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Archive for June, 2011

“What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,’I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’.  It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy (Romans 9:14-16).”

Last night I was watching a show on the History Channel about hillbillies. It was fascinating.

I trace my roots back to West Virginia. Both my parents were born there, and my grandfather was a coal miner. So as to give my 12-year old some context, my wife reminded him that this was why I was so interested in this show.

I really got interested when the documentary began focusing on a miner rebellion in West Virginia in the 1920s.  I had never heard of it, even though some of its events took place where my grandparents lived.

The conflict pitted the mine owners against the miners who were trying to unionize and break what they saw as the oppressive system they were under. As I watched, I sided with the miners.

The government and the companies really did oppress the miners in my view. The worst thing they did was hire a detective agency to harass, evict and even murder the miners. These “detectives” were nothing more than authorized thugs.

Looking deeper into the story, I became intrigued by what seemed to be a 1920s soap opera. It involved the detectives, the mayor of a small coal town, and the town’s police chief.

When the detectives showed up to evict some miner families, the mayor and the police chief confronted them. There was a gun battle in the town which left several of the detectives and the mayor dead.

Some people at the time believed the police chief shot the mayor clandestinely because he had feelings for his wife. Indeed, shortly after the shootings the police chief and the widow were found in a hotel room together. They got married the next day.

Not long after the incident, the police chief was brought up on charges and went to trial. As he walked up the courthouse steps unarmed with is new wife, a group of men from the detective agency appeared and shot him dead.

I thought to myself,”Wow! This woman lost two husbands in the space of a few months. I wonder what happened to her?”

The New York Times of the day told me. She married a third time, this time to a police officer.

I didn’t have a high regard for this woman. She was like some sort of “Black Widow”.

She possibly was indirectly responsible for a bloody gunfight. When her second husband the police chief was murdered, it led to an insurrection by the miners, one which turned into a battle the size which had not been seen since the Civil War.

Another woman in this story interested me, also. She took a lead role in all the mayhem in coal country at the time.

Mother Jones was a union organizer who was called “the most dangerous woman in America.” After losing her whole family in tragic circumstances, she went on a political rampage.

I have to admit, as a man, the kind of women described in this documentary scare me. I don’t think it’s because I am some sort of male chauvinist. I believe I get uneasy because don’t understand these women and what motivated them.

Jimmy Buffet I believe must have had a similar feelings. It seems something to do with a woman drove him to Margaritaville.

He wrote these lyrics:

“Nibblin’ on spongecake
Watchin’ the sun bake
All of those tourists covered with oil
Strummin’ my six-string
On my front porch swing
Smell those shrimp, they’re beginning to boil

Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
But I know it’s nobody’s fault

Don’t know the reason
Stayed here all season
With nothing to show but this brand new tattoo
But it’s a real beauty
A Mexican cutie
How it got here, I haven’t a clue

Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
Now I think, hell it could be my fault

I blew out my flip-flop
Stepped on a pop top
Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home
But there’s booze in the blender
And soon it will render
That frozen concoction that helps me hang on

Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
But I know it’s my own damn fault.”

Yes, and some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
And I know it’s my own damn fault .”

I’ve got to give Jimmy Buffett some credit. Despite whatever mess he was involved with as a  result of his relationship with a woman, he didn’t blame her. As he says, it was his “own damn fault”.

It wasn’t the woman’s fault Jimmy was wasting away in a boozy haze. He didn’t blame “the woman” for his lost state.

Most of us men probably wouldn’t take this stance. If we were in Jimmy Buffet’s flip flops, we would be whining over what a “such and such” woman did to us.

Samson must have. His first romance went belly up –big time.

In I Kings 14 he is described initially as having a real fancy over some lady. Unfortunately, she was a Philistine woman.

His parents didn’t approve, and understandably so. The Philistines were at that time doing something they did well: oppressing their people.

One wonders why Samson, a Nazirite Israelite who was devoted to God and the deliverance of his countrymen, would take up with this woman. However, the Scriptures say that God somehow was sovereignly involved in this matchup (Judges 14:1-4).

God was going to take this unhealthy desire of Samson and use it for His purposes. He managed to take Samson’s predilection for the Philistina and use it for His glory.

The story goes like this. Samson married the woman, but she betrayed him. She used her womanly wiles and toyed with Samson to  help some Philistines win a bet.

The end result was that Samson took out 30 Philistine men to gain the resources he needed to pay off his wager. This  in some fashion fulfilled the plan of God to confront Israel’s enemies.

As for Samson, he went home to his parents house in a huff. He was mad as a hornet. Some people claim there’s a woman to blame.

In this fallen world, we find it easy to blame our natural “enemies” for our predicaments.  We accuse these people different from us for causing a situation where we are “wastin’ away in Margaritaville.”

 The gender battles we face are only an example. If we’re male, we blame the female. If we’re female, we blame the male.

However, we are who we are. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to understand one another.

As Rodney King, that man whose law breaking and subsequent police beating caused a riot in Los Angeles said to the media afterwards, “Why can’t we all just get along?” We need to make at least make the effort to do this.

Yet, somehow,  the stories of Samson’s first wife and the women of the West Virginia coal country give me comfort. Even though I don’t “get” them, in the big scheme of things, everything worked out for the best.

God used Samson’s messy marriage to accomplish His purposes. The violence to which the West Virginia women contributed led to a crackdown on the abuses which caused it. We live in a different world today because of that war in the mountains.

God is a merciful God. We may have trouble dealing with those who live and think differently than we do down here, but God can use even the messes we cause as a result of our differences to reveal His good character and draw us to Himself.

I don’t know how or why exactly, but knowing He can make lemonade out of our crummy lemons gives me a sense of relief. Even when I don’t handle my relationships and issues very well, knowing this  strengthens my resolve to carry on in life.

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“Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (Psalm 28:6,7).”

The woman sits at her desk, staring at her computer with a bored expression. On the screen is an Email that says “Sick of your job? Exciting new offer!”.

The woman clicks the message. She is immediately confronted by a jib-jab-like cartoon character who yells:

,”Congratulations! You’ve launched the pink slip virus. You’re office is now infected. Now, back to you. Good luck finding a new job!”

The announcer for this airline ad does a voice over as the cartoon character’s sound is heard throughout the office and the woman slinks into her cubicle. He asks, Wanna Get Away?”.

We’ve all had these kinds of embarrasing and awkward moments. Sometimes they are as damaging as the pink-slip virus.

You feel extremely lonely in such circumstances. No one understands what led to your demise and how you feel.

Neko Case wrote a song about a person cut off from others. According to one commentator on the Internet, she wrote it about her aging, strange father.

The song begins this way:

“Chimney falls and lovers blaze
Thought that I was young
Now I’ve freezing hands and bloodless veins
As numb as I’ve become

I’m so tired
I wish I was the moon tonight.”

When you are lonely, you wish you  were far away. You also are very fatigued emotionally.

“Last night I dreamt I had forgotten my name
‘Cause I had sold my soul but awoke just the same
I’m so lonely
I wish I was the moon tonight.”

We end up in no-win circumstances, in between a rock and a hard place in which the decisions we have to make are really difficult to live with. This makes for a lot of stress and sleepless nights.

I didn’t push a button and unleash a computer virus at my office this year. However, I might as well have.

I made a couple stupid choices. I ended up losing my job.

“God blessed me, I’m a free man
With no place free to go
I’m paralyzed and collared-tight
No pills for what I fear.”

In such circumstances, the experts say the initial feeling when you either leave or get fired from a bad job is relief. This is true. I had similar emotions.

However, as I told one former colleague I met later, who asked me what it was like to be away from my former workplace, I have learned that a bad job is better than unemployment. You’re not really free and you can’t relax.

Unemployment is no vacation. The stress is greater when you are on the street.

“This is crazy
I wish I was the moon tonight.”

As a result of my unemployment, I am now heading overseas.  I am returning to a previous employer I thought I would never work for again.

While I am happy the job is available (it beats homelessness), taking it comes with a catch. Circumstances are such that I need to leave my family behind.

“How will you know if you found me at last
‘Cause I’ll be the one, be the one, be the one
With my heart in my lap
I’m so tired, I’m so tired
I wish I was the moon tonight.”

When I get to my new/old place abroad, the people who know me there may have a hard time recognizing me. I’ve changed, both physically and emotionally. But I will be the one at the airport who looks worn out, beaten up and has his heart on his sleeve.

“Chimney falls and lovers blaze
Thought that I was young
Now I’ve freezing hands & bloodless veins
As numb as I’ve become.”

As a chimney falls, it splits in two. My dumb decisions at my previous job have led me to a new chapter in my life where I will be seperated from my loved ones for what looks like a long time.

The Bible tells of  a family that was split apart because some of bad choices. For some of them, the chickens came home to roost as a result.

The book of Genesis describes a group of siblings who were jealous of their brother Joseph. They sold him into slavery and thought they were done with him.

Years later, when a famine hit, they went down to Egypt and met up with him again. Now, he was the head of the whole country. They just didn’t recognize him.

Joseph played some hard ball with his brothers. He treated them harshly and set them up for potential harm.

He demanded that they prove their stories by going back home and retrieving their youngest brother, whom their father Jacob had refused to send along out of fear.

Joseph had never seen this younger brother.  While they were gone, Joseph demanded that one of the brothers be left behind as an insurance policy. 

In the meantime, he had the money they had paid for food put back into their baggage. When the brothers discovered this on their journey home, they reacted as you might expect:

“Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?” (Genesis 42:28).

Joseph’s brothers had had their “wanna get away” moment. Their response was to blame God for the whole thing. They had to wish they were the moon that night.

What the boys didn’t know was that ultimately God would use the whole circumstance to keep the family alive and birth a nation. Joseph reflected to them that even though they meant evil to him originally, God used their stupid choices for good (Genesis 50:19-21).

When we are down in the dumps over our circumstances, it is best to ask the question my friend likes to ask: “Where is God in all this?”. I think in many cases, He is trying to teach us that He is much bigger than our puny minds give Him credit for.

When the people of Jericho heard about what God had done for the Israelites in eventually bringing them back out of Egypt, they were scared to death. Rahab the prostitute, who had hidden Israelite men sent to spy out the city, told them:

“When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below .” (Joshua 2:11)

In essence, God was trying to teach the Israelites the same thing, that He is bigger than they could ever imagine  Shortly after they left Egypt he reviewed with them all the wonders He had done for them and exhorted them to take to heart  His greatness and sole ownership of their lives (Deuteronomy 4:39).

He promised the Israelites that if they didn’t, their lives would be cursed. God told them he would send them away, and this would be the result:

“There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.  You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life (Deuteronomy 28:65, 66).

 Want to know where that “want to get away?” feeling, those feelings of uncertainty, embarrassment, fear and shame come from feeling come. Well first of all, we can rest assured they don’t come from God.

 These feelings of lonely despair are the result of having a heart that doesn’t let God rule there. Satan likes to come into that vacuum and take over.

I think the reason we wish we were the moon at times is that we think we will find the majestic God there. We’re wrong on that, though.

We don’t have to go far to find the Lord of Heaven and Earth. God is in our hearts, and it is from that place we can be healed. 

If we let Him, God will be in charge in our hearts. We might as well, as He is in charge everywhere else, also.

The medicine  for loneliness and depression is topraise the God who is already in our hearts. I will leave it to the words of Chris Tomlin to do that here:

Lord of all creation
Of water, earth, and sky
The heavens are Your tabernacle
Glory to the Lord on High

God of wonders, beyond our galaxy
You are holy, holy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy, holy

Lord of heaven and earth. Lord of heaven and earth.

Early in the morning
I will celebrate the light
And as I stumble through the darkness
I will call Your name by night

God of wonders, beyond our galaxy
You are holy, holy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy, holy

Lord of heaven and earth. Lord of heaven and earth.

Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth. Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth. Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth.

God of wonders, beyond our galaxy
You are holy, holy
Precious Lord, reveal Your heart to me
Father holy, holy
The universe declares Your majesty
You are holy, holy, holy, holy

Hallelujah to the Lord of heaven and earth.

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“The LORD is the strength of his people,a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.  Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever (Psalm 28:8.9).”

The Earth is in big trouble. It’s wars and violence have finally alarmed the other beings of the universe who have observed it from afar.

As a result, they send Klaatu to tell Earthlings,”Don’t make us come down there”!  Klaatu’s message is that Earth will be destroyed if it doesn’t mend its violent ways.

In the 1951 movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, Klaatu is represented as a kind of savior. Like Jesus, he mixes with the humans, gets to know them, and tries to non-violently communicate their situation to them.

Unfortunately, none of this works. The people of Earth don’t “get” Klaatu and are terrified. He is killed for his trouble, just like Jesus.

Fortunately for mankind, a woman named Helen Benson is there to save the day. She follows Klaatu’s instructions, to be carried out in the event of his death.

Helen goes to the spaceship and repeats the phrase “Klaatu barada nikto” to the powerful robot Gort. The words are kind of a fail safe phrase that prevents the robot from destroying the Earth and inducing him to retrieve the body of the dead spaceman.

When Gort finds the  body, he takes it back to the spaceship and revives Klaatu.  Helen is amazed, but Klaatu tells her his revival is only temporary. How long he lives is up to “the Almighty Spirit”, he tells her.

Klaatu walks out of the spaceship and finishes his mission. He tells the assembled crowd that if Earth doesn’t change its ways, they will be destroyed by robots similar to Gort.

The Bible has a story similar to the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. It is recorded in Judges 13.

In this story, the angel of the Lord reveals to the wife of Manoah that she is to have a special son. She is warned to avoid alcohol and  unclean food. This is because the boy is to be a Nazirite.

A Nazirite was a person in Jewish tradition who dedicated themselves to God in order to draw close to Him. The Nazirite took a vow to avoid booze,  to not cut his or her hair and to keep away from dead bodies.

Lou Engle says that the Nazirite was more than just a person seeking a closer walk with God. The Nazirite of the Old Testament was a person whose job it was to save and restore the nation of Israel.

This was to be the purpose of Samson, the son of Manoah and his wife.  The Israelites had done evil in God’s sight and been given into the hand of the Philistines, a brutal, warrior-like people (Numbers 13:1). They needed a deliverer.

The Angel of the Lord visiting Manoah and his wife was similar to Klaatu in purpose. Like the space man, he was on a mission, which was to provide a simple and clear announcement regarding the impending birth of Samson. 

Klaatu’s whole purpose was to warn Earthlings of what was to come. He didn’t waste time and words getting involved in minor things like the petty squabbles of humans.

The angel of the Lord didn’t mess around either with trite matters either. He wasn’t interested in being served a banquet in his honor or engaging in idle chit-chat with Manoah (Judges 13:9-18).

Like Klaatu, the angel of the Lord was misunderstood by his earthbound human audience. Manoah believed the visit of this heavenly being meant his doom and was scared out of his wits. It took his wife to knock some sense into his head (Numbers 13:19-23).

The Angel of the Lord said that Samson, if he was to be a savior of his people, had to fulfill the vows of a Nazirite.  We see later  that he had some trouble doing this.

Gary Naler writes that the vows mentioned above have some symbolism related to the Garden of Eden. The Nazirite’s purpose was to restore the garden.

Thus, Samson’s job would be  to save his nation through bringing it back to the knowledge of good. Naler says the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a “grape tree”.

Further, Manoah’s son was also to glorify God with the glory Naler says originally clothed Adam and Eve.  This was symbolized by the Nazirite through growing the part of his body that showed his strength and identity as a man, his hair. Doing so was a sacrifice of his personhood to God.

Finally, in avoiding corpses the Nazirite was showing his purpose of bringing life to his people. In Naler’s view, the Nazirite restored  the original Tree of Life in the Garden.

Nazirites like Samson took their vows permanently. However, there were temporary Nazirites, as described in the New Testaement (e.g., the apostle Paul in Acts 18:18). In fact, Wayne Blank notes that most Nazirite vows were temporary.

Klaatu’s mission in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” had failed up until the point of his death. He came back to life temporarily to complete it.

I think there are times, special temporary seasons, when God must seperate us for a  mission of His. We may be called to be a “Klaatu” or a Nazirite temporarily.  We don’t necessarily have to cut our hair, abstain from Miller Lite and stay away from funerals.

However, in principle we may need to sacrifice for the good of our loved ones, our church or even our country. We need to be, if you will, “saviors”.

We can’t just wait around for some miracle from God. God does work mightily and He can and does work miracles.

However, on Planet Earth it seems He generally uses people. We may be the miracle our loved ones need.

Do I need to be a Nazirite? Could be. When God sends his version of Klaatu or the Angel of the Lord to my door to draft me, I best not turn him away.

Like Helen Benson, I may be the person to ward off the evil heading our way. God may send me to say His version of “Klaatu barada nikto” to the destroyer and stand in its way.

I hope I ignore the naysayers around me and rise to the occasion. It’s my mission.

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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness (John 12:46).”

I used to have an office mate from Germany who had a full time job where I worked, but was hardly ever there. He would come in, teach his classes and leave.

One day, he looked at me and sang “should I stay or should I go?”. I laughed, because I knew the answer to that melodic question.

The song was made famous by a punk group of the 70s and 8os called The Clash. Their name seems fitting because of their style and what they sang  about.

The groups beginnings were influenced by the development of the genre at the time. Mick Jones, one of the founding members, watched one of the famous punk groups of the 70s. 

He said of that experience, “You knew straight away that was it, and this was what it was going to be like from now on. It was a new scene, new values—so different from what had happened before. A bit dangerous.”

The Clash made a major impact on the music scene. They left a legacy, influencing modern groups like U2

 That great web source Wikipedia quotes punk musician and author John Robb about the impact of the group: “The Clash were utterly inspirational, utterly positive, and they offered a million possibilities.”

The Clash sang about things that mattered. Instead of singing, as one contemporary put it, “bowling down California highways”, their lyrics concerned their real lives in London and political issues they believed in.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go” was about an up and down relationship one of the group members had with a girlfriend. Here’s the first stanza:

“Darling you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be here ’til the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?”

However, I listen to it and think of my own indecisiveness at the moment. I have a big decision to make, and things could go either way.

I would just as soon God write in the sky, “Do this!” However, he doesn’t seem to work that way. It’s driving me crazy: 

“Always tease tease tease
You’re happy when I’m on my knees
One day is fine, next day is black
So if you want me off your back
Well come on and let me know
Should I stay or should I go?”

I am unemployed and need to leave my family to go make some money. The job is overseas. 

“Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
An’ if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know!”

As I am in my mid-50s, this is an important decision. As I think of the potential effects of my choices, I just don’t know the best option,

“This indecision’s bugging me
Esta indecision me molesta
If you don’t want me, set me free
Si no me quieres, librame
Exactly whom I’m supposed to be
Dime que tengo que ser.”

If anyone knows me, it’s God. However, He’s won’t give me finality on the thing.

“Don’t you know which clothes even fit me?
¿sabes que ropas me quedan?
Come on and let me know
Me tienes que decir
Should I cool it or should I blow?
¿me debo ir o quedarme?”

There are a lot of issues when it comes to making a major decision.  I did some research about decisionmaking the other day and found surprisingly that intuitive thinking, i.e. using your gut, is a good thing. Sometimes you just know what to do.

Overthinking the consequences isn’t really a good idea. This is because no one knows the future.

The wise man of Proverbs wrote,”Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring (Proverbs 27:1).”

What is really on my mind this morning is the legacy thing.  What will be the effect of my choice on my family? Where will it lead in terms of what I contribute to the Kingdom of God before I pass on?

So many questions. It’s no wonder that the group that sang “Should I Stay or Should I Go” called themselves “The Clash”.

The one Person I need not fight with is God. He is not a tease and I am indeed His. God wants me.

God also knows what’s best for me (Romans 8:28) . In addition, He knows me fully (Psalm 139:1,2).

The Psalmist tells me several other things when I begin to question God’s faithfulness and character in my situation:

*God is right there with me in the midst of my decision (Psalm 139:7-10).

* I may be in the dark right now, but He isn’t (Psalm 139:11,12).

* I can trust myself to some degree because God made me the person I am (Psalm 139:13-16).

*God’s thoughts on my situation are paramount and precious (Psalm 139:17-18)

My prayer at the moment comes from the Psalmist:

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23,24).”

I don’t want to spend my time now, in the immediate future or in the long run mucking about. I want my life to matter for my family and for eternity.

God surely knows this and can be trusted to help me make the right choice. He is utterly positive, completely and totally inspirational, and He offers a million possibilities.

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“The LORD says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies 
  a footstool for your feet.’  The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!’… He will drink from a brook along the way, and so he will lift his head high (Psalm 110:1-2,7).”

I realized something about myself today. I am what we call in English a “worry wart”.

A worry wart is a person who worries incessantly about everything. On the Word Detective website, different suggestions as to the origin of the term are offered.

The contributors mention that just as a wart is annoying, a worry wart who constantly complains about their worries is bothersome. Another suggestion was that the term came from the thought that people who worry all the time actually produce a fever blister.

As a kid, I read Mad Magazine, whose mascot is Alfred E. Neuman. His signature phrase is “What, me worry?”

As an English teacher, I was intrigued by a the semantic meaning of this word question. Wordnik.com offers the following:

As an interrogatory, indicative of a nonchalant towards potential criticism, not caring about what other people think, confident and self-possessed.

Answers.com adds to the meaning:

It means ‘ I don’t have to worry about anything’. Often in the english language questions are asked to oneself that reaffirm that everything is OK.

‘What me worry?’ – nothing

I find it interesting that we talk to ourselves in order to gain comfort. My form of this is more of a mutter.
 
Worry itself has an interesting etymology. As far back as the 700s it was a warfare term denoting a raid or harassment by a military force.  The Germans trace it back to their term for “strangle”.
 
It wasn’t until the early 1800s that the term began its modern usage. It began to gain credence as the word for “mental distress”.
 
Alfred E. Neuman’s history isn’t as old as the word “worry”, but his caricature goes back farther than you might imagine. His face was used in some form to depict poor Irish immigrants in the late 19th century.
 
Later, the phrase “Me Worry?” was added to his caricature in the 1920s. Those who opposed a third term for Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940s used his caricature to describe his supporters.
 
Mad Magazine begin using his face in the 1950s. They were even sued by someone, but his origin goes back so far that the case was thrown out of court.
 
The face has been associated with the word “idiot”. The inference is that someone who doesn’t worry is stupid because we do have a lot to worry about. don’t we?
 
 There are some who believe that there is a place in our brain for worry. It is a vacuum that needs to be filled. When one worry is moved out, another one comes in to take its place.
 
I could see that to be true. This morning I determined that my relationship to worry is that is a spiritual stronghold.
 
Pastor Gordy Steck provides a Bible study on the term. It means “fortress” or “castle”.
 
His study shows that God is referred to as a stronghold. It also is used in the Bible to refer to strong power that opposes the knowledge of God.
 
The apostle Paul wrote:
 
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds (II Corinthians 10:4).”
 
Thus, the military origin of the term “worry” as a word meaning “an attack of the enemy” makes sense.  Worry can come in with just a litte raid, and gain such a victory that it can build a fort in our hearts.
 
That’s what I believe is going on with me. I have a powerful enemy outpost behind my lines, in my heart, that needs to be rooted out.  This fortress  is a big source of discouragement.
 
Pastor Steck has a message available online that is the best  I have ever heard concerning dealing with discouragement. It is called “I Will Walk With My Head High”.
 
Pastor Steck mentions a lot of things which can put our head down: troubles, sins, bad leaders, our enemy Satan, and even the idea that God is opposed to us.
 
He further mentions things that discourage us: personal failure, prolonged spiritual warfare, uanswered prayer, physical and emotional pain, and personal sin.
 
Wow! I certainly do have a lot of things to worry about. I think I have experienced every one of the things he has mentioned.
 
I am grateful that Pastor Steck says that God is the lifter of our heads, and is indeed the only One who can do it. In fact, Pastor Steck says we get into trouble when we try to lift our own heads. 
 
He also offers strategies for keeping our heads up when God gets them in that position. For example, he suggests setting our eyes on God’s greatness (including a suggestion that we go out and look at the stars). 
 
k.d. lang writes of her experience with worry:
  
i can feel a mountain rain
that’ll wash away
and shine again
empty my pockets
that were weighing me down
sift through my soul
to see what’s lost and found
gonna walk away from trouble
with my head held high
then look closely you’ll see
luck in my eyes”

This morning, sitting in the car after church, waiting for my family, I did some soul-sifting of my own. I prayed and bashed down the stronghold of worry, and attacked a few more fortesses in my heart for good measure.

“I can hear a howling wind
that sweeps away
the pain that’s been
take all my sorrow
and i’ll cast away
the worries tomorrow
that i had today
gonna walk away from trouble
with my head held high
then look closely you’ll see
luck in my eyes”

all my troubles, all my troubles, gone
with luck in my eyes
all my worry’s all my worry’s, gone.”

When I wake up tomorrow, I probably will have to battle again against my worry. After all, as Pastor Steck said in his sermon, we have to stand our ground and fight back (I Timothy 6:12).

I can walk away from my worries after defeating them, with my head held high. However, it won’t be “luck” you’ll see in my eyes at that point. Hopefully, it will be the Spirit of Jesus.

He’s the one doing battle for me to conquer the strongholds in my heart, including that of worry. Jesus’s head is up and alert, and He has the power to defeat those fortresses.

Knowing He has His head up in the battle allows me to keep mine.

 

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“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (I John 4:15,16).”

His character epitomizes the trope “looking for love in all the wrong places”. I speak of Gregory House, the main man in the medical drama that bears his last name.

The writers of this series use this characterization I am sure to create interest among their audience. Viewers expect tropes such as this according to tvtropes.org. This wiki says that  tropes reflect real life.

What I appreciate about the House character is that he is one flawed dude. I see the imperfections and weaknesses in my own life in him.

The season finale of the series, called “Moving On”, concludes with House escaping from his problems to a tropical beach. It is a sensual location.

House asks his bartender what he should do today. When the young man suggests “go home?”, House says “not tonight”.

House is on this beach because he has just broken away from the emotional drag of his ex-girlfriend and current boss, Dr. Lisa Cuddy. He did this  in dramatic fashion.

House drove his car through the front widow of Cuddy’s House, got out, and returned a hairbrush she had asked for. She stood there, looking at him nonplussed.

What stimulated this act of rage was seeing Cuddy in her house with another man. House felt betrayed and humiliated because he believed Cuddy was like him, still wrestling with their relationship.

However, he learns that Cuddy is moving on. House hasn’t been,  that is until now.

As he drove his car into Cuddy’s window, H0use almost  ran over his best friend Wilson, injuring him. In destroying Cuddy’s house, humiliating her, and harming his buddy, House has now truly burned his bridges.

It is these two people, his closest friend and his former lover, who have encouraged the self destructive, miserable and angry House to express his true feelings. They have been badgering him to let out his anger, to fight, and to open up.

As he walked away from Cuddy’s house, House looked at Wilson, and said,”You’re right. I feel much better.” House hobbles on down the street with his cane and is next seen at the beach.

Not only have House’s closest friends failed him, but he has also found no real satisfaction in trying to drown his pain otherwise.  As a standard bearer for the “looking for love in all the wrong places” trope, he has regularly engaged prostitutes, even recently marrying one in response to his dumping by Cuddy.

Johnny Lee made a famous song about the kind of man House exemplifies:

“I spent a lifetime lookin’ for you
Single bars and good time lovers were never true
Playing a fools game, hopin’ to win
Tellin’ those sweet lies and losin’ again.

Chorus
I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places
Lookin’ for love in too many places
Searchin’ her eyes, lookin’ for traces
Of what I’m dreamin’ of
Hoping to find a friend and a lover
I’ll bless the day I discover,
You – lookin’ for love.”

I was alone then, no love in site
I did every thing I could to get me through the night
Don”t know where it started or where it might end
I’d turn to a stranger just like a friend.”

As this season ends, House is on the beach, still looking for love in all the wrong places. He has left a mess behind and has destroyed his life. 

House is where he is because neither he nor his friends know God. With them, it is the blind leading the blind.

His friends are trying to help him, at least. However, they have nothing to offer because their own lives are powerless and empty.

The wise man of Proverbs wrote this:

 “If you falter in a time of trouble,
   how small is your strength! 
Rescue those being led away to death;
   hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
   does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
   Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? (Proverbs 24:10-12)

Cuddy and Wilson can’t offer the excuse that they didn’t see what was coming. They both knew what kind of man House was.

Cuddy, however,  began acting on her feelings for House and entered a relationship with him.  She learned when House couldn’t bring himself to show up at her bedside in the hospital without drugging himself that this was the wrong move. She broke up with him, not wanting to live anymore in the chaos of his selfishness.

Her interview with the police outside her broken home is telling:

Policeman: Was there any indication that something would happen?

Cuddy: Yeah… [mirthless chuckle] Every moment I spent with him. I was always waiting for something to happen. But this… [her face tightens and she shakes her head slightly]

Wilson has been a true friend throughout 7 years of House’s self destruction. He has constantly sought to rescue and relieve House from his self destruction  However, Wilson himself is hardly a role model.

Wilson has been through something like four marriages. Although he is a soft-spoken likeable guy, he doesn’t seem to be someone I would go to for counsel about life and relationships.

When the police tell Wilson they have sent units to the hospital and House’s apartment to look for him, Wilson tells them that House won’t be there. Wilson tells them he will be in a bar, and to look for the darkest hole in the state because that reflects House’s current mood.

Wilson would suspect this because House has exhibited darkness for seven years. His own life is dim as well. (Little does Wilson know that H0use is actually at the beach!)

Isaiah puts words in the mouths of people like House, Wilson and Cuddy:

We look for light, but all is darkness;
   for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. 
Like the blind we grope along the wall,
   feeling our way like people without eyes.
At midday we stumble as if it were twilight;… (Isaiah 59:9b, 10)

The scene where House, Cuddy and Wilson are in the midst of a home that has been destroyed in the middle of the day is reflective of Isaiah’s thoughts. The wise man of Proverbs also gives meaning to this scene:

 “Like a city whose walls are broken through
   is a person who lacks self-control (Proverbs 25:28).”

Impulsive behavior could describe all the characters in the House series. However, their leader and poster child his House.

House is indeed a child. In fact, the song “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places” which expands on the trope he exhibits and describes him, was written by two teachers who penned the lyrics after they observed some second graders.

Now at the beach,  House is trying to find a substitute for the love he didn’t get as a child, a motivation of one of his ilk. Apparently, he has been doing this for a long time.

As House leaves his tropical bar and walks down the beach, this song accompanies him:

“When I’m with you, all my brothers, oh
I feel like a king
It feels like I’m dreaming

When that blood goes rattling through my veins
My ears start to ring
I notice what matters

And I got nothing to lose but darkness and shadows
Got nothing to lose but bitterness and patterns”. (“Gott Nuffin” by Spoon)

At the beach, House is among his dysfunctional peers, seeking to drown his pain in booze and sex. What he doesn’t know is that God is the place to find relief and redemption. What he doesn’t know is that it is God who truly matters.

TV shows are not the only place where the”looking for love” device is played out. There are biblical characters who seemed to look for love in all the wrong places as well.

Jacob and Jonah come to mind. I can identify with them, as I identify with House.

Jacob was a carnal deceiver. Jonah was a rageaholic.

Jonah’s story ends like this episode of House, in something of a cliffhanger in which the reader does not know what comes next. Jonah is still left in his rage as his story closes.

Jacob’s episode in the Bible is clearer. His named is changed to Israel, one who has struggled with God and man and has prevailed. He has emerged somewhat victorious from his battles.

While House and Jonah’s stories end in a despressing fashion, I am hoping my own personal story doesn’t finish like theirs.

Blog critic Barbara Barnett notes that House is hurt. He tells Cuddy this, but doesn’t blame her.

Barnett says House sees himself rightly or wrongly as someone whose “faults have rendered him essentially unloveable.”  Further, she writes:

“But House has been a ticking time bomb for seven seasons. He wants to change; he struggles with his inability to change. He’s tired of being judged and analyzed and having his motivations, his pain and torment questioned. He is stuck and he knows it; he doesn’t need Wilson or Foreman (another doctor) or Cuddy or a patient to remind him of that.”
 
I can empathize with House. I am hurt by the rejection of people.
 
Like him, I am tired. I feel as if I will never chang.
 
I am tired of the people around me reminding me of my faults. I know them full well.
 
I may not be a ticking time bomb. However, my life does make me feel like a cliffhanger. I am always in suspense as to what disaster is just around the corner, the result of my own sin or originating from someone else.
 
The rest of  the lyrics to the song playing at the conclusion of this House episode tell me how to quit hanging from this cliff:”When I can’t find the way to reach you my love
I’m just not the same
Just the same

When I know you’re watching out for me
I know what I’m knowing
I can see what matters”.

If I want to climb up from the edge of the abyss,  end my own darkness and shadows, stop being bitter, and end my destructive patterns of behavior, my choice is clear.

 I have to seek and find God, and rest in His love.  Looking for perfect love from anyone or anywhere else will drive me crazy and destroy me.

The day I discover You, God, looking for my love and the day I trust in the perfect love of Jesus, will be the day my shadows and darkness flee away. What a day that will be!

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“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake (Psalm 23:2.3).”

“She packed my bags last night pre-flight
Zero hour nine a.m.
And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then
I miss the earth so much I miss my wife
It’s lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight.”

I am considering such a trip as the one described above by Elton John. In a month or so my wife could help me pack my bags and I could be off.

As things stand today, I could very well be on a plane to a new job overseas.  My family won’t be with me. At that point, I might as well be on the moon,

I know it will be lonely. I know I will miss my wife and kids.

At the moment, I need the job, though. I need to provide for my family, at least as I see it.

 “And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone.”

It could be a long time until I come home again. My family isn’t happy about me going off on my own, yet I admit part of me longs for the experience.

I am metaphorically a rocket man, too. Crosscultural living and work is what moves my heart.

I get bored with normal living. I guess I have a fatal disease if I am not engaged in it: restlessness.

“Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it’s cold as hell
And there’s no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science I don’t understand
It’s just my job five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man.”

I think my wife and I agree on one thing: where I could go is not the place for our kids. Their lives will be better where we are now, at least we think so from where we sit now.

And it is indeed a far-north, freezing country. It’s cold physically and spiritually.

Furthermore, like the Rocket Man, I will be working with scientists and engineers, whose work I really don’t understand. Hey, but it’s my job, man. I am metaphorically a rocket man.

Frankly, I don’t know what to do. I have the same mixed emotions as the Rocket Man.

What I believe I want to do, which is to go, may not be the best thing in the long run for me either. As the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.”

“Ground control to Major Tom
Ground control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

Ground control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown, engines on
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you.”

The above lyrics from David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity” describes what I believe my wife’s reaction will be if I decide to go. She is the kind of person who will send me on my way godspeed even if she disagrees with my decision. She’ll do her best to live with the situation and counsel me from afar.

What do I do? I know my heart, as the Scriptures say, is deceitful above all things.

Who can cure it? Who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9). I sure can’t.

I know God doesn’t look favorably upon alliances that are not of his making. He soundly rebuked Israel for considering what seemed to be a perfectly acceptable alliance with Egypt to defend their country against an enemy (Isaiah 30:1).

What made this alliance wrong was that God had instructed Israel not to make such entangling alliances. He wanted Israel to completely trust in Him for deliverance from their woes.

God did intend to bring judgment on Israel. However, even in that predicament, they did not need to fear.  He would be present with them:

 “People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.  Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!” (Isaiah 30:19-22).”

Some alliances are from the devil. The Israelites went after gods of silver and gold. It is possible for me to do the same if money becomes the sole factor in my decisionmaking.

Also, some allies, though seemingly trustworthy, are in the end unreliable. Dr.Claude Mariottini says of Israel’s alliance with Egypt:

Isaiah was against a political alliance with Egypt because he was convinced that human power could not deliver Judah from the Assyrian army any more than Judah could escape the judgment that was coming upon the nation. Isaiah called Judah’s alliance with Egypt, a “covenant with death” (Isaiah 28:18).

Isaiah also knew that Egypt was an unreliable ally. Just as they failed to help during the Ashdod rebellion, they would fail to help again. Isaiah said: “For Egypt’s help is worthless and empty, therefore I have called her, ‘Rahab who sits still’”(Isaiah 30:7 NRSV).

Dr. Mariottini notes that in the Scriptures the mention of Rahab is symbolic. Rahab represents chaos and evil power. Not only will she do nothing, but bring about disaster.

Maybe I will be a rocket man. Maybe I won’t. 

Urban legend has it that back in 1964 Mick Jagger had a hankering for something he wanted, but couldn’t get. He went to a soda fountain looking for a cherry coke (far different than today’s) and learned they didn’t have it.

A local man named Mr. Jimmy had some advice for Mick, which the latter used to write a well known lyric:

“I went down to the Chelsea drugstore
To get your prescription filled
I was standing in line with Mr. Jimi
And man, did he look pretty ill
We decided that we would have a soda
My favorite flavor, cherry red
I sung my song to Mr. Jimi
Yeah, and he said one word to me, and that was “dead”
I said to him

You can’t always get what you want, no!
You can’t always get what you want (tell ya baby)
You can’t always get what you want (no)
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need
Oh yes! Woo!”

Yes, Mr. Jimmy told Mick that you can’t always get what you want. Jagger twised the roles a bit in his lyrics.

Sometimes God makes us do things we don’t want to do. However, it is for our good, whether we like it or not.

A Jewish couple, Don and Norma Honig, say that sometimes we are unwilling to do what God wants of us, even if it is to lie down like sheep. They write:

 

“We can be sure of this one thing. Whenever the Good Shepherd makes us lie down, there is a blessing for us! And if we submit and trust, we shall be enriched in our spiritual life, and prepared for better service afterward, whatever that might be and wherever that might be.”

At this stage, I feel a little like Major Tom in “Space Oddity”:

“Here am I floating round my tin can
Far above the moon
Planet earth is blue
And theres nothing I can do.”

There’s something God can do, though. Go ahead, God. Make me! (Whatever it is.)

 

 

 

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