Dear Cuisinart…

A couple years ago, I decided to untether myself from the K-Cup and return to making coffee the “old fashioned” way. Buy beans, grind beans, brew coffee. With that goal in mind, I picked up a DGB-700BC. It wasn’t cheap as it ran me about $151 on Amazon. Great coffee pot. Add beans to the hopper, add water, set strength, set number of cups, set timer, and every morning I was greeted with the aroma of fresh ground coffee.

1.5 years later, it died. Display was black, she was done. Now it came from Cuisinart with a 3 year factory warranty. After putting in my claim, Cuisinart said I would have a replacement in 7 – 12 business days. In 5 business days, I had a brand new DGB-800 on my counter. The experience with customer service was fantastic. I sent back the old coffee maker in the box for the new coffee maker, Cuisinart paid shipping both ways, and I was back in business.

Fast forward 1.5 years. My DGB-800 is still working fine, however the auto shutoff is no longer working. I do some basic troubleshooting, turn it off and back on, unplug it for a period of time and plug it back in, etc… Doesn’t work. I go back through the same website, put in a claim, explain the problem, explain what I’ve done to try and correct it… They reply and ask me to do what I’ve already done. After a brief exchange of information, they give me 3 options.

Option 1: Send me a different coffee maker and a separate grinder. I already have the grinder they’re offering, and I don’t need two of them.

Option 2: Send me a different coffee maker that grinds and also includes a K-Cup option. After repeated failures of the grind and brew pots after 1.5 years of use, and my general hatred of k-cups, no.

Option 3: I wait indefinitely for the discontinued DGB-800 to return to stock and be shipped. If it was immediately available, sure, but I’m not waiting indefinitely.

I proposed option 4. It’s the same style coffee maker as option 1, only it has a thermal carafe, no extra grinder (as I already have one), and is at the same price point as the other 3 options (around $200). On September 13th of 2021, they place the order for the replacement and tell me it will take 10 business days for the new unit to arrive.. However, I need to send them a photo of the current unit with the power cord cut.

Now despite the current coffee maker doing what I need it to, I cut the cord and send the photo. I follow up on September 21st, they reply on the 22nd that the order is processing with their shipping department. On October 1st, 15 business days after my original claim, I follow up with them for an update. They reply about 45 minutes later that it is still processing with the shipping department.

So here I am, 18 business days (24 days) past the order being placed. No replacement yet, nothing but a canned response from Cuisinart. I could literally order the replacement coffee maker off Amazon and have it in my hands tomorrow. How is it that I am nearly a month waiting for a replacement?

This is likely my final Cuisinart coffee maker. When the replacement dies a year and a half from now, I’ll move on. Had they said from the start that it would be 20-30 business days, it would be less than ideal, but it would not bother me as much as being told 10 days and now waiting indefinitely. Requiring that I disable a working coffee pot + waiting this long is also silly.

Perhaps they could require the photo of the cut cord within 10 days of receiving the replacement instead? Pandemic or not, this is sloppy customer service.

**UPDATE**

So I decided to actually call customer service, spoke with a very nice representative who informed me that the reason it was taking so long is because the coffee maker was backordered. Had that been said in the email chain – I’d likely have happily selected an alternate, which I did here. Hopefully get this rushed replacement soon and can put the matter to bed.

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Save your money, and learn instead.

Gabe Newell: I learned more in three months at Microsoft than entire time at Harvard

Back in 1997 I experienced the culmination of all the educational, peer and parental pressure of the traditional mantra about a need to go to college… by dropping out. Growing up it was all I heard, that in order to have a successful career, I needed to go to college. My parents said it. Other parents said it. My school peers said it. My teachers said it.

Looking back, I realize that while my life could have gone in an entirely different direction had I embraced college as a concept and invested in the opportunity to get my feet wet in computer science, that was not the route I took. School guidance counselors were completely useless (and IMHO they still are, sorry folks). I was a nerd. I built and played with computers.

I loved the challenge. I adored troubleshooting. I fully embraced new technology. They had me sign up for Computer Science 101 at SUNY Albany. Lesson 1? How to use a mouse. For the math requirement? I aced high school level pre-calculus, so they had me sign up for college level Calculus. That is the first course in my life I ever got a 0 average in.

Now while I thrived in my Astronomy and Poetry courses (and slept through the slog that was my “cultural geography” class) – from a career standpoint I had a less than zero desire to be an astronomer, poet, or whatever the heck a cultural geographer does. I wanted to get into the guts of computers, troubleshoot, repair, build! That was not taught there.

I tried to get into CompSci 201, which delved into coding (something that I have found enjoyment in only in the past year or so), but was unable to. I had no desire to waste my time for easy credits for 101 so I dropped the course. Now my problems with college were not limited to the courses I was taking, but also the drastic change in lifestyle.

At home I had a great job. I was 17 and making roughly $12 an hour doing tech support. I paid for my car, my food, my insurance. I was not wealthy, but I enjoyed the freedom that a good job in an industry doing work I enjoyed, provided. At home I had my friends. At home I had a girlfriend, and my cat named Samantha. All that was familiar was there.

College was an absolute culture shock. I skipped all the orientation events, choosing to sit at my home-built PC and play Diablo while blaring music off my stereo that I had downloaded from Napster. Rammstein’s Du Hast echoed the hallowed halls of my dorm on a daily basis. I absolutely did not want to be there. Halfway through my first semester I decided to leave.

Now my folks always blamed my girlfriend for that decision – and while I did miss her terribly, it was not the reason. Well, it was not the only reason. The fact is – before I left I was learning, earning, saving, and investing in my future career. When I left for college, I ceased learning what I wanted to learn, and was forced to learn what the college required.

I found myself challenged in things I did not genuinely care for, and completely un-challenged in the concepts and ideas that had brought me there in the first place. I also had zero interest in drinking, smoking pot, hooking up, or meeting anyone new outside of the small circle in my dorm room. I did have quite a bit of fun there, but that is a story for another day.

I quit college because I wanted to learn, earn, and invest in a career. Now today, just about every college offers course work which covers exactly what I do for a living. Infrastructure, networking, Linux, scripting, you name it. If you want to do what I do, and get a head start – college *is* an option, however IMHO – it is the worst possible one.

I learned more in the 4 years after I left SUNY Albany than I could have learned while I was there – for my specific career. Instead of learning computer science, I was applying it. Instead of learning to code, I was writing small scripts and programs for my job. Nothing will ever replace real world experience. There are also numerous non-college options for learning.

Many colleges will offer undergraduate technical courses, and there are innumerable tech schools out there which offer both education – and certification – in the various technologies which comprise what I work with on a daily basis. My education over the past 25 years in IT has been a combination of both. The best part of technical education though?

It can be entirely free. Just Google it. Nobody has to go into debt anymore to live comfortably, and the only limit to professional development in IT is the desire of the individual who has undertaken a career in technology. That is it. If you desire it, and you work for it, you can have it. This is a simple truth of life that works out every single time it is tried!

By his own admission, Gabe Newell learned more in 3 months at Microsoft than he did at Harvard. I learned more after leaving college altogether. I’m not against college, there are many career paths which are best served by putting in the time and earning that degree – but for myself and many others in technology – save the money and learn instead.

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Fast 9: A Case Study in the Willful Suspense of Disbelief

THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD, AND I DON’T CARE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET.

I’ll have to re-watch it at some point, but I finally had the chance to see Fast 9, the latest in the Fast & Furious franchise. I’ve been a fan of the franchise since day 1, and as crazy as “F8 of the Furious” got at times, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Fast 9? Man… I just, I just really don’t know. There’s always a willful suspension of “danger to manifold” with these films, but still…

I think of all the films to date, my least favorite was 2 Fast 2 Furious, it was pretty much left to Paul Walker and a cavalcade of b-list actors to carry it across the finish line without Vin Diesel in the game. It was good as far as action goes, and it checked all the boxes (ludicrious cars, high speed driving, scantilly clad women, a big bad), but I never really enjoyed it.

Tokyo Drift stood on its own as it was far enough from the first two films that it didn’t come off as a direct-to-VHS release, but a new story branching off the main which IMHO was barely clinging to life. At least they managed to get a cameo from Diesel in the closing act. Still, the franchise has been making money, even with its misfires to the tune of $6,517,303,245!

It wasn’t until the 4th installment where the band was back together so to speak, the formula was perfected, and honestly the most exciting and fun string of action flicks I’ve seen in my life came to be. A willful suspension of disbelief is key, and it’s something I always mention when I see intellectual types deriding an action flick. It’s not supposed to be transcendent, just entertaining, and this franchise has almost always delivered.

I had a hard time with Fast 9 and maintaining that WSOD. In a movie like this I hunger for fan service, for acknowledgment that I’d been paying attention from the start, that I’ve ignored the laws of physics, that I have overlooked the retcons and 18 mile long runway in Fast and Furious 6. It was speed, heists, family, fighting, and fun.

Yes it was formulaic. Yes it was fan service. All boxes were checked from Fast & Furious onward, and all were completely worth the price of admission. Now Fast 9 starts out good enough. It’s a flash-back to the race where Dom’s father is killed, and Dom tuned up the driver who caused the wreck. It also is the chance to introduce a new main character, unmentioned over the course of the 8 previous films.

His brother, Jakob. I’d show you a photo, but he doesn’t actually show up in any of them because he is played by John Cena. If you squint really hard, and assume different mothers, yeah, Diesel and Cena could be brothers. I’ve always thought that Cena more resembled a genetically modified Matt Damon, but that’s just me.

Ok so the heel in the first 2 acts (look at me using wrestling terms) is Cena until the eventual and wholly predictable redemption in the final act. WSOD is in full force here, but I was entertained, so I don’t care. However, one of the main characters, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), after cheating death yet again literally starts beating his fists against the fourth wall without breaching it completely.

He is so flabbergasted that yet again he (and everyone else) has come out on top, that he walked away without even a scratch after facing an entire army that he cannot contain it. This theme follows the film as a constant thread, as a blatant reminder to not take anything of what I was watching seriously, whatsoever. They were obviously having a lot of fun with this one.

Literally every single character in the movie has at least one or more moments where they completely acknowledge how crazy/unexpected whatever just happened was. It was more subtle (as subtle as crazy can get at least) in previous iterations, like when Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) deadpanned “they got a tank” in Fast & Furious 6.

This time when Dom pulls an Indiana Jones swing across a ravine on a bridge rope IN A DODGE CHARGER we get a “Well, that was new” from Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). This is of course after Cena gets picked up IN HIS MUSTANG by a stealth drone with a super magnet… and Tej gets a Jeep to clear the remains of the disintegrating bridge to safely make it to the other side (whole scene felt like Temple of Doom with cars).

Han (Sung Kang) is back! Gisele is still long gone. or is she? A brief (yet believable in the F&F universe) explanation is given, and he is welcomed back with mouths agape and open arms. Another Tokyo Drift alumni Sean (Lucas Black) also returns, although in a near slapstick Doc Brown style character who straps rocket engines to a Pontiac Fiero. After dropping a Skyline engine in a Mustang over the course of a montage, that is small potatoes.

There are just way too many completely off the wall plot points to count in this film, I literally could not keep track (and it is why I will be re-watching it again) – I haven’t seen so many different tangents taken since Justice League. At 2 hours and 23 minutes it wasn’t the longest film in the franchise, but they crammed as much as possible into it.

I will say – the final 10 minutes of the film almost redeemed the entire thing. One brief aside, why did Dom name his Son “Brian” after the death of Paul Walker? Brian’s still alive in universe, Dom knew Vince even longer than Brian, and Vince’s character actually died for the cause two films earlier. IMHO, they should have named Dom’s son Paul. It would have made more sense (to me).

ANYHOW. End of the film, as the team is gathered together for a celebratory “family” dinner behind the (still in construction) 1327 which was blown up by redeemed villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) – they point out an empty seat at the table. “He is on his way” they say as the familiar drone of a Nissan Skyline is heard approaching in the distance. Yep, Brian is back.

Well, his car is at least, it pulls in the driveway just before the credits roll.

Between that and the stinger (just Google it) I was cheering. I was also questioning. If Paul Walker’s Brian O’Connor is back for the upcoming 10th and final installment… How are they going to pull it off? CGI? Recast one of his siblings? I’m intrigued. The technology has definitely come far enough that some blending of body double / CG could do it… IDK.

So while at first glance Fast 9 was not even close to my favorite member of the Fast & Furious family, I think I’ll warm to it with repeated viewings… but until then much of it felt like too much plot, too much over the top, nearly too much fan service. I felt the same about Thor Ragnarok the first time I saw it as well, so we’ll see how it holds up.

It is a good time, but it will definitely test your patience and ability to with-hold that disbelief like no other film I’ve seen. Bring on the final chapter!

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They really don’t…

One of the perks / annoyances with being a home owner, is that time where an appliance finally gives up the ghost and needs replacement. Over the past 10 years I’ve replaced my fridge, oven, boiler, water heater, and pretty soon my dishwasher and washing machine are going to head to that grand recycling yard in the sky.

Honestly – I really don’t need to replace the dishwasher, but here’s the catch. A brand new 24″ dishwasher will run me about $800. New racks? $400. It really makes no sense to me that half the cost of a dishwasher are these flimsy metal racks which eventually rust out, wear out, and fall apart. It makes me really wonder how much the rest of the hardware is actually worth.

Now I always heard the phrase “they don’t make them like they used to anymore” and never really got it. Truth be told, I always aligned with the mantra “new is always better.” Who doesn’t like shiny new things? While that is not entirely true (look at the reviews of any big appliance, there really isn’t any option that someone hasn’t complained about).

Tonight I decided to see just how old what I’ve got left actually are. Washing machine? 1994. Not bad. Dishwasher? 2007. I guess that’s OK. My old boiler was a solid 25 years old before the cast iron cracked and it began to leak water all over the floor. It was a good run. The water heater I had? Maybe 10 years before it needed to be swapped out.

Then there’s this thing.

I took down the model number and translated it. February, 1978. I did not really believe it until I found this…

It is older than I am, works as well as the day I moved in 10 years ago, and I am pretty sure if I was so inclined I could make beef jerky in it. It is not pretty. It has no wifi. No app. It is certainly not energy efficient. Back in 1979 though? I could walk into a store and pick it up for $188. In today’s money, factoring inflation, that is about $700.

Today I could walk in to the local Lowes and for a little over $700 get a brand new GE 7.2 cubic foot electric dryer. White. No wifi. No app. Plain and simple. The question is though – will it last over 40 years like the one I have? The reviews are good, but unless the one I’ve got is rendered into ash – I’ll be keeping it, because they simply don’t make them like they used to.

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Farewell To A Friend

Early this morning I got the news that one of my best friends passed away. I’ve been a resident of Pine Island, NY for 20 years at this point… I didn’t really immerse myself in the people and culture until the past 7 years or so.

Next to my home is one of the main hubs of this town, the Polish Legion of American Veterans, Post 16. You won’t find a finer example of dedication to the veterans of our armed forces anywhere. The people make it that way.

Years ago, I walked in for the first time and met someone who I was warned to be very grumpy and not very friendly. Of course, within minutes Tom and I became fast friends. He was one of a kind and will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved him.

Always there with a quick comment, a wry smile, and great conversation I got the chance to know him and his family well over the years. When he revealed that he was sick, I was hard pressed to notice it. The man ran on sheer stubborn will and seemed to have an endless supply.

Behind the gruff exterior was a heart of gold and timeless wisdom that often exemplifies the heroes who are veterans of war. I can’t imagine what he carried with him from that experience but I know it made him into a man that I respected and trusted without question.

I’ll miss him every day, another hero has finally gone back home for good. God bless you Tom. My condolences and prayers are with the Lodema family and all of those who were lucky enough to have him in our lives.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18
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Go Hug Your Dad.

I was sitting a bar when I got the call. Kept my composure, finished my drink, hopped in my truck and wept as I drove back to the house. I honestly cannot recall my final Father’s Day with my dad. Maybe because it is 12:08am and the insomnia that has plagued me for the past week has been relentless, or just that blur of a year which was 2020…

By the grace of God I had 40 Father’s days with him. Every year I would find some lunatic card in the Shoebox section, bring some booze, food, my charming self, and share a meal with my entire family. I suppose some might be understanding if I was bitter right now that the last Father’s day I would celebrate with him escapes me… But what is one day in a lifetime?

Every day was Father’s day.

It has been what, 7 months now? I miss him every day – but on the same note, I know he has never left me. It is the physical presence I miss, the voice, the conversations, the hugs. There I go now, tears. It is funny how it hits randomly like that. I touch upon the simplest memory, a brief moment over a 41 year life, and boom… I’m in that truck again.

Now I am not trying to drag anyone down here, as (looks up at topic) – the point of this post is me, telling you, to pick up a phone, or if you are so blessed – go hug your dad. One day you will miss it terribly. I understand completely that our existence on this planet when measured against the eternity that my father has returned to is horribly brief… so embrace it completely.

I will keep this brief. I am not bitter whatsoever, I am hopeful. I am joyful. I am blessed beyond words because of who he was and how he raised me. My family was blessed beyond words because of my father. I know that I will see him again, illuminated in the glory of God when we are reunited in eternity. Today I will think of him, talk to him, even share a drink.

But I cannot hug him right now. So please, go hug yours until the stuffing comes out… or he farts. Whichever comes first. I love you, Dad. I miss you. Happy Father’s Day.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6

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On dating after 40…

I am 41 year old divorcee, have a great job, live comfortably, and after nearly a decade of living on my own… am very hesitant to compromise that. That does not mean I will not compromise, but generally speaking I am in my 40s and single – there is a reason. Even now I am certain that there is one woman out there whom I will yield completely to. No games, no nonsense.

Walls down, heart open.

I had my wild phase where I did a lot of stupid things, partied until 5am, ran up my “list” because I simply did not care about anything other than right now. It cost me a lot, and it taught me a lot. Anyone who cannot look back on their life and laugh, cry, or cringe – has not lived. I do not have regrets, I have lessons. Many, many… MANY lessons.

I had a marriage that obviously did not end well – at the time – but turned into a friendship I would not trade for anything. In the time since – I have had all of 2 “relationships.” One lasted a couple of months, the other lasted a couple of weeks. The latter – again – started and ended with a lasting friendship. Some say men and women can not be friends, I say hogwash.

Good friends are good friends, it does not matter what is twixt their thighs.

There are very few people in my “circle” who are not married at this point. I would say 50% of them have kids. I absolutely love my step-kids from my marriage. Life changes, people grow. Back in the day I always had that dream of “settling down” – wife, house, 2.5 kids (.5 being a cat because I am sorry but dogs are too freaking high maintenance). Did not happen.

I have tried dating. I have met many wonderful women by dating. I cannot stand dating. It is not that I am not good at it, I just legitimately do not care at this point. While I am perfectly happy taking someone special out, opening the door, paying for dinner, and going through the courtship motions, dating simply is not real, and it is a distraction from what is.

Sure, it is great for an introduction, but at 41 years old – in the year 2021, by the time that first traditional “date” happens, that introduction has already come and gone. Short of those “swiping right” – I have already got an idea of you, but no checklist of drinks or meals is going to cement a thing. Can I sit on a porch with you and just share this life? No date answers that.

I think it was an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” where Lily kept tanking Ted’s relationships because his dates did not pass the “porch” test. At 41 years of age I am past checking to see if you unlock the car door. I am over the games. Can we go out and have fun? Can we stay in and chill? Is simply being together enough, regardless of what is going on?

Sex. Good freaking grief. Anyone can have sex in 2021. I cannot think of any other time in human history where sex was as easy to obtain as a pint of ice cream from the corner store. Maybe with the right person, chemistry, and timing, it would be a bigger deal in my life, but generally speaking at this point, a woman holding my hand is more significant than sex.

Romance is not dead. I absolutely adore romance. I love being loved, and I love sharing love with others. I mentioned earlier that I cannot stand dating, and honestly I loathe it. Dating does not equal romance! Romance just is. Love just is. Either someone inspires me to be romantic, or they do not. All I want is to love, be loved, and share myself completely.

One thing that has become an absolute requirement for me has been faith. Real faith. Belief in something more than what our 5 biological senses can experience. How can anyone embrace the invisible, relentless force of love beyond the flood of chemicals released by our brain if they are unwilling to believe in the invisible, relentless presence of God in their lives?

Do not be fake. Be real. Be yourself. Even if it means that we check off 4 out of 5 boxes in our mutual list of what we want from a partner in this life… If we are not real from that first glance, that first conversation, that first moment we break wind on the couch while watching NCIS… then it is all an act. Acting is illusion and I simply do not have any patience for illusion.

I do not put my best foot forward. I put my right foot out, then my left. I do not put a mask on my life to make it mesh with someone else, I do not waste a smile by forcing it with a subtle squint to make it convincing. I am me. I do not want or need definitions. Definitions are an illusion of the world we live in. Definitions are used to justify what does not require them.

I see so many folks around my age contorting themselves in an impossible array of shapes to try and attract their ideal partner, when in reality our ideal partner will see us for who and what we are, take our hand, and walk with us. It is really not that complicated. God bless the folks who have reached that point already. God bless those of us who have yet to.

Love is the key. We withhold it, suppress it, hide it, restrict it. We list off reasons why we cannot when the only reason we are here on this Earth is to love one another. We focus on who and what we cannot love, and then cry out because our life is engulfed by the complete and utter lack of love in it. It is absolute, unadulterated, self inflected insanity.

I refuse to become jaded. Those who are jaded have spent far too much time compromising themselves and their deepest truth in the search of a companion who is not real. We exalt an illusion, and convince ourselves beyond all common sense and truth that the illusion is real. When that illusion fades away – we doubt ourselves and reject love instead of the illusion.

Love is real. Passion is fleeting. At the end of the day, when the sun sets, the lightning bugs come out, and the rest of the world turns in until the next day… I want to be sitting on that porch next to the one I may or may not have met yet. The one who requires no compromise. Whether speaking, silent, laughing, crying, or breaking wind on the couch…

Together.

She’s out there. Right now. Probably asking the same questions I am.

Love and peace to all of you. God bless.

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Blessed.

Caught this video a week or two back, and it genuinely spoke to my own frustrations with the modern Christian church. The director of “The Chosen” is responding to criticism over the idea of Mary Magdalene backsliding into sin after being saved… The implication being that she was never saved, or that being saved was not enough.

I have heard too many pastors make this accusation, and every time they do, I pray for the Lord to bring them wisdom and clarity. Most recently – a popular pastor quoted Rick Warren when saying (and I am paraphrasing here) – if someone has left your group, left your church, it does not matter as they were never actually saved. Consider them “blessed subtractions.”

“Be willing to let people leave the church. And I told you earlier the fact that people are gonna leave the church no matter what you do. But when you define the vision, you’re choosing who leaves. You say, “But Rick, yes, they’re the pillars of the church.” Now, you know what pillars are. Pillars are people who hold things up … And in your church, you may have to have some blessed subtractions before you have any real additions”

Rick Warren – The Purpose Driven Church

If an individual who has been saved by Christ backslides into sin, or walks way from a church, that does not make them a blessed subtraction, it means they need God more than ever. They need guidance and Truth. The modern church seems to have a greater focus on the 99 than the one who has gone astray. Mankind does not determine who is saved, only Jesus.

12 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.

Matthew 18:12-13

I have also heard pastors proclaim that unless someone is baptized in water – they will never see the Kingdom. They are not saved. All that they have done, all that they believe, all that they have committed to following Christ simply is not enough in the eyes of the church. I recall this specifically because it was said shortly after I lost my Father, a life long Catholic.

The implication was clear to me, that as a Catholic, because my father was not born again in water, because he did not accept Christ in a manner ordained by the church, he was not going to heaven. In fact, he was not there now! “You were not baptized as a child, you got wet.” A pastor said that on April 28th, 2019. The day I was born again. Take that in.

Now Jesus said the following…

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

John 3:5-6

Simple enough explanation… but follow my thought process for a moment here…

39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, [j]“If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:39-43

Where was the water tank? By the standards of men, that criminal was damned. By the standards of Christ – when he closed his eyes for the last time he awoke in the Kingdom of God. Another pastor reinforced my belief by recounting the tale of an elderly woman who on her death bed turned to Christ. She was saved. No water but the living water of Christ required.

14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

John 4:14

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

John 7:37-38

We are human, we are flawed, we are sinners, but none of us are beyond redemption. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as atonement for our sins wiped our slate clean.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 14:6

There are no asterisks there, no fine print. I love Jesus for that. Nowhere in the Holy Bible does it say if you backslide, you were not saved to begin with. Now I have seen Matthew 18:15-17 used to justify the idea of a blessed subtraction, or that someone simply was never saved…

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17

Jesus Himself, as quoted by a former tax collector! The way I interpret that, is if a brother sins – talk to them directly. If they do not listen, bring another brother with you. If they still do not listen, talk to the church. After you have done what you can as commanded by Christ – love them.

What? Why can I not just call them a blessed subtraction to laughter and applause, or simply dismiss them as never saved? Who are we as followers of Christ to dictate the terms of the salvation He gave us? Some may think that is proper, but Christ thought differently.

30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

It is wrong to imply that any follower of Christ who has backslid into sin, left a church, or not been baptized in water is not saved. Whomever proclaims as such is antithetical to the Word of God. No amount of salt matters when the voice is bereft of both the living water of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Let not your hearts be troubled. Have faith. Love God. Seek peace!

The truth here is that each and every one of us is a prodigal son. No matter the sin, no matter what anyone says in regards to the quality of our faith – praise God that Jesus has the final word. When we backslide into sin or think we have lost our faith… our Father will see us approaching no matter how far away He seems, and He will come running.

There are great, talented, God loving pastors out there right now, actively helping to turn lost souls towards Christ. They stand at the very beginning of the road we must travel back to our Father in heaven. They stand ready and waiting for the meek and the humble, for those seeking Him, to help us repent and start our journey back home.

Seek, and you shall be found.

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The Truth is Out There – Faith, not Fear.

When I was in kindergarten, we had a winter project where we would make a display, and the teacher would then spray it with this aerosol “fake snow” for added effect. Something he said stuck with me – 36 years after I graduated kindergarten – it’s still in the back of my head.

“You don’t want to breathe this stuff in, it could kill you.”

As a curious 6 year old boy, I of course went ahead and smelled it. Years later any time I felt sick I wondered if it was the aerosol snow spray finally coming to take me out. Such is the power of fear. What was scary then is well, just a memory now.

Last night I drafted (and briefly published before I retracted it) a rant after the words of a pastor I follow really set me off. These days I do my best to focus on God, and focus on love while shedding my fear. Shifting my focus to God has made what is not of Him more obvious.

There is so much fear in this world right now, and what aggravates me the most about this fear is that it simply is not real. It is a lie. It is a method of control. IMHO – if a leader promotes fear of anything other than God through word or deed – they are both deceiver and deceived.

For months I tuned in to Jack Hibbs and let the comments roll off. I saw churches being threatened by the Government. I saw videos of pastors angrily chasing authorities out the door who were attempting to enforce regulations. The chaos of the world was infiltrating my faith and it only made my faith stronger because I knew that chaos would inevitably fail.

Then there was the “happening” the other night…

No, not this one, I actually liked this movie TBH, but I digress…

Much discussion took place of what was going on in Israel and the recent increase in violence. I have faith that God will protect Israel, and that by His grace they will defend themselves as they always have… then the conversation took an abrupt turn.

No, that’s not advanced technology beyond our understanding. That’s a demon.

Seriously. What was otherwise a solid discussion of current events in Israel branched off into a commentary about UFOs being representations of demonic influence, and a sign that we are in the last days.

Eschatology. Revelation. The end of days. I’ve had the topic beaten into my head for the duration of Covid, through the presidential election cycle, and now the latest sign of the end times are UFOs. I’m sorry – but that dog just don’t hunt.

As the California Church has emerged victorious in its legal challenges against the unbalanced restrictions applied against it by Gavin Newsom… vaccinations are up, infections are down, and even in the People’s Republic of New York we are no longer required to wear a mask 83% of the time… I guess we needed something new to fear?

I don’t fear the world. I love God. We are taught by Jesus not to fear the world, not to fear death. We are citizens of heaven, created in God’s image, God is love, and love conquers all fear. Where is the love in this mishegoss? While the Bible doesn’t discuss UFOs or extra-terrestrials, it doesn’t bring up the Chevy in my driveway either. It does discuss fear…

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Luke 14:27

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”

Matthew 10:26

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:7

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:7-11

At best, tossing the demonic influence label at anything beyond our current level of human understanding is hyperbole. At worst, fear mongering. Who are we to supplant the knowledge of God with our own? He created us, we most certainly did not create Him. If there are things in this world we do not yet understand, it is because God has yet to reveal that truth to us.

Had Wilbur and Orville Wright seen a General Dynamics F16 crack the sky… Had Henry Ford seen a Tesla Model S zip past silently at amazing speed… What might a DJI quadcopter look like to the average human even 50 years ago? So much of our technology today could be seen as unidentifiable, magical, even demonic a few decades ago.

Personally? I’m intrigued, and if anything – such a disclosure would increase my faith in God. As nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known – it was only a matter of time before we reached a stage where these questions could be taken seriously and answered.

If these are advanced vehicles from our own civilization? Praise God!

If these are advanced vehicles from an extra-terrestrial civilization? Praise God!

If swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus? Praise God!

I would rather see the questions of our age answered with faith, not masked by fear.

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And by His stripes, we are healed.

From birth to death, life is about transition and growth. But life is as finite as the eternity which awaits us as followers of Christ is infinite. Two years ago this April a grand change took place when I rose from the waters of baptism to a new world and a new life in Christ. In short order, He restored my heart, soul, family, and my faith.

The past year has been difficult for me. The Lord lead me away from the church where I found Him waiting for me with open arms. He also peeled away the fellowship and support structure I clung to so dearly to in those early days of my walk with Him as Covid happened and I watched helplessly as the doors of the churches began to close.

The message was clear… Cling to Him. Depend on Him. Focus on Him.

I didn’t obey like I should have. I have not been a good and faithful servant. I have continued to fight the sin in my life as best I could. I have begged for wisdom, guidance, hope. I have plead for my paths to be straight again. Even as He brought my father home for the last time, I thanked Him for the 41 years I was blessed to share with my dad.

I feel like saying that I am in a period of transition right now would be both an overstatement and an understatement in the same shallow breath… Looking back through the years, so much has changed. I have fallen, risen, feared, and grown. Now though, I see so many options before me wherever I turn, that my faith is challenged. I clear one crossroad only to find another.

It is that realization which brought me to my knees in prayer tonight. Loud, clear, vocal prayer. A one on one conversation with God that wasn’t merely my daily supplication and thanksgiving within the confines of my own mind, but for the first time in many months I was speaking out loud on my knees to the God who saved me, and has promised me salvation.

As I made my requests and gave thanks, my knees dug into the floorboards beneath me. I held my hands together and spoke to the very God of creation whose words brought forth life from Genesis through Revelation. I prayed for wisdom, I prayed for guidance, I prayed in thanksgiving, and I prayed for fellowship.

As I ended my prayer and slowly rose up from the floor, I looked at my knees and saw how stripes had formed on my kneecaps from pressing into the 100 year old gaps in the boards.

5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

It has been months since I have prayed like that. I do not feel that there is any coincidence that at this time, Passion Week, I have begun to turn back to the Lord my God and turn to Him fiercely. Just this past Sunday, Pastor Jack Hibbs discussed the origin of Palm Sunday, as Jesus returned to and wept for His city, Jerusalem.

Two years ago, at this time – God spoke loud and clear to me after I turned to him, as the pastor asked in reference to Matthew 21:12-13, to think about what tables needed to be overturned in my life and my path of restoration began.

12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”

Matthew 21:12-13

It is no coincidence that here I sit 2 years later and the same question is being asked of me. What tables do I need to overturn in my life? What has my life of prayer become? What fears have I allowed into the temple of Christ that is my body and soul? What sin have I tolerated instead of casting out? What junk have I allowed to accumulate in my life to fight my discontentment (hat tip, Pastor Jason Ham) in place of the stripes which healed me?

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:10-13

I lost focus, even within my faith, through my prayer and supplications, my focus slowly but surely turned from the Lord. Even as I benefitted from the blessings He has provided, I dug in deeper and focused on my discontentment instead of Him who has provided for me the salvation from that very pain, aggravation, fear, and pride.

Father God please guide me, grant me wisdom, help me to strengthen my focus on you and please surround me with good and faithful servants of your son Jesus Christ that will help to keep my path straight in Your will, as I help them to do the same. Please forgive my sins and restore me. In Jesus name, amen.

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