Integrity: Clean Inside… then Out

It happens, I do not know how, that most of the proud never really discover their true selves. They think they have conquered their passions and they find out how poor they really are only after they die. — John Climacus

And Christ’s law and His Apostles twelve he taught, but first he followed it himself. ― Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

You can’t pass on what you haven’t got. — Anonymous

The Human Spirit that is a Lamp of the Lord

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
    whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion;
    those who anger him forfeit their lives.

It is to one’s honor to avoid strife,
but every fool is quick to quarrel.

Sluggards do not plow in season;
    so at harvest time they look but find nothing.

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,
    but one who has insight draws them out.

Many claim to have unfailing love,
    but a faithful person who can find?

The righteous lead blameless lives;
 blessed are their children after them.

When a king sits on his throne to judge,
    he winnows out all evil with his eyes.

Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;
    I am clean and without sin”?

Differing weights and differing measures—
    the Lord detests them both.

Even small children are known by their actions,
    so is their conduct really pure and upright?

Ears that hear and eyes that see—
    the Lord has made them both.

Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
    stay awake and you will have food to spare.

“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer—
    then goes off and boasts about the purchase.

Gold there is, and rubies in abundance,
    but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.

Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
    hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.

Food gained by fraud tastes sweet,
    but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.

Plans are established by seeking advice;
    so if you wage war, obtain guidance.

A gossip betrays a confidence;
    so avoid anyone who talks too much.

If someone curses their father or mother,
    their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.

An inheritance claimed too soon
 will not be blessed at the end.

Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
    Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.

The Lord detests differing weights,
    and dishonest scales do not please him.

A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.
    How then can anyone understand their own way?

It is a trap to dedicate something rashly
    and only later to consider one’s vows.

A wise king winnows out the wicked;
    he drives the threshing wheel over them.

The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord
 that sheds light on one’s inmost being.

Love and faithfulness keep a king safe;
 through love his throne is made secure.

The glory of young men is their strength,
 gray hair the splendor of the old.

Blows and wounds scrub away evil,
 and beatings purge the inmost being.

One of the oldest songs continually sung on Palm Sunday, in its original language. That’s integrity .
Integrity, as war, has a beginning but only proceeds after proof among friends, but more importantly, among enemies.

Protestation of Integrity

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity,
And I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Examine me, O Lord, and try me;
Test my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.
I do not sit with deceitful men,
Nor will I go with pretenders.
I hate the assembly of evildoers,
And I will not sit with the wicked.
I shall wash my hands in innocence,
And I will go about Your altar, O Lord,
That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving
And declare all Your wonders.

O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house
And the place where Your glory dwells.
Do not take my soul away along with sinners,
Nor my life with men of bloodshed,
In whose hands is a wicked scheme,
And whose right hand is full of bribes.
But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
Redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on a level place;
In the congregations I shall bless the Lord.

Jesus Christ is the wise King, so he sends Light to his people so they can know him and themselves. Unfortunately, “his people” routinely forget him and cannot even recognize themselves, even if they looked in a mirror. At the root of this failure is an issue of integrity. James is a floodlight on that issue. But, before James and his brother, Jesus, humbled himself and came in the flesh, there were many other lights. One brilliant example is man named Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was a great lamp of integrity sent to “God’s people” as they came to a fork in the road. Instead of embracing and sharing the light, they tried to snuff out the Light and fell even farther. They called the prophet all kinds of bad names and punished him repeatedly as much as they could. Of course, they failed and God snuffed them out instead. They were blind and couldn’t see reality clearly, but instead of checking themselves they said Jeremiah was just a hateful liar and nothing he said could be true because they didn’t see it happening. Amazing how idolaters, who cannot even tell the truth about themselves, the weather, or world events, fraudulently claim to speak of Spiritual realities. A blind doubling down is the mark of a devil. However, despite all the devils and liars, Jeremiah never changed the message and he did it over decades— I believe only Hosea witnessed longer in that mode but he had an easier time of it. Jeremiah didn’t double down. He keep coming at them in different ways (from laments to exhortations, searing prose to gut-wrenching poetry, lofty oracles to straight up telling off the wicked) for Righteousness’ sake, until God said “release.” I don’t think the Deuteronomic Reformation that occurred under his ministry is a mere coincidence… You must see that God is the only One who can double-down righteously. That is integrity. And what is a fall in the Spirit other than God’s release?

Jeremiah walked about like Diogenes for more than 40 years. An unremarkable man with a pure heart as God’s lamp looking for honest people, who was mocked, ridiculed, and punished for his efforts. I believe he’d rather have died and the people be saved than been right and watch them fall into captivity and desolation… the source of his life-long laments and sufferings was righteous integrity. While religious elites got fat and false prophets who tickled the people’s ears got rich, he kept grinding out the truth in pits and the dark streets. Born into a profoundly spiritual clan, he was properly prepared, even as a youth. Extra-biblical tradition reports he was stoned, a forerunner to Stephen. Even if that isn’t true, Stephen and Jeremiah knew all along that it is better to be stoned by the disobedient elect than blow smoke up their vanities and be released by God.  Job taught us all that we should always praise God no matter our present circumstances, and weep for the horrors coming to the unrepentant before we ever take time to weep for our own difficulties. Our horrors will pass while their horror, occulted and spread by their pride and filthy lucre, once come will never end. So we cry for them even as we are called away, even after they are gone we grieve. For what is grief if not love’s integrity surviving the trauma of an end?

I like the florid, big issues present in the greatest stories ever told, but I live on what little I learn to apply. So based on my poor and limited understanding of Jeremiah’s day and personal grief, I only have a few take-a-ways which resonate with other great stories, so I strongly believe they are truths. The true weight of a person’s soul, in the Light they reflect and refract, is directly proportional to their faithfulness to God’s will for their life. Many times God does not spare us from consequences of our sins (communal nor personal), but if we are willing, He uses our trials and losses to purify us and others… always because He loves us and others, even in release, even when He knows the war He’s sending us into, even before we were born in the sin and inequity of the womb.      

The word of the Lord came to me:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I dedicated you,
    a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
“Ah, Lord God!” I said,
    “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!”

But the Lord answered me,
Do not say, “I am too young.”
    To whomever I send you, you shall go;
    whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
    for I am with you to deliver you—oracle of the Lord.

Then the Lord extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying to me,

See, I place my words in your mouth!
Today I appoint you
    over nations and over kingdoms,
To uproot and to tear down,
 to destroy and to demolish,
to build and to plant.

As a general rule I don’t make elaborate educational constructs out of oracluar poetry, all kinds of clap-trap sins and false doctrines are floating about in churches today because of that fundamental error. However, I know that “lose speech” in song, parable, or verse is vital to the functions of narrative to create unity and inform right vision. So I am sure there are a few things that I can know form the seed of Jeremiah’s call that reflect true light on God’s will. He, as we, can be fearless if we are telling the truth with integrity, even if it might cost us our life. The Spirit isn’t dull (in any sense) but those teaching or preaching without integrity are simply flailing about with a rubber hose not the sharp rigidity of God’s Word. They will not receive God’s authority… Not ever, but they might be very popular or rich by earthly standards. But if we know God, in reality, and are honest about ourselves we can be faithful, especially in sufferings, poverty, and exclusion, indeed we ought count them as gain. We also come to see that despite unrepentance, God is still kind to sinners and the self-righteous for a time, often for a very long time time. But we know that deferment ends, so we should not get angry at God about it nor should we gloat beneath our breath in the waiting. Like Jeremiah, we should never cease in doing good even though the face of love changes to fit the situation rightly (ie great mercy towards the penitent while also heated ferocity in the face of injustice).

For me personally from, “The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests from Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin,” to “Bring us back to you, Lord, that we may return: renew our days as of old. For now you have indeed rejected us and utterly turned your wrath against us…” I draw the lesson that I must always strive towards intimacy with my God and Lord… I must always strive towards intimacy with my God and my Lord… I must always strive towards intimacy with my God and my Lord. We don’t read laments enough, and if we had preached Jeremiah (besides the most cited rosy couple of passages ripped from context) enough I doubt our impending consequences and repercussions would be so dire today. So now we really need to understand the right role of Jeremiah, because the lack of integrity is just a wound that can be healed, while suffering trials due to a lack of integrity repeatedly is just plain wasteful. If you do the latter, then you’ll just keep to doing stupid crap over and over just to play the victim. The former is just a fallen nature crying out for rectitude beneath peeling skin. Don’t be wasteful, accept purification toward holiness. It may “feel” bad or embarassing for a momnet but it is Spiritually empowering forever.

Converse with God like the prophet, don’t drone-on in monologues like the religous folks who ignored both God and Jeremiah, just to follow theirown noses. Speak with frank honesty to God and all people in all things; it’s not easy but simple once we’ve dropped your idols to do it in love. Jeremiah’s “meanest” polemics were acts of Love, which cost him personally. Keep hope alive by living in truth and Spirit, that’s right worship and our eyes are on the Prize. Let that active, dynamic vision inform our faith, so even if we don’t see the next right move we’re probably already doing it. Be courageous and fail sincerely cleaving to Jesus, unless we’re failing we really aren’t trying. God wants to hear it all from us, pain to praise, from the gut up to open our mind and heart. Pour it all out to Him and He’ll over-fill us. Do this all a long time and we’ll have the kind of integrity that the Spirit can dress with authority… and then hang on, like Jeremiah did, because then things transform and change even if others, who claim to have sight, call us blind. Don’t be a yahoo or gongoozler, be a plumb line that the Spirit can work from. He’s always on the level but our foundations are naturally inclined to shifting, braking bad. 

Fear not when we fail! I cannot overemphasize that enough. If God can use a man like David to reset the foundations of his House, then He can and will use anyone who’s got the integrity to lavishly repent like David. Oh David, David, David… thank God for him too, but we’ve got that story for another day. He does deserve a shout out, in a memorial song, a forerunner to Palm Sunday in the return of the Ark, because he wore integrity and ephods more immodestly than Jeremiah. Whereas the prophet maintained unflinching situational awareness, something few others could, David ran and fell blindly and repeatedly, but he proved integrity’s great utility in return, like any of us might.  

David, a man of integrity, certainly a type of king before the King of kings.
I will sing to the Lord all my life. I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Defilement of Integrity Comes from Self not Enemies

The Tradition of the Elders: Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles [and beds].) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me;
In vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines human precepts.’

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’ Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’(meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.” He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) “But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

It is easy to stare at enemies too hard to examine one’s self frankly. What is clear to Jesus’ Spirit is somehow always out of sight for most religious leaders and professional spiritualists. Human teachings and traditions tend to occult God’s Word overtime, in practice they gloss and refract the Truth. It is actually their intent and nature. It was true then, and it is still true today:

In all honesty, I adore, almost worship, many things a few of the names the “Reformed Thug Life” pilloried in love above, and I’ve studied most of them. I am simply using relatable, real humor to illustrate a greater truth. If we were a crowd of physicists, we might simply discuss layered lens effects, measure them, and purpose refraction and focus adjustments. But if we don’t even know the true nature of the simple mystery of light, then how is it that so many have murdered and condemned, in thought and deed (against God’s commands), for the utterances contrived in their own mouths concerning the unfathomable Mystery, which they will never fully understand? One could make a similar point of any sect or teaching tree within any religious system. It is good that so many historically situated models and culturally contested metaphors have been used. They’ve been necessary failures to reach every people group, but insufficient for the cause they claim to own with their violence. Their own methods betray them, as all their human constructs will dissolve in their trembling flesh the closer they themselves are born to the Truth, each in their final moments. They’ve helped fulfill a promise, but no one of them is the promised One. None of our own ideas and words should be stumbling blocks, not ever. Each of them have been servants, of various worth, but we do not worship servants, let alone the limited ideas of compromised slaves. We worship only the One worthy of worship, in Spirit and truth, not in human apprehension and language. We worship in reality, not vanity!

Fallen people have a tendency to supersede God’s risen Word and co-opt his people. We live in a rough neighborhood even if our own house is in perfect order. We’re going to fail and be hurt, perspectives will bend and brake, there will be loses by Design. Our loves take a beating. We change and God does not. Our project is to reconcile a creation in relapse Jesus’ Way, and that means we have to go outside and get a little dirty in outreach. But don’t over-extend, set a pace, and take it easy. Take care, so that ritual in practices or doctrines about a faith never occult a Jeremiah-like relationship with God, others, perceived enemies or those who call themselves righteous friends. We fall a little more every time reputation becomes more important than godliness, or as I say personalities are put before principles. Jesus straight up condemns it like Jeremiah did, and calls those involved in such spiritual lewdness hypocrites. It is the “hardness of heart” (and some hard-headness too) issue that seemingly binds the Book more often than not. Doctrine is a wonderful servant and a horrible master, all at the same time. It is like money that way, any human creation has the prospect of becoming an idol. Don’t do it! It happens most often when we’re in denial. When we hide our pains and mistakes to impress “friends” more often than we make painful mistakes seeking to reconcile “enemies,” all hell ensues and we lose ourselves. Integrity that we want, the kind God desires, heals us as well as our “enemies.”

The principles that Jesus knew about Spiritual warfare are the same as the ones “the oldschool master,” Omar Bradley, knew in the rebellions of flesh:

Westmoreland recalled summer maneuvers in 1936, when he commanded a cadet battalion assigned to defend a hill. When the troops opposing him succeeded in taking the hill, Bradley, who was umpiring the maneuvers, summoned Westmoreland to his side:

“Mr. Westmoreland,” he said, “look back at that hill. Look at it now from the standpoint of the enemy.”

Turning, I became aware for the first time of a concealed route of approach that it was logical for an attacker to use. Because I had failed to cover it with my defense, he as umpire had ruled for the attacking force.

It is fundamental,” Major Bradley said calmly but firmly, “to put yourself always in the position of the enemy.”

Bradley was not interested in scolding Westmoreland, but in ensuring that he took away from the experience of defeat an element that would be key to victory [in the future]: the principle of putting yourself in the place of the enemy. It is common to speak of great commanders—men like Napoleon, Lee, and Rommel—as having possessed a genius for getting inside the mind of their opponent. When Bradley counseled Cadet Westmoreland to put himself in the position of the enemy, he meant nothing so mystical. Instead, he brought Westmoreland literally to his opponent’s position and invited him—again, literally—to see what the enemy saw and, from that perspective, to ponder the available options. As Bradley understood tactics, putting yourself in the enemy’s position was a practical means of getting inside his head. The exchange with Westmoreland was vintage Bradley, eliciting a principle of war fighting that is profound yet founded on the commonest of common sense. – Historynet

Me? Me talking about integrity is just as bad, if not worse, than Moses talking about humility. So I try and keep the poverty John Climacus calls out in my head (above) and the repentance the Psalmist glorifies in my heart (below). If I do that, then on occasion, I know God found me integrated enough to do good things and a few incredible things. I want to know how poor I am today so I am not so shocked when I die. To that end I have seldom presumed an enemy, like many do daily as if it were an affirmation of faith… Actually, the constant renaming of enemies might be an affirmation for the real enemy. But Satan ain’t a proud sinner nor an apostate. He just holds them captive, while they do their dirty deeds on their own. His knowledge of God is formidable, beyond any of those “reformed thugs” pictured above. His belief could be perfect, if not for his proud disobedience to God’s commands, which is his greatest weakness.

So I have found, like Jeremiah and Jesus, that God may overcome our enemy through me if I remain obedient, however imperfectly, over the long haul. This is true no matter which way they come at me. In fact, Satan himself hasn’t pursued a frontal assault on me since ’89. Since then he’s used everything form penthouse centerfolds to deacons’ committees. It has been a hoot! And I’ve often failed because I am stupid and proud, but so far, like David, when God thumps me, I rip my clothes and my life and cry like I need to drink snot. I can still put a three-year old to shame. Beyond that, I keep it simple. I call no flesh an enemy, while I keep watch for vile spirits to come at me from any direction, especially in my heart-life. And my mind? Man, I try to avoid that place by serving others, asking only for God’s will for my life today and his Power to carry it out. My results vary, but he hasn’t once ignored my request.

Most of my learning curve has been busted on my “friends,” folks who were supposed to help but weren’t in right position when I was, like shaman in a plague ridden town. At the time I was miffed for a beat, but now I have a way to respond that God painfully cured in me and my miffed-ness. When they demand that I wait… I out wait them. If they said something ridiculous like “be Moses”… I’d do what Moses did but not strike the Rock even when the people struck me. If they instructed me “do as I do”… I learn their rules better than they know them and keep serving them long after they broke their own rules and betrayed me. There’s got to be an easier way, but this one is simple enough for me. And today, I am most grateful to God that He not only delivered me from all those [explicative] duties, but also, despite my worst efforts, He glorified Himself in my flesh and in broken worlds. Like I said, it’s been a real hoot! Moreover, because of all that, I’ve learned not to be in a hurry, no matter how bad I think it is, because once I get through that test, there’s another coming, again. Service in his Kingdom never ends, but the sooner we leave our kingdoms to enter into His, the sooner everything gets healed and glorious… that’s the restoration God’s logos in the cosmos, from our hearts literally to the heights of the sky to the depths of the oceans. There’s a lot to restore, so get to step’n.  

The Miserere: Prayer of Repentance
For the leader. A psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
I
Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love;
    in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions.
Thoroughly wash away my guilt;
    and from my sin cleanse me.
For I know my transgressions;
    my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in your eyes
So that you are just in your word,
    and without reproach in your judgment.
Behold, I was born in guilt,
    in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, you desire true sincerity;
    and secretly you teach me wisdom.
Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
You will let me hear gladness and joy;
    the bones you have crushed will rejoice.
II
Turn away your face from my sins;
    blot out all my iniquities.
A clean heart create for me, God;
    renew within me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from before your face,
    nor take from me your holy spirit.
Restore to me the gladness of your salvation;
    uphold me with a willing spirit.
I will teach the wicked your ways,
    that sinners may return to you.
Rescue me from violent bloodshed, God, my saving God,
    and my tongue will sing joyfully of your justice.
Lord, you will open my lips;
    and my mouth will proclaim your praise.
For you do not desire sacrifice or I would give it;
    a burnt offering you would not accept.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
    a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.
III
Treat Zion kindly according to your good will;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will desire the sacrifices of the just,
    burnt offering and whole offerings;
    then they will offer up young bulls on your altar.
Integrity, takes a long time to play out.

Lived Intergration is the Devout Comsumation of Love in Action

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God on their behalf is for salvation. I testify with regard to them that they have zeal for God, but it is not discerning. For, in their unawareness of the righteousness that comes from God and their attempt to establish their own [righteousness], they did not submit to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for the justification of everyone who has faith.

Moses writes about the righteousness that comes from [the] law, “The one who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will go up into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will go down into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart…”

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

Every time I look at the blank screen slowly filled with perfect quotes, scriptures, songs, and stories over the months prior, or years, or even decades, and then sit down to fill in the blanks I am terrified and feel foolish in the process. Every time, but God always says the same thing, “don’t worry we’ll fill in the blanks.” I still feel like the tail wagging the dog with common sense and broken syntax, so let’s take our exit today with a shred of integrity by sharing a humorous story oft told, but I was reminded of last by the greatest Baptist I’ve ever known, about a decade ago.

An Amish farmer was driving his plain horse-drawn buggy down a back road, when out of the distance flew up a classic Cadillac convertible so huge it took up most the little farm to market road, and passing by so fast it spooked the noble steed, jerking the buggy so abruptly it broke a spoke. All the farmer could make out between the whale-tails and below the dropped top was the personalized license plate that read “I TITHE.”  So the farmer, rig-hobbled, nursed the buggy and the horse to the store, where the Cadillac was still chugging down gasoline, the devils’ own brew, into its cavernous tank.  

In humble silence the farmer descended to light on the dirt and to meekly proceed inside, while his horse took a breather in the shade. The noble gaul whinnied in alarm as the Cadillac owner came upon the buggy mann and grabbed his shoulder too quickly. The ferhoodeled fella was a sight dressed to the nines. Slicked back, oiled hair too, shaved and shorn close, perfect teeth, shark-skinned suit, a tie so long you knew he was compensating for a short-coming, with a fine gold chain carrying a demure but gilded cross over the tie, and of course shoes that cost more than the farmer made in a year. Shoes the farmer didn’t even know existed, let alone how much they cost or what shoes like that “meant.”

The snazzy guy spoke first… of course, “Tell me sir, I’ve heard about folks like you but never had the pleasure to make your acquaintance.”  The farmer squinted to find the man’s soul, so the evangelist continued, believing he had taken his audience captive, “I’ve looked at how you folks stay simple and don’t act like you’re part of the world at all. But I don’t need to understand your religion, I just want to know one thing: Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”

Sensing the  Englischer’s earnestness and what might be a soul, the polite farmer quietly answered as doctrinally as he might in evangelisse formulae, “We tend our gaarde, love our wife, as we serve our Gotte in Gelassenheit.” Then the fancy Dan squinted to retort like a lawyer, “No sir, all I want to know is are you saved?! Yes or no?!” The farmer nodded in silent acknowledgment, smiled, and conspicuously scribbled quickly onto an old piece of paper that he silently pulled from his pocket. He then neatly folded it with the quiet of a tomb and handed it to the brash hand of creature with a lot of prefabricated questions from a loud world without answers.

The inquisitor opened the note and scanned it quickly to ask another question, again too quickly but slightly more informed, just slightly, “What is this? Why are you evading the only question that could save your soul?!”  Sensing the bellicosity rising in the man’s voice and some confusion crying to the Light betrayed behind his scaly eyes, the farmer again spoke quietly but more directly to the man’s spirit, “Those are the names of three of my enemies, please, ask them if I know with the only One that saves.”  

All godly folks like Mary or Jeremiah know the blank, almost jaw agape, stare that people (who think they know better) fall into when God’s integrity overflows their cups and washes over another’s spirit. It ain’t even a fight. They ain’t no enemy at all. It becomes a fairly frequent yet uncommon occurance, as we fight the real fight everyday to keep the inside of our cups clean, first and foremost. After a beat, the owner and grocer walked out and said, “Guder mariye, mein faehicher schreiner. Why are we here?” The farmer removed his hat to say, “We redd up to exchange gifts, but now I willkumme Gotte… He brought me here today to cobble a broken wheel, for difficulty is a miracle in its first stage.” The inquisitor couldn’t find right words… as gasoline spewed out on his Cadillac and hissed on the searing limestone below.  

A Lament over Widespread Corruption
For the leader; according to Mahalath. A maskil of David.
I
The fool says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”
They act corruptly and practice injustice;
    there is none that does good.
God looks out from the heavens
    upon the children of Adam,
To see if there is a discerning person
   who is seeking God.
All have gone astray;
    each one is altogether perverse.
    There is not one who does what is good, not even one.
II
Do they not know better, those who do evil,
    who feed upon my people as they feed upon bread?
    Have they not called upon God?
They are going to fear his name with great fear,
    though they had not feared it before.
For God will scatter the bones
of those encamped against you.
They will surely be put to shame,
    for God has rejected them.
III
Who will bring forth from Zion
    the salvation of Israel?
When God reverses the captivity of his people
    Jacob will rejoice and Israel will be glad.

Household Code for God’s Lamp

Integrity takes a long, long time to play out against oppositions, but its dividends never end because integrity is forever the home of God’s love. Your enemies might see it, even when friends, the wicked, and self-righteous see something else… despite the fact that they cannot discern their own ends.

A Psalm of David

I

I sing of mercy and justice;
    to you, Lord, I sing praise.
I study the way of integrity;
    when will you come to me?
I act with integrity of heart
    within my household.
I do not allow into my presence anything base.
    I hate wrongdoing;
    I will have no part of it.
May the devious heart keep far from me;
    the wicked I will not acknowledge.
Whoever slanders a neighbor in secret
    I will reduce to silence.
Haughty eyes and arrogant hearts
    I cannot endure.

II

I look to the faithful of the land
to sit at my side.
Whoever follows the way of integrity
    is the one to enter my service.
No one who practices deceit
    can remain within my house.
No one who speaks falsely
    can last in my presence.
Morning after morning I clear all the wicked from the land,
    to rid the city of the Lord* of all doers of evil.

Please remember the King and God this week with integrity, the Way Jesus said… starting inside working it to the outside.

(sundown March 31st)

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