12/31/2005

LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO READ

I am looking for something to read, or maybe an author who isn't the same old same old.

I know I don't want to read any well known Christian authors because lately, my experience has been that they are writing because it's part of their contract or book deal to write so many books in so many years. Blah!!! Plus, every time I read something from them, it's meat is in preaching about effort while it is barely seasoned with grace. So often, they leave the impression that if you don't do things the way they write them, you'll never be a good or fulfilled follower of Christ. Again, Blah!! There is no such thing as a good Christian, and anyone who tells you different is either lying or ignorant.

I want something that the publishers were afraid to publish because they thought it wouldn't sell, but I don't want someone trying to sell me garbage, know what I mean?

Definition of Garbage: Some major supposition that cannot be backed up except with more suppositions.

Anyone got any ideas on who or what I should try to read?

PS: Purpose Driven this or that is of no interest to me, nor is anything by any mega-church leader going to interest me. If I wanted to know how to win friends and influence people, I'd read the book. So, this is a challenge for you, and I hope you have fun with it. Don't be afraid to make suggestions, jsut don't make the smae suggestions everyone else is making.

I love you guys, and I hope your days in the coming New Year are days where you can capture the joy and point to it forever.

12/30/2005

EVE OF NEW YEARS EVE BONFIRE

I wait patiently for my friends to arrive. We are attempting to have an annual bonfire tonight, in rain that is increasing. There is no limit to the amount of gasoline I will pour on the fire to start it, and IT WILL START.

The trouble is, who really wants to stand in the cold rain and watch a fire? If it was just misting, I'd say, "yeah, let's do it!".

But it's R-A-I-N-I-N-G!

Oh well, the food and beer will be good, and I can't wait to see my friends again, even if we don't do the bonfire. That's what so great about an annual Eve of New Year's Eve Bonfire; the fire is optional. We have had fire in close to subzero temperatures, and no one has ever complained about being cold. Maybe that's because the fire is twelve feet high by ten feet wide. Who knows?

Anyway, I am hoping I'll get to play pyro tonight...but if not tonight, then some other night.

God's smile is upon you.

12/27/2005

IT DOESN'T NEED A TITLE

Writing. I have always loved to do so. So often, I try to write with a purpose, to have some sort of statement I want to make whether it be about experiences, God, life, or whatever. For some reason, I rarely write just for the sake of writing.

As I was sitting in front of my monitor attempting once again to write with meaning, I was struggling for the words to say, or even a topic to write about. For two minutes, maybe more, maybe less, I wondered what I was doing at the keyboard since I obviously had nothing to write about today.

“Well, Tom, you are at this keyboard because you want to write. Duh”, said the insane small voice in my head.

Here, this post, is the answer to that voice. Tonight I am writing. Just writing, nothing serious, nothing important, nothing that will even remotely make sense after you have read it. Maybe not. Probably not.

Who cares? I am enjoying myself, and I am blessed to have such a medium where someone will actually come along and read these unsystematic words which make no sense whatsoever. Frivolous. If this post were a lawsuit, it would be thrown out of court.

Of course this is not a lawsuit, this is just the meandering of a bald man’s strange mind. Have I ever mentioned that I am bald? Yes, I am. I shave my head once a week, and not with one of those dime store electric razors either. Nope. I go all the way and use the Gillette Mach Three. Now that sort of sounds like a race car, doesn’t it?

What an odd name for a stubble razor, don’t you think? Mach Three! Sounds like it’s got turbo, better watch out.

So as I was saying, I shave my head every week, completely bald and smooth. Over the years I have only cut myself up there a few times. You’d think it would be more, but since head wounds caused by extremely sharp objects hurt bad, I tend to be as careful as I can. Keeping the loss of blood at a minimum is a requirement when you are bald, since blood is the only thing still keeping your head warm (or so I am told). It’s also important because if you cut yourself, there’s no hiding it.

Well, I’m done for the evening. I wanted to write, and I wrote. I feel good, and you know what? I didn’t have to be serious or drive across any statement. I was free to just do what I love doing, and it feels pretty good.

Thank you for reading this foray into the madness of doing something just because I can. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I may be doing it again real soon.

12/25/2005

TRIVIAL MATTERS

I am sitting down with a couple of acquaintances, a husband and his wife, listening to them as they pour out their heart to me. The husband tells me he has never had another man with whom he could confide in, and is amazed that he can do so with his wife listening in. His wife tells me she feels like she could tell me anything; how can this be since they barely know me?

As the evening progresses, they start talking about their careers. They tell me about the stresses, the challenges, and a few of their successes. Over time, this conversation always gets around to the point I dread.

The husband asks me what I do for a living.

“I am a carpenter”, I answer.

“Oh…..”

Suddenly, the quiet is almost unbearable, and I silently ask God if I have to tell them I am also a small business owner and a finish carpenter/contractor of some skill. I ask Him why being just a carpenter cannot be enough? Why do I have to wait for their questions, gently probing me, wondering if that’s all I wanted to be.

This Christian man and his wife are more tactful than most. The husband tells me, of course, that it makes no difference to him what a man does for a living, so long as it’s honest. Besides, some carpenters can make fairly good money, if they are good enough, and willing to take the plunge into the REAL business world, and start a business of their own, he concludes.

I offer no response, but wait for them to leave the subject. I can tell now that they are uncomfortable with this topic as well, and clearly wish that they had not brought it up. I am content to be a listener, but invariably, the conversation always come down to this.

On rare occasions I am pleasantly surprised by people’s reaction to the fact that I am a carpenter. Most times, I am not. That is why I ask God to keep my secret, to let people see me as I am, not as they want me to be, or thought I was. Intimacy cannot be bred on such fickle soil as livelihood or profession. But if you can look past all that stuff, you can get to the heart of matters very rapidly.

I prefer to tell people I am a simple carpenter, if they ask. Whether they be a believer or not doesn’t matter. Their reaction is almost always the same. I find that sad in a way, but not for me. I am reconciled to the fact that I am a carpenter for a long time now. But they are not, and they are missing the best part of a relationship because they are struggling with trivial matters.

How many trivial matters am I stuck on? This post has left me wondering that.

12/22/2005

LIFE

Some men seek glory and honor. Some seek joy and peace. Some men seek money and power. Every man seeks to find himself.

Having been engaged in this same struggle myself, I have come to realize that one of the best ways to find myself is to look at my neighbor. I have been getting to know Jesus for a while now, so there is great hope that one day, I will actually know myself also. But in my journey, I am finding that the more I look at and acknowledge my neighbor, the more I find myself looking back at me.

There is a common thread to the seeking of oneself. It is the search for life to its fullest potential, and no matter what men or women seek, be it power, money, sex, joy, peace, freedom, or release, it seems to me that it is all a search for one thing, a search for one’s self in the fullest life possible.

This strikes me as a universal truth; that to understand one’s place and worth, and to achieve one’s potential is a full life. I hear it spoken so often, “I wish I knew what I wanted” or “I need something, but nothing seems to make me happy”.

But to discover one’s self, to rise above the circumstances of one’s life and soar beyond the mountains of temporary “things” appears to be the place we all are searching for. Let’s face it, we all know that “things” don’t last, that even marriages and wonderful friendships can fall apart, and those are “supposed” to be the things that last forever. If those things can collapse, is there anything that will not?

That is what we are all searching for. Somewhere deep inside of us lies this capacity for life, this longing for it to be full, and this hope that it will last forever. I think this something deep inside of us is God.

When we finally find ourselves, that which we have been looking for all our lives, I am beginning to believe at that moment we will be face to face with Him.

WHY CAN'T WE FEED THE POOR AGAIN?

According to several different sources, the number of people in this world who die of starvation each day is around thirty thousand, many of those children under the age of five. In just ten days, the number of people who die from lack of food or related deaths will eclipse the number of people who perished in the tsunami last year.

In a single year, 10,950,000 will die because of poverty. Almost eleven MILLION!.

We jumped to the aid of the tragedies this year and last, namely the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. We jump at all such opportunities. What is it about poverty and starvation that leads us to such a passive nonchalance? Why do we say we care, and not show it?

Will our generation be the generation to finally decide that starvation and poverty related deaths aren't necessary, and that until we do ALL that we can, we shouldn't rest?

Or will future generations look upon our apathy, and wonder why we did nothing to end it? Will they look upon us and judge us, and will they ask "How could you just let it keep happening, knowing people were suffering and dying? What were you thinking?"

How will our generation explain this? Or will future generations be as blind as we are? Will they ignore the plight of the poverty stricken because we taught them how? Is that what we want to teach our children and grandchildren?

12/20/2005

SHE SINGS WITH THE ANGELS OF HEAVEN

My daughter's voice flowed through me tonight, as I listened to her sing Oh Holy Night. I would be prejudiced towards her anyway, but I think the people of Two Rivers are beginning to become prejudiced toward her as well. As you know, Oh Holy Night has some notes within that are, to say the least, very difficult to reach. My daughter reached them, held them, and never missed a beat.

In the end, several people had tears in their eyes, and many came up to me to tell me what a wonderful voice she has. I answered them by asking them to tell her, and thanking them from my heart. I wanted to record her performance, but in the end, I am glad I didn;t. A recording, to me, might mar the memory of her voice, and I'd rather cherish the way I heard it the first time.

She has to sing it again on Thursday in front of her school, and her teacher promised me a copy of that recording. Since I won't be there, I will be glad to watch that performance, and share it with you guys if I can transfer it here. Still, it won't be the same as live.

Alright, enough bragging. I love my little girl, and she knows that. She also knows she never needed to sing for me to love her. The singing is a gift, and I will cherish it forever.

I really do wish you guys could have been there. I can't explain what a thirteen year old girl's voice can do for your heart, especially when that girl sings from the heart, and sounds more clear than a flute. I think I have tears welling up in my eyes, too.

Thank you for putting up with this post, I know, I gush over my little girl.

12/19/2005

PICTURES OF THE PROJECT I AM WORKING ON

I thought you might enjoy seeing some of my handiwork.



This is a snap of log siding for an interior
main lobby



Have you ever seen such a huge fireplace? It's a double sided gas fireplace, with a granite hearth.













This is a snap of the ceiling, with the fireplace on the left. The ceiling was constructed of Baltic pine tongue- and- groove boards.







Well, there you have it. When you see me write about being a finish carpenter, now you can picture what I do. I hope you enjoyed it. I enjoyed working on all of this.

12/18/2005

WHY?

Why get up in the morning? Why go to work? Why try at all?

What's the point? What is the gain? What's the reason?

Those last three questions are three of the most dangerous questions a person can ask of himself.

I choose to answer them most of the time in this manner.

What's the point? Because I can.

What is the gain? I don't know, but I am going to find out.

What's the reason? Because I don't have to worry about failing anymore, and so I am unafraid to try, thanks to God.

Those answers might not make any sense at all to you. Or, they may seem too short. Maybe they just don't answer ENOUGH.

They are my answers, they belong to me. Your answers may differ; do not worry if they do.

I have developed these answers through countless trials and errors. I did not arrive at them in the course of one evening. These answers are simply a way for me to understand my part, if I have a part at all. They are a way for me to understand that life, and efforts, and thus results do not center around me. I used to get so worked up about the amount of effort I was putting into something, and about the results, regardless of good or bad. And because I did, I didn't enjoy the experience of the process.

The other day, I told a good friend that I am able to look forward to the challenge of an unsolvable problem. He looked at me as if I were a weirdo...for a moment. But then I explained to him that it wasn't the event of the unsolvable problem that was so attractive, but all the experience and emotion that went along with it. In essence, it is life. In the past, I spent my time worrying about results that mostly I had no control over, and fretting about feeling a bad emotion such as fear, pain, or sadness.

Mark my words, I will feel sad, lonely, afraid, and hurt many more times in this world during the remainder of my life. Many more times, I will ask God to give me peace I cannot generate by myself. But mostly, I will walk through these events with the answers to the above questions in the forefront of my mind. They will remind me of who I am, and of Who lives in me. And once I am reminded of that, why...is there anything I cannot accomplish, anything I cannot walk through?

12/16/2005

I AM WHO I AM

Remember when God told Moses who He was?

"I am who I am!"

Then, we all changed it into the Great "I am", or "I am who am", or "Yahweh" or "God".

I wonder if in God's answer to Moses lies one of many secrets to a more peaceful existence with God, with this world, and with ourselves.

"I am who I am"

I am who I am.

I am who I am.

Say it...come on, say it over and over...it feels pretty good.

I am who I am.

I was about to go into a long detective's discussion about WHY God answered Moses in such a way. I was about to speculate the reasons and the meanings.

Instead, I think I'll just leave it alone.

I am who I am, too.

12/14/2005

12/09/2005

MY LITTLE GIRL

My daughter is a wonder to me. Did I ever tell you that just three nights after her birth, she was sleeping through the night? Once she started, she didn't stop. Now, of course, as a teenager (thirteen), waking her up can be a problem sometimes, but when she is awake, I see life more fully through her than I ever have in myself. I wonder why that is.

So it is with great pride that I am announcing my daughter's next opportunity to sing our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, at a basketball game in town. Just last June, she sang it publicly for the first time, and you can read about that here if you aren't already tired of me bragging about my little girl.

She will also be singing a solo for the School Chorus' Christmas concert, "Oh Holy Night"(in a public school? Goodness! What's the ACLU going to say?), which is one of my favorite songs, Christmas or otherwise.

I have to tell you, it is such an amazing thing to watch someone do what they love to do, and I am triply blessed because this is my daughter I am watching. I have always loved a crisp, clear voice reaching heights the rest of us must think hurt to reach. I have always loved listening to music, and the stuff seems to never leave my mind, as I can play tunes inside of my head almost constantly throughout the day. I was once asked why I never listen to the radio when I work. I answered, "Because the music is in my head, and it's commercial free".

I can't explain how much I am looking forward to hearing my daughter sing publicly again. I am excited like a child, waiting for the grown-ups to wake up, so I can open the Christmas presents, this present being the opening of my ears as they are graced with new wine that tastes and sounds better each time it is poured out.

I wish you could be there to hear her. She sings three full octaves, and is reaching into a fourth. Unheard of at her age! And where did she get such a musical gift? I've got news for you. It didn't come from my DNA, nor her mother's. I guess we'll be forced to thank God for this gift after all, because science could never explain it. There isn't even a hint of musical talent anywhere in our family. But that's our good God, calling things into being that are not, or things into being that weren't. Or whatever...

My little girl is growing up, and I love watching her do so.

12/08/2005

STILL ALIVE

Yes, I am still alive.

I have not had much time at all lately, and that isn't going to change any time soon.

Meanwhile, since I am spending so much of my time at the jobsite I have been on now for fifteen months, I thought I'd list one very interesting statistic.

Since I started this project, there have been thirty-one men who have worked for me. Some left because of better jobs, but most (and this is the saddest) had to be let go because they didn't show up for work. Many were very young, but there was one fellow I had to let go this Monday who my heart goes out to. He is depressed, at least that's my opinion of his condition. He struggled mightily to come to work even three days a week.

Finally, I had to make a hard decision, one I didn't want to make. I really liked this fellow, and I feel horrible about having to let him go. But the truth is, I cannot treat him differently than I treat the others. And..I have been treating him differently, giving him chane after chance. It's not that he ran out of chances with me. It's just that I could no longer make excuses for him, and still maintain the level of cooperation I have amongst the other guys on this project.

So, my mind flashes toward him quite often these last days, and I pray he will get help. I wish I had been able to help him, but I feel as if I lack some ability or other to help him out of his lethargy.

That's all folks.

12/04/2005

MAKING THE MOST OF OUR TIME

Ephesians 5:16 tells us to make the most of our time, because the days are evil.

Does that mean we have to be as good as we can to counteract the evil around us?

Or is it possible that it means we haven’t much time, because in this world, the evil is death, and our bodies die?

I think a person must know why he should make the most of his time if he is to do it at all. So…why make the most of our time, why do everything as if we are doing it unto the Lord? What’s the point?

I cannot answer for everyone, but my life is a microcosm of almost always stopping just short of total success. Recently, I have taken to doing everything within my power as best I can, and leaving the rest in God’s hands. To me, that is the essence of Ephesians 5:16.

Why even try? Why bother? Why do everything as if you are doing it for God?

I think the answer lies within us. I think the answer is, because WE CAN.

Anything less than doing what we can…well, is that really worthy of a saint? But maybe that’s the rub; maybe we don’t really get that we are saints already? Maybe if we changed our minds (repented) of what we believe about ourselves, doing everything as if we were doing it unto the Lord would be like breathing for us. Maybe making the most of our time is a response from a changed mind, and not the result of human effort.

Our past efforts made in fear only result in more fear. But our efforts now are no longer bound by fear. Instead, they are bound by grace, and filled with God. If you knew God was in your efforts, if His power was in them, would it change the way you looked at what you do?

11/30/2005

PASSING INTO A CELEBRATION OF LIFE

I’d like to do something different today. I’d like to ask your view about a statement I am about to make.

Last night, I was talking with my best friend Brett, and touched on some pretty interesting things. One of the things we talked about was the seemingly backwards approach we take towards our “behavior”, or shall I say, towards changing our behavior.

As we were talking, I was searching my mind for a memory of Jesus preaching out a list of things not to do…you know, such as “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, and don’t gamble.” I tried as best I could, but was not able to recall even a single instance where the thrust of Jesus’ preaching was a list of things we can’t do as His followers. Strangely, I started coming up with a list of things inside of my mind that He said we could do as Brett and I talked.

Our conversation hinged on the idea that if we are going to focus on our efforts at changing our behavior, we are going to fail, because we’ve always failed. We asked whether having Jesus inside of us would make any difference towards those efforts, and I think we agreed that the difference was the approach rather than the effort and or success.

The approach (and thus, the statement) is this:

We have passed from fear of death into the celebration of life.

In our fear, we could try as we might to change our behavior, with little or no lasting success. Even if we did modify our behavior, it did nothing toward our reconciliation with our Abba. Jesus handled that by himself, and since that time, if our focus is on modifying our behavior because we feel guilty about something, then our focus is on death.

So what would a focus on the celebration of life look like? Do you think having that new focus might change things in your life? These are the things I care about, and that is why I am asking for your opinion on this.

Remember, we have passed from fear of death INTO the celebration of life.

11/28/2005

AFTER YOU, MY HEART

I feel like flying right now. My heart is leaping, my spirit is soaring…if only my body could go where my spirit and heart goes.

Is this the disconnect I feel sometimes? That my body does not go where my heart goes? Is it that detachment I feel when my limbs cannot reach as high as my spirit can? What an amazing and wonderful experience this is, yet it is simultaneously maddening and exasperating.

As I head towards my goal, what will be the ways my spirit will teach my body to follow? How long will it take?

I am so filled with emotion right now, that words elude me, and if you know anything about me, you know words rarely do that to me. But at this moment, I am actually typing at a snail’s pace, attempting to find words which will describe how I feel, and what it means.

I have been sitting tonight watching television, yet not really watching television, as I so often do. One of the things I do best when the tube is on is think. The themes, stories, or images cause my mind to go into overdrive, and if I’m not carefully watching, the television screen becomes a blankness to my mind, and my thoughts begin to tell a story of their own. Such has been happening tonight. For some reason, my thoughts have linked up with my heart, and my heart is soaring in places my body cannot yet follow.

I feel as though I am into the clouds on this starless night, searching for a break of open space, looking for a star anywhere, but not really caring if I find one. The flight is enough for me. Someday, my body will follow my heart; in fact, I think there are times it already does.

Is this joy? Is it happiness? I don’t know if I can give it a name, because it doesn’t hinge on any circumstance.

CONFIDENCE!

Is that it?...

Sort of. And peace. And joy. And hope. And anticipation. And , and, and.

You get the idea.

I feel like a child tonight…yes, that’s it! A child!

What a wonderful feeling. Is this what heaven feels like?

11/26/2005

KINDNESS IS JESUS

Kindness.

If I had to sum up the life of Christ in one word, and not use the word “love”, it would be kindness. Of all the things Jesus did and said, His kindness stands out to me most, even above His miracles, which are awesome and at times fearful. Even above His death and resurrection, stands His kindness.

That’s saying quite a bit, isn’t it?

Even above His resurrection?

Yes. But not only above His death and resurrection, also IN it.

Jesus said somewhere that we should follow Him. I’ve never really thought about what He meant, but I wonder lately….was kindness on His mind when He said it?

I have seen some incredible acts of kindness in my life, from all sorts of wonderful people. I have seen the arms of Christ envelop me, and people around me, through the bodies of people He inhabits. I have seen even people who don’t believe give incredibly of themselves without being asked. In every instance, the reaction to these kindnesses has been surprise, wonder, tears of joy, smiles, laughter, and hugs. I have never, not even once, witnessed an argument, fight, or war start over a kindness done. I wonder…is that a lesson we can learn from?

If it seems as though kindness can wipe out envy, hate, and strife, does it also seem like we would be better served by being kind always?

If we are going to follow Christ, I am of the opinion that the best way we can do so is to be kind, to everyone. Be kind to them in person, and in thought. And there, in thought, is where it gets difficult.

Being kind, at first, will be a discipline. Don’t let the times deceive you. There are still some things you have to work at in order to be successful. In our day, we are rapidly moving toward an almost effortless society. We want what we want, and we want it now. Furthermore, it should be GIVEN to us, not earned. This is the creed of many in our day in history. Don’t let it be yours. If it is, you’ll never be kind to your neighbor.

How do I know this? Because you can’t be kind just knowing you are forgiven. You can’t be kind just knowing you are loved. Something inside of us prevents us from being naturally kind to everyone, regardless of circumstance or past. You can’t be kind by merely wanting to be kind. YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE IT, internally first, and then externally as the result of what is going on inside.

You see, what pours out from us MUST match what lives inside of us, otherwise, our kind deeds are nothing more than hypocrisy lived out. Naturally, if we feed evil within us, kindness will rarely flow from us. Do you see why the two MUST match? Many in this world would tell you that this simply isn’t true, that kindness flows even from people who feed the evil within. I would answer, “Kindness for kindness’ sake never flows from a heart which feeds itself evil. Evil has a personal agenda, kindness does not. The two are at opposite poles of one another, and NEVER meet in the middle.” You can bet on it, if evil is fed, the “kindness” you see flowing from it is nothing more than a ruse to gain its desires and lusts.

Kindness will change your family. Kindness will change your children, your spouse, your friends and your job. Kindness will change the world, and it can be changed. But best of all, kindness will change us. There is only one way to be kind; you can only be kind by putting someone else above you. There is no other way to do it. The monstrous Me, me, me must die inside before kindness will live within. It isn’t easy, don’t be fooled. At first, it will be difficult, but the more you begin to see the love of Christ within you, and the more you seek His love within you, the more you will begin to be predisposed towards kindness. Killing the me, me, me is difficult, but because of Christ, you can see a resurrection of the new you just beyond the blackness inside.

Now think about the words “Follow me” that Jesus once said. Do they mean something different today?

11/24/2005

ON THE LEVELING AWAY, A THANKSGIVING PLEA

Happy Thanksgiving.

I’d like to share the lyrics to one of my favorite songs with you. I think these words have more to do with Thanksgiving than a Noontime football game, turkey, and pumpkin pie, followed by a one hour siesta.

Let no one say that so-called “secular” bands, especially rock bands, cannot come up with lyrics that mean something…even a great deal of something. I was twenty years old when I first heard the words to Pink Floyd’s “On The Turning Away”, and at that time, I was too caught up in myself to bother thinking about what the words were saying to us.

I think these lyrics say this;

He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses. Proverbs 28:27

If you like, you can open your bible and read the entire “chapter”, although I recommend reading the entire book of proverbs, or you may miss the deeper meaning of the book, and each individual proverb.

"On The Turning Away"

On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won't understand
"Don't accept that what's happening
Is just a case of others' suffering
Or you'll find that you're joining in
The turning away"
It's a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting it's shroud
Over all we have known
Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that we're all alone
In the dream of the proud
On the wings of the night
As the daytime is stirring
Where the speechless unite
In a silent accord
Using words you will find are strange
And mesmerized as they light the flame
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night
No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away
From the coldness inside
Just a world that we all must share
It's not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there'll be
No more turning away?

Pink Floyd

Today is thanksgiving, and I am seeing more and more each day to be thankful for. Not just the usual stuff, like family and friends, home and food, peace and freedom. Those things are important. But are they any more important than the loud quietness of the deep woods, a single cloud on a sunny day, or the challenge of a problem that seems unsolvable? God has made this world infinitely exciting, challenging, beautiful, and fun. It’s full of colors, emotions, and experiences waiting to be met. Friends, family, and food are wonderful, but so are the mundane things, the little things, the simple things.

Sometimes I think we in America are spoiled beyond repair. Then, I listen to the words of a song like “On The Turning Away”, and I have hope that one person, one more person, and then another will hear these same lyrics, and be affected to the very core of his being. I have hope that there will be no more turning away, from the pale and downtrodden, from the poor and the needy, all those who are most certainly no less important than the President of the United States, or Donald Trump, and others whom we seem to give almost all of our attention to.

And there it is. If you want to thank your maker, your Father in heaven, then give to the poor, the pale, the downtrodden. Don’t just send a check. Any fool can do that. Give them more…give them attention; balance the amount of attention you give to the “important” people and things with the amount of attention you give to those deemed “less” by the “upper echelon” of this world. For there is no upper echelon, all have fallen short of the glory of God. One day, every eye will see that regardless of status or possession, every single one of us is no higher nor lower than the next.

I guess I’ll call this post “On the Leveling away”, because in the end, we are all on the same level, every one of us. You will meet people who think that by their great effort, they have made themselves better than others. But I go back to the beginning, and in the beginning, there was only God. With a start like that, you tend you know who to thank for all that you have. Without that Beginning, you’d have nothing, be nothing, and know nothing.

Remember the poor and the widows.

11/16/2005

A CHANCE TO REFLECT

My deer hunting experience will begin in two days. For more reasons than just the urge to slay a buck the size of a small elk, I am looking forward to this.

As the day for me to head to the north woods of Wisconsin draws ever nearer, I find myself anxious to be there already. I know what will happen, but I do not know what will result from it.

I will spend three to four days in the woods, being as silent as I can, hardly moving, hoping the scouting I did pays off. But more importantly, I will be forced to reflect.

It doesn't matter what I reflect on, the simplest truth in this matter is that I wll reflect on something, and that, for me, is necessary. I have no choice really, if I sit in that chair in my hunting stand high in the air, being silent, my mind will be forced to remember, to think, and to process things. Some of these things might be of the sort I wished I didn't have to process (like Theresa Holbach's murder), but others, such as merely thinking about God and my relationship with Him will be welcome experiences. If you have ever sat in silence for three or four days straight, you quickly realize that your mind is anything but silent, and thus, you begin to reflect.

I am looking forward to this time of reflection. I know my mind will dwell on some things it maybe shouldn't, but that doesn't frighten me. You see, I never feel closer to God than when my mouth is silent, and my mind is loud. In my mind, God is here, as I know He is in my heart as well. Somehow, when I am speaking outloud, or entertained by the many things we can be entertained with, God seems to drift into the background. I have found that although silence can be unnerving at times, if I long for God, there is no better way to find Him again than to be silent. That is true for me...I do not know what is true for you.

But I hope everyone has their moments of silence. Sometimes we can fear the silence, but my experience with it is that I always come away from silence with a renewed sense of peace. I look forward to those moments the older I get. Peace be with you as well.

11/12/2005

THERESA HALBACH IS A PERSON, NOT A STORY

I suppose I have to process this. It is the news that a young lady was brutally raped and murdered not fifteen miles from my house. The lady's name is Theresa Halbach, and this case has rapidly become national news.

It has not become national news because the deed committed against her was so heinous and rare. On the contrary, this type of crime occurs every single day in our nation. It has not become national news because the news media cares so deeply about Theresa and her family. I wish that were the case. Rather, it has become national news because of the connection between her alleged attacker, Steven Avery, and his past.

Steven Avery was released from prison a short while ago after serving eighteen years for a rape he did not commit. He has a case pending against Manitowoc county for millions of dollars because of the wrongful imprisonment. The question has already been asked; Why does a man with a very winnable case suddenly commit this crime? Many around here believe he didn't, despite the evidence against him. I do not know how much he is suing for, but the most common amount I have heard repeatedly is 36 million dollars. The most common opinion is that he deserved it, and would get it. You would think such a man would have absolutely no reason to commit any crime of any type.

So the focus of this case has been on the alleged attacker, and not on the disappearance of a girl named Theresa. That disappearance has now turned into a rape/murder case, and we will never get to see Theresa alive this side of heaven again. The local and national media have all focused on the connection between Steven Avery and His past; it is the stuff of TV movies, and they are doing their best to keep interest in this aspect of the case alive. We are left asking why?

Yesterday, on my way to Manitowoc (a city which is barely a few miles south of my home, Two Rivers) I drove as if in a haze. My thoughts centered on Theresa Halbach, and what she must have felt during the last hours of her life. Despite the terror of being raped and abused, would she not have in the end, still hoped to escape alive? Wouldn't she have desparately wanted to cling to life, hoping beyond hope to see her family again? If only she could just live, she could process this attack, she could survive it, and move on with her life. But that opportunityy was taken away from her. In the end, she was left without a choice; she was killed because she was no longer of any worth to the man who attacked her. Instead, she became a liability to him, and he couldn't afford to let her live to tell her tale.

I do not know if Steven Avery is guilty. The crime scene, if that is where she was actually killed, is only fifteen miles from my house. The highway leading to the scene has been closed off for a week, and no one can drive straight through any more. Our small town existence has been intruded upon by hundreds of police officers and of course, the media. The ever-loving media. They are allowed to be in the vicinity of the crime, spinning their stories despite fact, trying to make the loudest noise so everyone will listen to them.

But the loudest voice I hear today is Theresa's, crying out for Daddy in her last moments of life. If not out loud, certainly in her heart. I hear her screaming pleas of mercy to ears that have become deaf to absolute anguish. I hear her fear, her whole body will not stop shaking, and every time her attacker approaches, her breath shortens, and eyes widen as her soul screams out to God for help! There is no one coming to help her, there isn't even a physical body who will come to her and hold her tightly, letting her know after all that she will be alright. She will never again, from those last moments onward, be comforted in this life by another human being. She will only know terror, torture, and in the end, an utter lack of mercy. Mercy was beyond hope.

The real story, not the garbage you will see on television or read in the papers, is that young Theresa cried out to someone, anyone, for mercy and aid. No one answered, "yes". The only answer she received was the cold look of death in her attackers eyes. The only story worth telling now is for us to face this pain she felt, to process it, KNOW it, think about it, all of us, so that it never happens again.

It will, of course, happen over and over every day in this nation. Can you imagine the pain and fear? Can you imagine your soul tearing in pieces? Can you imagine yourself being Theresa? Can you get there? The people we will meet for the rest of our lives need us to get there. They need us to feel what Theresa felt, at least even a small part, so that we will not wish or carry out that kind of crime upon anyone else. So that we will not harm our neighbor but will instead see a person just like Theresa, someone who is worth dying for, so that she will not have to die in our stead.

Why do we ask "Why?" We know why. We know because Theresa is just a story for the media to tell. And Steven Avery, if he is actually guilty, is just an interesting TV movie waiting to be shown. That is what we normally reduce these "stories" and the people in them to.

But I can't hear the media's story above the screams in my head from a girl named Theresa Halbach.

11/09/2005

BREAKING THROUGH THE VICTIM

I am tearing down ancient barriers that I built a long time ago. They have been in existence for as long as I can remember. Over the last five years, I built them even higher, and then believed I couldn't overcome them, these obstacles of my own doing.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the very best you could possibly be? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to actually succeed completly, without a hint of failure? What would it take? Would it take great effort?

I have news for you. The only thing it will take is faith. I am a walking poster child for the "almost...but not quite" gang. All of my life, I have almost completely succeeded...but not quite. There has always been something holding me back, some little thing I did wrong, or chose badly, or reacted to that kept me from fully achieving my goals. I reached my goals in part, but would end up broken, beaten, and tired from the exertion.

The worst thing is, everything that caused me to fail was me. Due either to a lack of effort, a glaring error, or a miscue that somehow kept me from reaching the highest height, I always found myself "wishing" I could have finally reached the top of the mountain. It all stems from a lack of faith (or maybe a better way to put it would be a fear of complete success).

I do not know what has happened recently to change my mind. But I do know that even as I knew I was safe with God, I was afraid of fully succeeding. I was afraid of doing what I knew I could do to be my best at everything, to excel. I know...it doesn't seem to make sense, does it? How can someone be afraid to be the best they can be? How can someone stop just short of their goal all because of fear? Isn't that silly?

I sense that fear right now, lurking beneath the surface like a shark circling his prey, waiting for the chance to strike and destroy and devour. That is what fear does to us. But fear isn't an outsider, he is an insider. He isn't a curcumstance, he is our reluctance to live fully. I am certain there are things I still fear, things I have not done that I don't even know about because some fear holds me at bay. But a little more each day, I begin to realize that I can fully live, there is nothing to fear. Succeeding, excelling, reaching for the flag at the peak is not something to be feared; it is something to be embraced.

For as long as I can recall, I have stopped short because to me, ultimate victory was unknown. I had victories and celebrations, but I always stopped short of my ultimate goal. Some might say my goals were too high, while others would say I sabotaged my own success.

I say, I will be a victim of fear no longer, because strange as it may seem, I was actually a victim of myself.

Go on, it doesn't take any more effort to be the best you can be. It only takes a little faith, and a simple realization that what stops us most often is ourselves.

11/06/2005

JUST A FEW GOOD THINGS

If I expect to be good at something, is it wrong when I react in disappointment, if I turn out to be not as good as I expected to be?

I’d like to hear your opinion about that, seriously.

I have been doing some thinking lately. This freedom we have seems to be useful for something, after all. As I was thinking the other day, I realized that there are definitely some things I am good at. Then, I realized there are some things I am very good at; you might almost say I excel in them.

So, what do I do with this knowledge? It is a dangerous knowledge, I think, yet a necessary one, to discover what we are good at. I consider these things to be gifts from God…I really do. Not everyone may agree with that, and that’s okay; I understand if you don’t.

Let’s say I am good at being a daddy. My daughter seems to think I am, and there are times where I am able to display levels of compassion and self-control that I see no where else in my life. Then, there are times when I feel like the worst father in the world. I could bury myself with guilt.

But I’ve come to realize that if I possess these skills, such as a skill in carpentry, I should do something with it. What can I do?

At the risk of sounding conceited, I will say right now that I think I should push myself to become perfect in these things.

Hold on there, I’m not talking about earning God’s pleasure here. I already have that. But I AM talking about taking the few things I know I am good at, and beginning to excel at them. If I do that, certain expectations are naturally going to arise. Is there danger in these expectations? Am I safe to strive at the things I am good at, reaching toward perfection? Or am I setting myself up for a major disappointment.

Before you answer the disappointment question, ask yourself this; what right do we have to expect that we will never be disappointed? And if we have this freedom now to strive without being judged, wouldn’t the greater disappointment lie in doing nothing? In always wondering how good we could have done?

What heights can we reach? Can we ever know if we never try?

I have been given a few things to be good at. I know I don’t HAVE to be good at them, my destiny doesn’t hinge on my performance. But now that the pressure’s off, just how good can I get at these things? I wonder if it makes a difference, this knowing that the pressure is off.

11/02/2005

EVOLUTION VERSES THE SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS

A few weeks ago, I said that I would revisit the topic of evolution, and today, I am doing so.

This was brought on by a post from a good blogging buddy of mine, the FISH. Read his article, because it comes to bear on what I am writing here.

So…did dinosaurs exist? I believe they did. However, I know they did not exist over one hundred million years ago. In fact, I know they didn’t exist any earlier than six thousand years ago.

How do I know this? Let’s study the evidence.

One of the basic rules in the theory of evolution is that matter is able to not only form itself from nothing, but transform itself using information that at the moment it is transformed, is not even in existence. In other words, evolution claims that species evolved by ADDING information into their genetic code through means of beneficial mutations. I find two problems immediately with this idea. The first is that we, human beings, as far back as we have studied mutations, have never, not even once, witnessed a naturally occurring beneficial mutation. Every naturally occurring mutation we have witnessed has been a mutation which has caused a degradation of information within the genetic code, i.e., information was lost, not gained.

The second reason why it is obvious to me is that DNA already contains every bit of information a cell needs to function according to its design. So far as I know, information can never, ever be added to DNA, information can only be lost. Thus, if the information for a bird to become a dog is not found within that bird’s DNA, that species’ DNA will never, ever gain the information necessary for it to transform into another species.

This little fact completely obeys the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Statistical thermodynamics), which states that the organized complexity of a structured system tends to become disorganized and random. The Informational Law of Thermodynamics states that information (example: the information found in DNA) conveyed by a communicating system (Example: DNA structure) tends to become distorted and incomplete.

A simpler way to put that would be, given millions and billions of years to operate and communicate, DNA would have devolved, not evolved, according to these laws of nature. That DNA over time loses information, and becomes prone to mutations over that time is a proven fact.

One more proof of the loss of information, or of mutations being harmful to a species or simple structure is what happens to viruses that mutate. As we know, viruses are not alive, they can only exist within a living cell; without that host cell, a virus breaks down into harmless and defeated information almost instantly. But even a virus within a living cell will mutate from its original form, and as it does, that virus will lose information, and eventually, destroy itself. This is another proven fact. Viruses are the single greatest piece of evidence I have seen to disprove evolution, because we know that viruses mutate rapidly, within one or two generations (exactly the rate of mutation that evolution requires). Yet viruses never, ever generate beneficial mutations; the mutations are always of a degrading nature, ending up in the absolute destruction of the virus. Given a living cell with which to mutate within, according to evolution, a virus should be able to become a living organism of its own accord, yet we never witness this with viruses. We only ever witness their destruction through degrading mutations.

If Dinosaurs were in existence millions of years ago, their extinction would have occurred rapidly, regardless of a natural catastrophe or not. It is no different with human beings Information is being lost, through mutations (such as cancer), and over time, humans will become extinct as well, our own DNA having mutated to the point where survival on this planet is no longer possible.

That may sound like a bunch of radical preaching to you, but if you know what the laws of nature are, especially the second law of thermodynamics, you would find it impossible for humans to exist forever in any form. The laws of Nature prohibit it, making it impossible for us to exist beyond even possibly a few more thousand years. The information contained within our DNA mutates, never beneficially, and when it does, information is lost. In such a body requiring such a delicate balance for survival, any loss of information is critical and could rapidly spell the end of the human race.

This isn’t doomsday preaching, this is simply scientific fact. If information is lost, it cannot be regained. We, the human race, in fact all of creation, require redemption. We cannot save ourselves, we cannot add the information that is being lost from generation to generation. And the more information which is lost, the more rapidly our DNA’s information will become disorganized, and mutate.

Could dinosaurs have existed several million years ago? No, because the basic building blocks of life, DNA, would not have survived the length of time required, and the information in that DNA could not have increased to form even more complex organisms (us) than dinosaurs. The second law of thermodynamics spells our doom, information cannot be added, not from one species to another, not to a single strand of DNA, and not to every strand of DNA in existence; information can only be lost.

Thus, for evolution to be true, that second law of thermodynamics cannot be true. And for a lengthy age of life to have existed on this earth, that second law cannot be true; information is never added over time, it is only lost. Dinosaurs and humans existed together, AS DIFFERENT, SEPARATE SPECIES, at the same time, and in some of the same places. According to the second law of thermodynamics, the more time given, the more disorganized and degraded a complex system will become, finally becoming an incomplete system, which no longer resembles, or functions like the original system did. This spells the doom of evolution, which relies solely upon billions of beneficial mutations, where information is added to a system or species to form a newer, more complex system or species.

The laws of nature forbid such an occurrence. Given time, apart from a higher power, everything will go to pieces. This is a fact, and it is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the laws of nature. Any other conclusion, such as evolution or the big bang theory, directly contradicts these laws.

Could God have caused “evolution” as His means of creation? I see no reason why He could not have…except to ask the question, “Why bother?” Could God have created the universe just as our book of Genesis says He did? Of course He could have. In fact, if God said, “Let there be light”, by the laws of nature, that light, if seen on earth, had to be mature, it had to travel the length of space to reach us, thus it had to be “old” upon it’s conception.

There are other examples of elements and chemicals that could only appear from the beginning in an advanced state, an “old” state. So the next time someone says, “The earth is 4.3 billion years old”, hear them out, and then remember that the second law of thermodynamics makes that age of the earth, and thus evolution an impossibility.

10/31/2005

I'M BACK

I am sorry that I have not been posting very much lately. Last week was a long week, filled with disappointments and frustrations, and at the end of the evening, I chose to vegetate on the couch and then crawl into the sack rather than write.

Over the weekend I had a chance to travel to the north woods of Wisconsin, and began making preparations for the annual deer hunt. It was exactly what I needed. I had a chance to spend some time alone, in the noisy quiet of the forest, as I built an alternate ground blind, and cleared shooting lanes. The day was warm and clear, and I considered it a gift considering the lateness of the season.

I also had a chance to visit with my former brother-in-law and father-in-law, something that happens rarely these days. We try to stay in touch, and once every year, we gather for this annual deer hunt, but this weekend we had decided to meet at the camp once prior to the start of the hunt to enjoy each other’s company. It was yet another gift, exactly what I wanted.

Having returned Sunday afternoon, I am again ready to take on the task of completing this long construction project which has drawn the greatest test of resolve I have yet experienced. I will finish this project, despite any problems, despite the owner’s seemingly constant changes and delays, despite all circumstances…I will complete it.

This weekend helped to remind me that I am not here to please myself. Rather, I am here to make the most out of what God has given me. He has blessed me with skill in construction and project management, and I will make the most of these things, despite any circumstances. I have seen, am seeing, and will continue to see a steady progress towards completion.

Sometimes, it takes the art of doing almost nothing for an entire weekend to remind me of that.

I am back; back in town, back at work, and back on my blog. How have you all been doing?

10/25/2005

REMEMBER TO GIVE THEM HOPE BEFORE GOD

The only little brother I have is trying to adopt a daughter with his wife and four boys.

They are having a difficult time of it, having come very close already (within a couple of weeks) to bringing a new baby daughter home, only to find out the birth parents had decided to try and raise her themselves. I am certain this process has been exciting, and yet heartbreaking for them.

I wish there was something I could do, like “make an offer they can’t refuse” (Godfather fans) but that’s not the best way about things, is it? I have been praying for them, hoping for them, and they have been on my mind quite a bit lately.

So…if you could, please, remember my little brother and his family before God tonight, tomorrow, and the next night…and the night after that…and the night after that, etc, etc, etc.

They are the best adoptive parents anyone could hope to have, and I believe God knows that. They are being so patient, and I wish their dream would simply come true with Godspeed.

You see, you can’t really work your way into my heart easily by caring about me; although you can be cared about by me just for being you. But if you care about someone I love, well…then you’ll just about melt this block of ice I have for a heart.

Please care about my little brother and his family. Care for them with your prayers and thoughts. I can’t ask for a better gift than that.

10/24/2005

A PLEASANT SURPRISE

I was told by T today, after he had a long weekend, that I am an inspiration to him. My.

I didn't know what to say, but he made that easy, by continuing to tell me that the things I had shared with him the other day helped him to open up to his wife in a way he never had.

I didn't expect that at all. That wasn't where I expected our conversation to end up, right square in the middle of his marriage. I guess I expected that I was doing what I always seem to do, excourage people to live a freer life, because that seems to be what I am here for.

It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least, but a bit of a shock, too. I am never aware that the things I say have any effect on people beyond the immediate moment. I guess I am rather short-sighted, aren't I?

Glad to see that God is not short-sighted. And it was nice to know that someone had been touched. We don't get to see that very often, do we? Overall, I don't know if I like knowing, because immediately, I felt sort of uncomfortable with the whole idea, and still do.

So long as T is living freer, that's all I care about. Lessen the guilt, weaken the hold of the "have to's" and "need to's", that's what I want to see.

10/23/2005

THE GRACE WE GIVE IS THE GRACE WE HAVE RECEIVED

Dear reader,

How many times did you walk past someone who needed what you had in your wallet today? How many times were you even aware they needed it?

How many cigarettes did you smoke today? Did you eat too much? As you ate, did you even bother thinking about the person who has nothing to eat?

Did you curse today, even in your mind so no one could hear? Did you get angry at the driver in front of you who should have known you were in a hurry and didn’t have time to pussyfoot around waiting for him because he was obeying traffic laws?

Did you say something that you now regret? Did you rush to the checkout line after you saw that other woman who seemed like she was going to arrive in line at the same time, and then you would have HAD to let her go first, because that’s what “Christians” do?

Did you steal from your employer today? Was every minute you were paid for a minute of work, or were there moments, even minutes where you daydreamed, or talked with a colleague about things decidedly not work-related? Are you visiting this blog right now while you are supposed to be at work?

I had a nice chat the other day with a new friend at the jobsite. He is someone who recently came to believe in Jesus. Since that time, he claims there is much joy in his life. But as I listened to him, I became aware that there couldn’t be much joy, because he was so damned concerned all of the time about the things he was doing wrong. Things like having quit smoking, but still chewing the nicotine gum as if it were a crutch. Or things like not being able to feel compassion for other people.

So, I talked, and he listened, after hehad talked, and I had listened. I cannot recall the last time I talked so long. I wish I could have said what I said in fewer words.

“T, the “church” is famous for preaching two gospels…the first is the gospel of grace, and the second is the gospel of works sanctification. The two mix in the church, and outside of it, for whatever reason, leaving us feeling unworthy, and unaccomplished. I can hear by what you are saying that you are still trying to fix yourself, which is no different a condition than before you believed.”

I could see T’s face as I said this, his eyes widening, his jaw dropping ever so slightly.

“T, if the gospel of grace is true, then the gospel of works sanctification is false, the two cannot exist together. It is either grace, or it is works, there is no mixing of the two. If God’s grace arrived upon you, then you are free from worrying about sin. Do you remember when you first believed, what happened?”

T answered almost immediately, “Yeah! There were some things in my life that disappeared altogether, almost immediately. Things which I never cared to control or change, because I didn’t believe they were wrong, I didn’t believe really even in God.”

Exactly what I thought I would hear, it has been true of every person I have met who came to believe as an adult, that there are things that change immediately without their effort.

“T, if those things changed without your effort, what makes you think that now it is up to you to change the rest?”

T answered, “But the bible says if we remain in sin (I think he was trying to quote Hebrews) that we are crucifying Jesus all over again, and there is no sacrifice left for us.”

I paused for a moment, watching T. Then I said, “You have to read the entire letter the author of Hebrews wrote to get to that verse, and yet we tend to quote just that one verse. I can see how that verse would frighten you if you hadn’t remembered the rest of the letter.”

“What do you mean, Tom?” T asked.

“The writer of that letter spent nearly every word up to that point building Jesus up as worthy, as being the one sent from God, as being God, worthy to be the sacrifice. That’s why it makes sense when he says the problem is in considering the blood of Jesus as being unworthy, or unclean. The problem isn’t action or sin. Remember, this letter was written to believing Jews who were being persecuted by Jews, the very Jews who considered Jesus’ blood as unclean.”

I could see a look of understanding cross T’s face, and I continued. “T, if God can give you the greater thing, which is redemption and life, can He also not give you freedom from sin? “

T thought about this for a moment, and replied, “Yeah, but…then that means I might go ahead and sin, and do whatever I want!”

To which I said, “Yes, you might, and many do, heck, in some ways, we all do. But that’s not the point. Change isn’t going to happen by you focusing on what’s wrong. Change isn’t going to come just because you keep trying harder. About all that is really going to happen is you will begin to lose the joy you say you have, and depression will set in, because you can’t ever seem to get over the hill. Change comes in us when we realize that we are already changed. For each of us, this has been true in the past, we have all experienced it, you said you did yourself. But there things in our lives that for whatever reasons, we haven’t believed have been changed, again, it’s true for all of us.”

“Yeah but…I don’t feel compassion for others, and we are commanded to love one another.” T retorted. Honestly, witnessing a friend defend their “wrongness” is not a pretty sight.

So I said the only thing I could think of at the moment.” T, the grace we give is the grace we have received. The love we give is the love we have received. Trying to feel compassion for another before you feel God’s compassion on you, or feel it to the point where people are no longer a threat to you is going about things ass-backwards. You can’t get there from here, and the harder you try, the less you will give. But if you come to an understanding of the love and compassion God has for you, I think it will be impossible for you not to feel compassion for others. Do you see the difference?”

“Not really. I mean, don’t I have to try?”

“T, try until you give up.”

T looked at me with a smile on his face, as if he thought I was joking, “What do you mean?”

“I mean, keep trying until you get sick of trying. Beat yourself up with it. Go to bed every night apologizing to God for being worthless, and cry yourself to sleep because you just can’t seem to get there. You want to, but all your efforts cause you to feel like nothing you do is good enough. Keep trying until you give up.”

T had this sudden look of understanding that I will never forget. “I think I get it! I can’t “get there” until I already believe I AM there. Is that right?”

“Something like that, but “trying” to believe isn’t going to help either. I guess the best way to put it is, remember what and how you were when God gave you faith. You understand already that your faith is not your own, it was given to you. Meet God back in that place, when He first made the gospel sound like it made sense for you. Meet Him there, get over yourself, meet Him as the beggar you are. You know God loves beggars, my God, look how many times we read about the beggars Jesus healed. Isn’t it obvious? God loves to give to beggars. Be a beggar. Ask Him for what you know you cannot do. I think, over time, you will come to realize that you already have it, even as you asked for it. Our problem is, we try to measure everything, and when we do, we place ourselves as our own judge. But God sees you as perfect through Christ…tell me…whose judgment is true? Yours or His?”

“His, of course!!”

“You say that like you mean it, T” I said with a hint of teasing.

“I do mean it, Tom.”

“Then acting like you do won’t take any time at all. I’d say the starting point is for us to stop measuring our success or failure, and just start living. I think measuring induces blindness. We become so concerned with our own little measurements that we fail to see any longer the grace by which we are truly measured. You just said it yourself, God’s judgment is the true one. So what business do you have judging yourself, and worrying about it on top of that?”

T didn’t give me an answer to that question. All he said was, “Thank you, Tom!! I never realized that. I always thought I had to try real hard to become a good Christian. I didn’t know.”

“And not knowing is why you aren’t guilty, T.” I smiled.

That entire first section of this post? We do those things every day. Some of us do ALL of them every day. Do you think God loves you any less because you do?

I think we act according to what we think we are. If we are sinners, well…sinners sin. But if we are saints, made holy by God, well…what does a saint do? What do you think you are, and do you realize that because of Jesus death and resurrection, it doesn’t matter what you do anymore? Nothing can separate you from the love of God, not even your sins.

10/20/2005

HANGING ON TO WHAT I DO NOT NEED

I have this little piece of technology called a cell phone. Actually, I have used cell phones now for almost twelve years. I can't tell if I am sick of the cell phone, or sick of having a land-based phone line and a cell phone at the same time.

I admit that at first, making calls on a cell phone was pretty cool, being able to reach out and touch someone anytime, anywhere. That coolness wore off pretty quickly as I realized I also could be reached out to and touched anytime, anywhere.

I have almost completely decided to abandon cell phones altogether. I could get rid of my land-based line, but a problem exists in that my business is completely tied to it, and the effort to make the switch seems to be too great at this time.

I have become accustomed to using something I don't need, and oh how hard it is to let go. You can't imagine the arguments my mind is coming up with as I struggle ever closer to calling the cell phone company and cancelling coverage. The flesh truly wants what it wants, even if it makes no sense.

I'll keep you posted.

By the way, why can't land-line phone companies just offer our home number to be available on a cell phone as well, all for one low price? It seems to me this would solve a lot of problems.

10/18/2005

TO ALLY AND CRYSTAL

This post is dedicated (sort of) to two people. The first is my daughter, and the second person is Crystal, who left a comment regarding yesterday’s post. I started responding to her in the comments section, but a brief conversation I had with my daughter earlier in the day crossed my mind, and I thought it might benefit more than just Crystal. I hope you don’t mind Crys.

After reading Crystal’s comment, I felt saddened a bit, and as I thought about how Crystal was feeling, I turned to my daughter, and asked her if she had trouble sometimes letting go of the things she did wrong. I asked her if she felt like she had to be a certain way in order to be loved, or if she felt she didn’t “measure up” to God’s standard, if that made her feel unworthy.

She sort of said yes ( in a teenager’s way, if you know what I mean), and then I told her, “I think it’s time you and I talked about that.”

The fact is, and I told her this, guilt and feelings of unworthiness can control our lives just as easily as love can. It can get so bad that guilt and unworthiness will take over complete control of us, leaving us feeling constantly unsure, and unloved, or unworthy to be loved. Out of these things will arise anxiety disorders, behavioral disorders, depression, hopelessness, and even to a certain extent, insanity.

I truly believe that in our nation (I cannot speak for Europe or other nations), individualism is a major contributing factor to the multitude of mental disorders in our culture. Did you know that over fifty percent of all adults have been treated for some sort of mental disorder at one time in their lives? Whether it be an anxiety disorder, depression, or another illness, I can’t believe it was always this way. Bluntly, individualism is driving our nation insane. And it sort of fits with what I am talking about here, in that we are often so concerned with the image we present, with what we have, with how much we are loved, or with what we have done wrong that we lose focus on true freedom, which is to love another.

If there is one thing I will tell my daughter, and I will say it now for you as well, God loves you. I can’t tell you how much….I don’t know how much. I don’t think with God, it is measurable. But He loves you, and Peter said it best when he said,

“Be fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

That sentence seems to be a mirror of what God does for us. He is fervent in His love for us, and His love covers our sins.

Sure, there are times I am upset with my daughter, or angry for a moment, but never do I stay angry…I can’t stay angry, it’s impossible to do. Soon after I feel my anger, I find myself wanting to forget what she did, not because she is so great, not just because she does wonderful things. I find myself losing my anger because love covers a multitude of sins (not that she has a multitude, mind you). I don’t cover a multitude of sins; love does. I am drawn to love my daughter, by love. I am drawn to forgive her, to forget the bad, and always, always, always seek that unity in my heart with her. That unity is never missing, it can’t be, because that unity isn’t forged by her deeds or by me, it’s forged by love.

So Ally and Crystal, I pray you remember love, keep fervent in your love for one another, for your friends, for your husband Crys, for your children, for all your one another’s, and love will cover a multitude of sins.

It really isn’t about us, it really isn’t about the things we do. For our sakes, we are loved not for who we are or what we do, but just because we exist. I cannot love a daughter I do not have. If my daughter never existed, I couldn’t have loved her, but now, because she does exist, I love her just because.

Peter tells us also to remember that calling, and God’s choosing of us. He encourages us to remember that. He does not encourage us to remember what we do wrong, or that God saw it all.

Feelings of unworthiness may abound for you. I am here to encourage you beyond that, if I have a purpose at all.

10/17/2005

I DON'T KNOW HOW I GOT HERE

How much grace do I have anyway?

As much as I can give? More than I can use?

Is grace a measurable quantity? Does it have life in and of itself? Is it somehow lessened when I fail to share it? Is it weakened when I am unfaithful?

I cannot see how that could ever be so, because if it were, then God is captive to my faithfulness.

Lately I have been feeling more free. I really can’t explain it too well. I just know that despite what I do in everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, God loves me.

I suppose I could talk to you about my prayer life (whatever that is) and how I haven’t made too many “lonely” appointments with God; you know the kind, where you are alone with God.

Rather, He seems to be even more so on my mind, either in the background, or very much visible to my mind’s eye constantly. I don’t know if that is considered stream of consciousness, or prayer, or both. I don’t really care. I just like Him to be there, and I am not so afraid of Him seeing me fail anymore.

I used to dread the idea of God watching me, when I was young, and even recently. I didn’t like the idea that He could see me. I knew grace filled me, yet I did not want God to see the things I did.

I can’t really say I want to do bad things knowing God is watching anymore than I used to, but overall, the idea of Him watching constantly is becoming a lot more comfortable to me. Or maybe I should say “comforting”? Don’t know…

In case you are wondering, I also don’t know how I got here. I guess I'll just thank God and be silent for now.

Peace my friend, and good hope to you from the Father.

10/16/2005

A MATTER OF LIES AFFECTING THE WORLD

In a discussion recently with a fellow on the jobsite, the subject of evolution came up. Once it did, I shut my mouth for a while, and listened intently as this very intelligent man proceeded to tell me everything I already knew about the theory of evolution and the “big bang”. You know the big bang, that’s where everything you see, over billions and billions of years, all originated from the spectacle of a single primeval atom exploding in “space”. “Space”? How could that be, my mind used to ask, if there was nothing before this atom, how could there have been a “space” for it to explode within?

My friend expounded upon the theory, one which I am very familiar with, as I had a chance to study it in high school, and as an elective in college (briefly, but that’s another story), and further studies beyond college, so convinced was I of evolution’s credibility. As I listened, my mind raced around to the reasons I used to believe in evolution, and raced back again to the reasons I no longer do. I listened for quite a while, giving my friend a chance to speak his heart. I truly did not want to destroy what he had faith in.

But a curious thing happened; he began to tell me why whites were superior, why women were weaker, and why it was obvious to anyone with half a brain that the theory of natural selection (which has been scientifically disproven too many times to count) was the only thing worth believing in; to him, it explained everything (and what it could not explain, my mind theorized, it could make up, thereby explaining “everything”).

At this point, I began feeling my skin crawl. It was the same as it had always been, evolution did not prove anything, except to me, it proved that those who believed so strongly in it sooner or later became very racial, and very chauvinistic. I wanted to end the conversation; I didn’t want to talk about this topic any longer. I also did not want to fall for the trap; that trap in which I begin to teach this man that everything about his “theory” is based on a lie. I didn’t want to destroy what he believed, but I also did not want to attack his moral view on the stance of the human race. Simply put, I wanted to walk away.

But he wouldn’t let me. He kept on, proceeding into the obvious, that the natural selection of men would mean that all races non-white would become extinct, as it was obvious to him, and anyone with half a brain, that whites dominated the world economically and politically exactly because they were the stronger. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I opened my mouth to speak, and before I could, He interrupted me, and said, “I already know what you are going to say, Tom, because I know you believe that the creation story in the bible is true. As far as I am concerned, I respect you, but your views are poppycock, and you ought to listen to reason, and not throw away good science trying to protect your God.”

I didn’t expect that. Here’s my answer.

“When I ever see good science again, I’ll stop trying to defend my view, but until then, so long as most of what we see in the scientific community is fairy tales and suppositions, I’ll open my mouth to give my opinion, because really, that’s all you just did; give me your opinion. Show me your scientific evidence.”

He then went into the theory again, acting as if I must not have heard him for the first twenty-five minutes he spoke. I headed him off at the pass, though, and said, “I said, show me your scientific evidence, I’ve already heard the fairy tale, believed in it when I was a child, and dismissed it as nonsense because there is absolutely no evidence anywhere in this world that what you just said is truth.”

My friend looked thunderstruck. I do believe no one has ever asked him for scientific evidence, so when I asked him, I think he believed that scientific evidence meant replaying a theory he had heard in school somewhere. I felt sad, for him, for me, for the world. What has happened to science? Why, when I asked my friend for scientific evidence, did he start telling me a story? Did he even realize that he was doing so?

As gently as I could, I apologized for my rudeness, and told him that I had believed in evolution for a long time, but as I studied it, I began to see that science had left the room when evolution had walked in. I searched everywhere for scientific data on the theory of evolution. All I found was circular arguments, and suppositions. To date, I have not found even one piece of evidence that was scientifically gathered in the field or in the laboratory that proves that even a shred of the “theory” is true. Honestly, it takes less faith for me to believe in the creation story than it does in evolution, for good reason. A God who loves can certainly do what is written in the bible. But nothing that feels nothing and knows nothing could ever create the order that we see amongst us.

My friend and I discuss things often; politics, love, children, work, and I can see that his belief in evolution affects nearly everything he knows, just as my belief in Jesus affects nearly everything I know.

We are friends, but we are on opposite sides of the aisle when it comes to what drives what in this world. How have we come to this? When I think of evolution, I think of LaMarck and Darwin, Freud and Hitler, even Stalin to an extent, certainly Lenin and Marx. I see the devaluation of life, as if life is random, unordered, and unworthy of love, hope, and protection. When I think of evolution, of randomness and natural selection, I think of the ludicrous idea that such a contradiction could even be thought to be true. Here’s my point, if all this is random, if everything we see is random, how does the theory of natural selection fit into randomness? The strongest survive? That’s not random, that’s design, even when evolution isn’t true, “selection” is design.

Do you see the trouble with these theories? There is no science behind them, and what our children are being taught is that people don’t matter, only randomness matters. They are being taught that the strongest survive. Can you see this theory being lived out? We better open our eyes; it is being lived out, right now, right here, in America.

Individualism is the bastard child of evolution. And sooner or later, whether it be random or not, so long as evolution is taught as fact, people will hate each other, devalue each other, and step on each other, because they have the power to prove they are the strongest, and we all know, only the strong survive. Yet even that “fact” is disproven day by day not only in our civilizations, but in the jungle of Africa. When the draught comes, it doesn’t matter how strong you are, no rain means no water, and no water means death, and death is not random, it selects everybody, no one escapes.

How have we come to the point where life means so little? How can a man who I consider to be a friend become so blind that he would consider other races inferior?

This is not the last time I will write about evolution and it’s affects on our world. I think there are many untruths floating around on this planet of ours, and they affect us, whether we know it or not. One simple fairy tale has proven this, the fairy tale of evolution, of which to date, there isn’t even one shred of scientific evidence to support it.