Category: Faith As Life

You – Follow Me

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When I have nothing better to crab about, I’ll mutter to my beloved that “I shouldn’t bother with this writing crap, since nobody reads it anyway. Besides, everybody writes, everybody blogs, and everybody and their distant relatives is working on a book. So why bother?”

And I’m finally starting to get it through my thick noggin that all that negativity, spewed out with extreme prejudice, is harmful to my beloved. It may (or may not) provide me some relief, via “venting,” but it’s pretty much a soto voce stream of negative that gathers in her personage and festers.

So it’s all well and good (or not) for me to launch that poopy out there, but it’s not good (or extremely not) for her. And since I really do love my beloved more than myself (or at least am trying to), I need to head that stuff off before it blasts out my pie hole and smacks her.

All of this has nothing to do with anything I’m thinking about in this present post-thingie, but it’s still true… Just not related to this. Read more

A Lesson From 106

Sunrise over Lake Huron. Magnificent.

As in, Psalm 106…

“They traded the Glory for a cheap piece of sculpture—a grass-chewing bull! They forgot God, their very own Savior, who turned things around in Egypt…”
Psalms 106:20-21 (MSG)

“They worshiped their idols, were caught in the trap of idols. They sacrificed their sons and daughters at the altars of demon gods.”
Psalms 106:36-37 (MSG)

I am ridiculously short-sighted. Read more

Undistracted

“Sanballat and Geshem sent this message: ‘Come and meet with us at Kephirim in the valley of Ono.’  I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I sent messengers back with this: ‘I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?’ ”
Nehemiah 6:2-3 (MSG)

Why should the work stop just so I can get distracted? Read more

The Beautiful Ugly Clock

“Broken Time” by Andrew Van Zyll
Check out his creative pursuits at
his Etsy store


God’s timetable: the clock is always 100% perfectly on time, but it’s an ugly clock.

I’m sorry – was that a little impious? Should I couch it in more Psalm-esque language? Yelling stuff like “HOW LONG, O LORD??” Nope – I’m stickin’ with hows I sees ’em.
I do not doubt God’s timing – in my limited, narrow view over the past 52 years…
(Come to think of it, it was more like 51, since that first year is pretty much a blur, an “eat, cry and poop fest.”)
(Come to think of it, that first year wasn’t so bad, except for the whole diaper thing…)
(Come to think of it, that’ll pretty much sum up most of my final years, I should think – up to and including the whole diaper thing…)
(Come to think of it, I think we’ve discovered that Cal really shouldn’t “come to think of” anything. Especially sitting in front of a computer keyboard. Ever.)
Anyway, I’ve seen God’s timetable work its perfect way in too many places to ever rail against it or deny its existence. Everything falls to His sovereignty, willingly or unwillingly. We can accept the roaring flow, go with it, or we can try to buck the tide and end up on our hineys, flying downstream, producing the kind of facial expressions captured for all time in those photo thingies they always take at the most horrific moment of the most mind-numbing amusement park rides, then sell you at a “bargain” price for this souvenir that will bring back wonderful memories for generations to come. (Like panic, screaming, and bile, to name a few.)
But just because I accept and surrender to God’s timetable does not change that fact that, in my limited and narrow view, it’s an ugly clock.
Maybe I see it as ugly because I simply have no way to read it or understand it… It’s like one of those LED clocks that tells the time in binary code, thus prompting smug looks from geeks and geeklets in the room, sharing their secret knowledge of being able to read the thing while us lower mortals wander in confusion…
Until we look at our phones, see the time, and get on with our uncaring agendas, leaving the geeks and geeklets frustrated, their lake of superiority dammed up with the concrete of indifference. Hoover dam, baby. Deal with it.
I stare at God’s clock with no comprehension. I can’t even see the whole face of the thing. The hands move in ways I can’t perceive; the units they measure have no meaning in my existence; and the outcome of its progress is beyond my understanding.
Now, I do admit that I’ve never been the sharpest chisel in the tool box when it comes to clocks. I didn’t learn to read the clock until fifth grade, even though I started reading at age 3. There was always someone around to tell me what time it was, so no need to learn the significance of “the big hand is on the 3, and the small hand is on the 8.”
Yes, no digital clocks. I am indeed that old.
Anyway, I came late to the party with the whole “learning to tell time” thing. I did make up for it later, when I started working in broadcasting. When one is responsible for every second of every minute of every hour of an air shift, you start to gain a sense of time passing, really understanding just how long it takes to do some things. Learning to read something out loud, so that it comes out to exactly 27 seconds (to allow 3 seconds for the music hit at the end) teaches you a lot about time. So does having to vamp the weather forecast when you have 30 seconds to fill, and a forecast that says “partly cloudy, partly cloudy, repeat repeat repeat…”
So I do understand how time feels.
And I think we all understand how time feels in the long, long silences when we think God has gone south for the winter. Those stretches of darkness where we wonder if we’ve ever really heard from Him at all. The heavy night curtain that falls after a long, sunny, extended period of His blessing, when things go from bright to dark faster than the switching off of a lamp in a basement room. We all, or at least most of us, understand how the dark rises up, immeasurably fast and overpoweringly strong.
At times, we believe that not only is God not in the same time zone as us, but that He’s changed over to another calendar, one where seconds, minutes, hours and even days and weeks are graded on a sliding scale. Where time itself becomes elastic, and it ebbs and flows in harmony with the One who exists outside of its steely grasp.
Time is NOT finite in the hands of the Infinite.
But we feel every dragging second in our small world.
Right now, I’m in a place where the clock is very ugly, moving so slowly that I have to fight the urge to keep replacing the battery, and it doesn’t show signs of changing anytime soon. I’m on the other side of almost two years of very fast change, where time flew beyond my ability to catalog it. I tried, vainly, to grab some small pieces of it, to note the events in these pages, to be aware and keep reminders before it all blew past, never to be seen again.
Then it all stopped. We got stuck in a holding pattern while the runway is being cleaned by three Oompa Loompas with toothbrushes. It’s gonna be awhile.
Meanwhile, to stir the pot of ugly clock soup, throw in a few years without employment, add in someone not wise enough yet to learn to live within his means, and whip into a financial frenzy.
** before Vicki or a few others jump in here, I probably should have said “gainful employment,” or something like that. I have been pursuing an occupation – learning my new life so that all the things that come with it become habits, a part of my normal life. It was necessary, it’s equipped me to live in this new body and keep it working well, and everything is happening exactly when it should. I just didn’t learn the bigger lessons, and I took a little longer to grow up, so it’ll take a little longer to dig out. **
Always on time, but it’s an ugly clock.
Sometimes, some of that ugliness is self-imposed, I’m discovering. The clock is ugly because it has a highly polished surface and shows me all the mistakes I’ve been making while the timetable moves on. Maybe the ugliness I see in the clock is just the choking regret I feel for lessons not learned, time lost, resources wasted, failures committed. In the mirror of the clock, I see my own ugliness.
I don’t think God intends us to look at ourselves in that harsh, unyielding place. With nothing between our limited viewpoint and infinity, how could we ever stand the sight? How could we perceive anything but LOSS… LOSSLOSS
“In the fullness of time, God sent His son…”
“God works all things together for good…”
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed…”
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
Romans 11:33-36 (TNIV)
By itself, God’s timetable is perfect, always on time, always on track.
From my limited view, it’s an ugly clock.
From His view, He makes all things beautiful, even where I only see ugly…
In His time.

The Lost Puppy Lesson

In high school, there was a group of guys. And they, in my view, were cool. Not cool by the standards of how others would gauge cool – hot looks, mad sports skillz, that sort of drack. They were cool because they were unique. They weren’t afraid of being themselves. They fired off Tarzan yells from a little cassette player at the drive-in movie during love scenes. Now THAT’S cool!
And I desperately wanted to be one of them.
A couple of them played guitars. They played in bands. They did, at least in my own imagination, many other amazing and wonderful things each day, the details of which, were mere mortals like myself to know them, would make them weep with the sheer weight of their awesomeness.
Wow.
And boy howdy, did I ever want to be one of “them.”
And boy howdy, was I ever not one of them. Not even close.
Not to say that I didn’t know them, that we weren’t at least acquainted, or that they were so snooty and cliquesque that they wouldn’t even notice my existence. Nope. I just wasn’t one of them.
Like most teens, I wanted desperately to belong, to be a part of some group someplace. It would be years and years before I ever came to understand that I’m not really a “belong” sort of person. I’m more of a “hang on the fringes and observe” type of person or a “comfortable with my beloved and a small list of close friends but not really totally integrated into any group” type of person. And years and years more before I came to accept that.
And every once in a while I catch myself in that behavior. I’ll hover around the edge of a group, imagining all the camaraderie and fun they must be having together, and begin wishing I was a part of their “club.” Trying to fill some sort of void I think I perceive in my own existence by filling the lonely hole with belonging.
I call it the Lost Puppy Lesson. Hovering around the edges like a little lost puppy, hoping that someone will take me in and give me a home.
(I think my mom first gave it that name when she would laugh a bit about my attempts to fit into this or that group. Not quite sure why she needed to revisit those memories, or find amusement at them, but there it is.)
Recently, I’ve been wondering if I’m dancing around that lesson once again, hovering around the edges of somewhere I was employed for a very long time. I do a little bit of part-time work there, which is cool, but I’m wondering if, by keeping my “foot in the door” (so to speak), on some level I’m doing the Lost Puppy thing, hoping to get taken in, to be welcomed back and officially be part of “the group.”
Which isn’t cool, for the record. At least, not for me.
What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that I don’t need to look for something external to “belong to” in an attempt to fill some sort of hole or void. If there’s a hole, the solution won’t be found out there – the place to look is within, usually in the area of having stepped away from where I belong in relationship to my Father. As always, if I feel distant from Him, He’s not the one who moved. If I’m feeling disconnected, I’m probably the one who pulled the plug.
Ok, so knowing that, I now have a grid to process things through. In the case of my part-time work, am I hovering around the edges, hoping to be let back in and to belong? Honestly, maybe a little bit – but I think it’s more a desire for some sort of regular work and income. I don’t think I’m searching for something to fill an emotional hole, but rather something to help in an increasingly tight financial situation. A little stability in a stormy sea.
I think God uses our past lessons to help us navigate our present path. The question is, will we mindfully look at where we are through the lens of what we’ve learned?
One more thing to add to that – using the lessons learned is alright, as long as we allow Him to teach us through them and not let our past be an open door for all sorts of regrets to reach out and choke us. God doesn’t intend for us to live in our regrets, but rather to commit our past to His keeping, and our present to His grace.
The final thought: sometimes, in God’s grace and timing, good can come from the Lost Puppy Lesson…
If I hadn’t wanted so desperately to be a part of that group from high school, I wouldn’t have fixed my eyes on a certain instrument, one that would enable me to jam along and (hopefully, in my eyes) let me “in.” At the very least I wouldn’t have pursued that instrument so desperately at that time. The group of guys came and went (and I’m friends on Facebook with a couple of them!), and I moved on to other lessons and other puppy pursuits from time to time, becoming a little wiser for the wear.
Yet that instrument – my attempt to become one of them – remains a huge part of my life. I think of the guys sometimes on Sunday mornings when I’m part of the worship team at First Cov…
playing my bass guitar.
The one I play now has six strings and no frets, but the black and white four-string Electra bass that my grandmother bought me (after much begging, I’ll admit, and much thankfulness) set my feet on the path. Thanks guys, especially Jeff – I had no idea at the time that a case of wanting to be part of the cool dudes would turn into a lifetime of joy playing bass.
The moral of the story? Sometimes puppies learn cool tricks, that they still do as old dogs.

His Word, My Sword

Spending time with the Daily Audio Bible is an essential part of my day. Actually, it takes place as early in my day as possible, since I’ve found that the later it comes, the easier it is to skip it, and the less I get out of it, as it settles in my head and my subconscious chews away on it through the day.
(not that it’s all about what I get out of the Word – it’s much more complex than that – but you get the idea…)
So today, the reading from the OT was in Isaiah, which has been rich and amazing to be working through. Specifically, Isaiah 55:10-11:
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
The NT reading was Ephesians chapter 6, very familiar territory. And yet, something that probably everybody else has noticed, but not me – Ephesians 6:17:
“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Ok, so as I bounce out the door, first thing would be how often do I run out half-naked?
(apologies to those of you who now feel the overwhelming need to wash your eyes out with bleach…)
(Note – DON’T do that. Ever. No bleach. Ixnay on the leachbay. Just an expression – let’s move along.)
(And yes, I did specifically choose the word ‘bounce’ back there. Hope you enjoyed it. *shudder*)
How much of the armor, what God says I need to survive the day, do I leave behind?
But that’s not the biggie – the one that caught my ear, so to speak… When I (in my totally uninformed, non-theologian, Sunday School attending but not comprehending, basic pew pusher way) take these two passages together, here’s what occurs to me:
Take the sword, which is the Word of God, part of your equipment for the day, and take it with you. And know this – My word always accomplishes what I send it out to do.
*wha?*
God gives me His word, to take up as my sword, and then tells me that His word always accomplishes what He sends it out to do. God trusts a dufus like me to take His sword and use it, even though I go out there swinging it around like a kid with a tree branch slaying imaginary dragons in epic battles only He can see. And by the way, “wherever you use that sword, it always accomplishes what I send it out to do.”
It doesn’t say that it only accomplishes it in the hands of a competent professional. No 9th level masters of the Word Sword only, please. The word goes where He sends it, and it accomplishes what He sends it to do. Through me, in spite of my juvenile flailings, my misunderstanding of how to wield it, and sometimes not knowing which end is the handle and which end is the blade, He sends the word out, and it does what He sends it to do.
Ooh boy.
I got some study and training to do. If you were told that you had to carry around, say, Anduril, Flame Of The West, forged from the shards of Narsil, the Blade that was Broken, able to command an army of the dead that can’t be defeated, is a longer sword than I’ve ever seen, and makes me wonder how Aragorn whipped it out in the Return Of The King without lopping off Elrond’s nose, you’d take the time to learn how to carry the thing without maiming somebody, wouldn’t you? (not to mention the potential for stabbing yourself in the foot, or other significant soft tissue…)
And yet, I wander off into the day, carrying this both wonderful and terrible weapon, able to cut to the heart of things, to illumine the darkest corners, to lay bare the deepest darkness, to restore hearts and lives…
And I treat it like a wooden sword from Never-Never land. Lost boy indeed.
We memorize our favorite verses, post them on bulletin boards, mouse pads, screen savers, and bumper stickers, whip them out at appropriate (and not appropriate) times, sometimes with the delicate touch of a surgeon, sometimes with the blunt force of a cave troll, but all too often I do so without knowledge and wisdom.
As swordmasters go, I’m a fine sewer worker.
(Not to malign sewer workers – I’ve seen Dirty Jobs. You have my abiding respect and thanks.)
And yet, He uses His word. Even in the hands of a dufus like me. He sends His word through us, and it always accomplishes what He sends it out to do. That fills me with both awe and shame.
Father, keep me from going out half-dressed. Remind me to take ALL my equipment – the electronics that we all seem to have attached to us, the little bits and bobs that we take along for our needs, but also the most important equipment that you provide for my survival. So that at the end of the day, I’ll still be standing. There will be attacks, assaults, temptations, distractions, and paths I should never go down today. Without all You have provided, I’m a sitting duck. Remind me to grab my gear, and go in Your strength.
And guide me to learn about my sword. Teach me Your ways, help me to wield Your word in a way that is worthy of my Father, and keep me from using it to harm or destroy the innocent. Impress on me both the wonder and the terror of how I carry Your word – make me see the weight of responsibility to be a warrior who knows how to use his sword.
And thank You that even when I swing it badly, Your word accomplishes what You send it to do. Thanks for my small part in Your purpose. Give me the things I need today for this day, and lead me as I follow You, sometimes with stumbling steps, sometimes falling, and sometimes making my Daddy grin as I finally “get it.” Thanks, Father – for everything.
Amen