Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Woman Needs Man and a Man Must Have His Mate.

That, no one can deny.

People plan vacations.
People plan birthday parties.
People plan weddings.
People even plan cookouts in their back yard.

So how come nobody I know has ever planned a relationship?
They just happen, right?

I'm talking male-female here. The old fatal attraction, you know? So how do these things get started? What is the attraction, really?

What I mean is: What makes you so sure you are in (dare I say it?) love? You hardly know the person.

Could it be (more times than I care to admit) that it's because she was attracted to me? How on earth could I resist someone with such impeccable taste?

Honestly, it seems like such a big ole crap shoot. There's this huge divide between male and female outlooks and it's going to take nothing less than a miracle for us to stand one another after the novelty of the situation wears off.

Gotta be some kind of higher power at work here.


(more to come?)

You Must Remember This

Me and Joycie have been me and Joycie for twenty-seven years now.

I have to really concentrate to recall a time when we were not us.

And that time, once recalled, seems nothing but a long, depressing series of broken relationships. But that's unfair, isn't it? After all there must have been something there or there wouldn't have been these relationships.

Yet those failed where this one endured.

How is that?

I could say that I'm a better person now.


Nah, that wouldn't be totally honest.

We do sometimes tease each other, saying: "Well, you know I'm a much better person than old so-snd-so you used to hang out with."

But setting all kidding aside (if only for a moment), it seems to have something to do with that old cliche about chemistry: some things you mix together and get an explosion, broken glass and disaster all around; other times it's like mixing chocolate syrup and milk and you get a new thing that's much more delightful and sweet than mere chocolate syrup and milk all by themselves.

In case you haven't guessed, I'm the chocolate syrup: dark, rich and exciting.

(to be continued)

Monday, May 23, 2011

From Everlasting to Everlasting

On the tenth day of Tishri, much ,if not all, of Israel gathered at Ramah. A host of people representing each of the twelve tribes was present, each man, woman and child having fasted since sunset of the previous day. Ramah sat upon a low flat hill in the central highlands and the plateau around the town was sprinkled with the colors of a multitude of tents. At the outer edge of the village stood the Tabernacle of the LORD, prominent with its covering of red-dyed skins.

Samuel stepped to the altar clad in a simple linen garment. An awed hush fell upon the crowd. The sacrificial bull had been offered up to cleanse the priests and now a goat was brought forward. Eleazar stood in the congregation among the clan of Barak, his adopted family. Next to him stood a young cousin of Shammah, one of the hero-worshipping boys of the village. The boy, only eight, had never seen this ritual performed.

“What does he do now?” asked the youngster.

Eleazar took a knee beside him and spoke into his ear.

“The priest offers the sacrifice for the sins of the people.”

“But why must he kill the goat?”

“Because God knows that we are fallen creatures and unable to do all that he requires of us. The sacrifice is a symbol whereby the sentence of death passed upon Adam and Eve and all their descendants is carried out and our relationship with a Holy God is restored.”

“But how can this make God love us?”

Eleazar smiled. He himself had been a mere lad of ten the last time this rite had been performed before Israel. He remembered that day and his father speaking to him in explanation, much as he spoke to this youngster beside him.

“We demonstrate our love for God in our obedience to His commands, of which this sacrifice is one. By observing this rite, we express our love and our willingness to heed God’s word, though we often fail. Do you understand?”

“I know that I sometimes disobey my mother.”

“But you love her very much, do you not?”

“Yes, I am sad when I displease her.”

“Does she cast you out of your home when you displease her?” Eleazar asked with a smile. The youngster’s eyes widened with an expression of shock.

“No! She loves me.”

“Exactly so. And you love her very much and seek with all your heart to obey her?”


“So we also attempt to please God in all that we do and honor the covenant He made with our forefathers.”

“I know. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

“You are right.” A hush fell across the vast gathering as Samuel entered into the Tent of Meeting. In the very back of the tabernacle was the Most Holy Place containing the Ark of the Covenant. There Samuel would sprinkle the blood from the sacrifices to atone for the sin of the nation.

His task accomplished, Samuel emerged from the tent and placed his hands upon the head of the scapegoat which was presented to him before the congregation of Israel. His voice rang out.

“Hear me, O Mighty God of our fathers. We have sinned in your sight. Yet, in Your mercy, You have provided the necessary means of atonement through the blood of these sacrifices. May the sin of your people Israel be laid upon this animal and driven far from us that we might be restored to your fellowship.”

The handler led the scapegoat outside Ramah to be driven into the hills west of the town. The sins of Israel would thus be removed far from them, and from God’s sight.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Drink of Water

The three companions circled around to the north of Bethlehem through a series of ravines. They stepped onto the road leading toward Jebus and approached the village of Bethlehem at a trot, eyes alert for any enemy movement.

As Eleazar had observed earlier, there were no sentries posted on the northern end of town. They jogged down the village’s single street, weapons at the ready. The commander of the Philistine detachment never saw them. He stepped from a house in the center of Bethlehem and a well-cast spear caught him in the chest and protruded out his back. The two officers trailing him found themselves in a fight for their lives. Shammah’s battleaxe felled the first and Eleazar nearly decapitated the second with a whistling sword stroke.

Others of the Philistine detachment were likewise cut down without a chance to defend themselves as the three raced through the village like a torrent of death. The soldiers facing to thesouth became aware of the clash of weapons behind them when the three came upon the ten men guarding the supply carts. The comrades made quick work of them, but now the garrison was alerted and those not engaged in watching the southern approach to the town converged upon them.

Eleazar charged straight at a group of Philistines as they rounded the corner of a building. The gutting knife came out of its hiding place and was plunged into the throat of an enemy. His sword swirled in an intricate pattern and a well-timed thrust found its target in an opponent’s vitals. Eleazar pulled it back and spun in the same motion, parrying an enemy blow. Twisting his blade, he disarmed his foe and a slashing stroke sliced the Philistine’s throat. Eleazar caught him as he pitched forward in gouts of blood and using him as a shield, rammed the stabbing knife through the eye of the next man and into his brain.

Shammah retreated halfway up the stairs outside a nearby house, then turned on his pursuers. The double-bladed axe bit into the arm of one warrior. A backhand blow cleft the helmet of one attempting to slash at his legs from below. He retreated up several more steps then, planting the shaft of the weapon on the step below, vaulted over the heads of the lunging enemies. Landing behind them, he spun and swinging the axe in a wide arc maimed four men. One of them stood, mouth open in a silent scream, staring at his arm lying on the ground before him, sword still gripped in the twitching fingers.

The warriors facing Josheb could not overcome the reach advantage of his spear. He parried the blows on the metal-clad shaft, then thrust the point into the face or chest of his attacker, the razor tip slicing through chain mail like a hot knife through butter. Three screaming Philistines charged him at once. Side-stepping, he pivoted and lunged, putting all his weight behind the spear thrust. All three fell, pierced through by the spear, wrenching it from his hands. Grabbing up a sword from one of them, he charged down the street toward where Eleazar was held at bay by a group of the enemy. He hurled himself at the nearest, catching him from the side and stabbing him as they tumbled down. The others, startled by the attack from another quarter, were distracted for a moment and Eleazar, knife in one hand and sword in the other, danced in among them, slaying as he went.

Shammah retreated down the street toward his comrades, the whirling axe forming a curtain of steel between him and his opponents. The Philistines hesitated, perplexed at the sight of the three standing back to back to back. Josheb, sensing an opening, charged through it, toward the city gate and the well.

Seeing a small water jar on the bottom step of the well, he ran down, scooped it up left-handed and dipped it into the cool water, still holding the captured sword in his right hand. Above him, Shammah and Eleazar held off the swarming Philistines, the ground before them slippery with the blood of their foes.

By this time, David and his warrior band stood on the height above the town, in plain sight of the Philistines on the southern edge of Bethlehem. They dared not turn and join the fight taking place behind them. Josheb dashed up the steps of the well and toward the gate. Eleazar and Shammah followed close upon his heels. A spear rattled off the gate post as they departed Bethlehem.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Out Standing in His Field

They say to God, "Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of your ways."  -Job 21:14

Stephen W. Hawking.

To look at his atrophied, twisted and misshapen body is to be moved to compassion.

How much more so when he reveals his atrophied, twisted and misshapen heart?

No heaven.

No hope.

Oh, I suppose he has satisfaction. He is, after all, outstanding in his field; respected and admired, not only for his scientific achievements, but for overcoming a body that does litle more than house his giant computer brain.

But no hope.

Unless he hopes for death. I've never heard him say.

O LORD, I pray for Stephen Hawking. He has no hope, though he is outstanding in his field.

And that is where you will find him, God. Out standing in his field. Much like a farmer after a disastrous hailstorm.



No hope.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

...yet will I hope in Him

Eleazar sat and looked on in numbness as the stone was rolled against the opening of the family tomb, carved in the limestone of the hill overlooking Bahurim. Shammah knelt on one side of him, his arm around his stricken friend’s shoulder. Rephah was at his other side. Hillel and the elders of Bahurim saw to the burial procedings as Anna was laid to rest with her husband’s mother, father, sister and brother.

In the day and a half since Anna’s death and that of the baby, life in Bahurim had come to a halt. Friends and family gathered around Eleazar to mourn with him and comfort him. In his home, his mother-in-law brought him a bowl of lentil stew. He refused and Shammah took the bowl.

“You must eat, my brother. You haven’t taken food in nearly two days.” Shammah’s eyes were red-rimmed from grief and sleeplessness.

“Yes, my son. You need your strength,” spoke Rephah at his other side. Eleazar accepted the stew from his friend’s hand and ate sparingly.

“I feel as though I have wept every tear my eyes could hold,” he spoke, at last, continuing to pick at the food in the bowl. “Surely I will never cry another.”

“Yet, you live,” Rephah said. “And your life will go on.”

“Why? After God has taken from me everyone I love, why go on living?”

Shammah sighed. Worse than the loss of his sister was the uncomprehending grief of her husband, his friend. He glanced at his father, hoping for words of comfort. Rephah patted his son-in-law’s shoulder and searched for the words that would help him make sense of things, words that would alleviate his suffering.

“My son, if it is God’s will that you are left after your loved ones are taken, then you must indeed ask why. For what purpose has He spared your life, you who have dwelt in the shadow of death since you took up the sword? Rest assured that there is purpose in all that the LORD of Heaven does.”

“What purpose, then?”

“Ah, my brave young one. Time will heal this deep and grievous wound, and time will reveal this mystery to you. As for your wife and son, there is no bringing them back, but you will, in God’s time, go to be with them.” Together, father and son embraced this man who had become such a vital part of their lives. Shammah whispered into his friends ear.

“Peace, my brother. For now is a dark time of mourning, for all of us. But as surely as there is a God in Israel, the light will dawn and with it will come joy.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why I Am the Way I Am

I was hanging upside down by my knees from the crossbar on the swingset when it happened. My sister was sitting in one swing laughing while I pushed the other one back and forth with my hands. In a moment of utter clarity, an epiphany I think it was, I imagined how cool and funny it would be if I did a handstand on the swing as it swayed to and fro.

So I straightened my legs. For a millisecond all my weight rested on my hands as the swing came forward. By some arcane operation of physics, my weight shifted backward and then gravity came into play. I overcorrected: a common mistake when dealing with the results of physics. That explains my landing on my face.

The grass softened the force of my landing but not enough to keep from knocking the wind out of me. I raised my head woozily and the swing struck me in the back of the head.

You might think at this point that my sister would give a shriek of dismay and rush to my side. That you might think so demonstrates your utter lack of familiarity with this family. She was actually laughing harder than before. I raised my hand to my head to check for blood and the swing, passing through again, dinged my fingers. My sister laughed even more uncontrollably and peed herself.

I swore revenge. What form did this revenge take, you wonder? That’s a story for another day; one involving the infamous “Vampire of Lexa.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Though He Slay Me....

Anna screamed. The labor pains had been frequent and intense for over an hour. She was soaked in perspiration, as were the two woman attending her. Kassia labored desperately, massaging the young woman’s abdomen, attempting to get the baby turned to emerge head-first. Miriam stroked her daughter’s brow and spoke soothingly to her.

“He is coming,” Kassia said. “Push as hard as you can.”

Anna leaned back against her mother and screamed again. Kassia could see the baby’s bottom and prayed silently as she worked to turn the child, knowing that one so small as Anna would be torn horrendously should the baby come out backwards. Only the anesthetic effect of the black cohosh extract of the buttercup flower enabled Anna to withstand the pain of the final push to bring her child into the world. Exhausted she fell back into her mother’s arms.

Tears streamed down Kassia’s face and Miriam watched in helpless dismay as Kassia removed the umbilical cord from around the baby’s neck. The little one, a male child, had been strangled in the womb. Kassia continued to clean him and was preparing to wrap him in his birthing cloths when the placenta was expelled. With it came a copious flow of blood. The walls of the uterus, thinned by the potion which had enabled Anna to push her baby into the world, had torn and hemorrhaging now ensued. Kassia struggled to stanch the flow of blood, but in vain, while Anna’s mother looked on and prayed and wept, feeling her daughter’s life slip away as she held her in her arms.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Why You Gotta Be a Hatuh?

"From the time Cain slew his brother, man has perpetrated violence on his fellow man." -from the novel Field of Blood

They say Osama Bin Laden is dead. Some would say that the violence he espoused had at last come back upon him. Some would even say that the nature of his religion made him a violent and bloody man.

I wonder. The same thing has been said about the practitioners of Christianity.

Seems to me that out of our fallen nature comes the propensity to turn even the most beautiful things into something hateful and ugly.

Even "love" can be twisted into a degenerate cycle of abusive fighting and passionate making-up.

I am thinking of Fred Phelps and his unfortunate, misled family. How we Christians abhor the thought of this "minister" taking the name of Christ in vain.

But let me speak of this person of "Reformed" persuasion. I embraced the notion of God's sovereignty grudgingly, reluctantly. Even now sometimes I wonder, "God, why don't you save everybody?"

I already know the answer. I know lots of things, not because of my own native intelligence, but because God loved me and had mercy on me:

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

I know this. Sometimes I forget how I came to know this. So I become arrogant. I "get it." The Bible is explicitly clear. So why don't you "get it?" Are you SURE you're a Christian?

See what I mean? There's more than enough hate in the human heart to go around. The Greeks had a twenty-five cent word for it: xenophobia: hatred of the "other." It's the natural state of man.

Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!