Thursday, December 29, 2005

Do You Believe in the Tooth Fairy?

I swallowed my tooth. I was in the first grade and I swallowed my tooth. It was a front tooth and I was looking forward to putting it under my pillow for the Tooth Fairy and I was eating a peanut butter sandwich and I swallowed it. Very traumatic.

My mom was sweet about it. She said that the Tooth Fairy would understand if I wrote her a letter. So I did. It went something like this:

Deer TOOTH FAiRY I Ate MY TooTH. Sorry. CAN I STill geT Money? What do YOU dO WiTH all the TEETH?

The next morning there was a nickel under my pillow and a note in very beautiful, flowing tooth fairyish script:

Dear Will
Thank you for your letter. I know you take good care of your teeth and I am sorry you swallowed the tooth. Here is a little money for being a good boy. I collect the teeth and my tooth elves turn them into billiard balls.
the Tooth Fairy.

I loved the Tooth Fairy. She was so nice to me. I also loved the Easter Bunny, and the Sand Man, and Uncle Sam, and Santa Claus, and Jesus. Just because I had never seen any of them didn’t mean they didn’t exist. I knew they were real. (I even had a letter!)

The Sand Man was the first to go. Mom said if I pretended to be sleepy I could catch him. Never happened. I realized it was like the time she told me that I could catch birds by sprinkling salt on their tails. It kept me busy. It didn’t take long to figure out that Uncle Sam was a symbol, an Abe Lincoln in a colorful suit. Then the Easter Bunny hopped off to join him since I helped color the eggs, Mom hid them, and I saw her buy the baskets... Reluctantly, Santa was next. I didn’t want to give him up. But the elaborate evidence had too many holes in the logic. I was afraid to admit my parents played his role; then they would be off the hook for presents. Kids can be very practical sometimes.

At some point I began to wonder about Jesus. Perhaps the Holy Spirit was first, then Jesus. I hadn’t seen either of them as a speaker at school or on tv (except in movies where it was obvious that someone was just playing the part).

There were conversion events in my life. At thirteen. A renewal at fifteen. But there were periods when I wondered. After all, there are a lot of precedents that not all things magical truly exist.

This isn’t true in nonwestern cultures. In India there is a strong belief in the supernatural to the point where the pantheon of hindu deities is enormous. My two year stint in a yogic ashram taught me about Ganesha, and Hanuman, and Shiva, and especially Kali (she still makes me shudder... I’d rather not talk about it).

In indigenous peoples all over the world there is a strong belief in animism, reality is interwoven with the supernatural as a part of daily life.

Not so in western society. We are too sophisticated. We like things orderly and if we dabble in mysticism it is usually the trendy sort. You know, Madonna studies the Kabbala, or those who read Mother Earth News and eat only organic foods and buy lots of crystals and talk endlessly about Gaia. Trendy. Like smoking cigars a few years ago, or driving a Hummer. There is a political correctness view of mysticism that says that it’s all good and that if you want to worship something, anything, then you have the right to it (while at the same time it is a little skeptical of anything promoted by the male-oriented, male-dominated socieities of the past, such as chrisitanity).

But in general, we don’t want to believe in things that are supernatural, especially if it is serious and not very trendy.

I am a Christ Follower. I prefer that term to Christian as the label Christian is thrown at everything from Santa Claus to western society. Being a Christian for many folks is no more challenging that being a member of the Rotary Club. And for many it serves the same purpose. I am a Christ Follower. That means it costs me something. Something I gladly pay. It costs me... everything. All I have I give to Him.

It isn’t trendy. It means that I believe in the Word of God. If it is in the Bible, I have to accept it. That isn’t always a comfortable thing. But I want my faith to be bigger than me, to challenge me. Otherwise I may as well worship a Chia Pet.

According to the Bible the world is filled with the supernatural. (I don’t really like that word because it implies that there are things outside of nature, and if God made it, it is part of reality, it is natural.)

Take the Book of Job. It is filled with things that cannot be proven by science. Things that cannot be tested in a lab, or photographed by the Hubble telescope. In Job there are two scenes that take place in Heaven, a realm that is not to be found anywhere on the 197,000,000 square miles of our planet.

In Job there are heavenly beings. There is the Lord God almighty. There are angels. There is Satan. We are told that Satan roams the earth (like some sort of predator). Later the Lord speaks to Job, and to Eliphaz (Job’s best friend).

So why don’t we hear much about Satan anymore?

I think the answer is simple. We have turned him into Santa Claus. Satan doesn’t need to do much in our society. We do it for him, in this place where everything goes and it is all good. Now and then I think he (or one of his minions) simply whispers that the idea of the embodiment of evil, of a malevolent supernatural force that opposes all that is good, is absurd. That we don’t really believe in that stuff. No, as a society we swallow all sorts of pap that has to do with God within all things and that whether we worship Gaia or Ganesha or the image of Elvis in a Graham Cracker it is all good.

But there is a malevolent force to the universe and if we want to pretend it doesn’t exist, that is just fine with him. Just as surely as there is a negative as well as a positive charge to the flow of electricity, just as certainly as there are north and south magnetic poles, just as reliably as there are opposing atomic forces, there is a light and darkness that has nothing to do with photons.

I’ve seen it.

I have had experiences that make this dark reality clear to me. I have had experiences in my home that frightened me (though it wasn’t as bad to face as I had feared). But even without the experiences, the same part of me that recognizes the reality of the Lord tells me that there is something lurking in the dark.

I have had conversations with my kids about Santa Claus. I have talked about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. I explained their histories and why parents say that stuff to kids. And I have talked to them about God the Father, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and Satan.

So the two points I want to make are this: First, as parents we need to be certain that the amusing little fables we tell our children do not lead them away from truth. Secondly, we need to accept all of the truth as well. That includes the acceptance of darkness in the world as well as light and what it costs to believe.

Monday, December 26, 2005

What's the Point?!

What is the point of the Book of Job? That the innocent suffer? That the Lord simply picks on people? That sometimes friends and wives are wrong or that Satan is on the prowl?

I think a simple answer to that complex question is that the Book of Job simply shows us how to endure.

A couple of months after my first child died I was walking our dog in a large state park. I met a man. A man grieving.

He was sitting on a rock, gazing at the Willamette river. There were furrows in his brow, and a pain in his eyes that had been there a long time. His was the kind of internal pain that one sometimes sees in people that says that they are hurting, that they are tired of talking about it, but would still like some company... someone to sit beside them and provide a connection to the rest of the human race.

I let my German short hair, Elvis, frolic while I struck up a gentle conversation.

Though he was obviously tired of grieving, he couldn’t help sharing his story once again.

Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
--Job 7:11

His wife and son had died. Car accident. He had been attending a church for years when it happened. He questioned... everything.

Does it please you to oppress me,
to spurn the work of your hands,
while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?
--Job 7:3

So this man, sitting above the winter-swollen river in the third year of his grief, told me, a man in his second month of grief, that he had not walked into a church again.

I came away from that conversation wondering many things. I thought about 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Was this man given more than he could bear? What of my own fresh grief? Should I walk away from the Lord? I had just found my way back into a church after almost ten years and this is how I am rewarded? With my hopes and dreams shattered? This man’s abandoning of God seemed to say that I would be justified to curse the Lord.

“His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!"
--Job 2:9

Is that what I should do? I told the man about my son Willy, and that I was still going to church. He looked at me sadly, like I was a fool.

Since that day I have met many others who are grieving. Each one approaches their hurt uniquely.

I never tell anyone that I understand what they are going through. We are all different. Even identical events will feel different for each of us.

I remember another man I had met in the same park the week before the gentleman mentioned above. He told me that he understood what I was going through. He explained that a couple of months before a dog he loved died. I was astounded he would make such a comparison. I made some sort of small sympathetic reply and walked on.

No, we don’t know how anyone else really feels, really experiences their lives... but we can see what they do in those dark times.

Some walk away. Some stand and hold firm to the Lord.

That is what Job did. He stood his ground.

As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit.
Job 27:2-4

And that is the point of the Book of Job. It isn’t about the why’s and the how’s. It is about standing true. Job was a good man. The Lord was pointing out that He could rely on His servant Job to stand firm in his faith regardless of what happens. Satan believes that the things of the earth are what make people what they are. His point is that how many employees a man has, how much livestock he owns, the blessings of children, his health, those are the things that make a man what he is. The Lord holds that it is something deeper, something intrinsic to the man himself.

The Book of Job is about how to suffer.

This life is a brief gig. The whole thing runs its course in less than a century. But what we learn here, and what we do here, is far more important than what we buy here, or what we drive here, or who we know, or how many times our names have appeared in the paper.

The whole point is how well we follow these two basic laws:

He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "
--Luke 10:27

Stand firm. Stand true. That is the point of the Book of Job.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

New Job Blog

I have created a blog to help folks understand the structure of the Book of Job. If any of you are interested, you can find it here.

Also, you can read this blog (Job's Tale) from the start by going here.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Christmas Gift

Poor Job. How frustrating to have lived in a time when all that was shared with mankind was the law of the Lord. Grace was yet to come.

All he had was the law and it didn’t make sense. No one could obey every law (though Job did far better than most). What happened to him seemed an unclear punishment for an unclear crime.

Very confusing.

We still get confused. We want everything to make sense. We want the events of our lives to be part of a balanced universe, everything clear, everything fair. The good are to be rewarded and the unjust are to be punished.

Sometimes things just don't seem fair.

For many it gets a little harder during this time of the year.

Donald Miller shares in Searching For God Knows What the idea that we are wired for a relationship with God, and since that is screwed up we seek our identity in each other. He argues that we need to understand who we are by what people think of us, by what we own, what we wear, what we drive. We find our value and honor in how we are treated, especially by those who know us. We place higher personal stock in those close to us, and when they fail us, it costs us more.

We are all so needy (and generally we need much more than we give). That is why there is an inherent imbalance in human relationships. We demand recognition of who we are without giving that recognition to others.

There is an infinite source of affirmation through God. But our selfishness shoves Him aside, and we feel the lack.

There are other reasons people feel blue during Christmas. It is such a big emotional investment. We build up expectations for ourselves, for others, for a sense of peace and love and belonging. We set ourselves up for failure because we aren't creatures where such things come naturally. Additionally, the length of the season creates huge expectations. From Thanksgiving to New Year's is a very long time to bank on the universe playing fair.

When we are hurt during this extended season, especially by the loss of someone close to us, the memory of that loss taints the future seasons as well.

I cannot get a Christmas tree without remembering the first tree I got for my first child... on the morning he died. The sight of that tree leaning on the front porch while police and medics and friends came and went is still clear in my mind's eye.

Many people experience a Christmas when someone close is suddenly not there (Father, bless the Cryders and the Sawyers, may they feel You near). It leaves reminders for years to come. Old wounds throb to the beat of "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night".

We are simple yet complex creatures. We are not ruled by our minds. We are ruled by our desires, our hearts, our animal natures, our selfishness...

It is in setting ourselves aside that we are elevated. It is in being a servant to others that we are exalted. The greatest servant of all time was the incarnation of God who made Himself nothing so that He could love all.

What an amazing thought! A being of pure love who wanted to share His love with others so much He permitted His own creation to spit on Him, to beat Him, to torture Him, to murder Him.

It is a bluish Christmas for many because humanity has an empty spot. Not just an empty spot where a loved one was, but the empty spot that lies within each human being, even the ones surrounded by adoring sycophants.

As long as we stare at that empty spot we will feel empty. But when we turn away from ourselves, we are filled.

What care He must have for us, what love, that He would set aside His omniscience, His relationship with the trinity, so that he might crawl into creation through the womb of a young woman, learn to walk, go through growing pains and acne and feet that are suddenly too large and voice changes and rejection from those He loved, so that He might bring us into that relationship with our creator.

We tend to think about gifts at Christmas. What a wonder that Christmas began with the greatest gift of all! The gift of a love relationship that is always true, always faithful, always there.

If you have stumbled onto this blog and haven’t accepted that gift, if you don’t feel it or understand what I’m talking about, leave me a comment so that you and I can find another way to chat. Let me share with you personally what He wants you to have this Christmas. He wants you to be loved... f o r e v e r.

Merry Christmas, all of you!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dancing in the Wind

He answered, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, 'Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.' But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."
--2 Samuel 12:22-23

It’s cold. The wind is whipping around my coat’s hood and it makes my eyes water. (It’s only the wind doing that.)

There is a Civil War vet buried here at Zion Memorial Cemetery, not so common in the Pacific Northwest. The old section of the graveyard has ornate, sometimes tall, stones. The moss and lichen worked at them for over a hundred years, making it difficult reading. There aren’t a lot of things around that old. Native American petraglyphs, some trees, this cemetery.

The stones tell stories. There is the row of five stones by the sexton’s house. The three children dying within two weeks. The father two weeks after they were buried. The mother, 25 years later. She had caught tuberculosis and went to live in a tent while he,
in an attempt to keep their children safe, burned their belongings. It didn’t help. They became sick. They died. He died. And she lived on another quarter century in an empty house.

There is the story behind the stone I always stop to read.

William David Greenleaf
Our Treasure
August 30 -December 15, 1992

That was a difficult day.

Man, it’s cold out!

I’ve been thinking about this blog. I’ve been thinking about suffering. About disease and hurricanes and wars and earthquakes and tsunamis. I’ve been thinking about parents holding their dead children. I’ve been thinking about Job.

Life is hard.

Sometimes life sucks.

I always feel a little blue this time of year. I shove it aside and work at being all that is right about Christmas for my children. But I feel a little blue.

That is OK.

The Book of Job is about suffering and I continue to grow in my understanding of the book and its message.

Sometimes pain and grief is a throbbing sharp spiky thing that one doesn’t know how to hold. Other times it is a wind that blows across great distances, over mountains and snow and whips around the edge of your tightly drawn hood to sting your eyes.

I’m turning 50 this spring. Once I thought that was old. But it doesn’t seem so old anymore. It isn’t as old as it used to be.

I don’t mind the salt and pepper beard or the wrinkles (more laughter wrinkles than anything else). I actually like some things about this whole process. I like growing up.

It seems to me that I am beginning to see what I am becoming. Within 20 or 30 years I will finally get what I need from this life. I will have matured in my faith to the point where I will be ready for eternity.

Isn’t that amazing?! By the time my life is spent I will reach the point where I am most able to understand what it is all about. (I need to listen to those elders who still find joy in life and learn from them.)

This past year was another watershed year for me. I grew.

And I learned to dance. Not anything fancy, nothing that involves a mortal partner. But inside I feel giddy. I love the Lord my God so much! I love to sing to Him, to pray to Him, to read of Him. I find my heart dancing.

The events of the fire were difficult. And the passing of some wonderful people (Tom S. and Bob C. and others...) was sad. There were physical problems (my back, my skin, etc.).

I have had some difficulties in my life. Some I haven't shared, many I have. But I look at them and I see how I have changed and grown and I love my Lord so much. Sorrow, grief, struggles, are all part of the arrangement that comes with free will. We need to accept the consequences of the freedom to choose our way over the Lord's. A fascinating side effect is that through such difficult times we grow.

I have a long way to go, but I am comfortable with my age and I can see that by the time I am old I will have finally gotten the hang of what this life is all about. I will be ready for eternity. And I think that is the key to understanding all of this. This life is a preparatory experience. It is simply a warm up lap for eternity.

I'm going to finish this lap dancing.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dear Lord...

My Lord...
Do not listen to my bravado...
Do not let me glory in things that are small...
Like who I am and what I have done.
Do not leave me with myself,

For I am a speck of self-important dust.

My Lord...
Hear my prayers begging to serve...
Let me glory in things that are great...
Like who You are and what You have done.
Press me close to You,

For You made Yourself small to tell me I am loved.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


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

Job really loved his kids. He went before the Lord for them regularly, and he certainly saw after their welfare. I think, at least I hope, most parents feel the same way.

But not all. Not all.

I’m a middle school teacher and I have seen some pretty bad parents. Actually I have surmised more than I have seen of the really bad ones because those parents usually don’t show up anywhere near school.

I could share stories, skirting and hiding identities to avoid losing my job, but there are plenty of examples appearing in the news all too regularly.

Aside from the tangible wreckage these people leave in their children’s lives their actions affect the relationships those growing hearts will have with God. God the Father. If an earthly father is absent, or neglectful, or apathetic, or abusive, it is very difficult for people to believe in the real thing.

Not impossible. Just difficult.

For those who have experienced that difficulty it is easy to understand the importance of doing the job right.

I was afraid of my father... but I still love him. I love my heavenly father, The Father. But sitting here pecking at these keys I realize I also fear my heavenly father. The idea of meeting Him quickens my heart.

I was speaking with a friend this morning about a story Bob Cryder had told about the Palestinians discovering the Ark of the Covenant under the temple mount (the story tells it was quickly sealed back up). Just the idea of being near that sacred object makes my heart race. It was on that container that God almighty dwelt. He was there as a pillar of fire, and a pillar of smoke. Within that golden chest lies Moses’s staff and the tablets carved by the finger of the almighty God.

The idea of looking upon The Ark makes me tremble.

Do I fear God because I feared my father? Probably. But I would probably fear God anyway.

When I worship on Sunday morns I do so with my eyes tightly shut, knowing that He is listening, that He is accepting my small token of heartfelt vocal offering (as awful as it sounds to human ears). I haven’t had my eyes open during worship for a dozen years. How can I think about anything else when the creator of all things is listening to what I am singing? If singing before your maker doesn’t make you nervous you aren’t thinking it through. (People get nervous before ordinary auditions!)

Why do I fear my father? Actually, feared, past tense, is more accurate as I live a 1,000 miles from him and I am all grown up now. I feared him because he beat me with a belt, sometimes for things I didn’t do. I feared him because he is untrustworthy. I feared him because more than once he thought about... well...

Allow me to share.

My mom and he split up when I was in the third grade.

When we moved away I missed him. I dreamt he and I shared a bath. He was washing my hair and laughing. It felt so good to be close to him. His loving eyes were set in a strangely red triangular face, framed with a goatee and horns. His barbed tail waved in the background before the doorway to the screened-in balcony were we slept one summer night as a family, overlooking the yard where my brothers and I were cowboys and Indians, pirates and Tarzan and Zorro.

He was a powerful man. Strong, quick, and he knew so much. He smelled of diesel, grease, grain, and sweat. He was a mysterious giant, a god, and they told me I looked so much like him. I leaned in doorways with my arms folded the way he did, and tried to swagger. And I tried to be powerful, strong, and quick.

It would probably have been best if that is where my relationship with him ended. As I became a teen I learned how far short of his expectations I fell.

I couldn’t do anything right. Not for him. I poured too much oil in the truck. I couldn’t pick up a hubcap stuck in a pile of dirt with the track loader racing over it at full throttle. I couldn’t find a date (“I think the kid’s a fawking homosexual!”). I couldn’t even pick up sticks and debris right (“Get back to work! I want to see nothing but azzholes and elbows!”).

My father loved me. I think he was just disappointed. I read too much for him. Or talked too much. Or thought too much. Perhaps the first-born should be different. Mike was agile enough, mechanical enough, more libido-driven.

In our teens Dad did share a dream of his with us, and so we built, Dad and us three boys, the Gxxxxxxxf Ranch. Too bad we lost it to Mom and my stepfather for back child support.

There were a couple of strange incidents after we moved under his roof. Once, in San Clemente, an old tall house was coming down so that a new tall house could stand on long stilt-like toes on the cliff’s edge, to better peer at the crashing surf below.

Dad made a living crushing things with big yellow machines while we kept the dust down with fire hoses. Between loading trucks with debris we horsed around.

Mike and I played with the fire hoses to keep cool while my dad mixed screwdrivers. I was taking a nap when a shaft of water from the three inch line woke me, pushed me, and finally knocked me off my feet. We laughed and I plotted revenge.

After lunch Dad started the loader and yelled for us to grab the bucket. Mike and I jumped to catch the edge of the dinosaur-like machine, its neck stretched out level, its jaws closed. It raised up; our bodies swung against its cool metal chin while the ground dropped away. I had grabbed the sharp cutting edge and shifted quickly to a rounded metal tooth. Gently the bucket rolled downward until we could see him at the controls, laughing, cheering us for our strength.

The machine clanked slowly forward; he was watching us carefully to see if we were weakening. He looked proud of us. We watched the ground roll beneath our feet, then the rocky cliff edge, and suddenly, the vertical slope embracing open space, the surf fifty feet below. Under us sea gulls were dancing on foaming water.

Dad had a thin, hard smile. Mike and I glanced at each other. This was hard!

Slowly the bucket tipped forward, its front edge lowering to dump. The bucket’s interior turned from a shelf to a downward slope. When the level was greater than 45 degrees dirt slid out, dusting Mike and me as we clung to the metal teeth of the steel-jawed monster. Dad was no longer smiling.

There was a quick up and down shake; we held on. The cramping in my fingers throbbed to the silent screaming in my mind. Neither Mike nor I yelled. Abruptly the bucket tipped back up, and the mechanical dragon retreated to the pile of crushed house waiting for the truck to return from the dump.

So I tremble when I think of God.

But I love Him with all of my heart.

And I love my children gently.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Word

People sometimes look at the Bible as something that got magically placed on the kitchen table when no one was looking. They kind of see it as if God slipped in and just sort of left it there. Some look at this amazing work, the Word of God, and give it an importance that sets it above, outside of their lives; as if it is so sacred we can’t even discuss it... as if to say: “Human beings do all sorts of disgusting things and we shouldn’t taint what is holy by wrestling with it.”

Too late.

God created something holy and it didn’t stay that way long. He created us. We were set apart from all of creation as the only beings worthy of walking along side Him and discussing what we think of His creation. He gave us the job of naming His creation. He gave us the directive to husband the Earth. He has given us so many things, and we are so very good at mucking it all up, and the first thing we ruined was that relationship.

So, when it comes to The Word there are those who feel we shouldn’t look too closely at it for fear of mucking that up too.

Well folks, it can’t be done. Oh sure, we can corrupt it and warp it and market it and do all sorts of things we shouldn’t. But in the end, it is already out there and it is too late for us to really change anything about it. Done deal. (Thank you Gutenberg!)

That's not to say there aren't Bibles out there that shouldn’t exist. There are politically correct Bibles, and Bibles that always refer to God in a gender neutral fashion, and Bibles that are careful to tell us that we should never spank our children, and Bibles that replace the word for God with something that suits our particular world view. But there are a lot of good versions out there that are simple, careful translations and that bell can’t be unrung.

Personally, I feel that there are three testaments to the reality of God. The first (my favorite) is His Word. He gave us the Bible to let us know where things are with Him, and where we stand in relationship to it. The second is His creation. God created this universe and there is nothing in nature that contradicts Him. If we feel that science has discovered something that is in conflict with The Word, then we are mistaken about what The Word is saying, what creation is showing us, or both. The third and final testament is the trickiest. It is the Holy Spirit. Specifically the indwelling of God within the heart of each person who has accepted that Jesus Christ is The LORD God incarnate. This is an area that is to be most suspect because we are so very good at corrupting things and something as close to us as our own heart can be easily swayed.

But back to the main point: The Bible. I have met folks who feel that the only Bible version worthy of being read is the King James version. I would readily agree that this version is the most beautiful of the English translations, but that has more to do with the state of the English language at the time it was written than about the accuracy of its linguists.

Case in point (now keep in mind two things: 1, this is highly speculative, but it does provide an interesting place to begin a discussion, and 2, I am frequently wrong about all sorts of things.): When the King James version was underway William Shakespeare was winding down his career. He only wrote one more play. He was getting on in years (in that era reaching 46 was above the average life span). Now, in the 46th year of the bard’s life there is the project going on under the blessings of good King James. A handy connection to Shakespeare and the court already existed (Shakespeare’s troop was sponsored by the king). Take a look at the 46th psalm. The 46th word from the beginning is the word “Shake." Now if one discounts the word “selah” (which is considered a probable liturgical musical direction and not a part of the actual poetry) the 46th word from the end is “spear." Coincidence? Perhaps. But compare the placement of those words to other translations and you will begin to feel that there was a little pushing to make those words fall into those particular spots. Does this make the King James suspect? Not at all. Perhaps one reason this translation is so beautiful is because people such as Shakespeare worked on it.

This isn’t any sort of proof at all, but it is interesting. I like wrestling with ideas and I find that it makes me stronger. The Bible always wins, but I come out with firmer biblical muscles.

In modern times we like words to be very specific. The English language is HUGE compared to most other languages, particularly Hebrew. We like things very tidy, very specific, very concrete. This paradigm reflects the love affair of modern culture with science. We want everything well measured, well stated. Look at how much scrutiny a president’s speech undergoes. Every word is examined for its nuances (ad nauseum). We choose words so carefully that we are forgetting how to be poets.

I don’t feel that the Bible was intended to be placed in the context of bullet points and blueprints of a metaphysical sort. For the most part the Bible is about relationships. It is filled with stories, not mission statements.

We like things complex, but it doesn’t need to be that way. I like how Jesus put it. He pretty much said “Love God with everything you’ve got, and do that for people too.” It’s simple.

Now back to how we look at scripture. We often look at that book that appeared miraculously on the kitchen table and think that it was dropped from Heaven with a loud thud that shook the house. But it didn’t.

Much of it was shared around campfires for a long time before folks (Moses, et al) put pen to paper (or feather to parchment, or stylus to clay, or chisel to stone...). That is the reason there are passages that echo. Folks spoke those words together with the storyteller while the warm light of a campfire danced beneath a starry sky.

“...and God saw that the _____ was good...” everyone said together.

“...and there was evening and morning...” everyone called out.

Stories that are most clearly descended from these campfire tales have such patterns throughout them.

In the book of Job the two encounters of God and Satan are nearly identical, exhibiting another common storytelling technique.

“...One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’

Satan answered the LORD, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’

Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’

‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’

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

Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.”
--Job 1:6-12

And then:

“On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’

Satan answered the LORD, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’

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

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

The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.’

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD...”
--Job 2:1-7

This is not a responsive part but a simple storytelling technique that gives rhythm and is used by humans in every culture with an oral tradition (you might notice my own fondness for parallelism, which I picked up from listening carefully to J.F.K. and M.L.K. Jr.).

I think it is important to remember that scripture comes from stories. I think it is important because western culture is so wrapped up in outlines, blueprints, schematics, bullet points, mission statements, step by step instructions, and business plans that we sometimes forget something very important: Relationships.

We were created to be in a relationship with God. We survive only because of our relationships with each other. Our happiness is often measured by how well we relate to each, and most importantly with our creator.

I look at the Word of God as something that has meaning for me today. I enjoy reading it critically and wondering about how it was made, what it says and what it doesn’t say. (Who was Lamech and what is the story behind the fragment of the song we see in Genesis 4:23-24? Who inserted verses 18 & 19 in Psalm 51? Which came first, Job 7:17-19 or Psalm 8:3-4?)

The Bible can seem to be a difficult read for those who are looking for those bullet points and mission statements. But it might be better to look at it as a love story. It is about this amazing being who is the essence of pure love. He creates creatures to share that essence, to experience that relationship. And to make it all fair, and honest, and voluntary, He gives those creatures the ability to say “no.” He gives those creatures chances to sulk and gripe and whine and be selfish. In other words, to experience the incredible joy of love because we choose to love, not because we are constructed to do so.

The Bible is about this being who creates creatures who reject Him and then He goes to all sorts of lengths to guide them into a position where they can witness just how much He is willing to love, to sacrifice, to restore.

If we leave the Bible as just something that landed on the kitchen table and we bow to it and debate how it is worded, but miss the message of the relationship it shares, then we are missing the whole point.

The book of Job is about how much a man is willing to suffer when he knows, I mean really knows that there is a creator who is goodness and love and that things aren’t making sense but he is going to hang in there anyway (this chokes me up. Oh Job! Thank you for hanging in there so I could see how it is done!). The book of Job is about trusting that it is all going to work out because there is a testament in our heart that verifies what The Word says is true, that God is love and that He is turning that powerful gaze upon his creation and yearns that we simply look back and say, “Daddy, I know I’ve been pretty naughty, but I really do love you. Will you just hold me for a little while?”

The magical mystery of life, at least in my experience, is that He always does.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' "

--Matthew 25:19-21

Dedicated. Bob was a dedicated man. He didn’t do anything in half measures. When he restored a car, it was done, it was restored. Pristine. It purred. He raised (with Jenny of course) his children, making it clear that they were the most important task he would do in his life. As a husband he made certain that when he was with her, he was with her. When they were standing side by side it wasn’t Bob and Jenny. It was BobandJenny. And when he talked about the christian life it was based on solid scripture, not vague references, but exact passages.

His work was all about the Lord. He traveled all over the nation, all over our world, and I believe every task he put his hand to was about how it may glorify God.

One lenten season he got us together to walk the surrounding neighborhoods of our church just to leave a little gift and tell folks they were loved.

Another time he stepped before our congregation and told us we needed to show the people of our community love; that the first step in that direction was to make sure no one
in our town is hungry. So we started a food pantry in our church. And though the fire shut it down for several months, it recently started up again. That ministry did not fall away. In a way, every sack of groceries carried out to a car from our church is an echo of those challenging words from Bob.

He taught classes, he spoke with neighbors, and friends, and strangers about the Lord constantly. I was at his house once, shortly after he began his first round of chemo (he looked so different without hair!); he was out in his garage working on a car. There was a rather tall, rather rough looking fellow helping Bob with something. After a while the guy left and Bob told me about this man. This
embittered widower told Bob he had learned new things about christianity, just by working on cars. Bob had shown him love and companionship. Bob lived the christian life.

Bob was dedicated.

Bob knew the Bible. I’m a rather strange sort of guy. My ideas don’t always fall within the box. (A friend once introduced me as a guy who has trouble finding the box.) So it is no surprise that a few times Bob told me he thought I had gotten off track scripturally. I never felt attacked. I felt that he had good reasons to talk to me, and almost every time I changed my point of view because he was so grounded in the Word.

Once he invited me onto his radio talk show. We did a show on the intersection of faith and science (I am a real science buff). I felt like an honored guest. And during that chat I was impressed at how quickly he saw the implications of things I said. He had a sharp mind.

During that show he told the listeners he had a sore throat and that is why his voice was a little raspy. He'd had the sore throat for over a week and maybe he would go to the doctor in the next day or so and get it checked. That was the first indication of the cancer.

Bob’s cancer did not deter him from doing everything he could in working for our Lord. He kept up all of his projects. My favorite "Bob project" was the Classic Car Show at our annual General Canby Days. He and his wife opened their craftsman style house to the public and the street in front (and around each corner) was filled with the coolest cars. BobandJenny showed the love of Christ by being good neighbors. One year he even let me take his '55 Chevy pick up out of the line up so I could use it in the parade.

On “Fat Tuesday” 2003, as New Orleans was hitting its frenzied peak of Mardi Gras, Bob and his family were a few seats away from me while we watched The Passion of the Christ. I remember their reactions clearly. There wasn’t any conversation in the theater afterwards, but I think we all walked out into the cool Portland evening with the sense that we had shared a significant experience.

Those are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think about Bob. I wish I could tell you everything about him. About his dogs (bassetts and later a daschund) and the cat he befriended despite his allergies and his love of God-centered worship and the church camping trips and his love of John Wayne movies and his Bible classes and his sermons...

I prayed a lot that last week of Bob’s life. And to be honest I felt frustration when he died. Didn’t my prayers count? I know, I know, that isn’t how it works. God is not at my beck and call. But it seems that if I pray earnestly, if I am living as a Christ follower, then He should bend the rules now and then if I really, really, really ask. I know this reveals a little immaturity.

I’m reminded of Job 37 (Job is whining to God and then for the next four chapters the Lord sets him straight). I wanted Bob to be around for a while. I told my Lord (respectfully) that I thought that Bob could still do a lot of good if he were given a few more years. I was trying to make some sort of bargain with what I thought Bob could yet do for God.

Isn’t that like us? I don’t think God is offended by such requests. Probably more amused. When Abraham is pleading for the cities of Sodom and Gomorra in Genesis 18 there is a sense of playfulness in God’s replies. And that same amusement is echoed when the Lord tells Jonah to lighten up.

So perhaps I’m a little stubborn. But, in my defense, Bob was a powerful servant of our Lord. And I love his family. I taught his youngest for a year in my language arts class (she just graduated last year). I didn’t want them hurt.

Well, I'll be honest, I didn't want to hurt. I don’t want to put off any conversations with Bob until the afterlife.

Perhaps I’m just plain selfish. I loved listening to Bob teach. He had such a great voice, one of those “radio” voices. And he had a way of interacting with people that made them feel close to him.

The Lord gave him four people, his wife and three children. And he gave the Lord thousands. I know folks usually need many encounters before accepting the Lord, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob helped place thousands of names into the Book of Life.

So, in terms of the parable of talents excerpted at the top of this post, Bob gave back far more than the four (his family) he was given.

I have no doubt that among the first words Bob heard when he opened his eyes to glory on Tuesday are “well done good and faithful servant.”

See you later, Bob.

Friday, December 02, 2005


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

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

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

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

His heart is beating as it should and has stabilized.

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

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

Could you, would you?

Thank you.

For those of you who came because of a comment I left on your blog, I apologize for the blatant request to come here. Please feel free to clean up your comments by deleting that comment of mine. I just wanted to get as many folks praying for my friend as possible.

email Friday:

Bob Cryder update: I don't know how else to say this, but just received word that Bob Cryder is slipping away. Tim and Heather, family and close friends are with Bob, Jenny and family. Please pray for all of them. Jenny shared that they have made him comfortable. We need to remember that the Lord is in control, even when we don't understand.

Update, Noon Sunday:

The doctors say that while the cancer is gone, Bob's body can not fight the infection he has in his lungs and brain. The only thing that can save him is a miracle.

While he was in stable condition this morning, there is hope only in God.

I have a post half written, and I would finish it an d post it now... but I want to put my energy into praying for Bob right now.

I want those who visit this site to know a little bit about Bob.

He has had a ministry for some time, Bob Cryder Team Ministries. This web page is worth looking at just to get to know what he does. his connections to the evangelical church reads as a Who's Who of the modern church.

But I've known him as one heck of a great guy, someone who would drop everything to lend a hand.

He is a car buff (the cherry red '55 chevy pick up, and the 57 nomad are pristine, and he hosted a car show in our town every General Canby Day (that's the 4th of July for those out of towners).

Bob has ministries all of the world, and especially strong connections to christian organizations in Israel.

He was recently hired on as the senior pastor of the Arcade Church, which is hosting updates about his current status.

Please, please continue to pray for Bob. His gifts are enormous and his work has won thousands to the Lord.

I'll get back to posting soon enough.

p.s. It is 5:20 a.m. and I have just gotten back from the hospital. Been there praying. The medications have him unconscious, and his breathing is a little rapid. The respiration therapist says he is really trying hard, working hard, at breathing. He has a slight fever from the infections in his lungs and brain. He is just holding steady right now. It is unclear if he is getting better or worse, but it cannot stay this way long. Soon he will gradually start to get better, or the reverse.

Please continue to pray!

Update, Monday

My friend Bob went home today at 1:00 p.m.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Learning to Dance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could it be a good thing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some feel that God is in control of all things.

I agree.

Some feel that God causes all things to happen.

I disagree.

1. God is in control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I must be following the right shepherd.

Jesus lead on, I will follow!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Joy in Sorrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thank You (A note on Thanksgiving)

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

Job 1:20-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

All praises to the Lord God Almighty!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Chronicles 16:7-36

Sunday, November 20, 2005


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I didn’t understand.

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

I felt awkward doing this at first.

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

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

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

And this goes for how I care for my spouse:

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

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

Again, it seems strange.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 18, 2005

Girding up

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

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

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

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

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

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

“...Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints...” Ephesians 6:10-18

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

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