Monday, March 30, 2015

The Runner (#PoetryMonday*)

Moving smoothly along an empty beach
Early in the morning misty thick
With spring warmth, a pre-dawn dewy haze,
You can hear his breathing
In timed panting with his feet's
Sandy slapping, leaving wet impressions
Trailing him
Moving his legs in ecstatic delight,
Enjoying the feel of his muscles,
Taut and working,
Moving him, pushing him,
Through the glowing dawn, the salt air.
Above him
Gulls in white swirls
Cry out his presence to the day,
To the sleeping sea.
Arms taut and solid by his sides,
Moving in balanced rhythm,
His head up, smiling open and large,
Intense in his celebration
And worship, he runs.
In solitude, Jesus runs.

* It's PoMo! To learn about PoMo (POetry MOnday), click here and then scroll down.  

This is from my only collection of poetry, The Godtouch, which you can read online or buy using the links below. The poem opens the Easter section of the book, offering a somewhat different view of how Jesus may have spent some of his time alone. What do you think? Do you think Jesus ever ran on the beach?

• Kindle version.



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Letting go of (prop)aganda: Giving props to Him Who sustains

(Originally posted April 11, 2011;
reposted here with minor edits
& some updates)

We are surrounded with daily messages telling us what we need to be happy, successful, and just live comfortably in this world.

Then, about once a week, we go to church and sing a hymn that declares, “He [Jesus] is all we need.” We hear sermons that remind us to rest in and depend on Jesus for – everything.

But then, we leave church, get into a reliable car, drive to a nearby restaurant, easily pay for a great meal, go home to our nice house, and putter with our toys around the yard.

Ah, summertime and the living is easy.

Marketing = Give us all your money and then you’ll be happy

The world’s propaganda (called marketing and advertising) is essentially geared to take our money while claiming to give us satisfaction in return.

We are teased with the idea that buying this or that will bring us the happiness we won’t find from sticking our money into a savings account or donating it to worthy causes.

The purpose of man, we are told, is to get more stuff!

The devil in the marketing details

The devil’s propaganda is geared toward shifting our reliance away from God onto anything else, often things that appear good: better job, loving family, good health, lots of savings, moving closer to family, a nice house, food in the pantry, and so on.

Satan’s goal is to get us to find our identity in anything and everything other than faith in Christ and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

These other things may all be good. The point is that they are not the point!

Our purpose in life is not about our happiness, but about serving God and enjoying him.

Giving props to the One who knocks away the props

Both what the world sells us and what Satan spins to us is really (prop)aganda: These are all lies we use to “prop” ourselves up instead of depending on and trusting in God.

How does God tend to correct this misplaced dependence?

Simple. He knocks the props out from under us. One at a time. As often as it takes.

How do I know this? Because I’m learning it.

Learning to lean the right way

In the past year or so [2010-11], pretty much all of my props have been taken from me. I lost my job, developed a series of serious health issues, and had my car stolen and totaled.
  •  The job I lost was the one I quit a good job in Indiana and moved to Cleveland for, among “promises” that it would include years of stability and bonuses.
  • The health I lost included issues with bronchitis that somehow led to atrial fibrillation and flutter that required minor heart surgery and ongoing management with meds. Trailing these was severe anemia that required five units of blood and three iron infusions over several months to get me back on track.
  • The car I lost was a 1992 Jeep that was taken for a joy ride that ended head-on into a tree. It was insured, but the money was needed to cover other, more pressing bills, which means I’m still carless.
In the midst of all this, there have been no job offers, no freelance clients, and just enough unemployment to squeak by.

All of these taken together represent control over my life: it’s not in my hands!

Better than birds

Guess what? Despite fleeting moments of panic, I’m doing okay because God is taking care of me. But I have no idea what’s next! I’ve been kind of forced to live as Jesus directed in Matthew 6:25-34 where he said:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

What’s the point?

Why is this happening? I don’t know. All I know is that I can trust Him to take care of me and that He is.

Maybe what’s happening to me is actually an object lesson for someone else who’s watching my situation. Maybe it’s a training ground for something else coming down the road. Maybe, because I was feeling so cushy in my great-paying job, it’s God’s way of reminding me who’s really in charge of providing my income. Maybe it’s all of those or none of those reasons.

At times I feel like the three Hebrew dudes, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who, just before being tossed into a fiery furnace, said to their king:
"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:16-18)

It is clear that I’m not in charge here; I’m not the boss of me. The point is that all the “props” in the world are worthless. The only right way to lean is on the everlasting arms of God the Father.

And God knows what’s best for me.

While there are days that feel a little “warmer” than others (meaning, getting a little close to furnace), the bottom line is that my needs have been and are being met.

Plus, in the midst of the tough stuff, there have been some very, very good things that have happened: God brought a wonderful, loving, godly woman into my life to whom I am now joyously married. He’s surrounded me with wonderful, godly friends who have blessed me enormously. He has proved to me, again, how much He cares for me.

While I have felt alone, He has never left me alone.

And although being propped up is nice, it’s more important to give props to the One who sustains our very lives:
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)

Brief update: BethAnn and I are still happily married. We have two nice cars and steady income. I am still dealing with a-fib issues, but am managing with meds. Things are pretty okay! Ill be the first to admit, Im still learning dependency on God. She and I both are. But then I believe that this is a day-to-day kind of thing. You know, give us this day, etc., etc. Kind of like how God provided the manna in the desert, one day at a time as needed. It isn’t always fun at the time, but its always good in the end. How are you doing? Share your experience or tips for hanging on in the comments!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Easy Chair (#PoetryMonday*)

I could sit here and read poetry all day,
he thinks, the fire crackling in the background,
the liar sun glistening over the frozen snow outside.

Writing poetry? Yes, I’d like to and I could, too.
But then I’d have to close the book, get up,
go into a colder room, wait to be fully roused
by some random muse passing by
as the PC turns on and boots,
open the word processing application, put fingers on keys,
poised, waiting for the lines to form on the pixeled page.

I’d rather just stay here next to the fire,
where it’s warmer, and enjoy the ripe fruit
of someone else
s labor.

* It's PoMo! To learn about PoMo (POetry MOnday), click here and then scroll down. 

Ah, La-Z-Boy, you are a comfort to me
! Sometimes I wonder if easy chairs are more of a curse than a blessing. But Im not giving mine up! And, to be honest, with my laptop, I can write anywhere. And the only fireplace I have access to right now is a digital version on the TV. What do you think? Is it better to sit at a desk to write? Or in a coffee shop? Share in the comments section.

FYI: My blog has reached more than 100,000 views.

This poem is included in this collection: