Me and Sam and a Pitcher of Beer

My son, Sam, came over with his wife to see a movie for his music appreciation class and write a paper. His mother in law picked his wife up after work and they went home together. He stayed and finished his paper. After he left, I thought it would have been nice to have a beer together. I called him.
"Hey, how far are you?"
"I'm not even to Madison yet."
"Want to come back and have a beer."
"Meet me at Wingstop. Call me when you get off the highway and I'll meet you there."
He calls me to tell me he just got off the highway so I head to Wingstop. I wait awhile but don't see him so I call him.
"I'm almost there. I see you."
I wait and the wait seems kind of long if he really did see me. He calls again.
"Maybe I didn't see you."
"Are you at Buffalo Wild Wings yet?" I ask.
"You were supposed to meet me at Wingstop."
"I'm turning around."
So, he finally makes it to Wingstop and checks the text he sent his wife. It reads, "I'm heading to Wingstop to have a beer with my dad."

We share a laugh. It's funny how things can stick in your mind even when you know they aren't true.

We had a nice conversation. He's studying to be a writer at Jackson State University and has had a couple of poems accepted for publication in the Black Magnolias Literary Journal. A journal that:
"uses poetry, fiction, and prose to examine and celebrate the social, political, and aesthetic accomplishments of African Americans with an emphasis on Afro-Mississippians and Afro-Southerners."
If a diverse background is a prerequisite to becoming a good writer, Sam is off to a good start.

You never know what trail a conversation will take with us.

Sam on Self Awareness:
"Striving to be better people triggers self awareness."
Sam on Mistakes:
"Mistakes remind us of the external striving of who we want to be."
Dan on Technology responding to something Sam said:
"Technology is responsible for globalization but sells itself as a tool for individual expression."
I enjoyed our conversation. We had a nice father and son time together. I'm glad I called him; glad he turned around; and glad he finally found his way to Wingstop.

Master Mechanic

If you read my previous post, you know I've been dealing with car issues lately. First, the alternator went out. Then, it kept stalling when idling; especially with the air conditioning on. I replaced the alternator. That fixed the charging problem. I replaced the spark plugs hoping that would help the idling but it didn't.

Yesterday, I replaced the fuel filter. That was unpleasant and it didn't fix the problem. I did need new plugs and a fuel filter though so I don't regret replacing those parts.

I went online and found that some people had fixed the same problem I was having by cleaning the throttle body. It's not hard to get to. The cleaner costs under $4.00 and a new throttle body seal is around $3.50.

I cleaned the throttle body yesterday. It had a layer of sticky resin everywhere. It wasn't real thick but it was really sticky and kept the throttle flap from opening and closing properly. The cleaner wasn't enough, so I had to use a tooth brush to get it all off. When I was done cleaning it, I could move the flap back and forth without it sticking.

You should replace the seal when you remove the throttle body. It wasn't in stock when I checked yesterday, so, I ordered it and picked it up today. I put everything back together and didn't have any bolts left over, a good sign, then took it for a test drive and wallah; it runs great!

It took a lot of patience and persistence to finish but it feels good to find the solution and fix the problem.

Aren't we a little like cars? We have different problems but we also have a creator who is able and willing to keep us running. He's very skilled, patient, and persistent and he has the best motivation of all behind his desire to help us; his love.

Here are some encouraging words along the way.
2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work
Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Hebrews 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Things Aren't Going as Smoothly as Planned

I always plan for things to go smoothly. I think my mother is responsible. She ingrained a persistent optimism that lives at the very base of my brain that won't go away. You would think it would be a blessing. Not necessarily. My optimism and best laid plans are persistently mocked by a reality with malicious  intent. Then, it's a drag as I constantly note this or that didn't go quite as planned. Gotta ditch the plan and handle reality.

Sometimes, I wonder if that "optimism" is really a rosy sense of entitlement. I wouldn't be surprised. I think you would have to see yourself objectively to know the difference. How many of us know our objective self? I'm guessing not many and how could you know someone you never met? The distinction between optimism and entitlement may be tough to parse.

I put my resume on Craigslist last week and might as well have posted a message saying, "SPAM ME!!!!!" Not one real inquiry but lots of "job offers" for a personal assistant asking me to submit gobs of personal information.

The Friday before last, I get a message on my vehicle's dash that the battery isn't charging. It finally lost all its juice Sunday as I pulled into my driveway. Thankfully I made it home. The two main possibilities are the battery and the alternator. Batteries are cheaper and mine might still be under warranty. For no apparent reason, I decided it was the battery. I do know why. It was the subconscious influence of psychotic optimism I blame on my mother. I confidently remove the battery and take it to Sam's Club where they're able to figure out that I bought it just under three years ago. It's still under warranty and they very courteously give me a free replacement!

Once home, I install the new battery and drive to the store. On my way there, the warning light comes back on. I make it home but it conks out just as I pulled into my driveway. I guess it wasn't the battery after all.

I probably got a free battery replacement I wasn't entitled to. Note to Sam's Club. You should probably test the batteries people return to be sure they're defective before you replace them. I'm not going to bring my new one back though. Someone will probably get in trouble, my old battery probably isn't there anymore, and there's a chance it was defective. A defective battery can ruin your alternator by making it work too hard. It was pretty good customer service anyway and I decide to leave it at that.

Now, I know for sure the battery is working. The problem must be with the alternator. It costs about $350 to get a new alternator installed. That's not an option for someone unemployed. I've never done any serious work on my car before but I'm about to.

On Monday, I buy a new alternator from Advance Auto Parts online. I get a 20% discount by using a discount code at checkout. It ended up costing me around $160 including tax. I drive up the street in my wife's car and pick it up. I figure I can find instructions or a video online that will tell me how to install it, but I don't. I have to go back and buy a manual.

I get started but soon find I need a serpentine belt tool that helps create slack so you can remove the serpentine belt. It's not much; about $20. I order it online and get my 20% off. Again, I'm off to Advance Auto Parts to pick it up. Once back home and I'm ready to continue. They would have lent me a belt tool for free if they had it in the back but someone else checked it out. I like those guys at Advance Auto Parts. They want to help.

I get the alternator on fairly smoothly. However, it didn't just slide effortlessly in place like the manual described. I have to work to get it in there. Finally, I'm all but finished. All I have to do is connect the negative battery cable to the battery. But, it won't reach. Maybe that's why the alternator didn't cooperate. I take everything apart again. When I do, I find out I screwed a wire onto the alternator in the wrong direction which took away some of the line leading to the battery. I unscrew the wire and screw it back on in the right direction this time.

I get the alternator back on, connect the negative battery cable, and am eager to take it for a test drive. No more charge failure light! However, now my vehicle stalls when idling. I look in the manual. It could be spark plugs, the fuel filter, or a leak in the vacuum line. I have 133,000 miles on my vehicle and haven't changed the spark plugs or fuel filter since I bought it. I also wonder if I caused a vacuum line to leak when I installed the alternator.

I've never worked on my vehicle before and was in a learning curve. A tight budget will make one take on challenges one wouldn't take on otherwise. Necessity leads us.

Monday morning, I take the old alternator back to Advance Auto Parts for a $10 refund. They can't find the paperwork, so they can't give me a refund. I have to return home to get my receipt. On the way, my car stalls again but starts right back up. I order spark plugs and anti seize compound online, getting 20% off again, and drive over to my good friends at Advance Auto Parts with my alternator receipt.

I get my $10 deposit, spark plugs, and anti seize goo. As soon as I get home, I get to work and replace all six spark plugs. I get into the car to run an errand and the darn thing is running rough; really rough. I wonder if I'll make it home. Once again, I do.

I have a pretty good idea what it is. I start the next morning after I collect enough patience to start over. Changing spark plugs isn't what it used to be. I remove the air intake cover, unscrew two clamps, remove two sensors, and remove the air intake resonator. You still can't see the spark plugs. Each one is under its own ignition coil and there is no distributor cap. The first ignition coil was blocked so that you can't pull it straight up to remove it. You also have to slip it back on at an angle. I'm guessing it didn't seat properly when I put it back on because it did not go on as smoothly as the rest of them.

I pry up the part that was blocking it, remove the ignition coil, and re-seat it going straight down this time. I put everything back together and start it up. It runs great! I take it for a test drive. However, the darn thing still stalls; the very I was trying to fix in the first place!

When I purchased the spark plugs, I checked the gap, in front of the sales guy, and looked at him and asked him, "Do you think that's close enough?" They were at .035 inch and it's supposed to be .042 inch on my vehicle. He didn't indicate that was a problem, so, I ended up installing the new plugs without gaping them to .042 inch. It turns out that a vehicle will stall if the spark plugs aren't gaped properly. So, I pick up a gap tool at Advance Auto Parts for under $2.00.

I remove the intake resonator, then, each coil and spark plug, one at a time, setting the gap at .042 inch. It was much faster this time. I knew by heart what to remove and the size of each bolt I had to remove making it easy to select the right socket. I put everything back together, screw the negative battery cable back on, and take it for a test drive. It drives smoother than ever. However, it still stalls and kind of lopes when it's idling, but not as bad.

I'm going to replace the fuel filter tomorrow since that's overdue. I need to buy a jack and jack stands because it's located next to the gas tank. The guy at Advance Auto Parts tells me they have them for $40. The fuel filter is about $18. I think I can get 20% off. If that fails to fix the stalling, I'm going to take to Upton Tire Pros to check for a vacuum hose leak.

You can learn a lot by fixing your car. Mainly, patience and perseverance. Then, following directions to avoid redoing something; like taking the spark plugs back out to gap them. Some mistakes are not avoidable. Nowhere did I find anything about putting that wire on the alternator in the correct direction. That's the messy part of life. Dealing with surprise non-obvious challenges. You can figure out some things as you go, but you'll miss something now and then along the way.

In the end, I found the whole experience satisfying and am going to continue. After I replace the fuel filter, I need to replace some cracked engine mounts, the serpentine belt, and I need new shocks in the front. I hear they're easy to replace yourself. I'll see.

Does anyone else out there wrestle with stuff like this? I wonder if my job search is destined to take a similar path? Somewhere in the back of my mind, something tells me that everything will go smoothly.

Alston, I just wanted you to know in detail why I missed the men's group last Friday when I said I was going to be there and I apologize.

Sign photo by Lt Commander Charles Fenno Jacobs, USN [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photos of impaled vehicles by Frank Vincentz (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Pit crew photo by Lowenburg at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, GFDL (, GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Demolition derby car photo by Philip (flip) Kromer from Austin, TX (Philip (flip) Kromer from Austin, TX) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Quiet Authenticity

I'm going to add Donald Miller to my blog list. Donald Miller is a New York bestselling author I never heard of. He seems to address some areas in my Christian faith I question. I don't know what denomination he's with. However, I usually listen to someone first, then find out their denomination later. I think truth before tribes is a good policy.

For instance, what is the balance between initiative and being led by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, I've let my Christianity strip my initiative from me. Donald Miller, in his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I learned to live a better story, seems to address that.

He also wrote a blog entry on his blog titled, A Response to Pat Robertson’s Comments about Haiti. In it, he provides a perspective that is more mature, thoughtful, and less reactionary than anything else I've read on that subject. Donald Miller points out, "Many controlling personalities are drawn to the idea of a severe, vengeance oriented God."

I have also questioned my lack of desire to express my faith through emotion. I don't deal with this in an Episcopal Church service and that is one reason why I joined the Episcopal Church. However, when I worshiped in non-denominational churches in the past, I wondered why I didn't identify so much with emotional worship when that seemed so important to everyone else around me. I felt the Holy Spirit but didn't feel him in all that emotional jostling (my subjective feeling of that experience).

However, humans differ a lot on the emotional level and I don't doubt that type of worship is truly meaningful to many. Donald Miller said something in his Haiti blog entry that touches on that for me. He said, "I love that the New Testament is mostly intimate letters written to small groups of people who met in homes. I like the quiet authenticity of our faith."

There's a lot of jostling going on and controlling people out there. However, my aim is to live a quiet authentic life. Thank you Donald Miller for expressing that.

Chesterton on Monogamy

Chesterton (1874-1936) in Orthodoxy wrote the following on monogamy. It also speaks of marriage in beautiful terms. Chesterton references Endymion, a poem by John Keats published in 1818, which begins, "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:"

I find it interesting that people had opinions about sex back then that people who think of themselves as progressive do today. The reference to "fairy tales" below is in the context of an entire chapter by the same title which happens to be favorite for many from that book. I underlined my two favorite lines.
     I could never mix in the common murmur of that rising generation against monogamy, because no restriction on sex seemed so odd and unexpected as sex itself. To be allowed, like Endymion, to make love to the moon and then to complain that Jupiter kept his own moons in a harem seemed to me (bred on fairy tales like Endymion's) a vulgar anti-climax. Keeping to one woman is a small price for so much as seeing one woman. To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once.
     It was incommensurate with the terrible excitement of which one was talking. It showed, not an exaggerated sensibility to sex, but a curious insensibility to it. A man is a fool who complains that he cannot enter Eden by five gates at once. Polygamy is a lack of the realization of sex; it is like a man plucking five pears in mere absence of mind.

Chesterton on Justice

I really like G. K. Chesterton. He was an Englishman who lived from 1874 to 1936. He was a prolific writer Time magazine once described as the prince of paradox. I like a phrase he wrote in All Things Considered


I also like the paragraph where he uses the phrase.
For, in order that men should resist injustice, something more is necessary than that they should think injustice unpleasant. They must think injustice absurd; above all, they must think it startling. They must retain the violence of a virgin astonishment.

One Fool's Opinion

I won't vote for a presidential candidate who refers to the recent health care legislation as "Obama Care." I know they do so because they don't like the legislation and they don't like President Obama. However, the phrase belittles the fact we have a health care crisis in this country and this was an attempt at a solution crafted in a difficult political environment.

To many Republicans, this legislation does nothing more than represent a democratic political victory. They're set for life with their government pension and health care plan. I can see that from a purely selfish perspective, no healthcare solution is necessary.

The phrase "Obama Care" also seems to capsulize political rancor and partisan politics. It also sounds like a phrase thought up and poll tested by special interest groups before handing it to their politicians and news organization.

The Republican candidates look like Fox News pundits speaking with one orchestrated voice. Fox News pundits do speak as they're told. The E-mails leaked by Mediamatters back in December 2010 from a Fox editor come to mind where he told everyone what phrases to use when speaking of Obama's healthcare legislation. They also did something similar with stories on global warming.

Do you remember the name of the legislation? It's the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Maybe you didn't hear it referred by its name on the news channel you were watching. What was the most controversial part of it? The public option. You may also know it as "the government option" since Fox News reporters and commentators were told to use that phrase instead.

Fox decided on the latter phrase because polls showed it slanted people against the plan. You can't be unbiased if your motive is to slant. You can't be presidential material if the primary thing you're good at is saying what you're told. Hey, but that phrase is poll tested. It's golden baby. Once Fox gets their president elected, they better say and do as they're told.

That's only my opinion.
Ah, well, I am a great and sublime fool. But then I am God's fool, and all His work must be contemplated with respect (from Mark Twain, a Biography).

Evil, Suffering, and Vicarious Sacrifice

Evil and suffering are mysteries. How can they coexist with a loving God?  What is this thing theologians call vicarious sacrifice? Those are two deep and difficult issues worthy of our contemplation. I believe they are linked from the foundation of the world.

Genesis chapter 3 describes the nature of our first transgression and its consequences. God gave man a direct, clear, and personal command. Man disobeyed thinking there was something better and God was keeping it from him. Man died and, according to Romans, we all died in him. That's when sin, death, and suffering entered into the world. Their first recorded offspring was a boy named Cain. It goes on from there. There is suffering. We are part of the root cause. Yet, it's still mysterious how suffering can be just.

God is attributed with the first sacrifice recorded in the same chapter of the book of beginnings.
Genesis 3:21  And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
You can't get animal skins without slaughtering an animal. This sacrifice foreshadowed Christ's sacrificial death on the cross for us.

Remember Aslan, in C. S. Lewis's, The Chronicles of Narnia, where he spoke of a magic built into the earth long ago? He explained he touched that magic through his death, and so, returned to life after the work of his sacrifice was finished. It was a magic that went all the way back to the spiritual heritage of creation.

I believe God built into creation from the beginning a special power to sacrifice and patient suffering. Power from that kind of suffering may counter balance the sin, death, and suffering in the world. Maybe, it's powerful enough to destroy evil and recreate a sinless creation. Jesus tried to teach us to turn the other cheek so we could tap into this ever present magic. However, only Jesus could go to the very root. It was like a scroll that only he could open and he did through his death and resurrection. The magic has a unique form and only Jesus' nature fits the form. Only his stature can fill it.
Revelation 5
1  Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2  And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" 3  And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4  and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5  And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."
It was like a secret back door access to the most basic language of a software program so that the programmer could recover the program if a hacker were to steal it (Redemption). Satan stole Adam's dominion over the earth resulting in sin and death that spread to all mankind and creation itself. Christ came in through the back door of suffering and sacrifice, erased the old software code, and created new code for his new creation. The Holy Spirit executes the new code in each of our lives, the new heaven, and the new earth.

Christ demonstrated the power of sacrifice and patient suffering. Whenever we endure suffering patiently, in faith, we tap into the same ancient magic that Christ tapped into regardless of how feeble we feel. Suffering is hard and unnoticed by man. Even the very flesh of Christ broke in the garden and on the cross; his suffering was so real, so personal, and so great. Yet he obeyed from somewhere beyond flesh and feeling and broke that old dark power once for all.

I bet the significance of our patient suffering will be one of the first things to startle us in heaven. Suffering is a mystery. The power of Christ's vicarious sacrifice is also a mystery. Maybe we can't have one without the other. Maybe we come out ahead with both.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them

The tile is from Romans 12:6 in the Christian Bible. I think of all the Christians scattered over the earth. They have differing gifts and circumstances. Someone might be a Christian surrounded by poverty and people of other religions. She can't go anywhere without meeting someone who has never heard of Jesus.

Another Christian is born surrounded by Christians and wealth. He is dissatisfied and searching for meaning. What's his gift and what should he do with it?

Isn't it logical and beneficial for the Christian in the second scenario to give some of his wealth to the Christian in the first scenario, who doesn't have any, to help her share the gospel with her neighbors? Money may be a common gift God entrusted to Christians in the United States. However, faithfulness with money may be uncommon. If we don't obey God with what he has entrusted to us, substituting other ways of serving him will be a joyless road.

The second scenario is a challenging position for a Christian to be in considering the warnings Christ and the Bible give about money. It's too bad many Christian leaders feel awkward preaching about stewardship when it's an important gateway leading to a closer walk with Christ. Learning to give - physical things - from our hearts - to Christ for his purpose and glory - helps build up the Church on both ends of the transaction: giving and receiving.

Giving is not necessarily consistent with the American dream. America praises someone who starts with nothing and works their way to the top as in the old Horatio Alger stories. Titles alone such as Do and Dare - a Brave Boy's Fight for Fortune paint a narrative and imply a moral. The rugged individualist creates himself along the way and we instinctively compare him with a poor, lazy, and undefined person still seeking hand outs.

After such a difficult time early in life, we wouldn't think any less of this man if he kept everything he earned for himself. That may actually further define him. Money is his power, his badge of honor, and (cough) proof of possessing true American ideals. To ask anything more of the brave boy would be considered by many to be class warfare and Unamerican.

However, we're too easy on this achiever. Instead of measuring him against the poor lazy person, we should compare him with Jesus for a more meaningful morality tale. The Horatio Alger stories have a good beginning but they end too soon; just before Jesus says to the rich man, "Follow me."

We also have some televangelists in America who rightfully earned iconic status by sermonizing on giving and wealth to manipulate their congregations into parting with their cash. They drive luxury automobiles, wear expensive suits, and fly in private jets.. These images also influence many away from giving.

Even though messages about giving and stewardship activate our defensive mechanisms, and run counter to certain strains of American idealism, our spiritual leaders need to preach balanced and sincere messages about giving and money because the Bible has a lot of sobering things to say about it.

In morning prayer recently, I stumbled on this verse in Ezekiel 7:19 unexpectedly.
They cast their silver into the streets, and their gold is like an unclean thing. Their silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD. They cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it. For it was the stumbling block of their iniquity. 
The stumbling block of their iniquity! There was one stumbling block. They tripped over it. It precipitated all their iniquity and subsequent downfall. Now, they despise their gold and silver as they throw it into the streets. I know they were only human and so are we.

Remember that puzzling parable abut the rich man's steward who wasted his master's goods in Luke 16?
1 He also said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.' 3 And the manager said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.' 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' 6 He said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' 7 Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' He said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.' 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
10 "One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.15 And he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
This parable is puzzling but I believe there is a key to understanding it. Jesus described the master as being rich with no other descriptors. He described the rich man's wealth using the word mammon, translated above as "unrighteous wealth." He described the manager as dishonest. Dishonest from who's perspective? Jesus is saying giving money to God is being disloyal to mammon. This fits the context. After this parable, Jesus went on to give several warnings and speak disparagingly about money.

It appears Jesus coined the term "mammon." The Son of God had a unique perspective on money as he walked among us. Using the term "mammon" makes wealth seem like a monster actively exerting a powerful and evil influence. He probably meant that.

Wealth is not something to be trusted or played with. Proverbs 23:4-5 says wealth can sprout wings and fly away. It can also corrupt us if it decides to stick around as it did with those in Ezekiel's day. This parable speaks to the fact that although we can't trust money, we can do something good with it and save ourselves in the process. However, to do that, we have to be unfaithful to mammon.

The god of this world would like us to spend everything we earn on ourselves promoting a sunny selfishness and virile indifference as Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy. More dramatically, mammon would like us to spend our money pursuing vices that steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). If nothing else, mammon would be pleased if we created massive heaps of money that sit around doing nothing. That would be similar to the barn builder Jesus described as a fool in Luke 12:13-21. The devil would love to watch us destroy ourselves and money is his tool for that purpose. However, we can re-artifice the tool if we're "shrewd" enough.

Instead of using money for the reasons mentioned above, we can give it to God. The devil may scream, "You're wasting my possessions!" as the master said in the parable above. Go ahead and do it.

Giving is powerful and radical. It's the spiritual transfer of wealth between realms and kingdoms. The money we give takes on new character and meaning. It's the transformation of wealth.

Giving not only helps others, it helps the giver. It opens a spiritual doorway in the giver and protects the giver from money's negative influence. Yes, the influence is there and everyone is susceptible to it except for Hobbits I suppose. Many men and women of God who went on to make lasting contributions to the church made decisions relative to giving and possessions early in life.

Where can you give? How about your church? The Episcopal Relief and Development is a good place to give. Stewpot provides relief to the needy in nearby Jackson Mississippi. It's easy. Give some of your stuff to where you believe it will do some good.

Jesus concludes the parable by saying:
And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
Who are "they" and what are the "eternal dwellings?" Maybe, "they" are those in heaven we touched during our lives with simple "unrighteous wealth." Maybe every human heart in heaven is an "eternal dwelling" God will permit us to experience. Giving is powerful on earth and the fruit of our giving will be awesome to experience in heaven.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

God and Heaven with Infinite Secrets

I've been thinking on how far God is beyond our comprehension. I used to think of him as part of his creation. He is. However, he stands apart from and transcends the universe he created. He is far greater than anything he is doing or ever did in the physical realm.

I used to think of heaven something like a more perfect and more spiritual earth. However, I see heaven now as being within that part of God that transcends creation. Then, there's God transcending heaven as well; with infinite secrets.

Think of the lack of imagination atheists reveal when they say, "I don't want to live forever. That would be boring." I don't agree. Heaven will express God's infinite wisdom, creativity, beauty, and love. Enjoy the music below by Cloverton. Take Me Into the Beautiful.