No greater Love–a memory

By James Ross Kelly
First North American Rights
Copyright 2013
About 2800 words


On the third of July, 1997 my friend of thirty-eight years, Steve Short, and his eighteen year old nephew were finishing a logging job on the Klamath River in Northern California. A weird thing happened on a particularly bad stretch of road and they lost three of their tires on the way back from a timber falling job. They had to return to finish up about two hours work and had started work at dawn and were on their way out. Because the side of the river they were on was so remote the three flat tires meant they faced a twenty-mile walk back to a phone.

Steve knew the river really well from drift-boat fishing  salmon, and found a place nearby where he thought could be waded across safely, to get to a phone at a lodge on the other side. Steve had on heavy caulk boots as they started across. Caulk boots, called “Cork boots,” by most of the men who wear them, have rows of tiny metal spikes to keep your footing while walking on downed logs, and work very good on slippery rocks as well. The younger man had on conventional vibram sole boots, that are like walking on banana peels, when used in a west coast river. The eighteen year old also had a heavy backpack with a Stanley thermos, and some logging gear. The young man was Steve’s wife’s, sisters son, and had been in trouble and Steve had taken him under his wing. He had been giving him good paying work and teaching him a trade. Steve saw the boy, twenty yards away and down river from him–loose his footing and then swept into the current and down towards deeper water.

Steve had been an All-American full back in 1967 at Del Norte High School, in Crescent City, California. He lost a scholarship to UCLA because of getting into some “trouble,” after high school was now near 50 years old. He went after the young man in the same manner he followed his blockers at those Friday night games all over Northern California.

Steve Short was my best friend at Eagle Point Junior High School in a small logging town in southern Oregon from the 5th to the 8th grade. His family moved to Crescent City, California in 1963. Bill, his dad, bought a fishing boat and quit logging for Steve Wilson logging Company in Eagle Point for the open sea.

Every summer after that I would go to Crescent City to visit, and he would return the favor and come to Eagle Point and stay with us on our little farm. We wrote letters and signed each other’s names as “Esquire” for our own adolescent self-appointed nobility and never with a thought of becoming lawyers because we thought we were appointed by virtue of adolescence to make up our own rules. We’d get in mild trouble every time we got together. At sixteen, I remember going to matinee in Crescent City California with Steve and seeing the Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood, film a “Fist Full Of Dollars,” and afterward buying hard  and stale Paroudi cigars and choking them down and trying to look tough while driving through town in a 1955 Volkswagen.

After High School and when I’d been in the Army about three years of a 4 year enlistment I was in an outfit that made you enlist for the extra year which I was in the process of finishing up, I had to go to the Presido in San Francisco, and I went with another guy who then wanted to visit a friend of his in Letterman General Hospital, which is at the Presido. On our way up to him one of the giant Hospital elevator doors opened up there stood Steve in a hospital get-up. He saw me and broke into one of those big wide grins he used to have. He’d gotten Hepatitis in Vietnam, and got out of the country one month early. Steve had got drafted in 1969, was then married to his High School sweetheart Susan. He then enlisted to perhaps ease Susan’s fear of a Vietnam destination, and had a recruiter talk him into being a aircraft mechanic in the Army. In 1969, that eventually translated into the reality of being a door-gunner on a helicopter in Vietnam.
I got him out of the hospital and brought him, with his flight helmet, to our little apartment in Santa Rosa, where I lived with my new wife from Massachusetts. We were about 20 miles from the base I was stationed at, Two Rock Ranch Station. An Army Security Agency base that went under the cover of a communications facility. In reality we monitored the Russian Navy’s communication in the Pacific. Steve told me of some awful things he’d seen in Vietnam, his take on Vietnam was simply to explode a nuclear device on the DMZ and blow both countries, South and North into the ocean—it was a feeling that a lot of homecoming veteran’s shared after a bitter decade of war. Susan his wife and Steve’s mother Rosie, a lifelong Sunday school teacher, came down and picked him up at my place in a joyous homecoming. I saw him very irregularly over the years after that, I’d find myself stopping by in Crescent City every once in a while. After the army Steve became a  timber faller in pretty much the last effort to harvest  ancient redwoods.
“Yep, I chop down the great big-fat ones!” he’d say with wistful grin and his head cocked sideways. Steve had what was called a “pull show,” where they’d use two giant winches to lower the great trees without damaging any wood. Steve had each of his winches powered by powerful Ford V-8 engines. Steve would climb to the top of each great behemoth he was assigned, then attach cables from the winches and then he’d personally make an under cut the size of an American, middle class living room. And with his giant McCulloch chain saw he would sever the largest tree the Lord ever designed, and would gently lower each ancient giant down to the earth where we humans, like the eager Lilliputians we are, would go to work on them for the tiny pieces of wood that are now so valuable. In 1978 when they discontinued the model of chainsaw Steve used, the McCulloch company manufactured the most powerful saw ever made at that time, and had sold that model mostly for go-cart racing. Steve bought three of these engines before they became obsolete just for his special line of work. Susan and Steve had three girls. The last time I saw them altogether they were three little blond dolls toddling around a living room of suburban house a couple miles from the ocean in a rural area near the always misty Crescent City— all his girls are married with babies of their own now. Steve did well with his business and tried to get out of logging after he turned 40 or so, but eventually went back into it, although the pull shows were over, after all the “Great Big Fat Ones,” had been “chopped down,” and went onto the traditional timber falling that took him inland all over the Six Rivers National Forest, and farther away from home. He worked Hoot-owl logging jobs in the summer, starting work at 2:30 in the morning like he did that morning to drive inland to remote sections of an ever decreasing forested landscape to get started at dawn so enough work could be accomplished and the saws could be shut off, when the humidity began to plummet all to alleviate a fire danger because of the possibility that later in the day a tiny ember from a whirring piece of metal striking a rock like anger might smolder and then become a 500 to 5000 acre or even grater wildfire of wrath. The woods had been worked that way for half a century. With less and less being left with each passing decade and the millennium seeing this wide-scale livelihood that fed families and sustained local economies come almost to a halt.
When I came to the southern Oregon grade school in the 5th grade, I was an orphan, being raised by a maternal uncle and his saintly wife, my aunt. I came into a rough and tumble little school where most everybody’s Dad it seemed was a timber faller or a cattle rancher. I think God sent me Steve for a friend, I had no friends, and Steve became the best one I ever had to that point in my life. As the skinny little “four-eyed” kid I was, and because Steve was my friend, no one dreamed of picking on me. Somehow that allowed four years of breathing room that was incredibly important to who I am. Most everyone who has friends of this type are truly blessed. We had no particularly high art or hobbies, model cars, hunting and fishing and bike riding were the holiday arts that we practiced well. When we came of age things were less innocent, and neither of us at that time were regarded as saints but those exploit are other stories—this is the death of my close friend.
That July day, the day the before our independence celebration in 1997, a woman standing on a rock above the lodge side of the Klamath River, observed the two loggers trying to make it across the river. She saw Steve and his nephew’s attempt to wade the river, she saw the boy splash and struggle  and swept down stream to deep water with the current then  go under in swift water and saw Stevego after him. There was no sight of either of them for what she later described as several minutes, then the younger man came out of the water with a mighty force he made it to shore without his back pack. It is assumed that Steve got to the lad and got his pack off of him  on the river bottom and then took on water and the weight of his boots kept him from making it the extra feet to the surface for a burst of air. This happened around nine-thirty in the morning. Steve’s wife Susan heard about it and shortly got some one in a jet boat to roar up the Klamath river to the accident scene. The Sheriffs Department and Susan and Steve’s friends searched for his body until early evening, when they finally found him on the bottom of the river in twenty feet of water. The Deputies tried to make Susan leave, but she would not, and stood by while they recovered Steve’s body. Susan then cradled Steve her husband of thirty years in her arms in the Sheriffs jet boat all they way back down the river, with the sun setting down to darkness and passing by the great trees they’d loved and lived in, and took down until the boat stopped with its sad cargo and the tide water mixed with the fresh water from all north California and central Oregon.

“I know there was a hand that met him, I know there was a jubilee, I know that Jesus precious arms were waiting and I know they’ll be there for you I know they’ll be there me.”

Steve Short was the finest man, Christian or other wise I’d ever known. Sadly to knock my own religion the finest examples of humans in my own life have not always been Christians. But I truly know, I do truly know someday I’ll see him again and he will break into one of those big wide grins he used to always have. After my divorce, Steve and I exchanged a lot of phone calls. We’d talked about some future fishing trips that never happened, but mostly we talked of God a lot, and how He’d changed both of our lives and how He’d been there all along when, we were just struggling through life thinking it was something we were carrying on by our own strength. I do not know why he took Him home. But Steve used to talk about knowing that being in heaven as 100 million times greater than being here. But here he lived finally as an example of what Jesus described as, there being no greater love, than giving your life for your friends, few Christians think of it as a commandment in the manner He really gave it, “I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it—the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends.” I know Steve would have done the same thing for me, “love each other in the same way that I love you.” There were those that grudged the loss of Steve’s life, for a lad that had been constantly “in trouble,” and who had a checkered past. Steve lost his scholarship to UCLA simply because the summer after graduating from High School, he had for very brief time hung with trouble, and ended up getting caught breaking into a liquor store and doing a month in jail for his efforts. Those same type of folks that were judging the boy’s future against the anguish and love they’d known for Steve, were the same kind of folks that wrote Steve off after his misadventure with the law. A mutual friend told me he would have done the same thing for any one he’d known for only five minutes..

His father, had a particularly hard time with Steve’s death. About two years after Steve had been gone I stopped by to spent some time with Steve’s Mom, Rosie and his Dad, Bill Short, Steve’s father. Bill had been a fishing boat captain, now retired who had as an infantryman fought his way over every bad inch of Americas second World War effort in Sicily and then over  most of the geographical boot of Italy.

After the war he logged until he bought his fishing boat, taking time off to fish every chance he got, when the first spring salmon was over the Gold Ray Dam, most of his friends assumed Bill Short had already set out to catch it, riding his pan-head Harley-Davidson, out into the brushy trails next to the Rogue River. When Steve and I were in the 6th grade Bill took us both to Diamond lake at the very end of the fishing season we’d skittered 60 through the patches of snow up from Eagle Point, in the ’55 VW to troll for huge rainbow trout the biggest trout I’d ever seen, giant silvery bullets all of them caught by Bill while Steve and I shivered in the boat, and got a tongue lashings when we got our lines entangled with Captain Bill’s. During that era the schools and logging companies and mills would close for the first week of deer hunting season. Bill would as quick as could, run out opening day and find a buck no matter how large or small, kill it, dress it and be able to get in four or five days of the summer run steelhead fishing while all of his friends were still in hunting camp. After Bill had been fishing for twenty year’s he’d still moor his boat and run up the slippery banks of the smith river when the salmon were running, with his pole catching them for the pure fun of what his commercial operation would not quite satisfy. I tried, several times to leave that evening but Bill Short and I talked for over two hours more out in front of my pickup, after Rosie had gone to bed, on that late summer evening. I told his father, that I’d been reading about the first few centuries of the Christian church, and if the event that cost his son his life had occurred in the days of the early Christian Church, Steve would have been made a Saint for this act of saving the boy’s life. The bland objective journal of the region just reported a death, by drowning that went largely unnoticed and never mentioned what had happened. But there were those who knew him that thought of Steve in that Holy manner already—maybe it is that there is no difference between the early Church and the real Church. Despite the way humans including Christians, have tried to organize our cultures without God, there have been great and good men who have walked with our precious Savior, in manner that he intended us to. I told his father the truth that night, that Steve was simply the finest man I’d ever known.

By James Ross Kelly
First North American Rights
Copyright 2013
About 2800 words

Hell–from The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis

I am not going to try to prove the doctrine tolerable. Let us make no mistake; it is not tolerable. But I think the doctrine can be shown to be moral, by a critique of the objections ordinarily made, or felt, against it.

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

First, there is an objection, in many minds, to the idea of retributive punishment as such. This has been partly dealt with in a previous chapter. It was there maintained that all punishment became unjust if the ideas of ill-desert and retribution were removed from it; and a core of righteousness was discovered within the vindictive passion its self, in the demand that the evil man must not be left perfectly satisfied with his own evil, that it must be made to appear to him what it rightly appears to others—evil. I said that Pain plants the flag of truth within a rebel fortress. We were then discussing pain which might still lead to repentance. How if it does not—if no further conquest than the planting of the flag ever takes place?

Let us try to be honest with ourselves. Picture to yourself a man who has risen to wealth or power by a continued course of treachery and cruelty, by exploiting for purely selfish ends the noble motions of his victims, laughing the while at their simplicity; who, having thus attained success, uses it for the gratification of lust and hatred and finally parts with the last rag of honour among thieves by betraying his own accomplices and jeering at their last moments of bewildered disillusionment. Suppose, further, that he does all this, not (as we like to imagine) tormented by remorse or even misgiving, but eating like a schoolboy and sleeping like a healthy infant—a jolly, ruddy-cheeked man, without a care in the world, unshakably confident to the very end that he alone has found the answer to the riddle of life, that God and man are fools whom he has got the better of, that his way of life is utterly successful, satisfactory, unassailable. We must be careful at this point. The least indulgence of the passion for revenge is very deadly sin. Christian charity counsels us to make every effort for the conversion of such a man: to prefer his conversion, at the peril of our own lives, perhaps of our own souls, to his punishment; to prefer it infinitely.

But that is not the question. Supposing he will not be converted, what destiny in the eternal world can you regard as proper for him? Can you really desire that such a man, remaining what he is (and he must be able to do that if he has free will) should be confirmed forever in his present happiness—should continue, for all eternity, to be perfectly convinced that the laugh is on his side? And if you cannot regard this as tolerable, is it only your wickedness—only spite—that prevents you from doing so? Or do you find that conflict between Justice and Mercy, which has sometimes seemed to you such an outmoded piece of theology, now actually at work in your own mind, and feeling very much as if it came to you from above, not from below? You are moved not by a desire for the wretched creature’s pain as such, but by a truly ethical demand that, soon or late, the right should be asserted, the flag planted in this horribly rebellious soul, even if no fuller and better conquest is to follow. In a sense, it is better for the creature its self, even if it never becomes good, that it should know its self a failure, a mistake. Even mercy can hardly wish to such a man his eternal, contented continuance in such ghastly illusion. Thomas Aquinas said of suffering, as Aristotle had said of shame, that it was a thing not good in its self; but a thing which might have a certain goodness in particular circumstances. That is to say, if evil is present, pain at recognition of the evil, being a kind of knowledge, is relatively good; for the alternative is that the soul should be ignorant of the evil, or ignorant that the evil is contrary to its nature, ‘either of which’, says the philosopher, ‘is manifestly bad’.* And I think, though we tremble, we agree.

The demand that God should forgive such a man while he remains what he is, is based on a confusion between condoning and forgiving. To condone an evil is simply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. But forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered if it is to be complete: and a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness.

I have begun with the conception of Hell as a positive retributive punishment inflicted by God because that is the form in which the doctrine is most repellent, and I wished to tackle the strongest objection. But, of course, though Our Lord often speaks of Hell as a sentence inflicted by a tribunal, He also says elsewhere that the judgement consists in the very fact that men prefer darkness to light, and that not He, but His ‘word’, judges men** We are therefore at liberty—since the two conceptions, in the long run, mean the same thing—to think of this bad man’s perdition not as a sentence imposed on him but as the mere fact of being what he is. The characteristic of lost souls is ‘their rejection of everything that is not simply themselves’.***  Our imaginary egoist has tried to turn everything he meets into a province or appendage of the self. The taste for the other, that is, the very capacity for enjoying good, is quenched in him except in so far as his body still draws him into some rudimentary contact with an outer world. Death removes this last contact. He has his wish—to lie wholly in the self and to make the best of what he finds there. And what he finds there is Hell.

1 Summa Theol, I, IIae, Q. xxxix, Art. 1.

** John 3:19; 12:48.

*** See von Hügel, Essays and Addresses, 1st series, What do we mean by Heaven and Hell?

Lewis, C. S. (2009-05-28).  The Problem of Pain (p.123- 125). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

from The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis

From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of it’self as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the centre is opened to it. This sin is committed daily by young children and ignorant peasants as well as by sophisticated persons, by solitaries no less than by those who live in society: it is the fall in every individual life, and in each day of each individual life, the basic sin behind all particular sins: at this very moment you and I are either committing it, or about to

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

commit it, or repenting it. We try, when we wake, to lay the new day at God’s feet; before we have finished shaving, it becomes our day and God’s share in it is felt as a tribute which we must pay out of ‘our own’ pocket, a deduction from the time which ought, we feel, to be ‘our own’.

Lewis, C. S. (2009-05-28). The Problem of Pain (p. 70). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

The Winning Run—an essay

By James Ross Kelly

All rights reserved–copyright 2014

I am a Christian. Some years ago I met a homeless man who had been living in his broken car for two years. He was legally blind. One eye had a cataract that had completely obscured his vision— a condition that was operable and could be healed through surgery. He would pick up enough bottles and cans to buy beer walking three miles from his car to the nearest store, and twice a month, a corrupt civil servant in charge of a rural small town sewer plant would hire him to go into holding tanks in the sewer plant and hose them off, he’d pay him with beer for work he and his employee were supposed to do in full body protective environmental suits. He’d be given the suit of course and get a shower at the sewer plant after and a ride back to his car with two cases of beer. He would then drink them all at once and eventually pass out and wait until the next month’s tank cleaning to be needed.

He wasn’t completely blind but his eyesight had deteriorated to the point that he had to read with a large magnifying glass, and still had trouble, he had been deemed legally blind and had been trying to get on social security for two years. The man whose farm he had parked his car on brought him food every day, worried about him to his wife and gave him jobs to do that he didn’t do very well, but he’d pay him anyway. I and other people would also bring him food.

Several times I offered to take him to a church that would help him into a halfway house. He had been through a religious High School and at one time had been a licensed electrician—had a wife and a home. He had a sister and a brother-in-law that had repeatedly helped him and given him a place to stay. His present circumstances were largely due to violating one of their rules on sobriety around their children. Still dutifully, they would stop and bring him to church and he would go at least once a month, the church he went to with his sister was pastored by the brother of my own pastor, so I know he was getting a straight shot of the Gospel every time he went. He’d been from a good family; he kind of went wrong on his own. He had memorized many of Bob Dylan’s songs, and used these lyrics through many of our conversations to make one point or another.

He was very intelligent, but there was a spark of life that just was not there at least to go with the intelligence that was obvious, there was a cloud of darkness that came from either alcohol abuse or a deep depression and hurt, I had no way of knowing, it just was a lost disconnectedness that translated to pain and the need for mercy, a need obvious, to anyone who had ever been given the mercy of God. He may well have had no one to blame but himself, but it didn’t matter. I began to pray for him, and asked others to do so.

He’d had the good news delivered to him in various forms for years many years. I actually think he was saved, but he was obviously not healed and not delivered. My witness was always met with his question, “How do you know you are saved?” and he asked me that question repeatedly. I meditated on this for some time. Then one night a toothache kept me awake most of the night and got to thinking and I went to look in Strong’s Greek Dictionary for the meaning in and I came to this:

 number 4982 sozo {sode’-zo} King James Version of the Bible—save [used] 93 [times in this manner]—make whole [used] 9[times in this manner]—heal 3 [times in this manner]—be whole 2 [times in this manner]—misc 3 (Total Count: 110[times in the New Testament] to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction; 1a) one (from injury or peril); 1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one; suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health; 1b1) to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue;1b) to save in the technical biblical sense; 1b1) negatively;1b1a) to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment; 1b1b) to save from the evils which obstruct the reception; of the Messianic deliverance.

Then, somehow I saw a picture of this seemingly obscure Theology as a baseball game. The second out, and the bottom of the ninth, tie game and you are the winning run, of the last game of the season and a Big League professional umpire is dressed in black, with the black 40s type almost a “beanie,” baseball hat, black coat, black pants, black chest pad and, well he’s just there somewhere, in the back ground as you are running down the third baseline, I mean it’s you running, even in your middle, or old age somehow, with eighteen year old legs really taking you faster than you can go, as someone is making you run (like the someone that makes your heart pound while sitting calmly in a church pew, and the truth is being told or you read a portion of scripture that you know is true) almost as if it’s really not you, but you know it is, and the ball is coming from just past second—rifle-thrown, hard, fast and out of your peripheral vision you can see it beating you.

This was like  a dream, but not really, now the ball is coming fast and then there is the crowd and its noise is loud, really loud and somehow, somehow this is Big League Baseball, “The Show,” as the players call it, and you know also somehow that this is no different than a Roman Coliseum, in AD 66 and Nero is in one of the Penthouse boxes, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon, George Bush and Barak Obama and Donald Trump are in their own boxes, they aren’t friends or anything, they are just there, and since a professional baseball game in the Roman Coliseum, seems implausible, it is no less so, that they would be there, but it would be for completely different reasons.

The heat is unbearable, but you are running—hard and fast, like you’ve never ran before, but somehow you can watch the whole thing, the catcher has angrily thrown off his mask, and somehow you can see that he is missing teeth, and recognize his grin as coming from a skull, rather than a live human, you can see this and that the Umpire has sweat pouring off him and soaking through the black uniform, in the hot August heat of a Midwest stadium, but for some reason it’s really L.A. although it’s not a Dodgers game, and somehow, you know, know somehow, that if you are thrown out you’ll die, how you know this fact, you don’t know and moments before you didn’t think this was so, and then you ask yourself why? “Why haven’t I accepted Him, as the truth, I’ve always known He was the truth.”

So this has all become like a movie and then you remember you saw Jesus sitting in the dugout as the Manager, with his arms crossed as this all began, but when you started to run, He started waving you in, and hollering “RUN!” and suddenly He’s not just a story about the truth, or a good chance at being true but, He himself, a mere 130 feet away in this allegory, or in reality the immediacy of your own heart, which is the core of your being, you see He is really the truth incarnate, and you know Him, he’s always been there telling you how to play the game right, and you realize the stories of the Bible are not so much the truth, as the truth about the Truth, and Jesus Christ is the Truth! and you can actually see this Truth in his eyes and that He’s smiling at you, and there are tears in his eyes, and you suddenly know that, and accept that, and though you can see that the ball is actually ahead of you, and the catcher is about to pick it out of the air to slam his mitt down on you, and you know he’s going to try to knock you back off the base line, and as he lowers his shoulder and hip to do just that, and somehow, at that moment you knew you’d accepted this truth to be true, and there was a speed, and you see in peripheral vision Jesus running toward you and onto the field and there is a quickening, a lifting of gravity a change in your form–you have gone into the slide before the ball instead of after it, as you first perceived, and again you see this, see it from about fifteen feet behind you, but now you are horizontal and your cleats are out and slashing under the catcher, and the point of your toe is heading straight under his feet, your left foot is underneath at an angle and it knocks his left foot off the base line, and he stumbles as the ball is still nine inches from his mitt, your right foot remains straight, and streaks across the diamond square of the Home plate and as incredulous as it seems, the Umpire sees all of this through the dust just exactly as you do, and in His perception is lightning fast, as you have been, you have also seen the uncrossing of his arms as they fly out as he’s crouched-down, they fly out akimbo from his chest, in that all forgiving gesture, that takes all of his body to complete, so everyone from every angle knows the outcome— all the crowd of Heaven cheers and this is done exactly at the same time your right foot had crossed that plate home, but His voice is loud enough that everyone in the stadium knows, and is in agreement and hollering, yet they can’t really hear Him scream, but somehow they do inside themselves, as you have heard the shouted confirming proclamation of “SOZO!”saved, then you know it is because of the Manager you were running, it was because of the Manager you had made it to third base, and you knew, that you knew that you knew it was because of what the Manager had accomplished ‘on a hill far away,” long ago that you began to run! Salvation comes generally much less dramatically than this—but it is this big of deal.

Then despite the big deal it seems, we can go quietly along, having been saved, saved from the hell-fire, whatever that is, and   future of it and from the present of our own negative emotional chains to ourselves, some of us put off the setting free of our spirit man, put off the close, and unending relationship with our Creator, Who is our Father and Jesus, He is also Jesus, our friend and manager, and then when we put off this real relationship with Jesus, then we put off the Holy spirit, who dwells inside us either dynamically or hiding and in wait of this awakening.

To call oneself a Christian and then miss out on so much, the Manager who came from a manger so long ago, that people who don’t know, or have forgotten and have begun in our own formerly Christian culture to buy into a lie, and to begin to now count it myth, the postmodern furtherance of the lie, is that it is a myth, rather than the reality that now yes it is an operative myth but it is a myth that is living and  True!

So, this  is really the power behind the truth that the Truth walked on earth as a man—the God who is there! Yes, this truth is from another world and this is the first Contact from that other world. It is tangible, it is the great blessed reality of inter-dimensional transference and blending of what is Spirit—matter, the matter of the Spirit being our own salvation, the Greek dictionaries tell me it’s at once the Greek verb sozo, and a noun, soteria, salvation, what we have religiously, as others would speak of us, in a third person conversation as to a bureaucrat about the state of our eternal souls.

Mostly this is just statistical paperwork about the game while others are playing the game! Or, the lack of this salvation becomes our undoing, as does our failure to grasp the immediacy of the Savior Himself, who will never leave us. How we accept this, or neglect it means everything. “Sozo!” Perhaps we’re better off with the verb, leaving the noun to the theologians. Wrap this altogether and it means, Saved, Healed, and Delivered.  So there is a huge problem for the church in its present state, in the healing part and delivering this across the base for an abundant life.

In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” The thief sponsors the endless hand-wringing trouble of wanting to take the noun out and polish it like a car; rather than go for a drive in this sleek vehicle that someone else steers. Easily and religiously, Churchmen examine and proclaim it, suddenly is not polished-just-right, or a spot was missed, or an argument breaks out over what color it really is, or some have the noun, but others think really they have been misled and it’s an adjective and nothing more, and some on the fringe want to tell us it is no person, is no place it is no thing. That the call of “SAFE!” was made, and the game is won, “it is finished,” is everything, and there is a definite moment in time that He did this for each of us, for the Christian, Jesus is a person, the Kingdom of God is a place, Heaven is a real thing, Jesus taught us to pray, “On earth as in Heaven,” this Kingdom is to come, and is our home and Jesus in scripture tells us He is our sustenance, our daily bread!

Keys were given to each one of us, as we made our decision for Him. Whether it was an alter call in church, or a quiet moment traveling along in a car when we just finally accepted it for the truth, embraced the Creator of the universe in his human form: from history and from His presence now as our redeeming Savior. That baptism and Baptism of the Holy Spirit, communion, sanctification and much, much more follow this game winning event, is another story, or a small book of several stories, the rest of the story is our  real career, our statistics depend upon them too. So many stay outside the dugout and have only the story of the wonderful and brave slide across home plate while the rest of the team are at a banquet with the Manager. Are they saved? Of course, “SAFE!” or “SOZO!” the loud call was made in the heavens, and we are saved, but our faith then needs to make us well.  Among the pale of Christian Orthodoxy, there is a faction that believes you can lose your salvation every 15 minutes if your thoughts aren’t pure. That is not good news. And though I am no theologian I can’t accept that  is true.

We once were blind but now we see. It can’t be taken back. There is so much more, the call is just the beginning. If we do not  know we are saved it is because we have gone to sleep and forgotten the Presence of God as a memory of a person that once inhabited a now empty chair. We only need to talk to Him, and bid Him come back and sit down in our lives and do the work that He wants to. This knowing that something else is making it happen, the Holy Spirit, the great Helper, the Comforter, at work, who has so mysteriously come— and come among us, Jesus said it is better that He should go away and that the Helper should come! Think of this, Jesus said it is better that we have the Holy Spirit than Christ walking among us! If this is so and I believe it is, we most likely are missing something in many churches that do not honor His presence, but instead adhere to only the tradition of the history of His presence and a scriptural account of it.  As A.W. Tozer put it,”the error of textualism, which is simply orthodoxy without the Holy Ghost.”

The Holy Spirit is here to help make us brothers and sisters, to weld a bond between us all, in love and fellowship, proclaiming Jesus, blessed Yeshua, a bond that He will never break, even though we continue day to day in our pettiness, and mean spirits, yet we have this— our God, God of the very God living in us, that is, sometimes grieved, sometimes is pleased, He helps us, encourages us and sometimes He speaks to us, always He loves us, oh how He loves us, and blessedly never, NEVER, will He leave us. As well as reading it in scripture, I heard Him say this, once as wind whipped by me, “I will never leave you!” in an unmistakable  voice… then that wind whirled, and swept off over three miles of sand dunes on the Oregon coast with an ocean that goes all the way to China, the same ocean can be crossed in the instant of an small radio pulse to a satellite and back down, a feat thought miraculous, a mere 100 years ago. Now as there has been for 2,000 years, now there is at the same time, here about us, this Helper, that the ancients knew could do that same thing. And many of us perceive that the church does not know Him very well, or refuses to accept, His own manifest presence to reign among us now, to be the unerring Counselor, God, awesome, and true. He comes to us from outside time, a factor of the universe He created for this relationship with us, to dwell inside us, making history an amalgam of this, then He gives us time and happenstance, often a pitched war with the enemy, He is not the cause of the war or “wars and rumors of wars,” it is simply that we are on the battleground, God gives us love and hope and the cherished, desire to know our Creator. God created time and placed us in it; many mature Christian leaders do not grasp this.

When there is a war He will see us through it. We take lightly our own seemingly diminished spiritual presence. We really do this at our own peril, we can do much more than is being done. There is coming a time, when we will have to take our salvation seriously and are Sozo’d, in a manner that we begin to walk in Him. Perhaps some of us will even run! Can the reality of the day of our salvation, His presence and the present moment be the same? Will then, and perhaps only then, the world will see Him every moment, of every day–all over the planet. Perhaps through enough of us having inside us, Jesus walking, Jesus talking, Jesus listening, Jesus loving? “In the last days, God said, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2:17. It says all people, all means all, can there be a breaking point where it becomes all? If there are more believers alive on the planet now, than there are in heaven, could it be that unbelievers would spontaneously be drawn to the source, and the source would be wherever two or more are gathered in His name?

Could it be that after He’s drawn enough of us to know Him, really know Him in this manner, simultaneously at once would everyone  be Sozo’d?

I told the story of the homeless man to a Pastor friend of mine, with the homeless man’s ever abiding question of, “How do you know if you are saved?” he told me about a professor in seminary, who was the most organized person he’d ever known, he had memorized the entire bible, verse, by verse, he had every minute of his day organized, down to the minute, and a schedule recorded in an appointment book, he would allow unscheduled visits, if and only if you would accompany him between classes.  He  claimed that there was so little time left and he had so much to do for the Lord that he couldn’t waste any time. Yet, every time this almost machine like Saint would begin to talk about our precious Savior, in class or out and would begin to expound about the eternal truths of the Savior, tears would well-up in his eyes and begin to stream down his cheeks.

I related this story, from the Pastor to another Pastor friend in his office and momentarily, we both looked at each other we saw tears streaming down our cheeks. I told both these stories to the homeless man with tears running down my own cheeks—he never asked me that question again. One day the car was just gone. I would like that story to have ended as the good conclusion and Christian victory— but I don’t know what happened to him.

On Praise–C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

from Reflections on the Psalms C.S. Lewis pp.96-97

… “We are not riders but pupils in the riding school; for most of us the falls and bruises, the aching muscles and the severity of the exercise, far outweigh those few moments in which we were, to our own astonishment, actually galloping without terror and without disaster. To see what the doctrine really means, we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God–drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by, that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable, hence hardly tolerable, bliss, flows out from  us incessantly again in effortless and  perfect expression, our joy no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds. The Scotch catechism says man’s chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”