29 September 2014

The Mysterious Methods of His Majesty

He knows how to approach you.

He knows how to teach you things that are within your purview.

He knows how to gently and with peace show you things which will lead you to make good choices.

He tests you, not to prove how weak you are or to humiliate you in a mean way, but to simply show you where you are and what you need to work on.

If you persist with arrogance and pride, the humiliation will befit your heart's attitude.

If you are open and willing, the gracing of the lesson towards humility will be a welcomed revelation... you will be grateful and pleased.

His Way is subtle, not loud.

His Way is peaceful, not violent.

His Way is by, through and in love, always... even the consequences and disciplines derived from transgression.

To blame Him when things 'go wrong' in your life is to misinterpret the reason why you get a flat tire at the 'wrong time.'

To point the finger at Him when you fail to:

- not be humble in the face of pride
- not be kind in the face of strife
- not be loving in the face of hate
- not forgive when your heart deceitfully says "forget them... they deserve what happens to them" is blindly forgetting 'who' you are and 'who' He really is... and 'who' He desires you to become!

You are a creation of His.

You were created to praise His Holy Name.

He had you in mind prior to you being born.

If you are still breathing and reading this, you are loved and have been blessed with life.

You also have the choice to participate in the divine nature, which is by faith... and live that experience which brings eternal life in glory along with Him who shines brighter than the sun!

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.


Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
 

You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?


Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.


If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.


If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.


I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.


My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.


Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.


How precious to me are your thoughts, God!


How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand - when I awake, I am still with you.


- Psalm 139:1-18

Who Is Yeshua?

It is not an easy task the search for 'who' God is and what it is God asks of His creation.  It is discouraging and sad when one finds themselves disputing with believers who share the same faith.  Every individual usually 'sees' and / or understands the mystical things in a variety of ways, but there are and should be instances where a meeting of the minds and the hearts should be obvious.

I have found it much easier to discuss things of faith with those who share a different faith or no faith at all, who do not personally see or believe Yeshua to be anyone more than a prophet ( who see Yeshua as a fallible yet righteous man, like any one of us could be, inspired and directed by God ).  For those who believe Yeshua to be the "Son of God" and the "Messiah" ( a perfect man without fallibility / sin and being in essence God Himself in the flesh ), sometimes it is quite repulsive to deal with the pride and arrogance of believers who desire to argue with the words they've heard from the lips of men instead of sharing the faith and being mutually edified in sharing our amazing experiences and spiritual discoveries in what the Word speaks.  I sometimes find more strife among believers who, instead of realizing what God has revealed to them by faith, run after the doctrines they've been taught by men and the brand of Christianity / Churchianity they have been fed ( religions of men ).  Far too many believe what men teach instead of what the Word speaks to them; distrusting their spiritual awakenings of 'who' God truly is and instead run after what some say is irrefutable truths... but this isn't how God works.

Read the following passage and see how some things are not easily understood unless your heart and mind is opened by God to understand and 'see' certain things ( His choosing, not so much our effort, our logic or our wisdom ).

When Yeshua came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
 

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
 

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
 

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
 

Yeshua replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”

- Matthew 16:13-17

( "blessed are you... for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven" )

The answer to the eternal question was ( and I believe can only be ) revealed by God.  And the manner in which a person answers such a question is by faith and faith alone.  And faith is a gift of God.  What is more profound is that you have a choice in the matter.  You can choose to believe.  You can choose to have this faith, to develop it and increase in it.  You can also choose to disbelieve, deny and pursue whatever this world or others have to offer.  You do have choice!

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

- Joshua 24:15

Further along in this chapter in Joshua, you can read for yourselves that the people present 'saw' with their own eyes what God did for them.  They witnessed some very fantastic miracles and things defying logic and the laws of physics, yet many of them and their parents 'chose' to deny and disbelieve.  Much in the very same way you Today can choose to either believe or disbelieve.

Some argue they believe in nothing, calling themselves atheists.  Yet they do believe in something.  They believe what their thoughts, their heart and whomever they choose to listen to says.  If one listens and agrees with those who have chosen to doubt, they too have made the choice to doubt. 

So what is it exactly one needs to believe?

Simply stated: the message in the Word of God.

And what does the Word of God ( and the message ) say?

Quite a bit! 

Does one need to know AND believe every single thing in the Word of God in order to know God or be saved?

I don't think the entire Word can be completely and accurately understood in absolute fashion as God expressed it to be understood, yet I'm sure many men would say they 'know' it all or parts of it and will desire to teach you their wisdom.  I say look always firstly, concurrently and lastly at the Word, the gospel and the doctrine as explained by those who walked with Christ before believing how any man would explain their version of truth.

We should instead start with the most important points which are necessities while the details may not be as important prior to viewing clearly the necessities:

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
 

Yeshua answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe.  The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”
 

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Yeshua said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father.  For which of these do you stone me?”
 

“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Yeshua answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’?  If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came - and Scripture cannot be set aside - what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?  Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?  Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.  But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”


- John 10:24-38

Some interesting highlights from the preceding passage in John 10:

"I did tell you" ( about being the Messiah )
"I give them eternal life"
"no one will snatch them out of my hand"
"no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand"
"I and the Father are one"
"you, a mere man, claim to be God"
"what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?"
"know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father"

Peace be with you who believe, peace be with you who have yet to believe and peace be with you who choose not to believe, for God loves you all despite your choices.  May you choose to step out on faith and may your faith be rewarded as mine has.

25 September 2014

Born Again... & Again & Again

Today commemorates 16 years I was born again.  Shortly after 11pm on the 25th of September in the year 1998 at the south-side of Manhattan Beach pier in Kalifornia, I was born again before over two dozen witnesses... and the conversion took!  Praised be His Holy Name Yeshua!!

Yeshua replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Yeshua answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’


- John 3:3-7

The choice to be baptized into the Name of Yeshua Christ was my decision after God had opened up my heart and mind to the message of the gospel.  Prior to having an epiphany that I truly needed to be born again, my arrogance and pride wouldn't allow me the humility to allow another man put me in the water... for I thought I was 'okay.'  Up until that point I had been a liar, a fornicator, an adulterer, an outright hypocrite and pretty much a man pursing the carnal desires all around us while worshiping Mammon and women.  And after that point, although I still struggled with the person I was before going into the water, by His grace and His grace alone, I was enabled to overcome the many pitfalls of the world... and every day I wake up is a new day and another opportunity to make better choices than yesterday.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Yeshua Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

- Titus 3:4-7

I used to think that I had to keep a perfect record from the moment I came out of the water in order to be saved, and this caused me much discomfort and apprehension getting baptized in the first place.  I knew that I was bound to screw up and sin once again in some way, although I didn't want to.  the thought that I would even do one thing I used to indulge in was disgusting to me and intolerable to ponder.  I even considered never leaving the house again and doing whatever necessary to prevent my eyes from hearing, my eyes from seeing and my mouth from speaking anything 'wrong' or sinful... but that is a religious response to the reality of grace.  God isn't calling people to become monks and shut themselves out of sight, but quite the contrary.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

- Galatians 5:13-14

Grace isn't a free pass to sin and still be saved and be found in good standing before the Lord.  Do not be misled by what so many who call themselves children of God do and then justify what they do, for those surely do not 'know' God.  Grace answers the reality that we are still fallible and still apt to fail in some areas of our lives.  It is not 'right' to decide to sin and believe you will be forgiven because He is gracious, for that is hypocritical and the reason why so many blaspheme the Holy Name, for they are witnesses to people who take His grace as a license to sin and do as they please.  No one has kept a clean record since being baptized, not those who knew Yeshua personally nor those Today who believe.  Only One who had a clean record prior to His baptism and after His baptism: Yeshua Christ!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.  In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Yeshua Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will - to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ.

- Ephesians 1:3-9

We have all been blessed in ways we cannot understand thanks to this reality.  Whether people choose to believe the message or not does not concern the message nor the reality of God.  And since this grace exists, since the sacrifice of a perfect life was made in exchange for my imperfect life, I do my ultimate best to obey according to His Way.  I don't simply 'try,' I DO!  And the moment I realize I have fallen short, instead of beating myself up like I used to from the guilt programming I received in religious organizations, I instead recognize my nature and give Him glory, honor and praise for His divine nature and for His choice in revealing Himself to me.  I give Him thanks for His message of love and how He knows I am fallible and yet still loves me.  It is this knowledge of His love and mercy in my life which further propels me to act according to His Way.  It is His love which motivates me to deny my self and deny the temptations that the world throws at me on a daily basis. 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

- John 16:33

He revealed Himself to me by putting in my heart the notion to be baptized in His Name.  As I now reflect on this reality, I see that being baptized is also to be empowered to do His will, not simply be forgiven of past and future sins ( that is just the start of the Way ).  To be baptized is to have a clear conscience as I make decisions to do His will from now on.  Every day is a new Day.  Today is the time to be used as an instrument to help, serve and assist others as they move forward in life, praying all whom I see will also recognize and answer the calling.

And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.

- Romans 8:30

24 September 2014

Retracting Your Words; Impossible

Have you ever said something you wish you hadn't?  I have... too many times.  The person who came up with that little children's song some of us grew up hearing and repeating: "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" was obviously lying.  It may temporarily suspend a child's reaction to hurtful playground words from peers, but nothing could be further from the truth.  The minds of the masses have been formulated by words.  Each one of us, having been raised hearing certain words ( and the manner in which they're delivered ) have either been built up, half-built, not built at all or torn down by words. 

The time I unleashed venom on my relatives exposing some past sins of mine and others was not a wise moment in sharing some deep running thoughts of mine.  I broke the unwritten rule of keeping private what some men do at bachelor parties ( or what "happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" ).  I didn't care anymore.  For nearly twenty years I was embarrassed and ashamed for what I participated in and covered up for others and I didn't care about the outcome of spilling the beans the moment I decided to blow a fuse.  I felt I dishonored my family and trampled over the dignity of those I dearly loved in what I participated in... and keeping silent for the subsequent years was really eating at me every time it would come up in my heart. 

I blew the whistle on them out of anger and resentment.  I made a choice from a base of emotion and not from a wise perspective in sharing certain things.  I didn't think before I spoke, I just went on a roll.  I am still living down the fallout from the bomb I dropped that day.  Although the idea of forgiveness has come towards my direction from those who listened in shock and disgust to what I had to say that day, their memories have not subsided and their hearts still seem to be hurt ( or not completely 'over' what I said ).  To some of them, I am still that reckless twit who shot arrows into those I and others most admired.  That moment of failure simply added to my prior failures and reinforced their view of me.  I removed the sheen off the shiny exterior, both theirs and mine, yet only I seemed to be the one with lackluster. 

Looking back, the 'wise' thing would have been to remain silent.  The wise thing would have been to have kept my rage to myself and left the room.  Yet, when emotions erupt and feelings are hurt, it is quite difficult to simply say nothing, let alone say something neutral or something loving when your and your family's dignity is trampled upon.  What happened did indeed happen and although I am sorry for it all, I can do nothing else about it but learn from it and tell others to carefully choose your words, especially when tempted by evil and the desire is to say or share unloving things without thought and prior consideration. 

I have already apologized and shared my resentment and sorrow for saying what I did and the condition of my heart behind those words that day.  I cannot control what others choose to do after that, whether it is to forgive me and push the memories out of their minds or not forgive me and shun me for the rest of my life.  That is their choice and although I was the guilty party in hurting others that day with my words, I am no longer guilty, regardless if they forgive me or not.  I know God forgave me for my outburst AND had forgiven me for my participation in lowlife activity years before. 

The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.  Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

- Proverbs 17:27-28

23 September 2014

A King's Calling

The last few days I've been reading about the ancient kingdom of Assyria, the ancient kingdom of Babylon and the two books of Kings in the Old Testament.  It is quite revealing reading once again those two compilations of history in Kings this time around, for my political perception, the repeating of history and the condition of man's heart brings the collection in Kings into a clearer perspective.  I see patterns and I see evidence of God's far reaching grace alongside His promise in keeping to His Word, whether the outcome is favorable or unfavorable to His listeners.

King David was anointed to replace Saul because David would obey, to the letter, anything God would ask of him... and Saul failed in obedience.  Due to David's devotion in obedience, God promised him an heir on the throne for all eternity.  To the believer, this eternal promise was fulfilled with Yeshua Christ.  And prior to Christ, God still kept His promise to David.  The centuries following David right up to the revealing of Yeshua, the tribe of Judah always had a descendent of David as king over the people.

God also kept His Word in that He would expel the people from the land if they would fail to obey and follow His Way.  Reading Kings, one could see how patient God was with the people.  And the difference between blessing and curse came down to obedience.

The king, any king, over any people is the point man.  The king is the example for the people to follow, to rally behind and to support in times of trouble and to honor in times of jubilee.  The king has a full load of responsibility and has the weight of leadership attached to his vocation.  To be king isn't simply to enjoy a lavish life and indulge in the best the world has to offer.  To be king is to make the difficult decisions, to judge impartially and according to what is right and true.  The king has the responsibility to provide, to protect and to pasture his people.

It was also quite comforting to read how, among a disobedient people locked in their ways of imitating their forefathers and people around them, God would still bless a particular king who would revert to obeying the Way. 

In a bigger pictured perspective, God used foreign peoples to bring judgment onto the divided kingdom of Israel, firstly using the Assyrian empire / kingdom to conquer and remove the north kingdom of Israel, then secondly the Babylonian empire / kingdom to conquer and remove the southern kingdom of Judah.  The Assyrian empire was thousands of years in the making, yet the timing was right and the fields were ripe for the removing of a people whose hearts had turned cold towards God's Word and Way.

The theme I couldn't help but notice was obedience.  And the obedience had to begin with the king.  It was the king's obedience which obligated the people's adherence to God's Way.  It was the king's leadership and his physical example which the people could see and in turn imitate.  It was also the example of a disobedient king which led the people astray and brought calamity.

How much more is the example of a father in his home like that of a king over a kingdom?

How much more is the example of a head of state presiding over a nation like that of a king over a kingdom? 

How much more do you need to be an example to children, strangers and those searching for an answer to this broken world... or are you an example of disobedience?

22 September 2014

Don't Get Low

I somewhat regretted clicking on a five minute video a FacePlant friend shared this morning.  No detailed information was listed other than a reference stating it was 'funny' and the video's still image being of a guy talking to a girl with her face blacked out.

I watched this guy attempting to get the girl's phone number while she passed out coupons to the eatery she worked for.  He approached her like a nice guy with a nerdy appearance, in a nerdy and nice manner, somewhat bashful and not saying much other than he finds her attractive and would like to have her number so he can call her some time.  He did look a bit creepy with his insistence and the way he looked at her with his head down over the rim of his glasses.  She was turning him down every offer he made.  After handing him several coupons asking him to move on and enjoy the freebie the eatery was offering, she eventually handed him the rest of the coupons in an attempt to have him leave her in peace.  She had repeatedly said she had a boyfriend and that she wasn't particularly interested aside from having a boyfriend.

The screen cuts to black with titles stating four hours had passed.

It's the same guy, approaching her once again, but now with a swagger and a look reflecting his attitude.  His clothes are different and he is wearing sunglasses.  He now speaks in a certain tone, using certain words while consistently complementing her on her looks.  She begins to laugh at the manner which he speaks and how he begins to be sexually explicit in his complements.  He asks for her number and she says she has a boyfriend, but he ignores that and continues his barrage.  She is receptive and he can tell.  He then convinces her to walk with him a short distance near a less public place behind a tree.  They begin to kiss and do other things.  She cautions him that she has never done what she is now doing with him.  Lust takes over and it is quite a deplorable public scene by two people who moments earlier were complete strangers.

I'm wondering what in the world I am actually watching.

To conclude his hidden camera capture of cinema verite, he states that he in fact is the guy she rejected hours earlier, reveals his disguise and begins to talk down to her.  He berates her how she rejected a nice guy but instead followed the persistence of a 'thug.'  She returns the same attack and attempts to offend him, returning to her view and judgment of him from before telling him to go play video games somewhere.  He believes he has triumphed and says he has exposed her for what she really is and has her on video.  He seems to be proud of himself for having captured her hypocrisy.

Perhaps he believes he has exposed her as a tramp, a liar, a morally loose person with low character and other things.  Yet, he seems to have failed to realize he too is the reflection of what he believes to be judging her to be.  He too is a tramp, a liar, a morally loose person with low character and a hypocrite, for although he put forth an act, both in the nerdy approach and then in the thug approach, that was still him the entire time.  He is the one who led her into all that they said and did.

This video was a simple reflection of today's society, but isn't a far cry from societies and cultures from times past.  It is the openness to depravity which this woman allowed herself to be led into... and it is this same openness to depravity the man led that woman into.  I believe the precepts of what they were in agreement to ( the depraved culture ) would be evident to some but perhaps is not too evident to these two individuals and others watching this ridiculous video.  How else did they both participate if they didn't somehow idolize or admire the depraved culture in which they are participating in?  This depravity is glamorized in movies, trumpeted in music and repeated every single day by both young and old people of various ethnic backgrounds.  It is a detrimental program.  It is a lethal form of social conditioning.  It is considered 'normal' by society's standard and for some, the most modern form of courtship.  It is the badge of honor for both men and women.  

I reflected on how I too was engulfed in this depraved culture of playing games, of lying, of gaming the opposite sex because I believed there was some societal expectation which beckoned my pride to do so.  After watching this video, I recalled some very hurtful, time wasting and damaging relationships I was involved in that did nothing but embitter my heart further and hurt those I was involved with.  I realized what a miracle it is for me to have found a decent woman who wasn't participating in this depravity which I am now ashamed of having participated in.  I realized what a miracle God had achieved in cleansing my heart of this nonsense and death-wish.

Watching this video affected me in such a strange way I had to immediately pray to get my senses back together, in praising Him for releasing me from the madness of this type of activity and gratitude for His grace in putting me on a brighter path.

May those two people and all who watch that video wake up to the true love and joyous plan God has in store for them.  May they also be released from such an empty and exhausting lifestyle I was freed from. 

20 September 2014

Choose Love & Forgiveness

The other day I learned a great lesson.  My wife and I were traveling together when she remembers she had to get to the bank as soon as possible to make a deposit in someone’s account.  It was already 6:30pm on a Friday.  Most banks close at five or six.  I quickly asked, in a not so positive or caring tone, if it was her ‘brother again?’  She responded quickly with a hurt and insulted defensive stance.  She wasn’t too happy with the manner in which I delivered my question.  I followed up my pestered attitude by justifying my heart stating her brother had been forgetful and irresponsible in the past and here we were once again picking up the slack and running like wild to find a bank open at this time. 

We went back and forth and I began to realize the topic was sensitive and I was holding strong to my position and point of view as she was hers.  She said it was actually a cousin of hers and not her brother.  Our typically joyful and carefree dynamic had quickly soured.  I had a choice to make.
 
As I step out of the vehicle to see if a grocery store’s bank was still open, I notice she didn't wait for me to open her door for her as usual.  She didn’t get out of the vehicle on her own because we were in a rush, but because of what I said and how I had led her heart to be at that very moment.  I really had a choice to make and I had to make it quickly! 

I was wrong in assuming it was her brother ‘again.’  I also realized I did in fact deliver a few words in an unloving and spiteful manner.  I was wrong in a few other ways.  I had forgotten who we were and who we had decided to be for others.  As I approached her, I decided to nip this growing chasm in the bud right then and there. 

I held her in my arms, I looked her in her beautiful dark caramel eyes and said something to the effect that I was sorry and I was wrong for what I said and the manner in which I said it.  I asked her to please not let this moment derail our evening.  I said we can choose to put my error and my misunderstanding behind us right this moment and enjoy our time together like we always do; in love. 

I realized the Lord had gifted me someone very special when she smiled and accepted the kiss I had waiting for her.   

I had swallowed my pride, and although it didn’t taste good ( and never does ), it was the best piece of humble pie I had swallowed to-date.  I was grateful to God; he allowed me to clearly ‘see’ the situation, he helped me choose the right thing to do, he helped me choose the right words to say and he graced me with the right delivery of those words. 

The rest of our evening was as spectacular as any other evening, filled with hugs, laughter, prayer, deep conversation, light conversation and kisses all throughout. 

19 September 2014

What Triggers Memories

I hear, smell and see various sights and sounds of the city when I take my walks.  It is interesting where the mind instantly goes when you smell, see or hear a certain something.  Walking down the busy street this morning towards downtown Long Beach, I pass by various people and several multifamily housing units.  The range of perfumes, colognes and scents emanating from households is quite broad... and almost every scent, whether pleasant or near disgusting, somehow brings me a memory of a place, a person or a path from the past.  The passing scents flood my mind with the images of faces, names and the instances of exact locations from places I've traversed in the past.  Same thing happens when I travel by car or public transportation through some neighborhoods, but the memory is mostly triggered by what I see rather than what I smell or hear.  I can't help but remember things which I experienced at certain places in time in any particular neighborhood.  Sometimes I think "why didn't I take another street / route" when I begin to remember the same oddity or 'thing' that happened here, but by the time I am remembering, it is too late.  Some of the memories are pleasant, some not so much.  Some memories are simply surprising and cause me to recall a person or a place in time.

Every so often I smell the cologne my dad uses; Stetson.  Immediately, memories from childhood come to mind; riding with him on the back of his motorcycle, or traveling with him in his pickup truck on an errand or to breakfast, or simply being around him while he worked on building his plane or as he complained about something.

This morning, I smelled a perfume followed by the immediate smell of a home and then followed by another perfume.  My mind recoiled as it processed the memory connection with those scents.  The smell of the home was quite profound and stuck out, for I've smelled that before in several other homes years ago.  It was the smell of an untidy home, most likely having old flattened unkempt carpets with a mold issue between them and the worn out padding underneath.  I couldn't tell if the three scents emanated from the same location, for the ocean breeze carried with it the smells of the various apartment buildings it blew by prior to arriving at my nostrils.

Ahead of me on my path this morning, there was a guy with a leaf blower doing his job.  Instead of crossing the street, I waited for him to either finish or move far enough away from my path so I can pass without having to hold my breath for too long as I passed by or be engulfed by the debris he was blowing about.  As I stood there underneath a tree, staying out of the bright and bold sunlight, I recognized the tree as the same type my grandparents had at their home ( red spiny flowers with skinny and separate green leaves on a tree with a trunk deep with ridges in its bark; a red bottle brush tree ).  I heard the familiar sound of a hummingbird as it took a break near the top of the tree.  I look up and catch a glimpse of it landing on an outlaying branch at the precise time it squeezes out a 'load.'  I laughed to myself to have seen that exact moment of relief / release.  Good thing I wasn't directly beneath it nor in the path of the breeze which could have carried its waste onto my white 'God Father' Shantung straw hat.  The hummingbird reminds of my mom regularly putting out her hummingbird feeder and always taking the time to look for the source of that distinct sound when it would eventually show up.  I do this too as my mom would, enjoying the momentary departure from the other distractions, enjoying this natural distraction and pleasant moment of memory.

What recent pleasant memories have been recalled and triggered when you went about your day?

Which scents do you yearn to catch a whiff of so you can experience that place and time once again, even for a brief moment?

18 September 2014

Masonic Fact One of One

I used to be mysteriously fascinated with the organization known as the "Masons" or "Freemasons" or the like derivative.  From the things one could read online, it seems like this organization is nefarious and likely dangerous.  It is also interesting to read how many politicians the world over are associated directly or indirectly with this group.  I've had my share of time exploring them from the outside, from afar and from the comforts of my virtual porthole ( my computer ).  I went as far as to sneak into one of their lodges and take pictures of what I could find inside... aside from having a rapid heartbeat as I ran throughout their 'temple,' I didn't find much behind the unlocked doors.  I had purchased a book some years ago, The Hiram Key ( read the synopsis at the link to see where the authors are coming from and what they are claiming ), which eluded to many 'mysteries' and 'secrets' that attempted to draw attention to the knowledge of building structures as the 'key' to the wisdom of Solomon and some other derailed narratives. 

Well, today in my always seeking and always searching and always desiring effort to understand clearly the world around me... I found an interesting passage as I read the latter chapters in first Chronicles.  I've read it before in times past, but that was years ago when I had a narrower view of the world.  Reading these words Today brought things into a clearer perspective... a particular perspective which can only be derived from constant searching for the truth of the matter.  Looks like what has become the organization of the masons is something like the effort to trump hierarchical leadership by unionizing ( organizing ).  Has it worked?  Is it a vain effort at fighting the world's design?

If I may preface with some context: at the time, the king was the man speaking directly with God.  The king and selected prophets, much like Moses being the man of God, were the few God would speak directly to... and only to these unless they were to fail in keeping God's Word and sticking to His Way.  Although the prophets serving king David were inspired, they were tasked with speaking to the king in revealing the will of God.  The prophets were the vessels by which the Holy Spirit would speak through and to the king.  As to the king, he was the boss of them all ( you can read in which manner the king was the boss throughout the chapters of Chronicles ).  The king pretty much dictated, according to God's will, the direction the people would take ( them being consenting followers that is ).  The king himself was God's instrument to lead the people as a unit.  He was gifted with the great responsibility to lead masses of people, not to simply live aloof and revel in the splendor of riches; he had a big job and vocation to fulfill.  And as to the workers and who they were... well, read for yourselves:

You have many workers: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as those skilled in every kind of work in gold and silver, bronze and iron - craftsmen beyond number.  Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you.”  Then David ordered all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon.

- 1 Chronicles 22:15-17

It dawned on me this morning while reading several chapters in this book the role in which the king played among the people... and the roles of the lesser positions of all other people being subject to him.  The king and his descendents wasn't supposed to leave God's leadership, but that's what eventually happened.  God continued to speak through and to selected prophets, but He became silent when it came to disobedient kings.  Yet, the prophets and priests, perceived to be 'closer' to God or beholden to a superior authority were themselves still subject to the king.  And again, the role of the king wasn't as many kings are viewed as today; hidden away, enjoying a lavish lifestyle outside of working their responsibility to social affairs and social injustices.  This king David, who was chosen, appointed and anointed by God, was a man after the Lord's heart.  He was more than the earthly kings of today or of yesteryear.  He is, in fact, a servant of the people.  Who else is accountable for the climate of his people's heart if not a king?

If a king needs to quell and subdue his people he is not doing a good job as being an example, for his dictation of God's will has become tyrannic in nature and ungodly in approach.  Most likely, that man has become wicked in deed and lifestyle.  That man should expect no one to follow him other than those of his type ( wicked and disobedient to what is good and right ).

King David was revealed as being a man who held to God's Word with undying obedience.  God and His Way was top priority for David.  The desire to follow God's Way trumped fear, faithlessness and failure, and thus why he was dubbed a "man after God's own heart" [ 1 Samuel 13:14 / Acts 13:22 ].

Here's an excerpt from the historical account written by Flavius Josephus regarding the outcome of disobedience of the people to the king appointed by God and replacing the anointed with someone of the people's choosing:

"So the ten tribes of the Israelites were removed out of Judea nine hundred and forty-seven years after their forefathers were come out of the land of Egypt, and possessed themselves of the country, but eight hundred years after Joshua had been their leader, and, as I have already observed, two hundred and forty years, seven months, and seven days after they had revolted from Rehoboam, the grandson of David, and had given the kingdom to Jeroboam.  And such a conclusion overtook the Israelites, when they had transgressed the laws, and would not hearken to the prophets, who foretold that this calamity would come upon them, if they would not leave off their evil doings.  What gave birth to these evil doings, was that sedition which they raised against Rehoboam, the grandson of David, when they set up Jeroboam his servant to be their king, when, by sinning against God, and bringing them to imitate his bad example, made God to be their enemy, while Jeroboam underwent that punishment which he justly deserved."

One must ask themselves at least two questions:

- If God had set up a kingdom long ago with David, a promise to his ancestor Abraham fulfilled, and in recent times had manifested Himself in the flesh in Yeshua Christ, the "King of kings," why do people today rebel against the thought of having a kingship rule them? 

- Is there an earthly king chosen and anointed by God leading the faithful and spiritually obedient Today?

If you desire to be 'great' or be a 'king,' guess what you must do? 

Yeshua called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

- Matthew 20:25-28

17 September 2014

Fitting The Archetype

I wanted to be different things at different stages in my life.  Watching television religiously growing up and catching shows such as CHiPs made me dream of becoming a police officer... on a bike.  I still get goose bumps hearing that funky disco theme song and watching the images of them speeding along the freeway.  I so much wanted to be like Ponchorello with the sideburns, cool and easy going attitude and all the attention that would come with the prestige of that occupation ( as depicted in that show ). 

The few times I went to work with my uncle during school summer break had me hooked on wanting to become a truck driver.  The process of making sure everything was in order prior to rolling onto the road, checking mechanical lines and making sure all the lights worked and such was like a surgeon preparing for an operation; everything had to be in working order.  Sitting atop everyone else in traffic was also a sight to see.  The height from the seat of an eighteen-wheeler tractor and trailer is quite high, nearly scraping the bottom of bridges, tree limbs and traffic signals.  Maneuvering such a massive piece of machinery in between those two lines of any given lane isn't easy.  My uncle was quite the lady's man so the stories he would tell me was also part of the mystique of the 'job' and I could easily see myself extending the storyline adventures he would share with me.

My preteen years, knowing my dad worked for a major airline and watching him eventually build his own airplane from scratch, had me dreaming of joining the U.S. Airforce as he did in his late teens.  I dreamed of surpassing his short tenure in becoming a fighter jet pilot ( he worked on aircraft ).  Watching the movie TopGun was such a 'sell' to my dream of being a pilot for it fed my ego, my desire for adventure and gave me a glimpse of what life must be like for a military guy in such a key position.  I have seen that movie literally over 50 times and used to be able to repeat the dialogue word for word... yes, I was that nerdy about it.  I could tell you all the continuity failures as well.

Getting near my teenage years my brother-in-law had a couple of dirt bikes and he taught me how to ride a motorcycle... and guess what?  I wanted to be the next pro motocross champion!  I would buy every magazine there was on the topic, would read them cover to cover and eventually memorize all of the rider's names, their numbers and other tidbits, much like memorizing baseball cards is to baseball fans.  I begged my dad to buy me a dirt bike and I would ride the trails behind our house practicing the moves and skills I would read about in the magazines. 

During high school I discovered my cousin was a musician and was in awe at his ability to play the guitar.  I would engross myself with thoughts of being in a band and my air guitar and air drums was second to none.  The dream of female attention, money and respect from wannabes were the lures in me considering such a path.  In high school I began to study music in college and would eventually learn how to play the guitar, the drums, the bass, some piano and other percussive instruments while developing a high lyric baritone voice.  I desired the dream of rock-stardom and had my time in rock bands on and off throughout my twenties and early thirties, living that life and enjoying and regretting all that comes from doing as your peers do. 

I had other aspirations growing up like being a football player, a priest, a professional bass fisherman and other things... yet it wasn't until my college years that I realized what I was doing.  I was trying to look up to someone, to emulate someone or some 'thing.'  With the motorcycle cop aspiration, I was desiring not only to look good and be cool but actually do good to others and get rid of bad guys.  This carried over with the heroic jet fighter persona marketed in that movie.  The truck driver thing was in respecting a relative and wanting to reflect a masculine role in my life... and my uncle let me into his life in this way.  Riding dirt bikes with my brother-in-law was allowing me passage into that man's life and thoughts.  I wasn't receiving this directly from my dad as I naturally desired ( I say children have a natural desire to be filled by both their parents ).  Since that was missing I would seek that out in any way I could.  When I became older and my sarcastic attitude toward life ripened I saw the musician lifestyle as perfectly suitable to my overall world view.  I drew as much as I could from my cousin in forming my own persona. 

When I finally realized I was attempting to draw from sources in developing my own image of 'who' I am or rather who I wanted to be / become, the timing couldn't have been better when I began to discover who Yeshua truly was.  I knew the story, but I had no idea who this Yeshua was.  I have heard of the accomplishments but didn't understand what those meant and in which manner they had anything to do with my personal life or with me personally.  I came to realize I had been searching for fulfillment and drawing from less than adequate sources in this search.  Although the men in my life did provide for entertainment, for purpose and for reasoning at any given point and time in my life... I had come to learn that the timeless fulfillment of purpose had been drawing me to Yeshua the entire time. 

The message, the love and the peace in Yeshua encompasses all walks of life, all vocations and all roles anyone has or would desire to play in this curtain call we dub "life."  One doesn't have to be a priest to be next to Christ... or even a pastor or some other religious title, for Christ engulfs the believer to the extent that the believer desires to be like Christ.  I want it all ( in and according to Christ ).  I want the full experience and I desire to forsake all other roles, titles and novelties to realize that purpose... and in some amazing way, this choice isn't to produce a safe life but quite the opposite.  The choice isn't to be hidden away like a monk in a distant monastery seeking a sinless life, for that isn't the calling.  The choice is by all accounts a pouring out of one's life for the sake of another / others.  I am ready for the challenge of such a life. 

May you who read this also be ready and willing for such a wonderful and full life.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

- John 10:9-10

15 September 2014

Rashomon Effect

Have you and someone else ever witnessed the same event and later realized you two ( or others ), although seeing the same thing, may have remembered the event in a different way?  This is loosely referred to as the Rashomon Effect, named after a 1950 Japanese movie entitled Rashomon.

Sometimes only the color of certain things differ in the recollecting of more than one eye witness to the same event.  Sometimes, more variables are contradictory.  The disparity between accounts makes for an interesting blog topic for today ;)

I've had several of these experiences throughout my life and when I come to an odd point with someone else regarding an event we both saw and we differ in what actually happened, I begin to second guess my memory after firstly thinking the other person must be wrong... naturally, lol.

One historical event which depicts this phenomenon is in the following three recollections of the same event:

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Yeshua, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.  “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.


- Acts 9:3-7

( the men 'heard' the 'sound' but did not 'see' anyone )

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.  I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul!  Why do you persecute me?’
 

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“‘I am Yeshua of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied.  My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.


- Acts 22:6-9

( companions 'saw' the light but did not 'understand' the voice... )

“On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.  About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions.  We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
 

“Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“‘I am Yeshua, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied.  ‘Now get up and stand on your feet.  I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.


- Acts 26:12-16

( 'I' heard a voice... )

In the account of Paul's conversion, the companions of Paul experienced something alongside Paul which made them all fearful and fall to the ground... yet the companions did not hear the message distinctively while having heard a sound and seen a light.  

Of course, this is an event which takes faith to believe it to have happened ( the gravity of the message as well as a scientifically improbability of seeing a vision and hearing a voice ).  Yet, isn't this in line with the fact that no two persons see anything alike or perceive things in the exact same way?

Let us consider: just because those with Paul did not hear a distinct message themselves doesn't negate the message Paul received nor the experience Paul had.  As some can attest Today as they experience their life unfolding for them, some are given greater responsibilities in what they experience, see and hear... and this is not to disparage others but simply call others to also believe not only what they personally experience, but also to believe the experiences of others.

Though the experiences of others may not be perceivable and sometimes dramatically unbelievable, this doesn't mean their experiences to be false or impossible... for what is impossible for God to accomplish?  Isn't it our diminutive perception and lack of faith and understanding which puts limits on what is possible?  Isn't it our perceptions and possibly also our religious programming which leads us to sometimes deny, detest or even disbelieve the experiences and vision others share with us? 

It comes down to faith, not so much in being compelled or having to believe everything others tell you, but faith in the unlimited reach God has in your life and in the lives of others.  God grants certain purposes for certain people and lays upon them certain responsibilities.  Those who are not called to certain purposes with attached certain responsibilities should not doubt those who have such callings.  Those without a magnanimous calling should not perceive themselves as any less important.  Instead, the one struggling to believe what others have to share and say should strive to open their eyes further to what God is envisioning for everyone and what His message is beckoning... which is far and wide and well beyond the perception even of the most religious and most organized efforts of men.

Men are fallible and are a work in progress, let us strive to be more like Christ and less like others.

God is perfect and has always patiently worked through the failures of nearsighted men.

God isn't bound or limited by our perceptions.

It is our lack of faith which binds and limits our experiences of God.

14 September 2014

Playing Footsies

We all have places on our bodies which are more ticklish than others.  I have my spots which in the past has allowed my older sisters to conquer me at times when we were kids.  Most of us have sensitive feet or at least have sensitivity to a certain manners of touch on our feet.  My wife has been an extreme case.

Early in our union I couldn't come within two feet of her feet, neither with my hands or even my with own feet!  The slightest notion of that two foot barrier being breached would send her into a frenzy.  I have wanted to massage her feet as I have her back, neck and elsewhere.  She would not have it with the feet.  Even when we would by lying in bed and I would accidentally glance her foot with my toe she would jump and accuse me of trying to start a tickling war.  No such thing was my intention.

This morning, as we lay in bed next to one another and wrapping ourselves with one another as we like to do upon waking up, I notice one of my feet is snugged up against and beneath her foot ( the most sensitive part ).  I begin to wonder if she even feels that my foot is there lightly pressed up against hers ( the slightest touch being the most ticklish ).  I begin to recollect the times and hilarious moments we've had in me simply trying to massage her feet after a long day at work or when she had complained that her feet were sore and she would rather suffer through pain than the task of gaining trust and overcoming the sensitivity foot factor.  And here we were; our feet touching without issue and without fear of a tickle battle. 

So when I mention it to her and she says "I'm getting used to it" with a smile, I realize that we have grown in trust even in this silly way ( to me it's silly ) and I can't wait to grow even closer to this amazing woman I've been blessed to have and call my own. 

Now on to work on other places which are deemed off-limits... hehehe.

12 September 2014

This Life

I take a walk to local coffee shops, restaurants and other spots that offer wifi.  I notice many things on my short jaunts around town as I search out new wifi locales to do some work online and continue exploring the city.  I see people from all walks of life.  I see men and women in all shapes, sizes, colors and ethnic backgrounds pursuing various paths.

There are quiet and sleepy neighborhoods a few short blocks away from hip, trendy and busy strips.  I see the bar scene, the gay scene, the biker scene, the family scene, the dog-lovers scene and all points in between.  I see men dressed as women and women dressed as men.  I see the missionaries in their white shirts riding their bicycles with "elder" before their names.  They are elders but I'm almost twice their age.  Both Baptist and Jehovah's Witnesses come to the door sometimes with the pretext that I'm somehow lost or don't know or do something they do or know.  I see people who pursue a brand of religion which is not inviting, instead rather separatist and more akin to racist.  I see people homeless by choice and homeless by circumstance.  I see trouble makers and trouble evaders.  I see people doing what they must to get by, to pay the cost of being alive.  I see people just beginning their discovery of the world around them... and people who are still licking their wounds from being chewed up and spit out by this world.  I see people in their prime.  I see people just waiting to die.  I see and recognize myself in all of these people... and sometimes I don't recognize myself at all.

You who personally know me also know I don't shy away from having a conversation or trading insights / points of view with any of the people who happen to cross my path.

Although variety reigns in the cityscape, does the homogenous blend of civilization the countryside has to offer bring with it the notions of what is good?  I used to think so.  Yet I've discovered people are people no matter what their upbringing, programming or locale.  

Today I noticed an ice cream man strategically stationed beneath some shady trees about 50 yards from an elementary school.  Parents know they will have to battle their children in reasoning why 'not' to buy some ice cream on this hot and balmy day.  Location, location, location.... even for the traveling ice-cream man.

I've been reading about Alexander the 'Great' and other 'warriors' of times past.  These men had things in their hearts and a vision for the world... so long as they were atop the strung of the apparatus.  I see written in the narrative, and even more obviously in the movies depicting such men and their exploits, the theme of bringing freedom to the masses and to help reform or better a system of life distant peoples are living in.  I see religions doing this too... but is that really what the calling to do good, love and accept all others as they are is calling one to do?  Did Alexander and those before and after him truly bring 'freedom?'  I see it as the same pecking order called by a different name with a sliding scale of 'rights' and 'freedoms' tied to obligations and expectations.

There is a freedom the world's point of view knows nothing about.

When One called all men to be at peace with one another, to do to others as you would have them do to you and other irregular and opposite guidelines the world is accustomed to adhering to, was it to 'change' people from the outside in or from the inside out?  Was it to make a monotony or a mass of single-minded clones?  Single-minded in some aspects surely, like viewing others as yourself and treating them better than yourself, but surely not monotonous and mechanized as one would perceive.  The changing of what is inside eventually makes its mark on the outside, in the manner in which people dress, address others; in their actions and their aims.

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Yeshua replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

- Matthew 22:35-40

If you love me, keep my commands.

- John 14:15

To the Jews who had believed him, Yeshua said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

- John 8:31-32

In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.  And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only the one who believes that Yeshua is the Son of God. 

- 1 John 5:3-5

Believe and obey what is good and benefits you.... taste an unknown freedom and overcome the world.

11 September 2014

Just... Go With The Flow

Look at the date this blog was posted... okay now read on.

Lyrics from "Go With The Flow" by Queens of the Stone Age, all lyrics except for the first four lines:

...
...
...
...
Outside the frame, is what we're leaving out
You won't remember anyway
I can go with the flow
But don't say it doesn't matter anymore
I can go with the flow
Do you believe it in your head?
It's so safe to play along
Little soldiers in a row
Falling in and out of love
With something sweet to throw away
But I want something good to die for
To make it beautiful to live
I want a new mistake, lose is more than hesitate.
Do you believe it in your head?
I can go with the flow
But don't say it doesn't matter anymore
I can go with the flow
Do you believe it in your head?

Anything can be interpreted to one's liking, and lyrics of songs can be the most personally interpretable sets of words... along with poetry and other musings of men.  What any set of words speak to one person can speak an entirely different message to another.  To the mind which sees a landscape different from the official narrative of the mainstream, any compilation of words speak a different tune.  

When I was dealing in real estate circles, typical English words held an entirely different meaning and leverage in that vernacular.  Depending on your profession / vocation / knowledge of other worldly things, you most likely know what I am talking about.  The words found in law books which manifest statutes, codes and so on have a breadth of meaning that has far departed their typical use and common understanding. 

What do the words in the lyrics above speak and say to you?   

What do the words below speak and say to you in the context of what today honors and commemorates and what the lyrics above may be speaking to within that context?

It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.

- Daniel 8:12b

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Yeshua answered, “You say that I am a king.  In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.  With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.

- John 18:37-38

10 September 2014

One Step At A Time

It’s two in the morning and for some reason I cannot sleep.  I can hear the fog horn as it blows every twenty or thirty seconds, lasting for about three seconds each time.  I hear the occasional car drive by and more often a skateboarder roll on home from wherever.  I hear the crickets.  I can hear the fridge coming on.  I came into the kitchen to avoid disturbing my wife as she slept.  I can now hear the clock ticking in the dining room. 

As I began to awaken not wanting to open my heavy eyes for knowing the moment I do falling back asleep would be even further away from that moment; I began to wonder why in the world I am awake so early.  I then began to think about too many things and to prevent my mind and thought getting ahead of me as I try to decide whether to slumber back to sleep or ponder my thoughts further.  I focus my attention on what is beneficial and needed while ignoring the storm which can easily and quickly brew out of control ( is it only me who has a mind that wanders and drifts if not plied to something or anchored? ).  I begin to think of my next expression in words and no sooner does a minute go by I’ve already dictated a magnificent intro ( in my mind )… which is not being written by the time I’m at my computer after quietly sneaking out of bed.  I have forgotten the perfectly worded and smooth intro I had conjured up in my mind; so much for catching inspiration when it first hits you.  So here I am chasing that inspiration as I hear the clock behind me push forward into the future.

I begin to recall what I mentioned to my wife last night when out for dinner about making an effort to choose to drink water ( with lemon ), holding the ice, at every meal we have out of the house.  Doing so would not only positively reflect a nearly ten dollar difference but the choice would benefit a healthier direction for us physically as well.  Looking to remove anything artificial from one’s life seems like a monumental task sometimes.  You remember reading or seeing something about it somewhere and are inspired by how someone shared their experiences in making it sound all too easy to do, but when it comes down to you actually doing it, well, that’s another matter altogether.
I then begin connecting that to a small choice any given person can make from one day to the next.  As I was lying in bed, I tried to keep track of that faint fog horn.  During the day from this proximity to its location, there is no way that horn can be heard over the hustle and bustle of the traffic and everyone being awake going about their day.  I thought for an instance; at this moment, most of the city is fast asleep.  Although the challenges / issues / problems of life haven’t simply disappeared from one day to the next because people are unconscious and asleep, those problems are not ‘happening’ at the moment for them.  These people are asleep and it is the memory of their past in the formation of the future from the memories of the past from which those problems / issues / challenges are to materialize themselves the moment they awake and begin to think about them… but does this have to be?

The power to ignore something is quite interesting… and psychologically and logically there are some things which should not be ignore no matter how tempting, like the “check engine light” on your vehicle… or a baby crying ( or silence )… or a leak / clog of some kind… or the days and times for street sweeping… the list can go on and on.  What if one was to ignore some things?  What if some things were ignored and put out of one’s mind?  Will the ignoring of certain thoughts or things actually cause ‘problems’ later on?  Think about what some of these items may be.  There are plenty for me… one is ignoring a harsh response I’m tempted in making when someone does or says something wrong to me or someone else.  Another one is the increasing size of my belly ( the water choice is a step towards this being resolved… or at least dealt with ).  Another one is ( and continues to be exercised ) the reluctance to buy something simply because it is the latest thing or everyone else is buying one.  I have mentioned three covering three different aspects of life: spiritual, physical and economic.  There are other aspects of life as there are things to ignore doing / saying / acting upon / responding to and so on. 

This weekend I came down with a heavy allergy attack and no matter how much apple cider vinegar I would gulp down, the runny nose, sensitive eyes and overall discomfort would not go away.  This was something I simply couldn’t ignore, for it was already ‘in me’ and was coming out in all the wrong ways.  After coming home from struggling to simply keep my eyes open being outside on a beautiful sunny day, I took a shower… and experienced a moment of relief.  I then recalled how maybe it was my shirt ( and perhaps some pollen or dust ) which was giving me the problem.  The shirt was lying out for a few days over the back of a chair near my desk which is next to an always open window and I figured some dust or something had recently blown in through that window one day when I was out and not present to notice.  Maybe someone was cutting the grass or using a blower outside and all of that may have flown through the window and infiltrated my shirt… and now that I had that shirt off and had showered, I experienced a moment of relief.  I began to also think and realized that the bed linen is most likely ‘contaminated’ since I was wearing the shirt only that particular day and I’ve been suffering for two days… and as I began to make decisions to wash these as soon as possible, I also began to further stretch out the quarantine effort.  As I was vacuuming I realized the curtains needed a good dusting, smacking around and vacuuming as well… so I broke a nice sweat in trying to rid the entire space of whatever was literally bothering the snot out of me.

So these past actions are playing through my head as I am waking up this early morning… and the notion dawns on me that if I were to have kept a cleaner environment ( or had closed the window when I am not home to prevent a dust storm from infiltrating my environment ), I would have possibly prevented the last two days of discomfort and bewilderment as to why the apple cider vinegar wasn’t working as it has always in the past.  Yet I am glad to report after a washing of the linens, beating up on those drapes, vacuuming everything within sight, wiping down the desk and other areas dust can accumulate… that evening as I lay down to rest, my breathing was clear and my eyes were closed in comfort and without issue.  I had now set in my mind choices in preventing from happening again, for occasionally some folks do blow dust around outside, so now I’ll close the windows when I leave; a simple and preventive solution.   

So why am I sharing this and writing this at… 2:47 in the morning as I now hear some neighbors making too much noise coming home from wherever they were last evening?  Well, some things take one step at a time in getting resolved.  Me ignoring and not being prepared for allergy season ( in the spring and the fall ) caused some discomfort which I couldn’t easily exterminate and had to figure out the ‘why’ of the issue. 

In choosing to stick with water for the most part during meals out of the house, my wife and I could be eliminating an unnecessary additional expense to our budget, healthily increasing our collective bottom-line.  What is more important and of a higher priority than keeping more money in our pockets is the physically healthy result that single choice may have over the span of our lives!  Sure I like a tasty drink before or during a meal… whether it is iced tea ( either sweetened or with or without some sugar added ), or a frappuccino or other caffeinated drink, or a beer / wine / martini depending on the mood or the type of meal, or some flavored soda, etc.  Who doesn’t like something snappy other than plain old boring water?  Yet consider this; it is plain old boring water that doesn’t cause all the negative effects all of those other drinks I mentioned cause ( of course, one also needs to be aware of what ‘kind’ of water they are drinking, thus why I have lemon and no ice with mine, but you see my point ). 

Much the same aim comes about when considering choices which affect our mental, emotional and spiritual sides.  For some, the physical / exterior adjustments are easier than the ethereal / interior adjustments… and for others it is the opposite or at times both dimensions are much the same.  For me personally, it is easier to mentally adjust ( for the most part ) than physically adjust… perhaps I would suppose this is because I have exercised the interior things more often than the exterior things… and I have my reasons for having done so.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.  That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

- 1 Timothy 4:8-10

It has been the choice to limit my time on FacePlant ( FaceBook for the laymen ) and other social media outlets to no more than an hour a day which has led me to enjoy the real world aside from the encroaching paradigm of the virtual.  This has also helped my interior monologue working through my thoughts and exterior dialogues with others both on that virtual realm and in the real world.  The virtual plain does have its positive attributes in enhancing this life’s experiences, but as with any other item of life, restraint and discipline makes a difference in revealing at what measure any given thing is adding to one’s life and in which manner.  The time limit has helped me avoid prolonged and useless debates over things which are out of my immediate control or sphere of influence, while encouraging me to focus my attention to things which are within my immediate control and sphere of influence.  This choice has also allowed me to realize that the world just outside my front door is the paradigm I am challenged and needing to keep up with, not so much the virtual world.  The virtual world has brought faraway friends near and has also allowed me to learn about distant peoples and distant places, whether in this time or a past time.  The virtual world has also brought traps in many forms and prolonged distractions which have, at times, kept me from doing more productive and positive things with my limited time on earth.

I now recall beginning to briefly pray as I lay in bed in asking and contemplating why in the world I was up at this time.  Immediately thoughts began to cross my mind as to what good use I can make of this early time, and thus began the notion and motivation in getting out of bed and writing something. 

Another step towards literally a brighter future is the practice of prayer.  I use the word ‘practice’ because this too is an effort and exercise that becomes stronger through use.  Of course, one needs to believe in order to express and utilize this tool, but the faith necessary is much smaller than one may think.  Yet, in simply choosing to have some uninterrupted time set aside to pray, even just a few seconds to start with, grants returns in immeasurable quantity.  The act of prayer isn’t so much a ritual as one would assume looking at it from a particular perspective.  It is an exercise and discipline in dealing with yourself and your inner-most thoughts / struggles / fears / anxieties / joys / desires / dreams / etc.  It is maintenance of the heart as is eating to nurture the body.  Personally, much of my ‘revelations’ of what is going on within me have been ‘revealed’ as I struggled to pray the truth out of me.  Meaning; I would be surprised by what my heart would throw up in trying to let out what I was truly feeling, experiencing and thinking about.  This and the calming effect of either words I’ve read before or simply a short sequenced sentence coming across my mind and heart leading to peace or positive solutions.  But please, don’t get me wrong… there surely is some One listening to you and drawing all of this out of you.  You simply need to do your part.  Prayer isn’t simply a meditation in speaking to yourself ( whether in thought or verbatim )… that is not the definition of prayer, that is talking to yourself.  Prayer is the conscience act of revealing yourself, choosing to express yourself and consciously communicating to the Higher Power in a private environment under intimate circumstances.  This One already knows your heart and what is going on, what you are about to say and what you are reluctant in expressing or thinking about.  This One knows what you’d rather not touch upon and where you’d rather not go.  Yet, it is the journey of pushing through such fears and spiritual obstacles which removes baggage and burdens from of the things of the heart.  Have you ever gotten something ‘off your chest’ and remember how light, free and relieved you felt after doing so?  That ‘feeling’ isn’t by coincidence or a play on your mind, it is real!  It is the lifting of a weight / burden.  It is a physical response from a spiritual reality.  This is simply one single aspect that prayer accommodates.  If praying out-loud ( verbatim ) is challenging, simply express your words in thoughts coming from your heart and the realest and deepest part of your being.  If your thoughts sometimes get away from you and you cannot focus on a single train of thoughts, then an out-loud ( verbatim ) expression may be more suitable.  I do both.  If in public, I’m most likely praying in my heart and mind for what is going on around and within me… and do both, usually verbatim when I have that time alone with the One who sees and hears all things.  Praying with my wife has also solidified our relationship in an inexpressible way.  It is a true blessing to have someone who believes and has the heart to express herself.  Praying together is awesome and necessary as praying on your own is necessary.

What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You desire but do not have, so you kill.  You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

- James 4:1-3

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Yeshua.

- Philippians 4:4-7

Prayer is releasing. 

Prayer is gratitude. 

Prayer is confession. 

Prayer is peace-seeking. 

Prayer is priceless.

Pray to the Prince of Peace… and may His peace reside in your heart now and forevermore. 

09 September 2014

His Will Within His Magnificent Menagerie

Menagerie: / noun / a strange or diverse collection of people or things.

I remember desiring to find God in my early 20's.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

- Jeremiah 29:11-13

Actually, when I really think about it now, I've been looking for Him my entire life, even thinking to become a priest while in grade-school, for that was the earliest notion of being close to God I had in mind at the time.  I began to exude the real effort in my early 20's as a young adult when I realized choice outside of parental guidance and influence.  I began to take a closer look at the world around me and began desiring something real aside from the facades all about me... the facades which I had previously lusted after and would later found myself trapped in.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

- Matthew 5:6

Although growing up as what is called a 'catholic,' I had never really met anyone who somewhat resembled Christ in their life other than maybe my maternal grandmother ( I know, a very biased opinion, but her serving attitude, silence when my grandfather would speak and ceaseless love for me was something that begged my respect and admiration as I grew older ).  It was her tireless example of patience and love and later those who would, in my early 20's, speak to me about Christ and share their hearts with me that began to awaken a conscience of sorts within me.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?  As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

- Romans 10:14-15

The priest at the catholic church 'looked' like a holy man in his long and flowing robed outfit, much like any religion's front-man and sage.

Although this man had a resounding tone as it echoed with authority and mystery in the expanse of the cathedral building, I didn't know that man any more than I knew the vendor selling me ice-cream from his ice-cream truck.  I attribute the 2nd Timothy scripture to those who resemble godliness by their outer appearance only but are enigmas to the public otherwise).

Having a form of godliness but denying its power.

- 2 Timothy 3:5a

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

- Matthew 23:27-28 

I didn't know the man personally, so I cannot say this particular priest was the definition of the prior passages.  I'd like to point out these are instructions to not judge the exterior by what is in the interior and also be aware that a nice exterior means nothing regarding the interior.  People are people and none is perfect before God, no matter how lovely they look or how nice they appear.

When I did have a conference with him and my mother regarding my behavior reported by my sixth-grade teacher ( a nun ), it was him who recommended me to a military school so I may gain the discipline the nuns and faculty weren't able to instill in me.  This, mind you, was his recommendation after me serving the church religiously as an altar boy for years; holding the book for him to read during church twice a week ( once a week with the schoolkids and every Sunday with the public ).

Once in high-school a teacher went out of their way to write me a short note with a quote of some historically famous person when I found myself in jeopardy of not graduating on the basis of an exit exam... and their effort in my time of trouble has stuck with me to this day... even though it was a brief blurb scribbled on a small piece of paper off their desk.  Perhaps my memory doesn't recall but I don't remember the priest speaking to me about my rebellion or insistence to undermine the nun during class, and whether it did happen but I don't recall and now wonder if it would have helped me.

What I do know is I took the occupation of an altar boy very seriously and I would be repulsed with disgust when the other altar boys would misbehave behind the scenes with their perverted talk, threats and cursing.  I was the smallest / shortest / youngest, so I was the one carrying the cross in and out during the 'service' and so on and I took great honor in doing so.  Nonetheless, the administration office didn't get the priest's memo when my mom received a call early the next fall asking about my whereabouts when I wasn't present for the seventh grade session.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a bitter rant by definition ( yeah right ), but merely an explanation that although that man was supposed to be an example to me and the believers, I didn't know him personally outside of customary religious activities and he didn't really know me, but here he had suggested I go to military school... practically handing me over to the world, and that decision of his pushed me away from that entire organization... and this was God's will.

Yet, when I consider all things in light of God's grace, His grace surpasses our shortcomings as well as the trespasses of others... and I realize my journey thus far has been purposed according to His will... even what I considered disasters, challenges, struggles and defeats.  I would not have been able to identify what was ritual and religious from what is righteous and real if not for the experiences I've had thus far... and surely I pray no condemnation or ill fate to those who have crossed me in life... even the religious who, possibly according to all they know, were doing what was asked of them to deepen my view of God.

In order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Yeshua.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.

- Ephesians 2:7-9

What really reached me ( what God had destined for me ), for I believe God has set me on a narrower path than the typical sheep, was a group of young adults at a junior college who not only preached the Word...

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

- Romans 10:17

... but actually became my friends in sharing their life, their hearts, their experiences, their time...

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

- John 15:13

They not only 'knew' the Word of God...

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 

- 2 Timothy 2:15

... but also strove to LIVE and ACT like Christ in their daily lives!

To the Jews who had believed him, Yeshua said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples."

- John 8:31

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Yeshua did.

- 1 John 2:6

Believe me, I was scrutinizing and keeping a watchful eye for the smallest slip-up from them in any way since I was weaned on judging by outer appearances.  I had believed the story of Christ as it was taught to me at the catholic school, but I wasn't about to step much further from the storyline and sequence of events I already believed in chasing after these proselytizers.  I had no idea of anything in the scriptures other than some bits and pieces of the narration.  It was these folks who actually helped me realize the bigger picture of what God had done and was doing.  This is what converted my heart to be born again... and this was God's will.

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.  Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

- Romans 2:28-29

It was their real-life examples and seeing the scriptures come to life in them, along with the penetrating and regenerating power of the Spirit of God by-way of His Word, which reached me like no religion or repetitive ritual did.

For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

- Hebrews 4:12-13

These were the living proofs of Christ I needed to witness in order to exude efforts in becoming more like Christ!

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.

- Romans 12:1-2

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua Christ. 

- 1 Peter 2:5

I share this to state: has anyone on the other side of the world ( or someone pertaining to something other than what is called Christianity ), who grew up under a religion such as what is called Islam ( or any other religion or point of view ), had the opportunity to SEE a living example of Christ? 

I dare to ponder they 'may have' seen a living example of righteousness outside of what is preached about Christ!  Yet, God's grace to those who do right although living apart from the law or not having the full gospel preached to them, God mentions words to them who desire righteousness and have yet to either 'hear' about Christ or see a Christ-like example in their lives:

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

- James 1:26-27

Something to the effect of being judged by God outside of something not yet known is mentioned here:

All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.  For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.  (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)  This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Yeshua Christ, as my gospel declares.

- Romans 2:12-16

I wonder, would righteous, pious people, desiring to do what is right because God has put 'right' on their hearts, be judged according to something they never had the opportunity to experience?  From what I read in the above two passages, I think not.  Would they be judged due to the fact they grew up in a political system that denied anything outside of what that hegemony desired?

Wouldn't they be judged according to what they knew at the time they existed and also according to what was laid upon their conscience by God?

Has not God created all things and is in absolute control of all things, including all peoples at all times?

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

- Colossians 1:16

I see that God has done things and has allowed each of us to experience Him according to what He wills.

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

- Philippians 2:13

Here is testimonial evidence that God reaches those who have seemingly impossible chances to see or hear about Yeshua... and I find the genuine message herein to be a glimpse into how vast, wide and expansive God's kingdom is... for the believer will surely be surprised and amazed when they arrive before His presence to find many who their particular religion would have said "no chance" to.... for God knows who His children are and His kingdom is not visible to the human eye nor to man's logic.

Yeshua replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

- John 3:3

Yeshua answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’

- John 3:5-7

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Yeshua replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

- Luke 17:20-21

Praise His Holy Name you who consider the testimony of His rising from death to be a myth or something to entertain others by.

Praise His Holy Name you who hold close to a religion which condemns strangers and judges men by their exterior appearance.

Praise His Holy Name you who have considered to follow His narrow Way, for your reward will be great and beyond your understanding!  He rewards the faithful with things this world cannot come close to offering and brings peace to the heart and conscience like no earthly ethereal notion can... and this is God's will for your life:

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

- Acts 4:12

The choice to embark on the journey is yours... I suggest taking that road less traveled.