Monday, March 31, 2008

On the Side, Please ...

Whether it's dressing or guacamole, I'm usually quick to let a server know I want my condiments on the side. It gives me a sense of control and allows me to add a dollop here-and-there when I choose, and if I choose. There are just some things no one's going to decide for me!

OK ... I'm exagerating a little - perhaps a lot - but here's the deal: Don't we sometimes do the same with the meal served up by God? We're eloquent when it comes to affirming our pet doctrines and beliefs; surly when reminded of scriptures that make us squirm - scriptures on suffering & righteousness, or taking up one's cross, or dying to self, or that remind us that we are not tempted beyond our ability to endure.

Take this to the next level and most of us have been down-word from justifications offered as a protective cloak for hurtful behavior & attitudes. Many of us balk - me among the many - when our choices are scrutinized. Ready defenses sometimes crop up:

"The reason I'm living with my boyfriend is ...", or
"My girlfriend understands me, and I'm practically divorced anyway ...", or
"The boss has boatloads of money; he'll never miss the computer ..." or
"I have every reason to get even after all they've done to me ...", or
"The Bible's teachings on sex were for THAT day, not this one ..."

You get my drift, but please don't misunderstand. I'm not attempting to criticize the harbingers of such short-sightedness; after all - they be us. What I want to emphasize is the importance of not making God's word a side dish or optional condiment in our lives.

Truth is more than a concept; it's a Person. If I decline the one I decline the Other.

I'll take my Truth in full measure, right on top. No sides needed.

The truth which has made us free will in the end make us glad also.
Felix Adler

Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by
washing away from it all that is not gold.
Leo Tolstoy

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Plural Noun

As if learning the English language isn't difficult enough we add to it words that have the same spelling but different meanings, or the same meaning but different spellings. We tack on a few dangling participles and conjunctions, then separate it all with the use of a comma or colon (or was it a semi-colon?).

Thus it comes as no surprise that the plural noun concept is a conundrum extraordinairre. It seems there are just some words that can't get any more or less plural, words like: news, or gymnastics, or glasses, or alumni, or scissors.

I suppose it's why I'm a bit baffled at the raging debate between worldviews on the subject of the Trinity. It seems far less troublesome to me than a word like news (exactly how can such a thing come from CNN and Fox or my next-door neighbor, and others?). That said, it is obvious that it is troublesome to many; the many that insist God could not possibly be triune. These may struggle equally with the scriptures pertaining to marriage, wherein a man and woman are said to become one as well.

Me ... well I have more trouble with scissors. Whether one pair (scissor) or many (scissors), it makes absolutely no sense to use, or not use an "s" either way.

Besides, I rather like what God has to say about Himself:

Genesis 1:26 "Then God said, "Let us make man
in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule
over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air,
over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all
the creatures that move along the ground."

Apparently He is a Plural Noun.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I Wonder ...

I'm chuckling as I scan over several of my recent posts. I realize the word "wonder" shows up in nearly every one of them - as if I don't actually have any concrete thoughts ... only wonderings.

Merriam is always a wellspring of understanding. Check it out. Wonder is:

1.) a: a cause of astonishment or

or admiration: marvel. b: miracle

2.) the quality of exciting amazed

3.) a: rapt attention or astonishment
at something awesomely mysterious
or new to one's experience, b: a feeling
of doubt or uncertainty

I guess it's good to wonder, especially if it causes you to ponder.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Valley of Shadows

In the obscurity of Minneapolis' suburbs rages a battle more fierce than that being fought in Iraq.

My friend Cindy, who just two years ago this May was diagnosed with breast cancer, is waging a war against death and pain with a determination that is, simply, amazing. Her family of five has been up mountains so steep and perilous I wondered if they'd make the summit. Time-and-again they've reported on the beautiful vistas they've discovered along the way, and they've even reached a few of the lessor peaks ... only to find themselves navigating again-and-again the deep, dark, treachorous valleys that wind their way through cancer's terrain.

The trail they're following today is written of in Psalm 23. It is accompanied by sorrow and physical pain so excrutiating I can scarce imagine it. Still, their reports contain songs of joy and deliverance - - the kind only a good God can inspire. Though this valley is full of shadows and danger, they travel with a great Light.

Cindy has hind's feet for walking upon high places, and when I grow up I want to be just like her.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Glory of the Snorkel

Sitting upon the rocks near the gentle surf of Kihei beach in Hawaii I had my first snorkeling experience ... from a safe distance! I was at that time an observer, and not such a keen one at that. For the life of me I could see no good reason to bob up-and-down on the sea's surface hoping to catch a glimpse of something unknown and, hopefully, friendly. I rather liked my rock perch. Snorkeling was just fine from that vantage point.

Then, while journeying to the beautiful island of St. Thomas I had my inaugural sail boat excursion - one that included lunch in a remote lagoon, and snorkeling. I was challenged to be a good sport and join the fun.

Reluctantly I donned flippers, mask & snorkel and slipped into the water. At first I thought it all rather bothersome. After all, I had to spit (some speedo-clad dude thought that up!) in my mask to keep it from fogging. I had to remember to keep my head at such an angle so as not to allow sea water to swamp the breathing hole of the snorkel. I had to get used to the gentle swells that made me a bit seasick.

It all seemed much too fussy for so little gain until, at last, I found myself viewing a world I would have never known otherwise - at least not in any personal way. Oh, I'd seen plenty of Discovery Channel tales of sea urchins, sharks and turtles ... but nothing could have prepared me for entry into the dimension known only to the amphibious.

I wonder how many of us miss so much of life's glory, of it's grand design and wonder simply because we have a shallow view that scans little more than life's surface? I wonder what we'd see if we dared to suit up and ponder what exists beneath that surface or beyond our sometimes complacent view?

Mmmmm ...

I wonder how many of us miss an altogether Greater Glory for the same reasons?

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's About the Bats

Ocassionally I find myself rummaging through the memories associated with my children's young years. They're grown now, and a joy still. But now-and-then I relish the simple days of their youth and the particular richness they brought to my life.

During one such rummaging expedition I stumbled across visions of the youngest son on one of his MANY adventures. Time nor space don't permit me to list them all ... such a piece would rival the book "Gone With the Wind." So I'll scale down the story and tell of but one; one I will never forget.

It was late, perhaps ten o'clock, and all three of our children had been nestled in their beds for at least an hour; perhaps two. As hubby and I readied ourselves for bed I made my rounds for the night to be sure all three were covered and safe. With two down and the third to go, I was startled when I wasn't able to open his bedroom door. There was no lock on the door, so I knew something was in the way. I called for my husband.

It didn't take long to get the door open, only to discover an empty bed and open window. There was an eight foot drop from the window to the ground below, but it was quite apparent that the youngest of our children had exited that route.

Panic set in. Where could he have gone? Why did he go? How would we find him, not knowing where to begin looking?

I woke the other two children as hubby dressed to head out. Our oldest son accompanied him, while our daughter sat with me. I called a few of our youngest son's friends or, rather their parents, to see if perchance he'd showed up at one of their homes. Imagine their silence as I asked ... "Uh, hello ... is my son visiting at your house by any chance?" They must have thought me daft, or the most negligent parent alive. No one had seen him, and their own children were sound asleep - - as all well-attended children should be at 10:15PM!

So I waited, and prayed. About ten minutes passed (it seemed three hours), when I heard a faint knock at the front door. I ran to see who it was, when to my surprise there stood my sorry-faced, sheepish six year old Tom Sawyer with a fishing pole in his hand. As I swept him into my arms I interrogated him: "Where have you been?" "Why do you have a fishing pole?" "Did you jump out your window?" "Do you know how scared we were?" "What were you thinking?".

Tears filled his eyes, but with great bravery he provided answers.

It seems someone had told him that you could bait a fishing pole with cheese, cast it into the night sky above the lake (across the road from our home), and actually catch flying bats. Knowing we'd probably nix such a plan, he decided it well worth the risk to test this possibility on his own. What he hadn't factored in was that Dad would lock the downstairs windows before heading to bed, which he'd planned as his re-entry portal. It didn't occur to him that a bed check might be made.

We talk about that night often. Over the years we have laughed ourselves sick at its remembering, though that night it was grave, and terrible, and so very scarey.

Today I wonder how many bat-fishing expeditions I've undertaken in my own life - - how many risks seem worth the taking for the adventure of them, or the curiosity they inspire?

P.S. My bat-fisherman is now 35 and none the worse for his adventure (or the many just like it). Fact is, he's traded bats for trout, and is now passing the love of fly fishing onto the next generation. My Dad would be proud... I think he was the original bat fisherman!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Palm of His Hand

What more can I say?

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on
the palms of my hands ...
(Isaish 49:15-16)
I wonder if this is what He had in mind that day those nails were driven into the palm of His hands?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Not everyone enjoys reading or watching the news. Some catch snippets; some ignore it altogether. Some find it boring; some find it very scarey. Some wring their hands; others pass on by unmoved (I think they call that apathy).

To me the news headlines are a quick snapshot of what's happening across the globe; a way to stay informed beyond ABC or CBS (can anyone say "liberal bias?"). With the internet you can collect a good deal of information rather quickly, roaming without a gnome from the BBC to the Scotsman, from Fox to Reuters, from WorldNet to CNN, and many other news sources. There are bijillions of them.

For me it's become a daily review that is often rather enlightening and fun. But most of the time it is a sickening journey that leads past tawdry scandals and murky mayhem. Worst is the mounting crimes against children.

I can almost hear my deceased mother sighing as she says, "what on earth is the world coming to?" Good question!

From time-to-time I have to fight the urge to stand on a soapbox and spout off as if pontificating. I stop short of wearing a sandwich board whilst pacing the downtown street corners -- yet I'm not altogether sure that would be a bad thing. Today's soapbox goes like this:

Matthew 24:3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen (the temple destroyed), and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" 4Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you.... 21For then there will be great distress ... 27For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man... 30"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory...

32"Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door... 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

42"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

I know there are many people that cannot or will not or do not connect the dots where God's promises and the times are concerned. I don't judge them, but I'm certainly not among them. I'm neither bored nor scared, but I do reside in the land of the concerned. And you can bet your bippy I keep watch (sometimes perched upon a soapbox).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No Contest

The Absence of God's Love

“God…Separated the Light from the Darkness." Genesis 1:3 NIV

A university professor challenged his class: “Did God create everything?”

A student replied, “Yes.”

The professor continued: “If God created everything, then He created evil too. And since our works define who we are, then God is evil.” The class became silent.

Suddenly another student raised his hand and asked, “Professor, does darkness exist?”

The professor responded, “Yes.”

The student replied, “No, sir, darkness does not exist. Darkness is just the absence of light. Light, we can study, but not darkness. In fact we can use Newton’s prism to break the white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color. But you cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present.”

Then the young man asked, “Sir, does evil exist?”

Now uncertain, the professor responded, “Of course.”

To this the student replied, “No, evil does not exist, sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. It is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness, a word that man has created to describe the absence of light. God did not create evil. It is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. Evil is like the cold that comes when there is no heat, or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”

The professor sat down.

The young man’s name was Albert Einstein.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Pastors, Pinnacles, Pinache

I've never given much thought to what makes for a good Christian, much less a good pastor. I sure know when I've encountered the not-so-good types though. The impact is often memorable in the same sense as a bee sting!

It occurred to me recently (and again) how wonderful is MY pastor. He's young and exuberant, and at times inspired in ways that I find remarkable for a mere "babe" (he's nearly 40 ... but to me - at 60 - that's young ...). His job is a challenging and oftentimes thankless mixture of leading, feeding, prodding, carrying and loving we sometimes unruly sheep. That's what pastors do, and some better than others.

There's a paradym out there that would have us believe that Christians in general and pastors in main must demonstrate a plethera of virtues before we afford them respect or consider them to be credible, or good. To some extent it's a true measure; afterall claiming to be Christ-followers puts them in a rare class, one that chooses to live on higher ground.

Many seem to think pastors especially need to be free of foible or - at the very least - allow their warts to remain unseen always. We often ask them to be disingenuous so we aren't troubled by their humanity. In fact, I dare say we want them to walk the high ground with nary a sign of weakness or human frailty - never taking into consideration that walking the higher elevations makes it downright difficult to breath! Think about it: on any high ground one's foot-work has to be purposeful; navigation is dangerous; perils abound - - add to that the fact that they've got anywhere from two to 10,000 or more sheep in tow and the stakes get even higher!

What I so appreciate about the man I call "pastor" is that he makes no pretense of being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Fact is, he leaps across chasms with the benefit of a net sometimes. He trips over his rod & staff, and his stuff. He cries with ease and laughs with even greater ease. He grips God's word but doesn't take himself too seriously. I've known few shephards as sure-footed because of it.

What I treasure the most about this young man is his authenticity. He knows who he is because he knows Whose he is. He's not perfect; he's not even good.

But he's the best!


Thursday, March 6, 2008


It has only been in recent years that the subject of obedience has been a recurring theme in my life. It occupies a good deal of my thought life and, though I'm not sure why, at long last the desire to obey is greater than the desire to have my own way.

Perhaps this is the natural course of life as one ages and acquires wisdom; or perhaps it's an altogether different matter. I'm thinking the latter. In fact, I have concluded that anything short of obedience results in restless wanderings - navigating life as if there's no tomorrow, no purpose, no ultimate destination - chosing courses that may or may not be such a good walk-about.

I ran across the following Scripture again in Joshua 5 this week. It put some framework around the subject of obedience and its relationship to wandering. In verse 6 we read: The Israelites had moved about in the desert forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the LORD. For the LORD had sworn to them that they would not see the land that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Though they used the term "moved about", this is undoubtedly a long wander! It leaves no doubt that obedience requires something of me.

First and foremost it requires I know Who I'm to obey (that's a tough one if you've concluded you're your own moral agent). Next it requires a willingness to discover what I'm to obey. Finally, it requires that I desire to obey - to live intentionally according to steps one and two. To do less is to consign my entire life to disobedience, and to wandering.

I've certainly relished a bit of wanderlust in my life, which is quite different from regular wandering (and a lot more fun if it inspires some new adventure, or a revitalizing vacation). But I've also done my share of mindless wandering. I can attest to its unintentionalness (a new word) that is often little more than a painful, routinely lonely and ultimately disappointing cadence.

Obedience has never sounded more compelling. Besides, I don't have another 40 years to waste on wandering ...


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Merriam's Pal

Good books are such a treasure. They have the capacity to amuse or inspire; to challenge or to penetrate the heart; to inform or to delight. I found one such recently (many, actually, but this one in particular): Anonymous by Alicia Britt Chole. The author is a gifted word-smith, another true friend of Merriam. But that's not the best part. She's witty and wise, and deeply insightful in matters of spiritual relevance.

The theme of this book runs along the course of the hidden years of Jesus' life, and just how impactful were those years. She ties that theme to our own lives, and how times of seeming insignificance may actually be more profound than notoreity.

Anyway ... I'm delighted to have discovered this author, who - by the way - also has a penetrating blog you may want to visit:

Any friend of Merriam's is a friend of mine.