And I Didn't Know It

Sweat fell from my brow as I crawled through the small wiring-duct area below the bridge. Old paper, crinkled and yellowing with age was strewn before me, causing me to anticipate with horror the possibility of rats lurking in the gloom, just beyond the illumination of my flashlight. At least there were no spiders, I thankfully noted. The failure of my radio to operate correctly due to the environment as well as the age of the batteries left me with no manner of communication other than to tap on the side of the duct, or yell very loudly, which made my head hurt.

It was 1987, and I was stationed temporarily aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Westwind in Mobile, Alabama. The ship was ancient; a timeless relic of World War II and was used primarily as an icebreaker in the Antarctic regions. Our job was to retrofit the vessel and prepare it for a return to service as soon as possible. Ordinarily, as a history buff, the job would have thrilled me to the core, but not at the time. I was going through a rough patch in my life, very rough, and the last place I wanted to be that summer was away from home aboard an ancient ship I was certain would sail no more.

I finally reached the junction, after what seemed to be hours – scooting on my elbows and knees, pausing to listen for rats, and then sliding forward a little more. I wondered if someone had preceded me, surely someone had been here before, and what thoughts entered their mind or what did they encounter in that small chamber during their time in these nether regions? The heat was oppressive, and as the duct turned toward my destination, I fought against gathering feelings of claustrophobia. “Perform the task and get out” I reminded myself. “That’s all I gotta do.”

In seconds I had managed to complete the required terminations, and I tapped on the duct to give my cohorts the signal to verify the connections. As soon as I received their affirmative signal, I began to back out of the abyss. That’s when the problems began for me. I was stuck – my boots unable to gain the required traction to slide me backwards due to the steel floor, slickened by humidity and my own sweat in passing earlier. Panic began to set in; a vision in my mind of my skeletal remains being found years later by some other poor soul unlucky enough to be assigned the same task. Forgoing tapping an SOS signal, I began to yell for help and pound the side of the bulkhead.

Through an inventive manner of communication, (I yelled and pounded while they calmly tapped in response) I was told someone would be down to help, but it would take a little while. I had been chosen for the job due to my diminutive stature (20 years ago) as it was a requirement in a confined space that small. It would be hard to find someone undersized enough to be able to get to me. I resolved myself to wait, as the gathering darkness began turning the minutes into hours. With time to think and do nothing else, I began to recount my years to that point and considered the circumstances I had forged into my life. In those quiet moments, I found myself again. Most of the troubles in my life were of the self-inflicted kind. I used a blame for others as a salve for my own damaged feelings, and a hardened heart to hide a loneliness that I felt inadequate to share. As a bonus: I had plenty of both to go around. These problems in my life coincided with the haphazard manner I had developed of holding onto my faith, at a time when I should have been holding onto it tightest.

It may sound cliché at best, but in many ways it was a spiritual awakening by definition, and it changed my life. By the time I felt a hand grabbing my ankles and attaching a pull-line, I had discovered an inner peace that had been missing in my life. I believe today that it was more than just taking time-out to think – that doesn’t always work. Nor was it the stress of the situation that day, though it may have contributed to the result. There was something moving in my heart, something unexplainable, and there is only One who can truly move there.

As I walked down the gangway and arrived on the dock that evening, I turned and looked back at the ship. My eyes found the bridge and I recalled the cable duct I had been trapped in earlier. I remembered Jacob in the Bible, how he had a similar experience at a bad time in his life. He had his own epiphany of understanding, and in that moment he realized: “Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.”

Sometimes we’ll find ourselves in bad situations in life. Life is messy. It happens that way - far too often and no one is excluded. The zenith of our existence as Christians and the measure of our faith is not in the bad things that happen to us. It is not exactly how we react to them, either. We shine when we keep our faith despite what happens to us, bad or good. Our faith is there to remind us that no matter where we may happen to find ourselves, despite the situations, the grief, and the pain; the Lord is always there with us.

Even when we didn't know it.

Prioritized Fear

So we have free health care now. Or universal health-care. Wait a minute, we have neither, or at least not until 2014 or something like that. But we are going to go ahead and start paying for it now, you know, to get a head start on everything. After all, it is supposed to actually lower the budgetary deficit in which our government finds itself. Don’t ask me how providing all of the good folks with free medical care is going to lower the amount of money the government literally spends or owes, we just need to trust them on this. Maybe the doctors and hospitals are going to provide those services at a much lower rate, or for free even. Government control of the Post Office, Amtrak, Medicare, and Education has worked out so well for us; why not allow them to provide our health care services while they’re at it?

It gets confusing. I think I’ll just go watch Entertainment Tonight or American Idol and not think about it. It hurts my head.

I actually stopped keeping up with the proceedings last October, because I could see the writing on the wall by that point. The bill was going to pass whether the majority of citizens wanted it or not. And despite the tea-parties and the town-hall meetings, the population was almost split fifty-fifty on whether it was a good thing or not. The Rasmussen and Gallup polls bore this out, and still do today. I’m against it as are most of the people in whose circles I run; but there are equal amounts of others and their assorted circles who think it will be perfect for our country and just what the doctor ordered, no pun intended.

For some reason I get this picture in my head of what health-care was like during the aftermath of Katrina in my small town a few years ago. (Warning: Katrina story!) My daughter contracted poison oak about the same time that I cut my hand in a chain-saw accident. Of course with no electricity, a visit to the doctor was out of the question. So we went to the Fire Station in McNeill and waited in line to see a doctor from Missouri placed there by the government. He was nice enough, and he took good care of my daughter and stitched me up right proper. But there was something unsettling about the whole experience: it seemed a little archaic to me. The waiting in line outside in the heat and the primitive medical services all gave me a sense at the time that something was dreadfully wrong with the picture. (Ayuh, bite on this-here leather while I stitch up them-there wounds. I’ll wash it out with whiskey before I close it up.)(I’m exaggerating)

Government-provided health care. Ominous, I tell you.

It’s silly when you think about it; therefore it is best not to get too worked up over all of the political chicanery that pervades the halls of the beltway these days. Taxes will go up, sure. But maybe it will be per usual, where they go up gradually and you don’t recognize what they are doing to you until a few years later. At that point you can look back in nostalgia at what you used to pay, all the while knowing that you’ve arranged your budget over time to live without that extra money anyway. It keeps us docile when we look at it in that manner. I think it’s what they want us to do.

Meanwhile we will all get free health care. What? I won’t get it? Because I make too much money and I am already covered under a medical plan? Where’s the incentive for me in all of this? Oh, that’s right, there is always Federal Prison if I don’t oblige to surrender my tax dollars to yet another entitlement plan from the Feddle Gubmunt.

As I wrote this I was thinking of verses along the lines of ‘that if any would not work, neither should he eat’ or how Jesus reminded us that the poor would always be with us. But I’m beginning to believe there are things going on here that are much deeper than rich vs. poor or those that work being pitted against those who choose not to. Instead I’m reminded of what Jesus said in Luke: “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”

There are a lot of things going on out there in the world today. The government and society in general have apparently flipped over into something akin to an old black and white Twilight Zone episode. The times we live in are bad and can be down-right scary if you ask me. But those fears pale in comparison to what we should be the most fearful about as it draws ever closer to us. It could be that His day is closer than we can possibly comprehend.

The Beach

A cold sea breeze knifed in across the beach, chilling their faces in the cadmium-red and yellow-ochre hues of a fading sun. The little girl in the wagon babbled incessantly, noting every detail of a world she had yet to explore, with no comprehension of life’s problems and their associated baggage. For her, this was the hour, the moment, and nothing else mattered much and offered merely passing relevance. She was only a few days beyond her first birthday, and thus it was so. Her father, however, had many things on his mind that day; it was a new job, a new world for him as well. Yet due to his responsibilities at the time, the importance of noting the beauty and timeless fashion of creation on display that day were lost, forgotten. The sea gulls tried to remind him with an ancient song as he pulled her wagon through the softly crunching sand during a balmy January evening now so many years ago.

The little girl was his world. When he looked into her blue eyes he saw hope. In her innocent smile he found a reason for wanting to be ‘better’ at life. There were quite a few evenings spent in this manner; a wagon, a leisurely stroll, and the timeless rushing of the tide with a sunset for a back drop. How many evening walks? Neither he nor she can remember, but he thinks today that there should have been more. He should have been paying much closer attention to the time as it quickly slipped away for the two of them. Childhood appears to last forever, as it shapes our lives, our desires, and our dreams. But in actuality it is brief, giving heed to the words penned by James as he wrote, “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

The years, as they do, went by. Jobs changed, schools changed, there were divorces and funerals, weddings, birthday parties, new towns and even newer responsibilities. A veritable sea of change over the following twenty-four years for both of them. Through it all, I’d like to write within these pages that they remained close, but to do so would be less than honest on my part. A lack in closeness could never be equated with a deficiency of love, however, for she remained in his heart with each passing day, month, and year. He was always quick to share her pictures, or a story of her exploits and lists of accomplishments (which were many) with anyone that would listen. He was always proud of her, and others would note the obviousness of his smile whenever she was ‘down for a visit.’

On Friday the road will end. That afternoon he will take her hand and walk her down an aisle, much as he did so many times before during those winter-sunset-beach walks many years ago. He will place her hand as well as her heart into the hand of another, and he will let her go. Though it will not be easy, he will rest in the knowledge that due to her maturity and experience, her choice is sound and she will be fine. But a daddy can never be truthfully ecstatic when taking that particular walk with his daughter. It just doesn’t work that way - that’s not the cloth they are cut from, so to speak.

How ironic is it that she picked a beach town for the ceremony?

Her family, both new and old, as well as her friends will be on hand to witness the event and it will be a joyous occasion. It really will be, even for the father of the bride. Of course she will be beautiful – she has always been so. Her husband and future in-laws will welcome her into their family, and they are good folks. Her father trusts in them and believes in them; they will help the new couple whenever it is required. Above all, they will love her even as he does. No problem there. It provides him with not a little peace of mind.

This perfect daughter begins her married life under the best of circumstances; a young woman and her groom with the pages of their future open and ready to be written upon. The little girl is gone, replaced slowly over the years (thankfully) by a well-adjusted young lady ready to handle whatever life throws at her, and her daddy is very proud. But when the ceremony is over, and the last song at the reception has faded away, when the caterer arrives to clean away the festivities; he will still be there. Or maybe he won’t.

You might find him on the beach. Walking in the soft, cool sand and listening to the cacophony of sea gulls as the sun slowly sinks on the horizon.

Good luck, Bean - I love you and I'm SO proud of you!

A Mansion Over The Hilltop

A strange thought entered my head this morning as I ironed my pants for work. It had nothing to do with ironing my pants, old military traditions die hard and I’ve always ironed my own clothes. It was a little deeper than that, anyway. It started at church last night and specifically with a song I led the congregation in. I’m the Music Director at my church – it’s what I do. The song is entitled “Mansion Over The Hilltop’ and most churches today rarely (if ever) sing that tune anymore. The song was stuck in my head yesterday afternoon and so I chose it for one of the congregational songs during the service last night.

No, fire did not fall from the sky and angels did not descend into our midst as we sang about a bright land where we’ll never grow old. In fact, if anything it was a little weak and really didn’t quite go along the pastor’s message that he brought afterward. Knowing the latter, you would probably think that the Holy Spirit had nothing to do with the selection of the song, and at face value, you would probably be right. I’m a frail, earthen vessel and I’ve been known to get it wrong from time to time.

But it stayed on my mind and I even caught myself humming the tune on the way home from church and also later last night as I went to bed. A mansion just over the hill top, do tell! Jesus told His disciples, “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” What a perfect thought - death is not the end but only the beginning of a totally new and grand adventure that awaits us!

I like to key-in on the part where He says ‘many mansions’. That’s what the song says as well – I’ve got a mansion. It’s waiting for me. It is going to be located in a place steeped with perfection, with no flaws, no pain, no sickness, and no disease. No harsh words will ever be spoken there; there will be neither sin nor any temptations to be encountered in that land of perfect day. It will all be the way it was supposed to be – like it was back in the garden, where we will live and walk with our Creator, and we will know Him face to face as one would know their best friend.

So back to the ironing… my wife woke up and gave me a hug on her way to the kitchen to make our coffee. (We got sugar this week!) She always hugs me there by the ironing board in the morning. It’s not me; it is her admiration for the perfection in my ironing that always stops her in her tracks. Anyway, I reminded her about those mansions that await us in Heaven and told her that after much thought, I did not want one of my very own. I wanted to share one with her if she didn’t mind. Because after all, eternity is like... well... eternity you know?

Shannon, what makes you think about stuff like this? Are you daft in the head?

No. We are in the process of getting ready for a wedding this week. My oldest daughter is going to walk the aisle and I’ll probably write more on that subject as the time draws nearer. I’m happy for her because I’m sure she has found her perfect match. They ‘fit’ each other and share the same likes and dislikes; a daddy can recognize these things and we actually look for them in areas where our daughters are concerned. Most of all, it is obvious that they love each other and enjoy each other’s company, and they work things out when problems arise.

What I’m hoping, what I’m praying for is this: I hope the two of them will feel the same way about each other as Kim and I do. As the years go steadily by my wish is for them to grow closer, to a point to where they can’t live without each other even considering the auspiciousness of the eternal realm. Smile if you want, or nod your head and roll your eyes. I know there is no Biblical principle/basis for what I feel about my wife, or my children for that matter. But I hope they can share their love and feel that love returned to them in the same manner regardless. Life on earth, at least, is so much better that way.

In A Smile

This morning my coffee came to me tempered with Sweet-n-Low instead of good old-fashioned sugar. I’m not on a diet and have no problem with sugar, we were just out of it this morning and this seemed to be the proper (best) solution. Sweet-n-Low is nasty despite what others will tell you. It leaves a bitter aftertaste which to me is unpalatable. You might like the stuff and if you do, bless you. But I stand firm by my claim. I gave up my attempt to drink the coffee and poured over half of my cup back into my wife’s cup. I took the remainder and put it on the floor for my dog, Tink. (she loves coffee) She sniffed the cup, took a tentative sip, and then looked up at me with her ‘C’mon Man!’ expression of disgust.

As I left the house on my way to work I noticed my seat belt was not latching as it should have been. I stopped in the driveway, screwdriver in hand, and attempted to rectify the matter. This feeble attempt on my part was met with very little success; I managed to latch the seat belt, but not with me actually ‘in’ the seatbelt. My anger grew as I realized it would mean another trip to the dealership, and I had been there only a week before for routine maintenance. It’s not a big deal, but it means arranging a ride and hoping that the repair will be completed by the time I get off work. More than once, even for something as simple as a scheduled oil change, I have found myself waiting for the job to be completed at the dealership when I arrived after work. As I tucked the seat belt back into its holster, I drove out of the driveway to the accompaniment of a dinging chime warning me that my seat belt was still not fastened. Sigh.

So far, it had been an inglorious start to my day, and it only became worse. At an intersection, I stopped at the sign like the good, law-abiding citizen that I am. A car was approaching and had the right-of-way, so I waited patiently for it to pass. At the last possible instant, with no prior turn signal, the car turned down the road I was on. I was bothered that I had waited maybe seven or eight seconds for the car to pass, that was bad enough. But what really got me bent out of shape was the driver. She made eye contact with me and I guess she saw the pained expression on my face, so she smirked at me. Seriously, I saw it.

For a split second I reverted to the old ways and a time when following the Lord was not a part of my creed. My hand began sliding up from my side to the window, middle finger beginning its extension to what would have invariably become an obscene gesture aimed at the smirking driver. As the chimes continued to ring, reminding me that my seat-belt was still not fastened, I caught myself and merely frowned my best look of contempt at her. As I furrowed my brow and shook my head at the impolite driver and quickly looked the other way, I was thankful once again that the Holy Spirit was there to remind me of Whom I belong to and what I am supposed to be. As I pulled out onto the highway I asked the Lord to bless her with the ability to properly use her turn signals in the future and to give her a great day while He was at it. But I don't think I was very sincere about that second part. I grimaced as I thought about the morning up to that point, and wondered what could possibly happen next.

“This is a test Lord, right?” I began our conversation, driving on Highway 11 with the seat belt chimes growing louder with each passing moment. Outside the rain began to fall and I noticed for the first time how dreary the morning appeared to be. Dismal, even. I had arranged my daily schedule at work to meet with three different salesmen from three different companies, although none of their products interested me or were something I could use to make our operations more flexible or run smoother. I had grown weary of putting them off and figured I’d run them through at almost one sitting. Maybe I could at least get a good cup of coffee in the office before they began arriving.

As I got out of my truck in the parking lot, one of my employees met me. He’s had a tough life. Prison, broken marriages (plural), financial issues – you name it, his problems read like a grocery list. “G’morning!” he told me, and he smiled. It was a huge smile, a contagious smile. It was a smile that he, with all of his problems, had no business sharing with me. How could he smile? Or better yet, how could he smile and mean it? I thought about that as I crossed the lobby and made my way to the stairs up to my floor, and I knew that this was what I was meant to understand this morning. Coffee is not important. Seat belts can be repaired. I cannot allow my mood to hinge upon the actions of other drivers. Weather patterns change almost hourly. Salesmen come and go and hearing the word ‘no’ is probably not uncommon for them.

I, too, have a lot to smile about. Life has been good to me. God has always been there for me, even when I didn’t take the time to notice Him and what He was doing in my life. Family, check. Wife, perfect. Job, agreeable. Despite the problems of the morning, through the smile of another I was reminded of the inspired words passed down to us through the Apostle Peter, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”

He cares for me. Even when I am not at my best. What is even more amazing to me is that he wants me to cast all of those silly cares of mine on Him.



I’m going to do my best to remember this on those rough mornings in the future (which are sure to come), and to try and remember this without a reminder from Him to do so. I’m thankful this morning. So very thankful.

Back To The Roots

This was a good weekend. They all are. We managed to plant our seed potatoes on a Saturday morning of what turned out to be a beautiful day, and one that appeared to be long overdue when taken in the context of the cold and wet weekends that preceded it. My father and I bore the brunt of the effort, but it was neat to see my youngest son, Tyler, out there between the rows with us, meticulously dropping potatoes into the rich soil in what was a first for him. Three generations of Johnson’s out in the field, planting with timeless and shared hopes of a harvest to come.

It’s good to get back to the soil, so to speak. I believe it is an experience that all of our modern conveniences have caused us to forget over time, and something that we may find ourselves never truly able to replace once it is gone. You can buy potatoes at Wal-Mart; the prices there are cheap enough and the labor is much less intensive. But still…

Maybe it’s just me; I have a tendency to wax nostalgically at planting time. As I huffed and puffed while burying the potatoes in my work shoes, I recalled a simpler time in life when I would have done so in bare feet, enjoying the feel of the cool earth beneath my soles as I performed the task. These days of advancing age remind me that I am not ‘young’ anymore, and I can be susceptible to colds and a sore throat for performing that exact same feat, no pun intended.

I wonder if Tyler will ‘get it’. I wonder if he will remember it when he gets older. His days are filled with X-box simulations and the Internet, while at that same age I had horses and pine-cone wars to keep me entertained. My brother and I climbed trees just to see if we could, and hunted snakes with b-b guns. Things change; I get that, so don’t lecture me.

I was further reminded of how things change yesterday morning as I made my way down the road and across the creek to attend church. Not as many people feel the need for church anymore, yet when I was young it was more than expected, it was a requirement. As an engineer, I can do the math. Attendance has dwindled significantly from what it was back in the day. That’s akin to saying the Himalayas are significantly higher than the Appalachians, I guess. The difference is not in hundreds, but in thousands of feet.

Again, things change. Back then we were closer to the soil, and closer to God. We depended on each other and trusted in the Lord. When times were rough, we hardly noticed, as it seemed to always be that way. As a result, maybe, just maybe our expectations were a little bit lower than they are by today’s standards. Yet at the same time we were always looking ahead, even back then, toward a future that was pregnant with possibilities merely waiting to happen for us.

We reached that future. We achieved those goals. I have the house, swimming pool, and 4x4 pickup truck to prove it. But somewhere along the way, something happened. Things didn’t make sense anymore. Life became a struggle not to survive, but to excel and to exceed, to get and consume - to work harder and to dream even bigger dreams. We (I) forgot the soil and the simple life from my youth, replacing it with plastic (literally in my case) and designer clothing.

What do you do when you reach for the stars, and find they aren’t readily attainable? What if you climb the ladder only to learn once you've reached the top that it’s against the wrong building? Why think outside of the box if the answers are actually in the box? What can you do when you realize you are sincerely tired of the charade that a materialistic life has become, but are too entrapped either by debt or by work ethic to stop?

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We can drop the burdens that have been placed on us by society and by our own expectations squarely at Jesus’ feet. His burden is easy and His yoke is much lighter in comparison. It is a promise He gives to his children, and the offer is open each and every day to us. But to actually accept the offer is still up to us. I’ll have to warn you, though, an acceptance of His offer will get you back to your roots. And that’s OK, the soil is really not so bad there.

Wisdom and Knowledge

Youth Sunday School Lesson – March 7, 2010

It is my hope as well as my prayer that I am going to be beyond the sickness and stuff that has been clinging to me during the past few weeks. I know that I have missed a few Sundays and I appreciate the fact that you guys have remained faithful during my absence. I also am thankful for my wife, and the ability she has shown to teach the class for me when I am out and to do a great job with you guys. I hope to see each and every one of you (bright and early) on Sunday morning and ready to get back to work as we learn a little bit more about what God has in store for us in our lives!

The new books are in and during this quarter we will be studying about wisdom. We have talked about wisdom in the past, and touched on the difference between knowledge and wisdom, but there is always a lot of room to learn more about the subject. It seems as though one of the major things we lack as a society today is not general knowledge, but the wisdom to know what to do with that knowledge once we acquire it. As a teenager, while attending school (and some of you are in college) it is imperative that you learn as much as you can to prepare you for your future. This is the time in your life where knowledge is readily and easily available. And it is expected (required?) of you to make good grades, learn the lessons you will need to provide you with a future career, and to do the best that you can during the process. Your future success in life really does depend on it.

At the same time, as I have stated on many occasions in class, the decisions you make during these years of your life (between the ages of 15 and 20) will define and shape your future. There will be many decisions to be made, both large and small. What career path should I chose? Where should I attend college? Should I ask her/him to marry me? Should I get a crash-pad of my own or live with my parents for a few more years? I have no doubt you guys all make good grades and make an actual attempt to perform well in school. But knowledge, though very important, cannot always be used by itself to answer these questions. These questions require something more as we make our decisions – they require wisdom.

Wisdom, by definition, is the ability to make the right choices/decision despite whatever circumstances we may find ourselves in. Wisdom can be achieved by observation or by following the example set for us by others. However, the cruelest method of gaining wisdom is by our own experience, and what I mean by that is gaining wisdom through the process of learning from our own mistakes.

As you grow older, you should never stop in your quest to gain knowledge; but you should also be aware of the necessity of continuing to gain wisdom. You will need wisdom because you will always be required to make decisions in your life. So where do we begin? The Bible tells us in Psalms 111:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.”

Our modern culture teaches us that we should have ‘no fear’. Fear not is one of the most cited lines in the entire Bible. We should not fear the things in life we have no control over, and especially the things that do not or will not matter in the long run. But we should always maintain a healthy fear of God and a desire to keep His commandments. By seeking His will in our lives in all of the decisions that we make, no matter how trivial we may think our decisions might be - we can begin to unlock the secret of being wise.

An ability we all need, to make the right decisions despite whatever circumstance we may find ourselves in at the time, is an important ability to strive for. Emotions and feelings may lead us astray. Logic and science simply do not have all of the answers we require for every situation we may face. But wisdom that begins with a fear of God, coupled with a no-compromise stance on His Word will never fail you. Be thinking about that this week. We’ll discuss it further in class – hope to see you there!

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

I love music. All kinds. Well, I don’t like rap-music, so that statement might not be exclusively true. While at the gym or working in the yard, you’ll possibly catch my iPod playing anything from 70’s rock to Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ at any given moment. I’ll even throw in some country music just to remind me of my roots, too. (But not too often) And it has always been that way; from Elton John and the Eagles of yesteryear to Puddle of Mud and Casting Crowns in this later stage of life I now find myself in.

Speaking of Elton John, what a talent he has, matched perfectly with an ability to destroy a piano that is unparalleled by possibly any musician since Beethoven! The man is a machine - one of my fondest musical memories is hearing the strains of ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ on AM radio back during the Bicentennial year of 1976. He became so popular and so successful that the Queen of England knighted him; thus earning his moniker of ‘Sir Elton John’. When he came out of the closet and admitted his homosexuality (as if we hadn’t figured that one out already) it was no big deal. Just sing, Sir Elton, and play that piano as only you can while I ignore your personal life! And I could live with that.

Until last week.

You see, in an interview Sir Elton stated that he believed from his own personal reading of the Bible that Jesus was gay, too, just like him. Nobody blinked. Yes, there were a few condemnations from various Christian denominations, but for the most part he was celebrated for making that statement. Of course he is wrong, and I am offended by what he said, but for different reasons than probably most church members would be. I know that Jesus was not gay, I cannot be convinced otherwise, and on that level Sir Elton’s statement does not affect me at all. But there is another level here that is offensive, and it is much deeper and a lot more sinister in nature, to a point I doubt that even Mr. John thought about it while making his declaration.

Dan Brown did the same thing with The DaVinci Code. He brought into the open an age-old conspiracy (that far pre-dates his book) based upon those who believe Jesus did not die on the cross and rise again on the third day. This conspiracy suggests that He lived through the ordeal of the Crucifixion somehow, and then retired from His ministry. He married Mary Magdalene and had a family, while living a full life and dying at a ripe old age. That is very offensive to me. And it is wrong, too. But it does not affect me, as mentioned earlier, because I know in my heart the truth that sets me free.

Both Sir Elton and Dan Brown, whether intentional or due to being misled by others, are attempting to perform the same task: make Jesus human. If Jesus was just a man, with our inherent faults, sin, and failings, then we have a leg to stand on when Judgment Day finally comes around. But Jesus was not just a man. First and foremost, He was the Son of God. He was Immanuel, which is translated as ‘God with us’ from the Hebrew. John explains it further, and as always, much better than I can: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Emphasis mine) He carries it further and explains to us, with no wiggle-room for error: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

When a well-known singer claims that Jesus was gay it does not bother me because I know He was not. Meanwhile, the person who makes that claim will answer for their own iniquity in the end. When an educated pundit states that Jesus did not die on the cross, but took on a second life in a manner not recorded in the Gospel, although it offends me I will not lose sleep over it. Again, each of us will answer for our own sins. But to make Jesus into just a man, stripping Him of His title as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, as God-incarnate, is inexcusable. It’s blasphemous. It’s… treacherous.

Sadly I believe that we will see more of this in the days to come. A Jesus who was merely a man would have no right to judge us, and no leg to stand on as proof of the things He taught us in the Scriptures. Stripped down to its bare essence, it is merely an attempt to make Jesus right with us instead of us being made right with Him. However, Jesus as an all-powerful, all-knowing God; the Creator who became flesh and lived on earth to provide a means of making us right with Him through His death, burial, and resurrection? He deserves all the power, all the honor, and all of the glory. Forever amen.