Thursday, September 30, 2010

Breathing Lessons

The Lord God formed the man
from the dust of the ground and
breathed into his nostrils
the breath of life,
and the man became
a living being.
Genesis 2:7
Over-and-over again, I read this verse. I'm struck by how much I've missed in my having scurried past it on so many other occassions.
The term breath of life alone is a subject that could (and does) fill the pages of poetic works, philosophical treastise, science/medical journals, and spiritual collections. I've high-centered here today; sitting long to consider the intimacy this one verse etches into the creation narrative.
Yes, I'm a creationist; a die-hard proponent of the Young Earth/Six Day model, and with None other than God at the helm. It's not the place that's high-centered me today, just the backdrop for that which has.

"The God who made the world and
everything in it is
the Lord of heaven and earth
and does not live in temples
built by hands.
And he is not served by human hands,
as if he needed anything, because
he himself gives all men life and breath
and everything else."
Acts 17:24-25

Breath - whether it's that which fills our own lungs, or the air needed to sustain them - can in no way be explained apart from the biblical narrative.

Could there be an even more important reason
why God created our bodies so that we must breathe? Breath is used in the Bible as a powerful symbol of the life-giving presence of God.

Like God Himself, the air we breathe is invisible, odourless and tasteless—it cannot be perceived at all unless it moves. It is usually peaceful and still, but it is a reservoir of enormous power. The air is a massive ocean—invisible, yet completely necessary for our life, for we are quickly dead without it. It seems reasonable to suggest that
one reason God created the air—and respiration—was to show us graphically how great and immediate is our need for Him.

There are many of us here that have both given birth, and/or have witnessed the birth of our grandchildren. Don't we just know the thrill of it, and how bated is our own breath until that baby takes it's first breath; the breath of life? We are not content until we hear the robust cries of lungs fully engaged.

Breath. I wonder ...

  • How often do I take it for granted?
  • How ignorant am I of the nearness of God in it?
  • How few times do I thank God for it?
  • How little do I consider the power & symbolism of it?

In keeping with my high-centeredness, I did a scripture search on the word breath. I could fill page-after-page with related verses, but suffice it to say: it is no small matter, and certainly no once-and-done event. Breathing is woven in-and-out of scripture; and in-and-out of life - literally! It is a subject God certainly meant for me to "get".

As I began to feel that familiar motionlessness brought on by high-centeredness, I stopped to see what caused it in the first place. It was this: In Genesis we hear tell of Elohim's (God's royal title) creative exploits. But when it comes to mankind, it is YHWH - the Lord God (His personal name; the one He gives to Himself) - that does the forming, life-giving work.

With His breath, Elohim spoke life into the universe; placing there - in the atmosphere of earth - the very air I would need to breath the day YHWH placed His breath of life within me.

It doesn't get more personal, or intimate than that.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Psalm 150:6

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

According to the Thermostat

Not all clear consciences are equal.

I sat listening intently when pastor gave a message on the making of decisions, specifically decisions that involve the making of moral choices (and most do).
When he introduced the place of conscience in the decision-making (and justification) process, I heard something I'd never really considered before. Let me paraphrase: .

The conscience is like a thermostat rather than a compass. It is activated according to what is in the heart; and what is in the heart is a by-produce of what we've been taught (true or not), and have come to believe. A clear conscience does not necessarily mean one is on solid ground. Likewise, a guilty conscience may have nothing to do with reality; a false read can produce false guilt.

Merriam tells us that the conscience is:
  • 1a : the sense of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good
  • 1b : a faculty, power, or principle enjoining good acts
  • 1c : the part of the superego in psychoanalysis that transmits commands and admonitions to the ego

I found the entire body-of-thought fascinating. It helps me to better understand why some people - even believers (even myself) - can justify this or that belief or behavior based on what's been heard from parents, or a teacher, or the world, or the church, or through their own flawed reasoning.

I know what the Bible says, BUT (fill in the justification blank). I see absolutely nothing wrong with (fill in the immoral or unethical blank).

It's no one's business; it's between me (or them) and God alone (this is one of my personal favorites, though it is diametrically opposed to Body-life, and the accountabilities of the believer, one-to-the-other).

Yes, BUT, my family, or church believes (fill in the blank with whatever's contrary to God's word but supported some other way).

You don't actually believe that "God says ...", stuff do you?

I can't believe God can or will forgive me for (fill in the condemnation blank).

It also helps me to better understand how & why & when a day like this comes to be:

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
Isaiah 5:20

It is apparent that people can be totally and genuinely sincere, yet sincerely wrong (I didn't coin this concept, but I wish I had).

Afterall, transformation begins in the heart, and is completed in the mind (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18). Therefore what I think & believe has a HUGE impact on the making of assessments and decisions.

For the conscience to be truly clear (or convicted), it must be well-informed by truth.

How easy (and dangerous), then, is it to silence any challenge by presenting a clear conscience as evidence of one's position; one's innocence.

How sad (and debilitating) to be sidelined by a guilty conscience that is undeserved.

It occurs to me how often Jesus prefaced His messages with this statement: "I tell you the truth ...". He was also very clear about the substance and source of His truth-telling:

Jesus answered, "I am the way
and the truth
and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through me.
John 14:6

Jesus said, "If you hold to (obey)
my teaching,
you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free."
John 8:31-32
So now I know a lot more about the thermostat. As long as it's set according to His word (and in context*) I can expect to have a clear (or convicted) conscience. Set according to anything else, it might just be too hot or too cold for my fickle (and easily mislead) heart.
They are not of the world,
even as I (Jesus) am not of it.
Sanctify them by the truth;
your word is truth.
John 17:16-17
* I added this caveat, "in context", because we have all witnessed how the extremes are played out where prosperity, or miracles, or signs & wonders, or political mud-slinging, and many other supposedly scripture-centered stuff is concerned.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's About the Clouds

PREFACE: This is an unusually lengthy post. I have allowed myself to be wordy for a reason, so you may want to sit this one out. Besides, it is at times like this that I remember why it is that I blog, and for Whom.

"May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord."
Psalm 19:14

In Arizona, the connotation assocated with weather is decidedly warm. Ok, let's say hot. We all know that skies there are perpetually blue. That well-established fact is the fuel that sparked our initial interest in relocating there 10+ years ago.
By comparison, anyone familiar with Washington State knows that it's connotation is the exact opposite. Gray is the predominant feature linked to Northwestern skies.
So ... and therefore ... there was little (dare I say "no"?) hesitation on our parts when it came to the decision to move to Arizona. The fuel of blue burst into open flames as we made our way. We rooted quickly.
Upon deciding to move from Arizona, and to return to Washington State last March, the over-riding concern I had at the time was how on God's green earth I was ever going to handle the intermittable gray. Fogs and mists, not to mention drizzles and downpours seemed unrelenting obstacles.
Then I discovered a promise that put the bothersome thoughts on an altogether different track ...
Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere ...
For the LORD God IS a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
O LORD Almighty,
blessed is the man who trusts in you.
Psalm 84:10-12
It's a familiar refrain, isn't it? I mean, who among us wouldn't want to live one day in His courts versus a thousand elsewhere? Unless, of course, those courts exists beneath gray skies.
At least that's what I thought until I really got grip on this quite extraordinary, exceedingly exquisite promise:
... He is a sun ... to those whose walk
(even in galoshes) is blameless.

It's been nearly two months since our Arizona exodus, and for the duration I've held onto that promise, knowing the dark days of Fall would soon be upon us.

Oh ... there's been plenty of sun and blue skies; and for sure there is hardly a place under heaven as verdant as the Pacific Northwest. But there's also been plenty of mists & showers which, as we Washingtonians know, is the prescription for that verdantness.

It's all conspired to make me question; make me wonder if - or when - sadness would blanket me like the mists that blanket the earth here. Afterall, I'm no stranger to this place, having been raised & raised here; and having lived here 52 of my 62 years.
I well recall the days of yore when the little light felt ever-so-much like depression. I have a good memory.
So it is that I'm inclined to ask: Lord, exactly how is it You ARE (versus, "will be") a sun to me?
Sometimes that question dangles in the silence. At other times it's met with a sense of peace and comfort; a knowing that all is well with my soul. I am relieved - again - to know that I just don't know everything, much less understand what I do know.
I also know that tieing my experience to memories is a flawed endeavor. New things happen every moment of every day; beneath blue skies AND gray!
A few days ago the following scripture began to meander through my thoughts:
He spread out a cloud as a covering,
and a fire to give light at night.
Psalm 105:39
The Psalm is associated with that timeless sage of God's deliverance of His people from their cruel existence (as thraldoms) in Egypt. A prominant feature of that deliverance was the cloud God used to lead, as well as to protect His people; while simultaneously using it to baffle His/their enemies.
A cloud.
This week I received a regular e-news update via Arutz Sheva News out of Jerusalem. The featured headline gave me goosebumps. It reads: Sukkot: 'Clouds of Glory' In the article that follows we are told, in part:

Also on this holiday (Sukkot) Jews eat all their meals in temporary booths ... open enough to be able to view the stars above.
Men sleep in these structures as well,
to commemorate the
“clouds of glory” that surrounded and protected our ancestors from the harsh desert conditions as we traveled to the Land of Israel after fleeing from Egypt.

Clouds of glory!

By now my CSI instincts have kicked in; and I simply must have more details about this silver lining associated with cloudy skies.

My sleuthing has lead me in many directions; and to many days of related thought. I found the following collection by Alfred H. Joy particularly helpful:

Rain Clouds - Figurative Uses

1. (God's) Presence and Glory:
In the Old Testament, (God's) presence is made manifest and His glory shown forth in a cloud. The cloud is usually spoken of as bright and shining, and it could not be fathomed by man.

...In the New Testament we often have "the Son of man coming on" or "with clouds"

2. Pillar of Cloud:
The pillar of cloud was a symbol of God's guidance and presence to the children of Israel in their journeys to the promised land.

3. Bow in Cloud:
The clouds are spoken of in the Old Testament as the symbol of God's presence and care over His people; and so the "bow in the cloud" is a sign of God's protection.

4. Clouds Blot Out:
As the black cloud covers the sky and blots out the sun from sight, so promises "to blot out the sins" of Israel

5. Transitory:
There is usually a wide difference in temperature between day and night in Israel. The days are warm and clouds coming from the sea are often completely dissolved in the warm atmosphere over the land. ... Job compares the passing of his prosperity to the passing clouds.

6. God's Omnipotence and Man's Ignorance:
God "bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds" and the "clouds are the dust of his feet". (God) "commands the clouds that they rain no rain", but as for man, "who can number the clouds?"; "Can any understand the spreadings of the clouds?" "Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge?".

"He that regards the clouds shall not reap", for it is God who controls the clouds and man cannot fathom His wisdom.

7. Visions:
Clouds are the central figure in many visions. Ezekiel beheld "a stormy wind .... out of the north, a great cloud", and John saw "a white cloud; and on the cloud one sitting".

8. The Terrible and Unpleasant:
The cloud is also the symbol of the terrible and of destruction. The day of God's reckoning is called the "day of clouds" and a day of "clouds and thick darkness". Joel foretells the coming of locusts as "a day of clouds and thick darkness" which is both literal and figurative. Misfortune and old age are compared to "the cloudy and dark day" and "the clouds returning after rain".

9. Various Other Figures:

  • Rapidity of motion
  • Swaddling clothes of the newborn earth
  • Indicating great height
  • Hidden glory (Lev 16:2; Acts 1:9; Rev 1:7).

It is obvious by now that there's more to clouds & mists than meets the eye (or the umbrella). So I close this post with a bit of awe still brewing just beneath my conscious thought. I am no longer daunted by what might be in the dark & misty days ahead because I am now excited for what will be as a result of them.

For the Lord God is a sun ...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thraldoms Among Us

It's not terribly rare for a word to grip me; to set it's hook and begin reeling me in like a snookered trout or bass.
Thus I'm not surprised the word thraldom snagged me in this fashion, though today I'm not certain where I found it, or in what context it was applied. All I know is that it's been an interruptive force ever since.
That is ... until this morning.
I paid a visit to Merriam and a few other Word Specialists; and here's what I learned, beginning with the word's root = thrall. It means:
1a : a servant slave : bondman; serf
1b: a person in moral or mental servitude
2a: a state of servitude or submission
2b: a state of complete absorption
Likely the light bulb's gone off for you, as it did me.
Funny how easy it is to connect the dots when we find out our pet words have relatives. We can easily deduce that thrall and enthralled are somehow related.
But here's the deal ... enthralled - unlike the concept we typically apply to it (ie., mesmerized) - is actually to be held in slavery.
Oh, that's not to say it's all bad. Certainly we can be taken hostage like this by certain songs, or scenes from nature, or compelling scents (like a baby's breath).
It is to say that one held in this manner is a thraldom, one held in bondage, and under the control of some person or some thing.
Alas, relief sets in. I'm no longer a thraldom to thraldom! Thank you, Merriam!
However ... I'm now wondering: What else makes me a thraldom, and is it as noble as I'd like to think?
I hate it when that happens.
Don't you know that
when you offer yourselves
to someone to obey him as slaves,
you are slaves (thraldoms) to
the one whom you obey
—whether you are slaves to sin,
which leads to death,
or to obedience,
which leads to righteousness?
But thanks be to God that,
though you used to be slaves to sin,
you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching
to which you were entrusted.
You have been set free from sin and
have become slaves (a thraldom) to righteousness.
Romans 6:16-18

Friday, September 17, 2010

Truly Life

"... take hold of the life that is truly life."
1 Timothy 6:19
A rather odd way to end a discussion, don't you think? It's certainly as enigmatic as many other passages in scripture, so I haven't labored long to figure it out.
Still, these nine words have danced about my musings for days on end.

In the text Paul is speaking specifically about how wealthy believers (and that's not an oxymoron) ought to live their lives. Rather than catisgate the rich ones in our midst, he affirms their unique positioning for blessing others. But Paul leaves them - and no doubt us - with a map for reaching the destination known as "truly life".
So where is that? What does it look like, and how do I get there? We all have life, and we all live out those lives in one way or another. How might we know if ours is truly life or not?

Now you know the reason behind my musing.
Why would anyone want anything less than something so rich that it's called "truly life"?
Perhaps a better way to approach the subject is to ask: What does a life that's NOT truly life look like?
Mmmm ... It's always an interesting method for finding clues: assessing what's not in order to determine what is. It helps to turn the text on end; to read the fine print on it's underside. There I find words like ...
  • arrogant; self-directed & proud
  • materialistic
  • ungodly
  • greedy
  • stingy
  • unconcerned
  • selfish
  • myopic
These attributes may be associated with matters of money in the text I've referenced, but they certainly apply to anyone, anywhere and in any situation where life that is truly life is being lived out; or NOT, as the case may be.
What more can we learn from the scriptural texts to help us understand what's at stake here?
But small is the gate and narrow the road
that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Matthew 7:14

Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 10:39

In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness
has not understood it.
John 1:4-5
In the following discussion between Pooh and Piglet, we get a glimpse of how easy it is to mistakenly render one way equal to another:
"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,"
said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing
you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh.
"What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going
to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
"It's the same thing," he said.


While breakfast may be exciting for Pooh, it is definitely not on my list of "Truly Life Proofs"; not is it what God has in mind with His promise to give/grant such a life to those willing to receive it.

.I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.
John 10:10

Anything less might just be breakfast.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Perhaps the most critical element in communications is the art of listening.

Certainly it's important to speak when attempting to convey a thought or idea, but it's vitally important that the ear be trained (and re-trained) to hear, to absorb both the words spoken/written, and their deeper meanings. That can only be done by listening.

Sounds trite, doesn't it?

We can listen and not hear. We can hear and not listen.

Sound is merely noise until something in the way of sense, or comprehension is affixed to it. Sometimes that happens rather quickly, though most of the time it takes longer - as if savoring a word or a collection of thought brings out their true luster (or bluster).

I've been listening for several days now. I'm not sure what I'm listening for, but I know I'll recognize it when I hear it.

It is the province of knowledge to speak,
and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.
~ Oliver Wendall Holmes

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ariel Ministries

It's an odd name, no doubt about it: Arnold Fruchtenbaum.

I discovered Arnold a few years back - and quite by accident. I was collecting material for a series being taught at Church on the Book of Revelation.
As I visited websites or read articles & books presented by this expert and that, I couldn't help but notice how often many of them sighted his name among their own source material. Somehow it seemed fitting to check him out - an expert to the experts!

It didn't take me long to surmise that Arnold is a man that doesn't waste time seeking the limelight; nor does he waylay by centering on the sensational. Rather, he's subtle and studious; and takes seriously the deepest of our Christian roots - those nurtured in Jewish soil.

Arnold is a Jewish believer is Jesus Christ.
(Should you be interested in more details about him, it's featured in this brief biographical sketch.)

So, if ever you're looking for some indepth teaching (on a plethora of subjects), by all means pay Arnold a visit at his Ariel Ministries website. It's chocked full of material, not to mention a full array of free (though valuable) studies.
Too, if you're interested in and up to digesting meaty morsels, his book "The Footsteps of the Messiah" is, by far, one of the best treatments of the Book of Revelation you'll ever find. It took me awhile to make it from cover-to-cover, but by the time I'd finished I felt I had a bigger, better picture than I'd had before - - and along with it the blessed assurance and hope found solely in Christ! No "end of the world" bogeymen in Arnold's treatment.
I'm still thinking a Fruchtenbaum sounds more like a pastry.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Better Hope

Can it be that there are varieties of hope, like apples, or fabrics, or flowers? Certainly we need a focal point where hope is concerned, otherwise life is in danger of becoming one dimensional and dull ... if not downright discouraging.

But are all hopes equal?

The former regulation is set aside because
it was weak and usless (for the Law made
nohting perfect); and a better hope is
introduced by which we draw near to God.
Hebrews 7:18-19
Because God wanted to make the unchanging
nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs
of what was promised, He confirmed it with
an oath. God did this ... so that we who have
fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may
be greatly encouraged.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul -
firm and secure.
Hebrews 6:17-19
I like that: a hope that anchors my soul. It's poetic and peace-laden, if not a wee bit otherworldly.

It would be easy to list passage after passage centered on the subject of hope. In the scriptural text the varieties of hope are boundless, but the species never changes. It is, in context, the better hope than any and all others!

Whatever else I might place hope in (and there's plenty that I do; many of them worthy), it and they are ghastly pale in comparison to the certainties offered in this better hope. You see, the Better Hope that's framed for us, while enigmatic in some sense, is none other than Jesus.

All other ground is sinking sand.

Hope is that thing with feathers that perches
in the soul and sings the tune without words -
and never stops, at all.
~ Emily Dickinson
Some see a hopeless end,
while others see an endless hope.
~ Author Unknown
Hope is putting faith to work
when doubting would be easier.
~ Author Unknown

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Cliches are a rich part of our common dialect. Frequently they roll off our tongues with little thought as to their deeper meaning, much less origins. Yet we find them appropro when wedged between a thought and what we hope to convey. (For a rather exhaustive list of them, check out this link.)

"A penny for your thoughts" has long been a personal favorite. There's a reason for that, which I'll share in a few more sentences. For now, let's just consider from where it was derived.

Means: "What's on your mind?" Spoken typically to someone who's looking pensive. The saying is from a time when the British penny was worth a significant sum. It was in 1522 that Sir Thomas More wrote: "It often happith, that the very face sheweth the mind walking a pilgrimage, in such wise that other folk soldainly say to them: 'A penny for your thougth?' ." (From the Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers)

By today's calculations, a penny is hardly worth the bother. It's value is of so little consequence that it buys little more than space in one's purse. Even "penny candy" is a misnomer. There's no longer a special row in the candy isle for such items!

But we see from history that that was not always the case. A penny had value; and significant value at that! Thus it was no insult to offer one for something as dear and precious as a thought.

Afterall, we are was we think; and what we think is informed by what resides in our hearts.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored in his heart. For out of the overflow (abundance) of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

I was but a child of 16 when the "Penny for your thoughts" cliche formed the question that was on my mind.

Terry and I had been dating (which consisted mostly of meeting up at school on Friday nights for football games) for several months - high school sweethearts - and it was only days following the deaths of both our fathers (they died ten days apart; mine from a lengthy battle with Leukemia; his suddenly, from a heart attack), when we found ourselves sitting alone, attempting to make some sense of the losses that grieved our hearts.

I could see that his mind was pre-occupied so distant was his gaze. I was clueless to it's focus, though I thought he might be pondering the pain of loss that had become our common denominator in those days. I asked: "A penny for your thoughts".

In the lifetime we've lived together since, I have not forgotten those words - either my question to him, or his response to it: I was just thinking about how much I love you.

The rest is history, and worth far more than pennies ... I can assure you.

Now, whenever I feel pensive, or whenever I look upon someone else who is, I remember that it just might signal a "mind walking a pilgrimage." It is then hat I hope each final destination is rooted in love. Priceless.

The world we have created is a product of our thinking;
it cannot be changed until we change our thinking.
Albert Einstein

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Week in Passing

It's amazing to me how many steps I've gotten to retrace since returning to WA State. I realize you can never go back, but I also realize you can go forward with the wisdom born of former days.

So many lively & lovely steps this week ...

Many began here; along Clark's Creek. I used to walk here years ago, in the mid-to-late 90s. It was here that many thoughts congealed into decisions; decisions that lead to our move to Arizona. Now here I am again.

It's a peaceful domain, and no matter which direction I've taken during my early morning saunters, the scenery of pre-Fall in the Northwest is ever-so-compelling. I like to think these flowers - Chrysanthemums, Sunflowers, Dahlias - have bid me "welcome home".

But I've gotten ahead of myself, so let's begin at the beginning.

What fun it was to sit amongst family & friends while #69 (11 year old Kaden) played the first of many games for the Wolfpack. Guess what we'll be doing weekends?

What equally great fun to witness the Wolfpack's most avid fan (3 month old Kole) cheer them on!

From football to hospitals, the grandsons garnered our attention this week. 15 Year old Erik had surgery, so it was our privilege to visit him while he spent 5 days post op. He's recovering at home now; and doing remarkably well.

Off to Portland we went early in the week to meet up with some dear friends, Darrel & Diane. They "summer" in Oregon due to Arizona's temps, but most of the year you will find them preparing & leading the Tucker Small Group back in Arizona. (If you're checking in here, Joan, you can be sure I'll return so you and I have a chance to visit too).

This is my oldest sister, Dolores and her husband, John. He turned 79 this week, so their entire family (I quit counting after 20 ... and some were missing!) and we gathered to celebrate. What a treasure is this brother-in-law! Since I was 8 he's been a significant part of my life, and the lives of so many. What a great sense of humor, John Wayne style, and indomitable spirit!

Yesterday, as I pushed off from Clark's Creek, it occurred to me that scenes and smells from yesteryear (and few can equal the earthy ambiance of the Puyallup Valley) are fertile ingredients for thankfulness. All conspire to be the composition that is my life, be it a life lived in snippets or decades.

What a good life it is!

P.S. Today is made especially rich given Elaine's post-surgical report by husband Billy. I thank God for the outcome; and the two of them for being such faithful witnesses. What a team!