29 February 2012

Rules of Engagement – I Must be a Seeker

Greetings Dear Reader,

My final thoughts on the rules of engagement remind me of fifth grade English.  I had learned diligently that rules existed for spelling, grammar, and style.  In fifth grade if felt that all the rules changed as we learned that there are exceptions to every rule.  It really impacted my learning for a bit until I adjusted to the fact that the exceptions to the rules provided a better framework for accurate use of words.  For those who are exasperated by my very particular use of words you may trace the source to Mrs. Hare my mad as a hatter fifth grade English teacher.

So the fact that I must seek God diligently with all my heart is a very intriguing rule of engagement.  The Apostle Peter tells me that this includes research and investigation.  This means that faith and facts are not enemies but that they work together.  It is the educated mind that can seek in surety that faith has a place in our dealings with God.

We must research and investigate the way in which God wishes to relate to us.  I must seek not only in faith but with understanding of who God is and what he expects of me.  A casual approach to faith neglects my obligation to seek God on his terms.  My brother mentioned recently how important it is to constantly examine the motivations of the heart in seeking God. 

I must seek God honestly.  I cannot depend on someone else’s journey to determine my own.  I can be informed by the journey of others.  I can learn from the experiences of others in seeking and following but my journey must be my own.  I cannot reject the learning of others nor can I ignore the lies and manipulations of those who use the desire to engage God to their own ends.  People who have done this had caused many to be dishonest in seeking God.  I cannot use the failings of others to justify not being honest in my journey and seeking.  It is not acceptable for me to use lies as an excuse not to constantly seek the truth of who God is and how he wishes to engage with me.

I must seek God humbly.  I have not right to him or anything that is his.  All things are his.  I must realize that I have a nature that is prideful and self-centered.  Anything that I do that is geared toward feeding that nature is the opposite of seeking God.  Remember that we began by talking about the fact that we will engage God eventually whether we wish it or not.  So many things appose us doing that well.  The biggest opposition is our pride. 

I cannot do anything to keep the drawing of God from resonating within me.  It is a hunger that I will feed.  The problem is that if I do not feed that hunger with honest humble seeking of God then I will feed it with things that are unhealthy.  I will set up false gods that do not satisfy.  I will do things that are harmful to me to silence the pain and loneliness.  My pride will push me toward power and control to ease the gnawing truth that I am not in control.  I will drink and use drugs to keep the pain at bay.  I will use the bodies of others to feel pleasure that neither satisfies nor lasts.  I will invest my energies in trying to think that I am good when the only good I can do is found in following Christ.

The rule of engagement is not up to me and it is that I must seek God with all that I am.  I must do it endlessly with all my heart.  I must shed anything that hinders this seeking and abandon the things within me that make me hesitate to follow.  Arguing with the rules of engagement is futile.  Refusing to accept them when I know God is there is foolish.  God wants me to find him and he has created a way in spite of my great distance from him.  So I have a journey to make and I know the rules that will guide me safely on that journey.  I need only follow the rules and the one who leads.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

28 February 2012

Rules of Engagement – I Cannot Take the Credit

Greetings Dear Reader,

I wish that every time someone thought a positive thought about me a bubble would pop up that reminded them that any good in me is because of Christ.  I am not a good man.  Any good that I do is because of the grace and mercy of God. 

I am fallen, flawed, and fortunately forgiven.  It does not come from my nature to be loving or kind.  Showing grace and mercy is not who I am.  Thanks to the love and work of Christ kindness, mercy, and grace can be what I do.  When I begin to take credit for these things then I am eroding the humility and holiness required to do them.

Engaging with Christ means that he gets all the credit.  When I ponder this it is obvious that this is right and honest.  Since God created me, redeemed me, and knows me better that even I know me, it is logical that he get credit for any good I do.  Since I am only able to do right through Christ taking credit for it mutes the ability of others to see Christ in what I do.

The only reason for me to do good is so others can see the love and grace of Christ in my actions.  The benefit to others and being viewed in a positive light are only byproducts of the primary goal.  When I take the credit instead for squelching my pride I dim the reflection toward Christ that others need to see.

It is not wrong to feel good about doing good as long as I do not take credit for the power and success of it.  I can allow Christ working through me to show himself to others to feel good.  I can allow it to prop up a good self-image.  I can allow it to make me feel joy in the journey.  I must be vigilant not to take credit for any of it.  I must assure that others see that I am just a fallen man who in his mercy God is using to try and allow others to find Christ.

I cannot judge others.  I cannot condemn anyone.  I cannot do anything but follow and hope that I get out of the way enough for others to see Christ as he leads them too. 
Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

27 February 2012

Rules of Engagement – If it Ain’t Broken it won’t Work

Greetings Dear Reader,

We have all heard the expression “If it broke don’t fix it.”  This is mostly true.  There are things that must be broken for them to be of use.  Eggs are useless as food unless the shell is broken. One must break the seal on some things in order to use what is inside.  Our hearts must be broken for us to be of any use to God.

In the effort to engage with God we must allow for brokenness or there will be no positive engagement.  No matter how much I wish it to be different I am the one in need.  I am the one who has sinned.  I am the one who must approach God for the mending of my fallen nature.  I am the one who is lost without God’s love and grace.

Pride is the enemy of engagement with God.  Everything I think of that would lead me to not needing God at every moment stems from a heart filled with pride and arrogance.  God allows the natural consequences of our sin to show us our need for him.  When I think that I can act independent of God and his provision for my needs then I disengage with him.  When I act independently I am not following. 

When I am not following I am hardening my heart.  My heart must be broken before it will beat properly before God.  The softer my heart to this truth then the easier the breaking.  Hard things shatter when broken.  God is not satisfied with some of us.  He wants it all.  Since he is only reclaiming what is already his it is foolish for me to wish otherwise.  I will not work properly until my heart is broken before God.  Only then can I engage with him and love him with all my heart, soul, and mind.  Only through this brokenness can I love my neighbors and my enemies.  My heart cannot be God’s unless I give it to him in pieces so that he can mend it to his will.

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

Father brake me
Take me through the fire
Father hold me, mold me
Just as you desire

I am just a cup to overflow your will
I know I must be empty to be filled – Terry Talbot

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

26 February 2012

Rules of Engagement – It Ain’t Easy

Greetings Dear Reader,

The problem of suffering is not one that is easily approached.  I hear often a question that begins with “How can a loving God allow...”   You may fill in the rest with anything that to the asker would make God allowing it seem unloving.  Even as I write this I am trying to explain it to someone who is asking this very question.

God never promised the journey would be easy.  War is not easy and we are truly at war.  The rules of engagement are not that God does not love when he allows suffering.  It is rather in spite of our poor exercise of our free will he loves us.  If we are going to fault God for suffering in the world then we must fault him for giving us free will.  It is not God that is responsible for my suffering or pain.  Suffering and pain are the natural results of a fallen world.

I need to realize that I am supposed to be totally dependent upon God for everything.  It is not up to me what comes into my life.  It is up to me how I interact with God when those things arrive.  I have control over nothing but my response to God in the midst of my journey.  God never promised anything would be easy.  He did promise that he would be with me through everything.

Christ did promise that if we are joined with him the burden of the actual joining would be light and easy.  It is in the guiding that ease is found.  I do not need to carry the pain and suffering because Christ will carry those things for me.  All that I need do is to follow him. 

It is wrong to demand that God make life easy for us when he carried the burden of our failures.  It is selfish to demand that life be as I wish it to be when God knows what is best and sees to it that it is sent my way.  I can only follow in faith.  It does not mean that I will not wonder why there is suffering and pain.  It does mean that as I wonder I must not blame God or forget to keep following.  The answers are further down the path. 

There is pain I feel that I do not comprehend.  Things linger at the bottom of my heart and in the back of my mind that try to hinder my faith and following.  I cannot allow the hindrance and it is the faith and following that will get me to the answers.  The knowledge does not lessen the pain but it does propel me onward.  My Grandfather used to tell me when I thought things were hard that the only way out was through.

The rule of engagement is that “it ain’t easy.”  Faith and following, however, can move me forward if I let them.  Christ is there to get me through the next valley, or the next few steps, or even the next inch if necessary. 

Lord I have a question that I haven’t found an answer for
Noting seems to make it go away
Your Book was strangely silent when I turned the pages in it
Though I thought you’d surely have a word to say

I have had this question for some time without an answer
There’s a different view in everything I’ve read
At times I thought I knew it but when it got down to it
It was just some words that someone else had said

If only I were with you when you walked down here among us
We could have talked it over face to face
Though I know you never left me all alone know I long to hear your voice
Hear your words, touch your face.

Oh one day you will come for me
I’ll kneel before you humbly
We’ll talk about the things I never knew
And all the things I couldn’t see
Will simply be explained to me
In words that could only come from you

Until that day I’m waiting here with upturned face and open ear
And if my questions never bring me truth
I’ll be satisfied to know
That when my time on earth’s no more 
I’ll have eternity to talk with you. – Pat Terry

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

25 February 2012

Rules of Engagement – Faith not Sight

Greetings Dear Reader,

I once stood under a clear and blazing sky on a moonless night.  I was high up in the mountains and it was one of those cold crisp winter nights.  I was on an overnight trip with a friend and we were standing outside to cool off as the cabin we were in was too warm.  We were three hours into a friendly but serious palaver about the existence of God and the need for faith.

Beneath this blanket of beautiful stars my friend looks up and says, “I just wish God would give me a sign that he is there.”  Even as my mind took in the amazing beauty of the night sky and thought of how much the heavens do declare the glory of God a brilliant orange shooting star traced the entire arc of our field of vision.

I watched the wonder pass across his face.  He stood there for a moment dumbfounded by both the inherent artistry of the moment and the timing of it.  He recovered quickly and said, “That was just a coincidence.  It was probably just some space junk falling back to us.”

I do not know why we constantly ask God to prove his existence, involvement, and love.  I know that when I find that I am asking for any of this it is because I am unwilling to follow the path where it is leading.  God has decided that we have to come to him willingly and by faith.  He does not force us and he is not obligated to give proof beyond that which is already there.  I cannot pretend to know why he set things up this way but when engaging with God the rule is that we must do so by faith.

“No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  I realize that this is almost circular in its approach but I do not get to make the rules.  Jesus made it clear that the fuel for the journey is faith.  The accounts we have of all that Jesus did are centered on building and securing faith.

I would rather not have to walk by faith.  I would rather have clear sight as to what is next and how to proceed.  The problem is that this does not work.  When God personally led his chosen in the desert they still built a golden calf the minute he got busy with something else.

My friend still insists that he must not need faith to believe in God.  Faith has a limited shelf life.  Eventually it will not be necessary because there will be sight.  Jesus wondered if he would find faith on the earth when he returned.  Just believing that he will return assures that if he shows up today he will find it.  Faith comes easy for me.  I do not like.  I would rather know.  That is not how it works so I embrace what does.  I look forward to my faith becoming sight and faith no longer being necessary.  For now though, it is the primary rule of engagement with God.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

24 February 2012

Rules of Engagement – Charity is not an Option

Greetings Dear Reader,

As I was pondering how I measure my faithfulness in following Christ I thought about how much it matters that I personally am involved in caring for the needs of others.  I often wonder how it became common for Christ followers to put charity off on the government.

I am to reflect Christ through my love for others.  One of those ways of reflecting is through generosity.  When I am generous I create an opportunity for others to see the love of Christ.  Somehow, though direct care for the poor has been relegated to the government.  Most social issues that are my responsibility are governed and regulated by anything other than the church.

I do not wish this to be seen as me saying that any religion or sect is responsible for the humanitarian needs of society.  I am responsible.  I do, however, think that we equate charity with a political philosophy instead of a primary obligation of Christ followers.  I think that we focus on too many things that do not matter in place of requiring that the body of followers step up to the call of Christ to care for others.

The poor, the homeless, single parents, unwanted pregnancies, and any type of oppression or social injustice are MY responsibility.  If Christ followers collectively acknowledge this and act on it then perhaps the church could reclaim its credibility.  No matter how much any other arm of society does to help in these social issues I am not freed from my obligation as a Christ follower.  If I am not involved in this then I am not following Christ.  If the church I attend does not involve itself in these issues then I must not support it with my resources.  If I have any hope of being assured that my claims about Christ have any credibility I must first show his love by living out his commands.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

23 February 2012

Rules of Engagement – Marching Orders

Greetings Dear Reader,

In any engagement there are standard marching orders. Mine are simple.  Sometimes I think of them as too simple and that is an error.  I know that I often touch on this but since Christ called it primary it holds re-visitation often. 

I am to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind.  I am often sure that I am helpless to define the essence of this.  I know that I love God.  I know that I reverence, fear, worship, and believe.  I cannot figure out how to love God directly so I do my best to love his best work.

I am to love those around me.  This again seems like such a simple command.  I cannot do the first, loving God, without doing this.  Some are easier to love than others.  It is not to be measured by the ease of loving them though.  It is to be measured by how much I need to be loved by God.  It is to be measured by my love for myself.  My prime motivation toward others is to be love.

I am to love my enemies.  The command to love my neighbor does not mean only the ones who are neighborly.  My love for others is not based on them but on Christ.  I am to view them as Christ views them.  I am to love them as Christ loves them.  I do not get to be selective in my positive regard for others.  I am not allowed to hate anyone.  I am not allowed to reject anyone.  This also means that my love cannot be passive.  I cannot care.  I must act.

If I am to truly say honestly that I love others then I cannot ignore the needs of others.  Too much of the needs of others has been relegated to our government when Christ made it clear that it is the responsibility of the church.  By the church I do not mean anything but you and I.  If we follow Christ then we are the church and it is our, my responsibility to care for widows and orphans, feed the poor, and see to social justice.  This is not negotiable if I wish to be seen as a follower of Jesus.  My beloved eldest Son reminded me of someone who said these things much better than I.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”  - Thomas Merton

How have we gotten so far from the commands to love God, our neighbors, and our enemies?  The church softball team and food drive mean nothing if I am not participating for the purpose of loving those around me as a means to following Christ.  Perhaps Christ mentioned that the poor will be with us always so that we would have a constant reminder of how to find him.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

22 February 2012

Rules of Engagement – No Rusty Swords

Greetings Dear Reader,

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. – Edmund Burke

When I pass up someone in need I am aiding the enemy.  When I ignore the request of someone for help I am involved in the battle.  I can wage war without even getting off of my couch.  It is so easy to lull my mind into a sense of doing good when I am actually not doing enough. 

In the war of good and evil there are no cease fires.  There is no liberty or shore leave. To forget this is to allow complacency to infect me.  Whether I accept it or not by choosing to follow Christ I have embroiled my life in a war.  I cannot abdicate my involvement in this war without by default aiding the enemy. 

So how do I fight this war?  How do I live in peace and love in a state of war.  It is by loving, being kind, caring for those in need, and abandoning my own self-interests that I wage war against evil.  I need to find my weapons in the heart no the hand.  I need to be good to everyone and see them all as in need of the love that Christ pours on me.

I need to wage war against injustice, hunger, violence, and those considered unimportant by society.  Beyond that I must realize that I fight on another front.  The church has lost much of its credibility and power.  If I do not dissociate my image of following Christ from the political and self-centered nature of the common church then I will not be able to communicate. 

This does not mean that I abandon the church.  Christ did not abandon the corrupt synagogues but rather he challenged them to be what they were meant to be.  I must wage war from within through love and following. 

Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong. - Dietrich Bonheoffer

Some have abandoned faith or worse only go through the motions of following Christ.  Every moment of not following is a sword stroke for evil, injustice, and darkness.  If following Christ is not central to everything I do then those things that are not following Christ are aggressive acts against him.  There is no neutral ground.  There is no gray.  There is darkness and light; following and not following.  On this battlefield there are no rusty swords.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

21 February 2012

Rules of Engagement – Verbal Abuse

Greetings Dear Reader,

It seems that the political climate becomes more tumultuous daily.  It is in the news and on the street corners everywhere.  We live in a world where expressing your views is both your right and privilege.  During the protests last winter I was impressed with the good behaviour of the young college students who gathered at the capitol.  My friends who are police officers commented on how good almost everyone was.

What troubles me is that I know people who are Christ followers who have said terrible and unkind things about people on both sides of the issues.  We are always to speak the truth.  We are also always to do so in love.  We are to disagree with injustice while still showing respect to our elected officials.  The world in which Christ said these things was much more brutal.  He still managed to speak the truth in humility and love.

I get that there is emotion involved in the issues.  I understand that whether perceived or real injustice is angering to us.  The problem is that we weaken what we say when we do it in an unjust manner.  Saying anything abusive about another person is wrong no matter what they have done.  We need to silence ignorance through right behaviour.  Verbally abusing those you oppose does not lead to cooperation.

For those who follow Christ there are rules of engagement.  Even if those we oppose disobey them we are bound by them.  Even if we consider the opposition our enemy we have clear rules to follow.  Love, grace, and forgiveness are to mark all that we say and do.  Humility and kindness are to be the things that direct our words.  I cannot mistreat anyone, even if they never know it, and claim to be following Christ.  I am free to state what I think about any issue but there are rules of engagement. 

1Pe 2:23 Christ never verbally abused those who verbally abused him. When he suffered, he didn't make any threats but left everything to the one who judges fairly.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

20 February 2012

Hiding Behind Freedom

Greetings Dear Reader,

One of the things that is a constant source of ponderous consternation for me is the idea that God gives us freedom in Christ.  I do not wish to do ANYTHING wrong but because I have free will I can choose to do wrong.  There are days when I wish that I had no choice.  There are day I wish God would usurp my will and create in me an inability to do wrong.

Since the inability to sin is not going to be removed whilst I am alive I have to determine how to properly use my freedom.  I am to live as a free person.  What frightens me is when I use that freedom to work my own will over the will of Christ.  I cannot hide behind my freedom to justify doing something I should not.  It is wrong to allow injustice.  Christ followers are to be the lead in the fight against it.  It is wrong to allow the innocent to suffer.  We are to fight against this in every way.  It is also wrong to use my freedom as an excuse to ignore my responsibilities to Christ.   

In the stormy political climate that we find ourselves in I see so many on both sides abdicating the responsibility to obey God in favor of the agenda of a political faction.  If I truly follow Christ I must not abdicate any of my responsibilities to God.  The poor, the oppressed, the innocent, and the hungry are all my responsibility.  I must serve their needs. 

I must do so though without using my freedom to reject morality, righteousness, and holiness.  Every dream of justice and generosity is possible but only as they are realized in the shadow of the cross.  We cannot reject Christ’s teaching in any way and believe we are doing good.  I must follow and be free.  I must use my freedom in Christ to address the social issues of my world.  I must do so while doing what is right in everything.  I do not get to pick and choose what I am free to do.  Freedom is only found in obidende.

God wants you to silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing what is right.  Live as free people, but don't hide behind your freedom when you do evil. Instead, use your freedom to serve God. – Peter the Apostle – 1 Peter 2:15-16

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

19 February 2012

Death of a Snail

Greetings Dear Reader,

Photo by Tash Daniel
The other day my friend Tash posted a picture of three snails. They were moving across some stone and the picture was lovely.  She named the snails Bod, Dob, and Rob.  Dob got accidentally stepped on.

So what is the loss of a single snail on a stone in Australia?  I guess it depends on your view of the universe.  Some people will see it as insignificant.  Some will see it as part of the great cycle of life and death.  Some will embrace the fact that I write about it as a chaos reaction.  To me it is very significant.

You see Dob had a purpose.  I do not know what it was or is.  I do not know how it will unfold in the grand design (yes I believe there is a grand design).  I do know that Dob mattered.  No life is insignificant; even that of an Australian snail.  Jesus told us that not even a sparrow falls from the sky without it being noticed by God.  Either God knows of he does not.  I believe he knows. 

I do not believe the death of a snail will change the weather but I know that if I remember that it matters I will not forget the important things that matter.  Dunn pointed out that every person matters; that “every man’s death diminishes me.”  All life matters.  It is given by God and his alone to take.  There things to be gained in all that exists in the natural world.  How can I love God properly if I do not revel in his creation?

If nothing more, Dob the snail reminded me that all life is precious.  That may have been his purpose.    

The Answer

A Rose, in tatters on the garden path,
Cried out to God and murmured 'gainst His Wrath,
Because a sudden wind at twilight's hush
Had snapped her stem alone of all the bush.
And God, Who hears both sun-dried dust and sun,
Had pity, whispering to that luckless one,
"Sister, in that thou sayest We did not well --
What voices heardst thou when thy petals fell?"
And the Rose answered, "In that evil hour
A voice said, `Father, wherefore falls the flower?
For lo, the very gossamers are still.'
And a voice answered, `Son, by Allah's will!'"

Then softly as a rain-mist on the sward,
Came to the Rose the Answer of the Lord:
"Sister, before We smote the Dark in twain,
Ere yet the stars saw one another plain,
Time, Tide, and Space, We bound unto the task
That thou shouldst fall, and such an one should ask."
Whereat the withered flower, all content,
Died as they die whose days are innocent;
While he who questioned why the flower fell
Caught hold of God and saved his soul from Hell – Rudyard Kipling

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

18 February 2012

Salt in my Coffee

Greetings Dear Reader,

I love coffee.  I roast my own on my kitchen porch.  I savor it and never drink more than two cups in the morning.  I do not drink coffee after ten in the morning.  One of my friends once told me that I make coffee that tastes like coffee smells.  To me that is a very good thing.

Lately I have noticed that even the mildest cup of coffee gives me a churlish stomach.  I realize that this is just one of the indicators that I am growing older and that the machine that houses my spirit is beginning to wear down.  This is to be expected and tolerated but I am learning ways to slow the decline.

So as I write this my Saturday morning pot of coffee is brewing.  I can already smell the sweet aroma as it drifts on the drafts of my old farm house.  It is full of the promise of rich flavor and warm enjoyment.  It is medium roast, the last of my stores from what I was roasting the day my Grandson was born.  I can just barely hear the bubble and hiss of the coffee maker as it renders the rich brown liquid born of water and beans.  I would drink the coffee even if I knew that tummy tumults would be the result.

As the coffee began to wage its war on my digestion I remembered something I had learned a long time ago.  A few weeks ago as I prepared the filter for my freshly ground beans I put a pinch of salt in the bottom of the filter.  This tiny bit of salt gave me back my enjoyment of the coffee without the resultant digestive roller derby. 

I love good coffee and as in years past I do not over indulge (When in my twenties I drank a liter or more a day).  I can now enjoy it and not pay a price in pain.  It took only a minor adjustment that costs me nothing in flavor, texture, or aroma.  Since I wrote that last sentence I have gotten up a poured a cup of coffee.  It steams away just to the left of my keyboard. 

Like my coffee I had to make others adjustments in my life to continue to enjoy it as it changed around me.  I have had to learn to be kinder and gentler.  I am learning to be more patient with others.  My eldest Son loved me enough to check if I was “OK” yesterday as we spent some time together.  He has seen the tension in me and wanted to be sure that I was dealing with things.  He may not realize how healing his loving inquiry was for me.  He will now.  My Daughter makes me take my vitamins and cares enough to make sure I get enough rest.  My younger Son asked for some time with just him and I this weekend.  I know that I get these things because my children love me. 

I also know that making adjustments in who I am and how I approach life is making it more enjoyable for me and for those around me.  Any time I am more patient, kind, understanding, and loving I can neutralize a bit of the acid in life.  This is how following Christ is supposed to work.  I am supposed to make the flavor, texture, and aroma of following Christ stand out without injecting any bitterness or pain to the process.  It is worth every moment and every effort of the changing to do that for those I love.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

17 February 2012

Moon, Moonnana, and Sevna

Greetings Dear Reader,

In case you have not noticed I have a Grandson.  I love him dearly and he smiles at me a lot.  At fifteen months he is already very verbal.  He loves stars and the moon.  He loves bananas and the number seven.  He loves books and Blue’s Clues.  He brings out the sweetness in all of us.

He will say the word moon over and over when presented with pictures of the moon.  I pulled up a Google search of the work moon and clicked images.  He pointed at each picture and excitedly uttered “moon.”  I then did this with the word “banana” and he pointed at each one and said “Moonnana”.  Now I am not sure if he thinks a banana looks like a crescent moon but I know he can devour an entire banana in 2.736 seconds.  He will then ask for another Moonnana whilst point to the fruit basket.

I pulled up the word seven and he repeated over and over “Sevna” even pointing at it on items I did not realize carried the number.  He likes circles and mandarin oranges.  He is a beautiful and intelligent boy.  I love him so much that it becomes painful to leave him when I must.

I dell on all of this because I am in awe of the beauty being built into what was a blank slate just fifteen months ago.  I see the wisdom and love of God in this small boy.  He knows he is loved.  I already see his likes and dislikes emerging.  I see the uniqueness of his own being as it is different from all others in the world.  I have the chance to be good to him and never violate his trust.  I have the opportunity to be honest and real with him, to show him kindness, and to be a better example than I have been to others.

I see the outstanding intelligence in him and his capacity to sense the needs of others.  I see him being a wonderful person and I see how much his parents love him.  When I see my Grandson the line from the Five for Fighting song dances through my head.  “If God made you he’s in love with me.”

Photo by Emily Sharp
Later today I will see my Grandson.  We will talk of Moons, Moonnana, and Sevna.  He will show me what new things he has learned this week.  He is almost ready to walk.  I will sit and enjoy him quietly thanking God for showing more of himself to me in this beautiful young boy.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

16 February 2012

Barren Busyness

Greetings Dear Reader,

Some days at work begin in the parking lot.  A student or colleague will have a question that needs asking before I even get in the building.  I try to train my students that this is a poor practice.  I will politely ask the assailant to let me land and then we can talk.  Very seldom does the issue turn out to be as urgent as he or she thinks it is.

At times I arrive and begin to handle things one after another.  I then look up and lunch time is past or it may even be nearly time to leave for home.  When I leave for home the last thing I do is make a list of things to do tomorrow.  There are many days where that list laughs at me midway through the day.

Most of the time I get to see the rewards of my work.  I see men and women risking much to gain a career over a job.  I get to watch the metamorphic emergence into trained and capable professionals.  At times though I let the busy nature of what I do get in front of the reason I do it.  When scheduling, documenting, and logging become the focus instead a part of the process it is very frustrating.

The busyness of the process is very barren.  If I forget that the tedious bits of the job are part of the process of changing lives then the job is very unpleasant.  When I remember though that a father of four is in a good job helping others do their jobs instead of in prison the endless meetings and paper work are worth it. 

It seems that all of life can be this way.  If I forget the purpose behind what I do then the tedium of mundane tasks become a vast wasteland of a perfunctory nature.  If, however, I remember that one more meeting or another phone call will may be the one that gets a student a job or keep him in school then it is worth it.  If I remember that one more kindness might heal a spirit or another moment of patience may undo someone’s anger then that too is worth it.  This is the part of the journey that makes the busyness less barren.  As in so many cases it is the focus that builds purpose.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

15 February 2012

Not a Good Luck Charm

Greetings Dear Reader,

Last week a student came to me about an exam he had to take.  He was obviously nervous and approached me with an air of uncertainty.  He expressed his fear of the exam and we spent some time going over the material he needed to know.  He seemed more confident when we finished.  I went through the key points one more time and then had to get to a meeting.  As I walked out the door he thanked me then said, “It’s not a worry anyway, I will be wearing my cross.”

I spent the entire meeting thinking about this instead of focusing on the meeting.  I am unsure how to approach how I feel about the way in which such a significant symbol of my faith has become relegated to the categories of jewelry or good luck charm.  I do not know why God chose the cross for his place to buy our redemption.  There are heaps of theories and theological postulations about it but none of them ring true for me. 

One of my Grandfather’s favorite songs “The Old Rugged Cross” refers to the cross as “an emblem of suffering and shame.”  There is nothing gold or pretty about the cross.  It was the condemnation place for thieves and political enemies of Rome.  It was a painful torturous death.  People would gather to mock and abuse the dying.  Most of the crucified died of suffocation over a matter of days. 

The cross has no power of its own.  It is what Christ did there that matters.  It is the death and life of Christ that impacts our lives.  The cross I have on my bandana is not just jewelry or a good luck charm.  It is there to remind me that even in leisure I have an obligation to live up to.  The cross is a place of death. 

The Passion of the Christ
The cross reminds me that I must abandon my “self” and die to the things that would occlude others seeing Christ in me.  I cannot take up the cross as if it were a stylish thing.  It offers shame and reproach to be identified with the cross.  Truly following Christ is the path to death that leads to life. 

The cross is the place where God’s blood was demanded so that he could redeem us to himself.  The cross is a wretched place that God used to build a way out of our state of distance from him.  It is our bridge to redemption.  It is the symbol of all the things that God does to call me to him.  The cross on that hill on that day is the marker, the stake planted in the earth that points to the time when God did all that he could to show his love for us.

The cross is not a good luck charm but God hopes to use it to win our hearts. The cross is not about the the wood or the shape.  It is about the man who hung there.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store." 

14 February 2012

Shards of My Face

Greetings Dear Reader,

I had the opportunity recently to look at a mirror that was broken.  A baseball had found it at almost its center.  The resultant pattern of cracking was like a spider web.  As I looked into the mirror my face seemed fragmented and broken.  Small section of my nose and eyes repeated as the cracked parts at the center were at slightly different angles.  I studied this for a moment and realized that I found it humorous.  The shards of my face looked funny.

As I pondered this I realized that although I was laughing I was thinking that it should bother me.  I do not know how I made the leap to what I thought next but it has stuck.  The path seems to be that I thought about what my feelings would be were my face truly traced with lines and rivulets.  Were it not painful how would I feel about it?  My mind quickly then threw out the question of pride.  How would my thoughts change about the image I carry of my looks?

From there my mind raced to the idea of brokenness.  Do I really feel broken about who I am in light of Christ and his example?  Does my sin give me pause and drive me to be a better man?  Although I know that sadness is a component of recognizing my sin it is not the hinge-pin of brokenness before God.  I must allow my pride and selfish nature to be shattered.  I must not give thought for myself in this.  I must allow brokenness to pervade my spirit.  What this means is that brokenness is not equal to sadness.  God wishes us to be filled with joy and yet be broken before him. 

Brokenness is of the will over the heart.  My will must be broken and my spirit then and rejoice in the freedom to follow Christ more closely.  In short it is another method for getting out of my own way.

Father break me
Take me through the fire
Father hold me mold me
Just as you desire
I am just a cup to overflow your will
I know I must be empty to be filled – Terry Talbot

Wishing you joy in the journey,

13 February 2012

Rolling in the Deep

Greetings Dear Reader,

Last night the singer Adele did quite well at the annual Grammy Awards.  She won six awards including song and record of the year.  In one of her acceptance speeches she referenced the inspiration for her work to what she calls a “rubbish relationship.”  Her amazing song “Rolling in the Deep” is powerful and additive.  The video his haunting and the images leave one to wonder at the specific meaning.  In this song is a repeating line:

The Scars of your love remind me of us. 
They keep me thinking that we almost had it all. 
The scars of your love they leave me breathless. 
I can’t help thinking that we almost had it all. - Adele

I can feel the pain in her music and I hope she fully recovers from it.  I know that I have left scars from others loving me.  I try to interact with those people in ways that promote peace and healing.  I know that I have scars from loving others.  I do not think I will ever truly heal from the most recent deepest wounds.  The scar tissue still feels red and inflamed even though time has relegated that love to the past.

There are other scars for which I share responsibility.  Mine will fade and eventually be permanently relegated to the past.  The ones to which I allude never will be gone.  To love others is to feel joy and revel in the beauty a human.  It is also to take on risk, damage, and scars.  Christ has done all of this for all of us.  He took on all the risk to face incarnation and death for us.  He took the abuse and beating and crucifixion for us; for me.  He carries the eternal scars for that death for me.

Christ’s love for us has left him scarred.  He has suffered everything so that we could follow him.  We, however, take him or leave him as we please.  We betray his love by indulging our will and vices in any way we choose.  What this makes obvious is that he suffered and died; he took on the scars knowing that I and others would continue to harm him.  We would commit sin for which he carried the weight beforehand. 

He knew we would betray him.  He knew we would be unfaithful.  How can I indulge my own selfishness in the light of such love?  It is unconscionable.  I am not my own.  I was bought with a price: God’s blood.  Every time I ignore this to work my own will I take on more responsibility for the scars of his love.  There is no excuse for this.  If I do not give all that I am to loving God with all that I can then I am being unfaithful to the love that is freely given me every day.  If I abandon following Christ in any way it is the scars not the love that identify me. 

Another song comes to mind:  Known by the Scars

The marks of love God chose never to erase
The wounds of loves eternal mark
When the Kingdome comes
With its perfected sons
He’ll be known by the scars – Michael Card     

Is this not what is really rolling in the deep?  We can have it all.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

12 February 2012

Scarves of Knowing

Greetings Dear Reader,

I realize that Christmas is a month and a bit gone but that is never the case for me.  Right now in the chill of morning in my office I am enjoying a Christmas gift from a beloved friend.  She and her husband sent gifts for me and all my children to my home.  Each of the gifts is handmade and reflects knowledge of and appreciation for the recipient. 

The gifts are handmade scarves.  Mine is a chain of pancakes with pats of butter.  Adam and Colie have shared pancake breakfasts at my home often.  Food was the bridge to friendship with Adam when I first met him.  My Daughter received one that is ice-cream cones.  My eldest Son’s was bacon and eggs and my youngest received a long slice of pizza.

It was joyous to see each of them revel in the gifts and how much it fit with who they are.  Each is a gift of love from a couple whom I love dearly.  Hours of labor obviously went into the crafting of them.  Mine keeps my neck warm as I write and protects me from the draft in my century old drawing room.  Bezel used his as we were walking in 6 degree weather from the restaurant to the bar on my birthday.  He commented several times on how much he was glad to have it.

Each time I wrap up in mine I am reminded of two things.   That I have friends who love me dearly is the first.  Second that God gives us gifts in the same way.  He gives us what we need and it is tailored to who we are.  So much of what I have in my life fits exactly who I am.  Each time I wrap my chilled neck in this scarf I am not only reminded of Adam and Colie’s love for me; I am reminded that God loves me and will send gifts that I need to keep me safe and warm.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

11 February 2012

A Celebrated Life

Greetings Dear Reader,

Yesterday was a wonderful day.  I spent it with my Children and Grandson.  It started with breakfast at my favorite diner with my eldest Son and my Grandson.  My Grandson is a hit everywhere he goes and it made the morning just to see the joy he brings to others.  He is becoming so verbal and tries to say people’s names the first time he is told the name.

I spent the afternoon just relaxing with my kids and got to see them all.  As my Sons and I left for a guys’ night out with other friends who have a birthday this week, my Daughter-in-law kissed me on the cheek and told me, “You have a good time.  You deserve it.”  She has no idea what a gift that kindness from her is to me.

I was the eldest at a dinner table of eight men and the conversation was light and enjoyable.  Later I was able to save a new friend from forgetting his Father-in-law’s birthday.  The young man had no idea I knew his Father-in-law and that we share a birthday.

I returned home fourteen hours after I left feeling celebrated and loved by my children.  My Daughter has plans for us today that I am excited about.  I am not famous though I may be some day.  I am not rich though I have more than I need.  What I am is loved by my Children and that is more than I could ever ask for.  They make the journey sweet and lively and I love them more every day.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."