Wednesday, December 26, 2012

God Speaks to Three Men

Its the day after Christmas, and it was a good day with a feast with my Nancy and my bud Cliffy. We had room for more, but those places were not filled, sadly. We therefore watched Scrooge [the Alistair Sims version - the BEST], Miracle on 34th Street and read a short passage from our Bible: Luke chapter 2.

I could but help reflect that both films were about cynical and worldly people being brought to repentance, or to faith - and a belief that the miraculous may be true after all. We are amused by such films, and agree that we should be "nicer and better and keep 'the spirit of Christmas.'"

Bah, humbug!

We miss the point, when we think like that. The fact is, unless we are grabbed and I mean in a "No, I Am Not Joking" sort of way by God, we refuse to repent of our well-established habits and mindsets.

A conservative must become charitable. A liberal must become lawful. We agree, Virginia, but only God can effect a proper heart change. God grabs hold of men by the very things they love, I have noticed - or depended on - to show them the truth.

OK, bold statements, I grant you, but let's see how God showed Christ to three different kinds of men. Let's check out their reactions to a itty bitty baby.

Example One: The Shepherds
The shepherds keeping their flocks by night were a rougher sort - and very uneducated. They would be similar to our Old West cowboys. Able to handle dumb animals and perhaps wise, they would be low on the ladder of professional respect. It was a job a child could do [cf. King David as a youth]. But still angels appeared to them, terrifying them and consoling them simultaneously. They were told to find the child in a feeding trough and when they saw that newborn wrapped in cloths, like a little mummy, they spilled the beans to mom and dad about what they had seen.

That must have been a sight, eh? A group of men shuffling up to a stable [or half-stable, half cave] in the middle of the night? How do you introduce yourself?
"Uh....ma'am...? That there your baby?"
"Yes... JOSEPH - WE HAVE VISITORS!"
"What do you men want?" asks Joseph, not too friendly and grabbing his walking staff.
"Sir, I sure am sorry to bother you and the missus. You are NOT going to believe this, but..."

And in seconds, Joseph is wide-eyed. Mary is stunned.

These rough shepherds would peer in to see the savior of the world laying in a place where they had thrown hay and feed a thousand times before. "He looks a lot better than what we put in there, don't he boys?" comments one. Chuckling and awe might've followed.

Then they told everyone what had happened. Unlike Mary, they just couldn't keep their big traps shut.

Fast forward a year or so.

Example Two: The Wise Men
Our cute little Christmas pageants and films screw this up, for the sake of brevity and comprehensiveness.

The fact is, the magi from the East, the "Wise Men", came roughly a year or so later. These men that came to see Jesus were men of wealth and power. We can see this in their extravagant gifts and their willingness [and ability] to travel so far from their homelands. They would have had a lot in common with Father Abraham who came from the land of Ur.

They only saw the stars, yet made an audacious journey based on it. Also, they were granted a secret audience with King Herod the Great! [Imagine if you had a secret meeting with the President of the United States-how important would you have to be to get that kind of audience?]

And when these pre-astronomers/astrologers saw Jesus, they worshiped Him. They sacrificed their wealth and their time to merely see Him. They were deadly serious and went a long way to see the King.

By their awesome gifts, they did something wonderful. They empowered Mary and Joseph to escape the next men who were coming to see Jesus: Herod's men. They were NOT going to worship Him as Herod had said to the magi.

God's cool, but He's nobody's fool.

Example Three: Herod's Men

King Herod only met with the magi to find out the threat to his throne. He got the location from his scholars - Bethlehem. He got the timing from the magi: the child had been born less than two years ago.


But then Herod chose, in anger and fear, to order the death of every male child under the age of two in Bethlehem. Like the recent events in Connecticut, there was a slaughter of innocent children. We have no idea how many. Some scholars doubt it happened, but it would fall perfectly in line with the style of this king.

The lesson I want to share though is not why God permits evil men to do evil things. God did not stop Cain from killing Abel, Moses from killing an Egyptian or David from committing adultery. No, what I want to share is this: God speaks to both the evil and the good.

He spoke to Cain BEFORE He killed Abel. He spoke to Moses AFTER he killed the Egyptian. He spoke to David THROUGH Nathan the prophet.


God speaks - in the stars, in our hearts, in our minds. Some listen with joy. Others with terror and fear. Some repent. Some get angry.

The magi had to travel hundreds of miles. The shepherds only had to travel two or three at the most. The wise men, who were brilliant, had to follow stars. The shepherds, who were uneducated servants, had to listen to angels. But for both of them, there was humility in their actions, a willingness to leave what they knew for the unknown. They were rewarded with joy, hope, awe.

But Herod's men? They listened to no one but Herod. They were given fear, and they did whatever he ordered, lest they lose their own lives. Herod was known for executing anyone whom he thought threatened his throne. This included wives. This included sons.

Herod died soon after this, for your information. Eaten by worms, if I remember correctly.

He did not keep his kingdom, yet Christ ended up conquering the hearts and minds of the Roman Empire.

My Hope for You
May your journey to Christ be quick.

May you listen to the angels.

May you be a wise man.

May you be a serving shepherd.

For in these dark days, only those who find Him have peace.

Amen.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lincoln - on Thanksgiving with Gratitude

I have seen Lincoln.

I saw him come to life right before my very eyes this week.

You can see him to, for Daniel Day-Lewis has poured his soul into becoming that legendary President and Steven Spielberg has been so kind as to record that event on film.

And as it IS Thanksgiving Day, and as tomorrow millions will fly to stores to buy gifts, I thought it appropriate to share this original proclamation that Lincoln wrote to legally establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

It is beautiful and does, in fact, convict my soul of its damnable quality of self-pity. I am rich. I am FILTHY rich.

Please read and let the one of the most hated men in America [at his election] remind you of how much you DO have.

Also, please go see the film. It will most likely sweep the Oscars.

Amen.
_______________________________________________
"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

"In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

"Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

"It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

"And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

"Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth."
_____________________________

Thank you, Abe. Whatever sins my Southern brethren hold against you for exercise of federal powers, it is clear that you wanted the best for ALL Americans and loved God as your heavenly Father.

Amen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Skyfall - 007 returns to his roots

Skyfall
We have a new Studio Movie Grill here in Wheaton, and matinees are only $5, so I got to see the latest James Bond movie Skyfall this past Monday for cheap, in a spanking new theater!

Let me say, I was surprised. It was James Bond but it was a return to a more traditional Bond. It answered a few more "bio" questions about this famous licensed to kill superagent in its climax, and made an almost perfect loop BACKWARDS to the days of Sean Connery meeting 'M' inside a padded leather sound-proofed office. It was almost "retro-Bond" for all that.

I have enjoyed Daniel Craig's take on Bond. The re-booting of this semi-misogynistic charmer who coolly dispatches his enemies with a Walther PPK, all while dressing impeccably is being told better than ever, IMHO.

I think we like James Bond because he is a worldly man who has decided that he can get anything he wants in this world, do about anything he likes and cares very little if he is recognized for it - as long as he can serve his country by keeping the world safe from very wicked men. He's got some Errol Flynn/Robin Hood in him, doesn't he? And a bit of romantic chivalry modernized?

But ultimately, he destroys a lot of things and blows up a lot of valuables in order to fight evil.

He seems terribly worldly, but then again, he's not. He clings to nothing but can appreciate it. In Casino Royale, when Vesper does her analysis of his choice in clothing, she says "but you wear it with such disdain, my guess is that you did not come from money-and your school friends never let you forget it." We later learn that James' family was some form of landed gentry but fell on hard times in Skyfall.

So James is from the blood of rulers and knights and lords and such but has no place to rule. To exercise his authority for the good of others.

You ever think of Jesus as like that? Running around, a hidden king, tossing demons into an abyss, tearing the hell out of temple courts where all the merchants gather and telling women they have to let go of him, 'cause He's not finished his mission?

Yeah. I know. What we love about James Bond is mostly carnal; Jesus is spiritual.

But may I point out something? C.S. Lewis once quipped [I think he quipped]:
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
                              ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses
This observation, this connection between our desires and wanting greatness in pleasure are permanently ingrained in ALL human beings. We want to DO great things, LIVE great lives, and CONQUER evil.

James Bond does this for us on film. It's why we go to movies. Christ does this for us in our innermost being; it should be why we read the gospels.

You see, James strides through everything, even the people out to kill him. So does Jesus, if you remember. James dispatches evil men; Christ dispatches evil - period.

Jesus is THE Hero of Heroes. And James Bond, especially the latest incarnation, shows us a little more than we've realized about the style of the man from Galilee -  The Poor Son of a Lord Who Has No Fear in His Mission - and even being dead doesn't stop Him.

Weird thought, huh? Read the gospels. You might see it yourself.

Well, this trailer from Skyfall might also make it more clear. Pay attention at the 1:56 mark.



Have a great day, "double-oh"s.

If you are a follower of Christ, you have a license to kill all evil - and permission to report for duty after being dead. ;)

Amen.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Iron Man 3

They have finally released the new trailer for the third Iron Man film, with Robert Downey, Jr. still sitting firmly in the title role. Call this "Christianized Geek Praise" but I am so impressed with how they are making the superhero I thoroughly enjoyed in the late 70's, with that epic David Micheline/John Romita, Jr./Bob Layton run and translate him so well to the big screen.

Thank you, Lord Jesus!

O.K., all my critics just snickered. But you have got to admit, this is a pretty stunning trailer, using the classic "Hero Falls" trope we see so often in the superhero trilogy movies.



And the villain's calm, matter-of-fact voice-over?

VERY EPIC!

"Some people call me a terrorist. I consider myself a teacher.

Lesson number one: Heroes?

There is no such thing."

Of course there are heroes.

But they are rare, and downright mythical if not flat out supernatural.

Doesn't mean they don't exist.

Just means they can be hard to identify -without help. [cf. Matthew 16:13-17]

For my money, with dialogue like that, Iron Man 3 looks to be a winner.

You heard it here first.

peace
justice

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The God Bash

You ever think that just maybe, you aren't as God-focused as you should be?

A friend shared this razor-edged response that God COULD give, flipping the failure to worship and love Him onto the complainer, the reprobate.

It hits hard enough. Let me just share it:

The God Bash

Let this poem do it's wonder
Fear of GOD saves you from blunder -

You call Me eternal, and then do not seek me.
You call me fair, and then do not love Me.
You call Me gracious, and then do not trust Me
You call Me just, and then do not fear Me.


You call Me life, and then do not choose Me.
You call Me light, and then do not see Me.
You call Me LORD, and then do not respect Me.
You call Me Master, and then do not obey Me.


You call Me merciful, and then do not thank Me.
You call Me mighty, and then do not honor Me.
You call Me noble, and then do not serve Me.
You call Me rich, and then do not ask Me.


You call Me Savior, and then do not praise Me.
You call Me shepherd, and then do not follow Me.
You call Me Way, and then do not walk with Me.
You call Me wise, and then do not heed Me.


You call Me Son of GOD, and then do not worship Me.

When I condemn you, then do not blame Me.

-Anonymous

Friend, turn to Christ. There is no one else who loves you more and who deserves your denial less. Quit being a worldling and worship the Creator of it, instead.

peace
justice

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Gay Bash

In a post-Christian, social media driven society, nothing is more acceptable than labeling your opponent. There is just enough electronic vox populi to push forward the vilest names and stop ears.

You see it in the young casual cynic who posts straight from a wounded heart, damaged by all their failed sexual endeavors and force-fed a government sanctioned education that demands naturalism and Darwinism be taught them in spite of mathematical evidence and special revelation.

The latest bashing the Christian community is now receiving is that we are at fault for non-attendance of homosexuals in a local church. Since the evangelical Christian denominations and the Roman Catholic Church as well as any other branch of mainline Christianity I can think of has spoken against and voted against Same-Sex Marriage, we are at fault for our incessant 'gay bashing.'

Now let me clear for the liberal-minded, human-relationships are more important than God, unfaithful reader who has again and again ignored God for the sake of sexual intimacy: God still loves you and your sexual partner.

God has a problem with your heart and your behavior, not your soul. He wants you to change your heart and love Him more than 'the other person' - and yes, this desire includes the fornicating heterosexual too - enough so He can lead you to blessings and promises that you yourself will enjoy.

Again, this is an intervention, not a damning accusation. "ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God..." says the Bible in Romans 3. All. Todos in Spanish.

But if you want to bash those who stand opposed to you, I would plead with you: don't.

You see, you may get enough human votes to disobey God. You may run amok screaming how much you KNOW what REAL love is, but in the end, you lose.

You see, God always wins. He cannot lose. He is kind and patient and far more merciful than you imagine. He knows you are hurting and need loving. He sent His Son to do just that.

But don't think of Him as an idiot. And do not think His Bride, the Church, filled with ex-fornicators and liars and murderers and haters who are dead set to follow Christ are going to roll-over because of some bad advertising.

Those triflers who will not sit under God's Word and worship Him have no business with holy matters or holy souls. It matters not how corrupt we ONCE were - we have been washed, and cleansed by the blood of Christ. We are dead to self and remade by Christ. We are baptized to die to an old lifestyle and raised again to a new lifestyle.

So of course we are going to be hated for defending such a formula that puts sanctification over fornication and holy matrimony over perversion.

A Natural Proposal
I submit this scenario to those who demand that there is no distinction between the homosexual and the heterosexual: we grant your request. We shall form a community that is nothing but homosexuals. Not a whiff of narrow-minded holy matrimony shall touch it. We will ensure that no one taint its purity by any heterosexual teaching or behavior.

You may not cheat Nature or her God, though. You must stay true to the human philosophy that this is God-ordained behavior.

We'll see how well that works out.

And if it doesn't, maybe we just shall be justified in saying 'Stop bashing what Christians for repeating what God said.'

It would be appreciated if you did.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wilde Knew What We Kill

"Hey, Mark, think we should have put
less gas on the fire?"

[Not actual image]
We were sitting around the firepit at The Brotherhood of the Briar tonight and some fine poetry was read, as is our want.

Mark Neal did a fine job [as usual] with Dylan Thomas's "Fern Hill" -which in turn conjured for me memories of childhood, Christmas trees and holidays, and the soft magic of cold stars watching over my shoulder as I pedaled my bike down quiet Autumn streets to my friend Greg's house, shadowed also by a rising harvest moon.

Then another poem, or large section of it  rather, was read aloud before the group - "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" by Oscar Wilde, who composed it while he was imprisoned for homosexual conduct.

This poem is notable for it reveals a dark aspect of the human heart, and to Wilde's credit, he saw it full bore and recorded it accurately. Infused with Christ imagery, there are some who consider this poem as evidence of a changed heart, that he may very well have come to saving faith before he died. [See underlined sections]

Be that as it may, I share the poem in its entirety, agreeing with his observation. I have italicized the part we read aloud in the group.


The Ballad of Reading Gaol [modern: Jail, elsewhere throughout the poem]
   
by Oscar Wilde

I

He did not wear his scarlet coat,
  For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
  When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
  And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men
  In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
  With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain,
  Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
  A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
  "That fellows got to swing."

Dear Christ! the very prison walls
  Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
  Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
  My pain I could not feel.

I only knew what hunted thought
  Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
  With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved
  And so he had to die.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
  By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!

Some kill their love when they are young,
  And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
  Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
  The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
  Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
  And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
  Yet each man does not die.

He does not die a death of shame
  On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,
  Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
  Into an empty place

He does not sit with silent men
  Who watch him night and day;
Who watch him when he tries to weep,
  And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob
  The prison of its prey.

He does not wake at dawn to see
  Dread figures throng his room,
The shivering Chaplain robed in white,
  The Sheriff stern with gloom,
And the Governor all in shiny black,
  With the yellow face of Doom.

He does not rise in piteous haste
  To put on convict-clothes,
While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes
  Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
Fingering a watch whose little ticks
  Are like horrible hammer-blows.

He does not know that sickening thirst
  That sands one's throat, before
The hangman with his gardener's gloves
  Slips through the padded door,
And binds one with three leathern thongs,
  That the throat may thirst no more.

He does not bend his head to hear
  The Burial Office read,
Nor, while the terror of his soul
  Tells him he is not dead,
Cross his own coffin, as he moves
  Into the hideous shed.

He does not stare upon the air
  Through a little roof of glass;
He does not pray with lips of clay
  For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
  The kiss of Caiaphas.



II

Six weeks our guardsman walked the yard,
  In a suit of shabby grey:
His cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and gay,
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every wandering cloud that trailed
  Its raveled fleeces by.

He did not wring his hands, as do
  Those witless men who dare
To try to rear the changeling Hope
  In the cave of black Despair:
He only looked upon the sun,
  And drank the morning air.

He did not wring his hands nor weep,
  Nor did he peek or pine,
But he drank the air as though it held
  Some healthful anodyne;
With open mouth he drank the sun
  As though it had been wine!

And I and all the souls in pain,
  Who tramped the other ring,
Forgot if we ourselves had done
  A great or little thing,
And watched with gaze of dull amaze
  The man who had to swing.

And strange it was to see him pass
  With a step so light and gay,
And strange it was to see him look
  So wistfully at the day,
And strange it was to think that he
  Had such a debt to pay.

For oak and elm have pleasant leaves
  That in the spring-time shoot:
But grim to see is the gallows-tree,
  With its adder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
  Before it bears its fruit!

The loftiest place is that seat of grace
  For which all worldlings try:
But who would stand in hempen band
  Upon a scaffold high,
And through a murderer's collar take
  His last look at the sky?

It is sweet to dance to violins
  When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
  Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
  To dance upon the air!

So with curious eyes and sick surmise
  We watched him day by day,
And wondered if each one of us
  Would end the self-same way,
For none can tell to what red Hell
  His sightless soul may stray.

At last the dead man walked no more
  Amongst the Trial Men,
And I knew that he was standing up
  In the black dock's dreadful pen,
And that never would I see his face
  In God's sweet world again.

Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
  We had crossed each other's way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
  We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
  But in the shameful day.

A prison wall was round us both,
  Two outcast men were we:
The world had thrust us from its heart,
  And God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
  Had caught us in its snare.


III

In Debtors' Yard the stones are hard,
  And the dripping wall is high,
So it was there he took the air
  Beneath the leaden sky,
And by each side a Warder walked,
  For fear the man might die.

Or else he sat with those who watched
  His anguish night and day;
Who watched him when he rose to weep,
  And when he crouched to pray;
Who watched him lest himself should rob
  Their scaffold of its prey.

The Governor was strong upon
  The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
  A scientific fact:
And twice a day the Chaplain called
  And left a little tract.

And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
  And drank his quart of beer:
His soul was resolute, and held
  No hiding-place for fear;
He often said that he was glad
  The hangman's hands were near.

But why he said so strange a thing
  No Warder dared to ask:
For he to whom a watcher's doom
  Is given as his task,
Must set a lock upon his lips,
  And make his face a mask.

Or else he might be moved, and try
  To comfort or console:
And what should Human Pity do
  Pent up in Murderers' Hole?
What word of grace in such a place
  Could help a brother's soul?

With slouch and swing around the ring
  We trod the Fool's Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
  The Devil's Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
  Make a merry masquerade.

We tore the tarry rope to shreds
  With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
  And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
  And clattered with the pails.

We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
  We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
  And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
  Terror was lying still.

So still it lay that every day
  Crawled like a weed-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
  That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
  We passed an open grave.

With yawning mouth the yellow hole
  Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
  To the thirsty asphalte ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
  Some prisoner had to swing.

Right in we went, with soul intent
  On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
  Went shuffling through the gloom
And each man trembled as he crept
  Into his numbered tomb.

That night the empty corridors
  Were full of forms of Fear,
And up and down the iron town
  Stole feet we could not hear,
And through the bars that hide the stars
  White faces seemed to peer.

He lay as one who lies and dreams
  In a pleasant meadow-land,
The watcher watched him as he slept,
  And could not understand
How one could sleep so sweet a sleep
  With a hangman close at hand?

But there is no sleep when men must weep
  Who never yet have wept:
So we—the fool, the fraud, the knave—
  That endless vigil kept,
And through each brain on hands of pain
  Another's terror crept.

Alas! it is a fearful thing
  To feel another's guilt!
For, right within, the sword of Sin
  Pierced to its poisoned hilt,
And as molten lead were the tears we shed
  For the blood we had not spilt.

The Warders with their shoes of felt
  Crept by each padlocked door,
And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,
  Grey figures on the floor,
And wondered why men knelt to pray
  Who never prayed before.

All through the night we knelt and prayed,
  Mad mourners of a corpse!
The troubled plumes of midnight were
  The plumes upon a hearse:
And bitter wine upon a sponge
  Was the savior of Remorse.

The cock crew, the red cock crew,
  But never came the day:
And crooked shape of Terror crouched,
  In the corners where we lay:
And each evil sprite that walks by night
  Before us seemed to play.

They glided past, they glided fast,
  Like travelers through a mist:
They mocked the moon in a rigadoon
  Of delicate turn and twist,
And with formal pace and loathsome grace
  The phantoms kept their tryst.

With mop and mow, we saw them go,
  Slim shadows hand in hand:
About, about, in ghostly rout
  They trod a saraband:
And the damned grotesques made arabesques,
  Like the wind upon the sand!

With the pirouettes of marionettes,
  They tripped on pointed tread:
But with flutes of Fear they filled the ear,
  As their grisly masque they led,
And loud they sang, and loud they sang,
  For they sang to wake the dead.

"Oho!" they cried, "The world is wide,
  But fettered limbs go lame!
And once, or twice, to throw the dice
  Is a gentlemanly game,
But he does not win who plays with Sin
  In the secret House of Shame."

No things of air these antics were
  That frolicked with such glee:
To men whose lives were held in gyves,
  And whose feet might not go free,
Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things,
  Most terrible to see.

Around, around, they waltzed and wound;
  Some wheeled in smirking pairs:
With the mincing step of demirep
  Some sidled up the stairs:
And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer,
  Each helped us at our prayers.

The morning wind began to moan,
  But still the night went on:
Through its giant loom the web of gloom
  Crept till each thread was spun:
And, as we prayed, we grew afraid
  Of the Justice of the Sun.

The moaning wind went wandering round
  The weeping prison-wall:
Till like a wheel of turning-steel
  We felt the minutes crawl:
O moaning wind! what had we done
  To have such a seneschal?

At last I saw the shadowed bars
  Like a lattice wrought in lead,
Move right across the whitewashed wall
  That faced my three-plank bed,
And I knew that somewhere in the world
  God's dreadful dawn was red.

At six o'clock we cleaned our cells,
  At seven all was still,
But the sough and swing of a mighty wing
  The prison seemed to fill,
For the Lord of Death with icy breath
  Had entered in to kill.

He did not pass in purple pomp,
  Nor ride a moon-white steed.
Three yards of cord and a sliding board
  Are all the gallows' need:
So with rope of shame the Herald came
  To do the secret deed.

We were as men who through a fen
  Of filthy darkness grope:
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
  Or give our anguish scope:
Something was dead in each of us,
  And what was dead was Hope.

For Man's grim Justice goes its way,
  And will not swerve aside:
It slays the weak, it slays the strong,
  It has a deadly stride:
With iron heel it slays the strong,
  The monstrous parricide!

We waited for the stroke of eight:
  Each tongue was thick with thirst:
For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate
  That makes a man accursed,
And Fate will use a running noose
  For the best man and the worst.

We had no other thing to do,
  Save to wait for the sign to come:
So, like things of stone in a valley lone,
  Quiet we sat and dumb:
But each man's heart beat thick and quick
  Like a madman on a drum!

With sudden shock the prison-clock
  Smote on the shivering air,
And from all the gaol rose up a wail
  Of impotent despair,
Like the sound that frightened marshes hear
  From a leper in his lair.

And as one sees most fearful things
  In the crystal of a dream,
We saw the greasy hempen rope
  Hooked to the blackened beam,
And heard the prayer the hangman's snare
  Strangled into a scream.

And all the woe that moved him so
  That he gave that bitter cry,
And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats,
  None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
  More deaths than one must die.


IV

There is no chapel on the day
  On which they hang a man:
The Chaplain's heart is far too sick,
  Or his face is far too wan,
Or there is that written in his eyes
  Which none should look upon.

So they kept us close till nigh on noon,
  And then they rang the bell,
And the Warders with their jingling keys
  Opened each listening cell,
And down the iron stair we tramped,
  Each from his separate Hell.

Out into God's sweet air we went,
  But not in wonted way,
For this man's face was white with fear,
  And that man's face was grey,
And I never saw sad men who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw sad men who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  We prisoners called the sky,
And at every careless cloud that passed
  In happy freedom by.

But there were those amongst us all
  Who walked with downcast head,
And knew that, had each got his due,
  They should have died instead:
He had but killed a thing that lived
  Whilst they had killed the dead.

For he who sins a second time
  Wakes a dead soul to pain,
And draws it from its spotted shroud,
  And makes it bleed again,
And makes it bleed great gouts of blood
  And makes it bleed in vain!

Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb
  With crooked arrows starred,
Silently we went round and round
  The slippery asphalte yard;
Silently we went round and round,
  And no man spoke a word.

Silently we went round and round,
  And through each hollow mind
The memory of dreadful things
  Rushed like a dreadful wind,
And Horror stalked before each man,
  And terror crept behind.

The Warders strutted up and down,
  And kept their herd of brutes,
Their uniforms were spick and span,
  And they wore their Sunday suits,
But we knew the work they had been at
  By the quicklime on their boots.

For where a grave had opened wide,
  There was no grave at all:
Only a stretch of mud and sand
  By the hideous prison-wall,
And a little heap of burning lime,
  That the man should have his pall.

For he has a pall, this wretched man,
  Such as few men can claim:
Deep down below a prison-yard,
  Naked for greater shame,
He lies, with fetters on each foot,
  Wrapt in a sheet of flame!

And all the while the burning lime
  Eats flesh and bone away,
It eats the brittle bone by night,
  And the soft flesh by the day,
It eats the flesh and bones by turns,
  But it eats the heart alway.

For three long years they will not sow
  Or root or seedling there:
For three long years the unblessed spot
  Will sterile be and bare,
And look upon the wondering sky
  With unreproachful stare.

They think a murderer's heart would taint
  Each simple seed they sow.
It is not true! God's kindly earth
  Is kindlier than men know,
And the red rose would but blow more red,
  The white rose whiter blow.

Out of his mouth a red, red rose!
  Out of his heart a white!
For who can say by what strange way,
  Christ brings his will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore
  Bloomed in the great Pope's sight?

But neither milk-white rose nor red
  May bloom in prison air;
The shard, the pebble, and the flint,
  Are what they give us there:
For flowers have been known to heal
  A common man's despair.

So never will wine-red rose or white,
  Petal by petal, fall
On that stretch of mud and sand that lies
  By the hideous prison-wall,
To tell the men who tramp the yard
  That God's Son died for all.


Yet though the hideous prison-wall
  Still hems him round and round,
And a spirit man not walk by night
  That is with fetters bound,
And a spirit may not weep that lies
  In such unholy ground,

He is at peace—this wretched man—
  At peace, or will be soon:
There is no thing to make him mad,
  Nor does Terror walk at noon,
For the lampless Earth in which he lies
  Has neither Sun nor Moon.

They hanged him as a beast is hanged:
  They did not even toll
A reguiem that might have brought
  Rest to his startled soul,
But hurriedly they took him out,
  And hid him in a hole.

They stripped him of his canvas clothes,
  And gave him to the flies;
They mocked the swollen purple throat
  And the stark and staring eyes:
And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud
  In which their convict lies.

The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
  By his dishonored grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
  That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
  Whom Christ came down to save.


Yet all is well; he has but passed
  To Life's appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
  Pity's long-broken urn,
For his mourner will be outcast men,
  And outcasts always mourn.


V

I know not whether Laws be right,
  Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
  Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
  A year whose days are long.

But this I know, that every Law
  That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother's life,
  And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
  With a most evil fan.

This too I know—and wise it were
  If each could know the same—
That every prison that men build
  Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
  How men their brothers maim.

With bars they blur the gracious moon,
  And blind the goodly sun:
And they do well to hide their Hell,
  For in it things are done
That Son of God nor son of Man
  Ever should look upon!

The vilest deeds like poison weeds
  Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
  That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
  And the Warder is Despair

For they starve the little frightened child
  Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
  And gibe the old and grey,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.

Each narrow cell in which we dwell
  Is foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death
  Chokes up each grated screen,
And all, but Lust, is turned to dust
  In Humanity's machine.

The brackish water that we drink
  Creeps with a loathsome slime,
And the bitter bread they weigh in scales
  Is full of chalk and lime,
And Sleep will not lie down, but walks
  Wild-eyed and cries to Time.

But though lean Hunger and green Thirst
  Like asp with adder fight,
We have little care of prison fare,
  For what chills and kills outright
Is that every stone one lifts by day
  Becomes one's heart by night.

With midnight always in one's heart,
  And twilight in one's cell,
We turn the crank, or tear the rope,
  Each in his separate Hell,
And the silence is more awful far
  Than the sound of a brazen bell.

And never a human voice comes near
  To speak a gentle word:
And the eye that watches through the door
  Is pitiless and hard:
And by all forgot, we rot and rot,
  With soul and body marred.

And thus we rust Life's iron chain
  Degraded and alone:
And some men curse, and some men weep,
  And some men make no moan:
But God's eternal Laws are kind
  And break the heart of stone.

And every human heart that breaks,
  In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
  Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean leper's house
  With the scent of costliest nard.

Ah! happy day they whose hearts can break
  And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
  And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
  May Lord Christ enter in?


And he of the swollen purple throat.
  And the stark and staring eyes,
Waits for the holy hands that took
  The Thief to Paradise;
And a broken and a contrite heart
  The Lord will not despise.

The man in red who reads the Law
  Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
  His soul of his soul's strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
  The hand that held the knife.

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
  The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe out blood,
  And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain
  Became Christ's snow-white seal.



VI

In Reading gaol by Reading town
  There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
  Eaten by teeth of flame,
In burning winding-sheet he lies,
  And his grave has got no name.

And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
  In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
  Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
  And so he had to die.

And all men kill the thing they love,
  By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!



Amen.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

John Coffey from 'The Green Mile' Goes Home

The larger-than-life character actor Michael Clarke Duncan who was best known for portraying the simple but spiritually powerful jailhouse healer John Coffey in The Green Mile has passed away. He was 54.

He played also Kingpin in the not-exceptionally well-received Daredevil movie, as well as a few other memorable parts including voice acting for animated shows. His mountainous frame was emphasized in films for dramatic effect; he stood 6'5" and weighed over 280 lbs. Truly a screen presence to be reckoned with! (Details on his life and health issues can be found on his Wikipedia page.)

The Green Mile's author, Stephen King, is known to deal heavily with the supernatural themes of Good and Evil, and though often dealing in horror, he also shows romantic sensitivities in showing the power of good to fight evil and win.

His blending of carnal men and transforming spiritual situations is far closer to Biblical themes than one would care to admit at first. And John Coffey's simple and innocent eyes, his understanding of pain and suffering while being black in racist South and falsely accused captivates our moral outrage from the very time we see him, walking meekly and gently with his white guards - guards who are overshadowed not only by his physical size, but by his heart, his compassion and his willingness to die so others can live.

In other words, he played a black Jesus, and we loved him for it.

I will certainly miss this fine actor, as I was a small boy who grew up with big men. Men who may not have been educated, but knew right from wrong, bore injustice with dignity and suffered so others could have a chance at life.

Men who I loved and are now gone.

Rest in peace, Mr. Duncan.

We will never forget you.

Amen.

This loving tribute was found on YouTube:



Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Strong Woman vs. the Woman of Strength, Pt. 2

I said I would talk about Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in this blog, and the bottom line is, her performance in The Dark Knight Rises was truly magnificent.

I was sceptical at first - as Anne has such large doe-like eyes, a history of playing a sweetheart - and to me, it seemed she could not pull off the cunning, crafty sensual Catwoman. She did not look mature enough, hard enough.

Man, was I wrong! I know I speaketh not only for myself, but for brethren geeks who did sit with mouth agape as she would 'transform' in front of our disbelieving eyes from terrified waif to cunning cat thief in seconds.

"Oops." she demures flatly when caught by Wayne.

She was superb. And, instead of trying to eschew her femininity, it was accepted as an essential part of her appeal and her power in dangerous situations, clearly granting her the upper hand, because we men ARE suckers for a pretty face, a damsel in distress, an awkward ingenue who 'does not know the rules.'

She plays an emotional masquerade, much like the Joker did in The Dark Knight Returns. She plays the victim to get ahead, to cause her opponents to underestimate her. She plays outraged lady when she is committing an outrageous act.

She knows manipulation is an art form. She looks soft and vulnerable, but inside she is crafty, wise and strong.

And, also, fearful.

She is afraid of poverty, of men, of intimacy, of not being in control. [Watch TDKR four or five times as I did and you will see how brilliant the acting choices of Ms. Hathaway were. She went for the gold, and got it, in my humble estimation.]

And so, when Bruce Wayne catches her once, she escapes. When he catches her again, she escapes with his car. When he saves her after catching her, he intentionally lets her go - and then she acts in fear. He is caught and she is upset. She betrayed a man who seems to care for her, is willing to talk to her and understands her motives. When he miraculously returns, we see her backtrack - and he graciously stops her.

"If you want an apology..." she begins defensively.

"It wouldn't suit you," he replies. He knows she betrayed him out of fear - fear of Bane, the monstrous madman holding Gotham city hostage. He understands.

And so Bruce has to go and defeat Bane and save Gotham, sans apology. Sans fanfare.

But when he does, guess what happens?

Catwoman helps him. Oh, she argues about it at first, ala Han Solo in Star Wars, but she cannot deny moving to help a man she respects. A man who loves his city. A man who wants the best for her. A man willing to make sure she has a clean slate - yes, a digital wiping of ALL her crimes by wiping her identity from every electronic record in the world. Her 'sins' will be washed away.

He's Bruce Wayne. He can do that.

And what is so wonderful is to see her respond to this great man, a man willing to give all he has for what he loves.

Even after betrayal. Even after no apology.

'Cause he knows he's won already. He's got her attention, and her heart.

Does this sound familiar? At all?

Well then read, my poppet:
Matthew 26:69-75
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”
74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed.
75 
Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
And he went outside and wept bitterly.
That last part kills me.

Peter denied knowing Jesus out of fear of torture and imprisonment and death.

But Jesus still loved him. And when He RISES, he lets Peter know He has some work for him to do: that is, he covers the shamed man with a Call to Service and promises him an heroic end as well. Jesus understands his fear, his acting cowardly.

He also tells him he will not die at his own hand but at the appointed time and just like HIM.

Those words sound terrifying to us, but they were a comfort for Peter, who must have been agonizing over his cowardice after his late-night false bravado.
John 21:15-19
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
  “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” 
   Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
   He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
   Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
     Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
     Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.  
18 "Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”  
19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Peter was a Strong Man - shoot, he even cut off a man's ear with his sword to try and protect Christ! But he learned to be a Man of Strength - and to fear not the world or men, but God and God alone.

Jesus loved him and it changed this man.

In The Dark Knight Rises, we see Selina Kyle also change. She is transformed from the purely cunning, crafty and impossible-to-catch Catwoman to a partner and ally of Bruce Wayne a.k.a.Batman.

It is a great ending to a great movie to see them together. Nolan's Dark Knight is an unexpected messiah, fulfilling his destiny through nearly all the tragedies a man can face.

But by rising to the occasion and never surrendering to evil, he captures a woman as strong and as vibrant as himself.

And maybe, just maybe, that is what Christ wants to see in His Church - His Bride - as well.

Amen.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Strong Woman vs. The Woman of Strength

Some years ago I was pitching a Young Adult SF series for boys to a book producer and thought I was doing well until I heard the ugly-egalitarian phrase, "Does it feature strong female characters?"

"Well, no," I admitted. "I am writing this for young boys. It's about them being squired by interglactic knights and..."

I need not have wasted another breath. Seems you can't have a book today that is not all-inclusive, even if your WRITING to encourage BOYS to be MEN of HONOR.

*sigh*

That said, I do indeed like strong female characters - my mother was a fiery Irish lass - but I like them more as Females with Strength of  Character, not as competitors in combat [who never lose, by the way]. Is that sexist? Maybe. I want to be the two hundred forty pound blocker for my lady, not she for me.

That said, I have written and will continue to explore the Amazonian myth [yes, I have female warrior characters], but at a later time. For now, I think it best to say we have had two excellent female leads in two fine superhero films this summer: Scarlett Johansson as The Black Widow in The Avengers and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises.

In each film, they were just amazing. I loved how they did use their grace, charm and wits to disarm their opponents - so well, in fact, that in BOTH films I was stunned by their cunning, more than their acrobatic fight skills.

In The Avengers, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff showed us her courage under fire with vulnerability - you can WATCH her process the terror inside her and PUSH it aside to do the job before her. She is not 'all business' - she is clearly a human being who has a job as a spy and is a good one at that. She never whines nor cries and honestly brightens the screen every time she is shown - and NOT because she's 'a hottie' - thank God for that - but because she is always interacting with the HEART of the person she is talking to.

Don't skip over that. We men like brawls, to see who's the one who gets respect and who leads the pack. Women like "bawls" - the wounded soldier, the fragile mind, the one who cries in pain. We wound. They heal. It is a common grace that we see in so many women.

Is this exclusively a woman's ability? Of course not. But they are so good at it, we men like seeing them do it. Women understand hearts better than men and frankly, that can be a tool -even an effective weapon.

And in The Avengers, when the Black Widow gets Loki to reveal the cruelness of his heart -and by default, reveal his evil intentions by a single casual reference in his rant against her and her womanhood, we see her Help Her Crew because She Knows the Heart of Man [or in this case, a demi-god].

SCENE: SHIELD Helicarrier
Loki has conversed with the Black Widow until he explodes on her, mocking her need for redemption. He verbally abuses her, spitting and snarling at her weakness, her femininity.

Seemingly crushed, the Widow cries, "You're a monster..."

"Oh no," replies Loki. "You brought the monster with you!"

The Widow straightens, turns and says matter-of-factly, "So - Banner. That's your play."

Loki is dumbfounded.

So were we.

She played him -and she played him well.

[Watch Here on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbIzDAS37VY&feature=related]

I loved it.

It's this - and her scenes with Hulk, Hawkeye, Cap and the overconfident Russian general that make you love the Widow. She is smart and strong and kind [her dialogue with Hawkeye was touching, after he is freed from mind control].


Well, this blog is getting long. Next time, I'll talk about how awesome Anne Hathaway was as Catwoman.


Oh  - for a scriptural reference or two to women of faith who got through tough situations with God's help, read about Rahab and Esther.

For further encouragement, ladies please read Luke Easter's poem: A Strong Woman vs. A Woman of Strength.

Amen.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bad Hostess! BAD!

http://www.nathangreene.com/prod_detail_list/30
At Jesus' Feet by Nathan Greene
When you know visitors are coming over to your house, you get busy cleaning, straightening things, etc. if you have ANY social grace at all. You want to put on a good impression and usually are embarrassed at all the things you have left undone. The only exception to this rule is when old friends who know all your habits come over. Seeing them day in and day out, you can sweep away some newspapers and find an empty spot on the couch for them.
We're comfortable with them. We ignore everything else to make sure we don't miss a word they're saying. Especially if they have some really good news to tell us.
But some of us neurotics keep cleaning even as the company comes and beyond. We are so worried about what we have left undone, we cannot enjoy the moment.
Such is the case with Mary and Martha. While it was Martha who opened her home, it was Mary who was opening her heart. While Martha had a list of things to do, Mary had a priority of Who to listen to.
Jesus commended the bad hostess –for she made Him the most important person in the house. And he was welcome any time.
Amen.

Read in the round

Luke 10:38-42

38  As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.
39  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
40  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him
and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?
Tell her to help me!”
41  “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,
42  but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and
it will not be taken away from her.”

Questions
1)      What do you imagine this scene looked like? Where would your sympathies be?
2)     Personal share: when are we like Martha [busy, worried]? When are we like Mary [submissive, attentive to God]?

Benediction
Psalm 46

Quotes on Dedication to Christ                 

  • Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. –C.S. Lewis
  • Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. –St. Augustine of Hippo
  • Trying to work for God without worshiping God results in joyless legalism. Work minus worship magnifies your willpower not God’s worth. If you try to do things for God without delighting in God you bring dishonor upon God. Serving God without savoring God is lifeless and unreal. -John Piper
  • I am a fool for Christ...whose fool are you? –Brother Andrew
  • If your life is Christ, then your death will be only more of Christ, forever. If your life is only Christlessness, then your death will be only more Christlessness, forever. That's not fundamentalism, that's the law of non-contradiction. –Peter Kreft

Saturday, August 11, 2012

God, Do What We Say - or We'll Cry

A friend sent me a blog about a gay person in emotional despair for everyone accepting Chik-Fil-A instead of boycotting them as they wished.

They saw our love for a Christian corporation that supports the Biblical definition of marriage as a form of hatred.

They were right.

Christ - the living Word who agreed with His Father - said our love for Him and His Word would look like hatred to the world. To our families too.

You see, when a true Christian commits to Christ, he or she puts Christ as the Supreme Being over their views and emotions. If they are not aligned with Him, then they are wrong. Period.

But the World does not LIKE being ignored. We all have this urge to manipulate God and He just doesn't play our games.

Listen to what Jesus, God incarnate, said in response when John the Baptist was upset He wasn't going to rescue him from prison. He begins ASKING if Jesus IS the messiah. Well, Jesus answers in the affirmative,  and even praises John as an awesome prophet, but then He takes a moment to comment on our human proclivity to try to wrap Him around OUR little finger instead of accepting our place in His plans.

Matthew 11:16


16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’  
19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!

Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Woe to Unrepentant Cities

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.

21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22
But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.  

23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  

24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.

See, we think we are wise but we act like children. We are moved by the sound of music, but we do not have discernment to say "wait a minute... is this appealing to reason or my basic emotional needs?"

You see, we don't want to ACT rightly. We want to FEEL GOOD. And if we can appeal to emotions, and the concept of abuse, we can win a human heart to our POV.

But what if you do not, as the Al-Anon literature so aptly puts it, 'buy into' their point of view? What if you say "Uhhhh... no. That is not accurate. Nor correct. The actions do not match the facts."

Well, that upsets those who put their heart as first priority and leave reason as a second.

And our supernatural Lord does like reason, folks. He is often wondering why you are running away from Him, are fearful and have so little faith. Seems crazy to Him.

But if you want to make Jesus Christ shake His immortal head in disbelief, just try to emo-manipulate Him. Jump on His followers for accepting sexual purity as a standard.

Cry when a Christian businessman stands up to you.

Whine when the State will not redefine a sacred institution that is literally thousands of years old for you.

Act surprised when He says "It will be more bearable for Sodom than for you, on the day of judgment."

Sodom was a wicked city and had infected Gomorrah. It was so bad they wanted to rape the messengers of God  - to 'sodomize' them. They even said to Lot who tried to stop them by offering his daughters:
“Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.
It is the most famous city of perversion. They did not repent. They did not like Lot saying 'No' to them, even as he offered an awful alternative. They went to break down his door.

They went to violate his rights, the sanctity of his home and his godly visitors.

You know what happened to Sodom? God destroyed it utterly. Jesus affirms its occurrence and eternal significance.

I think that is fair, historic, comprehensive warning, don't you?

Amen.

peace
justice

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chik-Fil-A: The Dark Meat Rises

Today was Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day. It was born to show support for a professional public Christian business that stands by the Biblical definition of marriage.

It only happened because slowly and surely the folks who promote the homosexual lifestyle and affirm it constantly got angry at Chik-Fil-A's president for responding as a Christian to a question about his values.

He said nothing against gays. He said the following in an interview from the Biblical Recorder in North Carolina:
The company invests in Christian growth and ministry through its WinShape Foundation (WinShape.com). The name comes from the idea of shaping people to be winners. It began as a college scholarship and expanded to a foster care program, an international ministry, and a conference and retreat center modeled after the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove.
“That morphed into a marriage program in conjunction with national marriage ministries,” Cathy added.
Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position. “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.
“We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized. “We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”


Chik-Fil-A was immediately labeled a hate-mongering organization that needed to be boycotted by those who support same-sex unions. 'Homophobic' is the usual curse word used by these supporters.

Let me explain the difference between homophobia and theophobia.

In homophobia, I fear homosexuals. In theophobia, I fear God.

I  have never, in my entire life, ever been afraid of a homosexual.

I have been disappointed by, affirmed by, given gifts by and been rebuked by two friends who currently live a gay lifestyle and I think they can say the same about me. [Clarification: the 'affirmation' was due to the friendship and fellowship we shared as human beings who liked similar things or some personal complimentary remark. We do not 'affirm' what we disagree on. People need affirmation; beliefs need confirmation. There is a BIG difference.]

I feared God enough to repent and obey some 16 years ago. I have a good relationship with Him because of Jesus Christ. I am empowered to live a holy life, and I am serious about it. Even my old friends can honestly say 'Yeah - he's changed.' though they may not know why.

Why the Hate?
Trying to live a godly life in a messed-up world is hard enough, but I tell you honestly, it gets worse when you are 'outed' as a Christian: especially an evangelical Christian who holds the Bible as THE Authority on the will of God and our proper response to Him.


So now we have peace with God and we - I mean 'I' - am no longer afraid. "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

But we are attacked for having this faith and this timeless definition of marriage. We are vilified. I guess it is because the homosexual 'rights' agenda is afraid of our opposition.

I think they may be 'Christian-phobic.' You know - afraid of Christians?

I'm Coming Out!
Well, honestly, I just cannot stay in the closet, eating my Chik-Fil-A sandwich quietly and ashamedly.

I'm out. That's right. I'm coming OUT!

I love God and His values! I love chicken, especially chicken made by Christians! But not just the breasts that Chik-Fil-A serves; no sir - I loves me some LEGS too! They need to expand their offerings, you know?

LET THE DARK MEAT RISE! ;)

And let the CFA-haters smooch on each other all they want... You didn't know? They are planning a same-sex kissing spree this Friday, August 3rd in all the Chik-Fil-A's. Yeah - crazy, right?

But there's nothing against same-sex kissing in the Bible - its the more intimate stuff that's prohibited.

So stand down, you little haters.

The sky isn't falling on Chik-Fil-A. In fact, I'm pretty sure you helped make this the most successful day ever in their business history.

For further education, read the book of Esther - and how Mordecai was hung by his own gallows after trying to wipe out the God-fearing Jews.

You would have KNOWN this would happen if you read the Bible and believed it to be true.

And may you do so, very, very soon.

Amen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises [Thank you, Mr. Bale]

I have no great observations and comments about The Dark Knight Rises, the final movie in the Christopher Nolan Trilogy because what I liked most was not the movie, but the ending for our hero. So I walked out of the theater, happy for our hero, but a bit miffed that it missed some great 'plot turns' and 'AHA!' moments that I MYSELF would have had no trouble adding.

But perhaps Christopher Nolan was feeling too empathic with our titular hero and was unable to disassociate enough from the events to give us an epic ending, but rather provided us with a better glimpse of the heroic soul. I say this because I cannot imagine doing a film after a close co-worker dies. I think there is a sadness hanging over this film that Nolan wrote easily, using Michael Caine as his voice of pain and wisdom in the character of Alfred Pennyworth.

It just ain't a happy movie. I was relieved when it was over, because it was over for Bruce Wayne. He does not have to suffer to be the hero anymore.

And then of course, something terrible happened at one of the movie theaters on opening night.

An advanced student of neurosciences, having recently dropped out of the Ph.D program, decided to arm himself and put on body armor and kill the innocent fans who had come out for premiere midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. He came in as a ticket holder, ducked out an Exit door, propped it open, got his gear, guns and some tear gas and gas mask. So outfitted, he came back in, set off the tear gas and began firing, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others.

I don't want to talk about him, though. I want to talk about what happened this past week at the hospital in Colorado where so many victims where recovering.

Batman visited them.

Seriously - Christian Bale, of his own accord - came to the hospital and visited the patients, his fan-boys & girls who love the Dark Knight!

You know, the more I think about that - and how legally/PR/worldly-wise it might have been to stay away - the better I like Mr. Bale. He really caused a stink with some of his explosive reactions in the past, but he also seems to have been humbled by them. He rose to the occasion, so to speak and yes, that pun is VERY intentional.

I know this may sound cheap, but I think when we get hit by evil, by villainy or get greatly wounded we are not as surprised as you might think. We are being cheated - AGAIN. Something we thought would be wonderful - a marriage, a new job, a special event - turns on its head to be something tragic and horrible.

This may sound strange but I think we can accept the horrible things by gritting our teeth and bearing down a bit harder. We like to show how tough we are; how unmoved we are by cruelty.


What really kills us is kindness.

If someone we care about comes by to comfort us - especially someone we honestly admire or adore - we are taken off-guard. We are humbled.

We may even cry. 'Cause then - then it's OK - we don't have to just endure. We have someone who put us before their own needs - or schedule - or social standing.

Dr. Steve Brown said it this way, "A child doesn't cry when it's lost at first. It cries when the parent shows up and rescues them. Because then the child knows it is SAFE."

Fear may get us through a tragedy. But it take love to heal us afterwards.

I think Jesus is like that. I think when we are hurting and need Him, He waits to see if we can bear Him showing up. I think the ONLY thing that prevents Him appearing is our pride.

None of Christian Bale's 'Batman' fans in the hospital thought he SHOULD come visit them.

No one imagined he would.

But when the man they came to see arose and spent his time and effort to see THEM?

Well... let us say it this way: that dark night in Aurora allowed Christian Bale to rise up and truly become a 'Dark Knight.'

I think Jesus understands the joy of the compassion that so often surprises us very much.

Amen.





Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Avengers RAGE: "That's my secret, Captain..."

SPOILERS + SPOILERS + SPOILERS
You were warned, poppet! 


Me Love HULK!
One of the neat surprises I got from The Avengers was my new appreciation of the Hulk's alter ego, Bruce Banner.  Portrayed by Mark Ruffalo as charming and socially awkward, he nevertheless is no man's fool. Ruffalo decided that Banner had grown emotionally and come to understand maybe the Hulk had a place after all. He portrayed Banner as a man who desperately WANTED to belong, yet obviously would not be able to stay - if 'the other guy' [the Hulk, natch] ever showed up.

But Banner is so smart, so knowledgeable and so analytical, he is also unstoppable in his pursuit of truth. In two instances in the movie, you see what angers him is not physical pain, not insults - no, it is being lied to. He cannot stand someone trying to deceive him.

It enrages him.

And all through the movie, the running gag is why doesn't this guy turn into the Hulk more often? We all get angry, you know? What does it take to make him rage, to transform into a juggernaut of near-beserker destruction? After giving a quick electrical shock to test Banner's self-control, Tony Stark [Robert Downey, Jr.] asks point-blank, "What is your secret, Doc? Yoga? Pilates? A huge bag of weed?"

We all laughed. We understood Tony. Yeah, those are all the mechanisms we can use to keep from getting out of control with our anger. We use drugs and techniques to calm ourselves down and not let others control us with their assaults or with their stupidity.

The Answer Banner Gave
Climatically, the question is answered, and the answer was so unexpected yet so on-the-money my jaw dropped. The Scene:  another huge Whale-Cyber-Air-Monster is flying towards the Avengers. Everyone is in gear and ready to fight except Bruce Banner - who has just arrived riding a two-cylinder motor scooter that has seen better days.

Doc Banner gets off of his humiliating escort and begins walking TOWARDS the flying behemoth.

Captain America says "Doc - NOW would be a good time to get angry!" 

Charmingly, Banner looks back over his shoulder and replies: "Well, you see, Cap - that IS my secret..."

"...I'm always angry!"

His muscles begin to grow and he smoothly and speedily transforms into the monstrous Hulk, just in time to lay a HUGE one-fisted SMACKDOWN on the creature, plowing it into the ground and flipping it end over end.

Yeah, baby. I think we got it, now.

What Good Is Being Angry?
Anger is an emotion and it has its place, if it has a reason in justice and fairness and honesty. 

When we are angry, it is often because we have been done wrong - or witnessed a wrong to our beloved.

When God is angry, it is because we have done wrong - or witnessed a wrong to His beloved.

I never liked the Hulk before - all his anger seemed to be emotionally driven and feelings-based. Usually, the director or writer would put him in a very unjust situation, so we would sympathize with our anti-hero.

But as I grow older, and see how the World lacks repentance and a true fear of God, and with all the lies we are told and are supposed to swallow, often to 'keep everyone happy' or maintain the status quo, I find myself getting angry that we as humans keep making the same mistakes. We refuse to change - to repent - and thus we store up for ourselves wrath - not just from men, not just from victims, but from God.

And that wrath is understood to have consequences.

If you are angry at the injustices of the world, keep in mind God is angrier.

But if you want to be saved from His wrath, His anger, you had better run.

To the cross. To Jesus.

Because baby, when 'the Big Man' comes to lay the smackdown, there will be no stopping HIM.

Amen.