THE BOOK

The Book–was I reading too much into this situation? –I certainly came away with something to think about

I saw this book lying in a box amongst other disheveled boxes of books, themselves lying on the entrance sidewalk at a church rummage sale near home. I remember that it had this deep emerald green dust-cover with only the title written across its front: Isaiah 35 Explained .

It was a hardcover book, quite thick, with age-colored pages and so of a former generation or two. I noticed it as I quickly walked through the sale area. The venue itself was sadly rather dumpy and unattractive, as though those hosting it were either in too much of a hurry to arrange things nicely, didn’t care all that much how things looked, or perhaps lacked the personnel to properly conduct the event, and I found nothing at all that I would even remotely interested me, and so I passed in and out rather quickly. But I did, oddly notice this one book as if it spoke to me; as when in reading something jumps off the page at you and strikes you in a certain manner. That’s how it happened with this book.

The more I think of it the book seemed such a relic from time past: In its day perhaps a cutting-edge volume but in the present moment and setting it seemed to almost betray itself.  I winced as I read the title as it signified an approach to the Bible, which, while it was undoubtedly not the author’s intention, today represents such an uninspiring approach to scripture, as though truth is something historically explained, cataloged, archived, gotten to the end, by simply finding the proper explanation.

The book sat there in a sort of silent beckoning as if to say ‘just read me and you too can catalog things, come to the end of the meaning, and add it to your historical collection of truths known and understood; conquered even.’ Come, absorb my dead letter (rather than living spirit). I wondered how the author had fared with this sort of approach. Maybe in past times it may have been effective; I don’t know, but certainly not in the present.

Let me just say that there is no authentic, classical, accepted way to understand scripture, as though truth were some kind of closed system that can be gotten to the end of in some authoritative manner. Instead, we each have to let scripture speak to us in the present, in the here and now; to let it be a living entity. That’s the only way we can really understand and benefit from scripture.

We don’t need to even have a deep understanding of scripture to begin to benefit from it. In fact, we will never sound its depth because it’s unending and unfathomable. But we can let it impart understanding of ourselves and our world and those around us. We can grow in its knowledge and wisdom even and benefit from its enlightening but we can never know all of it that there is to know as if it was some kind of finality. It’s just not that kind of book. It beckons more as being only the opening chapters of an unending story, worlds without end; inviting and answering, rather than answered and finished.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that life and scripture are both so wondrous and mysterious that I  want what I consider to be true, what I believe, to be something I continually experience and grow in, not something that is explained away to me.

‘PS: In all fairness to the book mentioned in this article, this is not a critique of it or it’s contents in any way. For all I know, it may be a wonderful volume in its time. In this instance I’m writing of, it more became the focal point, the catalyst for an argument or viewpoint other than itself.

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Yes, But!

The following portion of a poem that I’ve been playing around with, plus the accompanying article, echo a little technique I’ve begun to adopt in order to escape the pessimistic pit.

Oppression, Depression, Digression, Obsessionpositiveness
Yes, but!
Vanity, insanity, profanity, inhumanity
Yes, but!
Nations, Relations, Aggregations, Sensations,
Yes, but!
Politics, fanatics, dogmatics, all-the-tics,
Yes, but!
Psychology, theology, cosmology, pathology,
Yes, but!
Wealth, dealth, stealth, health
Yes, but!
We have an answer given.

Yes, But!’
-a little technique to escape the pessimistic pit

Having a chance to have prolonged times of conversing and interacting with a variety of individuals of late, I found myself adopting a reactive technique I call ‘Yes, But!’ to many of these conversations. Let me explain.

 If there is one thing that most people like to do, it’s talk. That is fine in itself. I do a fair share of my own. However, one thing I do notice more and more is that aside from the normal amount of small talk exchanged there are a lot of feelings, attitudes, opinions and beliefs that additionally become part of the conversations concerning just about every topic imaginable, from people’s problems (their own as well as other’s), to economics, politics, the state of the country and world, etc. And on the preponderance of these topics I find that people most often don’t have a personal solution or answer to what they are discussing, experiencing or commenting about. As a result the conversations can easily give way to becoming rather negative, hopeless, pessimistic exchanges. I have to consciously watch that I don’t allow myself, in sympathy with those with whom I’m conversing,  to succumb to this  as these ‘no-solution’ outlooks or outcomes are ones I cannot agree with. I firmly believe that we have been graciously given an answer that covers all things.

And so, while I find it necessary to engage in a fair amount of personal feelings, opinions, etc., so that those I’m conversing with understand that I’m either aware of or knowledgeable in an area of discussion, so as not to end up in a pessimistic dead-end, I’ve come to adopt this little technique, ‘Yes, But!

“Yes, so and so might very well be a so and so, and such and such may not be very fair, and this and that might indeed be very wrong, But please know, or let’s remember that we’ve been graciously given a solution that can match and meet every need, encompass and take unto itself every wrong and that there are right, agreeable, and workable solutions or work-a-rounds to situations.”

I find this a much more positive note upon which to leave these conversations. In writing this, I’m reminded of the old adage, “Don’t allow people to pull you down to their level, pull them up to yours.” It’s a lot more comfortable that way.

 

 

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.

***