Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Last Day

We finally reach it - our last day. Mankind had reached a nadir while above the sun is shining. On the horizon is darkness and one can only wonder what lies ahead for us all. Will we go on? Was there a better place waiting? Or would the crouching darkness devour our very souls? What will we do?

The last year has been one of radical change, chaos, and confusion. We'd weathered it but there were many wounded and many battle-scarred. Some had died on the field. Even the earth had been assaulted. The villages and towns that still stood were reeling under fiscal problems, energy crises, and joblessness. In many places children cried for food while famine raged in the land. Wars among factions had only increased, their participants splintering skirmishes around the globe.

Terror had become a raging monster fed by a demonic mindset. Children had lain bleeding or dismembered in the streets, a sacrifice to a violent god filled with hatred and minds so twisted by their fables that they believe a lie and are damned themselves.

I scanned the horizon, looking for some sign, some rising star, some glimmer of hope. I saw none. We had obliterated hope along with faith. No one prayed anymore for peace and safety because there was no longer a God to pray to. Or if there was, He must remain hidden in case someone actually grasped His garments in desperation and began to believe in Him. Goodness was servant to selfishness. Mercy lay dying on the alter of intolerance, bigotry, and self-righteousness. No longer was there freedom to speak without fear. No longer could one assert a righteous indignation without fear of reprisal or accusations of religiousness.  Death lurked around every corner waiting for a willing participant to utilize his tools.

I sat down on the rotting stump of an ancient oak. It had stood many centuries, growing tall, strong, and full. It's branches had sheltered many from storms, given shade to the weary travelers, and lifted up a multitude of downcast eyes. But long ago they'd begun to hew it down. It had taken a couple of generations to succeed but finally they had chopped it down and burned the carcase. Only the stump remained, a slowly rotting reminder of a time when people actually believed in something good. When ideals, dreams, and hopes were allowed to flourish without dissension.

The sun was lower in the west now, near the time when the darkness would be complete. From the East, it had begun to crawl along the ground, reaching long probing fingers toward us. We stood and watched, making no effort to greet it and none to stop it. I knew that it would overtake us but some part of me continued to search along that dividing line between light and dark, as a thirsty animal searches for a watering hole. Still I saw nothing but approaching darkness. The light behind me dimmed further as the power of that darkness began to overwhelm it.

Then, it came. One moment a fleeting glow suddenly shut out by overwhelming blackness the consistence of tar. My heart pounded so hard I knew others must hear but I couldn't see beyond my outstretched fingertips. I felt tears begin to course down my cheeks and my stomach twisted in knots as I stood in a a night deeper than any well I'd ever seen. I had no measure of how long it lasted because without the sun, time didn't exist.

Just as the last flame of hope in my heart began to gutter like a candle in the wind, I raised my head and hands and strained my eyes to the void. Suddenly, from the farthest reaches of the heavens came a tiny flicker, so faint it would have been undetectable to the casual observer. But I was searching for that flicker and as I watched through blinding tears, it grew and expanded and blazed forth with gathering strength, until it broke through the darkness and glowed brightly -a single star in a vast expanse of nothingness. All around me I heard gasps as first one, and another and then, another star broke through until all the heavens were filled with brilliant starlight, their beams stretching to touch one another.

I looked at the horizon again and saw where the earth and sky formed a line and stars blinked along it the way diamonds do on a necklace. I turned back to my ancient stool for a seat to observe the wonder of it all. At the base of the stump, where gnarled roots snaked away and into the ground, a single green stalk now stood. Tender green leaves had unfurled during the long dark night and now began to reach to the lightening sky.

Then, it came, blazing from the east and banishing the darkness to the depths. A fresh breeze began to blow and dawn came with a chorus of songbirds. We were here.

Now, what will we do?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chaos Reigns Now

I'm not sure where all my drive went. Perhaps it drove off and left me. The faint of heart need read no further. I am absolutely certain there is something in here to offend everyone. I believe in equal opportunity annoyance.

It has been an absolutely crazy week that started off with a Monday and got steadily worse. The one bright spot was that my boss let me leave an hour early today. The week was so dreadful that, on my way home, I was wondering what that gift of an hour was going to cost me in the long run. Very negative of me, I know, but that is the kind of week it was.

I was told this week that I have a harsh tone but that I do hold people accountable for their actions. My response was, "It is what it is." If the rule says, "Don't" then you don't. If it says, "Do" then you do. As Yoda said, "There is no try. There is only do."  Now how hard is that!

I've been thinking about it and remembering the quiet, southern girl who smiled a lot and grew up around very dedicated Christian people who laughed a lot and loved everyone. Where's the girl who was friendly to stranges around the world?  I wondered when I got so very hard. I can guess but let's just say the last 15 years have been my own personal hell and has given me a hard outer coating, kind of like an M&M but less sweet. Who I "was" is trapped somewhere inside. The continual irritants I face daily have created the hard shell as a means to protect the inner heart, mind and soul of me.

See, I am sick to my core of the poison oozed by some people.  I am disgusted by rude behavior. I have no tolerance for social ignoramouses, ingrates, and ignorant leaches who suck the life out of those extending an hand to help them. I am more than annoyed by whiners who do nothing to help themselves and inflict their misery on everyone they come in contact with so that a hand will be extended which they can then suck on to refresh their energy to whine a little more.

Sometimes, I'm not surprised by all the calamity that befalls the planet. We are a worthless lot bent on our own destruction in an effort to satisfy our insatiable lust for pleasure. And we don't care who we have to walk over to get it.

I am certain that my opinion comes, partly, from the fact that I work in a job where I see rules broken every single day. I hear one lie after another, told in an effort to steal from taxpayers who work extremely hard for their dollar, of whom I am one. I see political appointments and hires that make one wonder what were they thinking!

And it also comes partly from a planet where all the above people live! I am sick of criticism of the decisions every person in authority makes, no matter what party they represent. THEY'RE ELECTED, people, if you don't like them, maybe we can get a dictator next time? Don't worry, that's coming.... sooner than you think.

I am disgusted with amoral leaders who lie to their constituents or expect those of us with slightly higher standards to excuse or "forgive" their getting caught with their pants down. And I am doubly sick of media who milk misfortunes for everything they are worth and then rehash the destruction for days on end. They are like vultures picking the bones of thed dead.

I realized that I have conformed in a way to my surroundings. I have transformed into a person who despises a lot of people because there is no integrity, no truth, no honor and precious little dignity. I speak without sympathy to people who lie to my face and they know I know they are lying but am powerless to stop them. I am disgusted because there are those who think they are deserving of respect simply because of their religion, their sex, or their color and yet they are disrespectful to every person, every ethic, and every value they encounter but deny me the right to respond. I mistrust a lot of people simple because the majority of those I am in contact with and read about and see on television are little more than theives. It is a sad state of affairs and one for which I have relized there is absolutely no cure. And I despise that fact most of all.

We are standing at the brink of a great catastrophy for which we will not find a solution. We seek the answers in the "goodness of mankind", who has shown time and again that there is no goodness in us. We pontificate with pat answers. We write books about god being us, we have power, we are our own salvation. And those are the ones who would have organized religion destroyed because they disagree with their philosophies.

Then those, such as I, who believe in a single deity we call God, are mocked and ridiculed and accused of starting every war in history but we are also usually the first burned at the stake! Or we go out and start a war in God's name! No religion is sacred and only one is true and it depends on who you ask because there are no longer any sacred text unless they appear on Oprah!

And we continue to spiral out of control.

Am I the only person who sees things getting worse rather than better? The environment is a mess, energy cost are skyrocketing, prices are skyrocketing, diseases are becoming untreatable, new strains of bacteria are resistant to treatment, people are nastier than ever and have no tolerance for one another. Perverts are growing faster than weeds. There are wars and rumors of wars. There is hatred, malice, perversions, strife, etc.

Chaos, folks, is in charge. And he is Hell on wheels.

When you see these things come to pass you will know the end is near....

Friday, February 29, 2008

A Walk Through the Orchard

Al and Joe were neighbors and were in the habit of walking each day after work along the road next to the orchard. They each had their own path but sometimes their paths crossed. They would speak politely but walk on. It just so happened that one day they met along the road and fell into step. From that day on it seemed they were always walking together and so it became a routine they both enjoyed. Aside from their daily walk, they seldom saw each other.

Early one Saturday morning they got to discussing how lovely the orchard looked with it’s ruby red apples among the green leaves. Joe stepped into the field to the nearest tree and looked up. “What a wonderful apple. It is the prettiest red I have ever seen. I bet it is so sweet and juicy.”

Al moved to get a look. “Well, I don’t know. It looks all right but you can never tell. I think the apples that come though my plant are the best looking in the world.”

“You work in an apple plant?” Joe looked quizzically at Al. “I didn’t know that.”

“Well, it’s a fruit and juice plant but I am an apple inspector. It is my job to inspect every apple that comes through the plant to insure that only the best apples are allowed into our packages or juice.”

“Apple inspector?   Wow. You mean that if it doesn’t pass your inspection, it won’t be in the juice?”

Al pulled his shoulders back, hitched his belt and sniffed. “Yep. That’s the way it works. It is my job to make sure the bad apples are identified. Bad apples are dumped.”

“So, what do you look for?”

For a minute Al pondered. “Well, we look for bruising, cuts, scars, color, and bugs.”

“Hmmm. Well, all these apples look fine to me.”

Al shook his head. “You can’t tell just by glancing at the tree. No, you gotta examine it real close to find any flaws. I mean, you can’t find scars and bruising just by looking at the tree from here, now can you?”

Joe hesitated and looked the tree over. “Well, no, but why would bruising, scars and cuts be on he fruit that is still on the tree?  I mean, I would think that would only happen in storms or if the fruit gets knocked off someway and lands on the ground. But even then, it might still be good to eat. If you don’t mess with the fruit it won’t get bruised up. Fruit on the tree just needs to be picked and eaten.”

“Only perfect apples get in my juice.”

“Well, why would color matter?  I mean a good apple can be any color.”

“Color could indicate ripeness. We want apples that are just the right stage of ripeness. I mean the juice could be bitter if the apple is not ripe enough and the taste might be a little off if an apple is too ripe. No, I have to be real careful about color, too.”

Joe studied the tree. “I still say these apples look great. I didn’t eat this morning and I am kind of hungry. My mouth is watering just looking at them.” Joe reached up to the apple nearest him. “Just look how plump it is and how shiny.”

Al shook his head, “I’m telling you, Joe, unless they are inspected by a trained eye you shouldn’t mess with them. There might be something wrong with this tree.”

Joe hesitated but pulled the apple off and sniffed it. “It smells good, too.”  He bit into it eagerly. He closed his eyes, “Mmmmmmm, Al, that is the best apple I ever ate. I am so hungry. Try one, I’m sure you’ll like it.”

“Not me. If I want apples I get ‘em at the supermarket . . . after they have been inspected. Besides, I don’t really care for them much. I see so much bad fruit it kinda turns you off them after awhile.”

Al and Joe resumed their walk. Joe munched on his apple in silence for a long time. Finally, he said, “Al, you ever think about another line of work?”

“No. Why?”

“Well, why do we need fruit inspectors?”

“So, unsuspecting folks don’t get sick from eating bad fruit?”
“Don’t you think a person could inspect their own fruit and determine if it is bad or not?”

Al didn’t respond directly but said, “Well, the owner might not be honest enough to admit he had bad fruit. Fruit inspectors are necessary to keep folks honest. We insure the safety of the innocent. Anyway, I’ve been doing this for 20 years. What else would I do?”

Joe munched his apple for a moment then a light seemed to go off in his face. He looked at Al and said, “Maybe you could GROW apples.”

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance . . . .” Galatians 5:22-23.

We have all read or heard that verse dozens of times but one Sunday morning as the Bible class teacher read, something went off in my mind that I can only describe as a small nuclear explosion. I was awestruck as a new understanding broke over me. As I hurried to write down the thoughts before they slipped away, I remembered something else. Several weeks earlier, on the preceding page of my notebook, I had made a few notes regarding another scripture.

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”  Matt. 7:20.

Weeks before those scribblings had led nowhere but that Sunday morning the pieces of the puzzle fell together perfectly and the picture that emerged was breathtaking. On Sunday night, while getting ready for bed, came the story A Walk Through the Orchard.

 There is one basic question that we all ask when faced with the realization of eternity. “What must I do to be saved?” Most of us believe that we know the answer. But then, I took a walk through the Orchard.

In the Garden of Eden, Eve walked thorough the orchard and passed beautiful, sweet-smelling, fruit-filled trees. The fragrance of the ripe fruit permeated the air around her. But Eve didn’t’ stop and savor those fruits. Instead, she journeyed to the center of the Garden and looked on the one tree she had been forbidden. As she gazed at that fruit, a craving pulled at her soul and consumed her. Her mind registered the visual image of a tantalizing fruit. The image she saw answered three questions that her craving had provoked. She saw that the fruit was good for nourishment, it looked good, and it would make her a better person.

But Eve was not hungry. She had no reason to be. Nourishment was never truly a factor in her craving. There were thousands of trees in the garden from which to choose. She could have walked up to any other tree and picked the fruit of her choice. Any other fruit in the garden would have fulfilled her every need and she could have eaten as much as she wanted. In fact, all the other fruit in the garden would provide nourishment, it would look good, and it would make her a better person. She lied to herself. But, instead of walking away, she looked at the forbidden fruit, the bad fruit. She picked it, she ate it, and she died. We have all been inspecting fruit ever since and, like Eve, it is not because we are hungry.

In Mark 11:12 and Matt 21:17 is the story of a fig tree that Jesus approached in search of figs. When he saw the leaves but no figs he cursed the tree and the next day it was withered and dead. Interestingly, Mark is careful to note that it was not time for figs yet. So, Jesus cursed a tree that didn’t have fruit when He needed it. Jesus was hungry. Jesus was searching for good fruit. He needed something to eat right then, but the tree was bare. Because the tree did not provide for the need, he cursed it. And the tree died.

In A Walk Through the Orchard, Al and Joe marched along different paths for a time but eventually they fell into step. All along their way were trees filled with fruit. Al knew all about fruit. But Joe was hungry. Joe began to search for nourishment. And it is to the heavily laden trees along his path that he turned. He searched and satisfied his hunger with good fruit. But Al, who knew so much about fruit and had fruit all around him every day, had none to share and had no desire for good fruit. In fact, Al was afraid to eat any of the fruit that hung within his reach because he had not inspected it. Al viewed his lot in life as a protector of the innocent. It was his job to root out the rotten fruit. He lied to himself. In reality, he wasn’t protecting anyone.

There are Christians who feel a need, who believe it is their job, to inspect the fruit of others. In reality, they are searching for that which is missing in their own lives. They have no fruit to fulfill the needs of those seeking nourishment nor are they seeking nourishment for themselves. They don’t desire fruit anymore. All their time is spent on inspecting, searching for the bad fruit, not producing. They are barren and only by pulling the fruit off others, do they feel useful.

The problem is, when you start handling fruit, you damage it. You leave bruises, scars, and wounds from all the rough handling. Sometimes, the fruit will be so ready to eat that it can be easily knocked off the tree or bruised. Fruit that is knocked on the ground may never be eaten because it is so badly damaged from the fall. As a result, someone will go hungry because the fruit that was there to nourish has been destroyed.

Christians are NOT called to be fruit inspectors. Jesus never suggested that. At the time Jesus stated Matt 7:20, the disciples were not born again; they were not yet Christians. Jesus was talking to sinners and warning them of false prophets. He was telling sinners that if they were hungry there would be signs telling them where to get nourishment. Later, when he cursed the fig tree, he gave a profound example on the fate of those who fail to feed the hungry. The hungry are supposed to be the fruit inspectors. As Christians, we are expected to have the fruit available to feed the hungry. If we don’t, we will die.

I grew up hearing about winning souls but I never heard advice on exactly how one is to do that in a world where no one wants to listen. And suddenly, in one awe-inspiring moment and with brilliant clarity, I knew. It is the fruit that feeds the hungry. Fruit saves a dying world from starvation. Fruit sustains the weak. Fruit provides nutrients for growth. Fruit answers a craving for sweetness in a bitter world. We can preach a thousands sermons, recite the entire Bible on a street corner, but if there is no fruit hanging out there in the branches, the hungry will look elsewhere to be fed. And so, as I sat through that Sunday morning service, I had an overwhelming desire for fruit. I wanted it so badly I could taste it.

I found myself ashamed. I realized that far too often I spend time inspecting the other trees in the orchard for bad fruit and not worrying about whether or not I am producing good fruit. How many have come by needy, looking for nourishment and gone away hungry because they found nothing. God help me!  I want fruit, so much fruit that the boughs break under the weight of it, so much that the fragrance fills the air around me. And I want to be hungry!   I want to see a starving world fed with the fruit that satisfies all hunger. Winning the lost is not done with pretty speeches but rather by feeding starving souls. I don’t want to be a fruit inspector. I want to be a producer of fruit. God give me fruit so that anyone who takes a walk through the orchard can be fed!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and Darkness

I am very interested in science. I actually like reading articles relating to astronomy and the creation of the universe. Yes, I am a Christian who believes in science! God is a lot smarter than we give him credit. He actually understands the theory of relativity far better than Einstein did when HE told it to Einstein! And since time was created as a plaything for man and means absolutely nothing to God, he isn’t all tied up in controversy about how long it took to create the universe. I like that about him. We can talk.

Today, I ran across this article on my MSN home page New Cosmic Theory Unites Dark Forces. It drew me in and I am glad it did.  “A new theory says that dark matter and dark energy could arise from a single dark fluid that permeates the whole universe.” © 2007 All rights reserved. More from

I ended up reading several articles on the topic. It is fascinating reading if you understand basic astronomy and a general idea of the dark matter theories.  If you don’t, by the time you read them you probably will have a fair grasp of the subject. It gave me quite a lot of food for thought that, since I am a Southern woman whose culture says food should be shared, I thought I’d share.

A lady once told me that we can find truth anywhere. You just have to look for it. I learned this to be true. If you don’t search, you won’t find. Searching requires that you question everything and everyone. Science is all about questions but Christians are discouraged from asking questions. To us, questions signify doubt. To question God would be doubt and doubt is sin. I know, we're nuts a lot of the time. I lost my fear of asking God questions when he started answering them.

Sadly, there is such enmity between scientist and Christians that I doubt it will ever be resolved but both camps are right about some things. You notice I didn’t say between science and Christianity? It’s people who have the problem. The biggest problem is they both want to be right about everything. That’s impossible.

So, I read, I study, I ponder things not many women my age and background study. I allow myself to question and let those questions percolate. Then I ask God, “What about this? Is this possible?” He usually grins and says, “Anything is possible.”

I’ve spent the last couple of hours reading these articles and formulating questions and tossing out a few of my own. The conclusion I arrived at is surprising. . . to me, anyway. I’ve provided several excerpts from three articles that will reveal my discovery. The links will take you to the articles themselves.

The above article describes dark matter and dark energy: “Dark matter, as originally hypothesized, is extra hidden mass that astrophysicists calculate is necessary for holding together fast-turning galaxies. . . . seems to be everywhere, acting as a scaffolding for galaxy clusters and the whole structure of the universe.” In other words, everything that exists is suspended from this structure.

“On the other hand, dark energy is needed to explain the more recently-discovered acceleration of the universe's expansion. . . . It supposedly exists all throughout space, delivering a pressure that counteracts gravity.”Gravity, remember, pushes against things. As I understand this, dark energy acts as a restraint on the effect of gravity. It sounded like cement to me. And what do you know, in the next article I found my confirmation.

In Dark Matter May Lurk Between Galaxies the scientist says, “Dark matter acts as gravitational glue, holding millions or billions of stars together in galactic globs or disks. Without it, "our own galaxy should have fallen apart by now," said Frederic Bournaud, an astrophysicist with the French Atomic Energy Commission. "So dark matter — this unseen force — is somewhere keeping it glued together.” © 2007 All rights reserved. More from

So how do they know this stuff exists? Who says it is even real? Can you see it? Can you feel it?

Well, in Dark Matter Mapped in 3-D Detail the scientist says: “Decades' worth of observations have found that all the matter we can see in surrounding galaxies doesn't account for the gravitational effects of those galaxies. In fact, there appears to be six times more dark matter out there than the ordinary matter we can see. . . . there is no picture of it and there's no known way to detect it directly.”

“Even though the matter itself couldn't be seen, astronomers detected its effect by analyzing the gravitational effect of that matter on light rays from more distant light sources.” © 2008 MSNBC Interactive

This had become positively religious! There is something out there, holding it all together that no one can see. I’ll insert a long pregnant pause here while you digest the ramifications of this.  It also means that while they can’t see it, they know it exists because they can see the effects of it on other visible things, like light.

Wow, a substance they can’t see but they believe MUST be there . . . something that holds the universe together.

Do you see it, too?

The final statement in this last article is brilliant and so powerful I am amazed. "Frankly speaking, these are just fancy words we use to name something we do not understand," he said. “If a simpler model (with a single word) can explain all the data, then cosmologists will gladly accept it,” Boehmer said.

A single word?

Uh. . . God?

And Boehmer was wrong. They never accept it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


  During an adult Sunday school class, our teacher mentioned a time when, as a young man, he heard some older Christians in his church commenting on the behavior of young people as the power of God fell on them. They called it “wildfire”. As he said that term I recalled a time from my own past as a teen-ager. A similar thing was happening in my home church in Alabama. And while God moved, I heard a chuckle and the whispered, “It’s just wildfire.”
        I was so struck by this that I paused in listening to search my mind on the subject. “What, exactly, is wildfire?” I asked myself. My previous understanding of the word was that it is a random, very quick, very hot fire that is soon extinguished. People use it to describe fads, shallow experience in the spiritual and some types of forest fires. Wildfire used as I understood it, was simply something that becomes hugely popular or destructive, dies out and is never heard from again.
        When I got home I got my trusty dictionary and looked up wildfire. What I read set wheels turning in my head. Wildfire is not what I thought. There are five definitions in my American Heritage College Dictionary. They are as follows:
1.     A raging, rapidly spreading fire.
2.     Something that acts very quickly and intensely.
3.     Lightning occurring without audible thunder.
4.     A luminosity that appears over swamps or marshes at night. Also called “ignis fatuus” or “foolish fire.”
5.     A highly flammable material once used in warfare.
        Throughout my life, I have often noticed that when the power of God falls, it acts as a raging, rapidly spreading fire. It moves quickly and intensely, spreading across the room in a wave of spiritual heat, sparing only those who resist. When it’s work is done, everything that can be consumed in the human heart, is consumed.
        We have all seen summer heat lightning or wildfire. Usually the sky is cloudy, threatening rain. The air is hot and so thick you could cut it. Then lightning streaks across the sky, over and over. There is no sound, just those amazing flashes. You think the storm is coming, may fervently hope so, but often nothing happens. . . at least, not where you are. Actually, the center of the storm is so far away you can’t hear the thunder, and you never experience the effects of the storm. Light travels about a million times faster than sound. At the origin of that lightning is a raging storm and those beneath it feel its effects, often intensely. So too, those who only see spiritual wildfire, seldom experience the effects of the spiritual storm.
        Before flashlights and electricity, the countryside was a dark place. Swamps and marshes were even darker and marsh lights have led people to their deaths. The more common name for this type of wildfire is “will-o’-the-wisp”. An unwary person can be lost if they are not aware of the nature of this wildfire. Once thought to be lost souls doomed to wander, we now know that this wildfire is the burning of a gas produced in swamps and marshes. This gas, called methane, is created by the natural breakdown of decaying matter.
        Methane is a very useful but highly explosive gas when combined with air, oxygen, or chlorine. It can ignite spontaneously and results in a very hot fire. The fuel in some acetylene torches is formed from methane. The heat generated by an acetylene torch can reach up to 6000 degrees and will burn virtually anything. Obviously, wildfire is not something to play with or treat lightly.
        Greek fire was the name of an ancient weapon, probably a primitive form of napalm, used by the Byzantine Greeks. Upon striking the target, this material stuck, spread, and burned. It was used in two ways: as a missile hurled from a catapult, and in flame-throwers. It was very useful against ships because it burned even under water. One text states it may even have changed the course of history. In AD 716-718 the rulers of Constantinople, who were Christians, destroyed the wooden fleets of the Muslim Arabs who had besieged the city. As a result, this blocked the spread of Islam into Europe. If you fail to see the significance of this one use of “wildfire “ you have missed it all.
        Sometimes wildfire is necessary to clear the way for growth. As anyone who understands nature can tell you, a forest can become overgrown. The useless undergrowth of weeds and shrubs choke out light and air, causing a decrease in young, healthy trees and eventually, diseases which can kill off a forest. Nature has taken this into consideration and fixes it, often by lightning wildfires. A lightning wildfire will rapidly and efficiently clear the undergrowth without causing undue harm to healthy trees. Once this useless undergrowth is cleared, young trees quickly sprout and grow. As trees age and die, young trees are waiting to fill their place. When Yellowstone burned so badly several years ago people were surprised at how quickly it began to recover. Within a year, new growth appeared everywhere and wildlife increased dramatically. The conservation officers revealed that the seeds of most of the conifers in Yellowstone would not germinate, or sprout, until they were heated.
        “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.”  Acts 2:3. Looks like wildfire has been around a long time. Perhaps we all need a little wildfire.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Time: A Place To Pray

© August, 1998 Cynthia Maddox
I have a special room that is all my own. The walls are lined with books and a lovely, thick, dark blue carpet covers the floor. A comfortable chair sits in a corner of this room. Next to it stands a small table with a lamp by which I can read. A window seat is piled with pillows on which I can relax and read. My computer is here so I can write. For times I feel like creating something to wear, my sewing machine is stored in a cabinet. There is a lock on the door to this room for the times I want to shut myself away.
It is a lovely room but not real. The reality is that I have no place like that in my home or anywhere else. When my children were small I had a spare bedroom all to myself where I wrote, sewed and had private time to read or pray. Now, they are teenagers needing their space. When I work there are phones and people. At home there are phones and people. Sometimes I want to run away just to be alone. 
Our hectic lives often make it difficult to keep up with all the demands, especially women in the ‘90’s. More often than not we will have a full-time job, in addition to one or two children. If you are a Christian working mother, there are even more demands on your time. Non-Christian women may have time for a hobby or some form of entertainment, but Christian women have church services during the week. In addition to attending a ladies or prayer meetings, she must also find time to have daily prayer. And let’s not forget the cooking and cleaning. It is no wonder some women come to church looking like they just participated in a marathon, were mugged or never went to bed the night before. As for cranky, well I dare any man to try it for a week and still smile.
I’ve been many kinds of mom, stay-at-home, army, working and homeschooling. For five years I was a college mom. I was a full-time student with two children at home in 1992-1994. My husband’s job took him away from home for weeks at a time. Most of the time I was tired. No friends or family lived nearby to help with the kids or help out if my car broke down or if I became sick. And instead of offering to help with my load, my Christian “friends” criticized me for missing one service a week.
My day was long. I got up, got the kids off to school and was at school myself by 8 or 9 a.m. Upon my return the kids were usually already there. I helped with homework and cooked supper. Then I cleaned the kitchen, did laundry, got the kids bathed and helped with unfinished homework. I might have had time to relax but usually the boys were in bed by 9 o’clock so I could do my homework. I went to bed around one or two a. m. At 6:30 I began again. Saturday I cleaned the whole house and did laundry.
Donna became my best non-christian friend in college. One morning, during a break, we were discussing our harried lifestyles. As we discussed all the demands on our time she made a profound statement. She said, “We need wives.”  We often joked about how much was required of us and how our husbands came in and got their favorite chair, asked for supper, and took a nap. It wasn’t really funny but it helped us deal with the frustrations. After college we both went to work. When we compared notes we found we were still doing the day job and the housework while hubby napped.
So when did I pray during the five years it took me to finish school? There were days when I was at home alone for several hours. I did a lot of studying then. I used some of that time for prayer. “Free” time remained a rare thing.
Every morning I drove 15 miles to school alone and in the afternoon I returned home. In semesters when I had a night class once or twice a week I made up to four round trips a day. On those frequent trips, I noticed people talking on their car phones, singing with the radio or just riding. I seldom listen to the radio in the car and I don't have a car phone. So I began to talk to the Lord. I told him of my worries all the way to school. At times, I drove to school thanking God for all He had done for me. I cried on my way home because I loved Him so much. Often I would arrive home unable to remember the trip.
I repeatedly apologized to the Lord for praying in such a manner. Many times a voice would whisper:  this isn’t really praying; you look so silly talking to yourself; what will people think; and God doesn’t listen to this kind of praying. But I kept praying. I had to!  I needed to talk to Him.
It reached the point that every time I got in my car I began automatically to talk to God. I didn’t realize how far it had gone until the day one of the boys and I had to go somewhere. As soon as I got in the car I began talking quietly to myself and he said, “Mom, who are you talking to?”  I just stopped and stared at him. I was so startled I didn’t know what to say. I had instinctively begun praying the moment I started the car! That was the day I learned one of the many truths about God.
The scripture in Thessalonians which says to pray without ceasing has always puzzled me. I have pondered the idea of constant prayer often, but I didn’t see how anyone could do it. I discovered I was wrong. We can become so used to praying that it becomes instinctive, even in strange and unusual places. We can automatically break into praise and worship without thinking about it. Instinctive prayer!  What a concept.
Some may say if you aren’t kneeling, it isn’t prayer. Too bad for the man with no legs. I once heard someone suggest that you can’t have a real relationship with God without an hour a day in prayer. Perhaps they had a whole hour every day, uninterrupted, in private. I don’t. Not many people do and so they just don’t pray at all. After all, if you can’t meet the requirements, why bother. Right?  Wrong.
Others will say this type of prayer has no  meaning because there is no conscious thought. It is true that no conscious thought is involved, but it is not true that the mind is not involved.
Every natural process in the human body is done without conscious thought. You don’t have to think about breathing because your body knows how to do it. You don’t have to tell your eyes to blink to keep them moist. Even your dreams are controlled by your brain without your conscious thought. And it is possible to learn to control your dreams while you are asleep. I’ve done it.
What could be more natural than to pray to the Creator?  Words are formed in our mind and our mind tells our voice to speak. The Bible said “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.” Our heart and our mind appear to be linked. How could what I call instinctive prayer be meaningless if the mind/heart is involved in the process.
Prayer was meant to be just as natural as our breathing or our heart beat. It was intended as a means of constant communication between us and the Creator. We should find ourselves breaking into prayer for no reason, at unusual times, in unusual places. There should be prayer over our dishes, toilets, and car engines. I don’t mean roll in the floor, jump up and down, top of your lungs prayer (unless you want that, but be prepared for strange looks, especially from your children.). No, I mean conversation and thanks for all the blessings we have been given. God loves it when we just talk to Him!  If we spent more time talking to God this way, we might find some of our heavy-duty prayers get answered a lot quicker and more often.
Perhaps we should stop worrying so much about a “special place” or a “special time” to pray. If you have either, use it and be thankful. If you don’t perhaps you should be more concerned with making the time special. Take a ride in the country or to work and make your time a place to pray.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Divine Inspiration or Human Perspiration?

       Who wrote the Bible?  How many times have Christians been asked this question by those seeking only to debate?  It is a question that often leads to a feeling of frustration and aggravation for those who are expected to have the answer – namely, Christians.  What a question.  And those asking aren’t going to like the answer anyway.
Did someone just start writing these stories in the Bible and add to them until someone decided it would make a best seller called the Bible?  Did God dictate the words to all those men in different centuries, cultures and languages?  
Long before it was a written document the stories of the Bible had been handed down for generations around campfires.  Oral stories were the only way to pass on the cultural identity of a people. In ancient cultures those in charge of carrying the history were taught carefully. 
The “tellers” were told the stories long before they could talk themselves.  They were expected to learn, remember and retell the events that defined the nation.  To not do this would have been considered a terribly loss by the nation and in fact, there is one point in the Bible where the oral history and traditions were not being passed down.
And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10
In God’s sight, this was a crime so bad that He punished Israel.
The first fully developed system of writing is only about 5,000 years old – far younger than the human race.  Early writing was done on wet clay tablets with special pens and invented by the Sumerians.  The shortest written item required painstaking time.
Even after the invention of writing the many cultures, including the Hebrews, still loved to recite the history of their nation.  Read the Psalms of David in which he recounts great moments in Israel’s history.  The Psalms and other historical poetry was written to read aloud so the nation would not forget. 
Since each generation had more to learn, you can understand why it was absolutely necessary to invent writing.  Try telling the history of the world on a cold winter evening. 
So, the Bible was thousands of years in the making.  It wasn’t even complete as we know it in Jesus’ day.   Jesus and the disciples in their letters quoted from texts that are not even in our current KJV  of the Bible!  Many texts that were considered sacred by the Hebrews are not included in the KJV.  In the Gospels they tell us that they could not include all the things that Jesus did.   One of the things I learned in news writing was that there is a lot more of a story that you don’t know.
As for God dictating the words, well, the Bible said “All scripture is given by inspiration  of God” not by dictation. For those who don’t know, dictation is where someone literally speaks to you and you write down their exact words with no omissions. 
Inspiration, on the other hand, occurs when you see, hear, or experience something that stimulates you to action, it motivates you. All writing is “inspired” by something – good or bad. 
Today there are those who say that because human bias is involved in all writing this “inspirational” type of writing the Scriptures can’t be completely true.  It is accurate to say that human bias is evident in all writing.  This is what causes skeptics to ask questions.  And questions are not bad. They drive humans to seek answers!
For example, the Gospels have several instances of apparent conflicts.  Examine the way one gospel will describe an event that is also described in another gospel. However, the differences are not because someone made a mistake.    
I noticed this when I read the story of the crucifixion where Peter cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest.  In John’s gospel Peter is named but in no other gospel is he named as the person who cut off the servant’s ear.   Why?  They were all there.  They all had to know it was Peter.   And even though the gospels are written 50 years after Jesus’ death they would not have forgotten that night.  Yet, only John named Peter as the offender.  Why?  And why did the others not name him in their description?  Were they embarrassed or did they desire to spare Peter further embarrassment?  Maybe. 
Did John have a reason, other than accuracy for naming him?  Maybe.  Could John have been experiencing a little human jealousy of Peter?  Remember, John was the beloved disciple but Peter had been given the keys of the kingdom given.  We can’t know the answer and it may be nothing more than oversight on the part of the three other disciples. That alone intrigues me. I would find it hard to believe that all but one disciple forgot who cut off that man’s ear.  It is an interesting puzzle.
Read passages such as this carefully and you may be able tell something about the personality of the writer by comparing the way writer describes an event with the same event described by another writer in another gospel.
Another instance is in the recounting of the Sons of Thunder seeking a special place in the kingdom.  In Matt. 20:20 we are told that the mother of the Sons of Zebedee came to Jesus and asked that her sons be given places on Jesus’ right and left when he comes into his kingdom.  Yet in Mark 10:35 it is James and John who come to Jesus with this request.  So who did ask?  Both stories say that the other ten disciples were angry with James and John for asking such a thing.  Remember, the “right hand” in scripture denotes power. 
Well, as a mother, I can believe that that mother just might have made this request.  Matthew says she came with her sons, “worshipping him”.  So she knew what power she was addressing.  Or maybe the boys had asked Mom to ask for them.  Maybe Matthew knew this and was simply being accurate. 
Let’s say Mark also knew that the boys had put their mother up to this. In light of how women were viewed in that culture, at that time in history, it is conceivable that Mark may have discerned the source of the request and simply cut to the meat of the matter, not mentioning the mother.  James and John were the ones desiring elevation; Mom was just a means to an end.
Interestingly, in this example, if you take things literally, it appears that either Matthew was mistaken or Mark was mistaken.  Or you might assume that after 50 years anyone might be a little unclear.  A person looking for discrepancies latches on to this type of example to prove there are errors in scripture. 
Since I believe the Word is true, I believe this is simply an example of perspective.  In both of these examples the event did not change, only the way it is perceived changed.  Two different writers saw the same event happen and wrote about it in different ways—the way they saw it
That is why discernment by the Spirit is so valuable in reading scripture.  You must be able to strip away the writer’s bias and get to the inspired Word.  To say a writer has no bias is an error in thinking.  Time is not a factor to God and His creation (humans) has not changed since He did the creating.   The men who wrote the Bible were exactly like men today.  Every writer leaves his mark on everything he writes.  It is the very thing that helps Bible scholars identify books written by different authors, particularly when the name of the writer is not known. 
In 2 Peter the Bible says, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”  Holy men of God, motivated or inspired by the Holy Ghost, wrote the Scriptures and prophesied.  It doesn’t say the Holy Ghost spoke.  It says they, the men, spoke as they were moved on.  
What motivated the writers of the Bible?  An old, little used definition for the word inspire means to breathe on” or to inhale.”  God “breathed on” all writers of the Bible and they “inhaled” that “breath”.  What does that feel like? 
As a writer I can tell you that there is something inside me struggling, always struggling, to get out, to be said. That is what moves me to write.  When I am able to put it on paper, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.  Writer’s block is a living nightmare to a writer.  The struggle goes on but there is no relief.
I can also tell you that when God is the motivator a writer will often write things he or she doesn’t want to write but which a driving urgency demands that he write.  And while God has often given me things to write, it is never easy to get it right.  The things that come from Him are the hardest to put into words.  It takes a lot longer too.  I have to pray over everything I write, while I am writing it!  Then I have to leave it awhile, pray, and start again. 
I suspect a similar thing occurs with preachers.  They choose the words they will use to convey a particular thought. However, the thought may not be their own but rather, the direction of the Spirit.  Finding words that accurately convey the thought is often difficult.   Two preachers may have the same thought but use different words to convey that thought.  Again, it is never easy to get it right.  And sometimes, when they are done, they still wonder if they got it right.  Ask any preacher.  I have no doubt that true men of God must earnestly seek the face of God before they can deliver a message from God. 
So who wrote the Bible?  It depends on who you ask.