Category Archives: Musing

Light at the end of the tunnel

Coming Out of Exile

This is developed from material written for my memoir, The Lie Called Cancer, but not included in the book. (A four-minute read)

I’m a big believer in the power of language. This would seem obvious because I’m a writer and a speaker, but I mean more than simply using language for description. I want to go beyond making sense, into cultivating sensitivity. Spoken and written words do more than motivate; they carry great power to create: a mood, a feeling, an atmosphere, an attitude.

In truth, the words I speak over myself affect how I feel and what I think about.

A simple example

I’ll be 65 in a few weeks. This isn’t necessarily a remarkable thing, but it is an age where many people (far too many), speak of themselves as old or infirm. I read a Tom Clancy novel recently in which the author referred to someone 60 years old as ‘elderly’. SMH. Or as the elderly might say, ‘Tsk tsk’.

I don’t do ‘old’, I only do ‘bold’. I’m never ‘infirm’ or ‘unwell’, instead I just say that I don’t feel like I want to feel. Only people who don’t know me well would dare buy one of those birthday cards, or bring a handful of black balloons, or joke that I’m 455 in dog years.

Speaking About the Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way many of us speak, and the way some of us think. Certainly the way some of us live. New terms have entered the language, a few of which make no sense. So I don’t use them. My least favorite is the ubiquitous and useless term, ‘social distancing.’

Maintaining a greater than usual physical distance from other people or avoiding direct contact, even to prevent potential infection is not a ‘social’ activity. It’s actually ‘anti-social distancing’. Or perhaps more accurately, ‘social equi-distancing’. It smacks of the Newspeak out of George Orwell’s 1984.

Here’s another one: Lockdown. Used to be that a ‘lockdown’ was limited and temporary. An area might be ‘locked down’ for a short time while police search for a suspect. Or a school would be ‘locked down’ because someone was seen nearby with a gun. Lockdown shouldn’t mean months-long involuntary quarantine of an entire population, 96% of whom have absolutely nothing to fear.

Forget ‘lockdown’ then. Instead let’s call it ‘exile.’ Like Israel’s exile in Babylon, we were all taken away from the lives we were used to. Only in our case it wasn’t because we messed up and received promised punishment (see Deuteronomy 28). I’ll refrain from offering further criticism of government policy decisions. It’s always easy to cast blame in hindsight. None of our opinions about it matter anyway after the fact. The deal is done. It’s all over but the whining.

What’s important now is how we come out of exile. How do we re-engage with one another? This is especially important for the church to consider, not only within itself, but with its relationship to the world. Read the post-exilic books for some clues (Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi). Do we ‘build back better’ to borrow a phrase, or do we go back to the same old sins?

The leaders and prophets in these five books continued to tell the people where they were corrupt or astray, and called the few believers among them to a life of holiness. That’s the key for believers today: that we set ourselves apart and not sink into the secular post-pandemic muck that’s sure to come.

I’m particularly struck by the book of Haggai. Twice in the opening prophecy, Haggai warns us to ‘consider our ways.’ 1 The word translated ‘ways’ is the word derek, which could easily be rendered in modern idiom as ‘lifestyle.’ As the world comes out of exile, I should be careful to consider my lifestyle.

Exile is a hard, lonely and uncertain place. It’s length is unforseen. Exile can create fear and anxiety, and these can be tough to shake off. But there’s an upside to exile. Good things can come out of exile, after we re-emerge. Take heart from Jeremiah’s ‘Prayer of Confidence’.

‘The Lord says, “Now I will show them my power; now I will show them my might. At last they will know and understand that I am the Lord.” 2

If I carefully consider my ways, I’m confident this will be true. If not, it will still be true. But I won’t like it.

  1. Haggai 1:5-7
  2. Jeremiah 16:21 (NLT)

i John 1

A Matter of Life or Death

(A four minute read)

I’ve been thinking a lot about absolutism and relativism lately. Which leads naturally to thinking about life and death.

Before you nod off, know that this won’t be a Humanities 101 lecture. I won’t channel Frances Schaffer either (although he was right about many things). This is just some light musing from my frequent state of semi-confusion.

On the relative scale there is worst, worse, bad, better, good, best. On the absolute scale there is Good and then there are the rest of us. The creatures. The created ones. Since we can’t be good enough to make it There, we can’t make it anywhere. At least not after death.

Don’t worry: I’m not obsessing with death per se, even though I’m about to turn 65. It just seems like the best example because it comes to all of us.

Only the absolute scale can measure this. Either we are alive, or we are dead. There’s no room for ‘kinda dead’ or ‘sorta dead’. Even the term ‘half dead’ is only an idiom, as illogical and useless as ‘half pregnant.’

So there are things in life that must be objectified. There are absolutes. Death is one of them. What happens after death is also an absolute, but there remains a tremendous argument about what happens There.

As a Christian I believe there’s some sort of life after the death experience. It’s promised in the Bible. It also just seems logical that there should be something after the transition through death, just as there is something after the transition through birth. A transitory life that includes self-awareness is devoid of meaning unless it prepares me for something.

The well-worn ‘classroom preparation/test’ metaphor is apt here. However, if life is actually a test, then it’s wrong to call God a God of Love. More like God with a clipboard. I prefer to think that life is a choice (God’s choice), and then a series of choices by me that move me toward God or away from God.

The Eternal Problem

The key then, is which direction am I moving when I Bite the Big One?

Sooner or later, believer, agnostic or atheist, we all come face to face with a living God who created us. At least that’s what I believe. I imagine Him leaning in, not malevolently, but with kindness, and asking me, ‘So?’ Since He already knows what’s in my heart the question would seem irrelevant, except that I have free will. I’m allowed to speak.

I’ve been allowed to speak for almost 65 years now, and most of what I’ve spoken does not bear repeating; much of this I admit to, but am not proud of.

We imagine God as having a great memory – the best memory in fact. After all, He is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-seeing so must be all-remembering as well. Except He’s not. He can just as easily be all-forgetting.

The Bible has many reassurances of this. Here are two:

First, we get the bad news: ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’

Then the good news: ‘ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ 1

Bad news again, where God says, ‘you have made Me burdened with your sins; you have wearied Me with your iniquities.’ But then immediately we are stunned by, ‘I even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins.’ 2


Why? Why would God declare that sin is not acceptable in His presence but then invite us in, sin and all, and, oh – none of this makes any sense unless God truly is a loving entity, not an angry vindictive one.

It’s easy to argue that this apparent inconsistency in God’s behavior shows that He IS vindictive, because He is ‘inconsistent’. The logical fallacy that follows is that He is ‘arbitrary’. But that imprints human values on God, which doesn’t work. Human values are relative. God’s are absolute. And we don’t necessarily understand them.

I’ll argue instead that if He were vindictive He wouldn’t offer us a way out of our sinful, selfish madness.

It’s the darnedest thing. He loves me so much I got free will. Which means I can endlessly choose things He doesn’t like. But He’s not a cop; I don’t get arrested and jailed and then put on trial and executed. Not if I say I’m sorry.

That’s the way of grace. And grace must exist because free will exists in a world where sin exists. And all these are absolute.

1. 1 John 1:8-9
2. Isaiah 43:24b-25

an arrow attached to a tree

More Random Thoughts

(A five-minute read if you ponder these properly)

What if it was relationship media instead of social media?

The worst days are like run on sentences – they have no punctuation. And, even when they are done, you shake your head and wonder what just transpired.

When the lonely walk down the street, all they see is the pavement.

If you can’t enjoy, then enjoin.

It’s better to wear your heart on your sleeve than wear a sleeve over your heart.

Maybe instead of “seek and ye shall find” the quote should be “lose and ye shall find.”

He who lives by the chip shall die by the chip.

Need to deepen your relationship? Paint a picture. It lasts forever.

I just want to cerebrate.