"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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Death to Birth

When death comes?
       Which death comes?
            When first, death comes?
                  Which is death,
                        When comes, or goes?
                              Where one is born.
                        Then birth is dying?
                  Where one goes,
            Then one dies, to
       Where one was.
Death to then, is
       Birth to now, as
            Death to there is
                  Birth to here.
                        Death died with fear of life.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Notes on Prayer; Does It Make Any Difference by Philip Yancey

48.2    God is intimate because he is infinite, as air is intimate with my lungs. If he were vast as the cosmos without being infinite, he would be unapproachable.
Father, your constant presence fills my life with praise and gratitude, even in those moments when you seem remote. I sit, fingers poised over the keyboard, unable to verbalize what I feel toward you, but I don’t have to feel anything for my mind to know, and my spirit to believe you are here. Thanks for faith beyond sensing with my human faculties, and understanding beyond the reasoning ability of my human mind.
48.3 The hard part about relating to God in prayer is shaking the human habit of dishonesty. Any pretense completely closes off our communication with the eternal One, so I must examine every thought, every word, to ensure its truth.
Though I want to approach God prepared, that does not consist of rehearsing my thoughts as a lawyer rehearses his case. Preparation for prayer is simply reminding myself who God is, and who I am in relation to him. Then I verbalize as the thoughts appear in my mind; no thoughts, no words. Such wordless prayer is not “thoughtless” prayer.
I can illustrate wordless prayer by comparing it to a popcorn popper. Switch the power on and the blower begins kicking the corn around in the popping chamber even before the heating element gets hot. The corn may jump toward the outlet, but the air-flow won’t carry it out of the mouth until it gets hot enough to explode into a fluffy, white morsel of popped corn.
“Thoughtless” prayer, rather than wordless, is memorized or habitual, formal prayer. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing either, unless it becomes meaningless repetition as in a mantra. Calling repeatedly on God can be a heartfelt plea.
I used to struggle with wrong or “improper” thoughts while praying, but now realize they are not a problem. Instead of trying to filter it out of the prayer, I simply give the wrong thought to God, repent of it if needed and thank him for his forgiveness. Satan must get really mad when I steal his thunder like that.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


The soldier wakes up while darkness reigns, a black-ops mission ahead of him. He and his teammates run the final inspection on their gear and stow it for the day’s stealthy trek. A familiar voice from the darkness orders the soldier to point position. He grimaces and complies without hesitation or comment, knowing when people start dying he’ll be the first. Though each step forward is cautious, the soldier’s foot slips into an unseen pit and gravity sucks him into the mortal void. His face registers surprise a moment before the sharpened bamboo drains his life away.
The commuter twists her car’s ignition key a quarter-turn to the right, and the engine produces the expected vibration that tells her she’s on her way. Make-up in place, hair just so, she carefully backs out of her driveway and heads toward another day at work. When her mobile’s ring tone serenades her, she reaches to the passenger seat to grab her purse—but it’s slipped to the floor. With traffic light, she carefully leans over to retrieve it. A moment later, unexpected movement grabs her attention to the truck’s grille mere inches from her car’s left-front quarter. She hears, more than feels, the impact launching her upper body out her door at a precarious angle. Her face registers surprise in the split-second before she is mortally pinned between the two vehicles.
The young concert-goer stands and vacates his arena seat, his tall beer having already traveled through his body. Hard rock floods his senses as he sidesteps to the aisle, climbs to the next tier and the restroom that promises relief. Already reaching for his fly, he halts in the restroom entrance, just as startled as the doper and his dealer doing business inside. The young man stumbles back into the arena, and holding his stomach, he flops back into his seat beside his friend. Surprise etches his face as his life drains onto the beer and peanut-shell encrusted floor.
The soldier knew his life was at risk, but surprise still seized him with his death. The commuter had heard of traffic fatalities, but she’d never seen one, never anticipated her surprise when death overtook her. The rock fan had looked forward to his fun evening listening to his favorite group with his best friend. Did he realize as he sat bleeding to musical accompaniment that his last heartbeat drew near?
Three young people with plans and dreams that would never be realized, who would never again hear of God’s offer of eternal salvation, never enjoy another opportunity to accept God’s love, began their last day perfectly unaware of their impending fate.
Surprise, surprise, surprise!

Don't Try This At Home
When buying lunch, we want our cheeseburger, fries and shake within thirty seconds, not three minutes. When we order pizza delivery, we want our Mega-Meat pizza, Texas-size wings and extra bread sticks hot and fresh at our front door within thirty minutes, not thirty-three minutes. After all, the evening's entertainment is already in the Blue-Ray player.
We normal human beings love quick results. We expect them. We even demand them.
When praying for stuff, we want answers in a timely manner. And if we don't see our prayers answered quickly, we assume God hasn't answered them. Yet. We usually give him that much slack. But if he doesn't deliver(like the pizza delivery guy) within our time frame, he doesn't love us. What ingratitude! After all, we tip God every time the collection basket passes, making sure the change doesn't jingle when we drop it in.
In Mark 4:35-41 we witness Jesus and some of his disciples enjoying an afternoon of boating on the Sea of Galileewithout first checking AccuWeather. As Jesus slept on the pillow, exhausted from his demanding schedule, a terrible wind storm overtook them with waves nearly swamping the boat. The “tough fishermen” handling the boat must not have bothered steering into the rising sea, but chose to panic, awakening their Master with passionate pleas of, “Rabbi, don’t you care that we’re dying out here?”
Hey, at least they gave him enough credit to know what was happening even while asleep.
Jesus probably shook his head in disgust as he called out to the storm, “Peace! Be still!” As suddenly as it came up, the wind quieted and the waves calmed. Then, with a withering gaze at his friends, “Why are you panicking? Don’t you trust me yet?”
Rather than hanging their heads with a “Sorry Rabbi, but ...” they shrank back and whispered among themselves, “Who is this guy that controls even the weather?”
Strange, how they expected a quick fix from him, but were awestruck when he did what they asked. That rather reminds me of my own response when God answers prayer spectacularly.
I have to wonder what the Master thinks when we run to him with our shopping lists of “needs,” admitting he has power to grant them, but not giving him enough credit to already know what we truly need. And how must he feel when we walk away kicking stones, head down, hands in pockets, sulking about his not caring enough to quickly give us what we want? Our attitude disturbingly resembles that of a spoiled brat.
Jesus said to petition Father God with persistence, and whatever we ask in his name will be granted. But when Jesus said, “in my name,” did he intend that we simply recite, “In Jesus name amen?” Or does praying in Jesus’ name mean more than that?
In the real world—meaning everywhere but Western, Evangelical Christendom—doing something in someone’s name means bearing their authority, office or position, so any action you take carries the same force of law as the person for whom you are doing it. That’s like when an ambassador signs a treaty with another nation, he signs it as the proxy of the one who sent him.
So, when Jesus said in John 14:13-14 “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (14) If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it,” and when Colossians 3:17 says, And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him, it means we must do everything as Christ’s ambassadors, officially representing him. But don’t take my word for it, check out 2 Corinthians 5:20, Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
We must not take Jesus for granted, losing faith in the first squall as did his fishermen friends. Whether we’re at home in our “prayer closet,” driving in our car, or standing in church praying in Jesus’ name, we must remember who we are and who we represent with our words: God’s eternal, living Word incarnate, whose name means, “God is salvation.”

Monday, January 16, 2012


Netflix retitled this film, Sarah Palin: The Undefeated, presumably to discredit it so as few unthinking people as possible would watch it. They don't worry about thinking Americans, we're in the minority. You see, this nation of Kool-Aid drinkers will believe any lie the elitist news and entertainment media feed them, especially if their target speaks openly of her uncompromising Christian faith and the eternal values it carries.

But I watched the film, all five stars worth. Though I commented on it, Netflix will probably never publish it. Who needs honesty, anyway?

An interesting consistency presented itself as I scanned the existing comments; liberals hated the film, and conservatives loved it. While it seemed unapologetically promotional, the scalpel-tongued, elitist media gave Mrs. Palin no choice but to try and counter their lies. And it did a great job of it, showing a Sarah Palin I had never before seen, and the truth of her phenomenal achievements in Alaska.

To her ultimate credit, Mrs. Palin bravely took the politicos' and their media stooges' savage, hateful, character assassination on the chin. Despite the media raping that cost her family and her political career dearly, she came back swinging, to the mid-term liberal politicians' extreme chagrin. By not playing by Washington's rules and demonstrating her character and competence, she has earned, not their respect, but their undying fear and hatred. And that, for the best reason of all: She speaks the truth.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Comment From a nonbeliever

While listening to a Gaither rendition of Leaning On the Everlasting Arms, I became interested in a nonbeliever's comment:
i am not christian and i am not a believer of any other religion. i believe that you live and you die. and as much as i have seen and known that is good enough for me. i am not here not here to make anyone doubt their religion i just anted to say that this song is beautiful and if human beings would start to notice how beautiful this life is that we have and how lucky we are to only get 1 chance at it then maybe killing each other over religion would stop. i love my country more then anything.
To which I replied:
@hom859 You made a beautiful statement of faith in human goodness. We can indeed be good, but it doesn't come naturally, and too often we attach that goodness to selfish motives, which WAY too often look like religion. Hope you don't mind that I copy your comment and my reply into my blog, The Well-Dressed Branch.
I hope @hom859 will search this blog to read my followup comments.

As I said, human religion masquerades as devotion to God, which is sometimes a good thing. But most often we contaminate it with selfish motives and ambitions, which makes it a bad thing — a TERRIBLY bad thing.

Atheists rightly observe history as a series of religious debacles, but tragically, they blame it on all religion. Human religion is nothing short of idolatry, whether it takes the form of self-aggrandizement, veneration of humans — dead or alive — pride in allegedly Biblical teachings and the people or denominations that propagate them, or literal idol-worship.
 James 1:26-27 ESV  If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.  (27)  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Religion, by that definition, benefits humanity as no other practice or ideology can. But only God's love can produce that blessed religion, and God's love is only accessible through our Master Jesus Christ.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The World's Longest Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge at night
John Roebling had a dream. He began working on it with smaller scale projects, culminating with his design for the Brooklyn Bridge. But he died before he could witness his dream's construction.
John's son Washington took over the project, completing the actual design work. He invented wire rope (steel cable) to take a structural load far greater than the hemp rope of the period could support. He invented a construction tool called the pressurized caisson, that allowed workers to lay the towers' foundations well below the East River's surface.
Considering the Brooklyn Bridge, architect Louis Kahn wrote, "Great art work is not the fulfilling of a desire, but the making of a new desire. The world never really needed Beethoven's Fifth Symphony until he wrote it, and now we couldn't live without it. Likewise, we didn't really need (the Brooklyn Bridge), ... but now that it's there, we couldn't live without it.”
Lake Pontchartrain Causeway
Another bridge took form in an architect's mind long before it was ever needed, a bridge that spanned far more than the Brooklyn Bridge's 6,000 feet. Longer even than the 24-mile-long, Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. It too was a father and son project, but rather than killing the Father, completing this project killed the Son. And while the Brooklyn Bridge inspired Lewis Kahn's romantic observations, we denizens of the world could not live beyond the veil of death without this Longest Bridge.
Though it is truly monumental, and one way or another its name is on nearly everyone's lips, no one can find it without the Guide. This Longest Bridge is not a structure, but a person: The incarnate Word of God, through whom the eternal Father made our universe, and without whom not one person will survive this short, mortal existence.
Our sin created the infinite gulf between ourselves and our Father God, but his love provided our Way back to himself, his perfect Truth, and his eternal Life(John 14:6). The Bible says of God's eternal Word, He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:10-14 ESV)
Yes, the name of Jesus is on many lips, either through praise, or through profanity. We praise him because his love led him to willingly submit to the worst, most degrading Roman torture imaginable; he chose death on the cross to reconcile his creation to himself after we willingly separated ourselves from him through sin. We profane him because most of us refuse to respond to his love with our own love, through obedience to his good news, the gospel of salvation through his blood.
Follow God's gospel to The World's Longest Bridge, and realizing you need him while you still have opportunity, get on. He's waiting, and he's nearer than we think.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I reckon most folks aren’t old enough to remember the 1966 James Garner and Sidney Portier movie titled Dual at Diablo. To spoil it completely for anyone who might go back to the archives to watch the movie, only a small handful survived the battle of Diablo Canyon, until the cavalry arrived to save the day.

Diablo means devil in Spanish, which is an interesting coincidence, considering each of us, whether we know it or not, are at war with el diablo. Each moment of our lives, el diablo stalks us like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Have you never seen the devil? Perhaps you just didn't recognize him.
The devil is alive and well in the attitudes that place "Me First!" 

Like the valiant, fictional soldiers who died with arrows in heir backs, many—if not mostof us will die much as they did, attacked from the rear. Yes, the cavalry is on the way, but in the true story, it’s spelled Calvary. And the company of troopers who will save the day is just one man, but WHAT A MAN. He happens to be the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the eternal Word incarnate, and the self-existent, eternal God’s only Son, all rolled up into one Savior.

Only one problem: He, the only perfectly innocent One, had to die as a sinner to save a sinner. That would be me, and you.

Yes, of course we aren't the only sinners in the world, but even if we were, it would have made no difference to the Savior. Being God, he knows you personally, from among all the people who have ever lived. In fact, he knows you so well, you can't hide anything from him. Think of the most secret, darkest thoughts that have occasionally plagued you, or the one thing about yourself that no one knows. That's right; it’s all clear as day to the Savior whose name means God Is Salvation. But as hard as it is to imagine, he loves you anyway. He loves you with a depth and breadth we humans can't begin to conceive, because as the Bible says, God Is Love.

So quit fooling yourself. Though you may have all your weapons at the ready to fight the enemy of your soul, there is no way you can stop him. Your enemy is quieter than an Indian warrior. He is more stealthy than an assassin with a garrote. And if you think all this doesn’t apply to you, he already has you lulled into a complacency deeper than that of Rip Van Winkle.

If you decide to wake up--which is your choice--you’ll find that Jesus did all the hard work for you; all you have to do is appropriate(that’s, grab hold and never let go) the amazing salvation He offers. Come just as you are, sin and all. No sin is too big for His forgiveness. Even if you’re penniless you have the price of admission, and even if you’re wealthy you don’t have enough money to buy what He offers. Jesus said, I am the Door, and, I am the Way. He said nothing of a gate fee.

If you’re thinking, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” you are wise. Though the redemption He offers is free of charge, nowhere in His word did Jesus say it would cost nothing. When a wealthy man asked Jesus, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus gave him a brief rundown of the commandments, which the guy had followed since his youth. Then, though Jesus knew the young man was sincere, He also knew he was rich in worldly possessions. So Jesus challenged him beyond what he was willing to give. “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”(from Mark 10:17-23) The price was too steep, so the guy shuffled away, dejected.

Whether you’re rich or poor by the world’s standard, the salvation that Jesus bought for you with His life requires the same investment: Everything this world has to offer. Thing is, once your heart stops, somebody here on Earth will smile all the way to the bank with everything you own. And it won’t be you, ‘cause you’ll be d-e-a-d, like a doornail. And the fun you don’t want to give up? When you pass to the other side you will see it for what it is: stupid foolishness. You’ll be like the kid who spent his allowance on candy, and all he got that lasted was a bellyache and cavities.

So, back to Diablo Canyon. The few who lived were those who faced the enemy and were willing to give everything to live. If you want to survive your “Dual With el Diablo,” Give your life to Jesus, and Calvary will come to your rescue.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Mars Needs Moms; fun liberal indoctrination

Mars Needs Moms is a fun, painless way for your kids to get their liberal propaganda. If only I were a social progressive, I could have enjoyed this flick more fully.
The Martians in this film lived in a female-dominated society where the males were the nurturers—and more than a bit flaky. Kids will get such a kick out of all the tightly-fitted Martian glutes that they might miss the intended pro-mom message. And no, I'm not dirty-minded; I just know kids. The bit of toilet humor at the end was cute, and in only moderately poor taste.
As in most  programs aimed at kids, the old people in Mars are the villains, whose single purpose is to spoil everyone’s fun. The old villain, by the way, was the recipient of the above mentioned toilet humor.
Mars Needs Moms provides plenty of action and cheesy-but-fun acting. The fantastic animation and effects often caused me to forget it was animated, and that I was enjoying progressive propaganda.