Working Out

Brutal cross training work out today. I lagged behind, trying my best just to finish, or try to. Push ups on knees, trotting the sprinting portion, and splitting my assigned number of jumping jacks, etc with fellow gracious worker bees.

Our leader read from the book of Hebrews, ch. 12, where it speaks of endurance and running the race with a “cloud of witnesses” in the forefront of your mind. Made me remember how I’ve heard ch. 11, which is called the hall of faith, is a catalogue of the cloud of witnesses. It’s a list of all the giants of the faith, i.e., Moses, Abraham, Abel, Joseph, etc and their accomplishments of faith, not of things they did, but things they did in working out their faith.

I recently spoke with my uncle who is a former pastor about his comment that the Bible talking about working out your salvation with “fear and trembling” is not what we as Christians should be selling to the lost sheep in the world. He thinks “love wins” is what wins, and thus should be preached above all. Tough love, is what he left out, that which Jesus exemplified in dying in our place. But also that suffering, although painful, breeds the peace of righteousness, and it allows us to share our savior’s suffering which purified him for all that He did.

So we have a cloud (dense number) of folks who not only witnessed firsthand God’s glory through their faith, but we also have our Lord Jesus, who is still in human form btw, praying for us to the Father God. He is our high priest, who did not pass through a curtain to the Holy of Holies, but through the heavens to get straight to God’s throne to intercede. Bc only He could do that, not just bc of who He is, but bc of who He became, and more importantly what He did, by faith, working out OUR salvation through fear and trembling…and a lot of prayer. 🙂


The Purpose of the Christian Life

St. Augustine, a Catholic bishop, actually associated with the Protestant Reformation, was caught up in the notion of “sovereign joy”. He was convinced the whole of the Christian’s life was to be sold out to the pursuit of holiness, and the pursuit of joy in God alone.

The Bible states that “without holiness no one shall see the Lord”. So what is so important about holiness and what is it? Israel from Biblical times was a nation that God chose to be different, called out, set apart from pagan nations. In our case, that’s the world. The key is GOD CHOSE. Israel originated from Jacob, a tricksy character whom God called anyway, most likely to show that this Christian existence is not about our (man’s) merit based on deeds, but on God who shows mercy. So holiness is being different than our surroundings, and it’s important because God is not of the world. He created it. Furthermore, Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church tells us the Christian is “seated in the heavenlies, where Christ is”, even while we walk as sojourners on this planet. For the follower of Christ, we have already crossed over!

So I’ve been thinking about Augustine’s thoughts about “the whole of the Christian’s purpose”. I indeed can identify with this, but as a part of my life, not the whole. My pursuit of God and holiness, even my interest in such, waxes and wanes. At this point, the best way I can see purpose as a Christian is in maintenance. Putting in the work, both by us and by God, to keep the spiritual motor purring.

It’s true we are not justified by our deeds, but work IS required. And our deeds ARE important. In the grander scheme of things, they are only filthy rags. That’s how God values them. But, He has put in place certain deeds for us to accomplish that He has designed ahead of time for our benefit. In the end, what He wants is our heart. But this, at least in part, requires identification with His son, the man of sorrows. Because it’s through suffering that we gain character, and perseverance, and joy. And joy does not disappoint.

Vanity!…Art and Duty

..Is it vanity to create art even if nobody else gets to enjoy it?

…Is it vanity to serve God so I can grow, even if the point is not to benefit others?

It has been my hobby for years to create and record music.  If not a talent, it has been a burning desire and satisfaction.  So, I figure it doesn’t matter If others don’t get to enjoy my hobby with me.  My hobby is me expressing myself, reflecting my God image bearing design to create like He did and does…

But where or when does it become vanity?  In excess?  I can definitely obsess about the music, neglecting the things that need my attention.  And the reason I know it is obsession is that it makes the music become less enjoyable.  Everything in moderation I suppose.

So what about my duty as a Christ follower to serve others?  This one easily makes me think there are a lot of life lessons to be learned through serving others.  And there are, but is that why we do it?  I think it’s hard, like for anything, to get started, but like portrayed in the movie Soul, there is definitely a zone to be entered in.  But the zone is not the point either, nor is it the people to be served.  It is a closer walk with Thee.  Because we are strangers on this planet, if you belong to Christ, and the true treasure awaits!

Live Shows and Faithful Friends

I once ran into a friend of mine after a Phish concert. We used to play cowboys and Indians as kids. He asked me what songs did the band sing. He apparently was a “faithful friend” of the band, something that was popularized by the Grateful Dead and inherited by Phish, a following…of campers (people and vans), lots of drugs, and interest in the night’s setlist.

So I took upon myself the other day the exercise of tallying up the number of live shows I”ve been to. I got to 60 then thought, I gotta include everything, local gigs, festivals, etc. I stopped at 100! Probably 75 were seen in college. No wonder I got such “good” grades. Well…I did have a Bible teacher at Auburn whose final exam consisted of us “having to” name an Indigo Girls song. Needless to guess, he gave us the answer, everybody an A, and a happy holiday. I made the Dean’s list that quarter.

Speaking of live shows, I just recorded my first rap song, and more importantly, first song with a metronome!!! I have 2 self-recorded (non-studio, non-mastered) albums that range from self-deprecating to prophetic…all in one song!

anyway…live long and prosper!


Complexity and The Hook

“Complexity haunts me for I am 2 men, entrenched in a battle that I’ll never win.”              – DC Talk

Man, can’t we all identify a bit with the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome?  If you can’t then you might be what’s known as a rock.

It’s so interesting to me how so many folks seem to be striving to look complex, when all they really want is a rocking chair on a front porch in the Ozarks.  Maybe complexity is just what comes out in the wash.  

One of my favorite things is to try to detect as quickly as I can whether God is important to someone or…more of a felt nuisance.  You might agree with me that it’s both, bc we’re addicted to comfort and change mostly is not comfortable, but is necessary.

One of my fav songs is Hook by Blues Traveler.  “It’s the hook that brings you back.”  In most cases if you hear an alternative sound, it will be in the verses (if lyrics are involved) and you’ll hear the hook or the catchy chorus in the middle somewhere.  But I remember being young and wondering why  did we hear so many songs on the radio that involved many repetitions of their choruses?  After all, everyone needs a hook, but not so much a drum kit in their ear.  Well…not everyone at least.

Keeping this one short…”peace that passes understanding” out.  🙂

“My discipline fails me. My knowledge it fools me.

But you are my shelter. Oh…the strength that I need.

It’s my will. I’m not moving…”

“Everybody has a plan til they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

What about below the belt?  What’s your secret of getting back on the horse when you fall off and get kicked in the face?

I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ parables that took their form to sink in only with those who had “ears to hear”, namely his disciples, although even they didn’t get it much of the time.  So my question is what do we take away from his teachings that we know can’t be followed literally?  Ex. Plucking your eye out or cutting your hand off when it causes you to sin.  Was he just stressing the importance of self care, the opposite of which can leave us astray?

Surely, when the people heard these things, like you must “eat my flesh and drink my blood”, they must have felt punched in the mouth.  ‘He’s a healer, magician, def a teacher, but then how to we take these difficult teachings?’  Is He still our Lord and master when He seems like He’s setting us up to be torn down?

My only answer is He was trying to teach the reality and depth of destruction Hell holds for those who seek their own will instead of His.  By laying down a hierarchy with Hell at the top of the worst, He must have meant yes, there’s a cost to be counted in being His disciple, but the cost is nothing compared to losing your soul.

George MacDonald said in a poem, “it won’t seem difficult at all to follow your guide when you look down from heaven”.  This quote has kept me going recently.  Thing is, the hope of glory is our strength, but when we don’t cultivate that hope,  we begin to wonder if it’s worth it when we’re in the throes of hardship. 

How many times have I thought, ‘I may as well go to hell bc I can’t get past this awful addiction.’  We think in the now, thinking future planning too difficult when the now feels too real.  

Another thought I have is, “God, if you were cruel enough to create Hell, and to send more of your children there than to Heaven, then I might as well go to Hell bc I’m not sure I want to be with a deity who does that.”  The thing I keep coming back to is my old pastor, Randy teaching us about the Lord’s supper: “If you’re not in Christ, this meal is not for you.  If you’re blatantly living your own life in disregard of His calling, this meal is not for you.  But if you fall and get back up, fall and get back up, fall and get back up, this meal is for you.”

All we can do is keep fighting often times, especially when the only progress we see is coming back to getting back up.  Proverbs says, “the righteous man falls 7 times in a day.  But he gets back up”.

The devil has a plan too, until we submit to God and resist him.  Then he is the one with the punch in the mouth.

The Business of Ministry & the ministry of business

Where do we start?  Why are we trying to remake ourselves, get to the other side?

If we’re in ministry, we tell our financial supporters what business (aka busyness) our work is about.  “Well we offer after school tutoring, relationships, and Bible studies!”  But not all necessarily in that order, lest we return to the question of the title of this writing.

If we are highly ranked in Great Britain we might be the Prime Minister.  What business he must attend to!

So…It boils down to what an entity calls itself right?  Or is it more about what the entity does?

Maybe it’s about playing vs. working…all work and no play makes for dullness.  All play and no work turns the play into work.  Ah…but what if the work were turned into play!

What if the effort were all in the ride’s dragging our fat butts up the first uphill ascent?  After that, it’s pretty much up to momentum.  My guess is that we make our grand evolution based on what the ride was, not is.

Is is painful.  It’s unknown, unfamiliar, random…exciting!…adventurous!…and chaotic.

Was is more objective – ‘you were on that ride right beside me.  What did you think?  Mighty fun right?’…’uh right’.  

Ok so objective, nor even concrete have the last word.  But regardless of how it was in the moment, it was an experience…to remember.

So bust out that camera embedded into your telephone and “capture” the moment, so it can be “released” into an experience.

I have been pontificating lately on St. Paul’s admonition to the church to “take every thought captive, to the obedience of Christ”.  This adds another dimension to our conception of the Holy Spirit, does it not?  I mean, what happened to sensing and acting, you know, like the Jedi knights!

For me, my litmus test has become, if it’s scary and hard, it must be the right thing to do.  This too must be held captive, because an experience without a reference point, aka obeying Christ, is just that, an experience, a photo (not even with a real camera that you twist and stuff).

Pharmakeia?..or just Pharmaceuticals?

I was introduced to the concept of Pharmakeia by a friend who reiterates the directive given to him by his acting psychiatrist at the time.  My friend asked why was he being prescribed medication for what was called a psychosis.  The doctor replied, “For people like you”.

Sounds scary but is this attitude indicative of modern psychiatry?

So, Pharmakeia, as described by my friend is the idea that pharmaceuticals carry the potency of witchcraft.  As one myself who is dependent on psychiatric meds, I beg to differ bc of how I see the drugs help.  But does that mean that the pills are not witchcraft?

I suppose I should consult a witch doctor.  After all, I’d probably get a more thorough response than from most psychiatrists.  Thankfully my current doc is out of the norm, thoughtfully probing and diagnosing very logically.  I like how he says, “it’s not the diagnosis that matters so much as finding the right meds for the symptoms”.

 A friend has engraved it upon my mind that, “it’s your body.  You need to have the last word for what goes into your body”.  His thoughts have propelled me into more research before blindly accepting my doc’s advice.  But still I wonder, what about the notion of witchcraft?  Can it be ruled out so easily?

Last time I tried to go off all my meds, I foolishly did it all at one time.  It felt really weird for a while, then calmed me down, giving me a renewed vigor for life.  (After a few days I collapsed mentally and restarted the meds immediately).  I was starting to buy in to the witchcraft idea.  The first doctor that diagnosed me, at Vanderbilt, said I definitely had schizophrenia and (the dagger) he said I should never engage in a religious vocation.

Now, psychiatrists move quick.  They have a long waiting list and time is money, and they are not counselors, so you gotta be willing to talk symptoms and meds in a short amount of time.  He changed my diagnosis to bipolar to schizoaffective and back to schizophrenia (just for obtaining government benefits).  But again, he wasn’t out to go by the book more than to listen to me.  That’s why I’ve stuck with him for years.

I’m a Christian, and the spiritual forces at work in my and our world can be brutal.  But especially how it all affects our mental health.  My doctor doesn’t subscribe to talking spiritual, probably  with good reasons, like lack of time.  But I know I am comprised of more than a seemingly broken brain.  I am a child of God, made in God’s image, with His spirit living in me.  

So, at one point I tried another psychiatrist who is Christian.  Well, I quickly returned to the first because the Christian doc wanted me off all pharmaceuticals, replacing with natural supplements.  Needless to say this was preposterous and didn’t come close to a beneficial result.

But maybe he took that approach for a reason.  Pharmakeia reason?

I tend to think I’ll be on meds for life.  I guess I’m half and half on the witchcraft idea, but I know how I get without meds, and I tend to believe more in a good future for myself when taking the meds.

For me, the pharmakeia lies in trying to get me unstable by skipping or foregoing meds.  Lies, lies, lies.

What’s your experience with mental health medication?  Some swear only by natural sources like marijuana or mushrooms among other home remedies.

One thing that peaks my interest in Pharmakeia is how the doc tells you said drug will take 2-3 weeks to really work.  My experience has always seen the meds work the best when I first take them, as if the shock to my system is all that counts.  Waiting for weeks doesn’t help anybody.  Maybe the doc is selling you a line to get some pills off the shelves.

I think about Jesus’ response to the coin found in the fish’s mouth…”render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”.  That is, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Such things are too complex to figure out definitively.  We must pray for each other, and meet together.

“Where one or more are gathered, there I am.”

Testing the Spirits

“for many spirits have gone out into the world, and not all of them are from God”.

I’m writing this one today mainly to sort out something for myself.  Hope it applies to you and of course please reply if it does…

So I’ve been told up and down that when I feel a spiritual message, to test it.  This advice is clearly in the Bible, but how to test it is the rub of my writing.  The wisdom I’ve been given is to test the spiritual message with Scripture, because the Holy Spirit always agrees with God’s text.  Makes sense right?  Bc we believe the God who inspired the Bible is the same as the Spirit who is our guide today.

But of course, I’m sure you can attest…we can get a lot of messages and many can be something like…”you should stop and eat something now”…or “you should leave your job before finishing, bc your faith is more important”.  You know, stuff that we just don’t know how to align with the Bible’s teachings.

One thing I know always helps is verbalizing the messages we’re getting to a trusted friend.  One such friend I have confesses that he shares because “his dashboard is busted”…inherently, so he needs others to help with guidance, or interpretation.  So yes!, when I do talk it out with someone sensitive to spiritual things, and Scripture, I often see these messages I’m getting as, more often than not, plain silly, or sometimes even blasphemous.  (I know right, like why couldn’t I have seen the blasphemous ones coming?!)

So my question is, where does Scripture say that it is the scale, or mirror to hold up to spiritual messages?  One I can think of is “all scripture is God-breathed and useful for every good work”.  2 Timothy.  Learned it in College Bible class.  But it still leaves me hanging a bit.  I would say, ultimately, trusting Scripture, and other things, like God in general boil down to a question of faith.  

In the moment I ask myself, “Do I believe God is speaking right now?”  Most times, I would say yes, but it still sounds outlandish.  Like today, when I felt compelled to leave my sweeping duty for my parents, who actually paid me something for it, because my faith, or prioritizing to be more specific, was more important than finishing what I said I would do, and doing a good job.  Naturally, I bucked, responding to the spirit, “no I’m gonna do what I said I was going to do, and I’m gonna do a good job”.  Sounds like a solid defense right?…until the spirit keeps on, and on, until I surrender my notion that it couldn’t be God asking such an unusual request. So I yield, or ignore…

We MUST remember 2 things:

1- That Satan, our adversary masquerades as an angel of light.  He likes to sound like God, and most likely he likes it when we keep things to ourselves. 

2- That our help comes from God.  So even when we verbalize our struggle to someone else, that doesn’t solve everything.  After all, it often just paints you out to sound like a loon.  I often elicit others to pray for me, bc in one or more there is power, and also bc I don’t expect others to be the voice of God, illuminating a perfect wisdom about what my radio is receiving.

 A third, I would say of honorable mention, is “know that you know that you know”.  In other words, when you’re unsure, stick to what you already know, like…you know you gotta test the unction, you know you have certain bible knowledge for measuring (that the Holy Spirit WILL remind you of in perfect timing), that if right, it must be something God foreordained you to do, and that He is a God of infinite understanding.  So, if you don’t do the right thing then, He will make sure you get the tools to do it next time. And in time, you may get a hunger for doing the right thing.

This is when it IS such a relief to know we do have God’s words in a book, even if the related passages require faith to be understood as a road map.  And the important thing is that our faith develop, get stronger.  And if we do stray off the path, God is still on the throne, and He will use the bad for your good in the end, if you are His child.  (You know who you are!)  And I suggest that His spirit will remind us that God is always at work, whether behind the scenes or in them!  He always gets the last word, and even our temptations, even the ones we fall to or struggle with overcoming, are tools in his kit of molding us into something great!

Like right now, I could sit here thinking about time I’ve wasted not being out of the house, doing something good for God.  Or, I could remember that my good works are pre-ordained, AND that there is value in sorting things out.

“If you bear the cross cheerfully, the cross will bear thee.” – Thomas A. Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

The Mandalaurian – A review

So I’ve jokingly decided that the Mandalurian must be a Christian bounty hunter, fitting into the Presby-costal denomination…

He sure has a knack for justice, and a bit of compassion, along with killings to add.  But he has a good work ethic, something staying alive and keeping his ship in the air will do for you.

Being a bounty hunter, the first words of more than one episode are, “so what’s the job?”  Often times he is hard to coerce, enticing the viewer into extreme mission in front.

What can be left after all these sequels and prequels?  The only characters left to story about are R2D2 and C3po.  Well…Lucasfilm has done it again, spotlighting a rogue character “above the law” which is why he is so sought after by supporting characters.

Sporting the Dark Knight theme of being trained by masters of warfare, he tells us himself, “The Mandalaurians aren’t a race.  It’s a creed.”  He will not go against his motto: “This is the way” nor will he take off or let anyone else take off his helmet.

All in all, high viewing pleasure.