For it is by grace you have been saved...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Grace, Glorious Grace

Haven't posted anything in a bit.  Also, haven't been writing as much as I used to.  I've mentioned before that I have tried my hand at song writing a time or two.  Just found an old tape of a couple songs I wrote for my then fiancee, which a friend sat down and recorded with piano for me (since I don't sing and have very, very, very limited piano skills!)  That got me to thinking about writing again.

Anyway, to kill two birds with one stone as it were, I'll post a recent hymn attempt. (you can read others here, here, and here)  In preparing for messages leading up to the celebration of the Resurrection, I've been moved again by the power of God's grace. Grace is everything.  Without it, we have no hope, no life, no anything.  So I jotted down a few lines about that glorious grace.  

Grace, Glorious Grace

Grace, grace, what a glorious sound
From sin set free, from death unbound
Those that were lost, have now been found
All by His grace, glorious grace

Grace, grace, a gift given so free
No cost to you, no work from me
Christ paid our debt upon that tree
And gives us grace, glorious grace

Grace, grace, gives us strength for each day
We live, we love, we serve, we pray
All that we have, all that we say
It comes by grace, glorious grace

Grace, grace, in this hope we can rest
God is our rock, He seeks our best
He holds our hand through every test
We stand in grace, glorious grace

Grace, grace, brings us to His Bright Land
No foe can rend us from His hand,
His Word is true, His promise stands
We're His by grace, glorious grace

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

You Are What You Eat...and Read, and Watch, and...

So I'm scrolling through some Twitter stuff, when I see a link for this story on our local news station. 
It's a heart breaking story about the damage done by Tropical Cyclone Pam as that storm worked its way through the South Pacific.  No laughing matter at all.  And yet, when I first saw the headline on Twitter, I had to do a double take.  Because what my sci-fi degraded mind saw at first was something about a "Cylon-hit hospital," and I thought, 'Oh my goodness, they've finally arrived and are attacking!'

For those who might be unaware, there was an old TV show called Battlestar Galactica.  I understand there was a modern remake, but being cable/satellite deprived, I didn't see that (though I've heard maybe it's good that I didn't).  Anyway, the "bad guys" in this particular sci-fi adventure were a bunch of cyborg/robot like creatures called Cylons. (I'm sure influenced by Doctor Who's Cybermen, and a precursor to Star Trek's Borg, further proof of my geekiness) I watched that show a lot when I was younger.  And it stuck.

So that's the way my brain is trained, and when I read the headline, the background wiring took over.  Now, in my defense I was reading this on my phone.  Small screen.  Small, cracked screen.  Coupled with bad eyesight.  Legitimate, degenerative eye condition along with age-related-reading-glasses-required kind of stuff.  And hey, we all misread stuff sometimes, right?

But it got me to thinking about the old idea of "garbage on-garbage out" with computers.  The old "you are what you eat" mentality.  And it reminded me that we are not only what we eat, but what we read and watch and listen to and participate it and so on.  What comes out is what we spend the most time filling ourselves with. 

Jesus told us on a couple of occasions that what comes out is what we've already put in.  Matthew 12:34, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."  And Matthew 15:18  "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart..."  I recently heard someone share an article that was tying this in with some science report suggesting that our heart muscle actually has a brain of its own and does its own "thinking."  I don't think that's the point.  Jesus is obviously referring to our heart in terms of our inner being, our soul, our essence, etc.  And the point is, that which we spend our time reading, seeing, hearing, focusing on; that's what will come out of us. 

Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying.  I'm not going on a "you can't watch TV, or listen to that evil music" kick.  I am saying that we need to be aware that what we choose to spend our time "ingesting" will have an influence on us.  Especially in the "unconscious response" category.  Our default setting if you will.  It's influenced heavily by what we choose to "program" our heart/mind/soul with.  

Maybe that's why Paul encouraged us to "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:2)  Maybe if I spent more time in the Word and less time with worldly entertainments, my first response to an article like the one I mentioned would be compassion and prayer for hurting people rather than a geeky old TV reference.  

I know this is a cheesy example.  A misread word.  No big deal.  But it does bring up a bigger issue. Just a reminder to be aware, be cautious, and not take up all that brain programming space with junk! 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Blast From the Past: The Answering Machine

Warning: The following post is nothing but nostalgia.  It has contains no significant theological, philosophical, sociological or any other -ical meaning whatsoever and is of no interest but to myself and a very few others. But it is my blog.  So I'm posting it anyway. 

First, some context.  It's the mid to late 80s.  These are the days before cell phones, before email, before the internet even.  We're in college, and in order to communicate with my girlfriend my freshman year, we wrote letters.  Or I saved my change and went to the pay phone (google it, youngsters) in the dorm hallway and called her.  When the change ran out, we said goodbye.

So, imagine our delight and joy the next year when my roommate Bob and I moved to another dorm and had our very own phone in our room.  Our own phone, with our own number coming directly to us.  No shared hall phone.  No change for the pay phone.  And best of all, we had an answering machine!  Yes, that's right. Callers could leave messages for us when we weren't there to answer the phone ourselves.  The absolute height of technology.

We gained a little reputation for our answering machine.  People would call just to listen to our outgoing message.  I was a communication major, and liked to talk, and worked at the radio station.  Bob was a business major (accounting?) and rather quiet.  So I would put on my best radio ad man voice and rattle through these goofy spiels rather quickly, and Bob would have one word or one brief line tossed in at or near the end. 

The basic was “thanks for calling Bob and Scott's”.  We regularly changed the rest, and expanded to some ridiculous stuff. And again, people would often call when they knew we'd be gone just to hear the message.  I remember one time my mom, yes my mom, called and when I answered she said, “Oh, you're there.  Darn, I was hoping to get the answering machine.”  Thanks mom.

Anyway, thanks to some uncovered cassette tapes and some modern conversion magic, I managed to make some really grainy sounding copies of a few of these.  Below are the mp3 versions along with a transcript following each in case you can't understand or keep up. (Click the link on the title for the audio) Again, this is pure nostalgia. Just for fun.  So if you're bored, take a listen.  Or if you're an old college friend, hope this brings back some fun memories.  And if you're my mom...really, call me, we can and me....not just the kids....not just the answering machine. 

1.  The Donation Plea
Scott: Hello and thank you for calling Bob and Scott's where we're now taking applications for donations to underprivileged children, namely us. If you have any money you would like to donate to us, please stop by our office sometime and pick up an application.  Management reserves the right to accept or reject any application on the sole basis of our greed. If you do not wish to make a donation, well that's fine, too...
Bob: (Cheapskate)
Scott: ...we'll talk to you anyway.  Just leave your name, phone number and a brief message and we'll return your call as soon as we possibly can. And as always, thank you for calling. 

2.  The Unemployment Line

Scott: Hello and thank you for calling Bob and Scott's.  We are unable to answer your call at this time due to the fact that we are back in class working feverishly to obtain a degree that will take us to the same place in life as those college graduates who have gone on before us...namely the unemployment line.  So if you would be so kind as to leave your name, phone number, and a brief message, we will return your call as soon as we find our place in line. Thank you for calling.
Bob: Hey, quit pushin'!

3.  The Holidays
Scott: Hello and thank you for calling Bob and Scott's Bonanza of Bizarre, Uncanny, Eccentric and Truly Demented Decorations, Gifts and Edible Items, featuring the world's most outrageously unique holiday display of Mountain Dew cans.  Due to the Christmas holiday season we will be out of the office until January 11th, but if you would be so kind as to leave your name, phone number and a brief message, we will return you call as soon as we possibly can.  Until then, have a very Merry Christmas!
Bob: And a Happy New Year!

4. The Super Bowl
Scott: Hello and thank you for calling Bob and Scott's Bonanza of Bizarre, Uncanny, Eccentric and Truly Demented Decorations, Gifts and Edible Items, located at 403 Eaton Hall, where we are now featuring the world's most outrageously unique, and world's largest display of Mountain Dew cans; dedicated to the Denver Broncos appearance in Super Bowl XXI.  We're unable to answer your call at this time due to the fact that we aren't here.  But if you would be so kind as to leave your name, phone number and a brief message (and all wagers on Super Bowl XXI) we'll get back to you as soon as we possibly can. Thank you for calling!
Bob: I've got twenty on the Giants
Scott: Anyone else for the Giant?

BTW, the references to the Mountain Dew cans comes from a project where we drank all this Mountain Dew and started hanging the cans all over the walls and ceiling.  Here's one picture.
We ended up with all the walls covered, the ceiling covered, a nice lamp shade made out of 2 liter bottles, etc.  You could say we had a problem.  But if you listened to those messages, you knew that already.

Well, that's it for the walk down memory lane.  As always, thanks for calling!

Monday, March 2, 2015

The "Video Devotion" Experiment

Our church canceled Sunday services yesterday.  That...never happens!  We often cancel evening services when the weather is bad, but we usually have a "if you can make it, come on" approach when we have snow, etc. 

I live several miles outside the city limits on a rural highway.  It's one that takes a back seat when it comes time to plow.  So when the weather looks bad, I have on occasion spent the night in my office so I can be sure I'm there on Sunday morning. 

That's what I did this weekend.  The forecast was for 6+ inches of snow overnight, ending with freezing rain about church time. So I slipped and slid in on Saturday to spend the night.  But I watched church after church cancel services in our area, and our leadership decided it might be wise for us to join them.  So, for only the third time maybe in 11 years, we canceled a morning service. 

But here I was.  It was already after dark on Saturday.  Already several inches on the ground.  Did I mention the part about plows not getting to our house until much, much later.  So I went ahead and spent the night, figuring it would be safer in the daylight hours, and hopefully a plow might get out our way by Sunday afternoon. 

So, what to do with my time?  Well, I have this fun laptop with a camera on it.  I've only used it to Skype with my daughter in Germany.  So I decided to play around with the video camera and do a short "devotional" that I could then post on our church Facebook page.  You know, in case anyone else was snowed in, and missed church, and was really, really bored.

That's what I did.  And while it wasn't a big deal, something I just threw together and recorded, and less than 7 minutes long; still, folks were genuinely kind in their reception.  Facebook tells me it has "reached" slightly more folks than we even have on a typical Sunday morning.  I don't know what that means.  Only about half of that number shows up as "viewed", but anyway. 

I've gotten some nice comments, so I thought I'd go ahead and post it here as well.  Again, it was just a little message for our folks.  Not anything superbly profound.  But if it's an encouragement to anyone at all, well, praise God.  So here it is, the great "video devotion" experiment.  Hope the visual doesn't frighten anyone too badly!