Monthly Archives: April 2013

Flash of Inspiration

 

 

I love it when a flash of inspiration comes.  Furthermore, reading the Word is full of inspiration.  This morning I was reading Psalm 27 in an effort to have a morning devotion. Then I read it and it hit me smack dab in the middle of the forehead.  POW!  Get ready, here it comes.

Ps 27:4 One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to meditate in His temple. NASB

What you say?  I know I will dwell all the days of my life in the house of the Lord when I get to heaven.  True, but David is saying so much more.  David was praying in the here and now, that it would be in the here and now.  That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life.  Today is a day in our lives. David’s prayer, our prayer, the possible, the actual, is to dwell in the house of the Lord, now, today, present tense.

Do you see it now?  The house of the Lord is not just in the hereafter, it is in the here and now.  A search for “house of the Lord” turns up 237 Old Testament references in the NASB version.  We can know the presence of the Lord, we can fellowship with the Lord in the here and now.  There are friends I can call up right now and go to visit them in their house.  The house of Arthur, the house of Robert, the house of Clint, and on and on.  Hey Arthur, how are you doing, hey Robert, hey Clint.  Now, take it a step further, hey God, what’s happening?  How are you and the family?  Conversely, they always ask about me;  Bernie, how are you doing, how are you dealing with all the “stuff” going on in your life?  I know you are going through a lot, talk to me.

God is the same way.  Come in, have a seat, would you like something to drink?  How about some living water, I have plenty of that?  Here, it is cool and refreshing, good for your coming in from a long journey.  Here is some fresh baked bread, fresh out of the oven and its low calorie but very filling, tasty and healthy.  Come and dine, it’s good to see you and catch up.

Read the Word and let the author speak to you, where you are, who you are.  Let Him speak to your needs, to your heart.  He longs for you to call and ask to come visit Him.  After all He has fresh bread in the oven just for you.  Come, taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

I am going to spend today in the house of the Lord.  That means where I am, what I am doing, I will do it and I will be in the presence of the Lord.  Please join me wherever you are.  His house is big enough for all of us.

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Season 3, Episode 24

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIufLRpJYnI

Everyone loves the character Jaws from the James Bond movies.  The giant, towering, silent brooding of Richard Kiel, complete with stainless steel jaws.  He is the bad guy simply because he looks so threatening (okay, so he will bite your spinal cord in two, minor issue).  But Richard started out in these types of roles much earlier, do you remember when?  That’s right, Season 3, episode 24.  The Twilight Zone.  There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight ZoneRod Serling.   Insert the eerie music here.

Season 3, episode 24, 1962,  titled “How to Serve Man.”  Richard Kiel plays a Kanamit, an alien race that has landed on Earth and said that they come in peace (where have we heard that line before?).  Of course mankind is skeptical what with looking up a 9 foot people with enlarged foreheads who wear robes and are led by Jaws himself, wouldn’t you be. But the Kanamits go about demonstrating their good will.  They solve world hunger,  end the need for having nuclear weapons, turn deserts into lush usable land.  How wonderful and they give us a copy of the book that guides them concerning us.  Then they start offering trips to their home planet, described as a paradise, and people flock.

But there is a team of linguists, now out of work from cold war spying,  who is busy trying to decipher the big book the Kanamits say is their guide.  The team first breaks the title and it is “How to Serve Man”, wow, maybe these guys are on the level.  They keep plugging away and it comes time for the team leader to get a free trip to the Kanamits home planet.  Off he goes.  Just as he is starting up the stairs of the spacecraft (one of those lovely really cheesy models which wobbles as it flies) his aid comes running up yelling at him.  She is blocked by a gate guard but yells to him, “don’t get on the ship, it is a cookbook!”  But alas, he is trapped and sent to his doom.  End of the show; enter Rod Serling with his dry, philosophical end lines.

I told that story just because it was a really good episode of Twilight Zone and it does have application to today’s post, “How to Serve man.”  Matthew, chapter 5 and Luke, chapter 6 contain a good recipe concerning how to serve man.  And it comes from the Master Chef Himself, Jesus.  I am not giving you an individual verse because it’s the verse in the context of the whole.  I like Matthew, chapter 5, 6, and 7 because in them Jesus tells us how to live.  Huh?  But doesn’t modern man tell us that to live we acquire, we climb every higher making ourselves more important and gaining more to prove that fact?  In a nutshell Jesus is telling us the opposite of what the world says.  Jesus believes in us, in you and me, He believes we can handle the truth, Jesus speaks truth in truth language, and He speaks direct to our hearts and minds.  But, big but here (BBB, I wonder if the Better Business Bureau would approve, at least I am not talking two t’s but), Jesus expects us to live the truth, to walk the truth, to handle the truth, to speak truth.  He believes in us enough to tell us we can do it.  Hey, you, I am talking to you!

What Jesus is telling us is to do what is right.  There, I said it in English that time.  Do not what we have to, but to do more than we have to, to give all for the others wellbeing.  I have only heard the word “love” defined once in my life.  It was in 1972 by Winkie Pratney, a Bible teacher, youth evangelist I spent a couple of weeks learning from.  Winkie defined love as “choosing the other’s highest good.”  Hearing love defined in those terms blew me away and still does.  It motivates me, guides me, leads me, and love swirls through my heart.  Look at Jesus and apply the word love as Winkie defined it to Jesus life.  Yes, you have heard it and seen it when you have read about Jesus or studied about Him.  But now you have a definition for your life.  Choosing the other’s highest good, what clarity is found in that definition?

We all fall short of that and we all fail miserably daily.  I do and I know you do.  Yes, you may be a “good” person; you may be a “good” Christian.  You may actually be living better than most Christian’s in your walk.  But what I am pointing out is that our standard is higher.  Our standard is to be like Jesus Himself, to walk in love as He walked in love.  Oh, and our standard is to die like Jesus died.  How and why did Jesus die?  He died giving Himself for others; He gave Himself for you and for me.  Are you willing to give yourself for others, am I?

I honestly don’t know the right term to use here to describe myself, a problem I have, a shortcoming, a failure, a lacking, hang-up, weirdness.  I want things right, righteously.  I seem to have endless conflict with the VA over how they deal with veterans,  I am fixing to tangle with local city government over parks being right. At work I had many a conflict with fellow workers and management about things being right.  The problem is in being right and wanting to be right, I was and am wrong.  Do the specific issues matter, no, what are the expectations, what are the rules and laws that govern situations?  Matthew, chapter 22, Mark, chapter 12, and Luke, chapter 20, contain an answer that is both clear but one that does not tell me what am I supposed to do.  Jesus gives us answers and then waits for the answer to click in our feeble minds.

The answer is we are to love.  We are commanded to love with Jesus love.  We are commanded to love our neighbors, we are commanded to love our enemies, and we are commanded to love; period, end of story.  Will you purpose this day, today, to love as Jesus loved, to love as we walk in this world and through this world, with family, friends, strangers and even enemies?  Today someone else will do something terrible like Boston or a million of other evils.  Will we love let the driving force of our lives?  Will I; will you?

Heavy Heart

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Tuesday morning, April 16, 2013

I have a very dear friend who lives in Inner Mongolia.  She is there for two years teaching English.  It is a call upon her life and a heavenly call at that.  She had woken up, couldn’t sleep at like 3:00 am (her time).  That puts it at 2:00 pm here in Texas.  Interesting trivia point for no points in the game of life.  As best I can tell China has only one time zone and it is much wider that the United States.  We visited for about a half hour and had a good friends chat about where each of us is at.  So we finished the call and hung up.  I then checked my computer to see if Kim what’s his name, the mad man of North Korea had made the ultimate stupid move and signed the death warrant for himself and his military as well as the government as they know it.  He hadn’t, which was good.  Instead the headlines were 2 dead and many, many people very seriously injured at the Boston Marathon.  The story came complete with graphic images.

I stopped and I cried.  And I cried, and I cried some more.  I had no clear reason why I was crying, no anger, no emotion directed towards the people involved, I just cried.

I remember when Kennedy was assassinated.  9/11 is a very clear image in my mind.  It set off PTSD memories from Vietnam.  I carry lots of emotional baggage from there, all of them with plenty of grounds to cry.  I will share one story here.  Christmas Eve, 1970, just before the annual cease fire, we fired an artillery fire support mission for an infantry unit setting up defensive positions ahead of the holiday.  For reasons unknown to this day, the coordinates were called in wrong, or mixed up, or whatever.  The resulting incoming rounds landed directly on the infantry unit killing nine, wounding virtually everyone else, with three of the wounded dying over the next couple of days.  Merry Christmas.  That pain is so deep of a traumatic wound crying is hard to do.  Even after over 40 years.

But I cried today for Boston and I don’t know why.  I don’t need to know why.   My crying tells me I am human and I’m alive.  It tells me I know there is evil in this world and pain and suffering.  It tells me also there is good in this world and that I care about my fellow man, as I should.

I have had a very positive, good last week.  Today started out really good and I was charged up emotionally.  Talking with my friend in China (Inner Mongolia is part of China) was a nice treat because this wasn’t a normal time for possible communication.  I will tell you sometime how much fun it was communicating back to the United States from Vietnam was.  Then came Boston and my having good days cratered.

I went on to my class and threw 4 very nice pieces of pottery.  Coming home I prayed for Boston.  Starting to pray I was not sure what to pray for, I didn’t know what was on my heart.  So I just prayed out loud to God, and I prayed for peace, yes, the people in Boston needed peace.  That was the prayer, a good prayer.  But I stopped because it wasn’t the right prayer I was supposed to pray.  Turn on the proverbial light bulb, Eureka!  I prayed for God’s peace for the people in Boston.  God’s peace, what a difference, including God with peace.  What a different peace.  A peace that passes all understanding.  Remember, I (and probably you as well) really don’t understand what happened in Boston.  And understanding began to flow.  I don’t know the people who planted the bombs in Boston or why.  I don’t feel anger toward them nor do I want to lash out at anyone who perpetrated this deed.  But I had new insight, God’s insight.

What I sorted out, had revealed, whatever, came into place driving home.  When I got home I emailed my friend in China.  Here is part of what I told her (if WordPress will allow it I will try and leave the original font):  I know we live in a time of great evil. Evil I say, no, I said great evil.  Even excluding the end times and return of Christ our days are evil.  Okay not our days but the days we live in.  Why today seems to have hit me more than other evils days I don’t know, it just has.  The author of this act is not the person, group, terrorist group, whoever but it is Satan, the great deceiver, liar and author of all evil.  I need to also pray for discernment to understand the Christians place in the days and our response to evil.  Part of what I am saying here is that the Christian response needs to be, has to be, love.  I know that that word love doesn’t mean ushy-gushy nonsense but I know that the response has to be love.

The subject of this post is love.  That has to be what we live and exhibit in every aspect of our lives.  If we hate like those who hurt us then they have won.  If we hate we lose, the world loses, and those we love and care about lose.  We as Christians are called to rise above this world, this world system that exists horizontally all around us.  We are called to rise vertically, to rise to God’s standard and call that He has place on each of us that call ourselves Christian and be and be transformed into the image of Christ Jesus.  We are called to so much more than this world can imagine.  We have allowed ourselves to be pulled down to the worlds cheap not even second best standard of living.  We need to cry for Boston just as Jesus wept for Jerusalem, not just for the victims yesterday, not just for the entire population that suffered an attack, but we need to weep that Boston exists in a world filled with evil.

What I want to leave you with may not come through with what I mean but I will try and say it and hope you can put the pieces of the puzzle together.   First, read Matthew 5, 6 and 7.  Let Jesus tell you how we should live.  He told us, He told you and me.  Throughout the New Testament we are to be like Jesus, to live and die as He did.  It is pure simplicity yet is as complex as the nature and structure of the physical universe.  But He laid it out.  Second, we are to love.  We can love because God first loved us and He then demonstrated it by sending His only son down to redeem us and save us not just from sin and death but to save us from ourselves. I can’t add to that because it is a complete statement and a complete truth.

Finally, we can pray.  Will you join your prayers with mine for Boston and all that that word now means?  And Boston now means so much more because we have talked about truth, God’s truth.  Laid bare is the evil that is so prevalent in this world, evil has a name, Satan, the great deceiver, liar, cheat, thief, and murderer.  Join in prayer to say where we as Christians stand, with Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father.

Today is a Day of Life

This morning in the news, on every major news network, was the story of the suicide of Matthew Warren, age 27. You probably have heard this news story by now but I wanted to touch base about it. Matthew was the son of Rick and Kay Warren. Rick is the pastor of a major mega-church and author of one of the all time bestselling Christian books, A purpose Driven Life. Now I have not read the book, though I am sure I have read parts of it and heard other parts from it. The news media is treating this as a major story and there are reports that a lot of people are really bashing the Warren’s, Saddleback Church, Matthew and Christianity in general. To those people I briefly say grow up and shut up. It does not matter what happened or why, The Warren’s have lost their youngest son, a church has lost one of its own and the world is one person sadder. Feel for them, pray for them, show compassion and mercy and grace to them. As Christians we are called to love them. My heart feels for them because death is so permanent, so final. Death hurts. When my wife Deborah died in 2009 I hurt. I never knew so much pain could exist, but it did. Why did she die when she did, and how she did, does not matter. She hurt until the end and then I carried on the hurt.

What this post is about specifically is suicide, depression and that wonderful modern word that everyone likes to use, “mental illness.” So what are my qualification to talk about these heady topics. Okay, I am glad you asked. I am a born again Christian dating back to 1972. That is the foundational point of view I will be coming from. I carry a 70% disability from the VA for PTSD related to my service in the Army in Vietnam. I have killed and I have seen the dead, up close and personal. Along with that comes depression and all other kinds of goodies. I have a diagnosis for bipolar disorder on my chart that I am working to have removed because it is a crock of s*#t. Add it in the middle, I am using the words that fit. At the present time the director of the Central Texas VA, has not responded to my correspondence (since last September) showing where the diagnosis is a crock, combined with the current VA and overall psychiatric trend to add diagnosis and medication rather than seeking to find out what is actually going on. Okay, that was a side track, now back to qualifications. My first college major was psychology, I have studied PTSD specifically a whole lot, and have interacted with a lot of both people with problems and professionals. All that and $4.75 might get me a small cup of coffee at Starbucks.

The news is reporting that “in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he (Matthew) took his life.”  I think that is a very good description of suicide and how it works for a lot of people. How do I know? It happens to me and on a regular basis, and it hurts, and there is no sense to it or reasoning with it. Just like the word above that starts with a s, ends with a t and has it in the middle, it happens. It is a flood of emotions and wrong thinking that washes over you. Suicide tries to get to you before you can reason, this despair will consume you if it has a chance.

Another side track here, so please pardon me. Did Matthew Warren go to heaven because he committed suicide or is he damned to hell for all eternity? Well I again say to all the judges out there sitting on their thrones “shut up.” Matthew’s relationship with God, as well as mine and yours, is between each person and God Himself. I will let you all in on a little secret, God is big enough to take care of matters. I think God grieved and is grieving with the Warren family and that God cares about the pain the all feel right now and will feel in the days to come.  The thing that matters right now is that Matthew is gone, it is a loss, and people grieve and hurt because of it.

So how do we, and by we I mean you and me, help people who carry these wonderful modern labels that say they are less than real, or normal,  people. I hate the way that even sounds so let me try again. How do we help people who hurt, who despair, who think that ending it will solve their problems? Again, I am glad you asked. The funny thing is that most of what I will share is how we should live anyway as Christians and as real people (if we choose to be a real person).
1. Accept people where they are for who they are. Everyone is someone and everyone is important. For example, in the workplace the concept is that the president or head of the company is the most important person. I suggest that the janitor or maintenance person ranks right up there. If no one cleans the toilets, empties the trash or fixes things when they break, then pretty soon the boss would be, again add our favorite s**t word, out of luck.
2. Where can you be a friend? There are people I don’t like and don’t want anything to do with, but God loves them and calls me to love them. Ouch!
3. Listen, listen, love love! Okay, that phrase came from the Kairos Prison Ministry (wonderful ministry that makes a difference because it starts with loving like Jesus loved).
4. Hold one another accountable. There are people in my life to whom I am accountable. That means they know me, the good and the bad, accept me, and want the best for me. But it means that with that kind of love they expect me to rise up to the best I can be. When I get down and “in despair” I not only can call them but I have told them I would and they believe what I say.  When I call them they listen. They don’t try and solve things, don’t have answers, they listen. That is love. Only after that has occurred if they have any wisdom (not knowledge) then they share it. After Deborah died I was sharing with one of my support group, and I dumped for about 20 minutes. I went on and on, tears streaming down my face, really losing it. He listened the whole time. When he felt it was time (like I said about 20 minutes) all he said was “God’s not finished with you yet.”

We are not called to be judges, we are not called to fix the woes of this world. We are called to be followers of Jesus Christ, Christ bearers. We are called to walk alongside one another, to lift each other up, to pray one for another. If you know Jesus as your savior and Lord then I need the Jesus in you. I don’t need the answers, He has them, I need your love. Right now love the Warren family. Right now please love me. Love our veterans who have put it all on the line for you and me. Let Jesus be Jesus to all those around you. Listen to the Holy Spirit as He guides you to those in need of the Christ. To those Matthew’s.

Spring springs with life

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I received an email this week from someone who loves me dearly that was a reminder that this week is the anniversary of when we interred Deborah in 2010.  It was actually not a date on my calendar or in my mind, but being reminded has brought forth much loving thoughts as well as a stirring in my heart and mind.

Between one and two months after Deborah passed away God gave me the song “All My Tears” by Julie Miller as a gift for healing.  The youtube version attached is Julie singing it at it barest (from the movie Songcatcher) and to me is the most beautiful version of this song.  It has been covered by Emmylou Harris (both with Julie and on her own), Jars of Clay, Selah with Kim Hill, Julie and her husband Buddy Miller.  But I like this bare version of it.  One line in the song is “So weep not for me my friend when my time below does end for my life belongs to him who will raise the dead again.”  Well, I still weep at times.  I was driving home from an appointment and I played a version I had in the car over and over, for 45 minutes, and I wept.  But rest assured they are good tears.

Spring has arrived in the Texas Hill Country and with it comes wildflowers out the wazoo.  The photograph above was taken in 2012 when Deborah’s bench and surrounding area was buried in Bluebonnets and other wildflowers.  So in essence she was buried in life, new life that returns each spring.  Hence, spring springs with life.  Life and beauty will reign.  Death cannot hold sway forever.

Now, I have said all that to say I believe.  I believe in God, that there is a Greater One, a Creator of everything that was, is and will be.  I believe that Jesus is God and is God’s own Son who came to bring life to all men who will choose to accept it, all men who choose to embrace something that is unseen and unproven, and to accept that not only is there a God, the great I AM.  I believe and I stand on that belief.

Next, this belief says that God will raise the dead one day in the future.  I believe that.  I don’t know it, I can’t prove it, there is no evidence to prove that statement but I believe it.  One day I will rest in the same bench Deborah’s ashes are in.  My ashes will be next to hers and I believe that I will be with her in the presence of God in heaven.  Where is that and how does it all work?  I don’t know, but I believe.

My question to all who read this is what do you believe?  What are you basing your life upon and what are you risking your life for?  I could preach, and would love to, but I would rather invite you to ask God to reveal His truth to you.  I once prayed “God, if you aren’t dead and are there come and fill my heart.”  And you know what, He did.  That settled the question of if there was a God or not.  It still took me more than a few years to realize that I could live in Him, in Jesus, but the matter of God was a settled issue with me.  So, talk with Him about whether or not He is and go out and enjoy and see the new life spring brings, it is a gift from Him to you.

Finally, please stop and say a prayer for me.  A touch from the Master’s hand right now would be nice.  Blessings.