Friday, April 30, 2010

Evil is as it does

They were friends, the kind of friends that only teenagers can be. They did everything together, hinged like a gate to a fence post. These two young friends from a quiet, middle-class neighborhood in northern Indiana wanted to run away to Arizona so badly, prosecutors say, that they shot a stepfather who stood in the way of their plans.

The two alleged killers — ages 15 and 12 as I write this — hadn't shown any signs of violence before the older boy's 49-year-old stepfather, Phillip Danner, was shot to death in his home, according to neighbors and family members. One moment they were quiet and calm friends; the next moment they took a pair of handguns (after planning a month) and shot Danner in the eye, in the wrist and twice in the chest.

Evil, by definition, is that which is morally bad, corrupt, wantonly destructive, selfish, and wicked. Clearly evil is the opposite of good. The teenagers sole motive was all of the above: morally bad, completely and wantonly destructive to their families to their young lives, totally selfish in trying to accomplish what they wanted to accomplished and by its very definition, wicked.

When seven persons in New York City walk by a person lying on the ground bleeding, when a fetus is found in a drainage system in Baton Rouge, when shootings occur without thought or remorse, clearly evil exists.

On a different level, evil to me is the opposite of that which is holy, God-like.
Evil, it seems to me in the end, is simply the opposite of love. If indeed we are capable of love, through divine guidance and especially through the reception of grace into our lives, we are incapable then of doing true evil.

If Paul had it right about love in 1 Corinthians, then evil is its opposite.

Let me explain:

Evil is not patient and is never kind. It is jealous and boastful and rude. Evil constantly demands its own way. Evil is irritable and always keeps a record of how it has been wronged. Evil loves injustice and hates truth. Evil gives up easily and has no faith, in anything. Evil never endures and quitting is a part of what it does best.

Many feel that the presence of evil in the world appears to place the Christian doctrine of a just and loving God into a no-win situation. In other words, how can God allow evil to exist. How can a loving God allow the Holocaust? How can God allow serial killers? How can God....

But there is more. I believe in a literal Satan and demons. Yes, I do. Do I give them credit for all the wrong that humanity has done and will do, no I do not. But it seems to me in what scholarship and study I've done that Ephesians 6:12 is pretty consistent with what I believer. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in heavenly places," Paul wrote.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had a long interest in the subject often asking, "Whence came evil?" Without any semblance of impiety, Wesley sought to "justify the ways of God to man" and ultimately saw theodicy as an important test of God’s ability "to extract good out of evil."

Wesley believed in "evil angels," as his writing on the scripture of Ephesians 6:12 tells this: "This single passage seems to contain the whole scriptural doctrine concerning evil angels. I apprehend the plain meaning of it, literally translated, is this: "Our wrestling," the wrestling of real Christians, "is not" only, or chiefly, "against flesh and blood," weak men, or fleshly appetites and passions, "but against principalities, against powers," -- the mighty princes of all the infernal regions, with their combined forces: And great is their power, as is also the power of the legions they command, -- "against the rulers of the world."

So what are we to make of this thing we call evil? What is it?

I believe it to be ultimately the aftermath of a fallen world. Anything that is not of Christ, it seems to me, is evil. There is the sense that if you are not for him, you are against him. Evil doesn't need to come in degrees. It simply is. If you're not in the corner of the Messiah, you are in cahoots with evil.

Does that mean everyone who is not a follower of Christ is evil, then? In the very broad sense of the term. It does not mean that they are serial killers or terrorists. But, again, removing shades of grey and looking strictly at two sides of a coin, evil is the opposite of love. God, according to John's letters, is love. Therefore, evil is anything that opposes God.

It exists. It strives. I believe it to be growing.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ah, not so fast

I was so sure of myself. I was so sure that my dog Tweety was done, I wrote about it, I dug a grave, I prepared myself for the worst and I shed some tears. At least, I thought, her suffering would be done.

Ah, no. Tweety came home. She underwent surgery, and they removed a large growth and the next thing you know, she's limping into the house to the astonishment of Mary and I. She's back, and for a 16-year-old dog, she's doing fine, the vet said.

All that brings me to a thought about this whole end of life thing. Why is it okay, you think, to put a dog "down" to relieve it of its miseries, and yet it is so incredibly bad to talk about the same thing to older humans? I'm serious. I go into nursing homes and it is often horrendous. The smell greets you at the door. A kind of lived in hospital smell sits at the door and waits for you. Often the persons there are incapable of living without the literal assist.

But we are not allowed to consider putting an end to their suffering because we did not give them life and we can't take it away.

The Bible says God knows when we're suffering. He knew it about his people in Egypt, the Bible says. Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. "I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering," God said.

In the book of Job, we learn, "But by means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer.For he gets their attention through adversity."

David wrote of the issue, "My suffering was good for me,for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees."

Isaiah tells us that God suffers along with us. "In all their suffering he also suffered,and he personally rescued them.In his love and mercy he redeemed them.He lifted them up and carried them through all the years."

And Jesus, near the end of his life, knew what was to come. He said, "I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished."

What do we take from this? God knows when we suffer, so much so that He suffers along with us. He knows much about this idea of suffering because as human Jesus, he suffered. Suffering does teach us lessons that we can't learn any other way.

Having said that, what about the ultimate suffering? What about those who can't live alone? What about those who leave the world behind mentally but their bodies are wasting away?

God makes one thing clear throughout scripture. His ways are not our ways. He lets those who are near death die and he keeps some alive. Why? I don't know.

I felt oddly wrong about the idea of putting Tweety down. I felt it wasn't my moral right. Maybe that was merely a way to get out of the responsibility, but I felt it nonetheless.

Bottom line is God decided, apparently, that Tweety had more days to come. God bless her.

Those knees of her still ache, I can tell. She still coughs like it was going out of style. Her eyes are still clouding over.

But Tweety lives. Seems to me that is an accomplishment.

I figure she's gonna out-live me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Masterpiece of God

The years go past like trees outside my car window and I'm astounded once again by how much I can't do, or how little I can -- depending upon your viewpoint, I guess.

I've watched what we call a "handy" man operate with my dear wife Mary around the house the past couple days. He's fixing all what's broke, little things here and there and eventually the floor of our house and he's even going to put up a fence at our new "home," which will be the parsonage of the church I'm pastoring.

He's fluid in fix-it talk and he's quick and he's, he's, the same age as me with HAIR and I realize how little I can do of all the things he's doing.

Understand this today: Ephesians 2:10 in the NLT says "10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."

Isn't that wonderful news? He created us, His masterpieces, so we could do the things he planned for us before time began. Before we were a glint in the eye of our own GRANDPARENTS, He planned for us. He knows us. Our name is written in the palms of his hands.

Therefore, since God has plans for me, the fact that I can't do things like home repair is of no consequence. The fact that I can easily turn the power off to an entire neighborhood is of no meaning. The fact that I can easily come near to blowing up the lawn mower while trying to burn up leaves is of no substance.

What is of substance, of meaning and of consequence is I can do these things. I can ponder deep theological matters and come up with some simply way of expressing them. I can, well, be me.

That's all I got, as it were. But me is enough to please my Master, well, most of the time. Those times when I don't, when I cause him to shake his head, well, he already knew I was gonna do them anyway. I'm me...a Masterpiece. So ARE YOU.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Go Tweety into that dark night

My goodness, time flies. We all get old. We all die. We all do what we do.

Mary and I were walking yesterday and for some reason, I said to her, "You know, the thing that judges you is if you left this world tomorrow, would anyone notice." She said something that made me cringe. She said, "With you, sure, people would notice. With me, probably not." I disagreed terribly, on both ends.

Which leads me to today. Today is different. It's cooler than I remember the end of April being. It's another day closer to leaving our home of four years. It's another day closer to leaving this world.

And today we must take our wonderful sheltie to the vet to be put to sleep.

What an expression, so nice and so neat. It's a different feeling than when my beloved Frankie died when we were in Israel in January. But I didn't sleep last night, thinking about her.

See, she's 15 going on 16 and things just don't work that well any more. She's been coughing for about a year now, gagging on occasion when she got to excited. She's arthritic and barely able to walk back up the steps of our deck in the back yard. We had begun to suspect she couldn't keep from urinating a bit on herself. I had shaved some bad hair off her back legs just last week in an effort to pretty her up. Then when I went to do it again last evening, before giving her a bath, I saw a tumorous growth.

Despite my intention to let her live her life out, we can't go on. Oh, and she's barely able to see, too.

But her dang tail still wags. She still wants to run roughshod over her companion of 10 years, Logan. She still barks viciously at the neighbor's dog. She still is, well, Tweety. Until she's not.

The Bible isn't all that clear on the fate of pets. But in a Bible study we've been having recently on Revelation, it says this in the fifth chapter, the 11th verse:
"Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all that is in them singing, "To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever."

To me that means there will be creatures in heaven. And what better creatures to sing than the dogs who showed such incredible unconditional love."

I'm getting old. I truly am. I don't know when it happened, but it did. My body aches. My blood pressure needs pills. My blood sugar needs pill. You get the picture.

But when a companion of 15 years, more than a quarter of my life, slips away, I notice even more.

The world might not notice she's gone. But I dang sure will. I love you Tweety. Now for forever.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The day Jesus drifted in

He came down the hallway, scaring a nursery teacher of ours half to death.

He wore tired, faded, dirty clothes. A pair of old jeans that had seen more life than I've lived and a plaid shirt with a pack of cigs in the pocket. Straight out of, I don't know, the 60s maybe.

His hair was disheveled and as dirty as his jeans, sticking out hither and yon and he wore days old whiskers, well, everywhere.

His name was unknown since he never gave it. He was puzzled about many things, thinking he knew one of us when he didn't, thinking he had met me last Thursday when he didn't. But for a few moments, maybe as much as an hour and a half, he was Jesus to my church.

Oh, he never did a thing to project it. And when lunch was over and he had wolfed down a lot of food and carried away some brownies, a half loaf of communion bread, and some other goodies, he lit one of the cigarettes while sitting on a chair we have in the garden outside of the fellowship hall which I strongly think Jesus would not have done.

We left him sitting there, smiling, ready to walk the streets again.

But for the time he was at our church, he might as well as have been Jesus.

We fed him. We allowed him water. We allowed him to use the facilities. We allowed him to sample the cool air of our fellowship hall.

And we did something I might never forget.

We ushered him into the back of our service and he came forward to take communion. He took the bread, he dipped it into the cup of juice quickly and sped away. But for a few moments, Jesus entered our service.

See, it had been a dull day. The congregation of one church has dwindled with death and with some departures because, well, we don't have much, and this particular Sunday had been a dead one. The congregation was dead. The music was dead. Probably I was dead because I like to have some sort of feedback.

And he walked in and sat down.

The Bible tells us to entertain strangers because they might be Jesus. Jesus said of this: "I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

See, the little church I help lead could have told him to move along. Could have told him we couldn't accept him. Could have said to him he's too dirty. Could have said he smells of urine and the road. Could have done a million and one things, but it did one thing that Jesus would approve of. It offered him food, and it offered him shelter and it offered him a bit of see-able love.

We don't have a massive choir. We don't have a wonderful sound system or power point slides or even a great preacher.

But we offered the Lord's Supper and it was taken.

I feel like ultimately it was a fine, fine day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

An insanely unbrave new world

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth (and wouldn't you have loved to have sat there for weeks on end waiting for a letter that came from such an incredible writer?):

"None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.' -- but God has revealed it to us by his spirit. The Spirit searches all thins, even the deep things of God."

There you have it. The reason we do all these things. The way we learned about ourselves, the way we search through the stuff till we find the good stuff. We rely on the Spirit of God, not just to direct us and guide us and save us when our cart goes sailing off the side of the mountain. All those things we do. But we rely on Him to search us, inside us, down to the deep, dark nooks and those horrendous crannies.

Mary and I are packing and packing and packing, preparing to leave ourselves behind as someone once wrote. I'm preparing for still another adventure (as Mary calls it), and believe I've begun to view it that way. Things are new and different for us now. What will be hasn't been revealed yet. And all those things. (If you're gonna steal, steal from the best, my friend Paul)

The point is this: the Holy Spirit has been laying some strong stuff on us. We are to move. We are to take huge pay cuts. We are to give of ourselves in new and inventive ways. We are to seek the absolute best way possible to give and give and give.

All this we do not because we love him (though we do), but because He first loved us. Get it?

It all became clear to me Tuesday night. I've never been what you would call, uh, disciplined. Those spending habits got us into trouble on more than one occasion. When the Saints schedule has come out each of the past four years, we've simply gotten our tickets no matter the cost. One Monday night game. That's our thing.

This time we looked over the price, weighed the cost and for the first time in my life, MY LIFE, I said, 'I can't afford that.' Now that might not mean a lot to some, but it meant to me, life has changed. No longer do we need two different red dress shirts. No longer do we need three pairs of tennis shoes. No longer do we need five pairs of jeans of varying colors and denim-ness.

No. No. While men in prison are awaiting the mere mention of Jesus. While babies in Asia are going hungry. While the poor in this country are walking streets homeless, how dare those who say they are of Christ have too much? How? For the better part of 15 years, I've concentrated my life on the salvation of the soul. I've thought long and hard about how to bring people TO Christ. Now, I'm beginning to see how we must bring Christ -- and by that I mean a Christ who feeds and clothes and visits and ultimately loves -- to them. I now understand that if someone who has nothing is given everything, they are much more likely to love in return.

That's how it worked for me, and I forgot.

Strangely enough, the idea of what we will not have is beginning to appeal.

Life, indeed, is strange when you call Jesus the Lord.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yes, but how?

Purpose-Driven author Rick Warren says this: Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I heard a lot of sermons at conferences and from my own father. As I listened, I’d find myself thinking, This is good; yet, I was constantly writing, next to the verses we were studying, “Yes, but how?” “Be a godly father - Yes, but how?” “Study the Bible - Yes, but how?”

Effective sermons answer the “Yes, but how?” question, giving practical steps that listeners can immediately implement. Don’t just tell your congregation what they need to do; help them discover how to do it. That’s what people are looking for today!

Yes, but how?

Jesus said this in Mark's Gospel: Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to heard, let him hear."

Yes, but how?

How do we bring the lamp forward? How do we shine the light into the dark corners of either own lives or the lives of others? How do we bring forth truth? What if truth hurts those we're in conversation or dialogue with?

Isn't the "public" kind of anxious to have that which is concealed stay concealed? Do any of us want to live a TMZ kind of life where our "dirty" laundry is hung up high for the winds of gossip to blow dry?

I constantly battle the questions of how specific do I make my thoughts in sermons go. In other words, I look out into the congregation, many of whom I see every week, and wonder just how "negative" do I go with my sermons. In other words, you guys haven't been tithing in, uh, I don't know, EVER.

So I make the sermons as generic as I can, THE BIBLE NEVER STOPS SAYING ONE SHOULD TITHE SO ONE MIGHT CONSIDER DOING THAT and some of the truth is spattered with white wash. I pray constantly that what is truth is truth and my desire to be liked will be, for lack of a better word, neutered. In other words, Jesus wasn't negative as much as he was truthful. What must one do if the truth is negative?

If the truth hurts, I have to feel pastors have an obligation to let the light shine, according to scripture.

Yes, but how?

By simply using scripture as the guidepost of our lives. Follow the light, as it were.

Yes, but how?

By actually reading the material, individually and as a group, praying about the text and using the examples not as fodder for a one-hour small group discussion to be put away like the dishes after a snack.

Yes, but how?

By living what was discussed.

Oh, that's how. Yes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The faithfulness of God

Straight from my dreams comes this:

I retired from both an industry, but from friendships. We all go on. We pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody. We leave and we are left but never by God. Never.

Ultimately, therefore, God is our only friend. Beyond our spouse, our children, the people we spend our time with in our "careers" and on and on. God is always there. Beautiful is the mess we are, God sees.

I cry out and God hears, and to him my cry is more wonderful that the most wonderful of choirs because it is me hitting bottom and reaching up. It is me finally cutting through the mess into the truth.

God is faithful. To the end. To the very end. We can trust the un-seeable. Ain't that a kick?

Look at what the Word says....

The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,“Yahweh! The Lord!The God of compassion and mercy!I am slow to angerand filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.

In the Psalms we read:

The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulnessall who keep his covenant and obey his demands.

Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.

For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

I will sing of the Lord’s unfailing love forever!Young and old will hear of your faithfulness.

I think the idea is plain. Whenever those around me falter and fail and I'm beaten to the ground by the very idea of failed friendship (my friendship to others and others to me), God is there, faithful to the end.

Songwriter Rich Mullins said of this: "There's people been friendly, but they could never be your friend." I think the reason this is (apart from Rich and I being depressed at times) goes to to the heart of the definition of friendship.

Friend: a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
Friend: a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter.

Don't know about you, but I'm looking for something deeper that a simple attachment. Band-aids are attached. Sutures are deep. I want to be sewn up when I am cut deeply.

Jesus said of friends: I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

It was the act of confiding in that brought the disciples to friendship with Jesus. In other words, it was the act of sharing. It was running headlong into the walls of our own making and the making of a cold, cold world, and then having someone who will listen when we wail in pain.

I have those who I share with: a Doug Schoffner in Ohio, a Danny Joyce in Madisonville, a Trey Iles in Slidell. The list is so very short, and I know it is a small number perhaps. But as I approach gently but surely the age of my football number in high school (I was a guard, which tells you much), it is my fault that I have so few friends. I spent time doing, not sharing.

Friends, the kind you can call on when the world quits revolving, are few for most, fewer for me I'm afraid. But the point of this rambling is that for all of us there is one shoulder we can cry on, one face we can look into, one hand we can clasp when all falls apart. Just one. Beyond spouses. Beyond best friends. Beyond even that dog who loves so unconditionally.

God is faithful when faith is a commodity we can't buy. God is faithful when I am weary and weak and as the Bible describes, a vapor here today and gone tomorrow.

If the economy falls and the savings fail and the retirement retires and universal health care is nothing close to universal, and there is pain that causes you to cry until the tears run dry, still, STILL, He is faithful.

That is what I lean on. God's love never, never dails. His faithfulness reaches to the skies. Oh, isn't that wonderful news this morning?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nothing new under the sun?

Seen on a truck near Hammond:
Full Rutt
Meat Shop

You kill 'em
we'll cut 'em

Makes your mouth water, huh?

Recently I've had a chance to monitor human nature. The good news is I've found it still worth saving. I've watched a group of people serve another group of people. I've watched a number of persons who do not know the number of persons care deeply about those unknowns. I've seen givers give. I've seen lovers love.

There's still a lot to be loved about this ol' human race.

And then there's this: "After the joy of a wedding and the adoption of a baby came arguments that couldn't be resolved, leading Angelique Naylor to file for divorce. That left her fighting both the woman she married in Massachusetts and the state of Texas, which says a union granted in a state where same-sex marriage is legal can't be dissolved with a divorce in a state where it's not.

A judge in Austin granted the divorce, but Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is appealing the decision. He also is appealing a divorce granted to a gay couple in Dallas, saying protecting the "traditional definition of marriage" means doing the same for divorce."

I guess we've come full circle now haven't we? That thing about what God has put together let no man put asunder has no meaning in this instance, clearly.

It's the catch-22 of all catch-22s. Protecting what need not be protected because it can't be attacked through normal means is absurb, of course.

Just goes to show you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What we must do

Today is such a wonderful day.

I'm back in the saddle with the blog (after two days of so-so work on it). By the way, the responses as to what was happening were less than deafening. I digress.

But here I am working, just as I was 25 years ago today when Mary and I were married. I worked before I ran off to be married. I don't remember why, but that says alot about what Mary has had to put up with and about me and work, I guess.

The Bible has plenty to say about work, going all the way back to the second verse of the thing where it tells us "On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work." God rested; I have had problems with that.

It goes on. In Genesis 5:29 we read: "Lamech named his son Noah, for he said, “May he bring us relief from our work and the painful labor of farming this ground that the Lord has cursed.” Work wasn't getting such a good name, was it?

God knew we would have trouble with this whole work thing, so he made it clear in the 20th chapter of Exodus just what he thought of it. The Bible says: "9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. 12 “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you."

So what do I go and do? I take the one job that requires, requires mind you, that i work on the Sabbath.

I digress.

The Bible goes on and on and on about work. Heck, even God gets in on it. In the prophet Isaiah's writings, you see this: "For since the world began,no ear has heard,and no eye has seen a God like you,who works for those who wait for him!"

Even God does the working thing.

Now, Proverbs celebrates work. "We read this: Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity,but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty."

But Ecclesiastes cancels that: "I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned."

In the end, I loved my work. I actually love my work now. I loved it too much, I'm afraid, Not because I must leave to others what I've earned because I spent way too much of it in the first place but because I spent way too much time away from my kids and now my grand kids.

As my son pointed out yesterday, "You can come to see your grand kids." I said in return, "Well, I have things I must do."

The point of all this is for 25 years I always had things I must do. Perhaps looking at those things from the perspective of Christ might teach me that must is a word that means different things to different people.

Friday, April 16, 2010

just a hint

I've written two blogs in the past two days and I'm having an enormous trouble gettign them to publish.

Don't know what this means, but I can't figure it's good.

Turns out it wasn't.

"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." Ephesians 5: 3-5

Uh, oh. A hint? A teensey hint? What is a hint, anyway? It's a slight indication or intimation. Slight is the key here, I figure. So what is a hint of sexual immorality or any kind of impurity? Could it be a look, a glance, a thought? Maybe it's undressing someone who is completely dressed? Ya think?

Let's try at same verse from the Message instead of the NIV. It reads, "Don't allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don't talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn't fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect.

'You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God."

Uh, oh. Now we've brought love into it. Now we've started on the high hill (or horse) and kick-started the slide into sexual promiscuity. And what is sexual promiscuity or than something that makes me go to spell-check unwillingly?

I'm about to kid you not....the on-line dictionary reads: "Promiscuity refers to sexual behavior of a man or woman who either casually or regularly copulates with several partners. Most religions disapprove of and discourage sexual promiscuity, though some permit it, such as religious prostitution in ancient Mesopotamia and Greece.

Evolutionary psychologists propose that humans have inherited both a propensity to form lasting male-female bonds and a propensity for promiscuity. Their critics counter that humans are born with no such propensities, either for faithfulness or for promiscuity."

As I'm reading this on the site, a photo of an incredibly beautiful woman advertising the health benefits (see, diet and good looks) of the Acai berry popped up, which was surprising since I expected to see a photo of Tiger Woods or even Sandra Bullock's husband Jesse James.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Love reigns

My dad and I disagreed.
About everything.

I've often said that my civil rights stance way back in the 60s when I lived in Mississippi was nothing courageous or whatever. It was simply the fact that my father was a racist. If he had been in charge of the welcoming committee for aliens, I would have been against aliens flying down to run the PowerPoint.

He: The sky if blue.
Me: Not on my watch.
He: Love is patient.
Me: Love is in a hurry.
He: Hate that Kennedy.
Me: The Kennedy's and Martin Luther King are first-rate acts in my book.

That was my life in the 60s and 70s. We argued, screamed and fought. That was the dinner table. That was the early evenings.

Yet...when a tornado took a chunk out of the little berg called Lizelia, my dad grabbed the large photo of my kids and Mary, took one of his big paws and pulled a mattress onto himself and the picture and withstood the winds of change.

In this look at parenting that I'm processing, for a sermon series in May I think it is, I'm looking at what was, is and will be.

In Psalm 139, we get some of it all. Here's the first 13 verses:
1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

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

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

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

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

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

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

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

I'm taken by the second verse: You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

My father was a disciplinarian. Till I was a senior in high school, his rules were simple. Be home by 8 p.m. or don't go out. Many times I was sitting at the Chick 'n Treat on 8th street in Meridian when I would notice the time and it would be 7:30, or about 30 minutes from Glenn Time.

My car, a yellow Mercury I named Mokey Bear (you had to be there to undersand this with the shift on the column and a 289 V-6 inside the hood, knew both the way to the house and the speed traps from there to there.

Life was exciting. It was as if Dad knew my coming and my going. He knew everything about my young life and he dominated and controlled all of it.

The second tale of parenthood is called "It's Okay to be imperfect," which is at best a misnomer. It simply should read, It's Okay to be whomever God created me to be.

See, mistakes come with the territory. Imperfection comes with the area. Life is filled with stuff.

But this Psalm makes sure we understand that God is there for us. He "hems us in," so much so that before we even complete a sentence, He's there finishing it for us.

That might not sound great, but friends, it is. It means that God is there watching over us, which is good, of course. But it also means more than that. It means He is there being active in our life. He's sitting on 8th Street as well as riding with us in the auto home as well as being there when we get home.

It's not a matter of judgment. It's a matter of love.

I'm not sure I ever got that before this weekend. I'm dead-solid sure Dad never did.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Going home

So this lawyer, well versed in the law, came to the mother who was watching over two little rug rats who were playing on the monkey bars (and was anything ever more appropriately named?) and asked the most respectable of questions: "Which rule of parenting is the most important?"

The lawyer was asking this, of course, because one of the rug rats was suing to be released from custody from the mother.

The mother looked deeply into the eyes of the lawyer, with purpose and with love equally, and answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment."

She paused, again with intent, cooly looking into the eyes of the blood-sucker that was the lawyer, the eyes that had tried to break away having been beaten at his own game by a little woman in a baggy shirt and cullotes. Then she said the kicker: "There is one like it, though. You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Loving your neighbor?
Loving yourself?

What's up with this?

The lawyer suddenly understood that there is more to loving God than what one could imagine. One actually had to like oneself.

But one couldn't because one has to be vulnerable in order to do that. In order to do that one has to understand that it's okay to be oneself, even as a mother or as a father. As a parent.

This isn't about parenthood, of course, but it is about becoming. That's what all parents do, isn't it?

Let's begin what will be a week's worth, at worst, look at parenting. Truthfully I'm beginning a series soon on Godly parenting. I confess from the beginning that my father was a bad parent and I took after him, as they say. That my children turned out the way they did is a tribute more to Mary and God than anything I've done or said. I never addressed grace the way I will be teaching parents should. I have, however, repented.

I do, however still, understand that it is okay to be vulnerable. I understand this because of the grace God showed me when He sent his son to die for me. Until I understood that, there was some bad parenting going on.

The Bible speaks quite early about parenting, and it is quite serious about it. In the book of Exodus, God speaks about what bad parenting can do. He says:.

I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me."

Uh, oh. What we do can put upon our children, and theirs and so on. That works both ways, gratefully. So that if we "govern" our children with grace, they in turn are much more likely to do so. Isn't that wonderful?

The point of the story above then is made more clear. If we can love ourselves with grace and mercy, understanding that we've been forgiven by a God who loves us dearly, then we can love our neighbor, who in this instance is our own children, in the same manner.

Thus in any discussion about parenting, one begins with the notion that God loves so much that he gives us everything we could possibly want and then he gives us more, our very life.

The discussion leads, of course, in Matthew to a discussion about the Messiah, but I prefer letting that discussion lead into the story of the prodigal son.

Oh, you know it. The son leaves home, makes a mess of things, and then when he is coming home, the Father leaps up and runs down the road to the son.

That's parenting, isn't it? Doing what we can for them, teaching them, but most importanly, forgiving them their mistakes because we acknowledge that we are perfectly capable of making mistakes of our own.

The message then becomes, come on home. I love MY FATHER with all my being, THEREFORE, I can love you, my child. In fact, let's walk home together.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Again we come

Ah, the coffee pot is bubbling, the air outside is near perfect with a slice of cool lingering. The sun is rising, the music playing. I'm back in my element.

I've spent a lifetime in a spiritual retreat this past weekend, capping months of spiritual retreating, er, so to speak. I've sought the Lord, and as everyone knows I suspect, the Bible says whomever seeks the Lord will find the Lord.

Hence: I've found Him. I've found that He is as elusive as ever, when I call him. When I call to Him, however, I think He has smiled and said, "Come on, walk with me near the lake as the sun climbs above those clouds and those red and purple stripes begin to shrink like your worries."

So, I, uh, we do.

And I'm refreshed in a sort of exhausted manner.

I'm told I can't tell anyone about where I've been or what I've done or whom I've done it with, which sounds suspiciously like my time in the 70s, but I digress. What I did was move one step closer to a Lord who never moves, but beckons. Where I was was the garden where we could talk among those newly bursting flowers that smelled of spring a long time ago when I was young and my parents doted on me. Whom I did it with was you, everyone, some of the sweetest searchers I've ever come across. People who gave of themselves in ways they thought not possible.

And what did I learn? I learned to trust again, or for the first time. To simply give it all to the one who loves me, ME, most. More than spouse, children, the grands, my dogs. He loves me because I'm me. The thing in me I distrust, the thing in me I dislike, He washes as if soiled clothes and he shows me off to the world as spotless. No distrust any longer. It's wiped away by a doting parent who uses grace as a cleanser and love as a towel.

I read from the Message this morning as love and time permits: "Watch closely. I'm laying a foundation in Zion, a solid granite foundation, squared and true. And this is the meaning of the stone: A TRUSTING LIFE WON'T TOPPLE."

I've been handed the stone. The Bible goes on: "I'll make justice the measuring stick and righteousness the plumb line for building. A hailstone will knock down the shantytown of lies, and a flash flood will wash out the rubble."

Lord, we come, again.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A closer walk with Him

So today we head to a spiritual retreat. Our, mine and Mary's, desire is to get closer to God.

Isn't that what, ultimately, everyone has wanted since Jesus walked out of the tomb, or at least since he ascended?

Think of what it must have been like for those who were closest to him. They had walked with him, slept with him in the open, invited him to their former homes, saw him crucified for no reason whatsoever, then they saw him come back from the dead.

Certainly they thought he would stay around, like, forever. Men who die and return can stay as long as they want, right?

Then they were confused, again, by what he said. He told his disciples, "Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all 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. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me."

Now that's what he said. It's how we live now. We live without Him. Without Jesus. No mild-mannered shepherd to walk with. We have, by Jesus' teaching, a Counselor who convicts the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. That's the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches then teaches that the Spirit teaches us about Jesus, leads us to Jesus, lives in us daily. That's who produces the fruit I wrote about just yesterday.

But the Holy Spirit, as wonderful as He is, is not a living, breathing, touchable Jesus. He can't be. That's not his role.

And therein lies the desire to be closer to Jesus. We want someone we can touch, and Jesus is simply gone to us in that regard. It's a conundrum.

I'll not be blogging tomorrow because I'll be without, I'm told, a cell phone, a laptop or a watch. Basically I'll be naked before God (hopefully not before others, but hey, I don't know how these things go). But ultimately I pray I'll be one day closer to Jesus. That's all these weary bones can manage these days.

Jesus prayed we would all be unified one day in worship of him. I believe that to be true. It's just the world keeps pulling us apart.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fruit growing

So Paul writes this:

"...when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Galatians 5:22

I've written on this verse for years, but the fact is fruit is hard to find in this world, even in the church world.

Oh, the occasional piece of love, the occasional bout with joy and peace, the dribbling of patience, a moment of kindness, some goodness and faithfulness, a minute of gentleness and then there is the second, oh, mano-second of self- control shows its head.

Then mine disasters come and housing bubbles go and one day you look around and your gentleness has plunged like your blood sugar and your patience has dried up like the Aral Sea and you wonder where does it all go and what the heck happened to your fruit?

And that's where life is lived, I reason. Out there among the daily bursts of temper and frustration lies our Lord who never did much of either. He understands what we go through more than most because He has to sit and observe and die a little every time we fall. And oh do we fall?

But Paul goes on to write in verse 24 of that chapter of Galatians, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed their passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there."

That's the key to all this, I think. "Our sinful nature." It's not that we don't improve by bits and pieces, starts and stops. For some of us that's the way it is. Are we who we were when we accepted the life? That's the ticket. It isn't that we don't fall. We do, we do, we do. John tells us that if you say you have no sin, well, you're lying. So if we still sin, though we claim to be followers of Christ, what do we do with it.

Oh, we get back up, stick the nail back in the cross and watch the fruit grow a little more. And maybe next time when push comes to shove, maybe then we simply call on a bit of patience, or a dolup of goodness and we grow.

Without Christ we are nothing. With Christ we have a glowing chance.

That's life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Camping frenzy

Oh, the great outdoors.

I'm sitting at a picnic table (save your Yogi Bear sayings please) this morning with a bit of a coldish breese at my back. It's 7:15 a.m. and the table cloth is a bit damp from morning dew. I'm sitting outside of my camper, which is parked at the KOA Baton Rouge RV site, where yesterday we scrambled and fought and disarmed and dragged down and tied up the two grand boys.

And I've come to a conclusion.

Parenting is incredible. How exactly did I come up with such wonderful children since I'm such a putz when it comes to kids?

Gabe is the good one. Gavin is the funny one.

But somewhere in there, they're both, well, for lack of a better word, they're kids. They tie 50 paperclips together and pull all of the little page markers out of pens.

Gavin wants to do whatever Gabe does though Gavin is three and Gabe six. Gabe tests Gavin by trying his best to do things that he knows, he KNOWS, Gavin shouldn't be doing.

Mawmaw is the referee. She oversees the three of us, even though it is so taxing her hair hasn't been brushed in like 9 days and she's about as haggard as am I.

Paul, remember, never married that we're aware of. I suspect it was because he was afraid of children. He even made a point of saying at one point that when he became an adult he put away childish things. I think he was talking about paper clips and such but I can't be sure.

Livvy, the 2-year-old, looks at me like I'm the stranger from the Black Lagoon, and Emma, the yet to be one-year-old, smiled at me for a brief moment the other day, after months of horrid squeals and tears and clutch yo mamma tighter moments.

Parker, the 4-year-old, is okay with me, but again, Mammaw is the queen.

That leaves these two, and they take me for what I am.

I wished I had some wonderful thoughts about grandparenting, but here's what I think. It's tough to take them for who they are, unless you think that is really what Jesus does for all of us.

All of us put together paper clips that can't be used again or tear up pens or as you might call it, lose our temper or have a moment of ego or whatever it might be.

Paul might have said he put away childish things, but I note that he seemed to retain a bit of anger and I know that he kept his pride. Love him, but that's just the truth if you really read the material.

So where does that leave us.

We're all on the same pathway to heaven, young and old. We just have to maintain our sanity along the way. In a 24-foot-trailer with four bikes and a growing stiffer coldish breeze, we might make it yet.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Get up and dance

Sunday was wonderful, I'm sure, to those who saw him first. Sunday was wonderful for most of us, I would think.

But what was Monday?

When you've seen a miracle, a true-blue, honest without question, miracle of all miracles, what is the next day like?

Do you go back to your regular life?
Do you make a cake?
Do you dance some more?
Do you sleep for the first time in days?
What do you do?

I think of persons who have gotten reprieves from diagnoses of cancer or other serious diseases. I think of persons who were in such debt they couldn't see out of the pit and suddenly, a check comes in the mail from sources unexpected. I think of alcoholics who suddenly don't drink.

I think of all of us, who were at the cross, ready to be crucified, and Jesus took the hit for us. All of us. Every one above the age of reckoning, which I'll let all of you decide.

The Bible says this: "When I next looked, oh! Above the dome over the heads of the cherubim-angels was what looked like a throne, sky-blue, like a sapphire! 2-5 God said to the man dressed in linen, "Enter the place of the wheels under the cherubim-angels. Fill your hands with burning coals from beneath the cherubim and scatter them over the city."
I watched as he entered. The cherubim were standing on the south side of the Temple when the man entered. A cloud filled the inside courtyard. Then the Glory of God ascended from the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the Temple. The cloud filled the Temple. Court and Temple were both filled with the blazing presence of the Glory of God. And the sound! The wings of the cherubim were audible all the way to the outer court—the sound of the voice was like The Strong God in thunder."

The glory of the Lord filled the Temple. One day we will all understand that though Mondays follow glorious Sundays, the glory of the Lord has filled us every day.

We are forgiven, for dastardly and tiny mistakes. Our debt, be it staggering sums or pennies of problems, is paid.

Jesus did it.
It's done.
On Monday as well as Sunday.

Get up and dance some more. The King is alive.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Dark Saturday

I wonder how they made it? How did they actually make it through to Sunday?

Sometimes I wonder, frankly, how we make it still.

I spent much of the week in my attic. Mary and I are headed for another move, and frankly it is like fingernails on the chalkboard time for me. I detest moving. I'm filled with fears of the next place and the one after that and all of that. I moved once that I remember when I lived with my parents, and it too was horrible on me.

Mary and I have already moved five times in 25 years of marriage and each time was like I was being water-boarded. (*did I create a verb?)

So spending time in the attic, looking through what could be thrown away and then actually throwing it away, looking at my family in its formative years, as the kids grew up and Mary and I grew older and more feeble by the day it seems, was so very taxing on me.

Then I do this blog, and inside I wonder why. I wonder if these words are being read and I wonder if I made the right decision in retiring from journalism and I wonder if this is the right church and I wonder why I'm researching this Easter tale so deeply that I'm darn near depressed over what we did to Jesus.

And somewhere in there, my heart goes out to a group of men and women who loved the Lord so dearly and spent Saturday apart from him in the deepest of depressions.

I'm not them. I will get through this, mainly because I truly do believe the Jesus is real, he is alive and that each time we've moved it has been for a better time, a better reason, a better day.

Here's how I know: I was going through things and I came across an old bulletin from a previous church from Jan. 1, 2006. This is the year everything changed for us. We were just getting past Katrina. I had been told a month earlier that we had to move from our home in Terrytown of 16 years to the northshore because of job related things.

I was losing my appointment, my nearness to my children and grandchildren and my, well, my feeling of home.

I didn't know where we would land. I feared for our selling our home. I fear for our buying another. I was going through boxes and throwing out stuff I didn't need.

And this is what I wrote in that bulletin: Man, aren't you glad the new year has begun. Hadn't you had enough of 2005? Now that it's done, let's talk about what is really important.

Years ago the Turners moved from a little block house in Meridian to a little block house in Lizelia. I was mortified. Either years old and mortified. My life was ended. There was no way I could go on with my life. I was leaving my friends.

Turned out I found the best friends I ever had after I moved.

Then I graduated from high school with them. I was mortified. Eighteen years old and mortified. My life was ended. There was no way I could go on with my life. I was leaving my friends behind.

I found you guys and others like you.

See, the thing about new beginnings is this: You can't see what God can see. I can't see what God can see. He provides in his own way at his own speed in his own time.

Believe me, I know how hard it is to see that right now. But I know what He has done for me in the past. I know what He's going to do in the future, which is to take care of us, all of us.

Take care might not mean what you think it will, but that's the beauty of blessings. You get surprises all the time.

I write to myself from the past, huh?

The thing about dark Saturdays is there is always a bright Sunday to come if we can just wait.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The cross

Our troops, the battalion of Mislevius, took over control of the prisoner as the day turned toward afternoon on Friday. Malchus' group had done a masterful job under tremendous pressure from in the night until mid-morning, but they were let go when our governor, Pilate, finally (and I do mean finally) said the prisoner should be crucified.

Crucifixion is our duty. It is an interesting duty, too.

Crucifixion was almost never performed for ritual or symbolic reasons outside of Christianity, but usually to provide a death that was particularly slow, painful, gruesome, humiliating, and public, using whatever means were most expedient for that goal. Let me tell you, this was not something you wanted ot watch.

We had been doing it for quite a while and it still brought shivers to us. The way we did it was, we made the accused, in this case this Jew, haul a crossbeam that weight well over 100 pounds on shoulders that had been previous the victim of the flagellation.

In other words, they were torn open then we made them put this rough board on their shoulders. Ugh. He had to drag that through the city to the place called Golgotha, just outside the city gates.

We had this place, this Golgotha, where the persons would be hung there, by these large nails into their hands and their feet, so that passersby would see them. It was right off the road, mind you.

The worst thing? They were naked. Naked I tell you. It was bad enough that the pain of the nails and the hanging there slowly, slowly losing the ability to breathe because you couldn't hoist yourself higher to get a breath.

Oh, that was bad enough. but if you had to urinate or defecate, a prisoner had to do so in the open, in view of passers-by, resulting in discomfort and the attraction of insects. We used this method frequently, though I heard that even one of our eminent statesmen.

Cicero, for example, denounced crucifixion as "a most cruel and disgusting punishment", and suggested that, "the very mention of the cross (should) be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears." He ought to try being in charge of the detail that did it.

There was nothing unusual about the putting of the criminal onto the cross. It was fairly routine, with the exception I think of the number of persons who were following us. He fell several times, but they all do. That crossbeam is heavy, even for our men.

At one point we made someone help this Jesus. But mostly, it was routine. Putting him onto the cross was routine as well. The pain, the suffering, the blood, all routine.

We lifted him up and there he was, waiting to die a slow, slow death. There was a crowd watching, which I thought to be ghastly. At one point I hard one of them say, "This is the King of the Jews?" They laughed.

Kings normally aren't stripped naked for all to see, you know. I heard another say, "He saved others, let him save himself." I was at the foot of the cross, watching, waiting.

I heard some strange utterances from the criminal. Usually you hear them screaming for help or yelling about the pain. But I heard one of the criminals say, "So you're the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself, and us too while you're at it." The criminal to the other side of him protested. "Don't you fear God even when you are dying? We deserve to die for our evil deeds, but this man hasn't done anything wrong." Then this Jesus said, "I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise."

I wondered what he meant. I really did. Then I heard him say, "Father, forgive these people, because they don't' know what they are doing." I was humbled.

Look, my men had gambled for his clothing, the dirty, blood covered rags he was wearing. They had laughed at him. And here he was, asking for their forgiveness from a God we don't believe in. And there the routine left us.

At some point after the humiliation and the suffering has lingered long enough for us, we usually break the legs of the rebels.

You know, to make it go a bit faster. Enough is enough for even us. But this Jesus, he died remarkably quickly.

When we checked on him as it neared the ninth hour, he was dead. The last words I heard from him, the last words I heard him say were, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

And he took a last gasp and died.

My men speared him in the side and blood and water rushed out, in a strange, strange flow. He was dead. Words escaped me before I could control them. "Surely this man was innocent," I said. Then I went farther. "Surely he was, WAS, the Son of God."

Amazingly, the crowd that had been so uproarious and festive suddenly upon his death went home in sorrow. But this man's friends, I learned later, stayed and watched. They came and took the body, this man named Joseph, a member of the high council that we knew, and he gave him his own crypt that was near the place that looked so much like a skull in the stone in the side of the hill.

They played the body quickly there as to not sully their Passover. We stationed a guard there so his disciples could not come and play tricks on us by stealing his body. And it was over. It was one strange day. I doubt there is nothing that could top it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The long trip to the cross

As dawn turned into Friday, our captor, this Jesus of Nazareth -- a tiny town to the Northeast of our city -- cleared the strange court of the Jewish Council, where even one of the Temple guards struck the man, and was headed to the only one who could possibly carry out the charge they had given him, death.

He was headed to Pilate, our governor. This part was just as strange as the night had been.

My fellow soldiers and I were dead tired, but we carried on, having seen some interesting usages of law in the council. Now we believed Pilate would try this, this Jesus with proper Roman law instead of the mishmash of superstition these Jews used.

Right away it turned odd. The accusers of this man refused to enter our governor's quarters despite their obvious intention to have this man killed. There would be no accusations spawned by the mob of council members.

Pilate, in a moment of goodness I thought since he certainly didn't have to, went to the Jews and asked, "what is your charge against this man?"

They cried, as one, "We wouldn't have handed him over to you if he weren't a criminal."

My men laughed at that. That was no answer.

Pilate, apparently unhappy with being pulled out of his bed at such an hour, said, "Take him away and judge him by your own laws."

The Jews, grumbling as if they had been attacked, yelled, "Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone." Which was correct as I have previously stated.

Pilate had us drag the man inside his personal chambers. We stood guard, those of us in the upper guard, to the most incredible of conversations.

Pilate poured himself an early wine. He looked the man over. The man's robe was dirty and covered in muck as he had been literally dragged most of the night. His face was bruised and covered in drying blood from punches that had come from various sources during the night. His hair was stringy and matted and his back was bent a bit. But his eyes were, how can I say it, you could see a strangeness of purpose in his eyes.

Pilate looked at him, chalice in hand, and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
Pilate had heard the accusations before this. He knew of this man's history and ministry, we learned later.

"Is this your question or did others tell you about me," the man asked. We were astounded. This man had been struck repeatedly, dragged through streets that were covered in the god's only know what and yet he was standing here questioning our governor. We started to moved against him and Pilate with a wave of his hand stopped us.

Pilate looked him over again, thoughtfully, intrigued. "Am I a Jew? You own people and their leading priests brought you here? Why? What have you done?"

Jesus looked our governor right in the eye, which none of my own men would do, I'll tell you. He looked at him and answered, "I am not an earthly king. If I were, my followers would have fought when I was arrested by the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world."

We were silent, but we looked at each other. What other world is there? Is he talking about the gods? What is he saying. Never spoke a man like this before, never, Certainly not to a Roman governor who held his very life in his hands.

Pilate looked at him as if he had not replied. Pilate was a cool one, I'll tell you.

"You are a king, then?"

"You say that I am a king, and you are right, I was born for that purpose. And I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth recognize what I say is true."

Pilate stood there long minutes, silently. Thinking over what this man had said.

He finally spoke, and I'll tell you this, our governor, a thoroughly rough and generally unsympathetic individual who had sent many men to their death, mostly on the crosses we line the streets outside of the city with, asked with general interest, "What is truth?"

Jesus did not answer. Oh I wish he had.

The two men stood looking at each other, passing something between them in silence.

Pilate spoke: this man has done nothing. He is not guilty of any crime." He went out to those people, whose crowd had grown as Pilate had met with Jesus, and said, "but you have a custom of asking me to release someone from prison each year at Passover. So if you want me to , I'll release the King of the Jews."

But they shouted back, "No! Not this man, but Barabbas!"

We were amazed. Barabbas was, well, a multiple killer of men. He was a rebel whom had been sought for quite a while before being captured by our battalion of men. These people couldn't be serious.

Pilate was clearly surprised by this. He thought long and hard about what to do. He had clearly thought this was his out, so to speak. But now... then he thought, maybe I can get out of this yet, at least I suspect that was on his mind. We were told to take Jesus to Herod Antipas, the pseudo-ruler of Galilee who was in Jerusalem for Passover.

Of all that happened in that 24-hour period, that was the most farcial.

Herod, whom I had never seen but had heard of as a bit of a joke, was delighted at the opportunity to see Jesus, because he had heard about him and had been hoping for a long time to see him perform a miracle. He asked Jesus question after question, but Jesus refused to answer. Meanwhile, the leading priests and the teachers of religious law stood there shouting their accusations. Then Herod and his soldiers began mocking and ridiculing Jesus. Finally, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies before, became friends that day.

Back at Pilate's palace, we took him, with both he and my guards getting wearier by the minute. Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. So I will have him flogged, and then I will release him.”

Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!” Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

For the third time he demanded, “Why? What crime has he committed? I have found no reason to sentence him to death. So I will have him flogged, and then I will release him.”

Tired of the matter and clearly angry that the crowd would argue, he had us take Jesus out to a place where we were told to flog him with a lead-tipped whip that we use on the most hardened of criminals. Most don't live through this, which again would be an out for our governor. If this man died while being flogged, well, so be it.

I watched till I couldn't. I've seen many brutal things in our time in Palestine, but this, oh, this was so harsh for a man that I had seen do nothing, not even protest as we dragged him. The skin of his back was ripped and torn repeatedly. But he held silent even as his blood filled the street around him.

My soldiers, my friends, made a crown of thorns that we ripped from a bush near the place of flogging and put it on his head, which brought agonizing looks from his face but still no sound. No protest. No screams of agony as I would have. They grabbed some purple cloth from a woman in the street and put it on him. The spit on him, their slobber running down his face and his chest. The called out, "Hail, King of the Jews." Remember, this man was declared innocent by our governor. I should have stopped this, but it had gone too far.

We dragged him once again to the steps of the governor's palace and Pilate came out. He was unhappy with the way Jesus looked. Maybe we has gone a bit too far. Pilate screamed, "Here is the man."

When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”

The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”

Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”

Then Pilate tried to release him a final time, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”

When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again. Then Pilate sat down on the judgment seat on the platform that is called the Stone Pavement (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, rather wearily, “Look, here is your king!”

“Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!”

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.

He sat there long moments, before finally deciding there was no more reason to fight this. He turned Jesus over to be crucified.

We took him down the steps toward Golgotha, a hill just outside the city gates.