Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mission Completion

I have posted at least once for every day of this month. I did it!!!

I am supprised at the various depth of insight, lengths and topics of this month. It was a good discipline to exercise.

So check in in May and let's ee if I'm as prolific.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Momma is Coming! Momma is Coming!

Tonight my love will return to me. She has been gone on a business trip to CA. We have made it, but missed her terribly. I am so glad she will be home tonight.

More details to come...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On My Own

Today Lois had to return to OH and I was left with the kiddos alone.

The pickup from school was smooth. We played and watched Scooby Doo and Wikitiki (a parting gift from Mommaw.) Then we ate her delicious baked spagetti and bathed.

Bedtime was ok.

E woke first and moved into bed with me. Then sister did, too.

We woke, enjoyed another treat from Momma and got off to school well. It was raining lightly.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just 'Cause I Promised...

I am posting right now just cause I promised to blog every day this month.

But just now a thought has come to me. Why is it that we capitalize I? Why not capitalize You and leave i miniscule? Do we really need to do so?

We no longer capitalize divine pronounds. So why do we still capitalize the self?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

She's Leavin' on a Jetplane...

Lis leaves today for a FOUR-DAY trip to CA! Ugh!

I tried to put a few little notes in her stuff -- in her purse, carryon bag and etc. She caught me once. Then she emptied her purse to clean it out!!!!! Then at 4am her suitcase broke and she had to empty it out too!!!!!! She is impossible to suprise!

I REALLY miss my girl when she has to be away. I honestly mark my days by the time I get to go home and see her (and the kiddos, too.) I don't function well when she's gone. I don't sleep.

I love my wife totally!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

That's Ridiculous!

Mommaw is coming to our house! We are very excited! It will be great fun!

When E woke up he started asking, "When's Mommaw coming?" All day at sporatic intervals he asked, "When's Mommaw getting here."

Finally, around bathtime we got a call from Mommaw that she was leaving OH. E reacted to the news by saying, "That's just E-diculous!" and frowning.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ah, ---day!

Thank You God that it is Friday! Well, I'm not so sure about the Friday part (see below) but thank you God it is the last day of the school week.

I am seriously grateful for the end of this week. I have had ALC duty from Gehenna (reference to the smoldering/burning trash heap outside Jerusalem in the Henna Valley) this week. I have put down two minor revolts in class and just today I confiscated 3 phones in various stages of texting and other use. Ugh! How I miss teaching when I'm at school...

On the daily work board in my room, I post the day of the week, the date, the Related Arts (RA) schedule and the start-up work (called for some unknown reason The Sponge) for my classes. In April I started posting the day information in English and Spanish because I have several students who are studying Spanish. This week I added a German rendering of the information. One of my students, of Middle Eastern descent, adds the Arabic some days.

I am becoming morally outraged that our days are named after pagan gods. Even Sun-day and Mo[o]nday pay homage to the two main lights in the day and night sky that were once worshipped in idolatry but are just the creations of the One-True God. I do not like taking the name of false gods on my lips to distinguish one day from another. Tew's-day is Old English (OE) for Mar's-day [god-of-war-day], Woden's-day (OE) for Jupiter's-day [king-of-gods-day,] Thors-day [lightning/thunder-god's-day,] Frigg's-day (OE) for Venus-day [goddess-of-love-beauty-sex-day] and Saturn-day [father-of-king-of-gods-day.] Pt-u-ee!

Yes, I know another theory holds they were named after certain celestial bodies. But the names have idolatrous origins even when attached to planets. But these orbiting objects were said to rule those days! And the practice of using celestial bodies to plan and schedule is divination, another abominable act according to faith and Scripture.

I do like Sabbado [Sabbath] for the last day of the week (Genesis 1) and Domingo [Lord's Day] for the first day of the week (Revelation 1.10.) They obviously express a Christian world-view. I can even tolerate the German numeric Mittwoch (mid-week) for Wednesday. The Hebrew for the other days of the week simply counts them. I think this is a good alternative.

Lord's Day/First-day, Second-day, Third-day, Mid-week/Fourth-day, Fifth-day, Sixth-day and, finally, Sabbath/Seventh-day.

It REALLY is a small thing, but it REALLY does vex my soul and chap my hide...

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Lisa and I are huge fans of LOST. We especially like the mental puzzle it presents with its treatment of the time-space continuum. This season has been very enjoyable. It continues to deal with the themes of determinism/free-will and parent/child relationships.

The key development of this season seems to be the idea that within determined history (what pagans call Fate, neo-pagans call evolutionary randomness and Christians call Providence) humans have a choice (what we all call "Free Will") about who they will be in that determined history. This is a significant idea worthy of some reflection.

Determinism and free will are polar-opposite philosophies of history. Determinists believe that everything is "determined" by an outside force. That's-just-the-way-it[humanity]-is explains why events happen and people act the way they do. The individual can do NOTHING to alter their determined actions or their determined destinies.

Religious determinists attribute the role of determiner to the Fates (pagan goddesses who wove human history) or to God's Sovereignty (Christianity.) Reformed [Calvinist] theology rests on a foundation of a determinist regard of history as the sole choice of God's Absolute --Unconditional, Irresistable, Irrevocable -- Sovereign-Self.

Secular determinists attribute the controling force of history to genetics and evolutionary factors. People act only as their DNA predetermines they will. Human choice is an illusion in the midst of evolutionary selection.

Free-will proponents believe everything is the result of individual choices. American civic religion preaches this dogma -- "You can be anything you want to be." "Your only limited by your imagination." Everything is up for grabs.

Free-will thinking is obviously humanistic. No outside force can thwart the will of the individual. Human beings have all the answers, we just need time to work them out. We may have flawed characters, but in time we will self-actualize.

I belong to a unique branch of the Christian Vine, a singular part of the Body of Christ. We Wesleyans hold a view of human existence and history that believes strongly in the Providence of a Sovereign God. He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live [Acts 17.26 NIV] Even when evil is prominant and His law is being violated, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. [Romans 8.28]

Yet we also hear the witness of Scripture telling us that we have a choice in our actions and our destinies. We are challenged to choose. To return to Acts 17, he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. God allows us to choose to look for him and the outcome of our search is left in doubt.

So I am facinated by the current suggestion of the events of LOST that the events of our lives might be firmly pre-determined, "Whatever will happen, will happen" but we must choose who we will be in those pre-determined events...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Gift

Lis is under a lot of pressure right now with work and other responsibilities and her impending trip to CA. So much so that I think she really just wanted to come home from work and crash in the bed to recharge her batteries. Then Eli had a plan.

Let's go to Bob Evan's. So we did.

When we arrived we were seated near two very young parents and a VERY young baby. Lisa engaged them in conversation to learn the baby was only a week old and they were just venturing out for the first time as a family.

While we were entertaining our kids waiting on our meals, she slips me a note written on the back of a paper placemat: Let's pay for their dinner.

So at an appropriate moment, I excused myself from our table and went to find their waitress. She gave me their ticket. I payed for it and returned to our table.

Later when the lady asked for her ticket the waitress informed her that an anonymous person had paid for their meal. She seemed shocked.

I know Lisa is stressed right now. I know she has a lot on her mind. But I wish you could have seen the sparkle in her eyes as she hatched up this plan and saw it executed. She was beautiful and peaceful and happy.

Seconds later the moment passed as the realities of life with us and the responsibilities crept back into her consciousness.

She is a wonderful woman and I know this season of pressure will pass. Even in it, she has such a beautiful spirit and generous heart. It is that inner glow that makes me fall in love with her over and over and over and over...

Linkie Logs

For the past two nights E and I have been creating our own little world out of Linkie Logs (Lincoln logs.) Last night E took the role of lead architech in our latest creation. It was a two-story ranch with a wonderful surrounding fence.

We worked together about 20 minutes on the project. It was great fun. We talked, laughed and just enjoyed being guys together. We often had to rethink some part of the construction or rebuild it when either he or I bumped into the structures. It actually looked very nice once completed.

As we fitted the Linkie logs together I silently prayed that God would fit our hearts together to build a strong and lasting relationship as Dad and Son. {Draw your own analogies...}

Those are the moments that make a day worth living...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Binkys and Tennis Shoes

Being a parent is a tightrope walk of balancing rules and relationships. There has to be norms for any society to function. A family must have such structure. And children need to learn some of life's basic principles so they can function effectively as adults, some day.

Yet mercy overrules law. Just a look or and indication that the heart was in the right place though the actions violated a norm at times vetos rule-breaking/consequence thinking. Take Monkey see, Monkey do for example. Clearly the boy's heart was in the right place although the Windex wasn't!

Well, this morning we were having a DEF-COM LEVEL 5 situation. Eli was crying, refusing to wear his tennis shoes. He wanted Daddy shoes. Sister was crying. She needed a binky. I wanted to cry. I think even Momma wanted to cry, too. The departure for schools was being delayed.

We usually don't send Jilli out the door with a binky. I usually wear brown dress shoes with professional pants and shirt. But when we left the house, Sis had a binky firmly escounced in her now quiet mouth and Eli was happily skipping along in his tennis shoes. I was hansomely attired in a pair of tan pants, blue striped button-down, blue and tan striped tie and WHITE tennis shoes!

Boy...the delicate balance is hard to find!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Purity and Power

Following last Sunday's Whose Image? teaching I feel lead to continue the holiness theme again. This week we will look at Purity and Power.

When we are called to live pure lives, we often think of stand-offish, finicky prudes who disdain to dirty themselves with the grimey grind of life. White robes and white towers come to mind. The expression "holier-than-thou" does have an origin in the attitudes of the would-be-pure.

However, it has occurred to me that purity is really about power. Electricity travels faster along highly-conductive material than along poorly-conductive material. Perfume smells stronger and lasts longer as the purity level increases. Ivory soap leaves your face cleaner with 99.44% purity. Mixed drinks are more potent the higher its proof or percentage of pure alcohol.

So we will examine the need for purity from the standpoint of its correlation to the spiritual power in the life of a believer. When our lives are diluted with sins of omission, clogged by sins of commission and constricted by false beliefs and negative attitudes, the power of God does not flow as readily into and through us.

I am thinking of using clear plastic tubing and food-colored water to demonstrate these truths. I'll keep you posted on further developments.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tim Is Back!

Tim Allen is a blessing. He has a true worshipper's heart. He is a student of the Word. He is passionate about his relationship with Jesus. He is an amazing talent.

Recently, he underwent open-heart surgery and spent a while recovering. This week he was back in force. He played through Simple Prayer a song by Scott Underwood which I personally love. The week and weekend had been stressful. But when I walked into the Worship Center of Faith and heard the guitar line for it, my heart melted.

He then asked that I sing it for church. Of course this put me on the spot. But I did first, because he had worked it out and second because it went with the "Give to Caesar what is his. Give to God what is His" sermon.

I thank God for our musicians and their heart to worship and lead!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


We do not have a very full social calendar. But we do love to get with our family and friends. So we are really looking forward to today. We are packing up our little van-full-of-family and heading to Elkview. Today is baby Addison's birthday party!

We will enjoy visiting, eating, playing with Addison and watching her open presents. We have already spent a week discussing whose party it is and who will be opening presents -- unaided by E & J!

Happy b-day and thanks for this an all the joy you bring to your family!

Friday, April 17, 2009

In the Palm of Your Hand

I am really drained today. Teaching, parenting, pastoring and homeowning duties have totally sapped my strength, my emotions and my will. Yet like the hamster on the wheel I keep running so I don't fall over onto myself.

On the way to school today I listened to "In The Palm of Your Hand" by Alison Krauss. The chorus declares, "I'd rather be in the palm of Your hand, though rich or poor I may be. Faith can see right through the circumstance, sees the forest in spite of the trees. Your grace provides for me."

May it especially.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Vine

In the Roots Run Deep, I shared the back story for the post Lisa inspired the other day.

Over the past 4 years the grapes I transplanted from Grandma and Grandpa Andy's have done very well every spring. Then as they fill with lush, green leaves, something comes along and devours the greens. I have yet to see, let alone taste, a single grape from those vines that once provided the base for mouth-watering jelly.

Last fall I thought my vine experiment had come to an end. They were eaten bare to the spindly vine and no new growth came out. Life had been snuffed out though the vine couldn't stop putting on the appearance.

This evening I spotted some pinkish-purply color at the base of two of the three vines! Life had returned with the spring! I spent the evening inspecting and nurturing them. I took Eli up the hill to tell him these plants were once Grandpa Andy's and they were VERY special plants. I even had hopes that together E and I will taste the thick, sweet fruit of the vine together someday.

Tonight I had a flash of a portion of Scripture about vines. God says he planted a hedge around a transplanted vine in His vineyard. Later He says he will remove the hedge and allow wild animals to run through the tender vines.

I think I will put a fence around the vines this year and see if that helps them to flourish and be fruitful. More to come...
I'm sure there will be more to post about the Vines...

The Roots Run Deep

Lisa had a great, honest post recently about being in the pruning season of life. Well this little tale dovetails with that idea.

My Grandpa Andy did a lot of things that left impressions on me. He was quiet, strong, generous and ingenious. One thing he loved to do was grow things. In part out of necesity and in part out of genuine enjoyment, he always provided food for his family from his land.

One especially tasty treat was grape jelly from his own arbors. He and I shared many a morning started with grape jelly and butter on biscuits at the bar in the tiny Anderson kitchen. There we would, as Grandma Andy says, "hatch up" plans for a day full of adventure.

A few years ago, after Grandma had to move from the much-too-distant and delapodated home-place, I made a pilgrimage there. I drove up Blue Creek Road, past the homes of cousins, the Anderson family cemetary and finally to Shrader. You can only travel by car just a few more miles before the hard-road empties into Blue Creek at a place called Coco.

I got out of my car and walked up the railroad tracks to the "swingin' bridge" and over the blue-green waters churning with spring thaw and a recent rain. Then I walked back along a narrow path along the far side of the creek. Then I turned left and into the holler known as Billy's Fork. Stepping on rocks I forded the little stream and up on the bank in front of what remains of my family's once vast ancestral property.

The old home-place sighed to the right as if bored now that few if any still travellers make the trek along the branch anymore. For generations Billy's Fork of Blue Creek bustled with dirt farmers, mountain folk and coalminers and their families. The gate had long collapsed onto itself and the fence fallen. The entire lot teamed with wild, thorny undergrowth. Moving through the lower garden that once was carpeted with sweet potatoe vines took 20 prickly, painful minutes. The upper garden still had a few strawberry plants struggling to hold the tender soil Grandpa had babied into black velvet over decades.

After 45 minutes, I had moved from the front gate to my goal -- the grape arbor. The sight was far from encouraging. After years of abandonment, the grapes had turned to the nearby trees to trellis. I carefully pruned one Concord grapevine back to about 3 feet and then gingerly dug it up out of that sacred soil.

I brought three root stocks to my home in Poca in a 5 gallon bucket wrapped in wet cloths. I planted them in three different location to maximize the chance of survival. I fertilized and watered and watched over them that entire first year.

I love looking out my back door and seeing those vines. Even though I have moved far [physically and metaphorically] from Billy's Fork, I still have a connection to my family's place. My roots run deep...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day 2009


...even Tax Day can be a gateway to spiritual formation. Consider the following...

PALABRA (The Word)

Matthew 22.15-22
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

PONDER (The Point)

A Taxing Question

Is it right to pay taxes to a secular government? Can we participate in a society that uses these funds for things contrary to the precepts and principles of Scripture and the teaching of the Church? Where do we draw the lines?

These are all intriguing questions whose answers are very significant to our life of Christ-following. However, they must be addressed in another post. For the impact of this teaching of our Jesus was that "when they heard this, they were amazed." The wow factor is how Jesus, the master teacher, turns this would-be trap into a deeply penitrating look at spiritual formation.

Whose image?

Every governing body that mints coin or prints paper money authorizes that currency with easy to identify symbols. Every currency of the United States, for instance, bears the name "United States of America" and the phrase "THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE."

In Jesus' day the Caesar of the Roman Empire stamped his picture (image) onto the coinage used as legal tender. The printing was in Latin, the official language of the conquerors. So the coin brought to Jesus literally bore the Emperor's image and inscription.

So, Jesus says, give it back to Caesar. Yes we should pay taxes, in part because what we are spending is depending on that government to be judged legal tender or the currency of exchange. It is produced by and endorsed with that government's authority.

But the wow comes from the implication to everyone knowledgable of the Scriptures. This was especially true of Jesus' original listeners -- first century Jews. But it is also true of the Biblically-literate of all times and places.

We are all "stamped" with the imago dei, the image of God who created us originally and individually [Genesis 1.26-28.] A lot of speculation and debate has gone into the idea of the imago dei. Even after the Rebellion in Paradise, we retained a marred and mishapened version of the imago [Genesis 5.3, Genesis 9.6.] At the least we can say from the actual texts using the phrase imago dei, that it includes the human moral capacity [of that tree you must not eat,] human sexuality/procreativity [male and female created He them, be fruitful and multiply...fill the earth] and human stewardship of the rest of creation [subdue it. Rule over...] Essential human-ness bears clear markings of the One who made us--all.

While answering the political question of taxation, Jesus points to a deeper duty every human has. We should give to God what is God's -- our very self marked with His imago dei.

PRACTICE (The Principle)

So on this Tax day 2009, I hope you have filed your paperwork and written that check. Jesus says it is right to share in the cost, as well as the benefits, of a society.

But I really hope and pray that you take a moment and give God His due, too. Not something or some percentage but give your very self. From your DNA to your human spirit, you are marked with His image. All He wants is all you are, surrendered to His power, love and leadership -- for His renown and glory.

Whose image? Whose inscription?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Picture

Easter Sunday morning, after we were dressed up for church, I took a few pictures of the kiddos. Lisa uploaded them to facebook last night. She claims one of Little Sister is the best she has ever taken. The truth is that Jillie Bean usually is tearful or fitful when professional pictures are made. So perhaps it is her best ever picture.

I got to thinking about how it was that her Papa, in very poor lighting, was the one to capture her best-ever picture. I took a lotof snapshoots that morning and some were horrible. I am not a professional photographer. I had no props or special filters. But there is the pictoral evidence. She is delightfully playful with a hint of mischief in her eyes -- in other words, the real Gracie-Girl!

A lot of life is like that. It's not about being good. It's about being persistent. A persistant prayer life is one into which transcendent moments come. A faithful commitment to marriage allows a couple to experience the rapturous passion that sweeps them off their feet to fall in love all over again. Consistently being there for others means you'll be there when they really need you. Daily debriefs around the dinner table opens the channel for the kids to share when things aren't going well.

So last night, as I slipped into bed too late to pray with Lisa, I gently layed my hand on her shoulder and spent awhile lifting her to Our Father. I prayed for my children. I prayed that I might be faithful and persistance in the things that matter so I can be there for the next Picture-Perfect moment.

Get the picture?

A Bandage for Woody

We enjoyed a little trip out as a family last night. On our way out of one of our stops, Eli ran ahead of us a few feet and fell down. He scraped his little hand on the concrete sidewalk. He cried and then...


Eli never, never, never wants a bandage, even if it would stop him from bleeding out. He hates to take them off. That, to him, adds insult and pain to his injury.

But last night he wanted one. So I stuck on a day-glow-green one after bathtime. He then got his Woody out of the toy box and said he would sleep with him. Suddenly he sheepishly asked me to put a bandage on Woody's hand, too. So I stuck one on Woody as well.

He then curled down in bed and held Woody ever-so-gently and told him, "You'll be O.K." as he drifted quickly off to sleep.

This morning he even took the bandage OFF himself! My boy is growing up too quickly. He has such a caring way and a gentle spirit. I am so proud to be his Papa!

Monday, April 13, 2009

On Second Thought

Have you ever had a really good thought, after it would could have made a difference?

Well I sure did, Friday evening on the way home from the Unity Service. I had been asked to deal with the physical suffering of Jesus. I researched the observations of the Mayo Clinic and others to formulate a graphic description of death-by-crucifixion. I had organized my thoughts into an outline with flow and even a relief-valve personal reference in the middle. You can't assault the human mind with gore without overstressing it to the point of shut-down.

So in the middle of discussing the tortuous cycle of avoiding the pain and giving in to it so you could catch a breathe, I told how I used to scare my mom by holding my breath when I was mad. My Grandma had counselled her mom to let me go ahead and hold my breathe, because I would start breathing if I passed out.

The too-late thought was that I should have began my portion of the evening by having everyone stand and hold their breath for as long as they could. When they took a breath, they would sit down. That simple, tangable act would have instantly personalized the details I later shared. Every mention of suffocation would have brought a flashback to the opening exercise -- to the burning need to breath, to the way the body cries out for the next breath.

This will be part of any future sharing on death-by-crucifixion.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He IS Risen, Indeed!

Resurrection Sunday was a good day for me.

Faith Community celebrated with sincere and ardent joy. We greeted antiphonally with "He is risen! He is risen, indeed!" The congregation sange with ferver and enthusiasm. The sermon, "Easter Changes Everything!" was uplifting. 55 gathered including several first-time guests.
Tim and Terry were both there so the music was excellent. And a good day was had by all.

Later, after kiddo knaps, we went to Grandma Andy's for lunch. The kids hunted more eggs and we went for a little hike down Three Mile Road.

We returned to our home happy and ready for sleep.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Cave

Silent Saturday was spent at Lisa's folks in OH. We got up early, drove to Luke and Regina's and then took part in a community Easter egg hunt. Then we went to the farm to share the day with family. The kids helped Momaw make a Bunny cake, colored eggs with Regina and otherwise enjoyed cousiness.

In the afternoon the menfolk took the older kids on a nature hike to "the Cave." It was straight uphill and quite a walk. Along the trail we found a set of discarded deer antlers. It was a nice set of 8 points. He should be a bigger buck next season! The kids were facinated.

We left the antlers where we found them. The thinking was to avoid accidental impalement as we hiked the challenging turrain. We would pick them up on the return trip.

At this point I picked up something -- Eli. He had made the first of the hike holding to Pop-Pops hand. Now he was too tired to continue. I hoisted him onto my back and we finished the first half of the trip that-a-way.

When we arrived at "the Cave" I found it was a head of a hollow (pronounced "holler") that had been eroded by the flow of water. It was a very deep undercut. The side walls extended down at at least a 120 degree slope. The hike team stayed at the top en masse. I found a trail leading into the actual cave. Being only 12 to 18 inches wide I slowly made my way around the wall and into the cave.

It was very long, maybe 100 feet. It extended into the mountain 20 or 25 feet. The center was completely dry while the majority was moistened from the falls.

I paused. Silent Saturday is all about such a cool cavernous place. The Garden Tomb was also cut out of rock. I spent 5 minutes or so reflecting on that Sepulcher.

I returned to the group and we trailed back to the antlers. Then we followed an old county dirt road back to the farm. Along the way, as I carried Eli on my back, I tried to pass on some outdoorsmanship. "Don't step over big rocks or fallen logs unless you can see the other side. Snakes." "Sit and slide downhill. Keep your feet ahead of your head." "Don't eat yellow snow..."

I thought of my Grandfathers and my parents sharing the secrets of safely enjoying nature with me. All those boyhood days spent roaming the hills overshadowing Blue Creek. Those fall days hunting squire with my dad. Hiking with mom along old right-o-way roads. Exploring similar outcroppings and caves with Mike, Tim and Terry. It was re-energizing and centering to be on that hill with my people--past and present.

E and I both thoroughly enjoyed the hike to the Cave.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Unity Service

Last night we enjoyed sharing in a five-church "cluster" observance of the events transpiring the first Good Friday. Lisa and the kids, Gail Smith, Elaine and Mom attended from Faith. There were folks from Huntington First Wesleyan, Williamson Wesleyan, Fayette County Community and Grace Wesleyan (host.)

It was interesting to interact with four other ministers, to blend styles and personalities as we each shared a portion of the evenings review of Thursday night through Friday. Some spoke from manuscripts, some with outline only; some prayed with the elegance of years of experience, others with youthful zeal; some were miked, some weren't.

But as the Body came together in Jesus' name, we entered into the solemn day Jesus died. B.R. Kincaid ushered us into the presence of the Lamb with a wonderful prayer. We sang, "Lead Me to Calvary" with the aide of Grace's musicians. Jason acted as celebrant during the Lord's Supper. Rich took us from the Upper Room through John 15's "I am the vine, you are the branches." I was assigned the solemn task of rehearsing the Lord's physical suffering from Gethsemane through scourging to Golgotha (see Excruciating.)

Glen's presentation on "Let this CUP pass from me. Never the less, not my will but yours be done" punctuated the spiritual realities of Calvary. Jesus died for us, in our place, bearing our wrong and paying it's aweful price.

The evening ended as Jason shared a video "It's Friday, but Sunday's a-Comin'!"

I hope in the days to come, we pastors will debrief about our impressions of the evening and plan other unity events. I know my folks need a stronger connection to our church family and I enjoyed the interaction immensely.



...extremely painful
...causing intense suffering
...unbearably distressing

Excruciating...the word comes from Latin meaning, "out of the CROSS." Death on a cross was so painful and torturous, it warranted a pain word of its own. Good Friday may be good for us, but it was excruciating for Him.

0900 Jesus' wrists and feet were impaled. The cross beam was affixed to the upright. As the tenen settled into the mortice and those around settled down to watch, Jesus dying began.

Each breathe was purchased at the price of extreme, excruciating pain. Without the pain, Jesus could not exhale and was sufficating. To force air out and gasp fresh air, He had to pull His weight up by the nails in His wrists and feet. Searing, electric pain shot up and down the nerves from the wrist to the shoulder. His carpel bones ground around the square spike. Breathes were short and shallow.

1200 Three excruciating hours have passed. Jesus weakens from the lack of respiration, dehydration, exposure and shock. Darkness envelopes the land. It seems as if nature trys to shield the embarrassing shame of its Creator. To conceal the horror.

1500 Three more excruciating hours later, Jesus cries out in a loud voice and then exhales for the last time. Remember crucifixion restricts exhalations. It was an act of will to breath His last.

Proticol dictates the Roman execution squad verify death. This was accomplished by smashing the leg bones of the crucified with a malet. Without leg support the victim could not push up and breathe. They also would issue a death thrust with a sword or spear. Jesus they "verified" using the latter method.

When Joseph petitions Pilate for permission to remove and bury the body, an official inquest is ordered to certify His death. Crucifixion has been engineered to kill its victim, but not quickly. Some crucified persons lasted days before expiring. The Death Squad reports the death is "verified."

The Light of the World is extinguished...
The Maker of All is destroyed by His creation...
The Lord of Life is dead...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is the day Jesus mandated a new Sacrament. Tonight is the anniversary of the institution of Communion, the Lord's Supper, Eucharist.

The words always haunt me, "On the night he was betrayed..."

This is the first Maundy Thursday since 2001 that I have not served the Meal of Grace on the anniversary of its inception. Tonight is also Passover. It was the Passover Seder that Jesus modified to be the sign of the New Covenant.

We are meeting with other Wesleyan believers tomorrow for a Good Friday service.

Whenever I think of the Meal of Grace I recall our wedding. As Lisa walked down the aisle in stunning beauty, I heard, "How beautiful, the Radiant beautiful is the Body of Christ. How beautiful the hands that serve the bread and the beautiful..." We actually had the song sung to highlight the nature of the Covenant as mystery -- like the uniting of Christ and His Body, the church.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Holy Week as Pattern

Holy Week refers to the period of time from Palm Sunday through Good Friday to Silent Saturday. It memorializes the last few days of Jesus life and his death. It is sacred time.

During the Lenten Luncheon in Williamson, WV, I heard two ladies share a reflection on the events of Holy Week as a model for spirituality. Later, Lisa and I adapted it for a few Maundy Thursday services. We used the same structure to lead people through prayer stations focused on the various days activities.

Today, I'm using them to scaffold my personal TAWG.

Sunday. The first day of Holy week welcomed Jesus with waving palm-fronds and shouts of "God save!" We come into an understanding of His presence among us with praise, worship and thanksgiving. "I will enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise," said the Psalmist. I pause to praise Him for His character and to thank Him for His previous action on my behalf.

Monday. Monday found Jesus clearing out the Temple (Mark 11.15-19.) People had cluttered the courtyard with commerce, commotion and a cacophony of noise. They were taking advantage of travelling worshippers through the sale of sacrificial animals and exchanging "unclean" currency for temple shekels. Jesus redeclares the true purpose of the place is prayer and physically removes those things that detract from prayer. We need to clear the decks of all distractions from our communion with God, too.

Tuesday. Tuesday the disciples notice that a fig tree Jesus had cursed on Monday was now withered from its roots (Mark 11.20-25.) Trees naturally wither from the branch back to the root as the moisture withdraws. Jesus takes the opportunity to teach about the importance of forgiveness. I need to weed out any bitterness or anything that hinders the productive life of the Spirit.

Wednesday. Mark reports that on this day a lady annoints Jesus with expensive oil while he attends a dinner. In order to pour the precious ointment on Jesus, the jar had to be broken. So, too, my life. If I am to honor Jesus, I must allow the precious, reserved parts of me be broken open. I cannot keep things back for myself and honor Him as He deserves. Broken and spilled out for the love of You, Jesus...

Thursday. Maundy Thursday, the day Jesus gave us a new mandate -- partake in the Meal of Grace. Here we see Jesus institute the means of grace and command us to "Do this in rememberance of me." I must attend to the means of grace: solitude, fellowship, prayer, meditation, Scripture, fasting, giving, worship, etc. These have no power in themselves, they are just the usual channels through which God transfuses new grace into my life.

Friday. The Day of Death has come. But Jesus has been predicting this day, calling his followers to imitate Him in this cross-bearing. Paul says it best, "I am crucified with Christ, I no longer live. But the life I live, I live through Him..."

Saturday. Silence. Waiting. I continue in the Presence as I wait upon the Lord. Not bargaining or pleading or working or doing. I need to be still and experiencially know that He is God...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Holy Weak

Today is Tuesday of Holy Week. Lenten fasting and reflection winds down this week. The focus on the cross climaxes this Friday with the anniversary of the crucifixion. Then Sunday marks the RESURRECTION. These comprise the Highest Holy Days for Christianity.

Yet I feel weaker, less spiritual and further from Calvary than I did Ash Wednesday.

I lay awake at 4 am this morning struggling in prayer. The words got no higher than the ceiling, it seemed. I tossed and turned and wrestled with myself, with doubt, with frustration. My spirit groaned. My flesh cried out for the living God. Around 5:20, Sister woke and I brought her to bed with me.

The journey of faith is mysterious. Intimacy with the Almighty is sometimes followed with silence -- deafening silence. Highs sweep to lows. Clarity muddies into uncertainty.

Yet, Christ calls me to pick up my cross and follow him. Even if I am weak, he calls me His. His strength is pefected in my weakness. The power obviously is His not mine. He is my all in all, even when I'm not all that...

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Blessings Continue

I found out this morning that my Bachelor +15 classification should result in a pay raise! AND, it should also mean a back-pay check to the effective date of my new WVDE credential! Wow! that is good news.

I still have a ways to go on my Multi-Categorical Certification and Masters Degree, but the long journey is progressing!

God is good to me in ways I could not begin to deserve. Chief among them is my wonderful wife who poured so much of herself into making my 40th birthday unforgettable. She is the joy in and love of my life!!! She has been so patient while I have been away in night courses or summer school and I want this new chapter of my life to bring her joy and return on her investment and sacrifice.

Lisa is the best and deserves the best in return!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Palm Sunday

On the way to church this morning, I opened the mail from the previous two days. I was away and could not do so Friday or Saturday.

The WV Department of Education has issued me a teaching credential for LD Special Education and Bachelor + 15 pay classification!!

I was ready to really wave those palm fronds as I thought of how God had just helped me find favor with the WVDE.

Our crowd was small, but my heart was full!!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Fishing and Partying

Day two of the Boy's-Day-Out.

We tried to fish in the cold and wind, but were not successful at catching any. It was good to stand on the bank with my three brothers and share the morning together.

As boys, we always went fishing in the rain and cold during Easter Break along the banks of Blue Creek.

Kudos to Terry for loaning me a reel that actually worked and for going out of his way to drive me back to Poca!

Once back in Poca, I was suprised by a party in my honor. Many family, church-family and friends were there. It was great.

Lisa has outdone herself in planning and social networking with this weekend for me.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today's my 40th birthday.

For a suprise, Lisa rented a cabin at North Bend State Park for me to get away. She also invited my three brothers, my father-in-law and my sister-in-law's husband. This is my circle of male identity. They each drove a considerable distance and took valuable time from their schedules to spend it with me.

First, I enjoyed a tremendous visit with Mike as we drove from my house to North Bend. It was 2 hours of iron sharpening iron spiritual feasting.

Then, we joined Roger at the cabin and the spiritual recharge continued. We shared shop talk about the pastorate (both Mike and Roger serve as shepherds in their congregations.)

Along comes Luke, my brother-in-law. The male bonding and energizing continued.

Finally, Tim and Terry arrived and the political reparte that began in Mike's truck assumed a full-bore conservatism-fest. Tim lead the charge with much about stimulous and socialism.

We feasted on steak, potatoes, salad and toast from Roger's hand. We enjoyed laughs and conversation until about 2am.

It was a wonderful day.

Thanks to all who made it so!!!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

My Boy is SO Smart!!

This morning, while driving to schools, E looks out the window and says, "Daddy, those clouds are purple. What does that mean? Pink ones mean rain." A little further down the road, he muses, "Daddy, those are aligator clouds." [a sign that the weather is changing]

I have been pointing out certain cloud formations and their prediction power for the day's weather. But having only mentioned them twice at most, I am truly impressed with his memory capacity and his ability to draw inferences and apply them to new cloud formations.

He delights me with his talkative, pokey reflections on life. I get to see the world again through his truly fresh eyes. I see with wonder what I have come to take for granted through constant exposure.

My boy is SO smart!!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April Blog Challenge

Today is the first day of April -- April Fool's Day.

In times past, Lis and I have used this day to announce the secret name of our children and other nifty pranks.

But my announcement today is no joke, no prank.

I am challenging myself to post every day of this 30-day month. I have never been consistent with the postings here, let alone made it for a solid period of time longer than a week. But I want to make better use of my time and spend more reflecting.

It is the time for reflections. Friday I cross a threshold into mid-life. I will mark my FORTIETH birthday -- the big 4-0! I have not accomplished all I had dreamed in boyhood but I have experienced more than boys can dream. I have spent much too long on life's treadmill of mediocracy and I have made marked progress as well. I have rested too long on potential and gifts.

I want the next phase of life to be full and productive. So I am challenging myself to live up to potential, to exercise the gifts God has granted and see what might come of it. I feel a pull toward intentionality.

So tune in dear reader and see if I can, with God's grace, the love of my good woman and kids, meet this first challenge and follow through.