Today during the church’s worship service they passed the dreaded, green pouches for the offering. I had, and still have, $20 in my wallet, with no bank reserve (overdrawn, I’m ashamed to say), one and-a-half weeks to go until my Social Security hits the bank, and a quickly thinning larder.

I agonized during that part of the Lord’s Day service, and afterward, on Jesus’ story of the widow’s mites. I almost pulled that evil tender out of my wallet a couple of times, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I’m telling you this as a call for help—no, you can keep your money, unless you know God is calling you to give—for the wisdom to know what God expects of me in this, and all situations. I feel like I would give God more glory by setting a match to that accursed $20 bill, than keeping it for the groceries I need. I want desperately to give God a chance to bless me, but fear keeps my hand in a death-grip on that money.

I feel like that bill has turned into an impenetrable barrier between God and me, yet I still can’t bring myself to either give it or burn it. Please lift me up in prayer for the faith to do whatever will glorify my Lord and Savior. Thanks.

Again, please don’t think of this as a plea for funds. God will provide even though I am the least in faith. This is, rather, a plea for prayer that I will grow in faith and glorify Him in my decisions.

And may God glorify Himself in your everyday decisions.


Many highly knowledgeable authorities (pro or amateur) on depression walk the streets, and few of them have ever experienced protracted, severe, clinical depression. I’ve heard seemingly endless thoughts and theories on the subject from professionals and laymen alike, and they share one characteristic; all they have to offer is guess-work based on some academic’s, or pop-psychological guru’s, guess-work. Those who have lived in the depressive state don’t have much to say about it, except that it hurts. Beyond that, we really don’t care to expend the effort.

Expressions of My Depressions:

That last statement, taken by itself, could be viewed as a description of laziness. Instead, it encapsulates all the time-release capsules of trouble that depression releases in my daily life. It saps all potential enthusiasm, energy, motivation, and even the will to keep on breathing, very much like a summertime desert’s unrelenting sun saps the strength from an unprepared wayfarer. Perhaps the only difference between the two is the desert wanderer has some hope of finding a little relief from the sunshine in the sparse, desert vegetation or the occasional rock outcropping.

A Bit of Personal History

Much of the feedback I received from my mother was on the order of, “You’re slow as a seven year itch.” I also learned that I was lazy, careless, and a daydreamer. Some say I’m still trying to please her even though she is many years gone.

My early puberty and consequential interest in the female form caused its own set of problems. That’s where my dad came in; I was a shameful, nasty, dirty little boy, and I had to constantly go to confession before receiving communion. The shame issue was so deeply rooted that I still haven’t shaken it. Knowing I’m forgiven is wonderful, but that knowledge by itself can’t quite counterbalance the overwhelming sense of unworthiness that saps my victory, much like depression saps my sense of well-being. Come to think of it, the two are likely related.

A Little About School

A few guys let me hang around with them in high school, but their academic achievement-level was in a whole different galaxy from my own. My best friend Rick got a kick out of beating me on both the pool table and the tennis court, as well as any other games he chose. He went on to earn his CPA, while another friend, Dennis, received an advanced degree in math, and Peter eventually earned an organic chemistry PHD. Any time we gathered as a group I was the obligatory comic relief.

After moving to Montana, I married a girl eight-years my junior—she, eighteen, I, twenty-six—and she offered her life’s savings to finance my starting Bible college. I wanted to become a pastor, and she believed in me.

Once enrolled in Houston’s Gulf Coast Bible College, all my forgotten secondary school nightmares returned to haunt me. I was slow and poorly motivated. The same applied to the machine shop work I took to support my family. I neither completed my preacher-boy degree, nor journeyman status as a machinist. That’s just a very brief excerpt of my list of uncompleted endeavors.

Never Gave Up

One of the few endeavors on which I never gave up is my life in Christ, but the depression has even managed to cause trouble there, with the enemy finding it a convenient weapon for attacking my peace. That old shame has generalized into an overwhelming sense of unworthiness, exempting me (in my own mind) from many of my Lord’s promises. Even though I realize the enemy has found an easy sucker in me, on the emotional level I believe the lies. Nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. (2 Timothy 1:12b)

Later On

At the tender age of fifty-one I experienced a myocardial infarction. During the followup with our family doctor he noted some alarming consistencies in my behavior, so I took a depression-screening test, and wouldn’t you know that’s the one test on which I scored quite highly. Thus began my treatment with anti-depressants.

At various times my wife and I tried pastoral counseling, but none of them could grasp the concept of clinical depression not being a choice. Of course, these people were all type-A overachievers, so my depression had to be an issue of sin in my life. I’m sure the degree of its impact on my faith-walk, my marriage and my work history had something to do with sin, but I could never pinpoint where I was going wrong.

My insecurity and stinking self-concept eventually broke up our marriage, not even twenty-years into it. One contributing factor about which I had little to say was the advice she received from her atheistic brother and humanist friend who happened to be a school counselor where she worked. She decided she wanted to throw me back in and cast her hook for a better catch.

My Dream

After the divorce my asphyxiating depression and hopelessness only magnified, until, that is, God gave me a special dream. Here’s the short version:

I found myself next to a young man who was reading what seemed to be a Bible. I had situated myself next to him in hopes of finding some spiritual fellowship.

As it turned out, the “Bible” he read was the NEW WORLD TRANSLATION, the Jehovah’s Witnesses own custom version since they couldn’t manage to make any of the valid translations fit their teachings. Continuing our conversation, I pointed out some of my reservations about their teachings, not directly attacking him or his religion. During the conversation I came to feel a profound love for him, the kind of love that a father feels for his child who is in danger of mortally wounding himself.

On waking from the dream I puzzled why I should remember it in such minute detail, when most dreams are lost within seconds of waking. Then God showed me that my feeling for that young man was but the most infinitesimal sensation of the love He has for me. I had to cry and laugh and sing His praise all at once.

While the dream convinced me that God’s love for me was unquenchable, my depression—or the enemy’s use of it—deepened my shame for being who I am, in view of my Savior’s great love for me.

The Thorn in My Mind

Apostle Paul had his thorn in the flesh(2 Corinthians 12:7). Would a thorn in the mind or emotions be all that different? Based on his zeal for the Law, and then for the law-Giver, we know he had no self-image problems; he knew that he knew what he knew. I have no such self-confidence, and even struggle with Christ-confidence. Even though I know He loves me beyond any definition of love that I can understand, I just don’t feel like I “cut the muster.”

I see my whole life as one great disappointment. My epitaph will say, “He had so much potential.”

I would believe that God is disappointed with me but for one fact. He knows the end from the beginning, so from creation’s beginning He knew how I would live my life … and still He loves me.

Maybe this powerful sense of unworthiness isn’t entirely bad; at least I have no illusions of my own goodness. I, if anyone, can appreciate God’s wonderful nature


Depression can’t be defeated by personal will alone, and certainly not relieved by the well-intentioned advice of shrinks. While I’ve prayed and hoped for an emotional healing miracle, I’m still waiting for my loving Father’s intervention.


Mystic Mountain Nebula (Hubble) 

In my room I know You are with me,
on my bed I feel
Your glorious presence.

Yet, these walls cannot contain You.
Your presence pushes them outward
to completely fill my house.

Yet, my home’s outer walls burst from
Your irrepressible Being;
You are not confined.

You push my world further outward,
further upward til they become
a mansion of hills and sky.

Still my space crowds your grandeur;
hills become craggy peaks;
sky fades to star-filled blackness.

All I see cannot encompass Your glory,
but serves as Your furnishings,
even Your humble foot stool.

My imagination cannot define You.
My heart bursts from
Your loving presence.

I weep.

Accepted in the Beloved

If you ever feel bumfuzzled, just review Ephesians 1:3-10. Seriously!

I began with verse six because it jumped out at me with some urgency while reading in Ephesians chapter one. “To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6)

Not to minimize the praise of the glory of His grace, I’ll focus on the latter part of the verse. First, throw out the word, accepted. I looked it up and found it means way more than just that; it means God has made us charitoō, or graceful, charming, lovely, and agreeable in His sight. He examines us with grace, and has poured out His favor and blessings upon us. God tells us here that we are favorably regarded as members of the “beloved,” which is agapaō, and everybody knows that’s God’s special kind of love.

Now, if that didn’t put a little Sonshine in your day, you really need help.

If I Were Truly Christlike

Folks say I’m a nice person. I’ve even heard that I’m Christlike. But don’t worry, I’m not in danger of getting a big head — my gourd already is quite big enough.

If I were truly Christlike, I would stand firm against those liars who slander my Lord, instead of remaining dumb as a board during their tirades. It’s easy to be agreeable when you avoid confronting evil, but Jesus didn’t let it slide. The evil he dealt with most forcibly was the most insidious of evils: the religious guys’ hypocrisy, and that’s what got Him murdered. Like I’d ever dispute with high-powered preachers and theologians; that’s laughable.

Unlike many of today’s Christian conservatives, He never came down hard on the world’s sinners, the prostitutes, the tax collectors and the adulterers. Oh, He told the “sinners” to repent, but He also forgave their sins and associated with them when it wasn’t cool at all.

If I were truly Christlike, I’d stand in harm’s way to defend the preborn innocents who are being slaughtered in droves. Just thinking about it makes me angry, but not angry enough to confront the abortion industry profiteers and the women who think they are taking the easy out of an inconvenient situation.

Jesus embraced the little children that His followers thought were too much of a bother. He even loved and made Himself real to me before I had the sense to love Him in return.

If I were truly Christlike, I’d spend my retirement hours, days and years immersed in His Word and in passionate prayer. Yet, I’d still get out of my room to love those who need His love, I’d refute those who teach error, I’d confront hypocrisy in the church, I’d defend the innocents, and I’d do it all in His love, without name-calling and a bitter spirit.

If I were truly Christlike, I’d change the world as He commanded.

Fuzzy Model Airplanes

I enjoy watching YouTube videos of flying model airplanes. That means I hope to actually see the model in flight. Most camcorders, however, can’t keep the subject in focus for a number of reasons that, surprise!, have spiritual parallels.

While autofocus was one of the great twentieth-century inventions—for shutterbugs anyway—every human being is born with fully functioning autofocus. No, I’m not talking about visual autofocus, which is one of the miracles of our creation. I mean autofocus of our attention. Like those camcorders that loose focus and cause me to mutter little nothings, our attention autofocus easily gets distracted.

The most common cause for losing focus is objects that pass between the camera and the subject, distracting the autofocus to the nearer object. (Matthew 6:25-34) All the things Jesus mentioned in that passage, and more, take our eyes off Him in favor of what we consider more immediate concerns.

Another reason that causes camcorders to lose track of model airplanes is when the plane ranges too far from the camcorder, causing its image to become so small that the autofocus can’t pick it out of a low-contrast background like clear sky.  Then the autofocus tries to find a subject by crazily ranging near and far in search of a subject—any subject. Our attention autofocus does the same thing; when we allow ourselves to become too distant from our Lord we can’t distinguish between Him and everything else out there.

The remedy for camcorders’ autofocus issues is to simply switch it off when the subject is further away that a few yards (or meters, if you’re a globalist). Trouble is, we don’t have an on/off switch for our attention autofocus, so our only solution is to stay as close to the Subject as possible.

Never be content with a fuzzy Savior, you’ll likely lose Him entirely.

Caution! Lone wolves are always hungry.

Often I forget that sin is sin; despite our personal attitudes about sinful acts, there are no little sins or big sins. As I grew up Catholic, I embraced the teaching that mortal sins send us directly to hell when we croak (Do not pass GO! Do not collect 200 indulgences!), but venial sins only buy us a stay in purgatory. I suspect that’s the source of the church’s commonly held belief that there is a hierarchy of sins, and that God, in His Infinite Grace, will wink at our minor mistakes if we don’t majorly foul up.

God gave us an important conditional promise in Apostle John’s first letter to the church, bracketed by two statements that are essential to properly understanding the promise:

1Jn 1:8-10 NASB
(8) If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
(9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

Please note that he didn’t discriminate between mortal and venial sins; we must confess all sin if we are to gain His forgiveness.

Perhaps I need to define the word, “Sin.” A dictionary might say, “Sin is a conscious transgression of God’s law.” As with most simple statements, however, its true meaning is anything but simple. Many volumes attempting to define that apparently simple three-letter word collect dust on library shelves, but I find another simple statement presents a principle that covers all sin: “I” is at the center of sin. Coincidentally, “I” is also at the center of pride. Think about it.

If we care enough about spending eternity with God to tread the sawdust trail, it only follows that we will care enough to work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12). I love that passage because it apparently contradicts the doctrine of grace, and because I know God’s Word never contradicts itself I feel compelled to either discover how it fits in, or simply take it on faith. That bothers me not in the least, because much of His Word seems incomprehensible to individual Christ-followers. Through His Holy Spirit, different passages are understood by, and speak to, different people. In fact, one important purpose of Christ’s Body is to corporately discern God’s full counsel. Lone-wolf believers are nearly always unbalanced in their personal beliefs because they lack that broader insight into God’s Word.

There, I finally worked around to my title for this piece.


In the following excerpt from The Problem of Pain, Uncle Jack (C.S. Lewis, for the uninitiated) plows a bit too close to my own fence, and I hope, yours as well:

Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. For about a hundred years we have so concentrated on one of the virtues—“kindness” or mercy—that most of us do not feel anything except kindness to be really good or anything but cruelty to be really bad. Such lopsided ethical developments are not uncommon, and other ages too have had their pet virtues and curious insensibilities. And if one virtue must be cultivated at the expense of all the rest, none has a higher claim than mercy. . . . The real trouble is that “kindness” is a quality fatally easy to attribute to ourselves on quite inadequate grounds. Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment. Thus a man easily comes to console himself for all his other vices by a conviction that “his heart’s in the right place” and “he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” though in fact he has never made the slightest sacrifice for a fellow creature. We think we are kind when we are only happy: it is not so easy, on the same grounds, to imagine oneself temperate, chaste, or humble. You cannot be kind unless you have all the other virtues. If, being cowardly, conceited and slothful, you have never yet done a fellow creature great mischief, that is only because your neighbour’s welfare has not yet happened to conflict with your safety, self-approval, or ease.

Folks think I’m a nice guy, an impression I don’t try hard enough to discourage. Instead, I’m a counterfeit, a fake.

“What’s wrong with being thought of as nice?” you may well ask.

“Nothing,” I may well answer, if I weren’t a Christ-follower. You see, anyone can be nice with the proper motivation; maybe she’s singularly gorgeous, he holds your promotion in his clammy hands, they’re well-connected, or you just want to be liked. Under such circumstances your niceness is for your own sake.

Uncle Jack pointed out a painful truth, “… though in fact he has (or I have) never made the slightest sacrifice for a fellow creature.” Here’s a personal example: I know a sister in the Lord who possesses both inner and outer beauty. I used to help her with the yard work on her large, corner lot. My motivation was both selfless and selfish, er, mostly selfish, as I wanted to be close to her and make brownie-points. Was I kind? Or was I simply cunning?

Apostle John, in his first letter to his children in the faith, said a lot about godly love.
1Jn 2:15-16 NASB
(15) Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
(16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

While that is all truth, allow me to focus on, “the boastful pride of life.” When I actively seek to be liked, I indulge in that sort of pride; I think I’m a nice guy and want others to think of me in the same way. That has nothing to do with love of my Father God or any of His children, and is instead, worldly. For a Christ-follower, that is a solid no-no.

Some may feel that I am overthinking this issue, but if my concern brings me closer to embracing godly attitudes I’ll overthink everything I read in the Scriptures.


Jesus said, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV) While that is one of the first passages kids learn in Sunday school, it’s one of the last that we adults put into practice.

We normally think of those labors and burdens as related to our worldly concerns, like supporting our families or taking part in civic affairs. At least, that’s the way I’ve always thought of it. Today, however, an alternative application occurred to me that, though somewhat novel to me, is probably old hat to many of my brethren. But I’ll tell you my bright idea anyway.

I look at the stranglehold that the religious authorities held on the people of Jesus’ time. He said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:2-4 NKJV) To me that describes legalistic religion in all its forms, both then and now. Jesus also said concerning the religious authorities, in Matthew 15:7-9 “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”

One problem with legalism is, human traditions and rules become worldly burdens to those who are trying to please God through them. So it’s all the same; whether the works and burdens are worldly, or religious, they are not of God. Our Sabbath rest is the Lord Jesus Christ, who will give us rest for our souls.

I Abhor Myself (Job 42:5-6)

Be sure to see the end of this repost. The song in the YouTube video is a powerful reminder of God’s excellent faithfulness.

The Vine Vigil

Have you read the Book of Job?  I’ve read it dozens of times, and the part that always stands out to me is this –

Job 42:5-6

I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee.  forgiveness

Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Day after day, I fail Him, and day after day, He shows indescribable mercy.  The secret pride, the self complacency, the surreptitious coveting, the sluggishness, O God – please – please –  help me.  And He does.  Again and again and again.  Again and again when I don’t deserve it.  Again and again when I forget Him and allow the cares of this world to consume me.  There He is, so gracious, so merciful, so longsuffering. 

How can He love me – still.  He is so wonderful, my puny vocabulary is insufficient to praise…

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