Something To Say

Listen to me I have something to say,

A girl I know lost her leg today.

They cut it off just above the knee

And though she cried and prayed and screamed,

She will never be the same.

Listen here for I am really upset,

The neighbor’s dog whom they call a pet,

Chewed up a child beyond repair.

And though they knew he was the viscous type

They let him out every night without a chain.

Now hear this I am talking to you!

The game they play where a precious few

Get to call all the shots for the rest of us,

Will never, ever, put up a fuss about their mistakes.

So here is what I’m trying to say,

Your life in this world is always fair play,

For those who could care less about you

Are really struggling to make it too.

We’re a scandalous bunch & you should know

Beneath the smile and nifty clothes

Is the guy who must shower his filth away,

And live with his shortcomings everyday.

And though I hide my sin from God,

He sees this action very odd;

For the uncreated, omniscient One

Who sent His one and only Son

Will send Him once again it says,

In the Book where accounts like those above

Will be judged.

Listen to me I have something to say,

You have this life, this year, this day,

To work quietly with your hands & with them fashion

A living that points us to a passion,

To be God-like in some helpful way

Though people fail and perish everyday.

You do not know when your heart will cease

So amid the madness live in peace,

Choose your battles if you must fight,

For they are there whether wrong or right.

Make friends of enemies, help them see

That losing a leg just above the knee,

Or holding your baby mauled by a dog

Are things on earth that never go away.

And even though it hurts so much,

Do your best to not lose touch

With reality, your neighbor, your world.

For today you just might get the news

The One who first came for the Jews

Is coming back to make things right.

Pray with me that it’s tonight.

For if I see one more report

That man again has fallen short,

And bombed an embassy somewhere

I might just come off of my chair and scream.

Listen to me I have something to say,

Hate is not a very good way

To live your life.

Go fishing, hiking, buy some clothes,

Go see a doctor and fix your nose,

Get a new motorcycle, buy a home,

purchase a lottery ticket, a trip to Rome,

Have some ice cream, smoke a pipe,

Get a tattoo, a guitar, and tonight

Avoid the news on every channel,

For as you sit there in your flannels,

Someone will report a knife

Was used to take another life.

“Well I’m glad it wasn’t me” you say,

But don’t you see?

Those only difference between you and he,

Was distance and a desperate man.

I guess what I am trying to say

Is, “I’m conflicted in every way

about life and death and humanity.”

So I will own my problems, live my life,

Love my neighbor, children, wife,

Take my lumps, my pills, my prayers,

And give them to the One Who cares.

Because He is, I breathe each day,

Reason, feel, work and play,

Until my time on earth is done

There’s  nothing new under the sun.

Thanks for listening.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts That Keep Coming Back

There was a time I was sure I knew the answers were available & I just had to find them.  Well, I am finding there are thoughts that deserve good answers and I have not found them yet.  I’m not talking about things like a non-created, eternally existent God which none of His creatures will ever comprehend.  I am talking about things that we do, see or encounter all the time and have no answers to the “Why?” they are what they are.

One of them is how the Bible is such a very small book and yet libraries of other books have been written to explain it, laud it, or even denounce and disprove it.  My own Library weighs in at a quarter ton or so and keeps growing.  For instance, there are book stores and then Bible book stores, book sellers and then places like CBD where only books are sold only with specific reference to the Bible.  Top that off with printers who only print and distribute Bibles all the time, which of course number in the billions I am sure.  Is there any other book on earth that has been paid so much attention and brought in such revenue?

The next thought ties into the last one and has confounded me even more: If there are so many Bibles and so much literature and science connected to the Bible, why are so many people ignorant of what it contains?  Even those who study it every day cannot seem to come to agreement on the fine points of knowing God’s plan, purpose and economy.  Those who believe the Bible and agree on certain tenets will huddle together in a denomination and pooh-pooh anything that threatens their viewpoint.  Eventually there is another fragment of the group who has to leave because the larger group will not endure a fine point what they believe.  Thankfully, burning heretics at the stake seems to have vanished in the modern Church or else Christianity would be blamed for the hole in the ozone layer as the result of burning so many fires.

I don’t believe the Bible is to blame for all this, for as we say, “It is what it is.” God did not allow this book to be designed for separating believers.  After a lot of thinking I suppose that God is not enough for mankind to love as we should.  I mean, He is the source of all there is and instead of revering Him we revere the things He gives us.  This includes the Bible, its commentators, theologians, and denominations that are the result of our great thinkers.  We hover around the altars of the study of God but do not care to sit at His feet.

Isn’t it enough for us to have the merciful privilege of knowing God and be amazed at the fact He is incomprehensible?  Must we divide His family over things like predestination and sign gifts?  Must we slam the lid on our brothers record player because it is playing worship music we think has the wrong beat?  Or cast someone out of God’s family because he is not reading the King James version, the ESV, or something written by someone who we believe to be unworthy to sit at our table?

Certainly there are those who deny what the Bible teaches and we must warn our brethren to watch out for things that are false.  But the things that we cannot know should not divide us.  Nor should we spend too much time trying to define what is undefinable. God is one of those: He has only revealed so much about Himself to His creation and beyond that we should be amazed instead of conflicted.

In my world people are innocent until proven guilty.  That’s a pretty fair system and it is practical until the law is no longer believed to be the law.  What people do not understand is that the real law was not given by collecting popular opinions about what we believe to be right and wrong.  God decided that for us and allowed us to have the law to help govern mankind.  Sure, someone gets falsely accused once-in-a-while, but without it we are left with only popular opinion or dictatorship to govern the judicial system.  When popular opinion says “adultery is acceptable” then the lawless govern the rest of us & soon a man who sleeps with another man’s wife is off the hook.

This is what has happened to Bible believers.  We have come to beliefs and opinions about the Bible and set up our own sets of rules to govern the rest of our group.  In this way it is only those who wear the clothes, carry the Bible version, use the jargon, and sign the statement that really know God and enjoy Him.  Whereas the apostles knew what to believe from being in the presence of God in the flesh (and we have their writings) we have given into popular opinion about what the Bible says about God.

There is no indication in the Bible that the apostles were in the business of separating the Church, but there is every indication they tried to make the common denominator Jesus Christ, crucified, risen and coming again.  Yes, they made others aware of false teachings and instructed them to beware of them and stay away from them.  Those who were teaching the resurrection already occurred, those who taught Christ did not come in the flesh, those who taught that the Holy Spirit could be bought, and so on.

For instance: Today if you believe in a “foreseen faith view of predestination” it is very difficult to be part of my denomination.  You can be of a reformed theology but it is not the same one we all have signed on to.  In all honestly I do not know how God elects or predestinates men and I cannot pretend that I do.  Nor do I expect to see the day when God hands out medals of commendation for those who got the closest answer to how He did it.  This kind of thinking scares the daylights out of me and I am not sure I can keep pretending I am in good standing with the denomination.  I can agree broadly with our articles of faith, but they will stay beneath the Bible on the book pile.

Yes I know I am narrow-minded about the Bible.  It seems to me the more we stretch ourselves into areas of the incomprehensible God we serve, the narrower we become.  For it is in these things we can only devise popular opinion polls and educated guesses.  Someone else will not see our viewpoint because they are geared differently.  A family division is created and we then have to write down why.  The little paper then flourishes into rules about the game and anyone who plays differently will have to call it something else.  They will be on the outside looking in and eventually will just go away.

Does God want them to go away too?  What if I am wrong in my theology and when we stand before God, will He cast me out because I was pretribulational and He sent Jesus in the mid-tribulational position?  Will the Catholic be rejected for believing in transubstantiation, or believing in the Pope?  Will the Amish be denied access into the Kingdom because he owned a steel-wheeled tractor and refused to plow with horses?  We know that none of these keep people out of Heaven.  Not having Christ as Savior will keep them out of Heaven.

Christ is supposed to bring us into fellowship, not cast us out.  Isn’t it time we find a way to have a family reunion?  I believe Christ is the Way.  Whoever you are that is reading this I want you to know, if you believe Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead to give you ever-lasting life, we are family.  See you at our Father’s House.  I don’t think we will all be reunited on this side, but whatever we can give up, short of biblical truth, is worth it.

 

Amazed at Twilight

Because the earth seems still yet spins, and no one falls or flies away,

Because the clock remains unchanged for every twenty-four hour day,

Because we breathe and think and reason, and feel changed with every season,

I’m sure there’s more than meets the eye beyond the clouds and sunset sky.

Because origin of life and being is far beyond our mind’s eye seeing,

I draw from your well a sampling, another day spent beneath your grace.

Beyond the Screen Door

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Beyond the screen door there’s much to be explored,

My little dog anticipating her chance to be deplored.

Still I have not decided if I should go out there

For I find a place of comfort right here upon this chair.

Upon my leg she stands staring at me with those eyes,

Whining, spinning and grumbling about a rabbit she has spied.

How often we were going out and the weather was severe

She had no intentions of moving for a thunderstorm was near.

But now a furry rodent has trespassed on her land

And it’s obviously imperative she have the upper hand.

So up I go to leave her out but what would you have thunk:

The little furry rabbit turned out to be a skunk!

Rainy Day

The solvent that keeps the earth un-dry falls gently from the laden sky,

I sit beside the windowsill and ponder.

The garden full of plantings green is thirsty or at least it seems

to open wide its eyes with wonder.

As man and beast make for the door, the field and pond and forest floor

join in a chorus and once more

the rain beats forth a measure.

Until the sunshine bright and hot smiles down upon our wooded lot

I’ll sit and ponder in my spot with pleasure.

 

 

Let the Reader Understand

My earliest recollection of religious activity involves kneeling at an altar in the Primitive Methodist Church and asking God to save me.  I was merely six years old in 1965 and knew enough to spell my own name, sing “Jesus Loves Me” and “Hey Get Your Cold Beer” from the Ballantine Beer commercial.  Oh, I was a sinner all right, just ask my family.  Sin was cute at six years but it was still sin.  Only sinners can say, “Sin is cute” by the way: where God is concerned it is deadlier than cyanide.

On that day I did not know if I was reformed, Protestant, dispensational, or pretribulational.  All I knew was that God had saved me and the next time I’d pray, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” that the part that said, “I pray thee Lord my soul to keep…” was for sure.  The Pastor told me so and that was all I had because I could not yet read the Bible for myself.  Life was good in 65 and not only did I have the world by the tail, I also had my name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  I was made of steel and though I could not fly nor race locomotives I was Heaven bound.

Since that time I have weathered many theological, biblical and ecclesiastical storms.  I lived when rock & roll and Hell were synonymous, when long hair meant you were backslidden, when mainline churches were liberal, and speaking in tongues was either a sign you were filled with the Spirit or demon possessed.  I was there when the King James Bible was supplanted by the RSV, the Living Bible and then the NIV.  I remember hearing sermon after sermon of how having a straw in your mouth could be misunderstood as a cigarette and was akin to association with the evil of smoking a real cigarette, and how going to a movie was a sign you were unsaved.

I grew my hair & cut my hair.  I bought record albums & burned record albums.  I denied tongues & I spoke in tongues.  I had only one version of Scripture & now I have many.  I shunned the movies and now I go.  Today I wear a beard and have devotions reading the New Living Translation, preach in a Reformed denomination and though I do not practice sign-gifts, yet some of my friends do.

I was well aware that one generation wold not pass after the fig tree budded, and now that generation has been stretched well beyond 40 years.  I knew the “Beast” was a large computer that controlled the world with its information & its number of doom was 666.  I knew that the obscene number of turkey vultures in the sky was a sign that soon “the eagles were gathered together” for the battle of Armageddon, and that was the mid 70’s.

I heard Van Impe, Van Halen, and even cruised town in vans with CB radios.  Yes, I was there.  I was alive when Kennedy’s assassination was aired, when man walked on the moon, when Billy Beer was iconic, and clackers were banned from school for safety reasons.  I watched film strips paired with records in class, heard Vance Havner speak in person at Sandy Cove, and was sure that Christ would return before the turn of the Century.  I was so well-informed and so wise.

So here I am in 2017 and have my own version of the “Beast” sitting on my lap, where I can find scores of Bible versions,  movies and classic rock videos.  On the same evil machine I write to you about my Christian life and try to express through experience what no commentator could possibly have predicted 50 years ago.  Hair length does not matter today & I know I am just blessed to have any at all.  The Hal Lindsey collection of books went to Good Will and has been replaced by pros and cons of reformed theology.

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the jury, I have reached a decision: we are easily deceived even though we are saved.  I am deeply concerned about Christianity today.  We are about to make the same mistakes over again.  We will fight the wrong fight and call ourselves Christian soldiers.  The battle isn’t social, economical, eschatological, political or (forgive me) doctrinal.  Yes, I know doctrine is so very important, but every Christian I know has their own set of doctrines.  The  battle is for the human soul.  Now THAT is the doctrine that upstages all others, & we should not mess with it.

The most outstanding experience of my Christian life happened in 1965 when I could not even spell the word “Bible” were it not for the song, “The B-I-B-L-E”.  I am just as saved today as I was back then because of my faith in Jesus Christ.  I didn’t know if faith was a gift, nor did I know if I was saved that day or from the foundation of the world.  It really didn’t matter.  Had I walked out in front of a truck when I left the Primitive Methodist Church that day, and never weathered the last 50 some years of craziness, I would be with Jesus.

The fact is I have been with Jesus all along.  Long or short hair, bell bottoms or not, KJV or ESV, in the movie theater and out of the theater, with the rock station or the Christian station, or with or without anything other than my Savior.  Count it all rubbish for the sake of knowing the Lord (Philippians 3:8).

I was sure that cigarettes & beer had been missed in the Ten Commandments.  I was sure worldly music had supplanted fornication as a sin.  I was sure that Lutherans were all lost and that Catholics didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in the lake of fire.  Well, none of these things keep people from eternity with Christ, though in my opinion men are deceived by such things.  One thing keeps us from Christ: ourselves.  Without Him we are lost no matter what we think or believe.

Satan is at work against the human soul.  His deceptions are many and varied.  He takes what is good and tempts us to mix poison in with the truth.  In our attempts to win people to Christ we identify those who are lost.  Their lostness in not based of what they do, but from whose race they come from: Adam’s.  Judgment is the outcome of the sinner who stands before God without Jesus.  They can be Reformed, Pentecostal, with or without a suit, or a theological degree.  They can can be Democrats or Republicans, they can have various opinions about global this or that.  Their jargon can include the latest terms that identify their convictions.  But without Christ they are lost, lost, lost.

Jesus Christ is poorly portrayed by our objections.  He is best portrayed in our affirmations.  Christians stand against sin because it is the thing Christ died to defeat, not because He wants us to be at war with our neighbors, culture and government.  Through the ages Christians have made many mistakes about what it means to be one.  Corrections are necessary and the outcome is often less than what it ought to be.  But I am one only because of Jesus Christ.

To the chagrin of many who will find fault with this article I say, “That is fine & expected”.  You have fought hard to get to the place you are in your Christian experience.  By the grace of God you are who you are and believe what you do.  But know this: You would not be a Christian were it not for Jesus.  However people get to know Him, they must know Him.  Whoever they are, no matter what their story is.

Mat 7:21-24 “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do. When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’ Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!’ “So then, anyone who hears these words of mine & obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock.

(GNB)

Farmall Cub

Today I took a day off and puttered around the place.  This means I am busy doing the things I’d really like to do when I’m not at the church.  I attempted to fix a tail light on our Trailblazer only to find it needed some new electronic parts.  E-bay found the stuff and now I wait for the mailman to deliver.

I patched up our beater car where it had rotted out above the passenger rear wheel well, built a little fire in the fire ring, watched a few out-doorsy woodworking videos and fell asleep on the chair.  This is the goal of course for a man my age, at home, alone & off for the day.

When I awoke from my slumber the trees were blowing in the 80 degree breeze & I thought, “This would be a good day to work on the Cub”.  So off I went to the shed to open the doors exposing the little red artifact built sometime around the late 40’s.

Little Farmall tractors have a great personality that takes us back to simpler times.  Times when men woke before daybreak and worked the field until sundown.  Times when the sunrise meant a hearty breakfast served by a lovely wife who would later massage your tired shoulders with liniment.  Times when the smell of the soil and the mid-day sun combined to invigorate the soul of the farmer.  Times when equipment like this little tractor were purchased by the well-deserved dollars earned by men with hands the likes of shoe leather.  Yes, those were the days I remember as a lad standing by and watching the greatest generation paint the emotional canvas of my life with a backdrop of chugging engines, pipe smoke and conversations about hunts that would make Fred Bear jealous.

Of course my memory is selective & jaded.

I keep going back there.  Boy do I miss those guys.  None of them cared if I came along to the garage or the workshop.  My uncle would pick me up in his 55 F100 on his way home from the coal hole he worked in the mountain.  He’d save half a sandwich for me and I’d chomp it down thinking I was eating a coal miner’s lunch, just like him.  He’d take me to his basement and we’d make something at the workbench: anything, as long as it was there at his place with him, that’s all that mattered.

I had no idea how fortunate I was.  My Dad would take me with him to see his old buddies he’d grown up with.  They grew up together, went to school together, lied about their age and went to war together, and if they made it back alive they were friends until the day they died.  Some smoked, some chewed, some used words Dad told me never to say, but I knew if ever I needed anything any of these men would be there to protect me, show me how, or take me along to wherever they were going.

Friends are hard to keep nowadays. If they find out you voted the wrong way you’re an enemy.  If you commented honestly on their Facebook page they unfriend you.  If you have opinions about social issues that differ from them, you’re a hater, or a liberal, or some intolerant creature from the Black Lagoon.  Very few of them have Farmall Cubs & I believe that is the problem. Everyone should have a piece of the past that takes them to a place that no longer exists, but reminds them of a better time.  How blessed I am!

Just so you know, I can’t get it started, so I came inside and blogged. My Dad didn’t have choices like this.  If it didn’t start, he’d have to find a way to either get it going or do the job some other way.  His day off was Sunday which was reserved only for worship and family.  He could not quit, go inside & blog.  He didn’t have 100 television channels.  His tools were not a collection on display, but well-used instruments that always “made it work”.

He’s gone.  Uncle Rich is gone.  Pap-pap died long ago.  All Dad’s buddies, one by one left their medals, guns, and tools to next of kin.  You can find them at the flea market in a box, or at best in an antique shop or museum.  But by golly, I got the little farmall and some memories that keep them alive.  I’m not letting them go; sometimes their the best friends I have.

Music In the Park

Last night I went to hear a friend play his drums in a classic rock band called R.A.T.L., each letter represents the first initial of the band members’ names.  This pastor sat among what I thought would be a wild & rebellious crowd of pot-heads, but they turned out to be mostly retired people from the community who came out to support “Music In the Park”.  Some children danced around as sounds from Jefferson Airplane and The Doobie Brothers filled the air, but with the exception of a few people who are always obvious at such events, it was a nice quiet evening.  My wife & I finished off the evening with a “Tastee Freeze” at the drive in.

At one point a fellow came around to sell chances for a 50-50 drawing with the proceeds going back into “Music In the Park” events.  I knew I couldn’t gamble but wanted to support the effort to clean up our dying coal town, now rated among the top slum cities in Pennsylvania.  I told the young man I wanted to make a donation and handed him four bucks.  He insisted I take a ticket & then donate the money back if I should win the drawing.  Not willing to make a scene, I slipped the ticket into my pocket and returned my attention to the young lady singing “I’m Gonna Harden My Heart”.  Ouch!  Certainly, I did not want that sound to be my signature.

At last the drawing came, the winning number was read and I could rest easy.  I lost.  My wife looked at me and said, “Well, you’re off the hook!”  Meaning: No one will know you bought a 50-50 ticket.  Turning to go talk to some friends, my wife left me alone to ponder my thoughts for a while.  Glad to have all charges dropped, I relaxed in my lawn chair.

I thought to myself, “Self, it was really dumb to get all stressed-out over a 50-50 ticket that could have “sold your soul” for $51 worth of winnings.  How could I get so bent out of shape because of one little red ticket?” It was then I realized my wife had gone to talk to some folks from the church who also attended the concert.  Busted!  Now everyone will know Pastor Ferd bought a ticket and is in favor of gambling and who knows what other slimy, worldly practices that harness lost souls all over the Coal Region.

I looked for a way out but there was none.  I panicked, sweat pouring from my head as I squirmed helplessly, scrunching up the little red ticket in my pocket like a gum wrapper from the gum I got from a friend as a kid in Sunday School.  I wasn’t supposed to have gum in church, but now my friend knew, I knew and especially God knew that was enjoying a stick of Bazooka Joe while we learned about Moses and the Red Sea on the flannelgraph.  Hell had opened it mouth and was ready to swallow us whole right there in the church basement.

Let the reader understand: This is not what church is all about.  It is not what grace is all about.  It is not what life is all about.  People need the Lord and it just so happens that there was a nice bunch of them at the concert.  I hope they saw this Christian buy a ticket, and even though I wanted to be publicly vindicated by winning & re-donating the money, I was okay with what happened.  I had no sin to confess except for the shadow of legalism that always follows me around to such things.

Pastor Ferd is a sinner saved by grace, but even more I am a saved sinner.  Justified without signing anything, sanctified day-by-day, and a child of God by His own grace & mercy.  The color of my car, the length of my tie, the version of my Bible, and especially a little red ticket, is no match for the power of God to save the lost.  Have a great Lord’s Day!

 

Fifty Eight

Fifty eight could be your house number or maybe the amount of change on your nightstand.  It may be the lower number of your blood pressure or the year your classic Chevy was produced.  For all you know it is the number of days until the President’s birthday or the number of petals on a daisy fleabane.  For me, fifty eight is the number of years I have lived here with the rest of you.

I may never see tomorrow, and if that becomes true, the knowledge that someone will be reading this brings me satisfaction.  I have no bucket-list, though there really are things I’d like to see and do.  I have married a wonderful woman and she has given me five children that I know I do not deserve, and they have started giving us grandchildren.  So, life is good!

I keep staring at the horizon and seeing eternity in the distance, yet sixty seems to be just hanging somewhere in between.  Somehow I just take it for granted that I will soon reach that black-balloon milestone and even surpass it.  Yet, the possibility that tomorrow does not arrive is reality for every family that stands at a graveside.

Life has a final paragraph, so we try to keep the story interesting enough and progressive enough that we can end it in a victorious way.  There’s not enough time in life to be a victim of circumstances in our three-score and ten years, so the best choice is to own our problems, shape them with the tools God gives us and present Him with a masterpiece at least fit enough to hang on His refrigerator door.

We keep searching for something illusive hoping to find it.  Somehow it always has to do with money and fame.  Such things are have limits that feel good while we here amid the rat race and for a moment we are in the front of the pack feeling pretty good about ourselves.  Soon the crest of a small hill reveals another pack far ahead.  So we run harder only to find the finish line will only be witnessed by next of kin.

But, you know, I’d just like to see my stick figures and report card hanging on Heaven’s refrigerator hung by eternity’s magnets.  I want to know my Heavenly Father is pleased with what I have to present Him: A picture of me and Him having an eternity together with the people I love, given to my trust.

Fifty eight.  Sixty eight… One hundred eight.  All small numbers when foreshadowed by eternity.

Matthew 6:34 “So don’t ever worry about tomorrow. After all, tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.