I bought a lock-picking kit at the end of August. Tools and some clear locks for practice.

Tonight I tried it, and I was successful! Yes, I’m sure the locks are made to open easily. Doesn’t matter. I took a lock that opens with a key, and opened it without a key.

I’m kinda proud. Doesn’t translate into real-world skills, yet, but it’s a skill (experience?) that I didn’t have yesterday.

I was thinking the other day about ones and twos.  One cat, two cats.  One dog, two dogs. It kind of breaks when you get to one fish, because it’s also two fish, or a school of fish.  Fish are different.

And then there is the United States.  It’s not really as big of a jump as it seems.  Just like you can’t tell from the word whether “fish” is singular or plural, some people think the United States is singular – “The United States is”.  Some people think it’s plural – “The United States are”.  Sometimes it depends on the context – looking outside can be different than looking within the borders.  And sometimes it depends on who you’re talking to – a big believer in states’ rights is much more likely to see the plural, as opposed to somebody who’s in favor of a big federal government.

All those things are examples, helping us to start thinking about important things like the church.  Ephesians 5:23 says “Christ also is the head of the church”, so that’s pretty clear.  And Colossians 1:8 says “He is also head of the body, the church”.  We have Jesus as the head and the church as the body.  One head, one body.  But wait – are we part of the same body as that church around the corner, that church down the road?  That megachurch in California? Well, only if you believe the Bible.

And that means when you read First Corinthians 12:16, which says “And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body?”, you should think about your place in this church, Connections Christian Church.  And you should think about the place of Connections in relation to all the other parts of the body.

Then we start applying this same thinking in hard ways.  First Corinthians 12:27 says “As for you, you are the body of Christ, and individually you are members of it”. Is that true? When you think of yourself and Jesus Christ, do you think single or plural? Integrated and one, or a duality? First Corinthians 11:28-29 says “Each one must examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

If that makes you scared, congratulations. You have started to understand Philippians 2:12 – “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. But notice that it says to continue – you aren’t coming into this as an outsider, because Jesus Christ, the head of the church and the head of you, gave himself as a sinless sacrifice on the cross. First Timothy 4:10 says “we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, that is, of those who believe”. That’s you and me, because of the body and blood of Jesus.  Let’s pray.

Father God, I remember the Shema. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord is one”. You don’t want division, disunity. The world was created as one, and then separated by sin. Jesus’ sacrifice, which we celebrate now with the wafer and the juice, brought the hope of salvation, the hope of unity to all of mankind. Thank You for the gift of Your only begotten Son, Jesus. In His name I pray, Amen.

Communion Meditation 2021-09-12

Yesterday was the twenty-year anniversary of 9/11, when terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and into a field in Pennsylvania.  That was a terrible, tragic event, one that I hope never happens again.

The whole country, the whole world, was alarmed, very watchful, on high alert – and rightfully so.  Everybody was glued to their news sources – television, radio, newspapers – for days on end, wanting to find out more, to understand what had happened.

Which brings me to my own twenty-year anniversary, which is today.  On September 12th, twenty years ago today, I was scheduled to have my gall bladder removed.  We had confirmed that yes, the surgery was going to go forward.  So I went.

My memory is a little hazy, because of the anesthesia, but my recollection is that everybody, from the receptionist up to the surgeon, was watching the TV.  The nurse feeding me jello afterwards would kind of aim the spoon at my mouth and let me finish the action, because she was looking elsewhere.

Did this concern me, make me wonder about the quality of the surgery I had just gotten?  Yes, it did – but without reason.  As distracted as they might have been, the doctor and nurses were still professionals.  They got their job done, regardless of the cost.  They may have had relatives or friends on the planes, or in the buildings, but they did what they needed to do.

And that makes me think of Jesus.  He had a task – to do God’s will.  That included living a perfect, sinless life, and dying on the cross without guilt.  He gathered and taught the disciples across years, teaching and correcting them. He had one job, and he did it perfectly.  Was it easy?  No – He was tempted in every way, just as we are – but He resisted temptation.  Did He want to pour out His blood on the cross?  No, He prayed the exact opposite.  Did He do His Father’s will?  Yes.  Hebrews 12:2 says “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He did the job, He ran the race, He won the prize.  That is what we are remembering now, with the bread and the juice.  Let’s pray.

Father God, You loved and still do love Your Son.  You loved and still do love us.  Thank you for having Jesus show us the way, and pay the price for our salvation.  In His name I pray, Amen.

Two black cylindrical things

Two nifty things recently, both black and round in two dimensions.

The Amplifi Alien has been serving wifi throughout the house for a month, and doing a wonderful job of it. Phones, streaming devices, wireless printer – everything just works. This is the way it’s supposed to be. Is it a terrible thing that I can’t do network segmentation on it? Nope, no more sad that I can’t extend my hammer. Purchased to do one thing, and it does that thing well.

The other cool thing is a little bluetooth speaker from Anker. Twenty bucks for twenty hours of audio (at lower volumes), that is surprisingly loud, clear, and bassy. It isn’t green – it’s reflecting in the glory of the “signal-is-good” Alien.

Both recommended, for different purposes, of course.

James 1:17 says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

I had a friend who used to say that if you’re ever asked a question in Sunday School, and you haven’t been paying attention like you should, it’s a pretty safe choice to answer “Jesus”. And here, he would be right. 

We are surrounded by good gifts – I think of the physical world here. The breaths we take in, the wonderful food we consume (and sometimes over-consume), the medical support system available to us when things go wrong – these are all good gifts. 

And then perfect gifts, I tend to think of as spiritual. This church – not the building, which is good, and for me would fall into the first group. But the people – this church is a blessing. Salvation is a perfect gift. And the means of salvation – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – well, I don’t know how to rank perfect gifts if everything is perfect, but He’d be at the top. 

And yet, after He had offered His sinless body on the cross as a sacrifice for my sin and for your sin, He descended to Hell. Did God His Heavenly Father turn away from Him? Habakkuk 1:13 says of God the Father “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil”, and Jesus Himself quotes Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?“. 

But we just read that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning”. So how could both be true? 

I think God’s light shines everywhere, even into Hell. I’m no theologian, and I’ll accept any guidance or correction on this. When Jesus spoke of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, the end of verse 22 and then 23 says “The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.” He was seeing from Hades – what we would call “Hell” – into Heaven. I don’t know if this was optical light or spiritual light, but the rich man saw

And I believe that God cannot look upon sin, but He sees people. When Jesus went to the cross and died, he became sin. The first part of 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us”. Christ was not a sinner – He was carrying the guilt, the shame, the punishment for our sins. The final verse of the chapter Jesus quoted from the cross says “For He has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden His face from Him and but has listened to His cry for help.” 

And because of that, on the third day Jesus arose from the grave, triumphant. That’s the second part of that verse in Corinthians: Jesus was made sin for us “so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”. 

And that is what we are remembering now, with the wafer and juice representing the body and blood of Jesus. Let’s pray. 

Father God, You who do not turn, thank You for the perfect gift of Jesus – His example, His teachings, His work on the cross. All part of Your perfect plan. Because of that, I can approach Your throne boldly. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

This has been a good week.

  • I turned sixty-mumble, and lived to tell about it.
  • I had a colonoscopy/endoscopy this morning, results next week, and no immediate problems or ill after-effects.
  • I upgraded our home networking with an Amplifi Alien – ‘spensive, but worth it. Mesh system that just works. Our streaming TV service no longer needs a warm-up and no longer pauses. Wish I had done it sooner – been bothersome for months, and a major weight on me.
  • I got my brother-in-law’s site (which I host) up and running with rotating pictures. He’s been asking for that for a long time, and today I had time and energy and inclination to do it. Piwigo to the rescue.

My health is good. My God is great. My job is turning around (less stressful). My weight is the lowest it’s been in 22 months, and down 30 pounds from my high three and a half years ago. And for data geeks, that’s in the bottom 4th percentile across daily readings from almost 8 years.

So what? Not much. This isn’t a brag post, nor a humble brag one. I just feel good about what I have gotten accomplished. And that’s been a while.

PS: That pic of the Alien shows a few things in the blurry background. A potato gun that I got because I wanted to do a project at work that I had named SPUDGUN – never got off the ground, but I like seeing it and saying “spudgun”. A coaster from Scrabble tiles from my very favorite niece Caroline. A model train car from the Rock Island line, because a friend I’ve never met blogged about the trademark being publicly available. My work laptop (powered off), and one of two side monitors that help me do things. The ear coverings of my active sound canceling Bluetooth headphone (sometimes I work better with comfortable music on, and everything else off, even if I’m home alone). A large-letter, lighted keyboard because I’m not getting any younger. The white box contains a piece of bismuth I picked up at the fair a few years ago, which led to my Dad and I home brewing our own bismuth parts, one of which I have in my office window, and I smile every time I see it. Yes, we used thrift store pans. My momma didn’t raise no dummy.

I wish I was a dog.

I was having one of those whiny, gripey woe-is-me moments, thinking life was unfair, and then I realized that dogs have many advantages.  They get fed on a regular basis, and sometimes get scraps from the table.  They get to go for walks with their owner.  And even at the end of their lives, they aren’t worried, because they trust their owner. Wonderful.

Then I started to count my blessings.  I do have ready food, and choose when I want to eat.  I don’t get scraps from the table – I have a seat at the table.  Dogs lying around most of the day is overrated – ask anybody who has spent quantity time in the hospital.

And then, as He does, God moved my thoughts into the spiritual realm.  That table that I have a seat at – it could be anything from David’s “Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of my enemies” to Revelation’s marriage supper of the Lamb.  Going for walks with my owner – well, the great theologian Merle Haggard put it like this:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The son of God discloses

And he walks with me and he talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

The leash that dogs wear?  Jesus said “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.  All through my life, and at the moment of my death, and for all eternity, the Holy Spirit is there, comforting and guiding.

And all this is because although I am a creation of God, like dogs are, I am much more than that.  I am made in His image.  And because I have accepted the gift of salvation, I am a child of God.

So, my life, as it exists right now, even with burdens and cares, is much, much better than a dog’s life.  “This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”.  And why rejoice?  Because of God’s love for us, expressed through Christ and His sacrifice.  Jesus was willingly obedient, by choice, by love, to die for my sins and yours, to ensure that the end of our lives would not be the end of our life with God.  Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, as we celebrate communion with wafer and juice representing Christ’s body and blood, I thank You for the indescribable gift of salvation.  Your ways are not our ways.  Like Job, I sometimes need to put my hand over my mouth.  I know You love us, and You have plans to give us hope and a future, plans established in time immemorial.  Help me to seek Your will here and now, not wish for something not in Your plan.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

In my library, where I do a lot of my reading of physical books, I keep three reading streams. Fiction, non-fiction, and “spiritual”.

Fiction encompasses mysteries, science fiction, cozies, anything that is made up.

Non-fiction includes a lot of history, science explainers, and trivia.

Spiritual has included an in-depth analysis of the book of Revelation from four perspectives, Christian biographies, and conservative archeology. I recently tossed a book that tried to redefine King David as the ringleader of a small group of tribesmen – that’s not the way I read my Bible.

As I finish a book from my reading streams, I replace it with a similar one. A day or two ago I finished up Indianapolis, a sad story with a happy ending. I replaced it with Homestead, the story of a failing mill town near Pittsburgh.

Today I completed The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, hardback, at about 700 pages. All the stories and novels, with fascinating explanations of the language, the locations, and the exact dates the fictional events must have happened on. A hefty hardback, coming in at four pounds. As enjoyable as it was, I wasn’t sad to reach the end and move on to the next book.

Which is The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, volume 2, at 800 pages.

Woe is me.

Remember being in junior high school – everybody was against you, and nobody would let you do anything you wanted?  If only you could be in high school, because they could do anything, even drive when they got old enough.

Remember being in high school – nobody would let you do what you wanted?  You were an adult, almost, and you should be able to make your own decisions.  If only you could graduate right now, and then go to college or get a job, and everything would be perfect.

Remember being in your first job, thinking about how you didn’t have enough money to do what you wanted, how you had to live in a little apartment or with your parents, and thinking to the future where you would be rich and could do anything you want?  Get married, buy a car, buy a house – the possibilities are endless.

This sounds a little like “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” –  and there’s some truth to that.  Certain parts of other people’s lives can look appealing, but we don’t always see the whole picture.

But this isn’t a “be peaceful and accept your lot in life” meditation.  There’s some truth to that, too – but that goes against the Proverbs 31 wife.  Verse 16 says “She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard.”.  That isn’t passive.

I am not recommending some sort of middle ground, where sometimes you’re active and sometimes you’re passive, based on a coin flip or doing what you want.

John 5:19 says “Truly, truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself, unless He sees the Father doing it. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”  And that’s what Jesus does.  He has His own wishes and desires – praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.”.  He knew it was going to hurt.  And He knew that the physical pain wasn’t going to be the worst part.

But that isn’t where Jesus stopped.  You all know that He continued “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Jesus could have had anything He wanted – that is how Satan tempted Him. But Jesus, though He had a choice, did His Father’s will.

And that is what we are celebrating now – the death of Jesus on the cross, in the body and blood represented with the wafer and the juice, and the resurrection on the third day that gives us hope.  Let’s pray.

Father God, Jesus showed us how to live perfect lives.  He was in fellowship with You, and it cost Him His life, and gave us eternal life.  Help us to live not wanting more, but wanting Your perfect will.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Communion meditation June 6, 2021

I’ve had my “new car” for seven years. About 95K miles on it so far.

The dealership keeps on wanting me to buy something newer, trade it on on that “new car feel” or something. I’m smart enough to thank them kindly, and save my shekels.

This time, though, they are trying something different. This is as clipped from the email – no editing, no photoshop.

The way I interpret it, the “care wash” means that I won’t have any more cares, because of the free car. And yes, that would be a special day.

Point A: If I get up the nerve to try it, I’ll let you know how it comes out.

Point B: Good to know that I can always get a job as a proof-reader. I’d want to read the employment contract very carefully.

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