Friday, October 31, 2008

The odometer of life rolls over again this month for me and my body is sending constant reminders of the many miles we have traveled. My elbow constantly reminds me that it paid for my college education playing tennis. I accept the price with gratitude. My feet wake me up in the middle of the night wanting to reminisce the many miles logged through ice covered swamps and over volcanic rock mountains with my boys in pursuit of whatever game was in season. The pain surrenders to the Tylenol and sweet recollections that summon me to once again ford the stream or climb mountain, if only in my dreams. My hands and hair recall my father and when my back is out, I do a pretty good imatation of his typical walk. My battle of the bulge recalls archived memories of my mother laying on her bed being slowly twitched to death by an electronic device wrapped around her waist that promised to make her inches slimmer! Cancer finally delivered what no machine could. Bulge battles are better. These are the true measures of life that qualify the growing quanty of life's odometer. If I were a car, I’d be tempted to trade me in. I am in the “classic” stage, but with too many miles and to much ware to be of much value. The next stage is either the antique collectable stage or the junk yard. Neither appeals much to me. Who wants to be set on a shelf and visited once in a while. Who wants to go to a junk yard? Personally, I think I am going to do with me what I do with all my cars, keep on driving till the wheels fall off! Better to burn out than to rust out. I may not be as good as I once was but…well you know the song. Why the melancholy moment? Dee just walked in and she is stunningly beautiful. Her hair is iridescent silver that announces the ageless beauty beneath. She is like her father, she refuses to give a thought to the turning pages of the calendar. We have been together for over 40 years and I can honestly and proudly declare she has never been more beautiful or desirable. Definitely a treasured collectable! No, we are not young any more, but I will treasure my Sunset Blond over all the summer blonds any and every day of the week.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Love Shack

Some quick background before I get to the point. Last night was our regular Shack Discussion Group. We started with a pot luck featuring the deer I brought back from New Jersey a couple weeks ago. Most of the group never had eaten deer before and for safety’s sake we had some wonderful stand by Mexican dishes, but the three deer roasts and 7 steaks totally disappeared. I am having the stand by Mexican menu for lunch today. The group discussion and an email about the Shack from by good friend, Dr. Steven Stanley were on my mind long before sun up this morning. Steve is the smartest and most well balanced theologian I know. He is so gifted that he has been approached by the publishers is currently writing part of a new biblical commentary set for LOGOS. Rush Limbaugh brags that he can operate just fine with his “talent on loan from God with half his brain tied behind his back”. For Rush it is a brag, for Steve it’s a fact. Steve’s calling from God is to keep my feet solidly on the ground. My calling from God is to get Steve to walk in the clouds. In his email recommending the Shack as a valuable book to his church he regrets that the authors neglected the justice and holiness aspects of God, keying in on a statement made by Papa as to God’s purpose of love for mankind. I would never pick up on that distinction personally, but then again, I’m not nearly the critical thinker Steve is. It does not bother me (maybe it should) because we approach things from a totally different perspective. His approach is analytical, balanced against all positions and possibilities. He is so good at it he went to the most liberal school in Europe he could find for his PhD just to make sure he could defeat their arguments soundly on their own turf. National school evaluators declared him a “teachers teacher. In Top Gun and Men in Black speak, that is the best of the best. My approach is far more relational, which is why I always talk to Steve when it comes to critical biblical issues. This AM (and a fair part of last night) I am weighing Steve’s valid comments about the Shack against my slightly different thoughts and approach. If this were to be judged on who is technically more correct, I would probably default to Steve, but since this is just my blog I’d like to point out the difference between the technically correct evaluations of Professor Stanly and the relational observations of Papa Z. I have the more impressive title, just ask my 10 grandkids! Steve and I view things from a different perspective because our personal histories are so different. I was raised in a very strict household by an ironfisted dictator who loved me deeply and always. Steve father was not a believer and died when Steve was a young teen. They were not real close. One incident illustrates our different viewpoints. Some time I will tell you why we pulled our boys out of the public schools. It had to do with affairs, guns, gangs, blood and lawyers, but I will save that for later. Now to the point: One morning I had to check 7th grade Dustin into school a little late. When we came into the office we could not reach the counter due to the 30 rebels standing there arguing with the secretaries. The secretaries were shouting, literally, for the kids to go to class and the little rebels totally ignored the threats and refused to move. That was totally unacceptable to me. For those who have never met me, I am 6’ 2”, around 260 lb and at that time in my life was benching 300 lbs 3 days a week in the gym. (I am paying for that vanity now in my elbows). I raised my voice, (not in a yell, just volume) instructing the children, “you were told to go to class, now do it!” The room went dead quiet, every eye turned on me. There was momentary hesitation until Dusty, standing beside me, advised, “you’d better do it, he means it!”. Silently they cowered, heads down, tails retracted, leaving the office like scolded puppies. I broke the ensuing stillness with, “why do you put up with that?” The truth of the answer is the root of why we pulled the boys out of school, but their answer that day was “do you want a job?” (Which incidentally I did take some years later.) Realistically, what could (not would) I really have done if they had ignored my instructions? I could have totally destroyed them, not that I ever would. They had to make a decision on the spot with only the information provided by a peer. They only saw the size and power of the law giver standing before them and opted for swift retreat and the relative safety of a classroom. OK, the couple of menacing steps I made towards them may have had some influence on their decision, but Dusty was not afraid because we lived in relationship. He knew what I could do, hence the warning. But he lived in the balance of power and love with what I would do. Today I have no relationship with the throng of slinking children who perfectly obeyed me once in the face of certain death, mayhem and destruction! (: I do however have a wonderful relationship with Dusty, who to be honest, has not always perfectly obeyed, nor does he cower in fear. That is why I am OK with the story of the Shack. Steve’s critical analysis is no doubt precisely correct. I look forward to the well deserved lecture I will get should he read this. I may even bait him into reading it. He will agree where he can and instruct where he must. The all to oft heard two word prayers requesting God to condemn something or someone generally categorized in the prayer by IT, gives me reason to believe the public at large has no problem understanding how powerful, just and holy God is. I just don’t think they really comprehend how much God loves them. Being convinced that they are aware of his justice and power I prefer to emphasize God’s love, something I rarely hear of in public. Evidently Paul shared my concern in his day too.

EPH 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

For me to continue to tell people that God can beat them up is like preaching to the choir. They already profoundly believe that measuring every circumstance in life to evaluate God’s current attitude towards them. A century ago “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” was a powerful message. It scarred many of that generation out of hell, but (squint here if your sensitive) it did not scare the hell out of them. I’m thinking the message of God’s incomprehensible love for them just might do both. The Love Shack message makes me fell like I can fly with the eagles, not hide in a corner like a Thanksgiving Turkey awaiting the inevitable.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It Doesn't Rub Off

I am curious about how this is all going to work out. Karsyn, my 3 year old granddaughter is an artist with makeup. Last week she carried her entire inventory to church in a makeup case that was almost half her size. She really does a good job with it. Of course Sweetie and her mom Jodi are teaching her how to apply it correctly (assuming you can tolerate a 3 year old in any makeup). It is really fun to watch Karsyn and Zandi go through their makeup together. Braxton, at 2 is showing some interest too. They are all using some of the real stuff that doesn’t rub off! It will be interesting to see how their parents handle this as the girls get older. The have already said they don’t want the girls using makeup when they reach school age, but as I asked Daddy Darin the other day, “How are you going to take it from her?” He did not have a clue and will probably avoid the fight altogether anyway and leave it to Jody. (He is the one buying her most of this stuff!) Personally, my money is on Karsyn keeping most, if not all of it. They will have to negotiate limits, boundaries, colors and all that kind of stuff but really, is it all that important? To me it is a length of hair issue of another generation. I am more concerned with is attitude than color, heart than appearance. Attitudes rub in quicker than makeup and they can do a lot more harm. Makeup is not always a true indicator of the heart, especially in a 3 year old. Doni was telling me of a Goth teen being especially kind to her at the store the other day. It surprised her. Not me. When I was teaching I found that most of the freakiest looking Goth kids were actually very pleasant to be around and some of the best dressed “clean cut” kids had impossible attitudes. I have noticed something over the last 50 years that I would like to pass on. It applies to all of us on some level. What brings this to mind was something I witnessed the other day when I was in New Jersey. In an effort to save money, the local school district changed it’s bus route forcing one junior high girl from an affluent area to ride the “short bus” that serves the special needs children. A put down in her school is “she rides the short bus”. The mother was very upset for this change and vowed to drive her child to school every day rather than see her get on the “short bus”. I wondered why. I worked with the “short bus” kids. They are no physical threat, the bus ride would be shorter, fewer stops and there would be an opportunity to really help someone with a need. Personally, I think they may be missing a great opportunity here. These kids typically are simple, but very easy to love, if you give them a chance. What is the fear? I would have preferred that her mother sent a more positive message. There is nothing to fear, IT DOES NOT RUB OFF, IT ONLY REVEALS OUR TRUE CHARACTER. Maybe we could all learn/teach that lesson when we encounter people who are not just like us.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Shack Reactions

Hundreds of small groups and chruches from all denominatins and walks of life are discussing The Shack. I have personally sent out nearly a hundred of my own study guides to bridge the gap for when the offical guide comes out next year. Comments and opinions are as diverse as the groups that are reading The Shack and it is my personal observation that much spiritual growth is coming from it. People are being set free to Love God and live loved.

My cousin in Kansas just happened to run across my comments in the News Week article on The Shack last month. It surprised him that I would be so “progressive”. In his terms, that would be a good thing, I think. Had he known my dad better he might not have been so surprised. Dad (Waldemar Walter) was raised in a strict German immigrant family in Los Angeles. True to the times, they had a rule for everything and Dad did a really good job at keeping the rules. So good, that I can tell you today exactly what he did the couple of times he did not keep the rules of the day. I am conflicted as I write. I want to tell you of the ONE time he did break a rule when we were together…but with 50 years of silence and loyalty I think I will leave it in the locked archives of my childhood memories. Dad an I can have one secret. For the overly curious, it was a minor fishing law violation that may not even have been a violation at all. Like I said, Dad kept the rules but he never had the rule keepers attitude… you know the one where the saints the fruit of the spirit is lemons! I think my dad would really have liked The Shack. For the upcoming Shack movie he would have casted Ma Phelps as Papa. She was everything you would imagine Papa to be except her cabin was a one room shanty with strung blanket walls. Once when I was going through a difficult emotional time Dad took me to her shanty for a personal revival. She sat me down in an old wooden chair, stood behind me, laid her hands on my head and prayed and prayed and prayed. I don’t know what she did or said but whatever was troubling my spirit melted under the warmth of her hands and prayers. For his time, Dad was on the cutting edge of Christianity. He ministered in Youth For Christ and was willing to do whatever it took, personal feelings aside, to bring teens to Christ. He had little physically to give, but gave all he had and more for the opportunity to minister. There was a popular Christian Rock band in the mid 60’s. He HATED rock but paid for the band to come and share on the local high school campus assembly and a special concert that night. He refused to listen spending the night in the parking lot. He preferred the pipe organ but loved to tell teens about Jesus any way they would listen! It really bugged him that so many lemon saints (as in loving the fruit but enjoying the sour expression) would, as he would say, “sit, soak and sour” to the point that they were “so heavenly minded, they were no earthly good”. He understood the difference between culture, times and the heart of the Gospel. His mantra was “never change the message, just the method” when it came to presenting the gospel. I guess Dad was progressive too, and that's a good thing for sure. I guess Dad was more of a pineapple Christian. He appeared to be prickly on the outside, but was pure sweet goodness on the inside.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Birthday Parties

It would seem this is birthday season around our house and I have a confession to make. I am not much of a birthday person personally for reasons only Freud would find interesting. Deanna is a big birthday person…and hers is this week. My problem is the same one you may have. What can I give her that is within the reach of my budget that would be meaningful and special to her? She is what they call in the horse world and “Easy Keeper”. She is a very low maintenance wife. I know she is worth everything, would be delighted in anything, and expects next to nothing, but it doesn’t make it any easier when I try to get specific. The only thing she said she wants is a day driving the back roads in the mountains with me. I can even hunt along the way if I want. Like I said, she’s an easy keeper, always has been. I have 48 hours to figure it out. Getting presents for the Grandkids is easy, there is always a new toy they want. What is interesting to me is watching the grandkids get presents for their parents. How does a child, who owns nothing give a gift to the one who owns everything and has need of nothing that is within the range of the giver? Usually it is a hand made card or picture drawn on materials supplied by the receiver of the gift. The really wonderful thing is that gift really is treasured. How do I know? Those are the items you will find displayed on a desk or refrigerator and in a scrapbook or attic 50 years later. These gifts of relationship, of love, only grow more valuable with the passing of time. In this world where families are scattered all over the globe, I wonder how many elderly parents would give up a week of their life for an hour of personal time with their child. I think I know the answer. I have stood at the bed of many a dying person who somehow held on until the last child arrived. If you are feeling a little down about that, don’t. Just pick up the phone and call…right now. In the final analysis, the gift of relationship is the only gift that really matters. We should have known that already. It is the gift that the ultimate Gift Giver offers. Have you gotten yours?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Out for a week

I will be visiting family with my son Darin on the east coast for a week so I will not be able to respond to The Shack Discussion Guide requests until I get back. Actually, we are going whitetail Deer hunting. New Jersey is so overrun with Deer they have a 6 month long, no limit season! They are begging for hunters to come help control the deer population that again exploded exponentially this year. They make it really cheap. My cousin has an estimated 1500 deer in the woods surrounding his house in a 2-3 square mile area and virtually none of it is hunted. I get "free" tickets with my airline milage plan, but my one suitcase will cost $150 to fly on American Airlines, each way! They only allow 65" total l x w x h and the one thing I have to take back is a case that measrues 72". I cannot pay the extra $50 each way for the computer to keep up on the email etc. My Son is taking a later flight on United Air and his first two bags are free plus a carry on. We are carrying the exact same case. There was some fine print in the 6 pages of luggage instructions that may cut or eliminate the fee becasue I am flying with award tickets. Who Knows? It would have been cheaper to fly with Darin than to pay for the luggage on American Airlines. I likely will ship the bow case home UPS ground. It has to be cheaper. Last year the same trip cost me $10.

What is your soruce of Security?


Seeing the sorrow of the suffering Semitic slaves, The Sovereign Savior sought a special sensitive servant studied in the situation to stimulate the subsequential surrender of the state and secure a sanctuary for the safety and security of a shepherding society. Smelling smoke in the sky and seeing spark in the sage the snooping shepherd stood shoeless on the sanctified soil. The selected servant started to squirm stipulating stuttering and suicide and suggested a second selection of a seasoned sibling. Seeing the switch of the stick and the snake, the shaky shepherd succumbed. Straight away he sojourned south scanning the scenery for signs of his sibling's sandals in the sand. Sighting the scheduled subject the secluded shepherd shrieked a shrill sound signaling the site. Sure of success the siblings simultaneously suggested the suffering slaves seek solitude to sacrifice some sheep to their Soverign. The state stipulated stringent standards to satisfy their stubborn sole/soul Sovereign. Swarms and storms swayed the superiors but subordination of subjects seemed sensible. Skilled slaves sawing stone for Structures and Statues to stand in the sand seemed to surpass the specified sacrifice. The succeeding sacrifice of sheep secured safety for the slaves and the Spirits sword separated the stiffened superior's subjects from seasoned siblings. Snowballing sentiment started a swap in status for the subservient shepherd slaves. The shepherd's Sovereign stipulated special subsidies to sustain salary shortfalls spelling success for the subordinates. Splitting the scene splendidly supplied, suitcases stuffed, and stock secured, the stone splitting sheparding Semites strolled a strip of sand to the sea. Suddenly the sorrowing subjectors sensed a setback in service and set out to solicit the servitude of the separated slaves. Swords, shields, spears and steeds suggested the sanctuary seekers should submit swiftly, but swirling sand, sea and silt sentenced the soldiers to shivering silence. Susceptible to spoiling citizens from surrounding societies the sprinting slaves skirted the sea slowing the schedule for safety. Secret sustenance to stay starvation was supplied by sifting sand, swinging sticks and striking stone on the Sinai. Storing supplies was senseless since spoilage, spitup and sickness was sure. The shepherd's senior sister was stricken with sudden spotted sickness for subjecting the shepherd to scorn for selecting a second spouse. Separated souls settled in the soil suggesting sins sway of the senior slaves. On Sinai's secluded slope the sovereign Savior spoke several studied strong statutes still standing. Singing songs of salvation subsequent survivors succeeded in separating surrounding societies from the Sinai's soil and shores.. Some centuries since, several sons of the sand-struggle still stay, studying scripture, stuck in stupidity, seeking a sign of a second a special Son slighting the Savior summarily Slain for the sin of the sphere.

1) What is your security in?
a) Look at what moses put his security in.

2) First: Security in his setting with the King.
EXO 2:5 Then Pharaoh's daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. EXO 2:10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, "I drew him out of the water."

a) Moses had every priveledge possible as a son of Pharoah.
b) He grew up with the best Egypt had to offer.
c) Moses was very secure in this position.

3) Moses put his security in his SWORD
EXO 2:11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. EXO 2:12 Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
a) His position with the king caused him to think he could get way with murder.
b) By relying on his sword he shortcutted what God ultimately wanted him to do....set his people free.
i) Mans way, but not God's way.

4) Moses relied on SELF
EXO 2:13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, "Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?" EXO 2:14 The man said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid and thought, "What I did must have become known."
a) Raised in the Pharaoh's house Moses felt a little superior to the slaves.
i) Better educated, dressed, status..all the things the world sees today must have shown up in Moses' attitude.
ii) The salves should have been greatful, but seem INCENSED with Moses.
b) Something shows up in his attitude...
c) No one is going to follow this fellow.

The single selection of the sole slain savior secures salvation and secruity for the seeker.