Trying to "Dial it in"

I am having an "off" week.  This is actually normal for me.  The reason it is "off" and not "routine", is because no two weeks of being "off" are the same.  For me, life is like trying to work a studio grade mixing board.  Like the one pictured here... only, even more 'in depth'...every week, every day, sometimes minute to minute, i try and adjust how i am interacting with the world.  I only know superficially how a mixing board works.  Essentially, each slide lever controls a sliver of frequency.  When the technician knows how to adjust each one, it makes for beautiful music (i.e. sound quality).  The "trick" is knowing how each slide interacts with the others, and how to make them work in harmony.  For me, each lever controls sensory input.  Light, sound, air temperature... how i read body language, vocal inflection, am i able to discern between the lines, all the while interacting with previous interactions with whoever, or whatever, it is i am dealing with.  On many days, i am able to keep it "within parameters", mostly.... but often, things begin to go out of whack and i am just not able to adjust the "levers" fast enough.... which leaves me feeling overwhelmed.  How to explain it... ?

For me i am not only trying to process environmental input, but situational, relational, personal processing, contextual, correct for known influences, distractions (aka the shiny bouncy ball), all the while fighting thoughts of ineptitude, inadequacy, concerns about accuracy of presentation, my own body language, vocal inflections, and word choice, wanting to interject or redirect.  For most people, this all happens instinctively.  I don't get that... i really don't.  Now, interlace all of this with a thought process that rarely, if ever, completely shuts off.  I can be thinking about the conversation i am having with person "A", while making a connection with a thought of process "G", and then also linking something completely unrelated to the immediate situation, but relative to something else i was working on earlier in the day, or week, or month.  I have often had a conversation with my beloved, where she will say, "what do you mean?", and i find myself re-evaluating the last several minutes of conversation, and i will always repeat the exact same thing i just said.  Why?  Because that is how i communicate.  If there were proficiency levels in sarcasm and innuendo, i would probably be at low level.  I say what i mean, and i mean what i say - and that is how i interact with the world around me.  That is my "default" setting if you will.  Now, in my 40+ years of learning to adapt and process, i am able to contextualize situations within "known" parameters.  Does this person use sarcasm?  What are their life experiences that they have shared?  I can sometimes (not as often as i would like to think i can) adjust my "settings", so that i know how to act appropriately.  I have learned that, my intense desire to learn how to play the Elf Whistle (Tin Whistle - but made of wood), to read and to speak Sindarin Elvish, or desire to play and share all i know about Shadowrun, is almost always (i.e. 99.99% of the time), NOT appropriate to talk about.

How i feel (pictured to the right) is how i see myself most of the time.  My overwhelming effort to just interact with the world around me... and no... this is not an exaggeration.  I am at conflict with my instincts, with my own desires, my own emotions and thoughts, constantly.  The great thing is, i am not sharing this to complain about it.  I am sharing it to give thanks for it.
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)
Not only does God's word tell me that He made me, that He saw me before i was even born.  I may not be 'perfect', but He uses ALL things to reveal His glory: "Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3 ESV) God has surrounded me with incredible friends, and my beloved, who "get" me.  While they may not understand me... they... still love and support me.  I can ask for nothing greater.

In many ways, my 'processor' is a blessing.  There are many 'knots' that look clear to me.  Paths that diverge and emerge, going this way and that... i don't get lost in the tangles, but i am able to see the way out the other side.  For me - that - is natural, and while i obsess over things like Elves and certain role playing genres, i also obsess over things like the character of God.  For me the decryption key to the Bible is the very nature of God the Father, His Son - my Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  God being perfect, cannot contradict Himself, He cannot violate His own character or nature... and i totally get that. His Law is perfect, His Love is perfect, He is omniscient (all knowing), He is omnipresent (everywhere, equally, all the time), he is omnipotent (all powerful).  So, no matter how much i struggle with keeping "dialed in", i know that He is already there.  He has already seen all of my imperfections, all of my sins - past, present, and future, and He is not surprised by my struggles, and He has watched over me... given me friends to "watch my back", who 'tolerate' me, who "get" me.  While i am not perfect, i am fully justified and yet, walking out my sanctification, and while, i have many deficiencies, He has provided for me... friends... a family... a career... i am in awe.


The beginning of a new millennial set of posts - Blog entry # 1001

It has taken me 8 years, 2 months and 14 days to reach this 'milestone'.  On January 6th, in the year of our Lord 2006, "Samurai's Dojo" was 'born'.  I have had ups and downs, long periods of not posting, and days on end of continuous posts, but since, as i stated way back then, these posts are more for me to just "think out loud" (paraphrasing) i am OK with it having taken me over 8 years to get to this point.  My readership has never been more than a couple of handfuls.  At one time i even had a "following".  But, now, i do have some posts that continue to get Google search and browsing.  In the end, this is still mostly for me to sort things out, and hopefully, the lord can use a few words here and there, to reach out through the 'matrix' to reach a few people.  Tulip has been by far the most faithful reader and encourager, but i have enjoyed 'meeting' everyone who has posted a reply, and to those who have stopped by, but not replied, you are welcome here as well.

Over the years, and across the many a blog post, i have been quite varied in what i write about.  There have been some consistency, as evidenced by the labels (scroll all the way down to see the list).  Those that are small have been mentioned less frequently, and the larger ones, most frequently.  In any event, my posts are pretty random... whatever comes to my mind... sometimes several things.  And, often when i read back over some of the posts, it seems in mid-thought too.

In any event, if you stopped by, i hope you found the post(s) at least remotely interesting.


Too many mind... be of "no mind"

"Forget your sadness, anger, grudges, and hatred. Let them pass like smoke caught in the breeze. You should not deviate from the path of righteousness; you should lead a life worthy of a man. Don't be possessed by greed, luxury, or your ego. You should accept sorrows, sadness and hatred as they are, and consider them a chance for trial given to you by the powers... a blessing given by nature. Have both your mind and your time fully engaged in budō (1), and have your mind deeply set on bujutsu (2)." ~ Masaaki Hatsumi
(1) Budō: is a Japanese term describing Japanese martial arts. Literally translated it means the "Martial Way", and may be thought of as the "Way of War".
(2) Bujutsu: In modern usage, bujutsu, meaning martial/military art/science, is typified by its practical application of technique to real-world or battlefield situations.
This quote speaks volumes to me.  Both as a soldier, and as a Christian.  As a soldier, rarely is there time for the luxury of holding a grudge, of allowing anger or hatred to cloud your judgement.  While i have never experienced actual combat where the lead density was reaching unhealthy levels, i have had to train, and was graded under "high intensity" situations (never did master 'break from contact'
*:-&lt sigh- also, i would never equate what i went through in training, with what those who have actually seen combat and have had to go through).  One has to be able to focus on the tasks at hand and what needs to be done.  It is not a time for self indulgence.

As for the Christian part, several verses come to mind.  "Forget your sadness, anger, grudges, and hatred. Let them pass like smoke caught in the breeze." God's Word tells us, "You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:38-39, ESV)  Ultimately our security, our redeemer, our protector, is God Himself.

You should not deviate from the path of righteousness; you should lead a life worthy of a man." Jesus says, "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14, ESV)  In our case, we are followers of Christ.  We are NOT worthy to be called followers of God, but because of Christ's completed work on the cross, we are being transformed into the image of Christ.  Romans tells us, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:28-29, ESV)

"Don't be possessed by greed, luxury, or your ego."  This one the Jesus spoke directly to the first two points, "And Jesus said to his disciples, Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:23-24, ESV), as for the third, "Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24, ESV)  The role of a Sergeant is "to serve", the role of the samurai is "to serve", we are to serve the Lord in each and every breath, for He is our Lord, our God.

"You should accept sorrows, sadness and hatred as they are, and consider them a chance for trial given to you by the powers... a blessing given by nature."  The sorrows... the sadness and hatred, these are a result of man's fall from grace in the garden; "And to Adam he said,“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”" (Genesis 3:17-19, ESV)  To me, this suffering is a blessing.  It shows me the need for me to turn back to my God, it shows the penalties of sin (in but a glimpse).  It is indeed a blessing and a mercy by God.  Like learning that when i touch a hot stove (despite a parental warning), and i get burned.  The wound will heal, but the memory will last.

"Have both your mind and your time fully engaged in budō, and have your mind deeply set on bujutsu." For us, the followers of Christ, our "way of the sword" does not lie in Kendo, or Aikido, or any of the other recognizable 'martial arts'.  Our Way lies in the path of Christ, the way of our Lord.  Our 'katana' is the very word of God.  Some of us are 'warriors' in the traditional sense, armed in the defense of others, but every follow of Christ should train themselves in the way of God and follow Him and His Word - His entire Word.  Each of us are called to serve where we are, and to where He takes us.  This is not a call to arms, a call to fight, this is a call to serve in whatever capacity He calls you to."Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained." (Philippians 3:8-16, ESV)


Is anybody out there?

Life... i am no longer going to try and explain why i've not been blogging every time i finally get back to it.  I will just do my best to do it more often.  And now, on to my typical ramblings...

What good year for Carolina Panther Football!  The 2013 pre-season, i liked what i had been seeing  and reading about the Panthers Defense, but the Offense continued to worry me.  The o-line showed troubles opening running lanes, and the receivers seemed to have trouble pulling the ball in, except for Steve Smith of course - but the Panthers have been a one-trick-pony in that are for far too long.  Steve Smith is a warrior, but until they can bring in more consistent receivers, the passing game is always going to be just not good enough.  Then, around October there was a players meeting, and i forget now who did the talking, Jordan Gross i believe, but they turned things around.  After going 1-3 in the first four weeks, the Panthers finished the NFC South champions and a 12-5 overall record.  They lost to a very physical San Francisco 49ers team.  I knew that the Panthers were in trouble in the first quarter when the Panthers players had 3(!) personal foul penalties, one of which gave the 49ers a crucial 1st down.  I could ramble on and on, in more detail than i care to think about, but i was not very hopeful for a post season in August, and i was pleased to see them make it into January.  My goal for the team in the 2014, a 9-7 season.  I would just like to see two, back to back, winning seasons at this point. :)  Oh, and they had best lock Steve Smith in for the rest of his football career.


2013 was supposed to be "The Year of Shadowrun".  There was supposed to be a flurry of releases, on multiple company fronts.  The only two that were actually released, that i know of was the PnP 5th edition, and a computer game called Shadowrun: Returns.  As things are likely to do in the corporate world, drek happens.  There are at least two table top versions of the game.  One is a "gang sized" miniatures version, and a card game.  These have been delayed for play testing reasons, etc.  However, i am really happy to hear that the card version is ready to move to the production side of things.  Shadowrun: CrossfireThe one i am looking forward to the most is, Shadowrun: Online.  It will be an MMO, with a changing story line as it goes by.  The characters will have an influence over what happens as the story changes.  I have shifted my story writing to follow more of the Cyberpunk-ish themes of Shadowrun... so far... i have... maybe, four characters, i will be following.  Not even sure of the what/when/where. 8)  A really good interview with Jan Wagner can be found at "The Arcology Podcast". Jan talks about cross platform, simultaneous, game play with both friends, and available Chummers.  Seriously, this last one looks, and sounds, the coolest of all.  Online will be released in Beta (with monthly updates mentioned in the podcast linked above) late 2014Q1 (late March).


I have heard comments similar to, "If there is a God, why is there so much suffering in the world?", and i can understand where such a person is coming from.  Why, because i was once focused totally on myself, and believing that my opinions were the only correct ones too.  However, i have found that human beings are hard pressed to seriously consider things from any other point of view, other than their own.  I propose that, just maybe, God is doing what humans so desperately want Him to do.  To let us try and earn His good graces, to try and do it on our own, and that is where the suffering truly comes from.  He has provided a way, He has shown, and provided, us a way through His Son, He has even taken the time to write it down, and yet, the one thing we truly do not want to believe is... the human heart is NOT naturally good.  We do not inherently seek out the good of others - especially when it conflicts with our own wants and desires.  I am not discounting those who help their fellow man out, but there is almost always a limit.  A line that will not be crossed.  Why, because no one likes to be thought of as a pushover.  From individuals that feel the need to have some personal wish fulfilled or want to get tended to, to nations that want to exert influence in the world.  Pride will invariably, at some point, exert itself, and God has told us what will happen to us because of our pride.  He also does occasionally do something about it - hello, the Flood (Genesis 6-9), or Sodom and Gamorrah? (Genesis 19)  He has also promised that He will be dealing with the entire world, and their transgressions against Him, and each other (which is, in turn, a transgression against Him), in His own time.  However, if one chooses to not accept His time and place for such things, than they will most likely find themselves placed alongside Satan and his fellow angles who wanted to be like God and rebelled.


Super 6-1, twenty years later


I tire of hearing "The Battle of Mogadishu" (aka "Blackhawk Down") labelled as a defeat.  As a bloody, black eye, on the history of our Military Operations.  People forget that the military, at least in this country (and many, many more around the world), does not operate on its own.  It does not just up and decide to go into places like Mogadishu to beat up on some mean old warlord who is starving his own people.  Military operations are supposed to be, the extreme last resort of political interactions.  This operation was the very same one where the first teams coming ashore were met with TV News cameras because of "leaks".

This raid was a rousing success!  The rangers and other special operations teams inserted and obtained their objectives.  When this helicopter was shot down, while a heartbreaking experience for the families of those men, is a part of war.  People are shooting at you!  They intend to do harm to you!  Warfare is not an even exchange where we are trying to make sure everyone goes home with a trophy. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson said it best with this sentiment, "The time for war has not yet come, but... ...when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard."  It is the objective of any armed force, to inflict as much violence upon their enemy so as to break their will to fight back.

This country has forgotten what the true toll of combat is.  World War II was the last time the U.S. truly appreciated, and SUPPORTED their troops.  It began to wane after that, through the Korean War, and then even more so during the "Police Action" known as Vietnam.  It has gotten so that the American population is revolted by the casualties we have sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.(1)While i have personal issues with the 'causes' of heading into Iraq, people have obviously forgotten the 'why' we are in Afghanistan... for those confused about the latter, please review your history of 11-September-2001.

Our politicians are too flippant in their unleashing of the "hounds" of the U.S. Military (arguably, THE best military the world has ever seen to date).  While i disagreed with the "whys" for the Iraq "II" involvement, and still do today, once those boots hit the ground, the only option in "Supporting our Troops" is to let the leash loose, and let the "Dogs of War" do what they are trained to do - within the rules outlined in the Geneva Convention(2) of course.  But, it HAS to be understood that once the bullets start flying, people are going to die - and THAT is why 'armed conflict', so casually tossed around needs to be held so much more sacred.  War devastates all involved.  From the men and women at the tip of the spear, to the locations where the engagements are fought, to the support systems of both sides - to include the very families of the men and women on the ground.

The engagement now known as "Blackhawk Down" is, to me, a resounding success story of our elite special operations teams.  These men swooped in, obtained their objective in efficient and spectacular fashion, and - even after "the shit hit the fan" and the battle plan went out the window - they regrouped, secured the prisoners, the wounded, and the dead, and managed to get all but six (four crewmen from 'Super 6-4', and the two Delta Snipers, Randy Shugart and Gary Gordan) of their fellow soldiers, back to base.  Yes (approximately) 100 of the 160 (and again, approximately) were either dead or wounded, but they fulfilled that promise to never leave a man behind (they eventually secured the bodies of the Delta Operators and bodies of the crewmen, and later obtained the release of CWO Durrant), but considering the numbers of enemy combatants they were constantly engaged against while they were out there, this is an AMAZING feat.

The "failure" of situations like Mogadishu, Iraq, etc., is not in the soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines - it is the men and women who put them in those situations, and then failed to "support the troops".  They allowed political positioning, image, and pride, to interfere, not realizing that they failed them before those combat losses ever took place.

If you are going to commit the lives of men, women, and engage in combat operations, don't give them an empty clip to put in their weapon, or impede their ability to fight and defend themselves by ludicrously complicated "rules of engagement.(3)

I encourage everyone to take the time, read the first hand reports, and learn the details of how things went.
A Special shout out of thanks to the teams at SpecialOps.Org (they brought the 60 Minutes YouTube footage to my attention via Facebook) and 11Bravos (they shared the 'Grunt' picture above), for their tireless support of our men and women in uniform.

  1. I am not dismissing, or diminishing, the sacrifices of these men and women, and/or their families.  Their deaths, and lingering injuries, are not 'little' things.  I truly believe the saying, "The ultimate sacrifice", because that is exactly what it is.  One can simply not give more than their futures, either in severe injury or in death.
  2. I am not a fan of using Wikipedia as a source, but it can be useful, so long as one checks the sources, etc. that they cite.
  3. Please do note assume that i believe in just shooting and blowing everything up.  That is NOT the case at all.  But take the time, try and think through the eyes of the "boots on the ground" and try and get just a fragment of a picture of what they have to deal with, all the while there are people shooting at you.


Guard your mind

I know it has been many a moon since my last post.  I blame myself.  Mostly for not being sure what to post, a phobia from actually hitting my 1Kth post, life getting too busy, whatever.  One thing i did learn early on in the Army was that, "the maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters".  So, i shall not try and excuse my absence, rather, i will endeavor to find things to post about... and actually force myself to put some fingers to keyboard more frequently.

A couple of weeks back, by way of random exploration, i found a new book titled, "Warrior Wisdom:  Ageless Wisdom for the Modern Warrior".  While the author is apparently not a Christian (i do not know him personally, and i am not seeing anything come through in what i have read that would tell me otherwise), and i have thus far NOT found any biblical references or quotes via the Facebook page, there is some biblical wisdom to be found.  Remember, i am a Christian first and foremost - and thus i view and analyze via this 'filter' if you will.  That is not to say that i do not think, "outside of the box" from time to time, but when i come to share something here, it will always be from this view point - and as a "samurai" in service to my Lord Jesus Christ.

Anyway - before i would recommend such a book for general "consumption" here, i would want to read it through.  But, some tidbits, i would like to share here.  Two for today.  One is a picture the Facebook page shared, and the other is a symbol, which to many, is a symbol of Eastern Mysticism.

I was inspired to share this picture because it immediately reminded me of the Casting Crowns song, Slow Fade (click the link to see the video on YouTube), which Tulip shared with me... a year or so ago.

Now, this is a quote from Lao Tzu, but there is Biblical truth in it, even if the author had no idea of who God is, and that is one of the most amazing things about God to me.  Everything cries out His glory, even those who may, or may not, oppose Him.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." ~ Philippians 4:4-9, ESV (emphasis mine)
We as followers of Christ, whether we be 'artisans', merchants, or farmers, we are to bring every thought under control.
"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,..." ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV (emphasis mine)
I say this because it is obvious that God sees the heart, and not just the outward actions.
"And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said,What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." ~ Mark 7:14-23, ESV (emphasis mine)
BUT, even in every effort we exert, we should endeavor to bring our thoughts into captivity. It is important however, to remember that without the work of the Holy Spirit, our efforts would be in vain.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." ~ Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV

The second item i would like to talk about what is commonly referred to as the YinYang symbol. 

Back before i had realized that God was revealing Himself to me, i had joined the Maryland Army National Guard, the historical 29th Infantry Division(I will not divert into the history of this unit, but i encourage anyone so inclined, to click on the link above.)  I will, however, discuss the unit's iconic symbol.  When the division was first organized, just prior the United States' full commitment into World War I, it was formed from the National Guard organizations of Maryland and Virginia.  The memories of the American Civil War were still firsthand of many at the time.  The Maryland and Virginia units symbolized the re-establishment of the Union from both sides of the conflict (despite Maryland being firmly South of the Mason-Dixon line, but i digress...), AND a representation of the only American Military Unit, the 1st Maryland. to have met it self on the field of battle, on opposing sides (again, a tale for another time), thus the colors of the Blue and the Grey (with the field of blue to always be closest to the bearer's heart). While the Yin Yang symbol originally represented the 'eternal struggle' between good and evil. the unit patch is a symbol of America's own struggles, but also, within the Christian, it is a symbol (to me) of the struggle we continue to wage between good and evil in our flesh, for we are not completely reborn until we are raised again with our new bodies and our eternal fellowship with Christ.  The complete symbol incorporates two smaller circles within.

These circles are always (or are supposed to be) of the opposite field of color.  This represents the "evil within the good, and the good within the evil".  Important note here - this dichotomy ONLY occurs within man, and NOT within God, for He is completely Holy and good.

The "evil within the good" represents (to me) the stain of the sin of man.  Within the complete holiness of God, once man has stepped within even the "smallest" of sins, he is forever tainted.
"Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." ~ 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, ESV
The "good within the evil" represents (again, to me), that no matter my circumstances, no matter how bad things are, He is at work in me.  He is transforming me into the image of His Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ.
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." ~ Romans 8:26-30, ESV
For me, this symbol, is a symbol of hope, and not one of eastern mysticism. I think what i am trying to say is, God is everywhere, and at work in everything... even in the things we think of as evil.  And while evil does exist in the world, and for whatever reason, He is allowing it, it ALL to work together for the good.  If you ever doubt, or say, "How could God allow this?!?", i would highly encourage you to read The Book of Job, and take comfort in it.
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV


How to walk, when blinded by self

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2, ESV)
I start my blog this week knowing that, if anyone other than myself, actually reads this, is going to think, 'Hey!  Don't judge!', but i am going to go forward anyway, and hope that the reader will still be around by the end of this blog entry for today, and at least give me a change to fully explain my train of thought... well, maybe not fully... but at least attempt to better expound my point of view some. Recently i have become aware of two, somewhat close, people who are at least within 2 degrees of myself, who are, or where, actively engaged in sinful behavior.  One was a nineteen year old, who attended a Christian school for at least seven years.  The other is a person whom i have known for at as long as i have been married.  Both grew up with people who attended church, but in each case, they willfully engaged in sex outside of the covenant of marriage.  The point of this blog, is actually not to focus on these two people, not in a singling out sort of way.  It is, however, an attempt to illustrate a deep concern i have regarding the American church in general.

It is of my opinion that the American church has been 'suffering' a time of prosperity.  A time where we could get comfortable and complacent in our pursuit of God - which He has amply supplied us with grace to pursue.  We allow ourselves to become distracted by the world, to covet the things of the world.  To actively pursue the things of the world, and yet, at the same time, allow our passion for Christ to be sidelined and placed and secondary (or even tertiary) to our heart.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  (Romans 7:14-25a, ESV)
We allow ourselves to become callous to the very things that put Christ on the cross in the first place!  And then, when we may perceive a possibly questionable act by others, we are told to "Judge not, lest you be judged!"  We become timid, and afraid to speak in love and truth into our friend's and/or neighbor's lives.  Is it even possible to discuss such things anymore?
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye." (Luke 6:37-38, ESV)
I say it is.  But how?  For one thing, we can NEVER consider ourselves better than someone else.  For another, it is NOT our place to judge the person we seek to help.  Only God will be the judge.  We also have to allow for the Holy Spirit to move in grace and love.  It is entirely possible that what you are seeing as a sinful action, may not even be on the person's "radar".  Why?  because God is working on other things in that person's life at the time, or they have become spiritually blind to it.  Don't allow it to become a source of division, but, if the person receives the word, than try and help as best you can, if it is not time, or the person does not want to receive the word, then back off.  Ultimately it is NOT we who affect the change in other people.  All of us, myself included, are only changed when the self works in concert with the Holy Spirit.  Until we stand before the Throne of the Father of heaven and earth, and we hear "Well done", we are going to be dealing with the stain of sin in everything that we do on a daily basis.  Like a pinch of leaven permeates the entire batch of dough, so does sin infest our very flesh.  It will only be completely removed when the Fathers gives us our new clothes, and our new bodies, will it be dealt within in finality.

For some time, God has brought people in to my life.  People in deep pain.  People only just seeing the sin in themselves, and in others.  Each time i have prayed for the Holy Spirit to speak truth through me, and that it not be me or my opinions that is heard.  I have encouraged women to leave abusive relationships.  I have told men to swallow their pride and be the man of their house that they needed to be.  I have mostly listened.  Some crazy life situations, and those that are seeking do not want just pat answers and glib statements.  They want to know that you hear them, that you see, in some small degree, that you know or understand.  I am VERY aware of the Word of God where it talks about divorce being a sin except in the case of infidelity, but i also honestly believe that God would not just patently condemn someone for leaving a person who is abusive either physically or mentally.  Christ took the time to reach out and touch the leper, to talk to the woman who had five husbands - AND was living with a 6th man, who was she was not married to.  Christ knew this BEFORE he spoke to her.  The woman that was to be stoned by the crowd - he did not condemn.  Example, after example, of those who are struggling and hurting IN their sin, Christ spoke to them about the love of the Father.  He repeatedly would reach out to them, preach to them, heal them, never condemning them where they found themselves in sin, and always telling them to "go and sin no more" (which all of us who walk with Christ daily know, is neigh impossible, as i expounded upon above).

That is not to say that what they, or i, was doing, wasn't sinful and SHOULD be stopped.  We must each walk out our sanctification with the Lord on a daily basis, but always know, that when you are ready to turn to Him, he is ready to receive and forgive you.  Just like the thief upon the cross, right next to Jesus, began the day, taunting and hurling insults at Jesus, near the end asked that Jesus to remember him when Jesus entered in to His kingdom, and right then Jesus said to that man, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43, ESV)  No one has the power to save, or condemn, but God.  It is only our duty as His followers, to convey the message as it has been revealed to us, and then allow it to be received, or rejected.  I say all of this and want to punctuate one thing - that does NOT mean everyone goes to heaven.  The Bible is clear, human-beings are sinners, in need of saving grave, and NOT everyone who thinks they are Christians will be saved.  The following, is in the very same chapter where it says "Judge not..."!
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness." (Matthew 7:21-23, ESV)
I started out this blog conveying a deep concern for the health of the American church, and i ended it with my thoughts regarding grace and salvation.  While they may not seem to correlate on the surface, i am trying to say they are one and the same.  Be faithful with the Word of God.  Be willing to speak out in truth and love, but also be aware that the Holy Spirit, and the person(s) you are speaking to, will not always receive what you have to say.  Only God can change a mind, change a community, change a region, a state, a nation.  Israel has walked with God some six thousand years, and even today the "Nation of Israel" does not have a place to call their home in peace.  Why?  Because their home is not of this world, and neither is the Christian's.  Like the Samaritan woman who "ate the scraps off the floor from the Master's table" (ref: Matthew 15:26-28), we can leave the progress of people, and of nations, to the Lord.  We just need to tend to the troubles of today.