The Coward Within

This morning I got a message that my Daughter-in-law’s Pastor is now the Father of a suicidal son.  I wish I could tell you he got help but instead he took his own life at just 28 years old.  This family will never be the same.  Every year when February ends they will be reminded of their son who destroyed the most precious gift ever given to them.

Suicide is so common in today’s world that it hardly registers the top ten list of bad things that happen.  School shootings, opioid abuse, meth labs, and somewhere down the list: suicides.  Pair this with a constant barrage of media reports about scandalous and earth-changing events around the world and you have the basic breakfast for the twenty-first Century mind.

This young man was afraid of something.  He may have been afraid of everything, even himself.  His Father is a preacher in a small church who I am sure had to have all the right answers and have the right clothes and demeanor.  He managed to be as perfect as possible when with his congregation.  He blessed their children, performed their weddings, and buried their dead.  He always had the right words and made everyone feel better.  He spoke out against sin and prayed for the repentant who would visit his church office.  He served communion to them, baptized them and wept with them.  Now his son is gone.

Today he tries in vain to comfort his wife of many years.  She shares his pain as she has shared his ministry all this time.  She had written many sympathy cards to parishioners and get-well cards to the sick.  She has served meals to help poor families and swallowed her pride countless times for the sake of her family.  Today she is stranded on an island and her husband is on one also.  She can see him, but his touch is too far away to comfort her.  They are alone and sick, and now will carry the disease we will call “suicide affliction” for the rest of their lives.

The church and community is also in mourning and disbelief.  Their words of comfort are appreciated but will never bring their boy back.  He went an a journey that only he and God knows where to.  The church folk talk about the tragedy around the dinner table and their children hear their commentary.  Some say he’s in Hell.  Some say he was deranged and God will have mercy.  Some say it was his parents’ fault because the preacher was too strict or maybe a hypocrite.  Young ears remember these words.  They begin to understand that for others the issue at hand was failure and someone needs to be blamed.  Someone should pay.  This is so wrong; who can make it right?  They are scared, confused and angry.  The seeds are planted, let’s just hope they don’t find fertile soil down in their hearts.

There is a pattern with us that points back to our sin nature: cowardice.  Those parents would never say those words to the family of the deceased, but behind their backs they enjoy free speech.  Have you noticed that no one in their right mind ever really says things unless he or she is joined by others in agreement?  This is why gossip, slander and back-biting are so popular.  Take a look at facebook rants: these are what is in the heart of someone sitting alone behind their keyboard with no one physically present.  The same is true for angry letters-to-the-editor in newspapers.  Why do suicidal people and school shooters post what they intend to do in a dark corner somewhere where no one can stop them?

Cowardice has met anger– extreme anger pent up for years and pushed down by society, the media, the government, religion, science and you-name-it.  A suicidal person has one thing on their mind: this is all I see, therefore that is all there is.  What they see is a darkness: a deep hole that cannot be climbed out of.  Life makes no sense and they get rid of it.  They have believed the ultimate lie: life is worthless.

The rest of the world keeps on going, spinning fear into the hearts of our youth.  The barrage of hate, evil, selfishness, greed and lies, lies, lies comes raining down like arrows in a medieval epic battle through the mouths and keyboards of people who are self-proclaimed experts on life.  Our children try new things to combat this but everything they pick up is tainted with the curse: from their video games to their vegan lives, nothing is protecting them from the vile world we live in.

So we pretend.  Why? We’re cowards too.  We pretend that guns will save us, and we pretend that guns are the problem.  We pretend that politics will save us, and we pretend that politics are the problem.  We pretend that a strong military is the answer, and we pretend that the military is the problem.  We blame drugs, alcohol, race, sex, schools, prisons, religion, food, medicine and everything we can think of except ourselves.  It is always someone else, or something else that is to blame.

But if there we no person around to pick up the gun it wouldn’t have happened.  If there were no person around to find the syringe, find the liquor, prescribe the medicine, none of this would have happened.  Of course not.  How ridiculous.

This young man who took his life may have considered all the options but behaving himself was not one of them.  In his mind the problem surrounded him, but the problem was actually within.  This is an option that few consider: I need to get things straight and own my problems like a man.  I must fix this or else I will hurt the people I love.

Behind all the lies and behind all the trouble are ten simple rules, that hinge on two larger ones: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.  If you love God you won’t have any other gods in your life (just like a pure marriage); you will keep His Sabbath, you will not blaspheme His name and you won’t make images to worship (like porno, for instance, just in case you think we are too advanced for idol worship).

Then the last six commands are about how to love your neighbor, starting with honor your mother and father; don’t kill your neighbor, don’t lie to your neighbor, don’t steal from your neighbor, don’t covet your neighbor’s things, and keep your eyes and hands off your neighbor’s spouse.  These are meant for me to observe and keep to the best of my ability.  Do I fail? Yes.  But God also tells me why: I am a sinner and sinners fail regularly.  So I must stay in touch with God regularly, repent of dumb things I do and move on to improvement.  Improvement for me, my family, my community, my church, and my Country.

In the meantime we must do our best to help people like this pastor and his wife.  Their whole world has just fallen to pieces.  No one should talk of their failures (we all have them).  No one should try to judge the young man’s eternal destiny (though you may be right about it).  Words are very powerful. Be careful how you use them.  They can heal and they can hurt.  We’re made in the image of God according to the Bible.  God created by speaking.  Jesus rose Lazarus by speaking.  God will judge the world by speaking and only He has the right to do so.  You and I have His Word.  Pay attention to it, revere and obey it. You may be the only Bible some will ever read.

O God how the world needs you today.  Forgive our rejection of You and your ways.  Allow your mercy to fall upon us one more day.  You alone are our only hope.

 

COFFEE

COFFEE

When all else fails and life is glum,

When rain pours down for days,

When to weary feelings I succumb,

When colors fade to gray,

It is to coffee that I turn,

Black medicine of old,

From youth it was when I first learned

It’s worth is that of gold.

But please explain if you should know

The mystery so queer:

How that it goes in dark and slow,

But comes out quick and clear.

A Hole In One

Out he went with his dream to make the changes

And strapped to his waist was the old 45.

The star he wore was made of tin but his heart was gold

And from that heart his dream stayed alive.

But on that day when the sun stood still and the birds ceased their song

He drew that old black powder Colt a millisecond too long.

Oh it discharged a chunk of lead alright, about 250 grain,

But after one small ricochet it landed in his brain.

The whole town mourned for weeks and weeks o’er the grave up on boot hill,

“Here lies the man with heart of gold, and head with leaden pill.”

He may have been right you know, his heart and all that stuff,

But being the fastest draw in the West does not mean you’re so tuff.

He should made the ones he loved a safe place for to lodge,

Instead he spent his days in the sheriffs office in the the city they call “Dodge”.

Dodge he did, all his life, the bullets, cursings, kids and wife.

He was was known for keeping law, but his home was always absent, “Paw”.

 

 

What To Do With Your Life

We are a race of gifted people throwing away our greatest blessings.  Like giving an exotic diamond to a baby who only wants to chew on it, swallow it and then deposit it in his diaper.  He grows throughout life never remembering the precious gift he wasted during infancy.  Along he goes finding ways to survive as he swims through his cultural swamp only to die with nothing, the same thing he came into life with.  Had he only the capacity to understand the value he was handed in that exotic stone, he would have been so much better off today, all grown up.

That’s us you see:  born into a race that has forgotten the rich heritage that belongs to them.  Spiritual amnesiacs putting great value on things that perish rather than investing their God-given riches into life.  Paying our athletes obscene salaries and accolades to entertain us as we stuff ourselves with false pride of a team that could care less about us.  This is why we watch the “elite” give each other golden awards for best actor, best writer, best dressed (or under-dressed), and most likely to go places.

We are convinced that becoming like them is a wonderful thing, so we buy their make-up, weight-loss plans, books and movies while feeding on corn-chips in front of some screen waiting for the next big thing to impress us. We serve an employer or lay-hold of public assistance to support our love affair with overpaid, unhappy, unworthy people who themselves have a bad habit of leading miserable lives, yet we watch them day-in and day-out.  We want to be them but  we cannot because they model a media-generated life of falseness that we were never meant to be in the first place.

As we dance with death with every lost heartbeat we waste away a second at a time, never reaching the lofty things we have been created for.  God’s image has been replaced with the face of a human make-over, covering the failing bodies and aging faces of our idols.  Our being cries out for help so we sedate it with an opium that promises “better days ahead.”

The best day however is today.  It is the day you can start exerting your energies on things that are profitable to yourself and all those whose lives you influence.  Decide first the value of yourself:

1Peter 1:18, 19 For you know what was paid to set you free from the worthless manner of life handed down by your ancestors. It was not something that can be destroyed, such as silver or gold;19 it was the costly sacrifice of Christ, who was like a lamb without defect or flaw. (GNB)

Scriptures reveal that while we spend our time pursuing things that pass away, that God spent everything to set us free to be everything He intended for us to be. So if we are ever going to pull away from the gravity of the death star of human failure, we must come to grips with just how valuable we are to God.  Maybe you believe putting your faith in Christ will consume your opportunities to find more pleasure and success in life, but before you return to this belief consider the cost of such a philosophy.

Mark 8:35-37 For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for me and for the gospel, you will save it. 36 Do you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! 37 There is nothing you can give to regain your life. (GNB)

Jesus was saying here that the energy man exerts in earthly investments will be lost (there’s physical proof for this), and once your life is spent you cannot get it back.  However if you will simply give your life back to God, through the sum paid by His Son, your life is now valuable again and that value cannot be lost because you gave it to God.

This gets better: although your life is God’s possession you still get to live it to the fullest here on earth, while you await your reception in Heaven when the threshold of death finally comes your way.  That’s right you are still you, though God’s property, and now you get the chance to truly invest in a future that will not pass away when your body does.  You do not have to play the game everyone else does.  It’s okay to be who God created you to be, especially when you live for Him!

Your artistic ability, technical skill, creative thought-life, and physical abilities are usable and on display to bring Him glory and bring you the joy of living.  Plus, as you mature in your life with God He gives you gifts that enhance your life in Christ.  Life is no longer about you, it’s about God.  The old you who tried to mimic and adore false gods and frivolous ways of living are now replaced by adoring God Himself and emanating Jesus.

What have you got to lose?  Pride for one.  That will have to go.  The reception of Christ in your life means agreeing that you are a sinner (just like me).  Along the way you will learn more about the things that displease God and will have to go also.  God is gracious though and has given us better things than sin to replace our old ways of living.  He replaces promiscuity with faithful relationships.  He replaces hatred with learning how to love.  He forgives us for the lies we told and lived in, and patiently teaches us how to be more truthful.  Most of all He gives us all the grace we need to be what He intended for us to be.

You may have watched Christianity and saw something that you did not like.  Truth be told: Christianity and Christ are not the same thing.  Christianity amounts to a religion that is modeled differently from group-to-group and place-to-place.  All who embrace the Christian religion are not always true Christians.  Like the human race we vary in ways that make us different from others because of our surroundings.  So if you enter a church building in California, you will likely experience something different than in Calcutta, but this has no bearing on what it means to be a follower of Christ.

When Christ comes for you at the end of life, you will shed everything that was physically yours in this world, and that includes your membership at First Presbyterian Church.  Yet, everything you have become for Christ, and everything you have done in the name of Christ will be waiting for us when we reach Heaven.  Let God lead you in your life in Christ.  Eventually, you will find yourself a place of worship with other Believers, but the throne of your heart is where true worship comes from.  Let God sit on that Throne.

So what about your life?  Must you be like everyone else? Or is there a passion within to be what you were created to be?  The beauty and genius of who you are is wrapped up in knowing God has placed great value on you. Don’t waste your life.  Give it to God.

 

Read This

Read this because you’re the type of person who appreciates writing. Go ahead and share it and recommend it to someone else who is kinda like you.  You know who I mean: the guy who hides behind the screen he writes on;  The girl who is secretly depressed and agitated about how small they feel in such a big writing community with its own stars.  Those people who are repulsed at the actors, writers and pontifical people who pat each other on the back with golden awards for who shines brightest.

Yup.  We cower in their shadows as they go on to fame and fortune while all you want to do is be heard and appreciated.  Don’t be disappointed, you are who you are and your work is your work no matter how the rest of the world responds to you and it. Keep creating and writing for it is an extension of yourself and you are valuable.

There’s a portion of us who think we have answers to difficult questions.  Some of us like to tell the world where we have been.  Others like to share their knowledge and accomplishments.  The reason we do is we are created ourselves, and the work of One who also desires to be noticed and appreciated.  Yet, He doesn’t need any of us to survive. He doesn’t survive at all, instead He is Life and Life is self-existent in and of Himself.  We have been told we are created in His image, so we are very much like Him, but corrupted by a sick, self-absorbed role model called “humanity.”

Some years ago a song written by a favorite artist caught my attention:

RANDY STONEHILL
Through The Glass Darkly

I heard God was at the Palace doing a one night stand
So I went out there to see Him with my hope in my hand
He was just a boy of fifteen without much to say
And when he started signing autographs I walked away

I was standing on a corner by the marketplace
When a fellow with some leaflets shoved one right in my face
Well he poked me with His Bible like it was a loaded gun
And I said whatever it is you’re selling man I don’t want none

All our superstar are suicidal casualties
And our heroes die in motel rooms and motorcades
Oh it seems like all out dreams are only fantasies
And I wonder if we’ll learn from the mistakes we’ve made

I bumped into Mr. Jimi at a London hotel
And he said let’s get together but he didn’t look well
When I woke up in the morning all the papers read
Jimi Hendrix overdosed last night in bed

All our superstar are suicidal casualties
And our heroes die in motel rooms and motorcades
Oh it seems like all out dreams turn into tragedies
And i wonder if we’ll learn from the mistakes we’ve made

Now I’m waiting at the bus stop for the bus to arrive
And I know there must be more to life than staying alive
Well I don’t know where I’m going when I climb in
But it can’t be any emptier than where I’ve been

     Ah, yes.  Randy has nailed it.  The world looks to super-stars that always become falling stars.  We give them our ears, eyes, time and money.  We sit on the edge of our seats waiting for the next movie surprised to find out that one of the stars had to be computer generated because they perished due to reckless living.  Instead of learning from their mistakes we make them gods and goddesses.  We continue to worship at the throne of popular opinion rather than truth.
     Some of us have drawn back.  We know we are failures and keep working so others do not make the same mistakes.  We want to share the beauty of life, the wonderful & limited gift we all share in this world.
     Some have plumbed the depths and reached for beyond the stars;  some have looked inward a far as the microscope will allow and have drawn two diverse conclusions: 1) Mankind is an amazing cosmic mystery having chance as it’s origin, and we are progressing toward perfection, or 2) Mankind is the creative result of  Divine Artist and we fail to see His signature in ourselves, and hence are degenerating.
     While the media continues to generate myths and legends out of humans with smoke and mirrors, let’s continue to create the reality of life and artistry at it’s best.  Hopefully, we will be able to give the greatest worship and accolades to the One who made us this way.
     I know you may not agree with my conclusions and that is okay.  You may feel all alone in your work and believe no one understands.  Let me challenge you to have another look.  The world with its hard work and coldness has grandeur and beauty.  Stop often and be amazed.  Tell us about it.  We already know about the hatred, the death, the sickness, and degradation.  Paint your world with the Creator’s heart in mind.  Find Him and you will find faith, hope and love.  Do you really need anything else?

 

DSCN2325

They and Others

valley of death

There they go again, back and forth, in and out, up and down.

They could have so much more, but instead desire madness and monotony.

Where were they when we needed them?  They were busy.

Busy but accomplishing nothing; nothing that they say is really something.

Across the sea others went in their place to keep them safe,

Safe maybe, but not from themselves; so many lost to preserve the madness.

The others? Most return alive, but their spirits are near spent,

Bodies never quite the same, the land they love emaciated by selfishness.

Memories that do not die, sleep– the others may, but rest never.

Always something in the shadows, waiting to attack when least expected

As rest is slaughtered during the cursed nightmare.

Morning dawns and outside the window there they go again,

Constantly moving and going nowhere accomplishing nothing so they can

Be like everyone else: Except the others

 

The Gift

DSCN2311Not ours to keep but to embrace is the earthly life we have come to know.  We do not order it, control it, just embrace it because it is a gift.  It is undeserved at any rate and at least we should appreciate it’s length be it just a day or two.  Life is full of experience that cries out for more, even if we are the richest and most well-to-do.  There is no bucket list for the thankful, just gratitude for the day we have.  Hunger, disease, war, death and all things rated evil or unfortunate are still part of the day we are lent.

Fortunate people like myself do not appreciate the depth of creativity thrust upon us from our Maker.  In His hands and heart lies a plan that comes to fruition not for us but for Himself.  Those who are humble enough to submit to His sovereignty enjoy the fruit of His indefinable and merciful ways and eventually His Kingdom which is made up of those who He has called His own.

Our world is now sopping wet with the blood of human selfishness and the entire creation cries out for redemption.  We ask ourselves why God would allow for such pain and heartache when kindness and love is attainable where we have been planted?  The answer is not defined, perhaps it is because His creation cannot know His love unless they are given the opportunity to make their mind up to love Him back.

Many are born into the sorrow left to their people & land by rebellious forefathers.  Yet, through the sorrow they somehow come to know & love God.  Others with so much blessing in life rebel against His goodness and leave sorrow for their children, and of course, judgment for themselves.  I know; you don’t want to believe it.  But we better for time is of the essence.

As we continue in life we know that our time is running out like the fuel left in a wood fire which turns to ashes in a few hours.  The young ignore it until their friend is killed in an accident, suicide or a war.  The middle-age try to control it thinking that they will be able to retire soon, then their classmate dies at 51.  The old still know their days are few but few of them are careful with how they’re spent; then they die.  The gift of life is snuffed out like a candle and at every age and stage of life we deny our Creator His spot on our heart’s throne.

You’re alive?  Live, but not for yourself.  Live as though life is something given that needs to be given back, appreciated, and in the hands of God.  Get off that throne; it’s not yours.  When the King comes to sit down you will be removed.  Love your Creator as He has loved you.  If you haven’t yet discovered His love, go to the Cross.  You will see blood shed for our transgressions.  You will see it is also empty for Christ has ascended to His Father’s throne where He intercedes for those who believe on Him.

In the meantime the world in turmoil has some relief that can be given by you.  Yes, the gift of life.  Those who keep it for themselves will have only that to show on the day we give an account.  To carelessly give it away to riotous living is also a tragic loss, for it was not appreciated and wasted.  To invest it into others: the returns cannot be lost and are multiplied. But first, give it back to God.  He bought it with His Son.  You will have to give it back someday anyway.  What pleasure their will be for the one who presents it with interest.

Merry Christmas. Understand the gift.

King of Orphans

In the smile of a child, on the sunset clouds, beneath the shaded tree,

You will find it there.

In the first dandelion, with the twin fawn whitetails, and the call of an owl,

It surprises you every time.

In the quiet of the new-fallen snow, the trickling stream and fields waving in the wind:

Evidence of the Creator.

We credit every athlete, artist and musician with their amazing skill,

Yet the One who knew them before their conception gets little credit

From the capstone of His creation: man.

Willful orphans who run from their Father, Who waits at the end of the lane for

their return, refuse to be identified with His majestic sweetness,

And trade their eternal birthright for a day’s worth of soup.

Failing to see Him, acknowledge Him, seek Him, He did the one thing that just might

capture our attention: He became a man.

Walking among us we discovered there was no room for Him on our throne,

Threatened by His holiness, we hung Him on a tree to die.

He forgave us before His last dying breath.

He bought you back.  Will you come home?

 

 

 

Thanks Lord!

Giving thanks always takes us to the wonderful things and people we are surrounded with: Family, Church, Nature, Salvation, Home, God.

I am seldom aware of all the things I am not thankful for, yet are part of the life God has designed for me. Some things we become thankful for only when they are taken away.  Here’s a few:

  1. The full use of our bodies
  1. The senses: sight, smell, taste, feeling, hearing
  1. The ability to think, reason, make decisions & take responsibility
  1. Communication with other human beings
  1. Dominion over animal life, forest field & the accountability of it
  1. Water, air, soil, fire, the elements
  1. Wealth & power (in the amounts given to us)
  1. The opportunity to know God
  1. Articulation of speech & control over it
  1. Dreams, sleep, rest
  1. An eternal soul that is loved by its Creator
  1. Endurance of pain, sorrow, affliction, troubles
  1. Youth, old age & whatever is in between
  1. Hope for tomorrow when today leaves you exhausted
  1. Warmth in cold, cool when hot, relief when in pain

Now, of course this list is not extant, but should get you thinking thankfully.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving,

Pastor Ferd (Woodtic)DSCN2312

 

The Intimate Sky

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Can the sunset see us here below

As it shadows the hollows and woodland?

Does it mate with evening and give birth

To midnight’s coal dark sky?

Does it blush with scarlet hues

Because we see the sky’s intimate love song

And hear the Katydid’s soliloquies of end of day?

As stars commence to dance above

And the moon strokes it’s fiddle,

I never cease to be amazed

At eventide’s conception.