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September 2020

That Sinking Feeling

Have you ever had that sinking feeling that your best efforts, expenditures of time, hopes, or investments have amounted to nothing? Have you ever watched your dreams go down like a big ship that has just struck an iceberg?
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." - Matthew 6:19-24
When the Titanic sank, the band played, "Nearer, My God to Thee."
Vast wealth went down to the bottom of the sea.
That was the original sinking feeling. Have you ever had it?
Some things stayed afloat - mostly life rafts and people.
All that was of God and at the end of life, ascended to God.
When the choice to sink with your wealth or move toward God is offered, what do you choose?


If I could travel back and talk to myself
" But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God. They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do like them."  II  Kings 17:14-15 (ESV)
There are things I would tell myself, but I am not sure they would have an impact.
I am not sure that any of those things were withheld from me.
In fact,  I am sure that I received all the good advice I needed growing up and I also had the Bible. I even read the Bible.

Wisdom grows slowly.
So does humility.
"But they would not listen," must precede a history of all the reasons they (we) should listen.
How many of conjunctions must be inserted into our lives before we come to faith-junction where we abandon our stubborn notions and dead-end priorities for something authentic and true?
I have had too many "But they" moments in my life to count. What if I had listened instead?
I am not called to blend, but to contrast.
What matters now is what I do next with what I know now.

Prayer of a "Dis-Tractible" Soul


Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash


Father , I am a "dis-tractable" soul. You know that and I know that and I am amazed how You have accommodated that in me and taught me to manage within the margins of my "dis-tractability" to find a tract within which I can live and seek you and find traction for my journey.
I don't slip as much as one might expect. I don't wander as far as I might. I don't fall off as many cliffs as I might fear and I don't lose sight of You as much as I would were it not for Your hand upon me.
I live by grace, in grace, and with much grace poured over me.
I swim in it, drink of it, and am refreshed daily by it.
Grace, grace, God's grace.
Father, You know why I am up so early. I need not be commended. I need this to survive.
It looks like I am doing many things .,. many things ... many distractions creeping in ... but in fact, I am up for One Thing.
I am here to meet You.
And I do.
Around every corner, You are there. In the thoughts and words of friends, You are there. In the prayer requests that tumble down into my lap. the scriptures that emerge constantly, the thoughts that come and go, the words that linger and are recorded, You are there!
You are there and I get to spend this time with You and some of it with some of my dear and precious friends who, I pray, will share in this blessing.
You are HERE! You are in this space, this large space that I must make for meeting you, this block of time, this TRACT where I can find some TRACTION because I am so dis-TRACT-able.
Keep me on tract today, Lord.
I am Yours.
In Jesus' Name.

If You Are a Non-Believer, You Have Legitimate Worries .... But ...

St Thomas of Acquinas
If You Are a Non-Believer, You Have Legitimate Worries .... But ...

It does not have to be that way.

The problem exists and persists when we, who pray for guidance, claim infallibility because of our prayers and piety.

Call to Prayer and Anxiety for Non-Believers
Yesterday, on my blog, I posted on the biblical admonition to pray, seek God's face, and turn from wicked ways.
There is no disputing that this is a mandate for those who are "called by God's name."
So, believers must comply to be consistent.
This often raises eyebrows and blood pressure for my non-believing friends - and rightly so.
That is because they advocate transparent decision-making processes in public life that are subject to scrutiny and visibility.
The assumption is that if a leader seeks divine guidance, that instructions will come that are not subject to that sort of public evaluation and accountability. They wonder if the person seeking God will claim some sort of personal revelation from God that is contrary to logic and ethics.
There is a short answer to that from the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 14:32. It is binding upon Christians and potentially comforting to those who are not Christians:
"The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets."
Paul was dealing with the same dangers at the local church level in Corinth. People were saying things like, "God told me," "God told me to tell you," and "The Holy Spirit MADE me do it."
They thought that would excuse them from all sorts of misbehavior, rudeness, and lapses of good sense.
Public people who seek God and follow Jesus are bound by the law of love and expected to exercise good sense whatever they perceive God saying to them. They are required to operate within the laws and social contracts of society.
They are subject to public scrutiny. Their devotions and prayers in private are to provide them grounding, clear their minds, reinforce their values, and provide insights. There is no magic here and no free pass to act badly.
I can't speak for all believers, but I believe that there is adequate permission in the scriptures for society to hold their leaders accountable for the actions even if those leaders base their decisions on insights they received in prayer.
No one in this world operates in a vacuum. Every human being cultivates an inner life that helps guide him or her in the process of decision making.
Everyone needs to quiet his or her soul to think and act clearly. For the Christian, that reflection happens in the context of prayer.
Prayer, however, does not deliver us from the possibility of getting our insights wrong. It helps, but it is not foolproof.
Nothing is foolproof as long as some foolish remains in us.
There is a very funny video in circulation that claims, as evidence that God does not answer prayer, the testimony of a former leader that he prayed daily for guidance. It is funny, but also flawed. The bases of decision making for Christians are not mysterious. Guidance is filtered through our human minds and ethical signposts. Our spirits are subject to ourselves.
Relax. If we truly pray, seek, and repent, the world will be a better place for you as well and God will never lead us to trample upon your dignity - not the God I know in Jesus Christ.
If we do that, blame us. It was our call.
So ... Pray ... Listen ... Think ... Pray .... Listen ... Think ...
And be gracious and open-minded.

The Hour I First Believed and Received - An Unspeakable Gift

Hound of heaven v 1

The Hour I First Believed

I believed, therefore have I spoken:  I was greatly afflicted …  - Psalm 116:10

 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak … - II Corinthians 4:13

When did believing begin for you? Can you trace its progression through the stages of development? Can you identify a moment or an hour when all came to fruition and declare that as the hour you first believed?

For most of us the progression is a series of disjointed memories, but we can go back to a time when we made a statement of faith, a profession of our belief. That was, for us, the hour we first believed, and, in that hour, grace was most precious.

Let us return to that hour and renew our faith. Let us return to that moment and reaffirm our commitments.

Let us return to that time and recommit our lives to Jesus Christ. Let us go back and remember how precious that grace appeared.

Let us gaze upon the beauty of grace as we once beheld it.

Let us receive grace anew with joyful hearts.

Let us be thankful again, as we once were, for the marvel of it all. Undeserving, unlovely, unrepentant, unbelieving as we were, grace invaded our lives. Everywhere we turned, we encountered grace. We sought to flee from its pursuit only to be hunted down at every turn by the Hound of Heaven.

And then we stopped running. That was we hour we first believed. And as Francis Thompson testified, we heard His voice:

"Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me."

And we joined in the song of Charles H. Gabriel,

“How marvelous, how wonderful! And my song shall ever be.
How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love to me.”

The hour we first believed, we received an unspeakable gift, indescribable.

The Unspeakable Gift

“What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward    I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.” – Psalm 116:12-13

 “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” -  II Corinthians 9:15

Listen to the cry of the psalmist: “How can I give anything to God that would come even close to expressing my gratitude for all His blessings.  What can I bring Him that He has not first given me?”

“I cannot even describe the matchless gift He has given,” Paul seems to say, “but I thank God.”

Here is the power of our commitment to give of our resources and ourselves: God's indescribable gift. It is His gracious "givingness" that informs, inspires, and infuses us with the wherewithal to be giving people with the capacity to make and keep commitments. In fact, any commitment we make to God is in the form of a trust. We know that we are incapable of the necessary follow-through, but He is and is faithful to continue His work in us as we express the desire of our hearts to Him in commitment. First, He gave and then He lights a fire of grace within us that makes us giving people who are committed to Him.

What shall we give Him? Let us bring Him hearts that are prepared to receive His grace. Let us offer our old lives in exchange for His new life.  Let us take the gift of salvation and call upon His Name. We can bring Him no greater gift than our willingness to receive all that He offers through His love.

We cannot begin to speak of His saving goodness, but we can give Him thanks in spirit and in word. On this Thanksgiving, thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!


I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’
          I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
  Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followèd,
        Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside).
But, if one little casement parted wide,
  The gust of His approach would clash it to.
  Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
  And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
  Smiting for shelter on their clangèd bars;
        Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o’ the moon.
I said to Dawn: Be sudden—to Eve: Be soon;
  With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
        From this tremendous Lover—
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
  I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
  Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
  Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
      But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
    The long savannahs of the blue;
        Or whether, Thunder-driven,
    They clanged his chariot ’thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o’ their feet:—
  Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
      Still with unhurrying chase,
      And unperturbèd pace,
    Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
      Came on the following Feet,
      And a Voice above their beat—
    ‘Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.’
I sought no more that after which I strayed
  In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children’s eyes
  Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
  With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
‘Come then, ye other children, Nature’s—share
With me’ (said I) ‘your delicate fellowship;
  Let me greet you lip to lip,
  Let me twine with you caresses,
  With our Lady-Mother’s vagrant tresses,
  With her in her wind-walled palace,
  Underneath her azured daïs,
  Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
    From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.’
    So it was done:
I in their delicate fellowship was one—
Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies.
  I knew all the swift importings
  On the wilful face of skies;
  I knew how the clouds arise
  Spumèd of the wild sea-snortings;
    All that’s born or dies
  Rose and drooped with; made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine;
  With them joyed and was bereaven.
  I was heavy with the even,
  When she lit her glimmering tapers
  Round the day’s dead sanctities.
  I laughed in the morning’s eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
  Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
    I laid my own to beat,
    And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek.
For ah! we know not what each other says,
  These things and I; in sound I speak—
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
  Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
  The breasts o’ her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
    My thirsting mouth.
    Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
    With unperturbèd pace,
  Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
    And past those noisèd Feet
    A voice comes yet more fleet—
  ‘Lo! naught contents thee, who content’st not Me!’

Naked I wait Thy love’s uplifted stroke!
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
    And smitten me to my knee;
  I am defenceless utterly.
  I slept, methinks, and woke,
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
  I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
I stand amid the dust o’ the mounded years—
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
  Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist;
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
  Ah! is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
  Ah! must—
  Designer infinite!—
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i’ the dust;
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
  From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
  Such is; what is to be?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpsèd turrets slowly wash again.
  But not ere him who summoneth
  I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether man’s heart or life it be which yields
  Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields
  Be dunged with rotten death?
      Now of that long pursuit
    Comes on at hand the bruit;
  That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
    ‘And is thy earth so marred,
    Shattered in shard on shard?
  Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
  Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught’ (He said),
‘And human love needs human meriting:
  How hast thou merited—
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
  Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
  Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
  Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
  All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
  Rise, clasp My hand, and come!’
  Halts by me that footfall:
  Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
  ‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
  I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.’

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.




Radical Jesus

Art Youn Radical Jesus 1917 Public Domain

Cartoon by Art Young depicting Jesus on a “wanted-poster”. Published in The Masses in 1917 and  in Young's magazine, Good Morning, Aug. 1921 - Public Domain

The Anointed One

“ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,   To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” - Luke 4:18-19

“… God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power…” Acts 10:38

The Radical One

Radical etymolgyTo get to the root of the matter of Jesus as Messiah:

To be anointed is to be a messiah. To be a messiah means to be anointed. Kings were anointed in Old Testament times. Saul was anointed as was David. The prophets told of an anointed one who would be the ultimate Messiah of Israel.

Jesus came as King, but, in Him, Messiah meant much more. Kings can be benevolent or malevolent. They can carry a concern for the larger family of humanity or be entirely parochial in their concern. They can lean toward violence or toward peace.

Jesus would first be a servant and a savior. His anointing was as redeemer, liberator, healer, and announcer of good news. His message would be, first, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but that was merely to set the stage for something larger and more universal.  

To reiterate, I am not interpreting here. Jesus announced his own priorities from Isaiah's prophecy:

... to preach the gospel to the poor...

... to heal the brokenhearted ...

... to preach deliverance to the captives ...

... recovering of sight to the blind ...

... to set at liberty them that are bruised... 

The Spirit of God upon the one who had emptied himself, was the source of his power. He is the King who humbles himself in obedience.

The listeners in Nazareth had no problem with that if the good news only applied to them. We all want to be liberated from our sense that we are being maligned, oppressed, and marginalized. But Jesus was broadening the scope of God's good news to include the excluded.

Not only that, he was announcing present fulfillment and implying that his appearance was at the center of it all. He did not look or act like an anointed one.

He is the Master who serves.

He is the Lord who liberates.

He is the Anointed One of God.

Jesus is Messiah, to the Christian, God’s anointed. The word “Christ” in “Christian” means Messiah in Greek.  

The name speaks of his character, his calling, and his mission and has implications for who we become as we align with Him.

In Nazareth, his hometown, Jesus takes up the mantle of a revolutionary liberator but refuses to use violence or coercion to accomplish his righteous ends. He wears the garb of a radical populist but refuses to be swayed by the fickle politics of His times.

He is, from beginning to end, God’s Anointed on God’s mission using God’s means and bringing God’s message.

And the truth is that God cares about the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind, the bruised, and those so heavily in debt to life and sin that only a Year of Jubilee (the acceptable year of the Lord) will free them.

We must take these words literally and apply them at a higher level. When he speaks in the synagogue, he is talking about those who are oppressed in this world, but he elevates the meaning to include all of us who are bound by sin and absorbed by the constrictive cares of this dark world.

He includes the people who were excluded from the family of ancient Judaism and holds them up as examples of faith.

For that, people who were cheering him on, suddenly want to stone him for his offense.

They had begun to define themselves by comparing themselves to a common enemy. Jesus was ripping that from them. Anger burns when our sense of supremacy or normalcy is threatened.

One of the implications of the larger context of this story is that we must deal with Jesus. We cannot consign Him to a benign manger and silent angelic scenery. He is the backdrop to no landscape. He is the ONE anointed by God as the agent of reconciliation and redemption.

Avoid Him and avoid life.

Jesus, Messiah, I need Your liberating power in my life today.



If My People

Ben White

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves ..."

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. -  II Chronicles 7:14

It is always difficult to take the admonitions of God to the nation of Israel and make direct application to contemporary peoples. That is because there are no God-ordained theocracies in the world today.

The world has a tragic track history with nationalism. It most always leads to abuse and oppression.

Even modern Israel is multi-cultural, secular, and eclectic in its religious views.

Nevertheless, all nations are a part of God's purpose and promised blessing (Genesis 12:3, Psalm 22:27, Psalm 72:11&17).

All nations are likewise subject to judgment (Isaiah 40:17).

In Matthew 25, we are told the primary basis of that judgment - how nations respond to the poor and powerless.

God's people remain scattered throughout the globe - wherever they are called by God's name.

So, for nations and individuals, there is a blessing available - a conditional blessing.

The first requirement to which the promise is attached is humility.

Humility is the first characteristic of strong leadership - among people or among nations. Humility before God and others enables us to walk under God's watchful gaze and alongside our fellow human beings. Humility precludes chauvinism. It discourages imperialism. It condemns pride.

Humble leaders do not need to justify their every deed, but they can admit failures. Humble nations can strengthen their standing by doing the same.

The greater the nation, leader, or organization, the greater the need for humility.

The second requirement for the blessing is to pray. The sort of prayer that we need is not the sort that exalts us or boasts or impresses listeners with our eloquence. It is needy prayer, humble prayer, listening prayer, and loving prayer. It is honest. It is seeking. It is prayer without agenda. It is prayer that asks God what we must do. It is prayer that extends our concern to friend and enemy alike.

That leads to the third requirement - seeking the face of God. To seek the face of God implies that we have not grasped a complete vision of God already. The revealed truth we have received is sufficient to save, but not to suspend our seeking. To seek God's face is not to seek information about God, but to seek God Himself with awe, wonder, and childlike readiness to receive.

The fourth requirement is to turn from our wicked ways. It is no sign of strength, power, or righteousness to assert we have no wicked ways in our lives or in our nations. Pride weakens us. Self-righteousness stifles our potential for growth. God is not looking for PR people as leaders. He is looking for people who are willing to look at their choices and change if necessary.

Those four requirements have been recited, amplified, and subjected to exegesis until we can hear them without being moved. We have heard them so many times that we have built up walls of resistance around our favorite sins and defined what other people ought to do to comply.

They are always about someone else.

Like a much-maligned preacher in the news during a presidential election some seasons back, our most fundamentalist preachers have all said, "God damn America."

They have. I have heard them. Many have responded with a hearty and bellowing "Amen" if it was other people's sins that were being condemned. No one accused those preachers of being anti-American.

But when a descendant of slaves dared to suggest that racism, blind nationalism, and greed were among our national sins to which we had to give account to God, the critics went wild.

The same message with a different application got different responses.

The truth is that God still dislikes all the "traditional" sins, but He also has issues with those that seldom make the list - those in which nice people participate.

We are expected by God, as individuals and as nations, to behave ethically, morally, compassionately, fairly, cooperatively, and righteously. We are expected to live by Matthew 25:31-46 as nations and the Sermon on the Mount as individuals.

Is there someone out there who wants to argue that America and American Christians have done so flawlessly in recent decades?

I would like to hear that case. The political right and the political left in America both agree that it is not true. They both agree that we have embraced wicked ways.

They just have different lists of wicked ways.

Is America good?

America is great! I love America. I love the Constitution and the people of America. I love the Republicans, the Democrats, and the independents that balance out each other's craziness.

Is America perfect, sinless, and innocent of innocent blood?

No. No nation is.

Are others worse?

Some may be but we can't do their repenting for them. We are only responsible for our own repentance.

You can't point at your neighbor down the street when God calls you to turn from your wicked ways.

We cannot do so nationally either.

Nor can we frame our foreign policies simply around our own selfish interests and call that "Christian."

I don't expect people who do not share my faith biases to buy into my presuppositions blindly. This is about the conscience of my particular tribe. That is where my appeal is directed. It is about the stewardship of our influence.

There has not been a national party platform in this country in 30 years that should not have given Jesus' followers a great deal of heartburn.

But we pick a horse and run with it because we have not been called to isolate ourselves.

Can we have national repentance?

Perhaps to some extent - but for certain, we can repent and turn from our own wicked ways. Again, your list may differ from that of other fine believers, but you must work on those things about which the Spirit convicts you.

The benefits are impressive.

In the first place, God says He will hear.

In the second place, He promises to forgive. Unlike humans, God does that quickly and without hesitation.

In the third place, He promises to heal our lands.

And we need healing.

These are days of sinful bickering, disrespect, incivility, disregard for life, unbridled anger, bitter divisiveness, euphoric drunkenness,  moral ambiguity, sexual manipulation, greed, lack of compassion, disregard for the poor, bigotry, bullish power grabbing, broken boundaries, coldness, hardheartedness, slander, self-centered self-promotion, stubbornness, corruption, and deep need.

Somehow, I believe that if the leaders of our nation would get off of their political platforms, forget the colors of their states, turn off their cell phones, forget about polls, stop calling each other names, quit demonizing each other, and listen to each other and to God, it would be a step in the right direction.

If they would cultivate humility, they could learn to pray. If they would pray, they would seek God's face (and be very surprised at what they found). If they would seek God's face they would want to turn from many of our nation's wicked ways.

We can wait for that ... or we can do it ourselves.



Liberating Fear



Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind! - Psalm 31:19

The fear of God is the fear of straying from Him which leads us back toward Him. Fearing God is a longing for God and a sense of desperation at the thought of not finding our shelter in Him. I owe some of this articulation to an article by John Piper.

It is, then an entirely different understanding of fear and a unique response. Instead of being repelled, we are drawn.

It is comparable to my understanding of the wrath of God.

In my study of scripture, the wrath of God is less of an overt reaction to human stubbornness, self-will, and sin than an encounter between opposites. An object of intense velocity encounters an object of strong resistance.

Sometimes, God is the wall against which our stubborn determination to sin is halted.

Sometimes, our will is the wall that God's unstoppable force topples. Either way, God, and truth win ... and that is essence of His wrath. He wins.

God is the unmovable object and the unstoppable force.

To the one fearing Him and trusting Him, it is a source of great comfort, but to the one resisting, it is quite disconcerting and potentially disastrous.

It is always a choice of alignment.

"The fear of the Lord, the gift of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t mean being afraid of God, since we know that God is our Father that always loves and forgives us,...[It] is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace.” - Pope Francis (Harris, Elise. "Pope: Fear of the Lord an alarm reminding us of what's right", Catholic News Agency, June 11, 2014)


Frederick Buechner in The Magnificent Defeat:

God is the enemy whom Jacob fought there by the river, of course, and whom in one way or another we all of us fight—God, the beloved enemy, because, before giving us everything, he demands of us everything. Remember Jacob, limping home against the great conflagration of dawn. Remember Jesus, staggering on broken feet out of the tomb toward the Resurrection, bearing on his body the proud insignia of the defeat which is victory, the magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God.

Bless us, O God, that we may see your hand not only in the wonders of the world, but in its pain, and ours. Amen.



Called from the Sheepfolds - Meaningful Work



Shepherds at work, 2017, BeskidsCarpathian Mountains  Robert Garstka RIK 

Are you "stuck" in work you feel is insignificant and at the lowest place on the chain of importance?
Are you doing menial work when you feel you have a greater calling?
Look at David. His entire schooling was doing what kids do in a family like his - chasing ewes, shepherding sheep.
Yet David grasped the parallels. He realized that the lowest work was really at the heart of the greatest work. To serve, to lead, to protect a great people was just a larger context of what he had been doing in his youth - shepherding people, like he shepherded sheep.
He emerges from obscurity from among hundreds of thousands who had enormous potential.
He merges to lead. His significance was not hindered by his lowly position. He did that faithfully. The greater work came later --- yet sooner than he expected.
He was taken from the sheepfolds.
"He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand."
- Psalm 78:70-72 (ESV)
The God who calls us from the sheepfolds is a compassionate and understanding God. He is a God who shapes us and restores us. He fashions us for something more than we think we are and to do more than we think we can do.
It is a given that we are unworthy, underserving, underqualified, and underachieving. 
Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again. - Psalm 78:38-39 (ESV)
I am glad that God does that for me and is willing to do some things through me.
Of course, it is completely unfair ....
I do the wrong and He atones for it. That means, He bears the brunt and makes it right.
What kind of wonderful craziness is this?
Grace and mercy.
God is my Shepherd; I shall not want - Psalm 23:1

Perhaps, in time, he will find healing from his bitterness. in the meantime, there is still much we can learn from him.


If They Are Worth Thinking, They Are Worth Jotting Down.



Random Thoughts by  More at Goodreads

The world needs non-violent witnesses of Jesus to walk unarmed, vulnerable, and faithfully bold, trembling, but walking on among the clamoring, posturing, outbursts of angry violence and ignorant hate to stand for love, justice, and peace.

These shall neither relent nor retaliate.

They shall neither defend nor disperse.

They shall not excuse nor accuse.

That shall bear witness.

For some it will be in public places and for others, spaces like this.

All sides will accuse them of being on the wrong side but there is only one side and few stand on its ground.


Never discount the capacity of people to completely misunderstand what you are saying or your capacity to be completely misunderstood.

"Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with [Paul]. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.” (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) " - Acts 17:18 
Sometimes, we fantasize about a hero's death while shunning the call to live humbly under the pain of ridicule or insult.
Image may contain: 1 person, beard and text
Here is how to turn a room full of admiring supporters into a mob wanting to stone you: Tell them what you really mean, reinterpret their religious narrative so that the marginalized are the real heroes, and underscore God's concern for the oppressed. Challenge their racial biases and sense of privilege. Confront them with history and facts. Seek to open their minds and hearts. That should do it. It worked for Jesus.
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
'And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, 'Is not this Joseph's son?' And he said to them,  "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.'''
And he said, 'Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.
When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.'-Luke 4:14-30 (ESV)
"The great thing with unhappy times is to take them bit by bit, hour by hour, like an illness. It is seldom the present, the exact present, that is unbearable." -C. S. Lewis
I think he might be on to something. Can I take the present, as it is, and bear it? Obviously, with God's help, I can. The evidence of that is that I am still alive, still optimistic, still making some difference.
"Do not desire crosses, unless you have borne well those laid on you; it is an abuse to long after martyrdom while unable to bear an insult patiently." - Francis de Sales

Scriptural Reflections on the Feast of Matthew



Saint Matthew and the Angel
 (1661) by Rembrandt


The Feast of Saint Matthew takes us back to a day when a man was called to a life of significance with a very short sentence, two words in English, one in Aramaic, "Follow me."

A feast followed that call and everything changed for Levi, AKA, Matthew.



Scriptures from NRSV


Proverbs 3:1-6

My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they will give you. Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and of people. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Psalm 119:33-40

Psalm 119: He Legem pone
33   Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, *
and I shall keep it to the end.
34   Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law; *
I shall keep it with all my heart.
35   Make me go in the path of your commandments, *
for that is my desire.
36   Incline my heart to your decrees *
and not to unjust gain.
37   Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless; *
give me life in your ways.
38   Fulfill your promise to your servant, *
which you make to those who fear you.
39   Turn away the reproach which I dread, *
because your judgments are good.
40   Behold, I long for your commandments; *
in your righteousness preserve my life.

2 Timothy 3:14-17

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard this, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."


New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.

Noah's Blog and the Satirical Calling

No Rain

Some years ago, The Wittenburg Door speculated on a week from Noah's Blog:

            Day 1


            Day 2

            Day 3

            Day 4

            Day 5

            Day 6
So I was loading up the last of the animals last week when I walk past my neighbor Roger, the Molech-worshipper. He looks up and says "Hey, looks like rain."

To that, I would add a seventh day when God rested, but ... the rain persisted.

When Wikipedia uses the verb "to be" in the past tense, "was," it is usually bad news for fans who want to read, "is." But, here it is:

"The Wittenburg Door, sometimes known as simply The Door, was a Christian satire and humor magazine ..."

The Door WAS and that's the way it IS.

No one has taken up the baton adequately.  But you, protest, "What about the Babylon Bee?" Sorry. I know they try. Sometimes they get it. Sometimes their edge is too nuanced toward what they ought to be mocking though. I'd rather read The Onion

The Dorr poked fun at us at the edges of the hypocrisy that we failed to see in ourselves.

Take a look at a 2008 article entitled "When Evangelicals Dream," by Jamie Crossan. The last three are:

  • Benny Hinn would be named Secretary of Health, Bob Tilton Secretary of the Treasury, Dr. Creflo A. Dollar the Surgeon General, and James Dobson the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The Pledge of Allegiance would be replaced with the sinner's prayer.
  • The word of knowledge would become the CIA's primary weapon in the War on Terror, as water-boarding is replaced with 24-hour exposure to TBN.

Well, I am not sure we have not moved closer to that.

The cartoons were not bad:


Door cartoonist Tim Nyberg of Door County, Wisconsin offers additional hilarity at

I do not think I am up to the challenge of filling the gap.  Late night talk comedy has filled in some of the sad gaps in social commentary. Colbert's perspective comes from a deeper gospel orientation than that of many who so label themselves.

I will try my hand at it a bit though. 

In 2009, several well-known people were becoming even better known for their blunders. The difference between then and now is that then, they were not intentional, and they still had some capacity to shock us. So, I commented thus:

Blurted Blunders

Blustering blurted blunders blossoming blatantly into Blagojevichistic blacklisting.

Kanye West and Joe Wilson have learned it.

Well, perhaps.

Wilson now has fan pages and support networks. I had no idea who he was before his infamous, "You lie" outburst. That's with two-thirds of Americans disapproving!

Kanye West has never been a part of my daily consciousness, but he too, blurted out inappropriate words at an inappropriate time.

But isn't that what we pay rappers all the big bucks to do? Congressmen - not so much so. I am not sure what we pay them for.

Disapproval of Kanye's actions were probably closer to 100%  including Beyonce!

Kanye will probably not lose any income - certainly not any prestige. I understand Leno gave him a hard time -- but at least he was ON Leno. I am still waiting for my invitation.

Both did a pretty adequate job of stealing moments.

Now, the President is in the moment. "He's a jackass," was a little surprising - even if he did say it with affection.

Mr. President, (A) Nothing is off the record with reporters and (B) I can't think of B.

The President may get by with it because so many people agree with him, but there may be another 3 way beer summit in the offing - They may even make it 4 way and invite Joe.

It is going to be root beer though. Taylor Swift is a little young for the hard stuff.

So, within about a week, there were enough bipartisan blunders to go around the legitimate entertainment industry as well as the political entertainment industry.

Within a few weeks, few will care. I already don't care - except the picture of that little girl's feelings getting crushed is still a bit hard to take.

The good news is, that for a while, this is giving rise to a few really good jokes.

With everything on the record now, perhaps there is no need for satire or ridicule. Just quote directly and in context. The problem is, unless we post reality as a contrast to absurdity, will anyone recognize the difference?

There is no rain in the forecast, but it would be most welcome.




Healthy and Unhealthy Fear

Sell Art Online

(To purchase Christine's art, follow this LINK.)
What is fear when fear is right?
A warning of imminent danger?
A surge of wonder and reverence?
An emotion pointing to importance?
A jolt and call to action?
And when it is wrong? What is fear when fear is not called for? What is fear when it becomes pathological and irrational? 
What takes your breath away? What is that right fear that is intrinsic, that is a gift, and is rational, authentic, and life-affirming? What causes you to pause and drop your jaw?
A raging fire?
An earthquake?
The idea of judgment over injustice?
A good thriller or horror movie?
A mighty canyon?
A roaring ocean?
Something inside you?
Something outside of you?
The notion of eternity?
Does it invoke fear? Terror?
We shrink and shriek and yet, we are drawn back to it repeatedly.
Strange attraction?
The need to conquer or
The deep desire to be conquered by something greater than ourselves.
There is a fear that makes fear obsolete - all other fear than the One Fear that frees us and brings us peace, the awe, the wonder, the reconciliation.
If it did not reflect a deep longing of our souls, the ancients would have not sung of it.
Explore it.
Psalm 76 (NIV) :
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of Asaph. A song.
God is renowned in Judah;
in Israel his name is great.
His tent is in Salem,
his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows,
the shields and the swords, the weapons of war.
You are radiant with light,
more majestic than mountains rich with game.
The valiant lie plundered,
they sleep their last sleep;
not one of the warriors
can lift his hands.
At your rebuke, God of Jacob,
both horse and chariot lie still.
It is you alone who are to be feared.
Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment,
and the land feared and was quiet—
when you, God, rose up to judge,
to save all the afflicted of the land.
Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,
and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.
Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them;
let all the neighboring lands
bring gifts to the One to be feared.
He breaks the spirit of rulers;
he is feared by the kings of the earth.
Special thanks to
Christine Nichols Art


Loose Footing

Quicksand warning sign near Lower King Bridge, Western Australia, Hughesdarren - Own work

"Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God."
- Psalm 69:1-3 (ESV)
Of all the complaints evoking empathy this day, the words, "no foothold," resound to the heart of the self-sufficient "doer," who is thrown off-balance by life and must learn lessons of trust and dependence.
In many ways. it is only by losing false footholds that we ever learn anything about grounding ourselves in more solid soil or better still, solid rock.
We are living in a land of loose footing in a time of shifting sands.
We are being enveloped by quicksand and even on dry ground, we are losing our balance.
Solid is the rock beneath it, but we sense it not. It is buried deep beneath the unsettled soil of our unsettled souls.
We are muddled in mire and befuddled with our own ire.
Sinking in our stinking thinking, linked to despair and
On the brink of falling, falling, falling.
Up to our necks, wrecks in the wreckage of time.
Weary cries and dreary sighs.
Why? We cry "Why!?"

Life seems like a lie.
Then, having called out to God, we find sudden, unexplainable peace as if, by the mere act of encounter, we are comforted and find stability.
"Save me, O God!"
This is our prayer of the moment from shaky ground.
From this ground, we find ourselves grounded in God.


Things Too Wonderful for Me

As plain as your nose

How Do I Recognize Truth?

Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. -Job 42:3

Someone has said that ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice. That being the case, we say some pretty ridiculous things on the way to understanding.

As a teenager, I once blurted out in church discussion led by my pastor that Paul had said, "To thine own self be true." He very kindly informed me that I had just quoted Shakespeare.

There is nothing like a bright red face to put you in your place.

At some point, knowledge is better than ignorance and wisdom is far greater than foolishness. But both knowledge and wisdom come to us through a process of encounter with God. Though Job was humbled by the realization that He had known far less than he thought he had known, he rejoices in his new-found relationship with God and the unfolding clarity that is coming to his heart.

You can be embarrassed or instructed.

Embarrassment will cripple you, but instruction will lead you on.

My high school choir instructor taught us to make our mistakes blatant so that they could be corrected. He didn't want the bass section to whimper.

"If you are going to make a mistake, make a good one so we can fix it."

It is in seeking that we find.

I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. -Job 42:5-6

Truth is personal in that respect. Job came to that place of understanding and it filled His heart with joy.

Who am I before God that I can ever presume to tell Him anything? That is the proper stance for us to take. He is God; we are not. He knows everything; we know nothing. We can get thickheaded and haughty in our complex theologies, but when God really wants to tell us something that we need to understand well, He speaks very clearly and simply - in His Son. Take heed of Him.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;  -Hebrews 1:1-3



On Being and Other Reading Material for Today


We are made to be. We are finely crafted and carefully honed toward our own uniqueness. we might get tired of who we are, who we were, or even,  who we are becoming, but, that's all we have to be and to do.


The Prophet Got Tired Too

Elijah was tired. He was sick and tired. On the mountain, he cried in despair to God.

He sank deeply into that despair, one that was not touched by logic or surface encouragement. He needed the deep encouragement of "The Presence."

He received it ... but he also received a tangible answer from God: a successor.

He was being called to a new phase of life - to invest in others and especially one other, Elisha, who would not only carry on his work and give meaning to his life, but would do even greater things.

You can make the "hits" on any mediocre piece of art or film by having key people denounce it from "pulpits." That is why I seldom denounce that sort of thing. Of course, even if I did, it probably would not cause a riot. This is a sad and tragic week ... and lots of innocent people on all sides are getting undeserved blame.

Let us be instruments of peace.


Three Good Quotes

"We have lived in the "muddle" of things rather than in the middle of things." - Oswald Chambers

"The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office."
Robert Frost

I don't have a warm personal enemy left. They've are died off. I miss them terribly because they helped define me." - Claire Boothe Luce



Later tonight as you prepare to rest, just be.
Being is what you were meant for, made for, and are maturing into.
You are, after all a being, human and developing.
Be yourself. Be REAL - Responsible, Evolving, Authentic, and Loving.
Be what you are becoming as in what you will COME to BE (BE -COME). Your future is as real as your past and present. There are just more obvious unknowns.
Be strong, courageous, honest, and full of wonder.
And don't forget to ... Be-HAVE Be-CAUSE there is a new day tomorrow and we need you on the team.


Big Day

God has a very big day in store for you tomorrow.
You will conquer fear, despair, and sorrow.
You will rise to heights you've never known.
You will sigh and laugh, and sing and groan.
You will live and celebrate your inspired humanity.
You will rise above the dull, monotony of senseless insanity
To soar, to roar with the voice of the lion, to score.
The door is before you, the voice of God whispers, "There is more!"
Tomorrow is yours to face and embrace with wonder.
It is for your voice to shout the victory, to thunder,
"I am here and I have come to conquer this day!
There is no fear that can sway me or turn me from this way!
I am a soldier or love, a warrior of peace, a child of God.
My strength is from above. My joy shall not cease. I stand on the sod
Of a new day ... tomorrow.


Post This Somewhere ...


How Can I Pray for You Today?

I am posting this question tonight for tomorrow morning when I rise.

I may only be able to type an answer by clicking "like," because I may not have time to pray AND comment, but I will pray.
So will others.

I am not clairvoyant - I can't even spell it without help.

I am not even spiritual enough to detect all the promptings of the Spirit to pray for friends in need. Sometimes they get through, but I am rather prone to miss a few.

But I know some of you may need prayers and I am willing to pray and pass on your requests if you like - or honor your privacy if you prefer.

Let me know ... I am here every morning and sometimes throughout the day. When i get your prayer request, I will stop and pray right then.

I am just one, but there are others as well.

We are community online --- We have the opportunity through this medium to reach out to each other in encouragement, to share our strength, to pray if we are so inclined, and to help in ways we may not as yet have discovered.

If I can encourage you, pray for you, or lift you in any way, please tell me!


And that is where I will stop.








The Hard Way

The long way back

 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?  He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve. - John 6:60-71

The disciples wanted Jesus to take an easier way. They would have preferred a shorter way.

He took the long and hard way.

What and if you see the Son of Man coming and going from Heaven?

So you think you are offended now? Wait and see.

It is an aside but an effective one where He says, in essence, I don't have to prove to you who I am in order to be who I am.

But until things are settled, there are some HARD teachings that are difficult to hear (accept) and Jesus does not water them down. "You have to feed on me," He challenges His disciples. "You need me to really live." He just says it and lets people decide what they will do about it.

But it is HARD:

H - Holistic 

It covers everything about their living. Tillich said that religion is ultimate concern. It envelops us and defines us. That offended many who were following and were looking for an "add-on" religious experience that could be "part of their lives." That is not what Jesus is teaching. If He is the Bread of Life, He is the primary nutrient of our being and saturates everything in our lives.

A - Activating

The spirit quickens, gives life, activates our latent potential as well as everything in our being. Sometimes in a physical healing process, we begin to have pains that we have never experienced before. That which is dead in us feels no pain or discomfort. When it is enlivened and activated, we resist. We are not sure we want to be that much alive.

R - Restrictive

It is not the invitation that is restrictive; it is the path. Elsewhere Jesus said that no man comes to the Father but by Him, but here He says, that no one can come to Him except by God. In other words, coming to Jesus is a God-thing. It is a spiritual response to a spiritual call. If we resist that, we restrict our access. These disciples and others were arguing and murmuring - perhaps with the undefined hope that Jesus would overrule their objections and overpower their doubts. He does not do that. We have to respond to whatever wooing of God we sense with openness and willingness to receive.

D - Definitive

Some will turn away. There were many, in fact. They were disciples and they quit. It was too hard. What was too hard? Jesus had just told them that He would give them eternal life, eternal food, and His eternal presence - freely and unconditionally if they believed and received. That was too hard for them. What did they have to give up? Was it pride, some notion of absolute self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, extreme legalism, an inner drive to achieve righteousness on their own. an unwillingness to give and receive grace? I don't know. It may be different from every person, but these hard sayings were definitive for them.

Then Jesus turns to those who remain and asks them to make a definitive choice.

"Will you also go away?"

They could have. He would  not have prevented them. It was their choice. It is our choice.

Where would we go?

There comes a time in our lives when we come to a place of no return. Knowing what we know, experiencing what we have experienced, there is no turning back. As the relatively contemporary hymn puts it, "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.

You have the words of eternal life.

They had become addicted to His words the way we are addicted to food and water. This is a positive addiction/dependence because it is dependence on what is real and enduring. It is a stage in our spiritual development where we crave the "sincere milk of the word," and begin to long for meat. We can't live without it. We know that no matter what our doubts or fears. We have been drawn to God, chosen by Jesus and we know it in the depths of our beings.

We believe and are sure that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

It starts with belief that brings a surety to our hearts. Some may call that "blessed assurance." Some may call it peace. Some may call it spiritual enlightenment. It is a gift.

Their assurance was that Jesus was the Christ/Messiah, the anointed and appointed One of God, the Chosen One, the ONE. They had found Him and there was no point in looking for anything or anyone better.

It was also a conviction of His relationship with God and their potential for a relationship with God through His Son. If knowing Jesus meant they could know God, then there as no point in turning back.

The footnote to the story is that there was a faker in the group and Jesus knew it.He knew it and did nothing about it because the turn-about would come later. It was necessary to let things happen in the way they would happen. The Jesus way was not and is not to prevent all trouble before it happens or to fix everything up front.

The Jesus way is to follow Jesus as Jesus followed God's way and truth to the cross and beyond.

It is HARD and it was HARD for Jesus too, but the hard way is the true way and the way of grace and life. It is holistic, activating, restrictive (and paradoxically liberating) and definitive. Will you also turn away or will you follow?


Has the Cross Been Banned?

Where is the cross
Has the cross been banned or is it just invisible?
There are lots of protests for and against the cross as a symbol of Christianity being displayed in public places - as a symbol, or even as a decoration. It made me think. 
A question was, "Just where is the cross lately?"
My musing answer, for the moment, is, "Hopefully, it is on our shoulders. I think we sometimes think the cross is a symbol or a decoration rather than something we are called to take up daily and bear --- that it is always bearing, as did Jesus, the burdens of others. I suspect that if all Jesus followers would do that .... well, you can finish the sentence ... "
So, I am going with this thought. If all the symbols came down and all the decorations disappeared, would the cross still be visible in America?
Would Jesus followers bear it into the streets of our cities? Into hospital rooms? Into jails and homeless shelters? Into homes and workplaces? Would it be visible in our selfless services?
In our willingness to suffer?
In our willingness to forgive?
In our love for people that Jesus loves?
The right to display the cross is not in the hands of any government or anyone outside of ourselves. the display of the cross in entirely on the shoulders of believers who decide to bear it upon their shoulders.
Are we taking up our crosses daily and going on display?
Just thinking ... and praying...
And asking myself as well.


Pausing to Remember

Father Mychal 911


9-11-fell asleep


We have not forgotten what happened on September 11 in our recent past.

I remember where I was when the first hint of news came across the wave via NPR. I remember my thoughts.'

I remember how we came together and put our differences aside. As Randy Sparks wrote in a song, "On September the 11th, we became just Americans."

I remember how some folks said that nothing would ever be the same again ... but they are in most ways except the ways that time and progress change everything.

Then, we started using the tragedy to move from being a people who valued freedom above everything else to being a people who would surrender freedom for safety and security.

And we started a couple of wars, at least one clearly in response to a very real threat of terrorism in the world.

And we started rethinking the meaning of our Constitution - not that we shouldn't from time to time. We just need to hold on to what is true, just, and good.

And we started bickering again.

Yet, we have not forgotten.

We are not exactly sure what the lessons were, but we learned what it meant to share a common heartbeat and a common heartbreak.

We remember what it was like to deeply care about one another.

We remember what it was like, for a moment, to respect our leaders and give them a great deal of leeway and trust along with much prayer.

What stands out for me in my memory is a heightened value for the heroes among us, in and out of uniform who are willing to lay down their lives for others. Many of these are still placing themselves in daily harm's way.

We flew flags.

We sought the comfort of God and of one another.

We sang together, mourned together, and worked together.

We can remember, but we cannot be defined by tragedy. Nor can we live in a perpetual state of emergency.

The world is dangerous. Horrible things could happen. We could all die -- but that is not the most important thing.

The most important thing is whether we will choose to live, and to live as free people until we die. Will we love each other? Will we pray when we are not in crisis? Will we show each other respect? Will we be "just Americans" and not blue or red or whatever that is and whatever that means?

If we will remember, then we can commit to being our best as Americans and working together for common good.

For now, let us pause to remember.




A Short Playlist: LISTEN 





Photo by Chris Spiegl on Unsplash

"The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce." - Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914.

After a day of rest to celebrate the value of labor and the dignity of the laborer, it is time for the laborer to return to his or her labors.

The Bible says that,

"... the laborer is worthy of his reward." (I Timothy 5:18).

In another place, it refers to

"... labor of love." (I Thessalonians 1:3)

The truth is, I am a bit tired. I spent Labor Day doing various jobs in the yard and projects in the house. I went back and forth till nighttime.

I am not sure I agree with Clayton entirely. I am not sure the Clayton Act agrees with itself.

My labor is not commodity or article of commerce of anyone else. Futures in my work cannot be traded or used as collateral. The fruits of my labors may be purchased or rented for a price.

However, my labor is my only real commodity and article of commerce for myself when combined with my ideas and thoughts. My labors of love are all I hold in my hands to trade.

The laborer labors and gets a reward, but that is not what makes it a labor of love.

What makes labor more than a commodity and article of commerce is significance. If we believe that what we are doing is making a difference and fulfilling a great purpose, hours will go by without us noticing and the time to quit will seem like an interruption. We will awaken with innovative ideas and we will be driven by passion.

We will be energized in the expenditure of our energies.

The challenge of most employers is to invite their workers to become partners in some great enterprise and to celebrate their labors as purposeful and significant. The challenge to each of us is to do the same for ourselves whether or not the boss "gets it."

Then, this return to labor will be a pleasure as it is for me.

May your day be filled with meaningful labor... whatever it is.

By the way,

Sometimes making the best of things ...

... is the ultimate statement of defiance and ...

... taking charge.

Compassion Comes First, Before Ideology


Public Domain - G. Conti La parabola del Buon Samaritano Messina Chiesa della Medaglia Miracolosa Casa di Ospitalità Collereale.jpg

It does not take long for sympathetic utterances to give way to blaming, shaming, and other forms of gaming in our culture.

We believe and affirm that black lives matter for a few days or hours after an unjust killing ... or at least until young people begin to express their anger over years of injustice and start crying for correction.  Then. we make the issue about them and the minority of "protesters" who express their anger with violence.

It justifies something inside of us that reinforces our biases about things being mostly OK with only isolated instances of implicit bias.

Then, we polarize, and we find it difficult to express care for the innocent shop holders whose stores are looted or the honest caring police officers who try to protect them.

Or we show sympathy for victims of fire, but we are not satisfied with that. Tree huggers like me feel that we have to blame trim trimmers and others have to blame environmentalists and it is those who are suffering that get left behind in our mudslinging and blame-shame-game.

And we all point our fingers at the other political party, forgetting that parties are people and people are our neighbors.

It seems that who we care about is a political statement in a polarized culture.

Where we place our sympathy, empathy, and compassion is an ideological issue.

A politic of compassion rejects that dichotomy.

It is not either/or. 

It is not, "I have compassion, but ..."

Virus prevention is not a partisan issue any more than caring for the oppress, comforting the afflicted, visiting the sick and imprisoned, feeding the hungry, or housing the homeless. How and to whom we show that we value life over death and protect the vulnerable is not subject to party platforms.

Praying and working for peace is neither conservative nor liberal by its nature.

These are issues we should be dealing with, but in an honest, open, intelligent, and mutually respectful context.

Could we, perhaps, withhold judgment and be willing to forsake our free throws and cheap shops, relinquish our rhetorical advantage, and step back in favor of loving our neighbors?

We are not called to win in this game. We are called to help everyone win. We are called to follow the Way of Jesus and the path of love and grace.

For today, that is spelled, C-O-M-P-A-S-S-I-O-N.

If we need an example, let us look to the character of God.


Heal Me

Christ Healing a bleeding woman, as depicted in the Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter.
"Heal me because I do not deserve it."
He does not say, "Heal me because I am a good man," here.
Nor does he suggest any qualities of his character to make him deserve the blessing of healing. He specifically avoids that characterization. Rather, he pleads his own sin as the reason he requests healing.
It gives me hope.
On that basis, I certainly qualify!
" The LORD sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health."
"As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you!”"
- Psalm 41:3-4 (ESV)
In the long history of God dealing with humans, healing has come, by grace, to a variety of tired, worn out souls, sinners, saints, and ordinary strugglers.
Some sought it and some fought it.
But, so often, in spite of ourselves, it has come.

Calling to Repentance Non-judgmentally



Credit to:  StephanieRPereira - Own work - Judge Frank Caprio is the Chief Municipal Judge in Providence, Rhode Island.


How do you reconcile Jesus' persistent call to repentance with the blatant command not to judge in Matthew 7?

Pretty easily.

Matthew 7's teaching focuses on the issue of judging, or rather, not judging other people. We can find all sorts of loopholes, lots of wiggle room, and an easy 40 acres for turning our rigs around, but the point remains, Jesus is not calling us to be judgmental sour pusses, but compelling agents of grace.

Folks already know their failings.

The call to repentance is joyful good news that there is a possibility and help for real change.

Listen to Psalm 32!


Choosing a Perspective

Perspective box, Museum Bredius.
In art, in history, in sociology, in religion, and in life itself, perspective shapes our view of the past, perception of the present, and vision of the future. This often happens without our awareness.
The purpose of this short blog is to create deeper awareness and challenge us to broaden our perspective and even try to step into another's perspective.
You can live through the same times and circumstances and come through with entirely different stories.
Not everyone experiences the past the same way.
One person's celebration is another person's misery.
The myopic soul will dismiss that insight or just pass over. Followers of the Way cannot, in good conscience do so.
The Way of Jesus calls us to deeper empathy with the pain of others.
Still, we can choose our perspective to some extent.

Two Blind Men

JESUS MAFA. Jesus cures the man born blind, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.  
There were once two blind men. One could see enough with his heart to know where he could find help.
The other could see with his eyes, but his heart was blind. We do not know what ultimately became of him.
Perhaps his physical blindness worked to open his spiritual eyes.
We can hope.
It certainly opened the eyes of the proconsul.
Acts 13:1-12 (NRSV):
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.
And they had John also to assist them.
When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God.
But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, "You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen-- the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun."
Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand.
When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.
But here is a much better story
John 9:1-17 (NRSV): 
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work."
"As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent).
Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?"
Some were saying, "It is he."
Others were saying, "No, but it is someone like him."
He kept saying, "I am the man."
But they kept asking him, "Then how were your eyes opened?"
He answered, "The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' Then I went and washed and received my sight."
They said to him, "Where is he?"
He said, "I do not know."
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight.
He said to them, "He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see."
Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath."
But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?"
And they were divided.
So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened."
He said, "He is a prophet."
Was Blind - Now I See
"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth." (John 9:1)
They asked a silly question as they looked down on the blind beggar, “Who sinned?”
Was it his parents? Or was it him?
They had read parts of the scriptures, but not all. They had left out vast portions that spoke of the mercy of God who, while having the right to inflict pain and suffering upon disobedient people, had so often, in mercy, relented.
And they had not read the book of Job or so many passages that revealed the suffering of the righteous.
But Jesus knew that this blindness, unlike the blindness of those who were critical, was so that the glory of God might be revealed in a poor beggar man. Other eyes, spiritual eyes could also be opened, but it would require a miracle from God and the willingness of the recipient.
That man had his eyes opened, but other eyes remained closed. There is a blindness that is, without a doubted, rooted by sin, perpetuated by sin, and symptomatic of sin. That is the blindness that obscures the vision of grace, which clouds our view of God’s nature and causes us to stumble through life without direction or purpose.
It is that blindness that Jesus is ever ready to heal.
He does so regardless of our theological sophistication or worthiness. Of course, the man was a sinner, but that fact was not relevant that day, because Jesus was viewing him through the eyes of mercy and grace. His new sight would bring glory to the Father even as yours will evoke the praise of men and women for Him.
“I don’t know,” was the answer the man gave to the question of Jesus’ authenticity. “I just know I was blind and now I see.”
Later, with new eyes, a willing heart, and deep gratitude, he would joyfully believe and follow. Like this man, you did not become a believer because of your wisdom or theological sophistication. All that you are today comes from a time when a gracious Lord opened your eyes.

The Silence That Amazes.

Agnus dei
In a day when we, as Christians, feel compelled to protest our losses of special privilege, criticism, insult, offense, or false characterization of our motives, we have a role model for how to handle it.
After saying all there was to say, he just went silent.
He was not standing there to defend himself. After speaking truth, he simply embodied it with humility, grace, confidence, determination, and non-resistance to the consequences.
It was his silence that amazed Pilate.
" And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed."
(Mark 15:4-5 ESV)

Be Blessed and Rise Up


Be blessed and riuse up
May you be blessed today, people of truth, souls of deep longing, heart walkers of grace, grace walkers of broken hearts, life livers and life givers.

May you be blessed.

May you be blessed, people of the edge, marginal pilgrims, shaky saints, trembling travelers, limping leapers, and lovers of humanity whose hands are extended into the darkness to those who dwell there, who enter the abyss with a light that gradually dissolves the fog of ambiguity and despair.

Be blessed soul travelers, guided guides, voices of hope, fellow stragglers who stagger toward something that glimmers in the darkness and the distance, swerving, swaying, yet mercifully, on course.

Be blessed, you who often fall down and mostly, rise up.

Be blessed, wounded neighbor, scabbed, scarred, healing healers.

Be blessed, you faithful doubters and doubting faithful who continue and thus, shake off the weights of those doubts to confidently live on.

Be blessed, witnesses of The Presence, who, with myopic eye, have seen and see and say, "Here is God and God is here."

My comrades, my kinsmen, my fellow lovers of God and people who continue and conquer through the One who loves you, Jesus people, followers of that Way and those called to follow whose calling has not been heard or comprehended, but who are being drawn or shall be drawn, my beloved.

Be blessed.

" Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the LORD!""
(Psalm 31:24 ESV)




To Live Again

Live again

Can We Live Again?
If a man die, shall he live again? - from Job 14:14

The age-old cry of humankind is for eternal meaning. Is there anything beyond this world of pain and tears that brings meaning to these moments while transcending them? Is there a life beyond the grave or is all futile?

Perhaps Job did not really know the answer, but he did have a glimpse. We do know that, unlike most men and women, Job was willing to serve God for nothing. He was willing to worship the Lord with or without reward or promise of life.

Job's God was not running for office. His status did not depend upon human referendum. He was God and that was that. Because He was God, He deserved praise. Job would come into a deeper understanding of God's Sovereignty, but the seeds were present even before his testing.

Job asks pressing questions. For followers of Jesus, the answers come most fully in his incarnation, death, and life. The resurrection is the final statement of death's final defeat.

For the one who follows Jesus, there is hope beyond death. John said that he was writing his gospel so that we might know we had eternal life.

People are yearning for answers to the ultimate questions of life. Job is portrayed as the ultimate example of an earnest seeker. Job's search is recorded so that we might identify and be led toward a relationship with God that defies death and suffering and rises above our questions.

Job's story is our story.

His yearning is our yearning.

His needs are our needs - not to be free of pain and discomfort, but to see God face to face and find our answers in Him.

For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: -II Corinthians 5:1-2


These guys travel around England singing old folk songs to any who will listen.

Their story is featured on a BBC story and on their website:

Great old folk hymn:



The Big Questions


Chicken or egg
Eleven years ago, on New Scientist Magazine's 5oth anniversary, the editors did a survey and ran a series of responses. 

They asked some of the "leading lights" in science "to explore the biggest questions of our time. You can find out what they had to say by following the links below."

Thankfully, the questions and answers are still online in the articles that grew out of that survey: 

They coalesce the topics nicely and propel the discussion.

Here is what happens when you ask a group of noted scientists to answer these questions:

What is reality?
What is life?
Do we have free will?
Is the universe deterministic?
What is consciousness?
Will we ever have a theory of everything?
What happens after you die?
What comes after Homo sapiens?

In the interest of full disclosure., I wrote the following response eleven years ago.

The problem is -- and it is not really a problem - (Scientists have as much right to answer the questions from their perspective as anyone else) - the answers are not complete - at least not from my perspective. They are not complete if you believe that theologians and philosophers might be entitled to weigh in.

So, we will as we have for many generations.

I do not consider this sort of thinking a threat to my faith anymore that I consider the futility expressed in the book of Ecclesiastes a threat. There is as much unbelief in the bible as I see if the world today.

If, as the bible says, "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God," then it is only natural to assume that observers of nature will offer natural explanations to the big questions of life.

Divine encounter presupposes outside information, invasion, intrusion, and radical good news that takes people off guard and challenges their assumptions about everything.

The Word of God is not set of debating points calculated to win arguments. The Word of God comes with its own built in energy source. It rings true even when presented badly. That is the nature of it to those who hear it.

Faith does not come through deduction. It comes through exposure and encounter. Penrose, Hazen, Churchland, and the other scholars reach perfectly reasonable conclusions given their premises. It serves us well to know them and understand them.

Solomon does not come to any real statement of faith until the 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes. Up to that point, he dances around the issue and sounds more like an agnostic existentialist than a warm-hearted theist.

Needless to say, I have some different conclusions than the panelists in this article - although some of their lessons are informative as far as they go.

I have become convinced that God is the Sovereign Creator of the Universe whose designs are past our complete understanding and who cannot be truly known apart from His initiative in revealing Himself. I am convinced that he has done so in and through Jesus Christ and that He continues to speak to us through scripture and through the Holy Spirit who is present and active in the world. This belief colors everything I see, hear, and read, but it does not prevent me from seeing, hearing, and reading.

Confidence is not cockiness. It is two words: "con" for "with," and "fide" for faith.

I am not sure that these are the biggest questions. The biggest question, I think, is "Where art thou," and it is not asked by man of God, but by God of man today even as it was in the garden

"Where art thou?"

"Let's meet."



Shut Up!

Silence is golden

"If you would only keep silent, that would be your wisdom!" - Job 13:5

“Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule." - Thomas Carlyle

Job has a word for those friends who have come to his aid, who had sat with him in silence for as long as they could stand themselves, and then proceeded to advise him as to why he was suffering and how to get out of trouble.

It is not that all their advice was bad in a general way. They did, in fact, utter some truth.

But it was not the right truth for the right moment.  Some of it may have applied to Job. Some of it did not. Most of it, he knew. None of it was her ready or needful to hear.

Job's words were that he was better served by their silent friendship than their pontifical advice.

Just sitting with him in the golden essence of silence was the wisest thing that had done or could do. It is often the wisest thing we can do when someone is hurting.

But it is hard. It frustrates our "fix-it" instincts and our compulsion to know more than the other guy. We assume that our opinion is needed, wanted, and helpful before we take the time to listen to our neighbor's story without criticism, judgment, or correction.

But sitting in silence and listening actively may be the most healing actions we can take in the moment ...

... in this moment of history, personally and collectively.

We are driven by some internal desire to express our perspective when our neighbors are in pain and finally finding a voice to express that pain.

I was taught it was rude to say "shut up," but  as much as that is strong and offensive language, sometimes it is the only language  that is able to get me to stop talking, sit, and listen.

So, the word for the day is two words, "SHUT UP!"

No matter how true what you think is or, at least, is to you, save it for later, a time when you are asked for an opinion. When you are sitting with a hurting neighbor, keep sitting until he or she speaks first or asks for you to chime it.

It may be the greater path of wisdom.

Maybe my next blog will be "Speak Up."

No two words tell the whole story.