Dastardly Shenanigans?

otherwise...Life would be so boring

The Valley of Vision

LORD, HIGH AND HOLY, MEEK AND LOWLY,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
Where i live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by the mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that ot give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light my darkness,

thy life in my death,
thy  joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.

Take ‘Em Away

Take ‘em away, take ‘em away, Lord
Take away these chains from me
My heart is broken ‘cause my spirit’s not free
Lord take away these chains from me

Some birds’ feathers are too bright to be caged
I know I’m not that colorful but a bird just the same
Open up your gate now, let me put down my load
So I can feel at ease and go back to my home

Take ‘em away, take ‘em away, Lord
Take away these chains from me
My heart is broken ‘cause my spirit’s not free
Lord take away these chains from me

Sun beatin’ down, my legs can’t seem to stand
There’s a boss man at a turnrow with a rifle in his hand
I’ve got nine child, nothin’ in the pan
My wife she died hungry while I was plowin’ land

Take ‘em away, take ‘em away, Lord
Take away these chains from me
My heart is broken ‘cause my spirit’s not free
Lord take away these chains from me

Can’t see when I go to work, can’t see when I get off
How do you expect a man not to get lost
Every year I just keep getting deeper in debt
If there’s a happy day, Lord, I haven’t seen one yet

Take ‘em away, take ‘em away, Lord
Take away these chains from me
My heart is broken ‘cause my spirit’s not free
Lord take away these chains from me

Land that I love is the land that I’m workin’
But it’s hard to love it all the time when your back is a-hurtin’
Gettin’ too old now to push this here plow
Please let me lay down so I can look at the clouds

Take ‘em away, take ‘em away, Lord
Take away these chains from me
My heart is broken ‘cause my spirit’s not free
Lord take away these chains from me

Land that I know is where two rivers collide
The Brazos the Navaso and the big blue sky
Flood plains, freight trains, watermelon vines
Of any place on God’s green earth, this is where I choose to die

Take ‘em away, take ‘em away, Lord
Take away these chains from me
My heart is broken ‘cause my spirit’s not free
Lord take away these chains from me

Take ‘em away, take ‘em away, Lord
Take away these chains from me
My heart is broken ‘cause my spirit’s not free
Lord take away these chains from me

Screwtape and Easter

From The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis:

My Dear Wormwood,

Now I am obliged to write to you about the most uncomfortable subject. At all costs I would wish to avoid even the mention of this matter but it must be broached. I am referring to the Christian holiday known as Easter. As you know it is the celebration of the day when our Enemy above slew death. Oh, what a shock it was to us all that day. I can remember so vividly my reaction the moment it happened! What screams of rage and anger were heard everywhere in our Kingdom Below. How totally helpless we felt at that moment. We were outmaneuvered. Never in a million years could we have imagined that the Enemy would really love those pitiful humans enough to go through with it. He actually died a terrible death to keep them out of our clutches. Why should they be of such worth to Him? We could not understand. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me take you back to the beginning.

Before the Enemy created these human beings, our Father below was well on his way to becoming Ruler of the Universe. The Christian’s Bible says somewhere that our father was thrown out of heaven by the Enemy, but don’t you believe it. Heaven had gotten to small for him. He decided to go on to bigger and better things. And he wasn’t about to let the Enemy tell him what to do anymore. Our father below knew much better how things should be.

About a third of us went with him. We wanted to better ourselves. We were going with a winner.

Then the Enemy brought into being these human creatures. That was a blow, I’ll tell you. They walked in perfect harmony with him. They did whatever He said. They were completely on His side. All they wanted was to please Him. They lived in this beautiful garden and were perfectly happy. Ugh!!! We could see the handwriting on the wall. Pretty soon the whole earth would be full of them.

But our father below devised a plan. He disguised himself and snuck into their garden one day. In his clever way he convinced them that there was something better than pleasing the Enemy. They could become their own god. They could be in charge, be the boss of their own life. Why obey him? There is so much more to life than that? It is so foolish to let the Enemy be your God, he told them. Think what you will miss if you stay with Him. I will give you a higher wisdom, he promised.

(Have you noticed that our father below is still using this approach very effectively today. Those humans are so impressed with their own wisdom now. You can get them to believe almost anything. They will absolutely destroy themselves now rather than accept the authority of the Enemy above. They are such a stupid bunch of mortals.)

Anyway, as I was saying, our father below convinced them to disobey their Creator. He told them, “go ahead and do it, you will not die.” (a little lie there, he’s an expert at that all right.) He knew that is exactly what would happen. And then those feeble earthlings would be in our clutches.

They disobey their Creator, rebel against him, and then they become ours. Their Creator can’t keep them because He can’t have in His presence anyone that isn’t pure and holy. He is so narrow. He insists on only what is good. That doesn’t leave any room for all the bad out there.

Well, the humans fell for it. They got suckered into our camp. And immediately they started to die.

And ever since, death has been our great ally. Do you know how many millions we bring into Hell every year through death? It is one of our few pleasures. How delicious to see them suffer! They feel such loss and pain when their loved ones die. Death was the great triumph of our father below.

I say “was” because the Enemy changed all that.

The first thing he did was to lower himself and be born as one of “them.” We almost got him killed when he was a baby. But he eluded us then. He grew up to be a man. He taught those poor humans about himself, all the while not really spreading around who he was. Then one day he gave himself up to be killed by a bunch of jealous religious leaders. We figured it was a big bluff. Just an excuse to perform a public miracle and escape at the last minute. But he actually went through with it. He let them nail him to a cross and he died. We all thought, “Aha, you’re beaten now! You’ve just made your big mistake!”

All of us were feeling, for a few hours, a big relief from that constant fear we had always felt toward the Enemy. Maybe all those prophecies about our last judgement would never happen after all. Death had claimed the Creator of life. Finally our Lord Satan would be undisputed ruler of all.

Then Sunday morning came. The Enemy reappeared. Suddenly, he was alive. Death could not hold him. But it was even worse than that. He had become an innocent sacrifice for the sins of all those humans. He had paid their penalty. He had died in their place. Now death could not hold them either. They could be forgiven and reunited with the Enemy. They can now live forever. For all practical purposes, death has died. There has never been a more disastrous day in the history of the universe.

That, my dear Wormwood, is the whole sad truth.

There is only one thing we can do. We must redouble our efforts. We must do everything we can to make sure that these humans do not believe in Jesus. And if they do believe then make them lukewarm and too busy with other things to be of any use to him.

We have some reason to hope. Much of the media help us. And there is such a climate of pleasure-seeking and materialism that often the Christians aren’t any different from anybody else. Many Christians are uncommitted. Some are hypocrites. And we have got many sincere people convinced they are so guilty that they have no hope. Others are bitter and have closed their ears to the message of the Ressurection. Others are just self-satisfied and only care about now.

We have laid some very good groundwork intellectually. Many educated people have been kept from considering both sides and are firmly convinced that there is no intellectual basis for believing in Jesus. They don’t know what we know and we are not about to tell them. Many of these people are even convinced that we don’t exist! That’s very good! In closing, I will just say, “Fight on, Wormwood. I fear we will lose in the end, but let us take as many of them with us as we can. Their willful, selfish part of them gives us much fertile ground to cultivate. We may have lost the war, but let’s go out and win some battles for our father below.

Your Uncle,
Screwtape

Great Expectation

So, Passover week didn’t go quite the way the disciples had planned. Let’s face it, it was quite the let down.  The week began with palm branches and a donkey’s colt, a triumpant entry.  It was the ushering in of a new kingdom. Israel would be restored.  By week’s end, however, their teacher, the man who would be king was beaten and disfigured, crucified and buried in a tomb.

By week’s end they were without their leader, their teacher, without instruction and fearing for their own lives.

It was over.

Hope had come and gone. Then, three days later, there he was…again; Holes in his wrists, a puncture wound in his side; Talking. Laughing. Eating. Alive again.

I guess after three years of walking on water, healing cripples and outcasts, commanding the forces of nature, multiplying a dinner for two to feed five thousand, and raising people from the dead, this sort of thing would be expected, considered paltry or ordinary, perhaps.  Perhaps not…

Jesus would be with them another forty days and, at the end of the those forty days, they asked him one question.  One question that, as i reflect, is filled with intense hope, and great expectation.   I mean, seriously,  after all the things the disciples had seen who could blame them for being a little worn out?  Who could blame them for asking, Lord, what’s the deal?

And so,  they asked “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom of Israel?”

He answered them by saying “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. Men of Galilee, they said, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:6-11 NIV)

We read the inspired words penned by those who came before with a bit of clerical distance now. Culture and the passage of time often can leave us disconnected, distant from pristine inflection and intention of these poignant passages. Who knew that the Passover, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection would be summed up in one question: “Lord are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom of Israel?”

Though we read with distance now, we know still something of what the disciples felt for we feel it as well. We know His work in us and in the world is not yet finished. Many times i ask, in a more personal way, “Lord are you at this time going to restore me?  Are you going to make right all that i think is wrong?” (even though he already has)

And even more so we, along with the disciples, ask “LORD, is it time?” We know the world is not yet as it should be, and things are not yet set right. We know His work is not yet finished. So we are left longing for more. And what is the LORD’s response to our longing? He clearly tells us that things will be, in the Father’s time, made right and until then we must go on worshiping, glorifying, and seeking Him more fully. Paul’s echoes this beautiful sentiment “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror- then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” I Corinthians 13:12


Though understanding and knowledge are important, they are not always a prerequisite for obedience. It’s always good to ask questions but I we may not be in a place where we can comprehend the answers and, sometimes, if we simply obey, all of our questions will be answered in the process of obedience. How else would we learn and be amazed? How else is trust and faith developed? Our sole purpose as believers, as children of the living God, is to obey all His commands. We must then trust in the fidelity of the one who gives us commands, that somewhere in the process, either through it or at the end, all of our questions will be answered.


First Light

Another repost, circa 2006.


Friday, the Friday we call Good; Good Friday. Now, the term “Good Friday” and its origin are unclear but there have been other terms for it such as “God’s Friday” and is still known as “Long Friday” to the Dutch. It’s the Friday unlike any other on our calendar. Well, the 1920’s brought us “Black Friday”, and the movies brought us “Friday the 13th” but that is neither here, nor there. Friday is the end of the work week and is probably the favorite day of the week for most working Americans (TGIF). Good Friday is doubly good for it is the day that marks the beginning of the end of God’s plan for our Salvation.

On the first day of the week, Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time at the beginning of Passover week. If we move forward in the story a little we find Jesus with His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane. By this time, the plot to murder Jesus was in full swing and Jesus had gone to this place to lay down this heavy burden He had been carrying.  In the garden, we find a scene where he, Jesus, falls with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup of pain pass me by. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

So grieved was He by this burden that the Bible tells us that Jesus’ beads of sweat became as drops of blood. Jesus would pray twice more and then go forward to meet his accusers and there begins the Passion as we know it.  From there, Jesus went forward confident, not that He would be spared suffering, not at all, but of His eventual vindication. The glory of God, the love of God was not showcased merely in Christ’s suffering, for Christ’s suffering without the Ressurection is meaningless, nor would Christ resurrecting at the end of a long and natural life free us of our debts, but in His unjust suffering and his overcoming the grave, together, is the glory of our Salvation.

Such is the life any other child of God. It’s clear through Scripture that a life devoted to Christ isn’t one free of suffering, but one full of trials.  And these trials are not merely to inflict pain, but to conform us to His likeness, and to give glory to God.  We have received this promise: that no matter how many battles we lose, or have lost — in the end, we will win and have already won the war. Truly, the only the thing God, the Father, ever offers to us is vindication; victory. Perhaps, not on this side of Heaven, but somewhere far beyond the gaze of our earthly eyes lies our vindication. Ultimately, our vindication lies in a very simple truth: knowledge brings healing. The LORD may reveal that knowledge to us, either in this life or in the next, but that’s solely up to Him. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that all things work together for the good of those who love Him and when we meet Him face to face we will, in an instant, know the goodness which was brought about by our suffering.

Christ’s suffering gave us access to the greatest gift the world will ever know; the gift of Salvation. We cannot, in our suffering bring about Salvation.  That work was done by Christ on the cross but we can, and do, bring the world to the precipice, face to face with Salvation through our suffering and sacrifice.

However certain we are of Good Friday and “Good Friday’s” in our own lives, should we not be just as certain that Easter lies ahead? However certain we are that Christ died and He now lives. So then, when we die, like Him, we too shall live.

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Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

you now dismiss your servant in peace.

For my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared in the sight of all people,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles

and for glory to your people Israel.”

Luke 2:25-32

Wednesdays Are Bad Days, Especially for Special Days and Holidays.

So, i dug up some posts from my old blogspot and will be posting them periodically.  I found some Easter related posts that i’ll be posting over the next few days, but first, an old post about Ash Wednesday circa 2005.  Another Repost:

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Well, at the very least, Calvin would be proud; Not Comic Calvin, but John Calvin.

You see, my roommate, nathan, likes claiming the title of “poster boy for the total depravity of man.” I like to think that we share this honor. We are, after all, undoubtedly cut from the corners of the same proverbial cloth. Between nate’s innate ability create awkward silence and my unparalleled prowess at finding that line separating tactful humor and looks of astonishment, we artfully, equally, seamlessly, simultaneously pass the nugget back and forth like electrons in a covalent bond. Some covalent bonds are polar in nature and, as is with nate and myself, entropy and depravity tend to be, from time to time, in higher concentration around one more so than the other. However, after today’s artful display of depravity, i confidently and firmly claim the title for my self. The day is mine Trebek!

I was at work, walking down the hall between our two buildings and notice one of my good friends (we’ll call her margeaux) showing a new-hire around the building. As i walked passed her i noticed something on her forehead; A large dark spot on her forehead. I thought she had unknowingly rubber a dirty hand on her forehead.  With her fair skin and red hair the spot was very noticeable. Later on, I was walking back to my desk with another coworker, patricia and passed margeaux again in the hallway. I noticed the same spot on her head, she still hadn’t noticed, and she was still giving a tour. I decided i couldn’t allow margeaux to continue walking around the building with this embarrassing blemish for she is quite the beautiful young lady. So tactfully, i said,

“margeaux can i get you to come over here really quick, I need to ask you a question?”

Drawing her away from the new hires, i turned my back and put my arm around margeaux drawing her a bit closer and with genuine concern in my voice said,

“I’m not sure if you know this, I’m not sure how it got there, but you have a dark mark on your forehead.”

She paused for a long moment, and said,

“Hmm, well, I’m not sure if you know this but today is Ash Wednesday”

I took a second look, and sure enough, there was the faintest evidence of a malformed cross there in the ashes.

I took a moment to correctly file this moment in its rightful place amongst some of the stupider moments of my life and sheepishly said,

“OK, well, good talk.  Carry on!”

Is there a special level of hell reserved for people who forget about Ash Wednesday? If there is I will, with the certainty of Heisenberg himself pay my penance with a solid ten minutes in my own purgatory. The real irony is apparent when i confess to you that my other roommate, Todd, is a catholic youth minister and you would think that, in and of itself, would leave me properly informed of the second busiest day for the Catholic Church.  But no, it didn’t.  Later on, i offered margeaux a proper apology and now i can look back and comfortably laugh at the situation.

So, for now, I am the official poster boy for the total depravity of man. The bigger question is whether or not i was predestined or whether i chose, of my own free will, to be a complete moron. Perhaps I should come up with some cool acronym or something but in the meantime, I walk chin up, shoulders back, chest out, confident to the beat of applause, a standing ovation if you will, from one, John Calvin.

I took some steps to preempt any sort of shenanigan next year and wrote “ASH WEDNESDAY” on my calendar next to the day already marked “FAT TUESDAY” in red ink sharpie marker.

 

 

Christer Revisted

So, i was reading through my old posts, particularly those that have to do with the Easter Season, looking for a little inspiration for and i found this post from a couple years ago.  Still applies…i guess this would be my first repost.

Reign Over Me

Recently, i went on a weekend retreat with my church.  I had been struggling as the weekend approached and had been working on a blog to help me sort though my thoughts.  Anyway, the first night of the retreat we had a worship session that was probably the most fruitful  worship i’ve had in a very long time.  I may or may not end up posting the other blog, but in the moment, in that time of worship i found the solution to my struggles.

The picture i had in my head of the solution is difficult to describe.  My struggles have really worn me down and trying to see through that mess to find solutions for each issue had me conceding defeat.  Then, Friday night came along, the first night of the retreat, and the only real memory i have of the evening is the one thing i managed to say to the LORD.

The first song of the set was “Reign In Us’  by Starfield.  For the first time in a long time, i just found myself utterly speechless.  For the first time in a long time, i felt something.  I felt some bit of emotional closeness to the LORD.  There are times, there are seasons in life where i think we wax and wane in our faith, sometimes emotionally, sometimes intellectually.  The most difficult times in my life are ones where i survive merely on the knowledge of my faith.  This season was a particularly long and difficult.

So what was that one thing?  What was the one thing i managed to say?   “Reign in me…”

More importantly, “Reign in me, even when i don’t want You to.”

The toughest part, and most fruitful aspect of this season was realizing that there is a significant difference between what i think, what i know, and what i believe.  I know what i need.  The toughest part is the believing; believing in the thing you know you need.

Life would be so boring..

Fish Eyes

You know, sometimes, i sit down to write something because i feel like i have something to say, but, most of the time, i don’t really know what it is i want to say. At the moment, I have three thoughts that seem unrelated, but they are three thoughts nonetheless;

First, that i am prone to making mistakes or disobeying God when i lose perspective.  I am at my unhappiest when i find myself wanting things i don’t have, and, lastly, that no matter how i feel, whatever my circumstance, whatever i might think i believe, whatever i might choose to write at a particular moment, i know that everyone matters to Jesus, and that everyone has a story worth telling.

 

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