Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Redeeming the Time

Something about standing on the lip of that great expanse called "Tomorrow" makes a person want to take stock of his or her life and see where they've been, look at what direction they're heading, and dream of what could be.

"Tomorrow" is a limited resource, though...as the following video by zefrank1 makes abundantly clear.

Truth is...none of us has a guaranteed number of beans. May each one we are granted be spent in a way that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:8)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Visit From Emmanuel

'Twas the night before Jesus, and all through the town,
a couple was searching for a place to lie down.
“No Vacancy” signs were hung within view,
and soon there would be three searchers, not two.
For a child was nestled inside of the lass;
the time of his birth would soon come to pass.
One kindly innkeeper spoke up that day
to offer his stable, with newly-strewn hay.

Outside of town, where flocks of sheep huddled,
all thoughts of deep sleep were suddenly scuttled.
Away to the hillsides the shepherds all flew;
why were the lambs all in such a stew?
They bleated and baaed and ran around so,
that it felt like mid-day to shepherds below.
When, what to their wondering eyes should appear
but an angel of God, who said, “Do not fear.
I bring you good news of great joy, so be glad.
This is the best news that you’ve ever had!
Choose you this day to wipe off your frown.
Messiah is born in Bethlehem-town!”
More rapid than eagles, a choir then came;
a huge group of angels all praising God’s name:
"Now there is good will to all earthly men!
Glory to God in the highest! Amen!”
At the top of their lungs the choir sang out:
“Now praise Him! Now praise Him without a doubt!
And here’s how you’ll know what we’re saying is true:
a babe in a manger; a sign unto you.”
So off to the village the shepherds then ran,
to prove all the words from the heavenly band.

And then, in a twinkling, they heard in a stable,
the cry of a baby, both healthy and able.
The shepherds drew close to the source of the sound
and realized the newborn Messiah was found!
He was wrapped in a cloth, from his head to his toe.
His mother was so proud, she practically glowed.
Surrounded by hay as he lay on his back,
he looked like a hungry young lamb’s midnight snack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! His dimples—how merry!
His cheeks were like olives; his nose like a berry!
His dear little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
then he quieted down and to sleep he did go.

Thirty years later, on a hill far away,
surrounded by mockers instead of fresh hay,
This innocent baby, now an innocent man,
completed God’s purpose since time first began.
Nails in a tree held his hands and his feet,
and thorns encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a bruised face; they bloodied God’s Son.
He shook when he cried out, “It’s finished! It’s done!”

On the third day since they sealed off his tomb,
his men were hiding out in a locked room
When Jesus showed up and offered them peace:
“You’re no longer sin’s slaves; I’ve arranged your release!”
He was breathing and talking, although he had died!
The disciples could hardly believe what they’d spied.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave them to know they had nothing to dread.
He spoke many words, and sent them to work,
“Go into the world, but don’t be a jerk.
Teach all the Good News through poem and prose,”
and giving a nod, to the sky he then rose!

The disciples all stared up into the sky;
some wanted to yell; some wanted to cry.
Two angels exclaimed, as Christ flew out of sight,
“Fear not! He’ll return like a thief in the night!”

©2013 Dewey Roth

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fall Asleep Praying

COFFEE WITH JESUS is a comic produced by the creative force known as Radio Free Babylon. (Fair warning: some of the content of RFB has PG-13 language...which kind of confuses me, but that's not the point of today's post, so let's drop the subject.) The strip features a rotating cast of people (and Satan) who have short conversations with a suit-wearing Jesus, while sipping from cups or mugs full of coffee.

It's always tricky trying to represent what Jesus might say or do in contemporary situations, and CWJ's Jesus is probably a bit more snarky and sarcastic than the Lord would actually be, but hey, it's a comic strip.

A recent strip is a good reminder of how God views us as His children...and the first half gives some great imagery that should help get rid of some needless feelings of guilt many of us probably share.

Truth is...Yahweh understands that "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Freedom By Forgiveness

Pastor/writer Max Lucado is nothing if not prolific, but his real talent is not in his abundance of words, but in how he can express the most profound truth in the most succinct turn of a phrase.

I don't remember where I saw the following quote posted, nor do I know what larger work it is mined from, but it speaks perfectly to one of the most important themes you'll ever catch me touching on.

Truth is...one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves is to extend forgiveness to someone else.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bad For You = Good For Me

Sherman's Lagoon is Jim Toomey's comic strip, set somewhere in the tropics and populated by sea creatures who have troubles, triumphs, temptations, and quirks amazingly like us land creatures...which is how it comes to be that even a comic strip enjoyed by children can have Truth for us to ponder.

Case in point, the following scene featuring Hawthorne, the hermit crab, Fillmore, the sea turtle, and the star of the strip, the great white shark, Sherman.

And now, our "hero" enters.

Truth is...Hawthorne serves as an example (a bad one), and points us to the words of Paul in First Corinthians 13:6, "[Love] does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail." That's the way The Amplified Bible says it, but maybe you can relate to how Eugene Peterson renders it in The Message: "Love doesn't revel when others grovel."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Life Imitates Stanislavski

The Art of Character: Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV, by David Corbett, may be, and certainly is, a book for actors and writers to consider reading, but this particular excerpt about the founder of "method" acting gives us all, creative or not, a point to ponder.

One of Constantin Stanislavski's key innovations was recognizing the central role of desire in our depiction of the human condition. The fundamental truth to characterization, he asserted, is that characters want something, and the deeper the want, the more compelling the drama.

Desire is the crucible that forges character because it intrinsically creates conflict. If we want nothing, then nothing stands in our way. This may lead to a life of monastic enlightenment — or habitual evasion — but it's thin gruel for drama. By giving the character a deep-seated need or want, you automatically put her at odds with something or someone, for the world is not designed to gratify our desires.

And a profound, unquenchable longing almost always forces us to do things we normally would never imagine ourselves doing -- even things seemingly contradictory to our natures. When confronted with overwhelming obstacles of a kind we've never faced before in pursuit of something we cannot live without, we are forced to change, to adapt, to dig deeper into ourselves for some insight, passion, or strength that will give us the power we need to keep going.

In a sense, Stanislavski's desire took the place of Aristotle's telos (meaning an end or purpose). Where once man lived to fulfill his basic purpose, he now, in Stanislavski's interpretation, lived to fulfill his most basic ambition, craving, or need.

Peter Brooks put it somewhat differently in his book Reading for Plot, remarking that, in the absence of desires, stories remain stillborn. This reflects a simple truth: Desire puts a character in motion.

There may be no more important question to ask of a character than: What does she want in this scene, in this chapter, in this story? Thinking more globally, one should ask what she wants from her life — has she achieved it? If not, why not? If so, what now?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *
Truth is...If we want to keep the storyline of our own lives from being dead in the water, perhaps we could all benefit from asking ourselves the questions in the last paragraph. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How Do You Spell "Father"?

Spelling can be a tricky proposition. Take the "gh" from "tough", the "o" from "women", and the "ti" from "action", and "ghoti" suddenly spells "fish".

Poet Marshall Davis "Soulful" Jones has his own way of spelling a very common word:

Truth is...being a single parent, no matter what gender, is probably the hardest job on the planet.  If you know one, pray for them and put action behind your prayer by helping them. If you are one, hang tough and press on. You are tending a garden that can become beautiful and productive one day.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I'm More Than Alright - A Prose Hymn

While the story behind the Horatio Spafford/Philip Bliss hymn, It Is Well With My Soul, is moving and adds incalculable depth to the lyric (you can read it here), it is the possibility of those words being lived out in my life that moves and inspires.

However, there is a risk, as with all songs, that the meaning of the words could get lost in the poetry and melody. So, I offer here a prosifying (turning into prose) of this hopeful hymn.

Whatever is going on in my life, whether I'm full of peace or drowning in sorrow, I have learned to say, "In my heart of hearts, I know that I'm more than alright."

Satan himself can hit me with his best shot, and I can be going through a truckload of trouble, but my emotions and sense of self-worth are going to be under the control of this one thing I know for sure: Christ knows how helpless I am and has chosen to spill his blood in order to save my soul.

This really is the thought that blows my mind and fills my heart: every single part of every wrong thing I've ever done or ever will do has been crucified with Christ. I am utterly and eternally free from guilt. Praise God!

So, God, all that's left for me to ask for is that you will send Jesus back soon, and that I'll be able to actually see all the things I'm looking forward to: the sky opening up, the last trumpet blasting forth, and Jesus himself setting foot once again on Planet Earth. It will be monumental and cataclysmic and unlike anything I've ever experienced, but even so...I am absolutely more than alright with that.

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Truth is...sometimes the troubles of life encourage me to echo the words of John: "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Three Magic Words

One of the characteristics of the English language is how the meaning of a sentence depends on which word in the sentence receives the most emphasis. This is amazingly demonstrated in the seven completely different statements that can be made by using the same seven words:

I never said she stole my money.
I NEVER said she stole my money.
I never SAID she stole my money.
I never said SHE stole my money.
I never said she STOLE my money.
I never said she stole MY money.
I never said she stole my MONEY.

The same effect can take place, even with a much shorter sentence.

Imagine that Yahweh, also known as God, decides to verbalize his love for you with a simple three-word statement:

I love you. No matter how anybody else on the planet feels about you, you can rest assured that I love you. And who am I? The wisest, most-powerful being in the universe...which I created!

I LOVE you. I don't just tolerate you, like a pesky fly buzzing around the screened-in porch on the outskirts of my attention. No way. I am passionate about bringing about the absolute best for you. Remember that whole "for God so loved the world that he gave" thing? (John 3:16)

I love YOU. Don't take the phrase "God so loved the world" too far. My love is not just some blanket of good will that is indiscriminately tossed over every creature. I know who you are and what your idiosyncrasies are and what is best for you individually. I mean, I know you down to the number of hairs on your head, for crying out loud. (Matthew 10:30)

Truth is...the whys and hows of God's love for each of us can't really be grasped with the human mind or expressed with human language. The good news is, we've got forEVER to learn by experience.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Smell the Color Nine

A perfect storm of thoughts converged in my head on the way to work this morning, and it all congealed into an emotion while listening to the song, Smell the Color Nine, by Chris Rice.

One thought: in an off-Blogger comment about a recent post where I stated, "I reserve the right to be wrong, but if I am, so what? What have I lost in this life if this life is all there is?", the person commenting was decidedly less-than-impressed that I had culminated my thoughts with "Pascal's wager."

Two thought: My comment actually had nothing to do with Pascal. I wasn't aware that he had said anything similar. And it certainly wasn't meant as a REASON for anyone to believe in Jesus; just my personal thought that my faith is not a detriment to life on Planet Earth, and if I'm correct, it's a great bonus for whatever is after that.

Red thought:  I am extremely less-well-read than the small circle of atheists/agnostics with which I sometimes converse. Their references to so-and-so's thesis and what's-his-name's counter-balancing communique most-generally go far over my head.

Blue thought: Sometimes it seems like these guys have turned their intellects into their personal objects of worship; that brain power is the only true power; that they can't understand the God of the Bible, and therefore refuse to accept...and while it is conversely true that I can't understand a lot of what they're trying to say, I can't imagine wanting to worship a god who I COULD understand and keep all neat and tidy in a box made of verifiable, quantitative explanations.

And now, the song in question:

Truth is...I don't have all the answers. Sometimes I don't even know the questions. But I know what satisfies my longing for purpose and meaning like nothing else can do. Facts alone have not brought me to this place, but they led me to within shouting distance. Maybe this is what's meant by a Leap of Faith.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Using Love As A Weapon - And Winning

Thanks to Upworthy.com for finding this short video of former KKK wizard, Johnny Lee Clary, telling how one old black minister chose to fight hatred with love and started him on his road to redemption.

Truth is...true love is always a choice, not a feeling.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Going Public

Soul Pancake's YouTube channel is full of encouraging, amazing, beautiful, daring things.

For instance...

What kind of things do you think would happen if you set up a live microphone on a city street with an encouragement for people to give a shout-out to someone who changed their life?

According to the following video, beautiful things...

This brought tears to my eyes and a desire to let the important people in my life KNOW they are important to me.

Truth is...there's no need to wait for a giant microphone to show up on the local sidewalk. Debbie Ann Brewer Roth, aka Beloved, you are making me a better person, even after 34 years of marriage.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Going Against the Flow

A few weeks ago, I posted a piece titled "The World According to Calvin (and Hobbes)" that used a few panels from that wonderful comic strip to make a point about how to approach life.

Amazingly enough, a blog called ZEN PENCILS: Cartoon Quotes from Inspirational Folks chose that very same day to publish an homage to Bill Watterson (C & H's creator) that included a quote from a graduation speech by Watterson and is practically perfect in every way.

"A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential, as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth."

I encourage you to click here to enjoy the whole thing.

Truth is...Standing up for one's convictions is often unpopular at the time, but lasting respect and admiration far outweigh fleeting popularity.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Doubtful Praise - Psalm 13 Rewritten

Found this in some old papers. Not sure when I wrote it, but I am sure it still rings true from time to time.

*  *  *  *  *  *  * 

How long can I take this, God? It seems like you've forgotten me, or that you're ignoring me ... even hiding from me.

I sit and talk to myself, and it's depressing. And everybody else seems to really have it all together.

Will you please help me make some sense of all this, God? I could just die!

You see, there are those who seem to get their kicks out of seeing me falter.

And yet, you've been so wonderfully kind and generous to me in the past ... there's really no reason to doubt that you'll do it again. You have saved my soul for eternity and you will stand by me in this life, too.

I praise you, oh God, because you have blessed me more than I can thank you.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...David was never the only one who could be filled with doubt and praise at the same time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Take Off Your Pants

Tony Carrillo creates the daily comic strip, F Minus. It is a hodge-podge of wide-ranging topics, without any main characters or running plot lines, but still manages to generate a few grins and even some thought.

Case in point; take a look at this recent panel:

Fill in the details of any number of differing scenarios, and I'm sure you will have run across someone basically like the above patient:

  • "This house is so cluttered. It's depressing to sit here and watch TV."
  • "I never have any extra money. I can just barely afford to get popcorn when I go to the movies every weekend."
  • "Why are all men such losers? It seems like every bar I go to is filled with underachievers."

Albert Einstein is credited with the popular definition for insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Truth is...in order to improve a personal situation, maybe a person needs to stop using temporary fixes and "minor course adjustments" and make an actual change instead.