Friday, December 29, 2006

Infant Messiah - Infinite Messiah

(Details finished - click to enlarge)

I was nervous. I don’t think anyone noticed, but I was.

I was at church an hour before the service. I was sitting in the Prayer Room. I had candles lit. I had said The Lord’s Prayer twice. I was trying to wrap my mind around what it cannot.

The previous day I had set the easel and canvas in place. All the paints were at hand, brushes ready.

I had a clear vision of what I would do, how I would skimp on details so it would be “finished” before the services were over... but the reality behind the image, the Truth I recognized in the image, was, is, larger than my mind and heart can hold.

Fourteen years ago my son was scheduled to portray the infant Jesus in a little reenactment at a friend’s stable... but he died three days before that was to happen. Now he was to play that role on Christmas Eve in a way I had never foreseen, and I was preparing my heart in the solitude of our prayer room.

It is a small role, a little pretending, merely a model for his dad’s work who was attempting to speak a prayer, paint a prayer, on the wonder of God squeezing into reality, into a mere four dimensions, so He could love us more dearly, hold us with hands of flesh, look into our eyes as we are accustomed to looking into the eyes of each other.

But the truth of this is so hard to describe!

Born to love and heal and care and teach and hold and suffer and die...

My pastor and friend came in, we prayed as we usually do before the service.

And I went out to join my family. The Advent candle was lit, I walked up to the canvas.

Sometimes painting can be a struggle. It can seem a battle to get the colors right, push them where they should be. It wasn’t this time.

I was relaxed as far as the image itself went. I really didn’t care overly much what the finished product was going to be. I knew it would fall far short of the reality I was feeling, and since I was already so far behind The Truth of it, what did it matter if the colors weren’t exactly right, or there was a line or shape not quite where I wanted it?

The Truth was so much more than I could contain... it was some relief to let it spill out onto the canvas, to get it out of my heart.

My son’s face is there, but it is only a stand in for The Truth...

A golden infant... floating in cerulean blue... bearing terrible wounds, the evidence of a fallen humanity, of evil inflicted upon innocence... and deep eyes squinting above a mouth open in joy and laughter. The events of His mortal life, the Nativity and the Crucifixion, mingled in a single image, floating in an eternity beyond the reality of this world.

It was the smile... I kept thinking about it.

Pure joy flowing out, rushing out, laughing, shouting a wordless call of love and companionship to all of Creation, welcoming us all into a relationship with divinity.

At one point during the service I began to tremble. That smile... that smile of love and forgiveness, there before creation, there long after these hands which grip brushes will be turned to dust...

Too often I write in this little blog words which are fine sounding, authoritative... pompous. That is all they are, words, sounds blown from a self-centered, self-important ego of a little man, a small part of such a larger creation! How little those words mean. I am merely a shadow, a ghost of the reality of what is The Truth of Creation. There is a Lord of lords who loves me more than I can possibly understand. A being of infinite grace and glory Who is so far beyond the poor splash of color I have made that all that is are mere refections of the pure creative glory of Him.


Oh worthy Lord! Almighty Lord! Thank You sweet King of all creation! God of Wonders! Holy, Holy, Holy Master of all things. I am so honored... Grant me the privilege to live my life for You! Eternal God, immortal Son of David... I love You Lord! Thank You for the thousands, millions of blessings You pour into my life! I am Yours Lord. Do with me as You will. --Amen... Amen... Amen...


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Infant Messiah

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven. So He became as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs. -- Hebrews 1:1-4


(as usual, click on pictures to enlarge)





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Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 22, 2006

For Sunday

No witty post tonight. I just wanted to share this...

My pastor has asked me to do another painting during the services this Sunday. I am posting a photo of a sketch I have made (just click on it to enlarge).

I think it will be a blue background with the skin tones in gold.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Surf's Up!

Yesterday’s post was an entry to mark a low tide in my year. It is a day where I look at the tidal charts and note how the sea has rolled away once again to reveal what is usual hidden beneath the waves of my everyday life.

Today is another point on the tidal charts marking my life. It was fourteen years ago today that my sons boarded a plane and left a life of misery, a journey which brought them to my home.

Tides are simple and complex. The tides of the oceans, and to some extent lakes and rivers, swing to and fro, following the dictates of Earth, sun, and moon. The highest tides directly follow the moon, pointing to that great silvery disc in the sky. On the other side of our world the smaller high tide floats outward, responding to the off-center balance of the Earth/moon system, and both tides are strengthened or weakened by where the sun is currently in our lives.

Yesterday I was remembering a watershed event which changed me dramatically. Today there is the quieter observance of the journey my children began.

We fill our calendars with such observances. Some personal, some public.

This past year I ruefully celebrated my 50th birthday, and joyfully my 25th wedding anniversary. We had our birthdays, and we marked “Family Day” on June 1st to celebrate the day we first laid eyes on our kids. Brenda and I always go out for dinner on the last day of February, marking the day we met, Leap Year’s Day, 1980.

There are also the days of corporate celebration and remembrance and thankfulness. The fourth Thursday in November, the last night of the year, the first day of the year, the fourth day in July...

This isn’t so surprising, this need to mark our calendars and tick of the holidays, and holy days.

All creatures do so (well, mammals anyway), marking times for mating, times for gorging in preparation for winter, following the cycles of sun and moon and seasons. I see the behavioral changes wrought by the seasons daily. Remember, I work in a middle school and sometimes watching my charges is like watching a nature documentary. The creatures of this world carefully note the changing days and behave accordingly.

Perhaps mankind does so to a greater extent because time is the one dimension in which we have no control. We can move about in the other three dimensions, but the temporal one, the fourth dimension, is beyond our control. We are simply dragged along with the rest of the universe in the general direction of entropy.

Perhaps that is one reason we venerate The Creator. God is beyond time, outside of time. He always was, always will be. The Great I Am. He holds all things together and in so doing, demonstrates that He is external to it all.

Which brings us around to the reason for our next grand celebration on the calendar. It is the season we dedicate to remembering the point in time when He was both external and internal to time. When He split the universe apart, and He who was/is infinite became finite, He who was/is beyond material became flesh. We recognize how perfection came to be in a world imperfect.

Jeremiah is a calendar watcher. It is important to him to know what tomorrow will bring, what we will do, what we will eat. He is always talking about the next holiday, the next holy day.

The spinning Earth flings the sun across the sky and we move from day to day. On Sundays, the day named after the sun, my family celebrates the Son. On Mondays, the day named after the moon, we celebrate... well, we generally just go to work (whether or not that is a celebration is an individual thing). The days roll along, and the weeks follow.

I have my monthly moon howlin’s, when my brothers in Christ hold each other accountable, ask tough and ask stupid questions. In the absence of our women we scratch ourselves freely and listen to music and talk of things of great and of no import. It is another part of the rhythm of our lives. It is an iron sharpening iron sort of thing.

This marking of calendars, of honoring and celebrating and remembering, of somber reflection and joyful thanksgiving gives us a sense of control that is entirely illusional.

A clerk in the store where Brenda and I were shopping for gifts yesterday asked me how I was. I told him: “old and fat.” We all laughed. But there is the truth there that time is rolling along and my body shape is less like a Greek god and more like a fuzzy pear than I care to admit.

Still, this is a good time of the year. It’s a time to visit family (I have decided not to visit my crazy father this year --though I may go down to watch his latest suicidal bid at immortality in a couple of months). It’s a time to sing homage to when God crept into our world and changed history into His story. It is a time to hug and eat a little too much and snuggle under the covers as the winter chill creeps through the walls.

I mentioned earlier how the tides are strengthened or weakened by where the sun is currently in our lives. I would add that the tides of life are also strengthened or weakened by where the Son is currently in our lives.

Low tide has passed, the waters have returned, and I am joyfully playing in the surf of another day.

Friday, December 15, 2006

10:30 a.m., December 15th, 1992


For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
-- Jeremiah 29:11



Fourteen years ago today I went out with my son to cut down our first Christmas tree together. An hour later he was dead.

What does one do with such memories?

Memories can be awkward things.

That first year after Willy’s death was... beyond describing.

It hurt.

At first there were things I could do. There was the stone for his grave. I picked out my largest piece of petrified wood (I collect fossils) and took it to the only place on the West Coast that had the equipment to properly cut it.

But after setting the stone in place I found it did little to lighten the stone in my heart.

That first year dragged on and on and on. I would wake in the middle of the night and go for walks. I hurt constantly. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. The image of his blue, still face as I awaited the paramedics rolled constantly through my mind, along with all the other images of that day. The cut Christmas tree leaning against the front door, his body lying on the metal table at the hospital, the look on Brenda's face...

It hurt so badly. I cast about for ways to make it stop. There were temptations to do drastic things.

Fourteen years ago today was a very, very, very bad day.

Fourteen years ago tomorrow was also a bad day, along with each day throughout the following year... But there was something else happening fourteen years ago tomorrow that was to change my life.


Fourteen years ago tomorrow two little boys were getting onto an airplane. They had been deeply harmed, but they were headed to the United States on medical visas. A year and a half later to be adopted by a childless couple in a small town in Oregon.

Isn’t that amazing?

While we were waking up to a day without our lovely child, the Lord was moving. He was guiding. He was doing great things, working to heal us, to make our deepest desires, that of raising a family, come true.

Look at me. Sitting here tapping away at this keyboard, getting misty... but honestly, how can I not love my Lord, my God, my Master, when I see how things have always worked out so well? He is faithful. Far more so, infinitely more, so than this weak servant of His.

I have been reflecting lately about a situation that has been going on in my life that I do not feel free to share here. But I can say these few things... It worked out in a miraculous fashion. Experiences meant to shame, humiliate, and hurt, turned into the experiences which gave me skills and recognition and honors.

So... I jot down these random thoughts in this online journal and look awkwardly inward at the memories that hurt me, remade me.

What does one do with such memories?

They are probably tiresome to others (which makes this a convenient place to put them since all any reader need do is click the “back” button to escape).

But they are my memories.

Brenda and I are taking the day off. No running around to take care of business, busyness. We aren’t going to worry about the kids. We aren’t going to do anything in particular. I suppose we will go to the cemetery. I think I might take a picture of his grave and place it here achingly, gently, in this post. We decided to not run away from the meaning of the day, to fill it up with meaningless stupid things. She has scheduled appointments for massages (we have never had professional massages) and just take care of ourselves.

What to do with such awkward memories? I suppose I am doing with them all that I can do. I reflect on how those events led me to where I am, helped shape me into the man I am. I can reflect on how I now see the hand of God working to turn tragedy into a graceful miracle which healed our hearts and rescued two little boys from a terrible situation.

Though the wound has healed, there is still an old scar running across this heart beating within my chest. A scar running the full length of my heart... a heart that beats with a vitality it did not have when I had no children.

This heart beats with a devotion for my God, my Lord, my Master.

How can that be? Some may wonder why I do not curse God for my pains. Job’s wife told her husband he should curse God and die.

But Job understood something she did not.

The Lord God is good.

The sorrows of this world, even such horrors as oceans rising over sleepy villages and wiping hundreds of thousands of lives away, is all a part of living in a world where there is vitality and choice. For this world to work, for it to live, there must be tectonic plates shoving things about, shoving old material into the interior, fueling volcanoes to pump needed gases back into the atmosphere.
For this world to work, there must be freedom to choose, which means there is evil in the world... a dark side.

The wonder of it all is that there is such a good side. That despite the horrors and pains of this world, I see His hand turning lives around, using the very pain of terrible hurts to bring compassion and love to where there was only sorrow and grief.

So... today I cannot escape the awkward memories. And that is ok. It is part of who I am, and it shows what He can do with such sad, hurtful...

...oh such hurtful and sad...

Perhaps I am just a little tired today...

I’ll get back to you folks later...



Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Beautiful, But Not Safe


There are three men missing up on Mount Hood. It happens. There have been a number of people who have become lost on our local mountain, and quite a few have not returned.

There was a phone call from one of them a couple of days ago. He was holed up in a snow cave he had made and the other two had gone off for help. It doesn’t sound good.



Rescue Attempts


As I am writing the light is failing, and a storm is rolling in tomorrow.

A week ago there was sad news about the man who had gone off looking for help after he and his family had been stranded in the coastal range here. After hiking sixteen miles he had died of hypothermia.

It made my heart ache to think about his family, left alone in that cold car while he went looking for help. To think of that four year old, that seven month old, nursing on their mother as he went off into the beautiful wilderness to die cold and alone.

I was watching Larry King Live and he was trotting out the survival pundits. Mr. King said something about how “Or-ee-gawn seems like such a safe place (we pronounce it Ory-gun).”

It isn’t safe at all.

Every year people come to look at our beautiful country. The waterfalls, the rivers and lakes, the snow. Every year many such people die.

I love snow. My favorite time to enjoy it is in the middle of the night. When we get our first real snow of the year I get up during the night, about 2:00 a.m., and go to Molalla River State Park. I jump the gate and walk out through the woods and fields.

Every bit of light seems to be absorbed and reflected back again from the snow. Everything is hushed. It is so beautiful it makes my heart leap, and I naturally fall into an internal place of worship and praise.

It is the kind of beauty that can take ahold of one’s heart and recognize that there is something supernatural within that makes our kind the pinnacle of God’s creation. If my dog is with me, he is scampering and playing and laughing. But he has no appreciation of beauty. That is something for me, not for him.

That sense if enjoyment is what calls to people, pulls them to such places as this. They come to Oregon because it is beautiful. It is pretty and it brings great joy.

But it isn’t safe at all.

There are other places in the world which are also very beautiful. I went to Wyoming last summer. Yellowstone was amazing. The animals, the landscape, the geysers and hot springs. But every year people walk right up to bison and are trampled to death. Every year someone leaves the marked paths and the ground gives way, dropping them into scalding pools.

It isn’t safe.

Every year people go to Alaska to watch bears and other wild life. Folks, the world is not tame. It is not simply pretty. It is beautiful and it is dangerous.

The enjoyment I get from nature is something my Lord has given me. It is something which draws me closer to Him.

It is similar to the joy I feel when I worship in church, when I pray...

When I am in such a frame of mind I feel close to my Lord, my master, and I tremble.

When I was young I did not understand the phrase “fear of God.”

Jesus is my friend. Why should I fear Him? He loves me. He cares for me. There is nothing to fear.

But as I have grown older I have grown more aware of the awesome power of my Lord. It makes me tremble.

When I worship I consider the power of creation (read my post “Soot” for more on that). I see my Lord’s supernatural beauty, the source of wonder which I sense when I see anything of great beauty, like that first fall of snow.

And I consider the awesome power of who He is. And a simple thought occurs to me:

He is good, but He isn’t safe at all.


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All praises to my Lord, my Master!
All praises to the Creator of all things!
All praises to He who knew me before time began,
Who hold me up, gives me strength.
All praises to the one true God!

Use me Lord. Take my life,
Take this life as a living sacrifice.
Tell me what You want of me...

And I will obey.

-- Amen




Saturday, December 09, 2006

My Roboticists


My students have done it again! My four teams of budding roboticists stepped up to the Lego Robotics challenge and did simply amazing work.

There was nervousness. There was tension. There were failures and there were triumphs. In the end, every team got more and more out of their robots and performed well in all four areas of judging (technical [programming & engineering], research [nanotechnology], teamwork, and robot performance).

Two teams won trophies: First Place: Robot Performance, and Runner Director’s Choice.

The Director’s Choice trophy comes with it the prestigious, coveted, long-dreamed of invitation to move their team on to the next level of competition: The State Tournament on January 13th!

I am very pleased with the hard work that these students have done in preparing exceptional research presentations, engineering designs which accomplished so much, and working hard as teams.

Congratulations roboticists!

There were a lot of challenges here. Two of these students I have mentioned before. They all grew a little today and it was a very good thing to watch.

I'm tempted to post pics (they all did sign permission forms), but it just doesn't feel right to do it here (this post already moves quite a bit across the line from personal to professional). So just imagine two photos: a huge group of twenty kids who were able to make it today, and then a picture of a half dozen kids with a trophy held high and huge grins because they are moving on to the next level.

Perhaps this will help:



Well... this post is well past pithy (more like blunt). It does not contain much of the theological, the philosophical, the scientific, or the literary... but it is something sweet none the less!

I love my job!


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Prayer for Jenny

When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. --Deuteronomy 24:19




Bob Cryder went home one year ago today.

We love you Jenny, and pray for you today as your heart swings back to the memory of that day which hurt you so, when Bob’s suffering ended, and your solitary journey began.



Heavenly Father... bless the house of Jenny Cryder this day. As the pain of memories bitter and sweet tug at her today, may she feel You near. Bless my friend, my sister, Lord. Bless their children today, all adults this year, as they continue their journeys into the world. Gift them with strength and warmth and love as they remember Bob. --Amen


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Soot

You can read the short story below, or click this link and hear me read it to you.


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He without name, He with all names, individual and triune, breathed into the void. Below the level of the atom, quarks were sung into being, one dimensional strings, three voices singing a song of creation. Matter came to be.

The watchers, mighty and majestic, powerful and devoted, observed.

Before there was light, the Lord God set the stage. Hot, dark plasma filled all there was, the four dimensions were a seething soup of stripped nuclei.

As it cooled it condensed; the dance began. Hydrogen swirled and eddied and condensed further, pressing upon itself. Under pressure it fused, hydrogen into helium, the fire of fusion burned, stars were born. In the hot pressure within massive stars triple collisions of helium fused into carbon, the sooty source of life.

The giant stars, finished with their meals of hydrogen and helium, exploded in brilliant self immolation, flinging newly formed carbon into the universe. The spinning galaxies, rotating about once every 200 million years, swept the carbon up, soot joining light.

Dusty lanes of soot danced and swirled, flowed and poured into gravity-fed streams, backed into eddies, settled into clumps, became rocks, became worlds. Again compression settled in, the next generation of stars ignited. In their whiter light, they threw off the shroud of soot wrapping newborn worlds. But this time the stuff of life was there, ready for the larger dance to begin.

Darkness clung upon the world, a sooty darkness as pregnant with potential as the primordial darkness of the plasma soup before the birth of stars. Within the darkness The Lord God moved over the face of the deep.

The watchers, powerful forces, powerful beings, watched intently as the dance truly began.

It was the beginning and the Lord God said: “Let there be light,” and The Word went out over the deep, and there was light.

The carbon dropped out of the sky and sunlight filtered through glowering clouds. The moon backlit the sky, illuminating blackened hills, charred mountains.

And it was good.

The Lord God spoke, His Word went out, and it rained. The clouds rolled across the angry skies, seas rolled onto rough beaches. The carbon, swept by angry waves and poured into the depths. Water flowed in seas great and small. Water rolled across the sky.

And it was good.

The Lord God spoke, His Word moved into the world, and carbon formed chains. It made walls, and sugars, and the basics of organic chemistry. It became the stuff of life. Plants swayed in soils of land and sea. Carbon shuffled to the quicker dance of life. From gas to solids, carbon dioxide and cellulose, structures and strength. The soot, born of darkness, and born of light, became the backbone of all living things.

If there had been mortal eyes to see the strangeness of this scene they would have beheld a wonder profound. Immortals drew near. They came to behold ephemeral things, growing in muck, in sludge and soot and mud and clay. Beings of ancient experience watched intently, singing their praise of existence, of simply being, as the Lord God permitted the earth to spin, a tiny mote amidst a wild and violent universe, while green things reached with thin tendrils toward the glowing sky. Suddenly there were flowers and fruit and all sorts of carbon-based life.

And it was good.

The Lord God spoke, His Word moved through the world and another wonder occurred. The skies parted, the air cleared, and the thick shield of clouds was shattered. Brilliant light flooded the earth, throwing abundance where there had been shadow and darkness. The soot was balanced with bright flecks, all the elements of the earth were churned and dragged from the rocks by the pushing, shoving dance of green life. Soil.

Beings who had only known the slow dance of the galaxies creeping along the hidden paths of the universe, watched, fascinated, as The Creator mixed the elements of the world with water and light.

And it was good.

The Lord God spoke, His Word moved through the world, and quick life sprang up. Monsters of the deep, monsters of the land. Smaller versions also sprang up, lifting newly feathered wings to flit in the sunlight. Carbon formed tough, resilient structures, muscle, sinew, blood.

Blood was new, quick, hot. New mixtures to bring caustic oxygen to life. Carbon and water, iron and oxygen. The dance whirled into a faster tempo. Carbon, the ancient soot of dying stars danced ever faster, swinging through cycles of fruit and flesh and exhaled breath. Soot mingled with light, mingled with life. Light and dark... the melody that drove the dance picked up its tempo.

A great chorus arose from the watchers as the wonders of quick nature whirled through the pace of seasons, swinging from life to life, plant and flesh and air and again and again and again.

And it was good.

The Lord God spoke, His Word moved among the earth, and life was gentled. The monsters retreated, and in their vacancies softer animals sprang up. Livestock. Good for a different sort of existence, moved into the fields, ate of the grasses and the fruits.

The chorus paused. A few murmured. What new thing was the Lord God creating? For what purpose should there be creatures designed to be dominated, controlled, herded? Why should there be gentled life?

Two thirds of the great chorus sang on. One third hesitated. A lone voice rose in dissent.

The Lord God spoke.

His Word moved.

A very new thing was created.

Out of the very dust of creation, from the soot of dying stars, the mud of the earth, a man, a woman.

For an eternity the universe stopped. For no time at all and for all time at once the universe swept its awareness toward the speck of spinning dirt, the mote circling a nondescript star, in an outer arm of an ordinary spiral galaxy... light and darkness, eternal and mortal, sinews and spirit, human beings walked with the Lord God in a quiet corner of creation.

The watchers erupted in light beyond the dimensions of reality. Their voices sang of wonder, and a few of anger. A new being was a part of The Kingdom. A new type of creature, one who could choose, was a part of The Grand Community. Humans, capable of choice, capable of sin, were now permitted the opportunity to enter The Kingdom.

The watchers divided, some voices singing in wonder, other voices were singing in pride and anger.

The Lord God, the Spirit of all creation, the Living Word, moved through the universe, moved through time and space, and permitted choice to enter the great dance.

And it was very good.

Carbon discovered new roles in the new dance. It danced with iron, in blood, but now it also danced in tools and weapons. It danced from fruit to man, to air, to tree to fire and air again. It sprang from living thing to living thing. It flowed in blood and sap, it supported leaves and it supported flesh. It fed the whale and livestock and beasts and now beings with eternal souls.

With choices men learned to live for more than the joy of life. They learned to want what others had, possessions, mates, land. They forgot The Kingdom, and strove for kingdoms. Victory and glory and pride became forces which drove ambition.

A third of the watchers gloated, and sang dark, sooty songs of pride, and avarice, and the hatred of souls coupled with flesh.

The carbon danced its frantic dance. It became a part of hundreds of thousands of living things in a single spin of the galaxy. It was a part of the air, and part of trees. It had been in chains with other carbon atoms as lipids, and cellular structures. The pace of the dance was a whirling spin through life, in the air, in the sea, on and in the land.

The Lord God spoke, and The Word moved into the world. What was eternal was now flesh, mortal. As flesh had been raised up to where it could hold a soul, spirit, eternity, eternity had slipped into base reality and clothed itself in flesh.

The miracle was reversed. The Word breathed, ate, drank. The wonder of eternity creating the finite was now that the finite housing eternity. The Word crawled into the world through the womb of a young woman. Mystery beyond words, beyond imagining.

Most of the watchers sang with all the power of their existence at the reversal. The universe itself trembled as the all powerful set aside glory, a wedge of power and light and love slipping into an ever smaller container, a needle slipping into a haystack.

A few watchers howled in frustration. This step of blurring the lines between what is temporal and what is eternal turned their once glorious song to a shrieking roar.

The Word breathed in air, exhaled carbon. The Word consumed and excreted. Eternity took soot within itself, and showing creation the possibility of the divine living within flesh.

The Word moved through a world filled with anger, hatred, hope, and despair. The Word picked fruit, and ran calloused hands over wood with the strength of soot forged in the heart of dying stars.

Carbon that had floated between stars which supported algae under thunderous clouds, had flowed through the veins of monsters, and quickened in the sinews of livestock, the fruit of pomegranates and figs, the waving grains of wheat, now fed God, the Living Word. It had floated from the breath of a king and had been absorbed by a leaf on a dogwood tree before an empire had swept through the land. It had held tight to water and other carbon and supported a small part of a fiber which once guided water to leaves. That wood was cut and dried and shaped.

The Word moved through the lives of ordinary men, ordinary women. People who held souls, sparks from eternity clothed in sooty flesh. People who loved The Lord, and people who loved only themselves. People who loved power and tradition and wealth. People who wanted to kill The Word.

The angry watchers, the shriekers in the dark, whispered to those who hated The Word. And those who loved power and tradition and wealth listened.

He Who had started a good work, He Who had made stars and life, waited patiently as they laid hands on flesh and bone and dragged Him to judgment. He Who had sung creation into being and had forged carbon and sparked life within monsters and men, knelt humbly beneath the whip.

And they dragged Him to that piece of timber, that beam lying in the dirt. Soot of stars, clinging to its neighbors within the fibers of a piece of wood, rested beside God incarnate.

Iron and oxygen, hydrogen and carbon, flowed bright red from pierced hands, flooding the wood. Carbon born in the mind of divinity met with carbon supporting the muscles and sinews of divinity incarnate.

And the universe shuddered.

Reality split. Darkness cried out in the anguish of battle lost. A door opened between the finite and the infinite.

Soot which had flowed between stars, between lives, served now as a part of a crude bridge between Heaven and Hell.

And it was good.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Blidget

My Life had stooda Loaded Gun
In Corners — till a Day
The Owner passed — identified —
And carried Me away —

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods —
And now We hunt the Doe —
And every time I speak for Him —
The Mountains straight reply —

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow —
It is as a Vesuvian face
Has let its pleasure through —

And when at Night — Our good Day done —
I guard My Master's Head —
'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow — to have shared —

To foe of His — I'm deadly foe —
None stir the second time —
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye —
Or an emphatic Thumb —

Though I than He — may longer live
He longer must — than I —
For I have but the power — to kill
Without — the power to die —


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For our 25th anniversary Brenda and I are staying at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon.

It’s a reader’s hotel. No TVs. No cell phones permitted. I suspect that even this laptop would be considered contraband.

Each room is decorated in a style of a particular author. We have stayed in Melville (slanted floor reminiscent of a ship's deck, great view!), Poe (pendulum swinging over bed, bricked up closet with a jester's tassle in mortar, stuffed raven, red and black touches throughout), Hemingway (Gulf of Mexico style white, stuffed trophies), Twain (19th century style, fireplace, balcony), Stevenson (handicap accessible room with maps of pirate coves and crutches in corner), and this time we are in the Emily Dickinson (simple 19th century furnishings).



This sweet recluse wrote beautiful poems that were not entirely appreciated until long, long after she passed away.



The poem above is one I enjoy.

If you look around the internet you might find many essays on it which posits surprising takes on it. Some argue that it is about the Civil War, or the love of a man and a woman, or of a woman and a woman.

Poetry is like that. It is like something someone might hand you, and you are suddenly unsure of how to even hold it. They might even offer you a brief explanation (“That there is a left-handed blidget.”), and you take their word for it, having never handled something like it before.

But for me, the poem above is an obvious reference to the Christian life.

First, like many of her poems, there is a clear indiciator of the spiritual element... it can be sung readily to the melody of “Amazing Grace." Go ahead... try it.

------------------

I believe our lives are without real purpose without the Creator in them. We are like a loaded gun... standing in the corner.

I love how Dickinson used punctuation, grammar, and especially capitalization.

Take a quick peek at which words are capitalized in this poem. They aren’t capitals because of the rules of English. They are capitalized because of their importance.

It just occurred to me that my habit of capitalizing the word “Him” in all my blogposts is because of a habit I may have picked up from her. I capitalize that pronoun to demonstrate how important I feel He is.

I am at His service. And in this world, God Himself has so arranged things that we, you and I, are His hands and feet. He has even decreed that His works will be done because we, you and I, pray. I am ready to “speak for Him” whenever He commands it.

I’m not going to over analyze this poem for several reasons. First, I feel I may have imposed upon you already, dear reader, in dragging you thus far into literary criticism when normally you visit just to check on how I am doing lately. But more importantly, I think poems, like most left-handed blidgets, is best understood by the person handling it, and not the person handing it.

So, back to snuggling with the wife... enjoying a little peace and quite on this weekend which marks half my life spent with someone I still dearly love.




Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Twenty-Five to Life



Twenty-five years ago today I stood in my father’s backyard in a borrowed suit and stammered out the words “I do.”

I said the words passionately, seriously. I meant them. It was the most serious sort of statement I can make. A vow.

This year I marked my 50th birthday, and as of today I have spent one half of those years with my beautiful wife, Brenda.

I was a very different guy then. I knew everything. Typical 25 year old.

I don't know everything anymore. In fact, it is amazing the immensity of my ignorance. But that is part of the fun, isn't it? Trying to drink the ocean with a teaspoon.

But back then I was pretty sure of myself.

We had been living in the small hamlet of Timber, Oregon, up in the coastal range, along the Nehalem River. Money was tight, there was very little work to be found. I did odd jobs, cooked in a local cafe, raised animals.

We did silly things then to make ends meet. There were rabbits for food, chickens for eggs (and the occasional soup), goats for milk. I had a small garden. I was an ineffectual hunter and gatherer. I was raising a goose for a special occasion, which turned out to be our wedding day. Like a couple of hicks we packed our clothes in some old suitcases and a backpack from my hitchhiking days and flew a thousand miles to be with my family (since my dad was footing the bill). I even took along the dressed goose as my contribution.

We’ve been through quite a bit. A long road. It isn’t the distance that wears these old vehicles out. It’s the terrain.

But it really hasn’t been so long in many ways. The years fly by, ever more quickly.

The dozen years we’ve had these boys seems to have sped right by.

“Until death us do part...”

A lifetime with one person is increasingly rare today. My father’s fifth marriage is ending. Brenda’s dad has been married four times.

I’ll admit that there were times when I thought we weren’t going to make it. Marriage is a difficult endeavor. But it has been worth it.

Today we finish each other’s thoughts. A few weeks ago, in response to something one of our kids said at the table, we said three short sentences in unison. We think that much alike.

So it is twenty-five years down, and the rest of my life to go.

But then it ends. Jesus said something about not being married in Heaven (Matthew 22:30).

Then we will have different lives to live. Eternal ones. And twenty-five years will seem a very small thing.

Just as I seriously swore to love only one woman until we are parted by death, I have sworn to love only one God, and that vow stretches beyond the grave.

Some may see marriage as some sort of prison sentence, lack of freedom, lack of choices. But for me it is a gift.

I’m glad that I have received “twenty-five to life.”

I love you Brenda.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sweet Potatoes

“Mr. Servant! You want to eat with Taylor and me?”

“Sure, Travis. I’d love to.”

Truthfully, it had been a hectic day, shuttling kids to the Canby Depot Museum for my Virtual Museum project, and I really wanted to get a little adult company.

He led me over to a table in the corner of the cafeteria. This kid has changed so much in the few weeks I have known him. The first time he was in my class he openly challenged me.

Some kids are like that. They come in snarling and spitting. I’ve learned to keep notes to document these problems. It comes in handy to have such a record if things get worse, or to examine the needs of a specific child.

“Travis” has come a long way. Initially he refused to do any of the work expected of him in the robotics class. But he has moved from insolence and refusals, to working independently, to finally contributing to his robotics team.

He is on one of my four “Tournament Teams.” This means that his team will compete in a local robotics tournament in December (there are ten teams not going).

His assignments are all turned in and he is earning an A-.

His tray had a slice of pizza, jello, chocolate milk, and tater tots.

My tray had the traditional nod to Thanksgiving: turkey gravy over mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and yams with marshmallow sauce.

I smiled at “Taylor” and asked if I could sit down. He is also in my robotics class, but hardly ever talks. He nodded.

Travis has turned into a real talker. Between wolfing down the jello and chugging the chocolate milk he looked over what was on my tray.

“I didn’t see the sweet potatoes! I love sweet potatoes! I really like the marshmallows!"

He began talking about his life. How Taylor was another foster kid like him. How at the foster home the three miniature pinschers have such different personalities. How he calls his foster parents “Mom and Dad” even though they aren’t. How he was beaten with a curtain rod, and how his mom is in jail for something she didn’t do.

I listened carefully, taking it all with a grain of salt.

He asked about our home. I told him a little.

His eyes grew large when I told him about my two adopted boys.

“Adopt me! Adopt me!”

I looked into his begging eyes. Taylor’s eyes had also grown suddenly sharp.

“I don’t take much space. I’ll sleep anywhere. I can sleep in the living room!”

A part of me wants to say “yes.” Every child should have someone to love them, to parent them.

But I don’t take on such jobs unless I can do my best at it. My small house hasn’t room for another child. I already have two children who require a great deal of love, energy, and prayers. I am not the man to be this child's father.

He moved on to how he is enrolled in the Big Brother program, how they are looking for a guy who likes to do the things he likes to do and will take him places and do lots of fun things.

The boy needs a dad. Someone in his life who loves him.

Every child does.

My dad called me the other night.

He was getting ready to go have breakfast in the village below his rented bungalow.

He wants me to come down to see him this Christmas season.

I haven’t decided yet.

I don’t think he will be around a year from now.

He is planning on doing something... stupid? Foolish? Adventurous? The adjective depends on the point of view.

He is spending about $150,000 on a motorcycle.

It is a custom job of course. A bike designed for only one person to ever ride. And only for one day of riding. Its 400 horse engine will suck two gallons of nitro fuel in a mile and a third. He wants to set a couple of world records on it at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

He is turning 70 in May. I know that in his heart he is thinking that he willl finally be "old." From his point of view it would be better to get smeared along the salt flats attempting a world record than... well, rather than turning 70.

Meanwhile he is living in my sister’s old house (she died a couple of years ago, a sad tale of selfish desperation), next to his grand house. He doesn’t sleep at home anymore, ever since he took up with the maid. But I don’t hear much about that maid who arrives to clean people's houses in the new Mercedes he bought her. I think he has a new girlfriend in that bungalow in southern Thailand.

I make plenty of mistakes as a parent.

My father did.

I wish every kid could have all the love and guidance they need, they deserve.

We thought once we were pregnant. But a tubal pregnancy is a danger-filled let down that leaves a bitter taste after the surgeries are over.

We adopted a child, took him home when he was less than a day old. But that ended sadly.

We adopted two more, and that has been an adventure.

I look at the job my parents failed to do, and I see my own imperfections, and I look at these other children who so desperately want to have any sort of parents, and it makes me sad.

I recognize this is a fallen world and imperfection is how it is defined. I wish it could be different, better.

Whether or not I go see my own father this winter, this perhaps last chance to talk together, is really a side issue. I don’t know if I can afford it. I don’t know if it is wise.

I just know that the tension I feel when I speak with him is echoed in the tension I feel thinking how I want to do my best in raising my kids, which echoes the tension I see in the eyes of the child in the cafeteria when I slide my tray over to him so he can eat the sweet potatoes with marshmallow sauce.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Just for Laughs

I'm juggling a lot of things, and have not been posting as much on this blog as I like (but my professional blog is up to date!).

I like to tease my friend and colleague across the hall, so I sent him this email this afternoon. He says he never laughed so hard. So I took a screen shot of it and am posting it for y'all.



(Click to Enlarge)


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Dreading, Bitter and Sweet

Bitter and sweet.

Life is bitter and sweet.

Isaac turned 16 this week, so I am sitting in Barberama, a beauty parlor in Portland.

He is getting dread locks.

As I watch, “Chainsaw Mary” is working away on his hair...

(Click pics to enlarge)

...while Jeremiah and Grandma are looking at his yearbook...


and Mommy is gushing over the resident dog, Marley.



It is kind of sweet.

My friend, my pastor, led a great service this morning. It was on Mark 5, the story of Jairus’ daughter.

He talked about how we need to be desperate. In desperation we seek God. He spoke of Jarius’ desperation to save his dying daughter. He spoke about what it is like to hear the words: “She is dead.”

He said some of us have been told such words.

I’m one of them.

I heard those words at Willamette Falls Hospital. I’ve been led to a stainless steel table to see my child lying naked and alone.

I had already known he was dead. I held his lifeless body at the end of the driveway on that December day nearly fourteen years ago.

My friend was speaking about how desperate times can drive us to pray, drive us to God. My mind, and then my heart, went to that memory, still a sharp thing in my heart, and the tears were suddenly rolling down my cheeks. My wife squeezed my hand.

It is kind of bitter.

So I’m in this reflective mood in a strange setting, tapping away at my laptop. I’m floating within this strange mood, within this pounding music and the smell of hair products. People drift in and out. Purple hair, dreads, conservative and wild. Women with their boyfriends. Women with their girlfriends. People who would not fit in well at church.

This is life.

Tiny Ridley Knox scampers from his owner, leaping on my chest, giving me kisses.



Bitter and sweet.

My son will be an adult in a couple of years. Getting dreads is a step toward finding his own way, his own style. (I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I know I grew my hair pretty long in the 70s and that annoyed quite a few adults.)

He wants friends so much. He wants to stand out. He wants to fit in. He doesn’t know what he wants.

He wants dreads.

So, today I am dreading. Or rather, Chainsaw Mary is. I’m just paying the tab (well, half of it, he is paying the other half).


I love him. He is growing up and will soon be on his own, the day all parents look forward to, and dread. Bitter and sweet.

A bitter taste is usually an indication of something alkaline, perhaps poisonous.

I’ve tasted a lot of bitter things... the day my dad tried to kill my brother and I... getting fired from a job I loved... my son burning down our church...Willy’s death.

Such bitter experiences make sweet things sweeter.

They also make us desperate.

I think desperation can be a good thing. This morning, during worship, I felt the drawing near of the Holy Spirit. It makes me desperate for more.

I’ve given a lot of thought to the spiritual health of our church. There are many indicators of change... that we are doing more than rebuilding our physical church, we are rebuilding our spiritual body as well.

Bitter things can lead to sweet things.

I think my pastor is right. The bitter cup of my child’s death was a draft that purged much of the nonsense in my life. The bitter cups bring me to my knees, poisons that make me sick enough to vomit up the sickness within.


So even when life is sweet, the bitter aftertaste can return. It is a good thing. It reminds me I am fallible...

...and why I remain desperate for Him.



Friday, November 03, 2006

Big Place

I'm dashing this post off in a hurry. Busyness still has me in her maw.

But two things have come together to prompt me to pause for a moment and sit down at this keyboard and tap out a quick post.

The first is a part of a conversation from this morning. Actually two conversations, because I quoted myself in the second conversation from the first.

I have found myself involved in examining prayer within our church. I have had quite a few meetings with various folks, and something has been whispering to me that the prayer in our church needs to change. The status quo isn't good enough.

In that first post-prompting event today we were talking about the fear and joy in drawing close to God. I was saying something about how I often think about the science of things, especially the size of the universe and the mysteries of quantum mechanics. That in understanding the size of the universe I know intimately my own place in it, and it makes me tremble.

I don't understand how anyone can believe in a creator and not stop and consider the implications of who He is. And in thinking about Him, I tremble.

I know He loves me. I know that He is a being of community, by nature three. I know that He loves me deeply and invites me to join Him in that community.

I said something this morning about the size of the universe, and the joy and fear I have found of late in worship.

This was in the context of a conversation about how people can be unhappy with the choice of music performed by the worship team, or do not like the way someone else is dressed, or object all sorts of things that sound like they are more concerned about how they are right than they are about loving others.

The second thing that happened was just a few moments ago. I checked my blog and found a new comment from my friend Justin:

Hey Will,
Check out this link.
http://www.pistolwimp.com/media/53235/
Until I read the end credits, I was convinced this was you with a cold:-)


I was surprised myself. The first image is pretty familiar to me, and to any of you who are familiar with me. But the similarities are much deeper than that blog pic of mine. The voice is a little like mine, but the topic! It is one that I am not only familiar with, but could have written myself. Even the writing style is much like my own. There are even many editing techniques that I routinely use in my own video. It is a little eerie to meet your digital clone.

Though the video does not directly make a theological connection, the connection is easy enough to make.

If you can be patient enough for the download and to watch the six and a half minute video you might be as surprised as JH and I have been.

Thanks Justin!



Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My Not So Secret Identity

Hi folks!

I'm still as busy as a one armed paper hanger, but I thought I'd drop a quick note here to say "Hi!"

Tonight and tomorrow night are conferences, so I will be working late. Friday is a day off, but I have scheduled three hours in our prayer room and have one meeting to attend. All good stuff though.

I thought I'd share another piece of my life with you.

You know me as Curious Servant. This nom de plume is perfect for the internet, describes me pretty well, and shields my "real" self from those out there.

But I have always been pretty transparent and open, so I thought I would permit you, my dear readers, to know a little more about the "real" me.

So I am inviting you to visit my professional blog which I have just restarted for the new school year. Please do not leave any reference to this blog, Job's Tale, there as I will be forced to delete it. I must keep the spiritual aspect of my life separate from my professional one. However, I can talk about my professional life
here all I wish.

You can pretend to be a parent if you want!

So here it is:

Curious Servant's Alter Ego blog

Friday, October 27, 2006

Busyness

I got my glasses back today. Whew! I missed them! I made it through the last week or so with a seven-year-old prescription. The other day I was eating in the cafeteria (I often eat there to be among the kids) when a 7th grader walked in...

“I wonder why she is wearing sunglasses...”

As she drew near I realized she had applied her mascara a touch thick.

Golly, I missed those glasses.

So the ol’ (new) trifocals are perched atop the ol’ nose and I have returned to the blogosphere (you know... I don’t think I like that word after all).

-----------------------

But the lack of glasses did not prevent me from blogging. (Though it made reading small print ridiculously difficult... try reading a teenager’s devotional with a tiny magnifying glass some time for a strange experience.)

The truth is I am busy. Really busy.

Now I’m not complaining, just explaining. All of this is my doing. Here’s “The List”:

Six classes in five periods (the sixth graders get only a half of a period).

The Canby Virtual Museum --130 7th graders herded in the general direction of producing approximately 60 internet exhibits on the history of our fine city. So many connections to make between students and resources!!!

Lego Robotics -- Four, yes four, teams of middle schoolers creating, programming, researching, and celebrating (arguing?) their way to the local tournament in December.

The Ackerman Television Studio --a technological wonder of used and hopefully new equipment where students will be able to recreate any scene from anywhere in space and time with their own green screen editing studio built in a storage room and (hopefully) funded with generous donations and grants (cross my fingers).

The Lord’s Prayer --I’m still working on that large painting for my church.

AMS TV --I’m the executive producer of a weekly television show created by a cute bunch of cherubs.

And of course... Dad, hubby, home owner, voter, and friend.

I’m told that I do too much. That I take on too much. There are always small side projects... the video for Randy’s brother’s 50th birthday, the taping of Tammy’s dad’s retirement party, making this, writing that.

I don’t think I am that different. Our culture loves to run at top speed. We make a real effort at going as fast as we can.

One I first started estimating demolition and earth moving, circa 1985, no one was concerned about an estimate coming in the mail in a week. Then came the fax machine. With a year or so the bids had to be in that afternoon. When the computer finally came into its own it wasn’t about making things easier. It was all about efficiency and speed. “Do more in less time.” The mantra of the information age.

So I rush to work... I rush through the day... a long day (10-12 hours)... I rush home.

It isn’t supposed to be this way.

Did you know that hunter gatherers have the greatest amount of leisure time of any form of society? They do a little hunting every few days. They pick berries, mash some yams. They nap a lot.

We were designed to fit into the world in a simple way, a casual way.

We should be spending a lot more time watching the clouds drift across the heavens. We should be spending a lot more time looking at the heavens. We should be spending a lot more time looking at Heaven.

Heavenly Father... I love You. I want to be Your servant. But Lord, I could be a better servant, I could love You more fully, if I spent more time watching sheep...


My friend has returned from Africa. In that land of poverty and misery. He had many stories to tell. I am so impressed by their devotion to faith and the richness of their lives.

They pray.

It is almost embarrassing to say that our church has been an answer to their prayers. It is embarrassing because what we have given is so small, hardly noticeable, but it has enriched them.

We send the Sesay family of Lungi $250 a month. Asmall amount of money for a congregation of over 300 people.

PARDON ME... I need to interupt this post.

I started this post two days ago and I have not finished it because I am so busy. There are even more things going on than mentioned above.

I feel guilty for some weird reason that I have not been posting regularly... That somehow I have an obligation to keep up to date on this online journal.

The direction I was headed with the post was some philosophical/theological point about busyness and spirituality. I could push on with that... but I won’t.

I love all of you. Many of you I wish I could meet in person, squeeze your hands, look you in the eyes. But this is just a little journal of mine and hasn’t any real value I suppose.

I’m not quitting it, you understand. I just don’t feel like finishing this post. There are some things on my mind, on my heart, and on my plate.

I feel like writing a different post, but I’m pretty sure I can’t get to it today, probably not tomorrow.

So... I’m going to just stuff this message into this bloggish bottle and throw it out into the internet sea.

I’ll get back to you soon.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rough World, Tender Hearts

The world is a very rough place.

Today, somewhere, probably not so far away, a young girl’s innocence is stolen.

Somewhere, probably much nearer, a man betrayed the solemn promise he made.

Somewhere a man doesn’t understand why he hates his body, why he feels trapped inside it, why he wants to be a woman. He thinks God has played a terrible joke on him and he hates his life.

Somewhere a woman is filling her life with a string of sexual partners, attempting to convince herself she is loved.

Somewhere a child is wondering why the soldiers dragged her parents away.

Everyday atrocities are happening beyond description, beyond my imagination.

The world is frustrated, angry, rushed, grieving, longing, lonely, lustful, resentful, depressed, and simply dying inside.

It isn’t surprising so many people question the existence of God.

Not a cheerful topic. I’m in a cheerful mood though. It has been a great week. I have been challenged at work, I am tired, in a very good way. My marriage is good. My kids are fine. I am working harder than ever and am loving my life. But I’m mindful of those who are hurting.

I wish more could know peace.

Their frustrations and disappointments, pain and shame, seem beyond their control. They assume the control of these terrible things are in His hands.

“He holds the whole world in His hands...” But He has leased it out to us, and given us one Hell of a landlord. More accurately, a landlord from Hell.

But remember, the free will we have been given is augmented by the power of prayer, prayer can move the hand of God. An amazing thought. The Lord of all, the Creator, has arranged the universe that He permits us to use His power.

My friend is in a land of tears. He and another are rolling along a potholed road in the mountains of western Africa. The medical supplies they carry will bring welcome relief for many who suffer. But it is a small drop of water in a very thirsty place.

I took two semesters of African history. It is a sad tale of colonialism, imperialism, and greed. It can be tiresome learning what the French did to Africa. What the British did. What the Dutch did. What slavery, poverty, and disease did. What coffee growers and soap makers and dealers in precious metals and gems did to Africa.

My friend is taking glasses of cool water to thirsty people, and seeking ways to bring them more.

It does not replace the arms of children hacked off with the machetes of ethnic hate. And it does not restore home and family to those who have lost both.

But it does demonstrate, to a few, that there is love in the world.

Readers of the Book of Job are usually searching for answers to why people suffer. It’s a tough question. They sometimes think that Job will answer that question. But in the end, God never tells job the why of it all.

I think the book isn’t about such questions. I think it is about how we are to live in the face of tragedy.

The world rolls on, and those in deep grief look on in horror as it does. The sun rises and the world blithely goes about its business, callously ignoring the breaking tender heart.

The owner of a breaking heart might wonder if there is a God. If He is cruel or uncaring.

Suffering is part and parcel with free will.

So is salvation.

That drink of cool water my friend is taking to Africa is really about love. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

The pains of Job are relived every day, all over this rolling ball of dirt.

What an awful, hideous, festering realm of sorrow.

My life is good right now. I love my job. I love my family. I really love my wife. I am happy to follow my Lord.

I recognize the world is filled with sorrow. I also recognize there is joy in offering a glass of water.

So tonight my friend is walking under African skies, gazing at stars I have never seen.

It is a joy to bring water to those who thirst. To provide a glimmer, a dim reflection of the blinding love which sorrows with us. The love which gazes in compassion and grief at our choices, the ones which lead us to choose evil.

If you are in pain. If you are aching and weary. Let me know. I am eager to pray for you. It would be my honor to offer you a cup of water.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Mercy

Note: This post is just a little prayer, a heartfelt accompaniment to a piece of music: “Mercy Now” by Mary Gauthier

Heavenly Father... I love You Lord. You are the center of everything, and I am Yours. Bid me, I will obey.

Lord, my heart is full. I am thinking of people important to me, and people I have not met. Lord, there is so much pain in our world, and I would like to lift them up to You. I hope, I pray, that You will bless them. Bless them with heats willing to change, soften their hard hearts, heal their broken hearts.

My father could use a little mercy now
The fruits of his labor
Fall and rot slowly on the ground
His work is almost over
It won't be long and he won't be around
I love my father, and he could use some mercy now


Bless my father, Lord. He has heard the truth, but he clings to the pile of things he has claimed. He is proud of the work of his hands. But those he has loved have fallen away. The motorcycles, the cars, the heavy equipment, the houses, the girlfriends, all of the things that he has grasped in searching for meaning mean so very little. Please Lord, help this rich man become humble, this man of things and actions become a man of obedience and spiritual growth. Draw him close to You my Lord. Send to him people to say words that he can hear.

My brother could use a little mercy now
He's a stranger to freedom
He's shackled to his fears and doubts
The pain that he lives in is
Almost more than living will allow
I love my bother, and he could use some mercy now


Bless my brothers Lord. My brothers and sisters who wander this world, hurt, confused, fearful. Bless those I have come to know through the internet, the bloggers who live with the scars of abuse, and broken marriages, and addictions, and the confusion of not knowing love. Bless my fellow humans. We are all so fearful, and we can use Your mercy.

My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit
That's going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful
Who follow them down
I love my church and country, and they could use some mercy now

Bless The Church Lord. Bless my country Lord. Forgive us for our sins, for using authority in ways which do not honor you. Forgive us for actions which lack love, lack compassion. Bless my Church, Your Church. Bless this country Lord. Help it to move from being a “Christian” nation in the way it is a “western” nation. Help us to move from the lip service of being Christian. Move us to be Christ Followers. Help us to hold true to ideals which reflect our desire to obey Your commandments to love each other and love you.

Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race
Towards another mushroom cloud
People in power, well
They'll do anything to keep their crown
I love life, and life itself could use some mercy now


Lord You know my fears. I lift up North Korea to You Lord. I pray for that region and beg You to help us step away from paths that lead to destruction. Lord I pray for India and Pakistan. Please send Your Spirit there, help those antagonistic neighbors to learn to resolve their differences. Lord I pray for the weak areas of Russia, the places where there are few guards, and few securities guarding the awful weapons of the Cold War. Lord I pray that Your grace and Mercy be poured out on us. Grant us the wisdom to step back from the dangerous toys we have created. Touch those who rule, especially those who rule with fear and hatred and anger and jealousy. Help them find fresh eyes to view their people and the world.

Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don't deserve it
But we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance
Dangle 'tween hell and hallowed ground
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now


Lord... bless us all. Thank you for Your gift of Jesus, Your only son. Grant us the mercy to spread that word of joy and salvation and redemption.

Bless us Lord.

Every single one of us could use some mercy now.

Amen.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

25 Years



Next month is our 25th anniversary. I’m pretty excited about it.

We are going to a hotel in Newport that caters to readers. It’s called the Sylvia Beach Inn (named after the writer, not a beach), Each room is dedicated to an author and is decorated in a style reflecting that author’s life, and has many of their books. There are rooms dedicated to Mark Twain, Hemmingway, Melville, Poe (creepy!), Seuss (children’s room of course), Stevenson, and many more (check out the site!).

It isn’t often we get away for a couple of days alone. But a quarter of a century together deserves a special recognition.

I met her on leap year day, 1980. We married about a year and a half later.

The moment we met our eyes locked. We stood looking at each other, feeling a connection, something special. It made her boyfriend, who had brought her over to my house, more than a little nervous.

I offered to teach her the game of chess. The next morning I noticed her passing by my house (it was only her fourth time sauntering by) and invited her in.

What a heady emotion: falling in love. It is an all-consuming madness that robs one of sleep and rational thought.

Now 25 years have passed since that afternoon we exchanged our vows in my dad’s backyard and I love her more than ever. We think alike, we communicate better (not perfectly, but better).

We have recently begun answer questions in conversations with the exact same words at the same time. It is a little freaky.

She worries about the wrinkles, a natural thing for a woman I suppose. But I find her more beautiful than ever before.

She is my partner. She is my mate.

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When I first became a Christian I was infatuated with the movement of The Spirit in my life. It was the time known as the Jesus Movement, and we were derogatorily referred to as Jesus Freaks. But it was all joy to me.

I met each week with some other teens in an old garage. We sang songs, read scripture, gathered pamphlets, and went out witnessing together.

That passion faded a little as I experimented in eastern philosophies, and came down with a sever case of wanderlust.

But the love of my Lord never left.

Strange. It seems that in returning to faithfully following of the paths of the Shepherd, I have had many sorrows. But He has remained true to me in ways I cannot easily explain to my ever so rational friends, the ones who love science so much.

None the less, I find myself loving my Lord in ways that are new to me.

Lately I have found my passion for God increasing to a point where I truly do not care what others may think.

A few weeks ago there was a concert in the central park of our town where I worshipped openly, not caring who might see me. This goes against the grain for someone who is fairly well known in this community of 12,000 people. I have taught thousands of children in the local middle school. But I didn’t care. This is who I am.

A couple of weeks ago we had a special worship service at church and again I felt freedom to worship, to be as open in my devotion to God as I am in revealing who I am in this little online journal.

And then this morning. I went to the church unsure what would take place. Our pastor, my friend, is walking under African skies as he and another friend take medicine to a people group our church sponsors in Guinea. I always go early to pray with and for those who participate in our Sunday services... and this morning I felt so close to what was going on. I didn’t have any real part in the service. I led no prayers, shared no announcements, made no videos. But the spirit moved within me.

And I found myself, worshipping with eyes closed as usual, so passionate about my Lord that I began to dance.

Isn’t that an amazing image?! A fifty year old, 225 pound man dancing and bowing, his mind singularly focused on the divine. The world fell away.

He is my creator. My master.


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I am a long ways from 20 years old.

That is a very good thing.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Reading a little Scripture


I teach technology. It’s a great job. I didn’t want to teach technology. I wanted to teach English.

I love to read. I love to write. (This blog is pushing 80,000 words!)

I took many courses in literature and writing. Poetry, prose, speeches. Research writing and creative writing. Linguistics and language development. American lit, British Lit, Medieval Lit. Oral literature, speculative literature, the Bible as Literature.

The earliest memories I have of the Bible is the large black family tome on a shelf, and the one on my mother’s lap. At that age it was a mysterious object of ancient wisdom.

Other Bibles came and went.

There was a children’s Bible, full of cute pictures of animals and heroic deeds. I don’t remember any dark passages about seductions and murder, rape and pillaging. Perhaps they were cleaned up for the small of stature and tender of heart.

There was the Bible I had as a teen. The one which garnered me a gentle admonishment from a passing adult at church when he saw me sitting on it while I waited for my mother and stepfather to pick us up.

There was Good News for Modern Man, my high school (New Testament) Bible. That was the first Bible I read voraciously. 1972. Good year. I was a freak. A Jesus Freak.

Right after high school was the time I moved into a small sandstone cave to get some peace and quiet while I tried to understand what God was all about. I had a King James Bible with me then. Along with a copy of The Bhagavad Gita, The Upanishad, The Katopanishad, Patangali’s How to know God, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, The Koran, The Book of Mormon, Sayings of the Buddha, Mao’s Red Book, The Lost Books of Eden, The Book of the Hopi, Journey to Ixtlan, and Euell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus (a guy has gotta eat). I stayed there until I read them all, nearly three months working though a dozen large candles and really needing a good bath (the creek could only provide so much).

All that reading left me confused and sent me on a side journey from the path I should have taken. But it did give me an appreciation of the beauty of the English language at the time of King James. The English language was never more beautiful.

The course I took on Oral literature (given by a very sweet, very kindly and gentle soul who was the worst lecturer of all time) dovetailed surprisingly well into the course on the Bible as literature (given by another sweet, if chain-smoking and slightly odd soul). The Bible for that course was the Oxford Bible.

It’s a good Bible, even if some believers are a little suspicious of it. It is edited by a series of great scholars who did their very best to understand the context of the books and carefully translate their words into the closest literal meanings of modern English. I still use this Bible. It is my primary source of personal reading.

I bought a copy of The Bishop’s Bible and used it for research (it is the version Shakespeare probably used), and finally gave it to my pastor as a gift. (I enjoyed that one a great deal.)

For my blog I usually use the online version of The New Intenational Version found at Bible Gateway.

This is just my life. Lots of Bibles. All for different purposes, different times, different seasons of my life. I have books to help me interpret them, and understand them, and see them in new lights. I have The Jerusalem Bible, and Asimov’s Guide to the Bible. I have The Testimony of the Evangelists (by Simon Greenleaf!), and The Amplified Bible. I have so many books on it that it would be a tedious and unfair list to place here.

So many Bibles. Does the quantity and variety of all of them make us complacent about their value? Perhaps a little. I think I take it for granted.

I read them in many ways also. I read them for inspiration. I read them for answers. I read them as a duty, and I read them as tools for writing.

I enjoy reading them as literature, noting the clever phrase, the subtle humor, the context of authors and how they reflect the changing world view of human history.

I have grown through a myriad of ways to read and interpret them. And the strange thing is, with all of the reading I have done, there is once again a simple truth about how I view scripture.

For me, even today, it is still a mysterious object of ancient wisdom.