First time for “no Mom”

Our mother, Betty, finished her walk through the valley of the shadow of death on the morning of December 11 2018, and entered the Paradise of God immediately thereafter. She missed her 96th birthday by two days. And then her 96th Christmas; and New Year’s Celebration; and on it goes, the end of an era.

Every special occasion and holiday is now “a first” for all of us kids, and Memorial Day is now one such occasion. In times past we’d usually have a barbeque, often in mom’s back yard sitting on the patio where Kays family tradition evolved over the decades. The chatter in the shade of the patio was usually politics, family, and work, with a heavy dose of sports news, trivia and prediction. As the years rolled by it was not uncommon to haze newcomers and short-timers who were initiated into the family, or who passed through as part of their own life’s journey.

But, now, every holiday and special occasion is different. Mom is no longer the “go-to guy” (in a manner of speaking) and the house a 1212 Macy is no longer our home. We’re scattered all across the country living different lives in different places. So, I’m thinking that each of us kids has their own thoughts about family on days like this. And, every first birthday after mom’s death will mark an unusual first for each of us. She always sent a card and typically made a phone call to each of her children on the day that marked that child’s birth.

Except for her last year. Mom wasn’t really tracking time well. Months on end spent in a elder care facility will do that to you. Yesterday is today is tomorrow, and last month might as well have been last year. So, there were no calls or cards in 2018. And they were missed. I remember that mom’s call to me often would include a serenade of “Happy Birthday” replete with the chorus-ending “And many more . . . ” So, good memories. And that will have to do from now on.

I know from your Facebook posts and Tweets that some of you walked through that valley with a parent, spouse, or loved on in the past year or so. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Like me, you may have picked-up the grilling goods at Albertson’s or T-Joe’s earlier today, and you’ve got the ‘que fired-up right now. In a little while you’ll be chowin’ down and maybe enjoying a cold one with the people you love. Only, the party got smaller by one or two this year. So, there’s no avoiding how that feels today—odd; weird; sad; glad; surreal—and how it will feel on your next birthday or anniversary.

This one thing I know, though. My mother, Betty, is with us today and every other holiday—because we won’t let her not be with us. We won’t hear her voice, see her face, or turn down “seconds” for the third time in the last 40 minutes. But, she’s here because we’re bringing her here on our words in the family folklore that now includes her (just as in times past she spun the tales that included those distant faces long passed).

So, it’s a good day, even though we’re a bit shorthanded today. For the first time. Still, we say, “Thanks for the Memories”. It was a heckuva ride, Mom.

No glass ceiling in God’s world

Galations 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I absolutely love what the Apostle Paul wrote under inspiration concerning major areas of divide in the ancient world. But, make no mistake, the same categories of inequality persist in every age because the hearts and minds of humanity are not able to conceive an end to such evils.

But, God ended them through the Person of Jesus, the Christ.

Neither Jew nor Greek
Those were the two broad categories (or types) of people from the perspective of the Jews of antiquity. One was either a Jew or not a Jew. The term Greek simply indicates someone from “the nations” (or of non-Jewish ethnicity). The phrase sounds very “nationalistic” to our civilized 21st century Western ears. But, it serves Paul well as he begins to reveal the truth of the all-encompassing unity that God delivered in Christ.

Neither Slave nor Free
Again, two broad categories describing everyone living at that time. One was either a slave—bond servant or otherwise—or one was not. So, hence, “slave” or “free”. But, God eradicated this humanistic distinction in the person of Jesus Christ. True, followers of Christ were described as being “bond servants” in relation to Messiah Jesus. However, they were previously “set free” in order to willingly and voluntarily take up this role.

Neither Male nor Female
This statement would have been both unprecedented and shocking in the time of Christ. Women had virtually no standing in cultures around the globe, and only slightly more standing in the Jewish world. But, the inequality was nonetheless glaring (described as “misogyny” in our time). Again, God smashes human constructs and introduces an “equality” heretofore unknown and, sadly, mostly lacking in every culture and era since the time of Christ.

But, here’s the good news. Jesus Christ erased all man-made distinctions and limitations. The God who created the heavens and the earth has shattered our “glass ceilings”, shredded our “caste systems”, and stripped away “identity politics”. Simply put concerning the mirage of social constructs, there’s no there there for those who are “in Christ Jesus”.

Ironically, in our generation—characterized by possibly greater divisiveness than any other era—the Answer to “inequality” remains the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Sick and tired of all of these humanly derived categories and constructs? Maybe it’s time for a “come to Jesus” moment. After all, it was Jesus who said to us, “Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Maybe it’s time to give it all a rest. Partisanship, posturing, identity bending, ladder climbing, race baiting, pandemic hating. Give it a rest and come to the Savior. Because, the Rest is up to Him.

God’s offer to you:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

—John 3:16

What I believe about Jesus

Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa

Heard folks joking about Easter this morning, and about having a ‘free pass/E-Ticket’ into Heaven based on religious affiliation. It was light-hearted workplace banter and drew some laughter. But, to me it was jarring, and although I didn’t let my face betray my gut feeling, I looked all around the gathering of people (a formal team meeting) wondering/hoping there might be one or two who would want to know the truth about what Believers are contemplating/celebrating during ‘Easter’ season.

So, here it is, on the chance that it might enter the right eye-gate.

God came down from Heaven and cloaked Himself in a human body. He remained fully God while simultaneously being fully human, minus a sin nature.

His name was/is Jesus, and His mission was to restore all things–by seeking and saving that which was lost (i.e., us).

Jesus never sinned, had no sin nature, and therefore was not subject to death (i.e., the wages of sin). He was/is the perfect Son of God (i.e., the Express image of God on earth).

His whole purpose on ‘that day’ some 2,000 years ago, was to trade places with all humanity–that is, to take my place … to take your place … as the recipient of the ‘wages of sin’ (i.e., death) on our behalf.

If you’re a sports fan, perhaps an analogy is helpful. In effect, Jesus said/says to all of us,

“You give Me your life, and I’ll give you Mine.”

It’s s the greatest ‘trade’ in the history of eternity, bar none. In that it happened long ago, you and I were the proverbial ‘players to be named later’ in that deal. And, that is amazing!

Long before you and I existed, God demonstrated His Love for us in that while we were still His enemies (we would one day be born sinners with a sin nature), Christ died for us (i.e., in our place–remember the ‘trade’!).

On the cross all those years ago, Jesus, the perfect Man, paid a debt He didn’t owe (ours), on behalf of those who owed a debt they could not pay (us; with a sin nature, our shed blood would affect no change in the verdict rendered in Roman’s 3: 23–‘The wages of sin is death’).

Here’s the Good News. Though Jesus stepped into our corporate place as The Convicted and did indeed die on a Roman cross two millennia ago, because He–Himself–was/is without sin, He was not subject to death. Death could not hold Him down–so He is RISEN!

The resurrection is proof that Jesus was not just ‘a man’ AND that God in Heaven accepted His payment in blood as sufficient to pay-for AND restore ALL things.

Restore ‘what’ things?

Restore ‘US’ things!

How does Jesus do this?

When any one of us becomes a ‘whosoever’!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that ‘whosoever’ believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life.”

That is, by believing that Jesus died in our place, for our sins–and that He has the power to give eternal life to those who receive Him–we are also set free from the power of Sin and death. In a very real sense, we become like Jesus (not God. But clothed in His righteousness).

It’s just as if Jesus “did” our sinful living, and we “did” His righteous life. Talk about a trade!

Today, Friday, we reflect on the kind of Love that would … engineer such an exquisite deal that favors us in every way, is completely freely offered to us … but at a staggering Cost to Him!

And come Sunday morning, the first day of the week, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Because we believe that Jesus accomplished exactly what He set out to do:

–to seek and save the lost;
–to set captivity free;
–to give us newness of life;
–to ensure for us hope for tomorrow today;
–to destroy all man-made divisions/distinctions;
–to make us co-chairs with Him for the Kingdom of God;

And, to task us with sharing the incredibly Good News of God’s offer of Peace through a direct relationship with Him through Jesus.

If you do not know these things, you can know them right now. No fancy prayers required. No earthly priest or pastor required. No seminary education required. No money, skill, talent, or political connections required!

“Whosoever calls on the name of the LORD (Jesus) shall not be put to shame.”

“Call to Me and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know.”

“Come, let’s reason together. Thought your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow.”

Who can know Jesus?
You can know Jesus!

Step outside, or into a phone booth for a private chat with the One who can set you free from death and separation from Him. Talk to Jesus and take Him up on his offer of peace with God.

Do it now … and remember in this day and every other day … Jesus’ arms are spread wide waiting to embrace ‘whosoever’ … to embrace ALL who come to Him for life.

<ixoye>< Tetelestai. He IS risen. Indeed.

For cryin’ out loud, the APA is teary-eyed!

Clan fans are ready

Recently the American Psychological Association created a slick marketing campaign decrying masculine stereotyping as a major social issue. So, I visited the APA website and viewed their Boys don’t cry video on YouTube.

After I finished rolling my eyes all the way around the inside of my head, I decided to weigh-in with the executive floor of the APA about their BDC campaign:

APA–

I rarely respond to marketing ploys, but for your “Boys don’t cry” campaign I’m making an exception.

From the title to the cunning dialog running over gender-and-racially crafted imagery, the BDC premise is simply flawed. All evidence indicates that every human male is physiologically and emotionally equipped to cry. And, my observations indicate that “boys” cry when it is contextually appropriate: When they’are sad or hurt; when disappointments mount up; at the death of a friend or loved one; when the Crimson Tide are crushed by the Tigers. And, sometimes, “just because.”

My sense is that APA is trying to become culturally/politically relevant by navigating the swift flow of mainstream group-think in 2019 America. For their part, feminists are no longer satisfied with establishing legitimate criteria for social redress. Like bullies of every ilk and every age, a feminist sub-culture now seeks to coerce others into “agreement” by any means necessary. And, so, the APA made a decision to pony-up to the bar and swill their Kool-aid.

From my very male perspective, this kind of agenda-mongering and moral capitulation by an otherwise to-be-respected entity is something to cry about.

Suggestion for the APA: Stick to reproducible hard science and factual data, and leave slick and manipulative marketing to second-tier ad agencies hard-up for a buck. You do yourselves a disservice by wading into the murky waters of social engineering on a moth-eaten raft of “good intentions.”

Respectfully . . .

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to find some Kleenex.

96*

Betty’s 95th birthday.

Thursday, December 13, marks mom’s 96th birthday. God willing, I’ll be with her on that day, though the celebrating is likely to be low-key. Mom is confined to bed and sedated to mitigate pain and to control agitation. Still, if the milestone is reached, we will celebrate. Perhaps with a Hershey’s kiss. At this point, it’s the little things.

Mom and I talked often about “what comes next” for those who trust in Christ for salvation. Her time of reckoning came in the mid-seventies when the mother of my high school girl friend shared the gospel of Jesus which led to her (and my dad) receiving Christ as Savior soon afterward. Many of our talks in recent years have revolved around the central truth-claims of the Savior. Mom knows that her inherent sin, and her personal sins, were paid-for on the cross by the second Adam (Jesus) who was a proxy for us in this matter.

It is good now—given mom’s limited verbal capacity—that these conversations happened then. I can remind her of them. I can pray for her. But, the future for mom was sealed in the valley of decision some decades ago. What’s happening to her now is what was foretold in the Garden of Eden millennia ago. Mom is walking out the curse in the valley of the shadow of death—the appointed final steps taken by every person.

But, she knows that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. So, as heartbreaking as the current scene is to observe, the end thereof is a major promotion. Mom gets to trade-in a decaying body that cannot get out of this thing alive. In return, she immediately enters a home prepared for her by the God who created the universe. She will have a different kind of body. Imperishable, to use the biblical term.

That’s very good news, at this very perishable moment.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. —John 14:1‭-‬6 NKJV

As I write this, mom is struggling mildly against some unforeseen thoughts flashing on the inner walls of her mind. I answer her if an answer seems called-for. But, mostly—like my brothers and sisters and family friends—I simply sit. And watch. And stroke her brow. And wipe her mouth. And pray.

What am I praying for at this point? That should be fairly obvious in light of the promises noted above and mom’s condition here below. Even so, I find comfort recalling the words of a friend describing his own mother’s walk through the same valley some years ago:

I know that God works in mysterious ways; so He must have had a reason for keeping Mom here [with Alzheimer’s] all these years. I don’t know what it is, but He must have had a reason; so I’m going with that

That is a profound truth. And, although the circumstances of my mother’s struggle are somewhat different, nevertheless I’m going with “that” as well.

_____
* I wrote the above piece on Monday evening, December 10, from mom’s care facility room. When it was time to go home I prayed over her, kissed her on the forehead, and departed. She was sleeping peacefully.

My wife just received a call from my brother. Mom entered into the rest of her eternity at 6:57 a.m., this morning (December 11). God has answered our prayers and mom’s birthday celebration will now be in Heaven.

We will miss you, Betty A. Kays.

ADDENDUM: A memorial service will be held on Friday, December 21, at Rose Hill’s Mortuary in Whittier. The service will begin at 11 a.m.

A God of Promises

God is in the business of comforting the brokenhearted. I know this because my family’s hearts are breaking right now. Our mother is in steep decline and her time on this earth is not long. True, only the Father knows the day and the hour. But, by all appearances, days is the hopeful prognosis and hours the more realistic.

Today it poured in Southern California (the place where it has been said that “it never rains”). I arranged to leave work early and visit mom from mid-afternoon into the evening—a time when she struggles with fear and agitation. As if to match the circumstances, the heavens dumped on me as I walked to my car in the company lot. And the rain continued for most of my south-to-north drive across the county.

But, then the sky to the West lightened and the sun’s golden rays broke through a hole in the gray. It was actually breath-taking, and I had to remember that I was driving and not sunset-watching. By the time I arrived at the care facility parking lot, a full-arc rainbow covered the eastern sky, seemingly blanketing the city of Yorba Linda.

Hard not to believe in a God of Promises when the His covenant-sign of promise appears in full splendor and total glory above the soggy mess down here.

And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. —Genesis 9:12‭-‬15

I told mom about the rainbow, but she was not able to understand my words. Nevertheless, seeing that bow arc across the sky was a powerful encouragement. Though the rain soon continued and a cold wind followed, God chose that particular moment to remind me that He has not forgotten us in the middle of a very personal storm.

Time-off is time well spent

After an extended period of work without a break, Vicki and I decided to slip the crush of Orange County for the sprawl of the Carolinas. We arrived just after Hurricane Florence to find the Charlotte, Hendersonville, and Clemson areas relatively unscathed (though somewhat wet).

Thanks to the hospitality of family and friends—and the beauty of region—our visit was a boatload of fun:

Nearly three weeks in to this adventure, we’re about ready to return to general reality. But, this trip primed-the-pump for envisioning a future minus alarm clocks, cubicles, and sales quotas.

That light at the end of the tunnel? It may be a North Carolina sunset.

What’s it like to visit Clemson for a football game?

SEPTEMBER 29, 2018—Clemson, South Carolina | For many years I’ve dreamed of getting to Clemson Memorial Stadium (the original “Death Valley” . . . sorry LSU) for a Tiger game. Vicki and I have visited the campus/stadium on two previous occasions, but it was only this past Saturday that we actually had tickets for the game.

And, what a game it was.

The rising-star Syracuse Orange (4-0) pressed the 4th-ranked Clemson Tigers to the brink on a sun-soaked, balmy afternoon. Freshmen QB, Trevor Lawrence, left the game in the second quarter after sustaining a blow to the head. Backup Chase Brice and running back Travis Etienne led Clemson to a come-from-behind 27-23 victory before the relieved Tiger faithful.

We’re glad the Tigers won, but for Vicki and me the thrill was in the experience. We drove in from North Carolina leaving plenty of time for the inevitable traffic jam entering the campus (we were not disappointed). Once on site, we trammed half-way to the stadium (over a mile from regular parking lots) and then walked the rest of the way with a herd of orange/purple clad fans headed for the gate.

The Clemson campus is very picturesque and runs gently down an undulating decline toward Frank Howard Memorial Stadium, which overlooks the Seneca River to the north. There are lots of trees and grassy areas—on this day filled with “tailgaters” of various sophistication. The larger gatherings had the requisite barbeque/grill, tables, chairs, popups, ice chests, bean-bag games. And, flat panel TVs on which to watch the game (for those who were not entering the stadium).

Our tickets were in nosebleed territory, but actually there are no bad seats in Memorial Stadium. So, while very elevated, our position on the south 25 yard line was fine.

But, September in South Carolina goes out like a staked vampire and on this day that was the case. Once the cloud cover and gentle breeze abandoned us, we had to head for the concourse (beneath the upper seating) where there was food, snow cones, and blessed shade. We watched most of the third quarter from this vantage point.

And, up until the end of the third quarter, the Tigers actually looked more like Northwestern, circa 1975. Slow, lethargic, missing plays (except the defense, which was crisp throughout). We thought they were going to take a ‘L’ and therefore, began the slow descent to campus level. But, as we made our way across campus, the crowd would let out a roar and we would stop at the nearest tailgate party to watch the action on the big screen.

Although it would have been great to stay inside Memorial Stadium for the finish, our walk-and-watch strategy actually got us out of the parking lot just as the Tigers were embracing their come-from-behind victory.

We were well on our way toward Brevard, NC, when the Tiger hoard fired-up their vehicles and headed for the streets.

All in all, a great experience for us. But if you go, a few tips:

  • If it’s a day game before mid-October, pay-up for mid-level loge seats (probably next-to-impossible to get). If you can score shade, you’re golden
  • If its a night game, stay in town (the roads are pitch-black after dark, and you’re basically in the middle of no where). But, be advised—local hotels/motels are booked solid way in advance, so plan accordingly
  • If you can’t get tickets, get to the campus anyway and barter your way into one of the many tailgate groups scattered under the trees across the campus.
  • If shunned by the tailgaters, head for the wooden bench under the trees just across the street from the peristyle end of the stadium. If you snag this bench, you can watch the game on the stadium big-screens (which are more than adequate for this super-economical game-viewing strategy)

And, bring earplugs for the kids. The Decibelometer in the stadium peaked at 110 during the Syracuse game. #LOUDasHECK

So, when should an accuser be believed?

Today’s Senate Judiciary Committee circus (i.e., the interrogation of Brett Kavanaugh and the accommodation of Christine Blasey Ford) confirmed just one thing: Moral justice is a vapor within a culture absent a righteous foundation.

Stepping back from the political circus surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination process, we should revisit that which was codified by the righteous One specifically to circumvent the human propensity for subterfuge, conspiracy, collusion, and vengeance.

“You must not convict anyone of a crime on the testimony of only one witness. The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

So simple and unarguably true. A common-sense standard and rule of application for any criminal and/or civil investigation. So, why is it not being employed by a people self-declared as “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all”?

At the conclusion of today’s supposedly clarifying testimony, there remained but a single witness against Justice Kavanaugh in the matter at hand. There were no new revelations supporting the accuser’s allegations. Finally, witnesses and testimony supporting the Blasey Ford version of the matter were not produced.

So, in accordance with the moral precept presented above—and no matter how compelling and socially relevant an accusation may be—there simply must be clear and corroborative testimony in order to determine the veracity of an allegation.

Ironically, it was Justice Kavanaugh who summarized senate democrats’ malfeasance in executing their duty concerning the confirmation process by characterizing their strategy as one of “search and destroy” rather than “advise and consent.” In case you missed the hearing, Lindsey Graham agreed with Kavanaugh.

Nevertheless, in the current confirmation, I fear that the democrats may succeed in their unrighteous crusade. And even if they do not, the handwriting is on the wall: No life will be safe in a “single-sayer” adjudication model.

#BeAfraidAmerica

Da Good Shepherd

I’ve been looking at digital commentaries for some studies in the Psalms. Then I remembered being told about Da Hawai’i Pidgin Bible. So I found the Pidgin Bible site which presents the 23 Psalm in a way most of us have not considered before.

Enjoy.

Da Boss Above, he take care me,
Jalike da sheep farma take care his sheeps.
He goin give me everyting I need.

He let me lie down wea da sweet an soft grass stay.
He lead me by da water wea I can rest.

He give me new kine life.
He lead me in da road dat stay right,
Cuz I his guy.

Now, dat’s da kine voshun mek me tink bout Da Boss ina hole nu lite. Dass right!