One of the true graces of God is the amazing physical world in which we live. Accordingly, the Lord gives us the senses by which we appreciate that world. Eyes to see the millions of shapes and colors. Ears to hear the whispers and tones. Taste buds to savor the savory. Yet, perhaps one of the senses taken most for granted is the sense of smell. What wonderful smells fill our world!
Fragrances which remind us of a person; just a whiff of the cologne my father used to wear bathes me in memories.
Scents which draw us back to our childhood remembrances; I remember the smell of the fruity vitamins wafting as I opened the bottle.
Scents which call to mind an era; I can still recall the innocence of childhood wonder as I inhaled the smell of freshly baked bread as I toured the factory in grade school. Aromas which prompt our salivary glands to react. Continue reading “The Aroma of Christ”
When I think of knowledge I think of books. When I think of books I think of the fragrance of books, and books come in two “flavors.” The first one is the smell that hits you when you open up a brand-new book; it is the overwhelming aroma of fresh ink and paper. I associate that smell with the pleasurable experience of buying a brand-new book and the anticipation of soaking up its contents. Mmmm. The second aroma is that of Grandma’s basement, yes, Grandma’s basement, that musty damp smell that meant you are lost in the midst of antiquities. Books that smell like this are old and often frail but offer the promise of a treasure trove of ancient knowledge. I love it.
What can I say? I love books. I love the smells. I love the tactile experience of the pages between the fingers. I enjoy sneaking ahead to see how many pages are left, or just finding out how the book will end. So, when it comes to the newfangled digital books on Kindles and iPads I am sort of in a quandary. I am between generations. You see, I do love technology, but I love good old-fashioned books. Did I say that already? Nothing can replace that experience. Perhaps, it would be a good idea to place a scented sticker at the top of the Kindle which smells like a new book or musty pages to simulate the true paper experience, sort of like that “new car smell,” but alas, even that would fall short; the event just cannot be synthesized. Yes, the smell of books signifies knowledge. Continue reading “The Smell of Knowledge”
Recently my wife pointed out to me a rather pathetic, but amusing example of how minimal our culture has become. She had received as a gift what we understood to be those great tasting little chocolate sprinkles that you put on top of ice cream or cakes or whatever. Now sometimes, as we all know, those splendid little morsels are not always pure chocolate; sometimes those rascals put mere chocolate flavoring in those things. Well, that’s okay for the most part, in fact, sometimes you cannot even tell the difference between artificial and the real stuff. But these things were simply brown colored grease that made the roof of my mouth slimy.
Come to find out, these are not chocolate sprinkles, or even chocolate flavored sprinkles, but these are chocolate colored sprinkles. You read that right. They were not bursting with real chocolate flavor, or even synthetic chocolate flavor. In fact, they had no flavor whatsoever. All they had to offer was the color of chocolate. This little rip-off in the cake decoration section was only a bottle of brown lard sprinkles. Someone at the corporate level had determined to cut costs, or hassles or whatever, and be so intentionally minimalistic, they offered nothing even close to the real thing. Continue reading “Chocolate “Colored” Sprinkles”
The other night I lit a candle. Nothing out of the ordinary, the candle burned. Wow, I thought as I looked at the flame. It sure is interesting how that wick just doesn’t burn up. That flame will burn for hours without expiring. Then, I reflected how it is not that wick that is burning, it is the wax that is acting as the fuel. The wick is only allowing the fuel to burn brightly. In fact, if the wick were left to burn without the wax, it would burn up in a matter of seconds.
After lighting it, I had dropped the matchstick between the glass and the wax, and, “What do you know?” it acted as a wick itself and it burned for quite a while as it allowed the wax to climb up it and burn brightly. I was amazed and wondered if the heat that it was generating was as hot as the wick in the middle. I know, dumb move, but I touched the glass and, “ouch,” it was indeed hot. Continue reading “Candle Theology”
It seems somewhere along the way, that the prevalent worldview of the last 2 thousand years has taken a hit, especially over the last 150 years. Time was when the dominant respecters of higher education were those who embraced the Christian faith. Did you know that Princeton (1812), Harvard (1636) and Yale (1701) all began as Christian seminaries? Those that were champions of higher education were those who embraced the Bible. Wow! Where have those days gone? Today, in the arena of higher education, Christians are often viewed as the naïve, simpletons, bobble heads on campus, merely nodding in agreement to a “ridiculous” way of understanding. Now, Christians are ridiculed for holding to a worldview many believe is irrational and illogical. Today we are judged to be intellectually inferior. So much for “tolerance”! Continue reading ““Bobble-Head” Christians”
Many of us are familiar with some form of the child-hood rhyme: “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!” The complete version I learned was, “Liar, Liar, pants on fire, nose as long as a telephone wire!”
Though there are several iterations, and there are multiple “explanations” as to what this really means, it does seem to be universally accepted as a taunting indictment, which is cast toward someone who has been caught in a lie. It would appear that the garment on fire is a judgment of sorts, and the elongated nose even a reference to Pinocchio’s nose when he lied.
My mind wonders how interesting it would be if all such vile actions were revealed and judged this way. Hmmm? Self-igniting attire? And incriminating bodily contortions?…Wouldn’t it be convenient if other pieces of apparel spontaneously combusted so as to judge the inappropriate presence of gossip, slander, or wickedness? What if flapping ears, bubbling lips, and twisting eye-lids heralded that something was awry? Continue reading “Liar Liar!”
As we approached the doorstep of our friend’s house we noticed there upon the deck, beneath the window the body of a beautiful bird. Its breast was a brilliant yellow and its feathers of a rich green-brown tone. It was beautiful, still it was dead, and its limp and lifeless body told the all too familiar story that occurs each, and every day.
While in flight this creature had come down to the level of the window and perceived open skies as far as he could see but he was deceived. Flying at full speed the last thing it had seen was the reflection of unending skies in the window that were actually behind him. And then…snap, instant death. Life for him was over, and now he lay motionless on the deck, another casualty of deception. The window had revealed the promise of vast eternal horizons but in the end delivered a quick and brutal death to the unsuspecting victim. Continue reading “The Pane of Deception”
Have you seen those games in the arcades or the amusement parks where the little moles pop their heads up from the plastic turf, and the waiting assailant stands ready to pummel the ascending rodent back into terra firma oblivion with a mallet? It’s called “Whack-a-Mole.”
The game begins as the moles slowly appear at irregular intervals at different locations, yet one at a time. The action proceeds to intensify as the varmints pop up at increasingly accelerating intervals, and in multiples. The intent of the assailant is to clobber as many as he can, increasing his score until the moles stop coming up and the game is over. Pretty funny game albeit a little violent perhaps. Continue reading “Whack-A-Saint!”
Recently I went out wooding and came across a great slash pile from which to harvest some good wood. Only trouble was it was surrounded by cows, and lots of ‘em were young cows. I waited a little while a few dispersed, then backed my truck toward the woodpile. Still a few hung around, checking me out. I began to throw pieces on my truck sort of ignoring the nearby onlookers, but keeping a watch on them from the corner of my eye. After several loads of wood I noticed one particular Bessie that had kept a watchful eye upon me, all the while mooing; she was 15 or 20 paces away and she began to swipe at the dirt with her leg and moo louder.
Now, just to let you know, I had never had a previous conversation with this particular cow. We had never exchanged emails, and I have never attended the Bovine College of Language Arts. But something very peculiar happened that day, I realized that I could speak “Cow.” She was attempting some sort of trans-species communication and it was working. It was quite exhilarating. But, was it just me? Had I alone been graced with this ability to communicate with bovine? Was I a true cow-whisperer? Continue reading “I Speak “Cow””
I love the beauty of wood. The providential symphony of rich textures. The divinely choreographed grains. The celestial concert of variegated colors. What a privilege for the woodworker to take a solid chunk of this great material and turn it into a work of art, to sculpt from the palette of the Creator! What a pleasure it is for me to gaze upon furniture or cabinets that are demonstrations of God’s incredible creativity in the measure of wood.
Unfortunately the demand upon this beautiful resource has made these materials more and more scarce, and thus they are used more seldom. The solution has been to take a thin sheet, a veneer of this attractive wood and laminate it over a much less expensive base layer. The end result is a product, which on the surface appears to have the integrity of this valuable material through and through when it is in fact, only a façade. Continue reading “Veneer”
Scripture is particularly clear of the value which the Lord places on unity in the Body of God’s people. Psalm 133:1 gives us just a taste: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” John 17 is the Great Apologetic speaking to the fruit of that unity. In His High Priestly prayer Christ is praying for the unity of the apostles, that it may bear witness to Himself…“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).
Note that our unity is anchored in the Godhead, and that evidence of our unity is an evangelical witness to the world of the veracity of Christ…so that the world may believe! The Church grows, in part, as a result of our witness of fellowship! Continue reading “Fissures of Men”
For those of us who grew up in the fifties and sixties we are well aware of that iconic toy, Mr. Potato Head. Hugely successful over the course of its sixty-year reign, it is a plastic-bodied potato into which various features could be stuck to characterize the object into various facial distinctions or personalities. Part of the fun is mischievously placing the parts in the wrong areas for amusement. The toy has gone through many iterations and characters as a result of its success.
Facial parts placed in the wrong areas on a potato can be amusing, and cause us to laugh when a nose is inserted where an eye should be, or an eye in place of a ear, but that sort of tomfoolery doesn’t bode well when applied to a church, the body of Christ. Continue reading “Mr. Potato Head Church”
Much has been ballyhooed of late regarding what has been termed ‘The Bucket List,’ a hypothetical container housing all those accomplishments an individual would like to achieve prior to his or her death; a crude colloquialism referring to “Kicking the Bucket.” Although these could hold any variety of experiences, they generally are limited to a self-absorbed, self-indulgent nature. It may consist of earning a degree, climbing a particular mountain, running a marathon, parachute jumping, visiting a particular place, or simply passing some other seemingly previously-before-thought insurmountable barrier.
Appropriately enough, the ‘Bucket List’ of Christ is not so self-indulgent, rather up until the very end He is absorbed in serving others – denial of His own human will, obedience to the Father, dying for the sins of the world and setting an example of servitude to his disciples. Not days, but hours before he is to hang sacrificially upon the cross, He meets unceremoniously to set an example as to how His followers are to exhibit love to each other after he departs – only Christ’s bucket was, well, a basin. Continue reading “The Bucket List”
I remember hearing a story as a young man. It was about a man who desired to buy two dollars worth of God. “I would like to buy two dollars worth of God, please. Not enough to disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk, or a snooze in the sunshine. I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy two dollars worth of God.” Unfortunately, this is a widely held desire. People want just enough of God to feel good. They want enough of God to “make it into Heaven.” They just don’t want too much of God, at least not so much that they need to change their beliefs or their behavior.
Truth is, God is an all or nothing offer. It is like marriage, pregnancy or life itself. You’re either all in or you’re not. You’re married or you’re not. You’re pregnant or you’re not. You are alive or you’re not. Continue reading “Two Dollars Worth of God”
I remember the image well. The Tramp and Lady have tug-o-warred over a spaghetti noodle and at long last Tramp has conceded the final meatball on the plate. He gently rolls it over to her side of the plate with his nose, a certain sign of giving to one who he truly holds so dear. One of the most notable demonstrations of pasta chivalry imparted to celluloid. The scene is from the movie, “Lady and the Tramp,” though, his behavior is anything but trampish.
I must confess that that sort of chivalry has not been evidenced all too often in the Larson household, at least when there is food, and especially where desserts are involved. And when it comes to the sharing of Hula Pie at Duke’s all bets are off. Macadamia ice cream in an Oreo crust, topped with macadamias, fudge and whipped cream… Delectable. Continue reading “The Last Bite”
Many of us have read Victor Hugo’s, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a classic, yet dark depiction of a physically deformed, socially rejected “orphan” whose name is Quasimodo. He is a grotesquely malformed person who has been relegated by society to merely ringing the bell at the great cathedral of Notre Dame, which subsequently caused his deafness. Of minimal verbal abilities, facial deformities, partial paralysis in his limbs and yes, the hunch in his back, he was abandoned as a baby, and lived out his days in the cathedral, as the public shunned him for his appearance. One of the rare excursions outside was to the Festival of Fools where he was elected Pope of Fools because of his perfect hideous “disguise,” a rare time of “acceptance” by the community.
Long etched upon my brain is the way a squinting Quasimodo holds his disobliging arm and drags his lifeless leg along behind him in an effort to ambulate an uncooperative body through a hostile environment. Physical disabilities of any nature are heartbreaking for sure, and yet a consequence to living in a fallen world, still it is hard to believe someone would choose to be that way. Continue reading “Quasimodo Bride”
We have an interesting ritual here in Bishop around this time of year. It takes place at the county fair and is known as the Destruction Derby. Perfectly operational, albeit battered vehicles are paraded into the arena awaiting the opportunity to engage in battle in an attempt to annihilate each other. They ram and batter each other in multiple contests until only one remains mobile. Often that car is severely damaged with a broken bumper, punctured tire, leaking steam, or perhaps only able to maneuver in reverse, but it is declared “the winner,” if for no other reason than it can still move.
A raucous good time to be had by all in the context of entertainment and to be expected in the arena, and that sort of behavior is fine and well in the sporting arena but it sure takes on a shameful air in light of the Church, and all too often is evidenced in the posture among the elect of God as denominations “take off their gloves” and go at it, as believers beat each other up on a regular basis and then “have nothing to do with each other,” as Christians engage in “no-holds-barred” brawls within the walls of His Church. Continue reading “Destruction Derby”
As a child many times I went out in search of the intrepid grunion. The legendary fish was said to come into shore at mysterious hours of the night to spawn whereupon they could be grasped with the mere hand. But if there was any light or disturbance they would postpone their arrival or relocate to another venue. Many times I waited in a sleeping bag with a bucket for the time when they would arrive in the wee morning hours for their mating dance, but alas, they did not. I began to think they could just be a myth in the same caliber as the fabled unicorn, but the best I could say was that they were not real to me each of those nights.
Here’s my point. I was told they existed but had never actually observed them in reality. Could I conclusively insist that they did not exist anywhere? No, of course not. I could only assert that in my geographic sphere, they were not observably factual to me. They were not a part of my perceived reality. Back to the unicorn, actually I cannot offer empirical evidence to you that all unicorn do not exist; in order for me to do that I would have to track down every single unicorn everywhere which does not exist and show them to you, which as you can understand is logically impossible. (Yes, that does make sense.)
We are indeed blessed. Minimally, we are all blessed with common grace, and the gift of life. To those of us who are walking in relationship with God, we know that we are ultimately and supremely blessed, and blessed for eternity. Only people who are washed in the blood of Christ are able to accurately claim this redemption. So, my guess is that it is not by accident that when the Hebrew words for bless were being translated into the English language that such a powerful and descriptive expression was selected.
One of my books says that it is a “bloody” word, because in the English language for us to capture that idea of blessed, the word which was harvested was the Old English word bledsian. What it meant was to be “reddened with blood,” “to be consecrated with blood, as in sacrifices.” Continue reading “May God Bless You”
Ah! The great game of chess. The simulation of a battlefield where wills collide, where strategies are planned, where tactics are masterminded, where combat ensues, and where one emerges victorious upon the other’s surrender, signified as the king is toppled to the ground.
If you think about it, there is a divine game of chess going on all around us, with every person. It is a battle of wills between every person and God. God is trying to lead us to a place where he wants us to be (surrendered to His will). He is trying to move us into a position where we understand that His sovereign hand is in control. He pursues us because he wants to have a relationship with us, yet many of us are running from Him, or worse, seeking to do battle with Him. If we were objective, we would look around only to find our pieces are in the most disadvantageous positions (C.S. Lewis). Continue reading “Checkmate!”
I recently read about a man who had a medical condition called polydipsia, it is an uncontrollable desire to drink water. He would drink from any source and he would drink until his body fluids were so diluted that he would pass out. The mechanism inside his brain that told him when he had ingested enough was stuck in the “off” position. Something inside this man is telling him he is constantly in need of more water, that he is thirsty.
My mind immediately thought of the passage of Scripture Psalm 42:1-2, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” How I wish I yearned to drink the Living Water of God. How I wish I had polydispsia in regards to the Lord, that I never felt a quenching, that I continued to want more, that each drink only served to encourage yet another drink of the Lord. How I wish my soul longed for God as the Psalmist declared, but I must confess, it doesn’t. Continue reading “As the Deer”
Some people say that, “image is everything.” Unfortunately, that may be true in our culture. Actually, there is a lot of truth in that statement. When we were created, we were created in the image of God, in the image of the Trinity!
Genesis 1:26-27 “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.”
Wow! Created in his image, but what does that mean? After all God is Spirit. The image of God does not mean that we are made in the physical likeness of God. It does mean that we share some of the characteristics, which He himself embraces. We were created rational with the ability to think and reason. We are relational. We are loving. We appreciate beauty. We are compassionate. We are emotional. We are eternal spiritual beings, though housed in a physical shell. And we were created pure, without sin. Continue reading “Between Two Images”
Somewhere stuffed in the recesses of my closet is wad of keys dangling at the end of a brightly colored key fob. I see it every now and again, and am reminded of the hectic pace at which we do life. The keys are many, and of many sizes, shapes, and colors. Some are rusty, some shiny. Some have names on them; some have numbers – all reminders of days gone by. Pretty much all different, but what unifies them is that they are for the most part unidentifiable; I don’t know what they go to. Keys are given, or identify authority over some area; all of them used to unlock, activate, or grant access…to something.
Somewhere over the course of time, they have lost their identity. There is a lock out there…somewhere, but the answer is now unknown to me, and seemingly lost to time. With each passing year this mass of potential continues to grow, after all, the key is valuable, right? And you can’t just throw them away. Who knows? I just may come across some desperate lock that may be able to be heroically released due to the meticulous stewardship of my cache of keys. Continue reading “A Convenient Christ”
It has never failed to amaze me when I happen across a display of tapestries. One cannot help but appreciate the intricate patterns, the interplay of rich colors against the fields of texture, and attention to detail in the many-colored threads of expression – elaborate creations from the mind of a grand weaver. I have to stop and think of the forethought and the commitment of such a magnificent and special mind that can create such a captivating treasure.
Beginning with one thread, one color, one row followed successively by more threads of different colors and locations. With every additional thread the pattern becomes more full, more vibrant, more depicting of what the grand weaver desired. The more threads added, the more beautiful it becomes until it is pronounced finished. From above it is the masterpiece of the creator, yet from the back it is quite another story. Continue reading “The Tapestry of God”
There is a most unusual product of God’s creation, which grows only in the regions of Sumatra. It is known as the Amorphophallus Titanium. It is a single “flower” that blooms only so seldom. The lower casing of the flower is green on the outside and a deep dark burgundy on the inside. The “stamen” on the inside resembles a large loaf of French bread. It can grow up to 20 feet in height. This oddity of nature is most peculiar in that the odor that it emits is reminiscent to that of decomposing mammal. Hence, it’s more commonly called the “Corpse Flower.”
Why would a flower like this exist? You may ask. Why would something so beautiful have diabolical undertones? Well, here is the “gruesome” truth. The fragrance of the flower draws or lures carcass-eating insects such as beetles and flesh-eating flies that are attracted to the smell of rotting meat. It is these insects that walk on the plant picking up pollen and then carrying this pollen to other plants assisting in the process of pollination. Amazingly enough, when pollination occurs the tip of the flower is at human body temperature thus furthering to deceive the unsuspecting carcass-eating insects. Continue reading “The Corpse Flower”
I recently saw a documentary on U.S. Airways flight 1549. It was the plane that needed to land in the river shortly take-off at La Guardia Airport in New York due to birds damaging the engine. The passengers knew they were in for trouble as they saw the aircraft losing altitude. The passengers were resigned to die. Some confessed their sins. Others wondered if they had done everything possible to take care of their spouses. In any case they felt death was imminent. The captains calm voice came over the speaker, “Brace for impact.” In less than 90 seconds the 50-ton aircraft would strike the earth at nearly 200 miles per hour.
In the flight of life, death is pretty much a given; every person is destined to face death. Some know with a little more certainty when they are going to die. Most have no idea. Most don’t have the benefit of the captain announcing, “Brace for impact.” The Bible tells us in Hebrews 9:27, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” When your number is up, it’s up, usually without warning. The ensuing future is one of ‘judgment’ where it is determined where a person will spend eternity. The question is, “Where will you spend eternity after you die?” Will you spend time eternal in a relationship with your Creator, or in an eternal separation in everlasting judgment? God has given a choice. Continue reading “Brace for Impact”
Most of us have had the common experience of finding ourselves lost in a large shopping mall. Many of us, (especially men) refuse to ask for directions seeking to find our own way. Fortunately, there is salvation in a board in the middle of the mall, the mall directory. The colorful schematic gives us the “big picture” of where we are in relation to where we want to be. The key to this map is the big red star or dot that says, “You are here.” It helps us to understand where we are in the grand scheme of things.
What a tremendous illustration this is in regards to the “big picture” of life. Most of us are in the middle of life, not knowing where we are going, yet refusing to ask for help. Yet, there is a “directory” in the Bible found in the book of Romans. Passages in this book tell us where we are in relation to God and how we can “find our way” to him. We can understand why we need salvation, how God provided it, how we can receive it, and what the eternal results are. Continue reading “You Are Here”
I remember as a kid the guy at a carnival or a magic show spinning plates on top of spindly sticks. In order to keep them from falling, he needed to give them a little flick-spin every so often so that their gyroscopic force would keep them “afloat.” To ensure the tension, the act was performed against the backdrop of “Saber Dance,” a frenetic circus-themed overture, and the performer would usually clown around with some sort of comedy panic routine. If he did not get to one quickly enough as it was slowing down, it would wobble and begin to fall, and the crowd would root and scream. Seems I remember the guy successfully launching 40 some plates and keeping them going for a period until the overall collapse ensued, though I have heard of higher “broken” records.
It is not difficult for me to see the overlay of life in the 21st century. In an effort to keep up with the “Joneses” each one of us has our assortment of plates spinning at various speeds and at different levels of “wobbly-ness,” sometimes so many, that many are receiving the minimal amount of attention just to keep them from an ignominious dismount. One of the plates sadly enough in our lives is the one precariously perched on a distant spindle and need of greater attention- our spiritual relationship with God. Continue reading “Saber Dance”
Recently while on vacation on the island of Kauai my wife and arose early in the morning to go experience one of the greatest sunrises that this world has to offer; a vibrant sunrise over the blue Pacific Ocean. As we made our way to the water’s edge we observed that this notion was not specific to us; many people stood staring eastward at the orange sky, standing in anticipation of the of the mornings’ birth. Men, women, and children armed with cameras and cell phones to capture the unique event. We were not disappointed, slowly and surely the sun crept over the horizon to reveal its God-given brilliance.
After reveling for 30 minutes or so the people began to taper off, yet it struck me as odd how many individuals had made their way out to witness the age-old event. Why were so many drawn to an event that has occurred thousands and thousands of times throughout history? Could something this “common” really be so entertaining? Seems like we get bored if we have to watch a TV show or a movie twice, or have leftovers, so how is it that this same repetitive event lures us to behold it again and again? Is it just a thing of beauty? I don’t think so. Continue reading “All Heaven Declares”
As I think of my father I remember long games of touch football in the street surrounded by all the neighbor kids, and my dad, though only 5’7”, “towering” above us as the “all-American” quarterback. I think of basketball games with my hyper dad yelling battle cries to intimidate all of us kids so that he could drive his way home to the basket. I remember him as the coach of 2 little league teams, my brother’s and mine. And the many hours leading Indian Guides and Sunday School classes. Endless hours in cars driving to and from events. I remember my father at the end of the night reading devotionals to his kids just before prayer. Now, to be honest, my father was not the greatest of athletes by any means, nor the best of theologians, nor the greatest of communicators, and he certainly was not a good driver, but he was there. Continue reading “Last Flight Home”