    The stones tell stories. There is the row of five stones by the sexton’s house. The three children dying within two weeks. The father two weeks after they were buried. The mother, 25 years later. She had caught tuberculosis and went to live in a tent while he,
    in an attempt to keep their children safe, burned their belongings. It didn’t help. They became sick. They died. He died. And she lived on another quarter century in an empty house.

    There is the story behind the stone I always stop to read.

    William David Greenleaf
    Our Treasure
    August 30 -December 15, 1992

    That was a difficult day.

    Man, it’s cold out!

    I’ve been thinking about this blog. I’ve been thinking about suffering. About disease and hurricanes and wars and earthquakes and tsunamis. I’ve been thinking about parents holding their dead children. I’ve been thinking about Job.

    Life is hard.

    Sometimes life sucks.

    I always feel a little blue this time of year. I shove it aside and work at being all that is right about Christmas for my children. But I feel a little blue.

    That is OK.

    The Book of Job is about suffering and I continue to grow in my understanding of the book and its message.

    Sometimes pain and grief is a throbbing sharp spiky thing that one doesn’t know how to hold. Other times it is a wind that blows across great distances, over mountains and snow and whips around the edge of your tightly drawn hood to sting your eyes.

    I’m turning 50 this spring. Once I thought that was old. But it doesn’t seem so old anymore. It isn’t as old as it used to be.

    I don’t mind the salt and pepper beard or the wrinkles (more laughter wrinkles than anything else). I actually like some things about this whole process. I like growing up.

    It seems to me that I am beginning to see what I am becoming. Within 20 or 30 years I will finally get what I need from this life. I will have matured in my faith to the point where I will be ready for eternity.

    Isn’t that amazing?! By the time my life is spent I will reach the point where I am most able to understand what it is all about. (I need to listen to those elders who still find joy in life and learn from them.)

    This past year was another watershed year for me. I grew.

    And I learned to dance. Not anything fancy, nothing that involves a mortal partner. But inside I feel giddy. I love the Lord my God so much! I love to sing to Him, to pray to Him, to read of Him. I find my heart dancing.

    The events of the fire were difficult. And the passing of some wonderful people (Tom S. and Bob C. and others...) was sad. There were physical problems (my back, my skin, etc.).

    I have had some difficulties in my life. Some I haven't shared, many I have. But I look at them and I see how I have changed and grown and I love my Lord so much. Sorrow, grief, struggles, are all part of the arrangement that comes with free will. We need to accept the consequences of the freedom to choose our way over the Lord's. A fascinating side effect is that through such difficult times we grow.

    I have a long way to go, but I am comfortable with my age and I can see that by the time I am old I will have finally gotten the hang of what this life is all about. I will be ready for eternity. And I think that is the key to understanding all of this. This life is a preparatory experience. It is simply a warm up lap for eternity.

    I'm going to finish this lap dancing.

    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    The Christmas Gift

    Poor Job. How frustrating to have lived in a time when all that was shared with mankind was the law of the Lord. Grace was yet to come.

    All he had was the law and it didn’t make sense. No one could obey every law (though Job did far better than most). What happened to him seemed an unclear punishment for an unclear crime.

    Very confusing.

    We still get confused. We want everything to make sense. We want the events of our lives to be part of a balanced universe, everything clear, everything fair. The good are to be rewarded and the unjust are to be punished.

    Sometimes things just don't seem fair.

    For many it gets a little harder during this time of the year.

    Donald Miller shares in Searching For God Knows What the idea that we are wired for a relationship with God, and since that is screwed up we seek our identity in each other. He argues that we need to understand who we are by what people think of us, by what we own, what we wear, what we drive. We find our value and honor in how we are treated, especially by those who know us. We place higher personal stock in those close to us, and when they fail us, it costs us more.

    We are all so needy (and generally we need much more than we give). That is why there is an inherent imbalance in human relationships. We demand recognition of who we are without giving that recognition to others.

    There is an infinite source of affirmation through God. But our selfishness shoves Him aside, and we feel the lack.

    There are other reasons people feel blue during Christmas. It is such a big emotional investment. We build up expectations for ourselves, for others, for a sense of peace and love and belonging. We set ourselves up for failure because we aren't creatures where such things come naturally. Additionally, the length of the season creates huge expectations. From Thanksgiving to New Year's is a very long time to bank on the universe playing fair.

    When we are hurt during this extended season, especially by the loss of someone close to us, the memory of that loss taints the future seasons as well.

    I cannot get a Christmas tree without remembering the first tree I got for my first child... on the morning he died. The sight of that tree leaning on the front porch while police and medics and friends came and went is still clear in my mind's eye.

    Many people experience a Christmas when someone close is suddenly not there (Father, bless the Cryders and the Sawyers, may they feel You near). It leaves reminders for years to come. Old wounds throb to the beat of "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night".

    We are simple yet complex creatures. We are not ruled by our minds. We are ruled by our desires, our hearts, our animal natures, our selfishness...

    It is in setting ourselves aside that we are elevated. It is in being a servant to others that we are exalted. The greatest servant of all time was the incarnation of God who made Himself nothing so that He could love all.

    What an amazing thought! A being of pure love who wanted to share His love with others so much He permitted His own creation to spit on Him, to beat Him, to torture Him, to murder Him.

    It is a bluish Christmas for many because humanity has an empty spot. Not just an empty spot where a loved one was, but the empty spot that lies within each human being, even the ones surrounded by adoring sycophants.

    As long as we stare at that empty spot we will feel empty. But when we turn away from ourselves, we are filled.

    What care He must have for us, what love, that He would set aside His omniscience, His relationship with the trinity, so that he might crawl into creation through the womb of a young woman, learn to walk, go through growing pains and acne and feet that are suddenly too large and voice changes and rejection from those He loved, so that He might bring us into that relationship with our creator.

    We tend to think about gifts at Christmas. What a wonder that Christmas began with the greatest gift of all! The gift of a love relationship that is always true, always faithful, always there.

    If you have stumbled onto this blog and haven’t accepted that gift, if you don’t feel it or understand what I’m talking about, leave me a comment so that you and I can find another way to chat. Let me share with you personally what He wants you to have this Christmas. He wants you to be loved... f o r e v e r.

    Merry Christmas, all of you!

    Sunday, December 25, 2005

    New Job Blog

    I have created a blog to help folks understand the structure of the Book of Job. If any of you are interested, you can find it here.

    Also, you can read this blog (Job's Tale) from the start by going here.

    Merry Christmas!

    Monday, December 26, 2005

    What's the Point?!

    What is the point of the Book of Job? That the innocent suffer? That the Lord simply picks on people? That sometimes friends and wives are wrong or that Satan is on the prowl?

    I think a simple answer to that complex question is that the Book of Job simply shows us how to endure.

    A couple of months after my first child died I was walking our dog in a large state park. I met a man. A man grieving.

    He was sitting on a rock, gazing at the Willamette river. There were furrows in his brow, and a pain in his eyes that had been there a long time. His was the kind of internal pain that one sometimes sees in people that says that they are hurting, that they are tired of talking about it, but would still like some company... someone to sit beside them and provide a connection to the rest of the human race.

    I let my German short hair, Elvis, frolic while I struck up a gentle conversation.

    Though he was obviously tired of grieving, he couldn’t help sharing his story once again.

    Therefore I will not keep silent;
    I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
    I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
    --Job 7:11

    His wife and son had died. Car accident. He had been attending a church for years when it happened. He questioned... everything.

    Does it please you to oppress me,
    to spurn the work of your hands,
    while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?
    --Job 7:3

    So this man, sitting above the winter-swollen river in the third year of his grief, told me, a man in his second month of grief, that he had not walked into a church again.

    I came away from that conversation wondering many things. I thought about 1 Corinthians 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.

    Was this man given more than he could bear? What of my own fresh grief? Should I walk away from the Lord? I had just found my way back into a church after almost ten years and this is how I am rewarded? With my hopes and dreams shattered? This man’s abandoning of God seemed to say that I would be justified to curse the Lord.

    “His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"
    --Job 2:9

    Is that what I should do? I told the man about my son Willy, and that I was still going to church. He looked at me sadly, like I was a fool.

    Since that day I have met many others who are grieving. Each one approaches their hurt uniquely.

    I never tell anyone that I understand what they are going through. We are all different. Even identical events will feel different for each of us.

    I remember another man I had met in the same park the week before the gentleman mentioned above. He told me that he understood what I was going through. He explained that a couple of months before a dog he loved died. I was astounded he would make such a comparison. I made some sort of small sympathetic reply and walked on.

    No, we don’t know how anyone else really feels, really experiences their lives... but we can see what they do in those dark times.

    Some walk away. Some stand and hold firm to the Lord.

    That is what Job did. He stood his ground.

    As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit.
    Job 27:2-4

    And that is the point of the Book of Job. It isn’t about the why’s and the how’s. It is about standing true. Job was a good man. The Lord was pointing out that He could rely on His servant Job to stand firm in his faith regardless of what happens. Satan believes that the things of the earth are what make people what they are. His point is that how many employees a man has, how much livestock he owns, the blessings of children, his health, those are the things that make a man what he is. The Lord holds that it is something deeper, something intrinsic to the man himself.

    The Book of Job is about how to suffer.

    This life is a brief gig. The whole thing runs its course in less than a century. But what we learn here, and what we do here, is far more important than what we buy here, or what we drive here, or who we know, or how many times our names have appeared in the paper.

    The whole point is how well we follow these two basic laws:

    He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "
    --Luke 10:27

    Stand firm. Stand true. That is the point of the Book of Job.

    Thursday, December 29, 2005

    Do You Believe in the Tooth Fairy?

    I swallowed my tooth. I was in the first grade and I swallowed my tooth. It was a front tooth and I was looking forward to putting it under my pillow for the Tooth Fairy and I was eating a peanut butter sandwich and I swallowed it. Very traumatic.

    My mom was sweet about it. She said that the Tooth Fairy would understand if I wrote her a letter. So I did. It went something like this:

    Deer TOOTH FAiRY I Ate MY TooTH. Sorry. CAN I STill geT Money? What do YOU dO WiTH all the TEETH?

    The next morning there was a nickel under my pillow and a note in very beautiful, flowing tooth fairyish script:

    Dear Will
    Thank you for your letter. I know you take good care of your teeth and I am sorry you swallowed the tooth. Here is a little money for being a good boy. I collect the teeth and my tooth elves turn them into billiard balls.
    the Tooth Fairy.

    I loved the Tooth Fairy. She was so nice to me. I also loved the Easter Bunny, and the Sand Man, and Uncle Sam, and Santa Claus, and Jesus. Just because I had never seen any of them didn’t mean they didn’t exist. I knew they were real. (I even had a letter!)

    The Sand Man was the first to go. Mom said if I pretended to be sleepy I could catch him. Never happened. I realized it was like the time she told me that I could catch birds by sprinkling salt on their tails. It kept me busy. It didn’t take long to figure out that Uncle Sam was a symbol, an Abe Lincoln in a colorful suit. Then the Easter Bunny hopped off to join him since I helped color the eggs, Mom hid them, and I saw her buy the baskets... Reluctantly, Santa was next. I didn’t want to give him up. But the elaborate evidence had too many holes in the logic. I was afraid to admit my parents played his role; then they would be off the hook for presents. Kids can be very practical sometimes.

    At some point I began to wonder about Jesus. Perhaps the Holy Spirit was first, then Jesus. I hadn’t seen either of them as a speaker at school or on tv (except in movies where it was obvious that someone was just playing the part).

    There were conversion events in my life. At thirteen. A renewal at fifteen. But there were periods when I wondered. After all, there are a lot of precedents that not all things magical truly exist.

    This isn’t true in nonwestern cultures. In India there is a strong belief in the supernatural to the point where the pantheon of hindu deities is enormous. My two year stint in a yogic ashram taught me about Ganesha, and Hanuman, and Shiva, and especially Kali (she still makes me shudder... I’d rather not talk about it).

    In indigenous peoples all over the world there is a strong belief in animism, reality is interwoven with the supernatural as a part of daily life.

    Not so in western society. We are too sophisticated. We like things orderly and if we dabble in mysticism it is usually the trendy sort. You know, Madonna studies the Kabbala, or those who read Mother Earth News and eat only organic foods and buy lots of crystals and talk endlessly about Gaia. Trendy. Like smoking cigars a few years ago, or driving a Hummer. There is a political correctness view of mysticism that says that it’s all good and that if you want to worship something, anything, then you have the right to it (while at the same time it is a little skeptical of anything promoted by the male-oriented, male-dominated socieities of the past, such as chrisitanity).

    But in general, we don’t want to believe in things that are supernatural, especially if it is serious and not very trendy.

    I am a Christ Follower. I prefer that term to Christian as the label Christian is thrown at everything from Santa Claus to western society. Being a Christian for many folks is no more challenging that being a member of the Rotary Club. And for many it serves the same purpose. I am a Christ Follower. That means it costs me something. Something I gladly pay. It costs me... everything. All I have I give to Him.

    It isn’t trendy. It means that I believe in the Word of God. If it is in the Bible, I have to accept it. That isn’t always a comfortable thing. But I want my faith to be bigger than me, to challenge me. Otherwise I may as well worship a Chia Pet.

    According to the Bible the world is filled with the supernatural. (I don’t really like that word because it implies that there are things outside of nature, and if God made it, it is part of reality, it is natural.)

    Take the Book of Job. It is filled with things that cannot be proven by science. Things that cannot be tested in a lab, or photographed by the Hubble telescope. In Job there are two scenes that take place in Heaven, a realm that is not to be found anywhere on the 197,000,000 square miles of our planet.

    In Job there are heavenly beings. There is the Lord God almighty. There are angels. There is Satan. We are told that Satan roams the earth (like some sort of predator). Later the Lord speaks to Job, and to Eliphaz (Job’s best friend).

    So why don’t we hear much about Satan anymore?

    I think the answer is simple. We have turned him into Santa Claus. Satan doesn’t need to do much in our society. We do it for him, in this place where everything goes and it is all good. Now and then I think he (or one of his minions) simply whispers that the idea of the embodiment of evil, of a malevolent supernatural force that opposes all that is good, is absurd. That we don’t really believe in that stuff. No, as a society we swallow all sorts of pap that has to do with God within all things and that whether we worship Gaia or Ganesha or the image of Elvis in a Graham Cracker it is all good.

    But there is a malevolent force to the universe and if we want to pretend it doesn’t exist, that is just fine with him. Just as surely as there is a negative as well as a positive charge to the flow of electricity, just as certainly as there are north and south magnetic poles, just as reliably as there are opposing atomic forces, there is a light and darkness that has nothing to do with photons.

    I’ve seen it.

    I have had experiences that make this dark reality clear to me. I have had experiences in my home that frightened me (though it wasn’t as bad to face as I had feared). But even without the experiences, the same part of me that recognizes the reality of the Lord tells me that there is something lurking in the dark.

    I have had conversations with my kids about Santa Claus. I have talked about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. I explained their histories and why parents say that stuff to kids. And I have talked to them about God the Father, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and Satan.

    So the two points I want to make are this: First, as parents we need to be certain that the amusing little fables we tell our children do not lead them away from truth. Secondly, we need to accept all of the truth as well. That includes the acceptance of darkness in the world as well as light and what it costs to believe.

    Monday, January 02, 2006


    He was funny. He had the giggles all afternoon and while we listened he told a string of jokes. He’d start a joke and giggle a little, tell a little more and chuckle, tell a little more and start to laugh. We were all smiling and laughing long before he got to the point where he could gasp out a punch line.

    I was on a journey, inspired by other journeys, and I had found a treasure that afternoon. Encircled by hippies and locals, Red Skelton sat on the side of the hot spring pool, dangling his feet in the warm water and cracking jokes. His wife kept bringing him drinks from the rv.

    The guy could tell a joke. I can’t help but have a big grin on my face as I sit here typing, remembering the funniest man I ever met.

    I was hiking and hitch hiking. The Pacific Crest Trail, the John Muir Trail, highway 101, highway 99, I-5... from Canada to Mexico, Yosemite to Crater Lake... I was a-roamin’. It was late in the summer of 1974 (or was it ‘75?) and I had a copy of Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan, Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar, and Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons in my backpack, atop the box of Bisquick and under a pair of Levi’s. I was on a Kerouac-inspired adventure discovering who I was and being as non-conformist as possible. You see, I’m from the near side of the baby boom bell curve and I missed out on most of the real hippie stuff and I was trying to catch up. It was a good time to be eighteen.

    There was fifteen or so fellow travelers watching the live and in color version of the man from the golden age of television, and we laughed so hard for so long that afternoon our cheeks hurt, our sides ached.

    Red had this great big grin that told you that life is good, that laughter is good, that being human was about breathing joy. He was an icon of Americana, as much a part of American culture as Norman Rockwell and Mark Twain. I felt like I had found a big piece of America, a laughing national treasure. I laughed until I hurt.

    There is something about laughter that makes us feel wonderful. There is something about that giddy joy we feel that tells us that the world is wonderful and that life is good, and perhaps there is a God despite the sorrows we often feel. Because anything that makes us feel that good feels like some sort of a gift, some sort of magic that the universe has given us. I believe that to be entirely accurate. Because the universe is held together by a being of love who has a wonderful sense of humor.

    The Bible has a lot of humor in it. One of my favorite parts is when Jonah is sulking and the Lord starts poking fun at him:

    But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, "O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

    But the LORD replied, "Have you any right to be angry?"

    Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, "It would be better for me to die than to live."

    But God said to Jonah, "Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?"

    "I do," he said. "I am angry enough to die."

    But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?" --Jonah 4

    Here is this cantankerous guy sulking before God. “I’m so ticked off! I knew You would do this, that You would go ahead and forgive these turkeys. I just wanna die!!!”

    What does God do? He starts poking fun at him! He creates shade, and then brings up a hot wind, removes the shade, and practically starts poking him in the ribs... “Oh, poor little Jonah... doesn’t have his shade any more... What about all those poor confused people who don’t know nuthin’ and all their widdle animals?! Think about the baby animals!!!”

    I get the impression that when Sarah laughs (overhearing she will have a child in her old age) and the Lord hears her, there is a sense of playfulness in His reply. She denies laughing (now rightfully fearful of the Lord) and He chides: “Yes you did!” They named the child Isaac, it means “laughter.”

    Later, when the Lord talks about the evil of Sodom and Gomorra and Abraham begins to barter, there is a sense of tolerance and playfulness as the Lord “deals” with His servant. The Lord knows exactly what will happen, and the depth of the sin of those cities. But He spends a few moments playing with Abraham, almost as if He is at some sort of auction, letting Abraham get his way, to a point.

    And that makes a lot of sense. I know the Lord is playful. I know that sometimes when I feel close to Him I feel joyful, happy, I want to laugh, I want to dance. I often feel that way when I worship.

    The events of this past summer were difficult. But there was a point that while I felt dark forces astir the Lord was with me and a dangerous situation turned comical.

    Even in the Book of Job, a very serious sort of tale, there are hints that joy and laughter are a part of what is good and right about living. Job’s children gathered frequently to enjoy each other’s company. Even the Lord speaks of laughter, about joy, in the book of Job, how the living things He created enjoy what they are.

    Some may think that being a follower of Christ means being very serious all of the time. I admit many Christians never seem to smile. I think they are missing out on something. I think that they are missing a playfulness and enjoyment of life that the Lord wants us all to have.

    My friend Tom Sawyer (yes that was really his name, he used to joke about it and sometimes introduce himself as Huck Finn) had a joy of living that was contagious. He passed away this past year, a spry retired missionary who was quick witted, kind, and full of laughter. That is the way the Lord wants us to live. Serious when needful, and dancing our lives toward Him with joy in our hearts.

    My concordance indicates that the word “joy” appears 168 times in the Bible. “Joyful”, "joyfully”, "joyfulness”, and “joyous” 35 times. It would seem that joy is a part of what it is to be human.

    As I grow in the Lord I find that joy growing as well. There is a part of me that feels younger than I have in a very long time. I believe that is a part of who and what God is, the emotions we call happiness and joy. I believe that many of the things that make us special: creativity, love, forgiveness, kindness, tenderness, and joy, are there because we are created in His image and as we draw closer to Him, we reflect those qualities all the more. They make us feel good because they are good.

    I have sometimes felt those things to be distant. They are closer now because He is closer, or more accurately, I am closer to Him.

    This summer I found myself laughing harder and more frequently than ever before. It is a very good thing.

    Sunday, January 08, 2006


    This weekend I have a team of six students going to a robotics tournament. It’s pretty cool. I am a novice robotics coach, meaning this is my first year. I was told it was nuts to try to manage four teams (and it is) but I did it and all four teams did very well at the local tournament (each earned a trophy, and one is going to the state tournament!).

    It was thrilling to watch the kids. They had to do a six minute presentation on an aspect of real world aquatic robots to a group of judges, as well as explain their engineering and programming decisions to another panel. They needed to demonstrate their problem solving abilities, and think on the fly to solve the problems that crept up. The most exciting part was the competitions. They went up against other teams in a two minute thirty second race to earn as many points as possible, performing various missions on the challenge field.

    It is good for the kids. They are saying things about how they learned to work as a team, how they learned about researching, and engineering, and programming. And they had such a good time. Picture me gripping four trophies while my students dance around me shouting, high fiving, cheering.

    We have a challenge table (this year’s theme is ocean-related) and the kids decide which of the nine missions they wish to attempt. Then they design, build, and program a versatile robot to do them.

    What I like about it besides the educational values and the team building, is the concrete sequential thinking it forces the kids to do. Thinking through the sequence of logic and programming commands is good for them. Middle schoolers are pretty random. Random does not work with robots.

    If a robot fails to do as they expect, they go back, look at the programming, and see exactly what they told the robot to do, step by step. The robot hasn’t any preferences, it doesn’t think, or want. It is doing precisely as it was programmed to do.

    Unlike people. We are unpredictable. I think God wanted it that way.

    It is true we often fail. Nearly continuously. But we have choices, and that is as it should be. God gave us choices from the start.

    The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Genesis 2:15-17


    We usually choose wrong.

    The point is to be willing to set ourselves aside and be obedient to the Lord. This isn’t to say we are to be puppets. We aren’t to pray over every detail and anguish whether or not it is God‘s will. Usually it is clear enough. If we are to love the Lord with all we’ve got, and love each other the same way, it is usually easy to see what we are to do. It flows from who we are, what our skills are, what we can do for others.

    I know how to put together little videos, and if I am asked to do something like that for our church, or for someone who really needs it, I am happy to do it. But being a servant does not mean always trying to do everything that comes along.

    For example, I was asked if I would be a “greeter” at our church. Somehow it felt awkward. There was an immediate sense that I had to find a way to kindly say “no." Why? Another time I was asked if I would be willing to be placed on the usher schedule, assisting every other month or so with those duties. Again I felt a slight hesitation in my heart. My first impulse is to say “yes," why was I hesitating? I believe that each time it was the Holy Spirit guiding me. It turns out that I have been rather busy at the times those duties would have been performed, doing something for Him. Even though it is a small task, it fills my heart. That is the Holy Spirit telling me that I am doing what I should be doing.

    There are times when there isn’t any sort of real feeling, one way or another. The last few months I have been leading a Sunday School class that discusses the sermon we had just heard (those sermons are posted on a blog linked on the left). I never felt a lot of passion one way or the other about that class. It was not an unpleasant task, it was not an enrapturing one either. There are times when I am simply working for my Lord, doing His will, even though He has not specifically pulled my strings in the process. Perhaps He knew I would do it, that the discussions there would be pleasing to Him, He didn’t need to tug me anywhere.

    I might be teaching a different class, starting next month. Now this is something I feel a hearty excitement over. I know I am supposed to say “yes” to this. You may notice I didn’t say the Lord wants me to teach it. It may be that something will come up, the plans may change. But I believe that for now, the saying “yes” is what I am supposed to do.

    That may sound a little confusing. Let me give another example of a “yes” that didn’t make sense.

    When I was going to a junior college, getting a transfer degree on the long road toward my teaching credentials, I was carpooling with someone from my small town.

    One day she asked me if I wanted to adopt a child, a pregnant teenager's. I instantly said “yes.” I quickly added that I would have to talk to my wife, but the prompting to say “yes” was very strong.

    There were confirmations for that decision. There were miracles in that story. Again and again things fell into place. Again and again financing became available for things we couldn’t afford. Again and again I found things guiding me, teaching me, preparing me for the bringing home of that child born on my wife's birthday. I had a dream that clearly told me to go ahead when it got close to the actual adoption.

    Now it would seem that the decision to adopt a child who would die three months later was a mistake. It wasn’t. That adoption was a great "first run" for us. It taught us the ins and outs of adoption, so we were ready for a later adoption that was interstate as well as international. It prepared us for the processes of home studies and state agencies and attorneys and background checks. And it prepared our hearts for fully loving children who entered our homes with luggage.

    It prepared my heart for many other tasks as well (including this blog), such as helping those who grieve, or those who yearn for children, or simply loving more deeply. I found a broken heart can heal larger.

    It was a good choice, adopting Willy.

    I usually choose wrong.

    My tendency is to do things that make me feel good, or make me look good, or make me comfortable. I am a selfish person. I am sinful. Anytime I think about anything before God or others I am sinning.

    It is typical. People think first about themselves all of the time. I think the whole point in getting older is to grow out of that tendency. I don’t think we need to pray that the Lord gives us a parking spot by the mall entrance. We needn’t think about ourselves to that extent. We should be concerned over what He wants to do in us, not that we get every little perk that comes in life. I think we should pray the parking spot opens up for someone who recently hurt her ankle.

    We are born into the world thinking we are the center of the universe. “Feed me! Change me! Play with me!” An infant’s desires are a demand that the universe recognize how important he is.

    Then we learn to play along side each other, permitting others to share our toys. Gradually we learn to play with each other, then as a team. Sooner or later we learn that to woo a mate we need to place another person’s wishes before our own (at least temporarily). If we don’t stop our maturing there we begin to learn how to do it earnestly, consistently. If we keep going we can become one of those gifted people who mature to the point where they are always searching for ways to become more obedient to the Lord’s will (Lord do that in me!), which is to love Him with all we’ve got and share that love with each other.

    Now the Lord didn’t have to make us that way. He could have created beings that were strictly obedient (and perhaps he did), but the opportunity to fail in our choices must make our right choices even more pleasing to Him.

    He designed us to love. He wired that in... to love our children, our spouses, and perhaps to let that grow to include loving many other people and things, such a beauty, and grace, and sacrifice, and servanthood.

    We weren’t programmed to follow a strict concrete sequential code of instructions. We aren’t robots on a challenge board scurrying about, blindly seeking to complete our missions.

    I think in our bumbling attempts to follow Him, to follow the right instructions through all of our choices, we can please Him greatly. That is when we love one another, just as we were designed to do.

    Sunday, January 15, 2006


    “...Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so...”

    It is a wonderful thing to be so loved. For those who know Him it is... well... wonderful.

    I’m a bit of a softy, I guess. And foolish.

    I have other faults. I am self-centered, self-important, a know-it-all, an attention-seeking man who doesn’t see the beauty in others that I am commanded to see. And I am far too casual about my Lord.


    “Who is Aslan?” asked Susan.

    “Aslan?” said Mr. Beaver. “Why don’t you know? He’s the King... he’ll settle the White Queen all right...”

    “She won’t turn him into stone too?” said Edmund.

    “Lord love you, Son of Adam, what a simple thing to say!” answered Mr. Beaver with a great laugh. “Turn him into stone? If she can stand on her two feet and look him in the face it’ll be the most she can do and more than I expect of her...”

    “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

    “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver... "Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”

    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


    There is a weakness to my faith. Our faith. We make God safe. He isn't.

    The Jews understood that. When one lives under The Law it is a terrifying thing to know you will be judged against a supernatural code of conduct.

    Christians have the luxury of being less worried. You see, we are not being held accountable for all we do. We are adopted into a relationship with our creator under the covering, the cloak of Jesus. Regardless of our sins He will welcome us home, as long as we claim that covering. The thing I should remember is that to cling to His cloak with filthy unrepentant hands and not try to honor His sacrifice with changes in my life is an embarrassment to my big brother. He is placed in the position of presenting me to the Father and saying, "Yes Father, this one too."

    You see, God, the triune God encompassing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, welcomes us into a relationship under the grace of Jesus' sacrifice, His love.

    I don't think He has a choice. He is by nature love. He may be displeased with us, He may be disappointed, saddened, and hurt (even physically hurt, 2,000 years ago), but He loves us because that is who He is.

    We are adopted into His family. In Roman times a man could disown his child, unless that child was adopted. It was reasoned that adoption was an intentional act. An adopted child was a member of the family, forever.

    Jesus understood adoption. He was adopted.

    Joseph showed his adopted son how to hold a saw, how to swing a hammer. Mary's husband showed his adopted son how to hold a piece of wood so it wouldn't slip, so the blade wouldn't jump onto an unprotected thumb. He showed Him what it meant for a man of integrity to take a child that wasn't of his blood, his flesh, and love him, raise him.

    That is what Jesus has done for all of us, and that love makes us all feel very warm. So warm and comfortable that we might sometimes forget that to love God is also to fear Him.

    There are types of fear. I'm not talking about the fear of earthquakes or lions (and neither was Mr. Beaver). I'm talking about the numinous feeling of recognizing that the Lord God almighty is a being of infinite power and glory and that I am a mortal.

    When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!"
    And Moses said, "Here I am."
    "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
    --Genesis 3:4-6

    Do you ever feel like you should hide your face? I do. Sometimes, when I worship. Sometimes when I worship I do hide my face.

    When I really turn my thoughts to who the Lord God is, I tremble. At this moment, as I type, my heart is starting to beat faster.

    Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
    --Genesis 3:7,8

    I don't think they were hiding just out of a sense of modesty. I think Adam knew he had become something different. He knew he was no longer a creature who could walk with the Lord, who could talk to the Lord God Almighty. He knew that to look upon God in his fallen state was to be destroyed.

    Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory."
    And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.
    --Exodus 33:17-20

    But because we know that Jesus loves us, we feel we can walk right up to God and have a casual conversation. And it is true, we can. Because the Lord God Almighty, the Living Word, ...Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Phillipians 2:5-8)

    And so I swagger where I should fall on my face, I strut when I should kneel. Because I have been adopted into a sacred family and I can claim entry through the name of my big brother, Jesus Christ, messiah, savior, friend, I sometimes forget that the universe is held together by a being of infinite love, and power, and grace.

    I am an intensely curious person and I love to learn things (I am a resource of vast amounts of useless information). And the weakness that brings out in me is the foolish view that I know more than I do. But the fact that I am constantly learning new details about things I already know proves my knowledge is, and always will be, incomplete.

    And that is just in the arena of information. What do I know about things that matter? What do I know about the heart? Even my own heart is a fickle thing that cannot love as steadily as my Lord's. What do I know of compassion? Even my own giving does not include all that I know that I can do, for I know that even on the nearby isle of my children's birth, there are children starving, children going blind for lack of nutrition (I confess Lord, I sometimes love a Starbuck's mocha more than a suffering child). What do I know of grace? Even when I forgive someone a wrong they have done me, even though I keep that forgiveness a secret, in my own heart I puff myself up, thinking that I am noble, good.

    Have you seen a styrofoam cup that has been put in a net outside a submarine and taken to 5,000 feet below the ocean's surface? Under pressure it shrinks as much as 1/20th its usual size. My heart, as big and puffed up as I pretend it to be, is little more than a shriveled organ faintly echoing the heart my Lord wants me to have.

    Where is my fear, my numinous awe? What would I do if I were transported back to ancient Israel and dared to enter the Holy of Holies? What would I do if I laid my eyes on the Ark of the Covenant, the spot upon which God's presence rested?

    God is not safe. He loves me, and He is not safe. I know it for a truth.

    Walk somewhere grand, where the work of God's creation is evident, and open your heart to it. Stand on the moss-carpeted floor of the Redwood Forest, gaze across the dizzying void of the Grand Canyon, find a quiet place in Yosemite to watch a rainbow dance above a waterfall as you look through the mist at the half dome and tremble at what your heart is whispering.

    The Lord God Almighty isn't safe. But He is good.

    I look into my heart, and I can feel Him.

    Lord, I repent, and I remove my sandals.

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    Why He did it

    My son Isaac asked me last night: “Why did Jesus have to die? Couldn’t He have just found another way to make things work out?”

    He was implying that since Jesus is God, He could do anything He wants. Why did He have to suffer?

    Good question.

    First, it is inaccurate to say that God can do anything. He can’t.

    When we say that God can do anything, there is a hidden assumption. What we mean is God can do anything that is intrinsically part of who He is. He cannot do anything that is self-contradictory.

    God cannot sin.

    God cannot deceive.

    God cannot do anything that is not within His character.

    A silly comedian posed this silly question: “Can God create a rock so big He can’t move it?” First, rocks can only get so large before they can no longer be called rocks. At some point they become worlds, or stars, or black holes.
    (A world has mass enough to pull itself into a sphere. A sun has enough mass for a fusion reaction. A black hole is massive enough that light cannot escape its gravity.) The rational answer to the silly question is “Yes, no, and haven't you something better to do?"

    He can create anything, and "movement" is only movement in relation to other objects, and everything is in motion. God can move the universe. Is that big enough for you?”

    God has qualities that are constant, true, and reliable. He cannot be other than who He is. He can love. He can forgive. He can create anything that fits within the laws that He maintains.

    A man once asked God who He is. The amazingingly poetic, unbelievably intense, incredibly powerful answer was “I am.”

    So... could He have rescued us from ourselves without suffering?


    And no.

    I told Isaac that God is love. He is a being of purity and community. He has always existed in ways we cannot understand. He was real, He was here, He was loving and thinking and creating, before anything of this universe existed. He was a community of three. He was/is/will-always-be the tangible, conscious expression of love so pure that the entire universe, all of of the particles of creation, are a mere exhalation of His living Word, His breath, His love.

    And in that trinity of purity, of completeness more complete than humans can experience, He felt such love and joy and holiness, He could not help but create other beings to share that love, that joy, that holiness. He created us.

    I told Isaac He created us to experience His love. And to keep everything fair, He gave us the choice of loving Him back or loving ourselves. We have the choice in opening up ourselves to momentary fragments of that purity of the triune God, or do what we want. Without the opportunity for choice we would be automatons. Love means that we consider the other first. So God had to give us a choice, and that means He had to find a way to connect with us that kept that choice intact.

    And the first man, the first woman, thought it over, and chose selfishness. They decided it may be interesting, or good, or whatever, to focus on something besides God

    At that moment we, humanity, pulled away from God. And since that moment, since that instant of selfishness and self-centeredness, God has been looking for ways to open our hearts to the joy, and love, and holiness for which He created us.

    Not an easy thing, for we are born beings of ultimate selfishness. We are born as creatures which demand the universe recognize us as the center of all things. We demand to be loved, and fed, and changed, and played with. We gradually learn to share, and to play beside, and to play together, and to love. It is a long process of maturity that is never quite complete.

    I told Isaac that since that first act of selfishness human beings have known an intense sadness. It wells up from deep within us, a void, an emptiness that cannot be filled by the selfishness we lavish on ourselves.

    I told Isaac that from that moment we have all felt sorrow for ourselves, and sorrow for what we have done, a sorrow for who we are. Our consciences, the part of us that tells us when we do things that are wrong, tells us we are not good, we are misshapen, tells us that something is missing. And so, a long time ago, men started to say they are sorry to God by giving him things that are special.

    We began giving the best of our possessions, gold, the first offspring of our animals, the first of our crops. We began killing things that were important, even each other. Every place where people began to build a civilization on this little world, they tried to appease their consciences, and their gods, with human sacrifices.

    So God worked to fix what was broken.

    He guided a people, a special group of people, a family actually, onto a path where we could work our way to a point where He could do something to show us the way back to Him.

    He protected, and guided, and taught, and punished a people, the Israelites, until they had a set of ideas that helped them to see their sins in a clear way. They needed to see how they can not help but fail in their rules and laws. And when they had gotten the rituals and rules and laws down to a science that proved their inability to follow even ten simple rules, He stepped into the world.

    He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: " 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." --Mark 7:6-8

    I told Isaac that God, Jesus, came into the world to show us how to live a perfect life. Then He let us do to Him what we had been doing all along to animals, and crops, and even people. He let us sacrifice Him. He went quietly, like one of the meek lambs that had been laid on altars for centuries, and we slaughtered Him. We practiced deicide. We killed God.

    He let us hurt Him. He let us spit on Him, and call Him names, and torture Him, and put nails through his body, and kill Him.

    I told Isaac Jesus could have stopped it at any time. He is the Living Word, He holds the universe together; He could have made it stop at any time. And He was a real man. He really hurt. He really suffered. And even without the power of being God incarnnate He could have stopped them. He could have told the authorities what they wanted to hear and they would have stopped hurting Him.

    I told Isaac that we have to remember that Jesus had to do this. We must remember that He is God. That He is, at the deepest core of who He is, love. He had to show us that He loved us with a love that moves beyond what we can understand.

    I told my son that it is an amazing story, this sacrifice that Jesus gave to the world. But if it had ended there it would not have been enough for us to follow Him. There was one final thing He did.

    I told Isaac that three days after the creatures He created and loved had nailed him to a piece of wood and buried Him behind a big rock, He proved who He was by stepping out of that tomb. He walked among His friends and followers. He ate food. He showed us He was a real, physical person who could touch things, and people. He showed He had could do anything, including coming back from the dead.

    Then I told Isaac the most important part of the story. I told him that we can never truly love God the way He deserves. I told him that we are by nature selfish creatures who can’t stop thinking about ourselves and what we want. But God is willing to make a small concession to our nature. He is willing to accept us into His family, to love us forever, if we will just accept what Jesus did. He knows we will continue to make mistakes. But He also knows that if we will just take that act of sacrifice as our own, and try to draw as close as we can to that heart that loves us so much, He is willing to let us into His kingdom and be close to Him forever, in a place where we will be freed from the weaknesses that we have in this world.

    God cannot take us back to a relationship with Him as long as we have desires that pull us away. To take away the desires would be to take away our freedom to choose to love. To force us to love would be unloving. We have to choose.

    Jesus had to come and suffer and die. It was the only way He could lead us home.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2006


    I throw myself out of the water, flopping on the sand, gasping at burning air... too hot, too dry.

    The wave comes, pulls me back to the sea.

    I am a man. A sinful man who loves to love himself. I want to be more. I pray to be more. The world keeps pulling me back.

    O great fisherman, come, take me up with your net!

    I gaze at the sky with eyes not designed for air; I watch the bright yellow orb glide slowly across the night. I gulp the air, tasting it, wondering what it would be like to breathe. I turn, slipping back into cool, familiar depths.

    I want to stride through the heavens. I want to watch the spinning galaxies, sparkling with the births and deaths of stars, dancing through time and space. I want to contemplate the love that rescued me from being a man, a creature who sensed more than he could feel. I want a mind that takes eternity in stride, free from forgetfulness, from mortal needs, mortal desires. I want to glide across the floors of the third heaven and bask in the glory of the trinity as holiness itself carries all things into eternity.

    I am a great fish. I want to be more. I want to crawl out of the sea and grow legs, grow lungs, grow a heart and a mind and a soul to help me understand the rain and the stars and the moon. I am a fish that longs to be more.

    And the net comes.

    Friday, January 27, 2006

    Hands Off!

    "Skin for skin!" Satan replied. "A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face."

    The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life."Job 2:4-6

    That letter from the attorney, the one hired by our church’s insurance company, is unsettling. I can’t give them what they want.

    I don’t blame them. They want to recoup as much of their money as they can. But I cannot help them. I haven’t any assets. Do they want my ‘84 Honda? Do they want my ‘78 Ford van? Those won’t go far in recovering over 2 million dollars.

    Jeremiah has a good heart. He has been through a lot. He has been beaten and starved and abused. He has been through war and death and shoved from one home to the next. And like all of us, he sometimes listens to the Whisperer who seeks to keep us in the dark, as far from the Lord as possible. Those are the real reasons our church burned.

    I’m his dad. I will do what is right. I will take responsibility for my failures, my lack of supervision of this young man with the 46 IQ. But I cannot pay the money they seek.

    We had a solemn assembly at our church last Sunday night. It was a time for us to corporately examine our failures to each other, to our community, to our Lord. I told our congregation I repent of the harm I may have caused any of them by not closely watching what my son was doing that night, when he found himself alone with a candle and a lighter.

    And they forgave me.

    The elders and our pastors already gave me their forgiveness. They even helped us pay for the counseling and the fire safety steps we had to take (and continue to take).

    Sunday night was a step in making things right with those who were affected by the displacement of classes and programs in our church. It was an act of repentance for any hurts we had caused the body.

    He doesn’t like that sort of thing.

    A couple of months ago I tossed him out of my home. He landed in the street, cursing (of course), and has been prowling around the edges of my life ever since. He is a tiger of ancient anger. He doesn’t like what I’ve been up to.

    I walked throughout my home, praying over every corner of every room, every door, every window, inside and out. I claimed freedom from all darkness in His name around the foundation of the house and along the peaks of every roof. I prayed over every corner of the property, sprinkling oil over it all.

    In Jeremiah’s room there was a moment when I got the heebie jeebies. There was a knocking in the wall. As if someone was inside the wall, knocking slowly. I prayed. It faltered, stopped.

    A few weeks later Jeremiah said he saw something dark looking in his window. Isaac complained of bad dreams. I bought another large bottle of olive oil. My sons and I prayed around the house again, along the property lines.

    But he doesn’t give up.

    The sores on my skin have never been worse. The itching is constant. The rashes are turning to scars. The splits come every few weeks, opening up the fingers of my hands. I leave small spots of blood here and there, little patches of the swirls and whorls of fingerprints marked with tiny slices where I have sprung small leaks. My hair is starting to come out again.

    He doesn’t give up.

    My wife is tense. She is getting better. I started praying over her each night, but the letter from our church's insurance company’s attorney set her back.

    He doesn’t quit.

    My sons are better, I anoint them with oil each night. But strange stresses are hitting them from odd directions. Yesterday was a bad day for Jeremiah.

    He doesn’t stop.

    I started painting images of spiritual import, praying more, writing words encouraging others to follow my Lord. And doubts creep into my heart about my health, my mortality.

    He just doesn’t stop.

    And neither does He.

    I have a powerful ally. I have a big brother who loves me so much He came into the world to rescue me from him. I have a friend who loves me more than I love myself. I have a master who is gentle and asks no more than I fulfill what I was created to be. I have a Lord who is ancient, and wise, and the embodiment of love. And in His name I have something to say to him:

    You can’t have us! We belong not only to our maker, the Lord God Almighty, we belong to your maker.

    My son is covered! He is mine. He is His! He is dedicated to Jesus and you can’t have him!

    My home is sanctified. I have taken what was not glorifying my Lord and tossed it out, jettisoned it! Go with it!

    Prowl around as much as you like, but you are not getting in!

    I don’t like the idea that you are powerful, and ancient, and knowledgeable. But you are not all powerful. You are a made thing, just as I am. And you may be knowledgeable, but you are not wise. You have cursed what cannot be cursed, and it cost you everything.

    You may be the prince of this world. You may whisper and taunt and afflict, but for me and my family, we will follow the Lord.

    Father, Lord, Holy spirit... I lay all I have, all I desire, all of who I am, at Your feet. I know it is safe in Your keeping. Amen.

    Sunday, January 29, 2006

    A Tiger of Ancient Anger

    Blessed be your name
    In the land that is plentiful
    Where the streams of abundance flow
    Blessed be your name

    I am a blessed man. I have a home that is safe, blessed.

    I have children. We wanted them for so long that the longing grew very large, becoming a huge void, swallowing our lives. The Lord filled that void.

    I have a most satisfying career. I'm a teacher, my product is lives. Hundreds of students come though my classroom door, who I push, and prod, and cajole, and bribe, and discipline, working to make them into thinkers, lovers of learning. I couldn’t possibly have a better job.

    I have a church family that loves me greatly. Though my child has wronged them, they seek to care for us, to support us.

    And I have a relationship with the creator of the universe. I draw closer to Him with each passing season. I long to serve Him better. As I grow to know Him more, I realize how much joy there is in being His, in serving. I am a blessed man.

    Blessed be your name
    When I'm found in the desert place
    Though I walk through the wilderness
    Blessed be your name

    Sometimes life sucks.

    Sometimes I feel I am spinning away into darkness, like some astronaut flung toward the stars. The lights in the sky circle around, sharp reminders of difficult times. Burning bright is the death of Willy, which makes me ache in ways I think may never heal. I sometimes feel cut off from all that is real. Prayer slows the spinning.

    My frustration yesterday was so tangible, so real, I felt I couldn’t stand who I am.

    My wife struggles with the events of this past summer. She loves our son, but it is hard for her to forget what he did. She lashes out at the world, at me, and yesterday I jumped in the van and took off before it became a verbal fight. When I called her later she said that when I got back she was leaving. I hurried home, bracing myself.

    Oh dear Lord... forgive me... but when she came to me an hour later and said she wasn’t leaving I felt a touch of disappointment. I hope you can understand. I really love my wife. I was that hurt, that weary.

    I prayed. I posted a comment or two on my blog and others started praying (thank you). Soon Brenda and I felt we were being lifted. We were being lifted.

    And the Lord worked to support us. The church service was unusual, but the disparate elements there came together for us, bringing us to our knees and then lifting us onto our feet. We needed the loving arms of our church because I believe we were being attacked.

    I dislike discussing things of the occult. I don’t like to think about them. I regret the years in my youth when I found them interesting. That is why I hesitate now in discussing what is going on in my life. (But I set myself up for this when I created this blog, didn’t I?)

    You see, I love science. I love things that are measurable, tangible, predictable. I love to read Scientific American. (I’ve read every issue, cover to cover, since April 1980.)

    But just because I like things a certain way does not mean that is how they are. That includes the darkness that prowls the Earth.

    Satan is a tiger of ancient anger.

    And I’m pissing him off.

    Or his minions. I don’t believe I am important enough to attract his personal attention. But still, I stand up for what I believe is right and that makes me a target.

    This past week I made a short video for today’s church service.

    I started with this passage:

    If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. --Philippians 2:1-2

    I turned that into two questions I posed in the video:

    Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?

    Is there any comfort from His love?

    Yesterday my wife was despairing. And I was tired, very tired. Physically exhausted, emotionally drained, spiritually fatigued. She asked me that if being a Christian meant getting hurt all the time, what was the point?

    I told her the point had nothing to do with us. The point is in being obedient, in being a servant to our Lord. There aren’t any guarantees that the events of life will be better in following Jesus. It just isn’t about us.

    This was my first screw up. Instead of hearing her statement as a cry for help, I dragged out my spiritual bullet points and gave her a dose of theology instead of love.

    Later in the day, reviewing the video before burning it onto a DVD, I saw those questions afresh and realized Brenda was saying she didn't feel any encouragement, any comfort. I understand. Her frustration was a cry for help. The experiences of the past year do not seem to come from a loving God. Life is hard.

    It looks like we may be sued for the $2 million+ damage from the fire Jeremiah caused. That is hard for Brenda to take. I think it will all work out, but none-the-less, I understand her frustration.

    There are other passages in Philippians that are important to note.

    Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. --Philippians 4:4-7


    I can do everything through him who gives me strength. --Philippians 4:13

    So back to the initial topic of this post: Satan.

    I have wondered why he is the way he is. It is only speculation, but I think he is angered by us. Imagine what it must have been like for angels before the world was created. Angels are immortal. They experience linear time, (perhaps more, I’m unsure), but they were inhabitants of a realm where spirituality was all there was. The universe was the presence of God Almighty. There was a purity to their existence we cannot understand.

    And then God created us.

    And then God loved us.

    Imagine a being, immortal, sharing eternity in the presence of the triune God. Existence is a stream of love, and logic, and knowledge, and sharing. Nothing of the flesh. Imagine
    coming to understand that the Lord has created a new being to share eternity.

    Not another type of immortal either, but something part animal. Flesh. It has desires, and needs. It grunts and sweats. It recreates in procreation.

    Again, I am a foolish man with faulty knowledge and I lack wisdom, but I speculate this pissed him off.

    He told the Lord God: “No! Not them! They are not worthy.”

    Maybe Satan’s role in the universe is something akin to his role in the book of Job. He is an accuser, holding up our sins, our imperfections as proof we are not worthy of eternity.

    I suppose he is right. We aren’t worthy. But worth isn’t the issue. The Lord God wanted creatures who could choose. Creatures who fail because they are weak, who hold up thin hands, hands that haven’t the grip of angels, and beg to be picked up and placed in the Father’s lap. (Like the fragile starvation-thinned hands Jeremiah held up to me the day I first picked him up.)

    And it pisses him off.

    So here I am. A creature something between an animal and an angel. One of a race that delights in sin, that drinks, and blasphemes, and envies, and is born “to grunt and sweat under a weary life.” Yet... I love my Lord.

    And that gives me authority:

    The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."

    He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. --Luke 10:17-19

    The Lord has ultimate authority, limiting the Deceiver, which is the only reason I can bless, sanctify, my home.

    When I sat down to type this post I thought I would share with you examples of how Satan is attacking my family. I thought I would be explicit with the problems of my skin, and how it affects our lives. I thought I would show you the burdens that Brenda carries, and the weirdness, the spookiness, the beyond the realm of science things that has made me cling tightly to my faith.

    But, this post is long enough already.

    I just want to share that I think our adversary is a being of ancient anger, a creature who believed that humanity is so inherently flawed that God Himself would succumb to temptation once He took on the form of a man.

    I want to tell you that this being, more ancient than the earth, is prowling, sliding along the shadows, guiding and commanding a formidable army.

    I want to say that though I sometimes feel I have tried to sprint across a no-man’s land to rescue a couple of terrified children, and that I am pinned down between enemy fire and rolling clouds of poisonous gas, it is worth it.

    I can do everything through him who gives me strength. --Philippians 4:13

    Wednesday, February 1, 2006


    She held her little boy’s hand as best she could. The five-year-old squirmed and pulled. She was talking to her neighbor, a sixty-year-old gentleman who lived a few doors down in the same boarding house.

    Leukemia would take her within a few months. She hadn’t any money. It was 1916 and she could barely do her job at the laundry. The mining explosion in childhood had burned her hands so badly she couldn’t fully open them, but they gripped laundry well enough. Now they struggled to hang onto a little boy.

    Who would take care of little Albert?

    Robert looked down at his neighbor’s child.

    “I’ll do it.”

    “You will?”

    “Yes. I’ll do it. I’ll marry you, and Harvey will be my boy. I’ll take care of him. I’ll raise him.”

    So, the little boy, Harvey Edstrum, son of an occasionally drunk, occasionally abusive father, became Harvey Greenleaf. His mother died. He grew up, working with his dad as a migrant farm hand. He married, and 18 years later, divorced. He moved in with his son, my father.

    He taught me how perseverance at an ice cream machine crank paid off. He taught me how to tip a waitress for a morning cup of coffee (leave a nickel under the saucer). Grampa bought me cherry Mountain Bars at the cafe on the way to kindergarten each morning, and a Squirt soda and maybe a box of Cracker jacks (with real toys) on the way home.

    He moved out before I finished kindergarten, bought a grocery store in Paradise, California. He married a woman with three teen sons (one of them broke my bike). A couple of years later those stepsons got drunk, argued, and killed him.

    That’s all I know about them. I don’t know my great grandmother’s name. I don’t know her first husband’s name. I failed to learn and remember little more of my family history than a few paragraphs, a faint echo of their lives. In less than a century the struggles and achievements of a life are forgotten.


    We want people to know who we are. Today. Forever. We want them to love us, respect us. We ache to be noticed. We are born needing constant attention. If we don’t get it we will die. We demand to be fed, to be held. It doesn’t stop when we learn to feed ourselves.

    It’s more than a physical need. It is a soul need.

    Something deep inside wants attention, craves it, needs it.

    Why write this blog? Is it a personal exploration, or to help others, or is it a cry for attention? Am I crying into the darkness, into an empty spot deep inside and shouting “Look at me! Hear me! Think of me! Look at how I string words, thoughts, together! Let me affect you! Let me show you truths and in doing that you will see me. Then I will know I exist.”

    Why do I get upset when my wife is a little controlling? Because I want to be recognized for being the man of the house. Because I want to be respected. I want to be king.

    Why am I irritated when a student interrupts me? Because I want to be the source of authority. Because I want to be respected. I want to be king.

    I want to be important. I want to make a difference, I want to be remembered.

    I want...

    I want to be loved.


    What is the point in raising children? Those who cannot have biological children learn something about the need for them that others often miss. When the children don’t come, when the heart has moved beyond sex and is forced to consider children in and of themselves, something deep inside begins to throb, to ache, and the heart and the mind start casting about for a way to grasp the source of that ache and fix what is broken.

    I used to think children were about reproduction. I thought they were about the need to replicate ourselves, to create an echo of ourselves. To pass on our insights and ideas and views and attitudes. To do such a good job in raising children that in someway we would survive. It was about leaving a legacy.

    Today I am wondering... maybe the act of raising a child is an echo of something else, something more real.

    Today I’m wondering...

    I sense a spot in my soul, not in my mind, or in my spirit, or in my body, but in a part of me that seems eternal, that longs for something magnificent. I sense a spot in my soul that longs to reach out, to reach up, to see my Creator and pull His face towards me.

    I think that is the truest part of who I am... a being who yearns, who longs, for his Creator to look at me.

    Perhaps the raising a child is about that longing, that relationship.

    I feel something when I look at my children, it is difficult to describe. As I think about my feelings toward my children that spot in my soul throbs.

    I think that spot has a name. An inadequate name, but a name that touches upon the yearning, the longing, the “father thing,” and the stuff Jesus tried to explain. I think that spot is called “love.”

    I was created with a soul, a part that is above the mind, beyond the body, a connection between my spirit and eternity. In that soul there is a place that is designed to plug into God, where I am supposed to be getting instructions. I am supposed to be connected to something bigger than myself. I’m supposed to be in the presence of the source of all things. It is something that will tell me who I am and what I am for. That spot is called “love” only because we haven’t words to describe the thing, no, the person, that makes us complete in a way that being a husband, or being a father, cannot do.

    I used to think that I would be someone great. That I would leave a mark in the world. Now I know that billions of people have lived and died, struggled and achieved, struggled and failed, and their great grandchildren didn’t even remember their names. Their echoes faded away.

    I’m not concerned about that anymore. And I’m not concerned if anyone is reading this blog. I like it of course. Just as I like being a husband, a father, a teacher.

    But I am more concerned about what is supposed to be in that spot. I want to reach in there, like it is some hole into another dimension or something, and grasp the hand of my creator and have Him pull me through, to turn me inside out and have that hole become my skin, to cover me and not carry it on the inside, but spread it over all that I am and let it fulfill me.

    I think the longing I feel, especially at this time of year when I prepare my heart for Easter, that empty spot throbs harder, louder.

    I think that in my craving to love and be loved I am echoing the throbbing I hear when I listen closely to what is coming out of that void. I think my whole life, in trying make my children an echo of who I am, is all about trying to amplify that deep throb inside.

    My failures in loving those around me as my Lord commands is really a failure to echo clearly the voice of God who is speaking into my own void of sin.

    When I try to make a mark on my world, whether it is in doing what is right, such as raising my children, or doing what is wrong, such as being impatient with my wife, whether producing a cable tv show, or creating a video for my church, it is all about shouting who I am because I am having trouble hearing who He is.

    How trivial will my efforts seem, my shouting to be heard, when that void is one day filled for all eternity.

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    Writer's block

    I have started two posts. Neither grabbed me.

    I usually try post every Sunday afternoon and a time or two through the week.

    Please come back soon. I'll see if I can find something to prime the writing pump.

    If you are hankering for some writing from weird Will, you might check out the last story I put on my other blog last week. The blog is Willzilla.

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    Sitting on a Rock

    Dearest reader:

    Please pardon this very rough post.

    I am just plain tired. I'm drained. Physically, emotionally...

    I want to write something of beauty, but I’m tired.

    So I am going to let my mind drift along a bit and see what flows out. I’m not going to go over this post and change the words slightly here and there, or edit, or go through two or three rewrites. I’m going to go gently down this stream, listening to some old folk music, and see what will come.

    It has been a long haul of late. I’m not complaining. I am following my Lord and there are lessons in the events of my life which will lead me to a place that is good. But I would like to find a rock to sit on and watch a few clouds drift by.

    Did you know that hunter-gatherer societies have the greatest amount of leisure time?

    They do a little hunting. They eat some fruit. They nap a lot.

    Sounds pretty good.

    I stopped by my church on the way home. I prayed for a while. I drew a little.

    I have found my artistic talent again, and I’m exploring what that means.

    The current picture is of a torso. It is all colored pencil and scribbles of variously colored Sharpies. There is a heart-shaped stone rolling aside, revealing a brilliantly glowing heart with light streaming out from a white cross. There is a hint of of a long-haired, bearded face, and a swiftly flowing river in the background. Swirling around the heart and the torso are scriptures about redemption and the story of the prodigal son.

    You see, a friend of mine has been praying for a very long time for his brother, a homeless man. There is a tremendous story behind this man who found himself once again surrounded by family and opening his stubborn heart to the Lord.

    I want to write more about this tale that has touched my heart, but I need certain permissions first.

    I have been experimenting with my artistic talents this past year or so. I have drawn and painted other things as well. Perhaps I’ll write about them.


    Listening to Judy Collins...

    ...And Jesus was a sailor
    When he walked upon the water
    And he spent a long time watching
    From his lonely wooden tower
    And when he knew for certain
    Only drowning men could see him
    He said "All men will be sailors then
    Until the sea shall free them" ...

    I’m not sure what the song writer meant by that... but it makes my heart ache a little...

    ...He spent a long time watching from His lonely wooden tower, and when He knew that only drowning men could see Him...

    We are all drowning, aren’t we?

    Life is too busy. The busyness of life interferes with opening our hearts to Him, doesn’t it?

    I think that is what is wrong with me right now... I need some quiet.

    It is all good. But it might be too much. I would like to share about some of the troubles I see in children’s lives. Drugs, poverty, divorce, hunger... But I can’t. It isn’t my place. But I wish I could love them all they way they deserve to be loved. Every child should have a loving home, a place that is safe.

    I think of that Yanamamo Indian in his hammock somewhere along the Amazon... I love my comforts too much to want to join him, but I think that his life is closer to the life God had planned for Adam than the life I have.

    Ah, dearest Lord... I could be much more spiritual, I could love You deeper, sing Your praises with passion, if I could spend a few seasons sitting on a rock counting sheep and watching the clouds glide by.

    Sweet Lord, my master... life is so busy, I ask just a few small things, Lord. Lord, first and foremost, grant me the ability to see where You would have me go. Make clear my path, provide me with the wisdom to guide my family and make the choices You would have me make. Also, Lord, please grant me the wisdom to care for my students and my children in a way that honors You. May the actions of my life show that I have a master that dictates me to be more than I could be otherwise. And lastly Lord, I ask that You permit me the real sense of Your presence as I walk through my life. Grant me the peace and serenity that comes from knowing that You are near. --Amen.

    I think I will get up early tomorrow... go down to the river before work... sit on a rock... and pray a bit.

    Sunday, February 12, 2006


    A loud moan woke me from a restless sleep.

    Brenda was trying to scream from the depths of a bad dream; only a strangled gurgling sound came out.

    I placed my cheek against hers, woke her with soft words of safety and encouragement. I prayed over her, stroking her hair, holding her close.

    I can only partially understand the psychological demons that plague her subconscious. I can only partially understand the spiritual demons that plague our home. I can grasp a little better the emotional, financial, and physical demons that prowl the edges of our life together.

    I love this world.

    Really... I do.

    This terrible place where babies are born dying of AIDS, where land mines amputate children at play, where bombs fall from the sky, and placid oceans rise up and sweep away villages.

    I love this world.

    From where I am sitting I see tiny violets blossoming in my lawn; the mower will crop them within a day or so. They grow where they cannot survive. Ephemeral, beautiful.

    I love this world.

    Brenda asked me how a good and just God could let evil things happen to a child.

    That is the central question to the Book of Job. How could a good God...

    I can see in my mind’s eye the photo of two years ago, a Haitian child making cakes out of dirt and lard to feed herself and her little brother.

    I sat on a rock the other morning. It was good. I went back that afternoon. And again the next day. I watched the river flow.

    It is very beautiful. A heron glided in, landing in a tree across the river. A coyote yipped, startling the deer by the trees a hundred yards away. The river swirled below me, dark and swollen from an unusually wet winter. In places it flowed the wrong direction, a backwater sweeping foam through the clutching branches of trees that, for this year, this season, find themselves standing in dark water.

    The Willamette River flowed past my perch, almost exactly as it did when Jesus let men stretch him out on a roughhewn post and drive nails into His body.

    I love this world. This place that is so painful, so hurtful.

    I love this world that has me confused and searching for steadiness where all is swirling in ways that do not seem to make sense.

    I love this world filled with things of beauty destined to be mowed.

    I love this world of confusion and choices.

    Our choices. My choices.

    Place my desires first, or follow His commands?

    It’s freedom. Freedom given us by a God who wants us to love Him and each other because it is a choice.

    He lets us have our way for a century, give or take a few years, so we can have choices.

    How could a good God? Because He wants us free to choose to not think of ourselves first.

    We can choose to follow a difficult path, or we can bail. (So many bail. So many hurt and hurting.)

    This freedom means there are people who become monsters, hurting children, and there are people who run into hallways where bullets fly, pulling children to safety.

    Tonight our church is voting on the architect's plan for rebuilding our church from the fire my child started. The cost for the new building is $800,000 more than the money received from the insurance company.

    Tonight I will worry a little about my home, my children, my wife, my finances, my spiritual growth... and the oh so many questions and emotions that churn within my heart, and I will ask Him once again to show me the next step on this shadowed path.

    Tonight I will try my best to set aside my fears for my family, my strange mix of emotions regarding the fire, and prayerfully, worshipfully, make choices about that new building, just as anyone else in the membership will do.

    Tonight I will approach this meeting with thoughts about my wife’s nightmares, and the fears still hidden in the hearts of my children, torn from horrors and placed in my home, and the apprehensions about my work, and the repairs my home needs, and the lawyers sniffing around for assets, and the rashes on my hands, and... and...

    And I love this world.

    You see, in this place, this world, I am learning what cannot be learned in Heaven. I am learning the difference between being a naturally selfish man and a servant of the God who wishes so much we didn’t hurt and cry and ache and moan in our sleep.

    In this place I can leave crowded cities and walk in woods and watch herons fly and sit on a rock above a confused river.

    In this world I can stop and pick the violet from the grass, and lay it on my desk while I type a blog post, before the mower comes.

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    "Give me Your Money"

    I’m walking in downtown Portland and this homeless guy stops me on the sidewalk. They call it aggressive panhandling. He obviously doesn’t have anything beyond a bundle of stuff that is lying beside the road. A bunch of his buddies are leaning against a building.

    He’s got long hair, a longish beard, and is wearing not only sandals, but this old robe that looks like it might have come from a monastery or something. It’s got a couple of holes in it and the hem is frayed.

    I smile at him, a little nervous, and run through a quick calculation of what is in my wallet, how much I really need today, and come up with a sum that is generous in my circumstances.

    “Excuse me, sir...” he begins. (At least he’s polite.)

    “...I haven’t any money for something to eat. Can you spare a few?”

    “Sure,” I say, and reach for the wallet in my front pocket (I keep it there ever since I had my wallet stolen when I was 16).

    I hand him $6.

    He looks at me with sharp, clear, brown eyes, piercing eyes.

    “This isn’t enough.”

    I’m more than a little surprised. It’s more than I usually spend on my own lunches, and it is pretty nervy of him to ask for more when most folks would have pulled out the change in their pockets and left him looking at 62 cents in his palm.

    A little offended, I ask him how much he needs.

    “All of it.”


    I look beyond him to see if there is a cop or someone of authority in sight.

    “Pardon me?”

    “I want it all.”

    For a moment I think about it. Maybe I could skip my own lunch. He probably needs it more than I do. This almost seems like some kind of test, so I pause, I consider. I reach into my wallet for the last $3.

    “That’s not enough,” he says.

    Now I am getting a little uncomfortable, and maybe a touch more than a little testy. I size him up. He’s about three inches shorter than I am, but he looks wiry, strong.

    “Just what is it you want from me?”

    “I want it all. I want your wallet, and your car keys....

    “I want your pin number for the ATM...

    “I want your house and your job, and your kids, and everything.

    “I want your life.”


    We had a meeting at our church and we voted to build a new and better church out of the ashes left from the night my son played with fire.

    It is going to cost an additional $800,000 over the insurance settlement.

    During the meeting there was a lot of discussion about how we can come up with that money. It was decided we would ask ourselves to pay for it out of our own pockets, without a loan. Sacrificial giving.

    There was a suggestion that we learn what churches in surrounding communities charge for folks to rent facilities similar to the one we are going to build, you know, for weddings and such.

    I loved the response from our elders and pastors.


    This building is on us. We will pay for it, somehow, and it will be an asset to our community. The use of the facilities will be free.

    Church is supposed to be a place where the world is welcomed into our lives. A church building is the foyer to God’s kingdom. It isn’t a business.

    I’m not sure how two or three hundred people are going to raise that kind of money, but the fact that it is challenging gives us the opportunity for Him to work through us.


    I’m giving everything I have to the man with the long hair and sandals.

    Monday, February 20, 2006

    I Want to Take my Glasses Off and Stop Being Clark

    So Lex Luthor sidles up to Lois and whispers sibilantly: “It’s good for you. Makes you smart, a real woman.”

    She bats her long lashes and blushes a little.

    And before she knows what she’s doing, she opens the lead crystal case, the glowing light bathes her, and she places the pretty green stone in her mouth.

    “I’m not sure, Lois,” Clark mumbles.

    “Oh go ahead. It gives you a little ‘oomph.’”

    So Clark puts one in his mouth also.


    Have you seen the movie “Because of Winn Dixie”? If you haven’t... well perhaps you should treat yourself. Don’t pass on it because it seems like it is a kid’s movie. There is a lot there for adults to think about.

    A small element in that movie involves a hard candy... Littmus Lozenges are sweet, good, yet they taste strongly of their secret ingredient: sorrow.


    You know, I am an immortal... at least the part of me that belongs to my Lord. But my physical parts get rather tired.

    This past weekend has been a strange journey of spiritual blessings, parental challenges, and physical weariness.

    Jeremiah has had a series of nose bleeds, almost continual. One on Saturday was so bad it ruined six towels and three rags. Sunday he bled for most of the afternoon and into the night and I finally took him to the emergency room at 10:00 to have it cauterized.

    I woke up this morning to that wet cough of his signaling another round of blood and tissues and towels.

    I’m tired.

    I want to focus on the message of yesterday’s sermon (you can read the sermon here).

    I want to pray and think about turning all that I have over to Him, but I’m tired. I can’t hardly read (so why the heck am I writing?).

    I was thinking about Superman.

    I was thinking about being immortal. And I was thinking about my sin which causes me to be so tired, to be so weak.

    I try to get the sin out of my life. I call upon my Lord to strengthen me. When I think about my sin I spit it out because it tastes of sorrow, and then, almost without thinking, I pick it up again and slowly suck on the poison that strips me of my strength.


    Heavenly Father... I am Your servant. Lead me where You would have me go. Tell me the amount you would have me pledge toward rebuilding our church and I will do it. Provide me Lord with the wisdom to raise my children so they will grow to honor You. Teach me how to better nurture my wife. Lord... make clear to me every next step You would have me take in this world, and grant me the fa
    ith to step out when I cannot see the ground. --Amen.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    Pretty Messy

    So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

    His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"

    He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"

    In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
    --Job 2:7-10

    Life is messy.

    My wife says I think her a monster. I know she doesn’t mean that. I know that she understands I love her.

    But sometimes I am frustrated and I let it show. I do not always exhibit the patience and kindness my wife needs from me. I’m not saying we are heading toward real problems in our marriage. But I am not as patient, as gentle, as kind as I should be. (Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... Ephesians 5:25)

    Job was obviously frustrated with his wife. That frustration is born of hard times, difficult paths. Sometimes life sucks.

    Do you remember falling in love? Do you remember how your heart beat so hard, so fast not only when she was near, but even when you just thought about her? I remember.

    Love is a disease. A mental illness. But as mental illnesses go, it is usually pretty good. Skip the Prozac... I want to feel that!

    My wife and I met on Leap Year’s Day 1980. We got married a year and a half later in my dad’s backyard. She wore a simple little dress, I was in a borrowed suit. This Fall it will be 25 years.

    I love her.

    She is flawed. She makes mistakes. I think her beautiful. I love her.

    She has trouble believing I think her lovely. You see, she has been hurt. People who have been deeply hurt sometimes think their hurt makes them unacceptable, unlovely.

    I love her.

    She struggles, and I think her struggles are also beautiful. She quit drinking New Year’s day two years ago and hasn’t had a sip of anything alcoholic since. It isn’t easy for her, for when her struggles become very difficult she used to turn to alcohol.

    She works hard at it. I am grateful.

    But she isn’t perfect. She feels that somehow life has cheated her. She hasn’t carried a child, hasn’t given birth. That is a deep wound for her (and it has hurt me also). She lives in a house with a husband and two sons. Even the dog is male. And to be honest, males are animals. We are barely house broken and it is often a woman’s task to civilize the males in her life. We are messy.

    I think a couple of the fish in the living room fish tank are female, but that isn’t the same as having a little girl. That hurts her.

    I understand.

    I’m educated. She is a very smart person, but she feels intimidated by the vast reservoir of useless trivia I carry around in my head. It’s mostly stupid stuff, but still, it makes her feel less than she is because I can pull out a quote, or a statistic, or scientific fact, or a passage from the Bible. She is going to college now, but still she feels inadequate sometimes.

    I have been blessed with a number of skills. I am artistic, and I know a little bit about technology, and I can string a few words together to express what I think and feel.

    But she is lovely. She works so very hard, and cares so much.

    The task we face in raising our children is daunting. She sees the world in a way very different than I do. I think most women do. She worries about the immediate tasks. The dirty house, the meal that needs to be prepared, the laundry that needs to be done.

    I think men generally take a longer view and we tend to not get as excited about the immediate. Of course that also means we sometimes let things roll along and not take the immediate action that needs to be taken.

    There are things I have trouble understanding. She is still so angry about the things that have happened. About the formidable task of raising special needs children. About the recurrent news about a fire that took much from our church, and demands a new set of challenges of our church family. Life is messy and she doesn’t like a mess (hey, it’s been decades since I left my underwear on the floor).

    I know I can be insensitive. Often I am wrong, and I just don't see it. Sometimes there is something wrong, I can feel it hanging in the air, and I know that I said something, did something that triggered it, and I just haven’t a clue.

    To me women are mysterious creatures. They seem mercurial, like shifting sands.

    When I was a kid one of our favorite games on my dad’s job sites (he demolished houses and moved earth) was “Riding the Roof.” Dad would weaken the sides of a two or three story building and leave it wobbling as it balanced on interior walls. Then we would scramble into the bucket of the loader and ride up to the eaves. When we were in the middle of the roof we’d flash him a thumb’s up and he would smack the roof edge and snap those interior walls, giving us a ride down to the ground amidst jets of dirt and debris and flying boards spearing up through the shingles.

    Sometimes marriage feels like that. Only not so fun. This isn’t to say that I am thinking about divorce, or that we are fighting a lot, or that things are... well anything extremely serious.

    It’s just that things have been rough for a long time and we are both tired.

    I have my perspective, and I have just enough insight to realize I have a lot of failings that contribute to our difficulties.

    But sometimes I think that my wife is just not getting it.

    Yeah, this isn’t the life we thought we would get. Our kids are probably not going to be the kinds of kids we hoped they would be. Jeremiah has an IQ of 46 and that means we will need to always be a part of his life. Isaac's is 76 and that means he also needs a lot of support.

    I read the Bible, and Scientific American, and the Credenda Agenda and National Geographic and The Smithsonian, and they struggle with comic books.

    These children don’t look like us and Brenda did not carry them in her womb. That is a deep sorrow for her (I have accepted it, which adds to her mixed feelings). They are both boys giving her no relief from the maleness of our home. This just isn’t like the families we saw on television when we grew up in the 60s.

    But I wish we could just move on. I love these boys, and I know she does also, but dissatisfaction with our life’s bigger setting makes dealing with these individual crisis's harder.

    She works too hard. I am partly to blame for the extra burdens she shoulders. My psoriasis makes certain tasks difficult for me. If I mow the lawn my hands will be bleeding the next day (even if I applaud at a presentation a few times that will happen). I can’t expose my skin to soaps and many lotions or solvents or cleaners without the skin flaking into huge rashes that itch maddeningly. My hands swell, and flake, and split, and bleed, and ache... and she does many of the things I should be doing.

    Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself today. But I sense Job’s frustration with his wife. He is dealing with crisis, looking at the loss of his wealth, business, employees, children, and his wife is telling him to bail on his faith.

    Brenda isn’t doing that, but I feel I am trying to carry her with one arm, carry my children with the other, and trying to move forward on my own broken legs.

    And it’s getting old.

    Sheesh. I can’t believe what I whiner I can be! Today there are parents in the Philipines looking at a vast field of mud where their children had gone to school and they are despairing. I am relatively healthy. I have a career that is satisfying and important. I have a very real sense of my Lord walking beside me.

    But I look at my wife, and I see her confusion, her anguish, and no rational words, no reflections on faith, no whispered words of love and encouragement seem to soak into her depression and nourish her.

    And that’s my job. I’m supposed to be able to give her what she needs. I’m supposed to be able to guide my household, and I am inadequate.

    I hesitate to go home sometimes. Today I found many tasks I “had” to do before walking in my door. I swung by the studio to talk to the station director (Dang! He wasn’t there.). I went to the drug store and bought Brenda a card telling her I love her. I stopped by the library to see if they had a copy of the Fiddler on the Roof CD (for a video... they didn’t). I stopped by the church to pray. Finally I went home. She was in a great mood. I was taken aback.

    Most of this post was already written. Am I being a jerk? I give her the card. We hug, kiss, watch a movie with the kids.

    And now I’m at my computer while she studies. Life goes on.

    It’s so dang messy. Jeremiah is still sick (Brenda will stay home with him tomorrow, the mother in law covered the last couple of days). I have so much to do at work (what's up with 6th period?!).

    I will go to bed tonight, Brenda and I spooning each other while we drift off to sleep, and I will feel guilty about these words I am typing, probably regret posting them (If I actually do post this).

    So what is the point?

    I feel like a little at a time Brenda and I are growing stronger in our faith. Sometimes we take a step or two back. But in general we take one small step forward at a time.

    I know that many folks think that Christians have it all together. I don’t think any of them do. I know I don’t.

    So what is the advantage to living this faith?

    I think that I am slowly maturing. I don’t like the process. And part of that growth is involved in growing with and through this woman the Lord has given me.

    Part of it is helping her to grow, and part of it is learning from her so she helps me grow.

    Gosh, what a fragmented, scattered post. Not at all the polished stuff I usually try to write.

    But perhaps that is the point I am trying to make today. Life is messy. And though I usually express myself with carefully edited, clean little soliloquies of my life, all tidy and clear, and theologically uplifting, sometimes life just sucks.

    Job understood that. So does my Lord.

    And my guess is that you do too.

    The Wind on My Face

    Blessed is the man whom God corrects;
    so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

    For He wounds, but He also binds up;
    He injures, but His hands also heal.

    From six calamities He will rescue you;
    in seven no harm will befall you.

    Job 5:17-19

    I’m a blessed man.

    Oh I moan now and then, but life is like that, filled with discomforts, filled with challenges.

    But the rewards are mighty.

    Thank you O Lord!

    The last few days have been wonderful. Jeremiah is still a little sick (he is recovering from bronchitis, but the bloody noses have nearly ended).

    I feel buoyed since my last post. Brenda and I cuddle, and pray, and are kind to each other. Not a cross word, not a moment of ir
    ritation. (...He injures, but His hands also heal...)

    A perfect start for what comes next. I am so excited.

    Tuesday Lent begins.

    Lent is supposed to be a time for spiritual reflection, a time for folks to reflect on the life of Jesus and mimic His forty days of reflection. It begins the first instant of Ash Wednesday.

    That’s why New Orleans kicks up its collective heels at this time each year. “Carnival” Latin for “farewell to meat,” is a time for feasting because soon they are to fast and consider our Lord’s suffering. Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is a bacchanalian frenzy which ends with the serious business of Lent. It's like planning on going on a harsh diet and eating a half gallon of ice cream the night before.

    I am sure that Mardi Gras is somewhat of an embarrassment for many Catholics, though I think most folks recognize that it has little do with faith anymore. But it has its origins in the idea of the restraint of the coming season. I want to approach this lenten season with a heart closer to the purpose... I want to follow my Lord out into the wilderness... I want to think about what He did for me... I want to draw closer to Him... now.

    I start it on Tuesday. I’m not Catholic so I can make up my own rules. Tuesday I set aside to prepare my heart for the season.

    I haven’t the history and cultural inertia behind me to push me into this season. But I have passion.

    Some folks make New Year’s resolutions. Not me. I don’t make resolutions at all. I make changes. And this is the season I look at my faith and challenge myself.

    Serious business. I look inside my heart, I find that spot where my Lord dwells, and I ask Him to tell me what to do.

    Two years ago it was cigarettes. Last year it was prayerful artistic expressions.

    Last year prayer became something important. What I learned during the last lenten season prepared me for what the year would bring. (...For He wounds, but He also binds up...)

    This year...

    Well, I’ll talk about his year’s changes some other time.

    I begin each Lenten season by watching The Passion of the Christ.

    Not easy to watch. Frankly, it makes me weep. (And I come from a family where men don’t cry, no matter what...) I don’t like the pain it brings my heart, but I cherish the sacrifice it shows. I feel that if He could do that for me, the least I can do is to peek at what happened.

    That is how I start this season. I arrange to let whoever in my church wishes to view it come. There will also be a communion, so we can reflect on the last supper.

    I get my heart right. I start Lent.

    I teach a Sunday School class, and one of the little old ladies was asking about the purpose of Lent. She couldn’t understand why people give up certain things for this season and then go back to them... like meat, or chocolates.

    I told her I believed it was to give their spiritual life focus. That in giving something up the desire becomes a reminder.

    I’m giving up something a little odd this year.

    I’m giving up my beard.

    My beard was thin when I turned 18, the day my dad told me to move out (months before high school ended). Out I went. I moved into the neighbor’s basement, $50 a month.

    It was a typical beard for a youth. Thin, sparse. A little pretentious, a tentative claim on manhood, a timid statement of nonconformity, counterpoint to my father’s clean, stern jaw line.

    Over the years the beard has thickened. It lengthened and shortened in response to changing lifestyles and jobs. It was long and wooly when I was roamed western highways and mountain trails. Trimmed short as a cook. Bushy in college, short as a graphic artist. Wild when I was living off a gar
    den and animals I raised, and trimmed neatly as a teacher. But for over thirty years it has kept my chin warm.

    Now it is full, neatly trimmed, and has quite a bit of grey in it. And for the next month and a half it will be gone. Every morning I will shave, and while doing so, I will pray.

    And every time I step outside I will be a little surprised at the sensation of the breeze on my naked chin, and I’ll say a little prayer.

    It will be a reminder of the season, help me to focus.

    And what is the point? Why struggle with my faith, especially when things are going well (relatively)?

    Because that is why I am here. To experience life.

    I have lain in the wilderness, waiting for death... I have held my dead child, laid him in a grave, carved his marker... I have seen my children dance for joy, and bathed in the warmth of my wife’s smile (what joy!). I’ve walked the John Muir Trail, and I’ve had a gun pointed in my face. I’ve gone blind, had amnesia, and seen evil spirits
    dancing in the dark. I've been kidnapped and had a tent shredded around me in a sandstorm.

    Experiences. Change. Growth.

    But I am still standing. Heck, I’m dancing! And that doesn’t seem rational... for life is hard:

    Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
    And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--
    No more--and by a sleep to say we end
    The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wished...
    For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
    Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
    The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

    The insolence of office, and the spurns
    That patient merit of th' unworthy takes...

    And all of it... all of it is making me into something my Lord can better use, something He is pleased with.

    That is enough.

    I want to be an example for my children, to show them that a man can be committed to his marriage, to his faith. (My father is getting his fifth divorce.)

    I want to help my wife, be a leader of my home. Support her efforts in school, help around the house, take the lead in our spiritual life.

    I want the challenges, the growth.

    I know there is still a shadow prowling the edges of my life. And I have a righteous anger at him, and I know he isn’t done with trying to hurt us.

    But today... Oh today... I am dancing in my heart.

    Because the creator of the universe loves me.

    That joy I feel when I see Brenda smile is small compared to the joy I feel when I sense Him smile.

    I have faltered, I have stumbled, and I have fallen. But a hand has lifted me up every time, and its bleeding wound has been pressed to my skin and I cannot forget that love of His.

    So... the beard comes off. I want to feel the wind blow and be attuned to what He would have me feel.

    (Feels weird)

    Tuesday, February 28, 2006

    Fat Tuesday

    By third period I knew I had to do something. I was getting stares and comments all morning.

    I wrote on the board that I was a long-term sub and that Mr. G would return in April. I sent out an email to staff with my picture, explaining to the other teachers and administrators that the teacher in room 25 belonged here and that the district office said that I did not need a new id card.

    I’ve shaved my beard.

    After over 32 years I have a naked chin.

    And it feels weird. Heck, even my dog stared at me for a bit.

    I have taken it off to provide myself a constant reminder of who I am, and what is the season.

    I am a Christ-follower. It is Lent.

    What a reminder it has been.

    I woke up and I instantly felt the difference. I remembered. I prayed.

    Thank You, Lord. Thank you for Your steadfast love. Thank You for getting me through this year and helping me to become someone who loves You even more than the year before...

    Before my shower I looked in the mirror at the chin I haven’t seen in over three decades. The skin is a little red, unused to a razor.

    I ran the hot water...

    Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name, give me this day...

    I washed my face with hot water and slowly lathered up.

    It was trickier than I remembered. Of course the beard of a man pushing fifty is much tougher than the beard of a 17 year old, so it is a tougher job.

    ...forgive me my sins, as I forgive...

    The razor slides through the foam, scraping away the bristles that have grown through the night. Like blemishes, like sins, scraped away, inevitably they will return, but I will keep scraping...

    Why did He do it? Why would the creator of all things let men grab him, drag him before a mortal for judgment for crimes He did not commit, and permit them to spit in his face?!

    lead me not into temptation... O mighty Lord, help me to see clearly any temptations I am to weak to overcome and help me to turn before I cause you sorrow...

    I washed the film of unused foam from my face. Ran the razor once more over spots that were not quite clean enough.

    I used aftershave for the first time since the 70s. This new stuff is a lot different than the Old Spice I remember.

    And all day long I kept touching my chin, rubbing my cheeks... and praying.

    Lord, You were stripped of so much for my sake, for our sake... thank You. Keep me mindful of this season. Give me wisdom to follow You better...

    All day long students and colleagues made remarks about my changed appearance. I cracked jokes with them, and inwardly prayed.

    ...Lord, provide for me today, by the time I fall asleep, a verse that I may meditate upon for the next 40 days...

    This season, this prelude to the celebration of our risen Lord, is part of the cycle of my life. I want to embrace what is hideous, what is ugly, the torture and death of the almighty God, and taste that bitter story, swallow that meal purchased at such a great cost, and in consuming it make it a part of myself, of who I am.

    Tonight I will watch The Passion of the Christ, and it will hurt. Tonight I will take communion and it will be a token of my admission guilt, and my salvation.

    I have invited my children to come with me. It is their decision.

    If they do come I will answer their questions, helping them to assimilate this awful truth: the Lord God, maker of all things, is so much the essence of love that He wished to share it with other creatures and created us. We rejected Him, and He made Himself mortal to show us how a man might live, truly live, and then He permitted us to lay hands upon Him, to beat Him and to puncture His body, and to nail Him to a piece of wood.

    It’s Fat Tuesday. But the world is starving. We feast on pleasures and foods and intoxicants because we have been cut off from the source of life. It’s Fat Tuesday because we want to fool ourselves into believing that we can fill our own bellies. But we are all truly starving.

    I want to eat and drink from the infinite.

    Come Lord Jesus...


    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    Ash Wednesday

    I’m looking at a jar of charred wood. It is from an eave of my church, near the spot where my son was playing with fire.

    Within a year or so a new building will rise where the old one stood. Something new out of the ashes.

    I watched The Passion last night. My children did not come with me. That is OK. I am humbled once again at the enormity of God’s love. I will watch it again on Good Friday. I am humbled that out the greatest horror, the greatest of sins, when men had the audacity to lay hands upon God incarnate, the Lord made something wonderful happen.

    Humbled that He would do that, and include me in that grace.

    I’m reading a passage from the Bible tonight...

    If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. --Philippians 2:1-3

    There has been discouragement this past year, and encouragement. Discomfort and comfort. There have been tears and joys.

    Most of this passage is pretty easy to take. But that last part... “...Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

    That’s a little tougher.

    I have tried to be humble. In fact, I think I am a little proud of my humility.

    How’s that?!

    I call myself Curious Servant. That is how I want to be known. Look at me! See how humble I am!

    I’m sitting here with a cross on my forehead, made of the ashes from our burned church.

    I strut through my life, trying to be great, and it’s all foolishness. I want to help shape the new look of our school. I want to run my tv show and after school clubs and lead a Sunday school class... and why is that? Is it all because of a desire to serve? Or do I crave attention?

    Is there anything I have that I should be proud of? Is there anything I do, or think, or create, or make, or feel, that makes me special? Or is everything I have a gift from my Lord? Isn’t all I have, when it is at its best, at its purest, at its most wholesome, of God and not of me?

    This isn’t going to be long post. I don’t want to put a lot of lovely words together.

    I want to just record a few thoughts tonight before I go to bed.

    God loves me despite my arrogance, despite my pride. He is pleased most when I use His grace to honor Him.

    That is all. That is everything.

    I want to be an honest servant.

    I need to seek opportunities to quietly wash feet.

    March5, 2006

    I’ve a very good friend. He has consistently prayed for and with me through many difficult times. He was the first to come when my son died. He took me out for coffee at 3 a.m. when Jeremiah was arrested last June. He has encouraged me so much.

    He is also my pastor.

    He has had challenges also. And, on occasion, he has permitted me to help.

    He promoted a monthly prayer chain, 24 hours once a month, in a room we have set aside for it. And in that room I have enjoyed many blessings. One of which is exploring prayer through my art (which is the subject of an upcoming post).

    Out of that exploration my friend invited me to try my hand at painting a prayer during the service on Christmas Morning.

    I chose to paint Mary’s song of praise: the Magnificat.

    In January this good friend of mine went home to be with his brother who is dying of cancer. There is a powerful story there and I am tempted to tell it. But I want you to hear it from my friend, who gave a message on it today.

    But I would like to share this. This man has accepted the Lord, after many years of rejecting faith and family, living homeless.

    While my friend was there I prayed for him and his brother, and as I have learned to do, I prayed while doing art.

    While sketching out this image I got the news of his change of heart. Here is that picture: “Prodigal”.

    A heart of stone has rolled aside to make room for the Lord.

    Where Does Creativity Come From?

    March 8, 2006

    I wish I could play a musical instrument. It would be so cool to pick up a guitar or sit at a piano and have music flow out of me. I have a huge audio collection. I love to sing in worship on Sundays.

    Unfortunately those around me probably don’t have the same enthusiasm to listen to my singing. Ah well. I have other talents.

    One of them is art. I took a couple of years of art design and art history in college, and I grew up around it (my mother is an artist). I tried to make a living at it (there is a foundation in reality behind the phrase “starving artist”).

    It’s been a while since I was serious about doing art on a regular basis.

    A couple years ago our church took the Lenten season seriously. We dedicated a room for prayer. It was stocked with candles, a CD player, soft lighting, and interestingly, some Sharpie pens to write prayers and thoughts on the walls.

    This place of prayer has been a tremendous refuge for me.

    Writing on the wall was weird at first. But as others did it I felt more comfortable. We wrote passages of scripture, favorite verses, psalms and such... little prayers. Everything anonymous. It was exciting seeing how other people thought, how they prayed, what was important to them.

    Slowly pictures began to appear. A broken loaf of bread with a goblet of red wine. Pictures of the cross. I reproduced a Gustave Dore’ depiction of the crucifixion in crayons.

    And that is where it began. I was looking at other pictures of Dore’s and a sketch of Jesus’ face. It stayed in my mind. And one day, while in a prayer session, I went to the spot behind the door and sketched that face in pencil. The eyes were level with mine. I came back another day and sketched it in with a fine point black Sharpie.

    I came back again and penciled in His body. And all the while I thought about the movie The Passion and His great sacrifice. I started writing the words of the prayers I was thinking in the folds of His clothing in various colored Sharpies, working around other prayers that had been written on the wall.

    Soon I was praying there a lot of the time. Praying and writing and drawing. I bought every color of Sharpie there is and brought in many colored pencils and acrylic paints.

    I did the Lord’s Prayer, twisting around the figure of Jesus and over the door and around other scriptures written on the walls. I did a grape vine climbing up the corner and twisting out, using passages about Jesus as the vine to give the bark texture. One branch of the vine was the list of Jesus heritage. I put sparrows in the vines, flying in to settle near grapes and wrote passages about how He loves the sparrows and how much more He loves us.

    And before long a year had passed and Easter was coming again.

    I was uncomfortable at how some folks would talk so much about the pictures, as if they were something of worth in themselves. They aren’t. Their only value, for me anyway, was in the prayer I was praying when they went on the walls. So as Easter approached I convinced a reluctant pastor to let me paint over the walls for Easter.

    What a shock for folks.

    But then I began again. This time I planned the life-size image of Jesus from the start. He is the Good Shepherd, a lamb across his shoulders. He is wearing a crown of thorns, but there are no holes in His hands. He is looking purposefully outward, and a careful eye may notice that a shadow in the shape of a cross is falling across him. He has begun his final mortal walk, carrying His sheep, and resolutely moving onward. The entire thing is done in fine point colored sharpies, the lettering so small in places for shadow that I could not see the letter myself, I just knew the shape I had made formed them.

    I did another version of the Lord’s Prayer. A large circle: a never ending prayer.

    I painted a golden sword on one wall in acrylics, a reminder of a dream I had received when things had gotten a little rough this past year.

    The prayer room is a place for prayers, and that is all that these are.

    And in a couple of weeks it will get painted over again.

    There are folks who are dismayed that it is going to get painted. I’m glad they will be gone. They were done for the moment, not for anything else.

    But I suppose some people see art where all I see is a time of meditation and prayer that marked a passage for me. I will be glad for new canvas.

    But I have an idea. If folks want these images so much (some have even talked about cutting out the sheet rock to preserve them), I have a plan.

    This year I will do most of my prayers on canvas and wood and hang those on the walls. Then the following Easter we can have a silent auction and folks who want them can have them. The money can go to the fund the rebuilding of our church from the fire.

    I’ve said all this for two reasons. First, I would like to promote the idea of churches having a place where people can go to pray, and let them express themselves in anyway that seems fit.

    The second reason is a little trickier to articulate.

    It is the idea of creative prayer. I’m not sure what to say about it, but when I approach a creative project something organic happens. I’m not exactly sure what is coming when I start, I am simply a tool for Him to use.

    Have you prayed earnestly and for a long period of time and have felt the prayer take over? It becomes something outside of yourself.

    I did a writing experiment once where I let a character in a short story begin to respond to what I was writing as I wrote it. I soon found myself arguing with a character I was making up as I went along. It was unsettling, especially since he got in the last word.

    Art can be like that. Last Christmas morning I stepped up to a blank canvas on the stage of our church while the congregation sat to hear our pastor speak.

    This is what I was thinking:

    Uh oh! I don’t know what I am doing!!! What color should I use?! Everyone is watching! I better get started... Now. Now!! NOW!!! Uhhhh... what color? What color? Uh, WHAT COLOR?!!! Come on... pick a color!!!! OK.... Uh.... BLUE!!!!!!

    I didn't know what I was going to do. I had set myself up to let the Lord lead me at the last possible moment.

    "If you know exactly what you are going to do, then what is the point of doing it?"
    -- Pablo Picasso

    Then I stopped and thought about Tim’s sermon. It was on Mary’s song. the Magnificat.

    Here is the woman, no one special, a girl really, and of all the people on the Earth, among all the mighty cities, this girl in a tiny town was going to be the tool the Lord used to step into mortal existence. She sang a song of praise.

    So I painted a picture of a tiny figure among enormous buildings, bathed in the light of grace and love and divine selection.

    Suddenly I find myself drawing and painting. And with each stroke of the pen or brush of acrylic paint, or rubbing of chalk, I think about the prayer in my heart that is finding expression outside of myself.

    And there is so much going on in my heart. I ache to be nearer my Lord, whispering prayers that are spontaneous and liturgical, rote and creative.

    That is the second point I wish to make, aside from encouraging others to create prayer rooms. I want to encourage others to find new ways to communicate with our Lord. If He has given you a talent, can you use it to express a prayer? Can you write? Can you sing or play an instrument?

    We fill our lives with nonsense: TV, movies, silly human politics. I believe we too often overlook the things within all of us that are divine, where else could creativity come from than from the creator?

    Grinding Flour

    Sunday, March 12, 2006

    Big, heavy, deep, sobs shook him, making it difficult for him to pray. Each word came gasping out, pulled laboriously from deep inside. My wife and I held his hands, guiding him, helping him find the words.

    My heart ached for him, and it grew a little larger.


    I wasn’t really in the mood for church today. I got there early, as usual, and went in the prayer room. I lit a half dozen candles. I sat down. I prayed. I waited.

    It was a good service today. Before the service there was an invitation to come forward and pray. I did. It helped a little.

    The worship songs were well chosen. In singing them I felt my heart lift a little... but not like I usually feel.

    The message was good (I'd already read the notes before hand when I posted them here).

    Even at church I am busy. Tasks to do between services. Set up for a Sunday School class... There were a number of people I needed to speak with. A woman who wants me to do a small painting for her son, a state legislator who is going to appear on my students’ tv show, a buddy who agreed to repaint the prayer room, my spiritual mentor to verify tomorrow’s meeting, a guy who can help me with a wood surface for a painting I am starting after Easter... and... Oh, I almost forgot... Jesus.

    My life is too busy. It is getting busier.

    I have an interview tomorrow with the district’s superintendent and the personnel director for a team that will design the philosophy, pedagogy, and curriculum for our school. Important stuff, plans that will affect our school and thousands of children for a very long time. Worth the time and effort. Very exciting. But it is one more task. My life gets so busy I feel like I am on some sort of treadmill.

    I’m too busy. Aside from work and my prayer times I have three after school programs, and more importantly, a family that needs my attention.

    Frankly, though I try really hard, I don’t understand women. Sometimes I wonder if some people are gay just so they don’t have to try to live with the opposite gender. (Fear not, I'm not going into a battle-of-the-sexes frustrated-male monologue today.) But I recognize that I need to slow down, care for her as the most important human in my life, because she is.

    She is a good woman. I love her very much. I wouldn’t hesitate to give my life for her, do almost anything to make her happy.

    The house needs my attention. That is a whole other treadmill. The bedroom door needs fixing, the floors are peeling, and the toilet plugged up yesterday. Even when the plug seemed to be cleared it still wouldn’t flush properly. The water was draining, but the bowl wouldn’t fully refill. I finally pulled the toilet out and dragged it into the back yard to see if there was something still stuck somewhere in its innards. I tried to run a plumber's snake through it, and a garden hose...

    My mother in law was here, sick because she had spent a couple of days last week watching Jeremiah when he was sick. She needed to use the only other restroom every 20 minutes. That was a frequently occupied room.

    And Brenda was having a bad day.

    In the most positive moment of the afternoon I reminded her of the evening out we had the other night and how she was having a good day. She said: “A good day is when I’m not screaming on the outside.”

    It made me feel sad, and tired, and old.

    So I was at church with a heavy heart. I slapped on a plastic smile. I prayed fervently. I tried my best to think of others and how I love my Lord.


    After church I fed the kids and went back to wrestling with a toilet.

    While I worked I got to thinking. I was thinking about bread.

    We had communion this morning and I was thinking about the last supper, the first communion. I was thinking about that loaf of unleavened bread.

    I was really thinking about the donkey.

    You see that meal, the Last Supper, happened in Jerusalem during passover. In a city like that, and for travelers such as Jesus’ group, the bread was probably purchased from a professional baker. The flour for that bread would have come from a source of wheat able to feed a city full of pilgrims.

    Wheat was ground at a mill, a donkey walking around a tight circle, rotating a mill stone.

    That donkey probably worked there for a long time. It would spend most of its life there. A lot of grains of wheat poured between those stones while it ground those kernels into flour.

    Most of that flour fed regular folks regular meals.

    But that week something unusual happened. During that particular week it produce a sack of flour that would be touched by the hand of God. That loaf of bread was broken before twelve close associates and passed around in a symbolic meal that would multiply itself through the ages, like a timeless feeding of thousands from a few loaves, until I reached this morning to pick up a small piece of cracker and place it in my mouth to consider its dryness and how I am far less than my Lord wishes me to be.

    That donkey walked around in circles for a long, long time, working, working, working...

    Sometimes that is all I can do. Even when I am weary, I need to just keep moving in the circuit He has placed me in and pull that stone.


    This afternoon, born of the frustration of unresolved plumbing issues there was a break through with Jeremiah.

    Something gave. His heart cracked in a way I have not seen before, and the fears and grief and anguish he has been feeling since the fire came choking out, sobbing out, in a prayer before his mommy and his daddy.

    We are tired, and the work is often tedious. But in the mundane work of our lives something unusual can happen. So we are surprised when the result of our labors has a divine purpose.

    Where Does Creativity Come From?

    I wish I could play a musical instrument. It would be so cool to pick up a guitar or sit at a piano and have music flow out of me. I have a huge audio collection. I love to sing in worship on Sundays. Unfortunately those around me probably don’t have the same enthusiasm to listen to my singing. But it would be wonderful to have such skills.

    Ah well. I have other talents.

    One of them is art. I took a couple of years of art design and art history in college, and I grew up around it (my mother is an artist). I tried to make a living at it (read: “starving artist”).

    It’s been a while since I was serious about doing art on a regular basis. I think the purpose of art comes from within. I needed something to express. I needed something to say.

    A couple years ago our church took the Lenten season seriously. We dedicated a room for prayer. It was stocked with candles, a CD player, soft lighting, and interestingly, some Sharpie pens to write prayers and thoughts on the walls.

    This place of prayer has been a tremendous refuge for me.

    Writing on the wall was weird at first. But as others did it I felt more comfortable. We wrote passages of scripture, favorite verses, psalms and such... little prayers. Everything anonymous. It was exciting seeing how other people thought, how they prayed, what was important to them.

    Slowly pictures began to appear. A broken loaf of bread with a goblet of red wine. Pictures of the cross. I reproduced a Gustave Dore’ depiction of the crucifixion in crayons.

    And that is where it began. I was looking at other pictures of Dore’s and a sketch of Jesus’ face. It stayed in my mind. And one day, while in a prayer session, I went to the spot behind the door and sketched that face in pencil. The eyes were level with mine. I came back another day and sketched it in with a fine point black Sharpie.

    I came back again and penciled in His body. And all the while I thought about the movie The Passion and His great sacrifice. I started writing the words of the prayers I was thinking in the folds of His clothing in various colored Sharpies, working around other prayers that had been written on the wall.

    Soon I was praying there a lot of the time. Praying and writing and drawing. I bought every color of Sharpie there is and brought in many colored pencils and acrylic paints.

    I did the Lord’s Prayer, twisting around the figure of Jesus and over the door and around other scriptures written on the walls. I did a grape vine climbing up the corner and twisting out, using passages about Jesus as the vine to give the bark texture. One branch was the list of Jesus' heritage. I put sparrows in the vines, flying in to settle near grapes with passages about how He loves the sparrows and how much more He loves us.

    Before long a year had passed and Easter was coming again.

    I was uncomfortable at how some folks would talk so much about the pictures, as if they were something of worth in themselves. They aren’t. Their only value, for me anyway, was in the prayer I was praying when they went on the walls. So as Easter approached I convinced a reluctant pastor to let me paint over the walls for Easter.

    What a shock for folks.

    But then I began again. This time I planned the life-size image of Jesus from the start. He is the Good Shepherd, a lamb across his shoulders. He is wearing a crown of thorns, but there are no holes in His hands. He is looking purposefully outward, and a careful eye may notice that a shadow in the shape of a cross is falling across him. He has begun his final mortal walk, carrying His sheep, and resolutely moving onward. The entire thing is done in fine point colored sharpies, the lettering so small in places for shadow that I could not see the letter myself, I just knew the shape I had made formed them.

    I did another version of the Lord’s Prayer. A large circle: a never ending prayer.

    I painted a golden sword on one wall in acrylics, a reminder of a dream I had received when things had gotten a little rough this past year (post:November 12, 2005).

    The prayer room is a place for prayers, and that is all that these are.

    And in a couple of weeks it will get painted over again.

    There are folks who are dismayed that it is going to get painted. I’m glad they will be gone. They were done for the moment, not for anything else.

    I suppose some people see art where all I see is a time of meditation and prayer that marked a passage for me. I will be glad for new canvas.

    But I have an idea. If folks want these images so much (some have even talked about cutting out the sheet rock to preserve them), I have a plan.

    This year I will do most of my prayers on canvas and wood and hang those on the walls (I'm excited about redoing the Lord's Prayer!). Then the following Easter we can have a silent auction and folks who want them can have them. The money can go to the fund the rebuilding of our church from the fire.

    I’ve said all this for two reasons. First, I would like to promote the idea of churches having a place where people can go to pray; let them express themselves in anyway that seems fit to them at the time they are praying.

    The second reason is a little trickier to articulate.

    It is the idea of creative prayer. I’m not sure what to say about it, but when I approach a creative project something organic happens. I’m not exactly sure what is coming when I start, I am simply a tool for Him to use.

    Have you prayed earnestly and for a long period of time and have felt the prayer take over? It becomes something outside of yourself.

    I did a writing experiment once where I let a character in a short story begin to respond to what I was writing as I wrote it. I soon found myself arguing with a character I was making up as I went along. It was unsettling, especially since he got in the last word.

    Art can be like that. Last Christmas morning I stepped up to a blank canvas on the stage of our church while the congregation sat to hear our pastor speak.

    This is what I was thinking:

    Uh oh! I don’t know what I am doing!!! What color should I use?! Everyone is watching! I better get started... Now. NOW!! NOW!!! Uhhhh... what color? What color? Uh, WHAT COLOR?!!! Come on... pick a color!!!! OK.... Uh.... BLUE!!!!!!

    I didn't know what I was going to do. I had set myself up to let the Lord lead me at the last possible moment.

    "If you know exactly what you are going to do, then what is the point of doing it?"
    -- Pablo Picasso

    Then I stopped and thought about Tim’s sermon. It was on Mary’s song. the Magnificat.

    Here is a woman, no one special, a girl really, and of all the people on the Earth, among all the mighty cities, this girl in a tiny town was going to be the tool the Lord used to step into mortal existence. She sang a song of praise.

    So I painted a picture of a tiny figure among enormous buildings, bathed in the light of grace and love and divine selection.

    Suddenly I find myself drawing and painting. And with each stroke of the pen, or brush of acrylic paint, or rubbing of chalk, I think about the prayer in my heart that is finding expression outside of myself.

    And there is so much going on in my heart. I ache to be nearer my Lord, whispering prayers that are spontaneous and liturgical, rote and creative.

    That is the second point I wish to make, aside from encouraging others to create prayer rooms. I want to encourage others to find new ways to communicate with our Lord. If He has given you a talent, can you use it to express a prayer? Can you write? Can you sing or play an instrument?

    We fill our lives with nonsense: TV, movies, silly human politics. I believe we too often overlook the things within all of us that are divine; where else could creativity come from than from The Creator?

    Grinding Flour

    Big, heavy, deep, sobs shook him, making it difficult for him to pray. Each word came gasping out, pulled laboriously from deep inside. My wife and I held his hands, guiding him, helping him find the words.

    My heart ached for him, and it grew a little larger.


    I wasn’t really in the mood for church today. I got there early, as usual, and went in the prayer room. I lit a half dozen candles. I sat down. I prayed. I waited.

    It was a good service today. Before the service there was an invitation to come forward and pray. I did. It helped a little.

    The worship songs were well chosen. In singing them I felt my heart lift a little... but not like I usually feel.

    The message was good (I'd already read the notes before hand when I posted them here).

    Even at church I am busy. Tasks to do between services. Set up for a Sunday School class... There were a number of people I needed to speak with. A woman who wants me to do a small painting for her son, a state legislator who is going to appear on my students’ tv show, a buddy who agreed to repaint the prayer room, my spiritual mentor to verify tomorrow’s meeting, a guy who can help me with a wood surface for a painting I am starting after Easter... and... Oh, I almost forgot... Jesus.

    My life is too busy. It is getting busier.

    I have an interview tomorrow with the district’s superintendent and the personnel director for a team that will design the philosophy, pedagogy, and curriculum for our school. Important stuff, plans that will affect our school and thousands of children for a very long time. Worth the time and effort. Very exciting. But it is one more task. My life gets so busy I feel like I am on some sort of treadmill.

    I’m too busy. Aside from work and my prayer times I have three after school programs, and more importantly, a family that needs my attention.

    Frankly, though I try really hard, I don’t understand women. Sometimes I wonder if some people are gay just so they don’t have to try to live with the opposite gender. (Fear not, I'm not going into a battle-of-the-sexes frustrated-male monologue today.) But I recognize that I need to slow down, care for her as the most important human in my life, because she is.

    She is a good woman. I love her very much. I wouldn’t hesitate to give my life for her, do almost anything to make her happy.

    The house needs my attention. That is a whole other treadmill. The bedroom door needs fixing, the floors are peeling, and the toilet plugged up yesterday. Even when the plug seemed to be cleared it still wouldn’t flush properly. The water was draining, but the bowl wouldn’t fully refill. I finally pulled the toilet out and dragged it into the back yard to see if there was something still stuck somewhere in its innards. I tried to run a plumber's snake through it, and a garden hose...

    My mother in law was here, sick because she had spent a couple of days last week watching Jeremiah when he was sick. She needed to use the only other restroom every 20 minutes. That was a frequently occupied room.

    And Brenda was having a bad day.

    In the most positive moment of the afternoon I reminded her of the evening out we had the other night and how she was having a good day. She said: “A good day is when I’m not screaming on the outside.”

    It made me feel sad, and tired, and old.

    So I was at church with a heavy heart. I slapped on a plastic smile. I prayed fervently. I tried my best to think of others and how I love my Lord.


    After church I fed the kids and went back to wrestling with a toilet.

    While I worked I got to thinking. I was thinking about bread.

    We had communion this morning and I was thinking about the last supper, the first communion. I was thinking about that loaf of unleavened bread.

    I was really thinking about the donkey.

    You see that meal, the Last Supper, happened in Jerusalem during passover. In a city like that, and for travelers such as Jesus’ group, the bread was probably purchased from a professional baker. The flour for that bread would have come from a source of wheat able to feed a city full of pilgrims.

    Wheat was ground at a mill, a donkey walking around a tight circle, rotating a mill stone.

    That donkey probably worked there for a long time. It would spend most of its life there. A lot of grains of wheat poured between those stones while it ground those kernels into flour.

    Most of that flour fed regular folks regular meals.

    But that week something unusual happened. During that particular week it produce a sack of flour that would be touched by the hand of God. That loaf of bread was broken before twelve close associates and passed around in a symbolic meal that would multiply itself through the ages, like a timeless feeding of thousands from a few loaves, until I reached this morning to pick up a small piece of cracker and place it in my mouth to consider its dryness and how I am far less than my Lord wishes me to be.

    That donkey walked around in circles for a long, long time, working, working, working...

    Sometimes that is all I can do. Even when I am weary, I need to just keep moving in the circuit He has placed me in and pull that stone.


    This afternoon, born of the frustration of unresolved plumbing issues there was a break through with Jeremiah.

    Something gave. His heart cracked in a way I have not seen before, and the fears and grief and anguish he has been feeling since the fire came choking out, sobbing out, in a prayer before his mommy and his daddy.

    We are tired, and the work is often tedious. But in the mundane work of our lives something unusual can happen. So we are surprised when the result of our labors has a divine purpose.

    Ode to a Missing Beard

    In honor of St. Patty's Day I offer this limerick:

    There once was a curious servant,
    who shaved all his beard for Lent.
    He was caught by surprise,
    by cheeks of great size,
    and said "Razors are money ill-spent!"



    Brenda is at an AA meeting and the boys are bathing. I just finished grading papers. It is almost time to help my kids into bed, say prayers with them.

    Since this blog ranges from the theological to the every day stuff, I thought I would at least make an attempt at posting tonight by using this as a little journal to record my thoughts.

    First, I am discouraged by how many of my students chose to plagiarize from the internet. Eight of my students have some explaining to do. Worst I’ve ever seen. I wonder if it is because they didn’t expect a technology teacher to check out their writing so closely. This only happened once or twice a year when I was teaching English.

    Busy week. I interviewed for and was selected to help rethink how our middle school works. I wrestled with a toilet and, after three heroic days of struggle, emerged victorious. I did a painting for a friend. I began several new spiritual disciplines (new prayers at night, new prayers in the morning, and meeting with some folks each Thursday night).

    Isaac told me how he didn’t want me anointing and praying over him each night. I told him I might go a little easier on the oil for a bit, but the prayer thing is here to stay, even if I just come up, and do it silently beside his bed. Kid is turning into a teenager.

    I am definitely growing the beard back as soon as Easter passes. Strange ritual, scraping my face each morning. At least it makes me stop long enough to pray through certain things each morning. Everyone tells me it makes me look younger, but what the heck, I don’t have to look at my face. If this face is too aged, they can avert their eyes. The shaving thing goes.

    I’ve taken to walking a half hour each morning to pray (PT: that's where I'm off to when you see me on Redwood in the mornings). That is a significant time for me. I have been thinking about my spiritual life and I believe I am becoming more excited, more passionate about it all the time. Not the enthusiasm and fervor I felt when I was a teen attending Calvary Chapel in a tent in Costa Mesa, but a swelling of my heart that makes me feel emotions that aren’t easy to express.

    I’m working on that. I am trying to finish up a post that inspired by a conversation about U2’s song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. I am trying to formulate how I feel about my faith today.

    This past year has been such a strange journey. And though it has had challenges that have hurt (financially, emotionally, spiritually, physically) I see it has been very good for me. I am not the man I was a year ago.

    Speaking of changes, the missing beard has prompted me to look closer at my physical features and I have to admit it... I’m not 30 anymore.

    In general I am fine with turning 50. It just seems a little weird.

    Gosh, I want to get into the subject of the post I am writing, but I guess I best get to the kids and lay my head down to sleep and pray the Lord my soul to keep.

    My apologies for the stream of consciousness post tonight, but it is all I can spare of me for tonight.

    God bless.

    I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

    I have always been a seeker. I have been intensely curious about all sorts of things all of my life... hence: “Curious Servant”.

    When I was four I made little boats out of walnut shells, watched them float through irrigation ditches beneath orange trees in southern California. I wondered why they floated.

    As my dad drove us out for frog gigging in rice paddies of northern California I watched the moon. I wondered at how it kept up with us, racing along behind trees and grain silos. Ignoring my dad’s jokes that the moon was following our pickup, I soon figured out without his help that the moon must be very distant and very large to be able to slide along with us in the distance. It was an epiphany reinforced the following year as I walked to my first grade class room, noticing the trunks of trees following along with me beyond the slats of white picket fences.

    I was curious and I saw how curiosity taught me things. I kept my eyes open.

    I have done all sorts of things... had all sorts of adventures... and I think curiosity was behind it all.

    I’ve been scuba diving with sharks, and I’ve walked much of the John Muir Trail. I hitch hiked nearly 30,000 miles one summer in a youthful attempt to rack up miles and adventures.


    I’ve seen the serpent’s shadow slither down the ancient stone steps of Chichen Itza during the vernal equinox and I’ve wiggled through tight passages of abandoned sliver mines in the desert.

    I’ve lived in an ashram, meditating for hours on end...

    Always searching...

    Once, when I was 18, I took a stack of books to a cave on Saddleback Mountain and read, and read, and read. Nearly three months. I read the Bible, and the Book of Mormon, and the Bhaghavad Gita, and the Upanishads. I read Patangali, and the sayings of Mao Tse Tung. I read the Autobiography of a Yogi and the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. There was the Koran, and The Lost Books of Eden, and a book on astral projection. I dove into, through, and emerged from the sayings of Confucius, the poems of Omar Kayim, and the whole silly series of Carlos Castenda. I practically memorized Ewell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus and Be Here Now by Ram Dass. I took along some Richard Brautigan to lighten the mood, and kept Walt Whitman and Emily Dickensen on hand.

    All my life things my brothers thought uninteresting fascinated me, especially things of the spirit. Even when I was very young. While in kindergarten there was this little church in Willows, California.

    I jumped up as high as I could and grabbed the rope. My five-year-old body swung the bell in the tower above me, it rang out, a satisfying throbbing ring. I imagined people all over town hearing the bell ring, telling them it was time for church. As my feet touched the floor I let go. The rope swung up, and just as the rope reached its peak I jumped even higher, making the clang even louder.

    BONG, -ONG, ong, ong, o n g... (It’s time for church!)

    BONG, -ONG, ong, ong, o n g... (It’s time for church!)

    BONG, -ONG, ong, ong, o n g... (It’s time for church!)

    That was a significant year for me spiritually, 1961.

    I started school. Kindergarten was next to the city swimming pool. I learned I’m not supposed to climb the school fence and run home to tell my mom something. I learned I didn’t draw the sun right (some girl whose name I cannot recall told me so). It was supposed to be round with wiggly lines and a smile, not a brilliant yellow white orb with speckles in a pale blue sky. I learned that if you aren’t feeling well they will take your temperature in the strangest way. And I learned that God was a real part of my life.

    I was so honored to ring that church bell. It was like they had chosen me to help be the voice of God, telling our town that He was here, that it was Sunday, and everyone should hurry to church and hear stories about Him.

    One Sunday I saw something my mom didn’t believe. The stain glass window of Jesus holding a lamb grew fuzzy, softened, and His face turned to me and smiled. I knew I must be special. He stopped and smiled at me! I cried silently and smiled. My dad frowned.

    A few weeks later there was a communion service. My mom told me I couldn’t do it yet, I was too little, I didn’t understand what communion meant.

    I loved my mother, but I knew she was wrong. I knew what it was about. I knew it wasn’t just bread and juice, that it wasn’t a snack. I knew it represented something much bigger, much more important. I knew it was about how Jesus was God in the form of a man and that He had let people hurt Him, kill Him, and that the bread and juice represented Him so we could always remember what He did and that we could take part in that sacrifice. I knew He had done it for me.

    But words such as sacrifice, and salvation, and communion weren’t yet a part of my vocabulary. I couldn’t tell her I understood what it was all about. For a moment I felt like arguing with her (something I never did). But I also felt, deep inside, that it was ok, that it didn’t matter. That He knew what was in my heart.

    Now I am pushing fifty and I feel a stirring in my heart that is still fresh, still passionate.

    I have been reading Scientific American thoroughly since 1980 and I still devour books as if they are some sort of food that sustains me. But they aren't, they don’t.

    I have found something more satisfying.

    I love the Lord my God with all of my heart.

    When I am mindful.

    What a weak man I am. I can’t seem to keep that focus.

    Here’s a guy who could sit for three hours, staring at a candle flame, and he can’t be obedient to his Lord and master, fully obedient, for a single day.

    Ah well.

    I’m not really going to beat myself up over it. In fact, that is the point of this post. (And you thought I’d never get to it!)

    I am saved. The creator of the universe has literally moved the laws of physics, moved Heaven, and moved Earth, and moved Hell, just to be reunited with beings who reject Him continually. I know this to be a truth that is clearer than simple addition. Simpler than the fact that hydrogen is abundant and rainbows are pretty. I know it to be truer than my own beating heart. I am saved. I am loved.

    I feel joy that makes me dance. Truly, it does! I do this stupid little dance sometimes when I am praying on my solitary walks.

    But it isn’t enough. It isn’t all that I am seeking.

    For I know that the joy I feel, the thrill of loving my Lord is shallow.

    I know that the grief that broke my heart in two, when I clutched my dead child from the cold metal table at Willamette Falls Hospital, is a pale emotion compared to the LIFE, the VITALITY, I will feel when my faith is sight.

    I know that the love I feel for my wife, especially when she smiles, is a shadow of the happiness I will feel when I shake off this flesh, and gaze upon the splendor that my soul continuously whispers to me exists beyond the borders of this strange mortal existence.

    Science has a huge blind spot. It decrees that what is true, what is real, are all the things that are measurable, repeatable, observable. But I know there are many things that are not measurable, repeatable, observable. I can feel it because there is something inside my chest, some living, flopping, twisting thing that leaps and sings and has no part of what a doctor might see if he were to spread my ribs apart and peer within.

    I have been giving a lot of thought to the band U2 and there is a song that has been rolling through my mind this past week and while I have been tapping away at this keyboard.

    I have climbed highest mountains
    I have run through the fields
    Only to be with you
    Only to be with you
    I have run
    I have crawled
    I have scaled these city walls
    These city walls
    Only to be with you

    But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
    But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

    I have kissed honey lips
    Felt my healing in her fingertips
    It burned like fire
    This burning desire

    I have spoke with the tongue of angels
    I have held the hand of a devil
    It was warm in the night
    I was cold as a stone

    But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
    But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

    I believe in the kingdom come
    Then all the colors will bleed into one
    Bleed into one
    Well, yes I'm still running

    You broke the bonds
    And you loosed the chains
    Carried the cross
    Of my shame
    Of my shame
    You know I believed it

    But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
    But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
    But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

    I have found something wonderful

    I have found the reality of the divine incarnated. I have swept that truth into my heart and into my life.

    But I know that I was created, all of us were created, to sit in a garden and speak with God, spirit to spirit, fully present to each other, and that was torn apart by the selfish motives of all humans who want to have things their own way.

    We can’t help it! We are mortal. We are flesh.

    Adam had to flee that intense reality, the presence of the almighty God, and Moses learned he could not look upon that reality, that truth, and live.

    But it won’t be that way forever. Not forever.

    I still haven’t found what I am looking for...

    But someday I will.

    If you have lost your passion for life. If you are seeking for a truth greater than yourself, for something that will make your heart quicken more than it did when you first fell in love. You need a relationship with the creator of all things. This isn’t some pap, some sappy western myth, but a reality.

    It isn’t the total package, but it is as much joy as a mortal frame can handle.

    The Lord's Prayer

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
    --Genesis 1:1

    The first thing the Word says about God is that He is the Creator. He created all things. He is the embodiment of creativity.

    Creativity is central to human beings. Not surprising; we are made in His image. We are tool makers. We are artisans, craftsmen, builders, makers, shapers. We create tools to change our lives, to change our environment. The greatest thrill of our lives is in creating, bringing forth children. We thrill to the creation of new things... in our lives, marriages, pregnancies... building homes, starting businesses, creating art.

    There is something about making things that lifts us up. There is something positive, something right about the creative process. I think that is even truer when we do things for Him.

    This Friday the Prayer Room in our church is getting repainted; we do it every year just before Easter. I am very excited. The old prayers are covered over, the walls are fresh again for another year of praises, pleas, and expression.

    On one of the walls in that room is The Lord’s Prayer. This year I’m redoing it on a sheet of 5’ X 5’ birch plywood. It is one of the largest non-mural art pieces I have ever done. I’ve primed the wood and sketched out the painting.

    There is something about painting that isn’t easy to describe, to explain. I pray while I draw, while I paint; the words mix with the decisions I make, whether this line goes here or over there, whether this is yellowish white or bluish white, and is that orange, or red, or brown? I feel close to Him when I am doing something like this. The words I am praying influence what I draw, what I paint.

    I sketched some of the elements on paper first. I used charcoal from the burnt church to transfer the images onto the painting.

    The best part is the prayer itself: The Lord’s Prayer. There is no better prayer. It covers all the elements. It recognizes the supremacy of God; it reminds us of His glory, power, and control of all things. It asks for forgiveness, and for sustenance. It recognizes our earthly existence and our eternal one. It is glorious.

    Let me share what I have sketched out:

    Our Father

    Our master, our Lord, our provider, our creator...

    These words are centered, at the top, 12:00, with the Hebrew letters for Yahweh glowing above.

    Who art in Heaven...

    He is above all things, seeing all things, knowing all things, in control...

    These thin letters, glowing in pale yellow, will float over a spacescape, Jupiter, Saturn, a two-tailed comet, and stars. The letters settle among stars, looking a little like stars themselves. The Lord is everywhere, even beyond the limits of our own experience.

    Hallowed be Thy name...

    This line ends at the 3:00 position, where the night sky transitions into dawn, at the shining, rising sun, amid clouds of purple and red. The names of God reaching, flickering toward the center.

    Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done...

    The clouds turn to rolling thunderheads and tall buildings of gold and white stretch out from the clouds through blue sky toward the center.

    ...on Earth as it is in Heaven.

    Lord, make this place Yours. Have Your will here. Start with me. Start with mine. And may we learn to obey You, all of us, from north to south, east to west, super powers to thrid world nations, may we be obedient.

    The Earth floats amid clouds (6:00 position) , and the dead center of the globe is Jerusalem.

    Give us this Day our Daily Bread...

    A broken loaf of bread and a glass of wine, symbolizing the providence we receive every day, as well as the spiritual nourishment of communion.

    ...and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

    These dark, stark letters of caution float over reddish clouds, reminding us of the seriousness of our failings, an echo of how we frequently fail, and a warning that we need to forgive.

    And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil...

    (Some sources say “from the evil one...”) These words float beneath the moon peeking through the darkening clouds at 9:00.

    For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory...

    The letters glow over a darkening, sky shifting into stars.


    The word repeats as it slides around a spinning mobius strip rising from the center. One edge is red shifted, looking backward, the other edge is blue shifted, looking forward, encompassing all of time, all of creation. The strip looks as if it is spinning up from the center, hovering amd galaxies.


    Amen... the truth, so it is, so we agree... written on a ribbon unscrolling beneath the first words... “Our Father...” so the prayer begins again.

    And in the center is the cross, central. It is all about Him. A wooden cross floats an inch and a half above the painting, four spears of light stream out from it. The bottom spike strikes down, tapering to a thin point, resting on Jerusalem.

    Along this path toward Earth creted by the cross the dove of the Holy Spirit is descending toward the world.

    I will hang this in the Prayer Room and work on it a couple of times a week. When it is done, and when we go to repaint that room in a year, we will move it into the new building our church is going to build.

    Oh yes, an update on that: We need to raise $800,000 for that building, designed to serve our community as much as us. Many of us have pledged more than we know how to raise, so this building itself is an act of faith. For example, Brenda and I have pledged about 1/3 more than we know we can budget. He will provide. There will be many amazing testimonies of God’s providence.

    So... a new creative project for me... and a new prayer. I can hardly contain myself! Another year to draw, on paper and canvas, and closer to Him.


    It is Spring!

    The daffodils are pushing up. And the grass is green, GREEN, GREEN! After all, this is Oregon.

    There is something vibrant about a sunny spring day in the Willamette Valley.

    My middle schoolers are off for Spring Break. They will return with the changes this season brings to the hearts, minds, and bodies of adolescents. The sixth graders will return as full-fledged middle schoolers. The 7th and 8th graders will return with even greater spunk and vinegar.

    Watching them is like watching a nature film on public broadcasting. We call them kids because they act like mountain goats, springing about, shouting, alive.

    Perhaps that is why it is called Spring. It puts a spring in our step. It makes kids spring from place to place, game to game. It feels like we have tapped into a spring of refreshing cool water.

    Though my mind keeps turning to my upcoming 50th birthday I am feeling very young, in a lot of ways. Today something occurred to me.

    I am in the Spring of my life.

    There is a joy in my heart that makes it race, a clarity to my thoughts that makes reading and writing and listening to music feel pregnant with a coming spiritual epiphany.

    I am immortal. I will never truly die. I will dance throughout time, I will sing throughout eternity. I will praise and shout and weep with joy beneath my benefactor’s smiling gaze.

    I am brand new. I will live forever, and the whole of this life, this mortal life, is just the birthing of who I really am.

    I’ve been on a U2 binge of late... today I want to share a song with you.


    It starts out with a simple prayer, a plea for the Lord of all things to take us, just as we are, with our dead end lives headed nowhere, our ordinary clothes, our ordinary bodies, and wash us.

    Take these shoes
    Click clacking down some dead end street

    Take these shoes

    And make them fit
    Take this shirt

    Polyester white trash made in nowhere

    Take this shirt

    And make it clean, clean

    Take this soul

    Stranded in some skin and bones

    Take this soul

    And make it sing

    I have known sorrow. I have held my dead child... three times. I have felt the ache of unreturned love. I have felt the fear of bankruptcy. And I have had a doctor tell me I have only months to live. I’ve felt shame and guilt and horror. These are the awful realities of living in a fallen world. These aren't emotions of God's but of the pain we have brought with us into this world... pain we need to feel before we can drop our own self-centeredness and embrace Him.

    Yahweh, Yahweh
    Always pain before a child is born
    Yahweh, Yahweh

    Still I'm waiting for the dawn

    I have felt the joy of relinquishing who I am, what I want, what my desires are, and sought to make myself obedient.

    Take these hands
    Teach them what to carry

    Take these hands

    Don't make a fist

    Take this mouth

    So quick to criticize
    Take this mouth

    Give it a kiss

    (Please Lord, make me better able to serve You. Less of me. More of You.)

    Yahweh, Yahweh
    Always pain before a child is born
    Yahweh, Yahweh

    Still I'm waiting for the dawn

    Oh what a fearful thing! My heart quickens... someday... I will breathe my last breath, and the true dawn will come. I will see the Sonrise.

    Still waiting for the dawn, the sun is coming up
    The sun is coming up on the ocean

    This love is like a drop in the ocean

    This love is like a drop in the ocean

    All that I am... the best of who I am... my greatest passions, my deepest love, is the faintest hint of the vastness of love I know is real... I feel that ocean lapping on the edge of who I am, on the shores of my soul, and I know that as strong as my love feels, though it makes me tremble, I am only sensing the true love that brings all things together... the subatomic strings dancing in patterns of three, making up quarks, making up atoms, making up molecules, making up cells, making up this body, are dancing a song of love, binding it all together. Science is stretching, trying to pull the laws of physics into a single whole... the strong atomic, the weak atomic, the electromagnetic, the force of gravity, attempting to describe You (my master).


    There is an eternal spring bringing the freshest water to my greatest thirst.

    And make Your city, the city, shine again. Rebuild it. Both the city of Your kingdom, and the city where I live.

    Yahweh, Yahweh
    Always pain before a child is born

    Yahweh, tell me now

    Why the dark before the dawn?

    Take this city

    A city should be shining on a hill
    Take this city
    If it be your will
    What no man can own, no man can take

    Take this heart

    Take this heart
    Take this heart

    And make it break


    Oh heavenly Father! Oh my master! I am so weak. I know I do not deserve to even utter this magnificent word, this holy name. Forgive me Lord for my pride.

    Please accept my trembling offering. Lord, I lay it all before You. I give you my money. Take my checkbook, take my wallet. It is Yours.

    Take my love... my love for my wife, my love for my children, my love for my church. It is Yours. Heavenly Lord.

    Take my sadness. Take my grief. Take my anxieties and cares and happiness and amusement and bewilderment and make it Yours.

    Take my education, take my skills. Take my talents, and my knowledge, my curiosity and thoughts, my strengths and my frailties, use them in any way You please. They are Yours.

    Today I am young. A man. A mere moth. I am in the Spring of my existence. I know I will dance beyond the life of the universe and You will sustain me.
    Let me be Your servant Lord. Bid me and I will obey.


    Paradigm Shift

    If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
    --1 Corinthians 13:1-2

    What a nice little blog I’ve got going here. I alternate between beautiful little soliloquies of faith and wisdom, and angst-filled examinations of my life. I like to craft my words carefully, and I guide the overall attitude to make it palatable for who I believe my readers to be.

    There are parts of who I am, what I think, what I feel, that would not please all who visit here. I know that I can be totally right, while I am completely wrong. So I fear to tread where this post is headed...

    How to be right and be wrong.

    I could be totally accurate, completely honest, logical, succinct, and clear, but if the words I say should make someone’s faith waiver then I am wrong.

    So, before I go any further in this post, let me state I am wrong. No matter what I have learned, what I have read, or studied, or researched, or experienced, my knowledge is going to be incomplete, inaccurate. Only God is perfect, omniscient.

    Still, I feel a desire to express who I am. Here goes.

    So, a big one... I believe abortion is murder (there, I have already pleased a few, angered a few). I know from a scientific point of view that life begins at conception. It is a simple truth. The legal distinctions of when life begins are political and social, not scientific. The hippocratic oath forbids terminating a pregnancy (but oaths aren’t that binding for many folks). I could provide arguments on how abortion hurts women, how there are plenty of couples eager to adopt, that studies show that lack of options drastically reduces pregnancies, but my reasons for opposing abortion are simpler. In my heart it is wrong.

    I am against the death penalty. I believe it is expensive, it does not deter (it can’t rehabilitate), and it serves only as a tool of vengeance. When there is an error, which has and will happen, there is no recourse, no restitution possible. I believe that if it is wrong for an individual to kill, it is also wrong for a state. “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord,” which means that He is the only one with that right.

    War. This is a tough one. It is easy to make some sort of blanket statement here. I know the way veterans were treated during and after the Vietnam War was horrid. Those men and women were risking their lives, often performing work that was not only noble but heroic. We seem to be treating current veterans better, but I don’t think it is enough. I feel that if we really want to say “Support Our Troops” we should be willing to raise our taxes (and I am) to better compensate them for their work, provide better death benefits to families, and fix the veterans hospitals system. But frankly I’m not sure if war is ever justified. So much death, so much suffering, and the results are so ambiguous. If there was ever a justifiable war it was World War II. But even that war might have been avoided. The penalties placed on Germany after The Great War impoverished them to such a great extent that they were ready for a voice that told them they were great, leading them into a personality cult of horror. I don’t know if there are always viable options to war, but they need to be sought fervently.

    (I am not saying that we aren’t doing good things in our efforts around the globe, I have read of many of them that warm my heart and are ignored by the media in general. But still, I believe war is wrong.)

    I believe God created all things. I also believe He has laws of nature, laws of physics, which govern how the world works. I believe that evolution is an artist’s palette that is held by the hand of God painting ecosystems creating environments for Him to work wonders. I am very aware of what scripture says and I do not believe this view is incompatable with my faith.

    I am an environmentalist. I believe in protecting the environment. All of it. Even if it inconveniences people. We are placed on this world as caretakers, stewards. And just like most human endeavors we have screwed it up. At the very least, if just from a purely business perspective, we need to protect what is protecting us.

    These are the thoughts, feelings, views I hold about my life, my world. For many of you these may be unsettling, even anti-christian. Many of you may feel a strong desire to set me straight. For we, especially Christians, have a strong desire to speak the truth. And you may be far more right than I. These views are mine because my heart, mind, and spirit have led me to them.

    None of it matters.

    None of these things touch upon my salvation. All of these views may be wrong. In fact, most likely, all of these ideas are probably partially wrong.

    So, I took a chance with you dear reader. Many of you will have problems with what I have shared here (some of you are linked from here.) I love you, and I wonder if you still love me.

    I have constructed a careful world view, this paradigm of mine. It is built out of my experiences, my knowledge of scripture, my understanding of science, and my faith.

    Someday it will all be swept away. I will die. I will cease to breathe, my body will rot. But my spirit will live. And in that new life, that life of spirit, fully in eternity, the scales will fall from my eyes and I will know all that is truly true. I will hold a truer paradigm, not the "truthiness" of politicians (the feeling that something is true, that it sounds true).

    All I have thought, and wondered, and hypothesized, will be swept away, and what will be left is... love.

    You are welcome to say what you like about what I believe, how wrong I am. But know this: none of it matters. These issues are peripheral to the central truths that comprise my salvation. Jesus told us what is important.

    I love the Lord my God with all of my heart and mind and soul. I love you too.

    Untrapped II *

    We stepped out into the early morning air. There is that bite to predawn air that is delicious. I was with my friend, I liked having him near, but I didn’t want to break the silence.

    The stars were sharp, clear. I might have been able to identify them if I tried, but I didn’t try. I just looked up, and a fleeting memory of a Walt Whitman poem passed through my thoughts, really more of the mood, the feeling, of the poem than the actual words themselves.

    WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
    When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
    When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much
    applause in the lecture-room,
    How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
    Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

    I think too much sometimes. And there are things that rest in the heart that are beyond thinking.

    That is what I like about this poem. It points out an error in the way we teach children. The instructor thinks that stars can be explained, and categorized, and measured, and quantified, and in that we will know stars. But the best way to appreciate stars is to walk in silence and simply look at them.

    My favorite time to look at the stars is during a rare set of circumstances.

    It snows here in the Willamette Valley about every third year. And when it does I like to get up very early, say 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, and go down to the nearest state park, Molalla River State Park, and walk in the clean snow and look up at the sky. The faint starlight is enough to brilliantly light up the snow on the trees, the ground, and make everything fresh, new.

    It wasn’t snowing the other morning, in fact it must have been in the upper 40s. There is something comforting about stars in the early morning.

    My friend said he wanted a cup of tea and went into a nearby building. I followed him, hung about for a bit, and walked back out.

    There was something near, other than stars, flickering toward my heart.

    After a few minutes we drove back toward home, away from the 4 am vigil at the trappist monastery. As we drove away we spoke softly about faith, people, our history together. I felt I was being drawn away from something special.

    It isn’t that I want to become a trappist monk. I’m not even Catholic. But there is something there in that chapel. The same thing I find in those snowy fields between the lines of woods along the river.


    My wife and I like to go for walks together. Usually we chat about things. Our kids. Things we have read recently. Songs that are going through our heads. Sometimes we simply walk together. Happy to be near each other.

    There is a special feeling in that deep companionship when she and I are at peace with each other and our lives and are simply together.


    I go walking every lunch around the track at our school. I plug my iPod into my ears, put on something spiritual, perhaps classical, and pray. I sometimes feel like dancing I feel so good. There is a special feeling of companionship when I am at peace with Him and my life and praying.

    My coworkers think I’m trying to shed weight.


    I recently did a lot of reading about prayer. I got some very good books about types of prayer, and attitudes of prayer. I searched the Bible and read various prayers and descriptions of prayers. There are thankful prayers, and begging prayers. There are prayers of praise, and prayers of intercession. Prayers spoken to the face of God and prayers when God is very distant. Prayers in community and prayers in solitude.

    All prayers fall short of what they should be. We were designed to be in close proximity to the Lord God, walking together in the Garden, in a park, and we have pulled so far from Him in our adolescent bid for independence that we have trouble drawing close to Him.


    We get so trapped in our lives. We hustle from place to place, task to task. I teach five different classes during the school day. I am constantly scrambling to sort kids’ names, and lesson plans, and roll sheets, and parent meetings, and emails.

    But when I go for a prayer walk at the cemetery before work, or stop by the prayer room after work... when I step outside of my life, especially into the sweet environment of a place dedicated to prayers, such as a trappist monastery at four in the morning, I feel a special companionship.

    What is it that I felt, looking up at the stars while an echo of a Whitman poem flickered through my heart?

    I felt Him.

    I felt Him near, and I knew He loves me, that He wants to be near me, and for the brief moments when my heart is turning quietly toward points of light, their journeys toward me beginning while a man was being nailed to a cross, I am closer to being who I was created to be than at any other time.

    The stars are lovely.

    *Post: Untrapped, is archived, September 4, 2005

    Saturday, April 08, 2006


    Why do you think that?

    Why do I think that?

    A few posts back I shared some opinions on various topics. Most of the comments were very positive, reaffirming. I suspect that those with opposing views were polite and said nothing.

    Why do I think the way I do? Why do I see things from this or that particular perspective?

    Some of it I can easily point out as biblical. Others come from a general world view shaped by things I have read, classes I have taken, experiences I've had.

    Some of it is my personality. I say that because there are things about me that the arguments regarding nature and nurture do not seem to touch, traits absent from my siblings. From the moment I was born I was unique in many ways.

    Some of it is cultural. For those dear readers out there who are in such faraway places as Finland, the Phillipines, Norway, Australia, yes even the teenager who visits from Iran, there is something about being an American you may not understand. I know we often seem brash, sometimes rude (I think it is a tourist thing), but there is a passion in us that makes us a touch boisterous. We have a cultural filter which influences how we see things. It is shaped by the movies of John Wayne and the music of Bruce Springsteen. It comes from loving martyrs of freedom and justice, such as Abraham Lincoln. It was tested by the fears of Joseph McCarthy, and the sacrifices of our 16 million men and women who fought in World War II. We love our country, and regardless of how the world may view us, we are intensely patriotic and we want to help the world be better.

    Some of how I think comes from Him. He lives in me. Sometimes my filters do not block what is the heart of all truths, and we get it right.

    I believe there is an innate sense of justice, of right and wrong, which tells us what is good, true, correct.

    But it isn’t always easy to see it clearly, the filters of my life, things I have read, things I have learned, experiences, nature and nurture, filter my experiences, coax me to see things a certain way.

    I am certain I am blind to many truths. I can’t see them because of the attitudes and views I hold. I am also blinded by imposed filters.

    There is the political spin put on everything we hear, whether it is from our politicians or from the media. I remember our president, returning from a fund raiser on a golf course with his arm around FEMA director Mike Brown as they stood amid the destruction of hurricane Katrina, telling us what a great job they had done in preparing for that storm. On the other side of the coin I see the constant barrage of negative news from Iraq, yet I know of many good things happening there that are not covered, not shown, filtered. It seems everyone has an agenda, a reason to filter what I see, what I hear.

    We have a filter on the internet for our students, for excellent reasons. It is site specific, each site is individually added. There is a lot of stuff out there that needn’t come into a school: porn, violence, hate... I haven’t any objection to that sort of censorship.

    Apparently this filter casts a little wider net. Blogs of faith are not permitted and have been blocked. If you have a blog that is linked from this site it is likely it has been blocked. I checked.

    Here are my blogs which have been blocked. (this blog)

    Even my blogs about literature have been blocked, simply because they are mine and I have written about faith. I suppose it is all about the separation of church and state.

    I hadn’t realized I was such a subversive influence! Fortunately this censorship does not extend to all ideas and views. I can still get Al Jazeera through school computers. Shakespeare and the Bible also seem to be intact.

    I’m wondering about the other filters in my life. The places I don’t see because I choose not to look.

    Who might be living under the Molalla River bridge on the highway? Is there a family living in some of the parked cars I see at the parks? Is that hispanic woman returning the bag of pop cans for their deposits and the two kids in tow eating enough healthy food?

    I wrote a few weeks ago about a man
    , the brother of a friend of mine, who has been estranged from his family. He has been begging on the streets of Boise for years, living on an island. Imagine wading out to that river during an Idaho winter.

    Tom was a Vietnam vet. His long hair, wild beard, were the outward signs of his age, his struggles. A closer examination would have revealed the shrapnel wounds from the war, the paranoia.

    One day he knew something was wrong, that he needed help. He went to the hospital. his family came. He had a tumor in his brain. He died last week.

    This is a sad story that I am sure is repeated throughout our country, throughout our world. Wasted lives, spent in wasted places.

    The wondrous twist to this story is that at the last possible moment, while his mental facilities were slipping away, in a moment of lucidity, he prayed The Prayer. He opened his heart. He learned about love. He was baptized, and he slipped away into eternity.

    The Prodigal
    "A Heart of Stone Rolls Aside"

    Who am I not seeing? Who needs my help? What can I do with that innate sense of right and wrong that He has given me?

    Is my love of science blinding me to elements of my faith? Are my political views filtering out ideas that may be true? Do my experiences color the way I see others? I need to seek honesty, truth, see past the filters of my life.

    I chose a passage of scripture to study for Lent, but I keep returning to another passage.

    If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. --1 Corinthians 13:1-2

    That should be filter enough for me.


    It is one year today that I have had this blog residing in the blogosphere. I have blogged about blog-worthy events in my life, met many wonderful bloggers while blogging, and blogged over 70,000 words on this weB log, I mean blog. I have battled blogbots and blog gremlins and as I write this post my blog counter rests at 27,000 blogistors since the counter was placed June 27th. I think I feel a post coming on... so hang tight, I'm going to throw another blog on the fire.

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    Doing Laps

    I used to do a lot of running. Mostly 10 Ks. I used to be thinner too. Ah well.

    I was running a race with my dad. He took off fast, moving quickly ahead. A part of the course looped back on itself, so I saw him running towards me while I was still on the way out. He was gloating as he passed, headed the other way a mile ahead of me. He was showing the kid the old man still had it.

    I was in my first 10 K, concerned how I would finish the race. I didn't want to tire too soon. I was constantly thinking about my pace, judging how my body felt, how I was using my energy, making sure I would have enough to get me to the end.

    I timed it almost perfectly. There was a corner about a quarter of a mile from the finish where a photographer was taking pictures of the runners. I told myself I would turn the tap full open at that point, use all I had left, I would practically sprint to the end. I rounded that corner passing my dad. He didn’t see me. He didn’t look very good, but he was hanging in there. I flew across the finish line, using up the last bit of my energy, utterly spent.

    When he crossed the finish I was pouring water over and into me. He later told me he thought I had given up on the race early, had gotten a ride to the finish. We each got a copy of that picture of the corner before the end of the race. We were side by side. He looked like he was about to collapse. I looked nearly drained, but ready for a good finish.

    This blog has just finished a lap, once around the sun. Monday was the anniversary, the blogiversary, of this little on-line journal. It took a couple of months to get my first non-spambot comment. In late June I added a counter (counting visits at least one hour apart). On Christmas eve it clicked over its 10,000th visitor, like some sort of virtual odometer. Monday, on its blogiversary, it read an even 27,000 visitors. Amazing. Who would think people would be interested in reading stuff I write?!

    My first post was about an epiphany after the death of my first child, Willy. The post bounced between the events of his death and a walk I took early one morning at Molalla River State Park. During the walk I came to understand that though I hurt deeply, though I was torn and broken, God was near, He loved me, He cared.

    In June my eldest son (adopted from Haiti, malnourished, abused, mentally handicapped, black), was playing with fire and burned our church down. In the following months I shared various experiences dealing with the repercussions of that event. Now there are lawyers from the insurance company looking over our tax returns, searching for assets (good luck). There are ongoing counseling sessions for him (and my wife). And there are the spiritual disciplines I do to help him and the rest of my family, springing from that event that turned our lives onto a different course, a cross country race through unknown terrain.

    I’ve had some creepy experiences this past year, this last lap around our local star. Events which lend evidence of dark supernatural forces seeking to influence me and mine. I learned a little of how to deal with them. I take those lessons very seriously, though I write about them seldom. Those lessons continue.

    I’ve had some physical challenges this past year. I threw my back out on a wild ride hanging onto the back of a pick up. My psoriasis got so bad at times that the cuts and rashes made my hands nearly unusable. I frequently found little spots of blood on things I handled.

    This last lap has brought me closer to Brenda. I love my wife even more today than I did a year ago, our marriage is stronger than ever. The biggest part of that change is prayer. We pray for each other, I pray over her each night.

    Though the struggles in my life do not compare to the problems Job faced, I drew strength, wisdom, and guidance from what I read there, and I continued to see things in that wonderfully mysterious book of the Bible. Sometimes during this past year, this last lap, I shared some of my interpretations of that book.

    It has been quite a year.

    This past year I noticed changes in my body, reminding me not only how fragile I am, but that I am no longer thirty. I shaved my beard for Lent (only one week to go!). I saw my cheeks for the first time in 33 years. I see how I am a little older. Which makes sense. I am turning 50 on the 27th. Turning 50 is kind of like watching the odometer on your car roll over 100,000 miles. It is the odometer of my life (though I don’t think it’s so much the distance as the terrain!). It really isn’t a big deal, another day, but it is a surprising number. I always thought that 50 was old. It doesn’t seem so old any more. I’m sure it isn’t as old as it used to be!

    So, another lap around the sun. The 50th. How many more? 30? 20? 50? (Unlikely.) Perhaps not even one. It could be that one day this blog will simply stop, because I have. My heart will cease to beat and I will stop running this race. I will stop doing laps between my home and work five times each week. The Earth will continue to spin, but I will stop racing from meal to meal, and book to book, and prayer to prayer. No more cycles of spring, summer, fall, and winter. No more watching the moon grow and fade. No more walks in the snow, wading in the river, standing over my son’s grave.

    Instead of doing laps I will begin a long climb. A climb up a never ending mountain. Right now I am walking up a slope rising gently from the turmoil, the rocky valleys of mortal life, and up to the meadows on hills of spiritual awareness. Ahead of me the hill dips back down toward the Earth, but I will continue walking upward, away from the Earth, treading on air, strolling in the sky. I will climb gently into a life where I am surrounded by the light of the Son, and grow through and into eternity.

    This race tests who I am. It strengthens my spiritual muscles in ways Heaven will not. Here I have the obstacles of sin, desire, self-centeredness. Here I am a wayward child of God. There I will be His son, prodigal no longer. I will stop being childish and will become childlike. I will journey through eternity with angels, beings who watched the Lord God create this spinning ball of dirt, setting such frail, fickle creatures in its garden. Those beings will walk with me as I explore a new garden, The Garden, where the light comes not from the sun, but the Son.

    So, I’ve completed another lap around the sun, one with many of you watching along the route, cheering me on, giving me encouragement, giving me courage. (Thank you, thank you, thank you.)

    I know I have a limited number of laps ahead of me. I want to continue strengthening these spiritual muscles, using up my energy as I go so that when I round that final corner, and the finish line is within sight, I can sprint hard and fast into the arms of the One who pours living water over and into me.

    I will then stroll, not run, through eternity.

    Friday, April 14, 2006

    Good Friday

    It’s Good Friday. We are going to church in a couple of hours. I am gladly anticipating what will happen there. I feel something moving... drawing near. I don’t know what it is.

    The worship team has been practicing, preparing for Sunday. They know which songs they will play in which keys, what tempo, using which instruments. There are talented ladies doing feminine things with flowers and banners and candles and who knows what. They have a vision for the look, the feel, the atmosphere for this service. Pastor T. is writing, and rewriting, and editing, and polishing and fine-tuning his message. It is going to be on John 21:1-14. The message is divided into three parts, each part lending its perspective, its own element, creating a triune whole, a homily, bringing a little of the Lord’s light and love into our lives.

    There is a large canvas on an easel between the front seats and the stage. It is two feet by four feet. Eight hundred and sixty-four square inches of white canvas without a mark on it. By the end of the service I will have painted something there.

    I haven’t any idea what that will be.

    I have been net surfing, looking at images of empty tombs, crucifixions, and the ascension. From Salvador Dali to Rembrandt, from the middle Ages to modern, I have been seeking inspiration.

    I have no idea what I will paint.

    How would you feel if you were going to step in front of your congregation on Easter Sunday, and were going to perform something, a music recital, give a message, some creative act, and you were unprepared?

    I should be freaked out. I should be extremely nervous. I haven’t been painting all that much.

    But I'm not.

    I feel excited and at peace. I want to know what I am going to do... call me "curious". But I know that it will come. He will tell me. And I'll do it.

    It will all be fine.

    Sunday, April 16, 2006

    Breakfast on the Edge of Forever

    Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

    Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."

    Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

    --John 21:7-14


    It was. . . interesting.

    I did it last December, so it wasn’t completely strange. I went to work quickly. I rotated the two foot by four foot canvas to the horizontal. The idea of doing the ascension didn’t feel right. The message was on: John 21:7-14.

    The disciples go fishing. Jesus has died, they are discouraged, they go fishing.

    I painted the Sea of Galilee, Jesus on the shore, tending a fire, cooking fish, fixing breakfast.

    The service was a big deal. A lot of people in the worship team, a choir, extra instruments, including horns; I think I heard a violin. The message was divided into three parts. We would sing, worship, and pause while our pastor spoke. Then back to worship. The lighting changed every few minutes, from darkened mood lighting, to a pool of light around our pastor, to full light. Each time the lighting changed the colors on the canvas shifted.

    I kept my heart prayerful as I struggled with the paint, trying to push them into a painting that would please people, provide an illustration to the message.

    153 fish in the straining net. 153. Odd number. I painted the number into the sea.

    Hills, sky, water, beach, rocks. The lights kept shifting, I kept adapting.

    The service ended, I said a few words into a microphone someone handed me, explained the image.

    The lights came up. The hills were too bright. A patch of sky hadn’t blended correctly. I went into the kitchen, cleaned my brushes, washed the palette. The lights dimmed, I stepped back onto the platform beside those talented musicians. I squirted fresh blobs of paint onto the palette... the worship began again.

    I pushed the paint where it should go, perhaps gripping the brush too hard. For several minutes I struggled to get the paint on in ways that would layout a balanced image, moving the eye from sea to sky to rocks to Him. Concentrating on composition, trying to balance colors in the shifting light. I gripped the brush, gripped the tubes of paint, even squirting paint directly onto the canvas (never did that before).

    And my hand cramped. The ring finger on my right hand twisted inward, imbedded itself in my palm. I pulled it open with my left. The other fingers of my right hand cramped also. The cramp spread to my wrist. My right hand became useless. For perhaps two minutes I could barely open my fingers. I forced the fingers open with my other hand. I squeezed them, massaged them, and rubbed my hand, conscious people were watching, probably wondering why I was wringing my hands.

    And it all shifted. In my mind, in my heart, I began to truly worship. I felt the cross hanging from my neck pressing coolly against skin. It hit me, really hit me. This scene, one of the last actions of our Lord on Earth, around a fire with some friends, some followers.

    I relaxed. My hand relaxed.

    I started darkening the skies and redoing the hills, dimming the image, darkening it down so the focus would be on Him. I scattered stars throughout the darkness, letting them stretch across the sky, creeping into the reality of this world.

    I took a brush and sketched Him in, kneeling beside a fire, cooking breakfast for His followers, for His friends.

    I knew it had really happened. Our Lord, the Living Word, had become flesh and sacrificed Himself, had knelt in the sand and cooked breakfast.

    No choir of angels. No trumpets, just the sound of waves on the beach. Jesus kneeling, serving.

    I knelt. I looked up at the painting. My heart swelled.

    If I had been there on that beach He would have handed me a cooked fish skewered on a stick, passed me a piece of bread, smiled at me as I ate my breakfast. He would have smiled at me. At me!

    My master. My Lord. He loves me so much. In big ways and in small. He created me, He died for me, He feeds me. Wherever I am. He feeds me in my own home, at my woirk. If I had been there, wading in from a fishing boat, He would look at me, feed me. Even today, He cares for me, in a deep, loving, way.

    I looked up at the painting and it was no longer important if I finished a beautiful painting for the pleasure of those in the congregation. It no longer mattered if the colors worked in the changing light. None of it mattered except what was in my heart. My eyes misted over, I felt... I’m not sure I can share exactly what I felt...

    I love Him.

    He had died and given everything for us, for me. And before He left, before He moved from this world to the full glory of Heaven, He paused, fixed something for some cold and tired fishermen to eat.


    I am eager to finish this painting. Perhaps it has just begun. Perhaps all the surface will get covered over with fresh layers of paint laid down under a constant, steady light. But it will always hold this prayer of mine within it.

    Thank you Lord.

    Thursday, April 20, 2006

    Watching the Moon's Phases

    A remarkable thing about the Bible is its gritty reality. When people screw up it shows: Abraham let his wife go off with Pharaoh because he was afraid... David commited adultery and murder... Peter denied he knew who Jesus was.

    The Bible isn’t filled with simple commands, aphorisms, and cleaned up stories. Sometimes the tales move past PG-13 into an “R” rating.

    The characters are not archetypes of perfection. They are three dimensional people, characters we recognize, personalities which we know, we have met in our own lives.

    I particularly like Peter. He didn’t do things in half measures. He saw Jesus walking beneath the stars on the Sea of Galilee and ran out to meet Him. He promises to stay with Jesus to his death. He jumps in, all the way. When they went to crucify this passionate follower of the Messiah he told them he didn’t deserve a death like our Lord’s. So they crucified him upside down.

    I picture this big guy with the huge heart doing everything in his life in a big way. When he denied he knew Jesus, his shame, his fear and anguish is almost tangible.

    He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about."

    Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept. --Mark 14:71-72

    Picture this big fisherman, this rough fisherman, face in his hands, shoulders shaking in deep sobs.

    Peter had passion.

    Once a month I get together with some guys. We pass peanuts and cookies around a campfire and talk. We share our lives, our concerns, our growth and challenges and we hold each other up in prayer. Sometimes we show our dedication to each other by loaning a pickup truck or lending a hand on some project. We meet once a week to pray, and we meet once a month to talk around a campfire.

    I call it our Moon Howlin’ Night. Once a month we look at the stars, watch the moon glide slowly overhead... and we talk. We joke, we question, we wonder...

    A year ago one of us asked a question:

    “Do you guys find, as you get older, that you haven’t as much passion about things as you used to?”

    We offered different answers, but the matter didn’t seem fully answered. So last night I asked it again (it is great to have a group of buddies which meets so regularly we can pick up a topic a year later).

    The answers to the question still wandered around a bit. I guess the guys are chewing it over. It’s a tricky question. I don’t think our passions wax and wan like the moon that passes overhead each month. Quite the reverse. I think our passions are more focussed than ever before. They don’t jump quickly from one thing of great important to another.

    One of us put it this way: “I think I am more selective about what I get passionate about.”

    When one is twenty or twenty-five it is easy to be passionate about everything. Everything is important, everything is critical.

    So what is the passion like for men at age 50 (give or take a few)?

    We are passionate about our families, that is certain. We love our kids (and grand kids for one of us). We love our wives, and protect them with our prayers and our lives.

    We are passionate about particular interests (music, work, our craft...).

    We are passionate about our Lord.

    Every one of us. We don’t go to church and leave our faith behind at the end of the service. I know these guys. We don’t just do church. We are church.

    We place our shoulders to the work of our church and push, daily, weekly,monthly, yearly.


    This is starting to sound a little self-aggrandizing. Let me set aside my writerly voice for a moment and lay something out clearly:

    We are screw ups. All of us. After all we are human beings. We know we are imperfect. We know we cannot be the icons of perfection that people think church goers should be, need to be. But we want to be obedient to our Lord

    That is one reason we get together.

    As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
    --Proverbs 27:17

    We get together so there is a place where there isn’t any posturing (maybe a little, but it’s all in good fun). We get together so we can be honest with each other. We get together to hold each other accountable to our vows, our promises, our aspirations.

    And we do more than kick the burning logs tighter into the dying fire. We fan each other’s flames, build up each others’ passions.

    We ask each other tough questions (and dumb ones). We laugh together, and wonder together, and wander from topic to topic together, even when the topics span a dozen moons. We watch the moon go through its phases, just as we watch our lives go through their phases.

    It is true we get tired sometimes, jobs, families, hobbies, and, of course, church, requires a lot of us.

    But there I can talk about my passions. I can talk of how the burning of our church by my son makes me feel... I can describe the last moments of my first child’s life... I can talk about how it feels to me to mix prayer and painting, and what goes on in my heart when I worship.

    We don’t do these things because we think we are doing good deeds which make us worthy in some way. For we aren’t worthy. We are all much less than the men God planned us to be had there not been that fall from grace... a grace He gives us once again.

    But we try. Not in the spirit of earning anything, of deserving anything, but in the simple recognition that we are grateful for what He has done and we want to please Him.

    And it is simply easier to please Him when we link arms and move forward together.

    Saturday, April 22, 2006

    "What is church, Curious Servant?"

    Becky asked: "What is church, Curious Servant?"

    I think she was keying off this comment in the previous post:

    “...We don’t go to church and leave our faith behind at the end of the service. I know these guys. We don’t just do church. We are church...”

    I’m sure that many of us would have a variety of answers to that seemingly simple question.

    Here are my thoughts:

    There is "church" and there is "Church". I think I would also add there is also "The Church".

    Lower case "c" church is that building (noun) where we go which holds pews, and Bibles, and such. I would say that lower case "c" church, verb, where we put in time, doing the things that are expected of us. This can be very similar to doing other social, corporate activities: Kiwanis and Rotary meetings, PTA, etc... It may be respectful, even reverent, but can be perfunctory.

    Upper case “C” Church is “the body.” We are the church.

    Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. --Romans 12:4-5

    This means that our Lord is our head, we follow Him, and we offer ourselves up to be a part of a greater whole, to serve the body of Christ. We are the Church.

    Lastly, I would say that sometimes the phrase “The Church” is used to describe our faith as an entity which spans generations, moving throughout time. This use is very similar to the previous usage, in that we make up the whole, but it also implies a focus on the institution of The Church which is a little different than seeing ourselves as simply, joyfully, parts of a whole.

    I suppose it is all about the context of when the word is used. I especially love the use of it which puts me in the Lord’s will. I want to be the Lord’s will.

    Which is the whole point of that previous post. Passion. Living passionately for Him is a joy. My Moon Howlin’ buddies understand that.

    Sunday, April 23, 2006

    Bad Dreams

    For three nights I have had nightmares. It makes me weary. What is the source of these dreams? Are they springing merely from tensions, concerns, fears, in my own heart and mind? Are the admonitions of the spirit (I think not.) Are they spiritual attacks?

    I am very busy of late. Many tasks and responsibilities at work. Many tasks at work and home. Many projects of duty and pleasure. Much busyness.

    My wife and I have been sniping a little at each other. Though we apologize, we aren’t always kind. I do not care for it at all. But even though we have had a slight edge to our conversations, springing from the weariness of all our tasks, especially those involving the special needs of our children, we still try to remain tender toward each other. I wake from a bad dream to my wife praying over me.

    Life is hard.

    Life is good.

    Sunday, April 23, 2006

    Humble King

    Humility doesn’t come easy for people, especially Americans. We love to take pride in all sorts of things, even though there isn’t any logic behind the pride. We are proud of our talents, as if these are things we somehow created. We are proud of our intellect, as if we created our brains so they function so well. We are proud of our children, even though the accomplishments they achieve are truly theirs and not ours. We our proud of our freedoms, though they were purchased by the blood and dreams of previous generations.

    Americans are proud because of our independent point of view, steeped in the independence of pioneers, grasped by those who sought out new lands at great risk. We have the culture of the Wild West reflected in the larger than life characters portrayed by John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, and Roy Rogers, iconic characters standing for what was right, regardless of the personal cost. They make us somehow feel that these are the qualities which describe America. We believe them, and it makes us proud.

    We take a lot of pride in the things we own. We are proud of our homes, our cars, even our computers. Having the latest gadget is all about bragging rights. Having the fastest car, the prettiest wife, the biggest audio collection are American obsessions. That is why we are such superb consumers. We buy more things than any other culture. And we are pretty darn proud of it.

    We can be proud of how swiftly we run, how much weight we can lift, how fast we can throw a ball, even how tall we are (dang, I'm still an inch shy of six foot!). And though these things may reflect a little of how we have fed our bodies, how we have trained ourselves, it seems... odd... that we are proud of things that are really mere descriptions of the bodies we were born to, not things we have constructed for ourselves. A basketball player might be very proud of how he plays the game, and of course much of that has come from a lot of hard work, but his prowess on the court is greatly derived from the coaching he has received, the efforts of others, even more so from the body he was fortunate enough to be given. His misplaced pride is compounded, reinforced, by the millions the public lavishes upon him.

    I have a friend who is a humble man. He never speaks a cross word, he is always willing to lend a hand on any project, and always makes little of his own gifts and talents. More than once I have jokingly told him: “You are such a humble guy, Dave. You should be proud of that!” It is unusual to know humble people.

    There is a passage in Johnathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels when the weary world traveler expresses astonishment at the intelligence of the society of horses the Houyhnhnms) and their lack of pride. The wise horse replies that it would be absurd to be proud of intellect. It would be absurd to feel pride over any feature of the body, to be proud of owning an arm or a foot. Why should one have pride over what one has had no say or effort in obtaining?

    We sometimes wonder why God lets terrible things happen (that is the central question for many who read the Book of Job). Why does He grant us such free will, even to do evil? Why does He permit a man to rape his daughter, diseases to wipe out villages, the movement of tectonic plates to cause waves which erase the lives of hundreds of thousands?

    We know from scripture, from the testimony of our hearts, that God is in control. I am fascinated by science and when I think about how the universe is held together, the forces of electromagnetism, the inexorable force of gravity, and the mysterious workings of matter, it all points, for me, to a God as an active creator. Consider molecules holding “atomic hands” of shared electrons, the atoms aswarm in particles that are discrete and potential, quarks which are songs sung by infinitely tiny strings, held together by the Will of God. And in the minute workings of these tiny particles He permits the macro universe, the world of Newtonian physics, the world you and I experience, to be manipulated by the free will of beings with weak resolve. Though He holds it together, He permits us to use it to pull ourselves away from Him.

    Even in our sin God serves us.

    --Phillipians 2:
    5b ...Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
    6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
    7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
    8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

    What an amazing thought! We are free to pull away from Him or to draw closer to Him. It is our choice, we can use the elements of the universe which He created, He holds together, to hurt each other, to hurt ourselves, and to gain more things for which we can be inordinately proud.

    Perhaps the spiritual realm works somewhat like the Doppler Effect. This is the effect which demonstrates the universe is expanding. Light travels at a predictable, constant speed. All the elements of the periodic table shine with specific spectrums of light with distinct black lines (called absorption lines). As that rainbow slides to the left and right behind those lines we can tell if the matter is racing toward us or away.

    In our everyday lives we notice Doppler Effects in such things as the changing pitch of a passing train’s horn, or the radar gun used to measure the speeds of pitched baseballs and speeding cars.

    Do you suppose our souls shine in ways that exhibit a Doppler Effect?

    Perhaps our souls shine a little toward the blue-white end of the spiritual spectrum when we race toward our Lord, and turn a ruddy, smokey red when we pull away.

    When we are proud are we pulling away? They say that Lucifer’s sin was pride.

    It is interesting to note that our omniscient, omnipotent, all-providing Lord God isn’t proud. I haven’t found a single passage in scripture that says He is proud. Of course He doesn’t need to be. He is the I Am. He is everything. He has no peers for whom to preen or impress.

    So, given that everything we are, everything we own, comes from Him... what are we so proud of?

    Wednesday, April 26, 2006

    Oh no! It's my birthday!

    April 27th, 1956!

    Friday, April 28, 2006

    Annual Review

    Recently someone commented that the tone in my posts has changed, that I seem more at peace. Since I am in a reflective mood I'll pause and look at the past year.

    Yes, I am at greater peace.

    For newer readers of this blog, here's a quick review:

    This blog began in April 2005. The first post was on the death of my first child and a spiritual epiphany. The events of that child’s death colors the way I view the world and that theme has popped up often. Sometimes I hurt from that old wound, but most of the time it is merely a lens that helps me to see eternity, love, loss, suffering, free will, and salvation. I am at peace with the death of that sweet child (my name sake, born on my wife's birthday). There is an ache that throbs now and then (it is doing so a little now), but it is no longer so central.

    Last June my eldest son (adopted) was playing with fire and burned down a substantial portion of our church. That event dominated this past year. There has been counseling sessions (most for him, but a little for all of us), testing (psychological, I.Q.), court appearances, hints of a lawsuit, awkwardness at our church (on our part, our church family has been wonderful), and many small changes in how we operate our home and raise our children. We have learned to see our children as they are, not as we wish them to be. Hard lessons there.

    There has been a number of other changes as well. Partly due to the events surrounding the fire, some from other sources. Those changes affected my thinking, my writing, my spiritual life, even my health.

    There were physical challenges. My psoriasis flared up several times (it is a little rough right now). A couple of times it was so bad it hurt to hold a pencil. I threw my back out and took months to get back into shape. That was a bizarre adventure, humorous, dangerous, and full of God's grace. It was also an amusing counterpoint to some serious events. (Our Lord has a really great sense of humor.) I lost a little weight (through watching my diet and a brisk twice daily walk --great time for prayer).

    There were strange events hinting at slippery things slithering through the spiritual darkness at the edges of my life, my home, my family. Most are distant now, but I remain vigilant.

    I take my spiritual devotions much more seriously now. Daily prayers, weekly prayers, reading scripture, worshipping, all more frequent, more fervent.

    I have a spiritual mentor with whom I meet about once a week, a man who has strengths I lack and exhorts me to be more than I have been.

    I have taken to writing this blog faithfully, at least twice a week (usually Sundays and Wednesdays) and have pumped out over 70,000 words. That alone makes me feel that perhaps I can write a book, a project I am considering. This blog has been an avenue for expressing myself, and a crucible for refining and defining my thoughts.

    I have incorporated art into my spiritual life using a variety of mediums (wood, canvas, canvas boards, walls, pens, pencils, charcoal, ashes, acrylic paint...): an experiment in mixing art with prayer. I have begun selling a few of those paintings, donating the money to the rebuilding fund for our church (we need $800,000 and my wife and I have pledged an amount beyond our means, trusting Him to provide).

    I have begun praying for my children each night, blessing them, talking to them, really trying to understand who they are. This has drawn us together in remarkable ways. My sons, adopted from Haiti, have a lot of challenges in their lives and this constant checking on where they are at, what they are experiencing, has been very good.

    Additionally we do a devotion as a family almost every evening after supper. We are working through the teen devotional book: Can you Handle the Truth? It has sparked good discussions.

    I have been praying nightly for my wife. That draws us together. She knows I love her greatly, not because I tell her so (which I do frequently), but because I do things which show her how much she means to me. (No, she doesn’t read this blog.)

    I have continued to meet weekly and monthly with a group of men. We pray for each other and hold each other accountable. These guys are close enough to me that if I were screwing up they would come over, grab me by the ear, sit me down, and tell me where I am, where I am going, and what I need to do about it. Because I respect and love them, I would listen. Those guys have seen my eyes mist over while talking about Willy's death, the passions of my life, the shattering of dreams, and the reassessment of my children. They have heard it all. I trust them. I love them.

    Over the past year I have seen people pass on, significant events for me.

    Tom Sawyer, a wise, kind, wiry missionary with a white Abe Lincoln beard, a ready laugh, and an earnest voice, went home after a lifetime dedicated to bringing the word of our Lord to Earth's far corners.

    Bob Cryder, a deep voiced, intensely dedicated man who looked like he just stepped out of the fifties (you could almost hear the music) spent his life bringing many into the Shepherd’s fold. He passed on after a curious journey that took him all over the world, spending a decade in this smallish Oregon town, and briefly into the pastorship of a large California church. The night before he died... Well, I'll miss him. He was (is), extremely knowledgeable in The Word, passionate about winning souls, the Holy Land, discussing last days, and exhorting others to strive for a higher ground. That higher ground is where he now resides.

    Tom Barton, a homeless man in Boise I never met, the brother of a good friend, developed a brain tumor, and just before it robbed him of his mental abilities, he accepted the Lord and found peace in this world just before slipping into the next. He was the perfect illustration of the story of the Prodigal Son (or is it the story of The Waiting Father?).

    It is interesting to think of those two Toms, one living a life dedicated to the Lord, the other obedient only at the eleventh hour. They illustrate the story of the workmen: those who work all day and those who came to work at the end, all receiving the same pay, the same grace. There may be rewards in addition to salvation, rewards of the spirit, perhaps of the soul, but both Toms are a part of my eternal family now.

    All these deaths, gentle Tom, dynamic Bob, tormented Tom, brought into focus the reality of an afterlife for me this year.

    So... has the tone of this blog changed? I suppose it has. I write less about the book of Job because the anguish and questions explored there are not as intense for me lately as they were. I still read the book regularly, but more on an intellectual, literary level than an emotional one. Perhaps I need to return to it a little more frequently so I can justify keeping the title of this blog.

    This past year has introduced me to some fascinating people through blogging. Martha Martha, Pirate, Jolly Beggar, MMM, Joe, Pia, Kitty, U2 Sermons, Jim, David, Jeff, Lorna, Felise, Paula, Judas Hate... well you can see a list of many of them over there on the right. They have prayed for me, I have prayed for them. I have found a lot of people who encourage me, love me, pray for me. That has been a significant part of this past year. The Christian circle of bloggers demonstrates yet another aspect of belonging to this spiritual family.

    I am more at peace.

    This will probably change, as change is the only constant in this world.

    But, I am close on the heels of my shepherd.

    That is all that matters.

    Sunday, April 30, 2006

    Sinning, Salvation, and Shaving

    Each year I approach Lent with intent. I move into it knowing that for a little over 40 days I will spend a great deal of time considering what my savior has done for me, and what He expects of me. It is a time to consider my sin and my salvation.

    It is the Spring of the Spiritual Year for me. Lent is the warm up lap for Easter. So I consider what I will do to keep me mindful.

    I choose something that will be a daily reminder, some task or something I will forgo that I may be reminded to pray. This year I shaved daily. I had that beard for 33 years.

    Easter morning

    Every morning I shaved before going off to work. During that time of personal grooming I prayed the Lord’s Prayer, adding a few personal thoughts.

    Throughout the day, every time I felt the wind on my deforested cheeks, I thanked Him for what He did for me.

    When I exhaled and felt the odd sensation of my breath on my upper lip, I smiled at being startled by what is a common experience for most people, and remembered why my facial landscape was naked.

    Shaving, and the sensations it brought, was a constant reminder of Lent.

    Monday morning

    When Easter passed I stopped the morning ritual. My face quickly began to look a touch fuzzy, it was rough to the touch. I wondered... why do we have such a custom? It is a little bizarre to scrape the face, changing it to please some social fashion (my Lord didn't). The Romans shaved. Why did they do it? Probably because the Greeks shaved. Why did they do it? I don’t know. There weren’t any nearby cultures which shaved, certainly no indigenous beardless peoples. If I were to guess, I might say because it made them look younger. They did idolized youth. Folks said I looked younger without the beard.

    Aside from stopping the morning ritual, not much changed that first day after Easter. I said a quick prayer as I got into the shower because I missed the morning ritual, but it wasn’t the same. I stopped by Zion Memorial Cemetery on my way to work, to walk and pray. A couple of people at work noticed the shadow appearing on my cheeks.

    Tuesday morning

    Lent brought me insights: who I am, what I want to do for my Lord. I wondered if my resolve to remain close to Him this coming year would hold against temptations and laziness. Would I persist in holding true?

    I am not going to be a man who does mighty things. I will not be an astronaut, though it was my driving fantasy in 6th grade. I am not going to be a great theoretical physicist, demonstrating how the four forces of the universe are truly one by writing an elegant equation, I haven’t the mathematical aptitude. I will not be president, or a biblical archaeologist, or provide humanity with miraculous cures for terrible diseases. I am not going to be such a man.

    I don’t desire those things anyway. Not any more. I will be most happy to live my life, exhaling my last breath in the company of angels who wend me homeward, so I might hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

    Oh... if I can achieve that...

    Wednesday morning

    Ever walk any distance with your eyes closed? Just to see if you can go straight? I do, often. Sometimes when I walk in the mornings I shut my eyes while I pray, the better to concentrate on the sounds of an awakening world, the better to hear my own voice praying to my Lord.

    But I must flick my eyes open every so often so I don’t veer off the path around the cemetery. I cannot walk straight for very long.

    How long can I walk spiritually straight after Lent?

    Not very long. I am a weak man. I get tempted by many things. I can’t by sheer will power hold true. I need to keep glancing at Him to correct my path.

    Thursday morning

    What must it have been like for Adam? He didn’t have the temptations I do. There wasn’t the ice cream in the fridge crying out his name when he lay down to sleep. There wasn’t any television providing prurient images to draw his eyes away from Eve. There weren’t any liquor stores. He wasn’t tempted by greed, he didn’t covet his neighbor’s possessions. There wasn’t any porn or temptations for murder or drugs or theft or envy. Couldn’t I do much better if I wasn’t always so tempted, so surrounded by the ready excesses of a fallen world?

    Friday morning

    What a strange dichotomy stirs within my beating heart! I have passion for my Lord... yet I crave things He forbids.

    Ah, but so did Adam.

    Even without the steady blitz of the temptations of my world, my time, Adam fell to just one small temptation, the desire, the curiosity, to taste what he never had. A single sin. One small bite.

    This man who walked beside the Lord God on a daily basis, who communed with Him in ways no man has since (excepting our Lord), couldn’t keep himself from sinking his teeth into a pleasant-looking piece of fruit!

    Now some may say that it was Eve who tempted Adam, that it was all her fault. I don’t buy it. Neither did God.

    Sure, that was the excuse he offered, but it didn’t fool the Almighty.

    Adam was standing there watching his wife debate the matter with the serpent; he said nothing. Nothing! Perhaps that was his first sin. He failed her as a husband. Did she glance over at him, asking him what to do?

    He failed to lead.

    So if Adam could fail, if he could sin, with no more temptation than the sibilant whispering of a fellow creature, another thing made by the Lord, what hope have I of staying true to what I want to be, want to do?

    Saturday morning

    There is a piece of music I love to listen to when I am in the prayer room or writing a post: Arvo Part: Te Deum with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra.

    It is beautiful, inspiring. It makes me feel uplifted, closer to Him. Much of the paintings I have done have been to this music. Much of what I have written this past year was while this played over headphones, or on my iPod, or blasting from a CD player.

    It helps me imagine rolling vistas of ethereal eternity, sweeping buildings of gold and ivory which pierce rolling thunderheads as they reach ever upward toward some ultimate throne that shines light on all creation, the glow of glory, of salvation.

    But, after one hour, the CD stops, I put away my paints, or close my Bible, or get up off my knees, and I go home, or go to work, or go do something that is wholly of this world, and not holy for the next.

    And with new tasks, I change. I go back to being a mere man who thinks about temptations, and fails to obey the speed limit, and says edgy comments when I should keep my mouth shut.

    I can’t seem to keep my path straight.

    Sunday morning

    My beard grew back rather quickly. Just as the lessons of Lent quickly became things I have done and not things I am doing.

    My face once again sports a beard that is rapidly becoming more salt than pepper. I begin to look on the outside much as I did before. Have I changed any on the inside?

    Monday morning

    A week after Easter passed, before I went to work, I looked in the mirror and saw my beard had fully grown back. If I shaved the cheeks, the throat, I would look clean cut, professional: a respectful and respected member of society.

    I wet my face, lathered up the areas I was going to scrape, and went to work. I began to pray.

    “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name...”

    I know I will continue to fail. I will continue to sin. I will never be all that I spiritually hope to be, just as I will never be an astronaut. I cannot walk in a straight line with closed eyes for very long. But if I keep glancing up, if I keep orienting myself to the ultimate throne that shines light on all creation, the glow of glory, of salvation, I will do ok.

    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Happy Birthday Dad

    It’s my father’s birthday. Cinco de Mayo. The fifth of May.

    He’s sixty-nine.

    Going on nineteen.

    I gave him a call this morning. He is doing well. He has been to Thailand twice this year and is preparing to go for another five weeks pretty soon. He says he is planning on renting a house this time. He is also scheduled to go there later this summer for 42 days, and again in September for 60.

    He loves talking about his trips to Amsterdam, and Belize, and wherever his fancy takes him.

    I love him.

    I also fear him.

    I haven't anything to fear, it is just a feeling I get when I am near him, an echo of my childhood.

    He has had an interesting life. He has had many adventures, many close calls, many ups and downs. He was beaten as a child, and grew up being pretty tough, pretty rough.

    He turned 19 about a week after I was born, my mother had turned 18 three weeks earlier. It isn't easy to start a family that young. He worked in a battery factory, cared for an orange grove, grew popcorn, and dismantled old farm equipment to sell as scrap.

    When I was five there wasn’t much money. He was renting a farmhouse, reduced rent in exchange for taking care of some wheat fields. He worked as a truck driver and supplemented our table with pheasant hunting and frog gigging. When he had to haul grain and would be gone for a few days, my mom fixed him a sack full of peanut butter sandwiches, no jelly, just peanut butter. He lost his truck's brakes on the grapevine headed down into L.A. on one of those trips. He's lucky he managed to get down that long grade in one piece.

    He started messing around on Mom, and by the time I was in fourth grade she had moved us five times. There was no chance they would get back together (but I hoped).

    He married the teen he had been fooling around with and that turbulent, on again, off again marriage ended with a child obviously not his. He claimed that child, my sister, with a determination that spoiled her... She killed herself four years ago. Now he is raising her son.

    He scared me. He thought the best way to discipline children was violently.

    I once tried to pad my butt with a paperback book before a spanking (hand, stick, or belt, depended on the severity of our crimes). That didn’t work. It was a big mistake.

    I was afraid of the "Boogie Man" and set a trap one night. I ended up catching my father in a snarl of ropes and wire clothes hangers. He wasn’t amused.

    There were good times. Once, when we were living in Chico, (northern) California, he bought my brothers and I BB guns. He took us out to the river bed and set coins up on rocks. Any we hit we got to keep. For the longest time I kept a quarter in my pocket that had a satisfying little dent in George Washington’s forehead.

    He taught me to hunt. On that first trip I learned how to clean a deer, eat fresh liver, and throw a three day drunk. He tried to treat me to a prostitute, to lose my virginity, on that trip. But I refused. He was angry I rejected his generosity.

    This is sounding pretty negative. I don't mean it to be. I really love my dad. He taught me to ride a bicycle. He taught me to ride a motorcycle. He taught me to operate a loader and a motor grader, how to tear down buildings, and what it meant to be a man, at least the macho kind that drinks, and swears, and womanizes. He taught... but I just couldn’t seem to learn those things very well. Not his fault.

    We used to play stupid games on the demolition job sites, usually something demonstrating mental acuity. The penalty for losing was always some stupid prank. We'd sit around eating jalapeno peppers, cottage cheese, and avocados with our fingers and broken bits of plastic, and create interesting penalties for losing. One time he suggested the next loser would have to pee on the stop sign on the corner. This was in downtown L.A.

    He lost.

    He sidled up to the sign, looking nonchalant, and paid up for losing. In a big way. Our grins turned to outright laughter when he began dancing around that corner, exposed, because he had forgotten the jalapeno pepper juice on his fingers.

    Once he found me without much to do and put me to work. He had me picking rocks off the slope above the building pad where we dreamt of building a house for all of us, him, my brothers and I (it never worked out). I was seventeen. I just wanted to find an oak tree to climb into and read on that summer day. But he had me chucking rocks off that hillside and I didn’t like it. I was petulant, and whiney, and didn’t want to be out in the California sun. I was chucking the rocks angrily between my legs. I felt one of them twist as it left my hand and I knew it wasn’t flying right. I straightened up and saw that rock whiz past his ear, sending up dust as it bounced on down the hill.

    “What the F--- was that?” he snarled.

    I knew I was in a tight spot. "Come here!”

    I started walking down the slope, at an angle. not looking up so it would appear I had an excuse for not having an accurate path toward him.

    If I could get across the building pad, past the cow shed, and to the top of the steep grade of the drive, I figured that the momentum of the race down the hill would be enough for me to outrun him.

    “Over here, damn it.”

    I angled my path so it looked like I was trying to comply. Just the bare minimum, a hint that I was obeying. I got to the bottom of the slope and ambled casually in his direction, but really more toward the cow shed, as if I might be going to get a drink of water.

    “Where the hell do you think you're goin'?”

    It wasn’t going to work. I swerved right and ran with all I had toward the road. I heard him curse and start scrambling down the hillside after me.

    My heart was racing. My breath was blowing hard. If I could just make the top of the grade I would race down that 12% slope with all I had and just concentrate on keeping my feet under me. He wouldn’t risk injuring himself speeding down that steep dirt road pursuing me.

    I heard him behind me. His longer, stronger legs were gaining on me.

    With forty feet to go to the top of the road I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I would have to slow down to make the turn of the road and I didn’t have the time to manage it. He would have me. So I wouldn’t go down the road. I would just run straight on out, over the steep 50% slope of the hillside above the creek, fly out into the air, hoping I'd land in mesquite brush, and that it would roll me to a gentler stop than the one he'd give me.

    I put on all the speed I could. I heard him do the same, very close behind.

    Twenty feet to go.

    A strong hand grabbed the back of my neck, yanked me to a stop.


    Dad’s getting his fifth divorce. He owns at least two houses (I suspect there may be another in Mexico and he might be looking for one in Thailand). He has a girlfriend near where he lives, and I think he has another in Thailand.

    He has set two world motorcycle speed records. He holds the record for open stock frame gas engine, and closed stock frame gas engine, set on the Bonneville Salt Flats. He lost a lot of teeth a few years ago dumping a Harley at 163 mph.

    One year from today he wants to set another record. He wants to be the first seventy year old to go more than 200 mph on a motorcycle.


    I have so many mixed feelings about him... it is hard to sort it out. When I sat down to write this post I thought I was going to write a tribute to him. To the strong man who refuses to let life slow him down. The man who lifted himself out of years of an alcoholic binge and made himself a successful businessman.

    Instead of honoring him I have dredged up painful experiences, laid those old wounds open. I have explored the discomfort that grew from his questioning glances at my stack of books, my lack of dates.

    I called him this morning to wish him a happy birthday and since that call I have been thinking about the times when he nearly killed me... the times when he went into a rage... the times when he questioned my sexuality and my fitness to be his son.


    I have heard it said that how we view our fathers colors how we view our Lord God.

    Perhaps that is true. There is something about drawing near to God which terrifies me. There is something about meeting my creator that makes me grateful Jesus is sitting to His right.


    Happy birthday Dad. I know you will not read this, you don’t use computers, but if you do come across this somehow, if someone prints it off and hands it to you... I want you to know something.

    I love you. I love you very much. I don’t want anything from you. I don’t need any of your money. I don’t need any of your things.

    I want you to know that if you were to ever need anything from me... anything at all, all you would need do is somehow let me know. I know you wouldn’t want to ask. You wouldn’t have to... I'd just have to know there was a need and I'd be there.

    I want you to know that if it all comes apart, if you need anything I have, I would be there.

    I want you to know I love you, I want you to spend eternity with me, with all of us... my friends, my family. I know you are aware of what it takes to be saved, and perhaps you have met the bare requirements for that, it isn’t my place to judge.

    It is just my place to love you, and I do. I love you more than I can say.

    You weren’t the best dad in a lot of ways, but I know there were many times you thought of me. Loved me... and that is enough.

    May God bless you, Dad. May you find the source which quenches your thirsts. May you find peace, and joy, in this life as well as the next.

    Happy birthday Dad.


    (Heavenly Father. Bless my Dad. He is my earthly father and I love him. Bless him Lord. Please draw him near to You. Bring people alongside of him, people who follow You, people he will listen to, people he will hear, notice. Bring him examples of joy, and peace and grace, so he may wonder where they get such things, and that he may look beyond what he has and to what is missing and have real rest and happiness. Lord, I worry about this ambition of his a year from now. It sounds suicidal to me. Help him to see that the only record worth setting is one which places his name in Your book. Bless my father Lord. --Amen.)

    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    My Apologies

    I am sorry... but I am going to skip the post tonight. I am not feeling well and I need to rest. I began a post, but I am not able to complete it tonight. I am unsure if it will be tomorrow either. Perhaps.

    But here is a hint of what it is about:

    Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    Designed to do the Macarena

    The woman was slapping her arms, patting her head, and wiggling her bum. The long version of “Macarena” played on. Her eyes sparkled. Her serious expression was belied by the gleam in her eyes. She danced with seriousness, doing her best at having a good time. Behind the intent look in her eyes was a playfulness, a joy; she was having one of the best times of her life.

    There was a sense of Deja’ Vu. I had watched a similar dance during many Christmas seasons.

    The dance floor was filled with many athletes from Special Olympics, most of them doing their own version of the dance, all with great joy.

    Two Special Olympics coaches, married a few minutes before, were joyously mixing it up with them. Dancing or not, everyone in the room was smiling, grinning.

    Brenda and I danced to the first song, a slow song. I passed on cutting loose to “Staying Alive” or “Y.M.C.A.” But it was a lot of fun to watch.

    I especially liked watching the man who’d led the bride down the aisle. He had done so with seriousness, displaying a sense of importance, he knew what an honor it is to play that role. Now he was gyrating, his right hand alternating between pointing at his left foot and 11:00, back and forth, back and forth. He was “staying alive.” A regular John Travolta.

    Once through "Y.M.C.A." would have been plenty for me, but these folks loved it so much... they needed a second time through it.

    One guy’s shoulders hunched up, then fell, his head twisted to one side... shoulders up, head twist, shoulders drop... Like the kid in the cartoon, in the yellow shirt, doing the same dance.

    Watching these people, many of them older than I, was special, a treat, one of the best weddings I can remember. They have such big hearts...

    He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
    --Matthew 18:2-4

    Watching those Special Olympics athletes made my heart grow. One woman cried when she failed to catch the bride’s bouquet. A man my age caught the garter. Where I would have been self-conscious, embarrassed, he was so happy!

    These people were childlike. Not childish. Not acting immature, less than what God made them to be, but purely everything He wanted them to be. They are so full of joy, happiness, abandoning themselves to the moment. They are perfectly designed to be who they are. Designed to do the Macarena.

    I watched my son, smiling a smile that has been rare (since our church burned down last June when he was playing with a candle).

    I have agonized over my children, especially Jeremiah. It was so hard to believe his IQ is only 46, because he performs so well, he works so hard at being everything that his mommy and daddy want him to be. I have thought how I would be glad to give him half of my IQ to make him complete.

    But Saturday, he was so happy. I watched him as he danced (shuffled) around, glad to be alive. I realized how perfect he is. He is just as he should be.

    I thought about how much I would give to him. I know that if there was a moment that it was his life or mine, if he needed to be shoved out of the way of a speeding car, or needed a transplant, or anything at all, I would gladly sacrifice myself for him. He means that much to me.

    Watching the athletes at that wedding party I knew that each one of them is as special as Jeremiah. I don’t know them that well, but I could see that each one is a very special person.

    I realized Jesus loves each of them more than I love Jeremiah. That triggered a small spiritual epiphany.

    Just as a parent is willing to sacrifice himself for his child, our Lord loves us even more. He is willing to sacrifice Himself for us. He did such a thing. And it wasn’t the quick sacrifice of jumping in front of a train, but the long, torturous, shameful death of a criminal. The perfect man loves us with infinite, perfect passion.

    Jesus would have done all He did for any one of these people. He would have removed Himself from glory, from that intimate connection with the trinity, taken a human form where He sweated, and ate, and grew tired, and taught, and suffered, and was derided, and defiled, and tortured, and put to death. He would have done all of that to claim back just one of us, even the “least” of us. He did such a thing.

    Amazing! I am so ordinary, such a common man, and yet the God of the universe loves me enough to be whipped for me. He would let them spit on Him, beat Him, kill Him. His eyes watched the blood spurt from His palm, and He did it gladly, that I, that we, might share that intimate connection, that eternal relationship. So that I may dance with abandon with beings having lived for eternity, living for eternity, in a joy more perfect than the greatest performances of Beethoven, more sublime than the beauty of cathedralic forests, mightier than the power of a white dwarf sun pushing the gases of its nebulaec womb aside to shine upon the universe.

    I believe He would have done it, all of it, even if it was to save only one of His children.

    Even if it was all just for me.

    Even if it all was just for you.

    Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Bless me Lord

    Bless me Lord. Heavenly Father... my Lord, my God, my Master... Bless me.

    Lord, I ask for great blessings on me. I ask them not so I may gain anything, but that I may be a better servant for You, a better husband for my wife, a better father for my children, a better leader of my household, and a servant of Yours who demonstrates the kind of master I have so that others may draw closer to You. I ask for undeserved blessings, undeserved grace, so I may better serve You.

    Lord, grant me wisdom... that I may better serve my wife, guide my family. Grant me discernment Lord, so I can make better choices, know which way to lead. Lord, grant me wisdom.

    Lord, grant me peace... that I may walk my days, tranquil in the shadow of Your guidance, willing to go onto any path, travel any road, so long as it serves You. Grant me peace that I may be gentle with my family, my wife, my students, my colleagues. Grant me peace, my Lord.

    Lord, grant me humility. Help me to remember there is nothing which I made, is truly mine, and not given to me. All I am, and all I have are gits from You. Help me to remember that I am Your servant and therefore a servant to all I meet. Help me to remember to give water to the thirsty, food to those who hunger, comfort to those who ache, grieve, and moan under their burdens. Grant me the humility of a true servant. Help me to remember to treat others with the knowledge that I am at their service.

    Lord, grant me a heart which always seeks after You. Help me to always wish for, always pray for, always seek for have a heart which wishes for nothing greater than to honor You. Grant me a heart that seeks only You, my Lord.

    Lord, grant me the blessing of being Your servant in all I do.


    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    Happy Mother’s Day

    She turned 18 two weeks before I was born.

    Her's hasn’t been an easy life. Still isn’t. But it’s been a life full of faith.

    She had three boys and a girl, spaced about 14 months apart. Then she had a miscarriage, another daughter, another miscarriage, another daughter, and another son.

    She was divorced after her first five children, remarried later for the final two. These are the basic facts, which tell nothing at all about her.

    There are two primary elements to my mother’s life. She is an artist, and she is a believer.

    She has followed her art throughout her life (I have a painting/calligraphy piece she did as a teen). The exploration of her artistic talents has been constant. It has placed food on her table and paid the rent, for nearly all of her life through paintings sold, lessons given, art traded. She went to college briefly, but most of her techniques have been self taught.

    Her faith has been astonishing.

    Once, when I was five, my father was away, hauling grain, 500 miles away. We had nothing to eat. She sat us down at the table. She told us the Lord would provide. She started to pray. A Canadian goose landed in the yard. We ate.

    A few years ago she told me that she felt she was supposed to go on a mission trip to China, to tell people of God’s love. She had her passport. She had her bags packed.

    “How much money do you have Mom?”

    “Five dollars.”

    “You can’t go to China on that!”

    “Sure I can. The Lord will give me all I need.”

    “How much did the ticket cost you?”

    “I didn’t buy one.”


    “I don’t have one, But I’m sure it will all work out. A friend is going to drive up to San Francisco and I’ll find a way onto that plane.”

    She did. She went to San Francisco. At the last moment someone had an emergency and gave her the ticket. She wandered around with others on the mission trip. People invited her into their homes, fed her, she told them about Jesus. Someone paid some sort of fee she needed on her return. It all worked out.

    She still lives life one month at a time, with no clear idea how she will pay her bills, no certainty of where her food will come from, yet there is always something for her to eat, a place for her to live.

    Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!...Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.
    --Luke 12:22-29

    I do not know of anyone who has faith as strong as my mother’s.

    She has been treated roughly. My father left her with five children to feed. Her second husband kicked her out of his home, threw her clothes and paintings and brushes into the front yard. Yet she visited him constantly, cared for him until he died a few years ago. She is a cancer survivor. She grieves for her children and grandchildren who have wandered far from our Lord’s flock. She is a gentle soul with a gentle heart.

    She says she gave me to the Lord when I was born, dedicating her first born her true master. I believe that act of faith, fifty years ago, is what set me on a path which has kept me returning to the Lord.

    Once, when I was doing a bit of the hippy thing, hitch hiking, reading Brautigan and Castenada and Gibbons, she painted me a picture.

    There is a carousel horse, flying over the waves, stormy waves. It flies, yet is tethered to the world, circling a light house.

    (Click to Enlarge)

    She said nothing about the painting. She simply told me I would understand it soon enough.

    Over the next few weeks it slowly came to me. I felt a grieving in my heart, an ache from being away from a close relationship to my Lord. I sat looking at the painting, wondering. What was it about the image that was working its way into my heart?

    Suddenly I just knew I was the horse. I am a creation, a made thing, a thing of beauty set free from a spinning walkway, from the ordinary life, that I was created to fly. But instead of flying free, or flying toward some goal, I was circling in the sky, over churning water. What was I circling? A darkened light house, its windows cracked, its guiding light was not shining in my life.

    Suddenly I saw it. Over the light house, in the sky, the clouds formed the letters...


    I knew what I was missing in my life.

    My mother loves me very much. My mother has an intense faith which shines through darkness, through tears, and trouble. She has no material wealth. She has a car that runs only sporadically. She has no home, no real possessions except a faith that sustains her day by day, year by year, decade by decade.

    Oh I love her so.

    I know she prays for me constantly. She has prayed for me when I have wandered. She has prayed for me when I have stumbled. She has rejoiced when I have flung myself toward the Lord. She prayed for me when my heart was ripped from my chest by the death of my first child. She prayed for me when I ached for new children (it was her prayers while massaging a missionary’s feet which led her to the woman who was rescuing my children from Haiti). She has prayed for my marriage when things have been rocky, and when things have been blessed. My mother is a constant in my life.

    I only speak to her every few months or so. But she is always there.

    Oh... my heart is so full when I think of her. It seems silly, a grown man, fifty years old, getting misty-eyed over his mother.

    She is a gentle soul who has suffered and rejoiced greatly, deeply.

    Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I love you.

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