A blessed and peaceful Christmas to you all, and to all, a good night.
My Perspective: Every other year, I have my daughter for Christmas day.
My Daughter’s perspective: Every year, I miss either my mom, or my dad on Christmas day.
My perspective: Every other year, I wake up on Christmas day, wishing my daughter was here.
My Daughter’s perspective: Every day of every year, I wake up wishing my mom, or my dad was here.
My perspective: Every other year, I make the long drive to my parents house alone, and answer the same questions about why this year, my daughter is with her mom.
My daughter’s perspective: Every year, I take a long ride with either my dad, or my mom, and no one ever asks me why my dad or my mom isn’t there with me.
My perspective: Every year, I wish I could always have my daughter with me.
My daughter’s perspective: Every year, I wish I could have both of my parents with me always
My perspective: I am torn
My daughter’s perspective: I am torn
My perspective: Christmas day is just a day, and I can celebrate the birth of Christ every day
My daughter’s perspective: Christmas day is just like every other day, because I won’t get to see at least one of my parents.
My perspective: Christmas is peace in my heart, peace with God, every single day, especially when I miss my daughter.
My daughter’s perspective: Christmas just isn’t the same anymore, but I do love giving and receiving gifts.
My perspective: Christmas isn’t about friends and family, it’s about Jesus.
My daughter’s perspective: Christmas is when I see some of my cousins, but not all of them.
My perspective: Christmas day reminds me as much of what was lost, as it does of what has been gained. Some day, what was lost won’t matter.
My daughter’s perspective: Christmas is fun, but I don’t think people celebrate it right.
My perspective: Peace on earth, and good will toward men, and yea, be this a day to day thing, or be it not at all.
My daughter’s perspective: Why do people treat other people so badly, Daddy?
My final perspective about Christmas day: I no longer have to wait until December twenty-fifth to celebrate Christmas. I used to wait, because that was the Christian thing to do. But if there is Christ in me, then there lies the peace offering to the world, through one man, Jesus Christ. And no matter how rotten I am, how sinful, or how absolutely depraved I am, still, I know my Savior lives. And if He lives, then Christmas is every day for me, for my Savior will come for me, and show me peace, and rest from all sides. He will guide me into all truth, sanctify me, and then help me share what He has so graciously poured into me to overflowing.
If you ask me what I think about Christmas day, I will tell you plainly that Christmas day sucks. But if you ask me what I think about Christmas, about celebrating Jesus, then I will tell you that although I don’t always FEEL good about my walk, I always KNOW where to find peace. Christmas day is coming, and I do not look forward to all of the questions, and to the fact that my family PITIES me because my wife left me for another man so long ago. I don’t need or want pity. Sadly for them, they do not realize that because I know Jesus, and because they refuse to know Him, they are those who are to be pitied, despite outward appearances that they have it all together.
I love my family, and I will love them with the love of heaven. I don’t need it to be Christmas day to love them so, and to share with them the peace I know every day.
I wish and pray for all of you, that this Christmas day would not suck, that it would be filled with peace, and that you all would carry that peace with you, wherever you go, from now until THAT day.
I am experiencing that, first hand. I have begun to learn Koine Greek. Rather, I should say, I have begun to re-learn Koine Greek. Or is it re-begun? Whatever…
The point is, it’s Greek, and since I do not think in Greek, it’s especially difficult. However, the author, William Mounce, has made a challenge, and I will take that challenge. He has stated that it is very, very difficult to learn Greek without a teacher, or at the least, another student to learn with. But I am not alone, in fact, I have a huge advantage. I have Jesus living in me, and I am increasingly more aware of that each moment. I am also more aware of how much I need Him each moment.
Nevertheless, I want to learn this language, because I want to read the Greek Biblical texts myself. I don’t want to rely on English translations anymore. Now, I know that might sound elitist. How can I say anything right now to convince you that I don’t feel that way at all? It’s just that there are so many translations out there, and they all have their idiosyncrasies. I want to learn without those influences, if at all possible.
So, there is much work to do in the learning of a language not my own. The only other language I know is German, and I learned that so long ago, that I have forgotten much of what I had learned. But I am intrigued and excited about this venture of mine. I see Jesus in it, I see timing in it, I see that I wasn’t ready to do this three years ago, but I think I am now. We’ll see.
The Greek alphabet is the starting point. You know, having memorized the English alphabet so very long ago, I never realized just what an achievement children make when they not only memorize, but are able to pronounce and write the entire alphabet. It is daunting, at first glance. More than that, it is Greek, and one day, I may post right here using it.
Hard to believe that just last week, it reached the upper forties.
This is the time of the year I do not like. I hate the cold weather, and when we get it like this, it just seems to stick around for weeks. However, having put this world into perspective through Christ, I find that I do not dislike this weather nearly as much as I used to.
You see, the weather is just a circumstance that I cannot control. It is here, I can’t change it, so I must deal with it. Suck it up, they say. I say, don’t suck it up too deeply, or your lungs will FREEZE!!! Better to be a shallow breather in elements such as this.
Even harder to believe is that grown men will play a football game today, just twenty-five miles north of my house. That’s right, at 3:15 PM today, the Green Bay Packers will welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars to town, with temperatures that are sure to dip below zero before the game is over.
Having played a little football myself, I can tell you that even in seventy degree F temps, football hurts. I can’t imagine what it feels like at zero. And for the men from Jacksonville, a city located in Florida, I have nothing but pity.
A game like this, on a day like today, should be played between teams that are accustomed to these elements. Personally, I’d like to see the New England Patriots, or the Pittsburgh Steelers waltz into town, so the game would be fair.
Again, ALL circumstances beyond my control. Today, it is simple to give control up to God. If you need to be reminded of how absolutely out of control we are, take a look at the box on the right, and notice what the weather FEELS like.
I pray for all people living in these areas, that they would find the warmth of God as I have.
There is one line in particular I find hilarious. Bobby Bouche is sitting in class as a professor is teaching about biology, I believe. When the professor asks the question, “Can anyone tell me why alligators are so ornery?”, Bobby shoots his hand into the air. The professor acknowledges Bobby, and gives him permission to answer.
Here is what Bobby has to say about alligators.
“Mama says, ‘alligators are ornery because they got all them teeth, and no toothbrush.’”
Well, as you can imagine, the answer isn’t correct according to the professor’s understanding, and the entire class bursts into laughter. So, he ridicules Bobby, and his Mama, and another student gives the “correct” answer.
The professor then asks, “Can anyone tell me where happiness comes from?” Immediately, Bobbie raises his hand, this time sure he knows the correct answer. The professor tries to ignore him, however, no other hands are raised, and so he says, “Alright….let’s hear what Mama has to say on the subject…”
Bobbie then answers, “Mama says, happiness is little rays of sunshine that come down to you when you’re feelin blue.”
You can imagine the collegiate reaction.
Obviously, Bobbie’s answer is incorrect, according to any dictionary or college text. Even a ten year old knows happiness doesn’t come from sunshine, and alligators are ornery for reasons other than the lack of a toothbrush. I admire the simplistic mind of Bobbie Bouche, though. I see in it a child’s faith, a faith misplaced in his mama, nevertheless, a faith that cannot be shaken by scholars.
Jesus once said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6)
How many of us believe this? I mean, REALLY believe it? If I were to attend a seminary, and speak aloud about this one statement Jesus made, if I were to say, “Jesus said, ‘If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to a mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’, and it would obey you.”, what do you think the reaction of the professor would be?
Here is my take on what he would say. “Tom, Jesus wasn’t talking about physically moving a tree from the ground to the sea with just faith. What He meant was, you could move people within the confines of the church, you could accomplish things seemingly impossible amongst people, you could learn and understand doctrines, and apply them to your faith. If your faith was strong, then, your programs would have great effect, in fact, everything you did would impact people greatly.”
Not a bad answer, I might say. However, I don’t think it’s the right answer, either. It’s just the same answer the professor would have given to Bobbie Bouche.
Why do I say this? Why do I go against commonly accepted theology, which states that what Jesus meant wasn’t to be taken literally? Because Jesus, later in the gospels, told a fig tree that no one would ever eat of its fruit again. The next day, his disciples noticed the fig tree had withered from its roots upward. What more physical example could He have given for the statement He made about having faith like a mustard seed?
Yet in the face of this evidence, we see scholars tell us that things like this just can’t happen, and that we must believe Jesus' words in a figurative sense, lest we fail, and become discouraged.
Seems to me that taking the safe road, and agreeing with an answer that on the surface makes sense, reeks of a lack of faith. I would rather make the attempt, look like a fool for doing so and be discouraged, than stay in the shelter of man’s explanations. I would do that, because man’s explanations offer me no comfort for my failures, no peace for my angst, and no joy for my triumphs.
Faith is watered down when we begin to explain it, and that is what doctrine does, it explains faith, and thus waters it down. Bobbie Bouche may well have been wrong about alligators, and sunshine. Then again, who has read the mind of an alligator?
Most of the world believes that the moment Jesus disappeared from the scene, He ceased to exist. The world tells us as fact that when an infant loses a toy he was playing with, he believes the toy has ceased to exist. I wonder, how can we possibly know what an infant believes? And, how can we possibly know that Jesus only meant the statement about the mulberry tree figuratively?
In fact, is not our entire faith based on faith? We believe Jesus is alive, yet no one has ever seen Him, save for those two thousand years ago. We believe that He speaks to us, yet precious few have ever heard His physical voice. We believe that He rose from the dead, while science tells us this is absolutely impossible. We believe He fed five thousand people with a few loaves of bread, made blind men see, and cripples walk, all things that by ordinary "common" sense, are impossible.
Yet, when it comes to a statement like moving a mountain, or commanding a mulberry tree, we say, “That is to be taken figuratively.” Which of us knows this as fact, which of us can PROVE IT? We have heard the scholars speak, and their language reeks of the lack of faith. What will they tell us next? What will we believe?
Bobbie Bouche believed in simple things. Jesus spoke of simple things, but pick up any book on Christian faith, and you will quickly find how difficult this faith really is. You will be told numerous times that faith can’t move mountains, unless it is by a figurative meaning alone. On the list will go, until soon, only a genius will be able to understand what is written, so complicated and impossible we have made this trek with Jesus.
So, we buy more books, and read them. And what do we discover? That we need the scholars to continue to explain the mysteries of what Jesus really meant.
I think I will take Bobbie’s path, the path of simplicity, the path of faith, the path that isn’t ashamed to give the simple answer, even if the professor is going to ridicule me, because when I move the mulberry tree, what will he say then?
Probably that I have a demon.
First, I can simply stop buying from him, and leave him wondering why I no longer do business with him.
Or….I can face him with it, tell him I know what he is doing, and tell him I will not tolerate it anymore. I can forgive him, and give him another chance. I do not like him, exactly because he isn’t honest, and he thinks I am just too simple to tell the difference.
You see, salespeople don’t respect simple carpenters like me. You know…..”he works with his hands, he must be an idiot.” I admit, I don’t encourage these people to believe I am intelligent. I just try to do my job, and let them do theirs.
Well, Ben (yes, it’s the best fake name I could think of) is really trying to do a job on me. He would do it pretty well, except that I check. I don’t take his word for it, when he tells me I NEED a certain brand, or a certain tool, or a certain grade of wood. Seriously, I think many of these salespeople believe that without them, us poor, dumb carpenters wouldn’t have a clue about our business. I think they must laugh at us saps when they get back to the store, or office. “That idiot! Ha ha! I can’t believe he bought it!” They can’t believe these simple people would buy a much more expensive material or tool than they really need, all because the genius in the suit told them they needed it.
Well, Ben, actually, the joke is on you, you see……….
I have let this go on for too long. I actually can’t believe he can’t see that I know what he is doing. Several times now, I have sent back what he delivered, instructing him of the brand, grade, or type I had originally requested, that he should please deliver that. Now, I know he has to make a living. Really though, he isn’t going to get rich off me. I don’t do enough business for any one supplier to make a living off me.
When I was a project manager, I also sold, so I know the temptations Ben faces. I know that sometimes, the customer can benefit from some well placed advice. However, typically, most customers know what they want, and it is the sales person’s job to give that to them.
Here’s the problem; if I approach Ben with this, and he reacts badly, I am going to feel like I ruined a chance to connect with him. There is the chance that he might react well, and tell me honestly why he thinks I’m an idiot, why he thinks I can’t tell what he is doing. Or, maybe he really does have my best interests at heart with all these suggestions. A problem arises when he sends the suggestion without asking me about it, as if he knows my business better than me. Sort of like prayer that tells God what He needs to do, ya know?
No one knows my business better than me, and it doesn’t matter what type of job it is, if I’m doing it, then I know what I’ve planned, I know what is needed to complete it, and that’s that. I don’t step out into the dark when I begin a project; there is a map in place that brings me to the end of it, to the completed product. I have paid the price for this business, I have paid the taxes, and I have done the work that needed to be done. For another to come, and tell me that what I am doing isn’t right is foolhardy, in my opinion. Now, maybe I am arrogant by saying all of this, but the truth is, none of my suppliers know my business as well as I do.
They don’t know how much money is in the account. They don’t have to sweat over making purchases, and changes. They don’t sit down before the project ever begins, and plan it out to the last detail. I do that, it’s my job, it’s what I do best.
My Father in Heaven, I am sorry for all of the times I have told you what to do, for all those times when I believed I knew what was the right tool for the job, and the best way to get it done. For those times when I thought I had You fooled, when I believed I could sneak something past you, or worse, convince you that my plan was better than yours. I truly thank you for this perspective, and I thank you for giving me grace, that I may share it with Ben. Help me, I ask, to follow Your plan all of my days. Help me to do what You have planned, to follow the map You have laid out. Heck, help me to see it in the first place. And Father? Please help me be gentle with Ben. Amen.
Because as I was finishing it, I paused, and thought, “This just isn’t me, it isn’t what I want to do anymore.”
I was going to share with you what I had seen in the scriptures, but the fact is, I just can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t know why, other than to say, it’s just not me. I see many things right now, and the scriptures are alive to me in ways I never knew before. But, right now, I need to be alone with this. I hope you all understand.
My faith is being shaken, tested, and sanctified, as best I can tell. I feel frustrated with it, yet excited. I feel naked before God, but strangely, most of the time, I am at peace with it. I keep expecting to open my eyes, and see Jesus sitting there next to me. Talk about a scary thought.
Why is that thought scary? Because I am a man who is frightened at how Jesus can do anything He wants, including manifesting Himself to whomever He wants, at any time. Some people say they have heard His voice, out loud. I never have, and frankly, such a thing would cause me to wet my pants, I fear. I know He is gentle. I am not afraid of Him. I am afraid of what He is able to do, because what He is able to do is beyond my ken to understand.
I can understand some physics. I understand almost every word spoken in English, including being able to use them coherently in a sentence. But I do not understand God’s power, and thus, I am in awe of it.
I feel God’s attention upon me, right now. I feel aware of His gaze, almost constantly. I do not understand how that is possible, since I have never felt that very much before. I like it, but I also don’t like it. I am split in the middle, torn, and I don’t feel as if I am mending where I am tearing.
The flesh dies hard. I asked for this. I still mean it. I always will. But, I am two natures, one perfect, and one dead, and the one dead doesn’t like being dead too much. He keeps shouting, saying, “Come over here, pay attention to me, or I’ll give you a reason to pay attention!!” Doesn’t he know he’s dead?
The war is on. I know who will win, but what pain lies ahead? I know I will have the peace to bear it, if any.
What did she say? “Hi dad”.
My daughter always has a “Hi” for me. Most of the time, She has an “I love you” too. There is nothing sweeter than hearing my daughter say, “I love you.”
And when she says “Hi”, my heart just lifts immensely. To be acknowledged by her, to be known as someone special to her, I crave that from my daughter more than anything else. More than good grades, more than good behavior, even more than unquestioning obedience.
Do you know where I am going with this?
As I listen to her practice flute, I am amazed by the how good she has become. But even that cannot outweigh the “Hi”, and the “I love you, Daddy.” All the things I have given her towards her love for music she uses, and uses to her best ability. But none of her effort speaks as loudly as a “Hi, Daddy.”
I love my daughter!!! I will always love her!! She is more special to me than I can even write about.
Dear Daddy in heaven. Once again, you have spoken to me through my daughter. Funny thing is, she isn’t even aware that You are speaking through her. So, here I am, Daddy!! Hi!!!! I love you!!! That’s it.
Well, a new part of that journey is beginning. In these last years, God has taught me so much about grace. I don’t get it yet, but I get it more than I used to. But there are questions, and no one has been able to satisfactorily answer the questions I have. Current doctrine doesn’t answer it, and doctrine other than mainstream doesn’t touch these questions with any answers either. So I am going to the source.
I am throwing away everything except grace through faith, because of Christ crucified, and starting over. This is a very personal journey, and along the way, I may share what I learn. But I am done arguing theology. I am done proving people don’t know, or don’t care. I am done listening to men.
That doesn’t mean I won’t learn anything from anyone, because I most certainly will. God uses all things, towards the good, of those who love Him. However, pedigree will not buy you my attention. Only the voice of God in you will teach me. How will I know it is the voice of God? Because Christ said I would, and I am done doubting Him about that.
There is so much doctrine, and though I understand much of it, I must admit that even the most recent stuff, the most liberal stuff, never has the ring of truth in it that I seek. That is to say nothing of the old, which at times, sounds like truth, and at others, bristles with affront, as if I know I am being lied to. You see, when you ask God to make you honest before Him, something happens, something you don’t control anymore. Something no man can turn or control to his will.
When I asked God to help me be honest before Him, I lost every excuse. I gave up every reason I had for not being right, for not being good yet, for not just loving Him, and leaving everything else in His gentle hands. I lost everything.
I can’t pray now, just because I HAVE to, and oh how easy it was once to pray just because I thought God EXPECTED it. I can no longer say, “I trust you”, when I don’t. I cannot come to God under false pretenses, because I know they are false, and if I know, He most certainly does. I cannot say, “I want to serve you”, when I really want to serve myself.
A little too honest? How can one be too honest before God?
So here I stand, or maybe a better way to say that is, here I lie, in state. My lust to deceive God is gone, and I have nowhere to hide. I cannot hide behind doctrine, or the Word. I cannot hide.
And I can no longer claim to believe in doctrines that do not satisfy my thirst for truth. I cannot say truthfully that I believe in anything other than Christ crucified, Christ risen, and Christ in heaven with His father. I believe He has saved me. I believe He has done everything I could not do for myself. I believe He is alive, and He is approachable, hearable, and lovable.
Today the Scriptures were a magnet for my heart. I read John chapter three, 1- 21, and surrendered. I do not really understand it. I grasp a straw of its meaning, and I have never heard anyone offer anything more. I think it is because we are not, and have not been honest with our Lord. Instead of coming to the scripture an empty slate, we come with our doctrine, our tradition, and our knowledge, none of which saves us, or is of any use. An empty slate can be written upon. But when we think we know, we are full, what more can we learn?
Jesus talks about saving the world, and of those who have been judged because they do not believe, in this passage. He is speaking to Nicodemus. But what does it mean? No explanation I have ever heard really satisfied me. Some had a small hint of truth, but nothing more. In all, if I had one thing to say about every bit of doctrine I have ever heard, I would have to say that every last bit of it is almost entirely incomplete.
So, don’t come at me with doctrine. I love you all as best I can, but don’t come at me with doctrine. I can recite as much as the next, but it’s all garbage, every bit of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s predestination, or universal gospels, or any of the other past and present doctrines of our faith. It’s all garbage, because none of it is entirely true. None of it will save anyone. None of it will do any one of us even a single bit of good. Argue with me if you want, that is your choice. I don’t mean to be arrogant; I hope I am not coming across as such. It’s just that I won’t pay attention to arguments, because arguments don’t reveal truth, only Jesus does.
So here I am, Lord, an empty slate. I have lost everything!!!! I understand nothing except your death!! I am shouting loudly, because I want to be heard!!! I want to hear You!!!! Please, do not allow me to be filled…with… garbage…ever…again!!
For those of you who might be worried about me, don’t be. I love Jesus. I just don’t love lies. I don’t love half-truths. I don’t accept them. If I know nothing except the grace of Jesus, then at least everything I know will be true. I couldn’t say that yesterday. I am starting over, just as Jesus told me to. I have thrown everything away. I am scared, but I am free, and Jesus never promised me that I’d be safe. He only promised me that if I believed in Him, I would have life, and have it eternally, with Him.
Tonight, I asked Jesus to show us the truth again. You see, there is so much doctrine in existence, that it contradicts itself in some places.
Take for example the person who doesn’t believe God is just if hell exists. This person will judge God as abusive, and unmerciful if even one soul is destroyed. At the same time, this person has nothing bad to say about God slaughtering His own Son, taking the blame for all of mankind’s sins. This person calls that slaughter love. Something is wrong with that type of theology. I think you know what it is, but no one wants to talk about it.
Or, take the example of predestination verses free will. If predestination is true, then it means God knows before hand whom He will save. If free will is true, than all this is a crap shoot. There’s just one problem with free will. If it is true, then the gospel of grace is a lie. You see, a choice is a work, and it is definitely something to boast about. If any of us freely chose to believe in Christ, then it is by the merits of our choice that we were saved, not by the merits of grace. Yet Paul clearly told us salvation was by grace alone, not through works, so that no one may boast. You may think a choice is just a small work, or maybe not even a work at all, but if that choice leads to the greatest thing that can ever happen to us, then how small is that choice, really? Not by works, but by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, so that no one may boast. Free will isn’t spoken of there, yet there is a mountain of doctrine regarding the role free will plays in salvation.
Paul was clear, free will plays no role in salvation, none whatsoever. Only grace and faith play a role. So how did we get so far from the truth? And, does free will play a role, but the Bible forgot to mention what kind of role it really plays?
There is confusion in the church, and it is no wonder there are so many labeled as heretics, and so many who are under the thumb of someone who claims to have studied, or been given special revelation from God.
All of Christianity is again a mirror of Judaism at the time of Christ. Only those with degrees, and doctorates, and pedigrees are listened to. Only those who have gone to seminary really know the truth, right?
Wrong! God does not need a degree to speak the truth. If Jesus walked into any church, be it a home church, or a corporate church, few would listen to Him. “By what authority do you do these things?” is what He would be asked.
For a young man, unordained, to tell a bishop, a deacon, a pastor, anything of the truth is considered to be one who is disrespectful. Well, I am going to be disrespectful then, because I am tired of being a slave to the machine. I love my church. I love THE church. My pastor understands my drive for the truth, and encourages me. Few others will.
As I have traveled across the land of Blog, I have seen so many who have left the church, being disillusioned. Many are alone now, seeking fellowship desperately, and finding it in few places. This ought not to be.
Since when is Christianity about sin management? Since when do we believers jump quickly to judge people we don’t understand? When did that become part of our doctrine? And if I hear one more person say, “Well, I doubt he ever really was a Christian,” I am going to smack them. What a height of spiritual arrogance!!!
The Bible teaches us to consider all as above us. How well do any of us do that?
I seek the truth, to know it, and live it. Fact is, if we don’t live the truth, then we don’t really know it, do we?
So, start over.
It can’t hurt. There is so much garbage out there that calls itself doctrine. I think we are better off throwing it all away, if all we do with it is argue, and judge.
At the beginning of this post, I listed two hotly contested doctrines. Fact is, my trust and love in God depends in neither of these. Either way can be true, and I will still love Jesus. This post wasn’t written for debate, so I really don’t care what I, or you think about any doctrines.
Not circumstances, nor conditions, will dictate to me love for God. Only God will dictate to me, and the words He uses are not sounding anything like what man says.
I was just learning recently how it seems like if I stop everything, and wait for Jesus to speak to me, I never do anything. Let me explain. If I have a problem, I can either choose to kneel down and pray, and do nothing else regarding that problem until I feel certain I have heard from the Lord, or, I can move, and trust that the Lord will answer me as I move.
You know what? The praying, and doing nothing while waiting never, ever works. All I do is miss opportunities. But the moving while I wait, while I trust, that seems to always bear fruit. Can anyone tell me, in their own words and opinions, why this would be? I have a pretty good idea about it, but I’d like to know your thoughts on it, if you are willing.
That’s it. I have to go to work. Bye.
When I first started blogging, I didn’t really know why I wanted to, other than to use it as an avenue for writing. Were my hopes that I would be read? Of course I hoped to be read. I don’t know of any honest writers who don’t want to be read. But that wasn’t the only reason for writing. I wanted to polish what few skills I had, and explore the world in a way that a few years ago was closed off to me, and everyone else.
Tonight, I am beginning to understand why I am here. I had a glimpse of this a while back, but I never followed up on it, so it was lost to me, for a time. But tonight, I am beginning to understand. I’m not only here to write.
Fine, then why am I here, and why is this blog still open? You know, Brett has been hinting at this for several months, and I haven’t been listening. Just last night he was saying what an incredible vehicle (I can’t recall if he actually used the word vehicle or not) my blog was for reaching people. He is more right than he knows.
However, it’s not because of the mind boggling number of people who visit here daily. If you pay attention at all to the statistics at the bottom of the page, you can clearly see that this blog draws about thirty-five to forty visitors a day, if that. I used to be concerned about it, but recently, I just don’t care. It’s not that I don’t appreciate all of you who visit and comment. I love all of you, and have enjoyed blogging with you immensely. Not only that, but when you consider the comment – to - visitor ratio, my ratio is higher than all of the mega-blogs. You all are one thing above all, willing to speak your mind, and you have no idea how thankful I am, and how much you all have taught me.
But that ratio has me thinking lately. If one out of every eight or so people who reads this blog comments, there must be some sort of a feeling of community going on here. I don’t know why I am so blessed to have so many people willing to take the time to talk with me, with us, but don’t you ever, for even a moment, think that I do not notice it, and feel absolutely honored and blown away by it.
So, how does that tie in with why I am here? Please allow me to explain. I have not written an extremely long post in a while, but this one is shaping up to be a marathon. I’ll try to be as brief as possible, because I know you all have better things to do than read some long post written by a guy who gets thirty-five visitors a day.
I think the reason I am here is to help people back toward community. There, I said it.
If you could look inside of my head, and then inside of my heart, what would you see? Would you see you? I hope so. Now what the hell does that mean?
It means that no matter how different we all are, we are really quite the same. We all share the same feelings. We all know what it is to bleed from our hearts. We understand the feeling when someone tells us about joy in their life. We know how to laugh, and how to cry. We all are in the same boat, this ark of humanity.
I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post having read many blogs tonight. Several of them came crashing down upon me. Thank you to Feeble Knees, and Brutally Honest, today, for being honest and open. Thank you previously to Messy Christian, my first experience in reading about spiritual abuse, and the resulting betrayal of her church.
There are too many more to list.
Isn’t that the saddest, most depressing statement regarding spiritual abuse and the loss of fellowship over it? There are too many more to list? What in this world is going on with the church?
I am not here only to write snappy little stories that draw hundreds of visitors every day. I am here because I love encouraging people, no matter who they are. I have longed to tell people about the love of Christ, and here I am!
No matter what the corporate church is doing, no matter the denomination, so long as I draw breath, I will tell people the truth, and I will not hinge it upon standards of conduct. I will not allow anyone I know to be abused without telling them the truth, that the abuse is a pile of crap, and that those who abuse in the name of Christ are not bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily laden, and I will give you rest.” Where is the rest in the church?” Where?!?!
How is it possible for we who claim the name of Christ as our own to cause even one to leave a church weary and burdened? And then to say that these who have left because of abuse must have been backslidden!?! This is the evil of our age.
I have heard many times believers hearing a story of a person caught in sin, and saying, “Well…I doubt that they were ever REALLY saved” in that know-it-all, condescending, I'd- love- to -smack- the- self-righteousness-off-their-face way. To any who would say that to, or about someone else, I say this, “What will you do, so that I can say the same about you?” And, if you think you won’t do anything that could cause someone to say that, believe this; there isn’t a believer in existence who is not full of absolute depravity in their flesh. Not even one! So, no one must be saved, huh?
I am here to level the field. I have never met a good Christian, and if those who say such things give me but a moment, I can prove they aren’t good Christians, either. I am almost broken-hearted over the words BELIEVERS use against each other. I would be broken-hearted, if not for the drive and hope Christ has placed in me to do something about it.
As I sit here, I think of how absolutely horrid a man I am, without Christ, and in my flesh. I wonder, how can anyone not know this of themselves? And if that is the truth, that we are ALL putrid in our flesh, how can we not give grace to every single person we meet?
This body, the Body of Christ, was never intended to hold such self-inflicted wounds. So I am going to do what I am here for. I’ll keep this blog up, because it lends some credibility to what I am really here for; To encourage and love the hurting in the body of Christ.
Someone is going to love you guys, and it’s going to be me. I don’t care what your theology is, or your denomination. I don’t care if you have visible sin, or hidden sin. I don’t care if you told your church to go to hell, or if you are still there. I am going to find you, and then I am going to give you grace, love, and encouragement. That is why I am here.
What’s the point of this, Tom? Hang on, there is a point.
How many voices do you listen to? How many voices do you hear? As I drove home tonight, I was talking with Ally, and we briefly talked about the voice of truth. Do you know where I am going with this now?
So….how many voices do you hear?
Here is a small list of the voices I hear:
The Voice of Truth: This is Jesus, and sometimes, He comes through loud and clear. Other times I barely hear Him. But the things He says to me are always true. Maybe they aren’t really believable, but believable has nothing to do with Jesus. He is the truth, and whatever He says is, well…..truth. His is the voice that says, “You can do this, Tom.” Or “Tell that young man that everything is going to be okay.” His is the voice inside of my mind and heart, telling me, “Never will I leave you, nor will I abandon you. You are worth more than many sparrows, and I love you.” Strangely, I do not ever hear Jesus say, “Tom!!!! How could you!!!! Don’t you know that angers me!!!??”
The voice of Tom: This is the voice I hear loudest. I believe this voice is me without Christ, but I can’t prove it. This voice is an asshole, most of the time. And when he isn’t an asshole, he is as arrogant as the day is long. This is the voice you do not want to hear when he is angry. He is likely to tell you exactly what he thinks of you. He has not much pleasant to say, he is judgmental, and unkind. He never has a good word to say about me. He is ever telling me about things I could have done better, things I should have done, and things I know I shouldn’t have. This voice is familiar, but unwanted. He is cold, calculating, and extremely smart. He is a Pharisee. That is why I call him the Pharisee. He can make the best of occurrences seem like hell. I don’t like him, but it seems like I hear him all of the time.
The Voice of Flesh: This voice can be very loud at times, even drowning out the Pharisee. He chases after everything that feels good, and he isn’t silent until he is either satisfied, or run out of town. The trouble is, he isn’t easily satisfied, and the more he gets, the more he wants. This voice could easily take over an entire day, week, or month. He gets louder the more I listen to him, and he seems to make more sense than all the other voices, especially if he can muffle the Pharisee and the Voice of Truth. I cannot reason with him, he will not listen. He only wants what he wants, and he will stop at nothing to get it. He comes to me as a friend, but leaves me the moment trouble arrives, usually trouble caused by him. He likes to look at things and people, he likes to compare, and stare. He could spend days making certain he FEELS good. He is all about good times, and doesn’t care a whit about anyone else. He is dying, he knows it, and he doesn’t like it. He will make me pay for killing him.
The Voice of Fear: This one is not often heard from anymore. However, when he speaks, people listen. He can turn hope into death, if I give him my ear long enough. He can persuade me to stay away from adventure, from love, and from anything that might hurt me. I have heard his list of things that can harm a thousand times, and it grows every time he speaks. I can only deal with him in one way; I have to face him, tell him to shut up, and go away. If I give ear to him, he will succeed. He holds my life and my heart as ransom. Of all the voices I hear, when he speaks, he can shout as loud as the roaring ocean, easily drowning out every other voice. He will not venture into unknown places, and he will try everything he knows to keep my body and heart hostage. There isn’t anything he isn’t afraid of, if I give him time to think about it. He is a coward, and he is afraid of losing my ear.
The Voice of Me, Me, Me: You might think this is the same voice as Flesh, but you’d be wrong. Me, Me, Me doesn’t care about feeling good nearly as much as he cares about people knowing how he feels. His strongest desire is to see that I get the credit due me, and no amount of advertising ever seems enough. If you cross me, Me, Me, Me will tell me to let you know about it. Me, Me, Me is the one speaking when I decide SOMEONE has to tell you that you are wrong, and it had better be Me, Me, Me. No one else will. No one else has the guts. But Me, Me, Me isn’t worried about guts, he is only worried about protecting my image. “Bring up that wonderful thing you did, Tom, and let them all know how NICE you are.” Yep, that’s Me, Me, Me. He seeks credit, NOW. And you better give it to him, or you might just have to listen to a litany of saintly deeds that Tom did a long time ago, or just the other day. Me, Me, Me has a terminal disease as well. He can’t understand why I don’t want him around anymore. He often says, “If it weren’t for Me, Me, Me, no one would pay any attention to you. Do you think THEY care about you as much as I do?” Me, Me, Me needs an enema.
There are others, but you get the point. The worst part is, I can hear all of these voices at the same time, each telling me the best way to go, the best thing to say, the best deed to do. It can get awfully loud when matters of the heart arise. But one thing I have learned; when I pay attention, it’s not the loudest voice that should be heeded. It’s the Voice of Truth, and often, Truth is the quietest, biding His time patiently, letting me know all the while He is here. Certainly there are times when The Voice of Truth is loudest, and those times all other voices are silenced. When those times occur, I am most filled with joy, for I know that voice, and I will follow it no matter what anyone else says.
What voices do you hear? What voices do you listen to?
There is one minor drawback. I lost all of the recent comments made, and have no time or energy to find them, and resubmit them. I hope you all are okay with that. I was able to find the ones for the Saturday post, but beyond that just makes me want to sleep. So……..
Tonight I have something very important to say. I want to thank every single person who stops by here, be it regularly, or if this is even your first time. You all make it worthwhile, and your comments and encouragement make me wish this was a better blog.
Please, I am not fishing for compliments here. This blog is what it is, but just knowing you all makes me want to give you the best I can. I admit there are days when I post, that I do not expect a single person to read what I have written, I admit that sometimes, I blog garbage. Strangely, the posts I usually think are garbage are the posts that draw the most attention. I am not sure at all why that is.
Take the post about buying the gasoline on Saturday, for example. I wrote that post in about five minutes, no kidding. It took longer to choose the pictures than it did to do the writing. I wasn’t all that concerned with my words, I only wanted to quickly tell you about miracles I had witnessed that day. I wanted to sort of put it down on the record.
I have a saying, one that I know I have heard elsewhere as well, so I know it helps some people remember. It is simply this; “If I don’t write it down, it never happened.” By that, I mean, there are some things I just automatically need to write down, or else I’ll forget them, and if they are forgotten, it’s like they never happened.
The gospel was written down, and my, aren’t we glad and thankful it was? People today still insist it never happened, and we have it in black and white. Imagine if it had been passed down from mouth to mouth. It would be nothing more than a fairy tale by now. Some FACTS need to be recorded. I witnessed miracles and wonders on Saturday. They needed to be recorded, and now they are. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments, and I look forward to recording more.
To give space for humanness to someone who sins against me. To give grace for healing for those who don’t know. To give love without being asked to. This is loving my neighbor.
To rejoice with one who is rejoicing, to remember what celebration feels like at that time. To cry when someone is crying, to recall that pain is not mine alone. To hold when someone is falling apart, to know I have been held together as well. This is loving my neighbor.
To see beyond the surface, and be willing to wait for it to arise. To have time for the broken hearted, and to be there for the lonely, so they won’t have to be alone. To understand beyond my perspective, and admit credibility to one different than mine. This is loving my neighbor.
To share my strengths with another, and not be afraid to borrow his for my weakness. To submit to the folly of being vulnerable, rather than acting like I have it all together. To admit I am a sinner, too. This is loving my neighbor.
These are the things that make us followers of Christ. It is not the church we attend, or the people we hang out with. It is not the acceptance we find, or the things we gain from knowing others who profess the same faith. Nor is it an answer to a Bible question that no one else knew which makes us wise. Wisdom is found in the love of neighbor, in the loss of self, and in the gain of eternal life.
James said, “show me your faith, and I will show you my works”. I think he meant show me the results. I do not think he meant that if you couldn’t recall results, you didn’t really have faith. You see, so much of what is found above will not yield results that are visible. But, the love that forgets me for just a moment always remembers Jesus, and when that happens, GOOD results will always occur. The fruit of the Spirit is the result of the love of neighbor as oneself. And in our example of Christ, we find a multitude of grapes hanging on to the vine.
Jesus did all of the above. He came and lived life from our perspective. Can we do the same for our neighbor, without asking “who is our neighbor?” The works will follow, and we may be aware of nary a one. Nevertheless, the grape grows on the vine even when we cannot see it grow, so we know it grows regardless of our awareness.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Good commandment.
I met so may new people today, buying their gasoline for them. We planned this outing a month ago, decided which gas station to attend, and bought everyone's gas who stopped in for an hour and a half. The responses were amazing! Everyone I served asked why we were buying their gas for them. We told them, "well, we can tell you about the love Jesus has for you, but today, we'd rather show you, so we're doing this."
I am not sharing this adventure we had today to boast. I am using it as a testimony, because I saw God move today in so many people, it blows me away. I saw today that the field truly is ripe for harvest, as so many people were just blown away that Jesus loves them. It's as if they have never been told!!!
One lady actually hugged me and said, "you have no idea what this means to me!" , (picture shown above with it's own title, she's the woman getting into her red car), while another told me she was a witness for Jesus throughout the country, and had just the other day told Jesus she never knew if she was telling people His story right, or if anything she did had any results. She was struggling in her faith, and she took the free gas as a sign from God that she was on the right track, as a physical manifestation of His love for her.
Many people were touched today, but I actually think I was touched more than anyone else. I came away filled with joy, and have been riding that high wave all day long.
Oh yeah, Brett tried to take my picture, but since he doesn't have a blog, you can't see it. But, I HAVE a blog, so here's Brett!!
My Grandpa also spent his last years in an elderly care home, and as I think of it now, I find myself strangely drawn to how he must have felt about that. I am thirty-seven years old. Once, my grandpa was thirty-seven, too.
As a man younger than forty, I have a hard time thinking about what it would be like to need that sort of care. As I remember my grandpa, I remember an older man, but a man who had his wits, even at the age of eighty-five. Something changed for him, though, and he began to be confused, and a danger to himself. He could no longer take his daily walks in the countryside, a countryside he owned a good portion of.
What must it have been like inside of his mind, I wonder? He was wealthy, and he didn’t even realize it, nor did it affect him. He had worked hard all of his life, as a farmer, an American land owner feeding cities and towns across the country. He milked cows, he planted crops, he harvested the yield.
What an effect the parable of the farmer and the seed must have had on him. He would have known about the seed that fell to the weeds, the seed that fell on rocky soil, and the seed that bore a yield of a hundred fold. He would have understood the perspective of the sower, as well as the harvester. But would he have exalted himself enough to put himself into a position of the man who UNDERSTOOD?
My grandpa would not have exalted himself. He was a humble man, a quiet man. He was wiry thin, yet strong as an ox. His hands bore the effects that years of abuse from sun and wind and toil can wreak.
The last time I remember him as a farmer, though, was a night we helped harvest a potato crop. I remember the dark of the twilight, just as the sun went down. I remember the smell of the soil, and the sound of shovels (spades?) hitting the ground as we dug for golden brown nuggets in the dirt. I remember my grandpa’s old, old pickup truck. I have no idea how old I was then, maybe three? I remember my grandpa that night, quiet as always, almost distant, yet smiling and sure.
What nostalgia this is, to recall my grandpa!! To remember the man whom I think now I knew so little about, but such a man made a remarkable impact on me, or so my heart and memories tell me.
He was always willing to sit with me, to take a walk in the countryside, to check out the fishies in the stream down the gravel road from the farmhouse. He was willing to throw a rock or two in the water, “but not too many, now, Tom, or we may create a small dam, and cause a little flood.” Such gentle words he used, and his way was so tender with me. Again, the word “quiet” draws me to his memory, always he was very quiet.
His smile was ever on his face, this man who worked all of his life with his hands. He never pushed me away, or told me he didn’t have time right now. When I knew him, he had nothing but time, and he was always willing to share it.
You know, I am trying to raise my daughter just like that, to be willing, to have time, and to be able and willing to share it. It breaks my heart to see so many children with both of their parents living in the same house, yet neither of them having much time for their child. Lord God, what have we done to our children?
When my daughter has children, if she has children, I want them to know they can feel safe when they are with me. I want them to know I am approachable, and that I am willing, that I will never say, “I don’t have time for you, maybe later.” I want them to look at the hands of a carpenter, to see the toil, the scars, the skin, and to know this rough man has a soft side, too, one that he shows to any who want to see it, especially children. I want them to see me as an elder, but also as a friend, a secret keeper, a man who will never betray them, who will only always have time, and love for them.
I want to remember my grandpa as I am with them, and remember what I was like when my grandpa walked with me, hand in hand, his large, rough hand, gently leading my small soft hand, which was barely big enough to grasp his thumb. Just two of God’s children walking hand in hand, together, one old, and one new.
I have seen my Father in Heaven. He showed up in the face of my grandpa, so many years ago.
Like….How ‘bout them Packers!!!?? 45 – 17 over the Rams last night.
Also, I ran into a very interesting small verse this morning. “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation”. 2 Peter 2:9a NASB
Yes, I know. I have taken that verse completely out of its context. In this case, however, I would have to include the entire chapter to include the context, and since this is the second part to an if - then statement, suffice it to say if the Lord knows how to do all THAT, then He knows how to rescue the godly from our temptations.
Think about that verse for just a moment. How awesome does that make you feel? How much hope do you find in that little, itty bitty part of a verse? I find a mountain full of hope, and I find myself going over this verse in my mind, wondering how I never pinpointed this verse before?
We all have temptations. No one denies this. But do we all KNOW God rescues us from those temptations? Well, yeah, I guess so……………..
But how? And if so, why am I still sinning? What’s wrong with me? Why won’t God rescue ME? Have you ever thought that? So have I.
But the hope is this; if God can rescue me, and if I believe it, and if I ask God to rescue me, with each temptation, will He? Is this a promise? Or is this just a broad "possibly, maybe, but not likely" verse?
I want to know. So I am going to depend upon my Father to rescue me. I will not seek out temptation, but when I recognize it, I am going to depend on Him, and we’ll see what happens. Yes, I know…..that statement I just made doesn’t sound like I have a whole lot of faith in that verse, does it? Well, I am miles farther in faith today than I was yesterday, because yesterday, that verse had never jumped out at me.
For someone who is supposedly intelligent, I sure do ask God a lot of questions. Which leads me to my next one. Do I know more than that which I do not know? “Impossible”, my mind screamed, “There is so much you do not know, that you can’t even inventory everything you do not know.”
Alright, then do I focus on what I know? Or do I focus on what I don’t know? My heart is silent on this. My mind says, “Focus on what you don’t know! You already know all the other stuff, why bother relearning it?!”
Yes, you are getting a glimpse of a conversation my mind carries on with my heart. But this conversation is a bit out of the ordinary. Normally, I wouldn’t be worried about what I don’t know, I’d just take it for granted I do not know it, and set out to learn about it.
However, some things are beyond a mere intellectual exercise. Some things, I am finding, I have to rely upon God for, completely. There is one such place in my life right now, where I am totally in the hands of God, on a journey where if I try to manipulate, or try to step beyond what I know, I will be buried. But I love these times where I have to rely fully on God. I know nothing about what I am doing, thus praying and waiting seem to be all I can do. Yet there is this peace about it that could only come from such trust.
Do I trust God? Yes!! How did I ever get to such a scary place? How did I ever lose so much control? How have I gotten here, Lord? How have I come to a place where I don’t care what I know, I only care about trusting You? How do I feel so safe, in such a dangerous place?
You see, that’s the map I want to follow, in all areas of my life. I am not even close to using this map yet, for everything. But there is one place in my life, unnamed by my choice, where without God, I am lost, and I know it.
So you see, knowing I am lost is the key to trusting God. And once I know I am lost, once I trust God, I know I am safe, no matter what the outcome.
I am wisest when I admit I know very little, but my mind keeps wanting to say I know a lot. It tries to give me examples of what I know. Thank you God that the world doesn’t respond to my mind with examples of what I do not know. I’d never have time for anything else, if I had to listen to that list for the rest of my life.
My mind can be my enemy, I have learned this. I know that if I do not bridle my thoughts, if I do not harness my intellect, it will lead me to a pit, and I will fall. It is better to inventory what I do not know, than to count what I do. KNOWING can lead to arrogance, not that it is wrong to know.
But, in the end, I have found that it is good to know some things, so long as my mind is bridled with the reins of ignorance, those same reins which tell me, there is so much more that I do not know, that I should just be thankful the Lord has allowed me to know anything at all.
If you are wondering why this post was written, maybe it’s safer to admit to you that I don’t know.
Just before the meal began, though, I spoke with my brother/host for a bit. What he had to say to me took my breath away. I’m still struggling with it, and finding myself sadder as time goes by. He told me that a good, old friend of mine named Wayne had recently been diagnosed with bone cancer. He also told me Wayne had just had surgery to amputate part of his leg. I don’t know about you, but hearing that sort of thing is enough to send me off, deep into thoughtland.
Wayne and I go back about nineteen years. He owns a tavern/Restaurant/banquet hall, and I used to tend bar for him, in the days when I was a little younger. If I recall correctly, he is about sixty years old now. Back when I saw him nearly every day, he was a big, strapping fellow, strong as an ox. He used to work about eighty-five hours a week at his tavern, and it truly was a place where everyone knew everyone else’s name, sort of like Cheers from television, but the cast of characters would have been much, much larger.
Wayne and I did not always see eye to eye, especially when I was younger, and more foolish than I am now. But over time, we came to understand each other. He once gave me the highest compliment he would give anyone. He told me that he looked at me as a son. Wayne has three lovely daughters, but no sons, and no grandsons…only granddaughters.
Last year, I had a chance to visit Wayne once a week, because I was working on a project that was in his area of the state. So, every Thursday, for six months, I ate lunch at his restaurant, and we would visit each other for a while. It was a nice reunion, and I found out that somehow, I had earned his deepest respect just for driving an hour and a half once to visit him in the hospital ten years ago. I never thought much of it. Apparently, he did. That really touched me.
Tonight, I am just very sad over this news. I have tried to think of a way to visit him, but work is so cramped for time right now, I don’t see how it’s possible. So, I searched the internet, to see if I could find an email address, and I found a link to a quilt guild his wife Jeanne runs with an email addie. I sent a message to it (not knowing if it was still valid), hoping for a reply, and hoping maybe we could talk with each other by email, for now, until I can get down by him.
If that doesn’t work, I’ll try to call him, but really, how can I approach that? What do I say? “Oh…sorry you lost part of your leg?” sigh…………………
God…help me to help him. It hurts to even think about this. I saw my dad today, and for the first time, I noticed how old he seems lately, too. Time is advancing, Father, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Wayne needs you, NOW. Please help him to know You, to find You, to have some peace. He has worked so hard serving people, and I know that taverns aren’t the cleanest places, but I know Jesus would go there. I am asking you to send Him, send me, find a way, please? I want Wayne to know You, now, while he can still gain peace in this life. I want for You, Father, to save him, but also to give him Your Rock to lean on through this. Will you? Please? Amen
Recently, my daughter and I have been discussing whether we should dedicate a wall in our kitchen/dining room to giving thanks to God. What’s the best way to do it? My first thought was to use Sharpies (permanent black markers), and just write on the wall. However, that would leave the wall unable to be painted, ever. You see, indelible marker bleeds through any paint known to man.
Then, my mind began thinking of ways. We could post a huge bulletin board, or tape little post-it notes with our thanks on the wall. Each day, we would write something new we were thankful for. Post-it notes? Needless to say, I’m back to the sharpies directly on the wall. Something about the permanence of it strikes me as good.
The other thought is that I don’t want it to be something of an image-driven activity. People will see this wall, and I can imagine the comments already. “Oh! What a wonderful idea!! Showing your thanks for God, for ALL to see!” Okay, on the one hand, showing I am thankful is not necessarily bad. However, I don’t want the compliments, or the pride that might go with it. That is the biggest hindrance to our start right now. So, I am hoping to do this, because I feel strongly about writing it down, in a place Ally and I see every day. But, I am leery of how it will LOOK.
I believe that to remember the Lord in thankfulness will set my day. Thankful people are usually happy people, whereas people who forget to be thankful can often get stuck pondering only the things that are wrong with their lives. There will ALWAYS be something to complain about (like why I keep hitting the semi-colon when I really want to strike the apostrophe!), but how often do we also remember that there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for? Here’s my list.
Thank you, God, for….
2. my little girl, who isn’t so little anymore
3. for a certain new friend who has been a source of joy to me beyond anything I could have hoped for. You know who you are
4. the forest down the road from me
5. the squirrels in my yard, yes, even the fat grey ones who are so large by now, they can barely hop.
6. a warm house, warm clothes, and Your warm heart
7. all You have provided us with this last year.
8. Oscar and Blackie, our two fish swimming serenely (most of the time) in their tank.
9. the men in the Boy’s Club, each and every one of them
10. green grass in the spring, and white snow in the winter, golden and red leaves in the fall, and overbearing, sweltering heat in the summer. (I love hot, hot days)
11. Brett and Sherrie, Amber and Brandon, Glenn and Beth, Winston, Torie, and Mackenzie, and a whole earthly host of future heaven dwellers.
12. Dr. Jon, and his heart to serve you, and his country.
13. Dr. Mike, thank you for giving him back to us two years ago.
14. all those who visit here, and leave their pearls of wisdom, and encouragement. It means more to me than any pot of gold.
15. Reeces Peanut butter cups!! Yeah!!!
18. any days to come which I have not lived
19. all days past which You showed me how to live
22. Healthy hands
24. Trouble and pain, without which, we would not have learned how to appreciate all the good things You give us.
25. my little red Mustang. Vroooooom!!! Vrooooom!!
26. my rusty grey pick-up truck. 239,000 miles and counting. Amazing!! I’ve been to the moon, and I’m on my way back.
27. Ally’s recent willingness to talk.
28. Opening my eyes to other people’s perspectives.
29. power tools!!!
30. Light. I truly do not like the dark
31. Electronic gadgets that are so easy to figure out, it makes you wonder why it took the manufacturer two hundred pages to explain how they work?
33. teaching me patience through not giving me everything I want right away, or ever.
34. helping me to remember that this list is about You, God, not me.
35. wisdom. Someday, I’ll be thanking You for giving me some.
36. Help when least expected
37. the safety of all the people I love
38. the beautiful yard I see everyday behind my house
39. Deer, and all other manner of wildlife.
40. Diet Pepsi, since Coke probably won’t be made for much longer. Hah ha!! : )
41. memories, even painful ones
45. the night sky in the deep north woods. Wow!!!!
46. that my Achilles tendon has not yet torn all the way
47. that despite my tendency to ignore maintaining my body, heck, to my absolute abuse of it, that You have kept me healthy regardless.
48. butterflies in my stomach
49. that You have made me able to feel my heart constantly.
50. Carpenter Jeans, of which I really DO use all of the neat pockets.
I am now smiling ear to ear. Thank you for that, God, as well.
I do ask, though, that if you are willing, you would remember Jon and his family in your prayers. Thank you.
1. As you serve there, do you have any feel for how long it might take until US soldiers are able to go home again?
Our US soldiers generally rotate with their unit every 12 months; they serve a 12 month deployment then go back to their home base if they are active duty or to their civilian life if they are reserve or National Guard.
As far as our military presence here in Iraq (and Afghanistan), my information is no more complete than what has been publicly reported. We will be here until the insurgency is ended and an elected government, supported by a loyal national military force, is able to maintain peace and stability. My sense is that this process will take years to accomplish, although I am hopeful that we will be able to decrease our military presence after the upcoming elections.
2. Could you share your opinion, or if you have facts, as to why some areas of Baghdad seem so against the US occupancy?
Although the majority of the country is stable, there remain pockets of insurgency throughout, presently most active within the Sunni Triangle. This region includes Baghdad, Falluja, Sammara, and Mosul amongst other less active areas of fighting. I do not claim to understand all the motives behind the insurgency, but I believe they are largely rooted in cultural and religious differences. Most Iraqis, I believe, simply want peace.
3. How many Iraqis have you treated? Have they all been due to results from terrorism? Are there some you treat who just need surgery as the result of an accident, or anything like that?
Most of the Iraqi patients we treat are soldiers injured in combat. Along with taking care of our US soldiers, this is our primary mission as a Combat Support Hospital. Nevertheless, we have treated many civilians--US, Iraqi, and other foreigners of all ages with a variety of injuries and illnesses. Occasionally an injured combatant is brought to our hospital for treatment. Regardless of an individual's nationality, allegiance, or loyalty, our response remains the same to provide the best care possible.
4. Can you tell us of anything you believe was maybe a miracle? Have you seen God at work there? (That one is my question). I guess what I am saying is, do you have any feeling that God is doing mighty works in Iraq.
I could relate many stories where soldiers escaped life or limb threatening injuries seemingly by divine protection. One example is a young soldier who was guarding the front gate at a small base when a mortal shell exploded only five feet away. While this would normally cause serious casualty or death, he suffered only superficial shrapnel wounds to his arm and leg.
Another example occurred when a suicide car bomber detonated alongside an armored troop carrier. The soldiers inside were protected by the armor, but the soldier working the turret (lookout/gunner hole on the top of the vehicle) was directly exposed. Miraculously, he suffered only a soft-tissue arm wound.
There have obviously been many injuries and deaths during this war, and none are insignificant. Though difficult to justify, this is the nature of war. All of our soldiers make tremendous sacrifices. With very few exceptions, they serve with utmost integrity and honor. Many of the men and women in our military forces have strong Christian faith. Living in a combat environment and faced more directly with one's own mortality tends to strengthen one's faith. I believe that God is at work in Iraq, protecting our soldiers and civilians and bringing many into His service. I pray and ask that you would join me for God's continued protection and blessings for our troops, our military leaders, and for progressive peace and stability in Iraq.
The “attack” as it is being called, occurred on private land about noon Sunday, the 21st of November. Details are sketchy, but reports are indicating that a hunting party saw a hunter they didn’t recognize occupying a tree stand that belonged to them. It has not been revealed whether the private land belonged to anyone in the hunting party, but all sources I have read confirm that the stand which the shooter was sitting in did.
The attack began after a confrontation with the hunter. That is the depth of the details I have at this moment. They have given the name of the attacker, but I will not show that name on this blog, nor any of the names of the victims. Apparently, the hunter who had been sitting in the stand which did not belong to him shot one man, and then continued to shoot as other hunters belonging to the party showed up to try and help.
The shooter was arrested around 4:00 pm as he was leaving the forest. One of the hunters he shot and killed was a teenager.
I am saddened by this news, as both a human being, and as a hunter. Let me try to help you understand what happened here, as I am a hunter, and can understand how something like this could escalate to five dead, and three wounded.
Okay, I can’t understand how it can escalate. But, I can explain what might have happened. You see, when a hunter decides to sit in a hunting stand that doesn’t belong to him, it is considered bad hunting etiquette. That the stand was on private land meant not only that the hunter was rude, but he was trespassing, as well, if he had not received permission to be on that land for hunting purposes. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he had permission to be there.
If that was the case, still, he had no right to climb the ladder of the stand, and sit in the stand that did not belong to him. When the hunting party that owned the stand showed up, he should have apologized, and left the area. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
My hunting stand is on private land, and if someone wanted to sit in it, all they would have to do is ask me, and I would have no problem allowing them its use. However, no such report has been made that the attacker asked anyone to use the stand, or that he ever asked the hunting party if he could remain where he was. The reports I have read all state that a confrontation ensued upon the hunting party’s discovery of the man in their stand.
Maybe the hunting party did not allow the man to explain himself. Maybe they attacked him verbally before he could say anything. We have to be realistic here; people of this world would just as soon flip someone the bird for cutting them off on the highway as allow that the maneuver may have been made without intending them harm. I drove with a fellow on Sunday evening who actually flipped someone the bird because he thought that the driver was going to pull out in front of my truck, as I was driving. No harm had been done, I didn’t feel offended, yet here this fellow was, giving the man in the other vehicle the finger, merely for ALMOST pulling out in front of me. I didn’t say anything at the time, but upon reflection, I should have told him to never do that in my truck again.
The fact is, this attack escalated beyond reason at some point. But I wonder if reason was present in the first place.
I am not saying at all that the attacker had any right or reason to fire his weapon. But, I am saying that a confrontation was reported to have occurred, and confrontations require input from two sides at least.
Every member of a hunting party usually carries a high-powered rifle or shot gun. The attacker was armed with an SKS semiautomatic “assault” rifle, similar to the gun I use, which is a 30.06, only mine is a bolt- action rifle, and thus not labeled an assault rifle. Consider that the damage done by an SKS bullet is the same as that of my 30.06, and you can see why five people died very quickly.
The 30.06 penetrates the flesh a fair distance, then tumbles inside the body as it slows, ripping to shreds everything in its path, with a diameter similar to a large grapefruit. In a human being, it would completely emulsify a heart, a lung, liver, or any other internal organ it came into contact with. Any of these organs being hit would mean a fatal wound. The fact is, every deer I have ever shot dropped the moment the bullet entered, and died without moving again. That is how powerful the 30.06 bullet is, and the SKS used in this attack is its equivalent. The damage done to deer weighing in excess of one hundred eighty pounds is frightening. That is why hunters do not ever knowingly aim their weapons at another human being.
This time, however, was different. For whatever explanation, reason left the scene, and five people are dead. Three more are seriously wounded. One man sits lonely inside of a jail cell tonight, maybe even wondering how it all came to this so quickly. You see, the attacker was not a known criminal prior to this incident. Had he been, he could not have legally hunted in the state of Wisconsin, or carry a firearm of any caliber. The fact is, the authorities knew who he was before they arrested him, because one of the victims had written down his deer license back tag number, and reported that number to police when he called for help.
The attacker was a hunter, a man who could legally own, possess, and carry a hunting rifle in the state of Wisconsin. Tonight, he is considered a criminal, a murderer, and my heart breaks for him, as well as for the victims, and their loved ones.
Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. I remain COMPLETELY convinced that if even one person had done that during the confrontation on Sunday that ended in the death of five people, no one would have been shot, no one would have been killed, no one would have been wounded, and no one would have been branded a murderer for life. The confrontation proves that someone had a chance to back off, and pull others with him. Someone had a chance to see reason, to see everyone at the scene with high-powered rifles, and to see that arguing could no longer resolve this conflict. Someone had a chance to prevent five deaths. I don’t care who had that chance, whether it be a member of the hunting party, or the man who shot his victims. It doesn’t matter who had the chance, because the chance passed withou tbeing acted upon by anyone present.
Selfishness, and unwillingness to back down caused this tragedy. The human condition caused this tragedy. The guns were present, but they didn’t kill anyone. No, a gun can’t kill unless someone pulls its trigger. And before that trigger was pulled, someone had a chance to stop it, and refused.
If only the attacker had just removed himself from the stand, as he should have, none of this would have happened. If only the hunting party could have seen that this attacker was not going to back down, if instead of continuing to argue, they had left, and just said, “it’s not worth it”, would they be alive right now?
A hunting stand is not worth five human lives. No deer, no matter how big, is worth being labeled a murderer. The attacker was not looking to kill people when he set out to hunt in that stand, I am convinced of that. No confrontation would have taken place at all, had he been predisposed to kill without reason. He would have simply shot anyone on sight, had that been his plan.
No, he is a murderer because he shot and killed five people after the confrontation had escalated. And now, because of the actions of one man, the left wing liberals will attack hunter’s rights once again, using this story as further ammunition to tell people that guns are dangerous, and no American should own one.
Guns aren’t dangerous, I know, I have used two of them for many years. Ninety-nine percent of the time, my guns sit unloaded in a locked case, completely harmless. The other one percent of the time, they are loaded for hunting, with the safety to the trigger locked right up until the time I squeeze the trigger to kill a deer. They are never, ever, aimed at anything else, save maybe a target for practice. But what is inside of my guns can kill instantly, and there is never a moment when I am handling them that I am not fully aware of that. It seems this one fact was forgotten during the confrontation. It seems that pride and tempers reigned, and all caution was thrown to the wind.
If I ever run into a man holding a gun who I think I have a beef with, I will try to reason with him. But, if he does not see my reason, I will acquiesce, and allow him his space. It’s just not worth it to argue when two people are holding loaded guns.
But we in this world hold loaded guns every day, with our words, our deeds, our thoughts. It doesn’t take a bullet to kill someone. It takes a human heart. We kill people every day with our words, and some words on Sunday doubtlessly caused a reasonable situation to escalate into a deadly one.
It has just been reported that the death toll is now six, as one more has succumbed to death. God have mercy.
So now I guess I actually have to take some pictures with it, huh? Well, rest assured you forty or so. I will, and I might even include a few here. I threatened my daughter tonight that I was going to post her picture on my blog. She just gave me the look. You know....THE LOOK!
She actually told me she was going to miss me this weekend, right before she said, "if it will make you get out of my room, I'll say anything." Yes, she was laughing as she said that. Things are going well for us right now. There seems to be an open line of communication between us, and I haven't done anything apparently to screw that up. Thank you greatly, God.
Anyway, this will be my last post for a few days, as I am taking a holiday to hunt, but more importantly, to find silence. (Anticipatory sigh).....
I will not be posting pictures of a deer on this blog, if I happen to have a successful hunt. Sorry, but there are way too many people who are offended by that sort of thing, and quite frankly, who cares how many points my deer's antlers have?
I will post some pictures of something at sometime somewhere. Now, if you paid attention, you know exactly when, where, and what will be posted. I am THAT precise.
As you no doubt have noticed, I am jumping around in this post tonight. Just the way my mind has been working lately. I need to get that fixed, fast!
I am reminded, as I prepare to leave, of Elmer Fudd. I just loved the way he used to hunt "smaw fowwy woodwand kweetchos" in that raspy voice of his. He is my favorite cartoon character. So I have a question for you. Who is your favorite cartoon character, and why?
In two days, I will once again don the hunting gear, and head for the North woods. What will I find there? Maybe a deer or two, but frankly, it doesn’t matter if I see even a single deer. That’s not why I go. Yes, I love hunting, but there is a reason far larger than the hunt which draws me.
For three solid days, I will be sitting in an enclosed stand (I’m a carpenter! What did you expect? That I would sit out in the cold, when I have the ability to build a nice warn shelter as I hunt? Please!!). In that stand, I will bring my Bible, and I will bring another book. I will also be bringing many questions to the Lord. But the one thing I do not have to bring, the one thing I have been seeking for so long, I will find in copious amounts right there in my stand. SILENCE.
Solitude has always led to peace for me. I have no doubt I will come away from this experience with answers to many questions. I have no doubt that I will encounter God in the forest this weekend. I have no doubt that I will not care whether I come home having a deer in my truck or not. It just doesn’t matter. Yes, I am a serious hunter, and I always eat what I kill. But I don’t really care if I see anything, other than the face of God through silence, peace, and nature.
May God keep all of you safe this hunting season, and for you who do not hunt, may God fill your time with joy, peace, and hope. Amen.
It seems to me that pain is one of the things we rarely hear about in a sermon. Yesterday, to my pastor’s credit, it was mentioned, and it was forwarded, again, and again. I’d like to give my thoughts about it, and include some of the things he said. Keep in mind that for a pastor to talk about pain and danger the way my pastor did is not necessarily viewed as a good thing by most.
One thing he said that really struck me was, if you wanted a safe life, then you may not want to know God. After all, God is in the business of stretching us, causing us to call out to Him for help, and CHANGING us. None of that sounds very safe to me. Does it sound safe to you?
Safe, to me, is a walk in Point Beach State Forest. It’s riding a bicycle on training wheels, swimming with a huge float tied around you. It’s doing what I am best at, and never doing anything else. Safe is staying within myself, and never inviting anyone else inside again. Safe…is death.
I am a risk taker. At least, I have been since I met Jesus. Prior to Him, I used to do what I was best at, and I was very good at it. The trouble is, I was missing LIFE!! Now, even though I still do things I am good at, I also venture into areas I am not good at. As God stretches this closed off heart, I find myself wanting to resist, and yet also wanting to follow.
I am hazarding into areas I have not been in some time. Talk about dangerous, talk about fear. There is always going to be fear in our lives. I am sick of living as though I am dying. I want to live as though I am eternal, and so I will go where God leads, and if it is dangerous, and although I may hesitate, you will always find me choosing to follow the path God has laid out for me, regardless of the danger, to my body, or to my heart.
Life is full of opportunity. I don’t want mine to be missed opportunities, especially opportunities for joy. There is no joy without great risk. Pain? I have lived through it, and I have found that the hope of joy is a greater attractant than fear is a deterrent.
We live for the Lord, and because we do, this is a dangerous life. There is going to be trouble for us, and there is going to be pain and sorrow. There may even be persecution. As we quietly go about our lives, trying to live peaceably amongst man, we will called out for our faith, ridiculed for our beliefs, and gossiped about because we are different. And if these things are not happening in our lives, we can either thank God for sparing us for a time, or wonder if our walk is salt, or if it is bland.
Christianity is not a popularity contest. It is at times a lonely, desperate struggle up a sheer mountain face without any rope except the One we cannot see. We are already in danger, we are not promised a safe life. There are risks, and I will take them, because I trust in God.
I know, to do that would take a super-computer. Or….would it? Can computers compile real data on real people? I doubt it.
Here is what I mean. A computer, no matter how sophisticated, cannot read human emotions, and then remember how it felt during the same type of emotion. See what I mean? So, how do we study people? By raw data? By gathering a census and asking a few questions? That is what politicians live for. But we are believers, there must be something deeper about the things we look at.
I study people by observing them. Then, I study the world, by observing it. I have noticed a very, very disturbing trend with long legs these past years. Approaching half of all adults in America have at one time or another required medication for some type of mental disorder. (depression, anxiety, etc.) This begs the question, why? Why, in a time when we are so technologically advanced that we make the Romans look like cavemen, are we so screwed up inside?
How is it possible for us to know as much as we do about the human body, the brain, emotions, and all other factors, but not know how to prevent mental disorders? Or, are the “disorders” maybe not really disorders at all? Maybe they are just excuses to find relief in a bottle, to not have to look inside? Maybe they are real, but we aren't even close to understanding the real reasons they are so prevalent?
What will you find when you look inside? What will you see when you STOP. You see, part of the trouble of our culture is that we rarely stop. We are on the go, we are busy, and we are in the know. Except we don’t really know what’s going on inside too well, do we?
So maybe in the question lies the answer? STOP! Wait? And….do…..what?
Exactly! Do nothing. Be silent, and wait. Think, probe. That thing you said to your sister, yeah, that one! What were the effects of that on her day? That man I passed on the highway, the one I swore was too old to drive, what affect did I have on his day?
And, while we are stopped, what affect has Jesus had on our day? Have we talked with God? Have we even acknowledged Him at all? One of the best ways I have found to worship God is to be honest, and there is nothing more honest than telling God you still believe. Then, STOP again. Wait. What’s going on inside? CHANCES ARE, WHAT’S GOING ON INSIDE IS WHAT IS GOING ON IN THIS WORLD.