Friday, March 15, 2013

Believing

My daughter asked me a while back "What do you believe in?".

It got me thinking - not about what I believe in, but about whether or not it really matters what I believe.  Reality is reality, facts are facts, truth is truth - right?  So if what I believe conflicts with those concrete things, does it really matter what I believe?

Yes, it matters.

We each live in our own reality, a reality that we often make for ourselves or one that those around us make for us.  Think on it: our parents make our reality when we are children, our nation makes our parents reality, our nation's reality is engraved in the history of time, and mankind's reality is created by God. But if our reality is different than God's created one, we are out of sync with true reality and we are out of sync with truth.

We are what we believe, we really are.




Thursday, April 12, 2012

One of My Favorites

I wrote this poem quite a while back, and have made a few changes to it recently.  It is still not where I want it to be, so I will probably come back to it again.

I have tried to express thoughts that we all experience at some time in our lives.  How we behave when they strike makes all the difference, and how we perceive in our heart is how we usually behave.

There are many ways to interpret this poem, from the title to the last word - maybe that's why I like it...I hope you enjoy it and it makes you look a little deeper too.




Which Will Be

Fear envelops me, wraps its cold arms around me, and swallows me.

Vanity blinds hope as I walk its endless and purposeless path - all is vanity.

Darkness

My dreams are endless - shafts of sunlight piercing the clouds.

I am a new creation, my world, and all that surrounds me.

Light

Which I choose to see, which I choose to follow,

That is me


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Know That I Know

I worked with a fella many years ago that used to share many spiritual things with me on a daily basis.  I would often ask him how he knew some of those things, "where does scripture say that?" I would ask.  His answer, more often than not was "I know that I know" - what he was trying to tell me was that there were things that he "knew" just because he had experienced them or because the Holy Spirit had enlightened him to the truth of them.  At the time, I wasn't so sure how valid that was, but over the years I have come to understand where he was coming from.

There are many, many things in life that I do not understand.  For example, I have no idea why a loving God would set up natural and written laws for us to live by, nor why He would deem death or misery would come to  humans from not following those laws.  Yet my life experience is that He has caused it to be that way and in my heart I know He is Just in doing so.  This is one of those "I know that I know" things.

The nature of knowing is perhaps better described as "what has been revealed to me" - but revelation and understanding can be entirely different things.  This is my understanding of His revealing to me, I encourage you to discover your own.  The only thing that I can give assurance to you on is that if you yearn His revelations He will be faithful - your search will not be in vain.   Warning: take your search seriously and it will take a lifetime.  But what better way to spend a life?

I Know That I Know

That God is, always has been, and will forever be.

That God is the definition of good, holiness, and love.

That God is the only creator of the human spirit.

That my body and mind are finite, but my soul is not.

That acknowledging or not acknowledging God's existence and goodness makes no difference in the truth of both.

That living like God exists makes all the difference for me.

That God always has and continues to have a plan for humanity that includes me.

That there is no chaos in creation nor in God's plan for humanity.

That Jesus lived and walked on earth, was divine, yet human.

That Jesus was the Christ and an essential part in God's plan for humanity.

That Jesus the Christ can be known and through knowing Him we can know God.

That all mankind was and is created as an image of God.

That being created in God's image means many things, but includes having an eternal soul.

That God has three "faces" - Father, Son, and Spirit, and like Him, they are perfection.

That in His likeness, He created me with a body, mind, and eternal spirit.

That unlike Him, my three "faces" are imperfect and impure.

That through the mystical and miraculous power of His Son, my eternal spirit can be transformed from imperfection to perfection.

That God gives us a multitude of examples of Himself and His "faces"; these are reflections of His character and therefore mine also.

That marriage is a reflection of His perfect and intimate love.

That the family is a reflection of His love and security.

That fathers and mothers are a reflection of His discipline and mercy.

That children are a reflection of His grace and a reflection of me.

That the children of God (the church universal) is a reflection of His salvation.

That His justice belongs to Him alone - it is not mine, nor do I truly understand it.

That I am responsible and accountable for obedience to Him, and ultimately to Him alone.

That He provides to each of us a sense of this responsibility, whether we choose to accept it or not.

That youth in bodily years on earth is less important than spiritual maturity.

That happiness is less important than satisfaction and contentment.

That satisfaction and contentment do not exist without knowing Him and being obedient to Him.

That humans are the only creation that know their body will die.

That knowledge of bodily death naturally brings fear.

That fear breeds unhealthy living and everything that goes with it (war, strife, selfishness, disunity, etc.)

That the only escape from the fear of death is faith in Jesus the Christ and everything that That faith instills.

That how I live, everyday, counts to God and to those around me.

That giving up on life is a hopeless option.

That only God is eternally faithful.

That there is a Judgement Day.

That I will stand naked before God on Judgement Day.

That though naked and exposed, I will not stand alone before the judgement seat.

That God himself, in the form of His Son will stand with me and shield me from the judgement that I deserve.

That all that I think I know, is more often than not my ego at work, but one day I will truly "know what I know".










Sunday, March 18, 2012

Thanks for Bearing with Me

To My Readers, however few you are:

I apologize for my long "dry" spell.  I will not share details with you, except to say that when a writer feels inspired he is compelled to write; when he does not feel inspired he should be compelled to stop - otherwise, poor quality work will follow.

I am nothing near a professional writer, I have had no professional training, and often was a poor student in my English classes as a youth.  Please do not tell my Mom, but I learned to memorize at an early age and was very good at it.  So good, in fact, that I learned to memorize test material to make good grades (which I did) - unfortunately, I did not heed the warnings of my parents and teachers to LEARN the material - if I had learned it well instead of just memorizing it I would be a much better writer. I had some of the best English teachers in the profession at A.E. Phillips School and good ole Ruston High.  Shame on me.

So...I hope you hang in there with me...more coming soon...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Kite


In our youth, life seems to revolve around us through events.  Those events - later, often lost in the shadows of our memories - in so many ways, mold us.  They become a part of who we are, and perhaps more importantly - who we become.  Looking back on them can be of great value to our present and our future, if we search for the deeper lessons found in them.  The lessons are always there, always.


The Kite

The kite itself was quite nondescript - I really don't even remember it having any markings - I think it was red.  It was not like the high tech, acrobatic kites of today.  Even in its day, it would have been considered a simple, ordinary kite - a bossa wood cross covered with crepe paper.  It was probably bought for a quarter at Simpson's store.  Regardless, there was no way this kite was likely to go far, as kites go.

The kite was likely purchased from the proceeds we saved returning old "coke" bottles for the refund - they paid two cents apiece back then - a fortune.  We had no idea we were some of the earliest recyclers.  We just knew if you could find them they were free (and it didn't involve stealing, so it was honest work in our minds) and a single bottle could buy two pieces of bubblegum with a corny cartoon in the wrapper.  For a while the refund-bottle trade was so lucrative with us that we thought we would become wealthy bottle barons.  Sure, there were kids who "cheated" and talked their mom or a neighbor out of their empties, but we looked down on that practice - there was no adventure involved; it was much more respected and glorious to be the explorer of a previously undiscovered throw-away-zone.  You know - places like the Interstate highway median, or along an old dirt road.  

It was the kite's tail that was so different  - distinctly long and heavy - made of a worn out white bed sheet torn into strips and tied together with "granny knots".  I had no idea why such a scrawny kite needed a 10-12 foot tail (I was only ten or so at the time and completely unschooled in aerodynamics), but Charlie kept us tying on more strips, and when Charlie gave orders they were obeyed.  Charlie was probably 14 and he was the street leader, our boss.  

It was a windy day in early spring, 1966 or '67, perhaps.  In those days, small town kids in the South had run of the town - we were kings, on bicycles.  And the obvious place to fly the highest kite was only a mile or so down the road where all the piney woods had been cleared in preparation for building the new Louisiana Tech football stadium, track, and practice fields.  The site was strategic for two reasons: no trees to get tangled in; and high visibility to the general public (after all, what good was the world record kite flight unless everybody witnessed it?).

For such a flight, great lengths of twine were needed – we started with probably three or four balls.  (I am not sure now how much twine is on a ball, but it had to be at least 100 yards – just a guess of course, they probably don’t make cotton twine balls like that anymore).  Naturally, Charlie was the kite pilot, and he commanded a ready crew consisting of me, my older brother, and the two soon-to-be-infamous Causey brothers.  

It took several tries and a lot of running to get her into the air – that tail was a real problem, it was just so heavy.  But the wind was strong and steady, and giving up was not an option.  With firm and knowledgeable commands from our captain we ran our lungs out and finally set her soaring.

For a long while, Charlie remained at the helm, not allowing any of us little kids to control her.  At first he worked at it - letting her reel off line when the wind pulled, pulling back when there was too much slack, preventing a lethal dive.  It wasn't long before that little kite was flying high over the open field - and Charlie started screaming: "More string"!  Frankly, I do not remember where we got it, but somehow we put our hands on several more balls of twine.  Enough so that little kite was flying more than several hundred feet high and well past the Illinois Central railroad track which was at least a quarter mile away.  And more twine was on the way as bike wheels churned.

At some point I guess Charlie bored of holding her, because we all eventually got a chance to fly her.  When my turn came I was ready.  Even now, I can still feel the power and tremendous responsibility of holding on to that little kite.  It was like being at the helm of a great sailing ship blowing on the sea - tugging, swaying, yearning to break free - with only me to hold her steady from certain doom.

Eventually, we could not even really see her - but an occasional glint from the sun and pull on the string confirmed she was still rising.  We should have been in awe of the kite, but being boys, we were more in awe of ourselves - proud of our accomplishment of flying a kite higher than anybody had ever flown one (it must have been some kind of world record, we supposed).  At some point, we became numbed of the feat and did not know what to do with her, so we just held on because there was nothing else to do.

Then it happened, with no warning, and little fanfare: somewhere along that long length of cheap cotton twine a break occurred - the line just went slack.  We lost sight of her quickly, as though she dissolved into the sky, never to be seen again.  There was brief discussion of going to find her, but the afternoon was waning so we mounted for home. Great stories of the feat were told upon our return, but only for a day or two - we had bigger adventures to attend, summer was coming.

I think back on that little kite and wonder:  How did she fly so high and not rip apart at those altitudes?  Where did her tether break, and why?  Where did she land and what became of her?

Some things I know for certain now.  That fragile little kite did not rip apart because of that ridiculously long and heavy tail - that was her anchor against the strong winds at high altitude.  What made her so difficult to become airborne also gave her the stability to remain in tact, and to fly higher.  Surviving turbulence requires a long, heavy tail - an anchor that steadies.  Life can be full of turbulence - broken relationships, sickness, financial collapse, loss of a loved one, inner turmoil, depression, personal disappointments, etc. etc.  To survive the turbulence of life in spiritual wholeness, we need a heavy anchor.  To fly higher in life we need a long tail -  one that will take us higher than we can imagine going.  Anchors and tails should be tied with "granny knots".  (Every Boy Scout knows that granny knots are difficult to untie, which is why the "square knot" is preferred for most uses).  May we anchor our lives, and those of our children, in Heaven, tied with the granny knot of Faith.

I also know this: it was not the wind that broke the little kite's string, it was the cumulative weight of all those balls of twine.  It was her own bondage that kept her from being free, and in the end it was the weight of that bond, broken, that released her.  How often we are bound by our own self-made tethers in life.  We spend years, sadly some even lifetimes, weaving the cords of our own bondage - chains of habits and sin that keep us from being free.  My prayer is that the weight of those bonds will cause breakage and bring freedom.  Whatever it is that brings bondage to your life, break it.  John 8:36.

I do not know the answer to my final question - there is no way for me to know where that kite landed, or even the journey she took to get there.  Perhaps that is the greatest lesson to be learned: we cannot know all the answers.  If I knew where I were to land in life, I might not choose to take the journey.  And if I do not take the journey, I miss the adventure.

Kites are amazing things.










Sunday, November 27, 2011

Caught in the Middle

I am a middle child.  Actually, I am one of two "middle" children in a family of four kids.

To my older brother and "baby" sister: please know that I love you both, more than I am able to describe - you are both so different, and remarkable people that have shaped my life in so many ways.  You are well worthy to be looked to as wonderful examples of God's heavenly presence in the family here on earth.  I am honored and humbled to be your brother.

To my fellow "middle" colleague: You are a treasure, you have always been a treasure.  Maybe we share some of these thoughts.  Our lives are all voices - your voice is sweetness to my ears.  I hope you know that.

To all my other readers:

Please do not be put off by the style of this expository essay; it is written in the form of random thoughts and feelings.  Regardless of whether you are a "Middle" or not, you may learn something about yourself or someone whom you love in this post - at least that is my prayer.  And be patient, it is long.  Strangely, this piece was written for a friend and was not designed specifically for me, my brother, or sisters - but I hope they read it, and in so doing, sound the depths of my devotion for each of them.

Caught in the Middle

I have no remembrance of ever being a child alone - he was always there, first.  Since he came before me, I would never know what his young life was like before I arrived, I just know he existed on earth before me.  I can really only remember him from the age of five or six, and he was seven or eight years old by then.  I do not remember him being a nice fellow either - surely he resented me intruding in his singular love affair with Mom and Dad. How could he not?  Perhaps he was unhappy with himself or his life, or more likely, I was simply an easy and most appropriate target at which to aim his frustrations - regardless, it was only a temporary madness.  And I was occasionally the cause of my own pain, perhaps more often than not.  No regret or forgiveness is necessary between us now.

Firstborn are always prized, as they should be.  But taxes are due on receipt of great prizes - and strange as it may seem, the Firstborn must pay them.  Yet that seems just to me: with great blessings comes great responsibilities - responsibilities require toilsome times.  The gift of being Firstborn is not a free gift.  Few are found worthy of Firstborn status - he is one of those few.  How could I resent that?  How dare I not be grateful for it?  How foolish would it be for me not to look to him for leadership?

It has taken many years to learn the truth.  Looking up to him does not diminish me.  Valuing him does not make me less worthy.  In fact, as his wealth in wisdom grows, so grows mine also.  Has He not designed it so that the example of a Godly man inspires those around him?  It is rightfully so.  Yet I am heedfully reminded - he is a man nonetheless, defiled by imperfection, just as I.

The first I knew of her was that her spirit was sweeter than blooming honeysuckle on a warm and southern spring day.  Yet delicate, and like the primrose, often blooming only in the night - unseen by many, except by those of us watching.  For so many reasons, the world does not deserve such delicate beauty of the heart.  Harsh touches hurt deeply - petals dulled.  But true beauty, like gold, is not dimmed with time.  In fact, when gold is fired, it becomes more pure.  She has always been my friend.  She has always loved me.  She has always been loved.  But she has not, perhaps, always felt loved.

She and I communicate in deeper places, where words do not exist and are never heard - not because words are not of great value, but because they are unnecessary in those places.  She is my "middle" - the body's core of strength lies in the middle.  She would be greatly surprised to think of herself as strength, but she shouldn't be.  She is special, and not to me only.  Her name means "grace" or "favour" - I am graced with great favor to have her.

It took her many years to be heard above the din of her reputation - spoiled youngest child.  She is the only one I remember being born, remember Mom bringing home in a bundle.  She was a bundle, and now, in more mature ways she remains a bundle.  She is no longer "the baby", hasn't been for years, but she did mostly receive benefit of the doubt when she was young.  The rest sometimes resented her for that - we just did not know, we could not have known, could we?  When God touches a heart, He sets it on a path of true change.  This is to us His grandest gift, for no man, woman, or child alone can change another's heart, only God in his infinite grace can do that.

For many years now, she has unknowingly served as my touchstone - where I turn to seek renewal of my "better angels".  In her youth she was a talker, she could keep up with the best of them.  Now she speaks less, observes more, and sees with knowing eyes.  Life for her has taken dramatic turns, some would say tragic ones.  But she withstands the endless torrential storm of life, and with great dignity.  Who knew this "spoiled" little girl would be the one able to withstand the violence of the storm?  God knew - he picked her. The great King David of old was one of those "spoiled" youngest children.  God picked him too.

Sometimes I feel caught in the middle, invisible and surrounded by "greatness" - who wouldn't, with these people in my life?  Attempting to live up to others' expectations has always been one of my weaknesses.  In my ego, I always wanted to make them proud of me - to recognize and celebrate that I grew up to do something special too.  I asked wrong questions: what have I done, what have I accomplished that makes me worthy to be part of this family?  Why can't I be more like them - stronger, a better leader, more disciplined, more skilled, more successful, more confident of myself?  Why does my path seem less worthy?  Wrong questions, wrong assumptions.   What I was searching for was love of the purest kind.  Pride is not love - let me say that another way - Pride is not the same as love.  Pure love can exist without pride - God deemed it so.  Spoken from a father's perspective, I would add this:  I am proud of all my children, but not always proud of decisions they have made, actions they have taken, or the way they have acted.  I am proud of them because they are the fruit of my loins, because they are my children.  Nothing more.  Certainly they are all special and unique, certainly they have accomplished good things and take great pride in them, and certainly I enjoy their presence.  But none of that is essential to my loving them.  Further, their immaturity and bad decisions have disappointed me at times, yet I love them no less because of it.  Such is God's love for His children, but infinitely more pure.

I think I have learned to stop trying to live up to other's expectation of me, but it is a daily battle for most of us.  Freedom awaits those who can accomplish this feat.  Freedom to live without jealousies, without regret, without fear of disappointing others.  Love smothers fear - it literally suffocates it.  Perfect love strangles fear completely - never to rise again.  Perfect love is offered us - let us accept it through His Son.  Like a loving father, nothing further is required of me to gain His perfect love, only this: to become His child.  You must be born into His family - if you are, pride and fear vanish - all that is left is the warmth of His touch.

Life is not a Hollywood movie, it is not a Broadway play, it is not a bestselling novel.  Life is more of a history book, full of stories of great victories and bitter defeats.  Do not allow another to write your history book, take it with confidence as your own -confidence born from being an equal member of the greatest family.

I like being in the "middle" - it's a good place to be.










Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Dad

Preface:

This is a very personal post that I hesitated to share with you, but after praying on it I have decided that it should be posted for posterity sake.  My purpose of this blog is: 1) to share my heart with others in a hope that it may touch another; and 2) to give a gift to my children and grandchildren (some day, I hope) - the gift of sharing some of my thoughts and stories.  Sharing about my Dad's influence on my life seems to meet both objectives.  In addition, and just as importantly, I write this for my Dad.  Often (and for me), we do not or cannot verbalize certain things in our hearts - that is not necessarily a bad thing, unless we fail to find a way to express them.  For many reasons, I can express the deepest of those feelings only in my writing.

My Dad

I have never experienced a single day in my life, not even a single minute, without my Dad being a huge part of my life.  Easily, and without any doubt or hesitation, I can state for the record that my Dad has been the single greatest male influence in my life.  Understand this about me (in case you have not been paying attention at all) - I adored my grandfathers and my father-in-law, they were outstanding mentors and companions.  (Yes, companions - that's what grandfathers have the luxury and joy of doing).  But their influence on who I am as a man is dwarfed by my Dad's.

Think on it - how few of my generation and youngsters today have or will have the blessing of being able to make the statements above?  Praise God from Whom all blessing flow. Yet in stating it, I am humbled beyond description, for Dad has set the bar high.

I am 54 years of age, and I still ask my Dad for advice, and even more - I still go to my Dad for encouragement.  Let me restate and explain: I still go to my Dad for encouragement - he is 81 years old today and has not been in good health for a number of years now.  In fact, it is fair to say that my Dad has been afflicted with some very difficult and sometimes very painful ailments for several years now.  He has even lost his eyesight for a time.  I cannot even imagine what that must be like.  Something seems amiss in this - I am blessed with good health for now; should not my Dad be coming to Me for encouragement?  Like I said, he has set a high standard.

My Dad is not perfect.  But that is perfectly acceptable - only our heavenly Father is the Perfect Father.  There have been times when my Dad angered me, there have been times when he embarrassed me - but there has never been a time when my Dad disappointed me.  He has always been there for me, no matter what my need.  Even when I didn't, or thought that I didn't, need him, I always knew he was there for me.  Always, every day of my life.

My Dad will not be with me in the flesh one day - I know that and I dread the deep loneliness of it.  But this also I know: my Dad will still be there for me, always, every day, until I pass into our Father's Kingdom to be with him again.

But Dad would not want me talking of this - he would tell me that we must live every day seeking God's will for our lives and not waste a single day in worry or fear.  He would not approve of me praising him either - in his wisdom, he would tell me that I should focus on praising my heavenly Father.  He would be correct, of course, but I believe I am backed up by scripture on this one, Pops: "Honor Thy Father and Mother..."

I have not always honored my Father, and for that I am truly repentant.

I honor you, Dad.  I love you.