Friday, December 22, 2006

How does it feel?

In the Biblical record of Ephesians 4: 17 - 19, Paul states the world has lost its sensitivity and is given over to sensuality. What a timeless observation. The juxtaposition of these words calls attention to their differing approach to life.

The world is given to sensuality. How does it feel? This is a critical question, regardless of the overwhelming issue at hand. How do you feel about your job? How do you feel about your mate, your friend, your car, glass eye or golden retriever? It is all about feelings.

Often sensuality is packaged with sexuality. I suppose there is a strong family bond between the two. But even if sexuality flies out the window (or sags around your middle), there are still feelings to contend with. Feelings of loss, discouragement and fear ransack our brains looking for a welcome home.

Being overly sensual makes us dependant on chemicals - whether natural or artificially introduced. The jogger strivings for the natural high or the drunk, crackhead, and meth addict chasing their addiction share one affinity. They are looking for a feeling.

Paul points us to a different way to think and talk. He states, by being sensitive, we become "others" oriented. Later in the letter to the Ephesians he tells them they need to be "submissive."


I figured that would trigger a grenade or two. Submission is not what is required of a wife for a husband. It is what is required of a believer for another person. Read the rest of his words after what he says about wives.

He addresses the submissive attitiude of a husband to his wife. (I won't restate - you read it!) He talks about submision of children to parents and parents to children and of employers to employees as well as employees to employers.

These are sensitive positions. They require a sensitive approach to others, a willingness to put oneself in another's position, and an authentic desire to look at them through the heart of Their Creator.

He calls the sensitive lifestyle an enlightened view of life. The current sensual lifestyle is called a dark approach to life.

How interesting that Paul would use such a visual approach. The humanist world called the Age of Reason, which rejected Biblical Authority, a time of emerging from the "Dark Ages" and entering the "Age of Enlightenment." So the world says that a reasoned approach to life is enlightening even if it leads to sensuality, selfishness, striving for entitlement and debauching consumption.

Sounds like the world view that has melted the ice pack, depleated the ozone, promulgated STDs, murdered babies and stripped whole nations of ethnic dignity is bound for a no more successful conclusion than an out-of-control freight train shunted to a dead-end line and slated for eventual destruction.

Boy, I wonder how that will feel?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Critical Question

There are many questions a person must answer in the course of their three score and ten. A first grader is asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Whether firefighter or ballerina, professional athlete or nurse, our children are primed to make life-defining decisions from those earliest of days.

The need for relationship and significance in the eyes of another drive us to search for companionship and collegial cohorts. The need for community asks us to choose between conformity and nonconformity, whether we will be a leader or a follower, whether we will choose excellence or mediocrity.

One can say, after looking back on their life, their days are filled with one question followed by another. But is there a question so significant, so critical and so life defining that it is found in the history of each person who has, does or will walk the face of this earth?

The Bible records a discussion between Jesus and Peter in the Gospel of Mark 8. After asking Peter what people were saying about Jesus's identity, Jesus asked Peter the most important question ever be presented to a man. "But who do you say that I am?"

This question requires a person to evaluate the relevance of Christ to their life. In this question they must deal with their sinfulness and need for forgiveness. They must acknowledge their brokenness from the Father and their need for restoration. They must deal with their need for restoration in the form of a new birth that creates a new man, rather than simply a reformative process of the old man.

From birth to death this question must be answered by every human being.

The desire of the pagan who refuses to see the object of nature as simply the handiwork of God but chooses to call it god himself is not spared the need for forgiveness and restoration. Though desiring to be united with the Father, they have not answered the question posed to Peter. Though there is a sincere desire to be united with the Father, being unable to answer the question forces an eternal separation from the Father. It is the ultimate realization of the failure of humankind to create their own answer.

But what of the one who desires to bring all humankind under the banner of loving Christ that does not include the saving event of the cross? This Universalist approached the crucifiction, even if motivated by an inclusive view desiring all to experience the love of God, nonetheless subjects the spiritual needy to an eternity no different from the one who rejects the specific message of Jesus Christ.

In other words, whether Gospel hardened or denied by circumstance the opportunity to hear the message of Christ, that one who does not properly answer the question posed to Peter by our Lord is not to be afforded a place as a part of the Bride of Christ.

It is critical to note that regardless of all the acts of piety and holiness, conformity to religious rights and procedures, if the answer to Peter's question is not "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," there is no salvation, there is no forgiveness and there is no restoration.

This position is not one of exclusivity held by the body of Christ. It is a position mandated by God's sovereign will, His right understanding of justice and His loving provision of grace.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Football may be war, but War isn't football.

(Big disclaimer: I am a citizen of the United States of America. I support my government. I would normally wear the moniker of conservative without shame. I have to say this to the people who would not agree with what is to follow.)

There is some discussion about the original quote being correctly recorded that says, "War is hell." Having never carried a weapon into battle nor spending even one night "in harm's way" (except for the several weeks I served as boy's camp counselor for our church group), I am sure I am not qualified to comment on that.

I was raised in a portion of Texas that venerates Friday Night High School Football (notice the caps - as if they are all proper nouns forming a title). Our team during the years I attended Bay City High was never the powerhouse we wanted it to be. Our freshman year was the only time that I remember we went past Bi-district play-offs.

Our school would hold pep-rallies for the team. Coach Haley would come to the mic after our cheerleaders led us in a few "Rah-Rahs." He would give us a quick report on how our boys would dismantle Wharton, West Columbia or El Campo. We would cheer and send the guys, who sat slumped in their seats, too cool to be bothered by anything so mundane as our cheering, out the door to do the last minutes of preparation.

I guess the cheering was for us and not for the guys. The band got pumped. The cheering squad got pumped. The cheerleaders were so pumped up they could hardly contain themselves. And we sent our men out to do battle for school pride. We did that because, as our coaches would tell us, football is war.

It is a cool way to have a war. You have a clock, referees, cheerleaders, and fans in the stands. When the game is over there is a winner and a loser. You can have injuries and some could end an athlete's career. Coaches who do well leave for bigger schools. Coaches who do poorly leave for smaller schools or stay and teach driver's ed and social studies. (Some end up as PE teachers for the elementary schools.) It is a neat war. It has a season and rules, letter jackets, medals, state champions and glory. There is even glory for the loosing teams because they are our boys.

Football is war. But, the war we are fighting in Iraq isn't football. There doesn't seem to be clear winners anymore. There was a beginning, but what does the end look like? There are no referees and our boys come home with wounds that you can't see, much less effectively treat.

Our opponent doesn't play the same game that we play. (I am sure this was much the same complaint the British made during our war for independence.) We play on the field, but the opponent is playing all over the stadium, including the parking lot.

We forget what war is about. It is about killing, maiming, and/or beating into submission an enemy that wants to do the same to you. It is obscene and pornographic. There is no Pattonesque glory in filling an enemy bunker with explosives to rid your life of a threat.

There is one consistent quality. The winning coach gets to leave for greener pastures. Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, Dwight Eisenhower, and U.S. Grant all enjoyed, or are enjoying, the fruits of victory. How many generals did Lincoln sack before he found a winner in Grant? Pearl Harbor signaled the end of Naval careers. They paid the price, or reaped the benefits, of leadership. The warriors, however, suffered. Some died. Others wished they did.

I honor the memory of our warriors who shouldered weapons to fight for freedom. I am free to write what I do because of those who served. Among those warriors are my uncles and my father. I lost an uncle during WWII, as did many.

That being the case, I look at our current conflict and wonder not whether we should be there or whether our goals are lofty. I wonder if we should be playing the game we are playing. I wonder if we shouldn't embrace a different world view and say, "Waging peace is hell and darn worth the price."

I know that some reader will say that is what we are doing in Iraq. I know that to clean up a room you have to mess it up, also. But if we spent as much time in studying how our opponent thinks with the view of defeating them on the battle ground of public opinion or the stadium of international cooperation, would waging peace in this manner be any more difficult? It can't be more bloody. It certainly can't be more detrimental to our national position of leadership.

Next time we decide to liberate a country, let's make sure we will play the same game our enemy will play. I am not saying we should capture passenger planes and crash them into tall buildings. Capturing the planes and killing the people was not the purpose of the act. The road-side bombs that kill and maim are not intended to show military strength. The enemy wants to be recognized as a determining voice in the international conversation. They want to be seen as a vital, powerful lobby capable of making decisive moves whenever and wherever they want.

We have not proved our ability to match their will and capacity to win simply because we can "bomb them into the stone age."

Let's play a new game. Let's look for the Anwar Sadats and Jimmy Carters. Let's look for generals who can redefine the game. Let's find men and women with courage to lead army's of warriors for peace, willing to join a new battle for the hearts of a people and not their political identity.

BTW, in case you are letting your mind wander, 9/11 was not the opening kick-off. That happened during the Crusades to "free" Jerusalem from the hoard of barbarians.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Scratching The Itch

I am not, it appears, a committed blogger. I don't live and die by the words I spout on this site. I suppose I am afraid I will be discovered to be like the boyfriend on "Designing Women" who was rejected because, "After all, you can only go so shallow before you hit rock bottom." Another way to discribe it is to be found to be "a mile wide and a foot deep."

So how important are these blog site people work so hard to assemble?

For one person it chronicles the progress in preparing and selling a house.

Others launch blogs to present a political perspective or advance a niche cause (I'll let you search the world of blogs for those. It won't be hard.)

There are some lonely hearts (or leacherous ones) who use them like an old fashioned fishing line thrown into the river. They return every so often to check for nibbles. I think some are simply lonely and find this a way to reach out from their cloistered world into the travels of others.

There are one or two, like me, who just get an itch to write and need to scratch it. I find my itch usually starts with an off-hand comment or a well-turned phrase. They get the juices flowing. My mind reaches out to explore verbs, nouns, prepositional phrases as well as local and regional word pictures to describe what I am wading through.

Unfortunately for me (but probably a fortunate event for the reading public), I am usually bound the steering wheel of my pick-up, enduring another hour of windshield time. By the time I get in front of a keyboard and am able to organize my thoughts, the muse has flown to another heart and I am left with the empty feeling of an unfilled writer's larder.

My "itch" has been very quiet lately. The flighty muse must be off visiting poets, painters, and purveyors of various prose. I wondered lately why my western, begun in a blaze of glory, has bogged down in a muddy river of apathy and stunted vision. As I tooled along country roads this week, I checked off the list of reasons many writers have given (some are excuses, I am sure) for leaving a story for other more interesting vistas.

The reality is, unlike many efforts buried in the genre of blogging, creative writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, fluff or techno-jargon, life-changing or simply entertaining, is hard work. Some follow a stream of consciouness in writing that meanders like a rural creek or thunders like a untamed river pouring out a torrent of verbal energy. Others adopt a disciplined approach outlining in such detail that the final creation is as meticulous as their well-ordered sock and underwear drawer.

In the end, however, creativity is an investment of a person with an abundance. They are willing to take a chance on another who is desires to draw on the writer's available resources and touch a part of life denied them.

It is the reason Tom Clancy took the reading public to the bottom of the oceans in "Hunt for Red October." Generations have solved mysteries with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Stephen King scares the bejeebers out of folks who are relieved to know the dog isn't real.

Writing is good. It is, for me, somewhat theraputic. I hope, however, it gives you time to think, to measure, and to enjoy this day.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

It’s not babysitting. It’s grand-parenting.

Eyes flashed as her tongue snapped a response worthy of the steamy August Missouri evening.

I asked a male acquaintance to accompany me to the local golf course. He said he was to be with his children while his wife completed certain tasks and activities. In a moment of dubious humor, I responded, “Oh, are you baby-sitting today?”

She answered for him. Quickly. “It’s not baby-sitting. It’s called parenting.”


Feeling the sting of rebuke and with no effort on her part to lesson the discomfort, I extricated myself from that situation, backing out of the room lest I provide an undefended target. The prompt and efficient response was not merely a shot across the bow. It had the appearance of an ongoing conversation that, doubtless, would continue unabated long after my departure.

I have no illusion of being a great parent. I earned the requisite hours to bear the title “Absent Parent.” Employment and personal education schedules were significant symptoms of the common parental disease “familius interuptus.”

In my defense, I encouraged my daughters’ academic challenges and athletic opportunities. I once verbally duked it out with a fourth grade teacher I believed “done us wrong.” When one of our offspring began to wander from the road society encouraged her to travel, along with my wife, I spent multiple hours with school administration and professional services to understand and protect her.

Most of the time, however (I’ll say for the people who are afraid to), I was clueless.

Some expert may point out if I spent more time with them when they were wearing diapers instead of waiting for them to don their jeans, I would be awash in clues. I doubt it, actually.

However, I am prepared for their children. I am a grandparent reaping the windfall profits and mega-dividends of the meager investment I made in their parents.

My grandchildren are very patient. They allow me to indulge in whimsy’s and digressions, writing it off, I suppose, to the old guy’s senility catching up with him. They are welcoming. I have standing invitations to watch them at athletic practices, school events and take them to an ice cream stand. The two second generation offspring who live near me and the three separated by 6 hours drive time express affection verbally, quickly affirmed by their hugs and tugs.

I think I disagree with my she-bear acquaintance. She made parenting sound so task-oriented. (I guess baby-sitting isn’t much better.) Watching and sharing a young person’s life is more than making sure they don’t do something stupid. It is making memories and creating a bond that has the strength to endure life – a bond that ties not just people to each other but generations together.

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Chameleon in Disguise

A chameleon can’t help itself. It changes colors. Unlike the horse pulling the carriage in Oz, it can’t celebrate glorious colors and flattering hues. It must adapt or die. In the life of the scampering changeling, there is little room for celebrating colors. They are for managing, using, manipulating and life saving.

Adaptation to survive is a handy skill, I would think. I doubt the chameleon school system puts off educating their charges on the values of picking the right background to match their skill level. It is likely that during the first week of the first grade, Mrs. Hue, looking over her charges, will discuss the wisdom of one shade of green over another.

These are important skills for a defenseless chameleon. How sad to find a person willing to live as a chameleon; always shifting, disguising, and hiding; never confident of potential, prospects, or presence; fearing every threat as mortal, every opportunity as hopeless and all plans as futile fantasy.

The ability to adapt to challenges is a cause to celebrate. The dinosaur lacked the power to adapt. Today he powers our society from his vast pools of oil reserves.

Companies that made the best buggy whips adapted to a changing market or risked their trademarks becoming a footnote in a niche world of elite two wheel carts pulled by a matched pair of flashy black percherons.

Morphing is not bad. It celebrates a new vision, new possibilities and a hope in the future. However, becoming a lie just to survive what appears to be an overwhelming enemy is not morphing or adapting. It is certainly not a cause to celebrate even if it does show a measure of street smarts or even some stealthy combat skills.

Our society celebrates a winner. We agree. What we do not agree on is what makes up a winner. Those with perspective say a winner is one who is genuine, interacts with the truth and willing to embrace the outcome, regardless of it penalty.

Ultimately, the ones who will win in this thing we call life will take stock of their “three score and ten” and say, “When it was important, I was there. I counted among those taking a stand. I lived a life, even if for a brief time, of value in a transparent fashion.”

Easter is all about transparency, reality, and the willingness to grasp at obedience as it faced the threat of failure.

The cross was no chameleonesque opportunity or solution. It was love without reserve, lived - and died - in transparency. I can celebrate what appeared at the time to be a total loss, but only if I am willing to be just as transparent as The One who took me to Calvary.

You see, there are no chameleons on Golgotha.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

In A Moment Of Pristine Clarity

In a moment of pristine clarity, my wife of 35 years observed I was a “high maintenance person.” I knew exactly what she meant owing to the atmosphere of our conversation.

We were discussing the ebb and flow of my obsessions, projects and life goals. As a part of the discussion, we reflected on whether communities understood, or even cared for that matter, what another individual valued as a life goal.

It is safe to say in the midst of our discussion I endured a reoccurring bout with the “poor little me.” There is no one so depressingly fulfilled as a neurotic who discovers he is right. My wife, tiring of my self-analysis, stopped the exercise by going to the bottom line. I tend to spend too much time “maintaining me.”

I guess there comes a time we “stop cutting bait and go fishing.”

For a Christian, there can be no greater purpose than to live in the will of God. Other non-Christian faith groups are oriented around self-actualization, personal growth and supernatural appeasement. The Christian, on the other hand, sees life through a different perspective.

Our goal is simply to develop our personal relationship with Jehovah God made possible through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. The simplicity of the statement is betrayed by a spiritual landscape littered with stumblings, bumblings, and complete catastrophic failures.

My wife’s clarity and her willingness to share with me brought back the truth resting fallow in my subconscious. If my focus is not “on Him” then it is on me. Anytime I focus on me rather than on Him, I am out of line, out of touch and soon out of options.

The best callings, sometimes described as “an internal sense of oughtness,” are rendered mute and powerless when the prime motivator becomes self-oriented.

A physician, once moved by the plight of the helpless, becomes shallow and crass when the needs to pay medical school loans dictate treatment. A teacher, previously overwhelmed by the burden of another’s inability to read, becomes jaded, harsh, and even cynical when they no longer see a student on a journey but rather a barrier to the successful completion of a lesson plan. Even those in vocational religious employment are in danger of losing their life focus and slipping into other visions easier measured and more concretely described.

A Christian believer is to be forgiven for losing their way in a world focused on self. In fact, it is the central message of God’s restorative work. He does forgive. It is through forgiveness that we are brought to Him. It is by forgiveness that we are held to Him.

The power of forgiveness orients us properly. It keeps us before The One forgiving. It instructs us on the proper perspective for our projects, plans and campaigns.

If I am high maintenance, and I have no reason to doubt my wife of over 35 years, I find it is not held against me. Rather, it is used by The Almighty to draw me closer to the only one who can truly maintain my heart, hope and health.

I suppose I will continue to explore new tactics and strategies for life. I am confident, wherever they fall within the explicit or permissive will of God, He will use them to bring into focus His will for my life. He desires me to know and develop a love for Him in response to His love for me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

If it doesn't make sense, it makes a mess.

"What's good for the goose is good for the gander."

"What goes around comes around."

"You get what you pay for."

Life is all about balance. One of the first things a child learns is you have to balance front to back and left to right or you will surely fall every time you try to stand. The very act of walking employs controlling your balance. You can't go forward if your vertical baseline is overbalanced to the rear.

Gravity demands you take notice of her.

Reciprocity is another form of balance. That is the act of receiving "your just deserts." Paychecks are a form of reciprocity. At least they should be.

Modern purveyors of slavery, the owners and knowing customers of sweatshops and as well as industries that depend on underpaid illegal immigrant labor, trust that a whole segment of society is helpless and without a viable voice of defense.

We find the slavers as repugnant. We often do not seem to find their products as reprehensible.

When balance and reciprocity are knocked akimbo, the fabric of our society begins to shake like a ’68 Chevy II with the left front wheel out of balance.

You don’t really notice it at first. Twenty-five miles an hour and she rolls as smooth as the day you drove her off the lot. Even thirty-five is a nice ride, though the balance problem is quietly rubbing the tread from tire. At forty-five there is a bit of a vibration but nothing to worry about. Fifty-five and the steering wheel shakes visibly.

By the time you are rolling down the road at seventy your mind says, “Houston, we have a problem. We gotta take care of this or it will shake the whole car apart.”

It seems to me our society has a problem.

California just cancelled a scheduled execution because they can’t find a licensed medical professional who will administer a lethal dose of sedatives to the condemned person.

It shouldn’t be hard to find a professional with the necessary ethical and moral underpinnings to do that. All you need to do is find the individual willing to discount the value of a life. The process involves determining a life is parasitic in nature, without any redeeming value and most important, not have the ability to vote in the next election.

I find one other segment of our society falls in to that uncomfortable, zombie-world of the as-yet undead. Regularly ripped apart by medical staff, it looses in the desire of a primary client base to return to normality.

California cannot find medical professionals who will intentionally sedate a person to the point of death under judicial orders but seems to find no trouble in financing a whole industry that condones the horrendous practice of partial-birth abortions.

At the same time the California judicial system wrestles with an ethical means to take the life of the condemned, they are at the center of a Supreme Court case that seeks to protect the right to drag a late term child from the womb of the mother, crush its skull and suck the brains out with a vacuum cleaner.

A word to the prison system of “The left coast,” I know where to go to find your medical professional. Check out the nearest abortuary. They have no trouble in determining which life is valueless, champion-less and without a viable voice to protest. Their condemned can’t vote either.

Balance and reciprocity seem to be such a basic core value of life that I am shocked when I see one part of our society deliberately seek a position severely “out of kilter.”

Maybe they are trying to run.

I wonder where.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Vision With Depth and Perspective

Is there a time you deeply desired to complete a task or shoulder a challenge? Has the call weighed so heavy that you spent each spare moment resetting priorities and adjusting schedules so as to insure no hindrance to your engagement? Has a vision so focused your sight that everything else dissolves into a mist?

How is it that one person looks a vacant lot and sees an office building? Another walks by and sees a garden. A third strolls by and is impressed by the possible home of a ballfield.

Vision draws not from the need. Neither does it draw from available resources. A burning vision and a life-consuming call wells up from the issues that make us unique individuals.

For some in this world, there is no greater calling than to preserve all living things. For others the greatest need is to provide resources for shelter and food the masses so dearly clamor.

These two visions put whalers in high seas in conflict with Greenpeace. The Sierra Club continually opposes the logging industry. (Note: I include these links simply for reference. No stance is taken on either position)

Only the most myopic is unable to see that conservationists and commercialists have a vested interest in making sure the other side wins a few small battles.

They need each other for the competition. It focuses outside attention and raises money for both sides. They each give the other a reason for emotions to run hot and opportunities to cry foul and claim the moral high ground. And, ultimately, they need what the other produces - food, shelter and preserved resources for harvesting another day.

It is when visions, complementary and not totally dissimular, meet that the greatest good rises.

A community had a great health care need. A group of women bore a great calling to serve. A man with great talent and skill in medicine agreed to cooperate. Several generations later Rochester, MN, has the Mayo Clinic.

A vision works best when piggybacked on the calling of another. Each uses their strengths to bolster the other's weakness. One recognizes a single size does not fit all and gender-neutral clothing, though stark and functional, offers little hope for the pizzaz that is needed to call others to join the battle.

There are several things I want to do in the next few years. I'll not bore you with listing them. But if any of them have a hope of making a difference, it will be because I, along with several others, forged a chain strong enough to bind all of us to a common sign post.