Thursday, January 24, 2013

Devotional: Forgiveness

Jonah 3
New International Version (NIV)

1 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Colossians 3:12-17

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

John 8:1-11
Words of Christ in red

8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin."

What thoughts do these scriptures prompt in you?

Okay, you want to know what thoughts cross my mind with these, I'll tell you.

"There, but for the grace of God go I." 

I say that to myself when I watch someone do something really, really stupid. Its easy to look at something in a vacuum and go "I would never go that". But when you're there, tired, emotional, beat down, probably scared... yeah, the world is a whole different place, and what you're willing to do I a whole different story.

I remember hearing about when Corey, a senior at my high school, walked into his parents living room and deliberately put a 12 gauge buck-shot load through his head, right in front of his parents. I was like everyone else at the time, we called the guy selfish, sick, cowardly... you name it.

Then, thirty one days later, another kid hung himself.

You thought the school was traumatized after one suicide, you should have been there for number two.I guess something about that whole mess jarred me enough to realize everyone else was acting out of anger with their remarks by then. They were scared, they were hurt, they were looking for answers. I was just so shocked at the thing that I think I forgot to be angry, and saw what was going on through different eyes.

I didn't have a bad childhood, but I did face more than my share of bullies. The result of that was dealing with what I would now call mild depression, and a lot of really, really dark hours mad at the world.

Sometime in that whole mess, I put it all together  and realized that while I would never kill myself, back before, when I wasn't who I was in high school, when i was alone, when i was beat down, when i was mad at the world.... maybe I was closer to saying yes than I would have liked to admit.

When that realization hits you, the idea that maybe you are capable of causing that much pain and destruction, the world kind of take on a new focus. it wasn't an instant realization, or a dramatic one, but more like a gradual euphony.

For the first time in my life, I saw my tormentors with pity and not ire as I wondered what could have driven them to  be who they were.

I stopped resenting the worst of my teachers as much as I did, wondering what in their lives had them so flustered or jarred that they couldn't even manage a classroom.

I wondered how far I was, or had been from becoming for someone else the type of nightmare these people had become to me.

I'm here to tell you, that's a scary realization when you come to it. For me its terrifying. For I know, deep down that while I am a good person, I choose to me good. The idea of what I would be capable of should something break my moral guide is... haunting to contemplate.

I think that the above verses show that God can see through the acts we commit, and see if there is good deep down inside. Wounds can heal, pain can fade, but we can't undo the past, so perhaps we should consider building on the future. He could have leveled Nineveh; Sodom and Gomorrah are proof of that. But somehow he decided that despite their transgressions, there was something in there worth salvaging  something worth keeping.

I think Christ was the first figure to put forgiveness in terms of love (I could be wrong, I'm hardly a biblical scholastic). More or less, the letter to the Colossians spells it out, however, Love, though and through.

The "let he without sin cast the first stone", line is perhaps one of the most quoted from the bible, and not without reason.

I have to stop and break this down just a bit because I read this a certain way. I don't think Christ was against punishing her at all, but that whole incident was more or less meant to highlight both a hypocritical element,  and the heavy-handedness of the accusers. I'm highly suspicious, (but can't demonstrate this with any fact), and when Christ said "without sin", he wasn't talking about absolute purity. I'm willing to bet that a lot of those men probably knew more about the sex trade than they should have, and if not that vice, I'd hate to think what else they had done with their power and wealth.

The point here isn't to say they were corrupt and the wasn't. I'm sorry, but she wasn't screaming rape, she was guilty too. My point here is that we need to hold ourselves to the same standards that we hold others to, the golden rule, but customized for accountability in this case.

"But Christ forgave her", you say. Yes, but I think there is more to it than that.

There is an old tale out of Japan about an assassin who went in to kill a feudal lord. When he got there, the guy woke up, and in a fit of anger spit in the assassin's face, and called his mother a whore. Rather than strike out, the assassin turned and left. You see, he would have struck in anger, which made it vengeance,  and not a contract. That's not why he was there, and he was too professional to do it that way, and too honest with himself to let it go that far.

Hokey, I know, but it really begs us to ask if we are holding ourselves to the same standards that we hold others to.

Sure, I'm not sexually amoral, but I'm not perfect either, and I know it. That's what I'm seeing with Christ's forgiveness of the woman here. Sure, she probably deserves some punishment, but these men weren't after justice, and he knew it. They were angry and wanted blood from a woman who's only real mistake when compared to at least some of them was that she had gotten caught.

Do we honestly want to hold people accountable when they wrong us, or do we just want to feel vengeance for our loss, or our trouble?

What was to be gained by killing the adulterous woman?

What's to be gained my hating the schoolyard bully?

What's to be gained by hating the girl who mocked your crush?

What's to be gained by holding those grudges?

We tell ourselves "well, I want them to be suspended, or yelled at, or hurt so that they won't do that again."

Yeah... I would like to think we're a little past that reasoning. While I fully feel that a person should pay for their crimes, there is a reason the criminal justice system is detached and methodical.

You can forgive and still hold someone accountable. You can can let go of the hate, and still protect yourself from future hurts. Forgiving isn't forgetting. But it is letting go of the pain, the anger and the hurt.

In the end, forgiving someone isn't about them... it's about you. 

Who do you need to forgive or from whom have you been withholding forgiveness?

As those who know me are all too aware, I am a man of deep, driving convictions, and a ironclad sense of right and wrong, and dedication that others call epic in it's scale.

When put to good use, those are titanic forces for good.

But I'll tell you, I've been there. I've seen the man who questioned my honor rewarded for his actions. I've seen the liar congratulated, I've seen the spiteful lash out, and I've seen the vengeful set their sights on me. I've been called lazy and "blatantly ambitious" by people in authority. I've been spit upon and laughed with a moody boot print across my face. I've been...

Yeah. I've been there.

And I've had all those same characteristics focused in one all-consuming beam of hate.

And many times at that.

Someone once told me that holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent-free in your head.

Maybe this year I can finish serving the eviction notices. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I would like to engage in a little... experiment. The concept involves firearms, but fortunately the only thing we actually need for this experiment is a little time and a little thought.

So, what is this scheme I am coming up with? I'll tell you, I would like to examine the practical elements of the 2nd amendment. But not in the day-in-day out aspect of it. Lets... go off the deep end for a few minutes and talk about a few extremes.

First of all, some ground rules.

The second amendment provides that the rights of the people to have firearms shall not be infringed. Now, the why of that is, well, it's up for some interpretation. One school of through is that at the time it was written, “the people” were the core of any likely army, so more or less they were keeping their military armed. Another school of thought says that because a nation has to have an army, our people should be armed so that the army doesn't have a cakewalk if the government decides to go dictatorial.

Lets go ahead and work with that second one for a few minutes. The idea is that an armed population could deter the government if the government got out of hand. The evidence of this was relatively certain, the founders had just fought and won the American revolution, a large portion of which was fought by farmers and reservists going against British regular infantry.

So, if we talk about governmental deterrence as a factor in gun ownership, the logical extent of that is to say that we need to be able to overthrow the government if things go too far.

Now, before you jump all over me, let me get a few things out of the way.
  1. I am not advocating that we violently overthrow the federal (or state) government.
  2. I really don't feel like arguing about how big the delta is between American civilians and the US military. The British were crack troops when they came to the US, and a bunch of farmers and peasants more or less made their lives a living hell until professional troops could be raised for a formal offensive. And in a more modern setting, how many troops did we put into Iraq and Afghanistan, and frankly, those were hardly shining examples of decisive military victories.
  3. I don't actually think the Federal government is going to go “King George” on us anytime soon, and frankly, I'm not interested in debating it here.

So, what is all this about?

Lets just suppose I wanted to prepare for the worst case scenario as an American; Something happens, some law is passed, and the next thing we know, we have a population that suddenly isn't so keen of taking Uncle Sam's word for it. It could be the whole country, it could be a state or two, (I can so see Texas doing something like this). The next thing we know, we have federal infantry taking local officials into custody, martial law is declared, and ATF swat teams are going door to door, telling people to turn in their guns, they are not going to need them anymore.

A formal, official, legally definable tyranny has officially been born, the US constitution has been broken in action, and the time has come for us to clean house back in DC. Either that, or tell DC they can kiss our freckled butts, we're setting out on our own.

So... what does all this have to do with me?

Well, I'm thinking about this, and going, “holy shit, I need to get ready for this NOW, so I'm not one of the helpless sheep caught with my proverbial pants around his ankles when all hell breaks loose.”

I need to get a gun!

What gun should I get?

Well, lets make a list of what it has to do.

  1. Proven technology
  2. Good range
  3. decent stopping power
  4. cost effective (hey, unlike congress, I'm actually only spending MY money)
And as some considerations:
  1. Something that has some historical precedence as a combat rifle.
  2. A credible self defense weapon. (I mean, no point in it just being a wall ornament in the mean time)
  3. Something that I can reasonably threaten a soldier with.

Okay, I like that list. Let assume I take it to heart and do some shopping. What am I going to get?

I've got some good options out there.

AR-15; Boxer and Finestine haven't illegalized them yet, high rate of fire, respectable power... not a bad option, but lets be real, its a bit... conspicuous.

AKM/AK-47/AK-74: hey, you want to talk about reliability, their isn't anything wrong with an AK, it's got more wars under it's belt than some modern armies, and let me tell you, it's earned the respect of more armies and more governments that I really care to count off. But... again, conspicuous, and the ammunition isn't the best, not the best in the range department either, and not as accurate as it could be. Good gun still, but not my first choice.

M-14: Oh hell yes... 20 round box magazine, hardwood stock, iron sights... NATO 7.62x51mm cartridge... I mean we're talking about the ultimate evolution of the twentieth century battle-rifle, with a legacy that dates right back to the old M-1 rifles of WWII. This gun is the rightful heir to weapon that kicked butt and took names on two continents.

But.... I think the $1700 price tag is a bit much. Hell, it's a LOT much, and it's more than I want to fork over. Hell, it's more than I have to fork over, in spades. I'm sure I could find one used, for a lot less, but then there is upkeep. The M-14 is a high performance rifle and some of those parts are just damned expensive. If I had the option of grabbing it after all hell broke loose, you can bet your bottom dollar I would, but right now... not so much.

So, what am I going to get? What can I use to help overthrow a tyrannical government with some of the best military weapons in existence at it's disposal without breaking my meager budget? In the mean time, this thing needs to be able to help me hold down the fort (so to speak) here a home, keep mobs as bay in times of crisis, and … well hell, it had better be fun to shoot too, because I need to practice on it and I don't want to dread going to the range.

OH! Wait, I've got it!

Remington Model 700 Rifle. 

Yeah, that's right, your looking at nothing more than a bolt action, 5 round, .30-06 rifle.

You think I'm off my my rocker?

Think again. Bolt action rifles were how the French resistance helped make Germany's life a living hell during the occupation, and some of own troops were using them on the front lines all the way into the end off the second world war.

I can easily double the range of an M-4 with it, and still out range an M-16, even on its best day.

Back on the home front; no, I won't be standing up on my roof scaring people with my wicked looking gun. But you can bet the first time I put a live .308 through an engine block, a lot of people might think twice before they try and Molotov my house.

At close quarters, yeah, I'll probably have my pistol. But then again, that stock isn't balsa wood, and I don't need a bayonet to smash something.

I'm not going to win any firepower contest with this thing, but then again, just by choosing a bolt action, .308 caliber rifle, I have just put myself in a range and reliability category that better than 90% of the US military current infantry arsenal  They can play their games, but I'll play mine.

Oh, and guess what, once all hell breaks look, that rifle is probably going to help me get all the M-4s I can carry. So it's not like I'm going to stick with this one option from start to finish.

Okay back to reality.

So, why am I writing this?

No, I don't think war is going to break out. And No, I don't think I will see the overthrow of the US government within my life time.

This little post is an bit of a reality check to all the people who are running around saying “They are going to take our semi-automatic rifles and 30-round magazines away and we won't be able to defend ourselves from the government when they come for the rest!” (paraphrase I know, but I think we all know there are people saying this very thing right now)

The United States, more than almost any other nation in the world, has some of the most resourceful, dedicated and innovative people in the world. We can do more with less than just about anyone else when we put our minds to it, but we have to want to do it.

Now, I'm not saying we don't need weapons like the AR pattern rifle. And more to the point, I'll be the first to say that limiting its use will likely do little to curb gun-related crime and death.

But there is this idea out there that says we NEED this type of weapon to protect ourselves, and I'm here to tell you, history shows that the most dangerous weapon is the person with their finger on the trigger, not the mechanism the trigger is attached to. 

Ask yourself this:
Do you really need an AR-15 or an AK? 

Or are you just using it as a crutch for the fact that you don't want to practice and get as proficient and skilled as you could be if you were using an older design?

I don't believe in “Gun control” for a second...

But let me tell you, I don't need space-aged technology or 90 rounds per minute to be a formidable opponent either.  

Devotional: The Body of Christ

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
New International Version (NIV)

15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

John 13:1-15
Words of Christ in red

13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."

How does having no other gods fit with the body of Christ metaphor, and Jesus washing his discipleship feet?

I'll preface this by saying that I have never been a fan of the anatomical metaphors that are popular with the bible. I know, that is probably flirting with blasphemy considering that Christ himself used such metaphors  Still, like i said, they don't relate to me well.

All that being said, the 'body' concept implies unity of purpose. With  God, there really can't be unity of purpose if you are following the edicts of another deity (real or imagined).

My take on the foot-washing story really centers on the part where he says "those who have had a bath need only wash their feet..." and so on. More or less, when you take care of yourself, cleaning is really a maintenance procedure, as opposed to a fully scrubbing. The "body of Christ" fits in here because it reminds us that we need to maintain all parts of it, and if we do, the upkeep is not as draining as if we waited for things to get really messy.

Honestly, the logic here holds out for me. When I was with the fire service, in corrections and part of engineering or project teams, we were all in-charge of taking care off each other. The team was really only as strong as its weakest link, and that was bore out time and time again. I'm not taking responsibly for other's laziness, but if I didn't invest effort into helping them keep themselves up to snuff... well I was partly culpable for their failures as well.

How does service to and with other Christians promote community?

Frankly, work is what communities do, at leas tin my opinion. Again, drawing on my time as a firefighter, we often worked together on tasks, partially to get them done, but also it helped work as a catalyst for us to better understand each other, get to know each other, and when it was all done, take ownership in our establishments.

The Christian community is no different in this respect. If we don't  work together  than we are cheating ourselves out of a powerful opportunity.

Okay, that's as much as I have on this. I'm not trying to be be a lightweight, but I really am not 100% sure how else to address these questions, though i am still relatively confident in my responses to them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Devotional: Religious differences

Ezekiel 37:15-28 (NIV)

15 The word of the Lord came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Belonging to Joseph (that is, to Ephraim) and all the Israelites associated with him.’ 17 Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.

18 “When your people ask you, ‘Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’ 19 say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in Ephraim’s hand—and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick. I will make them into a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’ 20 Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on 21 and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. 23 They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding,[a] and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.

24 “‘My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. 25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. 27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV)

4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

John 13:1-15 (NIV)
Words of Christ in red

13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."

What do these scriptures have in common that makes you think about being united with Christians of other denominations and communities?

This is one of those questions that is deceptively simple, but by no means easy to work with once you actually get into it.

Ezekiel is given a very straightforward image in his narrative, with two sticks, each one clearly labeled as representing different tribes within Israel, bound together as a symbolic union. One small detail here is that a stick is not some random thing in the time we are talking about. A respectable length of hardened wood can be used to carry things, pry things loose or even as a formidable weapon if needed. The people of the time would likely not have looked at a "stick" as something useless, but rather as a very helpful tool, farm implement, or other such device.

The two-in-one reference here is not unique in history, either. The Tudor Rose was a piece of English heraldry fashioned as a cross between the heraldry of the York and Lancaster households following the ugly (and bloody) War of the Roses. The original houses wore their respective white and red flowers as identifier that ultimately told people who to kill and not to kill at the most violent periods of the war. Following the end of the conflict, Henry VII fashioned the combined red and white flower as a symbol of a newly united force, combining the one-time enemies.

In the letter to the Ephesians, the statements aren't even symbolic, but rather straight-forward; there is only one God, one faith.... well, you get the idea. The idea that two people can worship the same deity  and not agree with each other is rather... silly when put in those lights.

John's story of Christ washing the other's feet is one of the more striking stories because of these three, it is the only one where we have a leadership figure more or less relinquishing his authority role amongst his students.

As hokey as this may sound, I see some parallels between this and the cinema moments such as "and so the student became the master" and "show me... wax on, wax off". The idea that a student can reach a point in his training where he is capable of then teaching others in the same fashion is not a small matter.

What we see here (to me, at least) is much the same thing. Christ is demonstrating to his students that they are now ready to go out in the world and do for others as he has done for them.

The important "takeaway" for me here is the union of differences that the collective passages talk about. I don't think anything personifies the differences in philosophy between the current christian denominations that the differences between the Apostles. Perhaps the one I most relate to in that group is Peter; the man who lashed out with a sword to defend Christ. Even though he was wrong in doing it, the idea that he would still act when the odds were against him speaks highly of his character, and will to protect that which is important to him. Also, he was the man who denied Christ three times, a crime for which he never fully forgave himself, as I recall. I'm not perfect, and never claimed to be, but In Peter's story, I see a lot of myself in the narrative.

Just as Peter was very different from his comrades, I see a great many differences in the current Christian denominations, yet all of the apostles were there at the last supper; a telling footnote to the story.

Conversely, I do feel compelled to point out that the passage in Ephesians highlights one of my larger reservations about interfaith cooperation. I have been exposed to people who firmly and honestly believe the fundamental principle that Christ was crucified for their sins, and that he was the Son of God, born of a Virgin.

However, (and unfortunately) these same people are absolutely candid and upfront with their proclamations that "in the name of God", if they had their way, they would visit untold violence on every catholic, homosexual and Muslim in the United States.

The point is that while their is only one God, the current circumstances of the world being what they are, there are too many differences in how he us understood.

For my part, I have considerable problems with a number of faiths, yet still am glad to welcome their members into my home, to my table, and even call them friends. And furthermore, I would willingly put my life on the line to protect another's right to worship and believe as they so choose.

And that fact in itself has alienated me from at least one Independent Baptist congregation from my indolence.

I'm going to go ahead and end this here before it turns into a rambling diatribe about what I do hate about modern organized religions. I'm not an agnostic, not by any measure, but organisation is a two edged sword.

The point here is that there is more to faith than just doctrine. Before we say "different" or "alike" we need to take a good long hard look at the person across the table from us, and then take a good long hard look at ourselves.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Devotionals: Christ and the Centurion

My minister was out with an emergency this week, so the devotionals were put on de-facto hold for the week. I didn't want to just wait, so I'm going to take this opportunity to talk about some scriptures that are important to me. 

Christ and the Cenutrion
Matthew 8:5-13
New International Version (NIV)
Words of Christ in red

(5) When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. (6) “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

(7) Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?

(8) The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. (9) For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

(10) When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. (11) I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
(12) But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
(13) Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

This isn't my favorite bible verse, but it’s one of them. Being a military brat myself, as well as a former firefighter, I like to think I have some insight into the mind of the centurion in this case.One of the reasons I wanted to talk about this is because a lot of people I know miss (what I believe to be) the most interesting part of it.

First of all, A centurion is more or less analogous to a modern company commander, roughly a captain, with similar number of men and similar responsibilities. I’m sort of guessing here, but because the verse says “centurion” as opposed to “was a centurion” or “a past centurion”, this guy was probably, even if it was older than some, a soldier through an through, physically touch, mentally disciplined, and conditioned to face some tough situations. Imagine a modern Army or Marine Corp sergeant or Captain after a tour or two in Iraq. In my mind, that’s kind of what we are dealing with.

Another factor here is that the roman military wasn't necessarily the most friendly lot when dealing with Christ and his followers, so while it’s not said outright, I think the man to a bit of a risk coming there, at least in his mind. He had to think that he was more likely to be turned away based on his status as a military figure.
So, we have an officer, braving a crowd of people who may not like him, walking up to Christ, and pleading his case. Its obvious that he cares for the servant, and in some cinematic depictions, even says the man is like a son to him, which, while not biblical, I think helps make the point.  He asked Jesus to heal the man, and the Jesus, in his normal fashion, more or less says ‘sure, take me there.’

Now, this is the part that I really appreciate about this passage. The Centurion (again, more or less) say ‘you don’t need to show me anything. If you say he’s healed, then it’s done.”

I know too many people who miss how important this is. Part of being a military leader is having a force under you that you don’t have to check on. When you tell them to do something, you just know they will do it. You can call it trust, you can call it faith, you can call it whatever you want, but in the end, these men’s lives rested in how dependable each other were. That is the foundation of the Centurion’s “I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.” comment.

Also note, the man never said “if you are the son of God”, or “I don’t care if you are or aren't . He’s not desperate to the point of throwing his sole at any opportunity. This isn't a case of a man who's desperate, this is a case of a man who just knew what had to be done.

To put it in modern parlance (assuming, for instance, this were a modern Marine Gunnery Sergeant), what the man is saying is “You don’t need to prove anything to me. When I tell my guys to do something, they just do it, and I know it’s done. If you say the kid is well, then he’s well. I don’t need to check on my men’s work to know it got done, and I certainly don’t need to check on your work. Just say it, I know that’s all it takes.”

It says that Christ marveled at the man, and we can debate how that is possible all you want. The critical issue if that he did. The son of God himself raised his eyebrows and was surprised by the man’s showing of faith. In fact, he said that he had never seen faith that strong before. This has to be at least three years into Christ's ministry (I'm not specifically sure, but I think 3 sounds right), and he just said (right in front of his disciples) "I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.". A man who hadn't spend days, weeks months and years watching and listening to Christ, a man who probably had more exposure to the anti-christian movement of the day than not, and he had just, with a few words, reset the bar of faith, as established by the son of God himself.

You want to bet Peter and the others were choking down mouthful's of humble pie after that conversation was done?

Now, the next lines are interesting as well. In summary, those who traced their ancestry to the first Jewish tribes generally believed that they had a free ticket into Heaven. A birthright, if that's not to strong a worth for it. What Christ is saying here (and not for the first time, if I recall correctly) is that not only is that not the case, but he’s using this man; a roman military officer, and clearly not a Jew, as an example of what faith is, heavily implying that he has a better shot at getting into Heaven than some of the Jews of the day.

Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.”

This isn't just a footnote. Christ didn't say “then he’s healed”, or “go home and see that your servant is healed”. He doesn't even use the word heal, or health, or better, or anything of the like.

What he’s saying here is Your asked the right thing of me. All I have to do now is grant it. I don't even have to explain it back to you. He had to tell the cripple to walk, he had to tell the blind that he could see... but he didn't tell this man that his servant was healed. He just said "let it be done just as your believed it would." 

Translation: Your faith was spot on, no go home and enjoy the benefit of how right you are.

I can relate to the centurion better than I can relate to just about any other figure in the bible, for a number of reasons. Chief-most is that the man believed first, and was gifted with proof later. I don't have any hard evidence to prove that God exists, even to myself. I'm too much of a skeptic, or a scientists to claim that. Still, I have never looked up and doubted that God was there, or that Christ was his son. I'd like to think that when I get to heaven, I'll get to talk to that old centurion, and ask him how it was he decided that Christ really was the son of God. I wonder how a commissioned officer was the beginning of the first century would compare to a former volunteer firefighter in the 21st.

But there are two things that we probably would agree on very fast. We both had (human) faith in the men of our units. And be both had (total) faith that God was there when we needed him.

Feedback welcome.
Cheers and thanks for reading. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Vengeance's Whisper" - short story

First, some background; (But if you don't care about that kind of thing, just skip to the link at the bottom)

It's no secret that I was... socially awkward in middle school. And by that, I mean I had a target painted on my back by every sadistic neanderthal thug that ever graced the school's attendance roster.  And by the time high school rolled around, I had come to the realization that society didn't have a place for me; so I set out to carve one for myself. That realization helped propel me to more deeply invest in my fire service training, as well as deeper study in my faith, and broadening my reading spectrum. I was going to be who I was going to be, the world be damned as far as I was concerned.

Well, the good news is that those years formed the catalyst that created a lot of who I am today, or at least a lot of the raw materials, my wife will attest to how much work there was left to do when she met me in college. Still, I there are come ghosts I carried with me all of those years, and one of them was the memory of the torment that I was run through in middle school at the hands of the unchecked bullies. I'm still passionate on the subject, and when asked, I'll tell any kid to run when he can, but to draw blood (and draw a lot of it ["Foamy the Squirrel" NSFW]) when cornered. As far as I am concerned, once you have gotten to the point of tormenting others without mercy, you've fortified the right to a diplomatic solution.

Parallel to this, I have been writing (well, composing, I type almost all of my work) most of my life. The art of the story, and later, the art of character development were critical to helping me deal with a lot off life's challenges. A couple years ago I saw down to write something... wasn't even really sure what I was up to, but I just wanted to write something in the mystery genera. I think I was halfway through it before I realized some of the aforementioned ghosts of my formative years were sitting on my shoulders and prompting me. I didn't mind, though, the catharsis of it felt good, the ability put to paper some of my emotions helped me deal with some of the communication issues I had had recently. There were, and still are people out there who don't know how bullying is, and frankly aren't willing to accept that the solution to the problem can (at times) be only slightly less brutal than the result if the issue is left unchecked.

Anyway... all of that, and a lot more came together for this. Its not finalized; I haven't managed to do an editing pass on it, and I'm not sure I want to just yet. But I did want to see what people thought.

So, I present you to:

"Vengeance's Whisper" 
Short story (12 pages) / Online document / PG-13 rating (violence/language)
A short story by 
Cisco Cividanes. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

"The Mortar" (1992)

When I was in middle school, we read a poem called "I am the grass", by Carl Sandburg, I vaguely remember it being taught as some sort of an anti-war piece, but I was more interested in the poem than the lesson around it. (I also had, and have, little respect for the interpretations we were being fed for a lot of stuff in those classes, but that's another story)

The following hour in science class, I pulled out a notebook and began playing with some words that were rhyming in my head. Half an hour later I had a good sketch of the emotion I was trying to capture.

By math class, I had something. I didn't know exactly what, but when I read it to my classmates, a lot of them were slack-jawed, and even those that weren't art enthusiasts were giving me reverently approving nods.

So, I figured I would pull up that old piece and see what kind of response it got today.

"The Mortar"
Cisco Cividanes
1992 (age 13)


I stand alone, so far from home, and then a scream.

No Irish Banshee, or Russia wolf,
are as terrifying as the scream
that follows that fateful "woof".

The scream is from a falling mortar,
that seeks out men who sit and loiter,
in and near the lighted places,
where smoke and ash contain the faces,
of friend and foe,
who's death is all the ground will show.

Human parts not meant to be seen
sit and float in pure blood streams,
victims of the lethal tools,
furnished by the ones who rule.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Devotional: "In God we trust"

Question for future thought:

Each of the coins you have in your pocket or purse is inscribed with the united state motto "in God We Trust". 

How many people do you know that realize this and /or truly believe it?

Actually, I would wager that most of my friends are aware of this inscription and its historical and social significance. Also, A large portion of the people I choose to socialize with are practicing Christians  somewhat skewing that answer I would imagine.

Take a few minutes and look at a coin. Why was the motto chosen?

Honestly, I think that the decision to use this inscription was more political than religious. I don't doubt the faith of any man involved in the process, but knowing what I do about the US government, presently and historically, I think this was a unifying gesture, meant to call upon a common vein within the American population (which was ,and still is, largely christian). If that makes me a cynic, than I'll wear that hat.

In today's society, do people trust money more than God? 

"People" is a broad term, and I am hesitant to answer that with any conviction. After a while, I think it would turn into a semantic argument that revolved around defining "God" and defining "trust".

That being said, to say what is in my gut on this subject; I think the answer is yes. People, as an average, have more faith in the power of money than they do in the power of God.

Conversely, I am not persuaded that this fact is any different from the overall situation 50, 100, or even 200 years ago. It is hard enough to measure the faith and conviction of a living person, even someone we know. I am not at all comfortable measuring the faith, or the placement of it, of people who aren't alive to account for themselves presently.

Engage someone in a discussion about this question and what they think about having it printed on our money.

If that's not an invitation to talk, I don't know what is. Comment below, please.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Devotionals: "Wisdom"

Proverbs 28:25-27
New International Version (NIV)

(25) The greedy stir up conflict,
but those who trust in the Lord will prosper.
(26) Those who trust in themselves are fools,
but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.
(27) Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

The writers presents a dichotomy between the foolish and the wise. Where would you put yourself on that continuum?

As I've said before, balancing proper self reliance against "I've got it all taken care of" is an ongoing fight for me. Still, I consider myself better about it than I was ten years ago, so I will have to humbly say I am wiser than not on this spectrum. 

Notice verse 25 is about the greedy and verse 27 is about giving to the poor. What does it say to you that a verse about trust is found between two verses that seem to go together?

Again, trust here is used as a synonym for faith, and I don't think anyone in any of these examples can be accused of not having faith, but rather putting their faith in the wrong place.

When I was a firefighter, the rule of the culture was that we never left someone behind. No mater how hot the fire, or how dangerous the situation, everyone came back out (dead or alive). 

Now, when when we were faced with a real fire, I don't think anyone ever doubted that the rest of us would do everything in our power to do in after a fallen comrade, but that didn't mean we charged in no mater what. My lieutenants were confident that if they went down, I wouldn't hesitate to charge in after them. But they also had no illusions about how likely a rambunctious 18-year-old rookie was to actually be able to pull them out again. There were times when we waited for backup. On paper we had enough people for the job, but in reality, they knew that we just didn't have what it took to live up to the credo of "everybody comes home" should we be put to the test. 

That is a lot of what I see here. I don't think the greedy are actively trying to buck God, they just don't have any faith in anything except that that they can acquire. Because wealth can't do everything, it lets them down. Faith in money: no such a good idea. 

Faith in yourself is okay, but here, we we're talking "faith" at a really high level. Sure, even if you are always honest with yourself, you can't possibly know that you're going to be able to stand up to any challenge. Even before I got cancer, I wasn't that arrogant. The diagnosis just reminded me to look over my shoulder and take stock of who it was I actually had backing me up. 

Front rank, center file: God? 


Giving to the poor may seen like an oblong point when dealing with a question of trusting in God, but if you turn that on it's head, the poor trust in God to provide, and as Christians we are part of that promise.

I can attest to this on several levels. i wish I were in a position to do more a lot of the time, and I work hard to help where I can. But every time I have needed something, help has been there. And I mean that mentally, physically, emotionally, monetarily... if I relied solely on my self I'd be in a lot worse shape. In fact, I don't think God would have to actively do anything to back up the "curses" talked about in 27, he'd just have to sit back and watch me fall on my face more often than not in that situation.

And I can say that confidently because I have been there. I know where I am now because I have the context of having been a self-righteously jerk in the past.  I went down that road, and paid the price, several times over in some instances. I'm just grateful that I was able to learn from those mistakes and move on.

Is there some explanation that you can come up with?

(see above, I got a little wordy with that last answer)

During the next year, how will you "walk in wisdom" and leave behind trusting in self?

For me, I think a lot of the anxiety and frustration that come with my medical situation will need to be dealt with differently. I'm not just going to forgive and forget, some of these are deadly serious issues that need to be addressed for my own safety. But, I'll be the first to admit that I hold my doctors to the same standard that I hold myself, and at times that is too high for the same of productivity. The wise thing to do, and what I think Jesus demonstrated already, is to learn what there is to be learned and just get on with it. Making someone account for a mistake has its place, but not always, and not everywhere. 

What activities would you have to stop participating in?

Hum, now this is an interesting question for me. Between Cancer treatment and the resulting chaos it inflicted on my work schedule, I'm sort of putting my life back together right now. I'm trying to get back into the SCA (medieval society I am part of), Church Choir, and my son's Cub Scout Group. 

I suppose the only self-indulgent activity I have is my writing at the moment, and that... er... I'm not sure I want to give that up, as least not as related to this discussion. 

As much as I am wrapping up the devotional, I think I might revisit this discussion later on after I hear the minister talk about this some more. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Devotionals: "Do not trust a neighbor"

Micah 7:1-7
New International Version (NIV)
(1) What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave.
(2) The faithful have been swept from the land; not one upright person remains. Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets.
(3) Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire—they all conspire together.
4) The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day God visits you has come, the day your watchmen sound the alarm. Now is the time of your confusion.
(original assignment 5-7)
(5) Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips.
(6) For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her Mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies are the members of his own  household.
(7) But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

The prophet Micha gives what might sound like harsh advice - don't trust neighbors or put confidences in friends! This is not what we reach out children or most likely believe ourselves.

Why do you think Michah might have given this advice?

I had a lot of trouble with this selection on its own, so I went back and read the first part of the chapter in order to put this in context. So, we open up with an incitement of everyone and their brother, and in the grand scheme of things, the charge is not unfounded. While everyone in the world is not corrupt all the time, when held against an absolute/perfect standard, the failures add up quickly. 

So, back to 5-7. What are we talking about here? Micha is telling us not to trust people. I can't be certain, but I think the level of trust implied in this comment is higher than even the old cliche of "trusting someone with your life". Trust in this case would imply  that all confidences are kept and all answers honest. When you consider that as the benchmark, then yes, even the person you share your bed with would fall short. So, when "the moment" comes, (however you want to read that), that's the situation you have. 

There are two ways to read this, both flips sides of the same coin really. The first is to say "don't over estimate the quality of the people around you when compared to God". The second is to say, "Don't underestimate the integrity of God by comparing him, or putting him in the same category as  even your spouse.

Read again verse 7. Is putting hope in the lord the same as trusting him?

Okay, I'm going to abuse the fact that I am on the internet here.

Noun / A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
Verb / Want something to happen or be the case: "he's hoping for compensation"; "I hope that the kids are OK".

Noun / Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
Verb / Believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of.

Ultimately, the two are different, but with marked overlap. 

 Hope is expecting him to do something, you're anticipating something will happen. Depending on what it is, I'm sure the gesture is flattering, but it's as much a silent petition to me as anything else. 

Trust, however, is knowing something to be true, possible without proof of the fact. More or less, I could consider it synonymous  or at least cousin to faith in that sense  Putting faith in God, aside from being a biblical mandate, is also less variable. With Hope, there is something that is uncertain  be it the end results, or when they will happen. With Trust, you just believe that something is going to happen. And the depth of your faith might mandate how specific that belief is. 

I'll be honest with you  I really wrestled with this devotional. I'm not entirely sure what my minister is going for here, and I am not as confident in my analysis as I would like to be. I know that in the end, we all fall short of the standards set by God, and I'm okay accepting that fact. But connecting it in with the ideas of Hope and Trust... I'm not as solid on the connections as I think I should be. 


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Devotionals: "You of little faith."

Matthew 14:22-34 (NIV)
Words of Christ in red.

(22) Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. (23) After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, (24) and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

(25) Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. (26) When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

(27) But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.

(28) “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

(29)Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. (30) But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

(31) Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?

(32) And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. (33) Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

(34) When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret.  

If it had been you would you have had enough faith not to sink?

I'll be gut honest, the answer there is probably yes. While my mind can comprehend the words and the meaning, trust isn't built into my system. Trust isn't something built into my system, and even if I were watching Jesus with my own two eyes, it's one thing to know it is possible, but another to think myself capable of the same. 

How would you have felt when Jesus accused you of having "little faith"?

I don't mean to sound crass about this question, but honestly, "guilty as charged". I'm wouldn't necessarily happy about it, but I'd sooner admit the truth than deny the obvious. I don't shrug away from my situation. I may not be proud of it, just like I wouldn't be proud of any lacking in God's eyes. But I'm not likely to buckle in shame at an appropriate rebuke for it. 

Could Jesus accuse you of having "little faith" today?

This isn't an easy question for me to answer. I have faith, and I have never been at a point in my life where I doubted God was there. But the question becomes what is the measure of faith, and that is where I qualify my answer. I've never had a gun pointed at me and been told "deny God, or eat a bullet". I'd like to think that I'm more likely to eat the bullet than not, but that's more a factor of how I deal with coercion, than  one of  faith.

Faith in God is one thing, but faith to walk on water; that is another mater entirely. I know I've not been asked to walk on water myself, but as I discussed previously, my nature is to worry about things, and that, when taken to an extreme, is clearly against God's wishes. I don't spend my life worrying constant, and I don't spend my life lightly ignoring very real world risks out there. God probably can't accuse me of having no faith. And while "too much" faith is literally impossible, I think there is a line between trust and foolhardiness that need not be crossed. Like I said, I don't think God would accuse me of having no faith. And I hardly consider myself foolhardy on matters of my own well being. But in the ground between, I don't know that I am constant enough. I don't know how much faith I have when compared to how much I am supposed to have.

God may very well look down at me and consider me lacking in faith, I honestly do not know. 

Devotionals: God's presence

Psalm 27:13-14
(13) I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
(14) Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord

Psalm 32:8
(8) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Psalm 37:3
(3) Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Psalm 42:5
(5) Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Psalm 48:14
14 For this God is our God for ever and ever;
he will be our guide even to the end.

Isaiah 58:11
(11) The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

John 16:13
(13) But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, 
he will guide you into all the truth. 
He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears,
 and he will tell you what is yet to come.

When was the last time you felt God's presence? 

"God's presence", honestly, has always been enough of an abstract for me that recognizing it in the moment has proved rather elusive over the years. I can't say that there was ever one moment or instant in the recent past where I looked out and said "this had to be Him, because my luck isn't this good."

However, I can say that with as much as I had going against me during my fight with cancer, the end results, and the aftermath have shown me that the outcome could have been far, far worse. Its not just that I was cured that is the critical issue here, but rather after the first few rounds of chemo, it took strength that I just didn't have to get up in the morning, get dressed and go to work. On Chemo days, by the end, I was getting out of the sessions so completely burned out, and worn out, and tired, and beat up that looking back, I have no idea how it is that I didn't just crumble to the ground right there and give up. The memory of it still scares the pants off of me, and the idea that I lasted through it still astounds me, even though I was there.

But what was even more amazing to me at the time, and now as well, is how much support I got. Not just from the expected channels, but from seemingly random encounters as well. I think the best example is from my first PET scan, where I, a former volunteer firefighter, had a chance encounter with a former CDF firefighter. His story gave me the type of motivation that renewed my faith that I might actually make it out the other side of this.

Now, I'm not shortchanging God by citing this man as an inspiration. What I am saying is, what are the odds that I would just happen to meet a real world hero then and there?

Yeah, you can call that "chance", but I don't.

Find one person and share the story with them.

I've told you my story. What's yours?