The Truth According to Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“To deviate from the truth for the sake of some prospect of hope of our own can never be wise, however slight that deviation may be. It is not our judgement of the situation which can show us what is wise, but only the truth of the Word of God. Here alone lies the promise of God’s faithfulness and help. It will always be true that the wisest course for the disciple is to abide solely by the Word of God in all simplicity.”

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A Tmely Word from G.K. Chesterton

O God of Earth and Alter
by G.K. Chesterton (1906)

O God of earth and altar,
bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,
our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men,
from sale and profanation
of honor, and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation,
deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all;
in ire and exultation
aflame with faith, and free,
lift up a living nation,
a single sword to thee.

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A Poetic Drive with Old Friends

Today, I discovered, by personal experience, that the drive from my house in Templeton to the Kennedy Club Fitness gym in Paso Robles is exactly the listening time of “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. Pulling out of my driveway it started on the car stereo and finished as I turned into the parking lot … a nice way to travel. One of my favorite lines: “And it’s whispered that soon, if we all call the tune, then the piper will lead us to reason. And the new day will dawn for those who stand long, and the forests will echo with laughter.” The “piper” and “those who stand long” … really makes me wonder.

If there is a natural law written on the human heart, then it is expressed in common, universal desires.  We cannot be sure of Robert Plank was contemplating, or in his words  really wondering, by writing lines like “… Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”  What we do know that he wrote of the universal quest for human meaning or flourishing with phrases reaching into our  inner lives “’cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.”

Since all truth is God’s truth, Mr. Plant and his colleagues in the band may not have known that there is a “piper” leading us to reason and calling us to join him on the single path to Heaven: Jesus of Nazareth.

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Peace and Purpose on the Journey: The Chapter Closes on 2014

Christmas Day, 2014

The rain has returned to San Luis Obispo County restoring the color green to our hillsides, meadows and landscape. Coincidently, Peter has also returned home from the middle of his second year at Westmont College. Much like the recent rain, Peter’s return to Templeton is always refreshing to our emotional landscape. He will soon return to college campus for his spring semester studies as well as throwing the javelin for the Westmont Warriors track team. Peter’s college experience is full and moving quickly.

10569085_10204380433092164_8637888970577162960_nHe has been accepted to Westmont’s campus abroad program to study in Europe for the Fall, 2015 semester! It was delightful having Peter home this past summer, working full time and spending lots of time with family and friends.

Melat, a senior at Templeton High School, has the finish line well in view and has applied to several universities for the Fall, 2015-16 college year! We are all waiting to hear the results of those applications to see where she will begin her college journey. In the meantime, Melat is a starter on the Templeton HS Girls Varsity Soccer team, which is off to a competitive pre season schedule and turning the corner to Los Padres League play in the next couple of months. With graduation imminent in June, Melat is raring to head up to the next level of school and life!

Chris continues to manage our household with grace and purpose. With Peter away at college and Melat’s buddies handing out, there are lots of girls around here! She illuminates the home front with compassion and wisdom. It’s not always easy. Chris reads widely and I enjoy her enlightened insights coming from books she’s reading such as Victor H10407532_10204380406131490_8367607522895272316_nugo’s Les Misérables. We look forward to celebrating our 39th anniversary next month with a weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Actually, Chris and I look for any reason possible to spend time up there together!

As for me, the completion of this school term in June will mark my 35th year teaching high school humanities. The fruit of the Lord’s faithfulness all these years has certainly enriched my soul with deep gratitude and joy. This past fall I enjoyed playing in another Men’s Senior Baseball World Series Tournament (six hardball games in four days) with health and some success. The greatest part of the week in Phoenix is the camaraderie with my Hollywood Stars teammates! Also, this past summer I was able to land a job as a member of the stage crew for the California Mid State Fair Main Stage concert series. So for two full weeks I worked back stage, on stage, the “front of the house” and even some spotlights for concerts with Journey,the Steve Miller Band, Tower of Power, Lady Antebellum, Train, the Doobie Brothers, Zac Brown and even the somewhat notorious Kid Rock. It was physically exhausting work, but over all quite fun and different than my regular work!

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A reflection on this Christmas season reminds me of the first angelic announcement to shepherds regarding the birth of Jesus in obscure Bethlehem:       And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of  great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord …”                          Luke 2:10-11 ESV

The centerpiece of the angelic announcement is not about giving or receiving gifts with those we know and love, nor is it even about making Christmas a tremendous family time. The simple, profound message is that a Savior was born! We are individuals, families, communities, a nation and a world that desperately needs the Savior Jesus Christ.

Building a bridge from Bethlehem to our new year, we conclude with an inspirational, insightful quote taken from Francis of Assisi’s Letters to Rulers of People:

“Keep a clear eye towards life’s end. Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature. What you are in His sight is what you are and nothing more. Remember that when you leave this Earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – fading symbols of honor, trappings of power – but only what you have been given: a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”

May there be peace on your journey and the enjoyment of meaningful conversations throughout the year to come.

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A Place to Start

Everyone has a starting place.  The wisest starting place, as in the ancient writings titled Genesis, is God.  “In the beginning God … “ (Genesis 1:1)  All starting places, to be valid, must support the reality of life as we know it.  Even at its own genesis, the naturalis260453_187616461371316_1804360343_nm or scientific atheism has a significant problem with an inadequate starting place.  “In the beginning there was nothing, absolute nothing …”  leaves us with at least two fatal questions: (1) How did everything come from nothing? and (2) How did non-living items produce living species? questions undermine naturalism by being contrary to all human reality.  These two things simply do not happen.  Careful consideration must be giving to the fact that this is not a mere natural universe, but a supernatural universe.  This is an environment where many things can certainly be explained due of the consistency and intelligent design of the cosmos, but not all can be explained due to the supernatural, mysterious origin facilitated  in the primary starting point “In the beginning God …”

There is also a significant corollary to this initial starting place.  Not only does God exist, but this God has spoken.  God is not silent.  Creation itself, like a great work of art, proclaims a message in its beauty, intricacies, design and challenges.  The vastness of the universe down to the most delicate biological systems all proclaim, in no uncertain terms, there is a supernatural intent and there is God.  The broadcast of creation attaches itself to our inner conscience with the ring of truth.  Beyond our ability to comprehend such a dynamic creation, it still makes sense deep within us.

Creation and conscience remain general, vague reminders of the great power behind this universe and logically guide us to the question: “Who speaks for God?”  This query has been a passion throughout history while inadequate answers cause confusion, disillusionment, injustice and too many wars.  In this light, the supernatural and natural life of Jesus Christ revealed  details about God that were unknowable up to that point.  Simple truth claims made by Jesus of Nazareth like “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9, ESV) open up a wide realm of detailed possibilities leading to greater knowledge of God.  Such divine revelation is not an epistemology secular humanism or naturalism will be comfortable exploring, but the historical Jesus must be taken seriously.  In a supernatural universe, miracles and divine revelation are common place and sensible.  Thus the Bible as Holy Scripture making its own truth claim to have been uniquely inspired by God himself, preserved throughout the centuries by God himself  and profitable for instruction in the necessary nuances to accurately knowing God and the principles of his Kingdom.  These Scriptures reveal a Christ and a Kingdom of goodness, justice and righteousness.  While creation initiated life, history is packed with suffering and death.  The Kingdom of God, revealed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,  offers grace, peace and hope.

We start with the God who is really there. This God is not silent having spoken clearly  in creation, conscience, Jesus Christ and the Scriptures causing the wisest, most prudent among us,  to passionately  seek the goodness, truth and beauty of the revealed Kingdom of God.

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Take Heart, Get Up … He is Calling You

Being blind is a terrible condition.  Nestled in the Gospel According to Mark is a brief narrative describing the departure of Jesus and his disciples from historic Jericho.  The end of Chapter 10 tells the story of a blind man identified as Bartimaeus.  Sitting by the road as Jesus and his entourage passed, it is recorded that Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (10:47)  Many in the throng rebuked Bart, telling him to be quiet!  Not dissuaded by the crowd, the blind beggar cried out with more intensity, “… have mercy on me!” (10:48)  With the second appeal, Jesus stopped and said simply, “Call him.” (10:49)  The voice of the multitude changed because of Jesus, they now responded with amazing clarity, “Take heart.  Get up; he is calling you.” (10:49)  Imagine being singled out by Jesus with a direct call!  The truth is: we are called!  We are called primarily to follow Jesus wholeheartedly.  Secondarily, we are individually called by Jesus to serve his Kingdom with our time, talents and treasure by glorifying God in everything we do.  Followers of Jesus do not have careers (mere jobs), we have vocations (from vocal or calling).  Bartimaeus’ response to the call was immediate by “throwing off his cloak” springing up and rushing to Jesus. (10:50)  There was no hesitation.

The question Jesus met Bartimaeus with is insightful: “What do you want me to do for you?” (10:51)  Think about this question.  A blind beggar is asked to identify what he wants Jesus to do.  The deep respect Jesus has for individuals is revealed in the dignity expressed by the simple question.  Can we imagine Jesus asking each of us that question?  The Scripture is clear: he does.  “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father will be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John     14:13-14)  The context of Mark notes in several places that things impossible with man are certainly possible with God! (see Mark 9:23 and Mark 10:27)   Bartimaeus identifies his greatest need, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” (10:51)  Physical sight is symbolically connected to spiritual insight.  To see, to be enlightened and to have vision spiritually is a noted path of human flourishing.  Without expanding the context too much, it is possible to tweak  Bart’s request to read, “Teacher, let me recover my vision.”  Calling enabled vision ignites passion.   We need to see, to have a vision of something better and even greater than our own limited scope.  Human flourishing to the glory of God is directly related to an increased spiritual field of vision.

Jesus responded to Bartimaeus with “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” (10:52)   The imperative is used: Go!  Avoid the stagnant, static and passive in favor of the moving, risk taking and courageous.  Immediately, Mark records,  Bartimaeus recovered his sight and followed Jesus on the way!  (10:52)  Bart’s trusting faith in Jesus made him well. He recovered his vision and followed Jesus wholeheartedly.  The take away from this story is  inspiring.  Consider the following in terms of personal spiritual journey:

There was a cry for mercy (10:47, 48)                                                                                                  There was the initiative of Jesus to the cry for mercy: “Call him” (10:49)                           There was the invitation: “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” (10:49)                         There was the immediate action of throwing off, springing up and going to Jesus (10:50)  There was the probing question by Jesus: “What do you want me to do for you?” (10:51)  There was the request of the blind beggar: “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” (10:52)  There was the recovery of sight both physically and spiritually by faith. (10:52)           There was the transformed life courageously following Jesus in the way (10:52)

Without vision we perish.  I am attracted to this story.  We want our lives to count, to flourish and to have meaning.  “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you” is an amazing, awe inspiring threshold.  The fact that Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” is humbling.  Rabbi, I want to see.  Help me recover vision of what is real, important and true.  Restore my vision as I follow you in the way wholeheartedly.

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Thank You for the Cross: A Good Friday Prayer

This is a prayer gleaned and slightly edited from the Book of Common Prayer of
the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. I have adapted it from Eugene Peterson’s book Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in his Stories and Prayers.

 
Almighty and merciful Father,
We have erred, and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We offended against your holy law. We have left undone those things we ought to have done; and we done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no spiritual health in us.
But you, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders. Spare us, O God, who confess our faults. Restore us who are penitent; according to your promises declared to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, most merciful Father, for his sake: that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous and sober life.
To the glory of your holy name. Amen

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