Why we're here...

Love and marriage are the greatest adventures in life, and they point they way to our relationship with the Almighty.

We're honored to be a member of the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association...click on their logo to visit them.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Why Didn't You Make It Stop?

It's one of the eternal questions.

God? Why didn't You, who made the world in a week, make my hurt stop?

It's also the most vexing theological question there is, because there's no answer that's completely satisfactory, and some of the usual answers are completely unsatisfactory...and scary:

  1. Because He isn't there - there's enough evidence of some sort of divine spark in the world that this one's a non-starter.
  2. Because He doesn't care - if He didn't care, we'd never have the feeling of Him comforting our wounded hearts. Most people have experienced this in some way or another...enough that I think 'self-hypnosis' can be ruled out. Self-hypnosis is tough, and most people, especially in emotional straits, aren't that skilled.
  3.  Because He can't - Yikes. This would be like being wheeled into surgery and the doctor saying to you, "Could you please tell me how to do this?"
  4. Because He's busy somewhere else - Double Yikes, because this means we have a local deity who travels from village to village...if you're in the wrong place on the route of this circuit rider, too bad.
  5. Because He set the universe in motion, and He won't interfere - This is better, and if I understand him correctly, it's what Thomas Jefferson believed. It's a call to courage to see us through...but it ignores the existence of miracles. There are enough 'documented miracles' that, statistically, we have to at least allow the presence of Divine Intervention as the root cause.
  6. He does, but we can't see it because we don't have the big picture - Also better...our lives interact and intersect on so many levels that we can't see Him working, and see that what we perceive as a horrible situation would have been far worse without His intervention.
I'll toss is another one...Number 7..."Why didn't YOU?" asked God.

Look at the world I've given you...look at the homeless, and the marginalized elderly. Look at the countries whose agonies you ignore, turning the dial past Rwanda to watch "The Simpsons". Look at the animals you torture to test your cosmetics and deodorants. Look at the casual cruelty you mete out as an individual, in gossip over the phone, or in Internet forums.

Why didn't you stop it?

I've shown you the way, with miracles. I've given you My Son, to torture and kill, and so spend your destructive energy.

Why didn't you stop it?

There are holes in this one, too..it implies either specific guilt, which may be untrue, or collective guilt, which we see as unfair. But if one does accept the premise of collective guilt, it does become better.

And we do admit collective guilt. All the time. Osama bin Laden's wife was killed when he was. Did you mourn her? If not, if your response, deep in your own heart, was "Too bad, lady, you should have kept better company", then you've bought into collective guilt. Completely.

And, as for Job, all of your arguments...and mine...fade away leaving us naked to God's judgement.

And, I hope, His mercy.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Selling Jesus

As Christians, we're supposed to spread the Good News.

Normally, sharing good news is pretty easy. Just start saying, "have you heard?" and the news itself takes over from there.

Wouldn't that be great if it were true for the Gospel! Unfortunately...it isn't. Two thousand years of historical accretions have dulled the message, made it unbelievable, or have made it unattractive. Hard to believe, really - the heart of the Gospel message is Victory Over Death, but a lot of preachers really want to amend it to "God Hates Gays", or "Men Who Don't Wear Suits Aren't Godly".

But all of the 'is what it is'. Here are some suggestions for really sharing the Good News. Not all of them work for everyone, but all of them have worked for me.

  1. Live the life - if you're committed to the Gospel, but you still like to rob the occasional liquor store, perhaps evangelising should be put on hold until you get that out of your system...
  2. Enjoy living the life - nothing more unattractive than a sour saint
  3. Keep it simple and short - for example, talk about Jesus' Resurrection, and the people who saw it - and the reliability of eyewitness accounts that are consistent.
  4. Back it up - be prepared to back up your arguments logically. Saying 'you just have to believe' begs the question, 'why'?
  5. Show respect - saying '"you're wrong, I'm right!" is fun, and might make you feel good, but the Muslim you're talking to may take a different view. Remember - it's about sharing, and not taking away.
  6. Know when to quit - unless the person you're talking with has a lot of questions, you're done in about two minutes, and that may be pushing it. You can only hold attention so long.
  7. Follow up victory - if you get a person to show interest, be reliable in following it up. Send them literature, meet them, at church, whatever. Do what you say you'll do.
  8. Be gracious in defeat - if it's a no-sell, accept it, and be nice. Don't look at the person as doomed to Hell - you don't know that, and it' not your business. If you can demonstrate, at the hardest thing, that living the Christian life is something good, you may have done more than all the evangelising you'll ever do.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Convenient Targets

One of the truly surprising things about Christianity, as practiced in some parts of the United States today, is the stunning level of intolerance that is freely and cheerfully aired in the 'Christian media'.

the favorite target these days seems to be Islam. From a religion that recognizes virtually all of the Old and New Testaments (with the admitted downgrading of Jesus Christ to the role of prophet), a demon has been created. A major figure in Christian broadcasting recently spoke of 'sweeping away that old Mosque of Sultan Omar'...which now occupies Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

How did we come to this? How did a faith based on love, and a message of turning the other cheek, and refraining from judgement, become so vicious?

Recent events have clearly played a role, obviously. A large number of prominent leaders who happen to be Muslim have called for jihad in the form of mass slaughter...and have both planned and carried out these atrocities.

But condemning every Muslim, and condemning their faith besides, is a terribly wrong path, if only because Christians are hardly blameless. One has only to look at Northern Ireland in the 20th century. One can also go back to the Inquisition, if one likes...and beyond that, to the Crusades. (Which is where the infamous phrase, "kill 'em all and let God sort them out' had its genesis).

One wonders at Billy Graham's choice of the word 'Crusade' to describe his evangelical efforts.

And it's worth remembering that the belt buckles worn by Hitler's SS bore the inscription "Gott Mit Uns"...God With Us.

A simple explanation is pure xenophobia, the fear and hatred of the different. But there seems to be another, and more sinister force at work - a biased interpretation of the Book of Revelation, biased to justify demonization...and, at its worst, excuses extermination.

Revelation is a terribly difficult book. Almost completely allegorical, it's couched in symbolism that probably had very clear and specific meaning in the First Century AD.

Trouble is, that was 2000 years ago. Our culture isn't the same. The meanings we ascribe to words can change completely, even in a few decades. Think of the word 'gay'. it used to mean happy and carefree, but if you use it that way now you'll get some really weird looks. "He's so gay!", in its current interpretation, would be a point of disbelief in, say, 1950.

Revelation's a lot more than words, of course, and that's even worse. You can pretty well fill in the blanks, come up with a consistent model for the symbology, and someone will believe you. Pick a convenient enemy that's already suspect, and it makes it even more plausible.

So we now have 'Tribulation Timelines', and since we have the timeline, we have to identify someone, or some group, as the focus of evil.

Easy choice.

And we can even feel annointed, as we share the hate.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Negotiating With Nightmares

Do you have nightmares?

A surprising number of people don't...and aren't they lucky! For the rest of us, an occasional nightmare is something that at best leaves us awake in the small hours of the morning, and feeling shaky...or at worst it can change the tenor of the next day...or days.

There are those who would suggest that it's important to understand and interpret every vivid dream. They may be right - it may be important - but what I'd like to suggest here are some strategies for dealing with the problem, both in terms of prevention, and in terms of minimizing the downstream effect.

For prevention -

  • One of the best ways to prevent unpleasant dreams is to watch what you eat and drink. A heavy meal just before bed puts your digestive system into action just when the rest of your body is trying to stand down. Give yourself some time after a big meal.
  • One the other hand, a light snack isn't a bad idea. Many people have a mild problem with low blood sugar, and this can cause insomnia...or nightmares
  • Be careful about what you read or watch. No need to limit yourself the The Waltons, or Louisa May Alcott...but perhaps 'Event Horizon' might be better saved for earlier in the evening.
  • Pray before sleeping. Addressing the Almighty is always a good idea, but there's a special importance in making a habit of touching base with the Big Fella before committing to sleep.
After having a nightmare, I find the following helpful -
  • Get up, turn on some lights, move around the house. Change your scenery, both mental and physical. to change the reality in your head
  • Get something light to eat and/or drink
  • If your spouse is amenable, wake him or her up. That kind of mutual support is one of the things marriage is all about, and just talking, or sharing quiet time, can be a wonderful, warm cure for an uneasy mind.
  • Yep...pray. Read the Bible, if that helps, or read a religious author you like. A few lines will often be enough, since your recently-woken mind will be more receptive.
For me, personally, avoiding nightmares is hard, but the dreams (most based on memories) that used to poison a day...or a week...get drained of most of their power by following the steps I've outlined above.

I hope that they'll help you, too.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

American Dream

Recently I was watching the director's commentary that Antoine Fuqua did for his recent film, "Shooter". Get me thinking. (Get the movie - It's absolutely riveting, with fine acting and a pace that's fast, but not so fast that you can't enjoy the nuances of acting and production...it deserves to become a classic.)

"Shooter", starring Mark Wahlberg, is the story of a retired marine scout/sniper framed for the assassination of the Archbishop of Ethiopia - who was supposedly killed when he 'missed' the President of the US.

In the beginning of the film, Wahlberg's character, Bob lee Swagger, loses a spotter on an operation, reires, and goes to live in the mountains, "growing and shooting his own food". Lured out of retirement to help prevent an assassination by planning it (hypothetically), he's framed for the event, and spends most of the rest of the film running for his life, and planning revenge.

Antoine Fuqua raised some interesting points about Swagger as a character - that fundamentally, he's a child. When he's hurt by the loss of his spotter (and best friend), he quits, and vanishes into the hills to live as close to an independent life as he can manage. As the film progresses, he shows aspects of the same childlike self-centeredness, but has to learn to integrate his behavior, and ultimately his hopes, with those of the people with whom he shares the world.

In the film's climax, Swagger has to accept a role in a messy, hard to understand world that is nonetheless the only one we've got.

The kind of independence that Swagger enjoys at the beginning of the film is the sort that's been mythologized for decades...the strong, independent man, out in nature, beholden to no one, and emotionally there for his dog and horse. But one of the points that Mr. Fuqua made is that, first, this is a sham - that kind of true independence was almost never possible, and that at best people who tried to practice it had to cherry-pick aspects of civilization that they needed to avoid a life that would quickly become nasty, brutish, and short.

Second, the dream itself is a childish form of escape - it's running, and hiding.

Ouch. (Those who know me, are probably laughing now. Those who don't - well, there's reason to chuckle.)

The thing is, he's right. While there's nothing wrong with solitude, it's not what we're about. We are social beings - a lot closer to lions than we are to tigers or bears, oh my! (Sorry, couldn't resist.) I could cite sociological studies (if I was smart enough to understand them) but instead I'll cite what I see. people with a lot of friends are easy to be around. Recluses are almost always weird, and slightly scary. The recipe's proven by eating, and isolation is a fallen custard, a dropped souffle, a burnt salad.

In the end, it takes more courage to live among one's fellows, and to face one's obligations to them - and their obligations to oneself in return. Hiding is easy. Violence is easy. Talking and living with people, that's hard. (Ask anyone who's married.)

The myth is a pretty one, and I suspect it'll survive. It'll inspire generations of young men (and, I hope, women) to test themselves against nature or circumstance, alone, to learn their limits.

And then, I sincerely hope they'll return to the circle of family, friends, and village to tell stories of their time 'alone', to spark the dreams of the wide-eyed six-year-olds sitting by the fire. Be it a real one, or the electronic glow of Facebook.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dig It.

History isn't dead...it's all around us, embodied in the culture, institutions, and monuments that mark our society.

By these standards, 'Biblical Proof' should be unnecessary. Our culture's still the freest and most just the world's seen, as well as one of the few in which mercy is legally codified, and, broadly speaking, practiced.

And yet, folks want to go digging in the ground to prove the existence of Solomon's Stables or Matthew's tax Collecting Desk or Paul's Pen.

Not a bad thing. Hard proof is useful for convincing doubters (and helping those whose doubt wavers), and besides, archaeology is fun. Ask Indiana Jones.

However, we do have to be aware that there are those who want to disprove Christianity, and use archaeology and paleontology to do it.

They typically get funded. Christian researchers usually don't, at least not nearly to the same degree.

They can sound very erudite and learned and convincing, and they might present reams of careful research. But when you listen to these academic big cheeses, please remember this...from a former academic:


Some basic points, a short 'primer' on academic research...

  • Academic research is funded through grants, typically given through the federal government (like the national Science Foundation), states (highway departments fund some archaeological research, when their roads go through sites), and semi-governmental or private foundations. 
  • Research costs money. Colleges take cuts ranging from 20% to close to 50% for overhead
  • Research takes time, and a lot of the heavy lifting is done by students, who don't come cheap
  • Research projects are typically time-limited
  • The subject and quality of research, not to mention the topics chosen, are absolutely vital to keeping an academic job, and getting advancement
Research starts with either the issuance of an RFP (request for proposals) from a funding organization, or a 'blind' proposal submission from an individual researcher, or research group.

This said, it should be pretty clear that research starts with a set idea. "I think this, my reasons are these, and I want to go about proving it in this manner. Please give me a lot of money."

The funding organization then has to decide between competing proposals on who gets the available money, and how much (it's almost always less than the researcher wants).

All of these factors make academic research one of the most politicized processes around. Going to almost any funding organization with an idea to prove part of the Bible, is simply a non-starter. Conversely, going in with an anti-religious attitude (preferably cloaked in fashionable jargon, but clear to those in the know) will be met with warmth and sympathy.

Evolution's still a theory. There are a lot of arguments against natural selection, the most convincing dealing with the time frames involved...but you'll never get funding to look at these topics. Darwin rules, and no one wants to allow questioning, because even listening to an argument would undermine the listener's position.

Don't look to the academics for truth. Look to them for entertainment, and wish them well, for they are, in the end, highly trained seals barking and clapping their flippers for mackerel-money.

If you want truth, look to the Bible, and then look to our society, and the behavior of people and governments. Does it fit? Does it correctly explain phenomena we see today? if it does...then its reliability in other areas can be more highly regarded.

And look to your heart, because this is where the hard kernels of truth will be most finely, and purely ground.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Sacred Cows Go To Church

Time to boot some sacred ecclesiastical cows in the arse.

  1. For those preachers who preach the prosperity message and maintain that Jesus and His apostles were at least well-to-do...why did Jesus have to be interred in a borrowed tomb?
  2. Jesus' sermons were rare, and usually composed of parables that illustrated points He wanted to make. So how come we get long sermons that are devoted to a line-by-line 'unpacking' of the Bible?
  3. While we don't know a lot about how Jesus' followers dressed, we do know that His sermons were relatively informal affairs, like as not held outdoors. So why do we have big, fancy churches, uniformed ushers, and, often, professionally prepared and equipped musicians?
  4. Jesus didn't follow the rituals of the Pharisees - but so much of what we do in church is ritualized. While this may be comforting, Christianity is supposed to make you think. It's not a security blanket.
  5. Why do we have cry rooms to separate out the kids, when Jesus said not to hinder them?
  6. Why do we have Sunday School and VBS, when we're told to bring kids up in such a way that they won't 'depart from it'? I think it meant bring them up ourselves, and not outsource.
I'm neither a clergyman nor a theologian, so I don't know any of the answers. But it seems to me that Christianity, as practiced in the West today, has drifted from some of the characteristics that formed the early church, and made it different in specific from the practice of Judaism at the time.

Maybe McLuhan was right, and the medium (or method of delivery) has become the message.

Sure hope not.

Transparent Soulmates

Yesterday, a friend on Facebook called my attention to an article by Sheila Wray Gregoire, on the danger of emotional affairs (http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2012/09/emotional-affairs/).

It's a very well written piece on a very sensitive subject. Making an emotional connection with someone outside your marriage has always been a danger, and its even more so now, with the greatly increased avenues of communication we have available.

And the reduced demand for accountability. We're not supposed to feel guilty about stuff. It's bad for our psychological health. I mean, guilt can set up an inferiority complex!

Well, HELL. If you start thinking the gal you met at the bookstore coffee shop understand you better than your wife does...and you stop there a few times a week after work to see her and talk about books or hiking or how lonely you sometimes feel...well, dude, you ARE inferior.

You're betraying a promise. Don't expect respect. Don't expect understanding for your having found your 'soulmate'. Cowboy the hell up and honor your commitments. Even when you're bored, and you don't WANNA!

The only way marriage works is with transparency and accountability. You have to be able to tell your spouse EXACTLY what you did, every minute of the day. You have to be able to share an email account, leave letters unsealed, let her listen in on phone conversations. You need to share the darkest corners of your soul? Too horrible for your sensitive wife? Fine. Talk to a priest.

Marriage is a bridge. Hide stuff up, and you're using duct tape instead of 6x6's to build the roadbed. Some day you're going to step through that carefully camouflaged lie or 'omission', and you'll fall into the abyss.

And who's going to catch you? Your soulmate, the lady who understands you so well?

No. Most likely the hand that'll pull you back to honor and forgiveness will be that of your wife, who you so casually backhanded.

Because when you dropped your honor in the road, as being too big a burden in this streamlined modern world, she picked it up, to carry for you both.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Recently my wife was reading one of the "Conversations With God" books, and she mentioned that apparently God told his 'buddy' that one should always tell the truth, even if it's painful to the recipient - because one should always uphold one's personal integrity.


If the truth is, "you're bleeding from a sucking chest wound", that's probably...no, definitely...a good thing.

The problem is that it leaves open the option of criticizing, of telling someone the truth as you see it and feeling righteous. In other word, let fly with everything you wanted to tell your spouse/child/parent/friend/boss, and stand back feeling good...I mean, you're acting on God"s orders, right?

Wrong. Dead wrong. To get the Scriptural stuff out of the way, in 2 Cor. 6:3 Paul tells us not to give offense to anyone, lest the church or ministry be discredited.

Sound stuff - what you say stands for who you work for.

But beyond this, our words can have a huge effect on people - far greater than we might expect. A word of encouragement can lift someone through a hard day, through the decisive hard day of their life.

But conversely, a negative comment can run a long way on its short little legs. As a personal (and embarrassing) illustration, years ago I was told by a woman (not my wife) that I had less romantic sense than a piece of plywood.

She was a friend whose opinion I valued, and later said she didn't mean to hurt me...but it stuck. Previously I'd tried to be 'sensitive and romantic', trying to understand what might make a woman happy. But after that, my efforts were dead on arrival and I knew it. I tried, but I was like a hog on roller skates.

My fault for letting someone get under my skin? Sure.

Did I try to work on it? Sure. Successfully? Not in my heart. It feels awkward, and whatever grace I had will never come back. (Fortunately my wife doesn't mind, but honestly - she deserved more.)

Point is, whenever you're tempted to criticize someone, ask yourself - are you doing it for their sake, or for yours?

Because if you're doing it for you, you may be asking someone to carry a far greater burden, far further than you realize.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stayin' Alive

Some weeks teach really cool lessons.
Some really suck.

Last week really sucked. I thought I knew a lot about living with pain, and its attendant twins of melodrama, despair and disillusion. But, no.

For what it's worth, here are some ways I coped.

  1. Reaching out - I wasn't up to doing much, but I did let friends know what was happening, and asked for prayers and good vibes. Getting to the computer was physically difficult, but the prospect of an uplifting email made it worth while.
  2. Reading - Having a selection of books available that are involving and uplifting (that word again!) made long days pass more quickly.
  3. Movies - A 'feel-good' DVD in the middle of the night is good medicine, but a good choice is essential. Perhaps not something like 'Ghost'.
  4. Work - I freelance, and work from home - I tried to keep hands on some renumerative work every day.
  5. Dogs - Always a tonic. And sometimes a lifesaver, and in biting me and barking in my face to get me to breathe.
  6. Prayer - 'Nuff said.
One other thing I learned - if you aren't up to posting in a week, blog readership REALLY goes down!

For those who still might be left...what would you add to the list above?

Monday, September 10, 2012

How To Write A Novel

I didn't know how to write a novel until I wrote one. (I'm not going to talk about getting it published...that's a whole 'nother subject!)

But if you were wondering, here are my suggestions.

  1. Come up with a simple idea. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy works like a dog to win girl's heart again is a story that will always appeal, and it's dead simple.
  2. Come up with characters whose company you enjoy. Write down their characteristics, their loves and hates. Keep a notebook, and tape in pictures cut from a magazine to give you a visual anchor. Do it for the main characters, and the most important minor characters.
  3. Sketch out the plot. Not just as a numbered list of chapter headings...take a big piece of paper and draw a timeline, that shows what happens when.
  4. Write every day. Try to write a LOT every day, because there's nothing like a rapidly increasing word count to make you feel progress! Don't worry about perfect. Editing will come later. Just get the story written.
  5. Give the characters freedom. usually the fastest way you write is the best...if scenes just rip through the keyboard, you're on to something. If you have to think through every line, you're struggling, and it will show. Go with the rip.
  6. When you're about 3/4 done, write the ending. Then build a bridge to get you there.
  7. When it's done, it's done. You can cut it up in the edits to your heart's content, but for the first draft, get a finished product.
I'm about to finish my fourth novel in four years. Did I do these? Some of them. Well, three of them...5 through 7.

What I did was to just sit down to a blank screen, and I started to write. I invented names on the fly, made up the story as I went along, and in NO case was the finished product anything near what I'd envisaged in the beginning. I don't recommend doing it this way, though. You can write your way into a story that's foreshortened, on one that's a shaggy dog story...a joke without a punch line.

So...go write your novel!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rules For Husbands

I was going to make this '10 Rules For Husbands'. then I thought about it...maybe five would be better.

Well, five's still a lot. let's try three.

  1. Do at least one job that you consider 'women's work' - Are there chores in your house that are gender-specific? Like the dishes? Like the laundry? Do you even know HOW to turn on the vacuum cleaner (Shop Vacs don't count)? If so...you need to offer to take over one of these jobs, learn to do it the way your wife wants it done, and do it without complaint, and without expecting reward or recognition. In other words...do it the way she's done it for you. Until now.
  2. Ask your wife how her day was, and listen to the answer - When you walk in the door, take your wife aside...on the porch, in the living room, in your bedroom...and ask her how her day was. And...big important point...listen to the answer. Don't think about who's playing Buffalo this week, or who's in line for the promotion you're afraid you won't get. Listen, no matter how long it takes. Listen as if you might be quizzed. Listen as if you really cared...because it's your duty, and your PRIVILEGE, to care.
  3. Sex is not a reward, and not an obligation - if you put your wife into a situation where she feels obligated to physical intimacy as a reward for something you've done, or as something she owes you, you've taken the best gift she can give you out of her hands. That gift is herself.
A lot of men might read this, and ask, "Why should I do any of this? I bring home all, or most of the money...I do the heavy work around the house and yard...I take her to dinner every week..."

All very well and good. But if you go just a little bit further, do these three things, and you'll be acknowledging something important.

Your wife had a choice. She didn't have to...but she chose you. And she validates that choice every day, with every cup of coffee, every piece of clean laundry laid out for you to wear, every kiss.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


The political conventions are over - how wonderful! Kind of.

I may be slow on the uptake, but for the first time I realized that they actually have a certain charm, if you listen to them carefully. That charm comes from a perception that what these things are all about is legacy. It's about how these groups of people, and the individuals within them, and leading them, want to be remembered.

Fortunately for us, the US government is far too ponderous a beast to be directed by any one candidate, or really any one party, into accomplishing dramatic legislation during one or two presidential terms. The amount of bickering, backstabbing, and general incompetence that infests all legislative proceedings insures that change is incremental, when it occurs at all. Even a 'landmark' bill like Obamacare has a legislative trail that goes back to the Clinton years. Obama merely got a majority of Congress to sign off on it; Clinton put it on the map, and the intervening tears massaged the concept into something that could be passed.

So, sweeping individual initiatives aside, what are the motivators? these people don't need money. Obama was a wealthy man before he became president; he'll merely be very wealthy, and have a rather restricted lifestyle, when he's done. Congresspeople are also generally rich to begin with, as well...the days of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington are long gone.

I think it's legacy. I think that these people want to leave some mark, however small, on the direction that government too while they were there. They want to be identified with the flavor of the time.

If I'm right, this quest for a sort of legacy - Remember Me! - isn't a bad thing at all. It's an innocent gesture of hope and faith against the inevitability of Time.

We may not agree with all that they do...and we don't, and shouldn't. But perhaps we should look at them more as the humans they are, rather than the caricatures they aren't.

Prayer Warriors, and Prayer Wienies

On the afternoon of one of the worst days in recent memory, I heard a TV preacher cheerfully say that if you r prayers aren't being answered, it means you haven't 'filled up your prayer vault' in God's Throne Room, so it'll 'explode like a volcano' and thus gain God's attention. Pray without ceasing, and be focused and diligent, and your prayers will be answered.

I'm trying to think of something snide to say, reflecting my disgust with that kind of smug and ultimately disrespectful attitude, but all I can really say is, What An Idiot.

Forget about me. I'm really bad at prayer. Mind wanders, can't hold my hands together because one's kind of broken.

But think back eleven years, almost to the day. Think about the people photographed jumping from the World Trade Center Towers. Think about their clothes, rippling in the wind. Clothes that they selected only hours before, to look nice.

Not to be their shroud.

You think they didn't pray hard enough to be delivered from their fate? I don't. And I hope with all my heart that God heard their last, desperate prayers and calmed their hearts in their last few seconds of fall. I hope, and believe, that they were His greatest priority. Not to rescue, but to save.

In advanced math, you use functions called 'transforms' to solve some difficult problems...you transform your original problem into an easier one, solve it in the 'transform space', and use the reverse of the transform to get back your result in the real world.

I'd think prayer is like that. God hears every prayer, and answers it in God-space...and transforms it on the way back to us. So that a prayer for a hand, catching us from a physical fall, will become a Heart, embracing us in our spiritual plummet.

I hope so.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

That's Invictus, the masterwork of William Ernest Henley, and was fist published in 1875, when Henley was only 26. He contracted tuberculosis of the bone when he was a child, and at the age of 17, a leg was amputated. he was about to lose another when he chose to work with a different doctor, Joseph Lister (yes, the guy who invented 'Listerine'). He saved the leg, and went on to live a full life.

Invictus was a major support to Nelson Mandela during his years on Robbens Island (and lent its title to a 2009 movie about Mandela - well worth watching!); the last two lines are probably some of the most-quoted lines in English poetry.

I'd love to be able to claim a strong sense of identification with the spirit of this poem...but I can't. I've certainly seem my share of fell clutches of circumstance and bludgeonings, but if I'm honest, I've just gotten by. I can identify more with the Viet Nam mantra, "don't mean nothin'".

What about you? How do you relate to Invictus?