Monday, July 27, 2015

WALKING THE PATH


Mansion of Many Rooms, Biltmore,NC

Walking the Path to Eternal Truth and Life

As a Christian, one of the more troubling verses in the Bible for me over the years has been John 14:6 in which Jesus states that “No one comes to the Father except through me”. Context is always in play and Jesus proclaims this just hours before he dies on a horrific Roman cross. And I have witnessed many of those dubious media evangelists who work folks into a frenzy of hope and guilt as they “close the deal” by goading them up to center stage or their television set to recite the infamous magical incantation. But I’ve read that soon after morning's reality arrives, many of these folks will drift away from the path to salvation because they haven’t developed a personal commitment to sustain them. One thief on a cross next to Jesus did find immediate salvation, but that’s not exactly like talking to Jim Baker on the television for a couple of minutes.

So what’s to become of all the billions of human beings that were raised in other religions or were never exposed to this verse such as everyone born B.C.? I’ve always admired the spirituality of the Native American Indians who believed in a Great Spirit and were good stewards of the earth. I’ve often wondered what religion I might be practicing today if I hadn’t been born in America to Christian parents. For many of us, I believe religion is more a fateful matter of timing and geography than ultimate truth. If I had been born in India of Hindu parents, I’d likely be a practicing Hindu today.

And what about the fate of all those truly evil people who have caused so much human suffering in the world? Here’s where I believe the concept of free will enters the conversation. God knows our heart which is pertinent. He created this existence and He makes the rules regarding the saved and the damned. One of His main attributes we know about is His righteousness. A human who does the right thing can achieve a heavenly reward by God’s grace. An evil man who causes all manner of human suffering has earned eternal damnation. He is not condemned to be there, rather he chooses to be there. A loving God doesn’t choose to condemn anybody, but wants eternal life in his presence for all his creation.

Jesus used many visual images of the times to make his message clear to the people. A mansion of many rooms is certainly heaven for those living marginal nomadic and subsistence lives. He described it as a place with no need for a sun or moon, as God’s glory would bathe it in His eternal light. Jesus used the always rotting, burning city dump outside Jerusalem as a vile image for those condemned. The beginning of 2 Thessalonians describes their destiny as eternally separated from the love of God. This would also imply a place of eternal darkness. That sounds awfully dire to me.

Adam Hamilton offers another way to view the disturbing verse in John 14:6 in his book on Making Sense of the Bible. He offers a reading of “No one comes to my Father except through my saving work”. And if that’s the case, Hamilton asks “Why would we even want to tell our neighbors about Christ?” I love his response:

“I share Christ with others not because I believe all who don’t know him will be eternally tormented in hell. I share him with others because I believe that in Christ we see the clearest picture of who God is and what God longs for from humanity. I share Christ because I believe it is in knowing, loving, and serving him that we find the fullest and most authentic life possible. I share Christ with others because I believe God wants all people to know the good news of Jesus Christ. I share Christ because I believe he is the way, the truth, and the life.”

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A GOD OF FORGIVENESS


War, KC, MO

It’s been said that America is not at war. Our military is at war; America is at the mall. Unless folks have someone directly involved in the military that is fighting our wars offshore, most of the rest of us muddle on dealing with our own realities of life. But like the homeless poor that walk among us, we cannot ignore our young men and women in harm’s way and our returning vets. Wounded Warriors is one organization that seems to have enough funding and motivation to carry on the banner for these military heroes who have been fighting our wars and then almost instantaneously are dropped back into the surreal reality of life at the mall. The adjustment can be overwhelming.

I recently listened to a soft spoken senior that had a long phone conversation with a close relative. The young man had recently served in uniform. He had obviously experienced the horrors of war that most of us will never fully understand. He’d been involved in a combat situation that had scarred his life. Someone had recently confronted him about the incident which was obviously very troubling. The horrific memory was eating away at the young man.

The elder man had apparently listened to the angst in the young man’s voice for some time on the phone. Then, knowing that this was one of those matters in life that cannot be undone, he spoke from the heart and simply told him that he believes in “a God of forgiveness”. When life overwhelms us with issues that are well beyond our human control, we have the hope and trust in a loving and forgiving God. We can turn these matters over to Him with the assurance that He knows our heart and He still has a good plan for our life. His understanding and forgiveness trumps all other human opinion.

After the two men hung up, the older man received a call back a few hours later thanking this man of faith for settling the troubled young vet’s life that night. And I've no doubt that our God of forgiveness spoke through the man to give this vet “the peace of God which transcends all understanding to guard his heart and mind” going forward.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

ACKWARD MOMENTS


Organic Liquid Grapes, Wrightsville Beach, NC

I just experienced another one of those awkward moments in life where even spell check has no idea what word I was trying to type. And of course the simple solution in order to move on with my life is to choose a synonym—a word you can spell that sort of means the same thing as a word you will never be able to spell! For instance, I always seem to have trouble with restrant, so I frequently eat at a diner. There's hope on the internet though for all of our bass-ackward spelling attempts at a site called:

http://www.dumbtionary.com/word/ackward.shtml.

Actually, it’s very liberating to open up about my shortcummings and your what you eat with the exception of bananas which I now suspect I only buy so that I can watch them die a slow death in my kitchen. So I’ve decideded to eat more organic food and plant a garden as soon as I can locate some of those elusive bacon seeds. And I’ve resolved to eat more fresh salads like fruit salads. Mostly grapes, fermented grapes. OK, I’m having wine for dinner tonight since we're being transparent.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

OLDER & WISER


Sunrise Jogger, Kiawah Island, SC

As I get a little older and wiser there are some things in my life that I will just never do again like saying too much about something and running with scissors..........
Actually, those last two words weren't necessary.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

BLOSSOMING NATURE



Blossoming Summer Storm, Jamestown, NC
Blossoming Summer Magnolia, Jamestown, NC


Isn't it interesting how all of nature reaches to the heavens in praise and most of these spiritual experiences all around us go unnoticed every day of our lives?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

BOTTLED SUNSHINE


Beach Vino, Wrightsville Beach, NC

Catching Sunshine in a Bottle

Amazing how a civilized glass of bottled sunshine aged by the sands of time compliments a day at the beach.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

HAIKU STORMS OF LIFE



Mediterranian Storm, Caesarea, Israel
Roman Port in the Storm, Caesarea, Israel


GRACE RAINS DOWN AT CAESAREA

When lightning flashes,
and thunder shatters silence,
strong winds stir the waves.

The sea is angry,
and all the world becomes dark,
as the storm arrives.

Emotional pain,
enters our lives like a storm,
and darkens our path.

We seek a refuge,
and cling to rocky high ground,
a port in the storm.

Our Creator sees,
and rebukes the wind and sea,
saying, "Peace! Be still!"

At Caesarea,
Cornelius called Peter,
securing peace, grace.

Calm waters return.
All people are now welcome,
to live in God’s light.

Monday, July 13, 2015

BLOW OUT!


Boot Sale, Jamestown, NC

I’m sure we’ve all seen the “Spring into Savings”, “Fall into Fashion”, “Holly Jolly Holiday Sale”, “Buy One, Get One Free (just pay shipping and handling)” advertisements on television and in all the print media. But what exactly is a “Blow Out Sale” anyway? There’s currently a local furniture company that’s having a “Blow Out Sale” being blown all over my television screens lately. The audible sound goes up about five hundred decibels when the ad plays, which is enough to shatter crystal, shut down my refrigerator in another part of the house, set off all my smoke detectors, raise both automatic garage doors, and trigger neighboring dogs to begin barking and howling for hours.

Perhaps that’s what it’s all about. When the ads hit the airwaves, all the remaining televisions that have not been replaced by flat screens blow out their tubes. I know that you can inflate a football (or deflate one) and an inner tube with enough hot air that they ultimately will blow out. And then there’s those infamous preseason sports games where teams are blown out by a more dominant team whose hall of fame bound coach is feathering his win-loss nest.

But what’s a “Blow Out Sale” for couches and kitchen tables all about? I can only imagine that once you've become curious enough to venture into this store and an aggressive salesperson on commission gets his talons into your wallet, your bank account immediately implodes and blows out your credit rating for the next millennia. That’ll blow your mind out!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

ONE HEART


Heart of a Cloud Magnolia, Greensboro, NC

"Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?
May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?”

--John Wesley

Saturday, July 11, 2015

JUST ONE


Solitude, Wrightsville Beach, NC

The majority of the time I approach a restaurant hostess by myself, the Pavlov response is generally “Just One?” As a single senior and when I was traveling alone on business, I have always found this to be “unwelcoming”. On occasion, my response has been “no, not just one, me!” They never have a response for that and they never consider why it’s just one today. But yesterday, I finally encountered the ultimate response at a restaurant tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I approached the hostess with a request for a table for one, her immediate response was “Oh, then you’ll be in good company”. I left a very nice tip. Today I walked into a local restaurant for lunch and before I could even speak the host asked, “Just one?”

Ironically, we were discussing church hospitality that same evening at a visioning meeting. Progressive congregations are now placing greeters in the parking lots to assist folks in locating parking spaces and provide directions to the correct locations at the church. Members are greeting people as they approach every open door of the facility and making them feel welcome. This is all well and good provided these folks have some training and sensitivity. It was noted that a friend had recently lost her husband to a terminal disease. The experience had prompted her to visit a local church in search of a sanctuary on a very bleak early winter’s day. When she approached the main doors a greeter observed that she was by herself. Attempting to initiate some small talk, he asked her if the family had let her come to church alone this morning. She was so caught off guard that she simply turned away, walked back to her car and probably never returned.

It’s been said that you should never make any presumptions about people because you never know what their journey is all about. And everyone almost always has something going on in their life which a little sensitivity could help to soothe and resolve.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

ANATOMY OF A SUMMER STORM


Anvil Storm Cloud, Flint Hills, KS
Rain Storm, Jamestown, NC
Storm Pines, Jamestown, NC
Mare's Tails, Jamestown, NC


Quickening south winds,
stir Thunder Being Nation,
and begin to sail.

Vapor droplets join,
rise on warming air currents,
and gain momentum.

Sky sculptures are formed,
spontaneously expand,
and block out the sun.

Fire spears strike the earth,
war drums shatter the silence,
and sheets of rain fall.

Leading gusty winds,
uproot trees with abandon,
and snap them in half.

Double rainbows glow,
gurgling stream voices respond,
and chant Hey-A-Hey.

Tender shoots of grass,
turn their faces to the sun,
and mare’s tails glide by.

http://soundbible.com/2090-Night-Time-Storm.html

HAIKU STORM


Summer Storm, Jamestown, NC

Quickening south winds,
stir Thunder Being Nation,
and begin to sail.

Vapor droplets join,
rise on warming air currents,
and gain momentum.

Sky sculptures are formed,
spontaneously expand,
and block out the sun.

Fire spears strike the earth,
war drums shatter the silence,
and sheets of rain fall.

Double rainbows glow,
gurgling stream voices respond,
and chant Hey-A-Hey.

Tender shoots of grass,
turn their faces to the sun,
and the sky shines blue.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

GUARDIANS OF ROYALTY



Royal Crown, Jericho, Israel
Royal Train, Jericho, Israel


Peacocks are only native to Asia in countries like India and Indochina and also the African Congo basin. It’s no surprise that they’re birds of the colorful pheasant family. The iridescent feathers and large “train” of peacocks along with their eerie piercing call have caught the attention and imagination of mankind for eons. The peacock was seen as a guardian to royalty and engravings can be found on their thrones. The monarchy of Iran is referred to as the Peacock throne.

The peacock is first mentioned in the Bible when Solomon, the wisest and richest king that ever lived, sent his ships abroad to return every three years “bringing gold, and silver, and ivory, and apes, and peacocks”. No doubt peacocks walked the elaborate gardens of ancient kings and became associated with paradise. Because ancient Greek legend believed that the flesh of a peacock never decays after death it became a symbol of immortality. Therefore, it is often depicted next to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden for Christians. Mankind also began to observe that the peacock sheds its old feathers every year and grows more brilliant ones to replace them—a beautiful sign of renewal. Paintings and mosaics of peacocks on the walls of third century Rome catacombs became early Christian symbols for resurrection, renewal and immortality. And the multiple blueberry eyes of the peacock’s train has been associated with an all-seeing God. Regardless of the associations, a male peacock definitely knows how to attract a female peahen!

Our recent pilgrimage to Israel included exploring archeological digs at Jericho, reputed to be the oldest occupied city in the world. The area has been the site of copious springs which has attracted civilizations to rebuild up to twenty settlements mounded on top of one another. One of these sites enabled us to visually exam this phenomenon of the rise of mankind back some 11,000 years to the very beginning of the Holocene epoch of Earth’s history. It was here at Jericho that Jesus healed a blind man and related the parable of the Good Samaritan on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. It was here that the Bible records the only time that Jesus invited himself to someone’s home for dinner—the home of little Zacchaeus the tax collector who was hated by both Jews and Gentiles.

We enjoyed a local luncheon at a location that also included a rather large retail area selling a variety of products sure to attract tourists such as olive wood carvings, brightly colored scarves, and a large inventory of Dead Sea mineral beauty products. I bought a unique olive wood carving and ambled outside with my ever-present camera to browse for a photo op. As I walked around the building I was greeted with the eerie call of a brilliant peacock strolling the grounds like royalty. If you had given me a hundred guesses about what I would encounter that day, I would have never thought of a peacock! But here we were in the cradle of civilization following the footsteps of Jesus, ancient kings and legions of ancestors on the sandy paths of long ago created star dust. And here I was confronted by one of history’s most revered symbols of that royalty.

LINK TO PEACOCK CALL:
http://soundbible.com/1301-Peacock-Call.html