Friday, September 07, 2012

A Marvel take on paying off debts

“Don’t worry about it,” Logan snarled. “I owe ya.” With that, he shook each of the Caterpillar’s hands, bowed deeply and raced out of the room and out of the dilapidated building. He didn’t run far before he smelled something familiar. He extended his metal claws when he turned toward a familiar face.

“Corpse Flower,” Logan said matter-of-factly. “I could smell your rotting flesh and garbage a mile away. And what’s with the tutu?”

The tall, gray humanoid-sunflower mutant shook with maniacal laughter and extended a petal appendage toward Logan.

“You owe me, Logan!” Corpse Flower screamed. “You owe me!”

Logan circled. “Yeah, I owe you. I didn’t bury you when I had the chance.” With that, Logan leaped on Corpse Flower, and, with claws slashing, severed it in half.

“Logan! You owe…” it screamed again before its voice faded away to a whisper.

Logan jumped off and retracted his claws. “I’m not a gardener,” he told Corpse Flower’s remains. He then noticed an official-looking piece of paper in one of Corpse Flower’s petals. Logan picked it up and read. A shudder came over him. He read “Services Rendered – FTD - $345.12.”

Logan instantly remembered the funeral and the flowers for that enemy he respected in Germany the year before. He had forgotten to pay the bill. Stinky ol’ Corpse Flower was the florist. He was a nasty enemy but he knew his bouquets.

“Darn, bub,” he said sadly, staring at Corpse Flower. “I guess I did owe ya.”

Logan sat sadly with his fallen enemy as the noonday sun beat down upon them both. With Corpse Flower’s rotting stench and Logan’s mutant sweat, it made for a horrific odor. It drew onlookers who kept a safe distance.

Monday, April 23, 2012

One finger...

One finger. No more than one. And not even the whole finger. Just the nail portion, actually. So, one quarter of a finger, pretty much. Yet it might as well be the whole thing. Or my hand. Or my arm all the way to my elbow, or armpit. This stinks (I meant to pun).

I had surgery to see what was causing some weird abnormality. I almost chickened out of the surgery. I’ve never had a surgical knife touch my body before. I haven’t had to. I know lots of women so much younger than me who have. Big surgeries. Stuff that they get put to sleep for. The doctor put my finger to sleep. It’s more like a needle delivering a hard concussion to the finger. It hurts just for second or two. Then it’s lights out. Just a small part of me, anyway.

I sang worship songs in my head. Revelation Song. Your Holiness Surrounds Me. No reason for those songs in particular. Just because I had used them to lead the prior worship service. It helped. It always helps when I’m at the dentist. I ignored the sounds of the surgery. Even when I was tempted to look at what was happening. I didn’t look. Not even one little peek. I listened to their voices, instead. They talked about what they were doing, the doctor and his assistant. They talked about the surgery. They gossiped. It was funny. “You are beauty and light, no darkness at all…”

The doctor put a bandage on me. Then he printed a prescription for a strong painkiller. Then he told me to schedule a follow up appointment. He said goodbye and left the room. After I left I made the appointment and waited for my husband to pick me up. I was emotional. I needed him. So much.

Since then I have been in a haze from the painkiller. I have been kept awake from searing pain. I have been frustrated with my inability to do much of anything. I have spent way too much time online and far too little time in the shower. I have tried to cope with not serving my family by baking and cooking. I have looked at recipes with sadness. I have been scared and anxious. I have cried. And I have been reminded that this will get better. My husband and kids have shown me that they can serve me by helping out. My friends have been very caring toward me. Someone else offered to lead worship this past Sunday. And my finger will get better in time. I know this because I talked to the doctor on the phone and he said it would. I’ll take his word for it.

"If one part (of the body of Christ) suffers, every part suffers with it..."
1 Corinthians 12:26a


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What if?

Our daughter is heading to France in less than three months. She will be gone for a month.

While there she will help out at a Christian youth camp with whatever they ask of her. It will be fun. It will be exciting. But it's also a little scary. On her end, Elizabeth is faced with a million questions and anticipation. On our end, we're watching our oldest step out in obedience and experiencing what God has for her halfway around the world. This is more than just hanging out at a camp in Alps for a month. Elizabeth has had going over to France on her heart for years. Now it's going to come to pass.

Glory and I talked a little last night about the upcoming trip. With a far-away look in her eyes, she softly asked "what if...?" There have been a lot of what ifs lately, more so after we hit the purchase button on Travelocity and secured Elizabeth's tickets. What if she decides to stay over there? What if she gets sick? What if she meets a special someone? What happens to her there or afterward are big questions, but it's really out of our hands. What we know is what she's going through right now.

What if?

That probably is one of the most often asked questions.

Be it far from me to suggest that my wife is the only worrier in the family. My grandmother called me a "worry wart." I guess I have been predisposed to worry most of my life. I have to be reminded all the time that I have very little or no control over things.

Our friends the Macys are in Nepal as I write. They heeded the call to minister to Tibetans several years ago. Instead of Tibet, they ended up in Germany for several years, ministering to Tibetans. Now they are moving to Nepal. What if they didn't go to Germany because it wasn't what they really wanted at the time? What would they have missed out on as God prepared them for Nepal? Looking back now, they would have missed out on unique appointments that affected them and influenced others.

Our friend Jodi is battling cancer. I see her pictures all the time. She's got a great attitude and fearless disposition. What if Jodi didn't have such a great attitude and didn't choose to live in the face of the unknown? How would that effect her friends and family? Anyone who has gone through such a thing knows the answer to those questions. The what ifs are pointless.

There are things that are out of our control. There are things we can't see. And trying to control them is a fruitless exercise.

I shared with Elizabeth the other night James 4:13-15: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'”

With so much out of our control in such a short life, it's just best to acknowledge that God has it under control.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Who is God? If He is who He says He is, we shouldn't worry about a thing.

What if?

I don't know. God knows.

And that's OK.

- Bill

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Heaven and Hell: A good dose of perspective

I love the Pacific Northwest, but I have to say, the rain of this winter got me down in the dumps.
The other day while running I remember getting panicky while watching yet another cloud bank roll in and vomit out more raindrops. When would this end? Anyone around here would tell you that we haven't dried out in two years. It's just been wet, wet, wet. The ground is soggy all the time. The killer moss is overtaking everything. Squirrels look demonic as they scurry up grotesque lichen-encased trees. It's horrible in this dark corner of hell. What could top this off? A tsunami? Mount Baker exploding and laying down a thick layer of lava. Yes! Bring it on! Put us out of our misery. I've been wanting to tell wandering tourists who stop me for directions, "Welcome to Hell's outhouse."
But wait. Yesterday, spring seemed to finally say, "Yes, I am here." And while pruning our spruce trees yesterday afternoon, I felt myself snap out of it. I felt...nicer, calmer.
While running last night, it actually felt warm. I saw others out walking, biking and jogging. People had smiles on their faces. People were greeting friends on the street, yelling over the traffic when they would get together and have that weekend BBQ. There was even a car full of young people pulled over by a cop. Believe it or not, that was a good sign. People are getting out more. I heard laughter and cheering. I wasn't even bothered by the bleeding blister on my heel.
There are clouds in the sky as I write but there is a yellow orb in the sky, too. Day two of change. I want to chase my kids in the yard. I want to release all the Chihuahuas from the animal shelter and throw Frisbees for them. I want to hug everyone and share my food with them.
Our famous tulips here are ready to bloom. The daffodils already are out in full color. We're watching the buds of apples and plum trees take shape. And we already can taste the blackberries and blueberries that are in abundance in our Garden of Eden. People from all over the Northwest are making their way to our corner of Paradise to see what's so special about this place.
So, maybe life isn't as bad as it seemed a couple of weeks ago.
What a difference a little good weather makes.


Monday, March 26, 2012


Truth doesn't have much meaning these days, it seems. What is true today will not be true tomorrow. Just look at our political environment. Our government can create a law or pass an ordinance based on something that someone perceives as true. A generation later that "truth" may not be accepted as such any longer. Truth, it seems, changes with the wind.

Perhaps there are few things that meet that criteria. But the honest truth should not be subject to someone's interpretation. The one thing that does is the fundamental truth of Christianity: The person of Jesus.

It quite apparent that there are those, most perhaps, who are not too keen on the absolutes, or essentials, of Christianity. And that is where we find more and more people opposed to these truths and the most important truth of all.

Pilate asked Jesus the definition of truth when Jesus said: "Everyone is of the truth hears my voice." -- John 18:37

The Truth was standing before Pilate. Pilate then said to the ones wanting to kill him that he found no fault in Jesus. Ah, but others did because of who He said He was.

And who did He say He was?

"I am the way, the TRUTH and the life. no one comes to the follow except through me." -- John 14:6

That's quite hardcore.

And quite dividing.

The question "What Would Jesus Do?" is a question that has become abused in our culture. From those who don't even believe in Jesus it is used to corner a professed believer, often to "remind" that believer that they are to be loving and accepting and not judgmental. From the believer, it is used to make one stop to question purpose and check the heart. But in Matt. 10:34, Jesus said he came to bring division, simply because of who He is. Our acceptance of Him as Lord will divide even a person's family. I see this to some degree in my extended family. I see the more violent reactions to this truth in places like the Middle East and China where, truly, one risks his or her life to declare allegiance to Christ.

In our country, Christians spend a lot of time immersed in pop culture, trying so hard to make our message palatable to the public. Truth is: we can't. All we end up doing is having the public mock our faith. Look recently at the football quarterback Tim Tebow. It was weekly sport for people to ridicule him. It had nothing to do with the Heisman Trophy winner's ability or inability to play at the pro level. He was unabashed about his faith. That rankled people and he took abuse for it.

That is the line in the sand. It really doesn't matter our views on a variety of issues, really. When the basis of those beliefs are rooted in truth, and that is proclaimed as such, it does create division.

I have in the past been told by people, to the effect, "well, if that works for you..." Yeah, it works for me. And it should for you, too. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus took my sin and nailed it to the cross. Jesus says to take up my cross and follow him. In essence, I need to come to him and die. There's no good on me. And there's no other way to be reconciled to God. I can't even keep my checkbook balanced on a regular basis. How can I do anything consistent to merit God's favor? It's Jesus and Him alone.

It's a narrow road. It's tough. But it's the Truth.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Worshipping at the Super Altar

"The Golden Cash Cow had the body of the great cows of ancient Egypt. And the face of Robert Tilton, without the horns." -- Steve Taylor

My wife and I were among the few who didn't go to church yesterday. We were on our way home from our wedding anniversary weekend. But while on the way home I told my wife that I had a confession to make: Had the Denver Broncos or the Seattle Seahawks been in the Super Bowl this year, I might have been at church, too. Or at least I would have poked my head into the sanctuary to see what was going on. But my teams didn't get in and so I didn't even glance at yesterday's national televised worship service.

With more than one-third of our nation's population tuning in, there were a lot of people at church yesterday.

The Super Bowl has become our nation's annual church gathering. What other event can guarantee to get us all in one place, excited about one thing and take communion with a big bag of Doritos? We raise our hands, shout in jubilation over victories, and cry in disgust over the opposing team's foothold in our hopes and dreams. Heck, this year the service had Madonna leading the choir on the stage. How appropriate. Thousands of fans across the country even packed real churches to watch their second worship service of the day on the big screen. The Super Bowl is a huge four-act passion play that brings us all together.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am all about having some fun and enjoying time with friends and loved ones over a common interest. But, I have to say, the more I read about this year's version of the annual gathering, complete with a completely idolatrous halftime show and sexually-charged commercials, the more I am glad I missed it. For a few years now, too, the networks on which the game has aired has had to apologize for what people had been watching. But then it happens again the following year. It's an opportunity for corporations and famous individuals to push the boundaries of decency as far as it can until we don't care anymore. And it seems that we don't care. After all, it's the Super Bowl. And it's all about fun.

And it's all about a sermon about money that, for once, people don't mind hearing.

It's ironic that for the past year a vocal segment of our society has talked about being part of the 99 percent and hating the wealthy one percent. Those evil people with money, including a current candidate for national office, shouldn't be able to have all that money, they say. Laws need to change so their money can belong to everyone else, others say. Even some famous one-percenters have duped us into thinking that they even believe their fellow one-percenters are the worst of the worst simply because they have more money than them.

But on one particular Sunday every year, people don't seem to mind that those filthy rich millionaires possess what the rest of us never will as long as they keep us entertained for a few hours in their cathedral of avarice. We'll gladly put something in their collection plate. If we can't be like them, we might as well watch them and wish we were them.

But maybe I'm just upset my teams didn't make it to Super Sunday.

Who won, anyway?


Friday, January 06, 2012

Coming to a doorstep near you

My family and I love to travel. We do. We like to load up the van and take off for parts unknown and familiar, bagging a 4,000-mile trip over a couple of weeks. We like to see the people we know and love and also see the sites of which most people just see pictures.
Because of a few life-changing events in 2011, we have determined to bring our friends in a little closer to us. Our van will get gassed-up and tuned up this summer and take us on a multi-thousand mile trip. Could be 5,000. Could be 8,000. We may only get to go halfway across the country, or perhaps we’ll get to the East Coast. We don't know yet. But it should be fun, exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.
Recently I read about a lady who decided to personally see all 300-plus people on her Facebook friends list. She did it last year and spent more than $30,000 getting the job done traveling the world. What made her trip more remarkable was that she struggles with depression and, prior to her road trip, spent the vast majority of her time housebound, and scared to even leave her home. What a big step to leave under such constraints. And what a show of devotion to friends that she would get out of her bubble to see them.
But such devotion doesn’t have to be shown to someone who lives 2,000 miles away. Perhaps there’s someone across town you don’t spend as much time with anymore. Perhaps they live just an hour away. What is their friendship worth to you? Perhaps it’s time to just invite them over for coffee. Perhaps you can just drop in on them.
I believe with our social media saturated culture, we have perhaps a distorted idea of true friendship. We may have a lot of friends per se, but do we really know them? Would we ever see them? Are they really friends or acquaintances? Granted, we all have acquaintances -- those who we don't mind having in our lives but keep at a distance for some reason or another. But what about those we have broken bread with, cried with, went camping with, grew up with or stood alongside with during a significant life event? What about those we say we love but haven't seen in 20 years and don’t expect to any time soon? Are those friends worth the sacrifice of reconnection? Does a phone call, text, poke or IM just not getting the job done anymore? Do things really bridge the divide? Perhaps it's time to hit the road and see these people, in the flesh.
And that's what we plan on doing in 2012. We long to see our friends face to face. And I can't wait for the bonding that will happen in our family when we again ride together across this country. Those are the things that we build in our children so that they will learn the value of relationships and eventually learn to go the extra miles for those they will soon know and love.


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

January Stinks

"Fish and visitors smell after three days." -- Benjamin Franklin

My wife and I have long joked about our nemesis, January.

January is pretty sure of itself. It knows that everyone wants to see it. It makes December feel bad, especially right after Christmas. I mean, December just gives us a rip-snorting good time with presents and holiday cheer when January starts knocking on December's door, threatening to kick it out.

And when January comes blowing in on the first, evicting December with its songs, toasts and parties, everyone welcomes it with open arms.

"Oh, January, we thought you'd never get here!" they cry.

Those seeking change snuggle sickly up to January: "Oh January, thank you for giving us a second chance."

And January smugly takes in all the attention. Like a politician, it promises much and predicts great things. It smiles and kisses our babies and makes big speeches about good times to come. And, fresh from Christmas, we salivate for more good times that only December can give, and expect second helpings of holiday heapings from January.

But, oh how quickly our devotions change. We start seeing through January's slick promises. We quickly start realizing that January is, in fact, a thief. It kicked December to the curb and didn't expect to get caught. When the taxman comes, we call for January to help us but it's silent. When the one pound we lost on the second turns into three pounds gained on the third, we cry for help. But January turns a deaf ear. When happiness with friends on Dec. 31 turns into heartache over tragedy, we ask why. And January doesn't give an answer.

No, my friends. Here on Jan. 4, we see January for what it is. January is not a team player. January in and of itself does not fulfill one of its shallow promises. January doesn't keep away the trials, pains, hard work and dedication the way it promised. January, really, does nothing.

January stinks.

- Bill