Perception

Would it be incredible to get rid of dozens of small problems in your daily life? What if you could lose a hundred or more daily problems?

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It is just the beginning of the rush hour and you are needing to be on the far side of the local mall in time for your grandson’s basketball game. The person in front of you must have last driven in heavy traffic a minimum of seventy years ago in places where the speed limits were no more than 40 miles per hour or so it seems. The aggravation boiling up in you along with your high blood pressure is not affecting the driver in front of you one iota. It is all your issue and not his. In actuality, the driver is driving the speed limit, you are just upset he is not driving ten or more miles per hour over the limit like you would be if you could. It is your perception which has colored your interpretation of the difficulty. In fact, there truly is no difficulty; even driving the speed limit, you will arrive in plenty of time for the basketball game.

Would it be incredible to get rid of dozens of small problems in your daily life? What if you could lose a hundred or more daily problems? Okay, let’s imagine you have the capability of eliminating ten thousand temporary problems. Sound like a type of scam or old-time medicine show selling snake oil to cure you of every malady known to man from colon cancer to postnasal drip? Stick with me for just a bit before you abandon the reading, thinking my A-train has slipped off the track and is plummeting down a 1000-foot ravine.

by Luis Duran

I used to have a small sign in my study which read: TWO RULES of a STRESS-FREE LIFE: 1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. 2. It’s all small stuff. Okay, that sounds trite; but, there is more depth there if you scratch at it for a bit.

Text Box: by Luis Duran

Aiden Wilson Tozer, better known as A.W. Tozer, born 1897 and died in 1963, was an American pastor, author of multiple books, and editor of a Christian magazine. He is known for his depth of thought, clear understanding of scripture and his ability to share those cumulative thoughts on theology with the general public in a way the wisdom was well understood by his readers.

Referring to A.W. Tozer, Dr. Ron J. Bigalke[i] writes, “The majority of a person’s difficulties in life are not circumstantial; rather, they are perceptual.” Bigalke quotes Tozer’s writing in The Knowledge of the Holy. “A person’s faulty concept of God ‘is the cause of a hundred lesser evils.’ However, the one who believes in God as He truly is will be ‘relieved of ten thousand temporary problems.’” There you have it! The equation for ridding yourself of thousands of temporary problems can be showed as:

                A = A faulty concept of God        

                B = Life  

                Cx = Temporary Problems

A + B = Cx  

The equation indicates that a faulty concept of God plus life results in temporary problems exponentially multiplied.  

To reverse the process, more than just subtracting A, add to the equation the inverse of A or 1/A so that:

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(A-A) + 1/A + B = C0or the elimination of a faulty concept of God plus a proper understanding of God plus life results in temporary problems to the power of zero, or nil. A caveat is in order. As my children were growing and needing help with homework (and now the same for my grandchildren), if their questions involved history, government or language arts, they came to me. If their questions involved the sciences or mathematics, they went (and still go) to their mother. That I have included a mathematical equation to better express a concept, do not expect it to be a new revelation in complex calculus. Had it not been for a friendly high school senior who sat next to me, a lowly freshman in Algebra 1 back in 1971, I would probably still be in that class!

Jesus, quoted by John in John 16:33, said that we would have trouble in this world; but, He had overcome the world and because of that, we can have peace.

Let’s return to the statement by Tozer. The person who believes in God as He truly is “will be relieved of ten-thousand temporary problems.” Can Tozer make such a statement and back it up scripturally or is it simply a panacea? It makes us think of bumper sticker theology which can be all warm and fuzzy but it really isn’t theologically sound. It sounds too good to be true, getting rid of ten-thousand temporary problems.

There are many scriptures which declare the omnipotence of God such as Psalm 24:1-2.

The King of Glory and His Kingdom

A Psalm of David.

24The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the [a]waters.

1/A is having a proper understanding of God. Psalm 24 shows us the magnificence and supreme authority of the divine God.

There was a Christian children’s program several years ago which had some great theology in its music. The following is a line from one of their songs:

“God is bigger than the boogie man. He’s bigger than Godzilla, or the monsters on TV.

Oh, God is bigger than the boogie man. And He’s watching out for you and me.”[ii]

De-escalating the effects our problems have on our lives is to grasp they are temporary. Just as life itself is short, so are the problems we face during it. The biblical author James provides a handle.

James 14:13

13 Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow [h]we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;’ whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”(NKJV)

Bigalke writes that the Bible “reminds one that even the worst problem is only temporary; yet God is eternal and His glory is what endures forever.” What begins to be clear is that understanding the divinity of God and His eternal nature is critical to our perception of our problems as they compare to God’s power. Remember the quote on page 1? Let’s finish Bigalke’s thought. Bigalke writes, “The majority of a person’s difficulties in life are not circumstantial; rather, they are perceptual. Humanities greatest problems are the result of an inadequate understanding of who God is.” (emphasis added)

Go back to your drive to your grandson’s basketball game. All of the problems you had with the driver in front of you were because of your perception not your circumstances. It was not that you were actually going to be late. It was not that the driver in front of you was going slower than the speed limit. Your mis-perception of the time it takes you to get to the game and your perception of the driver’s speed were the cause of your aggravation.

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If we understand every single trial or adversity which we are undergoing is temporary, it will change our view of each problem. Imagine a person in a gulag for his faith, with no expectation he will ever be released. If he can truly grasp the situation, even if life-long is only temporary as compared to eternity, it will change his view of the circumstances of his life. None of us are very likely to face a life-sentence to a gulag; but, perhaps our circumstances are horrific in human terms. How can knowing those horrific circumstances are only temporary and heaven is our eternity change how we deal with them?

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How does truly understanding God’s power and divinity help us face circumstances which are not likely to change in any short period of time? Can we not just place those circumstances in God’s hands and ask Him to deal with it on a daily basis? Our hearts are hurting and breaking over a loved one’s pain. Can we help both ourselves and our loved one by re-focusing our perception of God’s divine power over our circumstances? I believe it will help everyone involved.  

A.W. Tozer wrote, “I take refuge in the fact that although I don’t know everything, I do know someone who does.”


[i] Bigalke, Dr. Ron J., Midnight Call magazine, The Work of Christ: Messianic Psalms, Dec. 2019

[ii] Veggie Tales, TandVTV, 1993 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKWmmj0Cs-U

WAR ZONE

…we live in a war zone. There will be casualties

I have written in past days about my first experiences in Bosnia Herzegovina not very long after the cessation of open war. I use the term open war because the hatred and the racial and societal issues still divide the country and corruption stops any real forward progress in defeating the enemy.

It is difficult to describe a war zone. The buildings that once were homes, businesses, churches are just bombed out shells, with no life save the foraging insects and vermin that root among the remains looking for what else they can devour.

A hand painted sign reading welcome to Sarajevo covered in shrapnel caused pock-marks
Iconic Sarajevo sign 1995

Where people still reside, apartment buildings have shell holes that allow in the winter wind and the outside is pock-marked, the results of shrapnel tearing apart at the structure trying to weaken it.

There is a stark analogy between the physical war zone I witnessed in Sarajevo and remote areas of the countryside and the spiritual battles we face today. In Bosnia, no place was left untouched. Specific places had horrific stories of hate-driven carnage and we see the same in the battles Satan wages upon our world. I have felt the darkness of Satan’s demonic power more in Bosnia than anywhere else I have traveled but, it is only because there the mask of civilization was ripped away, and Satan’s plans were open for anyone to see. In the rest of our world, often, we keep the mask of civility and Satan’s attacks are, perhaps, not unseen, but unnoticed  by an uncaring society too wrapped in their own pain and secular drives to respond.

In the Bible we read, Satan is a roaring lion, prowling around seeing whom he may devour, just like the vermin crawling among the carnage of Bosnia’s war. Paul tells us our war is not against flesh and blood but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)

A fierce looking lion crouched as if to pounce surrounded by a black background with the words Our Adversary the Devil

God has permitted Satan to have dominion over the world until the time He finishes it and brings Satan to destruction and all who believe in Christ are His forever in peace. God waits, not because He is cruel but because He is patient and loving. Peter explains it, writing that God is “not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”(2 Peter 3:9)

Until then, as one writer put it, “Satan’s attack means that we all are vulnerable to sickness, betrayal, financial meltdown, relational loss, emotional despair and other hardships… bad things happen to good people… we live in a war zone. There will be casualties.” (Rooted, Mariners Church 2011 p 85)

In our spiritual battles, there will be homes empty, just shells remaining where once there were families. There will be businesses and churches gone, only the few, scattered remains from a bombing by sin and failure. Where people still reside, there will be shell holes letting in the cold winter wind, chilling the soul and hardening the heart; the explosive remains of  damaged relationships, lost trust and horrific sin. The lives of those struggling to survive are pock-marked by the shrapnel of sin which has left its mark upon them.

There is hope.

The damage of war can be overcome and what was once uninhabitable shells of homes and broken down lives can come to life again like spring after a hard winter. The refreshing breeze of peace and love that comes only from Jesus Christ through His victory over death and sin.  When it coms to spiritual battles, as the ‘Rooted’ book spells out, “And (the Lord) wins. Every. Single. Time.” (p 85)

Someone once wrote how, in the darkest of places, a single candle burns brightest. I saw such a candle in Bosnia. It came in the form of a simple, unpretentious man who loved His Lord and loved every single person God sent his way in a very dark place. The flame of his candle lit many small candles which will burn for generations when the Spirit moves to set those candles within His lampstand.

A completely dark black frame with one bright flame from a candle visible in the darkness

John writes, “We know that we are children of God and that the world is under the control of the evil one.” That is disconcerting to say the least. But in context, we find hope. The verse just before this one reads, “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God (that’s Jesus)keeps him (that’s you if you truly believe)and the evil one (that’s Satan) does not touch him. Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world, but the Good News is that Jesus has overcome the world! He said so! Jesus doesn’t lie. Satan’s attacks will be all around us, but as believers, saved by grace through faith, even if we die because of a sinful world’s sickness, we are safe, secure, in heaven forever with Him.   

We live in a war zone. Live under the banner of the victor. Take heed to what He teaches about daily survival and keep a long-view, looking toward the completion of all things under Christ.

A Watering Trough or Mountain Spring?

Reflections on John Piper’s devotion,

Serve God with Your Thirst

Please take a few minutes to read John Pipers, Serve God with Your Thirst, before enjoying this reflection.

At a recent gathering of Christian men; a dear brother read to us John Piper’s Serve God with Your Thirst. I was hit square on by the passage  and want to share some of my own reflections from that first view  of this work. In his devotional titled, Solid Joys, Piper has penned this short piece and he makes the analogy between a watering trough and a mountain spring. Having been the keeper of horses, (I’m not certain anyone truly owns a horse, but they allow themselves to be kept, fed, cared for and, upon occasion, will acquiesce to a rider), I found the analogy striking. Piper writes, “God is a mountain spring, not a watering trough. A mountain spring is self-replenishing. It constantly overflows and supplies others. But a watering trough needs to be filled with a pump or bucket.”

Something Piper did not report was that a watering trough is a breeding ground for all types of yuck. Without a good power washing or scrubbing, before long there are more things living in the trough than are supplied by it. Mosquitos, fly larvae, and some bacteria without nice names will soon make the trough not just unusable, but unsafe. A mountain spring, however, is forever new, refreshed, clean, crisp and clear. Piper’s analogy, of course, is succinct. Our indwelling in Christ is not of our work, but His.

He goes on to write,” If you want to glorify the worth of a watering trough, you work hard to keep it full and useful. But if you want to glorify the worth of a spring, you do it by getting down on your hands and knees and drinking to your heart’s satisfaction, until you have the refreshment and strength to go back down in the valley and tell the people what you’ve found.”

Recently, my wife and I sat on the patio of a restaurant along the bank of a river. As we watched, the river run past. The cool breeze of the afternoon was a welcome relief from the hot summer sun over us, shaded just enough by the grape arbor and magnificent oak that grew along the water’s edge. I remarked how the water pushing past us just then, rushing toward the Ohio River then working its way south to the Gulf of Mexico, would not come past us again. It was gone. But, even before it was out of reach, new water arrived to replace it. And so, it is with God’s grace. A mountain spring whose waters are fresh every second invite you to drink deeply, even wade in and allow the water to cover you. That the grace of God could be felt like that cool, mountain spring, pouring over us, new every minute.

https://desiringgod.org/articles/serve-god-with-your-thirst
trough photos courtesy of West Fork Ranch – Western Country Realty and Current Events in Historical Perspective The Ohio State – Dry Days Downunder
Smokey Mountain Spring Photograph courtesy Don F. Bradford

 

ALONE and IN DANGER!

They were facing dangers for which they were not prepared and they had no real protection.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NKJV)

This time it was not a roaring lion; it was like it has been many nights this past summer, a coyote, sometimes a single hunter, most times in a pack. We knew he had been back and this time, bold enough to be up to the house right by our garage doors. The evidence of his attack was everywhere. White chicken feathers were strewn across our driveway, it looked like it had been snowing down or that there had been an Olympic-worthy feather pillow fight in our driveway.

Our chickens free-range, that is they roam anywhere across our property, usually staying within the acre upon which is their coop. Most of the time they are in their brood, following closely to one another. At night, if they are not in the coop, which is a frequent occurrence in the summertime, they spread out in small groups. Some go high, up to about fifteen feet on our ‘ham radio’ antenna tower or the roof of their coop. Many, however, stay near the horse’s run-in. They enjoy the heat lamp there when it’s cold and the fan when it’s warm; but always the protection provided by 800-pound horses. There are those few, though, that wander off by themselves, away from the protection of the brood. Those few are getting fewer. Being face to face with a predator like a coyote is not a pleasant experience, I’m sure.

Did you hear about the man who explained to his hunting buddies how, when pounced upon by a huge Grizzly bear, deep in the woods, he saved his life with just one shot from his small Jennings .25 caliber semi-auto pistol? Here is his story…

grizzly cartoon

There I was, right in the path of the biggest Grizzly Bear any man has seen in the whole of the Northeast! It stood like a mountain in front of me! It’s paws, as big as my head were outstretched high above his head as he was ready to swoop that gigantic paw with razor-sharp claws right across me. It would be my end if I did not act and fast! My only defense was my tiny Jennings .25 caliber pistol. It only took one shot! The shot was, I must admit, timed perfectly and my aim was exact! One single round into my wife’s bad knee and there was no way she could out run me! Yes, sir; that little Jennings saved my life!

Probably not a story for a pre-marriage counseling environment but, for those of us married for any length of time… The biggest problem our friend had in the woods (or maybe his second biggest problem) was that he and his wife were away from the safety of the group. They were facing dangers for which they were not prepared and they had no real protection. That is the same predicament that some of my hens have found themselves in and a fairly usual circumstance for sheep who graze in open land surrounded by predators.

Jesus used the analogy of a good shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep who are safe in the fold and goes to search for the one that is lost. The shepherd knows that, alone, the individual sheep has no protection and will be killed. He may also realize that if a mountain lion or other predator finds food in this one location, he will be back, and the rest of the flock is endangered as well; including the shepherd!

The analogy of the sheep being lost and alone speaks to us in our living in community with one another. Paul admonishes us to not neglect our sharing together regularly as the body of Christ, the church. Sharing community together benefits us as we share our life experiences with one another. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are in one of three groups.

  • They have already been where we are and can help us avoid the dangers.
  • They are currently walking the same path we are, and we can walk together to help and encourage each other.
  • They will someday soon be walking where we are, and we can help them manage the path ahead of them that we have just been on.

It is not only the lost sheep that is in danger. The sheep who is lost can also be endangering the rest of the flock and the shepherd. Just as the coyote has found a free meal at my hens’ expense has now returned for additional meals and the lion who enjoys dining on the stray sheep may return to attack the flock, danger comes to the body of believers when one of its own is away from his walk with Christ. Scripture admonishes us not to give the devil a foothold. Sin, like an infection, in one part of the body can spread and infect other parts. A virus spreading through a flock of sheep endangers all of the sheep and the shepherd for he is not invulnerable to disease. I am speaking, of course, to the human shepherd Christ has placed in leadership of a local body of believers and not the Good Shepherd.

The risks of walking alone can also be found when individually we are separated from God’s Word. Even if we are going through the motions of body life, when we are outside a regular habit of daily Bible reading and prayer then we are essentially saying to God, I’ve got this… just hang loose and I’ll call you if I need you.

Not feeding ourselves regularly on the meat found in scripture and then spending time talking to our Heavenly Father, listening for what He has to say to us is walking all alone through the dark forest of today’s world and we are at great risk! Whether a roaring lion or a grizzly bear, the risks of being alone when the spiritual battles comes is a dangerous one. We must not go into the spiritual battles of everyday life unarmed. The Bible is the only offensive weapon given to us as we put on the full armor of God described in Ephesians 6. We must not just carry the sword of truth, but know very well how to use it.

We can talk all the bravado we want about being a lone-wolf, an island to ourselves or any other rendition of why we avoid living our life in community we choose; but, it does not change one simple fact. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

Reflections in the Dark

In the Balkans they have a name for beings that are the offspring from a human and vampire union, it is dhampir

According to lore, vampires do not cast a shadow nor do they present a reflection. Because of their ‘undead’ status, when photographed, no image appears. You can see examples of this in the opening scenes of the children’s comedy Hotel Transylvania 2. They can, also according to lore, turn into bats as Bela Lugosi proved to us time and again as Count Dracula.

I had the opportunity to spend a good amount of time in the Balkans and visited the castle of Vlad the Impaler, the medieval psychotic sociopath from whom the Count Dracula’s legend is formed. He defended his castle and lands by impaling those who trespassed on long stakes and left them for others to see as a warning for all who might venture into his wooded lands.

Vlad

In the Balkans they have a name for beings that are the offspring from a human and vampire union, it is dhampir. According to ‘The Great Archives’ if I were to become a vampire through being bitten and eventually undead, I would be Lucas Montgomerie, also known as the Father of the Thirsty. The Archives claim that I would be, or was… depending on how you believe, “strangely cheerful for monsters and a prankster of the night.”

Before you pass this off as the senseless ravings of simple, superstitious and backward people; think again.  Consider some basic points… ‘Father of the Thirsty’ – for anyone who has gotten between me and a pitcher of sweet tea, you KNOW the results! ‘Strangely cheerful’ – believe it or not, in high school I was voted, out of all the males in our senior class as ‘happiest’. As for the ‘strangely’ part – anyone who knows me also can vouch for that! Then comes the ‘prankster of the night’.  For most of all my police career, I was on midnight shift. That is where I belonged, even now I am writing to you during the still hours of the late night. As far as ‘prankster’ – until the statute of limitations runs out; you are not getting any confessions from me!

On the doubting Thomas side of the ledger, once I learned the name I would or did have, I immediately looked for the Facebook page with the same name and YES, there is a Lucas Montgomerie but … there are two reasons to doubt. First his picture was there (which it should not be, remember?) And secondly, he didn’t look anything like me!

Now, before you begin to think that my cork is not all the way down in the bottle, let me explain to you my point. The legends and folklore of the Middle Centuries did come from a great deal of superstition and fear. They were called the Dark Ages for a very good reason. Men like Vlad were not the exception. There were many more evil, dark, demented people living out lives which were very likely demon driven. Demon possession has been a historic fact for millennia. I venture to say that as we get closer to the End of Time, the darkness will once again attempt to envelope our world.  Jesus dealt with many people who were possessed by demons.

On one occasion, Jesus had just finished teaching folks along the Sea of Galilee and that night He and His disciples got in a boat to cross to the other side of the sea. During the night a vicious storm erupted while Jesus slept. Awakened by His frightened followers, Jesus calmed the sea and they soon arrived in the Gadarenes. Mark chapter 5 tells us, “immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.” (NKJV)

You have heard, no doubt, of the numbers of young people now being called, ‘cutters’ because of their urgent need to cut themselves. Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. The ‘Gothic’ craze of recent decades, the continued  infatuation with demons and dark spirits, cult practices and things that go bump in the night is not unexpected.

The Dark Ages from 456 to 1000 was a time when most people were illiterate. Poverty and disease was rampant. Only the most educated had access to books and no one but the priests, if there were any in a region had the ability to read the Latin text of the Bible and it was only they who could speak on God’s behalf.

Our own century has seen a great many diseases cured or annihilated. Still cancers rage and disrupt families each and every day. We have more ‘knowledge ‘ available at our fingertips than ever in history. Just ask Google, it will tell you. The search, though, for true knowledge, understanding of the great classic works sorely lacking. A bogus claim that Albert Einstein said, “The day that technology overlaps our humanity we will have a generation of idiots.” There is no evidence that he ever said that but the logic of it does make sense. That we are becoming a generation that could be more susceptible to demonic influence is not at all out of the realm of reasoned thought.

The Book of Mark relates that when the demon possessed man saw Jesus, he ran after Him and worshipped Him.  When Jesus asked him his name, the demon replied, “Legion, for we are many.” (NKJV) James, the half-brother of Christ and author of the book bearing his name in the New Testament writes, “You believe that God is one. You do well, the demons also believe and shudder.” (NASB) There are still parts of the world where people are unable to read the Bible in their own language. Here, in the United States, Bibles can be found just about anywhere and many are free. For Americans, particularly those who claim the name of Christ, to not be familiar with God’s Word but to take a face value what a pastor, priest or the Internet claims to be truth is an open doorway to the same superstition and ignorance of the first Dark Ages. What will be your first step toward preparing your children or others of the next generation to live lives in the Light of God’s Word? Just something worth some reflection!

 

per-spec-tive {pƏr’spektiv}, n

This morning I had been awakened sometime after four with some nagging issues on my mind. It was meant for me, I think, to sit in the dark room, in my grandmother’s rocking chair; listening to its almost melancholy creaking noises, as I slowly rocked back and forth. (At least I think it was the chair that was making the creaking sounds!) My thoughts were mostly about a teaching assignment. The assignment turned in by one student had me concerned. As I worked through the issue, I could hear the gentle sounds of two of my pre-school age grandchildren asleep in the same room where I was sitting. The soft rustling by the children against the creak of the old rocker and the dark of the room contrasting the bright light of my computer screen, as I penned a response to my student, all sought to give me some perspective. A short time later, I looked out the window to see the sun slowly breaking through the eastern sky and almost straight above it was the crescent moon, as if it was battling to keep its place in the sky from the on-coming day. Perspective.

I know I have written before about my father who was aboard a PC boat, a patrol-craft, the 1261 which was the first recorded ally ship sunk at the D-Day invasion. My dad lived, though many of his shipmates did not. To this day, it is not known for certain whether my father’s ship was sunk by a shore battery or a torpedo from a U-boat that hit the PC1261 mid-ship, directly below where my dad was manning the radio room. The complement of sailors aboard the 1261 was usually just under sixty. My dad’s ship spent most of its duty hours escorting ships across the shark and U-boat infested waters of the Caribbean and the Atlantic When the 1261 was sunk, she lost 13 of her crew to the Channel.

This morning, I read an article about German U-boats, the scourge of the Atlantic during the war. According to an article on the PC Sailors Association website[i], the presence of the PC boats (sixty in all) deterred the U-boat activity and were credited with only a few U-boats sunk; but, the threat of their depth charges was real.

According to the U-boat article, there were 1154 submarines commissioned and, of those, 795 were sunk. Of the 40,000 German sailors assigned to U-boats, 30,000 men, or 75 percent, were killed when their ships were sunk[ii]. Over sixty-five percent of the ships were lost at sea.

The fear of an unseen enemy deep underwater for those on the PC boats and the terror of the sound of a falling depth charge which could mean your U-boat becomes a steel tomb at the bottom of the ocean – perspective.

trolls

Don’t get me wrong, here. I know, as well as most, that life is not all “cupcakes and rainbows” and no amount of glitter can just make everything Okay. Cooper and Sky Diamond could follow you around all day and you will still have all the concerns with which you started! Do you really want your day determined by trolls, anyway?

The key to perspective is who is in charge. When I am in charge, I am the center and everything must be about me. It is my pain, it is my inability to sleep, or my… you can fill in the blank. If God is in charge then there is a reason or something to be gained by everything. My not sleeping gives me time to appreciate the night, the children and the chair. My care is for the students, the people I will meet in the day and finding ways that God intends for me to be a blessing for them. Does perspective make the pain and problems go away? No, but it can shrink them to the right size for them to fit into God’s plan for your life and He will be at the center. Someone once said if you are down at the bottom of a very deep well, the only way to look is up!

frog

 

[i] http://ww2pcsa.org/patrol-craft.html

[ii] http://usasocialcondition.com/incredible-facts-that-will-give-you-a-new-perspective-on-world-war-ii/6/

When Life Doesn’t Fit

God is NOT in the box business! He does not build them and because He has not constructed your box, it is also NOT His responsibility that its construction is of shoddy workmanship or that it was built to specifications that are NOT His!

 

Have you ever had times when, no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot make life fit into that perfect little box you have been constructing all your life? You know the box I’m talking about. Your parents and even your grandparents probably helped you build it. Certainly, in today’s world, the media helps you build it. Back in my day, shows like Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver and a dozen more fantasy television shows built the box that most of us in our WASP worlds saw as normal family life. Movies showed us patriotism and that things ALWAYS worked out happily ever after in the end. Even when you fall off a 150-foot cliff and an anvil slams down on top of you, you will be just fine; at least if you are Wile E. Coyote.

If you went to the kind of church many of us did, you also had neatly tucked into the back of your mind the list of Do’s and Don’ts that make for good people. Some churches would even give you a box to keep that list in! There was a definite line between good and evil. Such things were black and white. Why else would the good guys on the late-night westerns always wear a white hat and the bad guys a black one? It was all part of our box that we had so carefully constructed. We couldn’t even consider that our boxes could be made to come apart.

Is there a certain amount of pressure that, when applied to the box, makes things fit the way they should? Can that unknown amount of pressure cause the box to go flying into a gazillion pieces across the room?

It is difficult enough when the box you have with things sticking out in all directions that is starting to come apart is your own; but, what if that box you had built was one you had constructed for your child? You know, that precious wonderful child of yours, no matter what age, that you love more than life itself… you have in your mind, in your heart really, as to how their life will be so much more comfortable, less stressful, less hurtful than yours was and that all their wondrous dreams will come true. That is the special box you have built for them. Then, for what seems like no fair reason, nothing is fitting in that box. Your heart is absolutely crushed as you see your child now faced with a life that is nothing like you would like it to be. Sometimes, maybe it is because of their own bad choices; yet so often, it is because of someone else’s hurtful actions. Boxes can also be smashed by something even more difficult to get a handle on, a vicious disease that has grabbed hold of your child, sending your box careening across the room.box

Whenever our boxes get busted, there is a great tendency to blame just about everyone, including God. It took quite a bit of time for me to work through how my own box just couldn’t possibly hold all of what I expected life was supposed hold. I finally learned that much of what I thought was supposed to be in my box was just completely unrealistic, too much Loonie Toons and not enough 60 Minutes. Now that I’m pushing the door open on my sixth decade, I know that a portion the box busting was because of my own bad choices along the way too, although at the time I wouldn’t have seen it.

What about those times when your box starts breaking apart and it is because of the horrific actions of another? Is it better when there is someone to blame? Is it worse when there is just an organism or a genetic anomaly to blame and not a person? Does God take the heat even more when what appears as such a senseless hurt has no one at which to point your finger?

Certainly, there can be very real times when the grief caused by the bursting of one’s life expectations is the result of the sin or evil actions of another. Not a day goes by when there isn’t a crime committed by a person with no regard for life, whether his or another’s. The multiple boxes that can be shattered by that one person’s actions can result in a firestorm of anger and resentment and some of that will still be shoved on God. We shake our fist or scream out at God and demand to know why He allowed such hurt.

As I have studied the wondrous Scriptures with this question in mind, I have come up with one very profound truth. To be quite self-asserting, I don’t know that any student of the Bible, any theologian, great preacher or teacher of the holy book has ever found this particular bit of wisdom, at least not in the way I have discovered it! (Okay, I said all of that just to whet your appetite for what I am about to share… even Solomon once said there is nothing new under the sun!)

When we are ready to demand from God why He would so destroy our boxes, the truth that the Bible will make clear to us is: God is NOT in the box business! He does not build them and because He has not constructed your box, it is also NOT His responsibility that its construction is of shoddy workmanship or that it was built to specifications that are NOT His! It is true that Jesus was a carpenter, a very well-trained one to be sure. It is also true that He is the master creator of everything. God’s Word tells us in the book of John that without Him nothing was made that was made!

God doesn’t build boxes and He doesn’t design boxes either. People who are big on ‘RELIGION’ like to believe that their boxes are uniquely designed by God to make certain that His people do church the one right way. They are mistaken. One box may be three hymns and an offering or a sermon with three points and a prayer. Another box may be candles in the corners and censers flying in all directions while a low voice mumbles a liturgy that no one can hear and, even if they did, they wouldn’t understand a word of it because it is in Latin! Boxes like those into which people have stuffed their religion are usually rectangular and have a lid. It’s appropriate that they resemble a coffin.

God did provide us with a framework for how He would have us to live out our lives here and even about how to do church. The base boards are these: Love the Lord your God all your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself.  That’s for us as we seek to live in community with one another. As to how we are to pattern ourselves individually to please God, He gave us three side boards. They are: Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with God. Then when it came to being useful as a Church body, He gave us two great handles for us to hold: Baptism and Communion. Finally, God knew that the living of life and the doing of church would often require us to bear some burdens, our own and one another’s; so, to the framework He gave us he added an axle by telling us to ‘GO’ and He added two wheels, evangelism and discipleship.

If LIFE doesn’t FIT in your BOX, try Christ’s push-cart instead.pushcart

 

2017, Pres. Trump, and Full Moats

If the first three weeks since the election are any barometer, the next four-year term of President-elect Trump will be filled with drama. Quality intelligence evaluation and contingency planning are not about drama but, as Sgt. Joe Friday, was known to say: Just the facts.

joe-friday

That is a simple enough statement about intel gathering and dissemination of information that may forestall the next major attempted attack on U.S. interests either at home or abroad. However, it belies the subtle art that is involved in not only reading the intelligence as it is gathered; but, in reading into its context. The message is often more than the sum of the translation. It includes a telltale hint of the motivation behind the dissemination of such information. That motivation will direct the seasoned analyst to dig beyond the face page and into the mind of the author of the text.

Recently, good intel was received that ISIS related malefactors had plans to rent U-Haul type trucks to obliterate crowds at Thanksgiving Day parades and festivities. SCI alerted local and the national offices to the intel. Later, a threat came against the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. As anyone who watched the parade could attest, whatever might have been attempted was thwarted at some level by those prepared to take on the task.

In Dr. Riggs’ upcoming book, Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat there is a call to arms for local citizens to first strengthen their homes, their castles – to make sure that the moat is full and the drawbridge is up. That doesn’t mean that the knights stay inside and await the attack. Rather, they have taken every measure to make certain their family is on a firm foundation in their faith, in their love for one another and in their physical and mental preparedness to meet the enemy at the gate. Once they have made certain their homes are secure, they prepare themselves to meet the enemy ahead of the enemy’s schedule and to help the local law enforcement authorities to do whatever it takes to keep their piece of America safe for themselves and for their posterity.bodiamcastle_cam2_021b

A quote from the book goes like this: “The enemy is on our doorstep. You can hunker down in the house, run out the back door to try to escape, or you can open that front door and send the enemy to meet the Judge. It is time to stop being afraid.”

This book is a call to arms and a call to re-kindle the faith of our fathers who forged the United States of America on the fires of battle against an enemy that was within their land as they held to their faith in God to bring about a peace with honor when the enemy was vanquished and not before. Watch for the book in early 2017 through Motivational Press.

Out of the Darkness

In the classic story by Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the book; not the made for TV movie, there is a moment high atop Mt. Crumpet where the Grinch had taken all of the Who’s Christmas… to dump it! In that moment, according to the good doctor, there is a sound wafting over the snow. What he writes next is so critical to our understanding of how, at times, God speaks into our lives. “It started in low. Then it began to grow…”[i] What is important to note here is that, for the Grinch to hear it, he had to stop what he was doing even though he was teetering on the precipice of a bodacious cliff and was so close to completing a task that he had set out to do. He had to STOP right then and LISTEN or he might have missed it completely!

How often have we missed hearing what God has for us because we just had to finish this one thing or I have such an urgent issue right now that I better take care of it first? Being on a precipice of a cliff can meet that standard! Elijah had to wait for the whirlwind to pass before he eventually heard God’s still, small voice. (1 Kings 19) We can receive an incredible blessing if we just listen. Sometimes, it comes in the sweet soft melodies of a beautifully played flute and at other times it can ring out of the darkness in a crescendo of sound that says to us in no uncertain terms, Christ is King eternal, righteous, and holy forevermore!

Across the platform in the building, where our part of the church meets for worship, is our wonderful worship team. From singers and soloists to musicians, we are truly blessed to have such a dedicated team. The platform is mostly showered in light with more to the front and fading toward the back. Along one side it is noticeably darker. In the recesses of those shadows is one musician. I wonder often how she can see her music score in such darkness; but, she obviously does and does so very well. At times, one has to be really listening to the music to hear a sweet counter-melody of a flute whispering so gently out of that darkness. At other times, in the height of a crescendo of praise rings out the punctuation of the chimes that brings chills to the neck and thrills the soul. As quickly as either began, they end. The darkness again envelopes the sound and the musician. Very nearly invisible; yet so incredibly powerful.

Have you experienced hearing God’s voice to you, out of the darkness? At times when we are so incredibly busy or teetering on the precipice of an emotional cliff, comes the sweet soft melody of a flute, the sound of voices singing in the distance, the voice of a friend, or a sense of awe from reading God’s Word; the right passage at just the right time. At other times, when the darkness threatens to overcome us and swallow us up into a place of non-existence, God also speaks. His voice resounds through the darkness as sharply as the mallet upon the chime declaring to us His nearness which beckons us to come back to the safety of His arms.

In whatever way that God is speaking to you; STOP and LISTEN; for the blessing you are about to receive is wondrous indeed. Dr. Seuss wrote that the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day. I don’t know about that, particularly; but I do know, your heart will never be the same.

[i] Seuss, Dr., How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Random House: NY 1957

HH

ASL hard of hearing

         My deaf and hard of hearing friends and those who know American Sign Language (ASL) will recognize the sign above for the double H which means ‘Hard of Hearing’.  That sign is the one I use when communicating with the deaf to explain that I am hard of hearing though not completely deaf and it is one of the reasons I continue to try to learn ASL.

This morning was a bright and beautiful morning and I found myself at the pond at the back of our small farm, fishing. I was fishing and the fish were cooperating. Bass after bass seemed eager to take my hook. I catch and release because mostly, for me, fishing is a chance to talk to God.

From our house, the pond and the woods beyond offer a symphony of sound. On hot days or cool nights, you can, if you are not hard of hearing, listen to a complete symphony of nature in sonata form, the first movement being the stately croak of the frogs their allegro flow introducing the night song. Then comes the minuet – the nighttime dance of sounds. Being a distance away and hard of hearing makes me miss much of the minuet, particularly the alto and soprano sounds of nature. This morning, though, I was thinking about (and talking with God about) the fact that when I am at the pond, closer to the orchestra; I am able to hear more than when distance blurs the music. God showed me that the same is true when I long to hear from Him what it is that He is expecting of me. When I cannot hear His still small voice of encouragement or direction, often, I am too far away. When I find myself far from God, I always notice that it was me who moved, not Him.

I have had the joy, in the past, of owning hearing aids that open up so much more of the world than what I hear on a daily basis. Sadly, the cost of such devices precludes having them at times and it is then I wonder how much I am missing. Newer devices have the ability to open up in a kind of stereo when out in nature to pick up all the sounds. This morning, I wondered what kind of device do I need to hear God speak to me? Then I realized that it is His Word. By staying in it, studying and enjoying it, I hear better and I find myself closer.

What keeps me from hearing when distance is not the issue? Sometimes I can be right next to my wife and not be able to understand what she has said. If I cannot see her face and watch her lips move, I miss much of what she says. When there is a crowd and other background noises, I cannot hear what someone says to me. Sometimes I hear a sound but I cannot distinguish the words because there is too much busyness going on about me.

One of my physical issues that inhibits my hearing is damage to the small hairs of the ear canal. These small hairs are the sensory receptors. The doc tells me that it is through mechanotransduction that these hair cells detect movement. When that happens, the brain hears sound. The damage to my cells causes them to send a constant signal to my brain which is translated as a high pitched non-ending hum. I have two different pitches, one for each ear. Damage to these hair cells results in decreased hearing sensitivity and because they cannot regenerate, this damage is permanent. What is interesting is that, because they are damaged, they move continually. This continual movement generates the tinnitus and decreases my ability to hear.

How often, I wonder, is my inability to hear what God is trying to say to me caused by me being too busy doing whatever that may be good works? My busyness may be blocking my ability to hear what God is trying to say to me. Even when I am by the pond, if I am completely wrapped up in working with the horses or some other chore, I often do not hear any of the symphony going on all around me. I can be close enough. I can even have been spending time in God’s Word so I have my hearing aid; but, if I’m too busy, I’ll miss what He has to say to me.

So, there is my prescription for better hearing of what God wants to say to me. I need to get closer to Him. I need to be in His Word so that my hearing His voice is aided by the scripture and I need to stop the busyness of a Christian life and just listen.

How is your hearing?