CJ's Blog

by CJ Alderton of Patrick Crossing

November 22

The Chronicles of Kiwi, Part 4

David Meets Darwin

Today we learned about glow worms. Now you will as well! We visited the famous Waitomo Glow Worm Caves of New Zealand. These caves play host to the lovely blue critters that live out their brief but brilliant lives attached to the cavernous ceilings below ground. An overly informative yet affable young lad directed our tour.

The Waitomo Caves are known for their population of Arachnocampa luminosa, a glowworm species found only in New Zealand. There are only nine known glow worm types in the world and they are exclusive to Australia and New Zealand. As we entered the cave and our eyes began adjusting, we could see the little critters everywhere – like thousands of sparkling, sapphire stars on a moonless night. It was mesmerizing. It was enchanting. I breathed deeply the cool, moist air of the caves like a right little Gimli dwarf of Hobbit fame.

I thought to myself: “Ah Lord, let this moment endure for just a bit…Allow me to form some beautiful meditative thoughts about the glories of your good creation that I can put into words. Let me stand in awe of these marvelous manifestations of glory.”

“What you’re looking at right there is the glow worm’s butt.” interjected our tour guide. “They used to believe it was the worms poop that glowed, but they discovered it was his butt.”

Thank-you Mr. Science.

The buzz-kill continued. “The silken strings you see that are flowing down from the glow worms – well, that there is mucous. They use their mucous to catch insects.”

He followed this with one of the most unnecessary commands I‘ve ever heard: “Please don’t touch the mucous.”

Got it.

In the space of a few seconds I’d moved from the Book of Psalms to the Origin of Species – from David to Darwin, from sapphire and silk to butts and mucous. Here was the epic battle between science and faith writ large by the small speck of a glow worm’s shiny heinie.

I’m one who believes that the divide between science and faith are overrated and overwrought. True scientists are humbled and become poets when confronted with the deep mysteries of the universe. True theologians welcome the “how-to” of it all, comfortable that advanced knowledge of creation in no way diminishes the Creator.

When describing the face of a beloved, we don’t speak of the outermost layer of skin that provides a waterproof barrier and creates skin tone, otherwise known as the epidermis. No, we speak of how that face strikes our eyes or feels to our touch as we trace its contours. A dermatologist can tells us the science about the face – a very necessary and respectable profession. My job as a preacher/poet is to describe that face in a such a way that dignifies and celebrates the uniqueness of that soul as first imagined in heaven.  Each are important, the latter I think more so.

November 21

The Chronicles of Kiwi
Part 3

I’ve had some helpful advice on time zones from some of my military buddies. They mean well and I appreciate the guidance, but as I mentioned, Daylight Savings Times puzzles me and I doubt that I’ll become a horologist (look it up) on this trip. Moreover, I haven’t worn a watch in twenty years. I have some magnetism thing that makes them run wonky and they usually give up after a week or so. At one point I had a drawer full of dead watches. I think I had one too many Tim Allen moments playing with electricity. Anyway, thinking too much about time is depressing and when you’re on vacation all you’re doing is spending it.

I like to flip through the yellow pages when I’m away in the off chance I have a rich relative or two wandering about of which I’m unaware. Who knows? Perhaps they could use a bit of guidance with estate planning. I’ve heard I might be related to the founder of DR. Pepper, Charles Alderton, but he’s never rang. But you never know ‘til you try. I also like to check out the competition by thumbing through the church section in the yellow pages. Just a professional curiosity to see which teams are playing in the area. In this town, the latest count is: Catholics-2, Angicans-3, Pentecostals -1, and surprisingly, the Jehovah Witnesses-2.  I was curious about those J.W. lads. They’re the ones who have both the temerity and tenacity to come a’rappin’ on my chamber door on Saturday mornings. Since everything is upside down in New Zealand, perhaps it’s the pagans who go knocking on their doors each Saturday. There’s a thought.

We spent last night with some Maori folks in one of their villages. The Maori are lovely people and in their own way, refreshingly politically incorrect. While western elites yammer and lecture about the inappropriateness of cultural appropriation (viz. Most recently, the Halloween costume police), the Maori’s seem to want everyone to enjoy and have a go at their culture. I wasn’t sure at first. They began the evening with a solemn ceremony and said that we were not to laugh during the opening or attempt to mimic the warriors as they poured out of their canoe. They rushed the audience, screamed at us in the native language and the men kept sticking their tongues out and bugging their eyes at us. Once the ceremony ended, the Chief then exchanged the touching of the nose greeting with a few of people and then said, “Now that the opening ceremony is over, we invite you to laugh at us and imititate us the rest of the night.”  Ah, I wish these good-hearted folks could get some more air time. It would do the hyper-sensitive West a heap of good. (Heap is Kiwi for a lot). Also, the men do all the cooking!

Us non-Maori men were invited to come and learn the Huka – the traditional warrior dance. The dance was easy enough, but for the life of me, I couldn’t pull off a fearsome face. I kept smiling. Had I been a Maori warrior the enemies would have been encouraged to take the whole island. I leave you with this picture of me and a true Maori warrior.

Blessings,
CJ

November 20

The Chronicles of Kiwi Part 2
We safely landed and there seems to be no problem with the gravity. The plane didn’t feel as though it were upside down or anything of the sort as we kersplatted the hefty bird onto the runway of Auckland, New Zealand – drained of jet fuel but full of gassy passengers. (Hoo boy, do I have stories). As I write, it is my Monday here and your Sunday there, but if I’ve worked this out then you should be reading this on your Monday while I’m toodling about here on Tuesday – a futurist to you Northern hemisphere laggards. If my hunch is correct, I should be able to tell you football scores before they happen. I’ll just read about them in the local paper and text those of you interested in placing a sure bet. I expect a cut when I get home – our little secret.  And there I go getting all “sciency” on you. It’s all there in Einstein and in the Back To The Future movies if you have a care to investigate it for yourself. It’s how Biff made his fortune in the third installment of that franchise.

Speaking of science…I read up on our plane a few days before we left. It was a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I had a vague memory of something I had read somewhere about the Dreamliner sometime ago. I was excited! And then, after I Googled it,  I was still excited but not in the good way. I found that this was the plane that had boasted, with great fanfare, of being able to fly a portion of their long-haul flights on battery power. You know, like L.A. to Auckland for example. I pictured a gigantic Prius in the sky moving along smugly and silently, blimp-like.  Behind them would be hundreds of jet-fueled planes lined up, honking their horns, with angry pilots shaking their fists out of those tiny pilot windows. It sounded odd. I prefer the lusty roar of flammable fuel being spent…but, okay. Anyway, it seemed that those large, state of the art, lithium batteries were catching fire during some of the early flights. That gave new meaning to the name Dreamliner – a moniker is search of an appropriate adjective for those early travelers who narrowly escaped becoming roast guinea pig. Terrifying Dream? Screaming Dream? Or, how about Green Dream – a polite thwack to my overly zealous greenie mates who somehow managed to advance their eco-friendly passions from composting coffee grounds up to aerospace engineering. If there is one time I don’t give a fig about leaving a carbon footprint it’s when I’m 38,000 feet in the air. I want the footprint to be gigantic. Well anyway, we made it and we did not catch fire, so all was well. The batteries worked fine.

Stay tuned…more travel drivel just ahead.

November 19

The Kiwi Chronicles

Just a heads up. As you open this morning’s offering we hope to be landing safely in Auckland, New Zealand where we’ll be holding on for dear life at the bottom of the planet. I’ve not a head for time zones. I can’t even figure out the criminal Daylight Savings Time that our betters subject us to every few months. All I know about that is the fact it always takes place on a Sunday and messes with church. Because it is a devil of a thing it must in fact be a devil thing. Therefore, I’m quite sure I’ll make a hash of it as my computer dutifully goes native and begins belching out these posts nearly a day ahead…or a day behind…or whatever. The safest bet is to just visit our website at: patrickcrossing.com and click on CJ’s Blog. I can at least lie about the date in that space with greater ease.

Sorry, I’m getting my cranky on a bit early. I’ve not yet endured 24 hours of airports, flights, microscopic sloshing airplane bathrooms, five peanut snacks and what not. I hope to continue with the devotionals while in flight because it will be a distraction from the grim marathon. When we finally touch down in Hobbit Land I expect to be full on Orc. I’m cranky just thinking about it. Help me Jesus.

And this…I’m told the internet is a bit spotty down under so you might get several posts all at once – a devotional dump as it were. We’ll see. And, as is my want when I travel, I will most likely wander off topic and report on some of the adventures. Again, we’ll see.  Stay tuned and blessings abundant!

 

November 18

Ditch the Hoodie

There is a lovely image painted for us by the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 3:18: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another – from glory to glory. This comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

We considered the meaning of the word glory just a few days ago in respect to Jesus’ prayer. To quote myself (!) here’s what we found: The word for glory is: δόξα (do’-ksä). It can refer to the splendor or brightness of the sun, moon and stars. It can mean excellence, preeminence, dignity, and grace. Or, it can refer to Kingly majesty. I am guessing that here it captures each and every possible iteration of this word. It is our inheritance as followers of Christ to pick up this thread of glory. We are to become shiny.

There is another word that jumps out from the verse. It is the word transformed. We find this in the Greek: μεταμορφόω (me-tä-mor-fo’-ō) and it implies a shaping or a forming. It brings to mind a piece of marble that is slowly turning from a geometric cube into a work of art. And this is the meaning that Paul is going for and likewise, Jesus. He is chipping away on us…ahem…blockheads.

If we don’t get in the way, the transformation from glory to glory is inevitable. But therein lies the problem. Paul speaks of standing before God “unveiled.” This suggests we’ve nothing to hide. But, bespotted as we are with the lint we gather from the world and from our own pet offenses, we often come to God sporting a spiritual “hoodie”, eyes downcast, uneasy in the presence of His glory. But come we must. It is in the presence of that glory that our nefarious ways are exposed and deposed. And if we linger there long enough our eyes will begin to adjust and we’ll the see the possibility of us as we drink in the reality of him.

November 17

Perfect But Not Complete
(The “Other” Lord’s Prayer, cont.)

Imagine that. Prior to Creation Jesus dwelled in a place of perfection – of matchless, incomprehensible beauty. There were no needs, no wants and…no physical universe. It was perfect, but not complete. Thus, this loving creative impulse in our heavenly Father desired to expand, or better – to share this perfection. How can something perfect become more perfect? How does one improve on perfection? We might begin to understand it by lowering our eyes to earth.

It is not my custom to litter social media with political diatribes. Many of my posts are limited to these devotional ramblings, some encouraging quotes, and announcements about church and such. But what I mostly capture are the beautiful faces of family and friends. And mostly beyond that, these wee marvels that are my grandkids – each a little miracle and each an evidence of the ability of the heart to increase with the increase – producing on earth a glimpse of  the expansiveness of heaven.

Some may credit it to the aging sentimental Irishman in me. That’s fine. But I’ve found my heart enabled to adapt and grow and cherish both newborn babes and newborn friends.  At each point where I’ve thought, “This is it. This is grand. I need nothing more and no one else,” it seems that heaven has disagreed and given further.  It would have been foolish for me to resist and insist, “I’ve not room enough for one more grandchild or one new friendship.” It doesn’t work that way. When the heart has been graced with heaven’s perspective on such things we understand and welcome the word “more.” I’ve had room for the increase. I’ve experienced the perfection of perfection. I am betting that I have room for even more. So do you.

And now from earth back to heaven. When Jesus prayed to be glorified, it was for this very purpose – that there would be more of us to populate, to fill up heaven. It will be a place where your name and mine will be written in stone – not as a gravestone to the past but as a reserved place of honor for all eternity.

November 16

The “Other” Lord’s Prayer, Part 2

So, we’re having a look at chapter 17 of John where Jesus prays through the entire section. It is the “other” Lord’s Prayer. And yesterday we touched upon the whole notion that somehow the glory of God expands with the increase in heaven of us wee bipeds. It got me thinking…

Do you know how incredible you are? Have you any idea? Do you realize the entire Christian faith is predicated upon your value – that you were worth dying for? David grasped his worth with a sense of awe and a note of self-awareness with these words: I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made… Psalm 139:14

What does that even mean? In the original Hebrew text of the Bible, the word fearfully means: with great reverence, heart-felt interest and with respect. The word wonderfully means: unique, set apart, and marvelous. It does no violence to humility to acknowledge these things. In fact, it is only false humility that would deny them. To not pause often over the wonder of our own life and its irreplaceable distinctiveness is a high form of blasphemy. We shoot low because we feel so ordinary, so common. Jesus says that heaven isn’t the same without us.

I write very early this morning with great passion. Yet another suicide has crossed the wire in my service as Chaplain to the local fire department. This time one who was not quite a teenager. It is one suicide too many. “One” is one suicide too many. The lies that diminish self-worth are legion and lethal. All the trendy metrics the world throws at us to measure our value, our uniqueness, are often worthless. Our value is ancient. It is inscribed by our Creator. He had you, he had me in mind before the foundations of the world. He needed us here. He deployed us, as it were, for this very moment in history. We matter. That is truth. Whisper it, sing it, show it and if you must – shout it in every ear.

November 15

The Other Lord’s Prayer, Part 1

Jesus will end his time with his disciples in a most appropriate way. He will pray with them and for them. And he includes in that prayer all who will believe going forward. That includes you and me. And, he includes himself. That’s where we’ll start.

In the first five verses Jesus will use the word glory or glorify five times. It’s kind of a big deal. The disciples are listening in on what seems a very private and even audacious request of Jesus to the Father. Let’s see if you agree: After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” John 17:1-5

Let’s refresh ourselves as to the meaning of the word glory. It is: δόξα (do’-ksä). It can refer to the splendor or brightness of the sun, moon and stars. It can mean excellence, preeminence, dignity, and grace. Or, it can refer to Kingly majesty. I am guessing that here it captures each and every possible iteration of this word.

If you or I were to pray that out loud for ourselves in front of a group of friends, we’d get the proverbial stink-eye, and rightly so. We’ve none of us the right to be asking glory for ourselves. We might reflect his glory. We might bring him glory. But to ask what Jesus asked for himself would be cheeky. We’re a micro-blip in respect to our world or even our neighborhood (!) – let alone eternity. He inhabits eternity.

So, is Jesus betraying humility by asking for such a thing? Not at all. If we really examine what it is he’s praying he is saying that he is glorified by increasing the size of his family. He wants you and me to share eternity with him. It is humbling to think that our presence somehow adds to the perfection and beauty of heaven, but that is the substance of our Savior’s heart. He longs for you and he longs for me. I hope that puts a smile on your face.

November 14

Pre-forgiven

There is deep comfort in what comes next. As the lengthy living room sermon continues, Jesus now throws out another prediction: A time is coming and in fact has come when you will all be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. ~John 16:32  That is not a flattering prognostication. It is humiliating. Jesus is telling the disciples that at the moment of his greatest need, they’re all going to call it a night and head home.

Jesus is predicting their failure. He is predicting their embarrassment. He is predicting their regret. He is predicting their cowardice. In a word, he is predicting their sin.  Peter’s will be the most egregious. He will deny Jesus three times – loudly and with not a small amount of salty sailor language to drive home his point. But each will eventually drift into the shadows as Christ is betrayed by Judas and surrounded by fierce soldiers who know nothing of Miranda rights. They will each fade away in shame at their own cowardice.

And this is where some of the first glimpses of grace, which will grow to theological brilliance under the pen of the Apostle Paul, begins to break through. As Jesus predicts failure, he also promises a grace that will redeem such failure toward his kingdom purposes. There is no failure that Heaven cannot craft into a greater good. Betraying a friend in need is near the top of low-brow things to do. Yet, with this awful prediction comes the word that they are pre-forgiven: Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:32b-33  They will know failure but they will also know peace. One is a prediction, the other is a promise. And it’s to the promise that he always beckons.

November 13

Repeat x 4

And again with the prayer thing: This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks! ~John 16:23,24

This marks the fourth time that Jesus has mentioned this extravagant prayer promise. Obviously he is really eager to get a point across. And he does this in the midst of a surfeit of really grim news. What gives? I mean, logically, if this prayer promise is taken at face value, one would make prayers against the very things he has prophesied. “You’re going to be martyred.” “No worries Jesus, I’ll just pray and you’ll make the nastiness go away. Problem solved.”

But here, Jesus is adding a qualifier which he reinforces in the very next sentence. We are to ask for things in keeping with that which has been revealed. And, we are to ask according to his will.

Many…and I mean many, have used these various promises of prayer to justify all sorts of self-serving, self-advancing theologies. Usually it involves extracting hard-earned dollars from the faithful. It is why we can never take Scripture out of context. We must stick with it and see what it says, not only behind and before, but also if it matches the tenor of the entire body of God’s self-disclosure in the person of Christ. If something sticks out as an anomaly that feeds selfish desire, we best keep reading.

(As an aside, our church has never passed the plate. If people want to support our efforts, they can drop their gift into a humble, homely green wooden box we set out during our worship services. I believe very much in giving, and doing so generously, but we don’t beat that topic to death. And the reason we do not circles somewhat around these very passages. We ask God to provide and He does).

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