Today, Ellie and I were moved and encouraged by an ancient message we were blessed to read. This excerpt taken from a second century writing is wondrously made for this very hour in which we live.

"The Shepherd of Hermas" (sometimes just called "The Shepherd") is a Christian literary work occasionally considered canonical scripture by some of the early Church fathers. Recorded in this book are five visions granted to Hermas, a former slave. This is taken from the fourth and is sub- titled: "Of the trial, and tribulation that is about to come upon men."

The lesson of this vision is first and foremost that we should cast our whole care upon Him. Should you dear reader be troubled today, please find the time alone laying upon the breast of Our Father. Dare not remove yourself until all your cares are His. Oh, He so desires this of you, dear child of God.

John and Ellie

As I was walking alone...behold somewhat like a voice answered me, Doubt not, Hermas. I began to think and say within myself, Why should I doubt, seeing I am thus settled by the Lord and have seen such glorious things?

I had gone but a little farther, brethren, when behold I saw a dust rise up to heaven. I began to say within myself, Is there a drove of cattle coming, that raises such a dust?

It was about a furlong off from me. And behold I saw the dust rise more and more, so much that I began to suspect that there was something extraordinary in it.

The sun shone a little, and behold, I saw a great beast, as it were a whale, and fiery locusts came out of his mouth. The height of the beast was about a hundred feet, and he had a head like a large earthen vessel.

I began to weep, and to pray to the Lord that he would deliver me from it. Then I called to mind the words which I had heard: Doubt not, Hermas.

Therefore, brethren, putting on a divine faith, and remembering who it was that had taught me great things, I delivered myself bodily to the beast.

Now the beast came on in such a manner, as if it could have devoured a city at once.

I came near to it, and the beast extended its whole bulk upon the ground, and put forth nothing but its tongue, nor once moved itself till I had quite passed by it.

Now the beast had upon its head four colors: first black, then a red and bloody color, then a golden, and then a white.

After I had passed by it and was gone forward about thirty feet, behold there met me a certain virgin, well adorned as if she had just come out of her bridal chamber, all in white, having on white shoes, a veil down her face, and covered with shining hair.

Now I knew by my former visions that it was the Church, and thereupon I grew more cheerful. She saluted me saying, Hail, O Man! I returned the salutation, saying, Lady, Hail!

She answering said to me, Did nothing meet you, O man? I replied, Lady, there met me such a beast as seemed able to devour a whole people, but by the power of God and through his singular mercy, I escaped it.

You escaped it well, she said, because you cast your whole care upon God, and opened your heart to him, believing that you could be safe only by his great and honorable name.

For this reason the Lord sent his angel who is over the beast...and stopped his mouth, that he should not devour you. You have escaped a great trial through your faith, and because you did not doubt for such a terrible beast.

Therefore go and relate to the elect of God the great things that he has done for you. And you will say to them that this beast is the figure of the trial that is about to come.

If therefore you will have prepared yourselves, you may escape it, if your heart be pure and without spot, and if you will serve God all the rest of your days without complaint.

Cast all your cares upon the Lord, and he will govern them. Believe in God, you doubtful, because he can do all things; he can both turn away his wrath from you, and send you help and security.

(sources Wikipedia & Cheryl)
(note: "The Shepherd" fell

out of disfavor because it's
doctrine of 'adoptionism' which
is erroneous. Still a beautiful
lesson with this visionary
account.We learn to eat the hay
and spit out the sticks)

THE ECONOMICS OF A SON ....... "Embracing Jesus as the Scapegoat "

Is there anything more beneficial in our walk, than to grow in our comprehension of the price Jesus paid at Calvary. I think not. So I am excited to share two or three blogs that have been rolling around in me for some months. They do have to do with the Cross of Christ, and in particular Jesus as the world's scapegoat. I pray you will come to love Him even more so, as you see and understand Jesus, as an innocent outcast bearing all of man's angst, abuse and sin. What an amazing God we serve and what a precious gift we find in His Son.

And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. Lev 16:21,22

He was despised and rejected by people. He was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. He was despised like one from whom people turn their faces, and we didn't consider him to be worth anything. Is 53:3

The veil had been rent and Jesus had played out the drama of the innocent scapegoat right before our very eyes. Here is the holiest, purest, most spotless man that ever lived. What does the world do?
Blister Him,
Blast Him,
Bruise Him.*

He was the outcast of all outcasts; this Son of God. This Jesus, who opened not His mouth, took upon Himself the role of the despised scapegoat as people kicked Him, mocked Him, reviled Him, spat upon Him and finally killed Him.

Through the ages this world has known a thousand Gods, but there is only One that came to rescue man as an innocent scapegoat. As a scapegoat, He came, to carry away all of man's abuse, all of man's angst and the whole of the burden of man's sin. For Loves sake the Creator became an outcast within His own creation. Surely, only on bended knee, might we ever even begin fathom this!

"Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin" Isa 53:10

The scapegoat was a goat that was driven off into the wilderness as part of the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement, in Judaism during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem. This rite is described in Leviticus 16.

Since this goat, carrying the sins of the people placed on it, is sent away to perish, the word "scapegoat" has come to mean a person, often innocent, who is blamed and punished for the sins, crimes, or sufferings of others, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes.

When used as a metaphor, a scapegoat is someone selected to bear blame for a calamity. Scapegoating is the act of holding a person, group of people, or thing responsible for a multitude of problems. Related concepts include frameup, patsy, whipping boy and fall guy.**

René Girard (1923 - ) is a French historian, literary critic, and philosopher of social science. His work belongs to the tradition of anthropological philosophy. He is the author of several books.

The Christian anthropologist Girard has provided a reconstruction of the scapegoat theory. In Girard's view, it is humankind, not God, who has the problem with violence. Humans are driven by desire for that which another has or wants (mimetic desire). This causes a triangulation of desire and results in conflict between the desiring parties. This mimetic contagion increases to a point where society is at risk; it is at this point that the scapegoat mechanism is triggered. This is the point where one person is singled out as the cause of the trouble and is expelled or killed by the group. This person is the scapegoat. Social order is restored as people are contented that they have solved the cause of their problems by removing the scapegoated individual, and the cycle begins again. Girard contends that this is what happened in the case of Jesus. The difference in this case, Girard believes, is that he was resurrected from the dead and shown to be innocent; humanity is thus made aware of its violent tendencies and the cycle is broken. Satan, who is seen to be manifested in the contagion, is cast out.

All religions, he says, even the most violent ones, are aimed toward peace. Archaic societies ritually repeat the scapegoat solution to make peace.

All human societies, from families to villages to nation states, are characterized by a tensiveness that is born of the conflict of desire. You and I want the same thing or I want it because you want it and this leads to tension, rivalry, conflict.

How do communities deal with this fact? Girard says in the course of human history there has evolved the scapegoating mechanism. A group finds a person or a group and they blame them for the crisis, they blame them for the tensiveness. What happens here is a kind of peace then reigns in the community because they have managed to vent their frustrations on this person or on this group.

But here’s the thing: it’s always an unstable peace. It’s always a phoney unity because it is predicated on violence. What will inevitably happen is violence will reassert itself and then more victims have to be found. Less this sound purely abstract, I think we can find loads of examples of this Gerardian dynamic, from the simplest and most local to the most complex and global.

Consider for a second something as simple as a coffee klatch. Here is a group of people around a table engaged in what seems to be amiable conversation. But if we are perceptive and we are honest, we’ll see that more often than not this group has formed itself around the verbal violence of gossip: "Did you hear what she did?" "Yes, I did and I heard something else. Years ago she did this." Look, we all know this from our experience. This creates an enormous cohesiveness, an enormous sense of fellowship in the group. We love to join a gossiping society. But it’s predicated upon verbal violence. Someone has been chosen as a victim and the phoney community of the group is founded upon it. Don’t we know, too, even as we join in scapegoating conversations, that the minute we leave the table we might well become the next victim.***

(SCAPEGOAT to be continued)

* Ravenhill
** Wikipedia
*** Robert Barron




"If any man thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deceived."

"I am naught, I can do naught, I have naught, and I desire naught but Jesus and His love."

Religion tries to clean up the old man, Adam, and make him presentable but alas it is an exercise born of futility and vanity. The discipline and the subduing of Adam is the ultimate in futile spiritual exercise. But Oh, how the "old man" loves to practice and pretend it can pull itself up to God by the boot straps. Someone once said, "cleaning up Adam would be like trying to make a cat into a dog. You could spend forever trying to teach that cat to "bark" but in the end that old cat will look up at you and say "Meow."

"Jesus put Adam to death on the cross, and resurrected the NEW Man! And the church has been trying to beat a dead Adam into submission ever since! I remember how I used to beat the dead man up and then on Sunday I would dress him up for church (lol). It is important to realize that the Adamic man can never ever please God."

The truth of the matter is, that Adam must die to be raised a "new creature" and in this message we want to address the "I"s in our lives which represent Adam. Hopefully we can come to see how we might finally find freedom from this spirit, which the pronoun "I" represents. An anonymous saint who signed his book "Friend of God" wrote in the fourteenth century, "For the Self, the I, the Me and the like, all belong to the Evil Spirit." Now that's tellin it like it is! And another, William Law, tells us how the cow eats the cabbage when he succinctly reports, “SELF is the whole root, branch, and tree of sin.”

Every sin is rooted in SELF and just as we accept Christ's death for sin, with each day we must accept our death to SELF. We daily take up our cross, deny our SELF and follow Him. In the simplest of terms we actually suffer the great Cross, in enduring ourselves.

Long has it been debated, what the perfect man Job might have lost when his trials and tribulations were over. Possibly these verses from Job 29 might give hint.

I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him.
I caused the widows heart to sing for joy.
I put on righteousness, and it clothed me.
I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.
I was a father to the poor: and the cause I knew not I searched out.
I brake the jaws of the wicked.
I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforted the mourners.

Do you see God in any of the verses quoted above. Maybe it was the many "I"'s that stood in Job's way, until he would be emptied, brought to naught and finally proclaim, "now mine eye seeth THEE" And you my friend, if you have been through tribulation and you are sonship material, have you not found that it wasn't til you took your thoughts and focus from "I" to "THEE" that you found solace, peace and even deliverance. For a surety that seems the pattern. "Not I, but Christ" Gal 2:20

Not too long ago a friend of mine wrote on a forum in response to one of my messages, "You know the worst enemy you will ever face is staring at you in the mirror every morn .........
O wretched man that I am."

With that, I got to thinking about who I see in mirror and I realized things had changed in my walk with Christ. Yes, the old man and Adamic nature is the enemy of my soul but it seems for some time that scoundrel has received less and less attention until he is almost forgotten. Adam is no longer my focus and the center of my world. I have learned that I become, and am whatsoever I identify and join myself with." Today it seems, I can but cry out as the martyrs did, "None but Christ, none but Christ!" There in, I believe is the progression of Christ in me, becoming All In All.

Adam with his sin moved from God-consciousness to self-consciousness and as we retrace Adam's steps back to Paradise, we move conversely. We move from self-consciousness to God-consciousness. We travel from being ego-centric to Christo-centric. In this the Adamic carnal mind gives way to the "mind of Christ" which is the God focused mind given to hearing and speaking the words of the Father and seeing and doing His works. Hear the words of the Pattern Son.

"Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works." Jn 14:10

We would be remiss and even dishonest to say we each and all, haven't suffered the "put self to death wars" that were part of God's processing. If you are like me, there was a time when there were a lot of "I"s and it seemed Satan hid behind every one of them. The battles were incessant and exhaustive. Then we, upon whom grace fell, one day finally realized we could never overcome the "I". Undone and unfinished we finally cried out for Him, the only Overcomer ever to be and ever will be. In our futility and subsequent surrender our focus changed and we learned to cast a single eye upon the One and Only Overcomer, Christ Jesus. Then came welcomed rest, as we realized it was Christ, who would overcome. We also learned the Father was more than capable in appropriating all the conditions and all the circumstances needed to gain our attentions and affections for His Son, in whom all power was given. God drags us to the place of "self death." There we are overcome as He overcomes within us. This is the simple "truth" behind becoming one with the "Overcomer." Christ Jesus does the job, we could never do, as He subdues all things, that He may fill all things. What a supernal and great task that is, and oh, the folly to think we could ever have a hand in it. Surely better to die!

For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 6:7,8, 10a,11

So, getting back to looking in the mirror and seeing the enemy. Maybe we get beyond that, as we come to the place of total surrender. Maybe we no longer look at that face, because we are so focused on the Father. A higher state has come upon us and our self-awareness has fallen away. The face in the mirror has become as a foreigner, little known and holding the identity of one long forgotten. Surely, this is progress!

Oh my, the battles were certainly there when we were young. When a thousand "I"s stood up ready to both help and hinder God in His transforming work. Little did we know that our helping was even the greater hindrance. Then the surrender, the incessant fires, the coarse sandings and our hearts were thrown upward desiring only to walk in His grace and mercy with nary a glance at the smoldering "I" s or the face in the mirror.

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” Mk 6:10
I'll tell ya, Legion had nothing on us when it came to the "many" ......... the thousand "I"s that once occupied us.

It would only be fitting to end this message by repeating the introductory thought from Paul and the quote, with the only use of "I" that should ever stand, or better said, bow before our Christ

"If any man thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deceived."

"I am naught, I can do naught, I have naught, and I desire naught but Jesus and His love."


Note: intro and closing quotes
by St Paul and Walter Hilton


Eliyah speaks of finding those of the "same tribe" and I might use the term of discovering one that "speaks the same language and knows the same God." Either way, it is a glorious thing to discover a brother or sister that you can count as "kinsman." So it was today as Eliyah and I discovered a bright morning star shining forth Christ's glory. We both were thrilled as we read Karen's testimony.
At "SONSHINE", we go out and as we scout the land we look for the best of the best to bring home to share with and encourage the saints. I also, know of no one that enjoys a testimony more than Joian. You will love this my dear.

"Bring it on Lord"! - A Testimony
by Karen Gush

I first saw the Lord's eyes when I was 20 years old and had "died" from a severe asthma attack. I wasn't a Christian. I was in (yet another) destructive relationship and not living a good life. My body had gone into paralysis from the neck down (it shuts down to make sure oxygen goes to the brain) and in the back of the ambulance as the paramedic worked on me, I remember "seeing" a bright light out the back window that I thought was a car's headlights coming very fast towards us. I thought - Help! it's going to crash into us! and the two lights became one and did indeed "crash" in through the window and all around us. Suddenly I was looking down on myself from the top of the ambulance, as the paramedic was leaned over me doing something. I looked straight ahead and was travelling through the light.

Since then I have read or heard of accounts of near death experiences and have found that the light is quite common - but I didn't see the golden streets and pearly gates that others have seen. I didn't see long lost loved ones. I saw a man. At the "end" of the light was a man made of touchable, tangible light that totally filled my field of vision.

(I remember, as a little child having asthma attacks, that I would "see" a soft, fluffy light, almost like a deep rich white velvet, and at the same time a dark, oily, foul-coloured black "goop". Even as a toddler I knew that if the white velvet "won" I would be alright, but if the other won I would end up in hospital.)

The "man" was made up of the same beautiful soft light. I couldn't see his features. I couldn't tell you what he looked like. But Oh His eyes!!!! Like the deepest blue pools/rivers/seas of the most magnificently clear waters that when you looked in them, literally drew you into Him and through into infinity. Waves of "emotion" emanated from Him. Firstly there was Peace indescribable. Then such a Joy as I had never known. Then a wave of such Love as to break my heart. The overwhelming feeling was of coming Home in every beautiful sense of that word - and Home wasn't a place - it was Him. I BELONGED, I was safe in Him, I was loved with a PASSION - I was HOME. I didn't want to leave, or to stop moving into His eyes. He spoke to my heart without moving his lips. I don't remember what He said, but I do remember thinking to myself - I can't return Home yet - I haven't shown Him how much I love him. And suddenly I was back in a hospital emergency room with people all around in me, tubes and equipment everywhere and in pain. Then I remember nothing until 3 days later, when I "came to" in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit).

When I eventually got out of hospital, everything was different for a while. Everything was like the most glorious spring day. Bright, crystal clear, beautiful. But there was no one to tell me who this man was, or what I was supposed to "do" with Him. And eventually I lost that beauty.

It was another 12 years before I saw those eyes again. On the 28th of March 1993, 7 days after the birth of my daughter Brydie (The Bride), I said the sinner’s prayer. 70 days later, on the 6th of June 1993, two weeks before I was water baptized, the “Man of Light” revealed Himself to me a second time. At church in the middle of worship, the room and everyone there suddenly disappeared and I was standing at the foot of His Cross and again I saw those beautiful eyes. In that moment I knew with every fibre of my being, that my sin had placed Him on that dreadful Cross, but as He looked at me all I could see was His Love for me – no accusation, no anger, no judgment – just a Perfect Love that was prepared to pay the ultimate price for my freedom and my reconciliation. The look in His eyes broke my heart and I finally knew why I was becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. How could I ever turn away from such Love?

It was the scripture in Luke 7 that really spoke to my heart - the one about the sinful woman who anointed His feet with her tears, and with her "wedding price" from the alabaster jar. I was that sinful woman - and He loved me with a passion anyway. We who have been forgiven much - love much - because He first loved us.

The next time I saw Him, I had been unable to sleep, and in the early hours of the morning I was kneeling in the middle of my room, singing and worshipping Him. Again the room “disappeared” and I was suddenly kneeling amongst a multitude of people, all dressed in “white light” robes (as was I) and also kneeling. We were all looking at Him. He stood to the right of a huge gold throne on which was seated my Most Glorious Father. I was weeping with a holy awe and joy to see Him again and kept asking over and over, “Why am I here?” “Why am I here?” Although I was kneeling amongst what appeared to be hundreds of thousands of others, He looked directly at me and answered “Because I love you”. I knew in that moment, that somehow He was also looking into each person’s eyes and saying the same thing to them. We were all connected – we were One in Him. I began to shake and the “vision” ended.

I saw Him again on the 16th of October 1997 (The first day of Tabernacles that year). I had been attending a conference over that week and we were again in the middle of worship, as we stood at the altar. Yet again the auditorium disappeared. My Lord was lifted up on the Cross and I was nailed to a “shadow” cross that lay on the earth and was “attached” to the foot of His Cross. My eyes were fixed on His eyes as He was dying, and as we gazed at each other my cross began to “rise up” on its own (lifted “without hands”) until we were face to face, breast to breast, hand to hand, feet to feet – pressed together. I “fell on His neck”, kissing His face and neck, and as I wept I heard His last breath.

In that instant I knew somehow, that at the exact moment of His death, He and the Father were ONE on the Cross. “ONE” – in a different sense from our human understanding of “My Father and I are One” that Jesus spoke about while in His human incarnation – but I cannot explain the difference. I cried out to Him “Don’t leave me here! Take me with You!” and suddenly my cross was turned around and I was facing outward, with Him behind me embracing me, except He was me somehow. I heard Him whisper into my ear – “Look Karen – Look!” and as I looked out towards the horizon, with His Cross “moulded/merged together” with mine, I could see the multitudes upon the earth and I sensed Him saying “Treasure – Treasure them”. And I knew that at that moment somehow I too had become “ONE” with Father/Christ. Then it was finished. The words that were left ringing throughout me were “Kiss the Son, Embrace the Cross, Treasure “them”..... I’m still learning what that all meant....

In these 4 encounters with the Lord, two things stood out to me:

There were two visions of the Cross. In the first He died alone. In the second I was “one” with His death on the Cross.

There were two visions of the Resurrected Christ. In the first He showed me where I came from. In the second He showed me where I will return. Into Him.

In all of these encounters, the changes in me were not worked for or obtained through any effort of mine. They were given by His Grace and Mercy alone. His Sovereign Will. And to whom much was given, much has been required.

My “earth” journey has had its share of drama/trauma to say the least (though I’m well aware that my story is not unique amongst the Christ). I’ve often second-guessed myself and wondered why I chose this particular cross when I was back Home in Eternity. For every moment of Light there have been corresponding times of overwhelming darkness through which I have cried out with My Lord’s voice “Father, why have You forsaken Me??” ... but you know something really cool? I can truthfully say that I see His Loving Hand in ALL the circumstances of my life. While I’m not yet “perfect” enough to be grateful DURING the storms (LOL), I CAN truthfully say that I have learned to be grateful FOR the storms. I am learning obedience through the suffering. For the Joy set before us – the consummation of Our Union – we endure and learn to enjoy. The progress is well worth the process, and anyway - as a dear friend of mine once said, “This life is but the blink of an eye in the context of Eternity”.

As an arrogant and untried young Christian (ten feet tall and bullet-proof !) I stood and challenged the Lord “Bring it on!” - A few years and a few battle wounds later, I’m a little less cocky – but I still say “Bring it on Lord” - and through whatever comes my way, I will Praise Him and Honour Him because I have absolute trust in Him. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right!

Isa 50:10 Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.

In His Love


"Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence." 1Cr 1:25-29

God certainly loves the underdogs. And won't it be wonderful one day to see all those precious souls, that lived as nondescript and overlooked, be given their due and share of God's glory. Surely, our own heart's joy will know no bounds when preference is bestowed upon this world's forgotten.

This will bless you and if you're the tearful type like Jenny, Di and myself you may shed a tear or two [wink]. Just beautiful !


Phhht ?!


A Jew, Wiesel once said, can be against God, angry with God, disappointed in God but a Jew can never do without God.

I am as a Jew.

I love good honest "tell it like it is writing" and this guy hits it out of the park for me. He shares on King David's mind frame as he penned the Thirty-ninth Psalm.

Seven years ago I couldn't get away from that Psalm. I would open up my bible and it would fall there on the 39th. I would get online with my computer and it would appear over and over again. For months God stuck this most unusual Psalm in my face. At the time I was in the midst of suffering a great tragedy come to my life by way of another human doing me evil. And the 39th Psalm was my introduction to what would become a great wrestling match with a "Sovereign God" who controls evil.

Oh, I wanted to kill the cold hearted puke that had ruined my life and even when I was thinking about loading my gun for some pay back I would remember David's strange Psalm and in particular the 9th verse where it is realized God did the dastardly. The words, speaking to God as the cause made me put the gun away, realizing my angst was misappropriated and my battle was not with an evil man but with a God that uses evil. Even though this battle with God would simmer and rage inwardly for years I leaned like the Psalmist David to hold my tongue.

"I have become mute, I do not open my mouth, Because it is You who have done it." Ps 39:9

For a surety, I found out God did evil and slowly over seven plus years I would realize that same God made that evil serve a greater Good in my life. The best news is that I have only begun to realize a little of the Good and the overwhelming portion will come in myriads of glories enjoyed in the ages to come.

So with my story, of why the 39th is well versed with me please allow me to share this message which explores what David must have been feeling when he penned it. If you haven't felt this same way in times past I say you have a much different relationship with God than King David and me. LOL

Enjoy, and the last is the best as with all good writing. This one could only end at the Cross.

Psalm 39 "The Bubble"
Scott Hoezee

A curmudgeon is defined as a crusty, ill-tempered older person who hates hypocrisy and is not afraid to point it out. The adjectives frequently used to describe curmudgeons include cantankerous, irascible, irreverent, and grouchy. According to those who have studied such curiously crotchety figures, a curmudgeon is like a sumo wrestler: it takes a long time and a lot of abuse to create one. Among those considered truly world-class curmudgeons, past and present, are Truman Capote, H.L. Mencken, Oscar Wilde, William F. Buckley, Friedrich Nietzsche, W.C. Fields, Gore Vidal, Calvin Trillin, Woody Allen, and our own homegrown local curmudgeon, Peter DeVries. If you want to see a contemporary curmudgeon in action, turn on the last five or so minutes of 60 Minutes when you get home this evening so as to catch the weekly sneer by Andy Rooney.

Now I don't know about you, but the list I just gave does not exactly strike me as a "Who's Who?" of faithful church attenders. In fact, nearly to a person curmudgeons aim a fair amount of their surly fire at the church and all things religious. But it's not just religion, of course: when you're a curmudgeon, you are cynical about everything. So on this eve of Labor Day, we may want to be reminded of Robert Frost's summary comment on the working life: "By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day." Although not a typical curmudgeon, Mahatma Gandhi had his moments. Someone once asked Gandhi what he thought of Western civilization, and Gandhi replied, "I think it would be a good idea." Clarence Darrow once said, "When I was a boy, I was told that anybody could become President; and I'm beginning to believe it." Robert Oppenheimer once opined that "The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist knows it." Similarly Don Marquis:"An optimist is a man who has never had much experience."

Some years ago I used these thoughts as a lead-in for a sermon series we did on the Book of Ecclesiastes. But as many of you no doubt already detected, Psalm 39 is a kind of condensed version of that most queer of all biblical books. Psalm 39 is attributed to David and if that is so, this is David as curmudgeon. There are no cheery Psalm 23-like sentiments here. As most any biblical commentator will point out, this is one strange prayer to have included in the Hebrew Psalter.

We just don't expect this from David, or from any psalmist. As we've already seen this evening, with few exceptions very few of the utterances of this world's curmudgeons qualify as Christian sentiments. A curmudgeonly preacher would have a short career (or a long career but a very small congregation). The reason is because we look to God's Word as a source of comfort and hope, not as a font of cynicism and despair. Christians may or may not be optimists, but we're surely not pessimists in the sense of seeing no good in anything. Preachers who base their sermons on God's Word, therefore, had better not come off sounding like irascible and cantankerous critics each week!

And so there are some parts of Psalm 39 that ought to shake you up at least a little (and at least at first blush). On the children's television show Sesame Street, there is a recurring segment designed to help children see patterns. The segment always features something like six people, five of whom are carrying polka-dotted umbrellas and one of whom has a striped umbrella. The song that goes along with this is titled "One of These Things Is Not Like the Others." The child's job is to pick out the one that does not fit the pattern. If you look at the 150 psalms, you could easily sing "One of These Things Is Not Like the Others" and point your finger at this rather quirky 39th Psalm.

So what do we do with this particular poem? What do we make of this appearance of King David, the man after God's own heart, in a curmudgeonly mood? Because make no mistake: this psalm does bear a striking resemblance to Ecclesiastes, right down to the single, most oft-repeated word in that book. As we all know, the refrain throughout Ecclesiastes is "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity." The Hebrew word there is hevel. It's a puny word that barely exists: hevel. It sounds less like a word and more like a clearing of your throat. You can translate it several ways, but no translation is terribly pretty as a summary assessment of life: Meaninglessness! Vanity! Emptiness! Futility! Vapor! Breath! Hevel. Maybe you could just translate it as "Phhht." And this is the summary word for human life that David uses at the end of verses 5 and 11. What is human life? Phhht!

What could possibly account for this? Worse, look at how this psalm concludes: the psalmist asks God to take a hike, to leave him alone, to look another way off in some distant corner of the cosmos! There is here no language of being a child of the heavenly Father. There is here no "sheep of his pasture" material replete with cozy imagery of walking with God down paths of discipleship. Instead verse 12 says, "I'm just a passing guest in your presence, O God. I'm a resident alien. I don't fit in with you. So look away from me so that I can feel happy again for a little while before I die."

And so I ask again: what is going on here and what are we to take away from this jarring portion of God's Word? Here at Calvin Church we've spent some time in our evening services this summer peering into a handful of the psalms. And one thing we've been noting is that taken together, the 150 psalms included in the canon of the Old Testament are not a haphazard collection. This book was carefully edited and put together with the goal that if someone were to read the entire Psalter, he or she would discover in the end an accurate reflection of the whole scope of human life and experience.

No matter who you are, no matter what your personality type, no matter what kind of season in your life you happen to be passing through at any given moment, you should be able to find within the Psalter pious poetry and prayer that can give voice to who you are and how you are feeling. Our prayer life should be our autobiography, we've said. But because no one's life is just one long series of the same old feelings all the time and every single day, any prayer book that is going to match real life will also have to be varied and textured and nuanced.

So what part of life might Psalm 39 fit? Some commentators believe that this psalm may have emerged from a period of great suffering, possibly of grave illness, in the life of this poet. This person could either be Job or someone enduring a Job-like time of deprivation and disorientation. From the looks of the opening verses, this is someone who tried silently to "grin and bear it," to be stoic and strong. He didn't want to say anything nasty about God or about the life God had dished out to him, but since nasty things were about all he could come up with for a while there, he opted for silence. "If you can't say something nice," the old bromide has it, "then don't say anything at all."

But that didn't work. This person didn't want to give evil people the satisfaction of hearing a religious person grumble and grouse about his lot in life and so he kept his mouth shut. But eventually his raw emotions built up in his heart like a cauldron of hot lava. He couldn't keep it inside. He couldn't stay silent any longer or he feared he'd explode.

And so he opens his mouth, and it all comes tumbling out. "I hate to admit it, O God, because I'm going to come off sounding like a world-class curmudgeon and grouch, but life is nothing, isn't it? You dole out life with an eye-dropper and what we get is a breath, a phhht, a bubble in the cosmic soup that is so evervescent and transient, you'd think it would hardly even register on the radar scope of an everlasting God. One day you are young and the whole thing called life stretches out before you with great promise. You see someone who is 80, 90 years-old and you can't imagine what it must be like to live that long. But then you wake up one day and discover you are yourself 80 and you realize with a start that it was like nothing to get here. The years even did the cruel thing of speeding up the older you got. You worked hard to build up a good bank account and investment portfolio, but then you don't know where it will end up and for all you know, your kids may split apart after your death bickering over it. What's the sense of anything?!"

Well, you can understand now why he kept his mouth shut as long as he did! With all of that churning within his mind and heart, silence does seem like a better option. Unless, that is, you somehow still have faith in a God whom you believe can handle such observations. And if nothing else, the Book of Psalms evinces just such a plucky faith that believes, ardently and deeply, that if the God of Israel is worth anything, then he is big enough and understanding enough and compassionate enough to be able to take it even when we shout forth our worst laments. As Elie Wiesel once observed, this is so characteristic of the Jewish mind. A Jew, Wiesel once said, can be against God, angry with God, disappointed in God but a Jew can never do without God.

Thus, even something as cynically dark as Psalm 39 ends up being directed to a God who, this psalmist obviously believes, will actually hear him. He may be a cosmic speck of dust, a bubble rising to the top of a glass of champagne and on the verge of popping into thin air, but people of faith believe that we serve a God big enough to take loving, careful note of even the tiniest bubble. That's why there is hope in this psalm even in verse 11 when the psalmist claims God rebukes us human beings for our sin. How is that good news? Because at least we know God is paying enough attention to notice our sins!

But even so, we still have to make some kind of sense out of this psalm's Ecclesiastes-like observation that all things considered, human life looks pointless, looks to be scandalously brief, and appears to be insignificant in the grander scheme of things. But honestly: this is not really news to anyone here tonight, is it? It's unsettling and all, but it's nothing we have not ourselves thought at one time or another, is it? Faith in God need not blind us to the less savory features to life. In that sense there may be something liberating about this psalmist's honesty. Because assuming that David, or whoever wrote this, was still a man of faith despite this unstinting burst of cynical observations, then we may find this psalm to be even so somewhat liberating and hopeful.

The echoes of this poet's abiding faith that we can detect here gain in poignancy when seen against the backdrop of all that is grim and despairing. And it's not just that the light of faith shines brighter against a black background. Instead the very poignancy of faith is deepened when we recognize that faith is held in creative tension with an honest assessment of life. Faith should seem more real precisely by being able to embrace the real.

Faith needs to exist in the face of life's enigmas. Faith needs to be held even after we've come to terms with the limits of our existence. For now, we do not understand everything and if we're honest, then we must admit that there is also plenty in life that we may understand just fine but that we don't like! But what we can grasp is not the whole story. For now we must accept our rather lowly position in this ever-spinning and unimaginably vast universe, and do our best to serve God even still. Even when life does not make particular sense to us, it is our duty to plug on anyway in the belief that somehow, somewhere in God's infinite wisdom it will make sense, it will add up to something.

But not easily and, for now anyway, not neatly or quickly. Yet we resist admitting this. Counted-cross-stitch faith where all of life's answers can be lifted out of the Bible and transferred onto a framed and matted wall hanging is more appealing because it looks more complete. Precious Moments figurines emblazoned with pithy aphorisms of hope, joy, or comfort of the Psalm 23 variety are nicer to see up on the mantle than whatever kind of a bust you might sculpt of the David's face as we see it in Psalm 39!

Who would want to decorate the den with the face of a man with a furrowed brow, a downwardly turned mouth, and emblazoned with the slogan "Phhht"?! Some while back I was a dinner guest at someone's house. While having hor's d'oeuvres in the living room before dinner, I noticed a small, painted tile up on the fireplace mantle. It had some words on it but I couldn't make them out from where I was sitting. So while my hosts were out of the room for a moment, I walked over. The tile said, "The judgments of God cometh right soon!" I was glad I still had some scotch left in my glass after seeing that one!

Psalm 39 and the like are not our favorite parts of the Bible's revelation to ponder. Still, there is no denying it: this psalmist's faith, though real, is nestled painfully among the thistles and thorns of life. If there is to be faith at all, this psalm says, then it must be held in the teeth of a whole lot of confusing, jarring, and just generally unhappy garbage within the limits of a life that ends in death. Life's loose ends may not be tied off neatly if, in this life, they are tied off at all. The harder questions ought not receive pat answers. They need to be wrestled with.

In this sense maybe we can come to see Psalm 39 as a preview of the cross. After all, when God ultimately tackled the very questions and conundrums raised here, the result was a confusingly terrifying event on a garbage heap called Skull Hill. In the end it was the silence of the lamb that somehow began to answer life's deeper mysteries. But if the death of the beloved Son does not strike you as at least as outrageous as anything in Psalm 39, then you may be missing the central surprise and scandal of the gospel. How perilously confusing and dicey is life in this crazy world? The cross is the Christian answer. It's that difficult, that prolix, that painful to deal with, even for God himself!

There may well be no denying the "Phhht" nature of this life. Our only comfort in life and in death, however, is that the now-pierced hands of the Savior are sensitive enough to pick up even that "Phhht" and preserve it into the eternal now which Jesus himself has prepared. These gospel beliefs will not erase the kinds of thoughts expressed in Psalm 39, this most startling of all the psalms. The gospel does not make everything easy and smooth and straightforward after all. But it is our bright hope. Many days that simply has to be enough--it has to be enough in a world which, as this unhappy psalmist so adroitly points out, has seldom found enough of anything to satisfy for very long. So give thanks to God for giving us the gospel. Give thanks to God for revealing to us the cross of his beloved Son. Give thanks to God for giving us enough. Amen.



I have written before of the McDonald's, my friends and Kingdom brethren here in Jackson Hole. This wonderful family doesn't do church but they definitely ski. LOL Everything is about family with Stephen, Christie and the four kids. They love the Lord and where ever they go, they truly are His Epistle set before men.

My little friend Liberty at two years old befriended me first and then it was as if the family adopted me. What a thrill and even a rarity it is to have others in the same community that espouse the sovereignty of God and His love for all mankind. So it has been with the McDonald's these last five years.

With all that in mind, I was thrilled to read in the local newspaper this week, that Liberty was becoming well known on the ski slopes and was about to set a record. I had to call her last night and give her a shout out for her accomplishment. She's was excited as she had just set the record yesterday. I'll tell ya something else, Liberty, like the rest of the family will bask in the limelight for a few days but then gladly go back to living humbly and quietly before the Lord.

I know you will enjoy this news story and possibly get a feel for what it is like to grow up in an area like Jackson Hole.

Young skier on track to set record
By Brandon Zimmerman

She's a bit of a celebrity at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
The lifties at Thunder know her by name. Skiers on the Sublette chairlift sometimes yell encouragement as she slices through the Alta chutes below.

Liberty McDonald has developed a big-time presence at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort this season. It's an interesting twist, since she's one of the smallest skiers on the mountain.

Liberty, who is just 7 years old, is on pace to become the youngest person to ski 100 days in a season at the resort.

Liberty skied her 97th day of the season Tuesday and is expected to reach 100 days by Friday. The resort will close Sunday, after being open for 128 days this season.

"We must have missed twenty-something days somewhere," father Stephen McDonald said.

McDonald and his wife, Christy, have lived in Jackson for 18 years. Liberty is one of four children. She is able to ski every day because the couple school their children at home. A typical day will include several hours of skiing in the morning, and schooling in the afternoon.

"We ski almost every day," McDonald said. "We're pretty recognizable at the village."

Liberty especially.

That's because this youngster doesn't spend her days toiling around on the lower mountain. She's up high with some of the town's most skilled skiers.

She skies Paintbrush, Toilet Bowl and the Cascade and Alta chutes.

On Monday, Liberty skied Alta 1 for the first time. As she did, skiers and boarders on the Sublette lift were yelling support down to her.

"She can get around very well," her father said.

Liberty, like many youngsters, seems to have no fear.

"I like going fast," she said. "I'm not scared."

The reality of Liberty's push toward the 100-day club came about slowly through the season. As lifties scanned her pass each day, the number of days she's skied would appear on the scanning gun.

"They would look down and be like, 'Wow, man. That's 50 days. That's more than some of these guys are skiing,'" McDonald said. "It really raised some eyebrows.

"We'd see some of the same lifties, ski patrollers out there and mountain hosts," he said. "They were all talking about the 100-day club. They would see her skiing and recognize her and ask, 'Liberty, what day is this?' "

Curious, McDonald began asking Jackson Hole Mountain Resort's public relations office about his daughter's potential achievement. Resort Brand Director Anna Olson told him that to the best of the resort's knowledge, Liberty would be the youngest pass holder to ski 100 days in a season there.

"They were all amped about it," McDonald said.

Liberty is, too. When she joins the 100-day club, she will get an extra day of skiing Monday, a free breakfast and a patch commemorating the achievement.

"I want to get the 100-day patch," she said.

Liberty came close last year when she skied 96 days. She began skiing at the age of 3. McDonald took her down the cat tracks at Snow King, snowplowing with Liberty between his legs. Soon, she was skiing straight down Elk.

Now, it's almost impossible to keep her off the mountain.

"It's so fun," she said. "I love skiing."