Why do you break the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper?

It is five in the morning. Thankfully I don’t have to go to Wilmington this morning; I am feeling run-down and sick. Today shouldn’t be too hard on me, though. This morning I read in 2 Chronicles and Psalms. I use one of the Bible-reading plans through the YouVersion app. It’s a one-year plan but I have been at it for about two and a half years and am only just around 52%. So I guess it takes me five years to read the Bible. I don’t necessarily read every day, though.

I haven’t been able to exercise this week due to having a cold. I read somewhere that it’s fine to exercise with a cold as long as it’s not lodged in your chest. But when I am sick I really just want my body to concentrate on getting better: I don’t want to give it extra work. Of course, I have had something wrong with my chest for several years now — probably something related to my allergies that stokes my asthma. That was why I originally went to see an allergist in Delaware, and then a pulmonologist here in North Carolina. After several assessments and tests, neither of those doctors could tell me what is wrong, other than that I have asthma and allergies, which wasn’t news to me. Sikki is after me to return to an allergist down here and continue trying to find out what causes my frequent coughing.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

I slept badly last night and awoke all achy and foggy-minded. I think I have caught the cold that’s been making its way around the heads in this household. I didn’t exercise or read the Word this morning. I drank a little coffee but felt like going back to bed. I’ve been in a weird mood all day and didn’t eat much. Thankfully no one asked me to do anything too labor-intensive during my time in the wilderness. I listened to NPR mostly while in the car. All the news is of ISIS and politics and race clashes and gun violence. The world is in a state of decay. I don’t understand people who feel the need to stay glued to the news cycle; the “news” should be called “happenings again.” It is all vanity and there are only individual souls in the Final Day: I am interested in the individuals who like me will stand naked and alone before the throne of God when the books are opened.

It rained in the morning but the sun came out around 9 or 10. It is supposed to be clear the rest of the week. But I still feel under the weather. What should I do with the rest of this evening? I have some clothes to fold. I suppose I could listen to the pastor’s sermon online since we didn’t make it to church on Sunday. I don’t feel like being entertained. I need some quiet time in the presence of God because I feel spiritually and physically off-balance. The world makes me feel dirty: I need the washing of the water of the Word. Tomorrow is my busy day at work. Perhaps I will just go lie down.

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.

We missed church yesterday because most of us are feeling sick. I spent some time watching a documentary about St Augustine and did some reading, but overall I felt poorly yesterday, too. Sikki is really not well and is planning to go to the doctor this morning. I’m trying to figure out if I should call out from work today in order to help her here at the house.

Read in 2 Chronicles again this morning. In Chapter 20 we have the account of Moab and Ammon coming against Jehoshaphat, King of Judah. Jehoshaphat was a man of prayer. I was struck this morning by the fact that God could have just zapped the enemy from heaven. Which He did, but He still commanded the people to “go down against them, stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf.” They couldn’t stay home. They had to go out and see the massive horde. They went out singing, and came back hauling spoil.

It is a principle of faith that faith is not mere belief or acquiescence to the truth: it requires action. It isn’t true faith until it has muscle behind it, though the strength of faith is not the muscle. I’m sitting here trying to think of a single exception in the Word, of a situation where God didn’t require some kind of human action — willingness and obedience — to enact His purpose and plan. What a strange God. It is a mystery that God chooses to work through and with obedient human instruments, when He doesn’t need us and could do everything Himself if He preferred. What does it say about Him that He includes us, partners with us, comes into the yoke and bears the burden with us?

EDIT: I ended up taking the day off because Sikki is so sick. Thinking I’ll make another video today at some point. But first I need to get Ryan ready for school and do some cleaning in the house. Had the idea to maybe spend some time on my Youtube channel doing a study of the various kings of Israel and Judah. I like that the heroes of the Bible have their many faults listed right along with their victories.

You satisfy our longing, and we long for you still.

Thus the soul is unfaithful to you, when it turns away from you and seeks outside you the things it cannot find in pure and unmixed form until it returns to you. All who forsake you and set themselves up against you, are acting in perverse imitation of you; but by their very imitation they confess that you are the creator of all that is, and hence that there is nowhere at all where they can go from you. — Augustine, The Confessions

I’ve been reading through Augustine’s Confessions for the first time. I was thrilled to read the above expression because years ago I arrived at the conclusion that most sin (I would not say “all”) is the attempt of mankind to return to God, to build a tower up to heaven. Drink and drugs simulate spiritual ecstasy. One night stands and adulterous affairs emulate the love of God expressed in friendship and covenant marriage. Gluttony takes the place of receiving the body and blood of Christ. Entertainment robs us of eternal perspective.

Who can unravel this twisted bundle of knots and tangles? It is repugnant; I do not wish to see it or think of it. It is you that I want, O God, Righteousness and Integrity, fair and lovely, a beacon of goodness. You satisfy our longing, and we long for you still. In you there is rest and life untroubled. Those who enter into you enter their master’s joy; all is perfect for them in you, the Perfect One. I abandoned you, my God, and went astray; in my youthfulness I wandered from your upholding arms and became to myself a land of famine. — from the end of Book Two.

When Rehoboam was established and strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD.

Yesterday afternoon Sikki went to pick up a little puppy that an acquaintance needed to give away. The puppy was owned by an older lady with growing health problems who is married to a man subject to angry outbursts — apparently he may have beaten the dog when it peed on the floor or whatever. The lady, realizing she was unable to give the dog proper training because of her physical condition, contacted me on Facebook and sent a picture of the dog, asking if I knew of anyone who might want him. I forwarded the text to my wife and her first response was, “That dog is ugly…lol.”

Imagine my surprise that she later said, “He’s so ugly he’s cute.” I wondered allowed if that kind of sentiment was how she ended up going out with me way back when. Anyway, she then took initiative to contact the lady and brought the dog home last night. The people who owned him were calling him “Tater,” but I have named him “Trevor.” He is five months old, and weights five pounds.

We bought Rebekah a dog when she was a young girl and named her Maggie. She is very pretty, though she sheds terribly. She has been in our family for most of my children’s memory. But Sikki has always complained about Maggie’s hair being everywhere.

This new dog is a Chihuahua/Poodle mix. I hate Chihuahuas, so hopefully the poodle side will prevail. Since the dog may have been abused, he is very skittish and afraid of people.

Gizmo

Last night over dinner we had a conversation about anger, about people who are prone to sudden fits of rage and outbursts over minor things. I think the root of that kind of visible, disconcerting anger is unforgiveness — people choose to carry around the slights and woundings they have received, perpetually feeling the injustice, unfairness and hurt, rather than releasing all of it to God. My father was one of those people: as a child I was often terrified and helpless at the receiving end of his rage. He refused to forgive his father. My Grandpa Hobbs died on Thanksgiving Day in 2005 and my dad followed him into eternity three days later. There is a reason we are commanded to forgive people — it is not an option for a believer. Because failure to obey Jesus in this regard shuts us in to a prison of our own making: we can never get close to people, never love, never feel like we are loved.

This morning I read in 2 Chronicles. The story of Rehoboam is one of the saddest and most telling of what happens when we succeed and forget about God. It is a Saturday in man’s measurement of time.

Life: We Learn By Doing

Spent some time in the Word this morning before I headed out for a jog. Normally I don’t see any other people in the wee hours of the morning on Holden Beach, but there were a couple old guys out walking their dogs in the darkness of Brunswick Ave. I didn’t have to go to Wilmington like I do on most Thursday mornings, so I got my workday completed pretty quickly. Sikki and I went to the DMV this afternoon to switch our old Suburban’s license plates over to North Carolina: it’s had the old Delaware tag all this time and that tag expires tomorrow. It is the last visible vestige of our Delaware life.

I got a shower after we got home and have been working on crude notes for another video. The thought occurred to me this morning that I would like to make a couple videos for the sake of my kids where I discuss how to read the Bible. I never received any training on how to read the Bible. I started making myself available to it when I was about 15, opening to read and taking it slow. The Lord began to speak to me through His Word when I spent time searching with an open heart. So maybe all I can do for my children is point them in the right direction, since the entire process of going to the Word is supposed to be experiential, active, and engaged. Like prayer, we learn by doing.

For the moment all discipline seems painful…

…rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. — Hebrews 12:11

It is a Tuesday and has been raining steadily since early this morning. Many of the roads are flooded, as is our backyard. I got home from work a few minutes ago and put a load of laundry in. My wife and the little kids are at a trampoline park in Wilmington. The bigger kids are at home because they got into trouble by not finishing their assigned schoolwork in the past few days. For many years Sikki and I been frustrated in motivating the kids to do their schoolwork. They are too big for spankings. When I get off the computer, I will speak to them about the discipline of fathers & the discipline of God, which the writer of Hebrews discussed. I pray for my children every day.

If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!

EDIT, 2 HOURS LATER: My younger daughter has a stubborn streak. I felt like I talked with her until my face was blue and she was still unrepentant, proud, and unbending. I was so frustrated I got up and went to my room. In my room, I prayed because I am worried about her in particular, because she is so enamored by the world and all that glitters. I worry that she will be deceived. I told God I don’t know what to do, what to say. I feel like I have fished all night and caught nothing. I opened the Word while I was still praying and read Psalm 102. Its last verse says:

The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.

I am encouraged. The Lord is a God of knowledge.

I did not love what I hoped to gain by rebellion; it was rebellion itself that I loved.

My mother called this morning while we were on the way to church and said Keith and she would be visiting on the weekend of the 19th of this month. I took that Thursday and Friday off to make a four-day weekend. My brother is also planning to visit since he is off from work at the same time, through Thanksgiving. I’m not sure my sister will be able to come with her family, though, since she is pregnant and will be due to deliver somewhere around that time.

My brother and sister both live in New Bern, NC, with their families. It’s roughly two and half hours north of where we live. My mother moved to the New Bern area many years ago with her second husband, a man named John Arliss. Mr Arliss was a boat-builder and had built the very craft he lived on; my mother lived with him on the boat. Mr Arliss was an ignorant, independent man — the kind of man who should never get married, or maybe just the kind of man all men are when they are young (which he wasn’t). Some people never really grow up. Anyway he was abusive to my mother and little brother.

After their divorce, my mother moved to Elmira, NY, where my aunt lives. We all visited my mother once in Elmira. I don’t remember much about the experience except that we visited Mark Twain’s grave and Niagara Falls while we were there. (Niagara was a bad idea. I think it was January. Ice particles froze to our faces instantly from the mist in the air.)

From Elmira, my mother moved back to NC — this time to Kernersville where her present husband Keith lived. They attended a bible school in Jacksonville, FL, for a couple of years but just recently moved back to Kernersville. So for the first time since the early 90s my close family members all live within the borders of the same state. And still we rarely see each other.

After church today I made a short video and posted it to YouTube. I felt like taking a nap, but the clocks fell back an hour last night and I want to get my body adjusted to the new schedule so I forced myself to stay up. I read some in the Word and the Confessions of St Augustine. I declared I wanted to go for a walk on the beach around 5 or so, and everyone ended up going. It was low tide and near sunset and really gorgeous. I walked up to my knees in the water. It was cold but not intolerable, and it was so clear I could see every little hermit crab and fish. We came home and Jess cooked dinner and now I am feeling tired.

Augustine, in his Confessions perhaps first discovering his doctrine of Original Sin:

There was a pear tree in the orchard next to ours, laden with pears, but not ones especially appealing either to the eye or the tongue. At dead of night, after messing around on some empty plots in our usual insalubrious manner, a group of us young delinquents set out, our plan being to shake the tree and make off with the pears. We carried off a vast haul of them – but not in order to feast on them ourselves; instead, we meant to throw them to the pigs. And though we did eat some of them, we did so only for the pleasure we had in tasting forbidden fruit. Such was my heart, O God; such was my heart, on which you showed your pity in the depths of the abyss. Let my heart now tell you what its purpose was; why I was gratuitously evil, and why there was no reason for my evil save evil itself. My evil was loathsome, and I loved it; I was in love with my own ruin and rebellion. I did not love what I hoped to gain by rebellion; it was rebellion itself that I loved. Depraved in soul, I had leapt away from my firm foothold in you and cast myself to my destruction, seeking to gain nothing through my disgrace by disgrace alone.