Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Tea Lights



My four-year-olds like to play a game with a bunch of fake tealight candles that light up and artificially flicker in a dim yellow orange. They take turns hiding and finding them throughout the house. They missed one tucked loosely between the cushions of the guest room sofa. On my way to bed, it caught my eye and mind alike with that cliche significance of an unexpected light in the dark, a last coal that comes to ephemeral life alone in the ash long after the fire, solitary headlights traveling high on a distant, mountain road, the moon surprising you as you pass the hill that let it rise without notice.

Is that you? Home is coming. Standing in the middle of an unsearchable reality with any sense of place in it is what makes philosophy and faith a measure of sanity. The animals have neither and we would certainly be judged insane to act like them. The coyotes howl and the river rumbles by in the dark. The sirens blare and the traffic hums along under the street lights. I've found God both places, nature ruled and ruling, at least on the surface. All rivers run to the ocean but it's never full. All roads lead to Rome but I've never been there. Come soon Lord. I feel strange here.


Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Gotcha Question

When Lauren Daigle recently "flunked" the gotcha question of whether homosexuality is sin, I was as disappointed with her evasive answer as any right wing zealot. We like quick, clear answers (and judgments) and we rain rocks on anyone who seems to have fallen out of line. But I talked to my Friend of Highest Regard who slowed me down a bit when he pointed to his own habit of evasive and vexing answers.


Let's start with the account of the woman caught in adultery, a close parallel to the homosexual sin question. The Pharisees asked the gotcha question, "The law says stone her. What do you say?" Christ - who in fact clarified that he was here to fulfill the law they were citing - responds by stooping to write on the ground before famously turning the moral question against the accusers, "Whichever of you is sinless throw the first stone." The extent of him calling out her sin was to privately release her with the instruction, "leave your life of sin." I'm left thinking a good trick answer would be, "Is Christ our judge?"

Sometimes, Jesus didn't even give a straight answer to close friends. In fear for his life and apparent doubt about how he had spent it, John the Baptist asked Jesus if he was the Messiah. Is there any more critical question to give a straight answer on? Jesus only answered that the evidence indicated he was, the same sort of maddening answer he gave Pilot for the question, "Are you king of the Jews?" Likewise, Christians the world over wish that, at least once, Jesus had said the words, "I am God." But we're limited to stating it as an obvious conclusion, I suspect by his own design.

Only in reference to Sodom did Christ more directly address homosexuality (one of Sodom's blatant offenses) and it wasn't to condemn it. It was to say even that's better than those who reject his kingdom. Boy, does that create some strange angles! Scriptures says I have enough sin of my own to worry about first. It also says Judge Jesus is currently exercising a lot of patience with the world before he lowers the final hammer. Besides that, I think me trying to judge Lauren's situation from the comfort of my anonymity is like a kid who thinks he's ready for the pros because he can dunk on a six foot rim. I'm not saying we shouldn't call sin, "sin". I'm just saying you might want to save your throwing arm for that stuffed animal at the carny booth.

Monday, December 3, 2018

I Thought You Were Smart

I love the look on a friends face when they first find out I'm a young earth creationist. Despite any prior regard for my intelligence, their recoil says, "Oh no! I didn't realize you hadn't evolved a brain yet!" To be fair, I know that we creationists can be quick to think less of those who disagree with us as well. It's a human trait that carries through all matters of faith, politics and life in general.



For either side (of any issue) it's reassuring to think of our opponents as idiots. That's much less intimidating than knowing someone intelligent disagrees with us. And what if we're wrong?! That's a favorite way for Christians to dodge the issue of validating their faith anyway, right? We ask, "What if I'm wrong?" insinuating a less grievous consequence than "What if you're wrong?" and you're hell fodder. It's an easy way out but it's one Christ and the apostles never took. Instead, their appeal was steadfastly attached to the validity of what they had seen and touched for themselves.

Still, no matter how reasonable our convictions about the unobservable past, they're still just faith. But faith is no small thing to Christ who simply said he was the truth and humbly offered what he expected us to accept as proof. In our time, anyone trying to answer the question of our origins is looking further back than we can see with our own eyes. Even Christ acknowledged the hurdle that creates. For that alone, I hope all sides exercise an extra measure of humility and truthfulness in deciding what ideas best align with the things we can see and touch for ourselves. And if you don't share my view on that, I can't respect your opinion, you pathetic little amoeba brain. To which you say, "Takes one to know one." I always knew we were equals.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A Marginal Post



I looked up the word "churchianity" after I went to the morning service Thanksgiving weekend (feel free to read into that) and I found its usage recorded as early as 1789. This post already feels less original. I'm changing topics.

While I was looking up churchianity, I noticed that the same uninteresting bike I had researched a couple weeks ago was still appearing in the sidebar advertisements as I browsed the net. So I did some electronic window shopping and, presto, my sidebar is now full of Legos, ceramic skillets and high end mountain bikes. Hope my wife’s not reading this.

The spiritual world is like those advertisements. Seek the truth and it seeks you. Seek delusions and they do the same in very believable packages with lots of good reviews. Our lives are a profound interest to the creatures of that realm and the God who made it. And they're paying close attention to our interests, eager to provide matching material. It's a world with its own consumer algorithms, clique baits and viruses but it's also a world of priceless and practical knowledge for those who check their sources and approach the margins with caution. Happy holiday shopping!

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Garage Full of Faith

I have the privilege of moving my family to a property in Camp Verde that we all love; so much so that we're mentally already living there (now you know my most recent excuse for being spaced out). Our current home exists only as daily comparison to what we are looking forward to. I know that eventually any new home becomes just another place with its own issues. But right now it enjoys the fantasy status of happily ever after.

I do have one immediate complaint but I have to qualify it as only being possible because of the blessed life my "complaints" are part of. That said, living in limbo for the three weeks until our new home is available is both minimal and inconvenient. I know. Poor James, right? Most of our things are already packed which leads to lots of, "Do you remember what box ___ is in?"
"No. Maybe at the very bottom of that box mountain."
"Oh. Hmmm," we answer realizing the odds of finding it don't exist and the odds of getting it repacked correctly are even lower. "I guess I can eat my cold cereal with a plastic fork and cup."


It strikes me how straight forward the analogy is between looking forward to a better home here and looking forward to Christ's kingdom. It also strikes me how distant the kingdom can stay in our minds even though it's the eminent destination for all believers. That's not an encouragement to quarrel about who the "real" believers are. It's an encouragement to live with the kingdom in view like it's your next change of address. To stretch the metaphor a little further, if you're serious about where you're headed, you will likely find yourself living out of boxes that you can't really unpack until you land there.

Feeling a little crazy and homeless are likely as well. I don't actually have a new home until the deal closes but my garage is already full of packed boxes. What if it falls through?! I'm a long ways from "name it and claim it" theology but when my dad told me over the phone to have faith that God was bringing something better, I quipped, "I have a whole garage full of faith!" The Kingdom often seems like that. You know it's real but, if you're still alive, the deals not closed yet. If that rings true, let the good things you've glimpsed but still only dream of owning spur your interest ever deeper into Christ's promises where faith (love followed by action) is the currency of a new world beyond all we can ask or imagine. Until then, you can find me in in Camp Verde.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Accidentally on Purpose

Parents know the difference between a fake cry and a real one. Fake being that tone that says, "I'm not getting enough attention for falling down accidentally on purpose" and real being that cringe-worthy alarm that says, "My head just bounced off the floor hard enough that I can't see straight to run for help." Parents also know the difference between a glance that says, "Oh crap! I just remembered I shouldn't be running past the angle iron bar table" and one that says, "I know you said 'no' but, if the dog doesn't mind, why can't I keep choking him like a stuffed animal?"


The emotional fraud and brazen testing are laughable when we're young enough to be "innocent." They're less amusing when we're old enough to be the parent and still crying, "God's not pandering enough for me to get off my emotional ass" or ranting, "How could God let my dog (a.k.a. career, marriage, etc) die when I choked it to death?" But even as adults, God is still as far above us (infinitely farther, actually) as we are above a child who thinks they're more clever or persuasive than they really are. And I'm thankful for his parental sense of humor. "Have I been with you so long," he groans through a hidden laugh and repeats the lesson one more time. "You're not as smart or big as you think. But it's okay. I'm still your Dad and I haven't choked you to death, yet."

I love that childlike elation when you realize your parent isn't actually going to kill you, that time(s) when the police handed your young, fully exposed butt back to your dad and he didn't flog it, or the time when you lied that unflogged butt off about finding some yard weeds that made the backyard tent smell just like a joint when you smoked them and Dad just laughed and went back in the house. Just remember, it doesn't stay funny forever. Or as Dad says smiling with his hands gently around your neck, "Why die before your time?"


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Undisturbed

It's the season when my doors and windows are opened to the cool outdoors before my wood stove has reduced its first batch of fuel to large, glowing embers. My cat, Romeow, has snuck in through one of those openings and staked his usual position on the small rug in front of the stove door, that coveted, glass portal that fills my living room with visual and radiant warmth without the toxic air of combustion. Romeow will not be moved. Truth be told, I don't have the heart to move him, and the dog is too scared to do it. Romeow knows this.

The flames have died. It's still just a little too cool outside to go without fire and I'm not about to close the windows. I kneel in front of the stove with Romeow undisturbed in the small gap between my shin and the floor, my toes flexed straight against it to make just enough room for him. He's still purring. I choose another large piece of wood from the rack beside me and contort to get it into the stove without disturbing him. He doesn't even raise his head from between my knees. There are so many ways I could squash him like a bug. "I hope you appreciate this," I pause to scold him. He meows a halfhearted acknowledgment without moving. I finish and return to the window to enjoy the breeze. The breeze. That's what we call it in my neighborhood when a carefully cracked window throttles down the perpetual blast outside to something slightly less than a hurricane. This is another reason Romeow likes the (his) rug.


Do you see it yet? Some days, you and I are Remeow and God is the one trimming the fire and cracking the windows in his (my) house. So what that I snuck in. From his own experience as one of us, he has a soft spot that lets us indulge in undisturbed comfort sometimes, even while he contorts to work around us. He takes a trusting purr or halfhearted meow as reason enough to let us stay for a while. But the weather is warming. Soon there will be no reason to allow laziness in front of the stove. And soon you will be shedding, profusely. And that's something you will have to do outside where a good bout of rolling in the stiff, brown grass will remind you how invigorating it is to shed the old and give the spring wind something else to blow away.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Mental Myopia

I love watching winter happen on the other side of a large, sunny, coffee-shop window. As the deliciously warm caffeine started affecting my brain, I looked across the table at my brother who was talking about something less interesting than my own thoughts as I wondered what he looks like without glasses. Then I thought, "What if he were thinking the same thing about me?" And then, "What if we both took our glasses off to see each other and then neither one of us could see the other?" Then I smiled with very poor timing in relationship to what he was saying and betrayed my inattention. Then I said... never mind. It wasn't that interesting.

Humanity is Myopic. No telescope or microscope ever sees far enough to quench our interest in seeing further. We also can't see as far or as clearly into the past or future as we would like. Every evolutionist and creationist would love to have the time-lapsed, prehistoric surveillance video that shows things happening just as they say. And then they would love to fast-forward that video into the future at least far enough to beat the stock market and rule the world with the iron fist of empirical truth. No. Wait. I think I got my groups confused.


Anyway, as the empirical ruler of this blog, I'll use my bully pulpit to bludgeon all five of my readers with the magnifying lens of scripture and you can judge for yourselves whether it's in focus or just lighting a philosophical anthill on fire. As far as we can see in any direction, "his eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen" and that's the only thing getting clearer as science extends our vision. We're discovering an ever more complex universe that's already beyond our ability to understand it, or even see it. Not strange to those who already know "his paths are beyond tracing out." That should temper your expectations but not dampen your interest.

Sometimes I run without my glasses and enjoy how the world sparkles in the sunlight when things are a little fuzzy. Sometimes I trip on rocks, too, and curse my crappy vision when I'm not paying good enough attention to my limits. Being myopic isn't all bad and you can't avoid it anyway. So don't be afraid to enjoy that fuzzy sparkle past where we can see clearly. And don't overlook what is clear.  If you can't see God when he's close enough to focus on, he's the stone you'll trip on every time. Now I should go apologize to my brother for telling him he looks better when I'm not wearing my glasses.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Et Tu Lady Macbeth?

"Come, you spirits. Make thick my blood; Stop up the access and passage to remorse, that no compunctious visitings of nature shake my fell purpose!" - Lady Macbeth from Shakespeare's Macbeth.

You're on your own to figure out what compunctious means. Could be another one of those words Shakespeare made up to say what there wasn't a word for yet. What I do know is it's more than fun listening to my sweet-hearted daughter trying to embrace her evil side well enough to deliver such a soul chilling line in this year's Shakespeare co-op. This morning, I caught her on the couch with that distant, nearly teary thoughtfulness in her eyes and I stopped to ask where her mind was at.
"I was just thinking about how God gave us the knowledge of good and evil."

Not exactly what I was ready for.

She continued, "It's good to know Him with the knowledge of both so that good means something."

Since I couldn't keep up with intellectual rigor of the conversation, I did the fatherly thing and said, "I'm proud of you" and walked away before it became obvious I was out of my league.


I felt my feet come back underneath me a little later as she was struggling to give into her dark side for Lady Macbeth. Now this I can help with!
"Remember that time when you where really angry at your brothers for calling you a name?"

"Yes."

"How did you feel?"

"Angry," she answered patiently wondering how I could say she felt angry and then ask how she felt in nearly the same breath.

"Did you have any thoughts of wanting to do something to them?"

Can't you just picture Satan wearing my skin and masquerading as a real dad right now? With a slightly evil edge to her sweet-hearted laugh she slid her pointer finger across her throat with the sound effect of a juicy cut and finished with the necessary tongue hanging out of the mouth and to the side.

"Now you're Lady Macbeth," I said and her smile broadened.

Before you worry about me creating a junior sociopath, my wife and I encouraged her take the role against her objections by focusing on the good character that the play promotes through the victory of prince Malcolm in the end. The greater the bad guy, the greater the good guy who beats them, right? And there it is again, "It's good to know Him with the knowledge of both so that good means something."

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Ring Box


“I hate this shelf,” the ring box said, “this dark and lonely place.”
As once again the door slid shut that sealed his daily fate;
It opened oft but never long and mirrors glimpsed above
To accent lights and window glass that showed the treasures off.


But, yet again the door would shut and yet again the dark.
But yet again a jealous soul and yet another mark
Upon a box already black, another mark unseen
Another foolish hope to mourn, another shuttered dream.


“What luck,” he quipped in bitterness “to be the box beneath.
I curse the mirror on the wall whose glimpses that I see
Of treasures I will never hold and lights that never bathe
A lowly box, an empty soul, a shadow yet to fade.


“Is something wrong?” the ring would doubt herself more every day.
“A million eyes have stared and yet a million looked away.”
A few would ask and fewer still would ask to see her close
So that the fear of even being known began to grow.


“What flaws must rest within my gems. What dross within my gold.
What warmth there is upon a hand to make my place feel cold.
My place beside these gems and rings that hands have whisked away
With smiles beaming brightly as the lights of my display.


How foolish I should hope that there is yet a hand for me
Or even that, upon one, it would care that I am seen.
Invisible in plainest sight, this light and lonely place,
Relentlessly exposing what I must so lack in grace.”


Then came the most discerning eye that longest on her stayed,
That made her wish for dimmer lights perhaps her flaws to fade.
Away from such a cold embrace, such calculated stare,
A piercing focus seeing past the surface and the glare.


Then out she came before the eye that withered all her pride,
That scrutinized her every cut from every single side.
“Yes. It will do,” the critic spoke with tone that matched the eyes.
A price was paid. A box was pulled. The ring was put inside.


“I can’t believe it!” cried the box. “Not only am I free
But how long I have loved that ring they placed inside of me.
How many fools have passed her by but better has that been
That I of all the boxes hold her beauty here within.”


And safe she finally felt when hidden in that velvet shell.
That steely case where darkness hid the flaws she knew too well,
That shelter from the storm outside that every threat be quelled,
That shield securely fit around the band so few had held.


And jubilant the box now felt to travel in the light,
Renewed of heart and purpose with his treasure safe inside.
What things he saw along the way! What grandeur they did pass!
How marvelous his prize must be! How far above his class!


The nicks and dings he gathered on the way, he proudly bore,
The injuries he’d taken on behalf of what was stored
Within his care until they reached the place where she was meant
To be revealed as worth the price that on her had been spent.


She bid him, “Please! Don’t open up to such discerning eyes!”
He bid her, “Know you not that you have not a flaw to hide?”
She bid him, “How can you be sure of what those eyes have planned?”
He bid her, “There’s a crown upon the head above this hand.”


“A crown!” she gasped. “You must be wrong. So many passed me by.
So long I cringed beneath the gaze of every critics eye.”
“No imperfection stayed their hands,” the box laughed with surprise.
“It is the King and no one else who could afford your price.”

Friday, January 26, 2018

Missile Defenseless System

After the false alarm in Hawaii, I'm waiting for the guy who looks around when he comes out of his bunker twenty years from now and says, "Wow! Things recovered really fast! Wait... What?!" Yes, I know I recycled that joke but I'm just so proud of it.

But seriously, have you ever been in a situation where sudden death seemed eminent? It's a life changer. Well, it is for at least the hour it takes the adrenaline rush to wear off. I'm gauging that by how long it took me to decide there was nothing better to do than go back out riding after a 40mph van flung me off my bike in Phoenix years ago. I remember the moment when I realized I couldn't get out of the way in time. The instant I realized it, my mind moved on to other things like, "Crap! I was really looking forward to a Filiberto's burrito! I really wanted to get married, too. I can't believe how warm it is tonight!"


The bible says we're waiting for the current heavens and earth to be catastrophically destroyed by fire and replaced with the new and eternal version God has in mind. I also can't wait to see the guy who's in his bunker when that happens. Maybe that's part of the biblical reference to those "escaping through the flames."

But seriously, again, we could really take a lesson from the Hawaii scare. When you're certain your earthly goods are about to burn, depreciation happens fast. The van that hit me happened to have "Jesus saves" smudged with a two-fingered line into the dirt on the rear window. Since the irony is obvious, I'll move on to say the driver wasn't excited that I noticed as the policeman quizzed him about more pressing "ironies". Let's at least correct the one where we say we're living for the Kingdom while we're collecting as much as we can for the fire. It's worth repeating the story that when Rockefeller died, his accountant was asked how much he left. He answered, "All of it."
Put it where it lasts. To the Kingdom.