“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

I’m a Christian. A reasonable response to that statement might be, “So what?” After all, what does the world outside the Christian church see as examples? Consider the Protestant church. There are so many to choose from. We’re protesting, all right. The problem is, everyone has a different idea about what it is we should protest. Even if you only consider the major players, there are a lot of choices. It’s almost as though every time someone got ticked off with the pastor, he got the rest of the pew to get up and start another church. “Let’s have our services on Thursdays. There’s gotta be a scripture that says Sundays aren’t right.” And just like that, The Church of Let’s All Watch Football On Sundays and Go to Church on Thursdays is born. 

So what’s the current status of the Christian church? Living in the time and country I live in, there certainly isn’t much risk. When Christianity was born, believers were hunted down and were tortured or killed. What about now? You still need to make sure you’re in the right country before you admit to following Christ. In China, unless your church is state sanctioned, you can be arrested. Recently an American pastor with duel citizenship was arrested in Iran. Apparently Iran was okay with him having dual citizenship, but being a Christian pastor was beyond the pale. Those are just a few of the many examples we could cite. I think the Jewish leadership mentioned in the Bible’s book of Acts was onto something when they first considered how they should handle what was at the time the fledgling Christian church. After considering several instances where other movements had fallen by the wayside, a Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel said, “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” Acts 5:38-39. Smart man, that Pharisee. So here we are, somewhere around 2,000 years later. With all its arguing, schisms, and imperfections, the Christian church remains, even where governments insist on trying to stamp it out.  

So what is a Christian? Certainly, we must accept the whole of the Bible, in context. The fact that the Bible has survived virtually unchanged for so long and has been reprinted in so many languages is unprecedented. The many prophesies concerning Jesus Christ and the development of His lineage are amazing in their accuracy. Recently we celebrated Christmas, the miraculous introduction of our savior to the world.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16.   God sent His son to be a sacrifice for mankind’s disobedience, inherited from the first man. Jesus himself was never one to mince words. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” John 14:6. This was no timid statement. Note that He didn’t say He was only a way, a truth, or a life. In order to accept Christ’s sacrifice, we must first admit we have fallen short. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. We must then make a personal declaration… “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:9-10 


I believe the bold, unvarnished message of salvation should be the foundation of every Christian church. Also high on the list in my estimation should be the care and growth of those seeking to follow and imitate Christ. We, of all people should be most humble, knowing the cost paid to redeem us. As Christians, we need to understand that each person we meet has a unique path to walk, a unique history, and a unique burden. Abigail Van Buren put it well when she said, “A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”

“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.”
Steven Wright

Faith

What does faith mean to you? For many, it may denote your religion, which box you check on the questionnaire. For some the issue is not something you want to share, so you might check the box which says, “refuse to state.” For others, faith is worn on the sleeve, something so powerful and all encompassing that it leaks out everywhere, as though the individual is unwilling or unable to keep it inside. For some faith is more a matter of action. Take Gandhi, for instance; He clearly acted out his faith by combining his words with a very active, though non-violent approach. For each of the major world religions, a prescribed life and method define their specific approach to faith.

For Christians, faith is defined by the way of life and belief both demonstrated and taught by Jesus Christ. The bible addresses faith many times in both the old and new testaments. Faith or a lack of faith in God and His plan for mankind seems to be the hinge which swings those many figures in the bible toward a successful or unsuccessful outcome. My favorite scripture defining faith is Hebrews 11:1, which says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

In following posts I’ll illustrate what my faith means to me.

Trowel and Error

I’ll come clean and admit I’m not nearly the gardener either of my parents were.They managed to put together a yard that Better Homes and Gardens would be proud of. My dad built all sorts of garden structures and learned how to grow bonsais. My mom could tell you what everything was and what kind of fertilizer it liked. I suspect orchids liked her as much as she liked them.

Me? Mostly I like to play in the dirt and try to make the yard look nice. I am fascinated though, by what springs from the earth after I plant it. I am beside myself with pleasure when, despite my lack of knowledge regarding growing technique and Latin or even common names for plants, something blooms and thrives. I’ll drag my wife and daughter outside and show them what has dared pop out of the earth in my flower bed. I’ll exclaim, “Look at that, isn’t it pretty?” They’ll ask me what it is and I’ll say, “I have no idea!” Truth be told, I sometimes suspect that when I achieve success in the garden it means one of two things: either absolutely anyone with the ability to dig in the dirt can grow it, or I’ve chosen a plant which would more appropriately be sold as a “Pretty Pest” and will take over my neighbors yard after first making mine its mother ship.

I’ve read books on garden design and climate and micro-climate and soil type and yada yada yada. Due either to stubbornness, laziness, or a diabolical combination of both, I’ve settled on a strategy that sort of works (for me). My strategy is it either lives or it dies, but even if it thrives, I may dig it up and replace it anyway. I’ll probably stick with that, but I still wish I could remember what the bush with the funny looking pink flowers is called.

Poetry Waltz

The following should be read with the rhythm of a Viennese waltz

You start with two words
Like love and you
And add a third word
It could be too
Perhaps add a thought
The concept of love has baffled scholars, engineers, and rodeo clowns for centuries.
It won’t have to rhyme.
See line above
Insert a grand flourish
Our love is bigger than the Grand Canyon, more exciting than a Lady Gaga costume change, longer lasting than the mustard stain on my sweatpants incurred during the unfortunate 49er’s loss last Sunday.
A secondary flourish
A lot of people think you should change your oil every 3,000 miles, but I’ve read that every 5,000 is just fine. The thing is, you have to be consistent.
It runs so smooth
And conclude
I will
Always
Be yours
I’m yours

Little One

A big world is contained in your little eyes, dreamer. Your crooked smile has me melting in your hand. If I had the best of this earth and what’s beyond it to give, you know I would. While you’re so young all you meet thinks you’re to die for. If I could protect you from their fickle ways, count me in. But life won’t always be easy, Little One. Cause Little One the road will at times be rocky, just like all the times when it is smooth. You know I’ve got your back, yeah I’ve got you, Little One. Among all the prayers that I am praying, is as you go that you will be so brave, to go through the storms… still trusting, Little One.

Can Little One play with me today? Oh, she’s sick? That’s too bad. I’ll pray for her before I go to sleep. Can I ask again tomorrow? I’m glad you guys moved here. I’ve got a big brother but he thinks I’m a baby. Little One likes the same stuff I do. Well, I’ve got to get home now. Tell her to get better, please.

Little One, the growing will get easier, with the exceptions of when it hurts, the learning will go smoother, except for those times when it doesn’t. The little boys in ways will stay little, but some of them will actually become men. If I can, I’ll show you the difference, older one.

Some say loving someone is like your heart walking around outside of you. Yet even though we know it’s a risk, we still dare. Even when we listen to God’s instruction, we know part of loving is risking pain. A poker player calls it “going all in,” and we do.

Little One someday you’ll be wiser, someone who is little too will look to you. You’ll be scared just like I was, Brave One. Share the load with someone who loves you and is willing to grow along with you and your Little One. Little One… Little One…

Jesus loves me, this I know
Joy to the world, all the boys and girls
I’ve got you, under my skin… I’ve got you, deep in the heart of me.

Mud Puddles

from the time I was younger than three

I sought them out with glee

the watery dirty depths

of a mud puddle step

did so much to satisfy me

 

and later, ‘round the time of eight

I’d stop somewhere short of the grate

ahead of my siblings

with their gleaming white shoe strings

and plunge feet first to my fate

 

then somewhere late in my teens

much too serious for childish things

I carefully walked around

and with regret missed the sound

that splashing mud and water brings

 

now some years have passed

and I’ve earned at last

the right to jump again as I’m able

in imagined giants’ ladles

of water and mud broadcast

Heavy Hearts

Heavy hearts. Loads we cannot seem to carry and don’t know exactly how to put away.  Heavy hearts.  Grief so infinite, our very bones begin to groan while our bodies start to sway.  What do we do with the weight?

And there are times to weep with those who are weeping just as we would rejoice with those who rejoice. Times we join hands with strangers and are there for those so crushed with sadness that they have lost their voice.

Heavy hearts. Bending our knees and asking God for answers to answerless questions as we look to the sky.  How do you measure, the tears that could fill an ocean? Could they wash away the pain? It’s so hard to stand by.

There are times to weep with those who are weeping just as we would rejoice with those who rejoice. Times we join hands with strangers and are there for those so crushed with sadness that they have lost their voice.

Heavy hearts. Our shoulders are not big enough to carry that much weight; It was never part of our design. There is only one we know who could outshine that much evil and carry us through such dark days. Pray for comfort for those left here on earth, the ones who must wait to rejoin those who fell. Give away some love to someone you don’t know. As darkness threatens to overtake them, share the light.

There are times to weep with those who are weeping just as we would rejoice with those who rejoice. Times we join hands with strangers and are there for those so crushed with sadness that they have lost their voice.

Robin

i wonder if the robin who has landed in my yard
thinks the best worms are to be found here
thinks you know their bouquet is rarely excelled
not even by the ones in the big field with the oak
i wonder if he cocks his head and briefly looks at his
reflection in a cold glistening rain drop
hanging just barely from an extra tall blade of grass
does he hop up into the little dogwood and survey
the lawn from his lofty perch of four feet
and wonder if he should top off the worms with a few
miscellaneous bugs before he wings into
the big tree across the street and puts his beak into the wind
whistling through the bare winter branches
wonders if any of the other robins know it’s his yard
it doesn’t matter
he does

time’s money

if our table lamps shone money
and our pocketbooks held time
I’d not presume what’s mine is yours
or even what’s yours is mine
but should your lamp spend less brightly
or a hole in your wallet lose time
you’re not to fret or worry
always i’ll ensure you’re fine

© Joel Clayton Tipple and, Write here, Joel. 2012-13. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material and photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Joel Clayton Tipple with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you.