Standing on the shore of eternity

Note: Although I don’t write a lot of them, this is a poem I wrote in April which I felt echoes a synthesis of inner and outer experience at this point in my life.

wet sandI’m standing on the shore of eternity
Wet sand beneath my feet
Tides,
Ebbing and flowing
Touching shore
Waves,
Lapping
Ever nearer
Blurred horizon
Distant promise
Yet prove
Sure.

Mountains climbed
Valleys descended
Deserts wandered
Plains traversed
Waters forded.

Icy wind
Snowy blast
Arid heat
Fainting beat
Harvested past

Yet,
Confident
I Am
Knowing,
I’m upheld
By the same
Word
That frames
Eternity.

That,
As sure as I stand
Upon this shore
Vague horizons
Prove no more
I come to know
As I am known.

Mother’s Day, love’s pleasing & true riches

mothers day 3Making sure to have a Mother’s Day card with enclosed gift coupon waiting on the kitchen table as my dear wife started her day; our small gathering of loved ones sharing a special Thai lunch together; spending time with a dear elderly convalescing neighbor who has no immediate family and reading my stories to her upon request; taking my pent-up standard poodle for her customary, much anticipated afternoon walk so that she could expend some of that energy; a telephone call to my mom 1500 mile away: These seemed to be enough, those things that met the day’s needs.

This was a day I’d describe as my simply seeking in love, to meet the needs of those around me rather than trying to please myself, and in helping to meet those needs, finding wholeness and a pleasing fullness to my day. I’m learning that one’s day doesn’t have to consist of big, important events and accomplishments to be pleasing to God or worthy of our esteem, in fact, just the opposite may be true.

In fact, while I was walking my poodle and listening simultaneously to the Audible of Pilgrim’s Progress, at one point in the dialogue the scripture is shared:

That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate— 1 Timothy 6:18

reset buttonThe phrase in that scripture ‘rich in good works’ resonated with me and I mused upon it as I walked. How true, I thought. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mindset, worry-set, of measuring one’s worth in life; which is established one day at a time, by the magnitude of both accomplishment and prosperity. But this simple phrase amounted to, if you will, a little reset-of-thought-button that refocused my attention on that which is of true value. We are to be ‘rich in good works’. How wealthy are we? Well, I guess, as wealthy as we really wish to be.

Declaration or Disavowal -Which Christmas are you celebrating?

Christmas 7

 

With the year coming to a close I found myself also coming to the end of my Through the Bible in 52 Weeks readings for this year. In my reading of the Book of 1 John, I was struck recently by the following passage:

“Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” 1 John 4: 2, 3

 I didn’t really relate the verses to Christmas, only that I was reading them prior to Christmas, but then as Christmas preparations and events have unfolded, I’ve begun to realize just how much they are indeed, descriptive of the event.

Christmas as it’s celebrated today has become this rather peculiar entity. At the root of the celebration, is the remembering and honoring of the most tremendous event of all of history, the birth of Christ; the point and process of God choosing to enter into humanity. This is an event so stupendous there aren’t really words adequate to describe it, although I’m amazed at just how accurately even some of the more well known carols faithfully mirror the truth and reality of the occasion. A couple of stanzas that come readily to mind are as follows:

Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth

 Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our 
Emmanuel

 –Lyrics from: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

 And so on the one hand there is this ‘celebration of believers’, in which we are literally, to the entire world, ‘confessing that Christ is come in the flesh’. We are once again acknowledging, remembering, testifying, worshiping of the fact that God is Incarnate, Emmanuel is with us—He dwells as man, He dwells within man.

And yet, superimposed and parallel to this stupendous acknowledgment and confession is this disavowal, this nonadmission of the fact, which in reality seeks to and pretty much usurps the place of the former. We see it characterized in the secularism, ritualism and emotionalism that passes as Christmas. And even though people are caught up in the mystique and grandeur of the event, and even though they participate in some way in the wonder of it, and even though they confess that ‘it’s the happiest time of the year’ etc. etc., in reality, most hearts and minds are darkened due to this superimposition– they literally ‘confess not that Christ is come in the flesh”. The great truth, the wondrous redemption that is Christmas escapes them: they come so close yet miss it so far.  Christmas is just some gushy, feel good, let-r-rip holiday affair that brings a little momentary relief and then like exploding  champagne bubbles, it pops, and most celebrants return to their daily lives, unmoved, unaffected and unchanged, until they repeat the ritual again the following year, none the wiser.

But this is not meant to be condemnatory; it is simply an acknowledgment of fact. I wish it were not the case. I just know that the real Christmas lies silent, ready to be awakened; indeed to be born, in each and every heart that will receive Him. He’s waiting to be born in your heart right now. Take even these final words of a favorite Christmas carol, personalize them, as I’ve done here, and sing or pray them to Him and enjoy the reality of Christmas now and forever:

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to me I pray;
cast out my sin, and enter in,
be born in me today.
I hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to me, abide with me,
My Lord Emmanuel!

Brenda -A Halloween scary story

mental retardation 3Whenever Halloween comes round I invariably think of Brenda. Her Halloween antic of that year has never ceased to provide me with hearty and endearing chuckles of remembrance.

Brenda was a close neighbor. It was Halloween night. Mom, Dad & us three kids; older sister, Karen, baby sister Wanda, and me; the extent of our family then, were gathered round the table eating dinner in the small company bungalow my parents rented from the logging outfit my dad worked for. The bungalow was one of several dozen like ones, all of which housed the families of our small community of company workers. Nestled in the wooded but logged off area at the mouth of the watershed that formed the extant of the company timber holdings, it was both workers accommodations and base of operations. Though well secluded, it was our daily world then, alive with the living.

Baby sister, Wanda, would have been probably pushing two. Cute as a button and equally as chubby with this little curl to the top of her head, she was seated in her high chair cheerily eating her dinner when in burst Brenda. Brenda wanted our family to be the first to see her in her Halloween costume.

And what a costume it was. She had chosen to dress as a hobo with the customary tattered shirt, overalls, and bundle stick; only in those days, the stereo-typical hobo was the Al Jolson ‘Mammy’-esque Negro of the early 1900s. And so to complete her attire she had taken a bottle cork which she had charred at the end of a fork over the cook stove and face painted herself with this blackened soot: Voila, a hobo, extraordinaire! And with her costume complete she had burst into our dinner gathering, loud, exuberant and emotional as ever.

The combination of hobo, extraordinaire, and natural exuberance proved too much for baby sister Wanda, who, having never seen the like, responded by jumping up in her chair as if she had been hit by an electric current and with such shrieks of utter terror; that it was all that mom could do to take her in her arms to rock and cuddle her to calm her down. Brenda meanwhile only succeeded in terrifying her more in her own efforts to reassure baby sister by trying to get her to recognize who she was by repeating, “It’s me, it’s me.” For the rest of us, it was truly one of those funny situations that you just crack- up over. I’ve never forgotten it.

I never, ever, saw Brenda mean, angry, or down. She had that uncanny ability to invite her infectious self into your world and make herself part of yours and you part of hers. She lived life in the moment and she was, well, what can I say: she was—Brenda.

Roughly about the same age as my older sister and me (we are a year-and-a-half apart) Brenda was mentally challenged or what we termed then as ‘retarded’. But it never seemed to matter; she was just one of us kids: I never ever remember there being a separation or distinction. She loved us and we loved her and we were all the better for it. She accepted you and let you know that she was emphatically there and she never hesitated to let you know that you were special in her life.

Another Brenda antic written indelibly in memory is her diving antics. Our community also had its own small lake just a stone’s throw from the front of both our adjoining yards. During the summer months Brenda lived in the water. She never tired of diving off what would have been maybe a 6—8’ diving board and she always wanted you to watch and participate in her dive. She’d called out, ‘So and so, watch this!’ and off she’d go. The only thing was that her dives were really belly flops. She never did seem to get the hang of actual diving.  And instead of a graceful headlong entry into the water, she’d whack the surface of the water with the familiar ‘belly-whack’ sound, briefly disappearing under the water only to reappear splashing, sputtering, and laughing, as if each belly-flop pushed a new round of laughter from her and was something to delight in. She was exuberance personified.

I can’t remember exactly how long we lived in that community but I do know that mom and dad were good friends with her parents. Somewhere in the middle of my grade school years we moved to a bigger town but still kept in touch and our families would visit each other occasionally. I haven’t seen her or her family for well over 40 years; I don’t even know if she’s still alive now or not, but I’ve never forgotten Brenda. She’s never once diminished from my life. Unlike many others who have come and gone in my life, she was able to write herself indelibly into mine and  remain
s part of me.

But Brenda’s story doesn’t end here because I think her, or someone just like her, is in a lot of people’s lives. And how is it a scary story besides the dreadful fright it gave to my baby sister? It’s really scary for the fact that in our modern desire for a perfect world there just may not be a place for Brenda & she, all alike, may well be relegated to just that: a story about somebody who once was, who once existed, swept from the pages of life. ‘Why’, say they, ‘let’s factor out these genetic mutations, prescreen her out; we desire babies just like our lives, designer lives, designer babies, that’s the story of our future. We’ll put a patent on them genes. We’ll make them ours or we’ll not make em.

I find it strange that in so an imperfect world as ours, full of the imperfect people we know ourselves to be, that we demand perfection in others. It’s as if such sought after perfection might perhaps assuage our own imperfect consciences. Do we really want to cast such a first stone?

As for Brenda & her peers, do we really want to factor them out? Odds are, I don’t think anyone could ever design a life as beautiful, as perfect as Brenda

*The photo included above isn’t an actual photo of Brenda but it sure reminds me of her.

The earth is flat

dogmasHas mainstream modern speculative thinking got you flat?

I’m writing this as a sequel to my previous post, ‘Wildscape’ experiences & their numinous effects’, as I find my thoughts leading up to and inclusive of that article, haven’t, as yet, played fully out. For another effect of those experiences had been to leave me thinking about how much of mainstream modern speculative thinking is in direct contradiction to God’s revealed declarations of His works and intentions. This glaring contradiction is nothing new of course but what was new was the degree of forcefulness with which this contradiction was impressed upon me. It was like an epiphany to me. It couldn’t be made clearer: There is no reconciling the two, no half way; one is right the other wrong, one is truth, the other is error.

Let me just touch upon three major areas of accepted speculative thinking: Evolution vs. Creation; The generic view of Earth as being just one-of- a-billion other like unexceptional worlds vs. Earth as a unique creation; and, The existence of alien beings vs. humans as sole creations of a Universal Creator. Without getting into a lot of argument, let me just say there exists much   scientific analysis and evidence to support the later side of these comparisons as exists to seemingly support the former side of the comparisons, the real difference is that one voice dominates, one world view is accepted as fact, the other denounced as antiquated, unscientific, (our modern equivalent of the word ‘heretical’) and preposterous.

On the first, that of evolution vs. creation, to witness the geological conditions in the areas I visited (Glacier, Yellowstone & Grand Tetons National Parks) & the surrounding areas of Montana/Idaho/Wyoming was to realize that our present worldwide geological conditions (of which these were but a cross sample), bear the imprint of a catastrophic deluge or flood much more than they do a record of some evolutionary process stretching over billions of years. And the only actual way they could be construed to bear record of billions of years of evolutionary processes is because people have been told, indeed, indoctrinated to see it so.

What exists today is our modern equivalent of ‘the earth is flat’ mentality and teaching of the middle ages. The people of the world then, including the preponderance of the scientific community, all believed that the earth was flat, despite both evidence to the contrary and the truth that was staring them in the face but they couldn’t see it, being blinded by dogma. And if anyone  suggested the earth was perhaps round, of all things, he or she was denounced as a lunatic; indeed could very well lose both life and limb as the most horrible of heretics for having declared such things. But today we now know that the earth wasn’t flat after all, that it was and is the present sphere we see and know today.

This led me into yet more related lines of thinking. God in His word makes very clear that our earth is a unique creation amongst all of his creation. That, while there are untold universes and galaxies and celestial bodies and wonders of all descriptions and beyond descriptions out there, yet, the Lord very plainly says that of all these Earth is created for very specific purposes and functions, and that He is accomplishing something of universal effect and significance through it. And yet current scientific thought and conjecture would have us believe that there is nothing of any particular significance about earth besides the fact that we inhabit it and don’t ‘yet’ know of other such existences:  We are told that we are  just one-amongst-a-billion other such worlds. How flat does that make you feel? Want to knock the glory and wonder out of life, out of existence?—hang on to that handle for a little while and you’re well on your way to the muck and mire of futility.

And lastly this outward turning of thought lends itself to the third and final comparison: Are humans divinely created beings or are we just one particular race of people among thousands of other yet to be discovered alien races?

So, who and what are you going to believe?

You know the wonderful thing about Truth is that it can stand both infinite attack and infinite scrutiny. Put it under a microscope, peer at it through a telescope, examine it to the nth degree, choose to ignore it, contradict it, deny it, try to change it, it makes no difference, it will still be there, like the proverbial cork that bobs up in the ocean, staring you in the face: it’s not going away.

And so, I personally welcome 10,000 Hubble Telescopes, space explorations, and scientific discoveries of all kinds. I don’t think you’ll necessarily arrive at the whole truth that way; as the complete truth is something that is accepted by one’s total being, a moral decision much more than an intellectual one, but you will definitely learn of some of the infinite wonders that make up, shall I say, this great Universal Truth Package. Just don’t muddy the waters with your earth is flat mentality and mantra, none of that preconceived, predigested clap-trap, when I know it’s much more than you’ll ever know it to be unless you’re willing to let go of your preconceived ideas, tyrannical dogmas and outright error masquerading as enlightenment.

***

‘Wildscape’ experiences & their numinous effects

natural wonders 2There are some experiences whose effects linger with you long after the fact; such was my recent trip to Glacier and Yellowstone Parks, a menagerie of what I term ‘wildscape’ experiences, the thoughts and images of which continue to play pleasantly upon my mind, heart and spirit.

Each unexpected, breathtaking scene my family and I were fortunate to come upon made me feel that I was being allowed to witness, to participate; however briefly, in something so intimate and sacred, so delicate yet so strong, so strong yet so delicate, that I found myself almost instinctively holding my breath lest I should disturb or dispel the hallowedness of what I was beholding.

A gentle doe feeding amongst the summer hillside vegetation with her two young gangly spotted fawns in tow, nearby an alert young buck, confident enough to be out of his thicket, likewise feeding pulls on tender stocks of grasses; a small herd of elk, whose color, line and form stand out with such strength & power against an already perfect landscape, that I have to look again to confirm the reality, they seem as if they could just as well have been masterfully painted into  an already perfect  landscape; bison up so close that when we look each other in the eye, I’m seeing an almost unimaginable gentle giant; his strength enclosed in such rich, resplendent, yet tattered hide: In each, perfection personified.

And this does not yet speak of the majesty of the landscapes themselves. Streams, some raging, many gracefully  flowing, from afar and flowing still farther yet off to the horizon, here and there an expectant angler makes replete the scenes; waterfalls, cascades, wetlands, lowlands, lakes, forests, hills and peaks; beauties equaling and surpassing that of the most beautiful woman, each takes your breath away and yet, as with a beautiful woman, you wish to almost inhale such beauty and hold it inside making  it part of you, yet knowing its only for a brief few moments, that you can never hold on to it solely for yourself: Yet you go away richer for it.

I find myself musing yet further. There is both my continued amusement and amazement at many of fellow beholders (all the other tourists) because to most all, this majesty and splendor, this sacredness, this hallowedness, supposedly, somehow, all created itself, or is the aftermath and result of some cosmic accident. But how could it be, how is it possible that it’s not more than that, when so many are magically drawn year in and year out to such transcendence? Does it not appeal to something higher within them? Is not this the irresistible attraction?

Indeed, to not realize the Transcendent Nature behind such natural wonders, of which they bespeak, is to lower ourselves to the level of ignorant, brute beasts. And yet I can’t even bring myself to think of animals as ignorant. They somehow seem much more attuned to the cosmic dance than we humans are: Just to watch them is to realize this.

Yet in what ignorance do those dwell who don’t have eyes, ears, heart, mind or spirit to perceive the Behind and Beyond, the Here and Now, the Eternity, the Eternal One and Only, of which all of this bespeaks?

In speaking of the creation of man the Psalm says:

For You have made him (mankind) a little lower than the angels and have crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:5)

I sometimes sarcastically think that the passage got misquoted somehow and should have read:

“For You have made him a little lower than the animals….”

But, no, humankind does that to themselves. We make ourselves on the level of some dumb animal when we plead ignorant of our destiny.

— To appreciate of such natural wonders is but human and perhaps our unconscious duty, to glory for it our destiny, to know the Glorified One, our eternity.

*numinous-supernatural; filled with a sense of the presence of divinity;  appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic senses.

Who’s page? Yours, mine, his, ours or theirs?

morals 1In writing recently to counter a flawed argument on the part of a columnist of our local paper (see my former post  I am religious Charlie), I was reminded of a mindset that is really tripping a lot of people up these days.

The trend today socially is for people to disassociate themselves from externally originated (institutionalized) thought and practice, whether in the political, religious or scientific spheres,   and to replace such with some sort of vaguely defined personal internal moral or ethical compass. In other words, I become my own guide and arbitrator in life: I determine both what’s right or wrong, as well as what’s meaningful and what’s not, for both me and the world around me.

In fact, the newspaper article referred to above has the author stating: “Reason and common sense are better sources of morality, a morality that can be universally recognized and accepted.” A point that is totally discredited by the weight of historical evidence: But that’s a whole other argument.

Well, this universally recognized and accepted morality  sounds all wonderful and good and flowery, etc., but what you then have is a rather skewered social order because you quickly discover that both ‘reason’ and ‘morality’ can be and are different things to different people and humankind is no longer ‘on the same page’ so to speak. And, as we all experience, in trying to have even the simplest of conversations and come to the simplest of understandings, that  in order for people to communicate, interact and get along socially, they need to be ‘on the same page’, meaning  ‘everyone agrees or understands what was said or needs to be done.’ Otherwise you have misunderstanding and confusion leading to wrong actions or conduct; even in the simplest of circumstances

Sad to say, or sadder still to discover, that there isn’t this internal universal compass that is going to automatically set and magically pull everyone in line with ‘true north’, or in our case, ‘true reason and rightness’. In fact, due to the inherencies of human nature, you’re going to find the pull in rather detrimental ways as if someone’s produced a magnet and is deliberately pulling that needle in all kinds of unseemly ways.

I think Oswald Chambers spelled it out very succinctly when he wrote (seeking to verbalize the inner thought processes) of the moralist:

 I may prefer to live morally because it is better for me: I am responsible to no one, my conscience is my god. That is the very essence of sin.

There it is. The self-styled independent moralist prefers to live that way, why? ‘Because it is better for me’ (self pleasing) ‘I’m responsible to no one ‘ (self rule) ‘my conscience is my god’ (self aggrandizement). Indeed, their conscience has become their god. It’s really the epitome of counterfeit, and deception and it’s easy to see the author behind it. He or she has in effect become their own god: I prefer to add, ‘‘fallen’ to become their own god.’ Who’s to say or tell them any differently? Whose page is it anyway?