Saturday, June 16, 2018

Don't pretend you'd be truthful...

Don't pretend you'd be truthful in the public trust if you are not honest with yourself.

Of course this is difficult for who among us is perfect? Yet with all the mess in the news I find myself thinking, "If I were trusted with public interests,  would not tell a lie to protect myself or my colleagues. No! I will be honest, come what may." Really?

Let's be fair and recognize there are tortured issues, especially in matters of state. One never knows the ramifications of a word, no matter how truthful, and holding peace can be important beyond words, as is timing. Yet, is statecraft more difficult than the home or work or local affairs?

The Jordan Peterson dictum "Tell the truth, or at least don't lie" reflects the difficulty well. Solzenitsyn presses in further when he reminds us as a personal witness of the Soviet reality-denial: "One word of truth outweighs the whole world." And the inimitable Tolstoy brings us home with this: "Everyone want to change the world. No one wants to change themselves."

So, I dare to think I would tell the truth. But when I look in the mirror and know how painful this can be in everyday life I know the crucible of character is real, and honesty is no easy treasure. As my teacher and mentor, Dr. Bill Ury, said, "We spend most of our lives learning to be truly honest with ourselves, others, and God."

I want to be at peace with the truth. It is the only way to live. And I want to be honest enough to live a quiet and peaceable life, ever loving and honest with my loved ones, serving in truth and refusing to lie. If I were called to the public trust in some way, may God have mercy. And may he have mercy on these United States. For as goes our allegiance to truth, so goes our fortune for good or ill.

Our penchant for mind-numbing word plethora, hair-splitting, slander, self-protection and outright lies bode far too much ill.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

At Random

We hear "as you were" or "at ease"; do we ever hear "at random"?

In spite of the billions of bytes in blogosphere, each one meaning my contribution is worth less, I am reluctant to post "at random". Few see, it matters to less, so why?

Many reasons, but to explicate them would move me out of the random territory. It is enough to say sometimes one needs to speak. That is all.

As you were!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Always Tired?

I've often read or heard that leaders are always tired. I don't think I believe it but who knows, might be a slightly true generalization.

Some folks, leaders or not, are always weary for various reason. But I have to believe that most people have ebb and flow of energy: tired much of the time some days, vigorous much of the time many days, most of the time just average.

What does this mean? I dunno. I am tired alot, but that is an Alaska summer -- no rest for the sun-travelers. I do believe that, leader or no, one should try to manage their body so they are not always tired.

And that's the limit of scintillating commentary for today. I hope, unlike Mr. Goodyear, you are not always tired.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Along the Way: Walking with God

I once heard Dr. John Oswalt say an optimal way to understand the scriptural understanding of our relationship with God is "a walk". I  like that.

This view includes journey, personality, companionship, conversation, time, learning.

Alternate views can be freighted with what the academics call a 'forensic view', often allowing the language of justification to eclipse the relationship. In its worst coloring, this view sees God as the cosmic policeman and Jesus as the cosmic get-out-of-jail free attorney who, in all truth of course, sets us free by His own life and sacrifice.

All well and good, but where's the walk? Is this all a contractual relationship, 'accepted' by faith with ideas of actual real-life relationship -- even friendship -- secondary, if considered at all?

This brings to mind the relationship youngsters often have with elders. Respect, fear, tacit awareness of indebtedness, awkwardness, little conversation, hunger to know and learn with sparse reciprocity. Certainly not a journey together. And we can attach that understanding to God and find "a walk" is far from the way we view our life with Him. Uncomfortable, distant, and disconnected is more like it.

But shouldn't that be how it is, God being omniscient, all-powerful, transcendent and all? Yes, but no. Jesus came to be among us, to literally walk with people like you and me. As God in human flesh he showed us what God is like. And God is one who walks with us.

I need a walk -- that is all. Time and learning and conversation. My outlook and attitude -- and sense of natural, real, tingling accountability -- is never more real than when I remember and know that this life of faith is a walk with God.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

On Writing, a Single Mind, and Sandals

Jesus talks about life where the sandals meet the sand 
and whatever holiness is, it will look like Him.

Writing is a most interesting topic. Writing is thoughts on paper or screen. Our world has more writers than ever no doubt, which means if the goal is to be read by many, success will be elusive. Also, if the goal is to be met with approval or appreciation then one may never write for others but only for his own joy in saying what is on his mind.

Much is on my mind, much that cannot be said. Saying so is part of the impetus I live with, as I suppose all writers do. Much is on my mind that I can scarcely give room to be there. Not sordid or sensual or wrong, though of course there is room for the senses in this wonderful life. Sordid and wrong -- well we must push the devil back.

The thoughts deal with everything but are muted at the point of expression. Why? That is what I am asking. Some are withheld because I know the answer to the question I ask so am embarrassed to ask it. Further, I am embarrassed at my failure in living the answers. In a word -- incongruity. No one wants to talk long enough in public to reveal incongruity in their own life.

James spoke of the single mind in the first chapter of his NT letter: "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." The modern apologist Os Guinness wrote a book on doubt in the '70's, originally title "In Two Minds". I am sure he explicates how being in 'two minds' avoids the pitfall of James, and indeed it seems doubt -- his real topic -- is unavoidable. There are many things in which I am "in two minds." But the big things? Kierkegaard spoke of the single mind: "a pure heart is to will one thing." THE big thing.

More than ever I believe "that one thing" is to seek first God's kingdom as Jesus tells us in Matthew 6. No doubt we too often think the battle is won in one fell swoop. But as Lewis reminds us somewhere, to say nothing of Paul and of course Jesus, a 'fell swoop' is necessary for until we die to self there can be no life unto Christ, no seeking God first.

As long as self is number one we follow ourselves to the grave. Make God number one and we can follow Him to life everlasting!

Does "second blessing holiness" deliver us from this cry of the self? Surely there is something here, with the details being the difficulty. To what degree is deliverance obtained? How can it be lost, if at all? And perhaps most vitally, how does this theological idea of beauty and promise square with the Gospels and the life of Jesus?

That sounds complicated and may be, but I don't think so. I am contending for something I can scarcely countenance because it is as hard as life and an easy burden all at once. When we die to self we embrace John's baptism of repentance so we can walk into and within the life Christ offers. And this life is more than 'spiritual' or 'religious'. It is profoundly real and simple at the same time.

Learning to bless, not curse; learning to ask for what we need rather than resenting our lack; learning to give to those in need, forgive those who have offended, learning to speak truth without snark or self-preservation. Jesus talks about life where the sandals meet the sand and whatever holiness is, it will look like Him. The challenge is to set aside our pet notions of Him and listen well enough to begin to understand who He really is and what He cares about.

Then we learn to live it out daily and we know the easy yoke and the light burden.

That's more than enough for today, a laying our of the land that warms my heart and makes me want to pray. I hope you do, too.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Grace: It is What's Worth

One wonders. That is enough. A world of ideas, fed by experience, beauty, varied other generics. The light and shadow splayed on the blind as the breeze sways and leaves play. Can we look outside of ourselves, beyond the screen, away from inner thoughts, avoid pressing pressures, bring rigorous responsibility at one with joyful rest? What of insight without strain, friendship without losing principle, grace?

What of grace? I do not know. Rules and musts and shoulds. All the 'supposed to' things we think grace pushes away come rushing back when we say, "But you're 'supposed to' show grace."

What does grace mean? Giving as an attitude. Willing to overlook; to forgive; to suffer, not only with, but for.

Can we suffer for? Of course, or we never lived. Mothers suffer for and from their grace we live.

But grace is more than I know and I weep to know. There is little grace in my refusal to accept cheap bandy about this word. Yes, I want deep meaning -- because I desperately want meaning and I cannot know any such thing without depth. So I am lost -- that is, without grace, without goodness, without blessing.

In spite of the wonder, the stretch, the worry, the lack, I dare to believe God is real, that He is good, that He is grace.

"Come boldly to the throne of grace that you may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." This is the whisper Elijah heard, the breath of God felt when we are in His presence.

Life is grace, all of it, and the answer to objections is, again, grace. All begins with God and will end well, with Him.

"Breath on me breath of God, fill me with life anew."

I receive His grace today, His very person. Not a commodity of enabling but God Himself who is grace. He gives, He whispers. His presence heals. I listen, feel, receive and find in Him new life.

Wondering, wandering, resting in a God of grace.

That is all.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Evening Thoughts on Scripture

Could it be that the more we know about Jesus the less we know him?

While not a KJV-only guy in any sense, I can't believe that the Bible-publishing explosion of our day has really been a net good. And the mind-boggling variety of translations, paraphrases, and specialty Bibles is...waaay over the top, the most egregious being the ones with a slick mag-cover look. If you don't believe me peruse the Bible section at Books-a-Million or in the CBD sales paper.

The late radio extraordinaire, Paul Harvey, once said "if the devil wanted to reduce the power of the Bible he wouldn't have to destroy it, just dilute it." Reminds me of the Neil Postman line that with the extreme over-publishing of our day, "truth will be lost in a sea of irrelevance".

In light of those considerations, I loved it when I ran across this from the late, inimitable Malcolm Muggeridge in his book Jesus: The Man Who Lives.

"Meaning is often the enemy of truth, and in re-translating more exactly the words of the Gospels what they say so splendidly can easily be lost. [It may well be] that the more we knew about Jesus the less we knew him, and the more precisely his words were translated the less we understood or heeded them."

This, I think, critiques modernity and its love of all things exact. Of course we need accurate translations and of course the KJV is not the autographs in English form. I love the Message, JB Phillips, NLT, RSV, NASB, NKJV. They are all very helpful...and bewildering, too. But in a very real sense, I want my old Bible back. It simply is the mother tongue of English Scripture, and amazingly integral to the Anglo/American culture.

It is easy enough to observe that multiple translations have deeply wounded trans-generational Biblical literacy and memory. Seven different translations to choose from and which will you memorize? Which is used in the pulpit, at school, for personal devotions, at Bible club, youth group, summer camp? Several translations means the phraseology of that understanding gets fractured and never really settles into a collective awareness.

For the scholars, it is different -- they relish it all and understandably. The vast majority of us, though, need to be able to share the same words together. And when we can't, it is much easier to give up that Bible thing altogether. The Scriptures have lost their punch because we are not sure what the punch exactly is anymore -- it is lost in dilution: study notes, celebrity testimonials, glossy covers, 11 possible translations, and on and on.

I gladly repent of negative criticism -- this is not that. I ruminate for love of thoughts expressed, a happy love for God, and a desire to 'lean' into discussions that matter. In the end, for me, Paul Harvey's folksy observation proves true. Had I only one Bible, I would value it more. As I have way-too-many, not as much. Economics 101: High supply, low value.

That said, Muggeridge's further comments have spurred me on to read the Gospels again...and again. I want to hear the message clearly, worship Jesus more truly, follow Him more faithfully. And I honor those who labored through the centuries to pass along the scriptures with integrity. Truly they reveal the Word of life, full of grace and truth. And, as Muggeridge says, if the Gospels have survived their most recent commentators [and varied translations?] "then surely they must be considered immortal."

Indeed, immortal they are and tonight I gladly worship the One of whom they speak.