Monday, October 12, 2009

Rude People

Rude People
A 2000 word essay written to the 8th grade level so even this guy can understand it!

Maybe it's just me but when I was a kid in grade school - it seems like all of us kids were told it was rude to push your way to the front of the line or bully your way around the playground. I guess there were always some people who weren't gonna get the memo.

We were taught, "No jumping in line, no crowding, no talking over people... be polite, ask permission, let others go first" Now that is the instruction we got in Kansas.

Then I moved to the Deep South - where "Southern Hospitality" sometimes takes on a completely new meaning. Generally, people everywhere are really polite - decent individuals. Sometimes you run into real jerks.

This last weekend, I had a double-header at an air show I attended.

As a part of the media, I get in early and stake out a spot along the flight line - usually with a few other photographers. We watch each other's backs and each other's equipment. There is a lot of money laying at the feet of three or four photogs at any given show and we don't need to chance an unnecessary repair.

So as usual I found a spot along the line, six or seven other photogs show up and we are relatively safe between the rope and a nice Stearman parked between us and the crowd.

To my immediate left was a super nice family who also wanted an unobstructed view of the show, a husband and wife and their three precious children. All of us sorta became friends as we baked in the morning sun and waited until the show started at 1:00.

Now - as working pro - even with friends watching our backs - we tend to not wander off to eat, visit the port-o-lets or meander through the crowd. It’s just not in the job description. We’re here and this is where we stay.

About 1/2 an hour after the show started, a guy with a nice Canon camera and a short (useless) lens, pushed his way around in front of the kids to my left, put his chair down on top of the lady's foot and called for his family to do likewise. As they pushed their way into the small area between the family that had been there all day and the rope line - I stood up and told the guy he had to move. Of course he didn't want to and said as much... not politely either! He said it was as much his right to be there as anyone else.

Of course, it is his right to be at the air show as anyone else... but not crowding in front of people to do so.

After a few words were exchanged, he moved his family back behind the people who he had rudely jumped in front of - and that was the end of it. The woman thanked me for standing up for them and I said it was the right thing to do. She said she felt helpless and didn't know what to do. It angers me when people are rude and these nice folks didn't deserve this guy's rudeness.

Fast forward about an hour. The wife needs to take the kids to a party, so the dad asks me to save his place while he walked them to their car safely. It's nice to see a gentleman taking care of his family! so I said "sure - not a problem."

While he was away... and while I was preparing my cameras for the next performer, a big guy (taller than me by at least 6 inches) - sorta dumb looking - pushes his way to the rope line in front of the chair my new friend had left and since I wasn't facing forward, he even started encroaching on where I had been standing. This guy was there with his six or seven year old son and the two of them took up some space on the flight line.

Now normally, I don't say much to kids who crowd in - I figure they are just products of bad parenting and since they are short... and I'm pointing my lenses into the air... it's not that much of a problem. Its a bit dicey in that they don't understand the concept of a $10,000 camera rig or what it would do to one if it were knocked over, but so far I haven't had to deal with that.

This guy though was old enough to know full well he was selfishly pushing his way to the front and picking a spot where he thought he wasn't going to get much resistance. ... Me!

You have to understand - the other photogs on either side of me were taller than I am. This guy didn't want to take on anyone who he couldn't look down to. Another factor I believe played into this scenario - was his apparent latent racism.

You see - bullies are also usually cowards. This particular coward looked at the three guys I was shooting with and decided he wasn't going to push his way in front of three black guys. There it is - the guy wasn't going to take on any of these guys, when a perfectly good short white guy was available. So here we have, standing in front of me, a racist, rude, obnoxious, tall, stupid looking white guy with his son in tow.

So I told this jerk he needed to move - that it wasn't right to push his way in front of people who had been there all day and that he was blocking their view and in my way as well. All of the guys shooting with me stood shocked that this guy was such an obnoxious jerk... they also didn't know how far I was gonna go to defend our turf.

This jerk let out a barrage of whining unlike anything I've ever heard a mature adult ever utter. It was obvious from the first sentence he'd used this excuse before and that his mama had let him get away with it. We've all heard whiners like this since grade school and this guy was in his 40s! He finished his diatribe with "I have as much right to be here as you do so leave me alone!"

I told him he needed to leave and I didn't want to hear any more of his Bull Shit. He wouldn't budge.

While all of this was happening, I was missing the FA/18 series - particularly the portion I was there to shoot - the high-speed pass with vapor bursts. Needless to say, I was pissed! But resigning myself to the fact this jerk wasn't leaving - I went back to shooting what I could when his head wasn't in the way.

Did I mention he complained I used the BS word in front of his son? Did I mention his son was begging his dad to leave because it was too loud and it was scaring him when the FA/18 would go by? The dad ignored the constant pleading of his son - by this time he was there to make a point and his son didn't matter to him. Poor kid held his fingers in his ears and stared at the ground for the whole show. Maybe the kid inherently knew his dad was being an ass and couldn't bear to watch.

When the FA/18 was done, the kid kept begging to leave while the jerk said they were going to stay and see what was next. The good thing is - the kid begged long and loud enough to start to make a scene in front of everyone else so before the guy put his camera away, he took the opportunity to try to pick another fight with me - trying to justify his actions and ended it with telling me I had no GD right to tell him he couldn't stand anywhere he wanted.

Now - I think the F-bomb is bad... but the GD bomb is nuclear! I immediately turned to the kid and told him to remember his dad in church the next day and remember his actions today.

The jerk went ballistic. He said "OK - that's enough, you're gonna pay for that, I'm gonna get someone over here to set you straight, you aren't going to talk to my son like that."

and he and his son left...

All of us standing there, along with all the people around us who heard what went on, breathed a big sigh of relief that he was gone and everyone commented on what a jerk he was.

and we all went back to shooting the air show...

About five minutes later, the jerk was back, with a big uniformed officer of the law at his side. The cop was visibly upset with me due to what the jerk had told him.

I looked the officer in the eye and told him exactly what had happened, pointed out all of us photographers were credentialed media and had been there all day long when this guy pushed his way in front of us. The cop looked at all of us and everyone nodded to the veracity of what I had said. The cop took his hand off his holstered gun and proceeded to tell me this jerk had every right to see the air show too. I agreed with him but pointed out he should have gotten to the air show early enough to stake out his own spot on the flight line and not crowd into people who had been there all day. He said he understood my complaint and that he just wanted everyone to have a good time at the show. I acknowledged his good wishes - and he took the jerk off about 20 feet away and started to talk to him. I suppose he was explaining to him that he was in the wrong and that he shouldn't have bullied his way in front of other people.

While the officer was explaining all of this to the jerk... the kid started crying - evidently thinking his dad was about to be arrested. Interrupting the officer - the jerk started yelling at me that I had made his son cry and that I should really feel good about doing that to his son. I turned around and just looked at them as the officer tried to finish what he had to say to the guy.

And I went about my business shooting the air show. A line from an old movie came to mind - "what is behind me, is not important".

It still bugs me that this guy did what he did and tried to justify himself for doing so. It is outrageous behavior and embarrassing at least. The race card being played subtly and the bully persona combined with a whiny "victim" mentality reeked of spoiled mama's boy.

And there you have it - the composite of a rude person.

Maybe I should have been more gracious. Maybe after baking in the sun all day - I should have been more patient. Maybe after giving up the freedom to get lunch, buy some water, take a whiz or look at the static displays - maybe I should have just cowed down and let this jerk run roughshod over everyone there.

All of the other photogs just shook their heads at his belligerence. One even said that this was typical of the people who live in the area... redneck rural Georgia. I think he may be right - but I’ve seen similar behavior at other events across this country...

Viktor E. Frankl said in "Man's Search For Meaning" (page 136-138)
'From all of this we may learn that there are two races of men in this world, but only these two - the "race" of decent man and the "race" of indecent man. Both are found everywhere, they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Silly Love Songs

You know, something I've been thinking for a while now... every song about love - whether current or lost (i.e.: blues) is a reflection of the bridegroom calling out for his bride (be she faithful - or be she Gomer) - those He has called to Himself. The essence of the message one brings in a love song - is the same as His invitation back to relationship with Him. In that - i can find great inspiration even in secular songs - 'cause they reflect the author of love - even in the limited understanding of the writer.

Think about it - when someone sings "love will keep us alive" - how much more true can that be? The author of love is also the author of life. Look at these lyrics by the Eagles rock band - I bet they had no idea they were basically giving the gospel - the very essence of the call to relationship with God...

I was standing
All alone against the world outside
You were searching
For a place to hide
(was this not what Christ did? stood against the broken world we now live? Hasn't mankind always looked for a king, leader, messiah, strongman, superman, Savior)

Lost and lonely
Now you've given me the will to survive
When we're will keep us alive

Don't you worry
Sometimes you've just gotta let it ride
The world is changing
Right before your eyes
Now I've found you
There's no more emptiness inside
When we're will keep us alive

I would die for you
Climb the highest mountain
Baby, there's nothing I wouldn't do

(again - did not Christ go to the top of the mountain and resist the temptations offered Him? Did He not die for you?)

I was standing
All alone against the world outside
You were searching
For a place to hide
Lost and lonely
Now you've given me the will to survive
When we're will keep us alive
When we're will keep us alive
When we're will keep us alive

While I admit freely - every line in every love song doesn't apply. But listen to a few songs - even listen to the heartbreak and misery of a real blues ballad - and you can hear the Master calling for the restoration of the broken relationship. Its there - just under the melody - or floating just above it. Listen carefully - you never know where you will encounter that which you most desire. The fulfilling relationship of the Bridegroom who loves you and would rather die than be without you.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Living Sacrifices

This is a message given by a dear friend of mine - please read and give it some thought.


I bring greetings to you from a distant land in the name of The Living
Lord, the only hope for our dying and hopeless world. My special thanks
for the pastor and the mission committee for their kind invitation for
me to come and speak to you this evening. After watching video, all
memories have become real alive to me - each time I watch and go through
this pain. But this evening we want to focus our attention on those who
have paid very heavy price and are still paying. Perhaps you do not
realize four hundred people are dying every single day - four hundred of
them. So today you saw the curtains are drawn and we are so privileged
to come here and worship openly with so much light, but then there are
people who are praying and worshipping in darkness - because they are
afraid that somebody may come to know who these people are who are
sitting and praying. Would you please stand in their darkness with me?

Our Gracious Heavenly Father, as we stand - one family - before
the throne of our Living God, in the righteousness of Our Lord, we stand
and approach your throne, knowing that there are so many people who are
not as privileged as people of this land are - we want to return thanks
for many blessings that you have given to us, blessings that we are able
to count and blessings that are hidden from us. And, Lord, there are so
many things that does not make any sense, and as we stand in this
darkness with our brothers and sisters around the world, I pray that we
will be sending a strong message that we are one, we have one Lord, we
have one Baptism, we have one Hope, and we are all saved by the same
Grace by the same blood which is shed on the cross - so we are
blood-related brothers and sisters. As we focus this evening, I pray,
Father, that you will speak to each one of us, help us to understand
what it means to take part in your suffering. In Jesus' most precious
name - we offer our evening prayer - Amen.

Before I go and share what I believe the Lord has put on my heart, I
have to share a very personal thing. I just got news about - as you can
tell I am a very emotional person. I know in your country you say that
only weak man cries - the strong man should not cry, and I think the
other way around, and I justify my tears differently because I say only
strong man can cry - weak man knows how to hold his tears. Jesus was
not a weak man, yet he cried. It takes a strong man to cry. When you
hear the news that your brother's daughter is raped, gang-raped,
teen-age girl. Rape takes place all over the world, my friend, I know
that - you know that. But nobody rapes you because you are Christian -
because you believe in Jesus - that's why you are raped. So when you
admit terrible pain that your own brother's teenage daughter is raped,
because you are actively involved in evangelism - in outreach to Muslim,
then it becomes very painful. You leave the phone down and there's
another phone - another brother is kicked out from his job because they
said that he is very actively involved in evangelism - he should not be
here. And when he reaches home, he discovered that somebody came and
burned everything - whatever belongs to his house - so his wife and
children were waiting outside, waiting for their comfort. When you are
finished with this news, another phone call comes and says one of your
close friend, a medical Dr., while he was operating, trying to save
somebody else's life, the fundamentalists came and put 35 bullets in his
body. And whatÌs his crime??? because he has put his life in the hands
of The Lord. And I can go on and on and share many stories.

There are people who are meeting in the darkness, as I said before,
because they are afraid. Each Friday when we meet, my mouth is dry - I
don't know who is there. And I don't know what will happen in the
middle of the meeting or in the end of the meeting. But you still
preach Christ. In my country 30 - 65 thousand - (the video said 30
thousand, but the real news is over 60 thousand) people attacked two
Christian villages, and they burned everything that belongs to
Christians .
We learned some new methods of evangelism that Muslims are using to
spread Islam. They took their wives and mothers in front of their
children and their husband, pulling their breasts, biting their lips and
their cheeks, and forcing them to become Muslim.

That's not easy to witness on daily basis!

They burned 1,500 Christians homes and 15 churches, Salvation Army
center, one medical clinic, Bible, songbooks, instruments and whatever
else was in these churches. They take young girls and then they kept
them for many days. My friend, 100 million Christians are martyred. In
20th century - this is the biggest crime that we know! Whenever we
think of martyrism, our mind goes to the first century Christian, and we
always think that the Christians were martyred at that time and that is
true. But what if I tell you this? More people are martyred in this
century than put all the nineteen centuries together!!! Is that
difficult to believe? Everything is documented, all you have to do is
go and check the sources - and not just the Christian sources. Even the
secular media is now crying - ReaderÌs Digest and other newspapers and
not the Christian or the Jew, but also the Muslim is saying what is
going on with the Christians - in the last seven years - it's
unbelievable. But on the other hand, if I tell you that more Muslims
have become Christian in the last 25 years than put all the 1500 years
together - so you can see - both things are going side by side.

It's a heavy price - pain is real. But who said there would be no
pain? Pain is very important for our growth - let me remind you of the
situation. Our Lord has said to many people - "Don't be afraid".
Remember these words? Different individual - different people - he said
"Don't be afraid". Come with Dr. Luke - according to his gospel. I am
saying from his gospel so you know who is writing what - Dr. Luke says
when our Lord was in the garden, His sweat was turning into drops of
blood - The One who used to tell other people - Don't be afraid. You
see how real the pain is, my friend? What was the whole purpose of Our
Lord coming to this Earth - crucifixion, redemption, and how many time
did He talk to His disciples, about the crucifixion, about the suffering
and about the pain that He has to go through? And when He was in the
garden, what was His prayer - "... if this cup can pass away..." - One
who used to tell other people - "Don't be afraid".

You see the pain - you see the reality of pain? It's real.

But then how do you respond when you are in that kind of a situation?
There is one American way - and that is, why me, Lord? If I was in my
own country I would say - why me, Lord? Perhaps you have heard these
words before. Maybe with your own lips. I want to remind you as we are
going to focus on the suffering church around the world, this is not the
right response to pain.

The real response to pain is, "Not my will - your will".

But you see, we want our will to be done on earth and we want other will
to be done in Heaven. Although we pray "that your will be done on Earth
as it is in Heaven", but sometimes the words we utter are a little
different. For us, we are still fighting the same war - we are still
fighting the same idea. Nothing has changed - we are still asking the
same question, brethren, should we decide - should we obey God or
should we obey man? The choice is not any difference. If I was present
when the Lord said... and believe this account in the Acts of the
apostle, Chapter 1- verse 8 - you are very familiar with the word in
this verse - Lord is speaking to His disciple and saying, "You will be
my witnesses..." and then He gave the list - "... Jerusalem, Judea,
Samaria, end of the Earth", remember that part? And, by the way- the
word, which is translated in English language - the "witness" comes from
the root word - the Greek word, which means "martyr". So, when you are
witness, then you are martyr. That is the word and that is the meaning
it carries. And at that moment if I was present when Jesus gave this
priority list, and if He put Jerusalem on top of the list, I would have
interrupted Him by saying this, "Lord, with all due respect, I love you
and I trust you, and I have to ask you for your forgiveness because I
never believed anybody would crucify you, even though you have talked so
many times that I would go through this pain and agony, but when I saw
that you were able to bring sight to the blind - when I saw your great
hand touching the leper and instant healing took place - I never
believed anyone can lay hand on you and will get away with it - because
you are powerful. You have amazing teaching and wonderful power - no
man can lay hand on you - but then I saw that they came and they
arrested you, they made you naked - they put lashes to your body - they
spit on your face - they rejected you - they nailed you to a cross and
you did nothing - I was amazed. But then I also remember you said that
you will come back to life. I never wholeheartedly believed that, till I
saw the mark, I put my finger there. Then because it was so real I was
able to see and believe. And then from last forty days we are meeting
often, so many times you have given us instructions. You have prepared
breakfast for us, you have done so many things for us and it has given
me a lot of hope and strength. But due apology to you Lord, have you
forgotten what the people of Jerusalem have done to you just forty days
ago? Or is your memory too short? In spite of you doing everything good
for the people of Jerusalem - in the town, what did you get? They
rejected you. They nail you to the cross. You want us/ me to go back to
the same city of Jerusalem? Come on! Don't joke like this with us! Send
me to America, I am willing to suffer the cross of luxury. But donÌt
send me to Jerusalem. You know why? Because people are so cruel, they
have no head on their shoulder, they are so fundamentalist, they will
never believe us."
How many people came up with that argument? Nobody - do you know why?
Because they knew what Jesus has just said. Everyone understood the
price tag and they went back with great joy. Because they knew the price
tag. My friend, for martyrism is not new to us, we are used to it, but
the problem comes when other brothers and sisters do not care! Four
hundred people are getting killed every day - women and children are
sold in slavery, gang-rapes are taking place, people are crucified. Who
cares?! We have our own stress, we are so busy. We have learned our
golden principle to mind our own business. We will mind our own
business when people are going to hell??? Are we not part of the same
body? Are we not brothers and sisters? When are you going to break the
silence? My friend, it is time to break the silence, it is time to
speak up both to the Lord, by applying the ground rule of The Kingdom of
God and that is to ask. Moses must learn to keep his hands up, and if
his hands get tired, somebody must hold his hand, why? Because the
victory will come, but Moses must ask for it. Fire will come from heaven
and will consume the sacrifice, but Elijah must ask for it, why?
Because it is ground rule in The Kingdom of God and that is to ask, and
I can go on and on and on.
When our Lord was here, even He was not exempted by that rule - even He
has to ask. So who are you and who am I? We have to apply the same
rule of The Kingdom of God and that is to ask on behalf of our suffering
brothers and sisters.
I would like to close this time with a verse from Romans 12, the first
and second verses. It says, "Therefore, I urge you, brethren, in the
view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and
pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform
any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the
renewing of your mind. Then, you will be able to test and approve what
GodÌs will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will."
You are Christian for so many years, perhaps, or maybe you are new
Christian. If somebody ask you what it mean, why Paul had this idea to
present your body as "living sacrifice". Because sacrifice to my mind -
they are two opposite word - One is sacrifice, another one is living.
I have animal or goat or sheep or lamb, and if I am going to sacrifice
that lamb, what do I have to do? I have to use a knife, and when I cut
the throat the blood is out- the animal is dead, but the sacrifice is
performed. But if I keep the animal alive, then sacrifice is not
performed, so what is our brother, Paul, having in mind when he said, "I
urge you..." (in my culture when somebody use that language, the
picture that comes to my mind - Brother, I have a very clear image in my
mind - I beg you, I fold my hand, I go on my knees and I request you
whatever I am going to say, please pay attention and listen to this, and
that is that "You must present your body" and it is the word "presenting
your body as living" and then yet "sacrifice" at the same time. Paul, I
cannot understand this. What do you mean by living and yet sacrifice?

If somebody asked you this question what would you say? You know, in
the East, we have story for everything. Whatever question you ask, I
will tell you one little story before I come to the real point. Because
we are always accused, in the East, we beat around the bush. And you
have the bottom line, you come straight to the point. You know what you
are saying and what you are doing, because you have the daytimer - you
can read it and you can just talk it. We have no notes - we have no
daytimers, and we just beat around the bush. And we learned that art
from Jesus - believe me. Each time the question was asked to Our Lord,
he never, ever answered the American way. He always started beating
around the bush. Remember one time the question was asked to Him, "Is
it lawful to pay tax to the Roman government?" I truly feel that the
church has never understood that answer from the last so many years. I
sometime, in love, jokingly say I have moneyback guarantee that you have
never understood the answer that Jesus gave. That was 2,000 years ago.
I am cutting all other details because of the time factor - that is
another thing that is culturally very different - everything is
according to the time. Jesus said, "Show me the coin". When the coin
was shown to Him, remember He never answered by itself. Again, He
started beating around the bush. And He said, "Whose image is that?"
Don't tell me that Jesus had no idea whose image is that. He asked
them, so I ask you. Whose image was that? And what did Jesus say after
that? "Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give back to God
what belongs to God". What do you think He was saying? You know the
story - you know the answers. He was beating around the bush, and I
want to read in between the line and put this statement in the cultural
perspective so these words will become real. Jesus is saying, "Whose
image is this?" And they came up with the correct answer. And they look
- and they thought, and they openly said Caesar's image. And what He is
saying, "Whose image are you?" He was not talking about 10% - He was
not talking about the money part. And could you help me to understand
whose image are you? God's! So, this is what I find - because it is
beating around the bush, you never saw that perhaps before, And Jesus
is saying, "...and whose image are you?" Give back to God what belongs
to God. Does that make sense? It is total surrender to Jesus. It is
total commitment to Him. You are the image of God - therefore, give
back to God what belongs to God. You know, Caesar always take more than
it deserves, and if you donÌt pay Uncle Sam, you know what will happen.
Uncle Sam always take what belongs to him, but it is God who is often
not fully paid. So, this evening my challenge to you is - you are the
image of God. In the view of mercies of God, what God had done for you
through Jesus Christ on the cross, that what He is with one sentence, he
is connecting us from the Old Testament all the way to the cross. In
the view of the mercies of God, I urge you, brethren, to present your
body as living sacrifice and the story part is - you remember Abraham.
And you remember his son, Isaac, and you remember God ask him, Abraham,
present your son, your beloved son, Isaac, the only son, Isaac, the
promised one, as a burnt offering. And now I want you to imagine very
quickly - I am going to unfold what Paul had in mind when he was saying
"living and sacrifice" and that is the secret that I want to share with
you by this story which is not a fairy-tale. It's a real story. We are
Bible-believing people. We believe that it actually took place. And my
friend, imagine even if you are a woman, imagine you are Abraham and
God's voice comes to you and asks you and then you take the name of your
son whom you love so much, the only promised son, and remember in what
age you have got that son - and now tell your wife what you have heard
from God. You know your wife more than I do. Can you hear what she is
saying to you? Let her talk to your mother-in-law over the phone, and
can you hear what your mother-in-law has to say to you, and your
father-in-law is going to place a call to your parents. And can you
hear what your own father and mother has to say about this wonderful
idea that you have from God? And let somebody inform your neighbor,
and then let someone call 911 - and see what sheriff has to say. I
place these things before you only so you understand that it was not
that simple - it is easy to read - it is very easy to talk, but apply
that to yourself and the living sacrifice will become real to you.
Where you do not question God, where you whole-heartedly surrender and
even believe that if I put my son on the wood, on the altar, and kill
him - God is able to raise him back from the dead. We need that kind of
a faith, we need that kind of a commitment - total commitment - to
spread The Gospel, in the changing world today. They take the journey -
three days, two servants. They reach place - that mountain, servants
are there - Isaac is going with the Dad, saying, "Dad, we have the fire,
we have the wood, we have the knife - where is the lamb?" He was so
excited we were going to worship, and you know what father said, "Son,
God will provide." Now I am not talking about Abraham - if I was
taking my son, I would burst into tears - I may even give the same
answer - "ÏGod will provide", but then the time comes. Abraham prepared
many altar before, but this was special. He placed every stone with lot
of respect and care - you know why? He was going to place Isaac on it
today - it was not just another offering. He was going to place his own
life on the altar. When everything was ready, father said to son,
"Son, remember so many time you asked "Where is the lamb'?" "Yes, Dad,
I wanted to know where is the lamb"
"Son, you are the lamb"
Now before you thought as Abraham, even if you are a woman, young boy or
girl - think like a son. Imagine your father has said this to you, and
be very honest- put you hand here and then answer. Will you not run?
Will you not struggle with your father? Will you not push your father
from the cliff? Will you not call 911 you know there are people down,
they love you more - and they will come and rescue you from your
father. It was not just the father - it was son, too. "Dad, why are
you crying?" It seems like he placed his own life on the altar. But
for his own convenience, father put rope around so the son would not
struggle. And then you know what happened afterwards - he had a knife
in his hands. And it was all out to slay his own son. When Isaac went
on the altar, like he was dead to himself - like he was dead to his
North American dream - he was dead to his Hebrew dream. He was dead to
his present, he was dead to his past and completely trusted his father
and placed his life in the hands of his father - what a worship! What a
commitment - what kind of a sacrifice - he was dead to himself! But as
God provided the lamb, and as Isaac climbed down from the altar, he
became a "living sacrifice". What was my promise to you? I will
explain by giving you story , what it mean to present your body as
living sacrifice. You see, sacrifice is accepted by God almighty. Now
I know that you love and trust me - I have accepted your son's offering
- do not lay your hand on the boy. And as he climbed down, can you see
the reunion and the joy? Are you there with your father as a son, and
are you there as father - in that fellowship? My friend, I can go and
explain few other stories to make the same point. But there is one
special thing- there were three things they were carrying - verse 6 -
of chapter 22 of Genesis - says that father cut the wood and he placed
on son. Son was carrying his own wood - there were two other things
that father was carrying - knife and fire - that father had. But son
was carrying the wood. Nothing happened to your system when you hear
this. No picture comes to your mind when you hear this - that son
always carry the wood? Son always carry the wood. Rather, does
Abraham's son or God's own son - you have to carry your own wood. And
even today in the midst of suffering, my friend - our challenge is,
"Don't be afraid of those who can just kill your body, but you should be
afraid of the one who can kill your body and soul. And He is saying I
am sending you as sheep to the wolf - what is your imagination to - of a
sheep and a wolf? Do you think they will have a red-carpet treatment or
the wolf will say. "Have a wonderful party"? We have a very clear
mandate - make no mistake. We are facing real challenge. We are
meeting real people - we are meeting the real danger, but that was from
day one. I hope, that you will be able to understand the persecution is
I was standing absolutely naked in front of 15-20 people, all night.
And I was going through the kind of pain that I would not publicly be
able to confess. It took two months to talk to my dear wife of what
happened that night. I have gone through much pain and suffering, so I
know what I am saying. You have freedom here - will you still mind your
own business? Are you not your brother's keeper? Will you present your
body as living sacrifice that you would A"surrender all" to Him? It's
easy to sing - very difficult to carefully examine what you are about to
Let us pray. I know you will close your eyes, but would you please keep
your eyes open and look up and put your hands like this, I believe there
are many ways to pray. One way to heaven - many ways to pray. And I
hope you will accept my way of prayer.
Father, we come before Your throne. This evening we only heard
little bit, but there is so much more which is going on. We cannot
what it mean to our brothers and sisters and children and women who are
paying very heavy price, and how can we even rest - we pray, that you
will forgive us for our selfishness, you will help us to focus on you,
that as family member, we will not keep quiet - that we will break the
silence. In Jesus' most precious name - I offer the evening prayers.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Living and Dying in Real Life

I sat down to write a condolence note to a friend... it seems there is a lot to talk about.
It started like this:

"I am grieved to hear of the loss of your student. Either heart attacks are becoming more common - or else we technicians are just prone to them. Either way it is tough to go through....

As i said in a previous post, my dad had a massive heart attack that kept him in the hospital until he died last March. I understand the pain of losing someone close to me. In fact, over the course of the last 7 years... I've been being' schooled on losing friends and family.

A member of the Internet Dental Forum asked me once - just after 9/11 - and after he had lost a lot of friends due to war in the country where he lived "Where was God", How could a good God let this happen."

You must understand, those two questions are usually the toughest for an apologist to answer - not because the answer isn't there - but because it carries with it so much personal feeling and anger toward this so-called "loving God". It didn't help much that I had been fairly insulated from that kind of pain and I didn't want to answer with platitudes and grandiose claims (bible thumping).

OnTheJobTraining to the rescue!

Within a week, my mother died, her sister ( a favorite aunt when i was a kid) and my mom's cousin - another favorite all died within a day of each other. As i was preparing my answer to my technician friend, I had been reading an advance copy of Ravi Zacharias' book "Light in the Shadow of Jihad" that he wrote in response to 9/11. I had just closed the chapter on the Christian view of death, closed my eyes and thought a little and prayed - when the phone rang and my dad told me mom had died. Was I being prepared or what? What timing!

It took me a day or to to see it - but in that difficult question my friend asked me in the hope he could gain some relief from his pain, It was clear my Lord was also preparing me for my own ordeal that was just beginning. For me - a miracle that God could get through a hard head like mine and in such a personal way! I had been taught well how God is sovereign and everything happens within His providence. But did I really believe it - trust it. C.S. Lewis said this :"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? Only a real risk tests the reality of belief." People wonder how you can have a personal relationship with an all powerful being - pray to Him, He does answer. And begin first by praying that your spiritual eyes be opened.

Since that day, my wife and i have lost her grandmother who helped to raise her for a while, My old guitar player's wife committed suicide 3 years ago after suffering from severe depression for years - we loved her dearly and she was like a sister to Deb and I in many ways, here in the Atlanta area there have been something like 10 lab owners or technicians that have died from either cancer or heart attack in the last 5 or 6 years, Debbie's best friend committed suicide here in Atlanta last fall - Debbie was one of the last people she talked to before she shot herself in the head, she may have talked to her daughter - we don't know - and then my dad in March. Now we have just seen GC pass on and realize the loss of another friend that hits close to home here in this forum.

Right now, one of my best friends - who helped lead me to Christ - has a son out in San Diego suffering from a brain tumor that the drs gave him 2 months to live... 4 months ago. We are all praying for a miracle. Every day is a miracle at this point! And just 2 days ago my sister wrote to say she almost lost her oldest daughter last week due to complications from Cushings Disease and severe diabetes. In the last 7 years, it has been one after another, after another. I'm beginning to understand the pathos of my technician friend from overseas - it is starting to sink in - the depth of pain.

And yet we are left with two basic choices - there are more - but basically two. Either we throw up our hands, give up and say - that's life and then you die... and avoid the whole "God question" - or else you come to the realization this whole story is much bigger than we are, we are but mere players in the play, we have been given a part to play, to play it to our best, and it really isn't up to us as to how the play ends up. Our job is to do our part well, right now - and trust that the Playwrite knows the end from the beginning.

With every loss - over the last 7 years, there have been blessings too - that I would not have expected. Mostly for me in the Lord making me so aware of His part in all of this with the beyond co-incidental timing of that first emailed question wrapped up in the phone call of my mom's death. I have seen His hand in everything that has happened and it has done nothing but reassure me of my faith in a Sovereign God.

I wonder - had that question not come - what or who I might be today. How callous and uncaring and self centered would i be? C. S. Lewis is also quoted as saying "Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world!" Would we even turn and shake our fist at Him when in pain like this... if this kind of thing never happened? If we were perfectly satisfied and had no wants or needs - would we even have personality? Needing nothing - we would not even need each other - much less a God whom we cannot see and would not even think about.

Yet we suffer - and only He can bring comfort. Only He can give us the answer to our destiny. Only then will the pain subside and the tears will be wiped away. That is where I find hope in all the darkness that surrounds us. There is a light.
Face the Light! Have Hope! Really "have" hope!

Monday, April 28, 2008

An Existential Relativist

An Existential Relativist: One not bound by the laws of reality.

Existentialism: Makes no claim to know whether or not there is a "greater picture"; rather, they simply assert that the greatest truth is that which the individual chooses to act upon. They feel that to know the greater picture, whether there is one or not, is impossible, or impossible so far, or of little value.

Relativism: The doctrine that there are no absolute truths, i.e., that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture.

This is why one cannot be held accountable for their actions in our culture today. This is why they can believe they did nothing wrong. In their eyes there is no such thing as wrong. Instead their existential act of self validation may require not being held to any absolute standard of any kind. Knowing this, when seen hiding behind the needs or wants of another person or child or the demands of a rigorous job or profession, it is as if a safe haven has been established that is so unquestionable and beyond scrutiny by any other person that to do so would imply the questioner is being a brute, to think otherwise. Better to be bullied for standing up for someone else or for a difficult job than answer for a personal failing or weakness in a personal philosophy that cannot be questioned.

The problem with relativism is that there really are standards. To deny it so - is to say, "here is the standard by which relativism must be judged, there are no standards!" In other words, when one says "relativism is true" they then destroy their whole point - as if to say "it is true to say nothing is true". Doublespeak at best. Those who use doublespeak are unstable in their thoughts and ways and cannot rationalize their existence. There is nothing there to trust.

As they hide behind their relativism, they embrace the idea that since they have adopted this way of thinking and that it is impossible to know the big picture anyway, you may as well validate yourself relatively - since reality is uncomfortable. This being uncomfortable is an anti-existential state of self worth and purpose. Even if purpose itself has no purpose, being uncomfortable about it is intolerable.

So - one justifies themself in his/her rational mindset to allow any luxury or pleasure to validate their comfort, while using anything and everything to buffer themselves and be excused from being accountable.

What if existential relativism is coupled with any form of racism? What then? Does this not also give rise to allowing certain individuals freedoms that aren't applied to other individuals - based solely upon their race or ethnic background? If there are no real standards, why then must all persons be treated equally? Why be treated fairly - once one has cut themself loose from any standard or absolute form of justice. If we must be a people of second chances as some might say, and then not apply these second chances across the board to all - is this not a subtle form of racism? Is this not the root of the evil of slavery itself, or the evil of Hitler's cruelty or the brutality of the race-baiter's rhetoric.

Possibly this is why when some existential relativist are confronted by their inconsistencies, they simply throw up their hands, stare blankly at your face and walk away. They have no satisfactory answer and they know it. To admit there is truth to the complaint of inconsistency, refutes everything they believe in and allows them nowhere to turn. Confronted with reality, the existential relativist turns nowhere but to themself. It is after all, a self-validation. They are, "a victim" of X - why not allow the self enough leeway to never have to answer for their own actions..

Ayn Rand's "virtue of selfishness" in full force has no place in reality. There really is no virtue in selfishness at all. Nor any value to being selfish. Squandering a life lived selfishly is an utter shame. It is akin to holding a "private religion" as it is meaningless to anyone else - though much worse. Selfish living may not be totally embarrassing, but it remains shameful in all its ways.

So, selfish living as expressed in existential relativism boils down to nothing more than shameful behavior at best - and damaging denials and self preservation at all costs at worst. Who gets stepped on while on the road to self image preservation?

What I would give to cut through this crap.
To get to the heart of the matter.
To act honestly and with honor.
To validate one's existence with truth.

Ahhh - but that might mean being real to each other.
That might cost us our pride.
It might make us vulnerable.
It might help make us good!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Good Grief

It's a question more than a response. Is there such a thing as good grief?

Some might say there is, though I wish for the life of me that grief didn't exist.
I write tonight because it's time... grief is here... it doesn't seem to want to go away. Funny thing about real grief, it's easy to think "the blues" are bad - but real grief gives the blues a run for its money and the blues come up short every time!

I am one who enjoys blues music more than any other style - especially when it is fused with jazz. It just makes me feel good. I tell people; "the blues just makes me feel better - it brings me up!" They look at me like I'm crazy and say they don't like the blues 'cause it makes them feel bad. I don't get that.

I will tell you what makes me feel bad though - bad enough that the blues seem trivial by comparison.

A couple of years ago a very dear friend that my wife and I knew since we were first married 32 years ago, committed suicide. We've known her a very long time. Her sweet face and smile is ever present in my memory. For all her faults, she was a beautiful, sweet child of God. It was unbearable to see my best friend, her ex-husband, cry like a baby over her death. I love him as much as I loved her - and to have lost her this way was too much then. She decided it was too tough to go on and so she took too many meds and sat down under a tree in the woods where she wouldn't be rescued and died there - in the cold winter under a cloudy Kansas winter sky.

6 months ago, my wife's best friend and a dear sweet person we both loved a lot decided it was best for her to sit alone in a room and shoot herself in the head. She had suffered greatly over the years with ailments and pain many of us could not endure. She was divorced from the only man she ever loved and knew her two kids were grown and would soon be out of the house. She had come to a crossroads and decided to end her personal tragedy with a bullet. If you could only have known her, known how sweet she was, how caring she was of every person she met - you would never have thought she could have done such a thing. We still grieve her loss and wonder why.

While this may seem less important by comparison to the previous two examples - losing a friend can be just as traumatic. Maybe even more so. Especially when you know miscommunication and effort (or the lack thereof) and hardness of heart is all that stands in the way of restoring that friendship. About the same time as our friend shot herself in the head, I found a way to alienate another person I cared a great deal for - someone I envisioned as being one of our closest friends. My wife and I both knew this person and considered our friendship as valuable in the best possible way. The finality of death makes recriminations and regret a sort of moot point - but when you suffer a loss that could be restored and isn't - it is almost too much to bear. You know life goes on - but there is nothing you can do about it.

Fast forward 6 months - still no restoration of the old friendship. Not really anyway. We still speak - we're cordial. But nothing beyond that. An open wound that doesn't seem to heal - its just there - and I am convinced always will be.

...and then, this last week, I suffer the worst of many fates. My father died after a massive heart attack. Sure, we knew he was getting up there in age. But he was fairly healthy up until two weeks ago. He was independent, he was clear thinking and was quite spry, yet now he is gone. Nothing left but the memories of the good times and the bad times. Nothing left but grief.

After the last 6 months, which have been the worst months of my life considering all that has happened - I finally know what C.S. Lewis means when he says about grief - you want desperately to be left alone except for that feeling you couldn't bear for the house to be empty. If I keep losing friends and family members - I will certainly be alone anyway.

Alone with my blues records and my guitar. Will it bring me up then? I don't know. I doubt it. After my mother died a number of years ago - I took solace playing the blues until my fingers bled. Since there were no succession of deaths or traumatic loss of friends during that time, healing eventually happened.

At this point though, I'm thinking of dropping the "n" and the "erry" from my name. I'm beginning to feel like Job. What seems to be devastating losses - four times over - inside of two years is too much.

Today, Blues music is a quaint triviality. A grief observed from which there seems no end, is not comforted by any form of music.

I know God is there.
I know He is not silent.
I know His will is done.
I know He understands grief better than any of us.

Right now though - I need to feel better. I need to know what He has to say to me.

In any real measure of grief, only what He says is any comfort or understanding.

He says this: "Be still and know that I AM God".

He is - and I am not - and for me, for now, that will have to be sufficient.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Understanding the Revelation

Back when I was in a band a long long time ago, we had a problem with song endings. All our music was original, as we thought it too ordinary to do covers of other peoples music, so every song in our three hour shows were written by Ralph, and then arranged by all of us together. We’d put the pieces together - add parts, take out parts, change the instruments that played the parts and figured out who best could sing the lead and who best could do the harmonies. Thankfully the other guys had the better sense to keep me away from the microphones!

Many of our songs had unusual endings. One more so than others. It was one we didn’t know how to end. It was called “The Last Battle” after C.S. Lewis’s last episode in the Chronicles of Narnia series. The book and the song were about the characters final days on this earth and the last battle that raged between the forces of good and the forces of evil.

How do you end the song? was the question - it was a harsh driving rock song with hard lead guitar all through it, divergent bass and rhythm lines and not too easy to play. It was also going to be a “last song” of the night. (we weren’t a dance band if this is any clue) The ending had to be coherent to the story, yet bring the message into the reality of our every day.

One day while at practice, I suggested we tack on a little short scripture song that Ralph had adapted called “I Saw the City“. It was a really nice little melody and it was coherent to the story… it just wasn’t the same style as the rest of the song going from hard rock to almost country pop. At first there was reluctance by the other guys - it didn’t seem to fit, then with time and trying a few different things… we got it to work. It came from John’s Revelation chapter 21

I saw the city in a vision
Coming down from God in heaven to us
Holy City New Jerusalem
And God will dwell with us forever

I heard a loud shout from the throne say
That the home of God was now among men
And He will live with them forever
And He will join with them forever

And they will be His people
And God will be among them
And He will wipe away all tears from their eyes.

I saw the City in a vision… (repeat to fade out)

For many years now, I have always thought that line about the tears had to do with things like who I will see once there - the family who has gone on before that I’ve missed or the friends who are in Christ whose lives were cut short for whatever reason or even the people I love that I won’t see there due to their own choices. These things would certainly cause tears of joy for some - but also tears of great personal pain. Still it says He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Certainly this is part of the understanding of this passage. The longer I am a Christian, the more aware I am of how much more there is to this little part of the Revelation. The longer I am a Christian, the more I recognize not only that I fall far short of every estimation of what it means to be a Christian - but that I see so many aspects of who I am personally that miss the mark.

In years past, I could go through life thinking that “everybody else doesn’t even think about these minor things - why should I bother?” The older I get, the more I understand the gravity of who I am and what I am not and what most might consider minor, I now consider major. It’s humbling. In fact, if you think about it, by then I believe we will know the true gravity of who we are and what price Christ paid for our sin. We can talk about it all day - we can claim we understand - but until then we won’t know it and I suspect the weight of the glory that God has given us won’t become real to us until we are there. And then - then - our eyes and heart will burst.

To have a Savior who understands us, loves us and has called us regardless of who we think we are, who has stood in our place for punishment and then will meet us and wipe away those tears for the final time and accept us. I am just really overwhelmed.

Not only overwhelmed by His mercy - but overwhelmed by the people who don’t have any desire to experience the joy of all that weight lifted from us.

"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." - C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Revelation 21:1-7
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new " And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." Then He said to me, "It is done I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.