Sunday, May 1, 2016

Not Made for Us to Know

It is not made for us to know
All things of God.
But small is great
when He we ponder.

His ways are seen in creature small,
in nature's way;
Our inmost heart
reveals His wonder.

We dream we have Him in a box,
the last laugh His.
He made the box,
we are His plunder.

We fear and cry, What will He do?
And soon we see.
His ways are good
He is the Lover

Of souls both lost and being found.
He plans, reveals
and wins the day --
new life recovers!”

Ponder, wonder, plunder, Lover:
Who is this God
our heart reveals,
our sin uncovers;

And heals, renames us, makes us new?
The good and true
The seeker's friend
You will discover.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Asked and Answered?

Your Father in Heaven will give good things to those who ask.  (Jesus in Matthew 7:11)

                                                     Asked and answered, can it be?
                                                     Does asking make reality?

                                                     Asked and answered cannot be;
                                                     true happiness is rare, you see.

                                                     Asking's purpose? Here's a clue,
                                                     The give and take the soul renews;

                                                     For in the asking, heaven sent,
                                                     Our heart will see its own true bent.

                                                     And keep on asking 'til it's done,
                                                     That heart and mind and heav'n are one.

                                                     And then our asking's good as done!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Memories of Growing up in Ulysses, Kansas

 A Meandering Reflection on Growing up in Ulysses, Kansas

Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Ulysses, Kansas was a great place to grow up.  I know, I know, we always love home and we always cut out the junk from memory, or at least we try.  Thankfully, there was very little of the real junk in my Ulysses memory.  Yes, there was the occasional after-school fight, once over a $5 bet and more than once for who-knows-what.  And there were sadnesses to be sure, like when my Little League friend was killed in a go-cart accident.  He and his friends were driving in the road and a car could not stop in time.  I was a pall-bearer.  He was only 11.

But it was still a great place to grow up, a little town like so many, never known by the rest of the world but home and heart and happy to generations of farms and families, schools, businesses, churches.  And it was there I grew from kindergarten to eighth grade, 1971 to 1979, with three siblings and a Mom and Dad.  They were good years.

In the 7th grade I attended Kepley Junior High, a school that housed only 7th and 8th grade along with a classroom for special needs students of various ages.  Being a 7th grader meant I was new, I was younger, I was picked on.  Ugh!  But I had a friend and his name was John Hastert.  John was not big and tough to beat up the bullies, but he was smart and he was friendly.  I saw all these signs that said, "Vote John Hastert for student council!"  "What is student council
?", I wondered.  So I asked someone and they told me.  You put up signs and if you get elected you serve with this group of students and do things for the school.  I still didn't know what it was but I decided I wanted to do it.

So the next day I asked John if he would help me.  "You should do it," he said.  "Ok," I replied.  "What do I do?" 

"Get a bunch of paper and we'll make some signs."  Paper was easy.  Across the alley from my house was the Ulysses News, a business I had variously supported by delivering papers off and on for some 3 or 4 years.  They threw out lots of paper.  I knew because at the age of nine I had become a dumpster diver, finding all kinds of stationary delights to stash away for some imagined future use.

I once dug a hole in the back yard, on our side of the alley from the newspaper offices, and hid a bunch of paper in it.  I'm talking stacks of chopped card stock in various sizes and colors.  Maybe discarded tablets of one kind or other and who knows what else.  That place threw out so much good stuff!  So -- and I'm not making this up! -- I dumped some of that treasure in this hole, found a piece of plywood to cover it, then covered the plywood with dirt.  Several weeks later I happened to look out while my Dad was tilling the garden plot.  He seemed befuddled at the plywood and paper he found.  I went about my business elsewhere, knowing that little treasure was gone forever!

Anyway, they also threw out small rolls of newsprint -- light paper about 3 feet wide and 30 to 40 feet long.  I got a roll from my pile inside the garage and hauled it to school the next day.

"That'll do I guess," John said, as I arrived 30 minutes before school.  "Let's go to Mr. Fast's room and make the signs."  He provided plain, black markers, we cut the paper into several three foot squares and began to make the signs.  "Vote Huff for STUCO (Student Council) Representative" was a creative as it got.  We taped several in hallways throughout the school.  A week later, to my genuine shock, I was elected!

[to be continued]

Monday, August 10, 2015

Remnants and Remedies: An Effort to find Truth in Theological Query

The following is for the three friends I enjoyed conversation with on Sunday, August 9.  We had a wonderful, meandering talk about the meaning of Creation.  The comments here are my effort to bring my understanding to some kind of resolution.

I wrote a blog post this afternoon fortheloveofit, trying to sort out my understanding as pertaining to our discussion today. Thank you so much for sharing in this discussion. These kinds of inquiries invigorate soul and mind.

It is the nature of these things to over-speak our understanding in an effort to see what is there, to see where our understanding could lead, to allow others to see ideas so those ideas can be cross-examined and rise or fall on their merits. I know you understand that.

So as I pondered this further, I felt I should say this: my concern is to maintain being over doing, because I find doing to be secondary to being. Therefore, if we start with doing we start from the wrong end and thus cannot but wind up in the wrong place. As best I can see, this is primary: I simply find an emphasis on function and doing to be unbearable. The idea that there are fundamental reasons for Creation beyond sheer delight of a good God seems wrong on its face. This is why I would say,

           “Until we know who we are we cannot know our purpose.” Or, by extrapolation,
           “Creation comes before purpose.”

We were not made, strictly speaking, for any particular function. We were made as an expression of the free love and exuberance of a good God. His purposes for us flow out of that creation to be sure, but they are secondary to it. 
This is not to say God had no purpose in Creation. It is to say that Creation is not purpose-driven, that Creation is profoundly and infinitely good whether we find purpose in it at all. Inherent goodness comes before purpose. God's work is good whether it has purpose or not, not BECAUSE it has purpose. It is not for us to discover that purpose and then declare His work redeemed thereby. It is enough for us to see, to behold, to worship. If one must have a purpose for creation, this would be it: that we can behold the wonders of God and thereby and therein find our purpose and fulfillment as Created beings. Isn't it amazing that as we come closer to God in this we discover our divergent understandings are not so far apart after all!

There is no doubt a lot of both-and that I am missing here, and the day will come when I look back at this and wonder what on earth I was thinking. Nonetheless I believe our Friend and Elder Brother, Jesus Himself, delights with us in our desire to know and be known and so I again say thank you for the joyful conversation we could enjoy together. May we each know and live His good purpose until, and beyond, that Great Day!
...and then this!...
My wife often lovingly reminds me to avoid needless discussion.  And so whenever I indulge the happy love of theological ruminations I remember that nothing is more important than theology and so it is never "needless".  Somehow such rationale does not convince her, but I'll forge on knowing she will likely not see this all-important blog. 

I did enjoy a long and thoughtful discussion about Creation and purpose, being and function, primary and secondary things today.  As usual, I found myself essaying:  pushing ideas here and there, retrieving some, abandoning others, all the while helped greatly by patient interlocutors who challenged and refined while withholding or expressing the occasional much-deserved guffaw.

The point in question can be expressed, perhaps, with this statement:  "I do not know who I am, but I have a purpose, and that is all I need."  This statement, as you might expect, rather construes the framework of discussion to my way of thinking, so I will attempt a little more even-handedness.  Here is the central question:

"Did God create with a purpose, or did He just create?"  My viewpoint for some time has been that discussions of purpose in understanding creation are secondary at best.  That is to say that when we focus on purpose we easily misunderstand the nature of God.  I am more prone to make the preposterous-sounding claim that we weren't created for anything.  Rather, we are a celebration, if you will, of the grandeur, the joy, the vivaciousness, the infinite love of God.  We are an expression of His being.  Much as the heavens declare the emanation of His person, we 'declare' the image of God.  We are God-bearers because we are made by God. 

This is who we are.  Any discussion of purpose is secondary in the very important sense that it must flow out of being, not vis a vis.  When we know who we are we can know why we are here.  This is why I insist against purpose in creation, as in the understanding that says, "We were made for the purpose of fellowship with God."  The answer to this understanding, in my woefully insufficiently humble opinion, is a resounding NO.  We were made as an expression of His pleasure, the crown jewel (perhaps) of creation, an image of God.  But we were not made because God wanted this or that, or because he wanted us to do something.  The only because is God Himself, the infinite beauty and wonder of the Triune life that, for reasons and mystery unspeakably grand enough to create the cosmos, did

If this is true and worth saying, then it must work out in real life in a way we can understand.  I said rather strongly that once we know who we are we can know our purpose in life.  Being is foundational; purpose and function is secondary.  So who are we and what does that tell us about purpose?

This is who we are:
  • Free to live and choose within the parameters of reality.  As God is radically free, so we share a refracted reality of that freedom.
  • Intrinsically relational, meaning we are not living out our humanness if we avoid relationships with other persons, human and divine.
  • Embodied souls, meaning we are intrinsically able to engage with other created things in physical ways.  This also means that the body is good, to be revered and honored and respected as a marvelous creation and expression of the boundless wonder of God.
  • Persons within a created world and among virtually countless other persons, living in the amazing wonder and joy (and fallen-ness) of this world.

What does this tell us about our purpose?  We live out our purpose in life when we embrace our freedom in relating to others according to reality.  This, of course, is where revelation shows us the way and helps us understand our purpose.  As human persons possessing created bodies with which it is our reasonable service to worship and serve God, we live out our freedom and 'imaged-ness' by learning to reflect as best we can the character and life that we find in seeking to know God.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Brief Reflections on Grey via First Things

Not-too-random thoughts on a Friday afternoon....

Our society "...discourages an intelligent conversation about what manhood should require of men,” while at the same time "asking adult males to be men."  This from one Sebastian Junger, quoted in a commentary in First Things on how our skewed understanding of gender results in something like the Grey book and film phenomenon.

Junger's comment sounds earily like these famous lines from C. S. Lewis' prophetic book, Abolition of Man:

     we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible.  We make men with- out chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise.  We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.  We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

The old cliché about nature abhorring a vacuum bears out in sociological and gender understandings.  When we reject the idea of men being men, the void is filled with a false substitute, never better but inverted, even perverted.  Such is the Grey business.  As the First Things author, Joseph Heschmeyer, profoundly suggests, Grey answers the cry for a restored masculinity, but it is remade in a broken fashion.

There may be this one redemption: as the crying need is met with answers that betray and denigrate the human spirit as depicted in Grey, we will abandon genderless notions and embrace this old-because-innate notion: masculinity and femininity are flaming realities intrinsic to humanity, to be embraced and encouraged.  Such a path naturally restores the drive, dynamism, self-sacrifice, and creativity so necessary to avoid abolition and restore meaningful life.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Tribute to Jane's Wonderful Mother

I clearly remember getting up one Sunday morning and there she was dressed so beautiful ready to go to church. It was that Sunday in the main service that I saw my precious mother go forward to receive Jesus as her Savior! I remember seeing her kneeling at the altar crying and not understanding why, and a dear lady, Mrs. Hurt, sat down beside me saying, “Janie do you understand what's going on?” 
She explained to me that mom's tears where tears of sorrow that turned to tears of happiness and joy because of Jesus!

A tribute to my dear mother who went to be with Jesus on this very date, 6 years ago...

She was small in stature --  not much more than 5'0” -- but had a heart bigger than the universe! She was a farmer's daughter from Kentucky with 14 siblings. Her maiden name was Conner, Irish descent so she had a good mix of fight and stubbornness! She never flew on a plane, didn't want to. She never drove a car and only went to school to the 8th grade. In the world's eyes she would appear very simple, uneducated, no titles, no fame, no fortune. But in the eyes of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren she was a saint representing unconditional love, wisdom – not wisdom from a book but from just living. She was strength, she was an over comer, a force not to reckon with or if you did you would regret it! She knew her mind, could speak it and yet knew when best not to. She was lovely with a beautiful smile and contagious laughter. Sang like a song bird, dancing about, light on her feet. Always doing something, never lazy, working hard. Doing what needed to be done.

For her, life dealt some very hard blows, a lot of pain, a lot of burdens. But if you were to meet her you would have never guessed it. She was an incredible person full of life, love, endurance and persistence. If life was hard you just dealt with it. She had 12 children, 2 passed on. She loved her children deeply. Oh, she had her opinions and her ways of discipline and for many of us children we felt it at the end of a switch or a hand.... much deserved! But we all knew she loved us and was there for us!

I remember one particular time playing all afternoon at a friends house (did not get permission) and of course mother was worried sick. I snuck in the back door and I ran upstairs to my bedroom, thinking I could pretend to fall asleep and not get in trouble, only to find a switch laying on the bed waiting for me. So I took the switch, broke it in two and turned around and there was mom standing in the doorway ...calmly she told me to march right down stairs and go get another one. I thought that's fine I'll get a thin one, it won't hurt. Needless to say that I had a lesson to learn and many more!

There were no strangers to her, she loved people. She had an unusual way of reaching out to others and making them feel loved and important. They walked away feeling special... I remember as child going with her door to door calling for bus ministry, inviting people to church. She always took the time to listen to many who were hurting. She didn't drive a car, but that didn't stop her. We would just walk to a certain street and start at one end and go door-to-door to the other end. She wanted people to come to church and find Jesus!

Mom loved music. She played the guitar and oh how I loved hearing her sing. She had that sweet mix of slight Irish/country/story ballad type. I can see her now strumming the guitar and singing. What a Day that will Be, There is an Unseen Hand, Take My Hand Precious Lord, Some Through the water some through flood, some through the fire but all through the blood, Where the Roses never Fade, Thirty Pieces of Silver . She loved singing in the church was a part of her life. Whenever we would go to Conner reunions you could understand why...lots of music...lots of singing; it's in their blood! She passed that love on to her children! Every one of my brothers play the guitar and a sister plays the piano!

Mom knew how to cook. She could take a few ingredients, work her magic and make something absolutely delicious out of it..She was known for her yeast rolls, her pies, her fried chicken on and on the list goes. She would always have a spread ready for her children to eat no matter what time they got in. Something was always on the stove or in the oven ready to be devoured. At Thanksgiving everyone always wanted her turkey dressing. Even now when I smell certain spices they bring a flood of memories of watching her cook, pouring love into what she made.

Mom loved Jesus! And that was it clear and simple. We were living pretty close to downtown Indy, off of State street when a knock on the door started a chain of events that changed her life. A pastor, a bus ministry and mom agreeing to send me – I must have needed it more then my siblings! -- to a little Nazarene church on Washington St. I remember seeing children riding the bus with their moms or seeing families coming to the church and I would go back home and ask mom to please come with me.. not knowing Jesus was already beginning the work. I clearly remember getting up one Sunday morning and there she was dressed so beautiful ready to go to church. It was that Sunday in the main service that I saw my precious mother go forward to receive Jesus as her Savior! I remember seeing her kneeling at the altar crying and not understanding why, and a dear lady, Mrs. Hurt sat down beside me saying, “Janie do you understand what's going on?” She began to explain to me that mom's tears where tears of sorrow that turned to tears of happiness and joy because of Jesus! My dear mother came to church that day with a broken heart and left totally changed, transformed by the healing hand of Jesus! She loved her Lord and wanted her family and others to know Him. Calling became her mission! If she couldn't go door to door she was on the phone making calls. I think how every Saturday she would call her children. If they were not home that was ok she would call till she got them even if it was very late at night. I'm sure my siblings are smiling remember those calls and some sermons too! We would always be there for her on Mother's day though...10 children, in laws, grandchildren...she was so pleased to see us all there!

Oh how she loved us, full of spunk, vim and vigor. You couldn't hide anything from her! She had a mischievous streak, loved to play pranks. She ran, played, climbed right along with us. She cried with us, laughed with us, prayed untold hours for us. She talked to us, listened to us, always, always loving on us with hugs and kisses. Those small arms and hands of hers wrapped around our lives the greatness of who she was to us...our dear little mother.

And so it was right about now as I am writing this, six years ago that she was taking her last breaths. The doctors were amazed scratching their heads that she lasted as long as she did from the massive strokes. But her children knew she would fight and hang on till she was ready! That's just how she was. I had the privilege of having her in my arms those last moments and singing, Where the roses never fade. All was quiet and peaceful when she took that last step here from us and entered another place to see her Lord!

I miss her today, and know the rest of my dear family does too. We all have many stories, many memories of this sweet little lady who gave us life. How do you put into words a lifetime of treasures, to put it on paper seems so inadequate to what the soul really feels. My soul feels so incredibly blessed by this little woman. So much that to some degree I understand the depth of love for her family. Here I am reminded how the Lord has blessed me with a wonderful loving husband and two precious sons. What a privilege I have in being a mother. What gifts from the Lord Lawrence and Elliot are! My prayer is that I can be to them what mom was to me. My heart is full of thanksgiving and gratitude for this life I have been given. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love you!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ronald Lee is 30!!

It must've been somewhere in the summer after my Senior year of High School when, just like a few years earlier when number six came along, Dad called us in for an announcement: “Your Mother and I are going to be adding another baby to the family. Sometime next Spring number seven will arrive!” And did he ever arrive! On this day those 30 years ago, Ronald Lee Huff joined our family and we've never been the same – a good thing!!

Unfortunately for me I was off to college when he was born but I still remember Mom flying to South Florida from Kansas with an 8-week old boy so she and he could be with me and my older sister for a week or so. It was some kinda hot and the little brother made some kinda noise, but it was all good!

A few years later I was home for a year and was around for Ronnie's birthday-suit trek through the neighborhood and his attempt to climb on the roof at age 3. I still remember how determined he was to get up there and help us on that hot, steep roof. One time he climbed a radio tower up to the eave of the roof. Mom was the only one home with him and had to climb up and retrieve him herself! Even though I was not home a lot during those years, I always remember how huggable and lovable he was as a boy, a lot of fun for the family and all who knew him.

As he grew into elementary school it slowly became just he and older brother Robb at home with Mom and Dad because the rest of us were gone with our own families or college or work. Robb and Ron were close buddies. Then when Ron was nine we all suffered the loss of Dad. After 20 years it still hits you in the gut, and perhaps Ronnie most of all. I still remember Ronnie – nine years old, trying to take it all in, resting in the strengthening presence of family. After the graveside gun salute he was gathering the spent brass cartridges out of the grass. He held out his hand to show me 9 cartridges: “I saved nine of these for the nine years I had with Dad.” This was Ron – thoughtful, tender, missing the biggest man in his life, and knowing enough to always remember.

In the years to come and up through High School we always loved it when he and Robb could visit our home with Mom. He always had a ready smile and laugh, and we loved him so much. Couldn't help ourselves. I remember once after our first son was born and Ronnie was visiting. He went out to ride around with me and he was old enough by then to help me some. He was only eleven so I should have known better, but I found myself pushing him, insisting that he 'get busy'. I didn't let up very well either, mean ol' big brother that I was! And then I noticed that he was just quiet and thoughtful – not doing much. “What are you thinking?” I asked. He took a moment before he replied.  “Life isn't just all work you know," he said. "Just 'cause I want to be out here with you doesn't mean I'm wanting to work all the time.” It was late, cold and he was right -- "wanting to be with me".  There's a life lesson in that.  Maybe a 30-year old guy could think of something more fun to do with his eleven-year old brother than work and more work. Ya think?

And so along the way we have had a great deal of fun. I wish I could remember some of the jokes. They were often nearly unspoken. One time in particular we were in Indiana for Thanksgiving, enjoying a domino game around the table. He would've been about fifteen I guess and we had discovered a very kindred spirit, meeting somewhere in the exquisite world of “Far Side” and “Calvin and Hobbes.” The worst of it was that we could seldom make our remarks without busting into uncontrollable laughter. Before one of us could finish some wise-crack, the other knew where it was going and we would lose it. The rest of the table had no idea how whatever-it-was could be so belly-laugh funny. Maybe we didn't either – it just was, and this is a special connection we have always enjoyed.

Another connection is this sort of crazy love of big-word-talk, for lack of a better description. It goes something like this: Instead of asking “Why did the chicken cross the road?”, Ron might proffer the following: 

     “Should inquisitions propose grammar leading to quest of determining poultry motive in situations  where horseless carriage ambulations must be transversed by said poultry, such determinations shall be disallowed from being sought via annoying query signs beside said routes of transversing.” 

Perfectly clear, right?

My favorite expression of his was when he referred to people as “sentient beings.” It was LOL funny -- after I looked it up to know what it meant.  Soon I shamelessly stole it for my own retorts. Of course mystified onlookers wonder what marbles we have left, but we don't mind. We might even describe said state for you if you like!

So there has been a lot of fun, and some hard times along the way as well. I remember when Ron decided to join the Army. I had the very poignant privilege of taking him to the airport for his departing flight to boot camp. The memory of that trip and his departure is surreal. I wish I could go there again, hug him again and shake his hand, feel the mix of pride and challenge and knowing life can never be the same again. We drove some 60 miles and made small talk. My kid brother had grown up and was going to do something none of us had done. And it was a life step I will never forget.

I am so proud of Ron for joining and serving in the Army. He has been less than enamored with his memories and experiences, not uncommon I am sure. But the love we all feel for him, and the pride and appreciation for his service and sacrifice will always be real in our hearts.

In the last ten years there were times when Ron lived within a few hours drive and 2 or 3 times I was able to meet him for his birthday. Once we met at this cool sub place in Cincinnati. Another time he took me to a new-to-me Mexican place that served huge portions. It was always so very good to get together with him, talk about old times, new times, good times, life. Like always he was funny, thoughtful, articulate. Good times.

Now he is 30 and I can't believe it, but I get to take a few minutes and say something real, something I mean, something like this straight to my much-loved kid brother: “Hey man, I miss you. Wish Kansas and Virginia were not far separated by, you know, roads and mountains and miles and stuff. You OK? Working hard I'm sure – that makes me happy and proud. I love the memories, Ron, and the blessing of a brother like you. I'm thankful for the now and all we can know and love. I believe in a better Tomorrow but am very thankful for all the todays. Let's stay in touch better – ok?  

"That's all for now except to say again, Happy Big 3-0.  I hope you have many, many more and that I get to celebrate some of them with you.  This thousand miles away stuff just doesn't cut it.  Oh and I almost forgot -- I love you, Bro.”