YOUR PRAYER

My Father, you are in heaven; praise is what I owe you. Praise from my flesh praise from my spirit; bring your kingdom down from heaven. Your physical place so far away from here; we want your will to be done down here on earth like it is in your heaven. But it isn’t. Give all your children bread daily, raise up the cup of living water to their thirsty lips; forgive my errant thoughts, words, and deeds.

Teach me to forgive and to forget the thoughts, the deeds, and the words of others that molest my peace of mind; Lord, lead me through the ancient, innocent mountain paths far away from the valley of sudden temptation. Free me from the evil intent of mortals and immortals; for Your creation is your kingdom, rebel or servant, evil or hero, for you are the source of all power, You are the source of all glory.

Forever and ever and ever on creation exists by the promise of Messiah, His swoon of death to flight of life; eternity’s eyes are lit up by Christ; so be it. Amen. Alleluia. Amen. It is so.

 

I’m Not The Prodigal Son

Every once in a while, a nuance in a song, a movie, or a book will arise from out of the complacency that comes from the expectations built in from the multiple listenings, viewings, and readings to stir something inside me. I almost skipped over the parable of the Prodigal Son this morning. I’ve read it a “million times,” so I get it. I understand. I’ve even been that guy. But it was a long time ago. Since then, I’ve grown as a man and as a Christian.

What struck me this morning was the reaction of the faithful son. In Luke, he doesn’t show up until the end. And he’s mad. OK, he’s pissed. He’s stuck it out. He’s been faithful in all things and wonders why the party isn’t for him. He’s earned it after all. His father’s words “all I have is yours” don’t resonate. “I’m the good one!” he seems to be saying. “I’m the one who has stuck it out and done the right thing! Doesn’t that count for anything?!

I’m not the Prodigal Son, I’m that guy. I’ve done my best to live the “Golden Rule,” you know, love my neighbor as myself, put others feelings and needs ahead of my own. Another bad thing, a small thing, happens, and I’m thinking “not even this can go right (or without a fight) for me?” on many days. I’ve put the work in, where is the party in recognition of my fighting the good fight? I haven’t asked for it, but “where is it?”

Sometimes, I just have to take a deep breath and remember the Father’s words, “all I have is yours,” even when I can’t feel the comfort those words should bring. The other half of the phrase, “you are always with me,” is a reminder of what J has said elsewhere, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Thank you, Lord, for a little perspective as I continue to fight through the enemy occupied territory that lies between myself and the prize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years Pass Faster Than Days

Years pass faster than days as the twilight approaches. An oncoming train, a light at the end of the tunnel, or perhaps the descending Morning Star racing toward the end of the age. I know the Christ once felt age slowly tearing at his temporary home as the moon turned the page possibly bringing on an illicit smile from a certain far spent demon’s face.

Yet the years they no longer race for a Messiah ascended, and I’m left here to consider a life lived and a life attained by a Lord who lived the life, crossed the threshold, and beckoned us to take up the crisscrossed wood with both wrinkled hands, letting the over used watch fall back into the pocket.

 

 

 

Focus

“Beauty is a woman waiting to be ravished by an  attentive man. But my mind, it wanders.”

For whatever reason, that is one of my favorite lines of poetry that I’ve ever written. I guess I felt it to be particularly clever at the time I wrote it. Today, I’m thinking about it in a different way. It’s been a week since I’ve posted on my blog, and I feel like I should write something. Anything. The trouble is, I’m not feeling all that clever or insightful for that matter. I’m unfocused and that leads to my biggest enemy, apathy. Today is in danger of being wasted because I don’t feel like I have anything important to do or say.

*****

The strong winds of spring feel good as they tug on the hair of my arms, and I just want to drift away with them into Elysium. “Years pass faster than days.” I know that on some (most) days, I just have to keep moving. Take a walk. Read the Word. Go to work. Remember to treat others well whether I’m in the mood to or not.

The words of CS Lewis come to mind once again, “everyone we meet we either help send to heaven or help send to hell.” OK, there it is, purpose, something important to focus on even though it won’t get me a book deal or a pat-on-the-back from the world. This day can and should mean something. I can, if I choose, go to bed tonight with the words “well done good and faithful servant” whispered in my ears as I lay down to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Call Of The Morning Bird

“The call of the morning bird at daybreak lets me know winter has given way to spring. Today, I notice for the first time the arrival of color outside my library window. It may have been there for weeks, it may have sprung from limbs just before dawn. It does not matter. Today, the bird called out to me, “Nature has awakened from its slumber. And so should you.”

It finally happened. The Cherry Blossom tree outside my library window began to bud this morning, but not like in the previous six springs before. By now, they should already be a brilliant white, looking like a stunning field of lilies captured on tree limbs. A sight I’d begin to mourn the passing of as the leaves gave way to the more familiar summer green.

Unfortunately, this year the death- like sleep that is the winter hibernation season lingered on too long. Most of the buds that have managed to emerge are a dull red mixed in with the precious few strong enough to reach their early April beauty. What is to become of the rest? Will they limp into the green season or just give up all together?

****

I wrote that about a week ago. The next morning, the day was greeted by the loud buzz of bees swarming the tree. The sound was intense and almost frightening. There was an intentionality that filled the still brisk morning air. This scene was repeated for a couple of days and then the bees were gone just as fast as they had appeared and the tree had blossomed into its full springtime beauty. The bees had come to the rescue, doing one of the things they were created to do, that is to help nature awaken from its slumber.

I know abundant life is out there if I can just get out of the bed of despair that seems too heavy to lift out of on many days lately. Just before the sun begins to rise, the morning birds call out, singing, “the day is going to begin with or without you.” If I can find the resolve, or stubbornness, to rise out of this bed and immerse myself in the Word, even if its just for a short time, then I can find the strength to face the day and even enjoy the beauty awakening all around me.

****

Up until recently, it was certainly a battle to get out of bed and face the tediousness of another day just like the many before that promised me little or nothing in return for my efforts. I can’t say much has changed in my day to day life from a standpoint of economics and opportunities, but I’m feeling a little better about my day to day life.

What’s changed in the last three months? Mindset wise, quite a bit. Writing this blog has had an unexpected consequence, or rather benefit. It has helped my focus. Not just on getting on with my life in the “day to day” experience, although that is a nice part of what is going on here. I’m praying more. I’m thinking more about theology, and as a  result, I’m finding now that I’m able to find rest in Christ more than I have in a long time.

It’s one thing to write a poem or a blog about taking up J’s offer to cast my burdens on Him. It’s quite another thing to actually do it.

I know for myself, that it’s much harder, almost impossible, to rest period when things are not going my way. Especially when nothing seems to be going my way. I’m supposed to go to Christ to receive his rest, but if I’m honest, the reality is that if I’m going to get that rest, he’s going to have to bring it to me. And fortunately, He does.

The beauty of theology, for me anyway, is that I not only learn more about my Creator/Lord/ Father/Friend when I am engaged in it, theology is literally the “study of God” after all, but it also brings me closer to him. That’s an obvious assessment, I know. The bonus is, or extra credit to keep the analogy going for a moment, that I’m spending more time with him. And that’s what our Father desires, communication with his children.

A blog I wrote just a few days ago, touches on CS Lewis’ idea that we were, in a sense, designed to run on God. It’s certainly true that I have more energy and passion not just for Christ but for life in general when I am focused on him. Here, I am coming back to that whole abundant life thing again.

I imagine if I were to have any marching orders for myself today it would be to keep moving forward. Christ encourages us to worry about today and let tomorrow worry about itself. Amazing how Christ’s words and wisdom all tie together. Christ’s calling us to rest in him enables us to let tomorrow be anxious for itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven

For some reason the other day, I thought about a television show I was watching a few years ago while channel surfing. The show featured an interview with actress Natalie Portman. At one point during the interview she pretty much out of the blue stated that she did not believe in a literal heaven and said that it was a crutch for people. I don’t remember the context of what caused her to say that, but I thought it sad that she felt that way. Her statement did get me thinking about what I thought about heaven, however.

Now, I believe in heaven, and I expect to be there someday. What surprised me, though, is that while I believe in a literal heaven, I don’t think about it that much. It certainly isn’t a crutch for me. It’s just one of the many facts of my faith that I take for granted. J said he was going to prepare a place for us, yet I haven’t thought much about it other than to hope it has Hills Bros French Vanilla coffee which, by the way, is no longer available here on Earth.

My favorite quote from my favorite author, CS Lewis, goes something like this, “aim at heaven and you get Earth thrown in. Aim at Earth and you get neither.” I think I’m writing this more for myself than for others. It doesn’t matter to me what heaven will look like when I get there. I’ve been aiming too low. J said the Kingdom of Heaven was near which, in turn means “abundant life” should be as well. I think I just understood a little of what was said somewhere in the New Testament that “the violent take [the Kingdom of Heaven] by force.”

I hope I’m not jumping around too much here. There are moments of joy that come out of nowhere, which sustain me in those more common moments when I feel opposed in life and by circumstances in life. Why can’t I just enjoy something/ anything that is not tainted in some way? Abundant life is constantly under assault, and let’s face it, if we’re honest, it feels like a war a lot of the time. The harder I reach out for joy, the more it feels like something is trying to keep me from it. If there is no heaven then why is it being opposed so strongly? And abundant life, why don’t I fight harder for it? Especially when those unexplained moments of joy seem to be telling me, “this should be the norm not the exception.”

 

****

 

I’ve been avoiding this one. It feels too big. How can I expound on subjects like “the Kingdom of Heaven” when the more I read about it and study Christ’s descriptions (or analogies, see the parables in the Gospel of Matthew in particular), the more complex I find it to be. The Kingdom of Heaven is at the very least an immense, powerful, fearful, and desirable place that deserves my attention, and maybe even preoccupation.

In this blog, however, the consideration of the very real fact of a heaven I hadn’t (haven’t) thought enough about, gave way to a more immediate desire of mine, something

Christ refers to as abundant life. I admit, I’ve been avoiding this one, too. It feels too big to tackle in an afternoon at a coffeehouse, perhaps because it is, and also there’s this nagging feeling that I can’t write about abundant life with any degree of certainty, let alone expertise, if I’m not experiencing it at the moment.

Fortunately for me, I’m reminded this quite unusually rainy July afternoon, that I don’t have to figure it out today. Maybe there is nothing to figure out at all. Abundant life isn’t a destination, but it is a part of the journey. At the least, it’s not a place I can realistically expect to land and never depart from or a country from which I can never be expelled. It isn’t a state of mind, either. I can’t close my eyes and pretend that I have it or kid myself into believing it will never leave the next time I’m blessed to have the experience.

I don’t need to remind myself of this today, especially since I’m feeling a little better about things than I was yesterday. I’m not foolish enough to confuse this current feeling of peace, if not joy, with the attainment of that elusive abundant life. This joy is here today to remind me that there is something that while it feels unattainable, is still worth fighting for everyday.

God does give me, through the Holy Spirit, what I call those moments of “joy out of nowhere” that help me through the day to day trials of an often mundane existence. I know how to react to these moments, as gifts for which to be both grateful and thankful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23

Hate, Part 2

15

I’m thinking now about the really great, loud thunderstorms that I used to watch and listen to when I was growing up in eastern Kansas. You could literally feel the thunder at the most exciting moments. I missed them this morning and as if God were reminding me he was there, a few distant rumbles managed their way through the walls and windows of my house. I liked it. It’s spring, and I want my windy rain storms and the noisy rumblings overhead of angels bowling somewhere up above the clouds. That’s what spring weather should be like, it doesn’t depress me, these endless cloudy London- like rainy days. I want them. I want summers to be hot and sunny. I want snow in the winter, and I want to find myself swarmed by the red, brown, and yellow leaves of fall as they well, fall all around me. I want things the way they’re supposed to be.

We all, however, want to be unique, including me. We want to be rebels, which, of course, will make us unique. But we want things to be “how they’re supposed to be” anyway. If we work hard and treat others well then we should reap our rewards. That’s how things are supposed to be. We are told, mostly by non- Christians, that the Christian life is easy/breezy. No worries here. God will take care of all our earthly needs and give us the desires of our hearts (like financial well being, a wonderful spouse, and so on) once we choose to follow our Savior.

Yet, there is that real life that we wake up to even on the good days. We feel opposed. We’re doing the best we can but Karma doesn’t seem to be holding up to its end of the bargain. A walk through J’s words in John chapter 15 are sobering even while offering us hope– in the future. “Sudden war is upon us whether we wish it or no.”

It doesn’t feel right let alone fair. We have to fight for everything non- believers do in life plus deal with the expectations of our Christian walk from both believers and skeptics. And then there is the matter of our own expectations of that walk. It’s a war out there and evil will fight us even if we don’t fight back. Christianity is a war. One we fight on our knees in prayer and one we fight in the way we handle those things that oppose us and our faith.

 

****

 

OK, what the heck am I doing here? This blog is supposed to be about the war we face as Christians as it has and continues to affect my life. Global theology aside, upon closer inspection, my life not only feels but looks like a war. I mean, I definitely feel opposed. What I need right now is focus. My right to abundant life, or some semblance of what I seem to believe that it should look like is being opposed. It may sound a little dramatic to put it in those terms but Christ promised me abundant life and I want it.

I’ve felt the presence of that abundant life in what I’ve called elsewhere moments of “joy out of nowhere.” A joy that can only come with feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit when I’m not expecting it. Something is actively trying to keep me from that life. I can choose to give up and pretend it’s all a dream, but I can’t because I have had personal experiences that tells me that kind of life does exist.

Or I can choose to ignore evil but evil will not ignore me. I can pretend it doesn’t exist but my experience and the world all around me tells me otherwise. Or I can choose not to fight that evil but it will fight me anyway. Experience has taught me that as well. I choose to fight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, It’s Monday

11

 

Well, It’s Monday

 

As I look out the cafe window, studying the March clouds, I’m reminded that clouds do look different during the spring season than in the summer storm season, than in the breezy fall season, than in the quiet snow of winter. Mid- March clouds have that look of “we may dump rain on you, or we may not. . . but probably will” look about them. The spring winds, though, always remind me of J explaining to Nicodemus that the wind will blow where it will, not telling us where it came from or where it intends to go, much like the movement of the Holy Spirit in and around our lives. Sometimes we feel the presence of God, oftentimes we don’t.

The March wind comes and goes, sometimes violently bending the still unclothed limbs, and we feel it. Maybe the fact that Easter is approaching makes me think about God in the wind. It’s almost like the warmer weather is being forced on us, or the kingdom of God is coming and must be dealt with. So, how do I tie this in with the theme of today’s blog?

Christ has entered the city for one final Passover. Change is coming. The Man who brought a message of love is about to be brutally murdered because some religious leaders couldn’t deal with who he really is, the Son of God.

Meanwhile, the air is light and breezy, it feels good on skin covered by coats and jackets all winter long. Spring is about to come again. Dead seeds fallen to the ground will rise from the earth again to feed the hungry. They had to die in order to realize their destiny, their purpose.

It bothers us. We want the love, we want the peace that comes with that love, but not the cost, even if we don’t have to pay it. Love has to die. There seems to be no way around it. “Something is coming and you can’t stop it,” the wind seems to say with greater force each new day as spring approaches.

 

 

****

 

I need to take a deep breath for a minute. One of the nuances of my blog is to begin with a thought and do a quick reflection on it, which is why I limit myself, generally, to 500 words. I want to get in and out quickly without belaboring or over thinking an idea. And let’s face it, there’s something cool about having that “eureka!” moment. Look at what I just discovered! Wow! The problem is that for the idea to stick, I need to reflect on that thought and what it can ultimately reveal to me.

God shows me something new, or gets me to look at something a little deeper or in a different light, and I get a sudden caffeine like rush. Happens to me in church all the time, but I’ve usually forgotten it by the time I get in my car and turn on the ignition. “Man, I’ve never thought about that before! Wait a minute. What was I thinking about? Oh, darn, the radio is playing a cool song.”

That’s why I’m revisiting this blog (and the ones to follow), it feels like God wants me to go deeper with this idea. Reflecting on the death and life of Christ is an easy thing, and dare I say it, a pleasant thing on the windy days that follow all the snow, ice, and slumber. But it was just a moment, how often (other than Sunday mornings) have I really reflected on the death and life of my savior? I’m supposed to die everyday after all. Of course, dying everyday takes a conscience effort from the moment I wake up. When I wake up, all I’m thinking about is which coffeehouse house to go to this time.

Right now, I’m going to think about it. There are three things this blog is trying to get me to think about: God is love, love is opposed, and that love had to go away to send us comfort. I don’t need, at this moment, to rush off and reread the pertinent chapters (1 Corinthians 13, 1 Peter 5, John 15) again. I need to reflect on them. No, that’s not quite right either, they need to sink in on a soul level. God is love and there is an active evil trying to keep me from that love, or at the very least, keep me from feeling that love, or worse yet, get me to believe that its gone. Maybe that is why the Holy Spirit is called Comforter by J. Comfort is desperately needed in the midst of a seemingly unending opposition to love. It’s not only a war out there, it’s a war right here in my heart and it’s not ending anytime soon.

“I’ve felt the presence of that abundant life in what I’ve called elsewhere moments of ‘joy out of nowhere.’ A joy that can only come with feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit when I’m not expecting it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

15

 

Hate, Part 2

a sort of random prologue to whatever comes next

A few years back, I was sitting in a familiar coffee house talking with a friend of mine when the conversation went from art, faith, and friends to the struggles we were facing. I don’t remember most of the conversation, it was a few years ago after all, but I remember us talking about the uneasy feeling of being caught in the middle of a dark forest. We weren’t “missing the forest for the trees,” we were all too aware of the trees crowding in and around our lives, call them “the cares of the world” if you like, and our being tempted to run through the forest to try and out run or escape them. If that makes any sense.

Here I am, a few years later, sitting in a booth at the same coffee house in the expanded section. In a receding economy, my favorite haunt has figured it out. It has not only survived the storm, it has thrived. The continual buzz of coffee drinkers and organic salad eaters is the soundtrack of success and busyness. I’m happy for them, though I do miss the library feel it used to convey to those few who first discovered “the little coffeehouse that would.”

What am I trying to do here? I’m not quite sure yet. Frustrated with the modern state of poetry, I set it aside over a year ago. Frustrated by the many factors that have contributed to a lack of opportunities for my books and screenplays, I quit writing all together. I’m not an Art-for- Art’s sake kind of guy. So, what am I trying to do here? I can’t keep up with journals. My autobiography doesn’t interest me. Yet, there seems to be a story in here somewhere.

It’s not like I haven’t tried. I wrote a pilot for a television series I titled “What It’s Like To Die” as a sort of comical autobiography of my life but it took on a life of its own despite the real life references to my experiences as a frustrated would be professional writer. I have started a legitimate autobiography, whatever that means, a few times that I want to call “I Am Daffy Duck” with little luck. I like the premise, though. Daffy is the quintessential “other guy.” You know who I mean. You always hear people say things like “I love Bugs Bunny! And also Daffy.” Or, “Taz, Marvin the Martian, the Tasmanian Devil, etc is my favorite, oh, and I like Daffy, too.” That’s what happens when you’re the nice guy. Everyone’s glad you’re around but you’re not the one they’re seeking out at the party, as it were.

Still, while I want the t- shirt, I’m not concerned with that as an overarching theme or issue. I’m stuck in this forest, and I want out. And the more I run, the deeper in I seem to find myself. Maybe that’s why I started writing my blog titled “Christianity Is A War.” I will say, it was kind of exciting, or at least a little intriguing, to start a blog with a potentially controversial title without knowing where this was going to lead.

So, I sketched out a feeble, poorly written explanation of what the blog was going to be about and began to write. I did know, that as a Christian, this would not be an anti-  Christian blog. Obviously. And it would not be pro- war, either. It ended up being what I should have expected it to be, musings on what was on my heart at that particular moment, how my faith infused how I approached and reacted to it, and whatever insight I thought came from the experience. Pretty much what I tried to do with my poems, stories, and songs.

So, here I am, outside my blog trying to figure out what I’m doing here. And come to think of it, you may be wondering the same thing about yourself. What in the world are we doing here? I mean, besides looking, straining for the good life, whatever we happen to think that is at any given point in our stories. Let’s start with what we do know about life; it’s a journey, and every journey has a story. There it is, a story to tell. Now we’re back in my territory, or comfort zone, you might say.

Where to begin? I was born into a pretty typical American family and led a pretty typical Middle Class American early life. Yeah, that as a story doesn’t interest me either, even though I’m grateful for it. I could use the Daffy Duck metaphor to spice things up a little bit but then this would be little more than an autobiography at best or a low budget comedy at worst.

It does get a bit more interesting in my early twenties as I began my studies at Kansas University. Not just because attending KU was such a great experience but because it was also during this time that I made an adult decision to follow Christ, or “J” as I oftentimes refer to him in my blogs (see the appendix, “J’s Coming: Look Busy” at the back of the book for an explanation).

My decision launched the happiest decade, I mean years, of my life. The next four years were a time filled with a new found innocence and grace that allowed me to grow into a more mature man with a much sunnier outlook on life.

Those days ended eventually, of course, worn away as real life and daily decisions began to form my adult life. Thus, the happy, grace filled life was replaced with bad decisions and the ensuing consequences. Maybe there’s a movie in there somewhere but no decisive ending (as of yet). The journey, with all its bumps, bruises, and moments of comic relief continued and continues.

The blogs in this collection are presented in the order they were written. You will see early on that I was borderline obsessed with finding “abundant life” in the midst of trying to find a full time job and reconcile what had happened to me. These blogs represent the process of walking through what felt like what King David calls “the valley of the shadow of death” and emerging from a place of bitterness and despair to a place of “peace which surpasses our understanding,” which can only come from fellowship with Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hate, Part 2

I’m thinking now about the really great, loud thunderstorms that I used to watch and listen to when I was growing up in eastern Kansas. You could literally feel the thunder at the most exciting moments. I missed them this morning and as if God were reminding me he was there, a few distant rumbles managed their way through the walls and windows of my house. I liked it. It’s spring, and I want my windy rain storms and the noisy rumblings overhead of angels bowling somewhere up above the clouds. That’s what spring weather should be like, it doesn’t depress me, these endless cloudy London- like rainy days. I want them. I want summers to be hot and sunny. I want snow in the winter, and I want to find myself swarmed by the red, brown, and yellow leaves of fall as they well, fall all around me. I want things the way they’re supposed to be.

We all, however, want to be unique, including me. We want to be rebels, which, of course, will make us unique. But we want things to be “how they’re supposed to be” anyway. If we work hard and treat others well then we should reap our rewards. That’s how things are supposed to be. We are told, mostly by non- Christians, that the Christian life is easy/breezy. No worries here. God will take care of all our earthly needs and give us the desires of our hearts (like financial well being, a wonderful spouse, and so on) once we choose to follow our Savior.

Yet, there is that real life that we wake up to even on the good days. We feel opposed. We’re doing the best we can but Karma doesn’t seem to be holding up to its end of thebargain. A walk through J’s words in John chapter 15 are sobering even while offering us hope– in the future. “Sudden war is upon us whether we wish it or no.”

It doesn’t feel right let alone fair. We have to fight for everything non- believers do in life plus deal with the expectations of our Christian walk from both believers and skeptics. And then there is the matter of our own expectations of that walk. It’s a war out there and evil will fight us even if we don’t fight back. Christianity is a war. One we fight on our knees in prayer and one we fight in the way we handle those things that oppose us and our faith.

 

****

 

OK, what the heck am I doing here? This blog is supposed to be about the war we face as Christians as it has and continues to affect my life. Global theology aside, upon closer inspection, my life not only feels but looks like a war. I mean, I definitely feel opposed. What I need right now is focus. My right to abundant life, or some semblance of what I seem to believe that it should look like is being opposed. It may sound a little dramatic to put it in those terms but Christ promised me abundant life and I want it.

I’ve felt the presence of that abundant life in what I’ve called elsewhere moments of “joy out of nowhere.” A joy that can only come with feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit when I’m not expecting it. Something is actively trying to keep me from that life. I can choose to give up and pretend it’s all a dream, but I can’t because I have had personal experiences that tells me that kind of life does exist.

Or I can choose to ignore evil but evil will not ignore me. I can pretend it doesn’t exist but my experience and the world all around me tells me otherwise. Or I can choose not to fight that evil but it will fight me anyway. Experience has taught me that as well. I choose to fight.