30 April 2009


Greetings Dear Readers,

As some of you know I have recently influenced by an infusion of Australian culture into my life. One of the things that had fascinated me for years is Vegemite®. For those who do not know what it is, Vegemite® is a savory yeast spread produced by Kraft Foods. I had tried it years ago on a cracker. Apparently this is an error. It tasted salty, strong, and yeasty but I kind of liked it. I did not like it enough to consume it daily as many Australians do but I liked it.

I would bring up the subject from time to time with friends and most have a hesitant to outright disgust reaction to it. Until recently my interaction with true Australians was limited as was my knowledge of the way in which they do things. We put spreads on a cracker. They mostly do not and they call crackers biscuits. What we call biscuits they do not really have and for the record what we call cookies they call biscuits as well. I digress.

Currently there is a rumor that the US FDA has restricted the transport of Vegemite into the US. According to SNOPES (http://www.snopes.com/food/warnings/vegemite.asp) this is not true. While retailers are having trouble getting it, private persons may bring it in freely. Imagine the reaction of the Australian resident of my home when she thought that she could not get vegemite. I promptly bought a 2.5kg tub of it. I will say that her mental stability was at least challenged. I made the error of suggesting Marmite®, another yeast extract product that except for ingredients, taste, and texture is in no way similar to Vegemite®. If I disappear mysteriously it would be because said Aussie Chic has done away with me for mentioning Marmite® and Vegemite® in the same sentence. Oh dear I just did it again. I am probably doomed.

There is another thing that I researched that is just plain bollix. Apparently someone did a mockup of Vegemite Toast Crunch as a cereal. The idea is absurd and it seems that the idea is a spoof of Cinnamon Toast Crunch®. The thing is that I cannot imagine liking it and even the picture looks unappetizing.

I guess I digressed again. You see there is a proper way to eat Vegemite®. You put it on toast that has been properly saturated with margarine. Note that I said margarine not butter. I was clearly instructed that the difference is important. When I had my first slice of properly prepared Vegemite® toast I was hooked. It is excellent and addictive. The song is catchy. It tastes good. It also is rich in vitamin D. It is true that Vegemite is a polarizing agent. People either love it or hate it. One can also make Vegemite sandwiches. This is more like two slices of Vegemite® toast but the bread is not toasted. If you can find it, I urge you to try it. After all….

We're happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be.
We all enjoy our Vegemite
For breakfast, lunch, and tea.
Our mother says we're growing
stronger every single week.
Because we love our Vegemite.
We all adore our Vegemite.
It puts a rose in every cheek!

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

27 April 2009

The Edge

Greetings Dear Readers,

Years ago I was out walking with a friend. We were at a gorge that led to a waterfall and this friend found a birch tree that hung out over the edge of the gorge. Of course the friend had to climb out onto that tree and lay in it over the gorge. I recently saw a picture of that same friend on a social networking site, hanging over a river in a tree. It caused me to think of the pattern of their life and that they seem to be constantly seeking the edges of things. I asked this person once why they did such things and they said it was because they wanted to “suck the marrow out of life.”

I have another friend who has two sons. One of them is the kind of guy who is always “safe.” He does what he must and takes few risks. His brother is just the opposite. He pushes the edges of obedience and looks for what he can get away with rather than thinking about what is best.

We all have a reason for the things we do, and to us the reason always seems rational. For years I have been demanding and less than tolerant of the differences in others that are too close to the edge for me. In other areas I have been the one on the edge, not considering if I was there for the right reasons. We run to things that can hurt us, often not knowing why. When run from things that can protect us for the exact same reasons. We damage ourselves because the inner pain is so much worse than the pain we inflict on ourselves and others.

Like so many things, I am learning that the truth is somewhere in the middle. I do not need a cocoon, nor do I need to run to danger to such the marrow out of life. When Thoreau said this, he was commenting on his choice to live deliberately. We must always know why we do what we do. We must examine our choices in light of who we claim to be. As a Christ follower, I must make my choices based on where I think Christ leads and not on what I think will quiet the inner voices or stem the tide of my dissatisfaction. As I learn that the truth is less at the extremes I also learn that the path is far narrower than I first believed. I can only follow what I believe to be right; not what is safe, exciting, convenient, or even understandable. I must be certain that the only thing I seek whether it is on the edge or in the middle is Christ.

I must also trust that others are doing the same even when I think they are absolutely wrong. I realize that this raises questions about how we measure what is wrong because I disagree with it, therefore, making it not wrong but my preference and what is WRONG based on absolute values. I will discuss this more later. For now, I will look again at the picture of my friend hanging over the edge and realize that perhaps the literal edges are not nearly as dangerous as the spiritual ones.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

22 April 2009

A Response from and answer to Just Curious, Part 2

Greetings Dear Readers and Just Curious,

This is part 2 of my response to Just Curious’ dialogue. Please read Part 1 and our initial dialogue earlier in this blog to get the full context. I value the questions that Just Curious is asking and feel all can benefit from an open discussion of these issues. You are all invited to participate.

Just Curious: Now that I've asked that question, which is foremost on my mind, this is the way that I see things. I still feel like I must attend traditional church to be doing the right thing based on what you've said. I also feel like many people before us have tried to, with love and humility; tell The Church that they must stop doing business as usual. And yet: Churches get fat, rich, and happy, they decide that the pastor is so great that he deserves to be making as much or more than a big business CEO, they package their product and sell it on TV or the internet FOR profit, whatever they might say to pretend that it's not for that, they get larger and larger by convincing people that it's their way or Hell, and decide to spend millions of dollars on fantastic new buildings, but fall short on their ministry budgets. Last, but not least, the normal way of doing things in this place where we're supposed to be learning better how to be like Jesus is to spoon-feed ideas to people without much discussion at all, and I know that Jesus was a fan of the sit down around the dinner table and talk about it method.

Aramis: I want to say that I hear and share your frustration with many of the things that happen in many churches. I do not think that you “must” attend traditional church in order to be doing what it right. There are some very non-traditional churches out there but they can be hard to find. I visited a true house church when I lived in the southern US and they entire point was to stay small, serve the community, and focus on Christ’s definition of who we are to become.

Many people have tried to do the right thing with love and humility. Does their failure mean that the command to be known by our love runs out of power? I do not think that loving people with humility ever loses its power. When Jesus commanded us to love one another and to be identified by our love for each other he was preparing to be crucified. To me making this statement to those who are about to abandon and deny you, just before committing the ultimate act of humility, being crucified for the sins of the world is the strongest argument I can find for continuing to try this approach. I think that the best way to stop the church from doing business as usual is to stay in it and do business unusual. I will speak more to this later.

You are correct that many, I would say even most churches are fat, lazy, money focused and not fulfilling the great commission. I would also say that even in really good churches about 10% of the people do 90% of the work. Jesus experienced the same thing. We know he miraculously fed 5000 people. We know he sent out 700 people to proclaim is his good news. It was the 12 and mores so the women with him who did most of the ministering. Amidst all of this he did not abandon the model but worked to restore it from within.

The commercialism of the church makes me ill. There will always be false teachers and those who truly “take the name of God in vain.” This does not mean say “God damn” but rather means to identify with God for one’s own purposes. I see this every day in the churches that are gilded and have become the modern day money changers. Alas, I also see it myself at times using Christ for my own purposes. As my pastor so often says, we are all crooked sticks. We should not support church leadership that uses Christ for their own purposes. We should do all we can to support church leadership that gets it right.

You are correct the Jesus is a fan of the one on one or small group discussion, but if you look carefully in the gospels there is a balance between that and the public forum. He did both and set a clear example of working within the church model to achieve the great commission. We must be individual workers all rowing in the same direction. We must also be a community. Paul spends a great deal of time telling churches how to behave. If all the people who get what he is saying leave the churches that are not behaving that way, or fail to support the leadership that gets it, how will we ever achieve change?

Just Curious: If we're to love people as Christ did, are we supposed to get angry with people the way that he did too, and isn't any group of leaders that do things this way a modern-day Pharisee?

Aramis: I think that anger at bad leadership is justified. The only time we are commanded to get angry about anything is in Ephesians and that command is coupled with the command to do so without sinning. Before I judge someone else as a Pharisee I need to be sure that I am not violating any of the other commands about dealing with those who offend me. Have I gone to them and told them face to face what offends me? Have I shown them the love that Christ promises will promote unity? I know that I have failed at times to both be and example and to love others beyond their failings. When I see something wrong, I am to attempt to restore the person doing the wrong in a sense of love and humility. There is a process for that.

A final thought. Christ commanded us to love over and over again. He never commands us to be angry but he does command us not to swallow the lies of the Pharisees. I am blessed with a church who’s leadership gets it. Many of the people do not. I will support the leadership and when given opportunity speak soft words of change to those around me. I hope that I have answered your questions Just Curious and I hope the conversation continues.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn, crooked stick in a bundle of crooked sticks

21 April 2009

A Second Response from and to Just Curious, Part 1

Greetings Dear Readers and Just Curious,

After I posted my reply to Just Curious I received another well thought and polite response. Here is part one of a more lengthy dialogue. I have not edited Just Curious in any way, but have broken up his or her writing with my responses. Anyone who wishes to join the conversation may.

Just Curious: Okay, you shot down most everything that I said. I guess I can see your points about most of that. I certainly didn't say that we need to divide The Church more. I don't see why abandoning the current model implies that we must be less unified. I certainly don't think that I know every right way to go about it, but I'm left feeling pained when I walk in or out of a church. It's not because I don't know that God is real or because I don't have faith in Jesus. It's because of the way that they do things.

Aramis: First let me say that my intent was not to “Shoot down” anything you said. Please forgive me if I came across that way. It was only in my heart to speak the truth in love. I know you did not say that the church needed further division. It is the effect of dividing that keeps me in the Church when I see so much that needs fixing. Abandoning the current model may be the right thing to do, but I do not know if that is the best way to heal the body.

It matters very much to me that interaction with churches pains you. Whatever causes that pain, the only source for healing it or dealing with it is in Christ. I would like to know more specifically about what you mean by “the way they do things.” I see many of the flaws in the Church but I do not know which ones cause you pain, but I am willing to listen and address them. I do not claim to speak for the Church or Christ. That would be foolish.Just Curious: If all of this that you say is true though what do you think ought to be done? Loving people as Christ loves them is wonderful, but how is someone like you actively affecting change in your local church by doing that?I guess I should be more specific about it. How do you suppose that love will change the bad practices that you see? I have my own problems with The Church, and I'm sure that you could take issue with those; but first, how do you see things as changing in The Church as you love them in the correct way or as others do the same?

Aramis: I can only answer this with my understanding of the Bible and with my life experience. I will start with the latter. I have cause, given my life experience to totally reject the traditional church. They shoot their wounded, judge, manipulate, coerce, divide, and do great harm. Throughout history they have murdered, stolen, raped, pillage, and burned. I have been rejected, judged, abandoned when I was failing and needed to be “restored in a spirit of love.” My personal experience also causes me great pain when I go to church. I can only imagine how much more it pained Christ to go to the Temple or his local Synagogue. We see the need for change far less than he did. The only answer I can give with integrity is to say that I attempt in my limited capacity to do what Christ did. I will try to address this specifically over the next couple of days. For now I would only submit that we only have one task, following Christ and his example. I will do my best to build my answers on that alone.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Crooked Sticks

Greetings Beloved Readers,

I sat in the loveliest bent wood rocking chair the other day. I was at one of those rustic country stores. It was comfortable, well crafted, and made completely of bent wooden branches. Its price was beyond my current means or I would have brought it home. I am amazed that someone could look at willow branches and conceive such beauty.

Again though, I should not be so amazed. I have a pastor who often, in the gentlest of terms reminds us that we are all “crooked sticks.” No matter how often I see the faults of others, I am looking at them through eyes that never quite focus properly. I am bent, crooked, full of knotholes, and completely fallen. This is not self-abasement. It is recognition that the flaws in others that I see are the very things that Christ will use to create Masterpieces of art.

None of us can point to another and say, “Look how crooked you are.” We are just as crooked. I have spent many years understanding this but often doing a poor job of applying it. We all fail to see the good in others and rather see the faults and use them to make ourselves feel better. Recently I have been confronted with much of my crookedness by those who know me best. They are right and I need to see the bends and kinks in my character.

What worries me most is what we do with other people who we see a crooked sticks. You see, I gather willow branches in my yard to use as kindling in my fire pit. I never think to weave them into useful beauty. Christ, the eternal carpenter gathers us together and from out combined crookedness weaves us, bends further, and creates useful beauty suited for his purposes. Before we cast others onto the woodpile for burning, perhaps we should consider that we are in need of the Carpenter’s touch just as much as they are. Further, if we will show them the kindness and grace that we need, perhaps we can play a part in the Carpenter’s eternal quest to entwine crooked sticks into works of beauty.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn, crooked stick

20 April 2009

Pagans and Tax Collectors

Greetings Dear Readers,

First I would like to note that I have received another thought provoking post from Just Curious. I am crafting a response to post later this week.

Mat 18:15 – 17 “If a believer does something wrong, go, confront him when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have won back that believer. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you so that every accusation may be verified by two or three witnesses. If he ignores these witnesses, tell it to the community of believers. If he also ignores the community, deal with him as you would a heathen or a tax collector.

Who are you angry with? Who do you have something against or harbor ill feelings toward? People will wrong us and we will sometimes, though rarely be completely justified about our anger. Even when we are right we must deal with others with the same grace we wish to receive.

We need to be disciplined in how we deal with the faults we see in others. First we must examine whether our anger is justified. Is the offense worth arguing over? It the wrong done to us something we can forgive graciously to the measure that we need forgiveness from the Father? So often we are offended by the very things that we do to others. Have we examined if we are guilty of the very things we find to be wrong?

The wise thing is to live as peaceably as possible. If we are truly wronged Christ gives us a very specific path to follow. We must walk this path in humility and gentleness. We must walk this path with grace and understanding. What we seek must be the restoration of another to proper relationship with Christ. We cannot focus on our offended feelings, the wrong done to us, or the hurt we feel.

Christ is very clear that we are to go to the individual first. We must do this, one on one, in love and humility. I have done this and it has worked. Others have done this with me and I have both listened and failed to listen. We have no right to harbor resentment against another if we have not followed this first step. The second step, so often left out, is to address the offending party with one or two neutral parties. If you are still striving for peace in a spirit of grace and humility this is often as far as one need go. This step is very powerful. It shows the offending party that you are serious about the situation and about the restoration of that individual to faith and fellowship. Only if this does not work do we then bring the situation to a more public forum. Only after the two former attempts do we involve the larger community. It is the failure of this third step that allows a final action.

If the offending party will not hear your plea and you have exhausted all three measure, you are free to treat them, in Christ’s words, “as a heathen or tax collector.” Before you get too excited I would ask you a question. How did Jesus treat heathens and tax collectors? Think about it a moment. One of my greater failings, when I think I am right and others are wrong is that I forget that what they need is to be treated with love and grace. Christ cried out for them to see that he loved them, cared for their needs, and was willing to die without counting the sin to their charge.

The more I realize the depth of my own need for grace and forgiveness the further I see that Christ did not condemn nearly as often as his followers do. Avalon used to always joke about one of her favorite bumper stickers being “Dear God, please protect me from your followers.” There is so much truth in this jest.

I too often see the truth of a situation clearly and fail to see the grace and love required of me in that situation. I have been in the place where I needed loving restoration and instead received a firing squad. Just because we are right, does not give us leave to forgo grace and love in restoring another to the place where they are moving toward Christ and away from themselves. We do not have the right to make them earn it back, guarantee us that they will not fail again, or demand some form of evidence that they may not be able to provide. What we do need to do is love them so purely that they see Christ and not us, our hurt, or our need for them to do anything.

It was the heathens and tax collectors that Jesus spent his time with. He even made one of them an apostle. Before you levy judgment on another for their offense, perhaps you should measure it against how much forgiveness you need. I know that I intend to do so.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

14 April 2009

April 14, 1974 – 2:00 AM

Greetings Dear Readers,

That was a long time ago or so it seems today. Two events in history happened on that day that are significant to me. The first touched many lives before it touched mine. It is surrounded by controversy and passion. Some guys sitting around chose to improve on a gaming system that became known as Dungeons and Dragons.

I embraced this game in early 1975 and was hooked. I was given a set of the early books as a birthday gift for my 15th birthday. My pen name was actually the name of the Paladin I created that year. The name in my mind is older than that, but it was dear enough to me to be assigned to a Holy Knight and I had not yet adopted it as my nom de plume’. I have played this game off and on since 1975. My Paladin, Aramis turned 34 this past March. He is off trying to rescue someone from something and not feeling his age nearly as much as I am.

This game probably saved my mind. It was great escape when I was young and kept me in friends for many years. The other significant event of April 14, 1974 is also still with me. At times I thought that this other thing would steal away my love of Dungeons and Dragons but instead it has given me cause to see my much loved game as a way to be good to others.

In the wee hours of April 14th so long ago, after arguing, struggling, and much kicking and fussing I gave up my hatred of God for all he had supposedly done to me and accepted what he had done for me. After a long and loving conversation, patiently answering all my prideful questions, a man name Ray asked me if I was ready to quit questioning and simply put my faith in Christ for my salvation and my life. I was so tired from running away from the love of Christ that I said yes.

I had spent years angry at God, running from his love, and using his name for my own purposes. I was taking drugs and my mom did not know. I went away to a weekend retreat with a church group. My intent was to ruin their reputation by taking my own life. I had the drugs and I would take them and begin a long swim on the lake at the camp we attended. I could slip quietly away from my miserable life and not care what happened to me.

Ray saw I was in trouble and on the night I intended to take my dark swim he reached out to me and hung on to me emotionally and mentally until I saw my need for Christ. The road since that early April morning has been rough and smooth, joyful and sorrowful, but the promise Ray made me that night has always been true. He promised me that Christ would always be there for me and he has. Faith is all that sustains me as I mark this year’s spiritual birthday whilst walking in a dark and lonely place. I have been a Christ follower for 35 years now. I feel very tired sometimes but know that following is all that I can do.

The journey has more joy than sorrow and more friends than enemies. Along the way I get to encourage someone every once in a while. Today I was able to reconnect with a fellow traveler I have missed. I did not expect to be walking alone at this point in my life, but Christ is faithful and he allows me time to try and catch up when I get distracted. The journey is real for me and sometimes I think I can just begin to see the lights of home. I will keep walking and close out this milestone with the same thing I always do.

I wish you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn, Paladin and Pilgrim

13 April 2009

A Response to Just Curious

Greetings Dear Readers,

First I wish to thank “Just Curious” for his or her comments. They are honest and heartfelt with intelligent questions that deserve a reflective response from me. What I will try to do is respond in a conversational style without violation of what I perceive to be Just Curious’ context and intent.

Just Curious: Maybe this can open up a good discussion, maybe not.

Yes it can. I admit that I am at times a pontificator and pundit but I try to both listen and hear. I always value feedback that is as thoughtful and well crafted as is this.

Just Curious: I just wonder how much Jesus spent time at his place of worship, rather, at the accepted place of worship. The Bible shows him there during the important festivals, but he had a different purpose then than we ever do at church.

Aramis: I would have to agree that Jesus had a different purpose when he was at the Temple than most of us do at church. I do, however, think that we should compare not the Temple but the use of Synagogues to the local church of today. Judaic historians date the rise of the Synagogue to the earliest settling of Israel by the Jews. Realizing that they wanted a local place to worship, the Synagogues were created. People did gather regularly and in many cases it was the center of the local community. It is clear that the Synagogue is not in any way as significant as the temple, but it is very important and was a regular part of Jewish life.

“Synagogues are not consecrated spaces, nor is a synagogue necessary for collective worship. Jewish worship can be carried out wherever ten Jews (a minyan) assemble. A synagogue is not in the strictest sense a temple; it does not replace the true, long-since destroyed, Holy Temple in Jerusalem.” (Wikipedia, synagogue)

Just Curious: He probably went there when he was a boy, and maybe his family insisted that he do this; maybe he chose to. All the same his real mission did not seem to include "going to church", unless you decide that his time with the outcast people in his country was just that. Perhaps he even kept the Sabbath in a divinely correct way, but does The Church do that in a normal service?

Aramis: Although all of this could be true, we have nothing to go on historically about what he did as a boy. We do know that Jesus knew the law and appears several times in the Gospels to acknowledge the gathering of his people. To conjecture that his family made him go is an argument from silence. If Jesus was asked to do something by his parents, he did it. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia points out that after the Babylonian captivity the Synagogues became the focal point of learning and interpretation of the law in local communities. (Zondervan)

It was common practice for all Jews to gather at Synagogue on Sabbath and Feast Days. It is reasonable to think that Jesus did attend Synagogue and was known there. Jesus says that he was in the temple teaching daily (Mark 14:49). The Gospels also point out that it was his custom to go to Synagogue on the Sabbath and that he was an active participant to the point that he was a Reader (Luke 4:16). To be a Reader in the Synagogue one had to be known there and chosen as reader by the minyan (Matthew Henry). We also see several times where Jesus is teaching in the Synagogue. Again to do this he had to be known and respected by the leaders of that Synagogue. I do not think that attendance was ever Christ’s mission but that using the existing tool to minister to others was.

Just Curious: I hear what you're saying about changing it from the inside, but what if the whole business has gone bankrupt and something totally new has to be done? What if the people that could change it from the inside are only hurt by trying to do so and give up totally, or simply volunteer in some small personal setting that lets them feel like a "different" cog without really reaching out to change the whole machine?

Aramis: Again I would look at the example of Christ. It is quite obvious that the Temple in Jerusalem and its leadership fit the definition of “bankrupt.” Jesus drove out the money changers and challenged the leadership but he never abandoned the Temple nor stopped attending Synagogue. We hear Jesus rebuke the Pharisees and Priests. We even hear Paul warn some of the churches how severe their corruption is. What we never hear in the New Testament is an admonishment to abandon the gathering of believers because they are too far gone. The transition from Synagogues to house churches was not because of true Christ followers needing to separate from the Synagogues but because they were driven out of the Synagogues by the leadership.

I can only use my church as an example, but the leadership there works every day in all they do to promote what Christ has called us to do. As to those who are only hurt by trying to work for change I would say that trying to move anyone from wrong to right practices yields some kind of hurt. It is not up to us to not get hurt, rather, we are to carry a cross and follow Christ. If we do what is right we will be hurt, but Christ will carry us through that hurt. Giving up or hiding is a response the Apostles had after the Resurrection. They went back to fishing and Christ had to chase them down and tell them to get back to work. All change involves risk. We must trust that God is good and that as Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I serve him.”

Just Curious: Is there a reason why we shouldn't be open to a totally new way of doing things? Does it not suffice to gather in our homes with each other, or do we need to be in a traditional church?

Aramis: No there is not, but the wrong approach to a new way of doing things is why there is currently so much division in the universal church. Every division of the church since the first century is a direct result of someone’s hard heart. Someone refused to be humble, or understanding, or yield. Someone decided to separate or divide. Someone thought that they could not stay and work for peace through grace and holiness. I think that it does not suffice to gather in our homes. Jesus did not leave his local “church.” He made it clear that there is a physical touchstone for our gathering and worship. The writer of Hebrews points out that we are not to forsake assembling together and that it is more important as we see the Day of the Lord growing nearer. This gathering is the engine through which we demonstrate our unwavering faith and where we provoke each other to love and good works.

Just Curious: Where you're right that it's important to try to start change from the inside, I wonder, at what point do we say, "This has to stop."?

Aramis: I cannot answer the point at which this should be said. I can say that I would not dare say it to a body of believers without first earning the right to be heard by them. If a body of believers has leadership that we feel works with integrity then we must support what they do and not further divide things. We should speak to them at least before we abandon them. We should first say to them, in love and humility, “This has to stop.” We must also be willing to listen to their reply with teachable hearts yielded to the Holy Spirit.

To conclude, I think that Just Curious is on the mark about a drastic need for change in the way the church does things. I also think that this can be done without creating more separation and division. I have been deeply wounded by local churches. I have caused wounds as well. Some of the wounds on both sides would never have occurred had either or both parties chosen that no one would be outcast or rejected for their differences. Churches need to change. Loving the people in them as Christ loves them will work that change. I would much rather spend my Sunday’s with my children gathered around the Bible and mapping out how to reach a world that so desperately needs what we have in Christ. I am sure, though, that I can impact more people for Christ by getting up and being in a place where I know the pastoral staff at minimum has following Christ as their goal.

Thank you Just Curious for your comments. I hope I have answered well and that you see my love for your passion for right in those answers. I value your response and the continuation of this dialogue.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

12 April 2009

Holy Week 2009 – Resurrection Sunday – He is risen, he is risen indeed

Greetings Dear Readers,

The sun is not up yet as I write this. It will be shortly. Families will gather today and share a meal. Little kids will hunt for coloured eggs and eat too much candy. Since I found Christ 35 years ago I have always taken Resurrection Sunday seriously. It was my wife Avalon who got me to see the whole week as significant. I miss her terribly this morning. Ironically it was this time last year she told me she was leaving me and that I could do nothing about it.

This has been a year where I have learned much about who I am and who I had become. It is the moment that is about to be that matters. I have realized just how much of my life was not Christ’s but was my trying to live on what I had learned of Christ in the infancy of my reclamation. I had stopped in the journey toward who Christ calls me to be, trying to maintain something instead of continuing to grow. This has hurt my Sons and likely everyone else around me.

Christmas 2007 I had made a realization about just how stagnant my journey toward Christ had become. People I cared for were withdrawing from me and I was focusing on so many wrong things. My brother-in-law said something that set different thinking in motion in my heart and head. I determined to find a way out the mire I had put myself into. I did not know that Avalon had already begun departing.

Last Resurrection Sunday I was so full of pain that I could barely function. This year is different. I know what a crooked stick I am. I see how much I had forgotten how to show grace to others at the level that I need grace from Christ. I realize how often I fail Christ and shudder when people say they want to be like me. I have begun to build friendships with men who are an example to me. I have remembered just how much the world needs me to disappear because I have focused on Christ enough that they only see him.

I have little hope that Avalon will return. I hope that I can save my relationship with my Sons. I know that I can, because of His grace continue to build my relationship with Christ. The sun will rise shortly reminding me that Christ is risen from the dead. That is my only hope. A risen Christ and his grace is all that I have and the only thing in which I can set my store. So I ask you today to look with me to the empty cross and the empty tomb. I ask you to walk with me not because I am great but because I follow one who is great. I will fail you and he will not. Please take the journey not because I am on it but because he is leading it.

Pilgrims to the City of God – Michael Card

Pilgrims of passion,
We follow the One who holds out a cross and a crown
We travel a dark road that has but one Light
For we have here no lasting town
And sometimes we run by the power of His might
On our own at the best we can plod
What we hopefully look for is just beyond sight
We are pilgrims to the City of God
The stigma of strangers lost in a strange land
In a fallen world that's not our home
But we are not just homeless prodigals here
Because we have some place to go
And sometimes we run by the power of His Light
On our own at the best we can plod
What we hopefully look for is just beyond sight
We are pilgrims to the City of God
Pilgrims to the City of God
Behold, you have come to Mount Zion
To the city of the Great King
To thousands and thousands of angels who come
Assemble to joyfully sing, they sing
And sometimes we run by the power of His might
On our own at the best we can plod
What we hopefully look for is just beyond sight
We are pilgrims to the City of God
And sometimes we run by the power of His might
On our own at the best we can plod
What we hopefully look for is just beyond sight
We are pilgrims to the City of God

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

11 April 2009

Holy Week 2009 – Saturday – Watching for a Savior

Greetings Dear Reader

Friday - I’ve let myself be sealed in the tomb with him. The sun has set. The Son is dead. The darkness is complete. I will keep vigil over this body. I look at the hope that was whilst doubt and faith war for my heart. I wait for the scent of decay to come but it does not. I can still smell sweat and blood. The coolness of the tomb is comfortable as I crouch in a corner as far from the body as possible.

The darkness plays with my mind. I have already lost my sense of time. I think that I can make out the silhouette of the body but in truth I cannot even see my hand when waved in front of my face. I wish I had brought some water. I am thirsty.

Jesus said that whilst on the cross. They offered him gall and vinegar but he would not lessen his pain. I am just sitting in a cool tomb and I am more concerned about my thirst than I am the body of my God just a few feet away from me. I try to convince myself that it is because I have faith. It is because I am self centered and selfish.

It must be growing late. I will sleep for a bit.

Saturday – Light. There is light. Let there be light. The tomb is sealed but a single shaft of light has found its way through. I did not realize how much the darkness plagued me. I can make out his body now. My pupils must be dilated to their maximum. The white linen is grey but completely discernable. I am still thirsty and now I am hungry. Again my thoughts are on my own needs. Again I forget where I am for the sake of my own wants.

Time seems to have succumbed to arthritis. The light from the stone is dimmer but still there. I still wrestle with faith and doubt. But the doubt itself is based on my own needs. If I were not sealed in here would I even consider the situation? Would I care?

I am alone in here. The light is gone again. I am hungry and thirsty. Everything was so good just last Sunday. They all worshiped him. We all cheered. Now I am just tired, thirsty, and hungry. I will sleep and maybe tomorrow I can find a way out. What was I thinking, putting my faith in a carpenter from Nazareth?

Wishing you joy in the journey,
Aramis Thorn

10 April 2009

Holy Week 2009 – Friday – Good Friday

Greetings Dear Readers,

Caves, by their nature are cool places. They are naturally dark. They are places where we take light with us when we venture there. Tombs are caves whose dark beauty is filled with the presence of the dead. The tomb we focus on is the most heinous and beautiful one ever conceived.

A few men and women come to this empty tomb, racing against the setting sun and baring a dreadful burden. It belongs to a wealthy Pharisee but is being given to an itinerant Rabi. There is time only to wrap the body. Properly applying the spices and setting the dead man to rest will need to wait until after Passover. The people who care about this body, this man, need to depart for the Passover and abandon what is left of their hope in a cold tomb.

A Roman guard is set outside the tomb. It is sealed with the mark of the Governor. No one dare approach this place. The man inside is dead. There are some who doubt this but those who killed him are professionals who do their job properly. They were sure enough that he was dead not to break his legs. The man inside this tomb is dead.

What I want to say is simple. I put him that tomb. I killed Christ. It was not the Jews, nor the Romans. It was me. My sin put Christ on the cross. You see the only way to mitigate the debt of sin owed to God is the death of someone sinless. Sin is always a choice. We can talk about original sin and our fallen natures until Sunday but it always comes down to choice.

Even at my youngest those things that I did wrong were by choice. I knew it was wrong when I spread jam on my mother’s bed sheets at age two because I was bored. It is the first sin I can recall, but it is the one that disqualified me. It is the sin that made me unworthy to pay the price. All of us chose our sin. We are all guilty. Had just one of us chosen not to sin we could have died for all the others but God knew.

Before he made the earth that held the dust from which he made Adam he knew what we would choose and that it would cost him his dearest blood. And how do I honor that blood today while that body is in the tomb? I acknowledge that I am a sinner. What we see, the tomb, the seal, the soldiers, the grief, and all that we do not see are my fault. If I dare to believe that God would go so far for MY sin, then I must also believe that it is MY sin that crucified him. I dare not look to anyone else if I dare to claim Christ as my own.

So for now, he is entombed and I am guilty. He gave his life freely but I murdered him just the same. It is a dark painful day and the Son of God is dead….but time moves on.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

09 April 2009

Holy Week 2009 – Thursday – Maundy Thursday

Greetings Dear Reader,

What really died on Golgotha? Today I would like to offer some perspectives on the events that we commemorate. The witnesses to the crucifixion all had a reason for being on that hill. Some knew Jesus and some did not. Perhaps they have something to say that will teach us how to better view the event.

We will start with the thieves. One of them saw only opportunity. He like so many others would have Christ use his power to remove him from the situation he was in without truly seeing why he was in it or having the change of heart suggested by the consequences. He could only seek to use Christ for his own benefit. The other thief saw who Christ is and responded to that identity. He only asked to be remembered. This simple act of faith, of believing that Christ is so much more than the naked man on the cross guaranteed the thief a place in paradise.

John, arguably Jesus’ best friend was there. Even thought he fled Jesus’ side at the arrest in the garden he was at the cross. Jesus showed the depth of his forgiveness of his friend by entrusting the care of his mother to John. John alone among Jesus friends returned and risked being associated with the condemned Messiah.

Mary, the mother of Christ stood there helplessly watching her Son die. The death that has chased her Son since Bethlehem is at hand. Others had died along the way because he lived. She could see him dying and knew that he had the power to destroy all those hurting him. She KNEW her Son’s identity. She watched as he let mere men beat and destroy his body. Mary witnessed it all from conception to crucifixion. I know what it is to lose a child and this woman amazes me.

I would also like to consider the Roman soldiers. We should first understand that what they did was a regular duty for them. Crucifixion was a common punishment in Jerusalem. These were hard men who dealt in death. They were efficient killers who knew how to stretch a man, drive in the spikes, and when it was time break legs. They were efficient at suffocating men in one of the most painful and shameful ways possible. They had seen everything that men can become when faced with a merciless death. This is the thing that keeps my attention. This is the moment that chills my spirit and forces me to see Christ for who he is.

At the end of it all, when Christ had allowed death to claim him, Longinus speaks. What this hard death dealer says will mark him for the rest of history. His confession, after dealing so much pain and seeing men in their dying moments is one that haunts every doubt I dare to have. He witnessed all that Christ said and did on the cross. He saw him refuse the drugs that would lessen his pain. He heard him forgive his friend by entrusting him with his mother. He heard Christ forgive us all because of ignorance. Longinus saw all this and heard Christ cry out to the Father at the end. His response is one we all need. We all need to echo his words as we view the dead body of God on the cross of Golgotha. “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

08 April 2009

Holy Week 2009 – Wednesday – Spy Wednesday

Greeting Dear Readers,

I do not wish for my title to seem humorous. This is an ancient name for this day of Holy Week and is intended as a pejorative at Judas. Of the twelve apostles Judas is the one with whom I would most like to have lunch. I want to ask some very pointed questions. I do not want to condemn him or in any way minimize that he was a thief and that he was disobedient.

I do, however, wish to put forth that from the resources he had, he was a man of faith. It is like that Judas may have believed more strongly than any of the apostles that Jesus was who he claimed to be. We all love a villain in our stories and Judas makes a great one.

The point is that we do not know what the intent of his heart was. For centuries he has been judged and villainized but have we clearly looked at things from his point of view. He saw Jesus heal people, create food, and raise the dead. He heard Jesus teach and lived with him daily. He had the experience that so many of us wish for in that he saw Jesus face to face, spent time with him, and needed no evidence of his deity.

Judas was a Zealot. He also hated Roman occupation. He loved his nation and was willing to use Jesus to free it from Roman rule. It seems that Judas did not intend for Christ to be beaten, scourged, and crucified. He tried to intervene. He attempted to stop the events that unfolded from his actions.

Do we dare to judge Judas? Is our sin less than his? Recently someone, still unwilling to admit the depth of his sin pleaded with me to see it as at least “understandable.” Given where he came from, Judas’ actions were understandable. That makes them no less wrong. There was not a moment where God was not in control.

Perhaps we need to see that Judas was trying to get Jesus to act like God. He knew who Jesus was and put him in the center of the political storm that was Jerusalem’s rulers. He had seen Jesus move through angry crowds untouched and counted on him to do the same. He wanted the conquering King who was promised by the prophets. Judas like so many others wanted Christ to destroy his enemies so others would believe.

Do we dare, so far from the events and with our limited data judge Judas? Should we not instead realize how often we hand Jesus over when confronted with the choice to obey or not to obey? Perhaps we should realize that even though we believe we often try to use Jesus to our own ends and ponder just how close we are to Judas. As Christ goes to the garden to pray are we with the armed crowed coming to take him by force, are we the sleeping apostles, or are we the one who will kiss his cheek and hand him over to his enemies trying to fulfill our own purposes?

Wishing you joy in the journey,
Aramis Thorn

07 April 2009

Holy Week 2009 – Tuesday – The Hymn of Kassiani

Greetings Dear Readers,

I want you to stop for a moment and consider two things. The first is the story of the woman who bathed Christ’s feet with Nard and her tears, and used her hair as a towel. When chided by Judas (whom we will spend some time with later this week) and the other disciples, Christ responded that what the woman was doing was the proper thing to do. Christ even went so far as to assure that this woman’s story would be told in the Gospels as a memorial to her actions.

I have been blessed to call prostitutes and those who license themselves to the darkness friend. I know women who literally sell themselves as slaves to the passions of others. Some of them have seen past my own falleness and found Christ. Others were not willing to see Christ and moved on, still my friend, still someone I valued.

In many places in the world tonight these women will gather in churches for the celebration of Kassiani. They will listen as an ancient hymn is sung that speaks of Christ’s overreaching mercy and one such woman’s response to it.

"Woe to me," she says,
"for nightis a frenzy of license to me,a dark, moonless love of sin.
"Receive the fountains of my tears,
O You who gather the sea-waters into cloudsIncline to the groanings of my heart,
O You who laid low the heavens by Your humility.
"I shall kiss Your immaculate feet,wipe them again with the hair of my head,
those feet at whose sound Eve in Paradise hid for fear.
"The multitude of my sins, the depths of your judgments,who can search them out,
O Savior of souls?
Do not despise me, Your handmaiden,
O You whose mercy admits of no measure."

Christ told his closest friends that this woman had done what she could for him. He pointed out that she was preparing him for burial. So many women are used and abused by the world and yet we dare look down upon what they do while we stand proudly in our own sin needing so much mercy from God. Perhaps we need to be more in touch with the brokenness this woman had.

“The alabaster case of oil is open,
Washing the feet of Jesus,
The sweet perfume is poured.
I am like that cask I must broken,
So from my heart can pour,
A life unto my Lord.” – Terry Talbot

As we draw near to the days of the garden, the scourging, the trial, the cross, and the tomb, perhaps we should examine where we stand with others. Are we judging who the woman is, or who she is to Christ? Are we saying our intentions matter and ignoring the intentions of others? Are we being poured out to honor Jesus or are we judging and rejecting those who offer all they can with what little they have, whilst knowing the truth of their own need for mercy and forgiveness of sin?

“Father break me
Take me through the fire
Oh Father hold me, mold me
Just as you desire.
I am just a cup to overflow your will
And I know I must be empty to be filled.” - Terry Talbot

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

06 April 2009

Holy Week 2009 – Monday – Cleansing of the Temple

Greetings Dear Readers,

How often have you heard people say, or maybe even said yourself, that churches only want your money. Unfortunately it is true. Many churches focus so much on how the electricity will get paid or the mortgage met that they forget for whom they work. Many of us remember the televangelists’ scandals of the 1990’s. Many more think that most churches are interested in many other things that have nothing to do with who Christ is. The observance is that churches are out for themselves and not the community in which they are called to serve.

Both of these aspects drive people away from church. For one reason or another men of real faith abandon churches instead of working from within to change or protect them from the things that make them ineffective. I would say clearly that there are no perfect churches. I do believe there comes a time when God will move us from one place of worship to another for his purpose. I also believe that we make the flaws of churches an easy excuse for not being in a place where the word of God is taught well and where we can grow closer to others who belong to Christ. We use the flaws in a church as an excuse not to gather and try to influence those around us to do what churches should do.

As we walk through Holy Week together we come to a day where we must ask the questions about preparation. In light of the state of church at large in the world, I think that Christ would agree that most local churches have little to offer a fallen world. He would stride in and perhaps drive out the late’ vendors and book sellers. We can proudly say that our form of worldly identification is not as bad as that of the money changers in the Temple Court, but we still want our coffee and doughnut or we are unhappy.

Do not get me wrong. I drink coffee at church on Sunday morning and I complained when they changed brands like so many others. I also see that my church leaders try very hard to make sure that they focus on the Gospel and not the money. They do things to promote service and not to promote social entertainment that is Christ flavored.

I think that what matters as we journey through this Monday of this Holy Week is the cleansing of our own temple. Have I cast out the money changers and offering vendors that rule my heart. Do I see others in my life with anger and contempt or have I cast the out for love and forgiveness in the magnitude that I seek from Christ as he approaches the cross. It is an easy thing to compare myself to a group of fallen people who do not do thing the way I think they should. It is altogether different to compare myself to God in the form of a man who demands that I be like him as he moves closer to the burden of my sin that put him on a cross.

I attend the church I attend for the sake of the leadership there and its teaching. Many of the people do not get it, but I am no better than them. I will not use their crookedness as an excuse to indulge my own. I will work to cleanse the temple that I am to be for Christ so that others may see my cleaning and wish to do some of their own. I will spend the time cleaning my inner temple so that Christ feels no need to drive anything out. The focus after all should be on the man for whom we laid down palm fronds yesterday and whom on Thursday we will kill.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

05 April 2009

Holy Week 2009 – Palm Sunday

Greeting Beloved Readers,

I wonder how often we consider what we do when we welcome someone. When dignitaries visit our city there is electricity in the air if we favor them and storm clouds when we do not. It does not matter what you think of the historical accuracy of the placement of Palm Sunday. It matters but the argument is not worth belaboring here. Perhaps I shall write about it some time.

What I would like you to do is ponder with me for a moment being in that crowd on that day. The city of Jerusalem is already bustling from the Passover pilgrims who have come from all over to worship at the temple. Talk of a Messiah has spread all over the nation and the news has spread that he will enter the city on this morning. Thousands of people gather outside the gate Jesus is to enter.

He can be seen from a distance, riding on the foal of a donkey. He is preceded by his disciples. It is a small but important procession. Who would you wish to be in this moment? Would you be one of the disciples heading into Jerusalem with the Son of God, hoping that he will claim his right as King of Kings and destroy the Roman squatters? Would you be one of the crowed, hoping to see some miracle from the Rabbi from Nazareth? Perhaps you would be one of the Pharisees, already plotting how to kill this troublesome carpenter.

The one person you do not want to be in this moment is Jesus. He knows why he is here. He knows that he arrives on the day that the Passover lamb is brought into the house to protect it from blemish. He knows why he is here. He is riding to his death and does so in the proper way. When told by the Pharisees to stop the crowd from singing his praises, he responds that if they do then the rocks and stones will cry out the truth.

On Palm Sunday, those who greeted Jesus with joy did not consider that within the week, some of them would call for his death. Some of them would have a murderer released in his stead. Some of them would watch as he is brutally beaten. They would jeer at him as he walked with his cross to Golgotha. They would spit on him. They would watch him die. But for now, they cheer as he enters the city and he knows he rides on to die.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn