Bye 2015- Howdy ’16!

2 stops for me in Poplar Bluff, MO on Dec. 31st, at the local VA Hospital, then:
Glenn Kaiser Poster (1) (1)

Further, a bit of prose I wrote at a Wilson Abbey service this past month that seems appropriate for end-of-year for a lot of folks, sometimes me. Remember those amusement park rides where the thing spins, the floor recesses and you’re pinned to the wall? I recall one at a 6 Flags… a girl got very, very sick. A metaphor for some of the journey…

CENTRIFUGAL FORCE  (by glenn kaiser)

Spinning spun
Lost
undone
Speeding
Spent
Indeed lament

Ceiling blur
For him
For her
Silence
Shout
The floor dropped out

For many -sick
No  stomach for this

But such is real
And such is life
Within
Without
The Living Christ

And lastly, a few quick thoughts:

New year, fresh hope? Only if you have a source of hope.

News sources tell us Lemmy (Motorhead) has died. Cancer, etc.. Very sad. Australia’s Stevie Wright as well (had lunch with him him while on tour there many years ago) just a couple days ago.

Lord willing Wendi and I reach 63, myself end of January, she early April.

But you never know do you?

Believe it or not, relationship with Jesus and salvation- eternal life… RELATIONSHIP without walls, rancor, sludge and rust between you (me) and God is in my view, THE DEAL and there is no other issue more important.

Especially if you deal with any addiction (and most all of us do) I refer to two of those steps that ring in my ears pretty often. They are not scripture, The Bible, the Word of God, but they completely line up within all the Book says along with the other steps:

Step 1 We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable

Step 2 Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

The Steps go on to call us to faith and surrender to God, accountability to others, honest confession and repentance.

Jesus, then Peter, then Paul all preached this: “Repent -and- believe”.

If there is no sin, there is no need for either repentance or the Savior. Fact is, all of it is truth and reality.

The real Jesus lives. Does He occupy His rightful place in your life, relationships, choices?

I repent continually and yet have a deeper sense of His love and grace than ever… a deeper sense of both sin AND the grace and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ than I have ever had. Over the years, this “fresh start”, this “faith, hope and love, these three” keep popping out of the shadows by His hand in my life.

He loves you every bit as much as me, and neither of us can do anything but surrender… or live a wasted life until we do regardless of what we “accomplish” in our lifetime or simply in 2016.

God give you eyes to see, ears to hear and a willing heart toward the only God Whom we shall see- “Every eye shall see Him”. Each moment, day, week, month, year, we are closer to that moment.

With Love, and as always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

What ARE You Getting For Christmas?

Ornament

As a little boy in a very poor family living in farm country, then outside of very small towns in south-central Wisconsin I was always in awe at Christmas.

Shiny. Unique and different.

Once each year in the midst of snowdrifts, cold plowed-under fields, disjointed and rarely home at the same time family gathered near our pot-bellied stove by a pine tree trimmed with sparkling ornaments, tinsel and shine.

Well, first it was trying to sleep through extreme wonder and excitement. See, my older sister had her room, my older brother and I shared another upstairs above the living room. These old farmhouses had a floor grate in each through which at least some first floor heat would rise -and by which you could slightly see and sometimes hear.

Down there, just outside of my parents room, our faces against the grate on the floor, my brother and I would try to Sherlock possible clues for what they took all night to assemble below.

Not the whole picture, just clues.

The longer I lived, the more I noticed clues coming my way.

Our family opened all presents only after breakfast first (!) on the morning of Christmas day. Arggghhh… the waiting, longing, excitement and surprise very nearly killed us!

Nobody could even leave the table until all ate the eggs, toast, drank some tea. Slowly. It seemed their coffee poured like molasses! Then- as to near-maniacal horses at a racetrack waiting for the bell my Dad would say “Now! Go slow, take your time!”

Good idea as there were only a handful of gifts per child. Flying paper, shouts of glee, glistening, gushing surprise and joy ensued, parents laughing and fully enjoying the moment.

In those times due to illness, job loss and poverty our birthdays meant a cake and one or two gifts. Christmas was close to heaven with the grandeur and glory.TreeAndWindow

In fact, it always was and is as long as the earth shall endure.

To some. Some.

Oh those blizzards! The massive icicles hanging from the rooftop around our windows. The winter moonlight blue on deep snow. And the beauty, scent of the EVERgreen with all the shine.Christmas Village

It all went away in a week or so.

My family completely disintegrated over a couple of years.

Nothing seemed to matter, to make any difference in my life but my addictions -drugs, sex, booze and music were about all I could depend on just a few years afterward.

Was there anything worth celebrating but pleasure, lust, greed and despair when the living room no longer offered life?

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”  John. 1.12

When we believe WHO this little child is, we are “born again”… we ourselves become “like a little child” again, innocent, new, REborn, and “the free gift of God is eternal LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

When you truly know and walk with the Savior and as YOUR Savior and Lord, when you understand what He did on the cross and Easter morning FOR YOU, with YOU in His mind… you have reason to GIVE. You begin to truly give God THANKS regardless of your circumstances, regardless if you’re accepted by others, regardless of your situation.

When we stand before Him what will matter? When each of us as individuals stands before Him WHAT WILL MATTER THEN?!!

Christmas, contrary to culture and pop opinion, is Christ. It is not Republican nor Democrat Christ, but THE baby like yet fully unlike all other babies: The Anointed One, Messiah, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace”.

His kingdom never ends. All others do and shall.

THIS is shine without the credits rolling, love eternal, the only life that is life, the Best of the Best.

What do you want for Christmas? WHO do you want for Christmas?? “Ask, seek, knock”.

When you truly know the Risen Jesus Christ, you know Christmas, Easter and heaven in a very, very different light.

A light that will never fade -nor die.

Never will I ever forget my first true Christmas.

He came. Everything changed. Even me.

Merry Christmas -and as always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

A Biblical Theology re. Addiction?

A bro. who cares about an addict friend recently asked me about this specific thing. Perhaps it might be helpful to some to read though my very brief answer.

I actually wrote quite a bit more but this was a follow-up to his original question where he focused on The Bible in regard to the topic.

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

“Re-reading your message brought me to the following thoughts as well:

A theology (simple as this will sound, for it is!) of addiction means a theology of a habit that masters you or me. Put another way, the fruit of self-control (Gal. 5) and the other fruit of the Holy Spirit is choked out (Parable of the Sower) by riches (wealthy addicts…) cares of this life (most of us) and worries (most of us) to the extent one with little or zero control runs to the focus of one’s addiction in order to “maintain” if not as an ultimate, substitute god (sans the TRUE, REAL GOD Who IS God!).
Sin (missing the mark) is in the world, we have all sinned and fallen short. Habitual, practiced sinning is core to addiction re. a Bible-based, Christian view of addiction. You cannot only nor in -total- in my view, consider the addiction a mere disease- though indeed scientific, dna and social upbringing/influence greatly support the habit which I do not in the least deny!
From this basis, it may be helpful to consider the following:
His, yours,
-Glenn”

Make It!

Really. I know not everyone has the same muse, skill, imagination, but I can tell you I check Instructables.Com several times per week. I also have checked the Make Magazine website and from time to time Mother Earth News, for years… d.i.y. (do-it-yourself) is appealing for a number of reasons.

On a budget (that is, not a lot of money) ? You can think, pray, imagine, websearch any number of d.i.y. sites, YouTube and so on, and have a go at making something with your hands and just a few tools.

I cannot tell you (ahead of time anyhow) what I am doing for various family members for Christmas, but presents are fun to make and it seems I rarely (whew!) strike out. Well, not always are they as big a hit as they were cool to create but…

This year as many years now, I have done what I could. Simple stuff, fun stuff, stuff that is needed and often with whatever I can find, often recycling, re-purposing or up-cycling stuff.

Maybe after New Years I’ll blog on what I made others for Christmas to give you some ideas for another time…

I do admit, we share a lot of love in my family and there is great taste (not mine… except in selecting an amazing wife by God’s grace!!) but also not a snobbery from my kids, sons-in-law and grandkids. My wife is super gracious and truly seems to dig what I create. So there you go.

Not everyone has such close family members but in the end, being poor doesn’t have to mean you got nothin’ to do and nothin’ to give.

WORDS- poems, prose, books from re-sale shops or used bookstores

STUFF- I mean there is a looooong list of re-sale shop stuff and/or you can use parts of things to make something else

WEBSITE LINKS- there are tons of links you can find for free books on all sorts of topics that you know will interest those you are giving to… and for that matter a simple card with those links within it can be a really cool gift for some peeps you love. Links to free music videos or audio, movies, etc., they would enjoy while online.

If someone is truly poor and/or has zero web connections most cities in the U.S. offer at least a 30 min. (or more) free web connection via their computers at the local libraries.

CREATIVE SERVING- a card with an offer of babysitting one or two evenings for a loved one or couple, back or foot rubs for a spouse, drawing a nice hot bath along with your wife’s fave bubblebath (which you can create from Web recipe/directions), breakfast in bed and you do the dishes… the list is endless.

Really, it’s a matter of thought and consideration of what you are willing to creatively try.

You still have time, don’t freak, you can give a lot of love with very little money, just a bit of creativity and time.

Enjoy the holidays with Jesus and someone you love!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Impending WHAT??!

Maybe you have or haven’t heard the phrase “impending doom” but between Facebook, world history, natural disasters and indeed The Bible itself there are absolutely real times of massive, manic, terror-stricken people who have experienced it.

“It”‘meaning the instinct, the hole-in-your-gut sense, the “maybe even around the next corner…” feeling of dread and intense, negative “Oh GOD what I fear most is about to COME upon ME!”

Paranoia? Needing prayer, counselling, small-group, possibly (and I am not joking) professional medical help? Could be any, a combo or all of these. Then again it might be prophetic.

I believe in prophecy, Bible and here-and-now spiritual gifts that indeed forecast or foretell events of cataclysmic suffering and ruin. We find them often enough in both Old and New Testaments. I have received plenty of “direct words” from people who as it turned out, were indeed correct in their telling me something/s about my life and what was going to take place in it via the hand of God.

Then again, beyond all I have now written on this in the blog you are reading, there is another “impending” (meaning “just about to happen”). No, I don’t mean Christmas.

Off come the gloves and I shall now be fully in-your-face rude. I’m talking about something all of us and certainly including myself have manifested all too often in our lives: impending dumb.

I mean un-educated, knee-jerk, freaking-out “The SKY is stinking FALLING PEOPLE and YOU DON’Ț GET IT… RUUUUUNNNNN!!!” revelations from individuals and at time groups of ’em who if living in Old Testament Israel would eventually be stoned cuz they are false prophets. They often 80 to 100 percent believe what they are telling people, but in the end will be proved wrong by events that do not take place and a God Who is consistent though we cannot always rightly predict and therefore proclaim what is to come.

Just one (HUGE!) illustration of this is the nation of Israel expecting a conquering king and God sends them a suffering Messiah Who speaks in parables (!) . Faith and trust in a truly Good and Gracious God regardless of calamity has likely always been (from one perspective) a deficit in human society. “Curse God and die” is often more like it.

“The beginning of wisdom is the fear (actual respect, sense of awe for, reverence as well as fear) of the Lord.” The -beginning- of it. The end of it is peace.

Knowing God in Jesus Christ, growing “in the GRACE and KNOWLEDGE of the Lord”, finding the peace in the eye of any storm (real or imagined) of any sort is possible -but I am convinced it is ONLY possible through a genuine relationship and actual knowledge of God via His Word and experience in choosing faith in Him regardless of blow-outs on the freeway.

Impending dumb means “you are about to be tempted to royally freak out because you are believing in and focusing on something other than the true God, His true Word and fully throwing yourself at His mercy. -REGARDLESS of circumstance, his grace which alone “is sufficient” is FAR better than the mercy of mere humans, events in the natural world, or allowing your emotions and even what may be a true prophetic word from God via others… to cause you to lose your mind and make foolish choices. Allowing your mind, emotions and choices to move you in any direction but towards Jesus is the only solution regardless of what happens (or does not).

There is a time for everything indeed… but there is never a time for choosing someone or something other than God Himself to meet your need. Have I ever run around in circles freaked-out? YES! But I am learning, still very much a student. “Impending dumb” ain’t never a good solution fer nothin’.

“Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4.6,7

Thanks for stopping by 🙂 -Glenn

Watershed Christmas Report

20151212_235523Poor Ami Moss (one of my daughters) was ill as was our grandson… and could not make it this time. But Rebecca (one of my other daughters), sweetest Wendi wife and amazing father-in-law and poet Curt Mortimer made it… just a wonderful evening as always at Living Springs/Watershed for “Kaiser Family Christmas”.

Our friends there are gems and the audience always very kind and appreciative. These are evenings of Christmas songs, poetry and the Bible story of what Christmas is truly about.

And I get to bring out cigarbox guitars here and there, as well as a beautiful gift given me years ago by longtime Cornerstone Festival goer and Project 12 friend Michael Rousey.20151212_235531

Mike and his sweet wife Terri have been amazing, gracious lovers of Jesus and New Orleans for many years. They live in the culture and serve neighbors on various levels and we are super blessed to know them.

So, being a gifted woodworker by trade as well as blues lover, Michael blew me away with this amazing piece of art/guitar/sweetness. It has electronics in it as well, but both acousticaly and via amp or p.a. sounds amazing and is a treat to play -she sang Silent Night sweetly last night 🙂20151212_235540

Shout out with love and Christmas joy to Mike, Terri and all our NOLA friends!20151212_235552

 

If you wish, here is more info. on this particular style of guitar:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weissenborn

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Alone.?

LoneLightsTwo nights ago as I went to speak at an ex-offenders/at-risk gathering I passed by a huge apartment building near our house.

You may be a “humbug” about Christmas, decorations and all, and I won’t judge you for it, but check it out, only one apartment is lit for Christmas in the massive place. Just one, all by itself.

They say you can’t play the blues if you don’t pay your dues- and in my life I experienced the brutality of being truly alone. I wrote, sang and played songs about it and trust me, that came out of a pretty miserable, insecure and addiction-filled lifestyle I lived in those earlier years. I was alone plenty, but in those days I felt the same even when in a room or festival full of people.

But for the past four decades? I am well aware that I lived and live a rather charmed, even spoiled life. Truly.

How? I haven’t really been nor felt truly “alone”, all out on a limb by myself from my 18th year to this very moment (December 2015 as I write).

Please don’t be angry with me! Please put jealousy, envy or attitude against God out of mind as you read these words… because none of that can help you.

See, after I began to follow Jesus, study and work (yes, work) to apply His words (including commandments along with promises) in my choices, relationships (at least from my end of things) and major life decisions I realized I’d been blessed with:

*An endless supply of work to do- mostly alongside/with/for other like-minded people of genuine character, grace and commitment

*I was (am) called to live, play and serve in the context of an intentional Christian community where life is anything but boring, certainly not perfect, but living for nearly 44 years alongside several hundred people

*I’ve a huge list of life-long friends and also get to meet new (to me) people nearly every day

*I CAN choose, and sometimes do, to find a quiet space where I collect my thoughts, study, pray, just chill and look out on the world, a garden, etc., and enjoy trips to parks, the woods and nature

*I share all this with an incredible woman who has faithfully served (and helped/helps me learn how to) God and others -and we were both 19 when we married

*My children and grandchildren choose to hang out with my sweet wife and I daily

Certainly, “your mileage may vary”, that is, you may think some or any of these are not for you or would drive you crazy, stretch you to a miserable degree. Understood.

If you knew the sheer volume of broken, angry, hurting array of people I have encountered all over the world (touring as a musician and speaker all of these years) much less those I interact with in our home/ministry/jails /prisons, etc., you would rightly guess it has not all been fun, a picnic, unlimited desert with a cherry on top!

BUT… I have never felt nor experienced the loneliness so many are plagued with in this fallen world.

Around the holidays many cannot seem to shut the noise of being alone out. Unless I choose to be alone, I rarely am

At the foundation of my life is a Person, that being God Himself.

Make no mistake, we carry on a near continual conversation. I talk, moan, laugh, give thanks, cry out, complain, ask Him to help me, my family, others, on and on. I read His Word daily and really seek to study, not merely speed-read to meet a quota. Relationship. It’s a two-way street.

“There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother”. “I will never leave you or forsake you”. “Look, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”. “God is a very present help in trouble”. “For even your own poets have said ‘In Him we live and move and have our being”.

I quote these from memory and experience- and from long experience I know God tells the truth.

I’m purposely not giving you the references to these and other scriptures that speak to this issue because if you are reading this you likely have access to the internet and either here or in your Bible can (should) do a study of WHY and HOW followers of Jesus Christ are never alone even when they seem to be so.

We are in a season called Advent. Christmas (Christ) is coming. But He is already near and here, even in a season of longing, waiting, anticipating the arrival of the Babe in the manger.

“Emanuel” which means “God WITH us”.

There is a sense in which none of us walks through this world fully alone. There is another equally true that He will not force Himself upon us, for God’s love isn’t about mere force or manipulation.

Alone is a state of mind, not just about geographic distance or closeness. That sense of lost-ness left me many, many years ago due to a lifetime of seeking -and indeed FINDING or put another way, being found by the risen Jesus Christ.

Honestly, I am never alone.

Many years ago I wrote the following, and it still holds true.

Immanuel, Lord of all life
Into the world You came
Darkness met light
Holy, holy, Lord over all
Hear us, near us
God with us now

Immanuel
Immanuel
Immanuel
God with us now

Immanuel, Lord of my life
Into my world You came
Dawn vanquished night
Holy, Holy, King over all
Hear me, near me
God with me now

You really do -not- have to do life alone!! I added both a period and a question mark in the title of this blog for a reason. You may truly be, but you don’t have to continue like that. Call on Him. He goes by the name “Jesus”.

Thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Noel Diddley Bow Git

This morning I gave this along with a little copper slide and credit-card pick which I also made, to a young bro. coming through a faith-based rehab/discipleship group -with the promise that he would practice. Cuz practice is what it’s all about.

20151205_165038Yeah I know… fact is I don’t even begin to dislike the people of China though their government is a train-wreck.

But in a local Dollar Store my wife and I got some cheap stuff for Christmas and here was a one dollar box that screamed “make a one-string Christmas guitar outta me!!” so I did.

Had a hunk of wood needing a little sanding for a neck, cut the slots for it, screwed a flat-head over a nut for the bridge and with epoxy glued a blown-out piece of rubber from dead Croc (shoes…) strap onto a little block of wood to use as a move-able but non-slipping nut.20151205_164945

Wrapped a plain G guitar string around the end of the neck, through it’s little brass nut and over the flathead screw, tied it off tightly around a small but sturdy phillips head screw at the top of the neck, then stretched it out so it would hold pitch when that portable “nut” was inserted under the string. Tuned to “F#”.20151205_164930

One 2 x 2 5/8’s inch inner brace (glued/screwed in) and we have a fun little (and truly cool sounding) acoustic diddley bow!

25 inches head-to-tail, 21 inch scale bridge to nut.

20151205_164916We truly wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy building experience! NOEL!

As always, thanks for stopping by -Glenn

Where Was God When…

A chat with a bro. brought the following question my way.

Jan asks: “My next question (and it is the same for a lot of people) is why the loss of innocent life? Where is God’s protection for the innocents?”

I have several answers to this and as you suggest it’s a very common and important question that plagues plenty of us.

I say “us” because there are moments when, as the Psalmists sometimes in effect, write in God’s very Word “Where ARE YOU GOD… You don’t seem to care!!”

Psalms of lament would not be the largest population in the largest book of the Bible if the following were not reality:

The first two and most direct, honest and simple answers are “I do not know” and the question “How can one prove God was NOT with a person in the midst of the suffering innocents”?

Evil, pain, suffering, misery, injustice and at core, sin are all present in the world and in every human’s personal experience. Faith or no faith.

I am now reminded of two very different things. One is a blues classic entitled “Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven (But Nobody Wants to Die)”. The other is actually two others- C.S. Lewis’s “The Problem of Pain” and “A Grief Observed”. Worthwhile reads!

There is actually a great deal of deeper thought/experience/writing on this subject if one wishes to fully study at least begin comprehending it.

What I will say here is brief, but I hope, helpful to some at least.

The Fall. Not autumn, but even that season is a reminder that decay exists. Death is in our experience sooner or later. We decrease, experience hurt from people, the weather, our own foolish and at times truly trauma-causing choices and/or those other people actually or at least seem to inflict upon us and/ or those we love and care about.

I and most Christ-followers among others on the planet believe sin is in the world precisely because there IS a God, the true God who -is- (“I Am”). Free will enters the discussion. So is God “the Author of sin”?

Sin means “missing the mark”, that mark being the standard of His actual character, sinless nature, holiness, essence of absolute purity and perfection.

Think about it: all else is less. “Less” includes flaws. cracks, fissures, problems, pain.

From Adam and Eve to you and I “ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and human history littered with the painful results.

We can (and do) blame God for our pain. We may well fly into a rage and/or despair at the issue of Him creating us with free will and choices.

When we ask WHY or WHERE -WERE- YOU GOD WHEN… we ask what I asked after the hurt of my parent’s divorce, misery of girl after girl, band after band, music style after music style, drink and drug upon drink and drug, and finally not being able to find some small item I was searching for brought me to a fearful, angry, hurt tirade of swearing like a pirate and trashing my mother’s living room.

Addictions were destroying me and though me, bringing more misery on those around me.

I screamed out at the sky “IF You ever even existed YOU NEVER CRIED FOR ME!!”

On a bright, sunny day with nearly no clouds in the sky- no exaggeration… within a minute or two at most- it grew immediately dark and began to rain all over my front lawn.

Not everyone gets such signs but what could I do?

I could choose any number of options.

FREE WILL took me to most, not all, of the misery I was experiencing that day.

Sin was destroying me and bringing its ugly “benefits” to others. I had a Master’s in sin and had acquired a number of apt students.

All this is part of the reason I finally surrendered to the only God who IS God. He Who gave me free will in this sense, allowed for me to reject, deny, live numb toward Him. And in the way He is able to work so often in so many lives, that very misery of my own free choices brought me eventually to Him in a relationship of love, forgiveness, grace and living for Him and others rather than myself.

You might say hell sometimes brings us to heaven when little else gets our attention. Sad, sick, but true.

The point is not being angry or blaming God for creating us with the ability to reject Him and hurt others. The point is not that I cannot explain WHY all things horrid are at least allowed by Him and why He does not evidently (in my eyes) step in and stop the hurt, why He does not always answer our prayers for deliverance. The point is that without free will we truly have no choice in loving Him or anyone else.

This “robotic” theory in theology is understandable. Put bluntly, I am not a client nor believer in hyper-Calvinism.

I cannot go to the extreme position that for some “explains” at least to a degree, why pain exists and why a loving heavenly Father allows it in the nearly countless tragedies of human history.

I find a near endless stream of language in the New (and Old) Testament that clearly cannot be un-interpreted to say “Do” or “Do not”, “Remember” and “THIS way, not THAT way”. If we have zero choice in salvation how is it we have every other sort of choice every moment of every day we live on this planet?

The whole question of why/how a true God, a God Who “IS LOVE” can allow much less seemingly orchestrate disasters among humanity even to the most extreme, that of His perfect, sinless Son on the cross! WHY is this HIS doing? Is/was there no other way?

Apparently, He has decided regardless of our decisions, but being God, it is His right, not ours. Yes, the sovereignty of God, which is clear if not cloudy. Finite beings cannot fully grasp this infinite God and “His ways are past finding out”. There is mystery in Him and certainly incomplete theology in we imperfect, incomplete people.

So I find partial answers to “natural disasters” but not full explanation.

Put simply, I, Glenn Kaiser, do not know as God knows WHY He “was not there for me”, for you, for others in each and every horrid experience.

Then again, I am personally convinced He was indeed there.

An omnipresent God is everywhere, at once, always, among us all. “For in Him we breathe and move and have our being”. But we do not notice or we do our best to claim deity ourselves, or worship other (false) gods. So how is it we blame Him when He clearly seeks us -even seemingly using pain to get our attention, repent and come home to Him?

As I personally see it, the real issue is not God nor His love nor His presence and some tangible way of experiencing Him and it. The real issue is our sin.

Indeed, no free will, God IS the Author of sin. In the sense that we choose to believe we have no free will, He indeed IS to blame. Certainly He is sovereign and in the end ultimately gets His way… but to say He takes any pleasure in our hurt is contradicted not only by His nature but in verse after verse in both Testaments.

“I will never leave you nor abandon you” does not mean we never feel nor experience actual abandonment.

I love my children even when they anger me. There are times they wonder if I am “with” or “for” them when in fact in those moments they may well be against themselves in what The Book calls “sin”. For clarity, I do not mean merely that which myself or any local or larger church may have defined as sin, rather what The Bible itself clearly lists in that category.

So in overview, I am convinced free will is the only sane, indeed logical response to the lion’s share of suffering on earth. I fully believe (as did Jesus and His disciples) in a fallen angel and the others (demons) with him roaming the earth as well, hence temptation and opportunity to live against God’s plan, ways and desires, thus sin, thus “the wages of sin is death” and so it goes.

“If we live we are the Lord’s. If we die we are the Lord’s. If we live or die we belong to the Lord”.

We cannot force God to do our will, even when we have fully decided He ought to. This is why many reject Him, why many conclude He is non-existent or brutal and unfeeling in the face of our miseries. We judge Him to be very much like we are, especially if we do not trust Him and give Him the worship, respect and love He alone deserves.

I am fully aware of immature, mean and at times crazy Christians who seem clearly to miss the mark, further “proof” our God is insufficient… when it is we who are exactly that.

If and as we walk with Jesus in faith and surrender, He walks with us.

Martyrs (innocent) have died innocent and with the innocents. This is in part, what love is about. He was and is with them regardless, this I fully believe.

Plenty of biblical promises speak to this reality as much as to the reality of sin and suffering in our fallen human natures in a broken and need-of-redemption world.

Emmanuel- God WITH us. THIS is why The Savior- our Lord Jesus Christ- came and will come again.

Grace to you Jan! -Glenn