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The Scarlet Plague

-Book review-

A tired old man in goatskin slowly walking behind his alert, primitive like grandson towards camp. Their progress is difficult through the densely overgrown path that was once a speeding railway. This is the opening scene in “The Scarlet Plague”. I was surprised to find that this post-apocalyptic, dystopian  tale was written by none other than Jack London. Many have read his Klondike adventure novel “The Call of the Wild” or short story, “To Build a Fire”. His years of living as a hobo and traversing the Yukon gave him a lot of material for his stories.

The story continues by bringing “Granser” to camp where the other grandsons have a fire going and some of the shellfish he so enjoys. The California coast is nothing like it was sixty years earlier when as an english literature professor he enjoyed the luxuries of an academic life in a country ruled by industrial magnets. They traveled about on their personal air ships and life was very good.

It’s easy to guess the times in which London wrote by references such as these. It may very well have been a reasonable assumption in 1912 that lighter than air blimps and dirigibles would be the elites choice of transportation. But by 2013, things took an unexpected turn as The Scarlet Plague ran its course and wiped out most of the world’s population.

As he recounts the story to his grandsons who both urge him for more story and ridicule him for his unrecognizable words and phrases, the chaos and violence of the plague still touches the old man with raw emotion. His hope for the future as he looks at his savage grandsons is not favorable.

With quotes like, ” The human race is doomed to sink back farther and farther into the primitive night ere again it begins its bloody climb upward to civilization”, one senses London,  has truly seen the worst of mankind.

I found this book enjoyable for it’s human introspection and decent storytelling. If you’re looking for an uplifting, feel good read this is not for you. To be honest, I grabbed it on my Kindle because it was free but I would definately buy it. I might even re-read it someday which I rarely do.

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What Thing Remains?

I find it interesting that in the book of Acts chapters 8 and 9 we have three different men, very different backgrounds and such different salvation experiences. The first is Simon, a magician, who sees the powerful results of Philip’s outreach to the people of Samaria. The text says he believed and continued to follow Philip and though he himself was well known for having the “Power of God that is called Great” he was amazed at Philip’s signs and wonders.

Next we have the Ethiopian eunuch. An important man with great responsibilities taking time to travel all the way to Jerusalem to worship. Philip is directed by the by an angel of the Lord to leave Samaria and the miraculous events happening there to reach out to this one God fearer. After an explanation of Isaiah 53:7,8 he believes and asks to be baptized.

Finally we read the well known story of Saul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus. In an effort to cleanse his Jewish faith of the Jesus following blasphemers he comes face to face with the Lord and eventually becomes God’s missionary to the Gentiles.

What I find interesting is that each of these men retained certain character attributes after their conversions that may have defined their Christian walk thereafter. Let me quickly present them to you and then ask an important question.

  1. Geed.   Simon saw the powerful works of the apostles and how they surpassed his own deceptive signs and wonders and wanted them for himself.
  2. Desire. The Ethiopian eunuch feared God, desired to worship Him and after obtaining a complete knowledge of the truth accepted it and acted on that truth with an immediate desire to be baptized. Legend has it that he became a great missionary to his own people.
  3. Zeal. Saul, now Paul, turned the world upside down with the proclamation of the gospel to a Gentile world. His zeal, unmatched, was rewarded with numerous beatings, stonings,  deprivations and finally execution. Supernaturally empowered no doubt, but still a man on a mission and the zeal to keep him moving.

What is it that you bring to your faith? We all have certain character flaws or gifts that can make or break our ministries. Are you aware of potential problem areas? We’re told by scripture to examine ourselves and consider our ways. With meditation and prayer we can overcome the things that negatively effect our efforts. Maybe there’s a trait or gift that needs to be re-kindled and would greatly compliment you efforts. Sometimes we’ve ignored issues for so long we might need a trusted believer to come along side us and help bear the burden of change. Weather you need to put something behind you or work something to its fullest potential please start now. Tomorrow is another busy day with too many excuses for putting off what God wants you to do today.


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The Rewards and Challenges

The heart of most church ministries are it’s volunteers. Our church podcast “Inside Calvary”  recorded an episode on that topic. Kyle and Tyler joined me for an on-line interview.




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It’s Never Too Late

Photo by Heather Zabriskie on Unsplash

We’ve heard the saying many times but has it ever made a difference in your life? To my surprise it did for me! Case in point, this web site.

Over a year ago I got the bug again. I wanted to make this idea of providing help to others and possibly creating a community of like minded people a reality. I bought a fresh notebook, started planning and writing and working on this website I had created almost ten years earlier. In that notebook on the very first page I wrote in large letters, “Its never too late!”

Is that true? I hope so, cause I’m at it again. I’d set the project aside after an initial enthusiasm that lasted a couple of months. Even though I was semi-retired and had time for the “important things” I lost interest and life took over once again. Then, as had happened many times before, the idea came back, the lure of doing something interesting on-line returned. I opened my notebook and there it was, a message written by a dreamer, a novice, a hopeful tech enthusiast yearning for admission to an on-line world where community might be possible. Did I really write that thinking it true, or was my subconscious at work knowing it might come to this? I don’t really care, I’m going to give it another shot. What’s the worst that can happen? I might miss out on some TV? Skip a workout or two?

How about you? What’s back there in a notebook somewhere haunting your memory? It’s never too late!

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Have you ever noticed a word or phrase gradually invading your consciousness? You’re not sure if it’s actually being used more or if you just happen to notice it more for one reason or another. The word that keeps showing itself to me (as if words had a mind of their own) is “Intentional”.  (in·ten·tion·al – inˈten(t)SH(ə)n(ə)l/ – adjective – done on purpose; deliberate.) There are so many areas of my life I could be more intentional. Prayer, exercise, diet, relationships and more.

What is it that holds us back from peak performance in certain areas of life? Will another “self help book” do the trick? As I thought about past situations in my life I noticed three common factors that preceded successful outcomes.

  1. Prayer
  2. Need
  3. Desire

I list prayer first only because I know that’s where I should start but in reality it is often the last step. I’ve been a Christian for many years and my dedication to prayer seems to ebb and flow with where I’m at in life. I’ve been getting better and I know that because I’ve chosen to live life with an eternal perspective it’s most likely the most important element.

God has promised to meet my needs, that I’m sure of. At certain times though something inside me cries out “you need to do this” Could be conscience, circumstance or Holy Spirit. Maybe all three, but when this “need” mentality arises motivation kicks in. I could ignore these promptings but when I stop, examine the situation and consider the consequences of not taking action I usually end up doing something about it.

Desire can come from good or bad motives. I’m sure you’ve wondered at times weather a certain desire was healthy. For me the physical desires are fairly obvious to scrutinize. Chocolate is good, more chocolate not so much. The internal desires are much harder to deal with… Should I commit considerable time and effort to an advanced degree? Is it ego that’s behind the motivation?.. Is this relationship pleasing to the Lord?  What will it look like in a year or two? What are some possible motives behind this desire?

A commitment to knowing God’s word is the key element in filtering these questions. It’s the lense that focuses light on important decisions. I love the C.S.Lewis quote,

“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not because I see it, but  because by it I see everything else”

My desire to be more intentional is a good thing. What I’m more intentional about will most likely be an outcome of my worldview. As you consider areas of life where you could be more intentional ask yourself why you need to pursue this particular area. What need does it fulfill? Is this a healthy desire? Praying about it before or after is totally up to you!

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You Need to Space Out

100_1115TV.. I grew up watching TV. I love it and I hate it! It’s so easy to sit back and veg out when you know there are more important things to do. So, when I cut the cord years ago I thought I was on my way to redemption. Of course a home theatre PC, Roku, Chrome Cast, Plex and XBMC completely undermines cutting the cord so in short order I was right back where I started. Now, I love to read but whenever I reached for a book or my Kindle the remote seemed to steal my attention and yeah, I was vegging out.

I needed a plan, some intentionality. So, here’s what I did. I had two recliners in the living room and only  used one. I took one  and put it in another room and made the whole setting as comfortable and inviting as possible. In the morning I got in the habit of going straight to my new setting with my coffee and reading material. It worked! Now, instead of vegging out I was spacing out but in a good way. I created a new space that I eventually found as desirable as any room in my house. To be honest, I still loose the battle to the remote occasionally but not nearly as often.

Now, I wonder, could this strategy work in other problem areas of life? Addictions, bad relationships, anger or greed? Anything that steals your time and joy is what I’m thinking about. Separate yourself from the problem, create a  good, desirable alternative and ask the Lord for strength and courage knowing He’ll be with you where ever you go. I’ll let you know how my next challenge works out.

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Is the Less Good, Good?

2015-08-25 14.13.12I enjoy the companionship of animals. Right now I don’t own a pet but I was the affectionate owner of a Chocolate Lab named Jackson. I’m a product of the Folk Rock era and very much enjoy lyric driven music. So, when I got a brown dog I thought it would be cool to name him Jackson. (Millennials google “These Days”, JB.) Anyway, since I don’t have a pet I’ve sort of adopted some of the feral cats in the neighborhood. My neighbor and I  had the ones we could catch, spayed and neutered and reintroduced into our area. I’ve really grown attached to them but since they’re feral the relationship is totally different than when I had Jackson.  Like Jackson they hang out with me. One big, gray, fury one even waits for me every morning to come out on the deck and provide his treats for the day.

Here’s the hard part. He will get close to me but he won’t let me touch him. I learned this the hard way by reaching out with a treat and being rewarded with a sharp clawing to the hand. “No treats for you” that day! So, here’s the question. Is my desire to hold, pet and maybe brush this beautiful animal a desire for something less good than it would be with a tame house pet? Are we both diminished somehow by a different relationship than I would like? I think not. Often, God will provide us with opportunities that seem interesting or even exciting at first but don’t reach our initial expectation. We’re tempted to leave it, move on, maybe get discouraged. “It’s just not as good as I thought it would be.” I think we need to see these experiences for what they are. Good, sometimes enjoyable moments, that can enrich our lives to the degree that God has meant for us. Are you living this out in your life today? Is there something your experiencing that just doesn’t quite meet your initial expectation? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it still good?
  • Am I somehow enriched by it?
  • Is God trying to teach me something in it?

If the answer is yes embrace it for what it is. Enjoy what you’re tempted to think is “less good” and after you’ve searched your heart use it for God’s Glory.

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