A Spark of Life

Posted: July 29, 2015 in Life

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It’s been over a month since I’ve posted to my blog. My private journal isn’t fairing much better. I won’t go into it because this will just turn into a big whine fest and I’d rather not go there. I will say that while God hasn’t given me what I want, He has given me what I need.

Another reason I haven’t been writing is that I’ve been writing. Come again? I have been doing some freelance writing which has kept me busy, and quite frankly doing all that writing for cash has made me less interested in writing for pleasure (e.g. this blog). Even my short stories have fallen by the wayside as I create what other people want me to.

I’ve also been reading. A great many articles and blogs on church ministry concerns. God is in the process of reshaping my ministry philosophy. I picked up Pilgrim’s Progress again. It’s been twenty-five years or so since I read it last. I’m not qualified to review Bunyan’s seminal work. It has impacted me (again) greatly. Christian’s journey of sanctification is … encouraging, challenging, convicting, enlightening, etc. I’ve also been reading the Prose Edda (Norse Mythology). I knew Tolkien was interested in mythology in general and Norse mythology in particular, but I never realized how much his Middle Earth writings were influenced by it until now. The Eddas are not an easy read by any means, but they are interesting.

And that about wraps it up. Maybe I’ll post again before another month and a half elapses.

Jude

Posted: June 17, 2015 in Faith
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Jude, as a biblical author, impresses me. He impresses me for his humility. Jude was one of Jesus’ brothers…or rather half-brothers seeing as how Jesus father was God the Father and Jude’s father was Joseph. Even so, he was Jesus brother. Yet in his intro, he doesn’t claim brotherhood with Christ. Rather he says, “a servant of Jesu Christ”. That’s something. We know from the gospels that in the early part of Jesus’ ministry his family was concerned that he might be insane (Mark 3:21). Yet two of the epistles in the New Testament were written by Jesus own brother (the other being the book of James incase you missed that one). What caused these men who thought their brother was bonkers to fall as his feet and call him LORD? I really cannot fathom my own sister saying, “A servant of Jason.” Not in a million years.

No, Jude had a major conversion experience of some kind. As Christ said in Mark 6:4, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” Yes this part of Jesus household came to honor him. Not just honor him, but service him. Jude’s conversion was so profound that he doesn’t even use that relationship to put forward his letter. “[A] servant of Jesus…” he says.

Humility is a lost art. In certain circles my grandfather’s name can take me quite far…and I’ve not been above dropping it from time to time in the right ears. Perhaps I should take a note from Jude.

Nothing Doing

Posted: June 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

I’ve discovered something. It is impossible for me to write at home when my wife is out of town.

My beloved went to visit family and watch her baby brother and sister graduate from high school. I’m manning the fort with the five oldest. Every five to ten minutes I’m interrupted to change a diaper, refill a cup, help with school work, or just to be shown a sleeping Furby by an excited toddler. It’s cute and all…but I’m not getting any writing done. Not here, not for my clients.

Woops, I hear the pitter patter of little feet approaching my room. Guess I better log off.

Rules of Conversation

Posted: June 10, 2015 in Life
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The following is a modernization/paraphrase of Rules of Conversation from Some Fruits of Solitude by William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) with some reflections following.

Don’t be a social butterfly. Avoid company where it is not profitable or necessary. When you are out with people, don’t speak too much. Listen a lot, speak little.

In silence there is wisdom. Running your mouth off is foolish and can get you into all sorts of trouble. Silence is always safe.

Some are so foolish as to interrupt and think they know what someone is going to say instead of listening and thinking before they speak. This is both rude and shows a lack of common sense.

If you think twice and speak once, you will speak twice the better for it.

It is better to say nothing than to say something which has no purpose. To speak pertinently, consider both what is relevant and appropriate to say.

In all debates, let truth be your aim, not victory, or an unjust rewards. Strive for truth, and to learn, not just to defeat your opponent.

Don’t seek arguments nor let your temper get the better of you.

If your position turns out to be wrong, don’t be so pig-headed as to stick to your argument no matter what. And don’t use wit or charm to derail the conversation from the facts. Don’t try to provoke your opponent either or argue simply do show people up. Remember, the purpose of all debate should be to inform, or inform others: to suss out the Truth.

People are too prone to be concerned for their own reputation than for the truth.

Reflections
There is no way I could count how many times I’ve heard someone say something like, “You have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk.” Clichés like this become clichés because they’re often true. I’m also reminded of the builder’s adage, “Measure twice, cut once.” I know I’ve gotten myself into trouble several times by failing to follow that advice.

I’ve made horrible mistakes in life by not following Mr. Penn’s Rules of Conversation. I’ve learned painful lessons about listening more, and speaking less (and still I err in this). I’ve lost friends through argument, but gained several through listening. Conceding the point is so very difficult, but when we humbly admit where we are in error, people are more likely to consider our words when we have the right of a matter.

The Art of Manliness has a great post on conversation and avoiding what they call Conversational Narcissism.

In short, my takeaway here is to increase my awareness of listening more and to be gentle in conversation.

Out on Visitation

Posted: June 9, 2015 in Life
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Now, for a rambling post with practically no point:

A pastor friend of mine joked about naming his motorcycle “Visitation”. You know, I think I like that.

“Sorry, no I can’t meet tomorrow. I’m out on Visitation.”

My Visitation needs a new battery though. It’s a heart breaking thing when the day is beautiful and you go to get on your bike…and it won’t start. “She’s dead, Jim.”

She needs a transplant. For my next trick I’m going to predict the future: “I foresee a journey to the parts store in my future.”

Riding in Colorado in the Spring and Summer is awesome. The snow is gone (though I love snow), the roads are (mostly) clear. You can either ride through the eastern farmland and let the throttle unwind or choose mountain vistas and take a leisurely, winding trip. In the afternoon when the squalls come through you find a nice little bolt-hole (tavern, restaurant, coffee shop) to relax and let it blow over. Though the past couple weeks have been the exception they usually blow over in a short time. Then you hit the road again accompanied by the scent of freshly fallen rain.

SOAP: 1 Samuel 29:1 – 30:15

Scripture
And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6 ESV)

Observation
David and his men had been put through the ringer. Living at the behest of King Achish of Gath in the city of Ziklag, David was expected to join his liege in the Philistine attack on Israel. David had been living a lie, raiding the Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites but telling Achish he’d been raiding Judean towns. In reality he was protecting these towns he was supposedly raiding. I’m sure as he and his men joined Achish to attach Israel he was praying for God to intervene. And God did. While Achish was completely fooled by David, the other Philistine kings were not happy about having the Hero of Israel, David who had slain his ten thousands, at their rear. They compelled Achish to send David back. David argued to keep up appearances, but “reluctantly” returned home.

One can imagine the great sense of relief which must have washed over David and his men on being sent back and not having to fight with the Philistines against their own people. One can almost hear the joy and elation, the sounds of praise and cheer which must have accompanied these men on their journey home. And then it was suddenly dashed. Joy was turned to mourning. Good feelings gone.

Upon returning to Ziklag they discovered that it had been sacked by the Amalekites. Their property had been stolen, their families taken captive.

And the people blamed David. In their distress they were ready to stone their lord, the Hero of Israel.

Scripture records that David was “greatly distressed”. Well who wouldn’t be. He’s been bankrupted. All he owns has been stolen. His very family has been enslaved. Then to add insult to injury, his people blame him and want to kill him.

David’s response is interesting. “But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” When his world had fallen apart and all was lost, David turned to God. He felt distress, or great distress as scripture says, but he was not controlled or defined by his circumstances. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:12b, “… I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”

Our strength fails, but God never does. We grow weary, but God is never tired. We become discouraged, but God is Sovereign. Again we are promised in scripture that “…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV). Not that all things are good or pleasant or easy, but that for those who love God (notice the qualifier) and are called according to his purpose, they will work out for our good, and I dare add, for His glory.

Application
Focus. In Matthew 14 Peter walks on water. As long as his gaze, his focus, was on Christ he was able to do the impossible. The storm still raged but it affected not his ability to stand on aqua liquida as if it were terra firma. Until…he took his eyes off of Christ and focused instead on the storm.

The storms in my life are great and cover all major areas of my life: my relationship with God, my family, my ministry, my employment, my health. There is no area untouched by the storm at present. Where will I look?

Salvation from even these light momentary afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) comes only from God via His Son, Jesus Christ.

Prayer
I lift my eyes up to the hills just outside my window. Does my help come from there? No. Not from the high places. Not from nature. Not from man.

My help comes from You, Oh my LORD, who made heaven and earth. Sovereign God, without variation or shifting shadow, from whom every good and perfect gift comes.

I am the desperate father crying out “I believe, help thou my unbelief!” I am undone. Pick me up and carry me through, oh my redeemer and provider.

Reparation

Posted: May 29, 2015 in Life
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The following is a modernization/paraphrase of Reparation from Some Fruits of Solitude by William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) with some reflections following.

If you have hurt someone in any way, don’t try to defend your actions: Own up to it! If you do so, you have the chance of gaining forgiveness. Becoming defensive only doubles the wrong and the consequences to yourself.

Some set honor opposite to submission. Put another way, they equate humility with humiliation. But it is hardly honorable to stick to your guns when the initial act was itself dishonorable.

On the other hand, to confess a fault that is, in fact, no fault at all out of fear of how people will perceive you is weakness and should be beneath you. But obstinately defending a real fault is brutish.

We should be quicker to help others than we are to hurt them. If wronged by another, instead of being vindictive, we should leave them to their own misery and internal judgment.

True honor will lead one to repay more than the cost of damages rather than try to justify one wrong with yet another on top of it.

Fear and greed are both great perverters of the human soul. Where either prevail, justice is violated.

Reflections
Two events are seared into my memory. They taught me the importance of owning up to my own errors. The first was blaming my little sister for something I did. I can still hear her crying as she took the punishment for my sin. I’ve long since confessed this to her and my mother (neither of whom remembered the event) but it haunts me to this day. The second event was during my senior year of high school. I sent an anonymous letter to the district on an issue which had me upset. The fallout from that letter adversely affected people I cared about. With my father’s help I screwed up the courage to meet with the superintendent and principal and confess to the authorship of the letter. I don’t remember the exact details of the conversations but the result was that wrongs were righted, the innocent were acquitted, and (strangest of all outcomes) my own reputation improved. I finished the year with a strong relationship with school administration and was invited back to speak to groups of students on a couple occasions.

I wish I could say that since then I’ve always owned my part in a conflict. Alas, I am human and still learning (and relearning) how to be a good one (or at least a better one than I was yesterday). But I can attest that where I have realized my error and confessed it to the one wronged, that things have largely gone smoother for me.