Declaration of Independence

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. 

https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

People at the Coffee Shop

I’m at a coffee shop.  A woman just walked in.  I think she is meeting someone here.

She is dressed semi-professionally.  A blazer with jeans and a pair of shoes that match her black top.  She has a simple, small black purse and a leather binder.  She looks nervous.  Uncertain.

There are only a few people here other than myself.  She smiled for a moment at me, I think to see if I would reciprocate.  I did not, though I think now that it may have been more fun if I had; if I’d smiled, waved, stood and welcomed her to this coffee shop in a puzzling but confident way.

She appears to have arrived sooner than whomever she is meeting here.   They are late, I presume.  It’s five minutes past the hour and she is checking her phone.  She’s going through the papers in her binder and fiddling with things in between her glances to the door.  She’s uncomfortable.

Someone just walked in.  Another woman.  Older.  Yes.  This is her.  The smiles.  The handshakes.  They both do the thing most women do when they meet someone in this kind of setting: lean slightly back, straight elbow, chin down, non-dominating smile.

Older woman: “Hey, how are you?”

Younger: “Good, good.”

Liar.  You’re overwhelmed with nervousness.

They look like mother and daughter, but they’re not.  Unless they just met last week after having been estranged for years.  In which case maybe they’re still figuring one another out.

The younger one just offered to pay for both their drinks.  Is this her mother-in-law?  She seems eager to make a good impression.

They’d be creeped out if they knew I was narrating their interaction.  Maybe you are.  I don’t care.  I’m intrigued.

The younger one is pretty but she lacks confidence in herself, especially before this seemingly much more resolved woman.

Oh boy.  Plot twist.  Another woman just walked in.  Very gregarious.  Very extroverted.  Big hello.  She’s a hugger.  Jeans and a t-shirt.  Sneakers.  The other two are interview-ready,  but this lady, she looks like a Barb.  Or a Sue.  Very short hair.  She’s reminds me of my third-grade teacher.  She smiles a lot.  I’ll call her Pam.

The two classier-dressed ones are seated.  Pam went to the bathroom.  The two at the table are trying to interact cordially.  They don’t know each other well.  Pam is the link.  Pam is the bridge.  Pam is the one they’re both here to see.  I think Pam called this meeting, and the other two women are here to impress Pam.  But Pam is not here to impress.  She’s here to have a good time.  Pam will lighten the mood.  She’ll try to make them feel at ease.

The youngest one looks to be in her early to mid 20s.  She’s just following along.  If Pam and the other one stand, she’ll stand.  She’ll jump.  She nods agreeably.  She lives with her parents.

The middle one–I’ll call her Jenny . . . no . . . Jen–she seems unenthusiastic.  She has poor posture.  I think she’s lived through some shit.  She’s had more and better reasons to cry than this young thing at the table.  My assumption is that she thinks that she and this young woman next to her are meeting each other in a setting where they are considered peers, though she knows that they are not.  She knows she is more experienced in life and in these interactions, but she’ll play along.  She’s kind.  She and Pam will pretend to be interested in what the young girl–I’ll call her Maddie–is talking about.  They don’t care what she has to say, but they just want her to feel comfortable, which for now may only mean less uncomfortable than she is.

I want to ask them why they’re here.  I won’t because that’s odd.  It’ll interrupt what they’re here to accomplish.  Or rather, what Pam is here to accomplish.

Pam is so comfortable.  She looks like someone who is good with dogs, and not bad at softball.

I can’t see Jen.  Pam is too wide.  She’s not overweight.  She’s just, well . . . she’s in the way.

They’re looking at phone pictures.  Why?  No one seems to care about the papers Maddie brought.  Her binder is an unused place mat now.

I suppose I should let it go.  Now I’m just trying to eavesdrop from across the room.  I can’t hear what they are saying but I can see what their bodies are communicating.  Which, particularly with women, is probably more indicative of what they’re feeling than are their words.

Pam is talking.  She is presenting something.  An idea.  I don’t see tupperware.  Maddie and Jen are doing some serious agreeable head-nodding.  Maddie more than Jen.  She’s eager to please.  Eager to be liked.  Her entire upper body nods.

Jen moves her hair aside.  Smiles.  I think she would be content if Pam winked at her and acknowledged her as the more mature party in Pam’s audience.  Maybe Pam has.

___

I’ve lost interest.

___

Okay I’m back.  A few minutes have passed.  Maddie is much more comfy.  They’ve laughed.  Their smiles are less obligatory and more natural now.  Pam has achieved casual.  Maddie is cozy but she occasionally reels herself back to professional because she wants to manage her image, lest she slip and reveal that she’s a bit insecure and occasionally likes to gets high with the boy she likes.

Jen did one of those falling-tower laughs where, if she’d kept going, she would have slammed her head to the table, but because she’s drinking coffee and not tequila she was able to stop herself and bounce back up.  She looks like she’s been to a few parties though.  Slammed her laughing head on a few tables at a few bachelorette parties.

Pam talks with her hands.  Pam’s been to a few parties too, but she prefers beer to wine.  She’s out-drank a few men in her lifetime.  I think if a threat came to the door, I would not worry much about her.  She’d be okay.

___

The coffee shop has become more crowded.  I am now one of thirteen people in this building, and I am the only man.  There is teenage boy at the table next to mine.  He is talking to a girl.  But I am the only man here.  I think my jaw just became more pronounced.

An older man walked in.  He is meeting a woman who looks to be his daughter’s age.  They hug in a safe way.  Like family.  He is wearing sneakers and brown ankle socks.  I have never seen brown ankle socks, and if not for this writing moment I don’t think I would have taken notice.

I am still the alpha.  Whatever that’s worth.  The wolf that will not come to the door would still be my responsibility.  But this is the coffee shop and no threat will arrive.  I–the creepy observer–am probably the biggest threat to this otherwise shallow place.

___

An hour has passed since Maddie walked in.  They’re talking business now.  Maddie is fiddling with her pen but Pam gets her to laugh now and then.  Another woman walked in looking for her meeting partner.  She asked me if I am Pete.  I so badly wanted to say yes.

Pete is running late.  It’s ten twelve minutes past the hour.  She is pissed.  She’s dialing.

___

Twenty minutes past the hour.  Pete is so late.  She’s pissed.  Checking Facebook.  She’s done.  She might smile when he walks in but she doesn’t mean it.  Pete: you lose.

___

Jen left.  Maddie and Pam are still talking.  Pam is validating Maddie, while simultaneously demonstrating what it looks like to be a woman who is mostly content with herself.  She is not the prettiest, nor does she need to be.  Pam is fun.  Her dogs love her very much.

___

Pete didn’t show.  She left.  Pissed.

The shop is quieter now.  The crowd fading.  Still the alpha.  But it’s worth nothing.

Back to life…

He Lies In Wait

Too many lies

There once was a girl who lived by the shore,
Whose Mommy told​ her they were quite poor.
The Mommy was afraid that they’d be in need
So she lied and deceived and grew lost in her greed.

As time went by, the little girl grew,
Increasing in beauty and all that she knew.
She loved her mommy but felt angry inside
Because Mommy used people and quite often lied.

It was bad when Mommy exchanged truth for wealth,
But it was sad when Mommy lied to herself.
She told lies so good, she believed her own
Until they became her only friends in a lonely home.

The little girl swore she’d never know this life,
So she found a boy and became a wife.
She made friends and a family in a lovely town,
And had her own little girl whom she’d never put down.

Then one day this Mommy had a bad day,
She knew neither what she could do or could say.
Angry and worried, she gave up her goal.
She used people and lied for the sake of control.

And when all seemed done, it seemed she’d won,
When really she’d only shown that she too could run.
Conflict and pain were never dealt with head-on,
Not as a child and not as a mom.

Now Daddy’s no saint; he has his own lies,
He forgets how little the world satisfies.
But he dreams of the day when all is made right,
On that day when we’ll kneel before an unapproachable light.

So for now another little girl grows down by the shore
Apart from a Daddy who could not love her more,
A Daddy who’ll someday look into her eyes,
And apologize because, “Your Mommy and I just believed too many lies.”

My grass is overgrown, and I don’t care.

I am convinced that eternity exists; that this experience we understand to be life is only a brief, finger-snap moment before our eternal dwelling in one of two residences–either with God or without.  I consequently find myself having a very difficult time caring about the minutia of this life.  My credit score, my lawn, my reputation, etc.  I find myself meditating on the concept of forever, and eagerly awaiting the time and place in which all things will be made right, only then to walk outside and see my overgrown front lawn.  Oh, and my inherited and unfinished flagstone project.

But I do not care!  I look around at a million things that will eventually burn up or fall away.  Everything will decay, my body included, and only our souls will remain in the environment God will lay upon this earth.  Why then should I give a rip about this, that, or the other?

To be fair, this might all just be an excuse.  I have bills, and I should pay them, and it may be that I am merely using eternal salvation as an excuse to avoid and neglect things I’d rather not do, not because I’m so overwhelmed by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, but because I’m lazy and/or disinterested.  The truth of the matter may just be that I should have better considered my interest in things like home maintenance before I purchased a home, or rather committed a good chunk of my monthly income to a bill collector who owns my home much more than I do.

Just the same, I don’t care.  I know that I should care–I think–but I do not.  I feel enslaved to these trivial things: this lawn, these pets, the continually settling dust and animal hair that slowly seeks to carpet my home.  The American Dream and my image.  It all demands so much sustained attention.  And the cruel thing is that there is not one thing that seems overwhelming, such that I could point at it and say, “Look, everyone, at this thing that is taking control over me!”  No, that would be too convenient.

Rather, there are a million little things.  Tiny pinpricks that aggravate me on a daily basis that would seem ridiculous by themselves, but together form a powerful stress-inducing army.  The dog I care too much for and thus cannot simply give away who’s teeth are rotting, whose breath is rank, and who pees on my floor weekly, if not daily.  The floor that remains clean for a day.  The house that is ever decaying.  Ever requiring.  The lawn that grows. Every.  Freaking.  Day.  Thankful as I am, or try to be, that I have an area in which my two small dogs can run, it is not without cost.

I’m just tired of it.  This life of mediocrity and mundane slavish servitude.  I’m tired of it.  I’m not suicidal.  I’m just so fed up.  Why does any of this BS matter?

I feel like this is the point where I’m supposed to find the answer deep within my soul.  Or, let’s be honest.  The answer to why I should mow my lawn is probably neither that deep nor that complex.  Nonetheless, I don’t have it.  At least, not today.  Maybe tomorrow, but not today.  Today, I don’t give a shit.

It’s a beautiful day out.  My bike has a flat tire.  My God is crushing my old identity, presumably to build up a new one.  My dogs are walked and my grass isn’t the worst in the neighborhood.  So I don’t, and I won’t care.  And for someone like me who has spent far too much of his life concerned about the opinions and impressions of others, maybe today is a good day to practice not giving a damn.

I feel better now.  Thank you.

Maybe We’re Responsible for Too Much

Figuring out what matters matter

Obligations

I’m on the board for my local homeowners’ association (HOA).  It’s not at the top of my list when it comes to ways in which I identify but I’m not ashamed of it either.  It just is what it is.  I joined because Joe, the board president, is my neighbor.  About a year ago he came to my house and asked if I’d be willing to fill a seat.  When I asked him what the role required, he said it basically meant checking my email periodically and voting on some decisions, to which I agreed.

Joe does the vast majority of the work that needs to be done in order to fulfill the HOA’s commitment to homeowners to ensure an environment that is both desirable to live in and desirable to own an asset within.  That work includes covenant enforcement, community communication, and accounting/bookkeeping.

I asked Joe to come by today because I wanted a better understanding of what’s required of the HOA.  I wanted to to know what would need to be done if Joe got hit by a bus, and more so, I wanted to alleviate some of the pressure on Joe’s shoulders, despite the limited room I have in my life to take on new things.

Joe was kind enough to explain to me how we do our accounting; how we receive payments, pay vendors, reconcile accounts, assess late fees, maintain receipts, etc.  There were certainly moments when my eyes glazed over and my mind wandered to less demanding places, but for the most part I kept with him.  I’ve worked in accounting in the past and used personal budgeting software for most of my adult life, so I felt I had an advantage, though I can definitely sympathize with those would say they simply zone out completely when reviewing things like cash flow reports or an income/expense review.

My takeaway: there’s more to it than I thought.  I assume most homeowners are similar to myself in that they pay their monthly dues and leave it at that.  We assume it’s not that complicated.  You, oh evil HOA, take my money, leave me alone, and shovel the sidewalks.  Make sure the community grass gets mowed and send me a letter that I’ll burn when I get lazy and don’t pull in my trash cans.

The truth is that there’s a quite a bit that goes on behind the scenes in order to make the ship run smoothly.  Suffice to say though that Joe’s volunteer service to our community is drastically underappreciated.

Stepping Back a Few Steps

This got me thinking,  not about expressing appreciation for Joe, though I should think about that, but rather about responsibilities, and how many responsibilities the typical full-time working, tax-paying, Facebook-updating American man or woman tries to maintain on a daily basis.

I don’t have a very complex life, I think.  My friend, Matt, has a lot of responsibilities.  He has a wife, a full-time job, three kids, church-type responsibilities, community responsibilities, extended family responsibilities, and probably some other things going on while I, by comparison, have two dogs and a lawn I neglect.  And a broken marriage.

Like Matt and many American men though, I also have a home, bills, an aging body, complicated relationships, desires, dreams, a faith, friends, family, bills, dirty floors, a cluttered garage, neighbors, unread books, social media accounts, a blog, unfinished projects, appointments, trash cans, a high-mileage vehicle, bills, an unchanged air filter, an empty fridge, a seat at church, laundry, dirty dishes, unwritten books, ungiven gifts, unmade money, unassigned time, an ever-dying phone, unused potential, an underused gym membership, and overused XBox Live subscription, undeveloped political opinions, unadopted children, unprayed prayers, unused vitamins, unstretched muscles, bills, and a seemingly ever-increasing list of other societal demands and expectations that I sometimes–no, oftentimes–choose to ignore rather than wrangle.  Because it’s a lot, and I’m tired.  Or at least that’s what I say to justify my choice to check out.

I don’t care about a lot of this stuff.  I mean, I know I should care, and I do, sort of.  I care about my Mom and Dad, and my salvation, and the salvation of those I love, and I want my desires to be God’s desires.  I want to read my Bible, and I want to have good conversations with good friends over good drinks and good food.  I want to be financially stable, and I want to be a responsible man.  But sometimes–like when I’m looking at what it means to be a responsible member of my HOA board–I can’t help but wonder; does this matter?

In the example of the HOA, what we (and by we I mean, Joe) basically do is work to make sure Jim Bob doesn’t park his truck on his lawn, and Betty Boo doesn’t paint her house pink, because we promised the other owners we’d hold the line against owners who might be temped to act a fool.  Full disclosure: my lawn needs mowing.

But what if we didn’t?  This is a question I ask often, and I think it’s a good one to not only ask, but play out.  What if we didn’t do what the HOA does?  What if I don’t read my Bible?  What if I don’t go to counseling?  What if I don’t walk the dogs, pay the bills, go to work and spend time with friends?

Well then there would be consequences.  Choices often render changes, and while I could judge those consequences as good or bad based on society’s expectations, the fact is that I don’t know the entirety of the story, which makes it hard to say what was for the better and what was for the worse.

For example, I made bad choices that led to the deterioration of my marriage, but in the time since she left I’ve made–by God’s grace–some of the most important growth in an area of my life where I’ve needed it for a long time, and that is good.  Does that make my bad choices good?  I don’t think so.  But it does humble the judge in me.

My point

Maybe we’re responsible for too much, and maybe all those responsibilities sometimes distract us from what matters.  I would suggest that eternal salvation matters most, because if it is true, nothing matters more, but that is not to say that date nights and time with kids and time in school and mowing your lawn isn’t also important.  You don’t get to be a shitty husband because you’re such a great guy at church.  But keeping things in their proper place is important so as not to become too anxious about temporary situations.

My encouragement to you and to myself is that we would begin and/or continue to take time to step back and take stock of what matters, lest we get wrapped into the meaningless minutia.

“I’m a slave.”

Slaves

Paul introduced himself to the church of Rome as a “servant of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1, ESV).  This is a translation of the Greek word, doulos, which could also be translated as bondservant, or slave.  Paul was, by his own eager proclamation, a slave to Christ.

Lest there should be any confusion, Paul makes this point only all the more clear in Romans 6, in which he exhorts Christ-followers to realize themselves as “slaves of righteousness.”  His letter to the church of Corinth supports this identity when he reminds his readers that “you are not your own” (1 Cor 6:19); a considerable affront to our modern-day American sense of individualism and autonomy.

Therefore, we who call and consider ourselves Christians are to understand ourselves as not authoritative over our own selves, be that physically, mentally or spiritually.  We have a master; a Lord; a commander; an owner, and it is He and He alone who calls the shots in our lives.  We may make requests, but ultimately we are not self-governed.  We are His, and He is ours.

Fortunately for us, unlike men who are owned by men, we are owned by an eternal, all-powerful, everlasting and good God who we can trust to govern us well.  He governs us better than we can ever hope to govern ourselves, and we trust Him to direct us even when our deceptive and short-term driven desires would lead us to do otherwise.  We trust Him to know our deepmost desires better than we can know them ourselves, and we trust Him to know what is best for us with the knowledge He and He alone has, far beyond what we can ever hope to see from our immeasurably more modest vantage points.

That is why I wish I had–or rather wish that I employed the boldness God has given me to introduce myself as Paul did so frequently; as a slave to my master.  My name and vocation have so little meaning compared to my identity as a slave to Christ, if in fact I am grafted into His vine, that it seems outright silly to introduce myself in any other way.

Obviously, it would put people off-kilter, at least in America, but so what?  Maybe we need more of that.  If it might lead someone to an eternal community with Christ, is it really so great a sacrifice to be the weird guy or girl who responds to the question, “What do you do?” with an atypical answer that might reorient an eternal soul?

I mean seriously: do we, oh fellow Christians, really believe forever exists?  And if we do, how does that change us?  How can that not change us?  How alarmed ought we be if our understanding of forever, graciously given us by God, does not affect our identities or conversations?  If we are still merely names and vocations?

I am a slave to my Lord; a slave to righteousness.  I am a servant of Christ and a sinner saved by grace.

Prayer

Father: Please, give us the boldness to do the work that matters most.  Give us and give me the courage to go and make disciples.  To respond as an enthusiastic slave to You.  You are my God, and I am grateful that my life is not directed by me, but by You.  Please, remind me regularly of who I am, and why I submit to you not out of dutifulness, but in a spirit of eager anticipation for the good things that I and others can only experience in You.

Amen.

Word

“What’s the word?”

In the Marine Corps, we had this thing called “word.” Basically, word was pertinent information. It was what you needed to know to move forward with your day and with your government-owned life.

It was a coveted thing because word was not typically made available to everyone first-hand from our Commander, by whom it was issued. Rather, word had to be passed from one echelon to the next, from top to bottom.

“What’s the word,” was a common question in the barracks where Marines might spend hours standing by (waiting) to receive it. For reasons I still don’t understand, it often took a long time to obtain word and pass it to everyone. Bureaucracy, I suppose. There was word of the day, weekend word, etc. Word was what you needed to start your week or be freed on a Friday afternoon.

This concept still exists in communities and circles I am a part of now, except that as a Christian we believe God has not only given us word, but THE word. Made flesh. And it is abundantly available to all.

Unfortunately, unlike new believers in China and Rwanda, American believers like myself largely take the word for granted. Our Bibles are dusty and our Commander is, at best, a counselor, whose orders have been misunderstood as advice to be considered rather than unquestionably obeyed.

In the Corps we heeded word because we feared the consequences of deviating from it. In Christ, deviation from the word is not without consequences, in this life and the next, but unlike in the Corps, the word of God exists not merely to control us. It exists to give us life, that we may share it. Pass it along. Not because we have to, but because we get to.

Maybe You Don’t Know if it’s a Good Day

We know what we know.

Attention Getter

There’s a YouTube video I really appreciate of Ravi Zacharias responding to the question of why God allows evil.  It’s six minutes.  I hope you can make the time to watch it, now or later:

The Gist Of It

In concluding his response, Ravi tells the Eastern folklore tale of man whose horse runs away.  Incredibly, it returns, but breaks his son’s leg, which then keeps the son from being forcibly recruited by a traveling gang.  As these events play out, the horse owner’s neighbor continually comments on the man’s good and bad luck, all the while not knowing the effect of each circumstance on the future.

The moral of the story is that for as tempting and convenient as it is for us, much like the horse owner’s neighbor, to make moral judgments about day-to-day things, the truth is that we do not know how things will ultimately play out.  We cannot really know what will be beneficial, and what will not.

I think of this often in trivial moments, like when the barista asks me how my day is going.  I realize she’s just being conversational, but sometimes I feel like letting loose:

How the hell should I know?  It’s 9 am and I’ve only begun to live this day out, but even if it were 5 in the evening I only know what I know in the very limited scope of things that is my own meesley perspective!  How’s your day!  Do you know?  Can you know?  You’re living and dying in the exact same moment!  Do you have the ability to make moral judgments about everything that happens!  Do you know how it’s all playing out and where this friggin’ ship is headed!

That would probably be a defining moment in her decidedly “bad day.”

Let’s Be Honest

I don’t intend to change anything.  Small talk is small talk, and I’m just ranting.  I know that when my uncle calls me and asks how work is, and I say that I’m working a lot, that he doesn’t mean much when he says, “Well, that’s good.”

Sure, I could admit that I’m only working a lot in order to afford counseling and keep my mind busy since I tend to make poor decisions when I’m bored, but that seems rather exhausting.  He’s not oblivious to the struggles of my life anyway, so it’s not like it would be a shock if I admitted it.  It’s just–it’s just easier to say, “Well that’s good.”

Uncertain Conclusions

While driving home from work earlier tonight, I was thinking of something.  I can’t remember what but I found myself wanting to categorize it as good or bad.  Such is the temptation of mankind to label and categorize things.  It makes them easier for our minds to understand and sort out.  And that’s not necessarily a “bad thing.”

But sometimes things just are.  They’re neither clearly good nor bad–they just are.  I did this.  I said that.  It had that effect.  Is that good?  Is that bad?  I don’t really know.  What I do know is what effect it had, and whether that effect was intended or unintended, that’s what happened.  So now what?

I don’t want to encourage the idea that good and evil do not exist.  They do, and there are certainly cases in which a spade ought to be called a spade.  I’ve made bad choices.  I just don’t know what all of them are yet, especially when some of them are rendering good changes in my life.

Admission

I’m actively working stuff out here, so if I seem contradictory or unclear at times, it’s because I am.

 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Roman 8:28

“Look, Lord. See my shells.” by John Piper

Important.

Tolle Lege

“I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.”

At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells.

Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord…

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