Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Sharper Image

My family hunted and fished when I grew up. My dad a little, my big brother more, some of the uncles a lot. I was always more into ball games but did enough to pick up a few truths about life from the little hunting and fishing I did.

I had been told in various ways and differing times that a dull knife blade could hurt you more than a sharp one. In scaling bass, skinning a squirrel or even just opening a seed sack: sharp good, dull dangerous. It seems that a dull blade will bounce rather than cut into a surface.  When my dad or granddad gave a pocket knife if often came with a whetstone to sharpen it. I remember my older brother sharpening his knives for hours on that thing. He completely wore the thing out till it broke in the now thin middle. Being left-handed I did everything backwards so I had to manipulate the blade and\or whetstone to get it to work. And don't tell me that knife blades and whetstones are neutral.
They are not, they are right-handed implements, but that is another story, In the meantime just ask a lefty about other right hand prejudice.

One of the problems faced by the human race right now, and it doesn't seem to matter if you are of the American branch of the human tree, or the European, Middle Eastern, Asian, or African is that the value of humanity has gotten very dull. This holds true for many, many individuals as well as the governments that govern them. There is no really sharp focus, other than rhetoric, as to the value of human life nor to humanity's purpose. We serve ourselves, our nationality, our religion and in general "our side" even if acquiring soul blindness is the price paid. It is almost beyond imagination, and it would be except we see the reality of it every day, that people derive pleasure in terrorizing, profiteering, murdering, enslaving (often sexually now-a days), abusing, and directing the pleasures of this world to self. It could be that power has seduced some, noble starts change to selfish control  for others, riches engulf some, winning still others, and a sick arrogance that does these things because they figure they can (think bully, Stalin, Hitler) to prove themselves or their ideology superior.

Our dull bladed view of the human race and its humans, jabs when it should slice, bounces into the innocent, and no longer penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart ( Hebrews 4:12) no longer. Well, some think it doesn't.

What do we do? We need a sharper Image. Thankfully, we have one: "And God said, lets Us make man in our own Image..." Gen 1:26. That Image, scarred, marred, broken, (dull is the least of its problems) God sets out in Christ to resurrect. When we begin to view life and the people living it with the same view as God things change. Anyone ever needing glasses but not knowing it for a long time, can attest to the difference corrective lenses make. People who have had their view of humanity dulled with the ways and cares of the world will notice a similar change on the soul level. You never liked or understood "those people" (you know, cat people) but now you do. Another group was viewed with suspicion or prejudice but not you see them more as God does. It goes on as Christ continues His transformation of our character to conform to His very image.

Even what pleasures you changes or it should. There are many things you no longer do, not because you can't, but because you recognize it brings no pleasure to the heart of God. You do things now you enjoy that you couldn't imagine doing 20 years ago, but they bring pleasure to God and now to you also. You pursue the things God pursues:  a relationship with you, freedom, justice, righteousness to name a few. Gary Thomas in his book Pure Pleasure said, "If my pleasures don't give pleasure to God then eventually I will have to choose either to change my pleasures or change my God."

We do our part as the church with pleasure. We must view as pure pleasure to have God sharpen us until we conform to His Image.(James 1: 2-4) When the church does that, it gives the world its only real alternative- the Sharper Image that elevates every life to the purpose for which it exists: to glorify God, bring joy to His heart, and in so doing to ours also.

Still Whet  Behind the Ears,
Cos



Thursday, June 1, 2017

A New Normal

Hi! Remember me? No reason you should but I've been out of it for a bit. I don't want to bore you with old man surgery stories but I haven't had the energy to write on this blog. Thought I'd try one today about my new normal.

I will never be what I was, physically speaking, but truthfully none of us will be will we? I just accelerated the process. So, I have to adjust to a new normal. I haven't figured what all that means yet, that part of the new normal is still in process. I do know that the new normal is slower, weaker, a little foggier in the mind at the end of the day and gets fatigued more easily. The new normal can't touch folks as readily as I once did. But these may change again to a new, new normal in time.

My new normal is smaller by roughly 50 lbs. Clothes don't fit and the world doesn't yield to my touch as it once did. Some doors are very heavy to open now. Some packages I cannot lift. My new normal takes a lot of medicine and supplements. My old life was pretty simple- when I ate and what I ate; when I slept and how I slept; what I enjoyed and took for granted; what I wore was grab and go, now I have to find what kinda fits; when I went and how I went and how I got there.  I am so much better off than so many with deadly and debilitating diseases, but I still grieve my old, simple normal life. I had a presence in many places with many people that is no more.

Is there anything good about the new normal? Yes, as a matter of fact there is. The new normal requires intentionality. I have to think about what to do and if I can do it and how long I can do it.
The new normal requires a different way of measuring time and commitment especially with people, work associates and doctors.

This is often a frustration, but when applied to one's relationship with Jesus the new normal and its priorities actually enhance the relationship. In fact, all relationships benefit with the new normal causing you to prioritize time, energy and focus. My new normal helps me see more people struggling with their own new normals. It has helped me see the struggles of others through my own struggling eyes. The new normal hasn't added time to my prayers but it has added  a width and a depth that wasn't there, at least I didn't see it.

And that is the bottom line, the new normal helps me see things differently, not always better, not worse necessarily, but differently. I see that the Lord Jesus is the Lord of all our normals but our normals are not His normal. He obviously works in, through and with our old ones and new ones but his normal for us is Him; His character as ours; His love as ours; His service and commitment to justice as ours.

There is much about my new normal I don't like but even Jesus has a way of using it to get me to His normal and this is how it should be.

May we live for and aspire to the day when we are all normal like Jesus.

Cos

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Just In Case

I blew it. No excuses, no justification, no getting around it, I messed up.

Now let me tell you how I messed up, again not to give an excuse, just to explain the anatomy of a mess up. When my recent health crises started, I began to think of things that needed some attention.
Knowing that my upcoming surgeries would prevent me from doing things as normal with household chores, yard work, dog work, bill paying, and other odds and ends,  Pam and I got busy getting ready. The night before the big liver surgery I got to thinking there was one detail I hadn't discussed with anyone: what happens if this surgery doesn't go well? I could die and I haven't told anyone how to send me off. So I wrote a letter late the night before with funeral details, you know, just in case.

Here's where I messed up--I didn't tell Pam. I didn't want to put that on her at the last minute so I just put the letter in an envelope and stuck it in my miscellaneous drawer of my dresser and labeled it 'just in case.' I whispered its existence and location to my son just as they came to take me down for surgery. I told him of the 'just in case' letter and I knew the moment I told him I had messed up. I thought he would faint but he hung in there. Well, there were lots of complications and set-backs but I survived that surgery and another and the letter just laid in the drawer.

Then she found it while straightening and cleaning, "what's this?" she asked. "Well, I, uh, wrote out my funeral. I put in which preachers, what songs, and such." "And you didn't tell me?"

Well, like I said, I blew it. I had never written a 'just in case' letter before. I suppose if every one wrote a 'just in case' letter every one would be different. Mine focused on funeral details someone else might focus on family finances and another might say, "I'm sorry. Forgive me," and another might seek to express love to family and friends that he\she could not verbalize. If you're lucky you've said everything that needs to be said and all you have to do if tell where you hid the fortune you secreted away.

What would your 'just in case' letter contain? Maybe you should think about that, a least a little. Jesus taught that we should "not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both the soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28) He also told the parable of the rich farmer who had so much he had to build bigger barns to hold it all. The rich man said let's eat, drink, and be merry but Jesus said "you fool, this night your soul shall be required of you, and the things you prepared for yourself, whose will they be?" (Luke 12:20)

We need to think about our finances, final wishes, and funeral ideas and share them with loved ones. It's more important to think about what comes after that. It's one thing to mess up occasionally with your spouse by not telling them something important. It's an eternal thing to live a life that is not right with Jesus. Take care of that relationship first, you know, just in case.

Cos

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Visit From St. Nick

*Dear Readers,
       I must ask your indulgence for a few weeks. Hearing other people's surgery stories can get monotonous. As many of you know my life changed in the fall of 2016- unexplained  illness, prayers,cancer diagnosis, surgeries, prayers, loss of 2\3 of liver, prayers, no cancer but auto immune disease. I was in and out of the hospital all fall with the surgery, fluid weight gain to 295 lbs, loss back now to 238 lbs and then a hematoma. My body is tired. 
       But God is here and He has something to say in all this. If He is doing something I want to share it. Finding the right words is difficult. Miracle is one of them as the mass, the tumor that killed my bile duct and caused ruination of my right side liver was gone when the pathologist went to work it. The doctor had no explanation. God, working through the prayers of His people is my working theory. Yet complications followed and how is God also in the hard part as well as the good? In all I want Him to receive His glory. The out pouring of love, support, prayers, resources, encouragement, and care for Pam and I has been overwhelming and I have no words to express the depth of our gratitude and how humbled and blessed we are to serve the congregation of White Bluff Chapel. 
       I will write a series of blogs on these themes and hopefully add a Christmas twist to them--tis the season you know. I will try to explore in various little stories some of what happened as I seek for myself the words to express the inexpressible love of God as I saw it these past few months. This I know: to God be the Glory, Great Things He Has Done!


                                                           A Visit From St. Nick

    And He has made them a to be a kingdom and priests to our God.    Rev. 5:10
   
     But your are a chosen people, a Holy nation, a royal priesthood, God's special                                      possession that you may declare the praises of God......   I Peter 2:9

      I am lying in a hospital bed. People are looking down on my body poking, picking, and prodding.  I do not like this side of the bed, I usually look down and smile, visit, read a verse, and pray. So this is what it looks like from here. I feel strange, an alien.

    Not more than a 2-3 miles from the hospital lives Pam's sister Sue and husband Nick. Nick, my funny, story-telling, loud, generous,Italian- Catholic brother-in-law is one of a kind. He has also had many, many illnesses in his life. We couldn't be any different. He is city, I am country. I am comfortable around cows. He prefers Dallas Cowboys. I'm a old Texas Baptist. His Catholic roots go back to Sicily, Italy. Somehow being in this brother-in-law business works for us.
 
  Whenever we lived close enough when he was ill and having his gut surgeries, I'd try to go see him and pray  with him at the hospital. These last 10 years have had us close enough we have probably been to 5 or 6 of his ongoing surgeries. But now it my turn.
   
    Right on cue in walks Nick. His smile is large but his eyes show something else, as do mine. This is awkward. We talked a bit. He offered encouragement on getting through this stuff. And then he did it. I was not prepared in any way for what happened next. This man did what he had seen and had done with him. He said, "Let's pray!."  He reached out that hand and touched my head and began to pray. That hand that had rather run a computer mouse, adeptly find a auto part number in a four inch catalog that he already knew and now in retirement would rather click a remote was on my forehead.
He prayed and we said the "Our Father..." and then he prayed the Rosary and in a few minutes he was gone.

 
   In that moment, Nick was a priest. No official church would recognize his priesthood. I understand. But I also know that from Exodus to Matthew to Ephesians, to Peter to Revelation that this priesthood of all believers is the calling and we are to be a kingdom of priests to each other. We offer the comfort, love, encouragement, even sometimes rebuke to one another from a loving God. At other times we take the burdens, cares, pain, and grief to the living God on behalf of other believers. We are indeed a kingdom of priests.


     So a few weeks before Christmas, I was visited by St .Nick. As Jesus is the Good News of salvation through the incarnation, St. Nick visited me in the hospital and God was incarnate. No, no official church will recognized his priesthood but I believe Jesus did in that moment of flowing grace.


   And so did I,
         Cos

   
   
   
   
     

                               

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hitchcock Halted; Spiritual Warfare Continues

It was a nice quiet summer's morning at the Chapel. The meditative trance was soon broken by a rap, rap, rapping on our kitchen door. Actually, Mr. Poe, it was more of a hammering, so much so that Glenna and I assumed that John, our saint fixer was hammering something back together.

It wasn't. We were being invaded by crows. Having seen their reflection in the kitchen door they began attacking their image with gusto. They were relentless, mean, determined to extinguish their rivals, who in this case just happened to be them. Running at them and screaming like a banshee had the affect of chasing them off for a period of 7.4 seconds. Before I could walk the length of the hall back to my office they were on their maniacal mission again.

This can't continue. No one can work. No one can study. No one can pray. No one can think. No one can write sermons. No one thinks about anything but the crows. How long before they give up? How many pecks per minute on the door can three crows execute? Will they break their beaks? Will they break their necks? We can only hope....

Action is demanded, action I take. I proceed to place a large trash receptacle in front of the door. They still see their reflection on the side and continue their onslaught even getting behind the trash cart to continue their war on themselves. Round 1 goes to the crows.

Not to deterred I find a trash sack and cut it to the appropriate size and tape over the door\mirror. The crows apparently now determine that the other crows they are trying to dispatch are now behind the black curtain of the trash sack. They begin to tear it to pieces. Round 2 goes to the crows.

 I rescue the trash bag and tape it on the inside of the door. The reflection returns enough for them to see and escalate their battle. Noise, noise, cawing, cawing....oh did I mention their steady, relentless battle is only matched by an equal amount of bowel movements right by the chapel's kitchen door. Round 3--to the crows.

I have now battled the crows for an hour. For the past hour creatures with a brain the size of my thumb joint have bettered me. Glenna doesn't seem surprised. I am insulted on several counts. The rap, rap, rapping on kitchen door continues. Let them kill themselves, no wait, another thought occurs---if they want in church so badly, take church to them.

I search the cupboards and find a boom box. I set it up outside the door and have 2 cds of our worship services ready. I pop one in and the crows leave in a hurry. They stay away as long as the worship recording plays. Round 4--Cos!

A dispute arises within the staff, the chasm may well split the church. I say the crows didn't like the traditional choir music; Tom defensively believes it was the announcements that Betty made that drove off the crows. Betty says it is the sermon that keeps them away. Larry says it is having an effect on them as they are lining up in rows like pews to listen. Mike P. wonders if they are sleeping as they listen. God please save Betty and Mike.

The recordings work but we can't play the worship service 24-7. I bring in the boom box at lunch and when I return after lunch the crows are at it again. Ron W said to try a stuffed cat  or lion positioned looking out the door. I look, we don't have a cat or a lion or a tiger or bear at the chapel. We've got a





                                                                        and a
That's right, the chapel now has an attack sheep and attack camel.  Laugh if you want, but they are cheap and effective and they don't poop by the door.  Round five--sheep and camel. I've named them Walker (as in Walker, Texas Camel) and General Schwarzkoph for his shock that awes the crows.

God often uses the small and seemingly insignificant to accomplish His work so don't ever count yourself out or doubt He can use you. There are spiritual battles taking place right and left of which we have little knowledge but can play a great role. In fact, if Walker and Schwarz lose their touch, you may be called on very soon.

Cos

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Going for the Mold

So I'm eating breakfast this AM and reading the box that my "Breakfast of Champions" has been housed. On the box is an homage to past champions of the Olympics and this box has a picture of Janet Evans, the swimming great from the 80's and early 90's. It lists her records and times and how many world championships and gold medals she won. The bio sheet never actually used the word "Olympics." I learned the International Olympic Committee has copyrighted many terms associated with the Olympics and many media uses are prohibited without paying a fee to the IOC. No wonder that my enthusiasm for the games is not as robust as in past years.

That being said I am watching them but without the enthrallment I once did. I also noticed how quite a number of the past Olympic champs from London ('12) and Bejing ('08) are placing 3rd or 4th or not even making their event's finals. There are exceptions like Ryan Lochte, age 32, and Michael Phelps, age 31, who despite their advanced ages are doing well. No doubt the old man, Usain Bolt, barring injury, at 29 will win most if not all of the sprints in track. Gabby Douglas, the all-round Olympic gymnastics champ in 2012, is just a nicely spoken of cog in the USA machine and a relic at age 20- a relic for female gymnasts anyway.

    It seems that in most, though not all cases, you hit your prime in late teens to late twenties and its downhill after that, which is only okay if you are a skier. Iran has a 56 year old ping pong Olympian ( I know it's table tennis). Uzbekistan has a 41 year old female gymnast and the US has Mary Hanna, a 61 year old Olympic athlete. Truthfully, however, her horse does most of the work on the equestrian course. Time is the enemy and after a certain passing of it, you may still compete and keep the Olympic spirit but in terms of medals you are going for the mold. Like this guy: Oldest Olympian.

He was found in Italy in the late 1950's and not examined till the 80's. They found four "medals" from the Panatheniac Games from 480 BC buried with him. He also had a jar of ointment athletes were known have used then (by his left thigh). It was labeled Benus Gayas.  His bones showed density from working out and wear and tear in the right shoulder bones and sockets. Scientists believe he was a thrower and\or a  Pentathlete.

There are so many good and wonderful experiences and lessons that come, no doubt, from the disciplines, the training, the competition, the losses and the wins that despite their relatively short span, I would encourage anyone with skills, abilities, and desires to pursue those noble sports and see where they take you. Most of us won't have those opportunities, most of us simply lack some key elements to take us to Olympic podiums.

In terms of the Christian walk of faith, time is not the enemy but our friend.  The experiences of life on this planet are the training sessions in trust, obedience, maturing, and love that our Savior uses to equip us for eternity. Some training sessions are hard, maybe even harsh it seems. There is always so much more to enjoy, more to see, more to understand about our King and His Kingdom that we will spend a glorious eternity exploring all the wonders of it all.

 Robert Browing put it this way in his epic poem Rabbi Ben Ezra:

            Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be,
            The last of life, for which the first was made: 
             Our times are in His hand Who saith "A whole I planned,
             Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"

              Ay, note that Potter's wheel, That metaphor! and feel
              Why times spins fast, why passive lies our clay,--
              Thou, to whom fools propound, When the wine makes its round, 
              "Since life fleets, all is change; the Past gone, seize to-day!"
                                    
              Fool! all that is, at all, lasts ever, past recall;
              Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
              What entered into thee, That was, is, and shall be:
             Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.

 Potter and clay (that's us) endure. The Olympic motto shouldn't apply just to teens and twenty years olds. Citius, Altius, Fortius is apropos for the believer in Christ. May as time speeds on we find ourselves moving faster to trust and obey; soaring higher in our aspirations to Christ-like character and hopes for mankind; Living braver (stronger) in our application of the truths of scripture in our culture as we share the gospel with the lost and bring justice to the poor and hurting.

So turn for a few days to watch the Olympics and marvel at the athlete's skill. But all days turn in faith to Christ and marvel at His grace that always takes us Faster, Higher, and Stronger in love and service. Don't just go for the gold in life, remember, in heaven, gold is merely pavement.

Destined for the podium,
Cos






 



Going for the Mold

So I'm eating breakfast this AM and reading the box that my "Breakfast of Champions" has been housed. On the box is an homage to past champions of the Olympics and this box has a picture of Janet Evans, the swimming great from the 80's and early 90's. It lists her records and times and how many world championships and gold medals she won. The bio sheet never actually used the word "Olympics." I learned the International Olympic Committee has copyrighted many terms associated with the Olympics and many media uses are prohibited without paying a fee to the IOC. No wonder that my enthusiasm for the games is not as robust as in past years.

That being said I am watching them but without the enthrallment I once did. I also noticed how quite a number of the past Olympic champs from London ('12) and Bejing ('08) are placing 3rd or 4th or not even making their event's finals. There are exceptions like Ryan Lochte, age 32, and Michael Phelps, age 31, who despite their advanced ages are doing well. No doubt the old man, Usain Bolt, barring injury, at 29 will win most if not all of the sprints in track. Gabby Douglas, the all-round Olympic gymnastics champ in 2012, is just a nicely spoken of cog in the USA machine and a relic at age 20- a relic for female gymnasts anyway.

    It seems that in most, though not all cases, you hit your prime in late teens to late twenties and its downhill after that, which is only okay if you are a skier. Iran has a 56 year old ping pong Olympian ( I know it's table tennis). Uzbekistan has a 41 year old female gymnast and the US has Mary Hanna, a 61 year old Olympic athlete. Truthfully, however, her horse does most of the work on the equestrian course. Time is the enemy and after a certain passing of it, you may still compete and keep the Olympic spirit but in terms of medals you are going for the mold. Like this guy: Oldest Olympian.

He was found in Italy in the late 1950's and not examined till the 80's. They found four "medals" from the Panatheniac Games from 480 BC buried with him. He also had a jar of ointment athletes were known have used then (by his left thigh). It was labeled Benus Gayas.  His bones showed density from working out and wear and tear in the right shoulder bones and sockets. Scientists believe he was a thrower and\or a  Pentathlete.

There are so many good and wonderful experiences and lessons that come, no doubt, from the disciplines, the training, the competition, the losses and the wins that despite their relatively short span, I would encourage anyone with skills, abilities, and desires to pursue those noble sports and see where they take you. Most of us won't have those opportunities, most of us simply lack some key elements to take us to Olympic podiums.

In terms of the Christian walk of faith, time is not the enemy but our friend.  The experiences of life on this planet are the training sessions in trust, obedience, maturing, and love that our Savior uses to equip us for eternity. Some training sessions are hard, maybe even harsh it seems. There is always so much more to enjoy, more to see, more to understand about our King and His Kingdom that we will spend a glorious eternity exploring all the wonders of it all.

 Robert Browing put it this way in his epic poem Rabbi Ben Ezra:

                                         Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be,
                                         The last of life, for which the first was made: 
                                         Our times are in His hand Who saith "A whole I planned,
                                         Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"

                                          Ay, note that Potter's wheel, That metaphor! and feel
                                          Why times spins fast, why passive lies our clay,--
                                          Thou, to whom fools propound, When the wine makes its round, 
                                          "Since life fleets, all is change; the Past gone, seize to-day!"
                                    
                                          Fool! all that is, at all, lasts ever, past recall;
                                          Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
                                          What entered into thee, That was, is, and shall be:
                                          Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.

 Potter and clay (that's us) endure. The Olympic motto shouldn't apply just to teens and twenty years olds. Citius, Altius, Fortius is apropos for the believer in Christ. May as time speeds on we find ourselves moving faster to trust and obey; soaring higher in our aspirations to Christ-like character and hopes for mankind; Living braver (stronger) in our application of the truths of scripture in our culture as we share the gospel with the lost and bring justice to the poor and hurting.

So turn for a few days to watch the Olympics and marvel at the athlete's skill. But all days turn in faith to Christ and marvel at His grace that always takes us Faster, Higher, and Stronger in love and service. Don't just go for the gold in life, remember, in heaven, gold is merely pavement.

Destined for the podium,
Cos