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Archive for September, 2011

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.  They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High (Psalm 82:5,6).”  

Ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know can’t hurt you.

I think we all agree in this day and age that those proverbs are not true. Not knowing something may keep us from worry or discomfort, but the chickens do indeed come home to roost (an idea used by poets since the Middle Ages, beginning with Chaucer).

Everyone knows that our government didn’t connect the dots on the terrorist plot of September 11, 2001.  Just surfing the Internet with the phrase “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” will bring many examples of published material that seeks to disprove this notion:

* “The American”, the journal of the American Enterprise Institute, reports that the less education you have, the more back pain you will suffer later in life.

” Mercola.com, a health webzine, notes that aspartame, a common sweetener in soft drinks and other products, is the most dangerous food additive in the marketplace.

* Nat Hentoff of USA Today worries that the lack of civics teaching in the American classroom today is producing ignorance among young people that will endanger our liberties.

” The Australia Institute even has a paper that tells me that I may have not found the most suitable examples in my search!  The report explains that the monopoly power of search engines and their methods of prioritizing the results could kill off one of the biggest advantages of today’s Internet: diversity in knowledge and products.

The flip side of all of this is Francis Bacon’s statement that “knowledge is power”.  The Soviets knew this in World War II and implemented their understanding in a dastardly way.

Movie director Andrzej Wajda documents the murder of thousands and thousands of Polish officers in his movie Katyn, which was nominated for a “Best Foreign Film” Academy Award.  It is the story of the mass executions that took place in the Katyn forest in 1940.

Anne Applebaum explains the reason for this atrocity:

The justification for the murder was straightforward. These were Poland’s best-educated and most patriotic soldiers. Many were reservists who as civilians worked as doctors, lawyers, university lecturers, and merchants. They were the intellectual elite who could obstruct the Soviet Union’s plans to absorb and “Sovietize” Poland’s eastern territories. On the advice of his secret police chief, Lavrenty Beria, Stalin ordered them executed.

While unofficially most knew that the Soviets did the deed, the Russians themselved blamed the act on the Nazis. As Applebaum says, the episode has been the source of mistrust between Russia and Poland for decades.

In the last part of the last century, as the Soviet Union fell apart, the Russians admitted their role in the massacre. This had led to some healing between the two countries.

Applebaum explains Wajda’s reason for making the film now, in the new century:

Most of those who actually remembered the events of 1939 were now dead, he explained—Wajda himself is eighty-one—so the film could no longer be made for them. Instead, he said, he wanted to tell the story again for young people—but not just any young people. Wajda said he wanted to reach “those moviegoers for whom it matters that we are a society, and not just an accidental crowd.”

A couple of scoundrels in the Bible learned the hard way that ignorance is not bliss and that what you don’t know can hurt you in a big way.  Their names were Baanah and Rekab.

These two men served the son of Saul, Ish-Bosheth, who inherited the kingdom of Israel, save Judah, which was in the hands of Saul’s enemy David. Baanah and Rekab were leaders of some commandos who fought against Judah.

These commanders began to see the handwriting on the wall when Ish-Bosheth’s primary general was murdered in a diplomatic mission to Judah. It was only a matter of time before David became the king of a united Israel. After all, even God was on David’s side, and all the people knew it.

One day when Ish-Bosheth’s guard fell asleep on duty, Baanah and Rekab snuck into his house, where their king was also taking a nap, and murdered him. They cut off his head as a souvenir.

Taking the head to David, they expected to get rewarded.  Baanah and Rekab even invoked God’s work in the whole scheme.

They should have checked with David first. David, with the two men present, said:

“As surely as the LORD lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”

 So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron. (II Samuel 4:9-12).

Had Baanah and Rekab done a little research and intelligence gathering instead of going on in ignorance, things may have turned out differently for them. Instead, they acted without knowledge and paid for it with their lives. 

What troubles me most about the “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” falsehood is not that I in truth can be harmed by my ignorance. What bothers me is that my cluelessness can due major damage to my loved ones and others.

For example, if I do not know how to be a good husband or father, disaster is at hand. My wife and my children will suffer due to my lack of instruction and scholarship in the area of family.

The good news is that my awareness of my ignorance and it harmful effects is a positive development. It is the beginning of solving the problems I have created due to my  callowness.

It is time to ditch the hubris and become a little more sophisticated in some things.  It is time to begin the process of learning.

As Benjamin Disraeli, the great British prime minister of the 19th century said, “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.

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“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well (3 John 1:2).”

“The cowards never started

The weak died on the way

Only the strong arrived

They were pioneers.”

In the movie “About Schmidt”,  Warren Schmidt is reflecting on his life after visiting a memorial arch to the people who crossed Nebraska to settle the west. Among the other exhibits is a sign with the above quotation.

At the close of the move Schmidt, played by the indubitably great Jack Nicholson, is driving home in his RV from his daughter’s wedding in Denver to Omaha. He went to Denver, not to attend the wedding, but to try to convince his old maid daughter not to marry the loser she intends to wed.

His thoughts are recorded in a letter to a foster child he sponsors in Tanzania.

Dear Ndugu,

You’ll be glad to know that Jeannie’s wedding came off without a hitch. Right now, she and Randall are on their way to sunny Orlando,  on my nickle, of course. As for me, I’m headed back to Omaha. I’m driving straight through this time, and I’ve made only one stop. The impressive new arch over the interstate in Corney, Nebraska. An arch that commemorates the courage and determination of  the pionneers who crossed the state on their way west. You’ve really got to see it to believe it. And it… kind of got me thinking,  looking at all that history and, reflecting on the achievement of people long ago kind of put things into perspective. My trip to Denver, for instance is so insignificant compared to the journeys that others have taken, the bravery that they have shown,  the hardships they’ve endured. I know we are all pretty small in the big scheme of things. And I supposed the most you can hope for  is to make some kind of difference. What… what kind of difference have I made ? What in the world is better because of me ? When I was out in Denver, I tried to do the right thing,  tried to convince Jeannie, she was…making a big mistake but…I failed. Now she is married to that nincompoop and there is nothing I can do about it. I am… weak. And I am a failure. There is just no getting around it. Relatively soon, I will die. Maybe in 20 years… maybe tomorrow… It doesn’t matter.Once I am dead, and everyone who knew me dies too, a little, it will be as though I never even existed. What difference has my life made to anyone ? None that I can think of. None… at all.  I hope things are fine with you.

Yours truly,

Warren Schmidt

Warren has had a tough time of it. He has recently retired, his wife  has died, and his sense of purpose has dried up.

One day he sat at home watching TV and saw an ad for the support of African orphans. Warren is moved (and a little bored), and writes a check.

Throughout the movie he poors out his adult thoughts in letters to a six-year old boy. As a woman whom he met at an RV park told him, Warren is sad, lonely and even angry.

Warren, however, has sold himself short. In the movie, despite a few quite human mistakes, he proves his character.

He calls a close friend to tell the man he forgives him for an affair he has discovered his wife was having with him 30 years before. During the wedding reception, he compliments his daughter’s new husband and is completely gracious in a speech he gives.

Even the attempt to strongly dissuade his daughter from marrying is an act of courage. He endures her abuse and anger for his efforts.

Yet, he tried to save her from herself. It is she who has made the choice.

Unbeknownst to Warren, the transparent letters he has been writing to Ndugu have worked a healing he did not know about. As he walks in his office after arriving home, he opens a letter from Tanzania.

It is written by a nun and conveys Ndugu’s pleasure in receiving Warren’s letters. Ndugu wishes his friend a good life and health, and although he can neither read nor right, he has enclosed a “painting”.

The drawing shows a picture of two figures, one adult and the other a child, standing in front of a huge sun ball. They are reaching toward each other and grasping one another’s hand.

Warren begins to cry, then smiles.  Nicholson perfectly captures Warren’s emotions and own healing at that point. The movie ends, since there is nothing more to be shown or said.

Early in his own suffering, Job felt as Warren did. He wanted God to kill him. Furthermore, like Warren he considered himself too weak to go on:

“But I do not have the strength to endure. I do not have a goal that encourages me to carry on. Do I have strength as hard as stone? Is my body made of bronze? No, I am utterly helpless, without any chance of success.” (Job 6:11-13, New Living Translation)

Even great athletes sometimes get discouraged when things go wrong. Peyton Manning, the stellar quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts , got very upset when he was recently disabled by neck surgery.

Manning had played in over 200 consecutive games and was a football “Iron Man”. Without him, his team is floundering.

“I walked around for a while angry, in a bad mood. … ‘Woe is me,'” Manning told The Indianapolis Star on Friday. “I’ve gotten over that. It doesn’t do any good. I’m learning to deal with it and trying to have a good attitude. I’m not walking around looking for any pity party.” (from NFL.com)

What seems to be helping Manning is that he does indeed have a goal:

“I do hope to get healthy, and when I’m healthy and cleared to play, I want to be out there,” Manning said. “This is new to me.”

Health is a great goal. I have determined that this is my aim for the coming year as well.

This summer as I sat in the midst of a group of pastors, elders and a pastoral intern, the latter of all people made the most poignant statement about what my objective should be.  To paraphrase, he said I needed to do the things that lead to health.

At the time of that meeting, different areas of my life were in poor condition. One of the unsound aspects has led me away from my family in the coming year.  This intern’s comments, brief and almost drowned in the statements of the others in the room, were the most significant of all.

What will give meaning to my life in the coming months is to get healthy: physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, financially. The list could go on.

With this end in mind, I hope to give my life new energy. When I reach my aims, I want God to be up there like the Spanish language broadcaster who, after a score in a soccer match, yells into the micophone:

“GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!”

I suspect He will. I bet I’ll get a letter or a postcard from God that heals my soul.

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“By day the LORD directs his love,at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life (Psalm 42:8).”

“I believe that you and me last forever
Oh yeah, all day and night-time yours, leave me never
The only time I feel alright is by your side” (The Kinks, All Day and All of the Night)

Sometimes life comes at me in themes. Today’s theme has to do with homophones.

For the non-linguist, a homophone as defined by Merriam Webster is “one of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning or derivation or spelling (as the words to, too, and two).”  The homophone of the day is “chili”.

I bought some Mexican chili beans for dinner tonight to put on my wheat tortillas. I did this on the recommendation of a friend, who at the moment is something of my diet guru. (He is trying to help me get in shape.)

While I was out riding around with my personal trainer buddy and his friend today, a catchy song came on the radio. It was by a group called “Hot Chelle Rae”, which I learned of later. 

Homophone number two, right? Wrong. After hearing the song I decided to check up on its source, and found the middle term of the band’s moniker is pronounced like “Shell”, not “chili”. 

Finally, as is common in Finland at the end of September, it was “chilly” today. Homophone number 3-can anyone say “bingo!”?

The friend of the guy helping me lose weight has had a horrible week.  First, he had his wisdom teeth out, then he caught the flu. This is probably why Hot Chelle  Rae’s first lyrics from their song “Tonight, Tonight” immediately caught my attention as it came into the back seat of the car:

“It’s been a really really messed up week
Seven days of torture, seven days of bitter…”

My week hasn’t been anything like that, but as I sit here tonight writing this, I think of the lyrics of another song called “Tonight, Tonight”, this time by the Smashing Pumpkins. The lyrics have to do with change and the possibility of it.

“Time is never time at all
You can never ever leave without leaving a piece of youth
And our lives are forever changed
We will never be the same
The more you change the less you feel
Believe, believe in me, believe
That life can change, that you’re not stuck in vain
We’re not the same, we’re different tonight
Tonight, so bright
Tonight
And you know you’re never sure
But you’re sure you could be right
If you held yourself up to the light
And the embers never fade in your city by the lake
The place where you were born
Believe, believe in me, believe
In the resolute urgency of now
And if you believe there’s not a chance tonight
Tonight, so bright
Tonight
We’ll crucify the insincere tonight
We’ll make things right, we’ll feel it all tonight
We’ll find a way to offer up the night tonight
The indescribable moments of your life tonight
The impossible is possible tonight
Believe in me as I believe in you, tonight

What I am wondering is if I can truly change. The lyrics by Billy Corgan seem to say ‘yes”, if I hold myself up to the light and “believe”.

According to Roling Stone magazine,”Corgan is a romantic who believes in the redemptive power of love, but he’s also a cynic, having been constantly disappointed by those he loves.”  His song “Tonight, Tonight” is  said to “weave together a story of urgency and longing (AllMusic.com)”.

As I am getting older, the question to me is how to get unstuck and overcome the disappointment in myself and in life in general. If I don’t have the same sense of urgency as Corgan, I should, given my age.

I suppose one tactic would be to just ignore the whole thing. This is the approach of the protagonist in the song by “Hot Chelle Rae”.

The reason his week has been so awful is that his girlfriend was unfaithful to him. His plan in dealing with it is to clain what happened to him doesn’t matter and to party his head off:

La la la, whatever, la la la, it doesn’t matter, la la la, oh well, la la la

We’re going at it tonight tonight
There’s a party on the rooftop top of the world
Tonight tonight and were dancing on the edge of the Hollywood sign
I don’t know if I’ll make it but watch how good I’ll fake it
Its all right, all right, tonight, tonight

I woke up with a strange tattoo
Not sure how I got it, not a dollar in my pocket.

Pretense and addiction is only one method of trying to face the idea of  change.  Two people, one real and one fictional come to mind when I think of the possibility of metamorphosis and how to engage it. They both had hellish lives, but they chose different outcomes.

One of the people I have in mind is Mike Flanagan. He’s a legend from my favorite baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles.

Outwardly successful these days as a baseball executive and broadcaster, Flanagan went out in the woods a couple of weeks ago and ended it all with a shotgun.  It came out in the Baltimore Sun today that he had threatened suicide several times in the past.  Flanagan apparently could not reconcile his anguishing thoughts this time, and given the absence of anyone to prevent it, je finally took his life.

The other person who I have thought of in terms of change is a character from “The Wire”, a Home Box Office (HBO) series with Baltimore ties as well. Namond Brice is a middle school kid caught in a difficult world.

Namond’s father is Wee-Bey Brice, the imprisoned enforcer of the local drug syndicate that has held sway in his neighborhood. The son is expected to follow in Daddy’s footsteps.

The problem is that Namond, despite his attempts, cannot pull it off. He is a likeable and gregarious boy who just doesn’t have what it takes to be a corner boy and future drug kingpin.

Namond finally realizes this when he watches a close friend, a rising star in the drug business, badly beat up a small boy who has been caught stealing narcotics from the business. Namond is there, but is horrified and runs away.

Eventually, he faces the truth with weeping and tears that he is not his father and will never be. Willing now to move on, he moves in with a teacher,  former major police officer Bunny Colvin, who has taken him under his wing. Namond is ready for change and a new life.

The recovery groups will tell you that acknowledging that your life is out of control is the first step in getting a handle on it. Namond realized he was up against forces too great for him, and he sought help from the willing Mr. Colvin.

Two  contemporary kings of ancient Israel and Judah also saw that they weren’t strong enough to deal with powerful obstacles in their lives. Both the son of Saul, Ish-Bosheth, and David, who was beginning his ascendancy by ruling in Judah, had unruly army commanders.

Ish-Boseth’s problem was Abner, who got upset when the king confronted him over a dalliance with one of Saul’s concubines. Abner got very upset and threatened to go over to David’s side.

When Abner actually did so, David’s general Joab used the occasion to murder his counterpart. He was taking revenge for Abner’s killing of his brother during the ongoing civil war between the Israel and Judah (II Samuel 3:1-30).

David was appalled at Joab’s actions and disavowed any participation in them. However, he acknowledged that he was too weak to confront his general. David’s response was to tell his men,”May the LORD repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds (II Samuel 3:38)!”

David understood something which he wrote lyrics about in his own song in the Book of Psalms.  He comprehended that he belonged to God (Psalm 24:1).

To me this is the first step in making a change. I have to remember Whose I am. 

When forces out there seek to enslave me, whether it be addictions, human oppressors, or the Evil One himself, I have to remember to Whom I owe my allegiance.

You alone are my strength my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after Thee
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship Thee

You’re my friend
And You are my brother
Even though You are a King
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything

I want You more than gold
Or silver
Only You can satisfy
You alone are the real joygiver
And the apple of my eye (Lyrics by Martin Nystrom)

Tonight,tonight, I see the only way to real change in my life is not through indifference or checking out. It is through every moment of every day relinguishing my life to Jesus.

It’s His anyway, but the obedience part has sure been the hardest thing I have ever had to learn.

 

 

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“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things (Romans 2:1).”

This has been one of those weeks when my patience as  a university English teacher has been sorely tested.  While I have learned to enjoy students as people (mostly), there are times like the past few days when they get on my nerves.

The week began with excuses from a couple of my students as to why they couldn’t attend class:

“I’m going to Budapest with my fiance'”.

“I’m going to a party of this organization, but hey, I will be speaking English there.”

One of my former colleagues asked rhetorically when I related these comments,”So, what else is new”? I know like her I shouldn’t have been surprised by these excuses because they are part and parcel of what we teachers deal with all the time.

I just wonder why these students can’t look at their schedules before the semester begins. If they did, perhaps they would learn that ‘now” was not the best time to enroll in my courses.

Then there were the physical abuses. Oh, they weren’t intentional, but they were present nonetheless.

In one instance, I was walking in the front door of our main building when I felt a tug at the back end of my shoe. Some young feller had stepped on my heel.

I looked to my left and he just walked by, looking totally self absorbed. No apology, no nuttin’.

A day or two later, I was walking down the hall engaged in a conversation with a student when I felt a nudge on my left shoulder. When I looked, a young man in a jacket, who actually could have been staff, went on by looking left and right and moving like Mr. Bean. Again, no “sorry” was forthcoming.

Somewhere in the midst of this week I began  a mild general rant with a couple of my colleagues about our students inability to attend class. One of my fellows looked at me with an amused expression and said,”Calm down, Tim.”

I immediately got his drift and said,”You’re right.” I knew that my frustration over student behavior was boiling over, and that since more than likely the same conduct I have seen for years was not going to change.

Thus, I am not very sympathetic when I read headlines about “boomerang kids” as I have in the last 24 hours. These young people are adults in the 20 to early 30s range who have moved back in with a parent or two.

Yesterday, I read that 6 million American young adults live with their parents. Today, I not only saw an article that says it is actually 15 million, but also read something that says 51 million (!) young people in the European Union (my current workplace) live at home with at least one parent.

In my current mood, I think such things as “What a bunch of lazy bums” or “Get a job”. Yet, this morning my curmudgeonly attitude toward the 20 something has begun to mellow. The reasons for my softening lie in the economic facts of today and also come from some spiritual truth.

The title of one Internet link blares “Recession’s Lost Generation”. The actual article from the Associated Press tells of the bleak economic futures of these young people:

In record numbers, they’re struggling to find work, shunning long-distance moves to live with mom and dad, delaying marriage and raising kids out of wedlock, if they’re becoming parents at all. The unemployment rate for them is the highest since World War II, and they risk living in poverty more than others – nearly 1 in 5.

New 2010 census data released Thursday show the wrenching impact of a recession that officially ended in mid-2009. There are missed opportunities and dim prospects for a generation of mostly 20-somethings and 30-somethings coming of age in a prolonged period of joblessness.

There’s a story in the Bible involving David where perhaps I think he could have used a little compassion. It involved a young Amelikite.

The Amelikite’s were enemies of Israel. In fact, at the time of the story David and his men had just rescued their families from a group of Amelikite raiders (I Samuel 30:1-19).

At about the same time of this incident, King Saul and the Israelites were fighting a losing battle against the Philistines. Saul and his sons were killed and the Israel routed.

An Amelikite showed up at David’s camp with Saul’s crown and his armband. When David asked the Amelikite what had happened, he related this story: 

“I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and their drivers in hot pursuit. When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’

“He asked me, ‘Who are you?’

 “‘An Amalekite,’ I answered.

 “Then he said to me, ‘Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’

 “So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive.” (II Samuel 1:6-10)

Now the Amelikite thought he was doing David a favor. However, if he had known David’s stance vis a’ vis Saul, he would have not done what he did.

David had had his own chances to knock off King Saul, but had refused. He left judgment to God, who had appointed Saul as leader of Israel.

Thus, after David had spent some time mourning, and presumably mulling over the whole situation, he ordered the young man’s execution. First, however, he double checked where the boy’s national origin.  David also asked the young man why he hadn’t been afraid to knock off the king God had appointed (II Samuel 1:13-16).

I am sure the thoughts of a more mature and learned David never occurred to this lad, nor should they have. I think David was being somewhat unjust, at least on a personal level.

Sure the young Amelikite was foolish (Proverbs 18:7). However, foolishness isn’t just the realm of the young foreigner. Even David had seen this truth in the lives of his contemporaries (such as Saul himself and one Nabal (Fool), the former deceased husband of his current wife).  

I think most of us, if we are patient, will at least tolerate foolish people (II Corinthians 11:16). However, I think I  need to do even more than that: I ought to love them and demonstrate, at least in my heart, some compassion.  After all, it’s not as if I had never done anything foolish.

Solomon, the son of David, expressed truth when he wrote, “Even as fools walk along the road, they lack sense and show everyone how stupid they are (Ecclesiates 10:3).”  I see this verity every day among the students I work around.

However, they are God’s children and among them are some lovely people. Furthermore, if Iam going to be truthful, I am pretty foolish at times myself.

I am pretty quick to excuse my own less than stellar comportment.  I ought to give the 18-34 year old a little bit of the same treatment.

After all, I am a teacher and I should be conveying what I know about life to my students. If I am unwilling to be more patient and less judgmental, I ought to get out of the profession, for their sake and mine.

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I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you (Luke 10:19).”

This morning as I left my lodgings for a brisk walk to work, I stepped out into a wet day. In such conditions, I was not surpised to see worms on the sidewalk.

Worms are pitiable creatures. They just lie there.

If I wanted to, I could have just stepped on the worms I encountered. They wouldn’t have known the difference.

Apparently, worms have no brains. They are a long tube of nerve endings.

Worms get no respect. Despite doing positive things like enriching our soil, we throw them in cans and use them for bait when we go fishing.

They are easy pickings for birds. We all know the proverb “the early bird catches the worm”.

Speaking of proverbs, another one that is popular is “the worm has turned”. It commonly means that a person has a reversal of fortunes.

The phrase has been around since the 16th century. Shakespeare made it popular in Henry VI, when Lord Clifford tells the king:

“To whom do lions cast their gentle looks?
Not to the beast that would usurp their den.
The smallest worm will turn being trodden on,
And doves will peck in safeguard of their brood.'”

Even worms sometimes have had enough. Exactly what these normally passive creatures will do when they make their move is not clear, but whatever it is, they will do it with all their might.

In one respect, the idiom can be interpreted as what happens when revenge is sought by a harmed party. When those who have done the damage  are themselves put in a bad way, the worm has turned.

On the other hand, the term “worm” has a long history as being used synonymously with the word “dragon”.  Nancy Sherer notes that it is a relief when the dragon turns away from its fiery destruction.

Of course, Satan has been called a “dragon” in the Scriptures (Revelation 12:9). It is definitely freeing when his oppression has been removed from us.

What is very curious is that the Psalmist quotes the Messiah as saying of himself “…I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people (Psalm 22:6).”  For crying out loud, who ever thinks of Jesus as a worm.

Yet, at one time during his anguishing period of the Cross, he had the same status of a snitch in the ‘hood. Jesus was harassed, threatened, and ultimately murdered.  

However, as we all know, Jesus did not maintain his “worm” status. Through His death and resurrection He went from being mashed into the dirt of the earth to ruling from the skies. He had become the bird instead of the worm.

As one who has put his faith in the work of Jesus Christ for his salvation, I regularly wonder how long I have to suffer like a grub. I am a man, yet like the apostle Paul I constantly exclaim,”What a wretched man I am (Romans 7:24a)!”

If my body, which troubled the apostle, doesn’t get me, then other forces do. The Dragon frequently flames in my direction, and the world steps on me.

After a while, though, even a worm such as myself gets sick of the abuse of evil. This worm turns and tries to fight back.

I have been told since I was young a bunch of different ways to live the Christian life:

“Trust and obey”.

“Walk in the Spirit.”

“Stay in the Word”.

Yet, after all this advice, that I am sure is well intentioned and works for some, I still feel like this worm, who sang:

When I was just a little worm My mommy said to me-

“When you grow up to be a big worm

A big worm you will be.”

And Wilby was my name

And Wilby was my game

And Wilby will be my name

’til I die (Source: American Pirates, You Tube)

Researchers have noted an interesting fact about worm behavior. Although they are brainless per se, they react to light. Scientists have been able to control them with tightly focused beams.

The advice I have gotten from my fellows in the faith is fine, but what I really need is light from above. If there is anyone who knows what it’s like to be a worm, it is Jesus Christ.

The Hebrew word for “worm” in Psalm 22 refers to a type of worm that clings to wood until it has offspring. When it does, it dies and emits a scarlet like substance that covers its babies. (Jerry Ogles, Anglican Orthodox Church).

Get the picture.  Jesus was a worm with a purpose.

Somehow my wormhood has meaning. It may not seem clear now, but in the long run it will be.

While I am still inching along, I want to be involved in the transformation Jesus has for me. He intends to change me into another kind of worm: a glow worm.

Actually an insect, the glow worm produces and emits light from its body. This characteristic is technically called Bioluminescence, which from the Greek and Latin means ‘living light’.

I’ve had it up to here with Satan’s abuse, also. It’s time this worm turned and socked him in the nose, or whatever worms do when they are fed up being a worm. 

Up until now, I don’t really know how to do this effectively. However, I believe Jesus will show me like He did the apostle Paul when they encountered each other on the road to Damascus. Here is Paul’s account of that meeting, when He saw who Jesus really was for the first time:

 “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’  ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me’ (Acts 26:14a-18).

At least I know from this passage what a Christian worm is supposed to do when they are at the end of their tether. First, I have to quit fighting Jesus.

My methodology for living the Christian life certainly hasn’t worked up until now in terms of making me a better person. Why not do it His way?

Then, I gotta get off my belly, glow like a glow worm with Jesus’s light and engage His power to smack the Evil One.  So that’s what happens when the worm has turned!

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“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the  mountains would tremble before you!  As when fire sets twigs ablaze 
and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.  Since ancient times no one has heard, 
no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:1-4).” 

Michael Crow knows who the enemy is. As Pogo noted, it is us.

Crow, the president of Arizona State University, says  scientists today are so proud that they are unable to understand that there are limits to our knowledge. In an article in the webzine “Issues in Science and Technology”, he calls the failure of academia to see that the problems of mankind are NOT external to ourselves “hubris”.

Crow cites six areas of limitation to our ability to control nature. Of particular interest are the knowledge and philosophical constraints he mentions.

Regarding knowledge, Crow makes an interesting point about our own capacity for self governance. He says that we do not even have the ability to manage ourselves well enough to confront the challenges of dealing with the damage we have done to our own world.

Regarding philosophy, Crow believes science in unable in this hyperactive age to discover real meaning behind our relationship with nature.  Such age-old questions as “Why are we here?” and “How should we behave?” are beyond the researcher today.

While Crow laments the literal answers to meaning that science provides, calling them a “mockery”, his purpose in questioning current approaches is far different than mine. His goal would be unified effort to be good stewards of the planet.

When I think of our lovely world, I understand it as God’s creation. Yet, I acknowledge that I have barely scratched the surface in understanding the beauty He has made, and more importantly, why he has made it.

Crow says of our hubris (and I include myself in the human race on this):

 We trumpet the onset of the “knowledge society,” but we might be much better off if we accepted that, when it comes to our relations with nature, we are still pretty much an “ignorance society.” Our situation is reminiscent of Sherman McCoy, the protagonist of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, who fancies himself a “Master of the Universe” just as his life is taken over by events far beyond his control. We have the illusion of understanding and are not humbled by the fact that we do not understand. We refuse even to consider the possibility.

I did indeed stumble into a deep thought over the weekend regarding God’s purpose in nature, however, despite my own selfishness and pride. I got an epiphany that God has put it there partly to help me deal with the things I cannot control.

The first s of the Twelve Steps of the Celebrate Recovery movement, adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous, is:

We admitted to ourselves that we were powerless over our dependencies-that our life had become unmanageable.

In a couple areas of my life, this confession holds true. It took a walk through the forest this weekend to help me get hold of an idea that God’s creation is an antidote to the addictions that would want to consume me and draw me away from God.

Sunday was a gorgeous, cool day in Finland, the county where I currently reside. I knew I would be stupid to spend my day inside, so I decided to walk a trail that leads past the gigantic lake in our region and into town. (In addition, the aspect of God’s work called “my body” needed the exercise.)

As I was out there, it was so beautiful that I realized something. I understood that the next time I was facing one of my common temptations, I could look seek out God through His creation.

Methodologically speaking, this could mean anything. For example, today I set a beautiful autumn scene from my home state on my computer wallpaper.

In any case, the idea is to put off the sinfulness and put on God (Romans 13:13,14).  I can’t see God because He is invisible, but I can see His likeness through what He has made (Romans 1:20).

Let’s get back to science for a minute. In the opening page of his book “Science and Its Limits”,  Del Ratsch notes that there is no accepted definition of natural science.

This is not a problem, according to the author:

That might seem to be an insurmountable difficulty.  How can we investigate the nature of science if we do not, strictly speaking, know what we are talking about?   But such problems are not insurmountable in comparable situations.  For instance, it is almost a cliché that  no one can define love.  But that does not stop us from proclaiming (often correctly) our undying version of love to select persons on Valentine’s Day, and it does not stop us from marrying for love. We can often recognize  instances of  and characteristics of a concept even if we are unable to formulate an ironclad definition  of it, and we often have a good general idea even if we cannot specify all the details. Such is the case with the concept of science.

And such is the case with the concept of God. His beauty, His love,  and His personal care for me are all there in the woods and the waterways of the area in which I live.

My dependencies are cheap imitations and limitations. I can find the real deal in nature, and that reality is spectacular, far greater than my flesh, the world, or the devil can conjure up.

So the next time I am tempted to succumb to the pull of temptation, I have to endeavor to find a way to muse on God’s beauty in creation. It’ not hard to find. It’s everywhere.

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Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen (I Peter 5:8-11).

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home;
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne’er met with elsewhere.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home, oh, there’s no place like home!

Even if your home is dangerous and could get you killed, this is true for us all. A prime example comes from two characters in Season 4 of “The Wire”, a  series about the streets of my hometown, Baltimore.

Omar Little is a killer, pure and simple. However, he has been framed for one particular murder of a woman in a store which he didn’t commit.

Dogged police detective Bunk Moreland doesn’t buy the set up. Despite opposition from the lead detective on the case, he proves Omar’s innocence and gets him released from jail.

He elicits a promise from Omar that there will be no more killing. He also offers to arrange his departure from Baltimore.

Despite its dangers, since he has a lot of enemies on the streets, Omar declines. Baltimore is all he knows.

The same holds true for the man who helped set him up, the convenience store owner Old Face Andre.  He goes to see East Baltimore drug kingpin Proposition Joe for protection since he has snitched and told the police who really killed the woman.

At first Andre rejects Proposition Joe’s offer to get him out of Baltimore. However, he wants to stay in his hometown.

Finally, Andre realizes he doesn’t have much choice. Things don’t end well for him, as Proposition Joe actually turns him over to the muscle of West Baltimore druglord Marlo Stansfield who actually committed the murder. They kill him for going to the cops.

I can understand these crooks’ desire to stay at home. It’s where we became the people we are and learned what we know.

In my case, I also consider Virginia my home. I spent my formative years in its southwest mountain regions, and call it my permanent residence today.

However, I am now on an overseas work assignment without my family. It’s not easy being away from home.

If I could go anywhere else in the world, be transported there like a crew member of the starship Enterprise of Star Trek fame, I would choose to go there. I miss my family.

It was on one winter (actually summer for me)  day,from my home I went away Far away from friends and home I longed to roam

But tonight I’m lone and sad, just a little homesick lad
And I’m longing from my old Virginia home

I’m a lad from old Virginia
Bravely knocking my way back home
To that cabin home in the mountain
Never more let me roam (Carter Family)

My contract takes me to the beginning of next summer. I hope to be home with my wife and kids by the summer solstice.

I am longing for old Virginia, for old Virginia and you
And I’m hoping the soul within you is longing for me too
To Virginia, just like the ivy, my heart clings ever true
And I reckon in the spring I’ll bring a little ring
To old Virginia and you

Though tonight I’m far from you and old Virginia
I still love you as I did that day in June
And when springtime comes again to old Virginia
I’ll build a little cottage just for two. (Carter Family)

I was a child in Virginia when I got my first sense of God in my life. When I was in high school in the Baltimore area, I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart and give me a purpose.

That’s partly the reason I am overseas today. I went to school and got a degree that qualified me to teach abroad because I wanted to go into missions.

Now, it’s a job. It has never turned out the way I thought it would be.

Today I have a sense of nostalgia for what God was doing in my life way back in those old hometowns. In addition, I have a sense of regret.

I think the theme song of “The Wire” tells a story of those kids of Baltimore who don’t hang on to Jesus and keep Satan at bay. Over my checkered life, I have been one of them.

The best version of this song by Tom Waits was performed by the children of Baltimore themselves.

Way Down in the Hole

When you walk through the garden
you gotta watch your back
well I beg your pardon
walk the straight and narrow track
if you walk with Jesus
he’s gonna save your soul
you gotta keep the devil
way down in the hole
he’s got the fire and the fury
at his command
well you don’t have to worry
if you hold on to Jesus hand
we’ll all be safe from Satan
when the thunder rolls
just gotta help me keep the devil
way down in the hole
All the angels sing about Jesus’ mighty sword
and they’ll shield you with their wings
and keep you close to the lord
don’t pay heed to temptation
for his hands are so cold
you gotta help me keep the devil
way down in the hole

I feel at his stage of my life that I have been a little like Saul. He disobeyed the Lord and suffered the consequences.

Before the climactic battle with the Philistines which would eventually take his life, Saul went to a witch to conjure up his old deceased spiritual advisor Samuel. This is because Saul had gone so far from God that he got no message from Him when he sought Him out.

When the witch finally did bring him up, Samuel had no good news for him:

Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”

 “I am in great distress,” Saul said. “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.”

 Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has departed from you and become your enemy? The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. The LORD will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.”

 Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel’s words. His strength was gone, for he had eaten nothing all that day and all that night.

Ironically, Saul’s persecution of David has led to the latter’s exile. David is on the run and far from home because of Saul, who has allowed Satan to come out of his hole and ruin him.

Jack White of the band White Stripes wrote the lyrics to “Seven Nation Army”, which won a Grammy mainly because of its guitar riff. However, it is the lyrics that strike yours truly.

Some say the song is about the opposition and troubles he and his partner Meg White faced as they became popular.  In the song, the protagonist is ready to chuck it all and head for home:

I’m gonna fight ’em all
A nation army couldn’t hold me back
They’re gonna rip it off
Taking their time right behind my back

And I’m talking to myself at night
Because I can’t forget
Back and forth through my mind
Behind a cigarette
And the message coming from my eyes
Says leave it alone

Don’t want to hear about it
Every single one’s got a story to tell
Everyone knows about it
From the Queen of England to the hounds of hell

And if I catch it coming back my way
I’m gonna serve it to you
And that aint what you want to hear
But thats what I’ll do
And the feeling coming from my bones
Says find a home

I’m going to Wichita
Far from this opera for evermore
I’m gonna work the straw
Make the sweat drip out of every pore
And I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding
Right before the lord
All the words are gonna bleed from me
And I will sing no more
And the stains coming from my blood
Tell me go back home.

White Stripes released a subsequent album entitled “Get Behind Me Satan”. Jack White himself says it is taken from the temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4.

One of the songs has some lyrics I can relate to here in my exile from home:

I get my friend when I need one
I need someone to be one
I take anybody I can get
And sometimes I wanna call you
And I feel like a pet
And I’m lonely, but I ain’t that lonely yet

I go down to the river
Filled with regret
I go down and I wonder
If there was any reason left
I’ve just before my lungs could get wet
I’m lonely, but I ain’t that lonely yet

I think perhaps one of the greatest temptations Satan can throw at me is the feeling of loneliness.  When I get that way, it is hard to keep Satan down in the hole.

There are illicit ways of handling that loneliness. However, heading in that direction would only spring Satan’s fire and fury.

He is out there seeking any way he can to devour me. I know it.

As the song says, when I am lonely I gotta watch my back, hold on to Jesus hand and depend on his angels to deliver me from temptation.

Maybe if I do this, I’ll make it home in one piece.

 

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