Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Learning Curve 2014

The invitation was issued by Emily Freeman at Chatting At The Sky to sum up what was learned in 2014. I’ve lived to learn all of my life and have always written about my learning curves in different formats, most recently in this blog, and yet I had to stop and go back through my 2014 posts to see if I did learn anything. I was surprised, actually. Apparently I am not too old to learn. 

1. Contagious Faith

I’ve always known that I am a sower not a reaper and therefore I rarely have the joy of witnessing the harvest of anything I have ever sown. But worse than that I am, more often than not, called upon to say the tough words that sometimes gentle Christians  might think but hesitate to say lest they discourage someone. Discomforting rather than comforting words that offend and challenge modern human sensibilities and bruise tender feelings.

One might correctly assume that this does not help me win friends and influence people. 

Read the rest HERE

2. Revelation and Wisdom

Four years ago, forewarned and fully realizing up front that it would be a burden and that what I would learn could not be unlearned or ignored, I still wanted to know, so I started asking for wisdom, which is the greater message (truth) behind “ask and ye shall receive” (having nothing whatsoever to do with prosperity and BMWs). In spite of the inevitable downside to receiving the gift of a word of knowledge, I wanted to know anyway because that’s how I am constructed. I have always just wanted to know what is true about anything and everything. True. Not sorta kinda true. Not good enough true. Not true for the moment or according to current interpretation. True. Plain ole true. Even if it’s harsh. Even if it demands I step up to something that makes me a pariah. 

What I have learned and continue to learn (once begun it does not subside just because it causes problems with social interaction) is that there is a rock solid, immoveable foundational truth at the bottom of everything we think we know and it doesn’t matter if we like it or not.

Read the rest HERE

3. We Enter Naked

It’s not that I wasn’t expecting it. I’ve always understood the process and the inevitability. I wrote about it in my journal when my future was still a pulsing great unknown chomping at the bit to be. Pondering in a moony blue poetic funk is not exactly the same as experiencing it, though. Making peace with the constant aches in muscle and marrow, letting go of nearly every motion that once was second nature and routine, concentrating on each step to avoid crumbling down into a foolish heap, this is a real and present focus that can not be imagined. 

Watching with a vague sense of empathy, and if one is honest, annoyance, as an elder shuffles by is not the same as being the elder who has lost the battle with time, who cannot, even with determination, will a foot to lift, whose every forward movement must be measured, planned and accounted for.

They say getting old is not for sissies. What a crock! Getting old is a promise, regardless of one’s courage, ability, talent, acquired knowledge, strength, passion. The only way to deal with it is to face it square on. To say, okay, I can’t do this or this or that anymore.  

Nevertheless, I can do this. 

Read the rest HERE

4. Brave

If you haven’t been paying attention, let me point out that things are getting scarier by the minute. The whole world is imploding both in the realm of the flesh and the natural. 

Something is definitely afoot. Unlike any other time in the history of the world. There is call out now, a call to be brave.

You may think you don’t have to worry about what is coming because, you know, you’ll be scooped up. I say, stand anyway… just in case... . I don’t know how much longer God will put up with this reprobated world but every time I read the headlines or watch a TV show or see the latest movie advertised, I start looking up. 

Read the rest HERE

5. Done!

Of course, I always see the greater message in everything and for me this addresses the daily modern challenges we face individually as well as collectively. We need more than courage to continue in the face of adversity, nowadays, we need a certain kind of pluck that can only be found in unquenchable faith to keep us keeping on when the end is nowhere in sight. 

Read the rest HERE

6. Young

Here’s the oldest truth ever–no one, specifically not the young, really wants to know what you know or what you have learned. The young, as the old themselves were once, are preprogrammed to fall headlong into their own learning curves. Even knowledge that must be conveyed through schooling is still absorbed only by testing. A theorem may be written in stone but the learning process that locks in the concept for each new mind introduced to it must be proven over and over again by experimentation and practice. 

Read the rest HERE

7. Like A Pencil

From my insecure perspective, most other folks are ball point pens. They move through life making confident indelible strokes, often in perfect cursive. Then there are the really bold who are more like Sharpies. You know the ones who make loud marks and thus naturally stand out. In smaller numbers there are those who are broad tipped permanent markers but that’s another analogy for another day.

Then there’s me. More like a pencil.

Read the rest HERE

8. My Father’s Cane

Something snapped. I had just finished putting the breakfast casserole in the oven, preparing for Christmas Day Brunch, and decided to sit down for a few minutes to give my right knee (that I’ve been babying for a few weeks) a break. I guess the extra flurry of activity getting ready for Christmas decided to collect its toll. At the critical point when my knees were at a right angle the sudden pop and mind blowing pain shot through me like a lightning bolt. 

Ron rushed over and helped me into sitting position with my disabled leg up and that’s where I remained for the rest of the day. The troops rallied. My granddaughter Olivia came and finished up the rest of the meal. Then everyone else came, some still in pjs, ladened with things to contribute. Then we did what we do to celebrate the birth of Jesus, by living and loving out loud–but this year with me sitting. 

Read the rest HERE

For Him,

Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Father's Cane

Something snapped. I had just finished putting the breakfast casserole in the oven, preparing for Christmas Day Brunch, and decided to sit down for a few minutes to give my right knee (that I’ve been babying for a few weeks) a break. I guess the extra flurry of activity getting ready for Christmas decided to collect its toll. At the critical point when my knees were at a right angle the sudden pop and mind blowing pain shot through me like a lightning bolt. 

Ron rushed over and helped me into sitting position with my disabled leg up and that’s where I remained for the rest of the day. The troops rallied. My granddaughter Olivia came and finished up the rest of the meal. Then everyone else came, some still in pjs, ladened with things to contribute. Then we did what we do to celebrate the birth of Jesus, by living and loving out loud–but this year with me sitting. 

Ron and I brain-stormed and came up with a makeshift splint made of a 12 inch length of 1x2 pvc trim board and black duct tape. Not exactly couture but quite adequate to temporarily capture and hold my knee straight. After everyone returned to their own Christmas Day Ron and I mulled over the strategy needed to navigate this new circumstance in our lives on a holiday weekend and coming up short of an immediate plan, finally opted to watch a movie. 

Sedentary sitting is one thing but getting up and down on Day One was the antithesis of grace, walking even worse, so I commandeered the handmade cane from the foyer umbrella stand to help me. 

This was once my father’s cane. I bought it for him about 40 years ago at a place called Silver Dollar City near Branson, Missouri, a quaint family-oriented amusement park themed on 1800s American mountain life and crafts. The country music world had not yet discovered the potential back then so it was still like walking back into a time when things were... well, the nearby town of Blue Eye had a population of 92, just to give you a point of reference for how long ago this was.

Created by the hand of an unknown woodworking artisan who had gently shaved, polished and coaxed a cedar limb into a sturdy walking cane, I saw it in the wood shop and thought my dad would appreciate its uniqueness. Which he did and he used it constantly until he passed in 1979. Interesting that my memories of my dad in his late years always include the cane. I don’t recall how I ended up with it but it has managed to stay with me through several life changes and not a few moves, thus relegated to the umbrella stand in a number of houses. Until two days ago, Christmas Day, it was mostly an artifact, a remnant, the last remaining physical belonging that my dad had once touched. 

On Day Two, after trying out some work-arounds, we faced the inevitable and paid a visit to the ER. My father’s cane, once again fully in service, tucked next to my hip and levered, helped hold my leg straight out while I was being wheeled to various stations, triage information, x-rays, back and forth to the waiting room. No less than three nurses and aides noticed my rigged cane-leg-lift contraption. The x-ray tech commented on how clever. I imagined I could hear my dad say proudly, “Yes siree!” Another aide wheeling in a patient after me as I was being wheeled out remarked, “Well, look at you!” Dad and I nodded smugly.

In the middle of the crisis I didn’t have time to truly appreciate the uniqueness of the cane that once helped steady my dad’s walk and was now doing the same for me. This morning, still in bed, I looked over at the ever faithful assistant leaning on the night table. 

I mean I really looked at it. 

It isn’t perfect, if you want to measure perfection by machine made symmetrical precision. There are knots along the length that were filled by the crafter and then sanded down, leaving light discoloration in the mended cracks. The shape, while artistic, is odd and bulges at the center. The top is just a wide lop-sided knob. The rubber tip that fits on the narrow bottom end is held on by old sticky tape, my father’s workaround, to keep it in place. The now brittle paper still peeks out at the top of the rubber foot–that is still hanging on.

And while all that is true, here is what I saw when I really studied this one-of-a-kind art. First, I realized it was designed to do a job, not to fill a dress code or look stylish. The crafter knew the exact measurement it would need to be for optimum height and depth. The bulge in the center could have been carved down but it added to the strength and stability that the narrow tip could not contribute. The top knot fits the palm of the hand perfectly and lends a sense of security. Made of one solid piece, insured its longevity.

And then I saw something else. This utilitarian helpmate is not unlike my personal relationship with Christ, which is not manufactured by man-made doctrine. Made for the long-haul, ever ready to hold up, to support and keep steady. Dependable. Trustworthy. It’s simple, uncomplicated, graceful and perfectly imperfect.

I fell asleep at the end of Day One, Christmas 2014, thanking God for everything. For the beautiful day, my family and friends, our joy, duct tape and pvc 1x2s...and my father’s cane, that’s been there for me all these years even when I didn’t realize it.

...and thankful for the One that’s always waiting, ever ready to hold me up when I am weak. 

For Him,

(2 Corinthians 12:10) Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Monday, December 15, 2014

That Thing About Christmas

A recurring theme in Christmas stories is summed up in Dr. Seuss’s classic children’s tale The Grinch Who Stole Christmas: no matter what you do or not, what you have or don’t, Christmas happens anyway.  

Christmas, as we now celebrate it, primarily as a vehicle for economic stimulation, used to be much simpler. Honest. During my childhood no one even mentioned the topic of Christmas until about December 15. On the mid-month Sunday my dad would drag out the outdoor Christmas lights, wrestle with untangling the wires, test and replace the burnt out bulbs and then festoon the cypress tree at the end of the front walk. Mom would start baking fruit cake and the season would gently begin. Only then was I  officially allowed to play I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas on the record player, over and over again, and it was my job to set up the card board manger scene under the tree. My mother did the tinsel, because I did not have the patience to hang one strand at a time.

A handful of old photos confirm the only consistent decorating-for-Christmas tradition of my childhood was making sure the tree leaned slightly and the star on top was always off center. And the tinsel was hung perfectly.

By the time I was in the hot middle of raising my family, someone had figured out what a boon the Christmas season could be for commerce. Thus, I was sucked in by the holiday frenzy vortex. Just short of needing to be hospitalized for exhaustion is what I remember most about a twenty year period when I was referred to as “Christmas Mom’ for my all out Herculean efforts to do everything possible to commit suicide by decorating, filling stockings for everyone and the dog, baking, shopping, entertaining, making gifts, wrapping gifts, devising new ways to shove as much activity as possible into a month starting the day after Thanksgiving. Peace and Joy, delegated to the back seat, the call of duty to my To-Do list commandeered the bus. Duty to be. Duty to meet or exceed expectations. 

I might have stopped sooner if there had been such a thing as blogging back then. 


It seems the buzz in the blogosphere this year is about simplifying. Cutting back on decorating and spending, not just money but time. The unified consensus among blog followers include comments like “thanks for giving me permission to scale back - I needed this.”

Keeping it real I wonder if I would have heeded this “permission” way back when or would I have soldiered on. I’m nothing if not stubborn. I’ve always had to figure things out for myself-–the hard way. But since I am always ahead of my time, a lifelong blessing as well as curse, I often figure things out sooner than the mainstream. 

My epiphany came about ten years ago. It hit me that I was over it as I was loading up the 22 bins full of Christmas decor to go back to storage. Then and there I gave my own self permission to let go. The following year I offered my oldest daughter everything but the bin of tree ornaments. I continued to do a tree until five years ago when we moved to this our last house. Now I decorate the mantel and that’s about it. Some greenery, some fake red berries here and there. Poinsettias. Some candles. An arrangement on the dining table. This year I also filled an art glass bowl with shiny balls. Done and done! Exhale.

But, more importantly, my decision was even more dramatic than limiting decorating. I also suggested as a family, we collectively agree to stop exchanging gifts among the adults only giving to the kids. From there it pared down further and the kids now draw names amongst themselves, greatly reforming the gifting obligation from burdensome to symbolic. Further, in the same timeframe that I quit overdoing Christmas I also started a tradition of having the grands do random acts of kindness in lieu of gifts for us–the grand parents. They share what they chose to do with us at our annual Christmas gathering. What could be better?

Here’s the really crazy part - amazingly enough, a decade ago we had no idea we were trending, we thought we were reclaiming sanity and returning to the real reason for the season. There was no media coverage or national dialogue or social media flurry about our decision to do differently. No collective opinion or permission required. 

I could brag and say we are just too smart but it’s more likely we were blindly blessed to figure out that thing about Christmas coming anyway is and was always about Christ–not what we do or don’t do to acknowledge His birth. The world was weary, hurting, frenzied, distracted by things and duty, expectations and Law that could not save. It was pretty hopeless.

But, He came anyway, as a babe, no less, not only giving us permission to let go and rise above all the useless frazzle but also bestowing the best gift ever - the Way to genuine joy and divine peace.  

Merry Christmas,
For Him,


While packing things up for our last move five years ago I found the bin of ornaments, most of which were handmade by my three children and the first two grands–a representation of the evolution of kids crafts from the early 70s to the late 90s. But more than that, a collection of stories of our family’s Christmases past wishing to be told. I realized then that I would not likely decorate another tree, so I wrote a letter, sealed it and put it on top and then closed the bin. It sits on a shelf in the basement. Waiting. Like a time capsule.

I love imagining that some day there might be a gathering of my heirs reading the letter and pulling out the ornaments sharing with the great-grands how each came to be. Whatever their traditions might be they will be able to see and touch the best of the best remnants of my Christmases past. Everything else is irrelevant. And rightly so.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Like A Pencil

My sister, Jo, and I like to putter around in a wonderful consignment shop that was once a Walmart in Buford called Queen of Hearts. Strolling the aisles among the booths is so much more than a walk back in time. I cannot get enough of the unfettered creative energy on display. It’s impossible to take it all in. I marvel at all the ways folks can repurpose old things, bringing new life to objects that have long ago had their day. Mostly, the diehard artist in me rejoices at the affirmation that ingenuity lives. As automated, robotic and manufactured as we have become, individual creativity remains an unstoppable condition that finds its way out from under to express itself as still useful. Still relevant. 

Uniqueness is the norm in this place and prevails in a completely productive yet non-competitive environment that stimulates my waning creative juices.  It’s impossible for me to get out of there without buying something. What I want is to just buy all of it. But then I’d have to open a place like it and sell it so, prudence wins. I buy a used book instead. Last time I bought a lamp for $20 that was so perfect for where I needed it I still can’t get over it. Had I bought a brand new lamp somewhere else for triple the price, I could not have been more pleased.

When I got the book home I noticed there was a handwritten inscription on the front end leaf. The book was a gift for someone’s 40th birthday in 2000. The casual cursive scrawled delicately at an angle on the page and signed the giver’s name with love. Then I noticed it was written in pencil. Pencil. Who writes a dedication in pencil?  Maybe that’s what the giver had to use? An old pencil pulled from the junk drawer? You know you have one.

This set me thinking. Which I’m sure is a shock. An analogy presented itself that I had to explore. So, I asked, what’s wrong with a pencil? Too informal? Too rough drafty? The sentiment is still there, some fourteen years hence, and will likely be there for as long as the book exists. 

Took a couple days letting this roll around in my head but here’s what I concluded:

From my insecure perspective, most other folks are ball point pens. They move through life making confident indelible strokes, often in perfect cursive. Then there are the really bold who are more like Sharpies. You know the ones who make loud marks and thus naturally stand out. In smaller numbers there are those who are broad tipped permanent markers but that’s another analogy for another day.

Then there’s me. More like a pencil. I’m utilitarian. I’ve been around awhile so I don’t need batteries or electricity to do what I do. No fancy mechanics, push buttons or shiny parts. Just wood around some graphite. The comparatively pale marks I make do not stand out, and can easily be erased. My eraser was worn down long ago so as I have aged I have had to be somewhat more careful about what I put down and less impulsive because otherwise I just have to cross out the mistake which sits there exposing my imperfections. I have some bite marks that remain to attest to some hard use, times when thoughts had to be pulled out under duress. My brass end is still in good shape but it’s just a detail now with no good purpose, since the eraser it held is gone.

I have been worn down by use and that’s a testament to something, not sure what, but I optimistically want to think this is a good thing. I can be sharpened either by a fancy pencil sharpening devise or by a knife. Which just means I am open to workarounds. 

I’m shorter, thus look fatter and I am probably ready to be replaced. But! I can still do what I was created to do. In the Master’s hand, I can compose and create as He sees fit. 

And that’s about as good as I was ever meant to be. 

For Him,


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Prosperity in The Matrix

I had a scary moment on Tuesday. And an epiphany.

It was “Meema Day” for my nine year old granddaughter and seven year old family friend. We chose to brave the mall in spite of the predictable pre-Thanksgiving crowds. We planned our strategy over chicken fried rice at P.F. Changs. First, we’d go to Build A Bear, then trek to the other end of the mall (a mile was it?) to take on the jumpy thing (them jumping, me watching), ending up at the Barnes and Noble on our way out.

Game plan confirmed, we finished our lunch and headed for the Build A Bear which I noted was at fire code capacity. The girls made their choices and we dutifully followed protocol through each of the stations. At last at the computer, where one names and registers the newly born stuffed friend, the questions about address, phone number and email hit me as somewhat invasive. Apparently this data base is necessary in case the new friend was ever lost. 

Right. In other words, the toy is chipped. 

Whatever, I just wanted to get done and get out of the crowd. Having sufficient information extracted from us to be able to track us down anytime in the future, we elbowed our way up to the counter to pay for our fully databased fluffy toys where I was then put through a type of congenial interrogation. First I was asked for my BAB customer card. You know, so I could get credited for points earned. I had one once, years ago, when the first set of grandkids were young but who knows what happened to it? The clerk said, “No problem, what is your phone number?” That didn’t work because I have moved and no matter how long I have a phone number I instantly forget it once I have a new one. No problem, then, she asked for the address of the house I lived in when I had the BAB card. 

Here’s where the scary moment happened. Already stressed by the grueling process of building a stuffed animal and offering up everything but my blood type to the Beast my brain decided enough was enough and took a little break. Not only could I not recall the address where I had lived for twelve years, scarier still, I could not recall the address where I live now. In the interest of time, and the growing line behind me, I resorted to pulling out my drivers license for that vital information. That I had to be given in order for me to pay for the toys. 

Here’s where the epiphany moment happened that has haunted me for days now. Of course, the first niggling thought is in regards to my waning brain power and the unspeakable possibilities. But I know me and what that shut down represented was my rebellious nature. Simply put, I am over this era. I’m done with having to “show my papers” to every clerk anytime I wish to make even the smallest purchase. Further, anyone even with waning brain would know that the real reason for all the data collection is for ongoing outreach for advertising. Duh.

Today, as I clicked off dozens of advertisements in my inbox, including the one from Build A Bear, I paused on one. It hit me hard because it was from a very well known religious leader’s organization. It was a bright enticement, dressed in holiday colors, admonishing me to “Don’t follow the crowds - this year give gifts that show you care - and that God does too...”

You see where this is going? 

I thought the headlines reporting the Black Friday chaos in the malls, people wiling to fist fight over a Barbie Doll and steal products out of other shoppers’ carts was the revelation of a society on its last gasp. But now I realize that is just the symptom. The root of our problem is our prosperity. It has turned toxic and we are on the brink of implosion. We were tested by our blessings and found wanting. Even organized religion has sipped from the cup of how to get those with too much already to buy buy buy more. 

The famous line from a movie claimed that we “can’t handle the truth” and apparently neither can we handle prosperity. So, for me, the signs are all ablaze now. But I think I’ve turned a corner. I’m no longer going to participate in the madness. Unless and until it reaches the point where I’m forced to either be chipped like a stuffed toy or die, I’m going to opt out of the data gathering shopping experience. I’m going to reinterpret the advise of the ad and choose to not follow the crowd–my way.

Even though it’s really too late now–this is just a token act of defiance, I’m already being tracked online and customized ads appear for me no matter where I surf. In real time, clerks get testy with me if I refuse to offer up my email address. “Don’t you want money saving coupons?” they intimidate. So it’s going to take a bit of fortitude to implement this new paradigm. I’ll be labeled as ‘cranky’ and ‘uncooperative’.

But better late than never. When they ask, I’m going to just say no. They can take the answer or leave it. If pressed I’ll ask if they want me to make the purchase or not. I can go somewhere else. The hallmark of prosperity is abundance. It’s everywhere calling out like merchants in a bazaar - buy! buy! buy! 

For Him,

The Lord has to hide so much from us, because it is dangerous for us; our flesh makes it dangerous. We shall be tried by blessing as well as by adversity. The keenest fires of trial are often those of success or prosperity. Such tests discover whether our hearts are fixed upon the Lord or upon things. ~ T. Austin-Sparks 

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Youth is wasted on the young is a clever old saying that loses its humor as we age. 

The point, of course, is that once you have lived enough to finally have a thick file of functional knowledge, it’s too late to use it to improve your outcome and, what’s worse, no one else cares to access it, especially not the young, so it’s pretty useless in the end game–a classic oxymoron. If we could time travel and tap into the treasure of experience our older self has earned, we still would need to actually experience the lessons of our choices, good and bad, in order to amass that wealth of knowledge in the first place. 

Here’s the oldest truth ever–no one, specifically not the young, really wants to know what you know or what you have learned. The young, as the old themselves were once, are preprogrammed to fall headlong into their own learning curves. Even knowledge that must be conveyed through schooling is still absorbed only by testing. A theorem may be written in stone but the learning process that locks in the concept for each new mind introduced to it must be proven over and over again by experimentation and practice. 

Perhaps the lesson we most often reject is that we live to learn so we can learn to live. If we don’t live, if we don’t take risks, if we don’t try and fail, we don’t learn or we learn less than we could. If we simply take the word of someone else who went before us and therefore we decide to choose the straight safe paved, lighted highway instead of the rock laden path that curves and dips and winds, we cruise through passively only seeing the billboards that advertise the things others have learned. We then must either trust that those billboards are telling the truth, or we take the risk going off-road and learn by hitting our own bumps.

But the real oxymoron in the youth-being-wasted-on-the-young-thingy taunts us as the last big lesson us elders have to wrap our shrinking brains around. We chose our paths, we took our roads whether paved or not, we earned our lessons, often the hard way and sometimes with great sacrifice, but what we now know, that we deem to be of high worth, belongs exclusively to us. As great as it all might be the goal was never for our ‘stuff’ to become a repository for anyone else, especially not the young. 

Now this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek to learn from history or from the experience of others, on the contrary, this is just a reality check. This is how it is and it underscores the truth that life is in no way fair and hardly ever textbook. As much as we’d love to share, to help, to make the way smoother for our young, we can’t really. They have to fend for themselves until the day they finally realize they might have missed a few good short-cuts by asking a few questions. The only consolation in this, and cause for big fat grinning, is that one day the young will no longer be young and they’ll face the same frustration and have their own ‘stuff’ to deal with.

Hopefully they will smile too in acknowledgement of the irony - like their elders did before them.

For Him,

(Ecclesiastes 1:9) That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.  (1:10) Is there a thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been long ago, in the ages which were before us.  (1:11) There is no remembrance of the former [generations]; neither shall there be any remembrance of the latter [generations] that are to come, among those that shall come after.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Holidays

Our clan is aging. This is what happens because, above all else, life is a living thing. It is constantly growing and shrinking resulting in inevitable change. As they say, the only constant you can count on is change. 

We have our traditions like most clans. But even those annual customs, that we have done our best to maintain, have often had to be adjusted for circumstances because... Life. Happens. 

I’ve always had a practical attitude toward customary convention, i.e., the holiday season. When I was still writing the I Was Just Thinking column I often slanted my November/December pieces toward those who might be stressed during the last two months of the year. Those who are in between creating traditions and/or have had life altering events in their lives that will force them, for whatever reason, to be out of season with the SEASON.

I speak of these times because I have had firsthand experience with them. In truth, for all the falderal that is shoved at us through the agenda driven commercial side of celebrating, every year is different and ought to be realized as such. In other words, rather than being owned and dictated to by what has been established as mandatory activity, why not just say no? Why not say, this I can do, this I can’t–this year–and it’s okay. 

It’s okay to celebrate in the way you can on a different day, if that is what is needed. It’s okay to forego spending money you don’t have to give gifts just because tradition (and commerce) demands it. It’s okay to choose to volunteer to serve others on Thanksgiving or Christmas instead of sitting alone depressed because things aren’t what they have been or fall short of what is expected by custom.

It is a tangible reality that all the years when everything aligned and the holidays fully met the fairytale criteria melt together into one warm fuzzy memory. Nothing in particular stands out. The remains are found in a collage of old photos and videos and fading glow of joy that takes some mental calculations to recall what year that was. Interestingly enough, it is the stressed years, the years during upheaval, change, compromise and life flux that we really recall. These are the times when we’ve been tried, reshaped and ultimately refined. 

Ironically, if it were not for the trying times we’d have no contrast, nothing to inspire us to gratitude for the easier, better times. Regardless our traditions, it is  our gratitude that makes a day a holiday. Not the rituals performed on a set day on the calendar. Not the fuss and flurry and demands of making things perfectly perfect as determined by a formal praxis maintained to mostly turn the bottom line from red to black. 

I’m just saying if you find yourself in difficulty and things simply can’t be like a lovely commercial, celebrate in your heart anyway and know that the outward things mean much less than the inward things. 

The day after is just another day to give thanks as well.

For Him,

(1 Thessalonians 5:16) Rejoice always;  (5:17) pray without ceasing;  (5:18) in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014


our own freedom is not so gratifying when we must look upon the bondage of others: slavery, enslavement, servitude, subjugation, subjection, oppression, domination, exploitation, persecution; enthrallment, thraldom; historical serfdom, vassalage. ANTONYMS liberty.

What comes to mind when you hear the word bondage? Slavery, chains, human trafficking? Selfies?

Reading the daily headlines in Drudge makes it clear that evil has just about covered all the bases and infiltrated nearly every aspect of life on earth now. We were warned that it would get to this point so we shouldn’t be shocked to see it happening right before our eyes. Good is seen as bad and bad is celebrated and even honored as good. You know you live in a narcissistic world when everyone around you is obsessed with those who are obsessed with themselves. And it is narcissism, or love of self, that is the engine that moves the bus. The irony is that the more self-love there is, the more self-love spreads, which seems contradictory some how unless you think of it as being more like a deadly virus. 

Most of the social media that has sucked in millions of people like a vacuum is specific to self-promotion. Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and a dozen others do nothing but fuel the self-love generation’s appetite for more ways to focus on self.  Spend hours a day on these sites under the guise of “sharing” and thus it is effectively normalized.

And this is my very sad point. ALL ABOUT ME is the new normal. In other words, bondage is the new normal. Bondage is slavery but not just chains and human trafficking anymore. Bondage in small as well as big things is a diabolical strategy and suggests that evil has pulled out the stops in its last desperate effort to overcome and vanquish good once and for all.  Spiritual death by a thousand small cuts is far more effective than simply lurking in the dark waiting to ambush. And so bondage to addictions of any kind is the simplest, most effective way to keep souls distracted and blind. How diabolical! To make matters worse, these distractions/obsessions can take any of a multitude of forms, some sound really good and are more subtle than others:

physical appearance/narcissism
obsessive, perverted sexual desire
anything that causes addiction: drugs, video games, food, alcohol, gambling, sports, fashion, internet, social media
religious spirit/religious habits
any destructive habit

Any destructive habit. Think about that. Why would we want to do anything that leads to self-destruction? 

Some days I wonder if it wouldn’t be better if I stopped reading or watching news. That way I wouldn’t have to acknowledge what is so abundantly clear–as bad as things have been in the past, even during Noah’s time, has there ever been a more reprobate era such as this?

The question is begged: how much worse can/will it get before it gets better? 

For Him,

 (1 Corinthians 6:17) But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.  (6:18) Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.  (6:19) Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own;  (6:20) for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body.           

(Matthew 24:10) And then shall many stumble, and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another.  (24:11) And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray.  (24:12) And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold.  (24:13) But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Lowering the Bar

Get a cuppa coffee or tea, get comfy. This is gonna be lengthy.

A situation came to my attention that centered around violent video games in general and the newest version of Grand Theft Auto in particular. Of course, the debate about the bad influence of violent games and movies on young impressionable minds rages on, unresolved, as games and movies continually push the envelope evolving into ever increasingly graphically violent and sexually explicit content–a cultural lowering of the bar unimaginable in as short a time as only twenty years. Unfortunately, I think the yays far outnumber the nays in the vote now. 

There is a logical reason why the addiction to activities that arouse the most primeval desire to decimate, murder, destroy and over power is fast becoming the new ‘norm’. 

The question is not that it is happening but how much is too much? How far is too far?

The worn out argument that video game and movie makers deny the negative influence of their products because it means multiple billions of dollars in commerce at stake is lame and goes nowhere, and needs to be put to rest. Yes, of course, who doesn’t know that one only need follow the money to find that those who profit from something will never speak out against it. This is primary common sense and is easily applied to all manner of industries. Should pharmaceutical companies be allowed to rate their own drugs as safe or unsafe? No, that’s the job of the FDA. 

So, who decides if steady brain bathing, sometimes hours a day, in streaming violence, crude language, blatant evil, and salacious sex in video games is detrimental to the children who are destined to inherit the future? In the US, the age appropriate ratings for videos is administered by the ESRB–Entertainment Software Rating Board. But the usefulness of such ratings is often challenged by studies concluding that 90% of teenagers say their parents never check the ratings before allowing them to buy and play video games. If true, the problem should be dumped at the feet of parental responsibility. Right? Bad things are available and always have been therefore parents are the ultimate guardians against inappropriate exposure to harmful influences. 


Here’s where the topic gets all sticky. You see, modern parents are the products of their upbringing. As a society slowly slips into irreversible depravity, each subsequent generation brings with it the revised and stretched boundaries adopted while in their own developmental years. Those who are old enough to remember previously higher standards that were generally self-enforced by accountability can easily see that desensitizing to any type of base behavior comes with repetition which leads to acceptance and finally adaptation. It’s as though society cannot defend itself against the inevitable wearing away of the values that maintain all that is civil about civilization. But history tells us that civilizations rise and fall on its values and standards.

When graphic violence, bad language, virtual sex, bloody and gory scenes, partial or full nudity, drug use, portrayal and/or condoning of criminal behavior, and other types of provocative behavior, once considered anti-social, becomes the new standard for children to experience as they also are supposed to be learning basic right from wrong, the lines between right and wrong are inevitably blurred in the process. 

When right and wrong are no longer discernible as a societal norm, when anything goes becomes the new standard, opinions adapt accordingly. Even the ‘experts’ are subject to the process of redefining what is conventional and therefore cannot be trusted to evaluate that which can do harm. This is historical. How many harmful products have been declared safe and then found to be deadly? Lead in paint? Mercury in thermometers and vaccines? Radiation in x-rays? Even the FDA cannot figure out which drugs are bad until harm is done and the drugs are then pulled off the market. Enter the attorneys. So much for experts.

One can argue that violence has always been with us, one can make fun of ‘stiff necked’ objections to young children being allowed to immerse in the story lines of murder, lawlessness and debauchery. The proponents can claim they played the games at a young age and they know the difference between the vile environments of the games and real life. Those who argue that studies have found that there is no link between increased violence and crime to video gaming, especially perpetrated by the young, often cite ‘scientific’ conclusions but rarely specifically name the study that produced the results, or the names of the experts who drew the conclusion or the source of the funding for the study. No one asks those in the trenches dealing with the ever growing numbers of violent juvenile delinquents apparently. They are not expert enough I guess.

So, people prefer to believe what they want to believe even if what they see happening in the schools counters the notion that violent images broadcast into not yet fully developed brains do not increase the probability of violent behavior. Ask middle school teachers about the rise in disrespect for authority and property. Guess they don’t count either. 

Again the question is begged, how much is too much, how far is too far? Most schools have a psychologist on staff now. Twenty years ago - no need. Most schools have discipline issues that include rape and death threats. Twenty years ago - not even. Some schools have security guards now and all schools have lock down protocols in case of assault. Twenty years ago this was not only not necessary, it wasn’t even on the radar. But now it is, in this enlightened, modern, death and destruction obsessed society. 

Are logical conclusions all that difficult to draw?

One last thing–in spite of what the ‘experts’ claim, societal norms established in the alternate world of video games do not stay confined to gaming time. When perspectives are adjusted to no longer be shocked by anything, to find pleasure and excitement in the act of destruction, whetting the appetite for more and worse, then those perspectives, like a virus, go out and infect everything else in the real world, making way for even the smallest seemingly innocent increments to find their way into the new framework.  Because it’s not just acceptable, it’s cool and replaces everything that’s considered archaic and irrelevant to modernity. 

Commerce adjusts to fit the new standards and then the new products ultimately manipulate and drive the standards further. It’s a vicious and diabolical cycle. But no one notices the decline until it is too late.

Case in point, while shopping in a local big name store I saw a type of art/craft book. The sole purpose of the book was all about wrecking the book, it said so in the title. Each page had a suggestion to do something, like rip, scribble or in some way alter it by destroying it, (direct quote) to engage in ‘destructive’ acts--poking holes through pages, adding photos and defacing them, painting pages with coffee, coloring outside the lines, and more--in order to experience the true creative process.” 

In order to experience the true creative process? Imagine someone publishing and then finding a market for such a book just twenty short  years ago. 

When all activity, even art, is no longer about positive creating and building but tearing down, disrespecting, and decimating then the bar may be closer to the bottom than anyone has bothered to notice. I am sure most would accuse me of making a mountain out of a molehill when I say that this book is a very bad sign. Silly old me. But then, I am still hanging on to those standards that once worked so well to hold us up and all together. You know those old guidelines that called for everyone, educated or not, to take care of things, add to, keep repaired, restored and respected, especially that which belonged to others. 

You know–civil.

Here’s another study - might want to read this one. 

For Him,

If America is ever laid waste, much of the blame will lie at the doors of the churches. We have the Answer and, like the children of Issachar, we should have understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do. 
~ Vance Havner

(Psalm 51:10) Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"What can I do to help you?"

Occasionally I quote or refer to Chip Brogden. His teachings are ‘the rest of the story’ and provide comfort and guidance to those who have been disappointed by modern Church as an organization and left only to find themselves in a spiritual wilderness. 

Of course, I subscribe to his website, I buy his books, and read his teachings, that he so freely gives. I’ve been reading him long enough to be able to say with confidence that he is the real deal in this age of religious illusion. I recently received an email from him that asked, “What can I do to help you most?” Though it sounded personal, I know he sent it out to his subscriber list. Chip doesn’t know me from Adam. (remember that old saying?) 

But God knows me and He knows exactly what I need at the exact moment I need it so those, like Chip Brogden, who are devoted to serving Him, often say and do exactly what God wants even to total strangers. God's blessings are always multi-dimensional.

We serve an amazing God!

Before I opened the email, I had spent some time laboring over another email to a friend whom I met in a Christian forum. I, as usual, discovered that my perspective and forthrightness was a tad too real for that group, so I had to quietly stop posting. It is never my intention to offend or cause dissension. Where is the fruit in that? But my friend and I struck up what was once referred to as a pen pal relationship but instead of pen/paper/stamp, we enjoy the convenience of the digital age. Turns out she wasn’t offended by what I posted in the forum. And it also turns out she is a precious daughter of God and sister in Christ. I treasure her words and ideas. 

But, back to the email from Chip. I sent my email to my friend and then opened Chip’s. It was what I call a confirmation moment. And this is what it confirmed:

The flesh is consummately self-centered. It’s a condition we are born with. It begins as a tool for survival but if we don’t evolve and grow out of the basic instinct, we become so self-involved that everything is measured against our own personal internal struggles. If we are insecure, if we don’t feel loved, if we are scared, if we are subject to temptation, if we feel worthless. We micro-focus on these issues and in so doing are compelled to take our spiritual temperature many times a day. Did I do that wrong? Should I have said that? Is God mad at me because I forgot to recite a verse this morning? Did I mishandle this? Why? Does it mean I am not a Christian? Am I good enough? If not, then am I really saved? How can God love me–I am so bad?

This was the topic I was expressing myself on to my email friend, and this, in part, is what I had just sent to her before I opened Chip’s email:

If you are constantly wondering if God loves you, ask yourself these questions:

1. Is your life better now than it was before you were saved? If yes, then is that not an indicator of God loving you? What would your life be like otherwise? If your life isn’t better do you still feel God’s hand in your circumstances, an invisible strength, an inexplicable peace? A sense that He has a good plan for you no matter what?

2. What is your expectation that God should do for you that you think would make you feel loved? What else should God do so that you feel worthy to be loved? Are you projecting the lack of love you felt as a child or some pain you have suffered from someone else onto God as though His love is as limited as human love? 

3. Would you still serve God for no other reason than because He is worthy and not just because you want to go to heaven? (Yet though He slay me will I trust Him ...)

If salvation is only about you, how you feel, what your circumstances are, having your expectations met, your self esteem shored up, you, you, you...have you missed the point that your salvation is about Him, for His sake, what He needs from you, not what you need from Him? (He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake). Our blessings and the assurances of His love come to us not because we are worthy but because He is. It's really all about Him, or should be. Right? 

God’s love for us is indeed unfathomable and is never about us deserving it. It is Christ within us that deserves love. God loves that we accepted Christ to dwell in us, that we gave up what we needed to give up, that we agreed to trust HIm, though He slay us. 

We speak about mercy and grace but we don’t really understand these concepts. We keep searching ourselves to try to understand God but our human understanding is pitifully myopic. When we are constantly looking inward instead of out and up, all we are likely to see is our unworthiness which overshadows our being able to see His ability to love the unlovable. Until we can stop focusing on ourselves, we are forever stalled out, stymied in what could be our opportunity to grow up spiritually and find the peace and joy that surpasses all understanding–enabling us to learn more of Him because we need less knowledge of ourselves. 

Otherwise we stay on a treadmill of preoccupation of wondering if we are loved instead of jogging out in the world showing others what God’s love looks like. God’s love reflected in everything we are, everything we do, everything we say. How can we tell others with confidence that Jesus loves them if we don't believe He loves us? 

Satan works overtime trying to keep us mired in the mud of SELF because it keeps us busy seeking fulfillment within ourselves instead of just serving Jesus because He deserves our devotion and thereby finding our fulfillment outside of ourselves.  

So, to paraphrase Chip’s question, perhaps we should wake up every morning and ask Him, “What can I do for You today, Lord?” 

For HIm,