Showing posts from March, 2006

Still in spite of myself

In spite of myself God moves to perfect that which He has started in my life. I look back to see all of the opportunities that I have availed myself of in an effort to grow in Him and I realize that my motives were not always (not ever?) pure. Why did I participate so mightily in the Peer Ministry group at Cardinal Mooney High School? Was it so that I could gain a fresh perspective on God and start or deepen my relationship with Him? Or was it because I was lonely and needed substantive friendships? Was it because of a girl or two that I had my eye on? I could forever be questioning why this or that happened and what was the motive for this and that, but one thing remains certain. I had nothing to contribute to my salvation and my sanctification seems to be playing out the same way. God’s grace saved me, is saving me, and will ultimately save me when what I have been saved from is finally revealed to me. I stand completely deserving hell today but assured of the bliss of heaven. And th

Carl Sagan

I finally had a chance to look at our church bulletin this morning and what I saw there encouraged me a great deal. It wasn’t the fact that we are making budget this year or the fact that they finally got the time right on my wife’s scrapbooking outing tomorrow night. No, it was a quote…from Carl Sagan. The quote was excellent, but I never thought I would see the day that there would be a quote from an ardent atheist astronomer (albeit a very spiritual atheist) in a Baptist church bulletin. This is good because he had a lot of knowledge in this area. Knowledge that we ignore and forget exists as we draw nigh to our holy huddle. And, without being conscious of it, Sagan glorifies God as he wonders about the universe He created. Sagan thrilled us as kids when we watched the PBS special and read the book. Leafing through the pages we saw things that any normal kid could see, but with eyes that grew wide with exciting thoughts of parsecs, the google plex, septillions of stars, and billions

I'll never be the same

She stands in the waiting she looks down to speak Your eyes speak invitation to follow with the beat She said oh no I'll never be the same You struck my heart like lightning I'll never be the same   - King’s X Coming out of the shower is when I usually have an idea about what I want to write about for the day. Not today. But I do know this: I am a different person than I was last year. Some of those changes have been voluntary and some of them have been produced in me. As I reflect on them I like them. I really do, and that is a good position to be in. I am not where I want to be – not where God wants me to be – but as I grapple with that I realize that where I want to be is heaven and in the new body that He has promised me. So I strive to live out in practice what I am in position. The changes that I have made in my life (and the ones made for me) have helped me in that regard and for that I thank God. Every year I want to be different. I want to make changes in the places th

Marvelous and born of Him

It’s marvelous…and I don’t use that word lightly…that two boys, so different, can come from the same two people. The oldest is so agile, so coordinated in his movements that my wife and I often look at each other amazed that he can do what he does. The younger is so verbal and relationship oriented that my wife and I often look at each other amazed at what he says and how friendly he is. These differences were really from the womb and solidified early in their lives. God has a funny way of introducing variety into the species doesn’t he? I love them both to death and love coming home to see them. I see the strain of love on their mother’s face as well at times. She is deeply committed to them and it resonates to the core of who she is. Thanks be to God that it does! I don’t want to pigeon-hole them into specific activities because of their abilities. If the older wants to try out for the school play or run for class president that would be great. If the younger wants to (like his dad)

The Old Barren Cross

I dug out an old album by Barren Cross called Atomic Arena and had an imaginary conversation with myself about the best songs on the album. I went down the list – Imaginary Music, In the Eye of the Fire, Close to the Edge, Dead Lock, Heaven or Nothing…I think that is all I listed in my conversation. Well, I was mostly right. All of these songs kick hard except for Heaven or Nothing. Then I left off King of Kings which, although short, rocks all night long. This little mental exercise (and the conversation which probably qualifies me for the psych center) leads me to one conclusion: In and of myself I have nothing of value to offer to interpret this universe. If I cannot even recall the good songs off of an obscure Christian heavy metal album how can I sift through the facts presented to me from this vast cosmos (both internal and external) and come to any substantive conclusions about what is real. It is the heart of folly to pretend that I can come to hard conclusions about anything i

Being a Dad

A trip to the Fire Station So this is what being a dad is like? That's right - all this and more. Reading in Luke last night and came across the verse where Christ mentions that we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children and how we should rest in the knowledge that God, who is holy, knows how to give good gifts to His. I never knew what that meant (on an emotional level) until I met my son for the first time. Instantly I realized that I would do anything for him and would never intentionally harm him in any way. It made me realize what a dad truly is and how great it is to have a Dad that looks out for me too. I need that more than I realize.

Backyard Changes

“Nothing ever changes in your own backyard… If you want to make a difference then you’d better start with some backyard changes.” When I was a new Christian at SUNY Brockport there was a guy that I eventually roomed with that was way into Christian music. He introduced me to a wide variety of groups. One of the best and most underrated was Crumbacher. They were a techno/synth pop group that was pretty groovy. They have a song (that I am actually listening to now) called Backyard Changes. I love it, and it speaks to me that my heart is where real change takes place. I tend to blame the place I am at for the trouble in my life. “If I could just remove myself from [[insert whatever you want here]] then I will have [[insert whatever you want here]].” Of course it is nonsense but this line of reasoning (and its derivatives) runs through my head and catches me in its lie. My heart is so vast and so deceitful at times – I will never know it. But the promise is this: if I change my backyard th

Explore this with me

The humility that consistently opens up to the possibility that I may be wrong whenever I utter a sentence escapes me far too often. Pondering the implications of me being mistaken when I dispense my facts leaves me a bit breathless. I do not think that is too strong of a term. For if my little reality that I have painted develops holes not only will I have to reassess what I hold to be true but I will have to do it in front of others and that is not a bright prospect for me. Rather than admit that I am wrong I thinly hold to the charade watering it down, adulterating it until I can barely taste the juice that was squeezed from the fruit I knew came off of that tree. Can life be all exploration? No, the Guide has charted a course for us. But there is so much He left off of the map. On purpose no doubt so this life of faith will be lived according to the Spirit who cries out “This way!”. But so much, so many times, I approach those who are most assuredly wrong with the patronizing nonse

Laugh with me

I can spend years and lives questioning the motives of others. Or, when they share good and bad news I can rejoice and mourn with them. Why is there a shadow in everything that comes out of some people’s mouths? Why is there a closet where they hide everything that they are not telling me? Why for one second do I suspend the command to not judge lest I be judged? Their heart is my Lord’s ground to walk not mine. Not one time have I been burned to the point of injury or death – and if I have may it be because I have followed His command to laugh and cry when others do the same.

Not the yardstick I think I am

Sometimes I just need to swallow hard and realize, really realize, that I am not the measure of all things. More than once this weekend things were not going exactly as I had planned and envisioned them going. Little things here and there that upset my plans for this and thwarted my plans for that. The funny thing is, if you asked me what those plans were, or even what the episodes were, I would not be able to recall them. But I know the feeling. I know it too well and as it reared its head I had to cut it off. Rather than getting into a funk or having a pained expression on my face I needed to breath deep and commit those feelings to the Holy Spirit. He helped me and I needed every bit of saving I could get. More than a “complaint” those feelings are an affront to God and the provision He has given me. It is not a bad temper or a bad attitude, it is a sin in the highest order. Do I ask God to help me with them so that I am more pleasant to be around or so that I am more like His Son?

VeggieTales Live

We went to a VeggieTale s Live concert last night in Buffalo, NY and had a blast. It was a lot of fun and we snapped literally hundreds of pictures of the event. It is hard to get a good picture because there was so much movement on stage and there was no flash photography. I think we got enough for a decent scrapbook page or two of the event. The boys were jazzed. The oldest was jumping up and down quite a bit and the youngest was a little overwhelmed I think. We were in the second row of seats in the middle but off to the left of the stage a bit. I have attached a picture of the event that I think was one of the better ones we got. I appreciate the Big Idea folks and what they are doing. VeggieTales is a very wholesome show and speaks values to my kid’s hearts. I’ll support that any day of the week. There are some people at our church that are not too high on the VeggieTales for a variety of reasons. I think that a lot of their problem stems from the fact that there is a modern ap

More personal

I guess this blog is more personal than anything. Does that make it self-serving? I think arguments can be made on either side. First and foremost I think that a truly self-serving line of thinking has impure motives behind it. In other words, I would be looking at eliciting some sort of reaction out of someone – manipulation is self-serving and I know I do it sometimes without even thinking about it. I would be using this blog as a means of manipulation. I would like to think that this is more of an exploration for me as when I write I have a tendency to think and meditate a little more. Then I get a little too focused on the words on the screen and mess around with this sentence or that phrase until it sounds all right. That usually breaks the meditation or stream of consciousness and I am left with the crumbs that fall from the table for the rest of the posting. I also think that a self-serving way of doing things would lead me to a more private expression of who I am to me alone. N

And the curse continues

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.   – Ecclesiastes 7:2-3 Cruising back home after a satisfying day of work where I kept my mind pure and focused on the task at hand with the thought of returning home to my wife and sons….this is when I need to be reminded of the fact that I am not home yet. This world holds no happiness; nothing that should infatuate me; nothing that should make my head turn as I focus on a point. No vacation, 75 degree day full of sun, slice of sausage and pepperoni pizza, or great day of ministry should ever become the spring of my joy for there is no happiness here, no joy here. And my “longing” for heaven seems so tepid as I close my eyes to the painful sadness that walks with the mourning over the dead and the sting of the slap of rejection. I shall leave this place. I shal

Without her

Maybe I am making too much of this, I don’t know. I was in a conversation with someone and I was joking about an airplane going down (I know macabre to the extreme), but she made this statement: “I don’t want to be alone.” (this was not my wife who made this statement) I thought nothing of it until this morning. Obviously it is not good to be alone for God has decreed it such. But I lived in strange satisfaction with my loneliness until I met my wife. She showed me how awesome companionship is and stirred up a dissatisfaction with loneliness that leaves a sickness in my heart at the thought of it. Much more than not wanting to be alone, a life without her is what I fear the most.

So many words

I haven’t even come close to fleshing this out as a thought yet, so I need some grace on this one. So much of what we say about God and especially what we sing about Him comes off as so much poetry. I mean, at times it can seem so unreal as we sing about the Father of Lights, or the Ancient of Days. I mean, come on, nice names and all, but what do they really mean? The way I see it there are two things that flesh out our poetry about God. One is imminently more important than the other, but they both bear mentioning: Scripture and science. This is where it gets a bit fuzzy for me because I think that we can probably say Scripture and experience for what is science but a chronicle of experience? Maybe I should just say Scripture and experience. At any rate, Scripture is both the source and interpretation of the poetry that flows so eloquently from the composers pen and out through the instruments that give it life beyond their mind. All poetry is examined in light of the Scripture just

Whose hands are these?

Non-calloused hands, tired eyes, a mouse, and a laptop that has a screen that flickers every once and a while…in the Father’s hands these instruments can be used for righteousness. I pray that they are. So much is made of the method of ministry – so much that I wonder if we are missing the wonder of it all. That often the hands that are attached to these feeble arms move in concert with the Singer of the Song of the Ages. That from everlasting to everlasting there was a plan, a method, a desire, an aria where the movement (the second? the third? is it a Scherzo?) included me. The Composer set His love on me and said, “Mark! Serve me and I will make you and instrument in the finest composition ever played!” And I, with the throng of the chosen, will push in around the throne someday straining for a sight of my Lover and He will kiss me with the sweetest kiss. Every desire and longing that has ever been satisfied or unrequited will be swallowed up in that kiss and my Lover and His belove

Busy...even for me

I have been busy lately. There have been a lot of ministry opportunities and commitments at church that have been all converging at once and have led both my wife and I to be extremely involved these past couple of weeks. We have the school auction to benefit the school that is attached to our church coming up this weekend and it is always a hectic fun time. I hope we are not too busy to overlook the needs our boys have. They seem to like to go to church. The youngest was bent on going into the auditorium for prayer meeting last night which is in the exact opposite direction of the nursery. And the oldest was almost as quiet as a church mouse as he sat with me during prayer. My wife was in the gym marking up items and getting stuff ready for the auction of Friday night and Saturday morning. And that was just last night. All this to say that God is interested in my ordinary things. When my hands and feet move in concert to His revealed will (His sovereign will He hasn’t consulted me on

Oh I suppose

I am a firm believer in presuppositional apologetics. There I said it and if that puts me firmly in the camp of fideism I think my placement there is unwarranted but that is another story. I listened to a sermon at church last Sunday and, although I see the approach taken, I am not inclined to accept it. We have a  pastor that took an evidential approach to proving the accuracy and reliability of the Scriptures. So, for example, since archeology time and time again supports the claims of Scripture then Scripture is valid and can be trusted. I see the approach and it rails against me (and I think God) on a variety of levels. In holding Scripture up to that kind of inquiry I believe that we put ourselves in the place of God to pronounce what is true and false in the universe. So, if the evidence that is presented meets and arbitrary standard that I have defined, I will look favorably on the Scriptures rather than dismissively. In effect that is what I am saying if I hold the Bible up to


Coupled with a desire to be different – to do different things and have varied experiences – I need to surround myself with people who have both of those characteristics. Too many times I am in maintenance mode and am not challenged and stretched to do new things or to sink energy into those pursuits that I am even marginally committed to. For example, without the prompting of my friend Alan I probably would not have gotten my telescope out to watch the transit of Venus across the Sun. It was an awesome sight. It will happen again in 2012, but who knows whether I am going to be around to see that again. He is also prompting me to get up at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow morning to catch a glimpse of a comet that has suddenly become bright enough to see in the early morning sky. I could probably snap some pictures of it with the digital camera we bought last year and stack the frames to have it come into a more pronounced focus. Without him and his desire to push the bounds (of common sense sometim

In my dreams

I know Your Name in life. I’ll be speaking it in my dreams. - Recon For those of you who care….There is an on-again, off-again Christian heavy metal band that I think is one of the premier music makers in the genre called Deliverance. They have had revolving membership but their music has been consistently to my liking so I do not care about that as much. Anyway, there was a guitarist who was a member of the group, George Ochoa, that was largely credited with putting together what is considered the greatest Christian heavy metal album of all time (Weapons of Warfare). He ended his relationship with Deliverance before they got all prog-rock on us (believe me it was a very welcome change) and began a band called Recon. They sang a song called “In my Dreams” and it effected me in a profound way. What do I dream about? What has sunk deeply enough into my life to leech out in my dreams? When confronted with problems when all of the social pressures are off, what do I turn to for solutions?

Inquisition, demise

The One that gives is also the One that takes away. There is no higher picture of God than this. During the giving and the relieving I have a choice: to either curse God over what He has provided for me or to bless Him over it. The choice is mine. Nothing happens without His command and permission. Nothing escapes His control. Sennacherib was able to array his armies against Judah for the Lord allowed it. Once the Assyrian king announced that it was he that made the advance and did not recognize that it was the Lord that was using him as His instrument, he was routed. So shall my end be when I stand and ask the Lord “What have You done?” and “Where is Your power?”

Ministry is never convenient

Ministry is never convenient. I want my boys to know that and let it sink deep into my life as well. If I happen to be engaged in a ministry that is convenient for me I am of the opinion that it ceases to be a ministry and turns into something like a hobby. I, in that case, would either need to find a way to sink more of my resources into the ministry (so that it becomes less convenient) or find another ministry. Maintenance mode in ministry is altogether not pleasing to God and He will not honor it to the extent that I need Him to if I continue down that road. How do I know when I am engaged in God-honoring ministry? When it hurts a little to do it. It may even hurt a lot. But I then know it is ministry at that point and the hurt is minimized somewhat as the peace of God with transcends all understanding becomes my solid ground.