"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Choose Your Enemies Carefully

Can't get away from conflict and strife; you are gonna to ruffle some feathers. Hassles you’ll find while walking through life; friction's a law of living. Be careful whose feathers you rub the wrong way, know why it is that you rough them. Some birds can bite and devour; you’ll pay a dear price, is your battle worth it?


Let me fly O God Bear my vision on Your Breath’s wings Bear my muse to creation’s end Let it soar through skies floating clouds as great ships of endless armadas Let it rise through cobalt gasses too thin to breathe to jet streams traversing oceans shores mountains desserts plains Let it climb to the edge of nothingness to the end of all things abridged by human ambitions Let it race to spots of light in blackness colored events shaping other worlds to grasp the old with the new Then let it halt Turn about Gaze on that corner of infinity Open wide my soul to embrace all Cleanse my eyes of mean things my mind of small thoughts my heart of irrelevant past Not to understand what is for that is Your privilege But to create what realities could be if only my vision will fly

Monday, December 27, 2004

The State vs. Mister Claus

"That will be all, Mister Bardensmall. Thank you for your most illuminating testimony." The elf, taller than one would expect for an elf, stood and glared at his benefactor. One would have to say he was a pointed person; everything about his appearance was pointed, from his oversize ears, nose and chin, to his fingers and shoes. Even the line of his thin, frowning lips was pointed. After the prosecutor dismissed Bildik Bardensmall from the witness stand, he straightened his shoulders and orated, "The State now calls the defendant, Mister Santa Claus." Ths small, round, red-faced man stood from his defendant's chair and marched to the witness stand. His business suit's style unmistakably said, "Father Christmas." The prosecutor sauntered over to the witness stand and stared knowingly at Santa for a few seconds. "Santa," he said with a swagger, both in his voice and in his body, "Your elf has testified that you 'love' your little helpers. Yes? Would you mind elaborating on that--er--in terms that won't offend the court?" "Your Honor, once again I object!" said Santa, "The question has nothing to do with the charges against me." "And once again, Santa, you are overruled!" said His exceedingly bored Honor, "Now answer the question." The defendant sighed in frustration. "Yes, yes, I love the elves, even Bildik Bardensmall, as I love everyone. Your intimation, Mister Prosecutor, is entirely false." The prosecutor scanned the jury, one eyebrow arched and a bemused frown on his small mouth. "Of course it is ... Santa." His small eyes continued capturing the jury. "But what about Mister Bardensmall's testimony that you not only do not pay your elves minimum wage, but that you do not pay them a single penny for all their months of slavery each year? What say you, Santa? Hmm?" "Mister Prosecutor, Your Honor, elves have never required payment beyond their care, board, and the simple accommodations they prefer. They are never sick, so they need no medical care or insurance. And their greatest joy is in serving the world's children. Their selfless, voluntary service is beyond mere salary. Except for Bildik Bardensmall, that is. For years he has--" "Your Honor, Mister Bardensmall is not on trial here." said the prosecutor. "Answer the questions only, Mister Claus, or I will hold you in contempt." spat His Honor with contempt. "Now, Santa, to address the question of flying reindeer, and the tragic death by trampling of Grandma as she was going home on Christmas eve. You are the only flying reindeer raiser and trainer in Canada. Yes?" "Actually, no. My stable--" "So, there are others, Mister Claus. Yes?" Thick sarcasm clouded the prosecutor's voice. "Your Honor, the prosecutor will not allow me to answer his questions. Is that not badgering?" "Alright Bert. Give the old guy some slack," said His Honor, then he looked at the defendant, "But keep your answers to the point! I'm on to your 'Ho, Ho, Ho,' feel good tricks." "I was simply trying to point out that my stables aren't located in Canada, but yes, I am the sole trainer of flying reindeer." "Thank you for ..." the prosecutor sniggered, "... pointing that out. So, any crimes committed by means of a flying reindeer would point directly back to you. Yes?" "Why, in a way, I suppose, but--" "And Grandma's injuries of hoofmarks on her poor, delicate face and torso are consistent with a reindeer attack from above. Yes?" "That seems to be the medical examiner's conclusion, but--" "So one of your flying reindeer ran over Grandma on Christmas eve! Yes?" "Yes, but ... Your Honor, please allow me to explain." His Honor scowled down his long nose at the red-faced old man. "Motion denied! You will enter testimony when I tell you to." His Honor plastered a conciliatory expression over his scowl. "Now Mister Claus, or Saint ..." His Honor sniggered, "... Nicholas? Or is it Kris Kringle or Father Christmas today--we're not humbugs around here. Just relax and answer the question. Did one of your reindeer run over Grandma on Christmas eve? Yes or no." "Yes, but that particular reindeer was out of my control." The prosecutor jumped on that, figuratively, with hobnail boots. "You said your reindeer was out of control! Yes?" "Well, yes, but--" "Then you, Santa Claus, were impaired!" "No sir! I was--" "Do you deny, Mister Claus, that you enjoy the occasional hot buttered rum on a cold, winter's night?" "Well, no sir--" "So you do not deny drinking demon alcohol ... do you!" "No sir, but--" "What about the Christmas eve in question, Mister Claus? You are under oath, Mister Claus. Yes?" "No ... I mean yes, I did have a slight tipple ... but only a hot toddy that night ... but--" "This court will take that as a yes! You were under the influence of demon alcohol while piloting a heavily laden sled with sharp, steel skis, drawn by a team of eight powerful, flying reindeer over millions of innocent households," the prosecutor's sad, shocked eyes searched out His Honor's sympathetic face, "where innocent children slept in their beds awaiting your arrival. And along the way, one little old lady, a Grandmother, toddling home from her grandson's Christmas eve dinner no less, got in your way! Santa, I am shocked! This court is shocked!" The prosecutor's shocked eyes slowly turned to the jury and he shook his head, just as slowly, adding a deep sigh for effect. "Your witness, Santa." The prosecutor spat the name out as if it were a putrid piece of fish. Santa stood in the witness box, scrunching his red velvet and white fur hat in front of his chest. "Your Honor, all I have for this esteemed court is the truth." His Honor snorted as if choking on the absurdity of Santa's statement. In response, a smile spread across Santa's face and he looked up at him knowingly, his kind eyes wide with ... what, pity? The judge shifted in his chair uncomfortably. "Your Honor, since I have no lawyer to cleverly ask the right questions of me, I will simply recount to this court exactly what happened late on the Christmas eve in question. "At the moment of the tragic incident at Old Two Mile Road and Industrial Road in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, my sled and team of reindeer were swinging low over Lake Taupo, making our approach to Gradwell, New Zealand. There were seven hundred fifty-three children in that small town awaiting Father Christmas. So, Your Honor, I could not possibly have been in both places at once." Santa spread his hands apart to emphasize his point. "The reindeer that left his hoofprints on Grandma was piloted by one of my elves ... a singularly rebellious character named Bildik Bardensmall. After I disciplined him for attempting to start a union among my elves, he stole Rudolph for a joyride. "Is that your entire testimony, Mister Claus?" His Honor's sarcasm was thick. "That, Your Honor, is the simple truth." His Honor looked over to the prosecutor with a knowing smile. "Mister Prosecutor, you may direct more questions toward this ... miracle worker ..." His Honor's emphasis on those two words cued the prosecutor as to what his line of questioning should include. "... during your redirect." The prosecutor stood and cleared his throat. "Mister ... Claus," His lip curled in a sneer. "this court is having difficulty understanding how you could travel ... what, tens of thousands of miles? ... to deliver toys to hundreds of millions of children within the space of but a few short hours. If necessary, I can call dozens of eminent, scientific scholars to refute your claim of divine omnipresence. Would you like me to do that, Mister Claus? Hmm? Or would you rather revise your testimony before my unc--er, His Honor, charges you with perjury?" Santa looked long and hard at the prosecutor. "Before you make a more complete fool of yourself, Mister Prosecutor, and further mock this court and the justice system it represents, I would like the opportunity to prove my allegations with a practical demonstration." "By all means, Santa, please demonstrate to your heart's content." The prosecutor gave, first his uncle the judge, then the jury, his most confident smile. "If it please the court," said Santa, "would you enter the exact time of day into the record, Your Honor?" His Honor smugly looked at the courtroom clock. "It is twenty-four and a half minutes past three in the afternoon ... now!" "Thank you, Your Honor. And when you see the wrapped gift before you on your desk, would you mind telling the court what time it is then?" His Honor could barely contain his amusement as he said, "Certainly, Santa." "And can Your Honor verify the fact that I have no bags, boxes or cases of goods with me in this courtroom?" "Yes, yes, so verified. Now get to your ridiculous ‘demonstration'." Suddenly, as everyone became aware of a gift-wrapped package in their laps, the entire courtroom broke into an uproar. The prosecutor jumped to his feet, flinging the heavy, gaily wrapped package to the floor, and stammered, "U--uncle B--bob, I protest this m--magic trick!" His Honor, Uncle Bob, was so flabbergasted that he couldn't even respond to his stuttering nephew. Santa stood where he had before all the presents appeared. "If it please the court, I will explain how this miracle happened, and how it happens once each year throughout the world." The Court was unable to object. "What you've just witnessed is simply a little help from my Father, the Creator of all things, including time. He, personally, transcends time, and at His sovereign will, He allows its suspension. Many, many years ago, my Father gave me the privilege of spreading joy throughout the world on the day we have come to recognize His only true Son's birth. He allows me to give gifts as a memorial of His infinitely more important Gift to mankind. "Now Your Honor, if you will, please read the current time into the court's record." His Honor sat, blankly gazing at the beautifully wrapped gift on his desk. Then his eyes slowly shifted toward the courtroom clock and he mumbled, "It's three ... twenty-five." Santa laughed heartily. "But no one has opened their gifts. You don't have to wait ‘till Christmas morning, you know. "As you open them, let me tell you what you have in your hands. It is the most wonderful gift in the world; in just a few thousand words, it tells the story of my Father's dealings with mankind. It conveys to us His infinite mind and presents His only True Son to this obstinate generation as the only Way for us to reconcile with Him. "But the court is awfully quiet at the moment. Why might that be, Your Honor?" The judge looked up from his gift with tears pooling in his eyes and quietly said, "Santa, your case is dismissed. I'm the one who should be on trial ... for what I've done with God's Gift." Be Blest This New Year

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Chains of Jacob Marley

Few men suffered the interminable misery that was Jacob Marley’s lot. Golden chains and silver shackles bound him between life and death, his leaden heart cursing him with its heavy stillness. Time slithered past, the shell of others’ realities guarding its slimy, green expanse. If only he could force a boot free of its bond, a glove free of its shackle, silver though they were. But reality belonged to the living; breath, to those truly alive. Though Marley surged against his gold and silver bonds for what seemed uncounted eons, his struggle proved as futile as had his life’s constant striving. The spectre that had been Jacob Marley, existing as he did between life and eternity, felt the chill of London’s approaching winter further crystallize his already frozen countenance; the fog wafting off the Thames further deadening his already insensate heart. Once a year, wasn't it? Or perhaps once each second, minute, hour, day, week, fortnight, month, decade, century, millennium. Only the Living could tell. A stray thought crossed Marley's mind. Winter ... yuletide ... Christmas. A spasm jarred his stiff, hoary countenance. Those warm beings, the Living, would soon begin celebrating the Savior’s Advent. "Savior"... from what? The Living knew nothing of agony, enjoying blissful ignorance of what awaits them on the Other Side. "Savior" indeed. During his life, or what had passed for it, Jacob had ridiculed any who acknowledged man's fallen state and his need for a Savior. "Foolishness! Humbug!" had been his response. A wistful pang thrilled his hollow breast at this Fatal Irony. If only I'd known. He, and his business partner Ebenezer Scrooge, had ignored the Blessed Season, but for the profitable opportunities it presented. Together, they had blasphemed the Holy Savior by selling their wares dearly to those who could afford to celebrate Christmas in high style. A moan began in Marley’s cursed spirit, arose and amplified through his protruding ribs, and gushed from his lifeless lips. His arms shook violently under the effort of raising his infernal golden chains toward the heavens. But even as his dead soul cried out, his mind knew the entreaty was too late. Eternally too late. Scrooge’s image came into Marley’s mind and he realized they had been friends of sorts, as much as two lustful men could be. He regarded Scrooge, not with jealousy over his partner’s lingering life, and not with contempt for his surviving to spend their fortune, for either of them would sooner endure torture than waste a penny. Yes, they had been two-of-a-kind in life, but now he wondered if they were both doomed to share the same torment in death. And for the first time, Marley considered Scrooge’s impending anguish with compassion. With all that remained of his being, Marley longed to warn him. A spot of light broke into Marley’s darkness. It brightened and neared, as if a steam locomotive bore down upon him through a tunnel’s blackness. And not only the train’s light, but its hissing, clattering, and constant roaring. Marley winced, at once hoping his torment was over, and dreading what might follow, but the light halted, fully engulfing his face. After a moment’s visual confusion, he beheld a human face staring back at him. Was he daft as well as dead? The face appeared to belong to Ebenezer Scrooge. And before Marley’s stunned mind could recover, the face was gone. ~~~ “Jacob Marley.” Voices were not uncommon in Marley’s nether world, but they seldom spoke coherently. So at the first call, he assumed his imagination--what little he possessed--had tricked him. “Jacob Marley.” With his attention already peaked, Marley realized this was not a voice to be ignored. “Speak, good sir. I hear you.” The voice emanated from everywhere, or was it from nowhere? “You will enter the world of the living for a short time, and warn Ebenezer Scrooge where his path will surely take him.” Marley searched the blackness for some visual hint of the speaker. There was nothing. “Who are you, sir? What is your name?” “I AM THAT I AM.” The Voice saturated Marley’s phantom being, vibrated his chains with Truth, and made him cower though he had no life to lose. “Fear not, Jacob Marley, for your compassion has gained you a task, the successful completion of which will break your bonds.” “Will I finally live, or die? For I long to do either.” “Your obedience to your mission will tell.” “Good sir, only tell me what I shall do.” “The man whose face you saw must turn into a path now dark to him. Three spirits shall I summon to rend the scales and break the chains so willful wrought. He must expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls one; the second on the next night at the same hour; the third will appear the following night, after the twelfth stroke.” “Lord, when may I embark on this mission?” “Pull the bell-cord and go to him.” “But, Sir, what if I fail?” ~~~ A dim light – bright to one whose existence was darkness – became visible, and a stench invaded Marley’s phantom-body, a stench as of putrefying flesh. Shocked to see a natural-appearing light, he shook off his revulsion to the odor and began moving toward the light’s source, a gable windowpane, shedding foggy light from a street far below. Though he pulled his yards of golden chain across the bare, wooden floor, he heard no noise, felt no drag. And upon looking down, he wheezed what, in life, would have been a gasp. The gold chain had become black iron, the silver shackles, bronze, and Marley found himself shaking uncontrollably; not a bit of grief moved his emotions, but only joy unspeakable, and full of glory. Gold was incorruptible, but iron would one day rust and fall apart. Marley recovered his composure, then turned, and amid boxes draped with dusty cloths, he spied a plaited cord of the kind that might summon servants. He recalled the Master’s command as if it were yet resonating within his ears, and forgetting the stench, moved toward the bell-cord. Both shackled hands reached out and closed upon it, but felt only the mildest sensation as it passed clean through his flesh, or his flesh passed through it. At first, curiosity waved his hands back and forth through the cord, causing it to move as if from a slight breeze. But alarm seized the phantom Marley when he realized his inability to pull the cord; then ... desperation. Again, and again he grasped at the cord, and would have wept if his tears hadn’t dried up long before his death. But at long last his pulling began to move the cord downward, and the quietest bell sounded in the distance. Encouraged, he kept up his pulling until bells began sounding from throughout the house, and he laughed until he could no longer move or see. Silence replaced the bells’ pealing, a different window appeared to him high up in a wall, and he began moving toward it. Though he seemed to float above an invisible floor, his chains clattered over what lay below. He stopped, stared downward, and began to recognize wooden casks of the type that hold wine. Marley puzzled for only a moment, before a memory from his living past began taking shape. As he floated to the cellar floor and his chains rattled into a heap, he recognized the wine-merchant’s stock in the cellar of his own house – or the house he had owned in life. But again he smelled that familiar stench. Had something died in his old cellar? But no, the malodour was about himself, in the very atmosphere that clung to his ghastly body. Marley realized it was the smell to which he had become accustomed during his interminable confinement. Hatred for himself consumed him, for neglecting the eternal values his parents had taught him as a boy. The spectre of his life’s accumulations appeared before him, as if moldering in this dank place, accumulations for which he had traded his soul. And then he remembered Ebenezer Scrooge, the man whose salvation might bear upon his own. The apparition that was once Jacob Marley willed itself to move toward the cellar door, but the willing was not enough to move him. He took a step, and he began to feel a sensation from his distant life: weight, as if his body possessed mass. Another step, heavy on the wooden floor, and the chains scraped along behind him. A few more steps and he reached the stairway. More heavy steps carried him up the stairway to the landing at the top, his chains clattering along behind. His hand reached out, shackle, chain and all, and he started as, at his touch, the door flew open to crash against its stop. He kept walking over the anteroom rug to the broad staircase that led to his -- no, Scrooge’s -- rooms. Feet thudding and chains clanking on the steps announced his progress toward his goal. When at last he stood before what had been his chambers’ door, he stopped. Could his mission succeed? It must! Marley stepped toward the door, extended his shackled arms and pushed against the heavy, old wood, expecting it to swing away as had the cellar door. But it didn’t move. He pushed harder, the door felt as if it had yielded to his pressure, yet it had not moved. With the sharp sensation that might accompany immersing one’s tender hands in pure alcohol, first his hands disappeared into the wood, then his shackled wrists. After what had seemed an eternity of sensory deprivation, he relished even this pain, so he stepped into the wood as if its substance were real, but mattered little to his body. ~~~ Once Marley passed through the thick wood, a great light startled him witless. Within a brief moment, the light subsided and he saw his old business partner, Ebenezer Scrooge, seated in his hearth chair staring his way, incredulous. The old man summoned the nerve to challenge Marley, coldly, as though he belonged elsewhere, and asked him what he wanted. Jacob Marley stared back, unused to being addressed by mortal flesh. He tried to say, “Much,” but the word caught in his inert throat. Yet Scrooge seemed to hear as though he had audibly spoken. Scrooge jutted his chin as if challenging an intruder who had no rightful business there. “Who are you?” Once Marley realized trying to speak was as good as speaking, he said, “Ask me who I was.” So Scrooge did, raising his voice and reproaching him for being so particular. When Marley answered, “In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley,” the old man took a skeptical look upon his face. As if testing his visitor’s reality, Scrooge offered him the second chair, and he accepted. “You don’t believe in me.” “I don’t,” said Scrooge, dismissing Marley’s apparition to the delusional effects of poor digestion. The ghost only stared at him, aware once more of the stench of putrefying flesh. Though the hearth flame was small and the room closed, he felt a draft disturbing his hair and clothing. “You see this toothpick?” Scrooge demanded. “I do.” Marley’s frozen gaze never left the old man. “You are not looking at it.” “But I see it, notwithstanding.” When Scrooge suggested swallowing it would produce a more real haunting than he, Marley became distraught, and cried out in a most distressing discord of moans and unuttered words, shaking his chains in a clattering cacophony. To prove he was no product of undigested food, Marley unwrapped the bandage from round his head, and his jaw dropped loosely to his chest. Scrooge’s manner changed as he fell upon his knees, clasping his hands before his face as if in prayer. “Mercy!” Scrooge finally allowed his eyes and voice to show the terror in his heart. “Dreadful Apparition, why do you trouble me?” Without so much as a twitch of his dangling jaw, Marley said, “Man of the worldly mind, do you believe in me or not?” “I do.” Scrooge trembled through his words. “I must. But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?” Marley confessed to failing his destiny, warned Scrooge that he was doing the same, and explained the broad consequences for that sin. “At this time of the rolling year,” Marley cried, “I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never rise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?” This speech dismayed Scrooge, and he began quaking, yearning to know how he might escape the ghost’s miserable fate. “I am here tonight to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer. “You will be haunted by Three Spirits.” Scrooge’s head dropped, all hope gone from his face. “I ... think I’d rather not.” “Without their visits you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls one. “Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. “The third upon the next night when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to sound. Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!” Marley’s gaze shifted to the bandage he had removed from his head. Resignation cloaked his face, but he reached down to take his bandage from the table and bound up his jaw as before, his teeth clacking when they closed. He gathered up his iron chain, rusting so rapidly it must not last long. With it wound over and about his arm, he moved backward, away from Scrooge and toward the window, which raised with his every step. Then he beckoned to Scrooge, who reluctantly moved forward. When the ghost motioned for him to stop, two paces from him, Scrooge acknowledged hearing a commotion of confused, incoherent lamentation and self-pitying, sorrowful wailing. Marley’s voice said, “Do not fail to listen to the Spirits, Ebenezer. Do not fail me,” and he cried out, his voice blending with the hopeless noise as he floated through the window, into the outer darkness. Scrooge’s image came to the window, but it, and he, receded into the foggy darkness. Marley was returned to the infernal company of disembodied voices crying pitifully. But he could have no pity, for they, as he, had earned the full measure of their torment. He knew there would be no more chance to obey the Savior his life had spurned, and though he had done his best to minister his experience to Scrooge, only God knew if the chains of Jacob Marley would one day drop free.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


I hate a negative report! I wish all negative people would adopt self-fladulation instead of plaguing me with their negativity. Luckily, I never have a negative thought like everybody else does. My question is, what literary device did I just employ? From my perspective, it was nothing more than my dim attempt at humor(yock, yock). Yes, I am, in fact, depressed today. It is a condition I've been battling intermittently since mid-November when my mother died. That fact, and having to endure a Target Christmas shopping season makes me want to stay in bed each day. Every year that I have to smile and take people's money--money they feel obligated to spend because of the "season"--makes me hate the secularized Yuletide even more. I'd better quit before I'm tempted to become slightly negative. Fortunately, my sunny disposition won't allow that.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Christmas in July?

I have a great idea: Let's change Christmas to July, so we won't be so bummed from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Okay, it's a bit radical, but Jesus wasn't born in December anyway. That's just a holdover from some pagan holiday that the Catholic church Cristianized to help make converts out of them. Since the Way of Jesus is revolutionary, why not celebrate His birth in a revolutionary way?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Reason Is Cool Too, or, Put Your Mind In Gear

Mind-in-gear Christianity has suffered a bum rap. The church seems polarized between the traditional, doctrine-oriented brethren and their modern, experience-oriented counterparts. Today's Totally Cool church often ignores, even ridicules, theological teaching as boring or prideful, and instead, stresses exercising the subjective, "gifts of the Holy Ghost." A pastor of mine used to say, "You'll find a ditch on both sides of the road," meaning the truth usually lies somewhere between the extremes. While theologians endlessly debate minor points of doctrine, charismatic Christians often embrace extra-Biblical practices and teachings based on personal experience. Both extremes reflect the carnal pride Jesus died to eradicate. Social/cultural programming pushes much of that polarization, and our carnal tendency to follow fads and flashy leaders pushes it over the edge into apostasy. Paul the apostle touched on that dichotomy in Romans 12:1, I encourage you therefore, brothers, through the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, well pleasing to God, your reasoning process service. (Literal Translation) The New American Standard renders the last clause as, "which is your spiritual service of worship." While scholars differ on that translation, perhaps their respective inferences aren't that much apart. Who said you have to leave your brain in the narthex when entering the corporate worship? Sure, it is a spiritual process, but without contemplating God's attributes; without thinking about the beauty of His holiness, what are we worshipping? Praising God isn't repeating "hallelujah" ad infinitum, though doing so can produce an ecstatic experience. If we read the praise Psalms from the Bible, we don't find such thoughtless repetition. King David, the man after God's own heart, praised God's attributes and works, the logical extension of who He is. That takes thought, and reason. Next time you go to church, try thinking about who God is, what He's like, and what He's done for his people and in your own life. If you don't get really happy, your mind just isn't in gear.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Importance of Being Earnest--In Prayer

Oscar Wilde’s title applied more to practical life than even he imagined. Pop culture ridicules earnestness as unduly grave and austere, a view that Wilde seemed to share. The Bible, however, has something entirely different to say about it: Of Jesus’ ordeal in the Garden of Olives, Matthew said, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Most would agree Jesus is a sound role model. Of course, earnestness doesn’t always get you what you want. In his letter to the Roman church, Paul said, “What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did.” But aligned with God’s will, it is powerful indeed, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Today’s society, inundated as it is with pop-culture, hardly knows the meaning of earnestness. Here’s Noah Webster’s authoritative definition of the word: EARNESTNESS, n. ern'estness. Ardor or zeal in the pursuit of any thing; eagerness; animated desire; as, to seek or ask with earnestness; to engage in a work with earnestness. 1. Anxious care; solicitude; intenseness of desire. 2. Fixed desire or attention; seriousness; as,the charge was maintained with a show of gravity and earnestness. If We, The People, earnestly pursued our convictions, this nation would still be held in high esteem world-wide. But we are a nation of hypocrites, and no one, including other hypocrites, respect that.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

I Dreampt My Building Collapsed

My dream-building collapsed last night. I have no idea how long I’ve been dreaming about this place, but it appears in various forms. One common element is the scary old elevator that lifts me to the roof. Another is the seemingly endless maze of hallways and rooms on each floor. Last night’s building was a skyscraper, old and full of character. And danger. Like a disembodied spirit, I enjoy complete freedom of perspective, able to view it from the sidewalk, the top, within its hallways or from a far distance in subsequent moments. Though the elevator scares me, somehow I always wind up in its wall-less car as it trudges slowly up the stark, concrete shaft, floor after dreary floor passing downward. Eventually, I arrive at the top floor or roof, walk to the edge and look over, despite my fear of heights and vast spaces. My dream-building collapsed for no apparent reason, and in unique style. Unlike the World Trade Center towers, disintegrating from the top downward, or old buildings, demolished from the bottom by explosives carefully placed to destroy their structural integrity and provide space for progress, my dream-building suffered uniform trauma. I was part of the rescue effort. An unspecified “we” climbed into the hapless tangle of concrete, steel and human wreckage, searching for survivors and those not so fortunate. We found them individually and in populous pockets, existing on whatever they happened to scrounge from their surroundings. One rich woman refused to submit to her less-than dignified state, controlling everyone and everything within her pathetic sphere of influence. Women hugging babies in their protective arms cried for help. Some men heroically ran around trying to save people while others exploited their neighbors in tribulation. I found some strange ammunition left by a group, whether terrorists or militia, I don’t know, but their unseen presence threw an additional pall over the devastation. One young man scavenged what gospel tracts he could find among his scattered belongings and set out to preach to the dying. The wreckage remained stable for some time, then began to shift and compact. Gradually it seemed to fall into its basement, like a vast elevator descending into a hole. I helped some to jump to safety as their space passed the sidewalk’s raw edge, but a few other guys tried just as hard to inhibit the jump to safety. Once I was on the sidewalk, I watched the roof pass downward into the hole, then looked up to find all the other buildings, near and far, were suffering the same sort of destruction mine had. What good is a dream if has no application to reality? The building in all its manifestations might be my immediate world, since I don’t see it as representing me personally. The old elevator struggling to ascend past individual floors to the roof might represent my struggle to ascend past meaningless occupations to my highest aspiration. Currently, I dream of supporting my family and ministering to my world by writing professionally. When I reach the roof and look over the edge at the dizzying vista, I display my ambivalence about reaching the top at all. At once, I covet success and fear it. I see my world crumbling, and I hope to rescue its occupants by climbing in with God and working to save them. But the dream shows me more as God’s passive “sidekick” than a useful member of the rescue team, caring on the emotional level if not actively. Why are my dreams so critical of myself? They present questions, but no answers. They disquiet me, but provide no resolution. Father, I trust Your faithfulness in directing my steps and my circumstances, and I know you love me enough to make everything in my life work to my ultimate good. Yet, I fear the future rather than anticipating it as I would if I truly trusted you. As the concerned father said to Jesus, I do believe [or, I do have faith]! Lord, be helping my unbelief [or, my weak faith]!(Mar 9:24 Analytical-Literal Translation)

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I'm no intellectual, but ...

Alright, I can't help myself. I hafta vent another pet peeve: Conservatives are, by popular definition, anti-intellectual. Or worse! Some express the belief that we are throwbacks to the dark ages. Or worse! I have it on the best of academic authority that we aren't fully evolved. Or worse! The most enlightened scholars say we conservatives exist only as foils for their terribly enlightened philosophies. I guess we should be proud. But I can't help asking such enlightened intellectuals, "By what standard, and by what authority, are you better than we? Your philosophy of relativism assumes(there's that word again) there is no objective, absolute authority by which to determine value. Yet, you demean and discriminate against us, our belief systems and our institutions. I'm no intellectual, but doesn't that judgmentalism contradict everything you stand for? Obeying your rules of engagement, I won't insist my personal mores are in any way inherently superior to yours. Will you respond with the same concession? Okay, then answer this question: Why are you afraid of mitigating your arguments with honest balance from those who differ from your basic world-view? Oh. I see. You're not afraid. The conservative/Biblical world-view is simply more exclusive and prejudiced , and less valid than the progressive/secular world-view. That's okay. I can live with that. I have no choice, since you own academia, much of government and the popular media .

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Oh, The Presumption

On studying Psalm 119, I discovered verse 101: I have restrained my feet from every evil way, That I may keep Your word. (NASB) Such a statement is huge indeed! In fact, within the balance of Scriptural context, it is impossible. ... as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; (Rom 3:10 NASB) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom 3:23 NASB) So some other information must lie beneath the words. Looking at other Bible translations, Young’s Literal says: From every evil path I restrained my feet... The Amplified Translation says: I have restrained my feet from every evil way... The Holman Christian Standard says: I have kept my feet from every evil path... Since most of the translations use the past perfect tense–have restrained–that might be the verb’s best rendering. Based on that assumption, the next question might be, “I have restrained my feet from every evil way ... in relation to what?” One interpretation might say the Psalmist avoided every evil way in the past. Okay, what about the moment he wrote it? Some Christian schools of thought use verses like that to teach a "second blessing" that makes us able to completely avoid sinning. The opposite view teaches an imputed holiness that makes anything we do something other than sin. Obviously, they can't both be true, so what is The Truth? My point is, we must take the Bible as a whole, instead of elevating one verse, or even a select set of verses, that prove our particular biased interpretation. When we read the Bible in that way, we miss its whole point: We read and study the Bible to apply it to our lives so we will accurately reflect who God is. When we study the Bible primarily for doctrine, we sacrifice its holiness while building our own prideful knowledge. Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. (1Co 8:1)

Friday, December 03, 2004

He's A Santa Kinda Guy

He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows when you've been bad or good, and the number of stars in the sky, how many grains of sand are on the seashore, the number of hairs on your head, every breath you take, and every thought you make. He lives at the North Pole, the South Pole, and every pole in between. In fact, his presence is everywhere! He gives a gift to every boy and girl, BEFORE they've had a chance to be bad or good: It's the gift of life, and only he can give it, because he created life, and everything that has life. Obviously, he's not your average department store Santa. On Christmas we celebrate his birth, but alas, he's not Santa. On Easter we celebrate his resurrection, but his ears are not long and furry. On Thanksgiving we gather to thank him for our sustenance at a harvest feast, but he's not a turkey. And if we don't accept his gift of salvation, regardless how good we think we've been, we snub him and treat his life, and death, with complete disregard. This Christmas, accept the Gift of God.