Fences

Pick up any magazine, from Time to Redbook, and you will be confronted with the comingling of politics, lifestyle, and morality. It is even more true when you click on your internet “news” source or social media. Or, remember these, a newspaper?! Stories that could have been about politics get wrapped around lifestyle and marinate in morality. Try an issue – gun control, abortion, climate change, or homosexuality – and there is a political component to the issue. But, in our increasingly personalized culture, and as organized religion is diminished in its influence, a person’s political position often becomes a molding framework for their lives; a self-identifier. There is, also, an element of morality, a “right” and a “wrong” position. Take the present conflagration regarding climate change. President Trump has just decided the United States is pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords. That is a political decision. But, immediately there were denunciations from those who style themselves as green that the decision to reverse the U.S. government’s position on Paris is driven by science deniers and, as such, is wrong and is to be opposed by all right thinking people. Unless one conforms to the orthodoxy that the earth’s days are severely numbered due to global warming caused by man, then that person is wrong, not entitled to share his thoughts, and is to be figuratively but socially stoned for his heresy. And, this is not always a Left to Right process. Consider, if you will, the Pro-Life movement, and then follow that same process. The process of politicization, life-stylization, and moralization works both ways.

Please do not label me to be a science denier (not completely, anyway). I do not deny that it appears the earth is warming, and we see extreme weather phenomenon on a more frequent basis. How many Floods-of-the-Century have we been subject to in just the past decade? And, I am always mildly surprised when the annual prediction that “this will be the most active hurricane season on record” due to climate change does not pan out. I get that the globe is warmer. But, climatic time is long and very slow, and should not be measured in tiny increments of decades. Is it wrong of me and am I to be labeled a science denier if I am skeptical that man is its one and only cause Is it morally repugnant that I believe our God has enduringly crafted Creation to be resilient to change? I think not.

What we need to learn, both on the right and the left, is some discretion. It used to be accepted that polite conversation did not involve politics or morality. Today, assaulted by cable TV talking head shouting matches, ugly Facebook postings, and 140 character rants, there seems to be no escaping the process outlined above. Today, to be informed is to be opinionated. And to be opinionated is to be deemed right, to the exclusion of any other possibilities. While we have a right to our opinion and a right to express it, we are not always right to do so. It seems to me that we need to re-establish some boundaries of civility. We need to build some fences around our personal feelings regarding social and political issues, with appropriate gates in the fence to allow suitable exchange of ideas. We need to determine which of our positions take on the role of conviction, and are to be defended when someone comes over the fence to attack them. We should always remember the words of Paul, written in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” When possible, deal with others in a peaceful, respectful manner. As many have said, no souls are won to Christ by winning an argument.

It has also, often, been said that good fences make for good neighbors. In this electronic age, where everyone can be our virtual neighbor, good fences have never been more necessary.

~ Hudd ~

Being Mom

I never was a little girl, but I have to believe that little girls spend quite some time dreaming about one day being a mother. Little boys? Not so much. But girls – consider the amount of money spent year after year buying dolls, doll clothes, doll houses, and doll accessories.

Social scientists have spent the past couple of generations trying to tell us that there really is no innate difference in the behaviors of males and females, that any differences are the product of cultural input; the way each of us was raised. For thousands of years before this, we all knew that men and women were just wired differently. But then, we also “knew” the earth was flat and the sun revolved around it. Perceived differences in behavior of the sexes was just another old myth. Well, many recent studies, based upon both behavioral observation and neuroscience, say there are, in fact, real differences in the ways males think, feel, act, and react when compared to females. Who knew?

Which brings me to the subject of parenthood, and more specifically motherhood. There is a distinct difference in approach to parenting between moms and dads. God has just made women (generally) to be more sensitive, more relational than men. It is just another indicator of God’s magnificent design that He made men and women to be different in their temperament and approach to life (including the rearing of children), and He made it so that it takes two – one man and one woman – to have a baby. As a society increasingly impacted by single-parent families can attest, problems abound when God’s designed plan for raising kids is not followed. Kids need both parents, and both approaches to parenting. Most dads see a situation, and fix it. End of situation, let’s move forward. Moms are more interested in process. Why does this situation exist? What alternatives are possible? Which option best suits the sensibilities of my child? How is this going to affect my child’s development and relationships with others?

God gave women the responsibility and the privilege of carrying the baby for nine months prior to birth. What a great way to introduce the parents to their respective roles in raising the child. Dad is less encumbered, more free to provide, to go to battle, to gaze toward the far horizon. Mom is ever present, tending to the details of raising a child, nurturing and educating him. If dad is the advance scout of the family, mom is its rear guard. Mom is the feeder, the cleaner, the kisser of bumps and boo boos. She is the one who is there to see that the sharp things and the hot things do not hurt the baby. She is the one to make certain that birthdays and holidays are special memories, that kids are prepared for the first day of school, and after the last day of school, that a memorable and fun family vacation was planned. Mom sees to it that the kids have time to play with good friends and to foster connections with extended family members. Mom makes coming home after a day at elementary school or a semester at college inviting.

I know – in 21st century America, most moms are working outside the home, and I am painting an Ozzie and Harriet picture of home life. That is true. But, I do not believe that our present reality reflects God’s design for a family. Could we get by with fewer material goods and restore His plan for raising kids? We could, but I do not see us making that change anytime soon. Enough is never enough. Until and unless we make that change, moms will struggle, trying their best to perform well at work, at home, and with their various civic and religious responsibilities, and feeling guilty that they do not have time to perform any of these roles well. We are only making it more difficult for our moms by our pursuit of the new American dream of ever more and more stuff.

Being mom has always been the hardest job God has given us, but also the most rewarding. On this Mothers’ Day, make it a point to thank not only your mother, but the other moms you see today. Then, pray for her.

~ Hudd ~

(Kevin Huddleston – Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek Church Branson, MO)
http://www.fellowshipatcrosscreek.com

 

Grace Changes Everything 

Just as many women (and some men) do, Hunny B enjoys decorating our home. With the changing of the seasons, and from holiday to holiday, B has home décor items appropriate for the times. Floral and other natural displays, artwork, crafts, knickknacks, splashes of color, and increasingly, words or even just letters. Right now, I am looking at a sprightly colored sign of cut out wooden letters that spell “SPRING”. Another that she added recently is a framed sign that reads “Grace changes everything.”

Some readers may have already noted that we were getting the kids a new puppy. After a couple of delays totaling more than two weeks, we finally brought the little one home from the shelter. As anyone who has ever brought a baby home – whether human or canine – can attest, your life becomes very different with a little one in the family. Oh, did I mention we named our puppy Grace? Yeah, Grace changes everything! Our usage of paper towels has increased about ten-fold since Grace came home on Good Friday. Puppy toys are strewn around the floor. I get up two or three times a night when she starts squirming around in her crate and needs to go outdoors. Oh, and you cannot just buy a bag of Puppy Chow anymore; that just will no longer do. Now, we buy wild bison and green pea, grain-free kibble that costs four times as much. Yes, Grace changes everything.

 

What I hope is that Grace does make some changes in our lives. Certainly, having a puppy can be very good for the kids, providing a fun playmate and offering the opportunity to accept responsibility for another life – feeding, watering, brushing, bathing, and walking. But, it is also good for me. I can be a bit of a hard task master. Like Hunny B’s sign, naming our puppy Grace can serve as a frequent reminder to me to exercise grace in my dealings with others. As one of my favorite authors, Chuck Swindoll, has written, “Grace is not something to be claimed, it is to be demonstrated.” I have spent too much of my life dependent on the grace of others, but too unwilling to extend it to those around me. How very wrong of me. I have repeatedly been the recipient of the greatest gift anyone could receive, but was unwilling to share that gift. In Romans 3:23-24, Paul famously tells us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus”. I have been tragically wrong at times in my life, and more generally wrong in one way or another every day of my life. I am gratefully justified by and completely dependent upon God’s grace, as well as the grace I receive from others. Perhaps I am growing more gracious in my life as I age. I know that I still have much room for improvement. At least now, I have some reminders in the house that grace does, indeed, change everything. Even me.

~ Hudd ~

Kevin Huddleston is an Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek Church in Branson, MO

Of Death and Taxes

It has often been said that the only things that are certain in this life are death and taxes. As the Federal tax deadline looms, many of us may be thinking about this statement. According to research I did on the internet, the average American pays almost 30% of their income in taxes each year, in the form of income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and excise taxes (on things like fuel, tobacco, alcohol, and airline tickets). Welcome to Tax Day!
Image result for taxes

It is estimated that more than 45% of Americans pay zero Federal income tax, so it appears that part of the old statement may not be true. It is, actually, the other part of that statement I want to consider: Death. Yes, death will come to all of us. Unfortunately, many in our Fellowship family have had to deal with recent death – spouses, parents, siblings, extended family, and even children. With just a few notable exceptions (Enoch and Elijah), every person who has ever been born in this world has either died or will sometime in the coming decades. Death is a natural, normal stage of life. That knowledge, however, does little to blunt its impact when those of us who remain alive must deal with its consequences. Is there anything in life more gripping in its reality than a grieving survivor making the arrangements for a funeral service of a dear loved one? Sometimes, if one could be so objective, death could be seen as a relief for some, either for the one who has died, or for the one who has been caring for and loving the departed. Few, if any, who are intimately involved in the final moments of a loved one’s life will ever feel that death brings such relief. It is the pain of loss, of separation, of finality that we feel at that time. Death is the ultimate dividing line.

As I write this, it is Good Friday. Given its origin, you wonder where the name Good Friday could have come from, since it commemorates the death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the cross. It is a most solemn reminder of the certainty of death and its associated pain. Think of it, the Lord and Creator of all suffering an ignoble death by crucifixion? It is a thought so horrific that almost none of His disciples could be at the site of the cross to witness His death. His death and burial had disillusioned His followers; had left them uncertain and frightened about their future paths. How were they to go on without their teacher, their Messiah? What were they to do, now that their purpose in life was suddenly gone? Driven to despair and discouragement, they retreated to an upper room of some residence, hiding from the authorities who had taken their King, and mourning His loss with one another. As Jesus himself had uttered while on the cross, they were asking, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
Image result for resurrection

Yes, many of us have at one time or another, felt abandoned and forsaken by God while suffering through the loss of a dear one. But then, somehow, the dawn of a new day begins to bring its light to our otherwise darkened existence. From our despondency, we are awakened to a hope. The core of this new start in our life is found not in the death of Good Friday, but in the amplified joy of Easter sunrise. Just as Mary found the tomb of Jesus to be empty, our hope is in a similar resurrection. Death is not the final separation we sometimes think it to be. Yes, each in our own turn will suffer a personal, physical death, that part is certain. But death in this life leads with the same certainty to a life hereafter and through all eternity. It is our joy to know that, because of Easter and the resurrection of our Lord, our eternity will be fixed in Him.

Apparently, neither death nor taxes is certain.

~ Hudd ~

Kevin Huddleston is an Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek Church

 

Take Out the Trash  

At our house, I am someone. Not “someone” as in exalted or esteemed, necessarily. Rather, I am someone as in, “Someone needs to take out the trash,” or “Someone needs to fix that”, or the all too frequent “Someone needs to unstop the toilet.” We are getting a new puppy, and I am pretty sure that soon I will be hearing, “Someone needs to clean THAT up!”

Well, it is good to be someone, if only one someone who takes care of the house and those who live there. It provides a reminder that I am here to serve others, and that many of the ways we can serve others occur because we live in a fallen, imperfect world, and people find it difficult to make their way in life.

Do not misunderstand; the Garden was perfectly beautiful and supplied Adam and Eve with all their needs, but it still was to be tended to by God’s created people. In Genesis 2, we are told that God took the man into the garden “to cultivate and keep” it. Later, God fashioned woman from man’s rib to serve as a helpmeet to the man. No, the garden was not one never-ending vacation at an all-inclusive resort. Man did have work to perform in the garden. But it was, apparently, not heavy work and endless toil to keep the garden. After man’s fall, God cast him out of the garden, and told him that, because of man’s sin, the ground has become cursed, and now he will have to labor all of his days to scratch a living from it among its thorns and thistles.

And, so it has been ever since. Man and woman have to work, toil, and strive to survive in this world that has been damaged, forever altered toward the worse, because of sin and the evil that entered into the world. We toil and we struggle. With all our hard work, and by God’s grace and mercy, we get by. Not as in the garden, mind you, though many of us would even say we are blessed. Yet, there is ever this struggle, this conflict in our lives that did not exist in the garden.

The sad part of this toil and struggle is that we continue to make the bad choice, and listen to Satan to direct our actions. Oh, not all the time, but often enough that our behavior falls short of the standard God has set for us. We are still influenced by Adam’s sin in the garden. This struggle that you and I face today is not new. Paul wrote about it many times in his letters. In his letter to the Philippians (chapter 4), Paul writes, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Paul is telling his brothers in Philippi to stop wallowing in the sins of the past. Look to those things that are good, and practice then, to have any hope of peace – hope of minimizing the struggle – today and as we look to the future.

Do away with the sinful influences in your life. Turn from those television shows, websites, books and magazines that promise you luscious fruit, but are actually full of rotten garbage. Life in this world will always be a struggle, but if we have any hope for peace in our hearts, someone has to take out the trash in our lives.

~ Hudd ~

Set the Trend

This week, our youth program celebrated the opening of their new Four12 Youth Center. If you have not seen it yet, make your way there and see what Youth Director Tag Grisham and his team of volunteers, along with your financial contributions, have created. The very large room has been segmented into various uses, with areas for food and coffee, video games, table tennis and foosball, and teaching and conversation. The center is both warm and inviting, yet has a cool vibe – a very attractive place for our youth and their friends to gather and get to know each other better as they seek to know the Lord more fully.

As Tag has explained, the name Four12 comes from 1 Timothy 4:12, where Paul tells young Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” These areas of behavior – speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity – provide the base upon which our youth are to show themselves an example. As Tag has made it Four12’s “tag” (pun intended) line, “Set the Trend”. Let us set all this in its scriptural context.

In 1st Timothy, Paul is writing to his younger cohort, Timothy, whom Paul has left in Ephesus to help oversee the church there. As Timothy’s mentor, Paul writes to give instruction on church organization, the behavior of its leadership, and how its believers are to navigate through a fallen world. Specifically in chapter 4, Paul is advising the young Timothy that there are going to be troubling times, and even though Timothy is young, as an overseer (pastor, elder, bishop) of the church in Ephesus, he is to be an example, set the trend, for the believers there. Paul encourages Timothy in three specific areas:

  1. Nourish yourself in God’s word (verse 6)
  2. Train yourself in Godliness (verses 7-9)
  3. Mission – why we labor (verse 10)

In verse 11, Paul tells his younger brother to “Prescribe and teach these things.” Further, in verse 15, Paul directs Timothy to “be absorbed in them”. Finally, in verse 16, Paul says, do these things, and you will “ensure salvation for yourself and those who hear you”.

The instruction given to Timothy was given to one in church leadership, but is applicable to all believers. These points were made to Timothy so that he may serve as an example to others. By extension, those of us who are “others” are to learn from and emulate that example. How inspiring it is to us that our youth have accepted the responsibility to be that example. To set the trend. Let each of us follow the example of our young people in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. Let us be absorbed in God’s word, Godliness, and our mission. Let us join with Four12, and Set the Trend.

~ Hudd ~

(Kevin Huddleston is an Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek Church in Branson, MO)

A Plan for Growth

Spring – the time of year that thoughts turn to baseball. Or, rather growth. I meant to say growth. New growth. Like the beautifully green and perfectly manicured diamond of a ball field. Wait, I mean like the row upon row of fresh garden greens, and peas, radishes, onions, and asparagus.

Pastor Joe has said many things I thought were pretty smart, and once I heard him say that to successfully garden in the Ozarks, you have to do everything right, and then pray that God smiles on you. Gardening in the Ozarks is not like other places in America. For a time after finishing school, I lived in the Missouri River valley in extreme northwestern Missouri. It was said the county we lived in averaged eleven feet of topsoil. I decided it would be a sin to have such rich and abundant top soil and not grow a garden. And, it was easy. One Saturday morning, I rented a garden tiller, tilled up a 24’ x 48’ patch of my yard, and planted neat rows of seeds. After that, I did a little weeding now and again, then waited for the harvest. We had, literally, tons of produce. We could not eat, freeze, or can it all, so we gave much of it away. It was great.

 

Later, when I moved back to Branson and had built a new house, I asked a friend from northwest Missouri who was a landscape architect to come down for a visit and prepare a landscaping plan for my new lot. My friend Bob took one look at my new place and said, “Hudd, you don’t have any soil.” He then paused and added, “You don’t even have any dirt!” I guess professionals see a difference between the two. So, with Bob’s plan in hand, I paid for several loads of soil (or was it dirt?), and many, many huge blocks of quarried limestone to construct retaining walls to hold my new soil in place. I took a week off of work and with heavy equipment and a hired crew, got the walls built, the soil placed, and the landscaping plan all planted. Oh, and the Irrigation system needed to keep it all alive.

Where we live now, we have a very small lot, none of it is flat, and none of it has any soil – or dirt, for that matter. I again made a retaining wall, much smaller and with smaller boulders of ledgestone I spent the greater part of a year gathering.  I also created a few raised beds; some for vegetables, and some for flowers. Again, we had to bring in all the soil for the yard and the planting beds, then planted seeds, hoping to walk away and forget it. But, as Joe indicated, you have to fight and scratch for every thing you grow for weeks before you plant then continue clear through to harvest (if the deer and groundhogs don’t get it first). Hoeing and weeding, adding compost and fertilizer, planting, watering, weeding again, and more watering and weeding, and trapping varmints intent on robbing you of all your hard-earned produce. It’s never easy to raise a garden in the Ozarks.

It is not that easy to raise a human being in this world, either. Whether yourself, or someone you are responsible for, growing in Christian maturity is like successfully growing a garden in the Ozarks. And, much as you need a well-conceived plan to successfully raise a garden, growing a mature Christian needs the right combination of ingredients. Peter gave us such a plan in
2 Peter 1:4-8:

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You cannot simply plant your seed and hope to reap a bountiful harvest. There are too many factors working against you (read, also, the parable of the sower, Matthew 13). Raising your kids, helping your spouse, or your brother, or your parent, or friends, and especially yourself, to grow into mature, functioning Christians, requires following the right plan. The good news is, the Lord will smile upon you. Harvest guaranteed.

~ Hudd ~

(Kevin Huddleston – Elder at Fellowship at Cross Creek Church Branson, MO)

Joe and the Worship Team lead us this month in a study of the some of the Psalms. The Psalms is a collection of 150 (in western Protestant bibles: other collections count more) songs, poems, and prayers that were originally meant to be sung, accompanied by musical instruments. The Psalms are intended to focus the worshiper’s thoughts on God in praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. The Psalms were an important component of Jewish worship in biblical days, and remain so today for both Jews and Christians. Authorship of the Psalms is attributed to many writers, with David cited in 73 instances. Other Psalms are attributed to Solomon, Moses, Asaph, the sons of Korah, or to no one at all. With the diversity of authors, the time of the writing of the Psalms varies. The earliest may be the prayer of Moses (Psalm 90) and may date to around 1,300 years before Christ, and one of the latest being Psalm 137, a lament written during the Jews’ Babylonian captivity from about 586-538 B.C.

Many people, myself included, try to incorporate at least some reading of the Psalms in their daily devotions. Why? What are we to take from these ancient songs for which no musical notes are existent? I am certain the answer to this question will be provided by Joe as we progress through his study in the coming weeks, but let me suggest why I study the Psalms.

First, the Psalms are written as beautiful poetry. The lyrical rhythm of the Psalms brings me a sense of peace as I read and contemplate. Many books and passages of the bible are written as poetry, and understanding Hebrew form and usage of poetry is essential in basic comprehension of God’s word.

Then, the Psalms cover a marvelous range of human emotions, spilling out in praise, thanksgiving, and lament. In reading the Psalms, we learn the ways King David and others spoke with God, and thereby enhance our communication with our Creator and Lord as we go to Him in prayer.

Lastly, reading the Psalms points us toward the Messiah. I have read that every passage of the bible either reveals God’s everlasting truth, or contains some historical or cultural expression underlying His truth. The Psalms are quoted far more often in the New Testament than any other book. Jesus himself says in Luke 24:44, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Seeing these truths revealed, hundreds of years before His birth, is both thrilling and inspiring.

I am so looking forward to this study using the Psalms. I hope you are, too, and if you do not already, you will join those of us who include a passage of the Psalms in our regular time in God’s word.

Hudd

Living in the Comfort Zone

Living in the Comfort Zone

For many years , I have considered myself to be the least spiritual person I know. When discussions with my friends and community acquaintances turned to spiritual matters, they could fill the room with descriptions of their Spirit-led lives and Spirit-filled events, whereas I rarely had anything to add to the conversation.

After I became aware that I was living in a spiritual desert, I began to ask myself why? I went to church at least two times a week, I taught a weekly bible study for adults in our church, and participated in a regular men’s prayer luncheon. It seemed I was doing all the right things and checking all the right boxes. However, over time and through prayer, I came to realize what I was missing in my life. I had never learned to become dependent upon God the Spirit, or anyone else, for direction in my life. I had always felt I could (and would) direct my own affairs. After all, isn’t that what any red blooded American is supposed to do? John Wayne and Teddy Roosevelt never relied on another’s direction. To be a man – a man’s man – meant that one was to take charge of himself and be directed by his own wits, feelings, and beliefs. Beyond what I apprehended from our culture, I was trained through my education that self-direction was a goal to be obtained in life. In graduate school, I learned about Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As presented by Maslow, our base needs are physiological, the need for food, water, and warmth. The next level is the need for safety, and then for love and belonging, for esteem, and finally self-actualization. Being the pilot of one’s life was to be our highest aspiration, or so I understood.

For a time, I believed I had obtained a good measure of self-actualization. I seemed to be in charge of my life. Why, then, did I still feel this void inside me? In certain versions of the Bible, the Greek word parakletos has been translated as the Comforter. From my reading, perhaps more accurate translation might render the connotation of Summoned, Helper, Intercessor, or Advocate, or more specifically, one called along side or (in a legal sense) one who pleads another’s cause, as before a judge. Being self-actualized, I guess I never felt I had much need for an advocate or comforter. Boy, was I ever missing something.

The fact is, as much as I tried to fool myself, I never was that in charge of my life. In fact, in my effort to control my life, I was actually limiting my life to those things I could control. I was reluctant to step out of my comfort zone, away from things I thought I could control, and to put myself in a position of vulnerability and dependence upon the help and direction of the Advocate. I have learned, with the help and direction of my friends and of the Advocate, that my foolish attempts at self-actualization were actually self-limiting. As Paul writes in Romans 1:22-23, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man”. I found that trying to rely on my own abilities was holding me back. I was limited to staying within my comfort zone. Unless and until I was willing to leave the comfort zone, I had no need for the Comforter. I am still not as Spirit-led as I should be, and I am learning to be less self-actualized.

Hudd  

 

Nature’s Compass

Image you are the captain of a small ship in the ocean. Suddenly the waves start to roll and the trade winds begin to eerily howl. Huge waves relentlessly billow haphazardly pummeling your ship. Next the sky turns from an azure laden tranquility to the foreboding darkness prophesying a tempest’s wrath.

You are jostled to and fro but somehow you manage to hold onto the helm. Every fiber of your clothing is drenched offering no protection from the elements or the encroaching ocean. Between each shrill crack of lightning you count, “one-one thousand, two one-thousand, three one thousand.”

As each wave smashes against the side of your ship every board and beam creaks and moans with mounting exasperation. You desperately wonder just how long the structural integrity of your vessel will stay intact. All of the sudden you are violently thrown from the helm into the stern.

You muster every ounce of energy to crawl back to helm… until with both hands you clutch the helm in order to counteract the growing threat of capsizing. Hour after hour you battle for your life until finally the unforgiving ocean begins to slowly calm.

You desperately need to get your bearings. Frantically you reach into your pocket hoping to consult your trusty compass. Deep inside you are off your charted course… but how in the world did you end up a full 45 degrees south of your intended destination!

One last surge from the storm again knocks you off your feet. Your chest slams into the helm causing your arms jerk upward. In what seems like a sick twist of fate the compass flies from your hands and plummets into the depths of the ocean. The ocean gladly devours your hope for guidance.

You are now left to navigate the ocean alone without your trusted compass. Silently you wonder if you will ever your destination. At this point all you have left to rely on is your training, “Nature’s compass” and an indefatigable desire to set your feet on terra firma (latin for solid ground).

 

This story is a metaphor for what many of us are thinking about regarding the moral state of our city, country, and even the world, as we try to gain our bearings and relate to this supposed “Brave New World.” The loss of a moral compass can come while the waves of a mighty tempest are battering “our” small dilapidated vessels or at other times our moral compass is compromised by the pleasures and comforts this life affords us. In other words it is easy over time to lose our moral bearing in both times of plenty and in times of lack.

We can also lose our moral bearing through neglect and carelessness. We are constantly making decisions. In fact we make decisions by the minute, by the hour, by the day, by the month and by the year. Over our lifetime we will literally make millions, if not billions, of decisions. Some decisions we make are fairly light weight and do not carry any easily foreseen moral consequences (such as combing our hair, brushing our teeth, our choice of food, etc.). On the other hand, some of the decisions we make are not only weighty but are clearly laden with dire moral consequences embedded within their very fabric (rebellion, dishonesty, thievery, promiscuity, abuse, anger, adultery, etc.).

The question then remains how are we to regain our moral bearings after we finally realize that we are off course? Non-theists will suggest that “Nature’s Compass” is a trustworthy and reliable guide. However, what good is an instrument, like the compass, without being trained as to how it functions and when it should be used. As theists, more specifically born-again Christ followers, we recognize that every law has an author who wrote that law into existence. Furthermore, the notion of a moral law posits the notion of a moral law giver.

In the coming weeks the book of Proverbs will train us how to regain our moral bearings in our “Mad, Mad World”.

Shawn Arendt