Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cooks In The Stew Squeel The Broth

Art. So many people define themselves as artists, creating masterpieces…or at least ‘talking’ about their ‘art’. I did it for years, no fooling.
Mine was cooking, the culinary art. I have worked many different places, many types of restaurants…and the art isn’t just in the food. It is also in the effort to make all of the food perfectly, in timing this to be ready with that, whatever this and that happen to be. A musician needs to be able to keep time; a good cook is both Conductor and Musician.
“But Doug,” you might say, “cooking in Restaurants isn’t really Art.” It can be.
Meet two cooks; let’s call them Ricky and Fred.
Ricky is 21, works at an upscale Italian restaurant, is enthused about creating food art. He has a copy of “LaRousse Gastronomique”, he does fancy when even plain would be fine…he thinks he is an artist.
Fred, on the other hand, is 44 years old. He’s been in kitchens for 30 years, knows it all, has done it all. He doesn’t think he’s an artist. And he’s right.
Each presents a good plate. Both have the timing, know the proper mix of how to get all the elements ready at the same time. For Ricky, it is still a joy, still “art”. For Fred, it is drudgery, hard unending work. He knows that five years from now, he’ll be exactly where he is today, on the cook line. And he hates his job and his life, but he has no other skills, no other way to make a living. He’s trapped in the kitchen.
Now we meet a third cook, whom we will call Doug.
Doug was a mess in the mess hall-he tried to learn the skills, the timing, how to cook. He hated it. He also hated his life. He was miserable, angry; every day was another defeat for him, another ‘epic fail’. He couldn’t get water to boil, let alone make a palatable meal.
One day he was sat down by his boss. It had been decided that Doug was not able to handle cooking. Doug
was going to be sent back to the ranks of general labor. In the military, on board ship, that meant going back to the ‘deck force’ from which he had started.
Doug begged for another chance. His self image was so broken, so impaired that he was reduced to begging.
The boss left him alone for a few minutes to think. Instead Doug reached out to God, asked God to save him; not from his job, but from his screwed up life. And God answered him.
When the boss returned, he found Doug smiling. Doug assured him that he could indeed do the work of cooking, and if the boss was willing to take one more chance on Doug, he would become a good cook.
Which I did. From that day forward, I not only learned the skills, but also began to enjoy the art of cooking.
I was a ‘Ricky‘. I didn’t often have the latitude to do ‘artsy-creative’, but I enjoyed my work. It didn’t really matter what I was doing, because I wasn’t doing it to simply survive. The Bible says, whatever you do, do it as if you are doing it for God. When I grew tired of cooking, I learned other skills, and now can basically do anything. Presently I work in an office, sitting at a computer 8 hours a day. The art isn’t in the job, but in doing it for God.
Remember Ricky and Fred? Chances are good that Ricky the creative artist will one day become a ‘Fred’. Without God, all life is drudgery. Fred could escape that kitchen without leaving it, if he were to reach out to God, but he hasn’t; God does the choosing, and makes the moment happen or not. A few days after the talk with my boss, I formally asked Christ to forgive me, to save me. Not in a rush of emotion, but with a clear mind, a ready mind. I am so thankful that God saved me, made my moment happen, nearly 30 years ago. Rockin’ good news. Mighty cool. Praise God!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Grace > sin

Where sin did abound, Grace did all the more abound.

This is a paraphrase of the great verse in Romans 5. This is the form of the verse which Charles Spurgeon wrote sermons and books about: Grace is greater than sin. Grace > sin. Sin can only reach certain limits, and can never become greater, extend farther than God’s Grace. That is a wonderful, comforting promise, made all the more precious as the World spins deeper into sin. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how troubling the times, God is in charge, and His children are safe, surrounded, protected by His Grace.
That doesn’t mean that we are invulnerable; we all pass from death to Life, and it isn’t always pretty. God may bring us face to face with persecution and torture, but where sin does abound, Grace does all the more abound. And if/when we die, we go from Grace to Grace, as we go to be with Him at His Throne of Grace.
This is a win/win. Mighty cool. May God Bless you richly today.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Now a word was brought to me stealthily,
And my ear received a whisper of it.
Amid disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night,
When deep sleep falls on men,
Dread came upon me, and trembling,
And made all my bones shake.
Then a spirit passed by my face;
The hair of my flesh bristled up.
It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance;
A form was before my eyes;
There was silence, then I heard a voice:
“Can mankind be just before God?
Can a man be pure before his Maker?”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Now a word was brought to me stealthily,
And my ear received a whisper of it.
Amid disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night,
When deep sleep falls on men,
Dread came upon me, and trembling,
And made all my bones shake.
Then a spirit passed by my face;
The hair of my flesh bristled up.
It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance;
A form was before my eyes;
There was silence, then I heard a voice:
“Can mankind be just before God?
Can a man be pure before his Maker?”

Friday, July 18, 2008

Job 40:1-14

After Job’s life had been turned upside down, after his friends had accused him of harboring some secret sin which had brought God’s Judgment down on him…God spoke to Job.
He didn’t explain Himself. He didn’t apologize. But He did ask Job some questions, and here I must be very careful.
I believe that the questions God asks of Job each of us should contemplate, as they have to do with our standing, our relationship with our Creator.

“Job 40

1Then the LORD said to Job,
2 “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Let him who reproves God answer it.”
3Then Job answered the LORD and said,
4 “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
5 “Once I have spoken, and I will not answer;
Even twice, and I will add nothing more.”

6Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm and said,
7 “Now gird up your loins like a man;
I will ask you, and you instruct Me.
8 “Will you really annul My judgment?
Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?
9 “Or do you have an arm like God,
And can you thunder with a voice like His?
10 “Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity,
And clothe yourself with honor and majesty.
11 “Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
And look on everyone who is proud, and make him low.
12 “Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him,
And tread down the wicked where they stand.
13 “Hide them in the dust together;
Bind them in the hidden place.
14 “Then I will also confess to you,
That your own right hand can save you.”

This is just a short section of what God asked Job, but it gets right to the point: if we are not God, not His equal, then we cannot question God or His motives when our lives are torn apart. We cannot curse God, blame God, find fault with God, because we are merely men and women, His creations. As the poem says, “Our arms too short to box with God.”
I encourage you to read through Job; it is deep, filled with wisdom, much spiritual nourishment. May God richly Bless you today.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Luke 18:1-8

1Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. 3“There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ 4“For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” 6And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said*; 7now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8“I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
Luke 18:1-8

Wow. The good Doctor has some potent medicine here for us Christians. Our Pastor noted this parable in his message today. There’s a lot here, but some of the main points that I find comforting are:

1. Our Lord is going to return. He will bring Justice to an unjust world. He will remember every offence perpetrated against His elect; every cruelty, every persecution…and ‘He will bring about justice for them quickly.’ It is stated as fact, not assumption or guess. That is very comforting, especially as we struggle on through a world that wants to deny Christ’s return.

2. In the very first verse we are told the object lesson of the parable: pray and not lose heart, don’t give up;
Prayer, our lifeline, our communing with God, is what keeps us connected, in sync, sensitive to the leading of God in our lives. I can tell you that I have not prayed as I should, and it has been detrimental, has weakened me.
I have the ‘not lose heart’ part down, the ‘not giving up’ element is part of my nature, but I am often guilty of pushing forward in my own strengths, instead of submitting to God. I would make fewer missteps if I spent more time listening to our Father. Part of the reason I so cherish His Mercy and Grace is that I am daily in desperate need of both. So are you.

3. Jesus uses the example of an ungodly Judge who does the right thing due to the widow’s perseverance.
This reminds me of the children of Israel being given treasure by the Egyptians as parting gifts. The ungodly Egyptians were used by God to bless Israel. You could look it up.

4. “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Lord, I hope so. He will…if we do not lose heart, and continue to pray. The last verse leads back to the first.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Actually, Stonehenge Rhymes With Orange

A mother and child walking next to the ocean. The child wants to count the sand, to see how many sands it takes to be a beach. First handful.
The mother knows it’s impossible, and waits for the child to become bored.
“Sixty one…sixty two…”
The mother looks out and sees a sailboat about halfway to the horizon. As the child counts, she imagines being on that boat, sailing away.
“Seventy nine…eighty…eighty-one …”

This is why I am sometimes amused by Man in his arrogance.
Man makes plans on old information because he must. An event happens, and we react. The War of 1812 lasted a year beyond the signing of the peace treaty, as the news took time to reach the warring factions. Man stumbles through history, mistaking enemies for friends, friends for enemies, causing fights and reacting when hit.
We do not run this planet. If left to ourselves, we would have wiped ourselves out, each Cain killing his Abel, his Seth, his Eve or Adam.
It is having been made in God’s image which keeps us from oblivion; the fact that we are still here is proof of His patience and Grace. Our future is much brighter than our past only because God has better plans for us than we could even imagine.
I think God designed us to need sleep so that we can only make mischief 2/3rds of the time.
While we are like children counting sand, God knows. He could tell us the number of granules of sand on that beach, but we couldn’t process the answer. He would know the number of hairs on the head of that imaginary sailor in the sailboat; from our perspective on the shore we can’t even see if there is a sailor.
And yet we declare ourselves omniscient enough to rule our planet. Arrogance and foolishness.
The next time you hear a pontificator pontificating, feel free to go ahead and laugh.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Pragma, or Three Tattoo Minimum

Ouch. I just got another sharp gain in my vista. Sometimes it hurts to look at a future so bright.
Forgive, please, if this isn’t linear enough for you; I was up all last night, working on an idea for my job. It’s been a catch up day, but I thought I might set this down so I can get some sleep later unmindful of extemp thoughts.

I have a solution for the energy crisis; not in total, but an idea which I am certain could help. Here I am, giving it away for free. Wind power. Solar power. Where are our windmills?
“Uh, they’re all over the place, Doug.”
Yes, but windmills have been working at the same level since one of then took on Don Quixote and won.
We have left the ground. We are in space, we are in flight, and windmills needn’t remain grounded anymore.
There are much fiercer winds, more powerful, higher up. Windmills at the higher level would have more to work with, could create more energy than their hit or miss, wait for the wind to blow grounded counterparts. We have nearly perfected wireless transmission of energy- a platform of windmills, also capturing solar energy-above most clouds, the solar energy is uninterrupted, always on-such platforms, held in position just as satellites are, could power cities.
I’m all for nuclear power. I would love it if we opened up more of our verboten areas for oil drilling. But the Nay-neighers on the Left will have none of that.

In Israel, a company has come up with the idea of creating hydroelectric power…by forcing water up a giant pipe into the sky, which turns turbines as the water falls back to Earth. If that catches on, barren areas with no waterfalls can create hydroelectric power cheaply. It takes a little power to push the water up the pipe, but more energy is created simply by agreeing with gravity.

My point is that we have greater technological tools to work with than they did even 50 years ago. We can improve old ideas, and maybe think of a few new ones.

About the title of this post: I don’t hardly fit into this world system. If I were the type to go to the trendy clubs which have a three tattoo minimum for entrance, I’d never get in. Scars don’t count. I don’t have a single tattoo. I have known Christians who sport them, and I am not knocking those who have drawings on their skin…it’s just not for me. I think that being an outsider (in the world, but not of it) can give Christians a clear perspective which those of the world miss. Most common, of course, is our certainty that God exists. They don’t get that. They think we’re nuts. I recognize not only that God exists, but that He is working His will upon His Creation.
A pragmatist never loses his footing.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Nearer, My God, To Thee

May God richly Bless you today. Throughout our lives, first and foremost, God deserves honor and our Praise- for loving us, for keeping our world spinning, and for putting up with us.
This post had it’s genesis a week ago. I was watching “Lois and Clark-The New Adventures of Superman”. A cheesy show, but I like it. It struck me that the two “guest villains” of that episode are now dead: actor J.T. Walsh of a heart attack, and the other, Charles Rocket, of suicide. Suicide, as in couldn’t stand living anymore.
Then one of my brother’s co-workers committed suicide. Quite a shock-we are such a small town that everyone knows each others cousins, if only by reputation.
Each of these men had in common that they were roughly six years older than I am now. By God’s Grace, I’ve never messed up my life so terribly that the thought of ending it has ever occurred to me. I know from scripture that God sets the number of our days, for both saint and sinner. I’ve often read Psalm 37 for comfort, including:
“18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
And their inheritance will be forever.
19 They will not be ashamed in the time of evil,
And in the days of famine they will have abundance.
20 But the wicked will perish;
And the enemies of the LORD will be like the glory of the pastures,
They vanish—like smoke they vanish away.”

We are living now for eternity. We are in the existential “Green room”, waiting to go on.
However we die, whether by our own hand, or by accident, or illness, or any way noble, ignoble…God is in charge. When He calls us, we go.
Suicide has been called, “The coward’s way out.” That’s terribly unfair, and is very much a worldly viewpoint. We should have compassion on those who are so troubled that life becomes unbearable. A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Can a Christian become so despondent that he or she would commit suicide? Absolutely. As I stated above, by God’s Grace I’ve never so messed up my life that I’ve considered ending it. But Christians, being human, sometimes do make quite a mess of their lives. Christians can suffer from depression, mental illness-we are not invincible, impervious to disease or damage. Whatever happens in this life, however our frailty is exhibited, whichever thorns we have in our sides, God is in charge. He loves us, He keeps our world spinning, and He numbers our days. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness.