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Tag Archive: faith


Where was God when disaster struck?

God was with the baby who survived
because her window
was the only one in the house
that did not implode.

God was there to comfort
the woman who lost everything
she owned, and most
of her family.

God was with the family
who stuck together
during the tragedy
and survived – together.

God was with the family members
who were separated
before the disaster,
but found each other safe.

God was with the people
who – despite injury and loss –
helped others who could not
assist themselves.

God was there with the families
of the victims
helping them to deal with
the question of why?

God was there with the family
of those who may have caused
the disaster and who are
struggling to understand.

God was there with grace
to pour upon those affected
and help them to carry on
despite unexpected change.

God was there.

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Clouds 1When I was growing up, my grandmother on my mother’s side – Grandma Kelley – lived in the other side of a duplex from my aunt, uncle, and cousins in Adele, Iowa. The large screen porch led to separate entrances for each side. But when you went up the stairs in one side, you could walk all the way down the hall and then down the stairs to the other side of the duplex. I don’t remember if there was a bedroom on the first floor of either side, but if there was, there was only one and it belonged to my grandmother, and my aunt and uncle, respectively.

My brother and I slept upstairs. On one occasion, I was sleeping by myself. I don’t know why. We usually slept together at relatives’ houses. I think I was ill, but I wouldn’t swear to it. I was sleeping on one of the old, raised beds, the kind you had to climb into – particularly if you were under the age of twelve.

There were vents in the floor upstairs – or the ceiling downstairs, whichever way you look at it. I assume it was a way to keep the house warm in the winter – letting heat rise to the rooms upstairs. You could see down into the lower floor through the vents. You could also hear everything that was said over a whisper. Which could be embarrassing, but it also kept me from making several unwanted entrances into family rooms.

I remember having a hard time going to sleep with the voices coming up through the floor vent. It was hard trying to go to sleep and still trying to hear what the voices were saying. They sounded as if those talking were in the bottom of a shallow cavern. A head cold or flu would have increased the effect (I don’t remember having anything worse than that away from home).

I have no idea exactly what I was dreaming about. But I do remember the voices guiding the dream on some level. At some point I imagined stepping off of the bed and dropping through the floor. I kept falling, with clouds below me and no earth in sight. I remember actually having a falling sensation.

While I was falling I was frightened, but it never occurred to me that I would hit anything – much less hit it hard enough to die. I was sure that God would save me. As young as I was, I had faith in a loving and just God. I didn’t have all the baggage I have now. Baggage that makes me question something when I should just take it on faith.

I finally woke up, of course. But what one would consider the innocent dream of a naive child was actually an implicit assumption based on unquestioning faith. We all have had a similar type of experience when we were younger. A time when (real or in a dream) we mentally and physically had no control and had to depend on God.

I’ve had numerous experiences since that night – both in life and in dreams – in which I felt out of control. Unfortunately, I wasn’t always as successful as that night in trusting God to help. And I know I am not alone. We need to get some of that naivete back. True, we cannot undo experience and knowledge. But we can return to a childlike wonderment of God. Trusting him to protect us, even in our dreams. He does keep amazing us if we’re paying attention.

What was one of your most memorable faith experiences or “God moments?”

Peace be with you.

Hotel Room 1bIn the previous post, I was talking about my sabbatical to Marshall that ended up being unlike what I had previously imagined. I checked in to the hotel late Monday night. When I entered the hotel room after checking in at the front desk, I did what I have always done since taking vacations with my parents and my younger brother. Check out every nook and cranny of the room, beginning with the desk and all drawers.

The dresser drawers never had anything in them and they still don’t. Some hotels used to put extra pillows in the bottom drawers of the dresser, but that was years ago. When the desk drawer had hotel stationary. Now the desk does not even have a drawer.

Some things are the same. The book of information about the hotel and surrounding restaurants, shops, etc. A pen, a notepad, survey card, and the usual bathroom items. And the Gideon Bible in the bedside drawer. But when I opened the drawer this time – and found the Bible – the Mormon Bible was next to it. Which was comforting to me – like I said, I was there to quit a bad habit – simply because there is strength in numbers.

But it was also intriguing, because it was a hotel in Marshall, Texas – a town of 24,000 people. As best I could ascertain, there are two Mormon churches in Marshall. I don’t think two churches could afford to supply Bibles to all of the numerous hotels in Marshall. Which raises the question of which hotels and why? But that is a question for another time.

What matters is that the hotel having both a Bible and a Mormon Bible is a step toward understanding our neighbors and living with our differences. Perhaps there will come a day when you check into a hotel and there will be several Bibles or holy books of other religions. More for people of the different faiths who may stay at the hotel than for the proselytization of those faiths. The different holy books would also be available for anyone wanting to learn about other faith traditions.

Which will be a subject we will return to in this blog. One of the main purposes of Chasing After Wind is to write about those times – simple or complicated – in which life and theology intersect. And since I am a member of a few interfaith organizations, another purpose of the blog is to promote dialogue between all religions and faith-based organizations. Join me as we look for God in everyday life, and learn about other faith traditions.

Peace be with you.

Cyndy and I went out in the backyard the other day and discovered that one of the guinea hens from next door had overshot the top of the fence and found herself in our yard. She did not seem interested in exploring our back yard. She seemed intent on finding a way back to her yard, but clueless as to how to do so. She would strut in small circles, moaning with soft clucking sounds between the rose bushes and the fence.

Suddenly, the guinea hen would run for about ten feet along the fence. She would look startled and confused before racing back to where she began. Then she would begin the whole routine over again. As she ran down the fence, she appeared to be looking intently at the fence as if a hole  might open up at any time for her to escape through.

We did not let our dog, Misty, into the backyard for fear she would scare the guinea hen to death – literally. We were not exactly sure what Misty would do. So the hen spent several hours going through the same routine over and over again. Then our middle son, Cameron, let Misty out and she headed for the guinea hen, who flew back over the fence.

Which made me wonder why she did not fly back over in the first place. The obvious answer would be fear and panic. But that’s what made her finally fly back over. Did she continually go through the routine because she secretly enjoying the change, but was worried because she smelled Misty?

As Christians, we find ourselves in difficult situations we have placed ourselves in. When we overshoot a fence we should not be crossing in the first place. We find ourselves pacing back and forth, wasting energy, wondering where God is and why he doesn’t answer our prayers. We look expectantly, as if we will see a “hole in the fence” magically open up so we can walk into a parallel universe in which our problem is solved. But there is no parallel universe – only the one God created.

When God does not answer our prayers in the manner in which we would prefer they be answered, we begin to fear God. We begin to think that if he is not answering our prayers he has an agenda that may well be detrimental to our own, insignificant, agenda. Or even worse, that he is not thinking of us at all. So we keep pacing back and forth by the fence, calling out to any mortal who can hear us.

The fear begins to consume us. Finally, in desperation, we bypass the thought  processes and give ourselves to God’s grace and mercy. The fear pushes us beyond the limits of thought and instinct (understood here as faith) takes over. Surrendering to God’s will, we flutter over the fence and back into familiarity and home, where God put us in the first  place. God gave humans intelligence, but free will keeps us in doubt. We should work on dispelling the doubt and keeping the faith.

Peace be with you.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my Aunt Juanita’s funeral was last week. I wrote about my uncle, Jack,  in a post when he died the first week in April.  Our son, Cameron, took this picture of Aunt Juanita at Jack’s funeral with the flag from his casket. After he took the picture, I told her I would come to see her soon. But I never got the chance.

A couple of days later, she stumbled and fell. No bones were broken, but we think she had at least one mini stroke. She became bed-ridden shortly after that. She was coherent some of the time, but she had to be fed and helped by a nurse. It was not long before she could no longer walk to the bathroom by herself. I wanted to go see her, but I was not sure if she would recognize me or be able to have a conversation.

It has been hard on Dad, watching his oldest sister deteriorate. He did not want her to linger if she no longer had her faculties. A couple of weeks after Jack’s funeral, Dad called her to talk about getting things in order pertaining to Jack’s will. At the end of the conversation, Juanita said she wanted to ask Dad something.

“Where’s Jack? Is Jack dead?”

Unfortunately, she did linger after that. From what my parents have told me, they never knew if Juanita would know who they were when they visited on Wednesdays. Sometimes she was coherent and other times she seemed to not have a clue. Which was doubly hard on Dad. He and I talked about praying for her and not knowing what to pray for. We simply prayed that God’s will be done.

Two weekends ago we got the call from Mom that Juanita had passed away. Well, not so much passed away as simply went to be with Jack. They were married for 68 years. When Jack  died, the thought was in the back of all our minds that she might not be able to live without him. Though she said before Jack died that she wanted to try to live alone if he died first.

Naturally, I’ve been recalling memories of Jack and Juanita. They were a natural pair – deeply in love, and devoutly Christian. I think she was re-living their marriage the whole time and her body just had not given up yet. On some level she wanted to keep going, but the urge to be with Jack was just too strong.

There is something sweet and precious about a love that is so strong that the couple cannot be separated for very long. But, at the same time, there is something rather tragic about it.

Peace be with you.

When I am troubled,

and in that contradictory, ironic place,

thinking that no one knows how I feel,

The Lord hears my prayers.

 

Yet the Lord very rarely

answers my prayers directly,

Sometimes I only see the answer

During reflection on the day’s events.

 

Regardless of the result,

The Lord hears my prayers,

He may not answer the way I would prefer,

But the Lord hears my prayers.

 

I may not be listening,

or I may be stubbornly wanting more,

I may not hear what he’s trying to tell me,

But the Lord hears my prayers.

 

The Lord hears my prayers,

However and whenever I pray,

Even if I refuse to hear the answer,

The Lord hears my prayers.

 

I lay head on pillow lightly,

Letting the Lord take my troubles,

I can rest easy in sleep knowing

That the Lord hears my prayers.

The Children’s Education Department of Christ UMC, Farmers Branch held the first summer children’s camp this summer, Rock Around the Clock. The camp was held for one week, Monday through Thursday. Monday they learned about the 50’s, Tuesday, the 60’s, Wednesday, the 70’s, and Thursday, the 80’s. Each day they had cooking, drama, P.E., art, science, and music classes, based on the day’s theme.

In art class one day, the children went into the sanctuary. They each picked a number out of a bowl and were assigned that station of the cross. The children were given five minutes to study their station window in the sanctuary. Then the children went outside the sanctuary and recreated their window on paper from memory.

As I was taking pictures of the Stations of the Cross art display, I recalled a project from elementary school in Wichita Falls. I was to draw the front of our family home from memory. I do not know how long it took, but I finished the drawing. It is highly possible that the drawings were displayed at an open house – as with the art gallery of summer camp projects.

When I took the drawing home and compared it to the front of our house, I was “right on the money” – down to the oil stain in the driveway. With the exception of drafting classes in junior high school, along with drawing imaginary funny cars and hot rods for fun with a friend, I  never drew anything really decent again. We moved to Dallas when I was in the eighth grade. In high school I began to write, leaving the artwork to those better suited for the task. I can doodle with the best of them, but anything resembling art that results is merely by accident.

Our house burned down on the Friday before I began my senior year. Of the many things I lost that night, the picture I had drawn was one of them. My parents recently went back to Wichita Falls and the house we lived in was gone. There was not even any sign that the house had ever been there. All the homes around it were still there and in fairly good condition, considering their age.

I had a sinking feeling when Dad told me the house was gone, as if a part of my life was gone. I am left without a visual reminder of our house other than my memory. It is not the first time and it certainly will not be the last. But it does remind me – and everyone when it happens to them – that material things mean nothing as long as we have our memory and faith in God.

It is our memory that makes our past experiences special and real. Even if I could take our sons to Wichita Falls and show them the house, they would not have a sense of what it meant to me. It would simply be the house where Dad used to live. But the memory of living in that house will remain special to me. And that is what is important. If my existence depended on the existence of places I have lived and have been to, a good part of my life would be wiped from the annals of history.

When the house burned, I lost everything I had except the clothes on my back and a small stereo that I had in the bathroom to listen to while taking a shower. As I stayed at a friend’s house  the night of the fire I had a strange sense of freedom. I was not tied down with possessions. Then I would begin to think of everything I had lost and the sense of freedom would turn to sorrow. It has been several decades now since that night. I have stuff again – too much stuff. Between the fire, a couple of robberies – and a rare repossession a really long time ago – I worry about my stuff. I cringe when I smell smoke of any kind except a grill. I’m slightly paranoid about checking the locks when I leave the house.

But with relatives, friends, associates, and acquaintances passing away with disturbingly increasing frequency, life – and material things – look a little differently now. Material possessions do not have the allure they did when I was younger. Books that I lugged around for years because I thought I would read them someday are now in someone’s home having been bought in a garage or library book sale. The objects I held onto because “they might come in handy some day,” never came in handy and have been recycled or given away.

With each passing day, I make the most of that day and I am thankful that I have my memories. Losing everything from my past in the fire did not mean I lost my past. I remember it, have pictures of some of it, friends and family remember parts of my past. But the emphasis lies on the fact that I remember it. Possessions, houses where I lived, clubs where I played, places I visited – they may be gone – but that does not matter. I have my memories and I can describe them to people. Maybe they can get something out of them. But I remember them, have faith in God, and have an appreciation for the life he gave me. Either things will take care of themselves or God will guide me through them. Anything else is just gravy.

The bird in the window was about half the size of this bird.

We had a small visitor at our old house. She spent most of the day outside each of our sons’ rooms going in rotation to all three windows. Cyndy and I thought at first it was a Finch, but Cyndy decided it was a female cardinal. I have large hands and could probably hold the bird in a loose fist without any part of the bird showing. I do not know much about birds, but I do know that this particular bird had the common sense of a tree trunk.

She began to visit in the early afternoon after lunchtime. Which is one of my main reflecting and writing times so the intrusion was quite unwelcome, at least at first. I mistakenly took the sound to be our dog, Misty, scratching at the window trying to get out at a squirrel. But the tapping was more melodic and deliberate and did not result in the harder thump that our medium-sized dog would make as she hit the wall.

The first sudden tap made me jump, expecting to hear glass hit the wood floor at any moment. Less than three minutes later, another tap. Sometimes it would stop for as long as five minutes, leading me to believe it had ceased. But sure enough, as soon as I started working again – another tap. I realized Misty was laying on the floor in front of the my desk so she could not be making the sound. Then I heard a deeper, heavier noise follow the tap, as if someone had thrown a rubber ball at the window.

I went down the hall quietly and stood in the doorway of Conner’s room at the front corner of the house. The bird was standing in the middle of the window sill of the window facing the side of the house. She would look at the window, look around the side yard, then back at the window. Then, suddenly, she would tap the window hard with her beak – as if she had forgotten it was there, or just to be sure she had not been wrong the first five times. It was also entirely possible that she had tapped her beak so hard she had rattled her brains.

Then, in between periods of tapping, so suddenly it made me jump, she backed up a step and flung her little four inch, 20 ounce body against the window as hard as she could. Only appearing to be dazed for a few seconds, she flew around in a small circle and landed back on the window. She looked at the window for a few minutes, looked around a bit, and the whole cycle began again. I stood transfixed, thinking surely she would not do it again. But sure enough, after a series of taps, she backed up and body-slammed the window.

I leaned against the doorframe and watched for a while. Either the bird was so daft that neither thought nor pain registered in her small brain or she was so stubbornly persistent that constant failure was not enough for her to give up her task, whatever it was. Regardless, her task was a painful and fruitless one. Stubborn persistence can sometimes be beneficial, but more often than not it is simply detrimental.

While I thought the bird’s actions were ridiculously naive and mistaken, they reminded me of our stubborn persistence in not listening to what the Lord is telling us. Rather than having faith and trusting in God, we insist on looking for an easier way. Which actually turns out to be more difficult in the long run.

We have a chance to fly free, as it were, and explore all that the Lord’s world has to offer. Yet we insist on constantly tapping on the glass representing the things that we think we want or should have, but would never give us the fulfillment we long for. In our stubborn persistence we “body-slam” the glass, throwing our entire body into the refusal to accept what is before us. But,  as if that is not enough, we turn right around and start the whole process over again.

Like the Israelites of the Old Testament, we keep giving in to our temptation to slip back into sinful ways. We begin to find excuses to not read the Bible, pray or attend church or volunteer regularly. When life is going okay, we’re too busy for God. Then, when tragedy strikes, we wonder where God is – when, in fact, he has been there all along.

After God saves the day, yet again, and life returns to normal, we begin the insistent tapping all over again. We need to have faith in God, trust in his mercy, accept the grace he freely offers, and strive to live the way we were taught to live by Jesus. What is on the other side of the glass is ultimately unimportant.

Peace be with you.

Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions, written by James A. Beverley and published by Thomas Nelson is the ultimate comprehensive guide on religions of the world. It is the most thorough book on the numerous religions I have encountered. When I received the book at one o’clock in the afternoon, I spent the rest of the afternoon skimming  through the 740 page volume, reading much of it. I returned to other projects, but I kept picking Beverley’s book back up for another look. It is a book I will keep close at hand for future reference and referral.

It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to name a religion or cult that Beverley does not identify. The author is commendably objective in his reporting on the many religions and cults of the world, past and present. Other than the most common religions of Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, Judaism, Mormonism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Baha’i, as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Scientology, Unification Church, and Sikhism, Beverley also includes chapters on groups of the New Age movement, Christian Sectarian groups, Satanism, and Witchcraft.

The Illustrated Guide to Religions includes a chapter on the Branch Davidians, their timeline, and the tenuous connection with the Seventh Day Adventist Church and Davidian Seventh Day Adventists (included in the section on Christian sectarian groups). Each section contains a history of the religion, movement, or cult, a timeline(s), chart of facts, and list of resources for those who wish to inquire further. A list of frequently asked questions follows many sections, particularly where misconceptions abound and are common.

In sections on religions not having a Christian worldview, Beverley provides ways for  Christians to respond to those religions. As Professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario and Associate Director at the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara, California, Beverley is extremely knowledgeable on the subject and presents a thorough, in depth overview of religions of the world. The author’s research was extensive and thorough, even listing the top subgroups, histories, and myths/facts pertaining to each religion.

Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions should be on the shelf of anyone desiring a knowledge of world religions, and Christians seeking  to know more about other religions in  order to dialogue with people of other faiths. The overall quality of the book itself is superior, with beautiful photographs and illustrations – combined with the text in an eye-catching layout. It is the most comprehensive guide for a Christian on the subject of other religions. It is, without a doubt, the book to suggest to anyone who only wants to buy or read one book on the subject of religions.

Peace be with you.

[Note: I was given the book for review by Thomas Nelson. I was not required to write a positive review and was not compensated in any way.]

The Religion Communicators Council (RCC) National Convention was held this past Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Airport Marriot. While there was a showing of the movie, Waging Peace: Muslim and Christian Alternatives, on Wednesday evening for those who arrived early, the convention did not officially begin until the opening plenary at 1:30 on Thursday afternoon on “The In[ter]dependence of Faith and Government.” After the panel discussion, the attendees had a choice of four workshops.

My plane was scheduled to arrive at 1:20, so I knew I would be at least a few minutes late to the plenary. The hotel and the airport were connected by a skybridge just one terminal away from my arrival terminal, which helped, but it was still after 1:30 when I walked down the stairs to the lobby of the hotel. I will get back to the plenary and other convention activities in following posts.

The main event of the day was the DeRose-Hinkhouse Awards Dinner at 6:30 p.m. I am a member of RCC as a writer and representative of Christ UMC (Farmers Branch, Tx) and the communications committee. The church entered an article I had written for the church newspaper, and I entered this blog in the new Social Media category of the awards. When I was  informed that I won, I did not know which of the two was the winning entry. However, since I was winner, the church funded my trip to the convention.

As it turned out, I won a Certificate of Merit for Chasing After Wind. The .pdf of the awards program may be found here. Social Media is a new category, so it is at the end if you  happen to be looking for my award. In the picture you can see the slide they showed when they announced my award. The other picture is of the attendees from the DFW Chapter of the RCC. From left to right: Cherrie Graham (United Methodist Reporter), Debbie Tull (Patheos), myself, and Deb Christian (also UMR). Mary Jacobs, UMR reporter, was preparing for a writing workshop she was leading and was not available for the picture. Debbie and I both needed to catch our flights home.

The judging for the DeRose-Hinkhouse awards was done by “colleagues at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.” All of the entrants received the judges’ evaluation forms after the awards program. Entrants not at the convention received their evaluations by mail.

Be that as it may, the judges had some suggestions for improving the blog. Ironically, my room was in a black hole of the hotel and I could not even boot up my computer – much less access my blog. So there will be changes to Chasing After Wind over the next week or so. Hopefully, the changes will make for a more pleasing visit to the blog, easier to comment, like, follow, and so forth, and there will be more interactive qualities.

Feel free to let me know of any suggestions or comments you may have pertaining to my blog. I try to respond to comments and visitors as soon as possible.

Peace be with you.

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