30 January, 2007

FHC: Politics 101

I was delighted that politics got a little interest. As I said in my comment earlier, I don't hate politics - I just hate losing at politics. [I don't know what I have about redeeming lost-cause words, but here I go again, trying to redeem the second least favorite word in english (behind lawyer.)] I believe politics has a bad name because it is wrongly confused with Bullying, Bureaucracy, and Manipulation.

When the strong get power or want it, they force the weak (whether by personality or position) to kowtow to their desires. Thereby the powerful grow more powerful.

When the careful get power or want it, they force the hurried to jump through hoops. Thereby they gain more control.

When the friendly get power or want it, they create the illusion of gain for the greedy. Thereby they are carried to power on the backs of others.

I contend that these are all exercises of the "might makes right" kind. They are hopeless for us Christians. If we prevail by these means, we have shamed ourselves, and the kingdom suffers.

Politics is the incredibly complex art of learning what everyone's needs are, and figuring out a way to meet them all - including your own.

The Two Great Laws of Politics
1) Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
2) Love your neighbor as yourself.


Whenever you are in a group of two or more people, you have a chance to honor God and bless those people. Coworkers, brothers, or family, there's bound to be a problem that needs an answer that works for everyone.

And no, it is not easy.

Most people, you see, hate politics. Instead, they spend their waking hours trying to defend themselves from bullying, bureaucracy and manipulation. They assume that the politician's intent toward them, your intent toward them, is evil. As you go through the political process, you will need to learn to get over, around, or otherwise behind those defenses before you can even start. You have one immensely powerful tool, though.

Anyway, the process is quite simple. It's just hard. Rather like lifting a giant rock is simple, but very hard.

The Political Process

1) Realize that every other person in the situation believes himself to be perfect.
1a) Realize that your assumption that you are perfect is as wrong as theirs.

2) Realize that everyone has a goal in mind, but that they are telling you something else. They are walling themselves behind a hedge of unreasonable demands.

3) Dig through the hedges to whatever their goal really is. Everyone's goals that is. Here is where you need that tool. The tool is listening - really intense listening. You have to keep asking questions and probing to find out what the real motivation is. If you are listening for "openings," you will not succeed at this process. You need to be listening with the two laws in mind. You are listening for what it will take to protect this person's needs and dignity. And you will have to work to convince them that this is what you are doing. But once they are convinced, the rest of the process goes pretty easy.

4) Discard your own hedge-goals, and find out what you really need.

5) Remind yourself of your essentially selfish motivation. You want what you want, and you will only get it if everyone else gets what they want first. But don't let go of what you want. You need that motivation to put up with the sewerage you might have to wade through when it comes time to convince everyone that they are not going to get shafted in the end.

6) Stew for a while. It is seldom obvious how to solve the puzzle that everyone's complex needs creates. Stew out loud. This is very important. Don't go away, and come back with a perfect solution. Nobody will go for that. Instead, put the puzzle out on the table, always being sure to express everyone's needs richly including your own. Emphasize for everyone why their needs cannot go unmet.

7) Someone will have an idea. Never, ever, ever say, "No," no matter how dumb the idea is. Work it. Throw it on the table. If the idea really is dumb, someone else will say so for you, and in the process trust will have been built. Everyone will see you are not going to embarass anyone for opening their mouths. And embarassment is the biggest killer of all progress.

8) Eventually, someone will have a good idea. You will see how it can work. Everyone will begin to see how it can work. Don't get silly here. Make sure it works for you, too. If there is anyone for whom it does not work, make sure that is acknowledged, and hopefully fixed. If not, come up with a compensation of some sort that makes them happy.

9) Make sure everyone gets a share of the credit for the final solution. You don't need any credit. You just need all these people to trust you and work with you next time you need something. So, make sure their bosses know how easy they were to work with, and how pleasantly surprised you were at how the solution "just happened like that."

It really works. Once you get in the habit, it's really that easy. Of course, there are wrinkles to talk about. What about trying to fix long-term problems? What about trying to push change through? What about dealing with actual enemies?

And this is all kind of new to me. It was in 1997 that I was kicked out of leadership in my church because I was a bully with bureaucratic tendencies. (No one ever accused me of manipulation :-) I never, ever used to listen to my "opponents." A) They were opponents to me, not allies, and B) I had too much to say. I actually believed that I was right all the time. It wasn't until I started doing this stuff that I found out, "Hey, that moron's idea was an improvement on mine. Hmmph."

There is literally not one member of my twelve person team who has not improved one of my perfect ideas (often in brutal ways, especially at first.)

Anyway. I don't know if that's interesting to anyone else, but it really is my favorite thing to be confronted with an oppositional situation and see what there is to be found. There's usually some gold out there waiting for someone with their thinking cap on.

29 January, 2007

FHC: The Church of Tomorrow - Part 12, The Seed Sprouts

Jim sat down in Thom's living room.

Everything sucked.

He and Brenda had talked for a couple hours after leaving the planning meeting on Wednesday. She was sure he was wrong yet again.

That was starting to get old.

It's one thing to have another point of view, but he was sick of always being, "stupid" and "wrong." Why couldn't she just say what she was thinking? Why did it always have to be, "You can't possibly be dumb enough to believe Derek cares about Lacy. And he probably hates all women, too."

Jim cared about Lacy, and Jim cared about Brenda, and who Derek cared about was Derek's problem. What mattered was whether the church was disqualifying itself from the protective hand of God. If an aerocar's gyro was out of sorts, it was not going to be safe. If a church was not holy, it was not going to be safe either. If Derek was fixing the most important things, then Jim would get behind him. Jim's family was Jim's problem, and he could handle it, as long as the church was flying true.

Thom came back with a little java for each of them.

"So, you and Brenda had a bit of a tussle after the meeting?" Thom asked.

"Oh, it was nothing unusual, I guess," Jim answered. "We can handle that. I'm just curious whether you think Derek's right. Is the testimony of Christ suffering in our church because of our worldliness? I mean, he's really talking about a pretty big change, don't you think?"

Thom stared at the floor for a long time.

"Jim, you are asking me a hard question. If I was a younger man, I would shoot my answer off like I knew something, but I've made a couple too many mistakes in my life. I don't know whether Derek's right. I know that every house in the church is asking that question right now, though. You guys aren't alone."

Thom went silent again. It was a hard discussion for him, and it showed.

Jim was not having that problem.

"I think people are just scared. We all want to do the best thing. In our hearts we know what that is, and we want to do it. We want to exercise and we don't. We want to learn stuff, and we don't. We want to lose weight, and we don't. We are capable of amazing things, and instead of doing them, we turn on the vids. Instead of raising our kids, we go earn a paycheck, and let the daycares raise them.

"Why don't we follow our hearts? Why do we let our fear of pain stop us?"

Jim was well and truly on a roll.

"Derek isn't telling anyone to do anything they don't want to do already. He's just telling them to face their inner fears, and live out the life of holiness that's already burning in their hearts."

Thom looked back down at the floor again.

Jim waited.

Jim fidgeted.

Jim slid forward in his seat and clasped one hand with the other. It didn't so much stop his wiggling, as internalized it. He started doing isometrics.

He could wait no longer.

"So, we get rid of our vid-players? What's the worst that could happen?" Jim queried. "We have a little time left over to spend with our family and to serve the Lord? That's a great thing! Who could be against it?"

Thom looked up. He knew he had to answer this time.

"Yeah, Jim. It's a great thing. It's certainly not a bad thing. But there's so much more to it than that."

Jim was too fired up to wait. "So, in your heart of hearts, you'd rather be watchin' a vid?"

Thom managed a little grin. "No. No, I'd rather be studying for a lesson or laughing with Karen. You're not wrong."

He fixed Jim with a soft stare.

"Look Jim, I'm the dumb one of the bunch here. I don't know theology or all those things that people study to get the truth out of the scripture. All I know is what I see, and I don't see it. Derek is calling for something I don't see my scriptures calling for.

"I can't tell the future, but I can tell you the past," Thom continued. "I've seen men call for 'commitment' before, and nothing good comes of it. Nothing good will come of this."

Jim was going to explode.

He'd figured that a little time with Thom would be an antidote to Brenda's negativity, not an echo. The light seemed to be a little funny in the room, because suddenly Thom looked much older than he had just ten minutes ago. And much weaker.

There's a little calculus that is a part of every man's heart. It doesn't have to be spoken to be real, and it doesn't have to be thought through to be performed. Even the little birds and fishies can do this calculation, and Jim could work it to a solution without even noticing he'd done it. Transformation of the church was Derek's idea, and the whole church was talking about it. Thom didn't have any idea at all.

In the blink of an eye, Derek took the alpha spot in Jim's mind.

And just like that, Jim didn't need to explode any more.

He finished his coffee, and walked the long way home.

28 January, 2007

Lone Ranger Christian

I don't know of any class of Christians so routinely and unanimously villified as the "Lone Ranger Christian (LRC)." Not that it's difficult; you won't find an anti-defamation league or denomination of lone rangers to unite our voices in our own defense. Pretty much, the LRCs are sniped at from safely within groups of happily bonded believers - until that happy bond is broken.

An assembly of believers is a precious thing. Within its walls all the fellowship of the Godhead is exchanged between saints. Unfortunately, that is not all that is exchanged between saints. There is also the mountain of doctrine and politics.

I know saints in Australia, the Isle of Man, Scotland, Hungary, Romania and the US who are going it alone these days. My Australian brother calls the church, The Mob (as in unruly crowd, not organized crime.) He believes that any attempt to organize said mob is wrong. I don't know whether he's right, but if you knew him you would have to respect his opinion. His life demands it. These brothers have as different personalities as could be. They have different core doctrines. They have different degrees of tolerance for disagreement. They have nothing in common but the obvious.

And they all decided that the church was really not meant to be lived as an exercise in conformity.

I stand somewhere in the middle.

I attend church services three times a week, and I love the saints in that church. (My church?) I had been alone as a Christian for 7 years when I stepped foot into that building, and Christian love was a good thing to feel again. I wept to be there for the first three weeks, and it has been a pure blessing to me ever since.


I'll probably never sign a piece of paper declaring that I am a member of any church. (Not that there's much risk that they'd have me. I don't think anyone has written a doctrinal declaration that would not reject me as a heretic after the third admonition.) I'll never sign anything that goes much beyond the Nicene Creed. Anything more than that is a declaration that I break fellowship with fellow believers, and I cannot go there.

If anyone ever writes a statement of faith that says things like, "We don't reject _____ nor ______," then maybe my resolve will be at risk. But denominations don't work like that, now do they? Denominations denominate. And that's a rub for me and my scattered brothers.

We respect the need for the church, all of us. We have to work hard to "assemble ourselves together" as Heb 10:25 demands, but we do it. All the LRCs I know find some way to assemble themselves meaningfully with brothers and sisters, even though sometimes those brothers and sisters would only barely fellowship with each other. It's worth the extra work not to be looked at askance when we assemble ourselves with "them."

The strawman of the Lone Ranger Christian is someone who is arrogant and impossible to please. He is looking for the perfect church, and thinks he is the fount of all wisdom as to what that might be. When people don't listen to him, he picks up his jacks and runs away, thereby making himself vulnerable to heresy, pornography, drugs, and bad hairstyles.

I've never known an LRC who was happy with his choice. They are just less happy with their options.

My church has made a place for me, and has not asked me to change. This is solely due to the influence of their pastor. He is a Godsend. He has allowed me to serve where I can, and remained silent toward me where I cannot. It's perfect. There are days I would like to be able to serve more in that little body, but I will never pass their membership muster honestly, and I seriously doubt I'd sign the piece of paper anyway. So I fellowship, and do what I can, and pray for the day that Christianity quits dividing over doctrine.

Until then, I respect the mission of the organized church. I respect the people who give their time, tithes and energy to it. And I hope they'll accept us for who we are, conscientious objectors from the kinds of peace they wage.

Tennis: It was a good day

The Fed-era continues.

I was mistaken. I thought Gonzo would take the first set. I was wrong by one swing. Gonzalez had a set point on his racket, but Federer's return was just too good. He decided to run around it and crack it for a winner, but the position was nigh unto impossible, and he missed it a foot low.

From that moment, Federer applied the gas, and never let up.

It the beginning of the first set, it really was interesting. Both Gonzo and Federer were flailing badly. I hear it was because of the wind. But once the set was within Federer's grasp, he went into his own personal level of perfection. Nobody has ever touched him once he's gotten there. Gonzo was no exception.

To see highlights, you can check out these shorts from erichman. (He has a lot of the tourney, as long as he's there.)

As for me, I got a clean bill of health on my wrist Friday morning. Friday evening, I played 3 hours. Saturday evening, I played 4. Everything hurts, except the wrist. :-) It hurt to lay down in bed. I could not have been happier.

All those rehab exercises I have been laying on it seemed to make a huge difference.

You cannot imagine how good it feels to run full tilt, and hit out again after 4 months of half-speed and winter conditions. I actually paid green money to play - $15 one night and $10 the next. I know! It's so wierd. I was not sure I could jones bad enough to pay to play, but I think I'll be playing indoors for the next couple months. We'll see. The price is reasonable. To join and play costs $400/year + $16/hour. That's NOT reasonable. But these silly social tennis things I can afford. No annual fee, and $5/hour I will pay.

On Saturday I played lefty. It was good. I tried it Friday, and was horrible. On Saturday I started badly, but by the end of the evening, I had a little confidence going. I think I'm going to try to stay after it. Saturday nights seem like weaker players, so I may make that an all lefty event.

Anyway, more conditioning on Monday. :-)

27 January, 2007

Tennis: To the Chubby, the Spoils

Serena Williams is officially the reigning champion of the Pacific and Asia. She entered the draw of the Australian Open ranked 81 in the world, and unseeded in the tourney.

More importantly to tennis talkers everywhere, she entered the tourney significantly overweight.

Much more importantly.

You cannot find an article with a dateline of 1/15/2007 or higher that references Serena without referencing her ample stature, her excess pounds, her inability to move on the court, her poor "fitness," her fatness.

Even Newsweek, in an article published two hours ago, noticed, "Throughout the tournament, commentators called her overweight, pointed out her huffing and puffing, and asked, How could she win being so unfit?"


I contend that Serena won because she was overweight. I implore her to keep the pounds she has.

Here's my reasoning:
1) Fat is a psychological shock absorber. Plain and simple, the people who survive concentration camp interment are people who show up overweight. The initial shock of the experience doesn't do them in like skinny people. People with overly low Body Mass Indexes don't handle psychological shock well.
2) Tennis is a psychological sport. A match is a measure of the ability of two people to maintain aggression in the face of constant frustration and setbacks.
3) Serena endured psychological setbacks better than any of her opponents.

Is there any science behind any of that, you ask? I doubt it, and I don't care.

I entered the army at almost 6'1" and 165 pounds. I left basic training at 185 pounds. What do you think the odds are that anything I gained there was fat? The charts say that my weight should be 168-192 since I'm large-framed (using their elbow-width measure.)

If at age 59 I am 7 pounds above the best body weight of my life, I'm overweight?


If I weighed 168 pounds I would be an emotional wreck day-in and day-out. Do you have any idea how much I would have to starve myself to reach that number? I could not even reach 192 without a serious and inappropriate change in lifestyle.

If you make me choose between 200 pounds too fat and 20 pounds too thin, I will not hesitate. If I'm too fat, there will be a couple tennis balls I cannot run down. But if I'm too thin, I will give up in the middle of the match. I won't have the reserves to stick with a difficult match.

Serena stood out there with the best, and watched them wilt under the pressure of her raw aggression. She got stronger as every match progressed, and they grew weaker. She pulled from a deep well of emotional strength, and they came up empty.

As the season progresses, I look for Serena to cave in to the pressure, and to begin to eat less and exercise more. I expect her to lose those few extra pounds. And I look for her to lose heart in the middle of her toughest matches and wonder why.

The announcers of the tennis world have chosen a wrong standard, and I wish they'd shut up.


Yes, obesity is bad. Define it realistically, though. Hyperthyroidism should not be needed to maintain an ideal weight.

I don't have a single study to quote to back my assertion that fat is a buffer against psychological stress. I apologize for that, but I don't have the time to find them. They don't exactly grow on trees if they exist at all. I am simply satisfied with my personal experience on the subject.

Diets are good, when they are good. I think you all know my diet. If they have been eating it for the last 6000 years, I eat it. If they invented it during the Industrial Revolution, I try to avoid it. White flour, white sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, preservatives etc., all bad. Meat, dairy, grains, veggies, fermentation, all good. Dessert - yep. Same rules, but yep.

Blogging: Weekend Fisher's Great Idea

Weekend Fisher has started up a Reconciliation Carnival.

This is an excellent idea, and one that should really work. It's also one that's completely foreign to me. :-) I've never looked at the issue that way. I want to play, if only because I hate ever sitting on the bench, but I had a hard time coming up with something on theme, "The Strawman." The basic idea is to find something about which your group is often the victim of a strawman attack, and tell both sides of the issue with balance.

I've been a lone ranger so long, I almost cannot do that.

In fact, I almost picked "lone ranger" as my subject. But why even try to defend something that absolutely not one living soul will defend.

Aaahhh. Why not. It's better than the idea I decided on instead.

Anyway, you ought to give it a shot. It's guaranteed to make you think, and expose you to some new bloggers!

26 January, 2007

Engaging God: And Sometimes We Wait

There is a comfort in knowing God could fix "it."

I don't know anyone into whose life pain has not fallen. I know very few in whose life the pain has not been too much to bear, sometimes for a long while and sometimes for a short while, but too much is too much. We survive, and the pain recedes, and life starts looking worthwhile again, but those moments remain in our memories.

And while it hurts, we wonder what to say, what to do. The answer is usually, "Nothing." We've done everything there is to do, and what's left is to hurt and heal. Oh, sometimes we need to "quit doing that," and walk away from things that are causing us the pain, but more often than not the pain is not really due to anything we are doing wrong.

Some of us ask why, and some of us figure we know why, but why doesn't make the pain quit. Why doesn't heal anything. And why is expensive. As long as we are asking why, we are paying a price. Asking why is banging our heads against a locked door, because the answer never comes. It's no sin to ask why, but eventually we discard it as a fruitless strategy.

A better strategy is to make sure the door is really locked. Then make sure you don't happen to have a key, or a lock-picking kit. Then make sure there isn't another door, or maybe a window. Then, look for a comfortable seat, or even a bed. Rest is a good thing.

You see, God could unlock that door, and He ain't doing it.

Maybe He intends for us to figure a way through that door. If so, we will probably find a book lying around somewhere in the room that tells us the trick to opening it. If He intends for us to find our own way out, He will make it possible. It may not be easy or pleasant, but it will be possible.

Maybe He intends for us to stay on this side of that door. If so, we might find that there is a door wide open somewhere else. Don't worry about how long it's been sitting, open and waiting, just go through. If the Lord opened Door #2, whatever it holds will be much better than the thing for which we were pining behind Door #1.

Maybe every door is closed, and we are just in for a stay in a prison cell.

It happens.

Locked in a five foot cell with nothing but bread and water for months, the most important and beautiful thing in the universe can happen. A human being can love the invisible God. A human being can love a God Who loves him - and Who has allowed him to stay locked in a five foot cell with nothing but bread and water - against all the rules of reason.

I am convinced that there is no higher calling than to love the invisible God when every visible sign is that He does not remember us. In case you have forgotten junior high, the worst thing your crush can to do you is not even notice you. It hurts when we wonder why God ignores us in our hour of devastation.

So, what empowers us to love Him then? What makes us want to love a God Who only might be there, and could save us - if He was really there, and if He really loved us?

That question drives the false believer away. He sees his prison, and imagines God - strike that, god - could never leave him so blockaded. God and pain cannot coexist in his mind. God could not possibly allow anyone to be forgotten so, especially not him, so there must not be a God after all.

But the child of God? The child of God knows His Father. The child of God knows that His Father can deliver him at any moment, so they both wait. If his Father has not yet delivered him, it is not because He cannot. It is not because his Father is angry. It is not because he is forgotten.

Why, then?

Who knows, but it is not for a bad reason. His Father is failing to deliver him for some good reason.

If God is weak, then our prisons become terrors to us. If God is callous, then our prisons become hopeless. If God is vindictive, then our prisons are less than we deserve! But if God is strong and caring and merciful, then our prisons are something amazing; then our prisons are gifts in some way, and some day we will gratefully thank Him.

Maybe some day, I will rejoice in suffering. Until then, I will search for keys and doors and instructions on how to get out, but I will not be frantic about that search. I may despair of ever escaping from a situation, but I will remember my Hope. No situation is the measure of God's love. Only the cross can tell such a wonder.

There is a comfort in knowing God could fix "it."

Tennis: Roger Federer - Not Exactly Mr Nice Guy

This is just a quote from a comment by MrsSanta on the TennisWorld blog, but it is magnificent in its satire. Federer had just destroyed Andy Roddick 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 after Andy had made little noises to the effect that he might be gaining ground on Federer. One should not make noises that might wake the sleeping giant.

Federer is beyond nasty. For the first time ever I feel sorry for Roddick. Poor Andy . It's so unfair. He tries so hard, develops a reasonable fascimille of a backhand, hires a cheerleader and reminds himself regularly that he still has Wilanders during a match. And yet despite all this there is dreaded recognition that Roger Federer is going to going to have a good day and render all his improvements irrelevant.

That press conference though is pure comedy.

"Q. After a night like this, do you sleep well?
ANDY RODDICK: Do I sleep well?
Q. Yes.
ANDY RODDICK: It depends on how much I drink tonight. "

I feel like this everyday Andy.

"Q. You said this week that you thought the gap between you and Roger was closing, or at least wasn't getting any wider.
ANDY RODDICK: Yeah, not tonight.
Q. The next time you feel that, will you keep it to yourself?"

Who is this reporter. Does he club baby seals in his spare time?

FWIW, Gonzalez is going to obliterate Tommy Haas tonight, then the final is going to be Federer versus Gonzalez. For the first time, I think there's someone out there who might really take Federer down. Probably not this time, since it's Gonzo's first trip into the final of a major, but next time.....

Gonzo has it all, and he has just started learning the all-court game.

In other words, I have a new second favorite player!

Life: The most touching goodbye to a pet I've ever read


I started reading this and could not quit.

23 January, 2007

Engaging God: Repentance That Need not be Repented Of

I was cogitating on a post by the Prodigal Daughter on holiness last week and went down a series of rabbit trails that were a lot of fun. I eventually ended up on the subject of repentance, and made one of those silly little connections that helps with lots of little things. There's really nothing to it, hence I have the time to put it into a post even during this "operational pause," but it helped me enough to want to type it out.

I won't quite make a syllogism of this, but just a chain of thought.
1) Repentance is a change of direction. It's a turning.
2) But, all turning is not repentance. Turning from one sin to another is not repentance.
3) So, repentance is turning to God.
4) The aha moment... Holiness is staying turned toward God.

There's even a verse that implies as much.
2 Cor 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

I'm sure everyone has forgotten that I was recently talking about how to be assured that you are a Christian, and not merely giving mouth witness to the faith. James and John draw some clear lines, but Jonathon Edwards drew them together in a way I really appreciated. The subject was dear to his heart, because of the way the Great Awakening was hijacked by false believers, and the way that the true believers were vilified by those who thought the whole Great Awakening was nothing but an emotional freakshow.

A false believer can do everything that James and John mention, but they cannot love the holiness of God for its own holy sake. A false believer can obey, and care for his neighbor and profess all the doctrines of the catechism correctly, but he is doing it out of an awe of God, not a love for Him. He is either awed by God's power, judgement, and threats or lured by God's kindness, free gift, and promises; but never does he taste that the Lord is good.

I know I wrote this before, but I don't know if I actually posted it. :8( Forgive me if I am repeating myself. The person with no mouth sees the honey, and watches its beautiful, golden hue, its thick, satisfying consistency, its many forms and uses. This person hears honey described by others as tasty and energizing, so he uses the same terms. He calls it delicious and sweet, but he knows nothing about what he is affirming, and he doesn't even know that he knows nothing.

The difference is taste.

We have tasted and known that the Lord is good. But makes up His goodness? It consists primarily in His holiness. It is the purity of God that makes Him lovely. A bride wears a white dress and she is lovely, but God is very whiteness. God is Love, but the beauty of God is not that He "loves us." The beauty of God is that He is Love. Whether He loved us or not, His lovingness would be the same, and therefore His loveliness would be the same. It is the very purity of His love, His being, that makes Him lovely.

(There's room to quibble that if He did not love us, then He would not be perfect any more. I am trying to express something too big for my language, and there is room to quibble all through this post. It's just all I can do.)

The one born from above, born in spirit, truly born again is the one who has tasted the complete, natural, whole perfection in the Father and in His Son and fallen in love with this invisible Someone.

And we can all pretty much tell when someone is in love.

Repentance is turning toward God, and because He is our deepest love, it's something we want to do. Repentance is realizing that I cannot simultaneously love God and turn my back on Him. I cannot say I love God and disdain my brother. I cannot say I love God and never unburden my heart before Him. I cannot say I love God and never find joy in Him (in contrast to His gifts to me.) If I love Him, I will seek out ways to enjoy Him and give Him joy.

It is by this that Paul can say such amazingly bold things as, "To the pure all things are pure." He knows that the pure want to stand before Him Whom they love, and that their greatest fear is to hinder themselves from His presence. Their flesh will betray them, but they will overcome the flesh in due time, especially as their brothers and sisters stand by to lift them up and encourage them.

This view of repentance also adds a certain depth to the petition of the Lord's prayer, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."

"Forgive us for turning aside from you, and we forgive those who turn aside from us," is much more meaningful and personal to me than trying to recount all the times I coveted or bore false witness. It also allows me to live in peace with my brothers with whom I disagree. If I approach God from the west and a brother approaches Him from the east, the questions are whether we are both beholding Him, and whether we ever turn away from each other. The question is not whether he eats kumquats after nightfall (no matter how important that doctrine may seem) but whether he eats them unto the Lord. And the question is whether we build each other up in love despite our kumquat conflict.

Holiness is our greatest desire, and it is His greatest gift. It is in Christ that we receive the right to face God, and from the Spirit that we receive the power to do so. And in facing Him, we are transformed into His image, from glory to glory. And it is only in holiness, in open view of Him and each other, that we can truly love.

So, the repentance of which we need never repent is simply to face God. No matter how often we must repent or to whom, we simply face God again and again and again. We find in Him that miracle of holiness that allows Him to embrace us in our sin, and rather than our impurity transfering to Him, His purity transfers to us. We are cleaned in Christ, and as we turn back to His face, and rest and trust in Him, we are changed into His image.

It was kind of a big rabbit trail and a big circle from the Prodigal Daughter's post, to repentance being a turning to God, to facing God being the essence of holiness, but I found it helpful.

[I hope to get a little "Jim and Brenda" work up early next week. They are on my heart, but a couple other things are more so this week. Please bear with me. :-)]

21 January, 2007

Bible Study: Romans in Sonnet Form

Everything you ever needed to know about Romans will not quite fit into 14 lines of 10 syllables. So, I had to use 18.

Everything still didn't quite fit. :-)

I don't know what to think about this little exercise, but it was kind of fun. I figure everyone else is summarizing the book in more helpful ways, so I doubt I hurt anything by coming out of left field (again.)

As usual, I really liked the funny insights I get while trying to make things fit into 10 syllables. For Romans 6, I wrote this:
He bathed in death that you might rise up free
You drowned but rose, for holiness you're meant

I liked seeing baptism as more than a 1 second dip into death. He stayed under those waters for more than two days, and we were in Him the whole time. I don't know that it was profound, but it was a blast to picture.

FWIW, it's up at Timeless Prayer right now.

Other BTWs:
We are finally receiving our first 1/4 inch of snow. 2 inches is predicted, so I figure we ought to get at least 1/2 inch, and I figure I won't be hitting tennis balls this afternoon after all. It's about time.

My little hymn based on 1 Tim 3:16 didn't make much of an impression. :-( It's the downside of putting your heart into things that you hope they are enjoyed. Oh well.

Everyone was nervous about Federer facing Djokovic, but 3 sets later, Fed moves on. Wish I could see some of these matches, but they are all on at 3:00 AM, and I'm not man enough to be missing sleep right now.

Lord bless you all,

20 January, 2007

Life: Still whining about being busy :-)

It would be hard to exaggerate how busy my week has been. I don't let the blogging slide fer just nothin'!

Among the smaller things is a bit of unhappy news. My right wrist injury is indeed a partially torn ligament. Obviously, this beats a completely torn ligament, but I've had to give up putting a racket in its hand for a while.

No, that does not stop me from putting a racket in my left hand. :-)

I managed to get out and hit 1000 balls leftie yesterday. If all goes according to plan, I will get out Sunday as well, and be well on the way to starting a strength regime to get that left hand up and running. The worst possible outcome of all this is that I can always switch hands when I start losing my mental game. If I start hitting plum stupid, I just switch back to my right hand until I get my head back in order, and switch back to the left before I overwork that poor ligament. My chiro thinks it probably won't be surgical.

I'm enjoying getting to teach myself this game all over again, and this time doing it right. Like so much of my life, I am 100% self-taught at tennis. I watch the pros, and guess what they are doing to make the ball do what it does, then I try to do what I guessed. I've tried 2 different forehands and 4 different backhands with the right hand, and all of them executed just a little bit wrongly, I'm sure. It may just turn out that my left hand never learns the bad things, like dropping the head of the racket on the forehand volley, or pushing the ball when under pressure. Maybe I end up being a more secure player on the left wing, because it has always done it one way, the right way.

Anyway, I just finished 9 hours of programming sidework (phew - that had me sweating) so now I get to relax. Translation: I get to do the weekly shopping, finish my Romans summary in sonnet form, probably take the boy to see "Last King of Scotland" - which looks like a TREMENDOUS movie, and do the laundry and cooking. (Dang. I really needed to be working on that laundry all along. Now, I'm behind again.)

And Serena plays at 10:00.

BTW, I have not said much about the Aussie Open thus far because it has been wonderfully boring (my people are all winning - Federer, Hingis, Blake) and time has been at a premium.

If I have not commented at your blog, it's all because I cannot comment from work any more. :-( And at home, the computer is dedicated to the boy so much of the time. :-/ But, ya'll are still doing some great stuff out there, and I'm loving reading your feeds at work. I cannot get to your site, but I always read your RSS feeds in bloglines.

Off to the laundry.

17 January, 2007

Engaging God: A song that gets it right

Oh, it's not the only one, but I have whined about some songs, so I figured it was only fair to call out one that nails it. I've heard this one on the way home the past three days in a row, and each time it's been encouraging.

Third Day: Love Song

I've heard it said that a man would climb a mountain
Just to be with the one he loves
How many times has he broken that promise
It has never been done.
I've never climbed the highest mountain
But I walked the hill of calvary

Just to be with you, I'd do anything
There's no price I would not pay
Just to be with you, I'd give anything
I would give my life away.

I've heard it said that a man would swim the ocean
Just to be with the one he loves
How may times has he broken that promise
It can never be done
I've never swam the deepest ocean
But I walked upon the raging sea

Repeat chorus

(Bridge) I know that you don't understand
the fullness of My love
How I died upon the cross for your sins
And I know that you don't realize
how much that I gave you
But I promise, I would do it all again.

Just to be with you, I've done everything
There's no price I did not pay
Just to be with you, I gave everything
Yes, I gave my life away.

The thing is, it's true and it's useful.

We are, perhaps an overly romantic society, but this song leverages that romanticism and draws something useful out of it. I think it is wholly appropriate to draw the contrast between our greatest efforts at love and the reality of what we achieve, and then to trump both with the Christ's true devotion.

I think the saddest thing about great tragic romance stories is that we are wired to believe we should die for one another. I think we know at the deepest cores of our beings that love is worthy of our ultimate sacrifice. But every time we succeed at this fundamental love, one of us is dead. That's not good!

Jesus delivered everything there is to deliver of love. This song delivers Jesus' pleading of His case wonderfully.

I love it.

(And for any who want to chew on my idea of a song, I've got one up at TP now.)

15 January, 2007

Life: SOOOOooooo busy

I have to write a song and a poem before I can get back to either of the series I have going, and I cannot even find time to write a little post like this. :-)

Jim's and Brenda's stories are really intriguing me. I know what happens next, about a half-post's "next" that is, but I don't even know how that post ends, much less the series. And I'm REALLY curious!

And I am focused heavily on the post that was supposed to quickly follow the "Pleasing God" post. Ummmm. Yeah. It's half-written.

Just think, if I were not so busy whining about not having time to type, I might be 1/10 of the way closer to done now. :-)

But, I had to tell you all about what may the coolest web site ever.


I had to write a song, remember? It's going to be as tightly based on 1 Tim 3:16 as I can make it. Knowing me, that probably means I will use 3 words and half an idea from it, but you know what I mean. 1 Tim 3:16 is presumed to be a first century hymn, and the pastor preached on it Sunday. So, for my voluntary homework I have assigned myself the recovery of said song. I needed to find a tune to which to put it.

I was looking for something dramatic, and I went looking for places to find songs by mood. Musicovery does just that. I suspect that they only have about 500 songs in their whole system, but what a fun idea - and it works. For dramatic, I put in dark and energetic. I got back the Godfather's Love Theme. Wow. Does it get more dramatic?!

If the church is going to sing it, it cannot be copyrighted, so I chucked that idea. Instead, I will use, "Crown Him With Many Crowns," but it was a great thought. Probably no one will sing anything to CHWMC except CHWMC, but if we do, at least it will be legal.

Anyway, the site is too cool.

And the poem I'm going to try to write, you ask? We are supposed to summarize the entire book of Romans. Since it's well nigh impossible to do it straight, I'm going to turn it into a sonnet.

And the Australian Open is cranking up. Federer is through in straight sets, though he had to recover from a 2 break deficit in the first set. It was wonderful to watch him fall behind, get grumpy, fall further behind, get serious, then rip off 11 straight games - BOOM. Cruelty is beautiful.

Who are those people in the white smocks, and what's with the huge butterfly net?

14 January, 2007

13 January, 2007

Engaging God: Pleasing Him

I attended a baby shower today. Half of us were guys, so I was not too wierd. I liked it, and was one of only two guys who hung around for the gift-opening part, so it was pretty wierd after all, but we've already established that I think half-femininely anyway. I won my game of 8-ball, so I established some macho cred, anyway.

I even shopped for my own gift for this shower. Went to Babies R Us, and printed out the registry, no less. Of course, I picked out 3 possibilities for gifts off the registry that I would like to bring (sorry, I'm not quite man enough to bring the ultra-cute onesies that dominated the list) and found out that everything I picked was stuff not actually in the store. Ain't that the way it goes? So, I wimped out and bought a gift card. And the Lion's something or other picture bible. It's supposed to be pretty solid. I liked the look of it.

I tried - really!

Whilst there, I met all sorts of my coworkers' spouses. One particularly young couple was going on about how they were not going to have children for a LONG time. I found it heartbreaking to hear that. Really. They are a cute couple, and smart as whips. They would make cute kids. When I grew up, if you didn't have kids, it was probably because you were afraid your marriage was not going to make it, and you didn't want the escape hatch to close behind you. I doubt these two were in that position, so it was really, really heartbreaking to think that they didn't want kids just because they didn't want kids. They wanted to see the world, and kids would get in the way.

Like any good Jewish grandmother who happened to be possessing the body of a professional computer programmer, I started working on them.

They had been told by all their friends that any time they happened to start weakening, and thinking they might want to try the whole baby thing, they would let them babysit for a while. THAT would change their minds. I swatted that away. 18 years I had been a father, and every month was a treasure - far more than "worth it." Not necessarily every day, mind you, but every month. :-)

Then came the crusher. They were going to let her visit the delivery room. That would most assuredly keep her from EVER thinking about having one of her own. I could not have disagreed more strenuously. There's pain and there's blood, but that room, of all rooms, would make them decide to have a baby tomorrow.

Yeah, I got some wierd looks.

Yeah, I was in my element.

I told them, "When it's all over, there is a living human being with hands the size of my pinkie finger - perfectly formed. The whole baby practically fits into my hand. And that itty-bitty little character has opinions! And he expects them to be obeyed!"

"Sure," they said, "he's mad. It was warm and happy, and now it's loud, bright, cold, and miserable."

I agreed, but undissuaded, I went on.

"Yes, he's terrified and unhappy, but then you snuggle him up to his mother, and he's comforted.

I repeated, "That little person is comforted."

Honestly, I had to stop then because someone got emotional. And really, what could possibly be more emotional?

It's the most amazing thing in the world to watch the first time a baby nurses. And the first time a mother nurses a baby. It breaks my heart to hear a young lady reject that moment for Acapulco and the 9-5 grind. We may be doomed.

But, I was talking about pleasing God, wasn't I?

A decade, two decades and a half a decade ago, a seven year old boy was running around being a seven year old boy. Some might say that he had not even sinned yet, at least not accountably. He would differ. He kept his mom pretty happy, though, and managed to fit in as much fun as daylight would allow, but there was nothing special about him.

That boy heard the gospel, and started trying to keep God happy, just like he kept his mom happy. Something of spiritual life had been conceived in him. He started faintly hearing the heartbeat of God, and the whooshing of spiritual things in his ears. He started going to church, and learning bible stories. He even figured he was doing pretty good at it. God must have been pretty happy.

Then one day he heard about sin. But, he heard about it from a new place. The pastor was preaching, just like every Sunday night, but this time the words about sin came from inside his heart.

Suddenly, the world was a cold and miserable place. There was a fiery bright light exposing everything about himself, the coldness of his stark nakedness, and the need to breathe was heavy on him.

He went to the front of the church to weep. He cried for what seemed like forever, but it really wasn't. Soon, in the gentlest of tones a sweet voice he'd only barely yet gotten to know whispered to him, "I'm here." From the very first instant, he knew his Father's voice, and he was comforted.

And just like that, the boy had survived being born from above. The seven-year old boy was now a ten minute old Christian, too.

The Father nursed that boy, and He's kept him alive through each of the shocks of life since.

Oh yeah. Wasn't I talking about pleasing God?

I've enjoyed writing those two stories so much, I almost hate to be so mundane as to write a conclusion for them. But, I suppose it ought to be done. If the Lord is kind, I won't ruin the stories with their moral, but have mercy on me.

My babies were perfect. Their sleep and their tears and their anger were all beautiful. When they started giggling, their rapturous perfection was only improved upon. Yes, they woke us up in the middle of the night and exhausted us and did truly amazing things to diapers. Yes, they confused us and scared us and drove us to snap at each other over the littlest things. I have not forgotten any of that, but I remember the glory that they were alive. Really and truly alive.

She was 22 inches long, and I understood her. She was like me. She felt like I would feel, and acted like I would act if I were a week or a month old, and only 22 inches tall. I was bonding and learning to love someONE, not something, and it was glorious.

She did nothing with the intent to please me.

She was utterly selfish, in a way that is so purely selfish as to be beyond describing. And it didn't matter. I could go on about her like this for paragraphs, but I have to drive past it.

My cats try to please me, and they fail. She did not try at all, and she succeeded completely.

My cats know how to warm up to me, but they don't love me. She didn't know anything about warming up to me or loving me, either one, but she won my heart forever.

Yes, we can please God.

We can come to Him as exactly who we are, and please Him, because we are kind of His kind. We are born of Spirit, and it is as natural for us to please Him as it is for my daughter to please me.

And it is natural for Him to be pleased in us.

Engaging God: Another Christian Song

I was listening to this one on the way to a baby shower today. And I was in one of my bluer moods. It was one of those times that I really wanted to be picked up and carried in worship to a sight of the Father. "I Still Believe" by Jeremy Camp came on the radio.

I've sung this song dozens of times, and I never heard it this way, but today I did. The song promised to deal with exactly where I was, and but 2 lines of the song threw me. We'll see what you think.

Scattered words and empty thoughts
seem to pour from my heart.
I've never felt so torn before.
Seems I don't know where to start.
But it's now that I feel Your grace fall like rain
From ev'ry fingertip, washing away my pain

The first two lines drew me in. The next two were a little overstated for my current minor funk, but I was with them. Then I sang the last two lines.



I think we all know that we don't feel God's grace falling like rain from His every fingertip every time we get confused. And I have almost never felt God wash away my pain. Maybe that's just me, but I don't see this as a promise anywhere in scripture, nor many places in my experience. Be that as it may, though, this is not what stood out to me. He seemed to call grace something that we should feel.

God's grace is not a feeling we have.

God's grace is an act of God's will.

I can feel the power of His acts of grace, and I guess that's what the songwriter meant, but the oddness of the phrase took all the power from the song for me. It almost leads me to imagine that having the feeling of God's grace washing away my pain is common and more than that, a dependable, reliable sign of God's love to me.

If he is saying that God washes away our pain, then he's singing ill fantasy, and should be corrected.

If he's saying that we can know we've had an experience of God because we feel His grace, and feel our pain wash away, then he's deceiving someone. No feeling reliably proves that we have had an experience with God. Feelings come to believers and non-believers alike - and often the stronger feelings of spiritual connection come to non-believers.

Matt 13:20 & 21
But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

It almost seems like this song is encouraging people to seek out rain to support their shallow roots.

God doesn't work like that.

'Cause I still believe in Your faithfullness.
'Cause I still believe in Your truth.
'Cause I still believe in Your holy Word.
Even when I don't see, I still believe

Even the chorus says that God doesn't work like that. I love this. In fact, aside from the repeat of the same 2 lines in later verses, the rest of the song is great. He just seems to say that not seeing God is OK, as long as he can feel God. This is weak.

Though the questions still fog up my mind
with promises I still seem to bear,
Or even when answers slowly unwind,
It's my heart I see you prepare.
But it's now that I feel your grace fall like rain
From ev'ry fingertip, washing away my pain.

'Cause I still believe in Your faithfullness.
'Cause I still believe in Your truth.
'Cause I still believe in Your holy Word.
Even when I don't see, I still believe.

Well, the only place I can go is into Your arms
Where I throw to You my feeble prayers.
Well, in brokenness I can see that this was Your will for me.
Help me to know that You are near, yeah,

'Cause I still believe in Your faithfullness.
'Cause I still believe in Your truth.
'Cause I still believe in Your holy Word.
Even when I don't see, I still believe.

'Cause I still believe
'Cause I still believe
'Cause I still believe
'Cause I still believe
I still believe.

So, if the bulk of the song is so great, and the two lines twice repeated are only doubtfully worrisome, why mention it at all?

I have been reading Jonathon Edwards' "On Religious Affections," and he is dealing therein with a problem that I believe we face. We do not teach people well whether they are saved, or whether they are merely relieved. Are they awed and amazed by God's power, or are they in love with Him? Are they happy to receive His blessings and salvation or are they changed at the core by the love of His holiness?

Edwards repeats an illustration over and over in his work. Do they see the honey of God's grace, and love its texture, sheen and color, or have they tasted it? If they have not tasted it, it does not matter how much they love it - it is not spiritual love.

I have been working on a post about whether we can please God, to be quickly followed by another about those who falsely believe they are pleasing God. I have thrown away 2 versions of the first post already. (Hence my "long" silence.) The current rewrite is showing some promise. This song seemed to take me past my posts, to the heart of the matter, so I pushed this post to the front of the queue.

I can feel God's grace pouring down like rain for all the wrong reasons, or for all the right ones. Let's labor to enter into the right rest.

11 January, 2007

Life: Light Commenting

The great news is that our small bible study group is really starting to click. When I started with them a year+ ago, we started at 7:30, and I was out in time to play tennis at 8:45. Nowadays, we start at 7:00, and I'm out around 10:00. That is so cool. It makes me very happy.

Of course, then I get home and deal with dinner and dishes, etc. So, there will be no surfing tonight. :-(

Another thing I deal with is brushing my teeth. This is probably not an ordeal for most of you, but that's because you have a functional ability to do these kinds of critical skills.


I lost my automatic toothbrush motor the other day. Before you jump to any conclusions, it's the first time I've lost it in 10 years of service. I think it must be the cats. They don't really understand me anyway, so why shouldn't they hide my toothbrush?

The automatic toothbrush does four 30-second intervals, separated by a 1/2 second pause so you know to switch to new teeth.

For the last three nights, since I've been running on manual toothbrushes, I have gotten lost in thought, and found myself brushing away waiting for my hand to give me the 1/2 second pause so I could switch to the next set of teeth. ;-P

It's hilarious.

In the morning, I have always used a manual, and I don't have this problem in the morning. It's just at night that I find myself brushing my way to China.

I gotta be me
I just gotta be me

10 January, 2007

Bible Study: Deacons

We are studying deacons in our small group tomorrow, so I thought I would write a little poem about a certain deacon. I put it up over at Timeless Prayer

Links: Tying Heaven to Earth

I should do more linking, but it's not one of my great strengths. I'm sorry.

These two posts by Weekend Fisher, though, are too exceptional to not link. There are some teens at a Lutheran church somewhere getting pure gold for Sunday School.

The Tabernacle and the Shadow of Heaven
The Temple and How it was Rebuilt in 3 Days

The rest of the series is worth the read, of course, but these are amazing. Her latest on hatred has a little bite to it, too.

09 January, 2007

FHC: Home Church Survey

Here is the Barna group on home church.

As I read this, I was not surprised that the home church was so popular - and that for a couple of reasons.
1) Home church is great. Who wouldn't love it. :-)
2) The survey is naturally self-selecting.

If you ask a bunch of medieval reenactors whether they like reenacting better than watching movies about medieval themes, I wonder what answer you'd get. Duh.

Life: Migraines and Rocket Science -or- I Told You I Was a Woman

Scientists have discovered a relationship in women between migraines and the blues. It seems that women who get fifteen or more headaches a month are four times more prone to major depression.

This is not exactly ground-breaking news, but it is nice to hear that the two are related. They deal in their article with the obvious possibility that the migraines are the cause of the depression. Who wouldn't be depressed?! But they conclude that there is a common neurobiology between migraines and depression. Neither causes the other. They both spring from the same root.

As I am now emerging from a really rough time (and I am emerging, thank you,) I have found my migraines to be both less severe, and less frequent. In my case, I can pretty much tell you when I will have a migraine. It's simple. If a major negative event happens in my life, and I don't get a chance to cry out loud about it, I'm going to have a migraine some time the next day. No kidding. If I feel depressed, and I soldier through it, I will have a migraine the next day. If I get alone and cry, I will be fine the next day.

If I were the sole experimental group, they would find a definite correlation between the blues and the migraines.

Even more interesting is something is yet ANOTHER statement at the end of the article. (Scientific American seems to have a lot to say in their last two paragraphs!)

She noted that researchers have already submitted a second paper on findings of a link between sexual and emotional abuse in childhood and chronic disabling headaches.

Yes. My personal, anecdotal experience is that there are a wide, wide range of symptoms that abused women display in their bodies. Headaches are one. Fiber Myalgia is probably the biggest, but migraines seem to attend almost everything. And marital abuse seems to be as common a cause in these diseases, as childhood abuse.

Anyway. It's a blog, and these are just opinions, but I had to point up the study.

08 January, 2007

FHC: The Church of Tomorrow - Part 11, Holiness Rising

It was Thom on the vid.

Brenda took the call, and wished him a good evening.

"Brenda," Thom began, "a few of us are sitting down Wednesday to talk about outreach ideas for the spring. I was wondering if you and Jim could be there?"

Brenda popped up their calendar, and saw they were booked until 6 that night. "We're interviewing preschools for Lacy, but we could probably be there at 7:00 or 7:30. Would that be good enough?"

Thom was happy to hear they could pull it off, and quickly agreed. After a quick apology for having to click off right away, he was gone. Brenda went back to getting ready for Jim to come home. Things would be different when she went back to work, but rather than trying to transition smoothly, she was trying to make these last few weeks extra special. She could slowly shift more of the workload to Jim in these last weeks, but it was much more fun to make sure there was nothing he could find to do when he got home.

It might be a long time before the whole house was ever clean again, and there was real fried chicken on the stove when Jim walked in. They might as well enjoy their freedom while it lasted.


Come Wednesday, Jim and Brenda found themselves in a good mood. Their first choice in preschools was a little spendy, and a little sterile, but their second was right in the sweet spot. They had an eight to one student/teacher ratio there, and with the pro-birth tax rebates, they could even pay for it. The tuition would end up being two thirds of Brenda's take home income, but that was only to start. In BusinesS Intelligence, she soon be able to double her salary. She was all business, and more than intelligent.

They signed the papers that night, so Lacy could start with the new quarter in 3 weeks.

Arriving at Thom's house just a little after 7:00 (they had scarfed some burgers on the way over, so as to be on time,) they found the meeting was running a little late. That gave them a chance to give Thom and Karen the news. Joy joined herself to the conversation, so they had to tell the whole story over again, but it was always pleasure to repeat good news. Joy and George had a girl Lacy's age, and a boy a year and a half older. They didn't get to talk much, because they were over in Derek and Julia's den, but they seemed like nice people.

When Joy heard the good news, she didn't exactly look like she'd swallowed a bug, but maybe sucking something slightly sour.

Jim was the oblivious type, so he asked what was the matter.

"The matter," Joy asked, "Why, nothing's the matter at all. I'm very happy for you both."

Jim was only more confused by this answer. Jim was a mechanic. Mechanics find problems for a living; they find them because they look for them; they look for them because they notice something not performing within published specs; things are not performing within published specs because they are broken; mechanics fix broken things. So, Jim started the troubleshooting process with another question, "Where do your kids go?"

Brenda saw Joy's blush. Jim just heard the answer.

"George ... George and I, we decided to homeschool Darren and Dawn."

"That's really cool," Jim gushed. "Is that even legal?" He continued.

"Oh yeah," Joy answered. "It got a little dicey during the anti-proselytization days, but Congress didn't have enough time to make it illegal. Anyone can homeschool their own kids, and anyone with a degree can help anyone else homeschool their kids for money - legal tutoring."

Jim beamed. This was a great idea! He looked over at Brenda and didn't understand her look. She was not enthused, but she was not shooting daggers at him either. It was a funny look. She read his eyes, and shook her head just the littlest bit, and Jim knew to ask later.

Jim thanked Joy for the outstanding idea, and let the subject change to outreach to the community. It was a favorite subject of his. There were so many things that were exciting about being with the Lord, and being with brothers and sisters. Not telling everyone about Jesus just didn't make sense to Jim.

Derek walked in just as Jim was getting wound up.

Derek had a commanding presence. He was almost 300 pounds, and while not all of it was muscle, no one doubted that a lot of it was. And he was serious. Nothing, but nothing, but nothing was beneath his perfect attention. He rearranged the chairs in meeting rooms. He checked the air conditioning levels, and made sure all the white noise was off. Every month, Derek's den set the standard for whatever the church was doing.

When Derek entered, everyone knew it was time to start, and they took their seats.

The den mothers and youngest couple from each den was there. That made for a big meeting, but it promised to be a lot of fun.

The meeting began with a couple minutes of silence. Every meeting did. They took that time to focus themselves on the purpose of the meeting, and on the Lord. Jim had been taught pretty quickly that it is easy to focus too much on the visible things, and to forget the Lord Himself. For that couple minutes, everyone reminded themselves that they were here to receive and to present the Love of God from and to each other, exactly as Jesus would if He were there. They reminded themselves that they were here to touch Christ.

They were in Dave's home, so he kicked off the meeting.

"Master," Dave began, "we are here because You set us free. You gave us the free gift of Your life and blood. You have made us rich with every blessing in heavenly places. We are inheritors of more than we could imagine, though we have done nothing to deserve the first notice from Your holy eyes. Now, we long to display Your offer to our neighbors. We want to open our hearts and homes to those You would welcome into the household of faith. Show us how we should do it. Show us how to reach the lost around us. Direct us tonight, and be the real Head of this meeting. Guide each of us to speak only as Your Spirit leads, and let us find Your Wisdom and not our own as we seek to glorify You."

With the meeting started, Derek stood up.

He spoke first to the younger couples. "Each of you should probably know that you are here to talk about how to reach our respective neighborhoods. Each of us den mothers has been thinking on this subject for the last three weeks, and we have put together some ideas. Here's how this is going to work, and why you have been called here. We want to hear from you whether you think each idea would have caused you to want to get to know the people at Corner Church."

Jim knew a little bit about Corner Church's decision making. He had never been a part of an actual elders' meeting, but he knew that they were simple affairs. The issues were laid on the table as quickly as possible, even before the meeting if that was practical, and then each den mother gave his heart on the subject. Each leader tried to capture what he believed to be the Lord's leading on the subject, and then he was silent. They took turns by lottery, and nobody was allowed to "rebut" anything anyone else said. Everyone spoke exactly once, from the heart, and from the Spirit, as much as he was able. Everyone else listened - really listened.

One brother was responsible to make sure the dictaputer captured everything that everyone said. He was called the recorder. As the dictaputer was transcribing each statement from each den mother, the recorder would highlight things that really seemed poignant or Spirit-led. After everyone had spoken once, the room would be silent. In that time, everyone would silently pray and the recorder would pull together all the highlights and formulate what they called the "sense of the meeting." There was no vote. The recorder wrote down and read out his impression of the decision of the meeting, and everyone either accepted it or rejected it. If anyone rejected it, they prayed some more, and tabled it until the next meeting.

Jim did not know this idea was lifted from the Quakers, but he thought it was pretty cool. Anything was better than arguing with his brothers and sisters about every little thing.

Derek was going to run this meeting like any other elders' meeting.

"What I would like you to do," Derek continued, "is to take a survey on each idea presented. After each den mother presents his idea, George will text you a URL, and you answer by replying with a number between zero and nine. Nine means you think the idea would certainly have drawn you in, and zero means the idea might actually have driven you away. A 4 means that you would never really have thought much about it. It just wouldn't have made an impression on you. You den mothers can take the survey, too. George has connected to your devices, too."

It was the first time Jim had seen all the den mothers doing their thing. The way they presented their ideas was interesting. Some of them brought vid presentations, while others barely strung together a whole paragraph. The ideas were all over the board, too. There was door-to-door outreach, car washing, food drives, better signage, and a couple of calls for different kinds of parties to invite everyone to. Thom wanted to have a block party, and try to identify some needs of the neighbors while they were all together. Jim enjoyed voting for each of the ideas, as Brenda did too, but unfortunately he could only give Thom's idea a five.

Tim's idea was Jim's favorite so far, but Derek had come up last in the lottery. Tim wanted to rent out a room at the local coffee shop one night a week for a couple months, and invite the neighborhood in for free coffee. Each night, a group of people from the church would talk with complete strangers about football or politics or the latest movies. At some point in the evening, the church would run a little skit that presented something about the Lord. It didn't have to be too heavy, but it should be something challenging.

Jim gave that idea a eight, and Brenda gave it a seven.

Then, it was Derek's turn.

"My contribution is much simpler than anything you've heard so far," he began. "I'm almost embarassed to go through with telling you about it. Still, it's what I feel the Spirit has laid upon my heart. I don't believe we need any gimmicks, or any program. We need power. We need the power of the Spirit of Revival, the Spirit of Revelation, the Spirit of Holiness. When His power can be entrusted to us, we will turn these neighborhoods upsidedown. Until then, we will merely shame ourselves with our best human efforts.

"The real question is why we lack power. Why has the Lord not entrusted His power to us? How is it we have the Spirit of the Living God present among us, and we are invisible to our neighbors?

"We have no power, because we do not live lives of holiness before God.

"If we will humble ourselves before God, then He will lift us up. If we will cast off the trappings of the world, with its vids streaming poison into our minds, its debt economy making us slaves to every corporation, and its schools brainwashing our children from their very first year of life, the Spirit will have a clean channel through which to flow. If we repent ourselves before God, He will glorify His Name before men through us.

"The Spirit can convict our neighbors, but first we must let Him convict us. We need to throw ourselves into a time of purification and repentance. Let's go back to God, and let Him send us out when we are ready."

It was impossible to miss the passion behind Derek's proposal. For all the strength of his words, he reined in his tone and spoke with bridled emotion, but his concern leaked out anyway. Derek was worried and he was relaying the very words of God, as best he knew them.

Jim was shocked, and somehow not surprised, to realize that he was a vid watcher, owned credit account debt, and had just signed papers to surrender Lacy to government sponsored day care for nine hours a day. He glanced up, and noticed immediately that he was not the only brother in the room staring at the floor. George and a couple other brothers in Derek's den were looking around the room, but almost everyone else was lost in thought.

Jim probed his heart before the Lord. He could find no defense against the accusations ringing in his ears, and the Lord was silent in his heart. There was no whisper of exoneration to oppose Derek's measured presentation of facts.

He clicked a nine into his survey for Derek's idea.

He looked over to see Brenda giving Derek a three.

He caught her eye, and this time she was shooting daggers.

Life: Ohio Warming

I just have to post something about my daffodils.

My daffodils are sprouting. And not just mine, but everyone's. Granted, they are my ex-wife's, and I only have custody through the divorce, but I still have to claim them. The point though, is that the Buckeyes still have one last football game to play here at the late start of January.

Why are my daffodils sprouting while they are still playing football!?!?

This is not good.

I should not see daffodils for another 6 weeks.

This morning I saw my first sleet of the year. Maybe I saw a snowflake once in December.

We still have not had our first hard freeze. It should be about 10 degrees right now, and it has not really even been below 31 yet.

Dudes, I may love to play tennis all winter long, but not at the cost of the death of all species. I have my limits.

Maybe this global warming thing is just a cycle, and has nothing to do with man's contributions - I don't believe that any more, but we'll suggest it for argument's sake - but it doesn't matter. I am sick of Christians poo-pooing global warming. It's time to get out of the ostrich phase and begin asking what we do about it.


It occurs to me to mention that I don't believe in heaven. I believe in a new earth. And I don't really believe in a new earth. I believe in this earth renewed. By us, under the watchful Headship of Christ our Lord.

I don't believe this earth is a "throw-away," and it scares me when Christians treat it like one. People! We can do better!

06 January, 2007

Engaging God: Who is Jesus?

Who Is Jesus?

Ask my cats whom my son and I are some day.

We are their providers. We cause their food dish to be full (often) before they even know they're hungry. We lead them beside the still water dish. And we restore their mangy coats. Well, my son brushes them from time to time, anyway.

We are their comfort. We are a warm lap, whenever we slow down enough, and don't have any food in our hands. We give laundry baskets full of clean, warm clothes for them to foul with their napping. And closets and doorways on which to pee. Oh, and litter boxes, too, but they don't always seem to know what those are for.

But, we are fickle providers. I recently replaced the fuzzed-out monitor in the basement with a new LCD display. Of the monitor's seventeen inches, only the center four could actually be read, and my eyes don't need that kind of extra exercise. I would move every email or blog to the center of the screen, so I that I could argue with it intelligently, instead of just guessing at their arguments by the relative density of the blurry text.

This replacement monitor gave me two or three mornings of great, great delight. My dumbest cat would wander around to the back of the display to jump up on its warmth and take a nap. Of course, the LCD does not have a warm back. It's two inches thick. He's been napping there for years, and suddenly, it's gone. That's fun enough, mind you, but it gets better. He then - every time, without fail - wandered to the front of the monitor, saw that there was computer/shiny stuff going on, and there's always warmth behind computer/shiny stuff, and he would jump onto the back of the monitor from the front. Because, if he comes from the front, instead of the side, it will change reality.

The first morning, he did this until I literally ran out of time. I watched him do it over and over - and over. There are no words for the joy his stupidity gave me. It was almost a week [I stand corrected - he just tried again, but only once] before he finally quit trying to make the back of the monitor appear by naming it and claiming it.

Yes, he reminded me of too many of my prayers.

My cats know me well...

They can tell you things about me that my closest friend or mother cannot tell you. You can learn from them what it takes to get me to lash out in anger, and how easily I can be manipulated.

... but they don't "get" me at all.

They don't know why my lap is so often available down here at the computer. They don't know why I love the way the moon washing over me is just like the Son of God loving me without delivering me from darkness. Nor do they know why I might try to capture that miracle with 14 lines of 10 syllables each. Believe me, they have no clue whether I am happy or depressed, and never dreamt of wanting to know, "Why?"

God once said,
Isa 55:8&9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

It's easy to see the discrepancy.

My cats see my great powers, but they are limited in what they can believe. They probably can imagine that if I set my mind to it, I could provide a thousand bowls of cat food, and a running stream of water. And, of course, they are right. I won't, because it is a complete waste, but I could. They don't see; they cannot see, that the most important thing in my life is people.

So, Who is Jesus?

Is there something about Jesus that we are missing? Is He so high above us that our love for Him is retarded? Are we still looking for the warm spot behind the new monitor in His life? Are His thoughts higher than our thoughts?

That question actually makes me pause for a second. I want to answer in a confident absolute, but I want to answer confidently both for and against the proposition. Obviously, He really is that high above us, but is He? He lowered Himself to be with us. Is that the answer? He's a "humaned-down" version of God Who sank low enough to understand us?

I think not.

There are reasons to hope for more than that. We are called His bride, and He forbade unequal marriages. We cannot be less than Him, and still marry Him some day. Is it possible that we are somehow elevated to companionship with God? Is it possible that we might understand the Poet in God? The Friend? The Lover? More than the Provider of our daily bread, salvation, and warm places to nap, might we know the deepest essence of the Ineffable? Might we be transformed so as to know the reasons behind God's most mysterious acts?

We praise Him, but might we praise Him for Who He really is, rather than merely Whom He seems to be?

John 15:15
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

I certainly never shared with my cat why I got a new monitor. All things is a lot of stuff.

John 3:5&6
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Ah. There is a "borning" that is new. Even though we are human, we can be born of the invisible that is above. There is a living that is alive in God's way.

1 Cor 6:17
But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

There is a joining to the divine, and a becoming one with Him.

1 John 1:3
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

John, and those with him, had a true fellowship with the Father and with the Son. My dumbest cat might worship me, but he will never, ever fellowship with me. (Not even if I loved him.)

Joh 14:17
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

You know Jesus.

You know Jesus.

You know Him to the very depths of His being. You don't know Him fully, but you know Him truly. There are false brothers and sisters who only know about Him, who only how many and how good and great things God has done and will do for them, but if the Spirit dwells in you, you know the heart of the Living God and of the Holy Son.

The passions of God are not the passions of men, and yet they are your passions. In you is growing the passion for holy love toward the Holy. In you is growing the passion to sing of the beauty of God's purity, and to be pure yourself. In you is growing the hunger to do God's will, because it is your will to be the same as Him. These are new passions, conceived in you the day you were born of Spirit. They don't all feel natural yet, but they are growing.

1 John 3:2
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

2 Cor 3:18
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is the Source of the new passions rising up in you, turning your whole life into a testimony of love for the Holy. Jesus is the Object of passions that you can channel and feed and enjoy. Jesus is the Source and Subject of every discipline, ecstacy and revelation that's changing your life for the better.

And you are becoming just like Him.

03 January, 2007

Sonnet: The Lesser Light to Rule Our Nights

Black nighttime casts the forest's brush a fright
The living trees and fallen copse profane
In shadowed power their silence speaks great might
Limbs twist and grasp while dark is Luna's reign
White moon sees all, and by His sight reveals
Those gnarled, dark limbs all spread in search of sun
And moonlight's misty cloaking softly shields
Pale lilies hidden half 'neath trees undone
Though sun's diffusing rays be gone, we see
Though luscious bough loom monstrous, still we know
With waxing weeks the sovereign Moon makes free
When monsters melt beneath love's honest glow
Inconstant though this Lesser Light may seem
He guards our nights and slays fiends in His gleam

01 January, 2007

News: Iraq, Terrorism, and Facts

I won't pretend to be educated on Iraq, on which of our moves were mistakes, or on whether going in was the right thing to do. I have become convinced that we won the war we meant to win, and are currently befuddled with one that we hoped never to fight.

It's always a bad strategy to plan on your opponent not doing the one thing that would really mess you up. If you are doing that, it is a prime indicator that you think your opponent is stupid, but it's really you who's registering low on the brilliance meter.

Stephen F. Hayes has put together a readable collection of facts that we learned shortly after the invasion, and that we know now. He is a journalist, and was in support of the original invasion. I think he strikes a good balance.

The article appears in Imprimis, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College. I recommend the digest, and the college in glowing terms to anyone interested.

Saddam's Iraq and Islamic Terrorism: What We Now Know.

Happy New Year

We made it in Columbus.

Lord bless your new year, and may His kingdom thrive in your life.