Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Originally posted on 05/1/11 on Sudden Inspirations. I needed the message again today.

As I stood in the morning worship service on May 1, I was suddenly struck with a desire to thank God for His faithfulness. Not to thank him for the many blessings he's bestowed on me, nor for all that he has done for me over the course of my life – the healings, the comfort, the financial blessings, the urgent prayer requests he's answered. No, I simply felt it necessary to thank him for his faithfulness.

It was a new notion for me. Of course, God is faithful. I know that! The Bible is filled with statement after statement of this. But knowing that God is faithful is something I take for granted. I don't think I've ever thanked him for that.

You see, life is hard. It is filled with broken things – dreams, hopes, desires. Broken hearts, broken lives, broken relationships, broken toys. We get wounded. Life hurts. Things don't go our way. Life is unfair. People suffer and die. Life is cruel. It is a challenge at times to even get out of bed because facing life is like walking into the flames. We are consumed by the shear effort. Our minds scream at the searing pain of living each day. Life is unbelievably hard.

I wish I could tell you it gets easier. It doesn't. It gets harder. When you realize that your time is running out you begin to think about what you should have done that you didn't do. It could have made such a difference! And you stare into the mirror with a realization that you can't change it. Life is excruciatingly painful.

I've spent a long time attempting to reconcile this in my mind. Why? Why does it hurt so very much to live. There are all kinds of philosophical explanations and I will be frank in telling you. I don't care. Pick your view and put it in your pocket. It will not change a thing. Life will still be hard. And some times it will be so hard you won't think you can make it another day. And there are some who won't.

I am one of those people who keep clinging to meaning. I look for it in every single thing. I can't settle for a pat answer. It all means something. I get mad with God at times and we have some heated discussions. When Jerry died I dare say my questions got harder and my anger fiercer. I could find no answers for the cruelty of life, for the pain and misery that seemed to come with every day. I began to break beneath the onslaught. My mind at times simply couldn't keep up with all the terrible things pouring into it. The walls we erect to keep horror at bay crumbled and there were times I feared to go to sleep. I did not want to live another day in this pain but I didn't want to die either. And when I saw how easy dying was, I was shocked to my soul. Living is so very hard. Dying is simple.

For the last two years I have repeatedly read a particular passage of scripture and hung onto it as if it were a lift preserver. Perhaps it was. I even have a bookmark in the section so I can find it immediately. I don't suppose anyone else would see any comfort in it. Some would call it depressing. The author was a man who had a right to be depressed. He was threatened with death several times by his own people, thrown into a dungeon, rescued only to be taken hostage, and eventually killed in a foreign land. It doesn't get much worse than that. But he tells a story that is eerily familiar.

Lamentations 3:1-41
I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.
He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light.
Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.
My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones.
He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.
He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.
He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy.
Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.
He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked.
He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places.
He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate.
He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.
He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins.
I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day.
He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood.
He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes.
And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:
Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.
My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.........................
..................For the Lord will not cast off for ever:
But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,
To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High,
To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.
Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?
Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?
Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.

When I fail, He never fails. When I turn away, He never walks away. When I throw up my hands in defeat, He never gives up. When I am consumed by life and can't remember where I am, He never forgets me. When I have reached the end of the road and simply want to lie down and rest, He never grows tired.

(Deu 7:9) Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

(Psa 36:5) Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
(Psa 89:1) I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.

(Psa 89:2) For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.

(Psa 119:90) Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.
(Isa 25:1) O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.

(Lam 3:23) They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

I am so thankful that God is faithful.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sacred Spaces

My Mama always said pick your friends wisely because you're known by the company you keep.  If you've ever had a weekend guest, you know they always leave something behind that you have to ship back to them. But they may also leave that unseen baggage and you can't just mail it or toss it out with the trash. 

So, who comes into your house? Do you realize they bring all their negativity with them? If you bring a drug addict, a drunk, or some other corrupt or immoral person in your home, you're bringing all the things that make them who they are in with them. They have baggage, unseen spiritual baggage.

People don't "leave" things intentionally and weeks may pass before you realize someone left something behind. For example, negativity is contagious. If you hang around someone with a bad attitude you "catch" it or you begin to feel the effects of it: stress, frustration, depression, even anger. Hours or even days after the person is gone, you can experience the side effects. These could all be the results of spirits that have invaded a space and are affecting you. 

Spirits attach themselves to people and objects because it is much easier to move from place to place and person to person. They can "feed" off one person until they can connect with another, and like mice, if there's one, there could be more. And even though they move into a new "space" they're leaving pieces behind to continue to oppress the host. 

As a Christian, spirits can't just latch on to you or reside in your space ...unless you invite them or leave an opening for them to access. People "invite" attachment by their thought processes, actions, associations, and acceptance of unholy principals. Access is passive permission. You're may not open the door but you didn't lock it, either. Insurance companies recognize this as allowing theft of property and may not pay out on a claim because you didn't take due diligence. This is why Paul stressed renewing your mind (Rom. 12:1). Why "every thought" has to be brought into captivity (1 Cor. 10:4-5.) 

Another vehicle for spiritual invasion can be objects in your possession. Yes, I'm aware it sounds crazy. Native Americans knew and understood this connection of objects and the spirit world. They even believed spirits, good and bad, could inhabit animals. Many other cultures around the world have similar beliefs. If you're up on new age religion, animism, and several other nature religions you know they believe in "sacred" objects. So it isn't just an aberration of mine. And it isn't a hokey religion. It's fact. It can be such a strong, instinctive belief that, regardless of religion or lack thereof, some people will never buy or rent any property where someone has died, particularly violent death. They believe spirits are attached to the property.

Wikipedia describes a totem as "a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family,clan, lineage, or tribe". Virtually anything can be a totem. Look around your house. What identifies you? Family photos. Academic awards. Souvenirs from travels of myself and others. Totems of one type with no real spiritual context. Just symbols of lineage, achievement, and interest. 

Then, there's framed scriptures on my walls and tables. They identify my spiritual lineage. They are sacred objects, another type of totem. As a Christian, I believe that scripture can be a conduit by which heavenly spirits are able to access my home. For example: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." Prov. 3:5-6 sits in my living room where Sarah does her homework. Spirits of faith, understanding, and direction, I believe, are connected to that verse.  Every person who comes into my home is exposed to them.

Imagine a house that contains pornographic material. They too are a conduit. Spirits are attached to such material and these items identify the "owner" and the "owned". You don't own them. They own you. You gave them rights of ownership. You handed them the deed to you and all your possessions the moment you invited them into your space. They have access to all you love because they have access to you and your mind. Every person you come in contact with is exposed to them. This is the reason these kinds of spirits are the most devastating and the most difficult to eradicate. They own you and only repossession and transfer of ownership can fix it.

What you let into your home is completely in your control. It is a choice. This doesn't mean you have to bar your windows, lock your doors, and put up a fence of crosses. What it does mean is you have to be vigilante. Before you open your home to anyone, examine what you know about them. Are there things in their home: objects, actions, relationships, that you disapprove of or disagree with on principal? If so, you have to be sure you're taking appropriate steps to protect your home and your family from what they leave behind when they leave your home. If you don't know them, take the appropriate steps to cover your home in prayer ahead of time, keeping in mind that they may be totally oblivious to any spiritual connections.

When my oldest son was about 13 or 14 a new friend of his came to visit after school. He didn't have many friends so I welcomed the boy. I had never met him before but he stayed for hours. After he left, my son went to his room for the night. I walked down the hallway, past his room. The door was open and he was sitting on his bed with his head down. In my head, clear as a bell, something said, "Your son has pornography in his room." I brushed the thought aside as foolish and went to my room. 

Moments later the same voice loudly stated that there was pornography in my son's room. That voice I knew. Immediately, I stepped across the hall and into his room and there on his bed lay a pornographic magazine that his "friend" had brought him. I was horrified and angrier than I had ever been. I didn't allow such people in my home and certainly not such materials. That boy's mother got a call from me at 7 a.m. the next morning and was told to never come back to my house again. You may say that all kids do such stupid things. Maybe they do but not in my house. 

The key to access is in your hand. My son had invited that boy to visit. I had opened the door and welcomed someone into my house, unaware of what he brought with him. I should have questioned the boy, talked to him. But he was a kid. The voice that warned me after the fact could have warned me before the damage was done. Thankfully, I was in tune enough to hear the warning when I did. I have to tell you it was the weirdest thing I've ever experienced. 

I have an uncanny ability to know when someone has been in my house. More than once I've called my son or my sister to ask if they came by the house. More than once they said yes. They may have just walked through the house but for some reason they've left a little bit of their presence that "bumps" into me. Call me whatever you like, I don't care. I think its a bit crazy myself. I can't change it. Some of you have the same ability.

Often I pray over my property, house, and land. I've prayed before certain people visit my home and after they leave. I've symbolically swept my house with prayer. I've anointed doors and windows when something seemed off in my house. I pay attention to the space I live in and those I visit. As a result, I never experience fear to be in my house alone. However, there are times I'm very uncomfortable in certain locations and around certain people. Even people I like. Remember, just because you like someone doesn't mean there's not baggage. Even your family members can be carrying around trunks of stuff. 

Use wisdom and caution in your associations. Don't assume you have to invite just anyone into your home. Don't bring them home until you've prayed over your space. You have to keep things locked down. If you realize that there are some people who leave behind a very bad presence, they you can take precautions that it doesn't stay in your space. If you're listening, you'll get the warning signals. 

Don't make a habit of hanging out with people who do not share your philosophies. Not because you don't like them but light doesn't fellowship with darkness. I have a lot of friends of different beliefs and I really like them. I love talking to them. But I'm wise enough to know there are boundaries that I will not cross nor allow others to cross. I think they're wise enough to know that as well. I respect their right to be who they are and I think they respect me. I don't get asked to go out for "drinks" but I've been invited to a lot of lunches.

"But Jesus hung out with sinners." He did. But they followed HIM. He did not follow them. He didn't take anyone, as far as Scripture tells, home with him. He had lunches, too. He went to the streets where they were and to THEIR home and converted them by his witness. When they had baggage, he helped them get rid of it. Remember the man in the tombs? And if Jesus left anything, it was his peace. Shalom means Peace and is a greeting in Hebrew. "My peace I leave you." There is a reason for that. Jesus knew that when you enter someone's space you bring baggage and you leave baggage. All he brought was his peace, which he left as a gift, turning an ordinary house into a sacred space.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Long And Dusty Road

I dropped the pack onto the ground and sat down on it. "I'm tired. This road is rough, hot, dust, long."

Well, yes, I suppose it is. 

"And this pack is as heavy as ever."

Really? I could have sworn it was a bit lighter.

"Well...................... maybe in some ways........... at the moment."

Are you planning on picking up something along the way?



"You never know, though, do you?"

Well, I do. You probably don't but you certainly anticipate.

"Yes, well, I don't like surprises."

I know. But be honest with me. You're blood pressure is down. You seem to have figured out why you've been sick for the last few weeks. You keep forgetting to eat and your blood sugar is bottoming out. Your RA, while not really under control, is not at the raging high it has been for nearly a year. You have your granddaughter living with you so you are worrying less about her.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say that."

Hmmmm. No, you wouldn't. But you are far less worried about her than before.

"I'll give you that one."

Big of you.


So you're going to do that?

I know but how else can I convey it? If I were really writing a story, I'd have said that I sighed and that would be wrong, too. I sighed. It is what it is.

You're still a little uncertain, aren't you?


I don't break my promises.

"Was it a promise?"

Did I say it?

"Yes. But you know I never trust myself about these things."

We've been doing this a long time. And is it me or you that you don't trust?

"I don't trust the voice in my head sometimes."

I suppose in some ways that is better than listening to every voice you hear. 

"But I think I did trust it this time."

Yes. This time.

"I suppose it gets old, trying to prod me in the right direction."

I was already old when you came along and you're not the first sheep I've had to herd. You're not any worse than average. I think the secret is to listen more and argue less.

I glance down the road, squinting my eyes in the glare. 

You better get moving.You have a long way to go.

 Photo Credit

Thursday, September 4, 2014

It is NOT All About You

Have you noticed that the world is all abuzz with the Osteen's latest joke? I don't usually get riled up easily but a foolish woman is worse than an abscess. I saw the clip of Ms. Osteen a few days ago but there was this article that further annoyed me today. 

Let me clarify, I don't disagree with the whole article but I am so sick and tired the Blame the Pentecostals game. I decided to vent my annoyances here, rather than posting comments all over the place that will just get me a deluge of email notifications filled with "negative energy." Remember that when I'm done.

The mark of bad journalism is generalization and bad research. The politically operated media has perfected the art to the point that nearly all media generalizes everything. They lump whole groups into one category regardless of facts. It would be nice to think Christian writers would use more care but this article's generalization that Pentecostalism birthed the prosperity doctrine is just annoying on a number of levels. It is a generalization and based on what I found, it is false. 

The truth is that some, who call themselves Pentecostals, adopted this ancient belief of the Prosperity Doctrine but there are a whole bunch more actual Pentecostals that absolutely do not believe in the prosperity doctrine. I am one of those.

I'm a 5th generation Pentecostal and in my entire 58 years no one ever told me I could get healthy and wealthy by living for God. Had they done so, I'd have laughed. They taught me I received eternal life and the privilege of living for an awesome God who loved me even when I was unlovable. They taught me by following God's Word in obedience that God would bless me but they didn't say I wouldn't suffer and they sure didn't say I'd get rich. I suffered and I'm sure not rich. But I've been blessed anyway. The Bible says He'll supply needs but it doesn't say "wants" anywhere. I believe if you are faithful in your walk with God and obedient "Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out." Deut. 28:6 I am blessed by his grace, mercy, and his presence at all times.

Deuteronomy 28 is the Blessing & Curses chapter. I've included the link and you can read it, if you want. This chapter tells the Hebrew children that if they obey God's law that they will be blessed in everything and he clearly tells what those areas are: finances, politics, family, farming, health and even warfare. However, there is a huge BUT in there. The flip side begins at verse 15 and clearly tells them if they failed to obey God's law they would suffer the curses. They had to obey the law completely to be blessed. Ouch. Explains a lot about what is going on in the world... and our lives.

The "New Age" Church says the law is no longer in effect. You hear this comment everytime you mention the 10 Commandments: "But that is the law! We're under grace now and that doesn't count." Some grace-sayers ignore one component of Paul's teaching - until I read the Law I didn't know about sin. How do you know what is sin if the Law is ignored? You can't just toss it out. It is your teacher. And based on Deuteronomy 28, the Law still counts. But I digress.

My biggest annoyance is with the Osteens. I've heard several of Mr. Osteen's comments and they share one central theme... self. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about self... it is about Jesus Christ. The Osteens preach prosperity doctrine, which is really the doctrine of manifestation dressed in sheep's clothing. The doctrine of manifestation is if you believe something enough, it will come to you. You can visualize it into reality. It's central theme is self. Basically it is the theory of The Law of Attraction. Here's a few quotes from The Secret, the unofficial bible on this theory. Please note the focus is on self, not God.

  • Choose your thoughts carefully .. you are a masterpiece of your life
  • If you can think about what you want in your mind, and make that your dominant thought, you will bring it into your life.
  • Claim the things you want by feeling and believing they are yours.
  •  When you get the hang of this, before you know it you will KNOW you are the creator
  • We are the creators of our universe
This religion, and it is a religion because it elevates self above deity, making self its own God, was resurrected by a fellow called Thomas Troward in his book As a Man Thinketh,1902. He wasn't Pentecostal as near as I could tell. He believed "the action of Mind plants that nucleus which, if allowed to grow undisturbed, will eventually attract to itself all the conditions necessary for its manifestation in outward visible form."(The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science, 1904). 

Another fellow and probably the real creator of Prosperity Theology, Bruce MacLelland, in Prosperity Through Thought Force, 1907 said this, "You are what you think, not what you think you are." 

Do those two quotes sound vaguely familiar? They should. They're quoting another fellow. In Genesis 3:4-5 "You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Translation: You are what YOU think... not what God says you are.

Mrs. Osteen's translation varies slightly: It isn't about God, it is about you. This further elevates self above deity. The central theme here is self. And if you know your Bible, you know this is the sin of Lucifer. It is also New Age religion at its most basic. 

How do I know this? Because Ms Osteen doesn't know her Bible. Thank goodness I am one Pentecostal who does. 

Revelations 4:11  Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

It is NOT about us. It is ALL about God. We were created by Him and for Him. Not for ourselves. Our worship is to Him and for Him. Our praise is to Him and for Him because of who He is. Not because of who we are.

Romans 12: 1-2 
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 

It is NOT about us. We are to give ourselves to Him to be used by Him as He sees fit. We are servants of the Most High God. We serve Him. He does not serve us. 

Colossians 2:8-10
 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

Did you see that? I'm betting that if you read that you completely missed the fact that that verse is a warning about philosophies that place anything ahead of Christ. Without God you are nothing. God is the head. His Lordship is established and I don't care who you are, what church you attend, or what creed you follow. It is all about Him. He is the Alpha and Omega. The Beginning and the End. Anyone who teaches otherwise is a false teacher.

When you start thinking that it is all about you, you have taken His seat. I have a newsflash for you. Once you remove God from his rightful place of sovereignty, honor and authority you cancel every promise made to you and for you from God. Remember Deuteronomy 28? You should read it. By usurping God, you place yourself under a curse. 

Romans 14:7
...saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water."

Psalms 100:3-5
Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

No, it is NOT all about You.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


What do I want?

Do you want the short list?

It isn't funny, you know.

I thought the Jag was amusing.

But I meant that one.

I know. 

I keep asking myself if I was always a miserable person or if this is just the mark Death leaves on you.

And you answered...."

I don't have an answer. You know as well as I that hindsight is always 20/20. We were always happier some other time, some other place. Now always makes the past crystal clear and the future blurry and murky.

You know, as you've gotten older, you've become quite a philosopher. 

If I'm correct, real philosophers don't usually live very long.

Well... I'd have to check the files but I suspect you're right.


Tell me something, why do you think the past is crystal clear? Are you certain what you remember is actually the way you remember it? 

I'm sure. I've always been cursed with a very good memory. Children who grow up the way I did generally overcompensate there. They never forget a painful past. And any good times stick out rather clearly as a result.

You know, it has taken nearly six years for my brain to get out of bed. I had to quit my job to start the process. It isn't something I've enjoyed at all. Oh, its nice to not have to go back to that place but there are several downsides. Money is a huge pit. I'm still waiting for a way across.

But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm sitting here with this knowledge about myself that I can't make sense of and I'm not happy in any sense of the word. In no way. I do the things I do to keep myself occupied but not because they make me happy. I seek out opportunities to stay occupied or I end up watching tv show marathons on Netflix.

So, what are you avoiding?

See, that's the thing. I generally don't avoid anything. I step right into the biggest pile of ... stuff, every time, up to my neck. I don't think I'm avoiding anything. I think I'm trying to figure out why things have turned out the way they have and what I'm supposed to do with that. Short on answers, I look for entertainment. I don't find myself caring much at all about much of anything.

Your conclusions?

Are non-existent. What do I want? A map? A guide book? Well, that'd be really nice. Yes, yes, I have the Bible. And I get a lot of great stuff from there. But honestly, if you read it the Bible doesn't speak very clearly about women who survive death at close quarters or the aftermath of their lives trying to adjust to it. In the Bible, they just married their brother-in-law or a cousin. No thanks. No, I don't have conclusions. Just more confusion. Which brings me to another thing I realized this week. I was having a horrible day when I realized how very close my relationship with death has been all my life.

What did you realize?

Do you know I can count three or four times in my life that I was nearly killed? I never thought of these in any collective way before but this week I remembered then all at one time. And I'm serious. I know of at least three times I was a hair's breadth from death. I feel like there was a fourth but can't remember that one at the moment. Anyway, the realization kind of shocked me. I figured there must be a point in that. . . somewhere.

What was the point?

I have no idea. I've been waiting for you to mention it.

You remember times you nearly died?

Yes, I do. When I was about three or four I ate a plant we call Elephant Ears. Hugh tropical plant you see in a lot of flower beds down south. They are deadly poison. They were growing in a hedge along the property line. I was standing under them watching the neighbor cut the lawn. I was so small but I remember very clearly doing it. I began to feel sick and I remember climbing a set of very high steps to get in the house. It sat very high off the ground. I remember going into the kitchen and the room going blurry. I don't remember anything after that. I told Mama about it when I was a teenager and she was stunned at how much I remembered. Mama said they rushed me to the doctor and had to pump my stomach. I survived. I even have a memory of waking up in the doctor's office and crying.

The next time, I was about seven or eight and walking up the street from our house to my mother's house, one of the few times she lived near us. It was dark and a car came barreling down the street and ran up on the curb. My dog knocked me down and was hit. He ran off. I had skinned hands and knees. Everyone came running outside when they heard the car hit the curb. I don't remember if they found the dog. I don't remember anything after that. I was relatively unharmed.

The third time was in Germany. We were in the mountains and it was so beautiful. We had approached this hill that was so green and had trees here and there. I had this huge impulse to run up the hill. Something told me I'd look silly. There were a lot of people around. So I didn't. I walked to the top and nearly stepped off a cliff. Must have been at least 300 feet down to the creek below. Scared me so bad I had to go back down and lean against a tree. No problem remembering that day at all. Every time I remember that moment, I feel the same sick feeling I did that day.

Where's your question in all this?

Why three or four near misses? Why go to all that trouble to put me right here, sick and alone and struggling to make sense of all the mess? What's the point? Wait, just wait a minute... I know I have a house to live in and maybe I'll have enough income to provide my basic needs. Not sure but whatever. I know I have family who love me... most of them far, far, away. But you have to know what I'm talking about. No one else does. I've tried to explain it and I just get a lot of talk that is frankly, annoying. I'm like that hiker I mentioned a while back who's lost in the woods. I can't seem to get across to anyone where I am. No one seems to get that I am totally lost, totally alone, and totally empty. No one gets it!

And yes, I know that every one of those times you saved my life. I'm thankful. Really.

Well, I'm glad to hear that. I was beginning to wonder. 

See, when you try and explain what is going on in your head to people, they get all bent or they offer platitudes and reasons, and I don't know what all. You get lots of advice, generally useless.

What do you want them to say? 

You know, when I am faced with something like this from other people, I usually try not to equate my troubles with theirs. It is easy to say "well let me tell you how bad it was for me." Honestly, I. don't. care.  That doesn't help anyone. Sometimes, all a person needs is a listening ear. They don't need you to understand. They don't need you to sympathize. They don't need you to pontificate. They just need you to listen. No matter how crazy, painful, illogical, or stupid it sounds.

I see. 

You'd be the first. Even I don't get any of this. I'm sitting on this log until someone finds me.

I bought marshmallows. I thought sure you'd bring the chocolate.

I'm not supposed to eat that stuff.

Well, I'll wait with you. You can talk. I'll listen.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Lost Word

A few weeks ago, while reading my Bible, I read a interesting story. I've read it before but it just happened to be my reading for that day. This particular story has always created a mix of emotions in me. It makes me angry and it always puzzled me. I think it is one of the saddest stories in the Bible and it may be the only story that I physically don't like reading. You can scroll down to read the original. I only summarize it here.  

The story is about two prophets - one young and one old. The Bible does not give the name of either prophet but the crime of the young prophet was so great he was buried in ground that was not his own, among people he did not know, forever nameless and forgotten. In fact, I suspect that today, virtually no one knows this story.

The Bible states that God instructs this young prophet to go to Bethel from Judah and prophesy against Jeroboam for his extreme wickedness. He was told what to say and, when he was done, he was to leave by a different route and not eat or drink in that land with anyone. 

After I read the story that morning, I had to go back and read it twice. I decided I needed to look, not just at the tragedy of it, but at how it happened. Forget the heart strings stuff. What's going on?

Here is a young prophet who was given explicit instructions on what he was to do and how he was to do it. Go here, say this, and return home a different way. It was pretty simple. 
And he does everything to the letter until....someone gives him new instructions. 

Having completed the initial phase of his task, the young prophet is on his way home. An old prophet in the region heard about the ruckus the young prophet caused and jumps up, saddles his ass, and hurries after him. The old prophet tells the younger one that he's had an angelic visitation and that the young prophet is to come to his house, share a meal and spend the night. The Bible plainly states the old prophet was lying to the younger one. 

Stop right there for a minute. This is what just blows me away. Here's a prophet of Israel, actually of Judah since the kingdom was divided at this point, but the Bible says he was a prophet, nonetheless. He is blatantly lying to another prophet with the intent to deceive him. Why? What was the point of that lie? What would he gain by it? Why did he need this young man to defy the instructions he'd been given? As a prophet he had to know the consequences of deviating from God's directive would be dire. What kind of preacher deliberately leads a person astray? 

Boy, could we write that book.

Now, I can understand the younger prophet's actions. As a mother of sons, none of his behavior surprises me. They get sidetracked. I'm sure this young man was taught to respect the prophets, not just respect but revere them. An older, wiser prophet pops up out of nowhere and says, "Hey Brother! I too am a prophet as you are!"  So, being true to his upbringing, he has to be thinking that if this older, wiser prophet says he's had a visitation from God and a word from the Lord, then who was he to disobey? Would a prophet of God lie? So, he followed him home for dinner.

Every time I read this story it punches me in the gut. It is a terrible story. I always want to stop him. If it were a movie, the audience would be screaming, "Don't do it! Don't do it!" But the end of the story is already written. I can't change it. I can only follow it to the horrible end. 

In the middle of dinner, the old prophet jumps up and tells the young prophet that because he didn't follow God's original instructions, he was going to be torn apart by animals, die, and be buried in a foreign land. The young man leaves and is in fact, torn apart by a lion and dies. The old liar takes his body, buries him in his own family plot and weeps over him. Really? Really.

The early actions of this young prophet leave no doubt in my mind that he was sincere in his own walk with God. The gifts of God are not given lightly. He was a prophet in his own right but he trusted the "man of God". As a result of his sincerity and his honor for those who held the office of prophet, he changed his path, went where he was not supposed to go, did what he was not supposed to do -- all because someone he trusted said it was OK.

It is so clear to me who is in the wrong here. I mean, it should be the old prophet who was ripped apart by that lion and dumped in someone else's grave. The only real justice I suppose is that the old prophet is not remembered either. But it is no justice to me. 

Why is this story in the Bible? What does it mean? Sure, I get the disobedience is its own reward aspect of it. Do what you're told to do or you'll be someone's lunch. I get that. But in this case, that doesn't sit well with me. 

That old prophet is so clearly the evil influence, the wicked one and it is he who should be punished. But he isn't. There's no indication he is ever punished and the way I read it, he's stands over that grave, gloating. "Oh, bury me next to him! Everything he said will happen." How horrible is that? The last thing I'd want is my murderer sharing my grave.

The story is confusing but I really wanted to understand it. As I sat thinking about it, a statement, like the whisper of a breeze, drifted through my mind. I stopped and wrote it down right then because things drift pretty fast these days.Then, I sat and stared at it, confused even more.

For a few days it lay on the table and because it kept tugging at me, I stuck it somewhere so as not to lose it. Now I can't find it. But I have not forgotten those words. The didn't drift away. They stayed and grew louder. So loud that I've played the story over and over in my head several times in the last few weeks. 

This young prophet had been given a word from God, a word so powerful and of which he was so certain, that he went into a hostile environment and pointed his finger at the most powerful man in that region and uttered an indictment of death. We can't know but from the story, there doesn't appear to be any fear in him for that task. He does it.

The king of Judah stands up, points right back at him, and pretty much orders his execution. But moments later he's pleading for this young prophet to heal his hand because God withered it when he dared point it at the anointed. That young, courageous prophet walks away unscathed. So, how is it that later in the day he steps completely out of character and disobeys his orders? 

Because he didn't believe in his own experience as much as he did someone else's. He forgot that the entire land he was in and all the people in it, was under a curse. He looked at that old prophet, at his years of experience, at his position, and he measured himself by what he saw. He assumed because of his own youth and inexperience that his word from God was less important that the word of an old prophet. In one moment, the young prophet did not trust his word from God.

What were the words I wrote down? Trust your word from God.

1st King 13

1 And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. 2 Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’” 3 And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: Surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out.”

4 So it came to pass when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, who cried out against the altar in Bethel, that he stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Arrest him!” Then his hand, which he stretched out toward him, withered, so that he could not pull it back to himself. 5 The altar also was split apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord. 6 Then the king answered and said to the man of God, “Please entreat the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.”

So the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored to him, and became as before. 7 Then the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.”

8 But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place. 9 For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came.’” 10 So he went another way and did not return by the way he came to Bethel.

11 Now an old prophet dwelt in Bethel, and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; they also told their father the words which he had spoken to the king. 12 And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” For his sons had seen[a] which way the man of God went who came from Judah. 13 Then he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him; and he rode on it, 14 and went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak. Then he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?”

And he said, “I am.”

15 Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.”

16 And he said, “I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place. 17 For I have been told by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.’”

18 He said to him, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (He was lying to him.)

19 So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.

20 Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back; 21 and he cried out to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, 22 but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’”

23 So it was, after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, the prophet whom he had brought back. 24 When he was gone, a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his corpse was thrown on the road, and the donkey stood by it. The lion also stood by the corpse. 25 And there, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown on the road, and the lion standing by the corpse. Then they went and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.

26 Now when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard it, he said, “It is the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the Lord. Therefore the Lord has delivered him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to him.” 27 And he spoke to his sons, saying, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled it. 28 Then he went and found his corpse thrown on the road, and the donkey and the lion standing by the corpse. The lion had not eaten the corpse nor torn the donkey. 29 And the prophet took up the corpse of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back. So the old prophet came to the city to mourn, and to bury him. 30 Then he laid the corpse in his own tomb; and they mourned over him, saying, “Alas, my brother!” 31 So it was, after he had buried him, that he spoke to his sons, saying, “When I am dead, then bury me in the tomb where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. 32 For the saying which he cried out by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel, and against all the shrines[b] on the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, will surely come to pass.”

33 After this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but again he made priests from every class of people for the high places; whoever wished, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. 34 And this thing was the sin of the house of Jeroboam, so as to exterminate and destroy it from the face of the earth. --1 Kings 13 New King James Version (NKJV)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The End of the Rope

So, I did it. I retired... at 57. That's crazy. What was I thinking?

What where you thinking?

I thought maybe you could help with that answer. I usually know what I'm doing.... most of the time.

And you didn't this time?

{sigh} I hate putting a written sigh in there but I haven't figured out a way around it so I'm going with it today.

Well, you did sigh. So, you didn't know what you were doing?

Have we had this conversation?


I think I did know. You didn't really give me a lot of help, you know. I did what I felt I had to do. When I said I was at the end of my rope... I wasn't making it up.

I know you weren't. And I did hear you.


No, really. I did. I was listening to everything. 

And you didn't say anything! All the time I was begging for help and asking for direction and trying to figure out what I was going to do without a job, without insurance, without.... You ignored me.


Then why didn't you help me?

Because you already heard me and you knew what you had to do. 

I did?

Sure you did. And of course I knew you were at the end of your rope. 

You did?

Who do you think cut the rope?

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Conversation

I've been thinking about something. Well, actually, I've been rereading my blog posts. Do you think that's vain?

I don't know about vain. It might be boring.

Really? Really?

Oh, it was a rhetorical question. I'm sorry.

Huh. Anyway, I've been rereading them.

Should I ask why now?

Not if you aren't interested.

I'm interested in everthing you do. Why have you been rereading them?

I do that now and then, search back and read something I read long ago. Or see something that had a lot of hits and I want to know what they're getting out of it. I want to figure out if it was worth their effort.

O.k. so you reread them to see if it was better than you thought. 

Hmmm... maybe. Anyway, lately... well... I've found things in them... things I needed.

I hope so. Otherwise, I'm slipping.

No, you're not slipping. I'm not really with it. I just went back over the last week or so of posts and realized that they're mostly for me. I doubt anyone will get any sense out of them. Kind of wasted as a blog goes.

You said from the beginning this was your way to render praise. You're insights, visions, desires, confusion, frustrations, heartaches, and even prayers offered up as a praise. Or did I misunderstand your intentions?

No. Maybe I did. It all seems so foolish. I'm pretty sure no one else does this. I sit around the house having these conversations. I write a blog of conversation. They're like letters to someone or text messages I guess would be more current. They'll be sending men in white coats to get me.

I wouldn't worry about that. They turned all those folks loose long ago. You're safe. Besides, the conversations are why I keep coming back. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Butterfly Effect

From the Draft Folder: Not sure when I wrote this but in light of recent events, maybe it was just meant for me.

Have you ever made comments like these?  I wish I had never done that. I wish that I had never gone there. I wish I'd never said that. I wish I'd listened to you. I have. Too many times to count. I hear it a lot, usually from my children. How about this one. If only I could go back and start over. I'd do things differently. 

Me, too. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I've said that in the last five years, I could have quit work a while ago.

So many choices to make. So many paths to take. Which way is best? What should I do? I don't know sometimes how we get through a day faced with all the decisions we're compelled to make. How do we do it?

For me, no decision is possible until I ask God to direct me. I always ask him to steer me around delays, barriers, and dangers. These days, more especially than I've ever done, I question every decision, ask for help repeatedly. In the past, I'd talk to Jerry about major decisions and we'd decide but even then, I was still praying about it. Sometimes he'd even say, "Let's  just pray about it and see what happens." A nice clear path. God's Will.

Christians talk a lot about God's will. If an expected outcome doesn't happen then it simply must not have been God's will. If something terrible happens to someone, it must have been God's will. My favorite is the statement that someone always says to a widow. "I know it's hard but it was just God's will."

When someone says that to you do you automatically take their word for it? What if it wasn't God's will? What if a lot of the things we attribute to God's will weren't really God's will... initially? You heard me. What if some of the things we attribute to God's will were really not God's will in the beginning? Before you made changes.

What? What do you mean before I made changes? I can't change God's will! Only God can change his will and God doesn't change. Whatever happens to me is God's will.

God's will is that all of us be saved. That's is the pure and simplified will of God. That no one be lost. And that never changes. He desires nothing more nor less. He gives us the map and expects us to follow it. The concept of God's changeable will is something else entirely. And something I've never heard anyone but me mention.

The Children of Israel had left Egypt under God's provision and direction. They'd done everything they were told to do and now they were on their way to the Promised Land - God's will was that they all reach their destination. The road was rough and treacherous but hey, when you have a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, how bad could it be? All they had to do was stay on the right road, do what they were instructed to do and it would be fine.

But they didn't do any of that. Disobedience resulted in a detour that took them 40 years to travel. If you look at the maps in your Bible you will find it was a circuitous route and they were plagued by all kinds of disasters. The only positive I find in the story is that their shoes and clothes never wore out. And that's probably a good thing because there were no Wal-marts in those neighborhoods.

Did any of them ever say, "I wish we'd never done that!" ? Was Moses sitting in his tent at night saying, "Why didn't I listen!"? I'm pretty sure that would be a yes. They were no different than you or I. Regret is a human characteristic.

"But you're using one story. I mean, they didn't have to take the long way around. They had a choice."

Yes, they did. We all do. Their choice was NOT God's choice.

God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. It was basically a straight shot from where he was to where he was supposed to be, a trip of about 756 miles. Hop on your donkey and ride off to the northeast and tell those people they're on the wrong path. Easy, right? Um, not really. Instead, Jonah took a detour. He chose to travel in the opposite direction. He went south, to Joppa and caught a ship to Tarshish, a city, that if the map I consulted is correct, was approximately 2679 miles west of Nineveh.

During the trip a storm blew in and Jonah ended up in the belly of a whale somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It took three days for the fish to get Jonah back to where he could throw him ashore near his original destination. I believe the time was important not just to give Jonah time to think but also because it took that long. It's a long way back and even then I suspect God was trying to get him on the path he originally chose for him..  Jonah had plenty of time to think and was probably saying, "Why did I do that? Why didn't I listen? What was I thinking?" We know he was praying!

"Wait! That's totally opposite from the Exodus. They still traveled in the same direction. They didn't change anything. They weren't running away from God like Jonah."

Remember what I said? What if some of the things we attribute to God's will were not really not God's will in the beginning? Before you made changes.

God has a plan regarding how we reach our destination. The thing is, you can change that. You are given the choice of how you get there in one aspect only. You can make it hard or you can make it easy or you can make it impossible.

Had the Hebrews not disobeyed, they'd have ended up in the Promised Land sooner and with all of those who left Egypt. Instead, every person who left Egypt, with the exception of the faithful spies, died. All of them. The road they took was longer and harder and they didn't survive. Their descendants fulfilled God's will for the nation but none of those for whom it was intended received the promise. They did not change God's promise to the descendants of Abraham. They changed God's will for them.

Had Jonah taken that direct path to Nineveh, he'd have been spared a harrowing storm at sea, being tossed overboard, swallowed by a large fish, sitting in stomach acid for three days, and being vomited ashore, and then walking hundreds of miles to Nineveh. The city of Nineveh repented just as God's intended but ultimately, the city was totally destroyed after this. Did Jonah's actions change Nineveh's fate? What if Jonah had arrived earlier? What price did that delay cost?

God's ultimate will for the people in that city was to begin on the day appointed for Jonah to arrive. Any change that occurred between his appointed arrival and his actual arrival would effectively alter events and that will. God's will for those lives was altered by Jonah's actions. God's desire to save the city remained intact but Johan changed so many things I can only begin to guess as the impact. Incidentally, Nineveh was called "the bloody city" for its violence and wickedness. It was eventually destroyed.

I made a mistake. I don't believe it was God's will that I marry the person I married.

Wrong. The moment you took those vows, you changed God's will for your life and the person you are marrying, and any children you would have had are now changed.


Marriage is ordained by God. The moment you take your vows you are bound by God to that person, even if you've married outside your faith. Every path that God originally set for you is redrawn to include your spouse and it is unlikely that you will even travel the roads he originally intended you to travel. This is why we, as Christians, believe marriage should never be taken lightly nor should you marry outside your faith.

So many times we find ourselves making the statement, "If I'd only chosen the other road, this would not have happened." I'm sure the Hebrews, Jonah and countless others felt the same way. But what they had to accept is they couldn't undo it. They could only change their direction back to the goal of God's ultimate will. And keep walking.

We have to recognize that once we've made changes, going back to our starting point is ultimately impossible. Even though we took a wrong turn and ended up lost somewhere in the wilderness or in the belly of a whale we can still find our way to where God wants us to be. Your route is determined by the map you use. Christians are given a guide book as a map. We draw the route. There are smooth highways, rough, unpaved roads, mountain paths passable only at certain times, and even detours.

The theory that a butterfly fluttering its wings in S. America can result in a hurricane in the Atlantic was so popular they made a movie about it. It was a powerful game changer in cause and effect thinking. Not everyone agrees with it. I do. Slight changes in any pattern result in major changes in the finished product. Alter a pattern too much and the finished product may be unrecognizable and useless.

The same holds true for God's will for us. God allows us to plot our route and expects us to use the guide book he provides. If we choose to take a "short cut" we can but that doesn't mean it is His will. The events that happen as a result of our changes are not necessarily God's will. Changes to our course may take us on perilous journeys that land us far from our destination.

Notes: Interesting article on Nineveh: