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Only words?

wordsI am thankful for many things. This Thanksgiving I am particularly thankful  that over the years I have encountered many men & women who were able to “speak to my condition.” There have been many. Some names I recall, others I don’t but here are a few…(first names only so as to protect the identity of the innocent)

Ruth
Paul
Anton
Joe
Sammy
Al
Charles
Gary
Hobart
Leon
Steve
Don
Ken
Gary
John
Jim
Steve
Josimar

 Your words were important but more so your presence. God worked through you to give me encouragement, life and hope especially when I felt I had little to offer or little faith. I try to pass the blessing on.

“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the taste and healing for the body.”          Proverbs 16:24

Considering God’s Mercy

mercy-grace

“All the world tastes of the Lord’s sparing mercy, those who hear the gospel partake of his inviting mercy, the saints live by his saving mercy, are preserved by his upholding mercy, are cheered by his consoling mercy and will enter heaven through his infinite and everlasting mercy”

Charles Spurgeon – Psalm 103: 8

 

 

Samurai Sault?

john-belushi-samurai-square

Chippewa County Sheriff Deputies assisted Sault Tribal Police with a Friday complaint after a man with a samurai sword threatened patrons at a local house of gaming. The matter was apparently triggered by the man’s belief that Nazis were at that location.  Authorities eventually overpowered & arrested the 66 year old man without incident.
Life in da Soo…

Should Only Governments Have Vehicles of Mass Destruction?

satire-warning

A new anti-weapons lobby group called “Only Governments Should Have Weapons” issued a statement concerning the car attack on the Capitol on Thursday – “once again we are faced with the attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction against innocent people. We call on all leaders and law enforcement officials to work to enact licensing of these dangerous weapons before more people are killed. Furthermore, we want to see owners of these lethal weapons licensed as well including background checks along with the obligation of having liability insurance. These innocent looking vehicles are actually a steel & gasoline disaster waiting to happen and a threat to civil peace when hurtling along at 60 plus mph by deranged drivers. It is the height of irresponsibility that the manufacturers of these dangerous weapons continue to profit at the public’s expense. How long must these incidents happen and the toll in loss of life go on before action is taken?”

car

When the spokeswoman was informed that these measures had already been taken the organization had no comment except to repeat the statement with a louder volume and more shrill voice.

Harry Truman's The Buck Stops Here Sign

Wouldn’t it be nice  to have leaders that practiced it instead of passing it!

Mr. Bumbleworth Ponders…

statesman

I come across church ads that boast of their “authentic worship” –

In distinction to what  – “inauthentic worship” ?

And how is that defined?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Through the Storm

He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.
He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.
He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it.
He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness.
The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke.
By his power he churned up the sea; by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces.
By his breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the gliding serpent.
And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him!
Who then can understand the thunder of his power?
Job 26:7-14

tree

A tree in our front yard came down the other night during a storm. We heard a crash and then the power went out. We looked out the windows and all we could see were tree branches. We knew our two vans were underneath but could not see anything except the back of them and the downed power line. One van (vintage 1995) took the brunt of the tree’s weight which crunched the windshield, driver side door & frame. Since it’s so old its probable time for the junk yard. The other van had some crunches in the roof and luggage rack, a broken windshield and smashed side mirror. There was no damage to the house except a hole in a screen from a branch and a loose piece of siding when the power line was pulled down. For the size of the tree it could have been much worse! It seems the tree had very little root system and the soil underneath was very saturated with water which may have loosened what little was holding it down.

I usually do not react well to things breaking, busting or being damaged but this time was different and I’m not sure why. The damage on the van is fixable and the yard seems more open without the tree I never liked and was home for the birds that liked to spoil a good car wash with a direct hit. Today, many in the church openly mock or deny the truth of God’ sovereingty and omniscience.  However,  I have a sense of the hand of God protecting us through it all because a few inches in a different direction would have meant more serious damage. If not a sparrow falls without the Father’s knowledge then I’m fairly certain it’s also true for trees as well. For that I am thankful.

Before & After…

I was told I needed to do something about the lawn & yard…

lawn

Guess I overdid it…again

dry-desert-wasteland

Out of Step

fox trot

My first official dance lesson was a rite of passage as well as part of 1970’s grade school tradition. It was exciting as well as scary – the female of the species seemed to have lost their “cooties” and taken on a strange alluring, magnetic attraction. Our teachers acting as chaperons kept a close eye on the proximity of our hormone laden bodies that seemed to have the instability of nitroglycerin. The awkwardness of physical contact eased after repeated attempts to get in step with the instructions of the teacher & the rhythm of the music, eventually, 2 pairs of adolescent feet found an uneasy synchronized pattern. Missteps and falling out of step were often but given the simplicity of the Foxtrot getting back in step was easy along with an awkward smile. After time, the fox trot became routine, the watchfulness of the chaperons relaxed, and as music changed keeping in step gave way to circulating in proximate orbits of movement.

Keeping in step was easy for the fox trot but it has rarely been so for me in regards to anything else. Bandwagons have had little appeal. I tended to be the one who in the midst of a wave of group think raised his hand and asked “but what about…?” which is usually as popular as a skunk at a picnic. Having tried to be an institutional, denominational pastor for over 20 years still hasn’t changed me that much. Movements, revolutions and reformations run out of steam, money or hype. As it seems to have turned out most of us were not history makers or nations changers. Having tried to pastor for over 20 years still hasn’t changed me that much. I still let ecclesiastical bandwagons pass me by – these days they look all too familiar – recycled with a fresh coat of paint that doesn’t look like it will hold out under the bright sunlight or a heavy rain. I’ve seen this part of the parade before and it usually leads to the same end – distracting detours, deceptive dead ends and doctrinal disasters.

 room-for-jesus

As far as I can tell, Jesus was never concerned about dancing to the tune of his generation. When it comes to faith, it’s easy to get side tracked. Peyton Jones, in his book “Church Zero” calls the mistaken priorities of the church as a dance with 5 easy steps:

1) Get more people

2) More people = more money

3) More money = more toys

4) More toys = More ways to get more people

5) Get more people (rinse & repeat)

That’s like replacing an entirely different dance with different steps – you end up a tangle of feet or dancing alone. However, there are a few things I recall from my early dancing days that correspond with which tune church dances to today and the missteps that are possible:

1) It’s not about the building – Dance lessons were not in a mirror lined studio with polished wood floors but in the school lunch room, with the tables pushed to the side and the aroma of that day’s lunch of tater tots and mystery meat lingering in the air. So much for ambience and atmosphere! But it didn’t matter. We didn’t need a lot of techno-wizardry or designer dazzle. That wasn’t what we were there for.

2) It’s not about the music – I remember some of the bands such as “Bread, “The Guess Who” and “America” and even some of the song titles that were spun on the 45 rpm record player. We listened to the same tunes on the radio at home. That’s not what we were there for.

3) It’s not about getting more feet in the door or on the floor – We weren’t keeping count. We were on the look out for that special someone to dance with and more bodies just got in the way.

What were we there for? For the encounter – to be with the other -even if for a few moments – even a choreographed one – with the person of our desire. Most young men in their early teens wouldn’t be caught dead expressing an interest in dance for dance sake. But this was different. We were willing to be stretched out of our usual comfort zone, to even look like clumsy fools simply for an encounter with that special other.

lindy-hop

A dance has basic steps that form the pattern for movement. Faith does as well. Faith is more than knowing certain facts or performing certain actions. First and foremost faith is an encounter with the Triune God. Being a disciple of Jesus means first and foremost not following principles but a person. Preachers of another age used the term “experiential” or “experimental” because faith involves an interaction with each member of the Trinity. Patristic theology uses the Greek term “periochoresis” (to dance around) to describe the interrelations and interactions of the persons of the Trinity. Peter Leithart points out that the word’s verbal form, besides providing the root for the English word “choreographed” was also used as a metaphor of how the members of the Godhead dance around and with one another, what St. Maximus called the “eternal movement of love.”

Through the sacrifice of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit, the Father has made it possible for us to join in their relationship in a way that is beyond metaphor – to join in the divine fellowship. In John 17:21-13, Jesus prayed for his disciples that “all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” This is a unity in which the uniqueness of persons is not absorbed or erased but allows them to interact with one another in genuine communion or “koinonia” and with one another. A holy, circling dance is a fitting image.

georg.0

I know for some that dance is not going to be a popular or appealing picture especially if you hold to the old-time adage “the praying knee can’t belong to a dancing leg” (of course thankfully, Miriam & King David did not know that!). Other metaphors of the spiritual life that focus on warfare or conflict or battle are far more appealing especially to the male of the species especially when fueled by images of “Brave Heart,” Gladiator” or those who think the church’s confession of faith should sound like “THIS IS SPARTA!”

God’s not asking us to stretch our awkward frames into pink tutus but we are commanded to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5: 16) which speaks of following the lead of the 3rd member of the Trinity. If I as a pastor or leader or believer am trying to dance to the tune of my or another generation or the demands of institutional priorities or the expectations of the current cultural despisers of the faith then I am not following the right steps. I will be moving to a foreign tune that will be out of step with the Holy Spirit.

The Triune God has made it possible for us to join in his eternal movement of love. It also means we join with other believers as part of the divine choreography as we encounter the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That’s worth staying in step with.

Atheism of the Practical Kind

titanic_4

An inadequate view of sin indicates an inadequate view of God. In light of the Supreme Court decisions this last week redefining marriage, consider Stephen Charnock’s (from “Practical Atheism – The Existence and Attributes of God”) view of human sin as a denial of God’s sovereignty.

In sins of omission we own not God, in neglecting to perform what he enjoins; in sins of commission we set up some lust in the place of God, and pay to that the homage which is due to our Maker. In both we disown him ; in the one by not doing what he commands, in the other by doing what he forbids. We deny his sovereignty when we violate his laws ; we disgrace his holiness when we cast our filth before his face ; we disparage his wisdom when we set up another rule as the guide of our actions than that law he bath fixed; we slight his sufficiency when we prefer a satisfaction in sin before a happiness in him alone ; and his goodness, when we judge it not strong enough to attract us to him.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Every sin invades the rights of God, and strips him of one or other of his perfections. It is such a vilifying of God as if he were not God; as if he were not the supreme Creator and Benefactor of the world ; as if we had not our being from him ; as if the air we breathed in, the food we lived by, were our own by right of supremacy, not of donation. For a subject to slight his sovereign, is to slight his royalty ; or a servant his master, is to deny his superiority.

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