In Faith

Ok, so maybe an Apple iPad can replace my trusted PC on certain occasions when a desire to blog calls me away from a time of trials and misgivings. It feels weird; I have no spell check or grammatical test points. I have to be careful with semi-colons, because I cannot use those double-dashes I love so well. The actual posting online may yet prove to be my undoing, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

The thought for me today is this: it should have been me. It's almost not fair in all of its dubious simplicity. The world is set, and spins within a realm of the constant and known; while the events of the past week make no sense to me at all.

As I sit here in this sterile hospital room, delicately plucking on a pop-up keypad, my wife lays fitfully asleep in the bed before me. With a tenuous at best grip on what is left of her health, I pause incredulously in a wonder that escapes the limits of my careful comprehension. It should be me lying there, breathing processed oxygen with metered fluids injected patently through tubes embedded cruelly within my wrists.

I'm the abuser when it comes to health and well being. I ride the wagon of fatty foods and nicotine consumption. I work out in a gym almost daily, but I undo the benefits gained with a propensity for falling semi-consciously into a recliner when I arrive home from work each day. Everything I find the 'one I love' going through, I've written with zeal a payment in full for what I've earned through sordid habits and a careless lifestyle. But she hasn't...

I can do nothing about it, seemingly, and instead I'm left to grasp at seven-dollar words related to me by callous (sometimes) doctors and their much too cheerful nurses.

So I pray for answers and for strength; hers not mine. I pray for my children, suddenly called upon to adapt to situations well beyond their years. I pray to a powerful G_d Who could reach down with matchless grace and heal her, in a manner which to the One who created the stars would find a mere, fleeting pittance. Yet perhaps most of all, I pray for understanding and guidance for myself, along with a deeper faith.

The result of these earnest prayers as well as a heart forged by belief is this: I know it will be alright. Beginning with today, and greater still tomorrow and the day after. We'll finish that interrupted bar-b-cue as a family, and we'll praise Him with humbled awe as we do so.

I have a promise, you see. In His Words of Life He assures me that I am to begin my facing of these circumstances by "casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you." From a wealth of timeless experience I know that this will prove to be just enough. In fact, I can state with a calm assurance that I know these unknown and unexplainable things as simplistic fact. It will stand as a witness, a sentinel even, to be all that we ever needed by the time we gaze upon the conclusion of the matter.

Getting Late

I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. Joel 3:2

Parting the land of the nation of Israel is the big news story this week, but the discussions have been ongoing for several years now. Supposedly this will appease the Palestinians; if the U.N. will only step in and create a separate state for them by redrawing the boundaries of Israel back to what they were when that country was founded back in 1948.

I’m not so sure.

After all, it was just a couple of years ago that Israel, under world pressure, conceded the Gaza strip. Within days (hours) rockets were raining down on southern villages in Israel from the newly released province. Ditto for the aftermath of concessions when Israel withdrew from Lebanon a few years earlier. Don’t tell me I’m wrong—I watch the evening news and read a lot more news reports than the average person. How can Israel concede further territory if the Palestinian leaders refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist in the first place?

Enter our President. Yesterday he gave a speech suggesting that Israel relinquish all territories gained as a result of the 6-day war back in 1967. For the government educated, Israel did not start that war—Egypt, Syria, and Jordan did so. They got their proverbial hats handed to them and Israel doubled in size; the territory gained proving to be a much-needed buffer zone for fending off future attacks. (1973) This territory included the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula, both of which are extremely strategic for Israel’s defense. Most of the Sinai has been returned anyway by this point, but losing the Golan means Israel will be utterly defenseless with the high-speed attack weaponry available today.

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Psalms 137:5

Jerusalem is truly a stumbling block to any conceivable peace process in the Middle East. I was very young at the time, but I’ve watched the videos of General Moshe Dayan’s speech he gave as the 1967 war concluded with Israel gaining control of the Old City, in which he stated: “We have returned to our holy places... And we shall never leave them." Part of the comments by our President calling for Israel to give up the land gained in 1967 would include Jerusalem, and would include Holy places such as the Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall. In the words of a wise Senator following the President’s remarks, the plan is “mistaken and dangerous” and “Jerusalem must never be re-divided.”

“Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.” Ezekiel 16:26

Meanwhile, to complete the surreal picture painted by the President in his speech, one billion dollars in aid is going to be set aside for Egypt from our very own treasury, which—by the way—is broke. It’s empty, we are overdrawn, and we have none to give. Ah, but we will, of course. Why?

The whole world smiled as Egypt overthrew their government a few months back. The repressive regime of Hosni Mubarek, though friendly to the U.S., was destined to fall in what our western media likened as a western-style demand by the people of Egypt for freedom. The media pundits made sure to focus on leaders that were going to be the ‘new face’ of the ‘new Egypt’—specifically on a Google executive by the name of Wael Ghonim. He was educated, professional, and wanted the same freedoms we have known here in the U.S. from our birth. Once the revolution was over, the media quickly moved on to what was happening in Libya and now Syria, as more revolutions are taking place in the name of freedom from their own repressive regimes. But meanwhile, back in Egypt, Ghonim was barred from addressing the nation at a huge rally being held for their new spiritual leader Sheik Yusaf al-Qaradawi. Oh, by the way, the ‘spiritual leader’ is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and by note a hater of all things Israel.

That’s right, the media darling of the revolution for freedom has been swept aside, rebuffed, and rendered inconsequential. So what was the revolution all about? The answer lies in the Iranian warships now sailing comfortably through the Suez canal in Egypt, uncontested and unmolested—friendly even—as the new leaders in Egypt publicly question the validity of peace treaties signed between Egypt and Israel back in the late 1970’s. Yes, a billion dollars we do not have in the first place, for foreign aid to these guys, let’s do it!

What is going on here? While our country sleeps and dreams of American Idol winners, Glee, and all things Justin Bieber, things are beginning to quickly go awry on the world stage even as we slumber. We dream of 401k balances and ponder upon an economy that may or may not be on the road to recovery, while hoping that gasoline prices won’t get too high. It’s time to stop and think. It’s time to listen for that still, small voice. It’s time to remember:

But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. Habakkuk 2:20

It’s later than we think…

Doomsday 2011

And so the emails come in. Questions like Where have you been? and Why no blog updates in such a very long time? Some request a story from the far-flung memory banks of the past; others—my take on the latest political escapades emanating from the beltway. Mom says I can’t have a tattoo but I can’t find anything against it in the Bible, so what do you think I should tell her? And finally, the capper: Will the world end on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at precisely 6 PM?

I love the emails and in no way am I making light of honest questions and thoughts from those hopelessly slanted towards all things spiritual in a manner very much akin to my own.

But first things first…

I made a trip to the Lone Star State and was out of pocket for a few days. I thought about recording all of my random thoughts on my oldest son’s graduation from Basic Training at Lackland AFB, but to do so would have required me to utilize my cell phone. And despite the marvelous reviews on using a PDA to blog or update web-sites, my eyes are not quite keen enough (anymore) to see or edit text that small. It was a good trip, nonetheless, and through it all I was reminded yet again of how G_d has blessed me throughout this life I live, and I thank Him voraciously for each and every miracle that seems to drop unexpectedly in my direction. It’s truly more than I deserve, and in my heart I believe each and every second to be yet another example of His grace, which I’ll unabashedly admit I do not deserve.

Tattoos are the wrong move. I’ve covered them in a past blog here. But it’s not my choice to make nor to condone or condemn—if you choose to get one, use Random Thoughts in some manner or another in the tattoo. Seriously.

I’m a little more worried about the U.S. CDC releasing a guide to surviving the zombie invasion than I am of the world ending on Saturday—just saying. Zombie invasion? Really? Our Federal tax dollars at work.

The problem with all of the hoopla on the world’s apparent demise is that everyone will be watching their clocks and eying the sky around 6 PM on Saturday due to the much publicized rant of a misguided soul out in California. Therein lies the crux of the matter. Paul writes: “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” So how can the end arrive with so much publicity and all the world waiting at that precise moment in time for it to happen? It would be hard to make a living as a thief under those circumstances. Never mind that the Bible explicitly states that neither the angels in Heaven—nor even the Son of G_d Himself—know the exact time and date for this to happen.

My take is that more than anything else, Mr. Harold Camping will prove to be wrong yet again, and with bitter disappointment he will bring a black mark to bear upon both the church and those who believe in the Bible. He will give rise to even more scoffers who will gleefully chant, “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

Then what? The supreme question remains: If Mr. Camping and his followers are Christians, where or how will G_d get any glory at all out of this?

Ah, leave it alone. The Lord of Hosts can handle those things much better than I can.

Still, the world revolves and continues in a manner that can only lead to the certain and final destruction that awaits it just over the near horizon. The prophecies recorded in the Bible are falling dramatically into place with each passing day, despite the right or wrong in Mr. Camping or his follower’s testimonials. Something is coming—and it is going to be a horrible experience when it does.

I’m praying for mercy. I’m praying for grace. And I’ll continue making sure I’m ready for that Great Day to come when in fact it does. 6:00 PM on Saturday does not scare me half as much as 6:01 PM does. (Or 6:02, or 6:03)

The goal for all believers should be to simply be ready. That’s all that is expected of us.


“Paw-Paw!” “C’mere Paw-Paw!”

Nothing brings joy to my ears more these days than the sound of my grand-daughter calling for me from across the room when I get home in the evenings. She’s excited to see me—as I am to see her at the same time. She’s special, precious in my eyes in a way that despite having raised four children, I could never have anticipated these new feelings within the reaches of my furthest imagination. Children are special and there is no doubt that they are truly blessings from G_d; even more so when they provide you with the miracle of grandchildren in their own right.

Parker Olivia Anne Johnson is two years old plus a few months. (We still give her age in months at this point) She’s precocious and temperamental as are most children at her age, but that only adds to the experience of those things that make her special. She’s the daughter of my oldest son, who is off serving his country in the Air Force, hence the added extra time at Paw-Paw’s house these days while her mom is at school.

She’s at an age where communication still revolves around pointing your fingers and talking baby-talk to her when you want a desired result. And she still has a language of her own which is incomprehensible except with a lot of forethought, or by simply asking her mom to translate for us. Potty training has almost been accomplished (she’ll hate my mention of this when she gets older) and she can even sing her ABCs.

Children are special and each has his or her own personality traits. I learned through my own experience that you love your sons, but worry about them entirely too much. Because sons are generally miniature versions of yourself as a man, replete with all of your assorted fears and inconsistences. Or maybe you just notice them more. Daughters, on the other hand, are for sheer enjoyment and are easy to be carefree towards, because by the same token I cannot look at my daughters and not see a miniature version of their mother when I do so.

But back to Parker, which is where we started. She’s two. Sometimes she misbehaves and sometimes I can’t understand her when she is trying to tell me what she wants. On occasion she regresses in her potty training. She can’t read yet. She cannot say her colors nor pick all of them out plainly. We cannot have a discussion on the works of Hemingway and Faulkner, and she may grow up in a world that cannot remember them at all. I like deep movies that make me think—and especially those that make me ponder upon them long after I’ve watched them. She is still into Dora and Sponge-Bob Square-Pants. But am I disappointed in her as a result?

No. That would be silly and just in case the facetious font isn’t working on my computer, you should understand that I am kidding about this. Parker is two. There is a lot of growing ahead of her, a lot of learning, and a lot of maturity waiting to be plucked from the tree of her life which will be harvested by her own experience and necessity. She’s still a baby. I expect no more than where she is now and enjoy her even deeper as a result. It is interesting and exciting to see her develop and learn as time goes by. I’ll honestly profess it is a miracle from G_d the way she does so.

Sometimes at church I catch myself playing the part of maturity-detector for my Christian brothers and sisters. I wish they wouldn't make so many mistakes in their life. I get aggravated when there is not enough help for programs or outreach ministries. Sometimes they seem more concerned with the social aspect of church and not about the expounding of G_d’s Word through devotionals and messages from the pulpit. On a few occasions, I’ve noticed that they play favorites; shaking hands with those visitors that have a certain standing in society and are less inclined to offer the same to those with none. Yet I know they are Christians, and I was there when they were born again. So what gives?

It is during those times I'm reminded that walking with G_d on a daily basis is a growing experience. None of us (me included) will ever be where we should be in our relationship with Christ until we reach the next life that is waiting for us. Until then, we have to grow and mature a little, or at times a whole lot. Peter writes: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”Grace is easy to grow in as it is readily available and imperative due to our sinful nature. Meanwhile, growing in knowledge requires studying His Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to open the windows of understanding to us.

It's a lot more enjoyable to concentrate on watching them grow and mature than it is to stand on the sidelines and point my self-righteous finger of condemnation at them. My job is to accept and love them, and applaud them when they uncover new heights in their spiritual journeys. In doing so, I may just grow a little more my own self.

Growing a little more each day...

Buying The Truth

I was thinking of the importance of truth this morning, a well-pressed concept in the manner of dried roses hidden in the erstwhile leaves of a book entitled Long Ago.

We were different back then, untainted by the prerequisite jading that arrived upon us through age and experience. Yet the scattered proof remains relevant throughout it all: life revolves around ten per cent of the things that are beyond our control, and ninety per cent in how we deal with those self-same situations.

But then again, I may just be full of myself this morning…

You’d have to have known the boy. Tall and skinny, loud and obnoxious, neither a bully nor one to be bullied; he was merely one of my friends. It may have appeared differently to those on both sides of the popularity bell-curve, but he was obscenely average in everything that mattered most to teenagers back in those days. The same careful estimations of him carried over from me—he was neither my best friend nor my worst—just somewhere stagnated in the middle. I guess that’s not so bad, really, in anyone’s world when you’re both honest about it.

School had released us for spring break despite it being only toward the end of February. The break was well earned by the season as the temperatures were unusually warm that year. We decided to go fishing in a pond not far from home, although going fishing mostly meant hanging out and doing anything but. As an explanation, I do not remember cleaning any fish that evening. Maybe we didn’t catch any, or maybe the events of the day spoke a different language and had taken us down another path. The pond belonged to a man that used the land for weekend excursions from a far away city, and infrequent ones at that. As a disclaimer, we had permission to fish there—or at least I did.

The owner kept a wooden pirogue on the banks of his pond, and a problem arose from the capacity of the small boat. It had been proven (scientifically) in the past to carry a maximum of two passengers at a time, while we had three on our impromptu fishing expedition that morning. So we flipped for it, and the loser had to fish from the banks while the other two set sail on a day that bordered majestically upon the magnificent. We displayed no fear—in the manner of teen-aged boys—assured in the knowledge that nothing could go wrong because we were immortal and invincible. But this is the point where truth came into play despite our efforts to deny it. Did I mention the weather was unseasonably warm for February?

With a slight breeze blowing steadily across the water, we found we had to constantly paddle to remain in the better fishing areas and to keep from being pushed into the primeval, untamed side of the marsh. On that side of the small basin abode a mature weeping-willow tree, whose winter-naked branches gnarled out over the water toward us with violent-looking tendrils. It would reach for rods, lures, even clothing if we happened to venture too close. We did.

Just as I reminded him that it was his turn to paddle and we needed to get out of harm’s way, something fell out of that tree and landed across my shoulders, softly sliding down my back and into the bottom of the boat. I had no time to express the words—they came on their own as I reverted to a stutter that had not been present since I had passed my second or third year as a denizen of existence: “S-S-S-Snake!”

Snakes weren’t out in February. They were cold blooded reptiles, everyone knew this truth, and it was too cold…

I bailed over the side and within moments was well on my way, swimming frantic strokes toward the beach we had originally began our expedition from. My bank-bound friend who had lost the coin toss earlier awaited me, laughing, but not too hard, and helped me get my water-logged body out of those algae-encrusted waters. Meanwhile I turned to look back for the boat, and my other tall and lanky friend remained onboard in the back of it, which caused the front end of the boat which I had earlier abandoned to rise up at a 45-degree angle. In my recently-vacated place coiled a very agitated snake, doing all he could to either find his way back up into the tree or escape into the relative safety of the water. The boy in the boat began laughing at the snake, the boat, me, and his predicament—but his laughter was short-lived. The snake, seeing no way out through the steep sides of the boat turned and began to slither in his direction!

Now Jesus walked on the water. I expect Him to be able to do so. I mean, He is the Son of G_d. And He invited Peter out onto the water to do the same—Peter did so and it was a miracle. A lot of people scoff at the Gospel accounts of this feat—although I know better because I’ve actually witnessed it.

Just about the time Mr. Moccasin reached his end of the boat, my friend took off and visibly walked across the water, screaming insanely at anyone or anything that would listen with his hands held dramatically over his head in homage to the powers that be. He crossed the water in the same manner that I did, the same route and the same direction, yet when he arrived on the bank he was dry from the ankles up. Now, explain that one to me. The truth is I saw it, and at the time I could not be convinced or convicted otherwise.

Sometimes the things we are certain of, like an absence of snakes in February or the dry pants of a friend after an apparent swimming session, can be proven false by others. Snakes can be stirred from winter by an unusually warm spell. My friend had his own explanation involving a submerged log that proved believable once we investigated it further. Still, there are other spiritual truths that are justifiable despite a lack of evidence other than by faith alone. But these others, like Peter’s experience, are still reliable and they are static and accountable—even if only to the believer.

It is of these particular spiritual truths that we are advised by the writer of Proverbs to: “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.”