Friday, November 1, 2013

Tools: the gift that keeps on giving

"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains,
And go to your God like a soldier."

My Wounded Warrior, Jordan, just left with his vehicle full of tools, some of which came to him from me, others through me, but were delayed gifts from his Grandfather Ralph. He has a new house, and he's going to be doing some fixing up, got an entire unfinished basement to play with.

We were a curious pair. Jordan was wearing his fatigues, and walking with the aid of a crutch. I was limping along without one. We managed to load a table saw in the back of his vehicle. And then we dragged Mickey along. So there were the three Patterson Boys, hanging out and talking.

And I can't talk about this any more right now.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Unexplored country?

Seems like when you are young, you have plenty of advice on how to live your life. So much advice, that you spend most of your time trying not to follow it.
And the advice, most of it, comes from people who know what they are talking about. They have already lived through being young.

I was young, but now I am old.

And I think I find myself in unexplored country. I think I find myself with rare circumstances, which no one else has experienced.

So I have no one to turn to and say "Am I doing this the right way?"

I live in an unexplored country, bordered by pain, sleep, and drugs. How do I find my way here?

Monday, October 28, 2013


Kenneth has been doing so well in school. His last report card was straight A. His behavior has been exemplary as well.
When I found out about the website sumdog, I thought I had found an end to the homework hassle. All I would have to do is turn the kids loose on an educational learning site, and my work was done. That's pretty attractive to an old guy with not a lot of energy.
And there were other educational sites besides sumdog, like coolmath. Actually, coolmath bothered me a little, because it appeared to be more game than learning. So, when Alicia continued to struggle, I told her she must not go anywhere but sumdog; I let Kenneth run free.
And on weekend, the laptops were just another entertainment tool. They could go to the Disney site, or pretty much wherever they found joy. No downloads, no for-pay, but still they were able to navigate and have fun.
And it gave me a couple of teachable moments.
TANSTAAFL. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Kenneth wanted this benefit that was free to members. And I was able to explain to him that if you had to be a member, and you had to pay to be a member, then the benefit wasn't free; and that lead to a lot of other topics about the way things work. Air is free, if only because nobody has figured out yet how to restrict it.
And then today, he told his teacher her assignment was boring.
Well, screeching halt time.
I had let him play on the laptop all weekend, with time off to run a 5K charity race with Vanessa and church. Other than that, he was on the laptop all weekend long, without wanting to take time off for food. He was still on the laptop at 8:29 on Sunday night, and he was fully aware that he needed to be in bed by 8:30.
There were no flashing lights and engaging sound effects in his classroom today. Therefore, by comparison, it was boring.
Doing something that feels good, to the exclusion of all other activities, even if doing that brings harm: yeah, that's a start of addiction.
So, the conversation with Kenneth started with his description of what happened.
And then, what is the difference between discipline and punishment, and an assurance to him that he was NOT going to be punished, and in particular that he was not going to be spanked.
And then we proceeded.
And he doesn't like the results, which are that he doesn't get to use the computer, but it's possible that he may be able to understand the rest later. I have to keep him from having his intoxication becoming an addiction.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What have they missed?

Today is October 24, 2013. My last blog post was on June 17, 2013.

I entitled this blog entry, what have THEY missed, because I haven't missed a thing. I've been through every single moment of these past nearly five months, and endured it. Might have forgotten some of it, though. 
But this blog isn't really for me. It's for my grandson Heath. It's for Kenneth and Alicia. And perhaps it will also be valuable to my adult contemporaries as well.
But I didn't write it down; and, if you don't write it down, it didn't happen.
So, I can say: since my last post, I thought we had found the perfect pain med, a patch that managed my pain very well, and didn't goof my head. And then in September I developed an allergy to it, and had to stop it, and got to experience withdrawal again.
But what I missed, by not making a daily record of my experiences.
And I can also say that I was asked, once again, to serve on a Tres Dias weekend, made the last team meeting, packed all my clothes in a backpack, and rode up to the mountain on Thursday. And got sent home on Friday. That was only two weeks ago. But if I had been writing daily, there would have been a great message about "What am I doing here?" that might have been a benefit to some.
See, right now, as I think about the past five months, I can see all the possible opportunities to reach out and share my life; and I just realized this is JUST LIKE IT WAS FOR ME IN SCHOOL! Always trying to play catch-up; it's SO aversive, and so I dropped classes, changed career focus, and dropped out of degree programs.
Months ago, Pastor John told me to write every day. He said it at the same level of emphasis as he told me I had to be in church each week unless I was in the hospital.
Last night I made it to choir practice, because Vanessa was meeting Anne and Tina at the church to drive to Mississippi. The night before, I think, I had written an email to Pastor Shelia talking about me NEED to sing. 
What can I do?
Well, physical stuff is right out.
Pretty much any catch-up is right out.
But I ought to be able to write every day.
And I'm listening to praise & worship while I'm doing it, and will be doing so while I'm on the computer, as long as I can make that work.
Just do the next right thing.
This might not be a coherent statement to the uninitiated reader. It does, however, emerge out of this tarpit I seem to be in. Now, if I could just get tossed into the briar patch...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Listening to what you already know

I was listening to a teaching on Joshua this morning, called 'Rotate Your Gifting.' And I was thinking, groan. I already KNOW all this stuff. Why do I have to listen through this? Why not just skip this one, and go on to the next teaching?
And I found reasons.
Of course, I first had to find a reason before I even began to listen to the teaching, even before I realized I already knew what the teaching was about. That's a pretty simple reason. It's so simple, it's an embarrassment to say. I did it for the same reason I breathe: because that's what you do to keep alive. Not a whole lot of need to explain that one, is there? Except to say this: if I were to choose to hold my breath, at some point I'd either give up, or pass out, and if I passed out, my body would start breathing again whether I wanted to or not. Can't really say the same thing for my spiritual life; I suppose that if I refused to do the things I need to do to stay alive spiritually, I would just wither away. SO FAR THOUGH!!!!! .every.single. time. I've done that, I give this great big gasp and start living again. So I guess there is some sort of survival mechanism at work. And it makes me wonder what I must look like to those who can see with spiritual eyes: "Look, the moron is holding his breath again. When is he going to stop doing that? Idiot."
So, anyway, that's reason number one, and it's good enough to get me started. Reason number two: It's a good example. How am I going to tell my offspring to listen to things they already know, to repeat them over and over, if I don't do the same thing? Maybe there ARE some people or animals somewhere who learn something after the first time. I don't think I ever met one. This morning, I trained my obstinate cat to rear up, put a front paw on my chair, and take a yummy treat from my fingers. But that was based on first training her to come when she heard the package rattle. And it took the LONGEST time to get her to take the treat from my fingers. And so forth. The point is, repetition matters, and unless I'M willing to do it, hard to require it of others.
Reason #1, reason # 2, and now for reason #3: I don't know as much as I think I know. Sure, the first part was basic; repeated lessons I'd learned not only in church but in my professional training and in years of recovery from alcoholism. But then: I learned something about Joshua I never knew: while Moses was up on the mountain, Joshua was waiting for him in a cave. The whole time. Not so the elders; just Joshua. And that's pretty huge. And because of time constraints, I'm not going to talk any more about that point.
But the FINAL (I think it's the final) reason for listening to what I already know is: rabbit trails. There are some AMAZING ways that new thoughts, new plans develop. I think it's because once you start stirring up, you just get momentum going, and it's entirely lovely. I have about, I don't know, four or five new things that are pretty much unrelated to Joshua cooking right now. 
I think I love it when I'm wrong.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lessons from a donkey

In Numbers, there's the story of Balaam, a sorceror-type, and his donkey. I won't go into the rest of it, but Balaam sets out on a journey the LORD doesn't want him to, and an angel stands in front of him with a sword to kill him. Balaam doesn't see thee angel, but the donkey does, and twice turns aside, then lies down in the road. Balaam beats the donkey fiercely, and then God opens the donkey's mouth.
"Why are you beating me ? Haven't I always been a good donkey? Have I ever acted like this before?" 
And then Balaam sees the angel, and the angel explains everything to him, and he goes about his business.

Have I ever acted like this before?

Pretty important question.
How HAVE you acted before? Because that's pretty much going to determine the response you get today, for good or for bad.

I wonder what my father said that day that I missed hearing him speak. I didn't hear him speak because it was in a Sunday School class of his age group, the 60+, and I was low 30s. He had brought me to hear him speak, and I knew that; but as I looked around, I saw I was the only 30s guy there, and I commented on that. He gave me a funny look, and asked me if I wanted to go to a class my age; and then he took me there.
So I don't know what he said that day. 
But I wonder: even if I had heard him speak that day: Could I have heard it? I just don't think i could have gotten the message. See, my father was a mean old man. And yes, in his old age, he was working on finding peace with God, and by the time he died twenty years later, I could talk to him about spiritual things, because he was dying and we all knew it. And the worst part of the meanness just wasn't showing up at that point. But on that day, now thirty years ago, there was no way I was going to be able to hear a spiritual message from a mean old man. So I played the youth card, and got out of there. I know it disappointed him, but I just didn't care. I wasn't gonna listen to spiritual words coming from a man who had made fun of my pants that morning, who had been a tyrant to me his entire life.
Now, I can play the donkey scene over in my head; sometimes I'm the donkey, sometimes he is; depends on how I want to cast the story. It works both ways.
I'm NOT, definitely NOT, arguing against a late-in-life conversion. All I'm saying is, if you wanna be treated like a good donkey, you better have been a good donkey all your life. And there's more to that, but all I'm gonna write now.

Monday, April 29, 2013

I should, but I can't, but now I can

Monday, April 30, 2013

Today is the last Monday of my middle age. I turn 60 next Sunday and will be officially an old person.
Now, from the outside, that may seem to be a bad thing. Eww. Old. Can't do stuff. Rickety. But the outside view is wrong, wrong, wrong.
(WARNING: VAST OVERSIMPLIFICATION AHEAD!) I chose to take all of the behaviorist classes I could while I was in school. What makes behaviorism different from humanist, or existential, developmental, gestalt, and the other million ways of understanding the human condition is that it focuses strictly on behavior. It's not true that behaviorists deny that there is a soul, or a mind; it's just that the behaviorist says "It's not your mind that gets you into trouble. It's your behavior." The Hollywood stereotype of the psychoanalysist has the patient lying on a couch, talking about dreams, what were the first things he remembered, etc.The behaviorist says: What problem behavior do you want to change, or what desirable behavior do you want to learn or enhance?
And, from the behaviorist view, all behavior is purposeful. We have a reason to act the way we do. You can't always tell the purpose of the behavior until you see the results, and sometimes those results are long - term. From this perspective, the reason I am sitting in this chair, right now, typing on this blog, is a result of my behavior throughout my previous life. Everything I have done so far has been to bring me to this point. Even if I didn't know I was going to this point, this is where my behaviors brought me. Now, they back off of the ultimate conclusion, which makes Christians snicker; because they say that the ultimate conclusion is that our behaviors in life lead us to death, which is of course preposterous; to which Christians say NO IT ISN'T ! IT'S THE ENTIRE POINT! WE LIVE OUR LIVES IN SUCH A WAY AS TO BRING US CLOSER TO GOD!
But I'm not dead yet.
And, based on the ages of my parents and grandparents on both sides, I'm gonna make it to my 80's with no problem. So I've got at least 20 years to be a competent (intellectually, at least) old person.
Now, let me tie this together: For my entire life, I've been preparing to be an old person. The character I have been forming is going to flower as an old person. The body I have has become that of an old person, if we look at the rickety crickety painful parts, for the past several years, so getting an old body is something I'm already good at. I'm prepared for retirement, since I had to take early disability retirement some five plus years ago. And old people don't have to do nothing they don't want to do, and I've been working on that for the past several years.
Now, the LAW, which presents us with the "I should, but I can't" dilemma, is no longer a problem for me. See, all my behavior up to this point has been designed to bring me to the place where what I WANT to do is to manifest the LAW in my life. And, of course, I'm not talking about the ceremonial law. I'm talking about  "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself." I can remember like it was today that awful tension of wanting to get high, but dreading it, and the cycling back and forth until I either gave into it right then, or postponed it and gave into it later. That was really, really awful. And I could repeat the same description about any number of ways to mess up. But: I'm old (or will be in a week), and I don't have the hormones and the stupidity racing through my blood system any more. I'm geared up now to be an old person; an old person who really enjoys being who God has called him to be. I don't have to cut my hair, I can wear blue jeans to church, and I can ask for reproof and receive it and learn from it and grow and prosper, because I am living in the land of promise.
So, har-de-har-har, young men. You've got strength; I've got gray hair. GLORY!

Locusts and wild honey,


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Give me your heart, my son

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Proverbs 23: 26
Give me your heart, my son,
And let your eyes delight in my ways.

I don't know of a scripture that has hit me as hard about parenthood as this one. 
Earlier in this proverb, there are a number of admonitions to sons: don't do stupid stuff, son, you'll break yer mama's heart. Said much better than that, of course. And it's all really, really good advice.
But this verse, right here, gets to the fundamental essence of being a parent. 
First, Give me your heart. The promise of "I'll take good care of it" is implicit. Give me your heart. Trust me. Give me your heart. Believe in me. What an audacious statement! What parent would DARE to say to their older-than-10 child, "give me your heart?" And yet, isn't that what we are saying to them, with everything we do? Even if we don't ever, ever say those words? Isn't every act of loving and caring for a child saying , give me your heart?
My grandson came over on Friday. He's not quite three months old. And, at the start of the visit, he was fussy. His tummy was upset, and he was cranky, and he didn't want his pacifier, and he didn't want anything. But ya know what? I could hold him, and bounce with him to help him jiggle those burps up, and I quietly sang him nonsense...and he would quiet down. And I nuzzled him, and kissed his head, and told him I loved him, and held him close.
And it was all saying, give me your heart.
Of course, the only way I could say to Heath, give me your heart, is because I have already given my heart to him. He had it before I nuzzled him; he had it before he was born, he had it before he was conceived; he had it when we sat around the kitchen table twenty years ago and I prayed for those my children would marry, and their children, and their children's children. So, because Heath has my heart, I can ask him to give me his heart.
And that's what the Bible says, too; that's what it means when it says, For God so loved the world.
Second, Let your eyes delight in my ways. Watch me closely, son! Do what I do! Enjoy it!
Where is the weight falling with THAT particular transaction? You betcha! It's absolutely falling on me. See what I'm doing! I'm not gonna hide anything from you. I'm not going to keep hidden secret sins; I'm not even going to hide the cookies from you. Well; I MIGHT hide the cookies from you, if you eat too many cookies. But mostly, I'm going to make my life an open book to you, and I want you to turn the pages, and make bookmarks, and notes in the margins.
And speaking of margins: I've read Proverbs more than any other book of the Bible. And I've made notes. And comments. And dated some of them. And I have annotated the verse above this AND the verse below this; why? why? why? why has it never clicked in me before what this verse is saying? I didn't get this from a commentary; I was just reading it. Today is the 23rd of April, and this is Proverbs 23, so I read it. I guess it's just that...I was ready.
And it's a good thing, too. Vanessa and I are raising two of her grandchildren. And I have to make sure I have given them my heart. Because I will be saying to them, give me your heart; let your eyes delight in my ways.
I don't think it's an option.

Fools rush in, addendum

Well, yesterday I searched my heart and learned somethings. And, in an expanded form, I think yesterday's blog might be worthy of going further.
But I have to add this addendum, because it is also an illustration of the fool rushing in and paying the penalty.
Background: After months of anti-inflammatory therapy with meloxicam, the day came when my gastro-intestinal tract could no longer tolerate it it. From heartburn to the other end, it seemed like I had nothing but problems. Doctor suggested another, milder NSAID, but it did the same thing. My gut symptoms gradually eased, while my pain symptoms rose up and grabbed me by the throat and shook me like a terrier shakes a rat. 
Over time, of a couple of weeks, I began to tolerate the pain better, or it eased, I don't know which. I do know it became less demanding. But the gut stuff never quite went away.
Now, we're in the midst of pollen season here, and the levels are such that if you don't live in it, you wouldn't believe it. So, I thought, maybe that's keeping me inflamed. Makes my eyes burn and my sinus are flaring, so why not my gut? But it became enough of a problem a few days ago, that I decided to take some pepto. It had been a benefit for me last year when I was withdrawing from the morphine. So, I opened the fridge, saw a bottle of generic pepto, and took a swig. Best tasting pepto I ever had.
Didn't seem to help with the symptoms that I could tell. So, Day before yesterday, I re-dosed myself. Nice minty taste. No help with the symptoms. In fact, I had to make a couple of more trips to the bathroom.
So, yesterday, before I wrote my blog entry, I decided to give it another try, and took a BIG slug of the stuff. Not really a trial to do so, it really did have a pleasant taste. Did my study, wrote my blog, had a nap attack...
...and woke up feeling very uncomfortable. Couldn't really pinpoint the problem. Wasn't pain, exactly. But I was decidedly uncomfortable. So after a minute or so, I headed to the bathroom; maybe there was something in my breakfast that had presented a problem.
And as I sat upon the throne, an upside-down volcano erupted from my nether regions. And horrid, boiling noises, as if I had eaten a live bobcat, resounded from just below my ribs. I remained cloistered for quite some time.
What was wrong with me? I KNEW I had not taken any more of the anti-inflammatories that had started the problem. I hadn't started any new medications, and nothing I was taking had ANY gastric upset as a side effect. Pollen? That seemed...ridiculous. I've lived in the South my entire life, except for the Army time. Never had this happen to me before that I can recall.
When I was finally able to disengage from the plumbing, painfully and slowly, I made my way downstairs. A faint thought occurred to me. I followed the light... to the refrigerator. I took out the bottle of generic pepto. Read the label. Not generic pepto, after all.
It was milk of magnesia, a laxative. The fool had rushed in, grabbed a bottle of laxative, and dosed his runny guts with it on three consecutive days, without ONCE bothering to check the label.
Recently, my pastor asked me if I could see how a pattern of rushed decisions had been a flesh pattern in my life. Yeah, PJ, I do believe I'm beginning to get a small glimmer of that.
I think I'm going to eat a couple of pounds of cheese today.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fools rush in and pay the penalty

Monday morning, April 22, 2013

Proverb 22: 3 (NASV)
The prudent sees the evil and hides himself,
But the [b]naive go on, and are punished for it.

I had a long teachable moment on this topic this weekend. It involved a parable/aphorism and a true story, and what it looked like was Kenneth and I sitting on his bed with the door closed. The aphorism first: "If you poke a dog with a stick, you might get bitten. If you poke a bear with a sick "; here Kenneth interrupted me and said "he'll kill you." 
Yeah, I said, he might. He might run, but he might kill ya. You never know.
And then I told him the story. 
I was in the Cub Scouts, and I think it was in the 3rd or 4th grade. We wore our uniforms to school, and there was another Scout there, a much bigger, much older boy. His uniform showed that he had been in Scouts for three years, but he only had three merit badges. I thought that was hilarious, and so I proceeded to make loud fun of him. "Three years in the Scouts and only three merit badges! Look at that!" 
The next thing I knew, I was upside down in a garbage drum, one of those 55 gallon drums they used to collect litter on school premises. It rolled over, and I rolled out. I wasn't hurt; it happened so fast I didn't even have a chance to get scared. 
Now, 52 years later, I realize that it was very likely that the boy who dumped me in the trash would now be recognized as a special needs student. We didn't have special classes for those kids back then; they just struggled along in the lower grades with everybody else, and failed, and when they were old enough, they either dropped out or went to the vocational-industrial  school. I know how hard school was for me, as a kid with ADD when nobody knew what ADD was; for the kids who were mentally impaired, it had to be so much worse.   
So for the boy I mocked, I realize now the pain he felt was much worse  than what I experienced that day. From my perspective today, I can imagine all kind of scenarios that were essential in bringing him to that day of wearing the uniform: a patient pack leader, helping him to slowly do the things he could do; supportive fellow members of his pack, encouraging him; his own frustration as he saw everyone else proceed beyond what he could do. 
But he could wear the uniform, with pride; and he had, for three years. And he wore it proudly to school that day; until some snotty little punk started making fun of him.
"Go up, you bald head!"
Bears did not come down and tear me to pieces; that was merciful.
I do hope that the delight of seeing his tormentor upside down in the litter made up for whatever he experienced as a result of my cruelty. I hope he went to his class, and was congratulated by understanding, supportive friends for tossing that kid in the trash where he belonged.  I hope that he didn't go home in tears to his parents that afternoon and tell them he was never going back to Cub Scouts again.
But I have no way of knowing. 
If I could, I would make amends to that boy. I can't. I never knew his name; I don't know that I ever saw him again. 
But what I can do is teach Kenneth.
And maybe I can share the story with others.
And maybe, if I can do that, some of penalty for foolishly rushing in that day will be paid.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Grace and Peace, Take 2

Well, the last time I did this, I suffered a shiver-me-timbers blood sugar episode, and that left me unable to do much more than close my eyes and lean back. Then later on in the day, suffered another one, not as strong the second time, though. It did keep my pretty much shut down for the rest of the day.
BUT: now let me return to I Thess 1. Paul writes: Grace to you, and peace.
Growing up in the semi-rural South, I knew the word 'grace' first from the prayer that was said at the start of every meal. It seemed to take three forms: the rote prayers of children (God is great, God is good); the rarer times, usually at holiday meals, when it was an opportunity for someone to be long-winded; and finally the occasions I remember as a young teen when my step-father would use the occasion to scold me to God. Now maybe he wasn't doing that; sure felt like it. But, whatever form it took, it was a prayer said before a meal, and that CAN'T be what Paul was writing here. 
The second way I knew the word 'grace' was from the hymn. First verse sung everywhere, at all times. For an invitational hymn, which to those of us in the Baptist Church meant either a time for an initial profession of faith, a re-dedication, or a transfer of fellowship, OR it meant that you were about ready to leave and go get some lunch, we'd sing the first, second, and last verses. Or if we were having a revival, we'd just keep singing it over and over...
But I don't want to put an overwhelming burden on the lyrics of a song. Yeah, maybe in the lyrics of the song, we can find out what Paul meant, when he wrote to the Church at Thessalonika, but, since I've already bitten the bullet and decided to look at the Greek, let's just go there instead.
And: it looks like it means a "a gift from God to you." Not a natural gift, like air, water, food; but a gift that was specific to the needs; a gift that was designed to make them stronger, wiser, more loving; something spiritual, but with total practical application. It wasn't specified what the gift was; it was a blank check, based on what the needs were. And, it wasn't just a 'Hope you are all doing well!' sort of greeting, either. That's covered in the rest of the letter.
I've been rolling this one around in my head. I don't think that Paul was just tossing in some extra words for form's sake. Instead, I think that what he was doing was SENDING to the church: XARIS and IRENE, grace and peace. 
Look I know it's easier to type on a blog than to use a quill pen on papyrus, but this goofy cat just walked across the keyboard, and I ALMOST lost what I had written. 
Maybe if Paul wrote me a letter that started "Grace" he'd give me the supernatural spiritual power to refuse the cat permission to sit on me until I finished my blog.
BUT: Yeah, I think that's kind of what he did. I think that when he wrote "Grace and Peace" he wasn't just hoping they would have peace, and that some grace would come their way. I think he was actually expecting that through the receiving and reading of the letter, the church would experience a power gift according to their need, and peace, which they certainly needed.
And I'll stop there. I've got a cat on me.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Grace and Peace

I'm still in a study of I Thessalonians 1. In fact, I'm still on verse 1. But today is different from yesterday. Which is kind of apparent, hey?  But let me point out a couple of ways that today is differnt from yesterday.
For one, it's Friday. and from now on, all Fridays are Red Fridays. Remember Everyone Deployed, until they all come home.
For another, I've decided that the music to listen to while I'm writing is better to be Brooks Williams on Pandora, as opposed to worship music. It's not that I have anything against worship music; it's just that the function of the music is largely to drown out the sound of the kids and not to distract me, and the LOVELY acoustic guitar licks of Brooks Williams do a much better job of that than worship music. Elevator music for the soul? Nah. It's just that it's soothing, delightful, and it doesn't demand my attention the way that worship music does from time to time.
And another thing that's different is that I have abandoned my previous posture of non-scholarly study; specifically, I needed to go to the Greek. The awful, awful experience I had at seminary was mitigated in that I did have some exposure to Greek, under the teaching of Chip Hayes, a graduate student who was one of the most authentic Christians I studied under, and maybe the only one who started his classes with prayer.
But I don't want to comment on that time anymore at the present. Except to say, I wonder where Chip Hayes is now?
And I've got to stop for a bit; my hands are shaking and I'm feeling like I'm having a blood sugar crisis. 
I'm not sure what the protocol is for blogging while under blood sugar alerts. Mine was 87, which isn't too low, but it was enough to zap me for a while. Back up to 114 an hour later but I still feel bad.
Think I'm gonna haveta let this one ride for a while...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reading I Thessalonians 1

I'm reading Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy's letter to the church at Thessalonica. And I'm trying to break it down into little chunks so i can understand it. And I'm trying to put that into this blog, and I'm doing it with a needy cat in my lap. I wonder if Paul ever had to deal with a needy cat?

And the first thing that strikes me is that the grammar is sort of strange. If I was writing to Liberty Church, I'd write it "To the church  of God in Marietta." Not that Liberty is the only church in Marietta, nor is Liberty a part of the denomination called the Church of God.
But the letter says 'church OF the Thessalonians' 
'IN God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.'

I really don't want to put a whole lot of emphasis on prepositions, since it's been 30 years since I took Greek and I didn't study then, and I'm not pulling out my Greek New Testament, and I'm not even comparing the NASV with the NIV.
But let's just pretend that I did.
church of the thessalonians. Yeah, I can do that. It's the church composed of thessalonians. I don't have to stretch at all to understand it.
but: the church IN God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ? Behold, I will hide nothing from you: I'm not even looking at the opening to the other letters to see how this compares with the other openings. I'm just gonna meditate on what it means. God is in the church; the church is in God. Are those equivalent statements?
AHA AHA AHA! Here comes the first sho 'nuff point that I want to make: I believe I have observed some confusion, or maybe just sloppy language, but maybe sloppy theology, about who it is we are worshiping. Now, maybe that comes from listening to prayers that weren't particularly well thought out. But this letter is pretty clear: Gods the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some of the cults are pretty clear about who they aren't worshiping. We had a couple in the house a few weeks ago who were Jehovah's Witnesses, and they don't believe Jesus is God. And compared to that kind of defining clarity, I guess what I'm talking about has little significance.But:
The Father is God, and 
The Son is God, and
The Holy Spirit is God.
And the Father is not the Son is not the Holy Spirit.
I do NOT understand the Trinity.
I just believe that the Trinity is, and that there is a difference between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
I ain't up to being on Jeopardy or getting grilled to pieces about the particulars. It's just what the Creeds say, and it's really, really clear to me that the Bible says that Jesus is God, and that the Spirit is separate from both the Father and the Son.
I've got to stop now; my brain is full.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

It only makes sense when it's irrational

Saturday, April 6, 2013

I've been sober now for over 25 years; 9227 days, in fact, if the counter on my desktop is accurate. 
I didn't quit because I wanted to join a neat club, although I have joked that the reason I wanted to join AA was so I could hang around with people with tattoos and and have to worry about getting beat up. I quit because I was desperate. 
I quit a LOT of times because I was desperate.
And then, after a couple of days, I wouldn't be desperate anymore, so I'd drink again; or after a week (don't know how long I might have pulled off THAT much dry time) I'd be desperate, but this time desperate for a drink, so I'd drink again. And I'd drink until the next time I was desperate.
But what made me quit, and STAY quit, was not desperation; it was the slight tingle of hope. I went to a meeting, and I heard Ron talk about what it had been like, and what had happened,and what it was like now, and I got this idea, that maybe this thing might work for me.
And it did.
On several levels.
The first level it worked on was this: I took my last drink on January 1, 1988, went to my first meeting on January 4, 1988, and I haven't had a drink for 9227 days. But not-drinking is just a necessary but not sufficient condition for sobriety, defining sobriety as a way of life that leads to peace with God and fellow man,and gives one the option of being happy, joyous, and free.
But it worked on other levels, too.
I THINK the next level it worked on was showing me the defenses I had erected to hide and protect myself, or more specifically,showing me that they didn't work.
And the way that happened was this: In the program where I got sober (Alcoholics Victorious, an explicitly Christian version of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous), at the beginning of every meeting, we went around the room and introduced ourselves. The classic meeting intro/greeting is "My name is Bill, and I'm an alcoholic." "Hi, Bill!"
And during the introductions, I would cry. I didn't understand, at first. But then I realized that I had spent so much energy and resources on hiding and denying the fact that I was an alcoholic; and yet, here, I was recognized, and acknowledged, and accepted as an alcoholic.  When they said "Hi, Pat!" They were saying, yes, you are an alcoholic, and you recognize that, and we are alcoholics, too, and we recognize that, and we are NOT going to reject you or mistreat you, we are accepting you at and because of your point of weakness. Hi, Pat. We know what you have been through, we've been through it ourselves, and you don't have to explain it, but you can tell us about it if you want to, and you'll still be a part of us, and we'll still be here.
Wham! All the stuff I had used to make myself special dropped into insignificance. The fact that I had the coolest jeans in the room. The fact that I had a master's degree in counselling. It didn't matter.
Because my greatest failures didn't matter, either. And all of my cool stuff had just been defenses to hide my failures, and all my failures just went away. Now I could have jeans that were just jeans, comfortable clothes that fit me nicely, not a symbol of coolness.
That was maybe the first major deliverance I had from the pattern of lies that had kept me in pain and drinking to stop the pain, and then in pain from the drinking. It wasn't the last deliverance, though; I don't know what the last deliverance is, because I haven't had it yet. But, one of the MAJOR additional deliverances was this: My best thinking brought me here. Whether it was doing the right things for the wrong reasons, doing the wrong things for the right reasons, doing the same things over and over and expecting different results, WHATEVER: it all lead to the same conclusion: it was my best thinking, and acting on that thinking, that brought me to the point of utter hopelessness. And then, because God is, a miracle happened.
So now, how do I know when my best thinking is leading me into a pit or to a mountain top? Well, the first thing I learned was to look at the guys who had made it, and do what they did. Then I learned to shut up and listen. Then I learned that wise people had something to offer me. Then I learned that stupid people had something to offer me. Then I learned a lot more stuff, and eventually I learned that my thinking was better. 
But it can still go wrong, so: again, I ask the question, how do I know if my best thinking is taking me to the pit or to the mountain top? And I suppose the answer is this: look for signposts. Take headings. Ask others. Prove all things; hold fast to that which is true. And don't forget to sk for help; and don't forget to trust in Him.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A short note about typos

I've noticed that my typos are significantly more numerous than they have been in the past. Not just here, but everywhere I type.
Well, I think it COULD be because I cut off the end joint of the middle finger of my right hand.
I just ain't able to hit the keys with that finger like I useta, and it's thrown me off. My ring finger is gradually taking up the slack, but until I get the new habits well developed, It's gonna be clunky.

The next circle

And it's Friday.
How's the circle going?
Well, it's doing just fine.
I received encouragement and direction for my home group leader, Andrew.
Then I received extensive counsel via email from my pastor PJ, and after working through basic issues, met with him and Andrew and Chuck, the care pastor for our service.
And that was a good circle.
PJ chewed on me; he knows I'm chewable, and that I take him seriously.
Wanna know what my sin was?
Wanna tell me what YOUR sin is, first? No?
well, I'll tell you: it's that I let things go, and then over-react. 
Okay. I can deal with that.
Defend it? No way. 
Why would I ask somebody to tell me how to do the right thing, and then spend my time telling them I already knew how to do the right thing? I'm after healing. I ain't tryin' ta justify myself. There's nobody I care to justify myself to; either my behavior commends itself, or it doesn't, and if I want to get any better, I've got to let my circle take the log out of my eye. 
So: I had to write guidelines for my house.
I hate that. I hate to put down in writing how we are supposed to act.
But evidently, we haven't been able to function without it, so, there ya have it.
And so I wrote them, made some changes requested by my circle, and sent them to Vanessa, and she's going to take a look at them as well.
And we'll meet, and receive more counsel, and then, do the next right thing.

Monday, April 1, 2013

 April Fools Day, 2013

Writing about the unspeakable, the unbearable, about that which cannot be contemplated.
Our innermost circle, I suppose, consists of just one person, and that is ourseves.
Them I think, if we want to go on a path of truth, the next person we add to our circle consists of God.
In fact, that may be a sign as to whether we are really looking to find truth in the circle. Get this: if what we really want is for people to know,and to make us feel better, and be on our SIDE!!!, then we will likely pick someone we know is going to fit in with what we already believe.
On the other hand, if we are seeking truth. maybe the next person we include in the circle is God. This is a tough one, because there is ALL KINDS of noise we can generate to block what God wants to say to us, even if we do include Him in as the next member of the circle. See, I think that LAW (grinding sound) is a good way of inviting God into the conversation without really having to listen to anything He has to say.
Now, I don't want to toss out Law either; I can recall at least two occasions when the Law kept me from doing something bad.Both incidents were when I was a 19 year old Christian, didn't have a really great grounding of soil. And I was sitting in my barracks room, and I get this thought: Hey, if you really believed, you could walk out the window and not get hurt. So if you don't,that means you don't have the faith. And yer supposed to have faith. But you don't. And then I reached way back in some unremembered part of the Bible,and said: I'm not supposed to put the Lord to the test." I didn't know where  that was, but it was some Law, and it did me good.
And then there was the time, shortly after that, when I was horribly convicted about masturbation; and I came across the scripture that says if yer eye offend you, pluck it out. So, I'm thinking, well maybe I should castrate myself so I wouldn't think about sex all the time. No, this was some really, really heavy duty struggle going on here! On the one hand, I hated the fantasy imagery that went into the act of masturbation. I wanted to be clean and pure. I wanted to look at women, and not have my immediate thoughts be about what kind of sexual fun I could have with those women.So, maybe I needed to castrate myself. Boy, I really, really didn't want to castrate myself! I finally flashed back to some old Testament law that said a priest had to be complete in body, and I held onto that for a LONG time, carefully not looking it up, so that I couldn't find that the verse mentioned something different.
I think there was SOME God I admitted into those early circles, even though I was really just looking for law. Wasn't until much later that I got the entire context of the temptation in the wilderness, and not putting the Lord God to the test; and much, MUCH later before I realized that my lust didn't live in my penis and testicles; it was a pattern of thought, and that most DEFINITELY was something that needed to get dumped.
And as to the unspeakable, unbearable: things get resolved. And until they do, hold on to what you have.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Shelter of His Wings

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My firstborn son, SGT Eli Jordan Patterson, has to return to his unit today. He will be leaving his beautiful wife, Courtney Fisher Patterson and his firstborn son, Heath Jordan Patterson, to serve his country.
But it's not nearly as bleak as it sounds. Courtney's father recently moved from New York to a beautiful and spacious house on the Fulton/Cherokee line, and Courtney and Heath, and Jordan when he can get away from Army duties before deploying to Afghanistan, will be living in the basement apartment. 
Living is not really the word I want to use. I want to use the word, sheltered. But when you hear it, don't think of it as 'homeless shelter,' just a place where the rain doesn't get you wet. Think of it as comfort, sheltering under His wings.
Psalm 91: 4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 
Courtney's father on earth is a good, loving, strong provider. The term "apple of the eye" has another translation, "daughter of the eye," and as the father of a daughter, I get this, oh, boy, do I ever get this. He and I would both infinitely prefer that Courtney and Jordan and Heath be able to be together, but we both recognize that Jordan is a man who has made a commitment to the security of his country, and is now discharging that duty, and he would not be the man that he is if he were to seek to avoid his duty, no matter that it tears at him to drive away from his sweet, sweet wife and his sweet sweet son.
Listen: you who know me know that I would rip out walls and throw together plumbing in order to provide a place for Courtney and Heath. But even if I were to do that, (hard for me to admit) it would not be the same for her. She is safe and loved in the house of her father.
And I can visit, and hopefully I can baby sit. But when my visits are over, and my baby sitting is done, I can return to my home in peace, knowing that Courtney and Heath are safe and loved in the house of her father.
Feasting on locusts and wild honey,


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Revisiting the scene of the accident

This is probably going to be a difficult blog to write.
Starting about 2002, I began reloading ammo for handguns. It was a way of saving lots of money, but more than that, it was I hobby I took pride in. And that sentence ends with a preposition, but I don't care, this is MY blog. 
I started out just loading for the .45, and as time went on I added different calibers: 9 mm, .38/.357, and even a couple of rifle calibers. I bought more sophisticated equipment, and I cast my own lead bullets. I polished the used brass, tried different powders to see what I could do, and in general just had a lot of fun with the whole project. I did all the work on my work table in the tool shed outdoors, and it was relaxing and productive.
Then I got sick.
But I kept reloading; it was something I could do, and I could get some instant gratification from the loading, and from the shooting, at a time when there wasn't very much in my life that seemed to be working.
And then I got sicker. The insomnia became an overwhelming part of my life; I doubt that there was a single week that went by that I didn't miss one night of sleep, and it got to where my cut-off was four nights; I knew if I had gone that long, I was going to be non-functional. 
But I guess I kept trying to reload, for a while. I certainly wasn't shooting anymore. I still had my guns, but family members didn't really trust me, and so to keep the peace, I stopped shooting. That's not entirely true; it was in part to keep the peace, although the peace was long gone, and the most important part of it never returned; mostly, I guess I stopped because I just couldn't do it anymore. Either pain or meds or insomnia-induced fatigue got in the way of everything I did. I didn't do anything, except go to work and sit. And then they told me I couldn't go to work anymore; and even though it was traumatic, they were right right; I was not functioning as a competent person. At any rate, I stopped going to my reloading bench.
I guess it's been about four years now that I started trying to pull the fragments of my life together. It was three years ago that we finally, formally put an end to a 32 year marriage. And a year and a half ago, I married my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa. And a year ago, this month, I decided that even though I was still suffering from chronic pain, I wanted to get off the daily doses of narcotics, and try to be And six months ago, I learned that if I lost weight, I might be able to breathe again, so I started doing that. And I've been trying to do other things as well, to return to a functional life.
And today, I decided I was going to start reloading again. There has been a severe ammunition shortage, and I've got all the supplies I need to make thousands of rounds, and I'm trying to interest my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa in shooting, and there are probably other reasons; but mostly, reloading would be another sign that I was getting my life back.
So I went out to the tool shed, which I had avoided for years, and I took a look at my reloading equipment; it was awful. I had broken things; I had pieces of equipment laying all over; my supplies, at one time so very well organized and coherent, were chaotic, and I couldn't even get my brass polishing tumbler to work. 
Right now, all that together is saying this to me: this is how sick you were. This is how sick you were. You couldn't take care of your stuff, you couldn't take care of your self, and there was no one who could take care of you, and so it all disintegrated.
Now, that is NOT the final word. The truth? I'm a little bit excited about buying a new brass tumbler, and some of the other new supplies I need to get organized. The tumbler was the only bit of equipment with a motor; evidently I had ordered another handle to the bullet mold as a replacement to the one I broke. And whether my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa goes shooting with me or not, I know I have some hours of peaceful, productive time ahead of me. So, in a little bit, it's going to be blue skies and sunshine.
But right now, at this moment, I'm having to face how sick I was, and remembering what I've lost ain't no fun at all.

It's Charlie Poor, Not Poor Charlie

You never really know under what circumstances you are going to meet one of the really special ones. Maybe we are all special ones, and there's just too much mud caked on us for it to show. But, at any rate, I met one of the special ones about twenty years ago, and this past Sunday, March  3, 2013, we had his memorial service. Charlie Poor. That was his earth name; his real name was Charlie Overflowing With Riches and Spreading Them Around to Everybody He came In Contact With. 
This is Charlie Poor Story Number One: Charlie wasn't the first of his family I met. That position is held by his son Scott. I met Scott when we were both members of North Georgia Young Men's Vida Nueva #6. My job was to talk about communications. Scott's job was to wait on a table. It wasn't even  my table; but I still can see him, 20 years later, just busting with excitement and joy as he ran around getting drinks and snacks and other goodies for the young men who he was assigned to serve, and Scott taught me in that moment what a joyful servant looked like. 
After that VN weekend, I started working on the teams regularly. And Scott was on the teams regularly, too. Now, there was another young man who was an important part of those early years of the VN movement; his name is Rafe Hyatt. And it was customary for all the adult men talk about what a wonderful young man Rafe was (and he still is a wonderful man, although he really, really old now, heh, heh,heh) and we would say things like, "The only problem with Rafe is that he's not the right age to marry my daughter," and other such witticisms. 
Well after one team meeting, there were a bunch of us, adults and teens, still hanging around, and the Rafe topic had come up, and we were all saying what a fine example he was, and...
....and then I saw Scott sitting in a chair, listening. And I do believe God spoke to me then; and he said "Be careful of how you praise Rafe, because Scott is going to be your Youth Leader when you are Director, and you don't want him to think he is second best." And I got it, I totally got it, and the only real surprise to me was that I had no idea that I was ever going to be a Vida Nueva Director. 
And Scott WAS a wonderful young man, and he is now a wonderful adult man, and I could tell some more stories about him, but I won't because this is about Charlie.
It was maybe a year after God had told me that I was going to be a Director before the V N Council told me the same thing, and I was finally officially in the market for the youth leader. In that time, I had met with Charlie Poor, and immediately discovered I liked him and could trust him. So, I thought to run past him the idea of asking for his input on selecting Scott for the position.Charlie was as straight as it is possible to be. He told me that Scott was like every other teen, in that he had his struggles, but that he had no doubt at all that if I asked him to be the youth leader for VN 11, that he would do a fantastic job. He was right. Scott did a fantastic job. The  single greatest thing I remember about what Scott did: he was supportive of me. He was a paraclete: one who comes along beside to support. Fantastic, solid, humble, cheerful, hard-working young man. And you know what? I learned all of these things about Scott; and as I grew to know Charlie better, it was clear to me where Scott had learned those things. 
This is Charlie Poor Story Number Two: In the fullness of time, Charlie was asked to be Director of a Vida Nueva. And, in the interim, my first-born son, Jordan, had grown into his teen age years, and had gone through VN, and had developed the reputation for reliability and energy that is such a solid part of his character. And I was pleased when Charlie called me and said he was returning the favor: he told me he was planning to ask Jordan to be his youth leader, and he was asking for my input. And I gave Charlie the same report: Jordan, like every other teen, had his struggles, but if Charlie asked him to be the youth leader he would do a fantastic job. I had another request to make of Charlie at the time, though. I told him that if did pick Jordan as youth leader, I wanted to be on the team, too, in a position that was directly subordinate to Jordan. I told him I wanted to be able to show Jordan  submission to authority from the other side. Charlie got it. He totally got it. And he made me Head Table Cha, which I knew how to do from seeing Scott perform as a table cha those many years before, and I got a chance to serve under my son, and it was good. I made T-shirts for all the table chas, with a picture of Grover the Muppet on the front, with the caption "Hello Everybodeee! It is I, your lovable furry Table Cha  (name)!" And on the back of the shirts, I had the visual for Charlie's weekend: the eagle soaring.
This is Charlie Poor Story Number Three: When Richie Casey was Tres Dias Rector, he asked Charlie to be Head Dorm Cha, and I was one of the dorm chas. Charlie wanted us to do some skits for the candidates, in addition to cleaning the toilets, which was pretty cool. And I asked if I could make the t-shirts for the dormchas, and we all agreed that was cool. I scrambled the letters of "dorm cha" so each of us chas had a different name (I was Dr. Macho; somebody else was MachRod, I don't remember the others) and as Head Dorm Cha, Charlie got to be Cheddar O'Ham. And the skits we did were funny; the last one had Charlie introduce each of the others in increasing amounts of protective gear, required depending on how awful the conditions were in the bathroom. And at the end, I started screaming outside the conference room, and then staggered in with ripped clothes, yelling for Richie. They had smeared me with about a dozen brownies, leaving big chunks embedded in  my chest hair; and my story was that I had been cleaning a toilet, when there was an explosion in the next stall that had blown me out of the bathroom. And as soon as I finished saying that, Tony Olivastri came in patting his tummy, and saying, "Well, that feels better!" And I screamed "RICHEY!! I NEED A HUG!" and ran toward him, and Richey ran out of the room. It was funny! maybe you had to have been there...
And this is Charlie Poor Story Number Four, and the last: When Charlie was VN Director, he would call the house to speak to Jordan quite often, and if I answered the phone, we'd chat a bit before I passed it to Jordan. One time, I asked him how it was going with the team meeting process, and he told me that it was okay, but that there just seemed to always be somebody who was complaining about something, and form my own experience, I was pretty sure he was talking about adults who had little patience with teens. So I made a suggestion: "Tell 'em to go pound sand up their butt." Charlie busted out laughing. I guess he had never considered doing that. I assured him that it was a useful strategy to keep in mind. And I wrote him a palanca note at the first team meeting with the acronym: GPSUYB. And then for the weekend, I brought him a leather mallet that came from my father's wood shop and a bag of sand, and a note that said "In case it comes up on the weekend, I want you to be prepared to provide the tools." Charlie appreciated it; and though I CANNOT imagine him ever really telling anyone to do that,  I know that if he did, they would receive it in good spirits. So, if you should happen to be looking trough some of the old palanca Charlie picked up over the years, and you find a leather mallet, either cherish it for yourself, or, tell me to come get it, and I will. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It can go wrong in a hurry

In my last post, I talked about carrying baggage in war. If ya didn't read it, you should, but to sum up: it's a bad idea. 
Now, there IS a way to take loot that's not gonna slow the troops down, and that way requires that the troops trust the leaders. Instead of each individual trooper grabbing whatever was valuable, if everybody agrees that the really valuable items (in the case of Jericho, that would be gold and silver  and bronze and iron ) will all be collected for the common good, then nobody gets distracted when it's clobberin' time, and everybody knows that the good stuff is cared for until it's distribution time. And that's the arrangement we find at Jericho. All it requires is trust.
And it didn't work, because there was this one guy who didn't trust the leadership. His name was Achan, which translates as "I'm gonna really mess things up for my buddies because I'm selfish and don't trust Joshua to take care of me" (variant reading...). And Achan took some stuff, and  I'll talk about the significance of what he took later.
So: it's after Jericho. With God's help, the walls came a tumblin' down, and Joshua's army (between 20 and forty thousand fighters, depending on how many troops are in an eleph ) stomp Jericho and burn it.  And Joshua sends some troops to check out Ai, and they come back and say: It's too small to take everybody. Just send a few thousand to take it.
And here, it becomes speculation on my part, but it's speculation based on experience. 
What's going through the minds of those three thousand who went to Ai? Don't know; but I do know what would be going through the minds of any groups of people I've ever had contact with under similar circumstances" "Why do WE always get stuck with the dirty work? "
Maybe the three thousand picked to go to Ai were the three thousand who had distinguished themselves in some way in Jericho. In that case: "Oh, so this is our reward for doing well? We get picked to fight again? All those other guys, they didn't do squat in Jericho, we were the ones who stomped it flat, and so now instead of making THEM do the work, they get to sit back and eat pickled herring while we sweat and bleed. "
Maybe the three thousand were the malcontents. Maybe Joshua said to sub-commanders, hey, each one of you give me about a hundred men to go form a new unit to go do some fighting. And each one of the sub commanders told their sub-sub commanders, and so forth, until it got down to squad level, and then who is the squad leader gonna pick? His best fighter? Nope. He's gonna pick the odds and sods, guys who fall over their feet, guys he's happy to get rid of. In which case: "That crummy sergeant has it in for me. He's always picking on me, and now he's trying to get me killed. Well, somebody's gonna get killed, but it ain't gonna be ME!"
Okay, there's no way of KNOWING what was going through the minds of the three thousand, because the Bible is silent on the issue, but we DO know what happened to them. And from knowing what happened we can make a GUESS, just a GUESS (!) about their morale:
"There's nothing in it for me. Even if I bust my hump to whack this little town, there's nothing in it worth having, and what IS there is going into the common pot, so it doesn't make any difference what I do. And meanwhile, all those guys sitting back at the tents are eating pizza, and they are going to get the same cut as I am, so I'm gonna hang back, just a bit."
Look, it's just a guess, okay?
But whatever was going through their minds before the attack, it's pretty clear what went through their minds after the attack: RUN AWAY!!!!!
And this we know because the men of Ai killed 36 of them on the spot, and even though that was only a little more than one out of a hundred, the rest ran. And people who know a lot more about battles than I do say you always lose more troops in a rout than you do in an actual battle. Troops who have been routed throw down heavy things, like swords and spears and shields and helmets, and run. And they make easy targets for the pursuers, because they aren't even trying to defend themselves; they are just trying to get away. If you are running in panic, you don't look where you put your feet, so you trip on stuff, and fall down, and then get a spear in your guts. If you are running in panic, you don't look around to see what's happening back there because you are too terrified, so you don't zig-zag, so the spears and arrows and rocks hit you. If you are running in panic, and there is a cliff in front of you, you don't see it until you are doing the Wiley Coyote.
Okay, that's the history part, it's all in Joshua 7.
Now, am I supposed to tell you about the modernspiritual applications, or are you supposed to figure it out on your own?

Feasting on locusts and wild honey,


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Carrying baggage in war

You know how much weight an infantryman packs? A lot. There are three basic conditions for load classifications: Fighting load, for when imminent combat is expected; the Approach March load, used when they have to get somewhere and take some food along; and the Emergency Approach March load, when they have to carry everything because re-supply may be a problem. Fighting load weight: 62 pounds. Approach March  load weight: 95 pounds. Emergency Approach March load weight: 128 pounds. (For more details, read my source, The Modern Warrior's Combat Load,

Now, back in the old days (like pre 1900 for modern armies), the troops frequently supported themselves off the land, both in terms of what they ate and in terms of their pay. Rudyard Kipling wrote about it in "Loot": 'That's the thing that makes the boys get up and shoot.' Now, by the time he wrote it, it wasn't policy of the British Army to do that, but evidently the tradition lived on.
And some of the old armies had these massive trains of hangers-on, who made their living off the army, providing various (ahem) services, and some of them just functioned as a way to turn the loot into cash or jewels or something else easy to carry. That's because loot was often pots and pans and chairs and tables and bed frames and laundry and geese and cows. Pretty difficult to lug around. But if the troops DIDN'T lug it around, then somebody else was going to steal it while they were out fighting. So, getting the loot was the first task, getting it turned into something portable was the second task. Why did pirates wear ear rings? It was a handy way of carrying their loot.
And in more than one engagement, an initial victory was turned into defeat because of loot. In the Civil War, Confederate general Jubal Early's men stomped Union commander Phil Sheridan's troops into the ground at Cedar Creek (October 1864), sending the Union troops running. HOWEVER!!!! they did not pursue, they stopped to loot the camp (they were, in fairness, on starvation rations) and Sheridan rallied the Union troops, counter-attacked, and handed Early a huge defeat. Had Early's men pursued, they could have just about had their way with the fleeing Union troops; people who know warfare a lot better than i do say you always suffer more casualties in an undisciplined retreat than you do in a battle.
Which brings me to Jericho and Ai. 
Jericho was a walled city. That doesn't mean so much to us, in the time of bombers and artillery, but if you've ever seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you'll remember the scene where the knights run up against the castle and hit the walls with their swords. That's kind of what it would be like to assault a walled city. Run up on it, and get nasty things dumped on your head, or worse. 
So, leave it alone. Right? Well, not so much. Ya see, if ya leave a stronghold behind you, your enemy can ALWAYS launch an attack from there. You either have to completely cut off the city, and starve it out, which takes a long long time, or you force the walls or find a secret way in (like David did through the water tunnels) or get somebody to betray the city from you, or if you are at Troy, you build a wooden horse. Or if you are in a Monty Python movie, a wooden rabbit. Or badger. But you CAN'T, you CAN'T leave a strong point in your rear. The enemy will use it to collect their troops, who get to sleep inside and eat home cooked meals and have the blacksmith sharpen their weapons, and then when they have gathered enough guys, they come in and smack you down and dance. 
Now, Joshua had the city, because God gave it to him - and the walls came a tumblin' down - and he took care of business. Almost perfectly. See, God had said: don't take any of their stuff. Kill it, burn it, leave it. Lots of other guys have taught lessons on not being tainted with the goods of the city, and I won't go into that. I'm just thinking about...the impact of looting on a mobile army. Sure, it makes sense to us (if we are in the second grade) that we shouldn't take the idols of the city of Jericho...but why not take the sheep and goats and cows and chickens (no pigs, please, we're Jews)? fast can your mobile army move? If you are carrying the Fighting Load (remember that?), you can move pretty fast. But what if you are carrying, or even herding, the sheep and the goats and the cows and the chickens? Well, bud, you are moving at the speed of a chicken. Ever tried to herd a flock of chickens? Remember all those movies where the car chase gets interrupted because the sheep are in the road? Take the livestock, and you just transformed from a mobile army into non-mobile herders. And that's a great way to become extinct.
BUT, I'll talk more about that next time, when I talk about what happened at Ai.

Feeding on locusts and wild honey,

I go to church with my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa and our two munchkins Kenneth (8) and Alicia (6) on Saturday at 5 PM. That's because our church has services once on Friday, twice on Saturday, and four times on Sunday, and you pick which service you want to belong to based on where your friends are, or when the youth meet, or when you want to go over the river and through the woods to visit somebody. Each service has a different name; the name of my service is Five Alive.
Last week, it wasn't easy getting to church on time on Saturday. I had a really good reason to be late, but my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa wouldn't cooperate, so that didn't make us late. So then Vanessa had a pitiful reason to be late (stopping to buy food for home group), and I cooperated, but she was pretty quick, so that didn't make us late.
So even though it wasn't easy, we weren't late. Or not by much.
But then Vanessa sat way in the back. Look, I said, there's Liz. Why don't we go sit with her? We can scoot down this row, and go up the side aisle, and sit right next to her. 
So she gave me a look, but she cooperated, and so we did that.
And then I was standing singing praises, and noticed Kenneth was sitting down, so I poked him with my stick. (I really like my stick. It helps me get around, makes people cut me ALL KINDS of slack that I don't really need, is a great kid poker, and since it's a 1" oak rod, I can whack somebody with it if I need to. Or want to.)
So, anyway, I poked Kenneth, who was sitting down, with my stick.
He looked at me. It's a natural reaction when you are eight and get poked in the ribs with an oak stick. 
I told him, Do what I do.
By which he understood that I meant, stand up when I'm standing up, and sit down when I'm sitting down.
And he stood up.
End of story.
Well, not so much.
See, when I told him "Do what I do," he understood my meaning of 'stand when I stand, sit when I sit.'
But what I understood was that I was re-stating my parenting responsibilities to him.
You want to know how many times as a child, teen, and young man I heard "Do what I say, not what I do?" No, of course you don't want to know that. Why would you want to know how many times I heard something really stupid and perfectly designed to strip away the moral authority of the person who was saying it to me?I don't even want to to know how many times I heard that. What's more, I DON'T know how many times I heard it, but I heard it enough to learn to hate the phrase.
So when I told Kenneth, "Do what I do," I was not merely providing him with an instruction; I was providing myself with a righteous standard. I was affirming that i wanted to live my life in such a way that Kenneth would WANT to emulate it, and that would help him to keep on the good side of a LOT of the "if only " statements: "If only I hadn't;" "If only I had."
And so I thought about that.
And then we sang the chorus, "I give myself away, I give myself away, so You can use me."
Lovely song.
It moved Katrina Campbell, one of our care pastors. And she took the microphone and said, sing it again, and if you need to really do that, then do it. And if you need to come down front to give yourself away, then do that, too.
She said it better than I just wrote.
And some people went down front.
And I didn't think about it too much; I just grabbed Kenneth, and said, help me get down front. And I leaned on his bony little eight year old shoulder with one hand, and my stick with the other, and Kenneth proudly helped old man Papa Pat down front, and then helped me stand up while I sang, I give myself away, so You can use me.
And I thought some more. And then I had something I wanted to share, but Andrew (the elder who administers our home group) got to the microphone before I did.
And what he said was that a lot of us may feel ground down by the sand, and smashed on the beach, but the truth was that there was all this lovely water that we were to float in, and that would move us along. He said, SURF'S UP!
He said it better than I just wrote.
And then I took the microphone, and pulled Kenneth in front of me so everybody could see him. And I told everybody that I thought children should be attentive and respectful during worship, and so I poked Kenneth with a stick. And then I told them about how I realized that in telling him to do what I do, etcetera, see above paragraph for complete exegesis.
And then I told them about my reaction when the Lord moved Katrina (I almost cried, but didn't) and came down front, and sang; and how I NEEDED Kenneth to provide me with the incentive and the strength to be the man that he would want to emulate.
And then I told them about how I realized that I was singing, I give myself away, so You can use me, and how when I realized what I was singing, I said to myself, ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FREAKIN' MIND? YOU ARE ASKING GOD TO USE YOU! YOU ASK GOD TO USE YOU, AND HE JUST MIGHT DO IT!!!!
And then I told them that I would really prefer just to take it easy and not do anything, but that I eally didn't have that as an option, because Kenneth needed to have an example of how he should live. So with him as an incentive and as a help, I was just going to have to get with the program. And I turned to Andrew, and said, SURF'S UP, BABY!
I didn't say it better than I just wrote.
So then I sat down.
And in the next couple of minutes, two things happened: 
1. A young woman, don't know her name, but she uses a cane, tapped me on the shoulder, and told me how she had seen me poke Kenneth with my stick, and how it ministered to her. She had been a single parent for a while, and she really wasn't sure if she was doing the right things to raise her son. And I shared with her how it wasn't until my mid 30's that I saw mature, godly, righteous men, lifting their hands and singing praises to God, and I realized how that was an example for ME.
2. Spencer, one of the other care pastors, said, We have a second time visitor! Welcome, Matthew! And I turned around, and it was Matthew, Vanessa's 29 year old son. So Matthew was there to see me talk about Kenneth and being an example. And he heard the youth pastor Stefan give the message from Psalm 2 about being defiant toward God, and how God's power manifested itself, and how people who live in accord with God's will are stable. And I prayed with Matthew afterward, he wanted some stability and some good influences in his life. So we prayed that. And then I got one of those thoughts, which I shall state in a moment.
AND then we went to home group, and Matthew went with us; the video was Andy Stanley teaching about when it's not time to pray, but to do; and how when someone is being irresponsible, we don't need to pray about it, we need to confront them about it. It was an uplifting message, not a condemning message
And then we went home.
And when we got there, I told Vanessa about the thought I had while talking and praying with Matthew, which is, why don't I take Matthew for breakfast every week or so? And she grabbed me and kissed me so hard my lips bled.
Not really. But I could tell she was thinking about it, because the idea spoke to her deep desire to be able to do something meaningful for Matthew. 
So she told Matthew about it when he called her on Monday, and he called me the next night, and Tuesday at 11:30 Matthew and I had lunch at the Waffle House after he got out of his morning class.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Even though you can worship God out in the woods, it's not very likely that Katrina and Andrew and Stefan and Andy Stanley and a lady with a cane and a worship team and a person to eat lunch with are going to be in the same woods at the same time. So, cooperate, and go to church.

Feasting on locusts and wild honey,