Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Name in Christmas

Song featured in Crossings Community Church Christmas Concert

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Oh Light

Song featured in the Crossings Community Church Christmas Concert.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Waiting For Christmas Light

Song featured in the Crossings Community Church Christmas Concert.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Oh My Soul, Take Heart. Christmas Day is Coming

Weeping is cast for the night
but Joy! Joy!

Song featured in the Crossings Community Church Christmas Concert.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Happy International Rush Day!

Let There Be Christmas light

Song featured in the Crossings Community Church Christmas Concert.

Happy Birthday, Leslie!

Today's is my wife's birthday and in this post I'd like to acknowledge the woman who put her life "on hold" to see that others were fed, clean, dressed, not bleeding--just taken care of overall. She's a wife, Mom, Nanna, Aunt . . . and a salesperson. She can sell you just about anything off the shelf. Guess you'd have to be there. And if you are, bring cash. Anyway . . .

Now it's her turn. Now that everyone's (mostly) self-sustaining, she's gone back to school and working on her Bachelor's in Communications. And she's doing it, too! Full load of classes, late nights, writing papers, reading books--the works. And still making sure there's food in the fridge, that the lights are on and band-aids are in the box.

So here's to another year, uh, wiser!
"Happy Birthday" Leslie! 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas Light into Darkness

"Where Is Love Now, Out Here In The Dark?" (below, start at 9:05)

 Songs featured in the 2016 and 2017 Crossings Community Church Christmas Concert.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Mercy, The Light of Christmas

There's a wall inside my heart
Can't get 'round it
Keeps the two of us apart
Can't get over it

But under my​ skin
Is where You begin
And Your kindness leads me now . . .

Monday, December 18, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I'm Such An Idiot (Day 347)

Now that mowing season is over, my Saturday's are a bit more "open" for accomplishing other tasks in the yard. A few weeks ago all the tomato plants finally got uprooted (leaving us with the 175,000 green and ripening tomatoes that refused to grow in the warmer months--strange plant). The trellis used to grow cucumbers got rolled up and stored. The compost got spread. All that remained was the leaves.

The Leaves.

This is not meant to criticize anyone, but why burn leaves? Why fill the air with smoke (especially when it blows toward my house, thank you very much) and create a fire hazard (we've not had rain for months until recently)? Why not compost your leaves? Over time you can feed your flower and vegetable gardens with them . . .

So I got this neat little gadget. It's a leaf blower that, when you open the trap door, put the tube on the OTHER end and add a collecting bag, makes a nifty yard vacuum that (wait for it . . . ) chops your leaves into compost material! #GivemeyourleavesIwannachop'em!

Gathering my arsenal, I made my way to the back yard: rake (check); leaf blower/yard vac (check); extension card (check). The plan: yard-vac the leaves and dump the choppings into the garden for next year's crop. 

Now I have a big yard and leaves are most prolific down in the back, near the fence. So making my way along, I raked the leaves away from the fence--rake, rake, rake, rake and rake. When I was done, I raked some more until I formed a nice loooooonnnnggg pile that I planned to systematically yard-vac my way along, sucking up the dry dreadfuls into next years' squash food. The only problem was the stray and occasional leaf that was sort of stranded out there in the yard.

"I'm not walking all the way to where that leaf is and rake to where that leaf is over there and bring them over there to that other leaf (and so on)" I thought to myself. I dreamed of efficiency. 

Problem solved: plugging in my apparatus, I went around sucking up each individual leaf until I drew close to the pile. Time consuming? Yes. Muscle straining? A little. But once I got to the pile, it was with great manly joy that I vacuumed up the entire pile, stopping twice to dump the cereal into the garden. How good it felt to stand over the leaves, device in hand, the bag filling with crunchy garden goodness . . . then finally surveying the clean yard when I was finished--felt so good! 

Fast-forward from a couple weeks ago to a couple days ago. I looked out the back door and saw more leaves, noting particularly those loners wandering around the upper portion of the yard. I thought to myself, "Why can't they fall into a pile?" A cloud of non-excitement settled over me as I thought about going around again with my vac to suck those rebellious buggers up. "I'm not raking them, that's for sure." I said to myself.  "Forget that noise," to which I agreed heartily. "What I need is a leaf blower . . ." 

I'm such an idiot. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Currently Reading

"Finding Everett Ruess by David Roberts, with a foreword by Jon Krakauer, is the definitive biography of the artist, writer, and eloquent celebrator of the wilderness whose bold solo explorations of the American West and mysterious disappearance in the Utah desert at age 20 have earned him a large and devoted cult following. More than 75 years after his vanishing, Ruess stirs the kinds of passion and speculation accorded such legendary doomed American adventurers as Into the Wild’s Chris McCandless and Amelia Earhart."

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"Let There Be Light!"

6:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 16 and Sunday December 17
at Crossings Community Church.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Friday, December 08, 2017

Amor Fati

50 - 135 AD
Making discoveries is a joy that comes from being a lifelong learner. One of my favorite quotes is by Shakespeare, who gave this beautiful picture of the stages of life in Act 2, Scene 5 of "As You Like It." He wrote, "All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. . . . "

The rest of the short quote is a moment of consideration

My joyful discovery was to learn that Shakespeare may have very well been influenced by the Greek slave-turned-philosopher, Epictetus, who wrote in The Enchiridon (The Little Handbook, 17):

“Remember that you are an actor in a play, and the Playwright chooses the manner of it: if he wants it short, it is short; if long, it is long. If he wants you to act a poor man you must act the part with all your powers; and so if your part be a cripple or a magistrate or a plain man. For your business is to act the character that is given you and act it well; the choice of the cast is Another's.” 

Marcus Aurelius takes us one step deeper. "Consider that everything that happens, happens justly, and if you observe carefully, you will find it to be so." In other words everything that happens, happens just as it should--naturally, by design. From our perspective, we might consider a matter as unfair or unjust but this is only because our role does not call for understanding, but to "act our part." If a matter unfolds as it was designed (naturally), then it is right and we must perform our role as the Playright has designed, which is right.

Which goes to show that Old Solomon was right! "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun." (Eccl. 1:19)

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Peal Harbor Remembrance Day

"YESTERDAY, December 7, 1941 a date which will live in infamy the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." (President Franklin D. Roosevelt's entire speech here

USS Arizona under attack
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is your opportunity to show your support for veterans who are still alive from the Pearl Harbor bombing. 

Take advantage of the day to respect and honor to those who give and gave themselves in service to our country and its security every day. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

St. Nicholas Day

Not so much an American holiday, but our present day (no pun intended) Christmas traditions are connected to this historical figure.

Ἅγιος Νικόλαος (Saint Nicholas) was born in Greek territory in southern Turkey around 270 AD and died on this day in 343 AD. He is buried in Italy (a church is dedicated to his memory there) . . . or in Ireland (as indicated by a tombstone that supposedly marks his grave).

"Obeying Jesus' words to 'sell what you own and give the money to the poor,' Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships." (St. Nicholas Center)

One fact to remember: in his days, Christians were killed or imprisoned for their faith. Bishop Nicholas did not escape this persecution, experiencing both prison and exile. 

Many stories are shared about how he provided aid for the sick and care for children. Some stories are quite imaginative and fantastic. His most well-remembered acts center on his habit of secretive gift-giving. The fact remains that Saint Nicholas has in some fashion remained an enduring example of faithfulness to care for the needy, the unfortunate, the falsely accused . . . . even sailors. 

If you have the chance to be "Secret Santa" this year, think of how Saint Nicholas might be your role model for giving--what would someone really need? 

Saint Nicholas Saves Three Innocents from Death (oil painting by Ilya Repin, 1888, State Russian Museum).

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Bathtub Party Day

Yes, there really is such and thing, and today's the day for it (not to be confused with International Bath Day on June 14).

Let me put your mind at ease, as someone may be wondering I could support a thing such as a Bathtub Party. Depends what you're thinking, I guess.

I'm confident the day does not advocate a gathering of friends in tub, though without doubt few revelers may try. If this were a political party (in this day and age, you just never know) I might consider joining but I'm sure a Bathtub Party is not political. 

If we were in England, we would call this "Bathtub Day" (no party). Legend has it that the bathtub was introduced to England on this day in 1828--or was it December 7? Of course one finds this difficult to believe considering the existence of Greek and Roman tubs and the fact that Romans did make their way across England in the early Hundreds A.D. . . .
Greek bath in Nestor's Palace
Regardless, based on what I've read "out there" (including the definitive "Uncle John's Bathroom Reader"), I get the idea that the purpose of Bathtub Party Day is to slow down, relax. This is a showering age--get in, get out, get dry and get on to the next thing. But not today. This is a no-hurry-treat-yourself-to-something-nice day.

Today, take some time for yourself. Immerse yourself neck deep in some hot water, maybe toss in some Epsom salts, fragrances (if you like that kind of thing) and just float a while. I mean, hey, the pools' closed this time of year. So why not just have a Bathtub Party? And if it's appropriate--invite a friend!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Night Lights

Prepare For The People!

The Emperor Marcus Aurelius opens his second book with this thought:

"Begin the morning by saying to yourself, 'I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial.' All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away."

Prepare yourself. There are people out there. And you are bound to cross paths with a few.

By preparing yourself for the day in this way, we can already have in our mind how we will respond to the people we meet. We should not think we are better than anyone by doing this for we are just the same as anyone else--but we don't have to be. If we meet someone who is arrogant (for example) we should know there's a reason for arrogance and it's rooted in the fact that this person is for some reason separated from what is good. Our response can help if it points them back to what is good. 

The reason? Marcus Aurelius sounds much like the Apostle Paul who wrote that we are a body. Some folks are "hands", some folks are "feet", some are "eyes". Hands cannot perform the task of eyes but the eye and hand can work together as the body to perform as it was intended to do. You can't do what I can do, and I most certainly am not made to do what you can. But together, we compliment one another as men, women, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, friends, co-workers, etc. The body is not all hands, nor is the whole body an eye--we need one another. 

So if someone comes along grating their teeth, there's no reason to grate yours along with them. Help them get realigned, that the entire jaw can work to benefit the body; that is, help a brother out so we can use our time more efficiently and get more out of life together. 

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Monday, November 27, 2017

"The List"; or "How To Think Like An Emperor"

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) took time to record with gratitude the wisdom received from significant individuals in his life (see previous post). A reader should be challenged to consider “who” has contributed “what” in one’s own life when reading similar matter as that found in in “The Meditations.” 

Marcus Aurelius does not merely give a roster of people and things, but creates a kind of an album where the reader gets a real sense of who these people were by their imparted wisdom. They seem almost familiar. There is also a kind of praise for the people he apparently admires. He heard their words, saw how they lived and was influenced by them.

What follows is a summative outline of The Emperor’s list (as I understand it) emphasizing wherever possible the shared wisdom and/or how life principles were modeled in such a way that impacted him.

As you skim the list, be aware if you are suddenly reminded of ways someone who invested in you, directly or indirectly. Have you shown gratitude for who they are and what they have done? Make a list for yourself as you read:

1. Verus (grandfather): “I learned good morals and the government of my temper.”

2. Father: “modesty and a manly character."

3. Mother:
  • Wisdom: Piety, beneficence, abstinence, “not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts”; 
  • Observations [modeled for him]: “simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.”
4. Great-grandfather: “not to have frequented public schools, and to have had good teachers at home, and to know that on such things a man should spend liberally.”

5. Tutor:
  • Don’t play at politics, favoring one side over another even when entertained. 
  • Work hard with your own hands, want little, 
  • Don’t “meddle with other people's affairs, and not to be ready to listen to slander.”
6. Diognetus:
  • Don’t busy with “trifling things”, be skeptical;
  • Don’t gamble;
  • “Endure freedom of speech,” become “intimate with philosophy”; 
  • Listen to teachers and write; 
  • Let your lifestyle match what you think. 
7. Rusticus:
  • “the impression that my character required improvement and discipline”;
  • Don’t be deceptive to make a point;
  • Don't write about what you don’t know, speak just to be heard or be a show off in order to be noticed;
  • Don’t be lazy;
  • Write simply;
  • Reconcile quickly with those who offend or do wrong;
  • Read carefully, to understand;
  • Don’t quickly assent to a fast-talker
  • “and I am indebted to him for being acquainted with the discourses of Epictetus, which he communicated to me out of his own collection.”
8. Apollonius:
  • “freedom of will and undeviating steadiness of purpose”; 
  • Use Reason;
  • Have integrity; 
  • Find someone who: 
    • “can be both most resolute and yielding, and not peevish in giving his instruction”; 
    • has “clearly considered his experience and his skill in expounding philosophical principles as the smallest of his merits”
    • Can teach “how to receive from friends what are esteemed favours, without being either humbled by them or letting them pass unnoticed.”
[Comment: while writing the above comments, Aurelius may have been led to remember . . . ]

9. Sextus:
  • Wisdom: have a “benevolent disposition”
  • Observation [Sextus modeled for him]: 
    • “the example of a family governed in a fatherly manner, and the idea of living conformably to nature; 
    • Effortless, genuine seriousness;
    • “look carefully after the interests of friends”;
    • “tolerate ignorant persons, and those who form opinions without consideration”;
    • Be readily available, without flattery, highly venerated in community;
    • Intelligently and methodically ordered life;
    • Without anger, free from passion but affectionate; without “noisy display”
    • Express knowledge without desire to impress. 
10. Alexander the grammarian [a linguist]: refrain from fault-finding; use tact to correct, confirm or answer someone in error.

11. Fronto: how wicked, immoral, “cold” the upper class can be.

12. Alexander the Platonic:
  • Don’t complain about having no leisure;
  • Don’t neglect duty with lame excuses. 
13. Catulus
  • Observation [modeled for him]: was not “indifferent when a friend finds fault, even if he should find fault without reason” but tried to restore his friend
  • Wisdom: 
    • “be ready to speak well of teachers”
    • “love my children truly. “
14. Severus (brother [most likely a cousin]):
  • Observation [modeled] 
    • Love for kin, truth, and justice; 
    • “Network” with statesmen; 
    • “from him I received the idea of a polity in which there is the same law for all . . . with regard to equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a kingly government which respects most of all the freedom of the governed.”
    • “no concealment of his opinions with respect to those whom he condemned, and that his friends had no need to conjecture what he wished or did not wish, but it was quite plain.”
  • Wisdom: 
    • Have philosophical consistency; 
    • “a disposition to do good, and to give to others readily, and to cherish good hopes, and to believe that I am loved by my friends”
15. Maximus [modeled for him]:
  • Self-government, “and not to be led aside by anything”; 
  • “cheerfulness in all circumstances”
  • “do what was set before me without complaining”
  • “I observed that everybody believed that he thought as he spoke, and that in all that he did he never had any bad intention”
  • “he never showed amazement and surprise, and was never in a hurry, and never put off doing a thing, nor was perplexed nor dejected, nor did he ever laugh to disguise his vexation, nor, on the other hand, was he ever passionate or suspicious.” 
  • “He was accustomed to do acts of beneficence, and was ready to forgive, and was free from all falsehood; and he presented the appearance of a man who could not be diverted from right rather than of a man who had been improved.”
  • “No man could ever think that he was despised by Maximus, or ever venture to think himself a better man. He had also the art of being humorous in an agreeable way.”
16. “In my father I observed . . .” [here he means the preceding Caesar, Antioninus Pius or Hadrian]
  • “mildness of temper, and unchangeable resolution” after making a decision; 
  • “no vainglory in those things which men call honours”; 
  • “a love of labour and perseverance”; 
  • “readiness to listen to those who had anything to propose for the common weal”
  • “undeviating firmness in giving to every man according to his deserts”; 
  • “knowledge derived from experience of the occasions for vigorous action and for remission.” 
  • “he had overcome all passion for boys’ ; 
  • “he considered himself no more than any other citizen”; 
  • Did not force friends into obligations 
  • “his habit of careful inquiry in all matters of deliberation, and his persistency, and that he never stopped his investigation through being satisfied with appearances which first present themselves”; 
  • “His disposition was to keep his friends, and not to be soon tired of them, nor yet to be extravagant in his affection”; 
  • “be satisfied on all occasions, and cheerful”; 
  • Plan ahead and prepare for contingencies; 
  • Avoid “popular applause and all flattery”; 
  • Be a watchful administrator and responsible manager of resources
  • Not superstitious;
  • Handle matters seriousness and with sobriety; 
  • Use what you have without arrogance and go without if you lack. Do not covet. 
  • Behave in such a way people speak well of you. 
  • Be “easy in conversation, and . . . agreeable without any offensive affectation.”
  • Take care of the body and appearance. 
  • Don’t be envious of someone who may be better, be of assistance when possible; 
  • Perform duties on time, at the right time; 
  • Don’t be distracted with possessions, food, textures, colors. 
  • Both abstain and enjoy

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Stranger Things Outside My Door

You don't know what you're missing if you don't get outside once in a while. While enjoying this beautiful day on a short 3 1/2 mile hike, I decided to leave my music off and enjoy the sounds of nature as well as the sights. I got more than expected.

The frost was just burning off as I stepped out, trekked up the street and turned left out of our neighborhood where I was greeted by the distinct sound of hunters punctuating the morning song of chirping birds.

About a quarter mile down the road I reached the spot where I recalled how I once found the keyboard of a destroyed upright piano someone had dumped just off the road. And a broken toilet a few yards further back into the trees (more evident when the leaves have fallen). While my anger at the apathy of "some people" began to rise, I became aware of many unusual sights and sounds that exist just outside the front door.

Perhaps the most unusual sight was the 50 year old man trudging into the morning wearing black sweats, a bright orange cape and a 30 pound ruck filled with sand. He carried a 5 foot section of PVC filled with 8 pounds of sand, first holding it in this hand then in the other, sometimes carrying it like a weapon or doing overhead presses like a weightlifter does the barbell as he walked. Who knows what folks thought as they drove by--or jogged by. But who cares?

But there are other sights to take in, such as the one yard that seems to like the 4th of July so much, they still have their celebratory flags, yard lights and patriotic decorations up around the mailbox.

Then there's the one fellow who invariably has a flag flying near the border of his property (I'm guessing a Marine) who always finds a reason to post little black and white hand-made signs in his yard celebrating this or that holiday or remembering this or that occasion. Occasionally, the number of flags increases with the more patriotic celebrations and memorials.

Another fellow is working on his house. Again. Carefully enclosing his mobile home under a more permanent shell. The work is never done. Hasn't been for years. It's looking good though.

It's not uncommon in these parts to see or hear tractors, but as I made my way long the road I could not seem to find the one tractor I kept hearing. Coming up on the second mile-mark, the sound grew louder as did the crashing noises.Rounding the corner I saw him, driving through the woods alongside me at a fair clip. Odd sight, for sure--seeing this fellow on his tractor, tearing through the woods. No bucket on the front, just bouncing along through the trees as I walked along the road. Then he turned, putting his back to me, taking that crashing engine with him. Making a trail? Get lost last night? She kick him out? Only he knows.

Reminded me of the Deere I saw in the woods not far from there. An old green John Deere tractor, just parked in the woods, abandoned.

Keep your eyes open for the pine tree with the face craftily attached. Someone nailed eyes, a nose and a mouth to it in a way that's meant to be discovered. Nice!

Lots of big lots out here, big yards with plenty of nothing going on. Which may explain why this one fellow has a massive yellow backhoe parked in the middle of it.

I hate seeing trash alongside the road and on more isolated stretches, the quantity rises but in a curious way: piles of Michelob cans here, piles of Bud Light cans there, a busted fish tank . . . ?

At one house I'm usually greeted by a number of dogs who diligently protect their masters by announcing my presence with much fervor; however, the yard was silent until I was well passed, and they came out barking like it was an afterthought.

Kept my eye open for wandering pigs, such as those seen yesterday morning down the road the opposite direction.

Hey, at least they got out. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Thanksgiving Challenge

Marcus Aurelius ruled Rome from 161 to 180 AD, first as co-emperor with Lucius Verus from 161-169, then alone until joined by his son from 177 until his death while on a Austrian campaign in 180 AD. He is known as one of the “Five Good Emperors”, the “protector of philosophy” and a prime example of Stoic leadership. Marcus Aurelius should also be our model for gratitude this Thanksgiving.

This time of year we pause to say “thanks” and in some manner privately review with gratitude those things we are blessed to have, or in some public way share these thoughts with others. As we give thanks this year, let us be challenged with a couple truths.

First, where does our gratitude go? That which receives our gratitude must either be personal or impersonal. What does an impersonal Universe to do with our gratitude? What is the point when our thoughts stay locked in our heads (privately) or our squeaky little voices cannot be heard above a tree top (publicly)? “Well,” someone might offer, “we show gratitude to relieve ourselves, to give a sense of balance to everything.” If that’s the case, we thank ourselves (which is selfish and still a fruitless exercise). Additionally, if we could balance the Universe with a feeling then why have we not already corrected all that is out of balance? The only other option is that a Personal Being receives our gratitude--and we are twice blessed. The good pagan Emperor of Rome found himself doing just that, for an incident and philosophical reason brought him to the point. We’ll return to this momentarily.

Second, what is the subject of our thanks? Are we thankful for things or people? Here is where Marcus Aurelius can be helpful, deepening our challenge. His intensely personal work, “The Meditations” opens with a long list of names (here’s a crash course on how to pronounce hard names and words: “with confidence”) and with that list, a catalog of contributions each made in his life. Read the list of 16 people and how he applied their investment. He takes time to give thanks for the people in his life before he shows gratitude for what they did for him. But who receives the gratitude of a pagan Emperor?

As you make your way down the list, read a name and the contribution. Gratitude is not shown until near the end, a “17th person” or “persons” if you will. He writes, “to the gods I am indebted for having good grandfathers, good parents, a good sister, good teachers, good associates, good kinsmen and friends, nearly everything good. . . . I owe it to the gods . . . . I am thankful to the gods . . . I thank the gods . . . for all these things require the help of the gods and fortune.” (I. 17)

My part here is not to argue monotheism or polytheism (one God or many gods) for as Emperor, Marcus Aurelius persecuted Christians for their atheism until he nearly lost a battle. The reason for victory--and for this list of persons with their contributions?

“Therefore it is probable that those whom we suppose to be atheists, have God as their ruling power entrenched in their conscience. For having cast themselves on the ground, they prayed not only for me, but also for the whole army as it stood, that they might be delivered from the present thirst and famine. For during five days we had got no water, because there was none; for we were in the heart of Germany, and in the enemy's territory. And simultaneously with their casting themselves on the ground, and praying to God (a God of whom I am ignorant), water poured from heaven, upon us most refreshingly cool, but upon the enemies of Rome a withering hail. And immediately we recognised [sic] the presence of God following on the prayer—a God unconquerable and indestructible. Founding upon this, then, let us pardon such as are Christians, lest they pray for and obtain such a weapon against ourselves. And I counsel that no such person be accused on the ground of his being a Christian.” (from “EPISTLE OF MARCUS AURELIUS TO THE SENATE” in the conclusion of Justin Martyr’s “Apology”)

Is it any wonder how in his military campaign in the southern part of Eastern Europe toward the end of his life he feels compelled to pause, reflect and give thanks in his personal journal?

Remember the people in your life. You would not be who you are without them.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fall Beauty

copyright: JWilson, taken on the campus of
Columbia International University

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Figure it out

"He who does not know what the world is, does not know where he is. And he who does not know for what purpose the world exists, does not know who he is, nor what the world is. But he who has failed in any one of these things could not even say for what purpose he exists himself. What then do you think of him who [avoids or] seeks the praise of those who applaud, of men who know not either where they are or who they are?"  (Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations," VIII: 52)

We become so "specialized" (for lack of a better word) in how we live and work that we give no thought to the world around us. We are so locked into being in a certain place to meet certain people at a certain time for a certain duration to accomplish a certain purpose that we have no reason to look around. We don't hunt or farm because we have no reason to--we just pick up meat and potatoes from the store. We have no reason to get in the dirt, to note the flora and fauna. The payoff? We lose sight of who we are because we don't participate in the world in which we live. 

I've worked in the same building on the same campus at the same University for more than a decade, making my way from car to office, from office to car that I never noticed the fig tree growing just yards outside my door until a few months ago. What else have I missed? How much of life has slipped by? What do I become? Nothing more than the proverbial cog in the proverbial machine--and that machine is relentless. 

Have you made little discoveries like that? 
"How long has THAT been there?" 
When you miss the world around, you miss the fruit it bears for you. 

Makes you wonder what else you've missed, doesn't it? 
Makes you wonder if you know yourself as well as you do--others, too. 
Who is in your world, anyway? 
Why do you do what you do? 

Grab your journal and figure it out. 
Record what you see and what you learn. 
Engage the world. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Revisiting The Journal

credit: Lifehack
Today I was challenged with the question as to how I interact with culture: Am I a "cultural engager," a "cultural defender," or a "cultural creator"? I must say, "yes," as I do not fall into any one category. Then I met a new (to me) American philosopher through a daily e-mail, who comments on the writings of Marcus Aurelius:

“Few care now about the marches and counter marches of the Roman commanders. What the centuries have clung to is a notebook of thoughts by a man whose real life was largely unknown who put down in the midnight dimness of not the events of the day or the plans of the morrow, but something of far more permanent interest, the ideals and aspirations that a rare spirit lived by.”

This short quote challenges me to:
  1. deepen my current practice of journaling; specifically, to return to "dialogue" with authors I read; 
  2. seek out more of Blanshard's work on the basis of his stance regarding Absolutes; that is, his argument for a consistent single Universal (not "universal"--there is a difference) intelligent system. I am intrigued by his defense of coherent truth. Based on what I've read so far, Blanshard's "Reason" does not seem to be autonomous from the strict humanist perspective.
This quote grabbed my attention because, while I often feel my personal journal is of little or no significance, it is in fact one of very few places I am able to work out ways in which I interact with the world in which I live. At times, my journal is the mirror by which I adjust my world-view glasses. While it mostly serves as a daily record, I must continue to work out cultural engagement, cultural defense and/or cultivate my creativity. In other words, explore with pen-in-hand:

  1. of how I seek the change the world in which I live; that is, how I understand the world around me, the language, the way people think against the background of Absolutes;
  2. of how I desire to preserve those things which are worth keeping; that is, which Particulars are in harmony with Absolutes;  
  3. of how I can contribute through writing, music, art, poetry, blogging, etc.  
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) recorded their observations of flora and fauna in order to better understand themselves and how the world works, for crying out loud! 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Have A Seat (Day 11)

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness…” (Psalm 45:6)

We’ve often heard about “Air Force One” and many Americans know that The President on occasion travels by jet referred to as “Air Force One.” Ever wonder about the planes that make up the fleet?

Teddy Roosevelt was the first President to fly in a plane in 1910 (Taft was actually in office) but the call sign “Air Force One” was not created until the late 1950’s, when travel became more widespread. Technically, any Air Force plane carrying the President is called “Air Force One” although specific planes are set apart for this purpose.

I use this as an example to illustrate the difference between a “stool,” a “seat”, and a “throne.” The Hebrew word for all three is the same word כִּסֵּא (kicce'). But how do we tell the difference? For starters, we can watch for where the King sits and wherever He sits changes the meaning of the device. A stool remains a stool until used by the King, then it becomes a throne and will always be a throne from henceforth and forevermore. The throne is the ceremonial chair signifying sovereign power.

Get the idea now? “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”

Saturday, November 11, 2017

An Arrow To The Heart (Day 10)

"Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you." (Psalm 45:5)

This love song penned by the Sons of Korah gush from the heart to the pen to the page, lavishing adoration for this glorious and beautiful King and his stunning bride. The last few days we’ve been trying to wrap our minds around the glory of this magnificent King, His most notable feature being that He makes Himself enjoyable to everyone who receives the graces He extends; otherwise, they make themselves His enemy and they experience Him in less enjoyable ways.

Who are the King’s enemies? Those who chose to live against His kingdom of grace, of truth and humility and rightness. The king’s enemies receive justice as they chose to reject His standard for their own. They cannot enjoy the benefits of His Kingdom and be hostile to His grace.

But what is an arrow? Are they literal arrows? Could they perhaps be something else? There’s another passage that may help us answer that question:

“For I have bent Judah as my bow;
I have made Ephraim its arrow.
I will stir up your sons, O Zion,
against your sons, O Greece,
and wield you like a warrior’s sword.”
(Zechariah 9:13)

People can be arrows in a few ways.

The first way describes those who unleashing every kind of harm imaginable. They are so “sharp” that they inflict damage by using their words: telling lies, spreading slander, name-calling, insults, degradation, exploitation--it’s a chaotic display of power that destroys another person.

The second way a person can be an arrow is by telling the truth, doing right for the good of another. Has anyone told you something you didn’t want to hear but they told you anyway and it broke your heart? There is a kind of grace in corrective action but sadly, the one who refuses grace, who fails to see the healing in the hurt, these remain the enemy of true good.

The words found in Zechariah speak of a time when the nation defended itself against Greece--only Zechariah recorded his words about 400 years before the event. In context, his words speak hope to the nation regarding their coming King who would fight on their behalf and war would cease.

One final thought: we often picture “love” as an arrow piercing the heart. Is this the symbol the work of a flying naked baby or of a great and magnificent King who desires to share His love with any and all who will lay down their rebellion against Him?
Something to think about in this love song.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Right. (Day 9)

“…let your right hand teach you awesome deeds." (Psalm 45:4c)

Intriguing little phrase here concerning the “right hand.” Does one’s right hand actually, literally teach, as if it were an autonomous being all it’s own. What does this mean?

The “right hand” (יָמִין) (pronounced “yä·mēn'”) is the place of honor (seat of His Queen) and friends of the Kingdom. Does this mean this spectacular and mighty King seeks advisement? A king finds glory in exploring matters (Prov. 25:2), to draw from the wise counsel of others. But might there be another consideration?

The language lends to the idea of the King showing off His mighty works. The word “teach” (יָרָה) (pronounced "yarah") includes the idea of “rain down, throw, dispense, shoot, cast, point out, instruct.” Picture this dashing spectacular King riding out giving grace to all who will receive it, The Champion of His cause of Truth, Humility and Right. What a display of power under control! How impressive!

His graceful gifts are extended to everyone, but His justice is dispensed to those who reject His grace. He does not pick and chose “who” gets “what” as if ruling on a whim; instead, He gives to each as they respond to Him. The one who receives Him witnesses the King rain down what he or she does not deserve (grace) while the one who rejects His grace receives the righteous truth of what they do deserve, as they make themselves His enemy.

The one who does what is right, like He does what is right, is blessed by Him, doing what He does. He teaches (as it were) to equip men and women to do what is right--and that is an awesome work, to move mankind to uphold the cause of keeping what is right. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

On Purpose (Day 8)

“In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness . . ."  (Psa 45:4)

Those who live for a cause, those who live “on purpose” are a force not to be reckoned with. Borrowing an analogy from the shooting range, they are “front sight focused.” Eyes on target. No matter what comes, the center of attention is laser-beam focused on the one goal. Fully aware of what’s happening on all sides, the one who lives “on purpose” keeps the objective. Nothing gets in the way. Those who live without cause, without purpose, without “front-sight focus” are without direction, without foundation. They are without strength, taken captive, plundered.

The past few days we’ve been considering the love song which is Psalm 45. Right out the gate we meet a marvelous and majestic king riding out victoriously, with sword on his thigh. He is out to champion His cause, His Purpose:

He is victorious for the cause of Truth. Think about this: an estimated 65 percent of Americans polled either strongly agree or somewhat agree with the assertion that "there is no such thing as absolute truth." Huh? If there’s no such thing as absolute truth, how is it possible for anyone to come to a conclusion? Absurd! Truth is the stability, the foundation of His kingdom. Truth is like a belt that holds everything together. It is central. He goes to battle against all that is not truth for He has zero toleration for deception.

He is victorious for the cause of Meekness. How does one war for humility, gentleness? By taking a stand against pride. Meekness is the poverty of spirit when one comes to the end of self--when one has come “to the borders of their existence” as Bonhoeffer would say. There’s an acceptance, a kind of resolve where one lets go and takes what comes without complaint, knowing something greater than oneself is involved. He exalts the meek and the lowly. He breaks the defiant who raise a fist to His face, standing against Him in a show of their own strength.

He is victorious for the cause of Righteousness. He is not merely against all that is wrong, but is the judge by which “good” is determined. Gold is the standard of all that is precious. Honey is the standard by which sweetness is measured. This great King is the standard of all that is right, the embodiment of that reality.

Do you see the beauty of this King who rides out in victory already won? He is all about His cause, His purpose. What blessing we find to readjust our focus, letting our eyes fall on His cause for our own purpose. Living without purpose is living without aim, focusing on nothing and hitting it every time.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Remembering, With Gratitude

Taking a break from the theme so far this month, I wanted to stop and say thanks to every person who stands in the gap, and remember those who lay down their lives.

Read more about Operation Hump (November 5-9, 1965)

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Victorious! (Day 7)

A couple months ago a very good friend stood with me on the roof of a hotel in downtown Charleston, SC where he pointed out features concerning the old city that remain preserved to this day. One historical feature remains in plain sight--no building is higher than a church steeple in Charleston. One reason for this is to preserve the old (literal) landmarks that ships used to navigate--the church steeples. Higher buildings obscure the view!

Walking to one side of the restaurant, my friend pointed down to what seemed to be a church; in fact, the building once was a church but is now a restaurant called “5Church Charleston”. He told us to visit there sometime, for there we will find Sun Tzu’s entire “Art of War” painted on the ceiling. We’ve not yet made the visit, but my friend knew of my interest in the ancient work.

Nobody knows exactly when Sun Tzu was born, but scholars generally say he lived sometime between 720 years to 480 years before Christ. A military strategist himself, Sun Tzu penned his “philosophy of war” that is still required reading for military students to this day--and it’s just good literature. Sun Tzu wrote:

But the idea did not originate with Sun Tzu. We read in the love song that is Psalm 45 (that pre-dates Sun Tzu by many hundreds of years) how the King rides out victoriously. "In your majesty ride out victoriously…” (Psalm 45:4a) It may be argued that Sun Tzu borrowed a timeless principle from scripture. Before ever reaching the battlefield, the King has already won the war. 

The last book of the Bible, written long after Jesus died, was buried and rose again, contains this intriguing picture: “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. ... And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.” (Rev.19:11, 14)

Do you see Him riding out to battle, being followed by His armies? Read in Revelation how this victorious King is covered in blood while his armies remain white and pure. Who is doing the fighting? Not the armies! This King rides out victorious! 

Now here’s something to think about: does this marvellous King rule in your life? What has been your response to the grace which he kisses from His lips? What does His victorious ride in your life look like? Is it beautiful; or, does he ride out for war? Either way--He wins.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Put On Your Sword (Day 6)

“Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty.” (Psalm 45:3)

It’s no secret--He’s beautiful, most fair, not in appearance alone but because words of grace fall from his lips and in turn, share the grace of God to all who will receive it. Hard to wrap our minds around the fact that some will not receive the blessing of God, that they will not receive grace, that they despise His beauty. He is doing everything to make Himself enjoyable to every being, but some will not have Him. If they will receive the blessing of grace of His lips, they will receive the girded sword on his thigh.

Ever flip through a photo album and come across a picture that makes you stop and think, “well that’s interesting” and you spend time dwelling on that picture trying to take in everything you see, perhaps trying to resurrect a connected memory? Here’s a picture of some very strange, perhaps even hideous creatures before the throne of God. Notice their response to true beauty:

“And whenever the four living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.’” (Revelation 4:9-11)

One reason this deserves attention is that, despite the strangeness of these creatures (four faces, many eyes, wings everywhere), the One Enthroned does not chase them out of His presence, treating beasts as we might some unwanted animal gotten loose in the house; instead, The King receives their worship, their love.

An interesting turn in this love song though--the singer tells the King to strap on his sword. This is more than a symbol of power, but is also a tool, a weapon. Why would the writer sing to the King to prepare for battle? Why suddenly take up arms?
Because He is a Mighty King and demonstrates His strength by dispensing grace first before punishment. He is valiant, strong, the champion, the chief, a giant (as it were)--but He does not show his might by the sword first. He loves them and they respond to His love with love of their own. But some do not respond to His love, His grace, His power-under-control. They make themselves His enemy.

He is a Splendorous King. Remember how comely He is? How good, and honorable? Remember the words of grace that fall from His lips and pass God’s grace?

He is a Majestic King. He is decorated with strength-under-control as He dispenses grace, receives and returns love, though He prepares to demonstrate the power of His might through His authority to rule.

So standing in the throne room, gazing on The One made so attractive by the grace of God, have you ever considered receiving His grace and love? He is fair and He is mighty. And forgiving--oh, how forgiving is He. 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

The Best-Looking Man and The Motorcycle Saint (Day 5)

The patron saint of motorcyclists happens to be Columbanus (ca. 543-615 AD). You know what a “patron saint” is, don’t you? A patron saint is (simply put) the special protector, the heavenly advocate of anything important to us. “Recently, the popes have named patron saints but patrons can be chosen by other individuals or groups as well. Patron saints are often chosen today because an interest, talent, or event in their lives overlaps with the special area.” (The Catholic Encyclopedia). Maybe you’ve heard (or prayed):

“Columbanus be my guide, 
as I climb upon my ride
Let your halo light the way, 
keep me safe from harm today
Find a peaceful sunny place, 
and let it shine upon my face
Keep the clouds and rain at bay, 
and keep me dry throughout the day
Watch over those who ride with me, 
keep them safe and close to thee
Keep my wheels upon the ground, 
so I'll return home safe and sound
Should disaster be my fate, 
guide me on through heaven's gate
If I must join my fallen brethren
Please show me the way to biker's heaven.”

Not sure why or how Columbanus became the Motorcycle saint--was it because he was “all over the map,” travelling through Ireland planting churches, living in caves? Or because he wrestled a bear and walked through a pack of wolves? Or because he multiplied bread and beer like Jesus did with the fish and loaves (after all, he was Irish)? Whatever the reason, here’s a poem penned by the Motorcycle saint:

“The beauty of men
shall vanish in old age.
All former comeliness
is wiped away with grief.
The radiance of Christ’s face,
lovely before all things,
is more to be desired
than the frail flower of flesh.”

There’s a beauty that never fades and it’s not found in outward appearances. It’s a kind of beauty that is captivates some and repels others. And it’s found beyond us, beyond you and me.

"You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever." (Psalm 45:2)

The most attractive man of all time gains that title through the eyes of those who love Him, but it’s not a physical beauty that makes him the most fair. “Grace is poured” on His lips and because of this, God has blessed him forever. This makes him top-notch. He speaks with favor, with kindness, is pleasant. This is not speaking with “charm” but speaking with the needs of others in mind, bringing comfort to those who hear. The words of the King do not "drive" his people, but provide what His people need for life--and to enjoy His presence.

He is attractive by how he speaks. He shares with others what he receives from God--this is the meaning of “blessed.” He does not keep what he receives to himself. He desires the good will of his subjects and (in a manner of speaking) “kisses” those around him with a kind and gentle heart. There’s a kind of radiance in that, a kind of radiance that causes others to want to be near him.

No wonder the writer gushes the adoration as he does, expressing the love of the bride with such carefully chosen words. 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

And "Best Looking" Award goes to . . . (Day 4)

"You are the most handsome of the sons of men…" (Psalm 45:2a, ESV)

Who is the most handsome man you can think of? Let’s see.
I can’t think of any of . . .oh yes: James Dean, Brad Pitt, Cary Grant, Myself, Dave Grohl, Jared Leto, Tim McGraw . . . and Myself. 

No really, of all the handsome faces out there, I know of someone more handsome yet.

We are not told the identity of the King in Psalm 45. Some think this was King David. Prior to his coronation as king, David was described as “ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome” (1 Sam 16:12, ESV). Others suggest it might be David’s son, King Solomon. Interestingly, there is no description of Solomon other than being the wisest and wealthiest king in Israel; however, the word “handsome” used is our psalm is found in another love song written by Solomon, where a bride sings of her lover--does he describe himself?

"My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk, sitting beside a full pool. His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. His lips are lilies, dripping liquid myrrh. His arms are rods of gold, set with jewels. His body is polished ivory, bedecked with sapphires. His legs are alabaster columns, set on bases of gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." (Song of Solomon 5:10-16)

Now if Solomon (or the man he is describing) is better looking that ten thousand men, look again at the description of the King of Psalm 45--he is more handsome than any man born! Is this even possible? Can this be true, that one man can be more handsome than anyone, of all time, ever? What kind of poetry is this? Who is this guy? Why haven’t we heard of him?

The answer is simple: ask a person in love. The skilled writer describes the King through the eyes of His Bride. What is one person to another in love, but the most beautiful, most handsome, most fair of anyone? Just ask any mother--her baby is the most precious. In the same way, look through the eyes of lovers and see how each views the other--the most radiant and fair. Without compare.

But here’s another way to think: What makes a beautiful human being? There are more than physical features that make a person beautiful, for after a time when features change and perhaps fade, what remains? The true person. Here lies true beauty. Among the “sons of men,” this man is not worried about what others think. He is genuine. He is true to Himself. He is the standard by which others are measured.

More tomorrow!

Friday, November 03, 2017

The Tongue Of A Ready Scribe (Day 3)

"My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe." (Psalm 45:1)

When you write a letter, how do you begin? “Dear . . .”

Do you write your Mom or Dad (you do write your Mom, or at least call, right?) in the same way you would your boss or a judge or a Congressman--or the President? Seems the higher up the ladder you go, the more language seems to change--or it should. Of course you should always give Mom the highest respect, right? There is respect . . . right?

This musician could have one day said, “Check out this new song I wrote on the way to the palace” (or something like that). But he doesn’t. He puts pen to paper and pours this love song onto vellum or parchment, etching the song into a permanent form. So permanent, it’s been on record (pun intended) for thousands of years. Remember how the song is also addressed to lead singers everywhere--so this song can be played by anyone who knows the lyrics. Over the course of time, it’s been translated into every known language of the world! So it can be sung, or at least read in any culture. Genius, I tell you.

But this says something about the King, doesn’t it? Who is this King? If you were the writer, what would you say? Our writer here is a “ready scribe.” He’s given thought to the “good words”, his “pleasant theme” because his song is for the King! He’s thought over the words of this love song, for they must be just right. A well-written song grabs you, works it’s way in and won’t let go. This is where we begin to make our way to the wisdom hidden of this song.

The weight of the simile (“my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe”) shows how the “good words” of the song are not lost to the air but are carefully chosen and given longevity. You’ve heard a “slip of the tongue” but there is no “slip of the pen” here. There is discipline, diligence on the part of the writer. He writes with skill.

But why? Why does he write thusly? The reasons are simple: first, he recognizes the King is above him. Writing carelessly insists that the one with most authority bow down to him and this cannot be. The King deserves the best. Second, he loves his King and he loves the one who the King loves, that is, His Bride. Careless and sloppy writing does not show love nor help express it. Besides, insulting the King is one thing--speak lightly of His bride--that’s worse.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

A Good Word (Day 2)

A number of years ago I worked a job that involved oil tanker trucks. Loading and unloading these tankers was a challenge. One wrong measurement, one wrong move could lead to a gusher--either overfilling the truck or a back-flow from the main tank, or even overfilling the main tank--an uphill battle involving hundreds of thousands of gallons pushing down with gravity’s help, trying all at once to get out. Once, we had the fine occasion of hooking a full truck to the pump for an off-load and one tiny little clamp was not fastened down on the coupler--any guesses as to what happened? Anyone?

At first all we did was soak in the rain of oil, trying to understand what was happening. Then we ran through the black deluge, yelling at each other, coordinating our efforts until the geyser could be contained. When the valve was finally closed and the spray ceased, all we could do was breathlessly take in the scene--dripping oil everywhere. The entire operation was shut down until we could get it cleaned up. Which took the entire rest of the day. Then we had to start all over.

“My heart overflows . . .”

Psalm 45 opens with the something akin to, “It’s gonna blow!”--the writer’s heart overflows, gushes like a fountain with a love song he can’t wait to share. He wants everyone to feel what he feels, sharing in the rapturous joy of the song. What does it feel like when your heart is “overflowing”? What are some things that make your heart “overflow” to the point you can’t contain it? Whatever it is, we must agree that we must let it out! We like to share what makes us happy! 

Who in their right mind stuffs down that which makes one smile, laugh or shout a little? Who likes to keep good news to themselves? I know a teacher who for years seeded every lecture and/or power point presentation with pictures of his grandchildren. A wise father once told his son, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23). When overjoyed, we feel most alive!

“ . . . with a pleasing theme”

Literally, “a good word.” This joyous song is a pleasing to him, to the audience and most notably, to the king. We’ll look at this later. Presently, let’s think about what “good word” here means. This is the same term used when God created everything--He spoke, what He spoke came into being, and God said it was . . . “good” (טוֹב) Same word in Hebrew.

Consider this: God created with a word (“and it was good” is repeated 6 times in Genesis), and the psalmist is creative with words (and it’s a good word)! This love song is a touching song, a dignified song. The lyrics are carefully chosen, not haphazardly penned. The force of all that emotion is under control and flows from his heart to his pen to our hearts. Oh, the words are beautiful.

Why haven't you read yet of the stately groom and his beautiful bride?

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

A Song From An Overflowing Heart (Day 1)

Ever had one of those moments when you found yourself scrambling for paper and pen because something came to mind you did not want to forget? Not just any “something” but you needed to capture a thought that excited you so terribly that perhaps in your fervor to “get it down” you raised a curious alarm to those around you? “Just give me something!” you scream as you frantically try not lose the light of the epiphany. That’s the scenario that comes to mind when I read, “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.” (Psalm 45:1)

Who is this scribe? What verses are about to burst from his heart? All the words are on the tip of his tongue and he must get them down lest he swallow them by accident!

First understand that this song is a “maskil”, the Hebrew word describing one of those songs that gets stuck in your head and won’t leave. It’s a song that makes you think because there is wisdom hidden within. If you pay attention and listen--really listen--the song will work it’s way into your heart. A simple definition is, “ponder” or “contemplate.” Might seem strange to use a song as a teaching tool, but’s really not. We teach children the A,B,C’s with song or communicate moral principles with songs like Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind.” 

You get the idea. That’s what Psalm 45 is all about--something to think about--but “what”?

The beauty of Hebrew poetry is that most often we are told who wrote the song, who the song was intended for, and in most cases, the very tune to which the song is played. This one is a “Lilly” song, a song of love. Over the course of time, we’ve lost exactly what that tune is, but if we are told it’s a love song and it sounds like “Lillies” then we can imagine it must be a song that lifts a fragrant aroma of love, which is appropriate knowing there’s mention of a bride and groom in the lyrics. A celebration of love! Here's a contemporary performance that captures the spirit:

The “sons of Korah” wrote this song for “the choirmaster.” The sons of Korah were descendants of Korah (lived during the time of Moses) and were mostly musicians, passing the talent down from generation to generation. This song was written for lead singers, basically. Speaking more broadly, the song is written for anyone in a leadership position. So listen up.

We’ll spend the rest of the month (hopefully) studying, pondering, contemplating this love song, letting it work it’s way from the page, into our head to into our heart. And maybe, just maybe, fall in love too. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Father Of A Revolution

500 years ago today, a man made a public post that made him the "unfriend" of many for his post ignited a revolution that was already waiting to happen. Someone merely needed to open the door, as it were. Many lost their lives because of his post but more lives were changed because of it. Yes, long before the advent of the internet and social media those kinds of things happened.

Augustinian monk Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) did not agree with the Church's practice of selling salvation (among other practices). Already quite religious, Luther thought he understood most Bible doctrines until he began actually read scripture in order to teach it. His practice had been to simply do and think as he was taught, to believe as he was told. Since reading the Bible he could no longer agree and wanted to address errors being propagated by the Church so he literally protested by publicly posting his grievances. He wanted to talk. And so began the Protestant Reformation. 

Listen to Dr. Ed Smither explain Luther's situation and consider how you are impacted by the Protestant Reformation in this short presentation, "Luther, Authority, Vernacular." Dr. Smither is the Dean of Intercultural Studies at Columbia International University. 

Abundant Life

"A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I came to give life—life that is full and good." (John 10:10)

"Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands." (2 Corinthians 11:24-33, ESV)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:8-13, ESV)

Monday, October 30, 2017

"Troubadour" by John Michael Talbot

In raiment coarse and rough endued
A cord his only ceinture rude
With scanty measure for his food
His feet withal unshod

For the poverty of Christ he yearns
From earthly splendor he dost turn
This noble troubadour has spurned
Despising all for God

Within a mountain cave alone
He hides to weep and lying prone
He prays aloud with sigh and groan
For peace to fill his heart

New signs of highest sanctity
Singing praise exceedingly
Beautiful and wondrous to see
The troubadour to sing
The troubadour of the Great King

Then seraph-like in heaven’s height
The King of Kings appears in sight
His soul in passion’s awesome night
Beholds the vision dread

For it bears the wounds of Christ and lo
While gazing on a speechless woe
The hidden marks upon his soul
Now wound his flesh blood red

His body now like the Crucified
Signed on hands and feet and side
Transformed in life to love and die
With Jesus Christ our Lord

New signs of highest sanctity
Singing praise exceedingly
Beautiful and wondrous to see
The troubadour to sing
The troubadour of the Great King

Within his soul songs secret sound
To silent melodies abound
Caught up to God this singer found
His song and he understood 

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