30 March, 2008

Pearlie asked so nicely. :-)

5 things on several subjects in 1998, huh? Well, it was a pivotal year for me. My marriage was showing its first final cracks, and I was screwing up my courage to leave my dream church.

What was I doing 10 years ago?
1) Just settling in to my first job as an IT guy.
2) Rehabbing my knee surgery. Hit the gym and make it really hurt, bad, every day.
3) Hiding my true feelings about my church in hundreds of odd situations.
4) Wondering why I owned a pickup truck. Amy wanted it and wouldn't drive it.
5) Training a dog Amy rescued. When I was done, she could tie him to the handlebars of her bike and ride past squirrels without being nervous.

5 things on my to-do list today:
1) Church then Prayer meeting later.
2) Trial position some rocks I bought yesterday for the garden. Dig them in next weekend.
3) Watch a little tennis.
4) Work really, really hard to stay off the court. I need an off day, no matter how bad I hate them. Fortunately, when Nate called it started raining.
5) Iron and shine the ol' shoes. (All done.)

Snacks I enjoy
1) Uh. What's this? A joke? Food good. Grunt.
2) Whole-wheat, soured biscuits before tennis. Good energy, no sugar blitz.
3) Failing that, bread and butter.
4) Failing that, wait for dinner.
5) I love all snacks, but nothing good comes of them. I'll sit down to eat a snack, and before I'm done it was just a meal out of snack food. I eat until I'm not hungry.

Things I would do if I were a billionaire
1) I'd write, publish and advertise everything I could.
2) I'd support anything promoting the old Christianity.
3) I'd hire a lawyer to figure out how not to bleed it all to the government.
4) I'd probably spend loads trying to figure out how to set up community in my neighborhood around my church.
5) After I'd made all the mistakes, I'd try to change every church in the world into a neighbor church.

Five of my bad habits
1) Staying up too late.
2) Fitting too much into every little crack of time.
3) Ignoring the state of my house, cleanliness and repair both.
4) Focusing entirely on what's directly in front of me, without thought to what's waiting on me.
5) Doing recreational tennis and blogging before other things that matter more.

Five places I have lived
1) Grass Valley, CA - The gorgeous foothills of the Sierra Nevada range.
2) Fort Hood, TX - The armpit of one of the most ungorgeous states in the union.
3) Atlanta, GA - Too hateful to be busy.
4) Columbus, OH - The most pleasantly non-descript place I've ever lived.
5) Aaaah. Well, I did 9 weeks of basic in Fort Leonard Wood, MO (Fort Lost-in-the-Woods.) Basic was one of the most trying and affirming experiences of my life, but it really got under my skin. Once I started sleep-walking there, I never slept more than 90 minutes at a stretch again until I was married. My wife said after our first night, "The first task with a new baby is getting it to sleep through the night."

Five jobs I've had
1) Computer sales flunky. (I was fired. I learned then that it is not good for Kevin Knox to be bored.)
2) Fast food cook. (Probably my all-time favorite job. For 13 hours a day I was in full-on adrenaline mode. I loved the layers upon layers of challenge there. I burnt out every 3 months like clockwork, but I got really good at overcoming burnout.)
3) Soldier. (They weren't shooting at anyone while I was in, so it was pretty easy. I became a mechanic assuming that, "At least they can't make me a clerk. I was wrong. 3 times. For all 3.5 years of my active duty.)
4) Mechanic. (Probably did more to define my character than anything else. It was another 13 hour a day job, and I loved that too.)
5) Programmer. (Probably the most natural fit for the old, reclusive me. I got to serve people without ever dealing with them. These days I'm more of an admin, and I think I might like it for the very people dealings programming is intended to avoid.)

Phew. I survived. Now I can go another 6 months without doing another self-revealing meme. :-)

29 March, 2008

Tennis - Followup

In non-professional tennis tourneys, they like to guarantee everyone gets to play at least 2 matches. To accommodate this, they create a consolation draw of everyone who lost in the first round.

There were only 3 of us who lost in the first round (19 participants in a 32 player draw ended up creating 13 "bye" matches in the first round) and one of us 3 losers decided not to play in the backdraw. That left just me and one other guy playing for the backdraw championship.

We played today, and I won 6-1, 6-0.

It was a simple situation. I was about as superior to him as Greg was to me. He had good strokes, and he stretched me on a number of points. He hit several winners, and many of his serves overpowered me. But things looked a little different on this side of the skill-divide.

His shots were so "wristy" he made ping-pong look flat, and his backhand was unpredictable. So, the game plan was simple. Hit most everything to his backhand, and when I did go to his forehand keep the ball too low for him to get that wrist action under it.

I kept to the game plan (never change a winning strategy) and he had exactly the troubles his style should create.

The most interesting thing was that my serve largely fell apart. I probably averaged getting about 35% of my first serves in, and that's because I quit trying for a lot. I need to be trying for more and still achieving 65% or so. You want to be trying to win points outright with your serve. It's not enough to get a high percentage with weak serves. But my serve was just miserable.

I think it was a combination of some of the things I was trying against Greg, and being so far ahead. When the pressure goes away during a match, different parts of your game will weaken. Today, it was the serve. I was glad it was nothing more important.

Thanks for tuning in. :-)

You can see the damage here, after they get it updated.

(BTW - do you know what kind of tourney this was? As they guys would be leaving they'd say little things to each other like, "See you in Scotsdale.")

Tennis Dreams

Last night a dream came true for me out on the tennis court.

Had you been there, you could be forgiven for not understanding that as you watched Greg Gormley's score tick up, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, 5-0, 6-0, set, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0...

The first set was almost over when I finally began to see his first serve. At the changeover at 0-3 in the second set he told me how strange it was playing indoors. He's from Austin, TX where you can play outdoors year 'round, and being indoors was causing weird images from his glasses, messing up his vision. I replied, "Yeah. And yet somehow I haven't taken advantage of that." We both laughed.

Greg served again at 4-0, a cannon right at me. I returned it cleanly, and then put his reply deep to his backhand, drawing the error. I won two of the next three points returning a pair of second serves. At 15-40, Greg double faulted, giving me my first game of the match. As we crossed over I said, "Forgive me if I don't even pretend to be ashamed of that."

2 games later, it was over. 0-6, 1-6.

I did not hold serve once, though I did hold a couple of game points. I only broke him when he missed 3 first serves and one second serve in the same game. And he wasn't even at the peak of his game. 15 years ago, he'd been 25 pounds heavier and stronger - back when he played for 2 years on the Association of Tennis Professionals tour.

Yeah. That ATP tour.

The match was over, and I shook his hand with a big-ol' kid's grin on my face. I told him the truth. It was the first time in my life I'd ever seen the ball do the things he was making it do. I told him, "Where I play, the junk I was hitting works." We both laughed, and he told me a little about himself.

Greg Gormley is 8 years younger than me, has been playing this game at the highest levels all his life, and practices with Andy and John Roddick. A number of people think he serves bigger than Andy. (Andy holds the record for the fastest serve ever recorded during a sanctioned match, at 155 mph.) I doubt Greg served anything over 140 mph last night, but I KNOW he served over 130. When his racket hit that ball, it sounded like an explosion. I have never heard my opponent's tennis racket make that noise before, and I have to tell you it was envigorating.

It was exactly like all the movies (except the part where I lost bagel and breadstick - 0 and 1). I found myself on the court with one of those guys you dream your whole life that you might play. And I stood the test. Really.

It was about 3 strokes into the warmup when I realized I was playing above any level I'd ever seen before. He was hitting dumb strokes - flat, all-power, and aimed precisely at my backhand to see whether I could handle them - and making every one of them. When your opponent begins by putting dumb strokes in the court perfectly and repeatedly, you ask yourself a question. The answer to that question was, "Uh-oh."

I was able to handle that power.


I turned his power into spin and sent it back to him deep, over and over again. That's exactly what the book says you should do, and I was able to do it. And it worked. It worked in the warmup, and it kept working throughout the match.

You see, the thing that made me so happy was that all night long, if Greg would leave me in the point for 3 strokes, I was winning. I won more points from the baseline than he did, I'm almost sure of it.

The point I wish I had on video went like this.

GG: Big first serve to my backhand
KK: Deep, loopy return to his backhand
GG: Flat and hard into the backhand corner
KK: Deeper, somewhat flatter into his backhand
GG: Higher and softer to my backhand, about 8 feet inside the lines.
KK: This is an opportunity shot. Against another opponent, I'd put it back and wait for a better shot, but against Greg it's the best I'm going to see. That makes this an opportunity to panic. I resisted. I decided it was time to let him see I could go down the line, so I let the ball fly another 8 inches, then drive it up the line.

It was picture perfect. I painted the line, and Greg just applauded.

The point was absolutely textbook. I pinned him into the corner, then went into the open court I'd created. And I was able to do that all night long - about one point out of every 12.

You see, Greg's first serve was running from 115 to 135mph. I was successfully returning about 1 in 5 of those, and proud to be. His second serve was a wicked kicker bouncing to my high backhand at upwards of 90mph. I handled close to half of those. In order to win that match, I needed to be returning about 2 in 5 of his first service, and 4 in 5 of his second serves.

My first serve runs from 85 to 105 mph, and he was returning 3 or 4 in 5 of them. I was actually able to win some points with that serve by placing it carefully, though. The slice into his body on the backhand wing was my survival shot. I even managed to serve one ace in the warmup. :-) My second serve ran from 60 to 85 mph and he was occasionally nice enough to dump one of them into the net. He put so much pressure on my serve I probably faulted twice as much as normal, and double faulted some critical points away.

Those last two paragraphs tell the story of the match. In a typical game consisting of 4 - 6 points, Greg was getting 3 of them for free by either acing me or blasting my serve back for an easy return winner. 1-3 points per game were "in play," and those gave me tremendous hope.

This time last year, those 1-3 points would have been shameful. I would have hit 2 amazing winners, and dozens of stupid errors. Last night most of my errors were forced. In the rare moments that Greg gave me something to hit, it wasn't much, but I hit it exactly how I meant to. I patiently did not try to match his power. I turned his power into spin and buried it deep in his backhand side, and it worked. He had a shot tolerance of about 3, and sometime within the first 3 shots of the rally he'd uncork something and more than half the time he'd miss. I kept him pinned deeply enough that his flat, commanding shots were gambles that he lost.

That was my game plan going into the match, and I kept it up the whole time. With a little bit more of a serve, this match would have been 2-6, 2-6 and that's an amazing thing to me.

Here are my takeaways:
1) Greg Gormley is awesomely, amazingly better than I am at tennis. 10 years from now, after I've learned gobs more tricks, and he's slowed down and gotten weaker and older, he'll still kick my butt
2) I need to add 10 mph to my serve to compete nearer to that level
3) I need to practice return of serve, but I'm on the right track. Some of my returns were exactly what I wanted
4) My new strategy of cautious aggression is 100x more effective than my old strategy of flailing away at the ball

This time last year, I could not have held my head up during that match. I'd have walked away with nothing to be proud of. This year, I was able to win some points, return some serves, serve a couple winners, and occasionally handle the most aggressive shots I've ever seen. My spectators were never confused about who was the better player, but I'll bet a couple grungingly admitted they wouldn't be doing any better than I was.

It was a dream come true to hit at that level, and the most encouraging day of tennis I've ever played in my life.

Hopefully, I'll use some of those lessons in my next match.

26 March, 2008

This one made me cry

Kathy at Beyond Words posted a rant against soundbites. Her rant was born when she saw the 10 minutes of video surrounding the 10 seconds of video we've all seen of Dr. Jeremiah Wright.

JR Woodard, and his post, Finding Truth in a Soundbite Society.

You owe it to yourself and Dr. Wright to give 10 minutes to this video.

21 March, 2008

The Miracle of Kindness

You know the story. John and Peter are a little short on silver and gold, so they heal the lame man at the beautiful gate of the temple. They give credit to the Messiah, which aggravates the local Jews, spend a little time in prison, and come out
swinging. The church's ranks swell as a direct result of this miracle, and of the decision to keep doing miracles like this far and wide to publicize the gospel.

Acts 4 tells us this was part of a conscious strategy. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit all agreed and did His part with the apostles for the purpose of conquering the world for the kingdom. They did miracles to extend the message of the kingdom.

Peter and John did not give the lame man the greater, spiritual treasure of the gospel. No, instead they settled for the pedestrian application of a little healing. They left his spirit withered and useless while they restored his dying legs to fleeting life.

We are much wiser than this. We give people the true riches of the gospel. We give them words, 4 spiritual laws, the law and sin, redemption, the bridge analogy, the Romans Road. Is it our fault if they are all too hard-hearted to know a good thing when they receive it? Besides, God doesn't seem to pass out free healings with every trip to the temple like He used to.

But what if we're dead wrong?

What if we are supposed to be doing greater works than healing lame beggars? What if we are supposed to be doing great works of love instead of just healing for the beggars in our neighborhoods? What if love, given freely to the normal people who mow their lawns right next door to us, is as great a miracle as healing the lame, and able to bring the power of an invisible kingdom to Earth? What if giving money, time and attention to the people all around us is the work of evangelism in our time?

Acts 4:29 & 30
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

Calvinism is Like Long Division

Most people don't like, but it's not like it's calculus or anything. It's just kind of hard to grasp, harder to work through, and prone to error if you're not careful. And really, as you go through all the higher math, higher education, and real life that the world can throw at you, how often do you use long division? Most people can get by fine without it.

But when you need it, nothing else will do.

19 March, 2008

Money is Worthless

To chimpanzees anyway.

But maybe the chimps are right?

I found this study fascinating. You can teach a chimp to trade an apple for grapes. And you can teach a chimp to trade "coins" for food. But you absolutely cannot teach a chimp to trade food for any number of coins.

Michael Kruse again.

Why don't chimpanzees like to barter commodities?

Ever Wondered What the Browser Wars Are About?

Joel Spolsky is the world's most readable teaching geek. He is a fantastic manager of programmers, and was a programmer from Microsoft in a previous life, and even the lead on some of the early versions of Excel. If he says it, I pretty much believe it.

In this long article, he teaches why Internet Explorer is so unbelievably complex to build. And along the way he addresses the reasons Vista is so unpopular, and why it really should be unpopular. The article is as simple as it can be made, but it still gets pretty complex. If you can hang through some of the tougher parts, you'll be way ahead of the class when browser discussions get started.

Martian Headsets

18 March, 2008

The Quietness and Confidence Myth

... in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength ...

How many ways have you heard this verse stretched? It's like laffy-taffy. If someone wants you to enter into a type of prayer, or get over some heart-rending tears, or quit doubting authority, out comes the exhortation to quietness and confidence.

But what's the context?

Isa 30:12 ¶ Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:

The opposite of quietness and confidence is trusting oppression and perverseness.
Doubt, or crying out to God, or even tears of anger are not opposed to quietness. Trusting sin is the opposite of confidence.

Isa 30:13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.

And that sin looks like a wall, but really it's rotted at the core.

Isa 30:14 And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water [withal] out of the pit.

He will break that iniquity, though. The sin in which they trusted will fall apart.

Isa 30:15 ¶ For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.

Do you see? The ONLY quietness and confidence is to stop trusting in sin.

Isa 30:16 But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.

They refuse to trust God. Instead, they will trust anything else.

Isa 30:17 One thousand [shall flee] at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill.

But when we place our confidence in tricks and subtlety, we are constantly afraid that someone might trick us. We find we are vulnerable to every little whisper and rumor and fear. We flee when no one pursues at all. (I won't pretend to get the whole "beacon/ensign" thing.)

Isa 30:18 ¶ And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD [is] a God of judgment: blessed [are] all they that wait for him.

But the Lord is willing to wait. He WILL bless His children, and since their desire is to be holy as He is holy, He will bless them with holiness.

What more could we want?

17 March, 2008

I Will Be Thy King

I'm reading Francis Ridley Havergal every night. She selected the phrase in bold, but the whole thing is wonderful.

Hosea 13:8 - 10
I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help. I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?

How many leaders do we try to find? How many hopes beside Him Who stands beside us always?


Michael Kruse has again posted economic brilliance. He posts substance about the candidates' positions on health care. It tells why McCain's position might actually mean the end of company subsidized health insurance, and why that might be a good thing.

But it made me think. If you read a snippet of each of the candidates' positions, would you know who was who? How many Americans would?

And of course, that made me think theologically. If you read the positions on anything but raw predestination of Calvin as stated by real Calvinists, and of Arminius by real Arminians, would you know which was which?

16 March, 2008


On the most excellent advice of KB, I bring you the first of my snippets.

From Elizabeth Prentiss's, "Aunt Jane", p 264, as an older lady shares a look back on her life with a young lady.

Life looks very strange and impressive as one casts on it a backward glance. Perhaps you fancy that it looks insignificant. But it does not. On the contrary, even its little details have an importance of their own; just as moments make hours, so trifles make life; not one can be spared out of the great whole, each has it's own account to give to God.

Trifles make life.


15 March, 2008

Let's do an attitude check. (Mine, that is.)

It's been a little while since I've blogged, and I can't say as I've much missed it. There's a lot of reasons for that. At the top of the list is some rip-roaring email conversations with Eclexia, but there have been plenty of other things going on. I've been playing more tennis than ever (with the same variable levels of success), hanging on at work (I'll be starting a new, more time-consuming, more exciting opportunity there in a week or two), and doing two long weekends away.

At another level, if I were to kick up the blogging again, I think I'd become even less popular than I am now - and how much fun would that be? I tire myself with my own contradictions. I grow more and more convinced as time goes on that:

The churches we have are God's way of working in the world. Changing the church out for something "better" is worse than going forward with what we have.

The churches are falling away from the faith.

Spirituality is on the wane, just when we need it most

Contemplative prayer, centering prayer, silence before the Lord, whatever you want to call it, is a spiritual deception.

We need real teaching of solid doctrine, the blood, and holiness.

NT Wright and his "new perspective on Paul" is spot on.

I'm starting to see things more clearly than ever before in my life.

I've never been more confused.

I've called myself a former "Damentalist" before, but it's really never that far gone from my heart. (That's fundamentalism after you bleed the fun out.) The problem is I always seem to be squarely in two camps, and end up aggravating both. 20 years ago, I was an egalitarian, home churching Calvinist. Ever met one of them? No you haven't. The home churchers were unhappy about the Calvinism, and the Calvinists seem to need high liturgy. Now I'm a doctrine-heavy new perspective guy who doesn't think much of the emergent movement. That's nothing, though. I'm a doctrine-heavy guy who believes you should attend the church closest to you without regard to its doctrine.

What on Earth is wrong with me?

If anyone is itching to discuss the New Perspective on Paul (Pearlie has been running a series, on which I have not commented) or whether the church is falling away, let me know. It might tempt me. Elsewise, if I seem quieter than usual, everything's OK. I'm just staying occupied.

06 March, 2008

The Precious Blood of Christ

I'm probably not going to talk a lot about the Precious Blood conference. It was a nice conference, and all the information handed out was reliable. I have to admit to being somewhat distracted during the entire weekend, but even at that, the messages just weren't "news" to me. In another mood, I might try to be amusing, but the men who presented were honorable, and the messages they delivered were edifying. Derek Thomas did an especially encouraging job, and I'll report the majority of the conference attendees were bubbling with joy at the gift of the whole weekend.

I have to confess that I attended the whole weekend with a specific message in mind, hoping to hear a type of message. That was probably not fair of me. I was expecting too much. And then, those men are theologians, and they may find error in the message that was on my heart. Who knows. With no further ado, here's the message I typed on the flight home.

Living fluid fell from Abel's veins and landed on the hard, cold dust. Even as it spilled, each cell kept trying to absorb oxygen, carry food, and collect waste products. Red and warm, the blood was delivered out of Abel into a starkly bright, cold, windy, forbidding world, as alien to it as an infant, only it was a world to which blood could never belong.

Abel's living blood would die there in that field.

And there was no rescuer. There was no one to scoop the fluid up nor mourn its passing. There was only Cain, and whatever tool he used to strike his brother. He probably dug a shallow pit to hide his own kith and kin and, after dumping Abel's body in, shoveled all the tainted soil into the new depression. Abel was not rescued. He was not even found. The place where Cain left him to rot looked like any other part of the field.

And Abel's blood was now in the dark and cold of the forbidding earth.

Helpless, it cried out to God.

Genesis 4:10 & 11
And [God] said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now [art] thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;

Abel's still-living blood screamed. Abel's life was in that hole, and it cried out against the evil. Abel cried to God, begging resurrection, begging peace, begging life for life.

Cain walked the earth.

The only satisfaction Abel could accept was Cain's blood beside his own. The cry of Abel's blood to God begging justice was a right cry, and God agreed. God demanded blood be shed for blood. Our God would not deny Abel justice.

Genesis 9:5 & 6
And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

And if the blood of man becomes precious because of the image of God, how much more precious is the glory of God?

Rom 3:23
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

The most profound statement I heard this weekend was that the verse says it is sin to fall short of the glory of God. The "mark" that we all "miss" is not blameless behaviour, it's the glory of God. We are responsible to bring God glory.

Cain's was not the last nor the worst sin. Cain was merely the first of a line into which, in my time, I thrust myself. I have wished my brothers dead, and I have lusted, and I have loved God my Father and Provider with less than all my strength. His glory has exceeded my reverence. I have fallen short of the glory of God.

Rom 6:23
For the wages of sin [is] death;

When His glory demands my all, and I withhold the best for myself, I drag God from His heaven and trample Him here on His Earth. I have place the noxious vapor of my lust above the glorious beauty of His golden presence. I trade His precious gifts for a bong-hit of sewerage. I lust against Him, with angry tears, to be given a scorpion instead of His bread of Life. Earthly kings, mere shadows of divine Glory, torment and kill greater men for less offense than mine against my God.

My life is justly forfeit before God, and my blood deserves to be poured on the flames of God's wrath forever. He is my Just Judge and Condemner.

Only He does not condemn.

Neither does He excuse.

He is my Just Judge and Condemner, but He makes Himself "jthe Justifier" of sinners without violating His own justice.


The blood of men and the glory of God lie buried in the cold, dark soil of my memories, concealed by my hardened heart. How does He not condemn me? How does He justly allow my to walk here another day?

Many don't wonder that at all. Many wonder why God, Who is Love, does not willingly forgive all. It is a fair question, but not a mature one. A child might ask why someone doesn't just buy all the hungry people enough food. It's a nice wish, but it cannot be done. Someday, maybe that child will grow up to help with the problem of hunger, but no one can make it go away.

God cannot make our guilt go away. He cannot. He must not. If someone kills my little girl, can I allow her blood to go unassuaged? May it never be. God cannot, can never consider, allowing the demands of the offended to be mocked. Blood must answer to blood. And falling short of the glory of God is an offense against Him which demands satisfaction. God cannot cease to be just.

No, God is not merely forgiving. God remains just by making Himself the Justifier.

The blood I have shed during my walk and the glory I have disdained are answered with Jesus' precious blood.

2000 years ago, Jesus' blood was delivered from His righteous body and spilled out upon the hard rock of Golgotha. Warm, living blood fell from His innocent veins onto deadly wood and unflinching granite. His blood fell, spilled guiltily by guilty men, and left to dry and die without a thought.

His blood, His precious blood, cried out.

Jesus' blood cried, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Jesus' blood cried, "Father, forgive my brothers and sisters; forgive Your children, for my blood is given in place of theirs."

Jesus' blood cried, "I know what I give, and I know why I give it. It is my Life, and I lay it down for the prize I covet, the prize You covet, a heritage to Your glory."

Jesus' blood cried, "Remember Adam. Adam has sinned against You and against men in Your holy image. Adam has trampled Your glory underfoot and hated Your fleshly image. He has hated his God and his brother. His blood is forfeit, but take Mine. My blood is sufficient. My blood is a just price. Adam hated his wife, and when she cried for justice her cry was righteous. But count Adam's punishment against me. Here is my blood. Eve must be satisfied when I bare my back for Adam's stripes. My punishment exceeds Adam's crime. And when Adam turned his back on You, Father, He became guilty of all the law. His blood is forfeit. He is worthy to be stoned, to die under two witnesses without mercy. Here, Father, is my blood. Here is my life, taken without mercy, given with Your grace. You must forgive Adam when You see my perfect Life offered in his stead. This punishment is enough for Adam's sin."

Then Jesus' blood cried out for forgiveness for Eve, and for Seth, and for each man and woman after them who would call on His Name. Jesus' blood cried out for forgiveness for you, if you call on His Name.

Lay your hand on the Head of the Lamb. Throw off your own hopes of pleasing God. Give over trying to satisfy the law's demands. Listen as Jesus stands before His Father pleading His blood in place of your sins. Hear Him call justice down on Himself for the times you've dishonored your mother, the times you've stolen, the times you've handled the Name of your God without honor. Hear Him confess to your guilt and profess your innocence to His holy Father.

Then hear the Father ask whether you agree. Listen as the Father looks to you, and asks whether His Son's death is imputed to you. Do you claim the purity, the cleanness the Lamb's blood will afford? Or do you choose to stand before Him on the merits of your own case? Do you submit yourself to One Who loves you and gave Himself for you, or are you one for Whom the death of the Lamb of God means nothing.

Claim His precious blood now. Praise Him for the gift of His expensive, so expensive mercy, bought at the highest price in all the universe. Give yourself to that which was given to you. Give yourself to God's Life.

Or do you imagine that you can ignore His blood? Do you imagine that you can tread heavily on the glory of God, hate people whom He has created, and today spurn the price He paid in His own suffering and death. Do you imagine the Judge will look away as you scorn gift upon gift, and scorn even the gift of a life given for you, and not bear the full wrath of the Creator of the Universe? It is known even to the least that if someone sacrifices his life for you, you are forever in his debt. Can God sacrifice His Life for you, and you not respond?

Hebrews 10:26 - 31
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance [belongeth] unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. [It is] a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The blood of the Son of God still cries out. It cried against sin, and now it cries for you to rest yourself wholly in its strength on your behalf. Curse your pride, and cripple your own strength. Let your neediness drive you. Let Him meet your need. Know that you need Him. Know that you need His blood.

Or are you already safely in His blood? Are are already in Christ? Praise Him, then. Remind yourself of the incredible power in His Life given for you, His blood given for the remission of your sins, His body beaten, His Sonship set aside, so that you might be adopted into His family. Praise with every song and prayer the work of the Son for you, and you will find yourself established against every trial and hardship. If He did so much for you already, could he fail to carry you the rest of the way home?

Plunge yourself under the healing, covering power of the blood of Jesus. Let the destruction of His Life be the birth of your own. Let the soiling of His holiness be the cleansing of your own. Let the death of the Son be the birth of your new life. Accept the free gift of God, and become rich for the first time.

The blood of Jesus has borne so much sin for so many, and carried it away forever, and still the blood remains. Still the blood of Jesus has never run dry, and still there is supply enough for you. There is supply enough to cleanse you of your guilt, and supply enough to bind you together to an army of brothers and sisters who shared your guilt and now share your salvation. When you allow the blood of Jesus to rescue you, you do much more than merely become innocent. You become one with the risen Jesus, and with every man, woman and child who has given themselves to Him. You join the fellowship of the redeemed, and join a local family of believers who are discovering Him just like you will.

Come with us. Come to the Lamb. Come to the blood of His eternal promise. Come to Life that will never end.

Come and welcome.

04 March, 2008

The Green Miles

I spent the weekend at a conference near the mountains. The conference was a mixed experience for me. I'll write about that under different head, though.

Here, I'm jonesing to write about 4 days in a Toyota Prius.

Driving a Prius is almost like driving a car, but enough little habits were different to throw me off. The cliches of driving failed me often enough in the Prius, especially at the beginning, to keep me unsettled and happy. It was like having that new-car smell in my brain. It kept reminding me that I was playing with a new toy.

You know how to start driving. We all do. You get in, turn the key, and go. Well, not so with the Prius. There is no key. And there's no real shift lever, either. There's a funky little joystick like an old arcade game, and a button like you'd expect to find on a senior citizen's TV with the big word, "Power."

I've still never owned a car with a remote locking system, so it's all odd to me. I pulled the fob out and clicked it to unlock the car - just like all my rentals. Then everything changed. There's no key, but the fob plugs in to the dash. You plug the unlocky-fobby-thingy into the dash, and hit the senior citizen power button to "start" the car. You can tell the car is started because the dash lights up and the computer screen in the center of the dash boots up. There are no sounds or sensations to go along with the lights.

Sometimes the dash did not light up. I have no idea what that was about. Sometimes, I had to hit power twice, and when I did it would turn yellow instead of green. Whatever. I've been an IT geek too long to try to figure everything out about a rental car, and not long enough to just automatically know.

I'm also one of the last 3 people in the world who uses the park break every time he parks. The Prius park break was odd to me, but only because all my cars are 15 years old or older. Push the brake to set it. Push it again to release it. No big.

So, joystick "up" to go into reverse and back out of your parking spot.

At this point, the dash shows R so you know you're in reverse, and the disgusting engineers' built-in reverse beeper starts bleeping in your ear. The morons put a backup beeper on the inside of the car so that I would know I was going backwards! I wonder how many people really, truly don't know that they're moving backwards after they've put the car in reverse? Pffft. Worst design decision ever.

At this point, the only noise the car has made is that infernal beeping. The engine has not started, the transmission has not dropped into gear, the starter motor has not whirred itself to silence. You are simply rolling backwards, seemingly propelled by your mere desire to be headed backwards. It's a sweet, sweet feeling. After you get used to it, it's what driving was meant to feel like. You let off the brake, and just start going where you wanted to go. If only I could have driven an ice-pick through the cold heart of the backup beeper.

Going forward was just like going backward, except there were no noises to make me want to kill anything. Eventually, of course, the motor does start and it begins to feel like a car again. The motor dies again as you approach a stop sign, or shortly after arriving, which is way too cool. It even dies when driving normally downhill, but that's harder to hear. It seemed early on like the engine dying at stop signs was a transparent affair. After a while, I began to distinctly notice the engine dying with a sad little cough. I don't know whether the poor car was feeling its miles, or whether I was getting more used to it's noises. Either way, it made it back to the rental place, and we all know that's what really matters.

Then we get to the real experience of driving a Prius. I promise I did watch the road from time to time, but watching the little bugger interpret it's own feelings about my driving was irresistible. They put a computer screen the size of a small paperback right where the heater controls go in older cars, and it gives you constant feedback about how deeply the Prius is feeling your fuel-saving love. If it approves of your degree of haste, the little lines will go green, and if you're making it drink too fast, the lines will be be yellow or amber.

Sometimes it would give me a little peck on the cheek by regenerating electricity from the tires to the battery for later conspicuous consumption, and sometimes it would wag its finger at me when I was consuming a gallon of gas in a mere 8 miles. I watched as the little power lines went green and yellow and amber, and the battery filled in drained. I also watched the road mock me. The road would rise above me in some gravity empowering display of mountainousness then chuckle in the sadistic knowledge that I could never climb it at better than 20mpg. Each dotted line giggled as I passed, knowing my Prius would blame me when it was all gravity's fault!

Cursed gravity.

Going up into the mountains, I would average - average, mind you - some ridiculously low mileage like 35 mpg. Falling back down down the mountain, I had one 5 minute stretch (the Prius bundles its feelings about you into nice, little 5 minute averages) in which I averaged 100mpg, and the 20 minute segment of which that was a part never averaged less than 65 mpg.

And that was what I suspected and found. The Prius does not like mountains. It's a lowlander's rig. If you're stopping and going in rush hour, the Prius is right at home. If you're ascending a half-mile vertically over fifty horizontal miles, the Prius is going to be baffled. It doesn't know how to cope with the kind of flagrant waste of energy it takes to ascend a purple mountain majesty, and it's even less at home with falling back off that mountain. Within 30 seconds, it's filled it's batteries back up to "warm and fuzzy" and has to waste the gravitational energy it's being handed just like any other merely mortal gas hog.

Driving within the mountains reveals the Prius's weakness most completely. The Prius is afraid to let its batteries go below 75% full, and therefore it cannot slurp down the kind of energy a typical mountain valley has to offer. It's too bad, but it's optimized for city driving. Such is life.

One more random thing to mention is its constant velocity transmission. Entering a freeway at 70% throttle from a dead stop and continuing to 70 mph results in the engine singing exactly one song for 20-30 seconds (I did not time its acceleration). There is no pleasant shifting of gears, no rise of the engine speed with the passing seconds, and no settling in just at a given rpm when you hit 70.

The Prius says, "Hmmm. 70% throttle. That means 4500 rpm and 80% gas." at 5 mph and 35 mph and 55 mph and 75 mph, the engine smoothly turns 4500 rpm. The gears never shift, and the engine never goes faster. It's a very smooth, nice feeling; again, almost exactly what driving should feel like. It takes almost no time to get used to. The only problem is that you cannot check your speed by listening to the engine. The engine is going exactly as fast as you tell it to go with your foot, with utter disregard for how fast the car is going. If it takes 30% throttle to maintain your speed, and you are holding 35% throttle, your Prius will steadily gain speed without any audible clue. You'll look down to see you're doing 75, but the engine is singing the same song it sang at 65. Or just as easily, you can find yourself doing 55, and still hear the same song as at 65. It's not such a big deal to me, because I use the cruise control religiously, but it's noticable.

Anyway, it was a fun four days.

My final fillup summed up the story. In 240 miles, I consumed 6.13 gallons of gas. $21 was mighty reasonable for all the driving I'd done. I guess that's 39 or so mpg. The Prius told me I averaged 44 mpg. Not a bad estimate considering how I'd made a mountain goat of a city turtle, even if it was a "But, you said!" moment.

I got over it. :-)

I made it home, and turned the key on my '91 Mercedes diesel. It fired to life and took me home, weird noises, abrupt shifts, rain dripping onto my thigh, and all. It made me happy to be back in my car. In the end, I'm too Scottish to spend $20k+ plus interest to save $15 on every tank of gas, but I'm spend-thrift enough to try it out for a weekend. I'm glad I did, and now I'm sure I won't be leveraging any credit to shoehorn myself into one any time soon.