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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Falling Into Grace


Last week got busy.

It's strange that we got to see
the measure of God's grace
when occasion came to be
the breaking of Barb's face,
when she fell (it's almost funny)
and hit the hard stall door
en route from seat upon the dunny
to that firm unyielding floor,
but there were friends come to her aid,
and rushed her off to hospital,
and there was nothing that delayed
immediacy of care withal
to show once more and then again
our stories told by God's own pen.

The Five Minute Friday prompt this week is LEFT.

On boxing Barb is really hooked
a kind of Rock of Ages cleft,
and this week she's really looked
like she walked into Mike Tyson's left.
The truth is rather more mundane,
a hard fall from the Great White Throne,
but that is harder to explain
(and when explained brings forth a groan),
so it's best to call it fight,
a duel in ring's defining ropes,
a battle royal, Saturday Night
against the malefactors' hopes,
and though Barb has a blackened eye,
you should see the other guy!

Four minutes, bit less for this masterpiece.

Music from Tom Petty, with Freefalling

Sylvia says that before you hit the ground, throw me the ice cream!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Misguided Loyalties Of Christmas, Part 2: People Pleasing (Tell His Story)


'I love what you did with the house for Christmas!'

Ah, there it is. The approval! The proof that We Did Christmas RIGHT!

We answer with a modest thank you, of course (while doing emotional cartwheels), and such is the constant chase to please, to be the best host, to stand out in hospitality.

To be loved by our relatives and friends and peers. To be accepted for what we do.

And we feel good, sometimes ,because we did it better than someone else.

No wonder the season from Thanksgiving to Christmas is exhausting.

Mary was exhausted from giving birth. And then the shepherds showed up.

Do you think they expected music and coloured lights and a groaning table?

Or do you think that they just came to be there?

A lot of Christians call Easter the highlight of the year, but I don't agree.

Christmas was God's decision, in John 3:16.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Easter was the fulfillment, and could not have happened without that humble manger, without those unlettered peasants.

So why do we turn it into social striving , and even one-upsmanship?

Who are we trying to impress, and why?

Would our efforts impress Mary and Joseph if they dropped by, or would they make kind apologies and return to the manger and the Meaning?

God, that busybody know-it-all, has something (as usual !) to say, like in Galatians 2:20:

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

Or would you like something from the Old Testament, say Proverbs 29:25?

The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.

Perhaps Isaiah, maybe 2:22...

Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?

There's nothing wrong with gatherings, nothing bad about hospitality.

We just need to focus them on the meaning.

Music from Jars Of Clay, with the charming song and video, Love Came Down

Sylvia says that where there's ice cream, there's meaning. Woof.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Misguided Loyalties Of Christmas, Part 1: Tradition (Tell His Story)

Care for some baseball-sized hail, anyone?

The holidays are coming!

Time to cringe, like a deer caught in the headlights.

It doesn't have to be this way. It's not supposed to be this way.

But every year, with each good intention marshalled, we do it to ourselves, and so often all ends in tears, the ugliest of which are unshed.

Any why? We try earnestly to make the season special, and at the end it's almost always a disappointment.

Perhaps it might be a result of misguided loyalties.

This is the first of a three-part series.

This week, let's talk about loyalty to tradition.

We try to be loyal to the past, to the Christmases we remember, and to the people who made them special.

We want to live in legacy, to see ourselves as part of a chain of tradition and joy, stretching our loving arms to the past, and handing our treasured memories to the future.

There's truth in our recollections, but memory is fallible, and we gloss over the time Dad was carving a turkey and cut off his middle finger, rendering him unable to express himself.

Or when Mom lassoed Uncle Edmund and duct-taped his mouth because he said Talk To The Hand one too many times!

Jeremiah 17:9 says, 'The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?'

So the heart lies, but knowing this, we don't have to accept and honour its message.

It's dumb to ruin today with comparison to a rose-tinted yesterday 

God has something to say about this, through Ecclesiastes.

7:10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.

Yes, you're supposed to honour you parents and their example, but does it honour them to try to wedge today into the mold of an imagined yesterday?

So put up a keepsake ornament, but make Christmas and Thanksgiving your own.

After all, didn't Jesus say, in Revelation 21:5,

'And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.'

Music from Bon Jovi, with Lost Highway

Sylvia thinks all Christmas Eve traditions should include a trip to McDonald's for ice cream.

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Thursday, November 16, 2023

Doors Close

I see the doors a-closin',
but I'm too sick to care.
I am just supposin'
that God don't want me there
in the place where I had dreams
that were not too bad,
but all is cool and it all seems
that I need not be sad,
'cause He done saved all my tears,
and, perhaps, yeah, all my hopes
from the young and wasted years
and I just gotta copes
until I meet Eternity
and He gives them back to me.

The Five Minute Friday prompt this week is RESULT.

What will be the end result
of everything you've tried?
We're rabbits from your top hats pulled,
and was your chicken fried?
Did your quest for Elvis' ghost
end up a spectral interview,
with The King as gracious host,
hardly scaring you?
Did you set out to find yourself,
get up from rocking chair,
place timid thoughts upon a shelf,
and find you were not there?
And at the last, did fading eyes
see the Christ who bids you rise?

Didn't know where I was going, there, but five minutes is five minutes.

Music from Bon Jovi, with Who Says You Can't Go Home

Sylvia says that where there's ice cream, that's home.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Comparison: The Devil's Favourite Tool (Tell His Story)

 Comparison... social media has made it a part of what we consider every day.

We see others' lives on Facebook and Instagram. Not their complete warts-and-all lives, but the highlight reel. The best moments, the perfect Christmases, the vacations to exotic places that the rest of us have only ever seen on the National Geographic Channel.

We don't see the money problems, the ugly crying jags, the backed-up dunny.

And while what we see seems real, what we don't see...well, 'I don't know and I don't care, if I can't see it, it isn't there.'

So we compare our lives with the imagined lives we see, and we come off the worse...and thus Satan leads us into sin.

Specifically, when we compare ourselves negatively we're practicing jealousy, and jealousy translates into covetousness. We want what our neighbour has... maybe not enough to try to take it, but enough to wonder Why Her And Not Me?

Exodus 20:17 “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.”

Personally, I don't covet anyone's ass. Mine is still quite tight, thank you very much...which leads me to the flip side of covetousness.

It's easy to go the other way, and disdain those who present a sanitized picture of their lives.

'I'm better than that.'

And thus the devil has you, going either way, with covetousness, or pride.

From the 18th chapter of the Gospel according to Luke:

 9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

What to do?

Just be you, put aside the comparison, and know that God made you for the life you have.

From Psalm 139...

14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

You are beyond compare.

Music from Bon Jovi, with We Weren't Born To Follow

Sylvia won't follow anyone, unless they have ice cream.

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Thursday, November 9, 2023

Staying Close To God

 As the whole cancer thing gets way worse (major setback in the last couple of weeks), I find that I'm still happy, still forward-looking, and still find purpose in days in which simply rising from a chair, let alone walking, takes planning.

(For what it's worth, I have two favoured chairs, one a wooden dining-room chair, the other a piece of plastic lawn furniture. Both are relatively tall, and neither are cushioned, factors which make getting to my feet with leg metastases a lot easier.)

Anyway, I think that the reason I'm doing OK is that I make a deliberate effort to stay close to God.

First, whenever I'm tempted to self-pity or frustration, I think about Jesus' ordeal, from Gethsemane to Calvary. The remembered imagery from The Passion Of The Christ helps.

Second, I censor what's coming in, and any media with unhelpful messaging gets the boot. This does include some Christian programming; Health and Wealth gospel isn't welcome here.

The only commercial TV we watch is NASCAR and football. Otherwise it's all TBN.

Third, I keep The Chosen on while I'm doing woodwork, or, more often now, cleaning up 3D prints (I got a low-budget Ender 3 cheap). The way the story is told really resonates in my heart.

Fourth, and most important, I talk to God. Yes, He reads my heart, but I've got to use words, so I know exactly what I'm saying.

I always had a yearning for just this, casual conversation with an immanent God. Now I'm here, and if cancer is the price of entry, it's gladly paid.

I wanted so to stroll with Him
in the fragrant cool of evening,
when streetlights were all a-glim,
that I'd listen close, receiving
wisdom and enlightenment,
holding all He cared to say,
but this smacked of entitlement,
and things didn't work that way.
Now my dinner makes me wince,
and 'fore I stand I grit my teeth,
but I won't whine or murmur since
through cancer I did fall beneath
the blessed shadow of His wing,
and I would not change a thing.

The Five Minute Friday prompt this week is MAINTAIN.

I once thought I could maintain
a quite vigourous life,
but then the cancer brought the rain,
and flooded days with strife,
a fight where I could not prevail,
but moved backwards, inch by yard,
and in the face of this I'd quail
because it was so very hard,
but Someone stepped in front of me
to take all of hell's rage,
Someone who I'd learned to see
upon thin dusty page,
but now stood boldly in my stead
that I might rest my weary head.

Four minutes, and about fifteen seconds.

Music from Jimmy Buffett, with Jolly Mon Sing

Sylvia stays close to God through ice cream.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Don't Get Trapped In The Past - Three Suggestions From Scripture (Tell His Story)

 We spend so much of our lives looking back, don't we?

Either in sorrow over things we did or didn't do, over loved ones lost, over the toll that our days have taken...

...or, perhaps worse, we look back on the good days that have gone, and will not come again.

A lot of songs, a lot of books play up this pathos of the human condition.

But God doesn't want that for you. He doesn't want you to wallow in the flood of the tears you shed.

But He doesn't ignore them. He saves them, and transfigures them, I think that they might become jewels on your crown in Heaven.

God saves our tears 
Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? - Ps. 56.8

You can't steer a plow while looking back over your shoulder, you can't drive a car forward while looking in the rear-view mirror (yes, I've tried, how did you guess?), and as Paul points out, you can't run a race while thinking about what's behind you.

The prize is ahead of you. Even if you've got terminal cancer, the choices you make going forward are the attainment of Christ's calling, the spreading of the Gospel, Heaven's work.

Whatever is past, is past. Leave it behind, both the failures and the successes.

Christ is NOW.

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 
- Phil. 3:13-14

And finally, in the Kingdom of God, history does not repeat itself. Everything is made new, everything is transformed, everything is a fresh surprise.

Kind of like my dream car, a 60s VW Beetle with a 427 borrowed from a Shelby Cobra.

Behold, I make all things new
And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. - Rev. 21:5

Music from Fleetwood Mac, Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

Sylvia looks forward to ice cream. Old ice cream is either all melty, or freezer-burned. Fresh, please!

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Thursday, November 2, 2023

The Me That Never Was


I'm not who I was before cancer.

Maybe that's what God intended.

I took my helmet from the shelf
to breathe some Harley air.
I rode off to find myself,
but I wasn't there.
Down the lonely open road
through mirrored halls of time;
at each bend reflections showed,
but none of them were mine.
There were ghosts from bygone days,
blank-eyed in shivered sleep,
but none to speak with, none to praise,
and surely none to keep
as I passed through another morn,
another death, to be reborn.

The Five Minute Friday prompt this week is SEASON.

'Tis the season for paprika,
fa la la la la, la la, la la!
Helps food to not taste like a sneaker
that's been too long on unwashed paw!
Try some curry powder too,
ting a ling a ling, to add some zing!
It may not be Cordon Bleu,
but it'll fix a nasty chicken wing!
Keep Tabasco on the table,
hot-ot-ot-ot-ot, ot ot, ot ot!
Gulp it down quick as you're able 
ever though taste buds would rather not,
but best to have a mouth that burns
than seeing how your meal returns.

Just under five minutes. Think I'll skip dinner.

Music from The Calling, with Our Lives

Sylvia doesn't care about finding herself. Finding ice cream's more important.