Monday, June 29, 2009

near death and an assurance of Peace

In the summer of 2004 I had an experience that is now a “place” I can return to, and a reminder of God’s Assurance of His Peace. My wife, Patti, and I had just finished an early morning run together. All three of our adult children were home at the time, asleep. Patti and I were walking and “cooling down” when I mentioned that I felt a headache and dizziness. As we approached our home, I felt the need to sit down to keep from passing out. Sit down I did, on the front porch, laid back and drifted into unconsciousness! Patti became terrified, yelling for the kids to call 911, as she checked my breathing and pulse, shallow and impalpable, respectively. She eventually roused our children, and the oldest, Kyle, took charge of the situation. Paramedics arrived and began their work, I “awoke” to a startling scene , but was physically incapable of responding to it any meaningful way. The paramedics placed “lines” in my arms, started some fluids and medicines, and got me into the ambulance. We left for the hospital leaving my wife and children behind, frightened and unsure of what was happening to Dad.

The “ride” in that ambulance was eerily similar to one I had as an eight year old Cub Scout who had just had his head crushed in a rock slide. In both rides I was not afraid, (quite a thing for an anxious person like me.) Anyway, on the adult ride (after having become a “believer” years earlier), I began to calmly “talk” to God, while all the busyness and chatter of paramedics trying to stabilize me was going on around me. I can still vividly recall feeling a total Peace as I expressed my heart to God for my loved ones, while submitting to His Will, even it if meant “my time had come.” It was one of those “out of body” things that remain hard to describe, but definitely Peaceful. My only concern was the grief and loss that my family would bear if I were to die.

Eventually, I spent four days in the hospital undergoing numerous tests. They were never able to discover what had happened! There were no signs of damage to my heart or brain?! That can be frustrating and frightening for most people, not knowing if it can or will happen again. Patti was concerned that I may have had an aneurism burst in my brain or a stroke? However, I have personally decided that it was my God being rather dramatic in “getting my attention.” The experience has resulted in; a renewed personal will to love and serve others, an ever deepening relationship with my wife and kids, and a deeper knowledge of the beautiful but still mysterious Relationship at the center of the universe that I choose to call “Father”. My desire is that others would know Him and His Peace as well.

Only by Grace, pat
P.S. Hindsight allows us to "see" God's hand on our lives in the past, even when we "denied" Him ourselves. My personal trials; divorce, deep depression, my father's suicide, numerous surgeries, walking with my wife and children through their struggles, are similar to those we all experience in life. The difference now is that I can see God "working for the good" in and through those trials . . . trials that He turns to Gold. He remains my Hope and my Refuge, as well as my JOY and the One to Whom I give all praise and thanksgiving.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Shema . . .

All too often we Christians believe we are "following" Jesus fairly well, but the dweeb and this broken world he "works" in can easily lead us astray. We must search our hearts often and long with God's help to "weed" out any falsehood and deception. There are many "gods" which can become the object of our "worship", and they do so very subtly . . . . materialism, worldly comfort, pleasures that only satisfy momentarily.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Exodus 20:4-6 4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Deuteronomy 5:8-10 8 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Deuteronomy 32:15-17

15 Jeshurun [a] grew fat and kicked; [comfortable and arrogant]
filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. [prideful and self sufficient]
He abandoned the God who made him [turned away from the One who loved him]
and rejected the Rock his Savior.

16 They made him jealous with their foreign gods [all the pleasures and comforts of this world]
and angered him with their detestable idols.[icons and images and personalities of this world]

17 They sacrificed to demons, which are not God— [the things of this world]
gods they had not known,
gods that recently appeared,
gods your fathers did not fear.

1. Deuteronomy 32:15 Jeshurun means the upright one , that is, Israel . . . [us].

Psalm 18:2

2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.

Selah, Amen, Shalom . . .

Friday, June 26, 2009

One thing

In the movie City Slickers, three friends decide to visit a dude ranch and participate in a cattle drive. They are all at a time of personal crisis in their respective lives, and apparently think this will somehow give them some kind of direction. At one point in the film the character played by Billy Crystal has a "deep" moment of conversation with "Curly", the crusty cowboy played by the late Jack Palance. Billy wants to know why Curly seems so content, (i.e. what the meaning to life is?) Curly raises a gloved index finger and says, "One thing." That's it, no further explanation. Eventually, the characters seem to find their way, including Billy who returns home to love and cherish his own family (as opposed to his work, which has left him feeling empty.)

The once wise King Solomon also struggled with the search for the meaning to life. He wrote down all his thoughts in the Book called Ecclesiastes. His conclusion:

"All has been heard; the end of the matter is: Fear God [revere and worship Him] and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God's providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man."

Get to know this God who created you (and everything else) out of His infinite Love and Grace. As you seek Him, He will guide and direct your steps and you will find Peace and contentment beyond what this world has to offer.

only by Grace,


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I am an outcast, a stranger on this earth
A sinner by choice and an alien by birth
But I've been adopted, no longer cast out
An heir to a Kingdom that I no longer doubt - Anon (with apologies to Buell)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Life in Christ more journeys on the Narrow Road

We recently received a "survey" in the mail from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), (I assume because we are registered Democrats?) Anyway, the survey revealed the two primary foci of the ACLU these days: the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) and pro choice agendas. It immediately struck me, (probably because I've been reading from the prophet Jeremiah), that we are not far from the abberant sexual behavior and child sacrifices of the those Old Testament times. Again, the dilemma for Christ followers . . . speaking the Truth in love . . . loving the sinner, but hating the sin.

only by Grace,


P.S. You know, one of the reasons I "see" the Truth in God is that I've lived the lies in my earlier life. I have been "touched" by abortion, substance abuse, lust, materialism and more. I have sinned in a variety of ways and suffered the consequences (thank God), only to be brought into a fuller understanding of His Grace, Forgiveness and Love for me . . . a sinner extraordinaire! This Hope and JOY I now experience every moment is the driving force behind my desire to share with others.

P.P.S. It is increasingly difficult to be this anomaly . . . a Christian Democrat. :-) (JK)

Every Sunday my church lists prayer requests for people in the bulletin. The list includes leadership at the church, and then all those who need prayers for physical illness/injuries. And when we reach a time of "prayers of the people" we often mention tragedies and catastrophes around the country and globe. Sadly, we never seem to touch on sin. I know this isn't just a fault in my own church, but most others as well. We can readily pray for physical maladies and tragedies in other countries, but it's "taboo" to mention our own sins specifically.

It took a 17 year old young man to teach us all a lesson recently about confession and prayer. How many people "die" every day in sin, and continue to experience that death with each succeeding day that the sin continues?! Yet, we are afraid to "name it and claim it" openly in those places of worship where it should happen. Instead in the interest of remaining "politically correct" (something Christians and our churches should never be) we ignore sin, sweeping it under the carpet where it rots our floors and foundations. We watch and comment in dismay as marriages are destroyed, young lives are corrupted, and more by all kinds of sin.

The challenge . . . people expressing and confessing their sins openly, seeking forgiveness from Brothers and Sisters in Christ and healing . . . a resurrection of the soul and heart. I know without a doubt if I stood up in worship and asked those who haven't experienced sin themselves, or in those close to them, to raise their hands, there would be no hands raised if we were all truthful. Sexual sin; lust, pornography, adultery, etc. are rampant and touch almost all of us at some point or in some way. Sins of greed, power and materialism are just as prevalent; money, toys, cars, homes, prestigious positions/jobs, image!

Yet, our churches seem to be "enablers" in our sinful lives, never requiring accountability and too often promoting materialistic lifestyles so contrary to what Jesus lived and taught. "Get real" has been a comment often uttered when we see shallow behavior or language in others. Well, we should be yelling at our churches (and ourselves) to "GET REAL!" with this Christian life. One has only to read the Old Testament to see how bad things can get when we condone and promote sinful lives . . . read Jeremiah lately?

Sadly, Jeremiah (and others today) are seen as crackpots to be ignored or cast out (even killed), rather heed the messages that God is delivering through him (them.) In Young Life we do something called "real prayer". It is a time of conversation with each other (and coincidentally God) about real things, including sin in our lives. Many of the kids we minister to come from terribly sinful lives (their own and that of their families.) Confession, forgiveness and healing are a huge part of Young Life. All the most successful "recovery" ministries share this important focus as well.

Our churches are "ill", sick with sin within, it's past time to "get real" and quit pretending that things are fine. I thank God for that young man who had the courage (and trust in His Heavenly Father) to "name it and claim it" . . . his actions were "freeing" for all of us, and I know He is receiving healing and has pleased his Father.

only by Grace, pat

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual . . . brokenness, pain and suffering . . . it is with us every day, either personally or with those we care about. Often our own struggles pale in the significance of others; the 21 year old woman with terminal cancer, the father of four with a different rare form of cancer, the mental illness that tortures both the victim and their family, the spiritual desert that so many find themselves in (unable to hear or sense a loving God in any of it.), the broken or breaking marriage. I have experienced most of it in my lifetime, either personally or in my own family. I confess at times being angry with God, then just deciding He didn't exist or care. But, I have always finally sought Him as the only refuge that comforts in those times.

Recently, the youth at my church led worship, and the confession of a young man taught us all a lesson that we often fail to put into practice in our churches and our lives. Living with sin is destructive personally and for those around us. Confession IS good for the soul . . . for the whole body, AND those around us. The theme of "surrender" was paramount during that worship service. It is one of the hardest things for us to do, and many never truly "let go, and let God." Even in utter brokenness, some will continue to "harden" their own hearts rather than submit to God's Love and Grace. I don't understand that stubbornness or inability to relinquish our control. I suppose for many it is the fear of losing one's self, of not knowing what lies ahead in that surrender? It has taken me over half my lifetime to begin to understand this "surrender" thing, but I'm getting it . . . daily. Jesus told us that we must lose our lives to find them, and I get that now too. Every day, surrender to God and find our true being in Him and His plans for us. When everything is going well, and, when everything is crumbling around us.

Faith looks across the storms - it does not doubt
Or stop to look at clouds and things without
Faith does not question why all His ways
Are hard to understand, but trust and prays. ---- Anon