Monday, June 25, 2012

Conquerors Conquer

Seems fairly straightforward: conquerors conquer.  That's their job.  They even have a job title:  Conquistador.  And once they've conquered this, they go on to conquer that.  Think Alexander the Great, Ghenghis Kahn, Charlemagne, Augustus Caesar.

Conquerors never tire of conquering.  They die on the battlefield. 

In many renderings, their conquerings are called campaigns.  Of that, Merriam tells us it's a connected series of military operations forming a distinct phase of a war, or a connected series of operations designed to bring about a particular result.
Either way, no conquering ... no victory.

Loved, known, predestined, called, justified, glorified ...
What, then, shall we say in response to these things?

If God is for us, who can be against us?   

Who will bring any charge against those
whom God has chosen?

It is God who justifies. 

Who then is the one who condemns?  No one.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or
famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors 
through him who loved us.
~ Romans 8:29-37 (portions)

There have been times when I've layed wounded out on the battlefield - tired, bloodied, and feeling anything but a Conquistadoress.  My armor looks like a poorly crafted tuna fish can that's been opened with a jack hammer.  My boast is that I'm not dead ... little more. 

But then - mysteriously & miraculously - I find myself standing up again, strengthened.  I gather my wits, grip my sword, hop aboard my steed & begin scanning God's plan for the next campaign. 

In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. 
And his commands are not burdensome, 
for everyone born of God overcomes the world.
This is the victory that has overcome the world,
even our faith.
Who is it that overcomes the world?
Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.  
~1 John 4:2-5 

No wonder He tells us that we are far MORE than Conquistadors like Ghengis Kahn or Charlemagne.  They were the garden varierty, plain old conquerors - no more, no less.  That can't be said of we Conquistadoresses!  Love makes it so.  

A word of caution:  I learned from a decorated military general (a friend & neighbor), that the most dangerous time in battle is the one immediately following your victory.  He would advise:  be grateful, but don't waste a moment in folly.  Remain in your armor, and be vigilant.  

Be careful that victories do not
carry the seed of future defeats.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

So ... it would appear that we are always & forever more than conquerors.  Either we're readying for a campaign, in the midat of the campaign, or wrapping up the campaign - and then it begins again (if ever it even ends).  No matter where we fall (pun intended) in the equation, we can be 100% certain of victory. 

Alexander & Caesar didn't have such good odds.

Every conquering temptation represents
a new fund of moral energy. 
Every trial endured and weathered in the right
spirit makes a soul nobler and
stronger than it was before. 
~ William Butler Yeats

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Native Americans

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing.
 It makes my heart sick when I remember
all the good words and broken promises….
You might as well expect the rivers to run backward
as that any man who was born a free man
should be contented when penned up and
denied liberty to go where he pleases. …
I have asked some of the great white chiefs where
they get their authority to say to the Indian that
he shall stay in one place, while he sees white men
going where they please. 
They cannot tell me.”
~ Chief Joseph

For the history buffs among us, the saga played out in "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" is one not soon, or easily forgotten.  The bitter & bloody battles between the government & the native population knew no bounds, eventually leading to the end of an era associated with the Indian's way of life. 

Today we are occupied with upcoming elections, global cataclysms, gas pump woes, egregiously errant football coaches & rogue nations.   But it was not all that long ago when painted ponies grazed adjacent to tee pees, and buffalo roamed in large, numberless herds upon the plains.  Our great & noble land belonged to a culture completely & utterly different than it's current residents.

Native Americans.  You will find them throughout the country, and concentrated in some areas; areas still known today as reservations.  How fitting.  The government had in mind a place reserved specifically for the Indian; a place where they could contain & then civilize the indigenous peoples.  But the Indian - no doubt -had/has many a reservation about such a plan.  Little wonder.

In Washington State we are ever mindful of the Native American influence here.  Nearly every stream or river, valley, hill, city & burg carry the names of noble tribes.  To name a few from here in the Pacific Northwest alone

  • Cathlamet
  • Cayuse
  • Chehalis
  • Chelan
  • Colville
  • Duwamish
  • Klickitat
  • Lummi
  • Methow
  • Muckleshoot
  • Nisqually
  • Okanogan
  • Puyallup (city of my residence)
  •  Satsop
  • Semiahmoo
  • Skagit
  • Snohomish
  • Twana
  • Wallawalla
  • Wenatchee
  • Yakima
I'm not sure why I feel compelled to think upon the Native American culture & history today.   One reason may be to honor them.  Another may be to recognize why they loved this land as they did.  Or perhaps it is to recognize that even today a well-intentioned government prescribes this or that to their liking, with little thought to the liking or needs of the land's inhabitants.  Yet another may be to consider how deeply Indians respected The Creator, Who they rightly called "The Great Father".

One thing's certain:  They are marginalized now; often forgotten. 

Not today.  Some things never change; and some seem destined to forever remain the same.

“The white people were as thick and numerous
and aimless as grasshoppers,
moving always in a hurry
but never seeming to get to whatever
place it was they were going to.” 
~ Dee Brown/Author, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Friday, June 22, 2012


To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever! 
~ Revelation 5:13

There are a number of moving parts to my life at present.  All good ... though some have suctioned tenticles - like an octopus -attempting to eat hug me. 
Nearly two weeks ago my sister Carol & her hubby Hal arrived for a visit.  They are missionaries in Ensenada, Mexico so this has been a period of R&R for them.  They've nestled it at my sister Dolores' home, but we've enjoyed many a meal, many an outing, and much fellowship.

Father's Day was a delight.  Our three children, their spouses & most of the grands gathered here for steak BBQ.  I could just sit & stare at the clan, so grateful am I for each & every one!

It's also been two weeks since our youngest son was informed that he was being layed off.  His company has been purchased by another, and many people are now without jobs as a result.  This is hardly the good news a husband & father of 4 longs to hear, but we are encouraged to see how optimistic & productive he's been in spite of the tough situation they now face.  (Missing:  Katheryne)

In a few short weeks, Kelly's oldest - Katheryne - will be heading to the Czech Republic on a missions trip with her church.  She's been living with an aunt in Northern CA while attending college.  We sure miss her, but I'm soooooo proud of this new undertaking.

Last week, our oldest son's son, Erik, graduated from H.S.  He'll be heading off to college in the Fall to work on an engineering degree. 

This Sunday our Home Group - a lively, lovely collection of 6 couples - is coming for a Fellowship Potluck at our home.   Lots of little preparations to take care of ahead of time.

I've had opportunity to consider an enlarged role at church, one that would allow for greater service to women.  Still noodling through the pros/cons, not to mention God's will concerning it.

Hubby had surgery on both hands yesterday due to malfunctioning tendons in two fingers:  Trigger Finger.   What we thought would be a fairly simple, mundane procedure ended up being a bit more complex and a WHOLE lot more painful.  I've donned my nurse's cap.

Next week, our beloved pastor from Arizona & his wife (Greg & Lori) arrive for a 6 day visit.  Greg continues to do battle with the lethal illness - Multiple System Atrophy - that continues to threaten him.  The diagnosis is certain; and the prognosis not good.  It is a hideous neurological condition that looks a lot like Lou Gehrig's & Parkinson's combined.  More-and-more the disease makes itself known.  He no longer sweats/regulates body heat, his legs often give out, and many other body functions just don't work.  We are blessed & delighted to be hosting a visit, conjurring up lots of fun things to do with/for them. 

On a related note:  Greg has just been cleared to undergo an experimental treatment that may help his condition.  There are no guarantees, and it's extremely costly (experimental treatments are not covered by insurance).  Should he come to mind, please pray for him & his family, and their ministry.  He pastors a large church of 4,000+.

The horizon is moving farther-and-farther off.  I can now see into Fall, and many hapnin's are dotted there, too.  Even so, there is something so utterly complete about THIS day.  I think I'll remain here for a long, grateful pause.

May God Himself, the God of peace,
 sanctify us through and through.
May our whole spirit, soul and body
be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls us is faithful and He will do it. 
 ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

To the Hagios of Cyberspace & Round 'Bout

As I read Paul's greeting to the Corinthians (1:2), I am again struck anew by his use of the term saints“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord ... "  

The words sanctified and holy come from the same Greek root as the word, Hagios, that is commonly translated saints.  It means separated ones, holy ones.  It is the process by which God makes of me a new, holy creation & a member of the Body of Christ.  Thus, as a Christian, I am a saint by virtue of my connection with/to Jesus Christ.  I am called to be a saint; and called to increasingly allow my daily life to more closely resemble His. 

Mind you, this is a process.  For surely my days of looking & acting saintly (not to be confused with sanctimonious) have increased over time ... and with a lot of room yet to grow.  But the fact is, I am different than I was those many long years ago when at first I believed & was saved.  

I stand amazed today at what God does within His saints ... sometimes slowly, over time; sometimes as if overnight.  It's as if I waken some morns to find that He's applied a whole new coat of paint to my heart, or planted a rose garden where once thistle were rooted.  Things look different when He's doing what He does best.  People too.

I've no doubt that the song Amazing Grace has the power it does because it so sweetly frames the sinner-to-saint mechanism.  From wretch to saint.  How humbling, especially as I consider Who & how it's even possible.  No wonder it is so sweet a sound. 

Grace & peace to you - the Hagios of cyberspace & round 'bout.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares...
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
a life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

One Extraordinary Man

The righteous man walks in his integrity;
his children are blessed after him.
Proverbs 20:7

Several years ago, my 91 year old Auntie Helen passed away.  In her final moments, I was told she called out for Jimmy to come get her.  He was her older brother - 10 years older - and she loved him dearly for carrying her on snowy days & for helping her make her way in life.  He watched out for her with tender care throughout her childhood. 

He did so throughout mine as well.

To say my Dad was an outdoorsman just doesn't do justice to the man who sought God & His creation as a devotion - as if he & God shared some private understanding about a certain trail & or fishing hole. 

He was an adventurer at heart -  fisherman, hunter, skier & mountain climber.  Even in his dying days, he sought the streams & lakes of Western Washington State as a respite from his illness.

My sisters & I share similar, though different memories of the man we called Daddy They are older than me (by 15, 13 & 6 1/2 years), so they had him longer & knew him in ways I was denied because of his early & untimely death when I was but 16 years old.  Nevertheless, I savor what I did have; and today most of all.

Father's Day. 

For some, the day connotes less-than-lovely memories of their fathers.  It grieves me to think that not everyone had/has a Daddy that loves & leads in noble ways.  I've heard it said that God's Fatherhood is harder for some of these to trust as a result.  In those instances I pray healing & restoration.

But for me, today is a day to thank God for Jim Wells - the man known well for his honor, work ethic & devotion; the man who stood tall at the helm of my family. 

Dad regarded my mother highly, esteeming her in the most tangible ways.  Theirs was a love affair that spanned from 1929 when they met until his death in 1964 (and no doubt now, too, in eternity where they both reside). 

They could often be found snuggling together on the couch as they watched the evening news or Lawrence Welk.  Sometimes we'd find him tidying up the kitchen for her; or down on his knees giving the floor a good scrub - - or, better still, on his knees beside her in prayer each night before bed.

A gentleman, & quite dapper, it was rare when Dad didn't don a suit & tie for Sunday Church.  He would take his place as family leader, herding his beloved clan to worship the Lord.  It was on such days that I loved the way he smelled - a mixture of Ivory Soap, Men's cologne & Cloret gum; and I delighted the way my little hand fit into his. 

To him, I was his Palsy Walsy.  I loved to play near his basement work area, weaving around him on a trike or sitting nearby to ask umpty-umpty questions.  It was a magical, mystical place, where every nook, closet or stair crevice was a kingdom to be ruled or conquered.  He allowed me free reign to do either.

Though my parents surely had hard times, I cannot remember a single one until the day I was told of the illness, Leukemia, that was to take his life.  Even now it's surreal to think anything or anyone could claim my Dad. 

Thank you, Lord, for the man
that gave me wings to fly.  
He was, and is a treasure to this family;
and today most of all:
Father's Day.   

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Setting 'Em Straight

"A great man is always willing to be little."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Recently I sat through a conversation, all the while squirming in my chair with my tongue gripped firmly between my incisors, praying for the strength to remain silent, muzzled. 

What I was hearing was nothing short of self-absorbed commentary; all roads leading to their interests - me, mine, I, myself, moi.  It felt as though they were sucking the air from the room, and with each of their passing words there was less and less air to breath.

What probably sounded like blah-blah-blah harmless chatter to others sounded so very wrong to my ears.  Something in the exchange was unsettling on so many levels; and in the worst way I wanted to call the speaker out.   

Something (Someone) restrained me ...  

Those who consider themselves religious and
yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues
deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.  
 ~ James 1:26

I would have liked to apply that scripture to them, but in the moment it was me to which God spoke.

Here's the real problem behind this conundrum.  Words, once spoken, cannot be as easily retracted as the sunroof on my Toyota.  There's a godly economy of words prescribed for believers; and it's often associated with the when or how of their use.  Timing & motive are critical.  Once spoken they're out there, taking their place among the stars & galaxies.  That can be a good thing.  That can also be a not-so-good thing.

Self is insistent at times, isn't it?  There are many, many words I wish I'd never spoken; words that ripped past my gripping teeth, shoving their way beyond wisdom's muzzle.   They've lived on to become the primary ingredient of Humble Pie, or the eating of crow.  Oh how I loath feathers!

Please don't interpret that I'm in favor of denial or retreat in the face of conflict.  That would be tantamount to cowardly avoidance; and sometimes tough things must be spoken.  God knows we need heavy doses of His wisdom to navigate the oft-times difficult dialogues.      

I read a headline the other day which stated so-and-so retracted their statement.  But what if you didn't hear or read that particular headline to know of the retraction?  Your knowledge-stores would not be replenished & updated with the new information.   Worse, sometimes the untrue or mean-spirited stuff sticks like slug-slime no matter how many retractions or apologies are offered.

Alas, once the proverbial cat's out of the bag, it either purrs or claws it's way ahead ... often, seemingly, forever.

"Not everything that counts can be counted,
and not everything that can be counted counts."
~ Albert Einstein

I confess:  my tongue does get loose from its tether now-and-then.   And when it does, I can almost always be certain that my own selfish bent is the cause. 

Did I say I like chocolate with my feathers?


Friday, June 8, 2012

Fire! Fire! Fire!

Since the house is on fire let us warm ourselves. 
~Italian Proverb

From frying pan to frying pan, many of us are found on the searing end of the debate when it comes to the things of God - - if "debate" is even the right term.  

That's not to say such exercises are a bad thing, but it's definitely not my mother's era; an era that included great respect for The Creator, and for Christian values.  

Oh, I understand full well why some take up the war-paint when engaged in dialogue about the Bible in general, and Christians in particular.  All-too-many have witnessed, or have been on the receiving end of far too much folly served up in the name of Christ.  They stand aghast, as do I, when the whackos from Westboro (what's up with them & that, anyway?) pitch their mean-spirited tents on the doorsteps of the bereaved.  They've watched highly esteemed men & women plummet from the pulpit, or worse.  

Subsequently the naysayers have finely tuned their talking points, and it is little wonder many of those points contain combustible vitriol.  They are often joined by a chorus of media-types who make it all very public.  The fires are stoked much as they were for Nebuchadnezzar's furnace (think Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego).

What bothers me most (besides the singeing my own posterior takes at times) in all of it is how that poor little baby goes swirling down the drain with the bath-water.  The Good News gets muddled up & then combined with the bad news. 

Harry Truman's solution, "If you can't take the heat, you'd best get out of the kitchen." is not an option in God's hot-topic economy.  He's more inclined to tell us that, If you can't take the heat, get yourself an asbestos suit...  or remind us (as I heard recently), "Your current task is to engage in a theological conversation that will transform heat into light." 

Now there's a challenge if ever I heard one!

We may have difficulty when it comes to walking on water (my own few attempts have been something short of stellar).  But it's certain God will make fire-walkers out of us yet ... and for a time such as this. 

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?   
But even if you should suffer for what is right,
you are blessed.
“Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to
everyone who asks you to give the reason
for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect, 
keeping a clear conscience, 
so that those who speak maliciously
against your good behavior in Christ
may be ashamed of their slander.   
For it is better, if it is God’s will, 
  to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 
 ~ 1 Peter 3:13-17

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Magical Thinking

The erroneous belief, similar to a normal stage
of childhood development—
that thoughts assume
a magical power capable of influencing events
without a physical action actually occurring;
a conviction that thinking equates with doing,
accompanied by an unrealistic understanding
of cause and effect
Examples ... Dreams in children, in primitive peoples,
and in patients under various conditions
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2011 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.

"It's just your imagination.", Mother would say to me on those frequent occasions when I'd be afraid of something, or certain I could be/do something rather fantastical. I was, and am a very vivid thinker. (Which is probably why ALL of my children had imaginary friends.)

On the one hand I treasured mother's ready-assessments. What comfort it was to quiet me against the darkness & the things that lurked there - - things my mind had conjured up. But, on the other hand, I fought hard her reason when it assaulted what my mind's eye had deemed absolute, certain: "I am, too, a fairy princess!" (I still find it hard to believe that she was not visionary enough to realize that my princessnous made her a Queen Mother of sorts.)

One must never rob a child of their dreams ... only their nightmares!

Sometimes I find myself wondering about the distinction between magical thinking and faith. I know there's one to be made, as the medical professional points out (in the above quote). It's occurred to me that the biggest warp is one of hubris - - an exaggerated pride or self-confidence.

Such a distinction goes from the use of reason, to the use of something far less reasonable. In a fashion the unreasonable looks or sounds more like a finely-cast spell (ala Merlin or Harry Potter) than a genuine act of faith.

Magical thinking and the casting of spells are often companions. (Like when I just knew I could turn that childhood bully into a toad.)

Awhile back I heard myself praying and was startled to hear this come out of my mouth: "Lord, forgive me, I know that what I think is not always the way things really are."

What?!! Did I say that?

Wishful thinking does not a faith-filled prayer make.

That same day I once again packed away my wand, having been reminded that magical thinking is all about ME, while faith is largely about HIM. (Come to think of it, I should have destroyed the thing - the wand, for I will - no doubt - try to use it again some day.)

When I was a child, I talked like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put the ways of
childhood behind me.
1 Corinthians 13:11

Footnote: I did a word-search in the New Testament on the word reason. Wow. It's widely used, and quite often that usage is as a postscript, i.e., "... for that reason, this or that happened". In nearly all instances, reason provided clarity to what really happened. No wands. For example ...

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone
who asks you to give the reason for the hope
that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect ...
1 Peter 3:15

The reason the Son of God appeared
was to destroy the devil’s work.
1 John 3:8

“Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

Isaiah 1:18